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The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church Today

This page is an attempt to give an overview of the One, Holy, Catholic, and  Apostolic Church today, as it exists throughout the world in its various parts.  We've kept to a traditional interpretation of "Apostolic," in which we mean keeping the historic Apostolic succession of ordination. The United Pentecostal Church and other Pentecostal "Oneness" groups  also use the name "Apostolic" as well, so we apologize for any confusion this may cause. Also, because we limit this to the Apostolic succession, many others  Christian groups--Protestants, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Messianic Jews, etc. are not described here.

The history of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church

Welcome to the very unofficial homepage of The Apostolic  Church. Jesus Christ commissioned his twelve closest disciples to be his representatives (Greek apostolos, "apostles"). The apostles appointed  successors in the various lands to which they went, preaching the Word of God. In the West, the successors of the apostles are called bishops (Greek, episkopos). For four centuries, the United Church grew together, with the bishops supervising the local churches, and ordaining priests and deacons (Greek, presbyteros, diakonos), to serve neighborhood  churches. Occasionally, universal meetings of the bishops in Church Councils (Jerusalem, AD 50; Nicea 329, etc.) were called to deal with important issues of faith and doctrine. They appointed others to be bishops, which created unbroken lines of transmitting the faith going back to Christ himself. The Bishops of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, and later, Constantinople, were called Patriarchs.
  

Common points of the Apostolic Church:  

  • All hold the Nicene Creed to be the most essential  statement of Christian faith. Minute difference between Western and Eastern  versions.
  • Churches are governed regionally and universally by bishops (episkopos) in the lines of apostolic succession. Bishops in higher  administrative levels may have other titles, such as: archbishop,  metropolitan, pope, patriarch, catholicos, etc. Priests (Greek presbyteros) are ordained by bishops for the guidance of the faithful and administering the sacraments. Catholics and some others also ordain deacons (Greek diakonos).
  • Churches hold that sacraments are visible means in which God extends his grace. All Apostolic Churches agree that Baptism and Eucharist  (Lord's Supper) are sacraments.   All except Apostolic Lutherans also admit Confirmation/Chrismation, Matrimony, Holy Orders/Ordination, Penance/Reconciliation, and Unction/Anointing, although some Churches  recognizing these sacraments call them "rites."
  • Churches have a traditional liturgy, which changes  somewhat throughout the liturgical year emphasizing different aspects of Christ's life and Christian life in Him.
  • All Churches recognize the apostolic authority of at least the Jerusalem Council of 50 AD, and the first two Ecumenical Councils (gatherings of apostles/bishops) of:
    • Nicea 325 AD
    • Constantinople 381 AD

    All except the Church of the East also recognize the Council of Ephesus, 431 AD.    

    The various churches differ greatly on how many of the remaining councils (Chalcedon 459 AD, through Vatican II, AD 1965) they recognize.  

  • All except a few of the smaller independent apostolic churches have communities for religious (monastic) life. (Yes, even Anglicans and  Lutherans.)
  • Uphold the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Baptize infants.

Splits within the Apostolic Church:  

  • the Council of Ephesus, 431 AD, where The Assyrian Church of the East became separate from the other bishops of the Church.  
  • At the Council of Chalcedon, in 459, a disagreement developed  between the majority of bishops and the bishops of Ethiopia, Alexandria, Armenia, Syria and India, on describing Christ's humanity and divinity. These  have become known as the Oriental Orthodox Church.  
  • The next significant split among the bishops occurred in 1054, was even more injurious to Christian unity. It was the result of centuries of cultural (and some theological) differences between the Eastern and Western  parts of the Church. The Eastern Church is generally known as the Eastern  Orthodox Church.  
  • In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation swept Northern and Central Europe in several directions:  
    • Calvinism,  
    • Anabaptism,
    • Lutheranism, and the succession of the  
    • Church of England (Anglicanism).

