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6 - A New Path for Anglican Catholics.

Updated: Dec 12, 2023


Forming The Provisional Anglican Church in North America

The period between the St. Louis Congress and the Denver consecrations was a time of steady growth for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Parish level activism began for the purpose of “forming provisional dioceses,” [1] as well as taking a position on the ‘Affirmation.’

A group of seventy-five Episcopalians, from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky met on October 22nd, 1977 in Columbus, Ohio, to begin the process of forming of the Diocese of the Midwest.

The ‘Affirmation’ won unanimous support, and plans were made to create Canons for the new diocese. Two days later, another group of parishes from Alabama, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida met to form the Diocese of the Southeast. Two hundred Continuers met in Salem, Massachusetts in November to talk about the possibility of forming a Diocese of the East, while another group met in Charlottesville, Virginia to form the “Virginia Conference of the Church,” [2] a diocese within the ACNA.

The second diocese to become officially part of the ACNA, after the Diocese of the Holy Trinity (DHT), was the Diocese of Christ the King (DCK) in Glendale, California on December 10th, 1977 with the aforementioned Fr. Robert S. Morse elected as its first bishop. Both the Dioceses of Christ the King and Holy Trinity were organized as non-geographical bodies. This meant that any parish in the United States could receive episcopal oversight from either of these dioceses.

The Diocese of the South East U. S. (DSEUS) was the third diocese to join the ACNA on December 16th 1977. Another diocese, the Diocese of the South (DOS) elected Fr. Peter Francis Watterson (1927-1996 ) of Tampa, Florida as their first bishop. At about the same time, the Diocese of the Mid-West (DMW) formed, but did not immediately elect a bishop.

On January 7th 1978, the Virginia Conference of the Church finally established itself as the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States (DMAS) in Charlottesville, Virginia. So within four months, these Anglican rebels formed five dioceses with four bishops, “all of which had voted to accept the Affirmation of St. Louis.” [3]


Searching For Consecrators

The continuing search for bishops to consecrate the ACNA bishops was in full swing after the St. Louis Congress. However, problems began to arise. Even though he was under tremendous pressure from the ECUSA HOB, the Right Reverend Charles Boynton indicated to the FCC that he was interested in participating in the consecrations, but shortly thereafter “suffered a heart attack.” [4] Under doctor’s orders he was prevented from going to Denver. Bishop Clarence Haden, who was expected to join Bishop Albert Chambers in the consecrations, also dropped out.

“After receiving many rejections,” [5] by mid-November of 1977 the Anglican Communion Bishop Mark Pae of Korea agreed to participate as a consecrator. The identity of Bishop Pae was kept a guarded secret in order to prevent outside interference from the Anglican Communion to hinder the consecrations. The ECUSA with the assistance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, threatened Bishop Pae with removal from the Anglican Communion “if he participated in the consecrations for the schismatic group.” [6]

Pae wilted a bit under this pressure when he, as reported in the February 13th, 1978 edition of Time Magazine, received a telephone call from Archbishop Coggan explaining “the gravity of the matter.” [7] What ensued was that the soon-to-be Bishop Dale Doren went to Korea and received a letter from Pae giving consent to the consecration, even though Pae “denied writing such a document.” [8]

Another Consecrator was found in the Right Reverend Francisco J. Pagtakhan, Bishop Secretary of Missions and Ecumenical Affairs of the Philippine Independent Church. And with that, the consecrations were officially set for January 28, 1978, in Denver, Colorado.

This painful process of trying to find consecrators taught the Continuers a great lesson. Within the Affirmation of St. Louis was an expressed desire to be in communion with the Anglican Communion. The sharing of a filial relationship with churches that have a common Anglican heritage was important to Continuers. The obstructionist nature, however, of the See of Canterbury, the ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada made the possibility of any such occur­rence quite “implausible.” [9]


The Denver Consecrations

January 28th 1978

When the time came for the Denver consecrations, Bishops Chambers and Pagtakhan were the only ones present. As mentioned, Bishop-elect Doren received a letter of consent from Bishop Pae to his consecration. The service was held on January 28, 1978, at the Augustana Lutheran Church. This was the second choice for a facility. The Roman Catholic Church denied the use of its local cathedral because of their “ecumenical relationship” [10] with ECUSA’s Diocese of Colorado.

About fourteen hundred people were in attendance for the ceremony. The event received both national and local media coverage. All “witnessed a grand and colourful Missal Service.” [11] Despite Pae’s recantation of consenting to Doren’s consecration, Doren was in possession of a bishop's mitre received from Pae, plus three other items that were given to him from the clergy of Pae's diocese; not to mention two bishop’s rings and a pectoral cross inscribed with the words, ‘Bishop Dale David Doren.’

To begin the consecrations, Pae's letter was “read aloud, and Chambers accepted it as expressing the will of Pae.”[12] Then the Venerable C. Dale David Doren was consecrated by Bishop Chambers, with Pagtakhan acting as co-consecrator. Bishop Doren, “acting as the third bishop, assisted in the consecrations” [13] of Bishops-elect Robert Morse, James Mote, and Peter Watterson.


