A note on nomenclature

We use the term "independent episcopal churches" advisedly. We do not mean that these communities are affiliated or have any resemblence (historical or otherwise) with the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. The term refers to church order. These are episcopally-ordered churches. The churches listed below share some common characteristics:

These churches are sometimes called autocephalous, however this should not imply that they are in communion with other churches in the parent traditions.

These churches are also called "independent catholic churches." This does not necessarily imply that these churches are part of the Western tradition. This is meant in the sense of the Nicene Creed, in which Christians profess that the church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

As a website, we struggle with two ecumenical principles:

Our struggle occurs because many churches describe themselves in a manner that challenges the self-understanding of other churches. In most cases, the groups included on this page are presented without comment. The only exceptions are to offer clarifying notes to avoid confusion, or where a group has specifically asked for comment. Descriptions are normally taken from the websites of the group, and are indicated as such.

A preliminary taxonomy

In the general category of "episcopally-ordered churches" we could include the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Oriental Orthodox, as well as some Methodist and Lutheran churches. The churches listed on this page might conceivably belong to any of these categories. However, many of the independent churches are not easily classified. Furthermore, we feel that the inclusion of the independent churches on the other relevant pages might violate the two principles listed above. Therefore, we have chosen to offer this separate list.

To our knowledge there is no definitive history of the development of the independent catholic churches. Further, no satisfying taxonomy seems to be possible. Suggestions for re-classifying would be greatly appreciated. As a preliminary taxonomy consider the following categories:

  1. Byzantine
    Sharing the rituals and theological formulations of the Byzantine East. Some of these are schisms within the Eastern Orthodox communities, and others are historically Western churches attempting to return to the apostolic teaching of the Ancient East.
  2. Old Catholic
    Deriving historically from the Roman Catholic tradition, but diverging in liturgical and theological expression. Most "Old Catholic" churches trace their history to the rejection of Vatican I's decree on papal infallibility. The Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht are listed on the Old Catholic churches page. Others are listed below.
  3. Tridentine or Traditionalist
    Also deriving from the Roman Catholic tradition, these communities attempt to preserve the liturgical expression of the Roman Catholic Church before Vatican II.
  4. Reformed Catholic
    Deriving from the Roman Catholic community but attempting to introduce theological and liturgical expressions and structural changes that are not found in the Roman Catholic community.
  5. Independent Anglican
    Probably the hardest to classify, historically derivative from Anglican communities, some of these communities attempt to preserve the Protestant tradition that has been over-shadowed somewhat by the Anglo-Catholic movement. Other independent Anglican communities have alternative raison d'être.
  6. Celtic
    Sometimes an amalgam of the above categories, the Celtic groups are attempting to return to a more primitive or pristine spiritual and liturgical expression. They are primarily of Anglo-Saxon origin.

None of these categories have been applied to the communities below. Please explore and use your own judgement.

Please note

Some -- or even many -- of the groups listed below exist only on the internet or in the missionary impulse of a single individual. Some of these websites claim an historical succession that is somewhat ephemeral. Others of these groups have a long and distinguished history. Please do not let the inclusion of any group here reflect upon the character of any other.

The terms "unity" and "communion" have a variety of uses and meanings for these churches. In many cases, churches claim to be "in unity" or "in communion" with another church. This may reflect a joint agreement and common history. In a few cases, claims of unity or communion are not reciprocal.

Please inform the of any corrections, revisions, or broken links.

Independent episcopally-ordered churches