    Of the four, only Anglicanism consistently remains  Apostolic, although in Sweden and Finland, Lutherans are also. Spin-offs from Anglicanism and Calvinism have given rise to a tremendous diversity of Protestant expressions (Methodist, Holiness, Pentecostal, etc. from Anglicanism; Presbyterian, Disciples, Baptist, etc. from Calvinism). Other Anglican spin-offs remain Apostolic, like the Anglican Catholic Church. Anabaptist and Lutheran  streams have remained comparatively unified in belief and practice.  One very  notable distinction between   Lutherans and   the other Apostolic Churches is that the former recognize only two sacraments.    Anglicans recognize all seven sacraments, but refer to the Eucharist and Baptism as sacraments per se, and call the remaining sacraments "rites."

    Since then, many relatively small splits have occurred in the  Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Churches as well. I've put them under the category Independent Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches. Many  of these Churches have names which are easily confused with each other or even  older Apostolic Churches.

Below is an illustrative summary of the splits within the Apostolic Church:


   Organizational Differentiation of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church

B Organizational Differentiation of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church B

33 AD  

One Holy, Catholic, and  Apostolic Church

431 AD

(rest of) One Holy,  Catholic, and Apostolic Church

Church of the East

451 AD

(rest of) One Holy,  Catholic, and Apostolic Church

Church of the East

Oriental  
Orthodox

1054 AD

Catholic Church

Church of the East

Oriental Orthodox

Eastern    
Orthodox

1517 AD

Catholic Church

Church of the East

Oriental Orthodox

Eastern Orthodox

Apostolic    
Lutherans

1534 AD

Catholic Church

Church of the East

Oriental Orthodox

Eastern Orthodox

Apostolic Lutherans

Anglicans

1732 AD

Catholic Church

Church of the East

Oriental Orthodox

Eastern Orthodox

Apostolic Lutherans

Anglicans

Independent  
Catholic,  
Orthodox,  
Anglican    
Churches

 

Name:

Catholic Church

Also known as:

  • "Roman" Catholic Church (should properly be applied to only the  Latin Rite of the Catholic Church; "Roman" Catholic was first used in England to distinguish the Church of Rome from the Church of England, or Anglo-Catholics.)
  • Church of Rome
  • The Western Church

Distinguishing    
Characteristics:

  • United with Eastern Church until 1054. Holds Bishop of Rome  (Pope) to be Supreme Pontiff.  
  • Overwhelmingly largest church in Christian world. Many constituent, largely self-governing Churches called "Rites."  
  • Latin Rite is overwhelmingly the largest (98% of  members) and is headed directly by the Pope, hence, the name "Roman" Catholic Church, is often misleadingly applied to the entire Catholic Church.
  • Latin Rite of the Catholic Church is the only branch of  the Apostolic Church other than some (Independent religious orders) which requires celibacy (non-marriage) of priests. (Other Catholic Rites as well as other Apostolic branches allow married clergy.)
  • Church is only one which sees definition of dogma as  on-going.
  • Church holds its spiritual leader as being infallible in matters of faith and morals under certain strict conditions.
  • Truly worldwide. Members reside in every country. Strongest in the Americas, Ireland, Southern and Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa,  Southeast Asia, esp. The Philippines.
  • Most monastic communities are organized into religious orders, of which there are hundreds, working within a particular flavor of Christian  spirituality. This has contributed to a tremendous variety of Christian experience within the Church.

Ecumenical    
Activity

Actively engaged in ecumenism with all the larger segments of the Apostolic Church. Ecumenical dialogue is especially  strong with the Church of the East, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Old  Catholics.    

Recent documents have resolved the disputes which occasioned the separation of the Church of the East, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran Churches

Headquarters and "CEO"

Vatican City,  Rome, Italy    
Pope John Paul II

Constituent churches with estimated  membership.