Anglican Communion Reaction

Those outside the movement reacted contemptuously. Within hours of the consecrations, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, announced that he would “not recognize the validity of the consecrations or any group formed out of them.” [14] The ECUSA immediately proclaimed the consecrations were invalid because the service did not have three consecrators as required in the Canons, and claimed that two of the consecrators “acted fraudulently.”[15]

Fifteen bishops from the Episcopal Church put forward a “presentment” [16] to Bishop Chambers over his role in the consecrations. They accused him of taking part in the consecrations “without obtaining approval of the presiding bishop, the diocesan standing committees, and the other bishops, as required by Title in, Canon 14, Section l (b) of canon law.” [17] Additionally, Chambers was also accused of impinging on the jurisdictional rights of the Bishop William C. Frey (1930- 2020) of Colorado. There was indeed some concern in the movement over the consecrations because of the perception of “irregularity and even invalidity of episcopal orders.” [18]

However, generally speaking, members of the provisional ACNA were jubilant over the event and, for the most part, considered themselves “under the guidance of validly consecrated bishops.” [19]

Even though it was “customary for new Episcopal Bishops to be consecrated by three established bishops,” [20] the ACNA argued that there were times in Church history where a single bishop had performed consecrations, and that Ecumenical Councils had ruled that it was allowable for one bishop to consecrate a new bishop when there were extreme circumstances and there was no other choice. As Thomas G. Barnes noted, "If any situation in the history of the Church constituted extreme necessity this one did.” [21] Those who gathered in St. Louis were “forced to turn to the few bishops who had the courage of the Faith to continue the Apostolic Succession for the new branch.” [22]

The Denver consecrations can be seen as the dénouement of the St. Louis Congress because they represented the apex or highest point for a united group of Continuers who were still jurisdictionally one body and “confident that theirs was a bright future.” [23]

In forming the provisional Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Catholicism was one step closer to defining itself as an ecclesiastical community outside the influence of other groups that held on to alternate theological views such as the more protestant evangelical wing of Anglicanism. Pushing ahead, with some difficulty, to the Denver consecrations, Anglican Catholicism had taken small steps in asserting itself as a faith community. The Anglican Communion, whose power was then firmly centered in Canterbury, turned its back on traditional Anglicanism by openly rejecting the Denver consecrations.

Chapter XII


The Dallas Synod

October 18th - 20th 1978

Nine months after the Denver consecrations, the provisional ACNA held its “Constitutional Synod” [24] in Dallas, Texas. This was the meeting where the constitution and canons would be completed for the new church, and it was at this meeting where the Anglican Church in North America became “formally constituted as the Anglican Catholic Church.” [25]

One of the best descriptions of the Synod was given by the publication, The Living Church: “It was fascinating for most spectators, frustrating for most participants, and puzzling for most of the general public.” [26]The Christian Challenge described the Synod as a “rocky affair,” [27] and attributed it to a lack of episcopal leadership within the continuum.

According to Joan de Catanzaro, wife of the Rev’d Dr. Carmino de Catanzaro, in her book Thou Art A Priest, after the openly unifying and triumphant Congress of St. Louis and the Denver consecrations, “dissension began.” [28] In Mrs. de Catanzaro’s opinion, the problems were not based on theological differences, but rather the proposed canons for the Constitutional Convention where a “power struggle” [29] between groups then ensued.

Dr de Catanzaro returned to Canada upset over witnessing people who would place “technical details of law ahead of faith and unity.” [30]Amongst some delegates prior to the Synod, there was concern that the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) would either “under- or over-endow bishops with authority, and create a structure without the ironclad safeguards”[31] that could prevent a repeat of the ECUSA experience. Much of the acrimony centered on the matter of “who would run the church, bishops or the laity.” [32]

Also, there wasn’t enough time for delegates to study the proposed constitution and canons, and some were unaware that it was "aimed at the establishment of a Catholic, not a congregational, church structure." [33] An example of the confusion in polity was during the debates, when the newly elected suffragan for Bishop Doren of the DMW, Fr. de Catanzaro, proclaimed, “I am a Catholic first and an Anglican second. I shall live and die Catholic, and I am not going to be a Protestant under any circumstances.” [34]

Clearly, Fr. de Catanzaro and Bishop Doren were unfamiliar with each others’ theological views. The fault here was “primarily with Doren” [35] and de Catanzaro would in the end not accept the DMW’s offer for him to be Doren's suffragan.

On the first night of the Dallas meeting, confusion still hung in the air as the DCK and DSEUS, led by bishops Morse and Watterson, “walked out of the Assembly.” [36] They did so as a way to protest what they saw as a church that was shaping up to be more Congregationalist and Protestant, in both nature and structure, than Catholic.

The following day, however, after receiving a clarification on just what the polity of the new church would be, reconciliation between the Assembly and the objectors brought the two missing delegations back to the meeting.

