The problem of Anglican Catholic Church Orders: an earnest canonical exploration with satirical elements


I should like to consider the Orders and jurisdiction of the Anglican Catholic  Church (ACC). I shall do so by examining the legitimacy of the Chambers Succession on which  the ACC’s claims to valid orders and legitimate jurisdiction are founded. 

(1) At the Denver Consecrations of 1978, there were only two consecrators: Albert Chambers  and Francisco de Jesus Pagtakhan. While the Roman Church may, in exceptional circumstances,  have permitted a bishop to be consecrated by fewer than three consecrators, there is no precedent  for this in the post-Reformation Church of England: the Churches of the Chambers succession  cannot legitimately claim in the Affirmation of St. Louis to be “continu[ing] in the Catholic  Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Witness of the traditional Anglican  Church” and cannot legitimate that claim “we continue to be what we are,” and “we do nothing  new,” when the Chambers succession is founded upon a grievous departure from the norm  established for many centuries that the licit consecration of a new bishop requires three bishops.  It is uncertain whether the letter of consent from Pae supplies this defect.

(2) Chambers was the retired Episcopal Bishop of Springfield, Il. Chambers did not possess any  episcopal jurisdiction to commit to the consecrands at the 1978 Denver Consecrations, but in the  article, “On Continuing Anglicanism,” on the ACC website, we read that the Churches of the  Chambers Succession were founded by men who placed themselves under Chambers’ “personal  jurisdiction.” Let’s be clear: there is no such thing as “personal jurisdiction” in an Anglican  context. In a Roman Catholic context, a Prelature is founded under the “personal jurisdiction” of  the Roman Pontiff, but the circumstances do not bear comparison: a retired Episcopal bishop  who possesses no episcopal jurisdiction is not canonically equivalent to a Bishop of Rome who  claims not only diocesan episcopal jurisdiction but immediate jurisdiction over the entire  Church. If the Roman claims about universal jurisdiction are true, then certainly, a Bishop of  Rome may place a canonical entity under his own “personal jurisdiction,” but even if this were  the case, this would not in any wise imply that a retired Diocesan Bishop of the Protestant  Episcopal Church (PECUSA) also possesses the same prerogative. 

(3) In the Affirmation of St. Louis, we read that the Protestant Episcopal Church has lost  jurisdiction on account of its departure from Apostolic Order, and that, on this basis, the  Continuing Churches claim jurisdiction: “we affirm that all former ecclesiastical governments,  being fundamentally impaired by the schismatic acts of lawless Councils, are of no effect among  us, and that we must now reorder such godly discipline as we strengthen us in the continuation of  our common life and witness.” In such circumstances, Chambers, as a retired bishop, could have  remedied the defect outlined in (2) by claiming legitimate jurisdiction on the grounds that, since  PECUSA has lost its apostolic jurisdiction, “we must now reorder such godly discipline as we strengthen us in the continuation of our common life and witness.” This, however, is not how  Chambers proceeded. For a time, Chambers certainly acted in a manner consistent with an  assumption of apostolic jurisdiction, by performing confirmations and ordinations without the  permission of the local PECUSA Diocesan Bishop. However, when faced with the opportunity  to assume apostolic jurisdiction by establishing himself as the founder of a new jurisdiction, he  declined to do so. Chambers communicated apostolic orders at the Denver consecrations, but he  could not have communicated apostolic jurisdiction since, instead of founding a new jurisdiction,  he remained within the communion of the Protestant Episcopal Church, thereby denying the  fundamental motivation for establishing the Churches of the Chambers Succession, namely that  “all former ecclesiastical governments, being fundamentally impaired by the schismatic acts of  lawless Councils, are of no effect among us.” If Chambers had accepted the claim of the  Affirmation of St. Louis, then he would not have submitted to the authority of the bishops of the  Protestant Episcopal Church. In the article, “On Continuing Anglicanism,” on the ACC website,  we read that, in accordance with Canon III of the Council of Ephesus, Christians have a duty not  to submit to heretical bishops, and since Chambers submitted to the authority of the bishops of  the Protestant Episcopal Church, he implicitly recognized the legitimacy of their claim to  jurisdiction, which means that he implicitly repudiated the legitimacy of the claim to jurisdiction  of the Churches to which he had transmitted apostolic orders. The same holds for Pagtakhan,  the co-consecrator, who remained in the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) and subsequently  participated in the consecrations of bishops for various groups.