Total membership of the Catholic Church is approximately 1,013,000,000 in 1998.    
(Roughly 1/6 of  world population)    

  • Latin Rite, "Roman" Catholic Church  c. 997,000,000  

Eastern Churches, Eastern Rites, Greek Catholics, "Uniate" Churches  
c. 16,700,000 combined  

  • Alexandrian Rites
    • Coptic Catholic Church c.192,955
    • Ethiopian Catholic Church c.192,110
  • Antiochene Rites
    • Syrian Catholic Church 109,547
    • Maronite Catholic Church 2,948,949
    • Syro-Malankar 322,988
  • Armenian Rite
    • Armenian Catholic Church 334,860
  • Eastern Rites
    • Chaldean Catholic Church 308,409
    • Syro-Malabarese Catholic Church 3,280,586
  • Byzantine Rites  
    • Albanian Catholic Church 1,405
    • Belarussian Catholic Church c. 30,000
    • Bulgarian Catholic Church c. 20,000
    • Czech Catholic Church ?
    • Krizevei Catholic Church 48,937
    • Greek Catholic Church 2,300
    • Hungarian Catholic Church 280,750
    • Italo-Albanian Catholic Church 61,597
    • Melkite Catholic Church 1,073,340
    • Romanian Catholic Church 1,423,800
    • Russian Catholic Church 4,000
    • Ruthenian (Carpatho-Ruthenian) Catholic Church 495,888
    • Slovakian Catholic Church 229,190
    • Ukrainian Catholic Church 5,323,841

Notable newer  
Churches which have become
distinct from this  
 
Church since 1550:

  • Old Catholics
    • White-Robed Monks of St. Benedict
    • Polish National Catholic Church
    • American Catholic Church
    • Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church
  • Liberal Catholics
  • Society of St. Pius X
  • True Catholic


  

Name:

Church of the  East 

Also known as:

  • Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East
  • Assyrian Church
  • Persian Church
  • Assyrian Church of the East
  • "Aturai" or Ashurai Church of the East
  • "Nestorian" Church (inaccurate, sometimes  derogatory)

Distinguishing  
Characteristics:

  • Identity became separate in 431 when refused to attend Council of Ephesus in protest of "Nestorian controversy"  
  • Believes that its Aramaic manuscript of the Bible(Peshita), is the most reliable text.
  • Calls Mary "Mother of Christ" instead of "Mother of God." (But affirms Christ's divinity).
  • Greatest concentration in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, USA, India.

Ecumenical    
Activity:

Very strong with Catholics, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Most theological differences have been resolved.

Headquarters    
and  "CEO":

Chicago, Illinois, USA  
Catholicos Patriarch, H.H. Mar Dinkha  IV

Constituent    
churches    
with estimated    
membership:

No self-governing constituent churches.  Dioceses are world-wide.  
c. 550,000  

Notable newer  
Churches which have become
distinct from this  
 
Church since 1550:

None, although approximately half of the Church  became the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, in 1553.


  

Name:

Oriental Orthodox Church  

Also known as:

  • Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox
  • "Monophysite"Churches (inaccurate and usually derogatory.  "Henophysite" is the term they feel most accurately describes their  Christology.)  
  • Jacobite (used for the Syrian Church, especially. Inaccurate and someimes derogatory.)

Distinguishing  
Characteristics:

  • Little-known to most Westerners, but a fascinating Church. Practice remains similar to fifth century. Was part of united church until 459  Council of Chalcedon. Split over semantics in describing the nature(s) of  Christ.  
  • Hold the first three ecumenical councils as  authoritative.
  • Constituent churches are equals, except Indian Orthodox which is under the administration of the Syrian Orthodox Church. A  newcomer, the British Orthodox Church, has accepted the guidance of the Coptic Patriarch.
  • Dioceses are world-wide. Greatest concentrations in Middle East  (especially Syria and Egypt), Ethiopia, Armenia, and Kerala, India.

Ecumenical    
Activity:

Very actively engaged in ecumenism,  especially with the Eastern Orthodox Church, and also with the Catholic Church.

