Begginings to 1922
As most church historians know, the first group of episcopal governed Anglicans to separate from the Church of England were the Non-jurors who existed from 1689 to 1805 when the last of their bishops died without a successor. These very devout people initially left the mother church over maintaining their allegiance to the Royal House of Stuart after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. They were traditional High Churchmen, but over time became interested in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and adopted several practices of those churches. Indeed, towards the end of the Non-jurors existence they had started to refer to themselves as ‘the remant of the Ancient British Church’ or ‘the Orthodox British Church’.
On 6 June 1866 a former French Roman Catholic missionary priest, Raymond Ferrette (1828 to 1904), was consecrated a bishop, with the religious name of ‘Mar Julius’, under the authority of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and was sent to England to initiate an indigenous and autonomous Orthodox Church as a step towards reunion between western and eastern Christians. On 6 March 1874 at Marholm, Northants, England he consecrated the Rev’d Richard Williams Morgan (1815 to 1899), a clergyman in the Church of England, as the native British bishop in this plan. Bishop Morgan, taking the religous name of ‘Mar Pelagius I’, re-established the Ancient British Church, while continuing his duties as an Anglican clergyman and as a historian of note. Exactly five years later, on 6 March 1879 he consecrated his successor as head of this church, the Rev’d Charles Isaac Stevens (1835 to 1917), a former presbyter of the Reformed Episcopal Church of the UK. Bishop Stevens took the religious name of ‘Mar Theophilus I’. It is interesting to note that Bishop Stevens’ co-consecrators were bishops in the Order of Corporate Reunion – a body of independent clergy who wanted the Church of England to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church! One of the co-consecrators was Dr. Frederick George Lee, who was a literal descendant of the Non-juroring bishop Dr. Timothy Newmarsh who had been consecrated in 1726. This Ancient British Church was to revive the high church and liturgical principles of the former Non-jurors in opposition to the Anglo-Catholicism that was sparked within the Church of England by the beginnings of the Oxford Movement in 1833.
Meantime, in 1888 the Nazarene Episcopal Church was founded by the Rev’d James Martin (1843 to 1919) who established his headquarters at Flaxman Road, Loughborough Junction, London, S.E.5. On 11 April 1888 it received episcopal succession when Bishop Alfred Spencer Richardson of the Reformed Episcopal Church of the UK consecrated Dr. Martin. In 1890 Bishop Martin founded Nazarene College to serve as the seminary of his jurisdiction.
In 1885, while he served as a priest for the Armenian Catholic Church community – a church body in union with the Roman Catholic Church – in Constantinople (from 1881 to 1885), Bishop Leon Checkemian (1848 to 1920) through contacts with Anglicans, converted to Reform Protestantism and resolved to emigrate to England. Dr. Checkemian had earlier served as an assistant bishop (from 1878 to 1881) for his ethnic group in Malatia (his birthplace), Asia Minor, having received consecration on 23 April 1878 from Armenian Catholic Archbishop Leon Korkorunian (1822 to 1897). As a newcomer he at first found work as a common labourer in order to survive and studied at New College, a Presbyterian seminary. By 1889 his command of English was such that he obtained employment in Belfast, Ireland through the Presbyterian Church and became a noted lecturer and preacher in the Protestant churches in that city. In order to bring his fellow British Armenian refugees into a non-papal church, Dr. Checkemian established the United Armenian Catholic Church in the British Isles on 15 August 1889.
The following year, Dr. Checkemian created the Free Protestant Church of England as a common meeting place for all types of Protestant christians – Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc. On 4 May 1890, in order to remove any doubts as to his episcopal status, he received consecration from the above mentioned Bishops Charles Isaac Stevens and Alfred Spencer Richardson.
Dr. Checkemian came to the attention of the Most Rev’d and the Rt. Honble Dr. William C. Plunket (1828 to 1897), the fourth Baron Plunket, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of the Church of Ireland. Archbishop Plunket hated the creeping Anglo-Catholicism within the Anglican Communion which he viewed as an trojan horse for Papal re-establishment over the Church of England. He dreamt as a counter measure of establishing Reformed Episcopal churches in spheres of Roman Catholic influence. He saw Dr. Checkemian’s idea of the United Armenian Catholic Church as part of the above plan and endorsed it by giving Dr. Checkemian a license to officiate as an clergyman within the Church of Ireland. It was Lord Plunket’s hope that eventually this church would be established within the Armenian homeland as an replacement for the Armenian Uniate Church. In 1894 he was able to help establish the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church by consecrating its founder, a former Roman Catholic priest, the Rev’d Juan Bautista Cabrera (1837 to 1916), as its first bishop. Unfortunately, on 1 April 1897 Lord Plunket died before he could help Dr. Checkemian expand the United Armenian Catholic Church back to Turkey.