(4) In the article, “The Chambers Succession,” on the ACC website, the author attempts to  circumvent the problems outlined in (3) by claiming that neither Bishop Mark Pae nor Bishop  Charles Boynton withdrew their consent from the Denver consecrations. Now we have a  situation where the two actual consecrators implicitly withheld recognition of apostolic  jurisdiction from the Churches of the Chambers Succession, and where the apostolic jurisdiction  of these Churches now rests solely upon the two bishops who provided letters of consent. It is  impossible for the present writer to discern how this situation can be described as anything other  than “radically irregular.” 

(5) Pursuant to (4), there is no reason to believe that Pae or Boynton communicated apostolic  jurisdiction to the Churches of the Chambers Succession either. There is no evidence that Pae  withdrew from communion with the Protestant Episcopal Church: in fact, Pae subsequently  moved to the United States, submitting to the jurisdiction of the Protestant Episcopal Church. At his death, the Diocese of Long Island issued a notice that gives no indication that Pae was not in  communion with the Protestant Episcopal Church: his funeral service was held at the Episcopal  cathedral in Garden City, New Jersey ( mark-pae-died-october-20th.html). Since Pae continued and died in communion with the  Protestant Episcopal Church, it is impossible that Pae, by his letter of consent in 1978, could  have communicated legitimate apostolic jurisdiction. As to Boynton, he remained within the  Protestant Episcopal Church until 1990, when he joined the ACC. A Church cannot seriously  expect us to accept a claim to legitimate jurisdiction resting upon a bishop who remained subject  to the jurisdiction of the bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church for a full twelve years after  he had issued a letter of consent for the Denver consecrations. Furthermore, far from claiming jurisdiction in 1978, it appears that Boynton may have resigned his Episcopal orders: “He retired  in 1969, and in 1978 he formally resigned from the episcopacy of the Episcopal Church”.

Finally,  while Boynton may have joined the ACC in 1990, he also broke communion with the ACC in  1991 by participating in the Deerfield Beach consecrations. So, at best, the claim to  jurisdiction of the ACC rests upon one retired suffragan bishop who affirmed the  jurisdiction of the ACC between 1990 and 1991. It goes almost without saying that this is a  slender basis for a claim to legitimate jurisdiction. 

(6) On account of points (1) to (5), it is virtually impossible to affirm that the Churches of the  Chambers Succession possess legitimate jurisdiction. Neither the two consecrators nor the two  consecrators-by-consent remained in communion with the bishops consecrated at the Denver  consecrations in 1978. All four of these bishops could theoretically have communicated  jurisdiction to the bishops of the Churches of the Chambers Succession. But none of them did  so, since none of them submitted to the jurisdiction of the bishops whom they had consecrated or  to whose consecration they had consented. On the contrary, all four of them remained in  communion with bishops whose jurisdiction the Affirmation of St. Louis explicitly denies. It is  unfathomable that a bishop should consecrate bishops with whom he does not intend to be in  communion, but by their subsequent actions, Chambers, Pagtakhan, Pae, and Boynton did just  that: since they did not remain in communion with the bishops whom they consecrated or to  whose consecration they consented, they cannot be considered to have affirmed the jurisdiction  of these bishops. They certainly cannot be considered to have affirmed the exclusive jurisdiction that the Churches of the Chambers Succession claim (see “On Continuing Anglicanism,” and the  10th Provincial Synod of the ACC, 1993). 

