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The Free Protestant Episcopal Church – FPEC, then called The Anglican Free Communion, now called The Episcopal Free Communion, was formed in England, on 2 November 1897, from the merger of three smaller churches. Others were to join later.
The ordination of bishops from within the apostolic succession was of major importance to this group, as also was having the church recognized as a lawfully constituted Religious denomination. The latter event occurred, at least tacitly, when an archdeacon from the group was exempted from World War I conscription in 1917 due to his clergy status, which would not have been permitted had the group not been considered a lawfully constituted denomination.
In 1890, Bishop Leon Chechemian, who had been a priest (vardapet) in the Armenian Catholic Church and later emigrated to England, where he was consecrated as a bishop, created the Free Protestant Church of England. In 1897 his church united with two other churches, the Ancient British Church and the Nazarene Episcopal Church, thus creating the Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England, an Anglican church independent of the Church of England. Chechemian was appointed the first primus of the newly formed FPEC.
The church had traditionally been quite small. There are various reasons for this, but one of them seems to be that clergy had tended to pass through it as a church in which to be ordained by bishops from the historic apostolic succession before moving on to other, larger church bodies. More recently,[ clarification needed ] the communion has evolved and grown, at present having 25 provinces in different US states and countries.
Leadership of the church moved to the United States in 1978 but returned to the United Kingdom in 2015.
From 1956 to 1960, the FPEC was formally affiliated to the movement then led by Hugh George de Willmott Newman (Mar Georgius). Formal links ceased in October 1960.
The FPEC has known internal dissension, some based on theological disputes and some on personalities. After a schism (circa 1978) in the communion, one of the factions led by Horst Block was renamed "The International Free Protestant Episcopal Church" (TIFPEC). On 12 February 2008, Block died and Bishop Peter Leers succeeded him as the primus of TIFPEC. In February 2011, Leers dissolved that jurisdiction, ending the division.
The original organization (FPEC) survived. Edwin Duane Follick was primus at the time of the 2011 reconciliation, and thus he became primus of the reunited body.
In 2020 a group of bishops mostly from Latin America formally declared their intent to remove Archbishop Palmer. This was done without the approval of the other bishops within the communion, and thus this group which continued to use the name Anglican Free Communion are considered a schismatic group by the original communion as can be read on the official website used by the AFC. This schismatic group would eventually add the name "International" to its name becoming the Anglican Free Communion International (AFCI). This group is headed by Archbishop Firestone but is not the original AFC.
During the bishops' synod of 2012 in Bolivia, the organization adopted the new name "The Anglican Free Communion".
In August 2020 after the schism with the Anglican Free Communion International the communion renamed itself the Episcopal Free Communion, in acknowledgement of the communion original name.
Other names that have been used during the church's history include "Episcopal Apostolic Church of England" and "Ecumenical Church Foundation".
The Free Protestant Episcopal Church (The Anglican Free Communion) is one of the oldest Anglican Communions in existence and is constituted by a large group of Anglicans of all varieties of churchmanship from Anglo-Catholic (High Church), Evangelical (Low Church), Latitudinarian (Broad Church), Charismatic and Liberal.
All of the Provinces of the Communion are autonomous, comprising self-governing churches and families of churches around the world.
As at 2016, Richard Arthur Palmer is the Primus. Richard Arthur Palmer was consecrated in the Liberal Catholic Church in 1997. He has subsequently been involved in the Reformed Liberal Catholic Church (Old Catholic), the Society for Independent Christian Ministry, the Open Episcopal Church and the United Episcopal Church. He was one of the founders of the Open Episcopal Church and for a five-year term he was its primate.
The Free Protestant Episcopal Church is a communion of free Anglican churches around the world, living an Anglican reconciliation and unity.
The church claims valid apostolic succession derived from the Armenian Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church of England (through the Reformed Episcopal Church of the United States of America). These lines were in the jurisdictions that united in 1897 to found the Free Protestant Episcopal Church.
It is doubtful whether the line of succession from the Armenian Catholic Church is carries an un-broken episcopal succession. Leon Chechemain was a vardapet in the Armenian Catholic Church but evidence that he was ever a bishop in that church is lacking.
Note: For a full list of patriarchs of the Ancient British Church and Celtic Orthodox Church, refer to the wikipage of the Celtic Orthodox Church.
Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, which has usually been associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops. Christians of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Old Catholic, Hussite, Anglican, Church of the East, Moravian, and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions maintain that "a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this apostolic succession." Each of these groups does not necessarily consider consecration of the other groups as valid.
A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.
An episcopal polity is a hierarchical form of church governance in which the chief local authorities are called bishops. It is the structure used by many of the major Christian Churches and denominations, such as the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Anglican, and Lutheran churches or denominations, and other churches founded independently from these lineages.
Full communion is a communion or relationship of full understanding among different Christian denominations that share certain essential principles of Christian theology. Views vary among denominations on exactly what constitutes full communion, but typically when two or more denominations are in full communion it enables services and celebrations, such as the Eucharist, to be shared among congregants or clergy of any of them with the full approval of each.
The highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church, and the Church of the East are termed patriarchs.
Primus inter pares is a Latin phrase meaning first among equals. It is typically used as an honorary title for someone who is formally equal to other members of their group but is accorded unofficial respect, traditionally owing to their seniority in office.
The British Orthodox Church, formerly known as the Orthodox Church of the British Isles, is a small independent Oriental Orthodox church defining its mission to the people of the British Isles. It has not been in communion with any of the Oriental Orthodox churches since a 2015 decision to return to an independent status.
The Celtic Orthodox Church (COC) is a small autocephalous church which derives from the church formerly known as the Catholic Apostolic Church and, before that, as the Ancient British Church and the Orthodox Church of the British Isles (OCBI), which was constituted by the Syriac Orthodox Church to develop an Orthodox church in the Western (Celtic) tradition without recourse to its Oriental roots.
The Charismatic Episcopal Church, more officially known as the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (ICCEC), is a Christian denomination established as an autocephalous communion in 1992. The ICCEC states that it is not a splinter group of any other denomination or communion, but is a convergence of the sacramental, evangelical, and charismatic traditions that it perceives in the Church from the apostolic era until present times.
Catholicity is a concept pertaining to beliefs and practices widely accepted across numerous Christian denominations, most notably those that describe themselves as Catholic in accordance with the Four Marks of the Church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed of the First Council of Constantinople in 381: "[I believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."
The African Orthodox Church (AOC) is a primarily African-American denomination founded in the United States in 1921. It has approximately 15 parishes and 5,000 members, down significantly from its peak membership.
The historic or historical episcopate comprises all episcopates, that is, it is the collective body of all the bishops of a church who are in valid apostolic succession. This succession is transmitted from each bishop to their successors by the rite of Holy Orders. It is sometimes subject of episcopal genealogy.
Anglican interest in ecumenical dialogue can be traced back to the time of the Reformation and dialogues with both Orthodox and Lutheran churches in the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth century, with the rise of the Oxford Movement, there arose greater concern for reunion of the churches of "Catholic confession". This desire to work towards full communion with other denominations led to the development of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, approved by the Third Lambeth Conference of 1888. The four points were stipulated as the basis for church unity, "a basis on which approach may be by God's blessing made towards Home Reunion":
Hugh de Willmott Newman was a bishop in the independent (non-Roman) Catholic movement and later an Archbishop for 'Western' British Orthodox churches. He was known religiously as Mar Georgius I and by the titles Patriarch of Glastonbury, Catholicos of the West, and Sixth British Patriarch.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a group of Eastern Christian churches adhering to Miaphysite Christology, with a total of approximately 60 million members worldwide. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are broadly part of the trinitarian Nicene Christian tradition shared by today’s mainstream churches, and represent one of its oldest branches.
Richard Williams Morgan (c.1815-1889) was a Welsh Anglican priest and author, later the first Patriarch of the Ancient British Church.
The Ancient British Church was a British religious movement founded by Jules Ferrette and Richard Williams Morgan.
Charles Isaac Stevens (1835–1917) was the second patriarch of the Ancient British Church from 1889 to 1917 and also was primus of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England from 1900 to 1917.
Leon Chechemian (1848–1920) was an Armenian Christian cleric. In 1897, he was a founder of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church, and that church's first primus. He is also considered an episcopus vagans.
Archbishop Doyé Teido Agama is a Christian leader within the Pentecostal Holiness and Convergence movements. He is presiding prelate and executive director of Apostolic Pastoral Congress, a collegiate collective of Pentecostal bishops and pastors adhering to paleo-orthodoxy. He leads the Christian Way of Life group of churches. He is a prominent figure in the Churches Together in England movement and is involved extensively in the African diaspora and black and multicultural affairs.