In the meantime, Bishop Checkemian had moved to London, where he was in close contact with the above mentioned independent bishops. They realised that they could be a better witness for evangelical Anglicanism if they could merge their resources together as one church body. On 2 November 1897 the Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England was formed with the union of the Free Protestant Church, the Ancient British Church, and the Nazarene Episcopal Church, with Dr. Checkemian as its first Primus. Dr. Checkemian retained the headship of the United Armenian Catholic Church as an separate organisation from this union. The FPEC was inaugurated on the above date in St. Stephen’s Church, East Ham, London when Dr. Checkemian, Dr. Stevens, and Dr. James Martin first consecrated George W.L. Maeers (for the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church) and Frederick W. Boucher to the episcopal bench. These five bishops in turn then consecrated Andrew Charles Albert McLaglen (1851 to 1928). The 1878 Constitution and Canons of the Reformed Episcopal Church of the UK was adopted for use in the new FPEC.
In December 1900 Dr. Checkemian retired as Primus of the FPEC and Archbishop of the United Armenian Catholic Church and was succeeded by Dr. Stevens as head of both church bodies. On 2 February 1917 Dr. Stevens died and Dr. Martin became the third head of the Church. Two years later on 20 October 1919 Dr. Martin died and was succeeded as Primus by Dr. McLaglen. On 3 December 1920 Dr. Checkemian died.
The high point of the FPEC was when it obtained recognition by the British Government as a legally constiuted denomination. This fact was established in early 1917 when the Venerable Ernest Albert Asquith, Ph.D. (1884 to 1942), 26 Speldhurst Rd., London, the Archdeacon of the Church, was a test case under the Military Service Act of 1916. Clergymen could obtain an exemption from military service under the terms of this Act. The officiating magistrate gave his decision that the Ven. Dr. Asquith was a lawfully ordained minister of a legally constituted Episcopal Church, and therefore a man in Holy Orders within the meaning of the Act. His Worship arrived at this conclusion after investigating the origin of the Orders of the Church and the services used for ordinations and consecrations which are based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
In early 1922 Primus McLaglen decided to appoint his successors as the head of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church, the Ancient British Church, and the United Armenian Catholic Church. On 4 June 1922 in St. Andrew’s Church, Retreat Place, London, he consecrated Francis George Widdows (1850 to 1936) and Herbert James Monzani Heard (1866 to 1947) to the episcopate. Bishop Widdows, a former Roman Catholic Franciscan monk, in 1886 had become a non-conformist minister at the Church of Martin Luther congregation at 26 Speldhurst Road, South Hackney. In 1909 this church became affiliated with the FPEC. +Widdows was given the title of Ignatius, Bishop of Hackney and was to become the new Primus of the FPEC at a later date. Bishop Monzani Heard, who was the then headmaster of Raleigh College in Brixton, South London, was immediately made the head of the Ancient British and United Armenian Catholic churches. By that time these three jurisdictions were “paper churches” as there were no formal congregations for any of them; however, the FPEC had canons to organise parishes (the hope) and to allow for independent congregations to be under its bishops oversight (the reality). +Widdows had a chequered history of being in prison on morals charges (he was a known homosexual in an age when it was illegal in the UK to be so) and on the other hand ministering for many years to his extremely loyal congregation. Primus McLaglen apparently had second thoughts about him being his successor as head of the FPEC and within the year had him removed from that succession and had any mention of +Widdows stricken from the official records of the Church. There is some dispute that +Widdows was ever consecrated, but the oral tradition amongst later FPEC bishops plus the writings of other historians state that it was so. FPEC clergy, rather than having explicit FPEC parishes, served as nonconformist ministers in other denominations and public institutions such as hospitals, gaols, and college chapels.