(7) In a post dated July 20th, 2007, Fr. Matthew Kirby, (former?) member of the G4 Doctrine  Commission writes: “Apostolic Succession is succession of jurisdiction, not just orders.” We  agree, but we do not agree with his claim that the ACC possesses legitimate jurisdiction. The  

ACC claims orders and jurisdiction, but all it received at the Denver consecrations was orders:  neither of the consecrators communicated legitimate jurisdiction to the ACC, and neither of the  consecrators-by-consent communicated legitimate jurisdiction to the ACC. Accordingly, the  status of the ACC on the basis of the Chambers succession is as follows: it possesses orders, but  not jurisdiction. Therefore, it does not stand in the legitimate “Apostolic Succession.” 

(8) In the reports on ACA/APA Orders and DHC Orders, the ACC Committee on Validation of  Orders states that, “the term ‘validity’ is treated as a technical term, so that when a particular  clergyman’s Holy Orders are pronounced by us to be ‘valid,’ that means simply that the  authorities of our Church are able to warrant to our people that to a moral certainty the man in  question stands in the legitimate Apostolic Succession.” In light of (7), in which Fr. Kirby, in  continuity with the ACC’s position, states that “Apostolic Succession is succession of  jurisdiction, not just orders,” it is impossible for us to pronounce ACC Orders as “valid,” since,  on the basis of their own definition of validity, this would require us to affirm that the ACC “stands in the legitimate Apostolic Succession,” when this is patently not the case on the basis of  the Chambers succession.

(9) In “On Continuing Anglicanism,” the ACC states that the Orders of post-1976 PECUSA  clergy and, by extension, ACNA clergy are “canonically invalid” on account of the androgynous  character of the ordained ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Here, however, we must  state that the Orders of the Churches of the Chambers Succession are “canonically invalid” on  account of their defective Apostolic Succession. To quote Fr. Kirby again, “Apostolic  Succession is succession of jurisdiction, not just orders.” In its report on Diocese of the Holy  Cross (DHC) Orders, the ACC Committee on Validation of Orders states that the DHC “can in  no sense be accused of being one of those vagantes bodies in which Holy Order is treated not as  Christ’s gift to His Church but as a species of personal magic possessed by a ‘bishop’ who has  claims to tactile succession but no visible apostolic jurisdiction or mission.” While we appreciate the ACC’s affirmation that the DHC is not a vagans Church, it is regrettable that, in  light of the foregoing evidence, we might enquire whether the ACC possesses a vagans character  since their bishops have “claims to tactile succession but no visible apostolic jurisdiction or  mission.” 

(10) Pursuant to (9), even if we do not have any doubt about the competence of the ACC bishops  to transmit orders, these bishops have no competence to transmit jurisdiction. This raises certain  problems in light of the ACC’s definition on validity. However, our definition of validity should  certainly be more charitable than the definition presented in the reports of the ACC Committee  

on Validation of Orders: we should recognize as sacramentally valid all those orders conferred  by a man in episcopal orders who uses a valid rite of ordination (in this case, the 1928 Book of  Common Prayer rite of ordination). 

Accordingly, we should recognize that ACC Orders are valid, but only on the basis of our  definition of validity, since on the basis of the ACC’s definition of validity, ACC Orders are  gravely dubious. 

(11) In its Report on American Episcopal Church (AEC) Orders, the ACC Department for  Ecumenical Relations affirms the precedent that clerics who hold a claim to tactile succession  but not to jurisdiction (e.g. episcopi vagantes) should be prohibited from the exercise of any  orders received upon their reconciliation to the Church. We should certainly be more clement  towards the ACC than the ACC Department for Ecumenical Relations would be… 

(12) To summarize the above points: the presence of only two consecrators at the Denver  consecrations establishes the Denver consecrations as “canonically irregular,” and the failure of  any of the consecrators or consecrators-by-consent to remain in communion with the  consecrands and accept their jurisdiction indicates that the consecrands did not receive legitimate  jurisdiction from the consecrators or consecrators-by-consent, which establishes the Chambers  Succession as “canonically invalid.” 