Headquarters    
and "CEO":

Damascus, Syria --Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas  
Alexandria, Egypt--Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, Shenouda III  
Echmiadzin, Armenia--Catholicos and Patriarch  of All Armenians, Kerakin I  
Addis Adaba, Ethiopia --?

Constituent    
churches    
with estimated    
membership:

Together, the Oriental Orthodox  Churches have about 36,000,000 members.    

  • Syrian Orthodox  Church c. 300,000
    • Indian Orthodox Church c. 2,200,000
  • Coptic Orthodox Church c. 10,000,000
    • British  Orthodox Church c.5000 ?
  • Armenian Orthodox Church c.4,000,000
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Church c. 20,000,000

Notable newer  
Churches which have become
distinct from  this  
 
Church since 1550*:

  • Mar Thoma  Church  
  • Apostolic Christian Church of the East

In addition, many other self-governing Apostolic Churches hare succession through Bishop Rene Vilatte, who was consecrated "Mar Timotheos" in  the the Syrian Orthodox line.


  

Name:

Eastern  Orthodox Church

Also known as:

  • "Greek Orthodox" This name can cause as much confusion as  "Roman Catholic" can for the Catholic Church. (Does one mean the Eastern  Orthodox Church as a whole, or specifically the Church of Greece, which happens  to be Orthodox, or any of the jurisdictions directly administered by the Ecumenical Patriarch which have the words   "Greek Orthodox" in their  names?)
  • The Eastern Church
  • Orthodox Catholic Church
  • Chalcedonian Orthodox
  • Rum Orthodox

Distinguishing  
Characteristics:

  • United with Western Church till 1054 when Bishop of Rome and Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated each other. Practice little-changed since 11th century.  
  • Very rich, elaborate liturgy.  
  • Tremendous revival of activity since the downfall of Soviet  Communism.
  • Priests and bishops wear beards.
  • Hold the first seven ecumenical councils as  authoritative.
  • Greatest concentrations in Eastern Europe, Russia and other  formerly Soviet countries, and the Middle East.
  • Ecumenical Patriarch is now considered "first among  equals."

Ecumenical    
Activity:

Ecumenical (Head) Patriarch is actively engaged  in ecumenism, but some constituent churches are much more reticent, e.g. the  Russian Church.

Headquarters    
and  "CEO":

Istanbul, Turkey  
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I  

Constituent    
churches    
with estimated    
membership:

Total membership may exceed 220,000,000. Second-largest Christian denomination in the world.    

Autocephalic Churches  

  • Church of Constantinople
    • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
    • Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America
    • American Carpatho-Russian  Orthodox Diocese  
    • Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA
    • Greek Orthodox Metropolitanate of Canada
    • Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada
    • Greek Orthodox Metropolitanate of Central America  
    • Greek Orthodox Metropolitanate of South America
    • Church of Estonia
  • Church of Alexandria
  • Church of Antioch
  • Church of Jerusalem
  • Church of Russia
  • Church of Georgia
  • Church of Serbia
  • Church of Romania
  • Church of Bulgaria
  • Church of Cyprus
  • Church of Greece
  • Church of Albania
  • Church of Poland
  • Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia
  • Orthodox Church in America

Autonomous Churches:    

  • Church of Sinai
  • Church of  Finland
  • Church of  Japan
  • Church of Ukraine

Notable newer  
Churches which have become
distinct from this  
 
Church since 1550:

  • Old Calendarists
  • True Orthodox
  • Free Orthodox

 
  

Name:

Apostolic Lutheran Churches (here we’re concerned only with the two Lutheran churches which kept the historic Apostolic succession: The Church of Sweden and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland.