1922 to 2011
On 16 October 1928 Dr. McLaglen died and the office of Primus went to Dr. Monzani Heard, who began his episcopal functions in April 1930 after he retired from his teaching profession. On 18 May 1939 he retired as the Primus of the FPEC when he consecrated as his successor Dr. William Hall (1890 to 1959), long time chaplain to Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, Stamford Hill. On 30 September 1944 the primacy of the United Armenian Catholic Church and then on 29 January 1945 the headship of the Ancient British Church were turned over by Dr. Monzani Heard to Bishop Hugh George de Willmott Newman who merged them into his Catholicate of the West jurisdiction. Bishop Monzani Heard died on 15 August 1947 at the age of 81.
On 17 September (not 17 November as commonly reported in various accounts) 1944 at St. Paul’s Evangelical Church of England, Outwood, Bishop Benjamin Charles Harris, assisted by Bishop Hugh George de Willmott Newman, consecrated Gordon Pinder (Primus), Charles Leslie Saul, and Joseph K.C. Pillai into the Historic Episcopal Succession. These were the then bishops for the Evangelical Church of England, which had up till then only consecration of its original bishops by presbyters. Dr. Harris, long time nonconformist chaplain at a mental hospital in Abbots Langley, had been consecrated FPEC bishop for Essex on 25 July 1916 by Dr. Martin. One result of this consecration was that Bishop Pillai (1901 to 1970), who was the ECC bishop for India, eventually moved to the USA and in 1968 became the first bishop of the American Episcopal Church now known as the Anglican Province of America. On 23 August 1997 the Protestant Episcopal Reformed Church, the name by which the Evangelical Church of England was lastly known by, was formally dissolved, its last Primus Dr. Saul (1947 to 1991) having died on 7 June 1991 at the age of 85.
Primus Hall continued the practice of consecrating bishops who did not serve in the FPEC. In 1952 he consecrated the Rev’d John Leslie Baines (born 1883) and in 1959 he consecrated the Rev’d Terence Hope Davenport (born 1900). Both Bishops Baines and Davenport were non-parocial Anglican priests at the time of their respective consecrations. They did not establish their own denominations because for the rest of their lives they remained ministers in good standing within the Church of England. It appears they just wanted to quietly hold independent episcopal rank without functioning as a bishop – a not uncommon practice amongst ordinary Anglican clergy.
Dr. Charles Dennis Boltwood (1889 to 1985) sets the next, and in a sense the final, stage in the history of the FPEC. A noted spiritualist in the 1930s and 1940s, sometime between 1946 and 1949 he had been cons. a bishop in the Catholicate of the West by +De Willmott Newman. On 25 December 1950, while on business in North America for the Catholicate, he was cons. by +Earl Anglin Lawrence James of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Canada. On 3 May 1951 he was ordained sub conditione a presbyter by Primus Hall when in addition he joined the FPEC. Dr. Boltwood was cons. on Palm Sunday (6 April) 1952 by Primus Hall as a bishop in the FPEC. A week later, on Easter Sunday (13 April) 1952, +Boltwood received a second cons. from +De Willmott Newman. On 25 March (Lady Day) 1954 Dr. Boltwood was elected to be the successor of Dr. Hall as Primus of the FPEC. Dr. Boltwood on 6 July 1956 received a third cons. from +De Willmott Newman and on 19 September 1958 was also cons. by +Konstantin Jaroshevich of the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ. On 9 October 1959 Primus Hall died and Dr. Boltwood became Primus.
In 1957 Bishop Boltwood, with the blessings of Primus Hall, decided to expand the FPEC outside of the United Kingdom when he cons. Emmet Neil Enochs of California as Archbishop of the FPEC in the USA. In 1958 followed consecrations of bishops for West Africa and for Canada. Dr. Boltwood in the meantime (October 1960) quit his membership in the Catholicate of the West in order to concentrate on his FPEC work. Unfortunately, +Boltwood allowed his bishops and clergy such a free hand in their ministries that the original purpose of the FPEC was forgotten about and most of them viewed the FPEC as a ‘starter church’ and quickly founded/joined other Anglican/Independent Catholic or Orthodox jurisdictions. (Dr. Boltwood’s continuing practice of theosophy in addition to presenting himself as an old fashion evangelical Anglican did not help matters also.)