(13) While not without its own infelicities, the Diocese of the Holy Cross possesses a much  stronger claim to legitimate jurisdiction than the Anglican Catholic Church. The Diocese of the  Holy Cross was formed by Bishop A. Donald Davies, a retired Episcopal Bishop, who publicly  broke communion with the Protestant Episcopal Church over its liberalizing tendencies, forming  the Episcopal Missionary Church. Davies consecrated Patrick Murphy and Robert Waggener to  the episcopate for the Episcopal Missionary Church. Davies was assisted by two co consecrators, Kennaugh and Clark, Anglican Rite Jurisdiction of the Americas (ARJA) bishops who had been consecrated in Philippine Independent Church (PIC) succession. Since there were  three consecrators present at the consecrations of Murphy and Waggener, these consecrations do  not possess the defect of the Denver consecrations and so can be accredited as canonically regular. In addition, since Davies consecrated Murphy and Waggener in the context of a  jurisdiction he had founded as an act of rejection of the claimed jurisdiction of the Protestant  Episcopal Church, and since he remained in communion with Murphy and Waggener after he  had consecrated them, Davies was clearly claiming legitimate jurisdiction and was clearly  transmitting this legitimate jurisdiction to those whom he consecrated. Murphy and Waggener,  along with others, subsequently joined the APCK, thereby conferring jurisdiction upon the  APCK, and they transmitted this jurisdiction to Bishop Paul Hewett when, after leaving the  APCK over the question of divorced and remarried bishops, they revived the corporation of the  Diocese of the Holy Cross, served along with LaCour of the APCK as Hewett’s co-consecrators  along with A. Donald Davies, and, most importantly, remained in communion with Hewett after  they had consecrated him.

(14) The points raised in (13) lead us to a potential solution to the problem of jurisdiction. Since  Davies possessed legitimate jurisdiction and transmitted jurisdiction to Murphy and Waggener  who in turn, along with Davies himself, transmitted jurisdiction to Hewett, we may affirm that  the Diocese of the Holy Cross possesses legitimate jurisdiction. There may be issues with  certain aspects of the DHC’s claim to jurisdiction, but it is certainly on a far more secure footing  than the claim to jurisdiction of the Churches of the Chambers Succession 

(15) Now that it has been established that it is more probable that Bishop Paul Hewett of the  Diocese of the Holy Cross possesses jurisdiction, it is possible that this may resolve the issue of  the ACC’s defect of jurisdiction. As reluctant as the present writer is to concede this, by entering  into full communion with the ACC, and by joining the ACC and making himself a canonical  subject of Mark Haverland, one might plausibly argue that Bishop Paul Hewett has implicitly  recognized the jurisdiction of Mark Haverland and has thereby remedied the defect of  jurisdiction that the ACC possesses. Accordingly, the ACC may, on final analysis, be deemed to  possess legitimate jurisdiction. However, any legitimate succession the ACC possesses is founded not on the basis of its Chambers Succession but on the basis of the gracious actions of  the Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Cross. Let us, therefore, give thanks to Almighty God for  the one true holy catholic and apostolic Diocese of the Holy Cross, whereby the legitimate  Apostolic Succession of Orders and Jurisdiction has been maintained. And let us unite around its  bishop, Paul C. Hewett, legitimate successor of the apostles, and legitimate patriarch of the  1976 exodus.

Postscript: the Deerfield Beach consecrations cannot reliably be deemed to have transmitted  legitimate jurisdiction, since these consecrations were intended only to transmit legitimate orders  to bishops who were to serve in a united Anglican province that never materialized. In addition,  Mercer’s continued membership of the Community of the Resurrection, which is part of the  Church of England, indicates his ambivalent attitude towards apostolic jurisdiction, and his  continued membership of the Community of the Resurrection after his reception into the Roman  Catholic Church indicates his ambivalent attitude towards apostolic orders. Furthermore, there is  no evidence that Mize broke communion with the Protestant Episcopal Church: indeed, Mize  signed statements in 1996 and 1998 identifying himself as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. We have already  discussed the case of the third consecrator, Boynton.

The Rev’d. Fr. Richard P. Cumming is Rector of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Liverpool,  NY in the Diocese of the Holy Cross and a former member of the G4 Doctrine Commission on Holy Orders