Also known as:

  • The Swedish Lutheran Church
  • The Finnish Lutheran Church
  • "Apostolic Lutherans" (my phrase)

Distinguishing  
Characteristics:

  • Product of the Protestant Reformation and Lutheran theology. Most Lutheran Churches made no attempt to keep the Apostolic Succession, but the  Swedish and Finnish Lutherans did.  
  • Augsburg Confession outlines distinctives of Lutheran  theology.
  • Only Lutheran churches where clergy are called "priests."  Lutheran theology recognizes only two sacraments, Holy Communion and  Baptism.
  • Women may be ordained as priests and bishops.

Ecumenical    
Activity:

Very strong ecumenical activity with other Scandinavian and Baltic Lutheran churches and the Anglican Churches of the  British Isles. (the Parvoo Communion). Also  with the Catholic Church.    

(Note: in many areas of the world, non-Apostolic Lutherans are seeking intercommunion with Anglicans and to slowly reestablish apostolic  succession by having all new ministers ordained by Anglican bishops as well as  Lutheran bishops. A similar motion recently passed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America  in 1999.)

Headquarters    
and  "CEO":

Stockholm, Sweden (Church is governed by a Synod)  
Helsinki, Finland (Church is governed by a Synod)

Constituent    
churches    
with estimated    
membership:

Church of Sweden --7,600,000  
Evangelical -Lutheran  Church of Finland--4,400,000

Notable newer  
Churches which have become
distinct from this  
 
Church since 1550:

none.

 

Name:

Anglican Communion

Also known as:

  • Anglicans
  • Church of England (now properly refers to The Province of Canterbury and The Province of York, two distinct provinces within the  Anglican Communion)
  • Episcopalians Note: most constituent churches do not bear  "Anglican" or "Episcopalian" in their title. E.g., "Church of Ireland")

Distinguishing  
Characteristics:

  • Identity became separate from Rome during the reign of Elizabeth 1, in 1570.  
  • Founding document of 39 articles outlines differences between  Church of England and Church of Rome.
  • Because of concerns about an invalid Apostolic succession  concerning certain bishops, all Anglican ordinations are performed today by three bishops present, to ensure that should one line of succession be invalid,  the other two will be valid.
  • Women may be ordained as priests, and in some provinces, bishops.

Ecumenical    
Activity:

Very strong ecumenical activity worldwide, with  various denominations, especially with Lutherans, the Catholic Church, and the  Orthodox Church.    

In the Indian subcontinent, Anglicans merged with non-Apostolic  Protestant denominations to form four united Churches, the Church of North  India, and the Church of South India, the Church of Pakistan, and the Church of Bangladesh.   New ministers in these churches have been ordained into the  historic Apostolic succession, and they are overwhelmingly Apostolic now, although they are not particularly "Anglican," but "united."   They are part of  the Anglican Communion, although usually not described with the word "Anglican."

Other Churches listed as being "In Communion,", although though  separate from the Anglican Communion, are   the "Mar Thoma Syrian  Church, the Philippine Independent Church, and some Lutheran and Old Catholic Churches in Europe. The Church in China is known as a 'post denominational'  Church whose formation included Anglicans in the Holy Catholic Church in China."   

Headquarters    
and  "CEO":

Canterbury, England, UK,  
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams    

Constituent    
churches    
with estimated    
membership:

Links below are to pages of the Official site  of the Anglican Communion.   Total  membership is estimated at about 70,000,000, with over 32,000,000 members in Africa. Statistics are from the official site as of September, 2002.  

