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8 - Formation of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC).

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Chapter XIII


The Anglican Church Of Canada

Between the 1973 General Synod, which supported the ordination of women and 1976, when ordinations actually began, there was time to inform traditional catholic-minded Anglicans regarding the changes coming to the Church.

The aforementioned Council for the Faith successfully took on this role. The Council was convinced that the leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada had “allowed and even fostered” [1] the break-up of the familiar catholic structure of the Church. An example of this was the difficulties experienced by traditionalists who were considering leaving the Anglican Church of Canada “from adverse press reporting, desertion of some family members and friends, criticism from fellow clergy, freezing of pension plans, lack of funds for salaries etc.” [2]

Because of such struggles, there was now a perceived need for a Continuing Anglican Church in Canada which would maintain both Anglican Faith and Order. For traditionalists, it was the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada that had both abandoned the faith and “invented a new denomination” [3] leaving Anglo-Catholics to serve as an authentic Anglican remnant.


Two Anglo-Catholic Parishes Depart

After the Congress of St. Louis, a group of “like-minded Anglicans” [4] returned to Canada ready to take up the cause of Continuing Anglicanism. There were groups from Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Victoria to name a few.

In Victoria, British Columbia, Fr. Peter Wilkinson officially departed from the Anglican Church of Canada and joined the Diocese of the Holy Trinity, under Bishop-elect Mote, thereby becoming the “first priest of the Continuing Church in Canada.” [5] The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday, October 3rd, 1977, at the home of Fr. Wilkinson’s mother, Mary Wilkinson. Along with Fr. Peter and his mother, Nell Bradshaw, and Denis and Janet Byrne were in attendance. These five people were the “founders of the Parish of Saint Athanasius (later to be renamed the Parish of Saint John the Evangelist),” [6] the first Continuing church in Canada.

In Ottawa, Ontario, a group from the Anglican parish of St. Barnabas formed a support group for then Fr. De Catanzaro after a narrow defeat by the parish to split from the Anglican Church of Canada. On February 14th, 1978, this group of fifty people “decided to form a parish as part of the Anglican Church of North America.” [7] The first service for Parish of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was celebrated at the auditorium of Ottawa Technical High School on “the second Sunday of Lent, February 19, 1978.” [8]

The media covered the event and headlines shouted out, "Breakaway Anglicans keep the old ways”; "Liberalism criticized - rebel Anglican priest leads flock from church". [9] The truth of the matter is that the first two parishes of the Continuing Church in Canada were merely the start of a “long struggle to maintain and restore Anglican traditional worship” [10] in Canada


American Episcopal Oversight

Immediately after the Congress of St. Louis it became apparent, because of size and geography, that Canadian Continuers would have to join the new dioceses of the movement if they wanted to receive episcopal oversight. These dioceses were made up of mostly Americans with American bishops. Those on the west coast were part of the Diocese of Christ the King “under Bishop Morse.” [11]

Those on the prairies joined the Diocese of Holy Trinity “under Bishop Mote in Denver”, [12] while the central and “eastern part of the country was assigned to the jurisdiction of Bishop Charles Doren” of the Diocese of the Mid-West. [13] By the time the Dallas Synod arrived the Canadian Continuers were divided between these three dioceses.

Unfortunately, this also meant that Canadian Continuers were part of the American infighting. Because of this, and mainly due to the leadership of Dr. de Catanzaro and Fr. Roland Ford Palmer (1891-1985), “the decision was made that Canada should have its own diocese.” [14] The Canadian view of its relationship with its American Continuers was that Canadian Anglicans were “members of sister churches, equal but self-governing, and with an ethos which reflected (its) national characteristics, history and peculiarities.” [15]


The Anglican Catholic Church Of Canada

As mentioned above, the two main leaders of the Canadian movement were Father Roland F. Palmer, of the Society of St. John the Evangelist (Cowley Fathers), and the Rev’d Dr. Carmino J. de Catanzaro. According to Eric Badertscher, both men were highly Anglo-Catholic and had come out of the Anglican Church of Canada. Fr. Palmer was one of the founders of the Canadian branch of his order, and de Catanzaro was a well respected Biblical scholar and major contributor to “drafting the doctrinal section” [16] of the Affirmation of St. Louis.

The first Synod of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC) was held from September 21 – 22, 1979, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Synod elected Fr. Carmino J. deCatanzaro as its first bishop, and adopted a constitution and canons for their new body. According to Bess, there was some confusion as to the diocese’s relationship with the Anglican Catholic Church in the United States. Reporting on the Synod, The Christian Challenge referred to the new body as the ‘Anglican Catholic Diocese of Canada.’

The confusion was dispelled when Fr. Roland Palmer, in a letter, “stated that the Canadian group was essentially independent.” [17] The Synod issued a resolution proclaiming itself as being “in communion with all of the Continuing bishops consecrated out of the St. Louis meeting.” [18] They also adopted the 1965 canons of the Anglican Church of Canada, instead of the constitution and canons of the Continuing Anglican Catholic Church.

A diocesan committee was created to support parishes and clergy by keeping them informed. Primarily, Ad Clerums were sent out to the clergy on a regular basis and two newsletters were produced. Fr. Parry produced “the Anglican News and later Fr. Crawley edited The Rock.” [19] The fledgling diocese also “had very little income,” [20] with only enough money to cover the bishop’s travel expenses. Nevertheless, the new Diocese forged ahead with an unlimited amount of optimism.