On the third day, “a spirit of patience and cooperation had returned, and the Synod ended in visible unity”. [37] By an overwhelming vote, including support from the formerly dissenting delegations, the Synod adopted all the articles which had been debated and approved in the proposed constitution, as well as provisionally adopting the remainder of the articles until the 1979 General Synod. The constitution, for all intents and purposes, “produced a Catholic structure, which would have seven dioceses, if all ratified the document.” [38]

It is important to note that at this Synod, all the delegates would have thought of themselves to be catholic, and they were, but only in the way they understood the meaning of that word. Some “saw their ritualized, less dogmatic Protestantism, so long as it maintained the Apostolic Episcopate,” [39] as authentically Catholic, while others acknowledged the Protestant nature of a lot of classic Anglicanism, (i.e. the 39 Articles of Religion, interpretation of the real presence in the Eucharist, Biblical Authority, the number of Ecumenical Councils etc.) but argued that it was, at best, a “deformed version of authentic Catholicism.”[40]

Because of this, they hoped to build the Anglican Catholic Church on a more firm Catholic foundation. Nevertheless, the Synod concluded with the Anglican Catholic Church declaring itself ‘Continuing,’ because they came out of established Anglicanism and intended no innovations; they merely sought to continue that which already existed. They acted in accordance with “the seven great Ecumenical Councils of the ancient Church.” [41]

Following the tenets of the ‘Affirmation,’ the Anglican Catholic Church proclaimed to have true and valid Episcopal succession. Holy Orders were to consist only of men, although the ancient office and ministry of Deaconesses as a lay vocation for women would be permitted. For the most part, it is fair to say that the Continuing Church is Anglo-Catholic in approach, and their liturgies are more High-Church than Low-Church. As prescribed by the ‘Affirmation’ and authorized by the ACC, Anglican Catholics use the BCP, as well as allowable Missals and other forms of worship. The King James Bible as the Authorized Version of Holy Scripture is a distinguishing mark of most continuing churches.

Following the Constitutional Synod, the Synods for the DHT, DMW and the Diocese of the South-West (DSW) “voted overwhelmingly to ratify the proposed Constitution.” [42] On May 26, 1979, the first meeting of the College of Bishops was held in order to declare the ACC as a legal reality. Even though the proposed constitution was not ratified by the DSEUS or the DCK, “some of their parishes asked for ACC oversight.” [43]

Unfortunately, during the process of ratifying the ‘Affirmation’ as the new church's constitution, a crack in unity developed which resulted in several dioceses breaking away over the next several years. Bishop Morse (DCK) and Bishop Watterson (DSEUS) “opposed ratification of the constitution, and chose to retain their dioceses' autonomy.” [44] The DMW, headed by Bishop Doren, eventually seceded in 1980 over issues of polity and formed the United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA). The UECNA was established with a Congregationalist church structure. Because of these kinds of actions, the ACC was “never able to achieve much stability.” [45]


The Post-Dallas Calm

The ACC’s College of Bishops assured continuing churchmen outside of the Church that no one would be “forced to conform” [46] to any other kind of churchmanship and, in 1982, expressed a desire to discuss “intercommunion” [47] to all other Continuing Anglicans. In 1985, the ACC College of Bishops and the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada issued statements expressing that each was in "full sacramental communion"[48] with other Anglican jurisdictions that maintained the male priesthood, as well as the Diocese of Christ the King. By the mid-eighties, the overall atmosphere within the Continuing Anglican movement can best be described as calm and peaceful, and many held a strong belief that unifying the movement, or at least large part of it, was “realistically possi­ble.” [49]

[1] Falk [2] Bess p.101 [3] Falk [4] ibid [5] ibid [6] ibid [7] Time Magazine, Episcopal Split, Monday, February 13th, 1978 Copyright [8] ibid [9] Falk [10] ibid [11] ibid [12] Bess p.107 [13] ibid p.107 [14] Bess p.108 [15] ibid p.108 [16] Badertscher Chapter 2, p.12 [17] Badertscher Chapter 2, p.12-13 [18] Badertscher Chapter 2, p.12 [19] Bess p.108 [20] Marsh p.29 [21] Bess p.110 [22] ibid p.110 [23] Falk [24] Badertscher Chapter 2, p.13 [25] ibid p.13 [26] Bess p.124 [27] TCC1977 Report [28] de Catanzaro p.72 [29] de Catanzaro p.73 [30] ibid p.73 [31] TCC 1977 Report [32] Marsh p.29 [33] Falk [34] Bess p.120 [35] Falk [36] TCC 1977 Report [37] ibid [38] ibid [39] Bess p.128 [40] ibid p.128 [41] Anglican Catholic Church, (Original Province) website. [42] Falk [43] TCC 2000 Report, * Summary of the original report for the October 18th to 20th, 1978 Dallas Synod [44] Badertscher Chapter 2, p.13 [45] ibid p.13 [46] Falk [47] ibid [48] Bess p.184 [49] Falk

This article was taken from the Doctoral thesis Recognizing Anglican Catholic Identity: An Historical Review of the Anglican Catholic Movement, the Affirmation of St. Louis and the Traditional Anglican Communion, which has been added to the database for scholarly works by Acadia University. For anyone interested in the complete thesis, it can be found at:

© Dr. Charles Warner 2010

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