  • The Church of the Province of Burundi c. 450,000
  • The Church of the Province of Central Africa c.600,000
  • The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean 90,486
  • The Anglican Church of Kenya 2,500,000
  • The Church of Nigeria 17,500,000
  • The Church of Rwanda 1,000,000
  • The Church of the Province of Southern Africa  2,000,000
  • The Episcopal Church of the Sudan  2,000,000
  • The Anglican Church of Tanzania  1,379,366
  • The Church of the Province of Uganda 8,000,000
  • The Church of the Province of West Africa  ?
  • The Anglican Church of Congo 300,000
  • The Church of Bangladesh 12,500
  • The Anglican Church in Ceylon (Sri Lanka)  52,500
  • The Church of the Province of South East Asia  168,079
  • The Anglican Church of Hong Kong and Macao 29,000
  • The Church of North India 1,250,000
  • The Church of South India 2,000,000
  • The Anglican Church in Korea 14,558
  • The Church of the Province of Myanmar 49,247
  • The Holy Catholic Church in Japan 57,273
  • The Church of Pakistan ?
  • The Episcopal Church in the Philippines 118,187
  • The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia 220,659
  • The Anglican Church of Australia 3,998,444
  • The Church of the Province of Melanesia 163,884
  • The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea 246,000
  • The Church of England 6,000,000
  • The Church of Ireland 410,000
  • The Scottish Episcopal Church53,553
  • The Church in Wales 93,721
  • The Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church 5,000
  • The Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church 5,000
  • Anglican Church of the Central American Region 13,409
  • The Church in the Province of the West Indies 770,000
  • The Anglican Church of Mexico 21,000
  • The Episcopal Church of Cuba 3,000
  • The Diocese of Bermuda ?
  • The Diocese of Haiti ?
  • The Diocese of Dominican Republic ?
  • The Diocese of Puerto Rico ?
  • The Diocese of Honduras ?
  • The Diocese of the Virgin Islands ?
  • The Anglican Church of Canada 740,262
  • The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of  America 2,500,000
  • The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil  103,021
  • The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America 22,490
  • The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East 10,000

Notable newer  
Churches which have become
distinct from this  
 
Church since 1550:

(As of September 2002, Anglicans Online lists 54 independent Anglican denominations and churches not in  communion with the See of Canterbury.)  

  • The Charismatic Episcopal  Church 200,000 (Truly independent in origin; Did not succeed from the Anglican Communion.)  

  
  

Introduction:

Newer Self-Governing Churches with Apostolic Succession:  

Since the mid-sixteenth century, several hundred smaller (some as small as a single bishop) new denominations have appeared in the Apostolic  Church. Creating this catch-all category was solely for practical reasons. For instance, many of these churches have a "cross-pollination" of Apostolic streams. The Anglican Catholic Church is Orthodox as regarding their  theology, but Anglican as to their heritage. The Charismatic Episcopal Church began from an non-apostolic pastor was ordained simultaneously by bishops in  the Orthodox, Anglican and Old Catholic apostolic successions. This is just the barest sampling of how difficult it is to categorize many of the newer, smaller,  expressions of the Apostolic Church. Hence, this "independent" category.

Also known as:

Independent or Autocephalic or Self-governing Catholic or Orthodox or Anglican Churches

It should be noted that some of these churches may object to the use of the word "Independent" to describe them, although that word is in common use in other sites dealing with the newer Apostolic churches.   Some may even see  themselves as the true church, and the older body from which they separated as heterodox.

Distinguishing  
Characteristics:

  • To the best of my knowledge, all of these Churches still uphold  the common points of the Apostolic Church mentioned above, Apostolic succession (historic episcopate), and the overwhelming majority hold the   Nicene Creed as  the prime statement of faith, except for a few embracing Gnosticism/Theosophy.  
  • Otherwise, the Churches vary greatly in viewpoints and disciplines

Ecumenical    
Activity:

Ecumenical activity varies very  strongly among different denominations. Some are relatively happy with their status as separate jurisdictions, others are greatly pained by it.

Some Independent  
Apostolic  Churches    
and Orders


                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Knights  of Notre Dame
Christian psychiatric/mental health ministry, in the spirit of the Crusaders(!)  
Friends Catholic Communion  
Independent Quaker-Catholics  
Orthodox Catholic Church in America  
Another trove of information  
White-Robed Monks  of St. Benedict
Old Catholic succession, Benedictine spirituality, Zen meditation practice!

copyright by jon zuck

  

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