Fr. de Catanzaro’s Consecration

The Anglican Catholic Church College of Bishops decided on March 8th, 1980, that they would adopt a position of neutrality toward Fr. de Catanzaro’s consecration. Within a few days, however, the Canadian Continuers had issued an invitation to the ACC bishops to participate in the consecration service, which would include Bishop Morse, as well as Bishop Pagtakhan and two other Philippine bishops.

The news of the invitation spread throughout the ACC, and its members divided into two camps, one angry that the bishops were considering the offer, and the other hopeful that greater unity could be achieved by way of their bishop’s participation. The ACC bishops agreed to participate as co-consecrators, but only under the condition that Bishop Burns be one of the principle consecrators, and that “Warrants”[21] for the consecration be submitted to the ACC bishops by April 7th.

The ACC bishops are said to have “demanded to see the Warrant taking Order for the consecration, and were told that no Warrant had been issued.” [22] ACC canonist Andrew Stahl was “determined to prevent the consecration” [23] and advised his bishops to not participate in the consecration. Bishop Pagtakhan presented two Warrants, both claiming jurisdiction for the Continuing Canadian body through his new group, “the Anglican Rite Jurisdiction of the Americas (ARJA).” [24]

The ACC bishops flatly refused these Warrants. In response to this, Pagtakhan completed a new Warrant claiming that the Philippine Independent Catholic Church (PICC) would take Order for the consecrations. This was acceptable to the ACC bishops and they proceeded to participate in the consecration service.

So, it was “on April 12th, 1980, Carmino de Catanzaro’s consecration took place in Westborough United Church,” [25] Ottawa, Ontario. There were nine bishops in attendance. The chief consecrator was the Right Reverend Lope Rosete of the Philippine Independent Church. “Bishops Burns and Morse were the co-consecrators as was Bishop Lope Rosete of the PICC.” [26]

The reason for using a PICC bishop by the Canadian Church was to demonstrate that the Canadians considered themselves to be in communion with “all of the Continuing groups that had come out of the St. Louis movement.” [27] The PICC had been part of the birth of the Continuing Anglican movement.

In a May 1980 pastoral letter, the ACC’s College of Bishops defended their reasons for involving themselves in the consecration service. They argued that they “considered it their pastoral duty to be present at Bishop de Catanzaro’s consecration since the Canadian Church had been originally created by the ACC.” [28]

According to Joan de Catanzaro, there were two reactions by Anglicans throughout Canada to the newly formed Anglican Catholic Church. There were those who recognized that there was a problem in the Anglican Church and were worried about the movement away “from traditional catholic teaching”, [29] and others who felt that there was no real threat to the status quo and could not understand why anyone would get involved with situations outside of their parish.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Edward (Ted) Scott (1919–2004) “wrote a patronizing letter offering to pave the way for (de Catanzaro) to join the Roman Catholic or Orthodox communions.” [30] With the exception of this kind of official comment, the majority of Anglicans seemed to admire the stand that the ACCC took, though they were not willing to follow suit. In his final meeting with his Anglican Parish in 1978, de Catanzaro stated clearly, "When it becomes a choice between heresy and schism, the decision must be for the latter and the only thing to do when the ship is sinking is to take to life boats". [31]

The Anglican Catholic Church of Canada grew steadily throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s as Anglican Catholic identity was establishing itself across the nation. Anglican Catholics felt that history would prove them correct in their decision to make the tough choice of following traditional Anglican values and creating a new Anglican Church in Canada.

[1] de Catanzaro p.76 [2] de Catanzaro p.87 [3] de Catanzaro p.95 [4] January 2008 ACCC Diocesan Circular, Sketch of a Parish: Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ottawa, Ontario [5] February 2008 ACCC Diocesan Circular, Sketch of a Parish: Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist, Victoria, British Columbia [6] ibid [7] January 2008 ACCC Diocesan Circular, Sketch of a Parish: Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ottawa, Ontario [8] de Catanzaro p.70 [9] ibid p.70 [10] ibid p.70 [11] Badertscher Chapter 2, p.14 [12] ibid p.14 [13] ibid p.14 [14] de Catanzaro p.73 [15] de Catanzaro p.95 [16] Badertscher Chapter 2, p.14 [17] Bess p.139-140 [18] Bess p.140 [19] de Catanzaro p.89 [20] de Catanzaro p.90 [21] Bess p.145 * Warrants- definition according to MSN Encarta: From the 12th century, Old N French; warant, variant of Old French, guarant, Germanic, “be on guard.” In this context, Warrant is defined as something that authorizes somebody to do something or in this case, a written authorization or certifying document. [22] Bess p.146 [23] de Catanzaro p.74 [24] Bess p.146 [25] de Catanzaro p.74. * Fr. de Catanzaro was elected as the ACCC’s first Canadian bishop in 1979, and was consecrated in April of 1980. However, just over three years later, in June of 1983, he died quite suddenly. He was succeeded by Bishop Alfred Woolcock of Oshawa, Ontario who had joined in 1982 what was by then known as the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada. Bishop Woolcock retired as Diocesan in 1989, to be succeeded by Bishop Robert Mercer who had moved to Ottawa from Zimbabwe via England to assist our church. In January of 2005, Bishop Mercer retired to England to be succeeded by our current Diocesan, Bishop Peter Wilkinson. [26] Bess p.146 [27] Bess p.147 [28] Bess p.149 [29] de Catanzaro p.62 [30] de Catanzaro p.64 [31] de Catanzaro p.71.

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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