On 16 October 1966 +Boltwood cons. Albert John Fuge, Sr. (1911 to 1982), a Lutheran pastor, of New York City as the new bishop of the FPEC in New York State. On 8 September 1968 Dr. Fuge became Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of the USA in the place of Dr. Enochs who in the meantime had become an Old Roman Catholic bishop. +Fuge’s headquarters was in the Boltwood Chapel, which was located at 177 West Broadway, New York City. Dr. Boltwood decided at the age of 89 years to retire as the Primus of the FPEC. He nominated Dr. Fuge to succeed him in this office and the English speaking bishops accepted this. At a ceremony held in the Park Road Methodist Church, New York City, Dr. Boltwood handed over the Deed of Succession to the Office of Bishop Primus to Dr. Fuge on 17 October 1978. Official witnesses to the change over were the Rt. Rev’d Dr. Ernest P. Parris (assistant FPEC bishop of New York) and the Rev’d Dr. Samuel Lewis (chaplain to Dr. Fuge). +Horst K.F. Block (1936 to 2008), missionary FPEC bishop for Germany and France, and +Emmanuel Samuel Yekorogha (died 1983) FPEC archbishop of West Africa, did not agree with this and the both of them elected Dr. Block to become International Primus of a schismatic FPEC which existed for some 22 years. On 7 October 2001 it became known as the International Free Protestant Episcopal Church.
On 30 April 1982 Dr. Fuge died and the FPEC bishop for Texas, the Rt. Rev’d Robert Randolph Rivette (1916 to 2004) succeeded him as FPEC Archbishop of the USA. +Rivette, a lawyer and retired USAF officer, had been cons. on 19 October 1971 in the Boltwood Chapel (which was officially dedicated several years later on 27 October 1974) by Dr. Fuge as chief consecrator, assisted by Dr. Boltwood, and bishops Benjamin C. Eckardt, William C. Thompson, and Ernest P. Parris. This consecration occurred at the end of a Convocation of the FPEC in which the International Church passed a new Constitution and adopted policies for greater co-ordination between the work of the USA and Canadian branches of the Church. Dr. Boltwood and his wife Mrs. Connie Boltwood were the guests of honour at this Convocation. Dr. Charles K.S.S. Moffatt (1907 to 1989), FPEC Archbishop of Canada became the new International Primus, again at the nomination of Dr. Boltwood, on 7 July 1982. It was at this time that Dr. Boltwood directed the Rt. Rev’d Dr. Francis Thomas, D.Th. (cons. by +Boltwood in 1961) of London to wind down the operations of the FPEC in the United Kingdom, sending its original church records to Dr. Moffatt in Canada. On 7 November 1989 Dr. Moffatt died without designating a successor as Primus. In 1994 it was determined that by default, Bishop Dr. Follick, being the senior most cleric in the FPEC since July 1958, had been the legal Primus since +Moffat’s death.
aOn 19 April 1991 +Rivette cons. (sola) the Rev’d Melvin Frederick Larson (born 1920) of Lynnwood, WA as FPEC Archbishop of the Pacific NW. +Larson had earlier been ordained a deacon and priest by +Walter Hollis Adams (1907 to 1991) of the Anglican Episcopal Church of North America before joining the FPEC. Since about 1997 +Rivette had been suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease, leaving +Larson, +Dr. John Marion Stanley (born 1923) of Port Orchard, WA, +Dr. Harry Kenneth Means (born 1919) of Port Charlotte, FL, +Dr. Edwin Duane Follick (born 1935) of Woodland Hills, CA, +Dr. James Nicholas Meola (born 1938) of Tom’s River, NJ, and +Dr. Ernest Percival Parris (born 1920) of Saint Albans, NY as the only FPEC bishops in the USA. +Stanley had been cons. on 3 May 1959 in London by +Boltwood, assisted by +James B. Noble and +Reginald Benjamin Millard. +Means had been cons. on 16 August 1964 in London by +Boltwood, assisted by +Francis Thomas and Old Catholic bishop +Albert Dunstan Bell of the USA. +Follick had been cons. on 28 August 1968 in London by +Boltwood (sola). +Meola had been cons. on 13 March 1988 by +John Allen Rifenbury (chief consecrator) and +Robert R. Rivette.
Bishop Troy Arnold Kaichen of Virginia is listed in some histories as one of Meola’s consecrators but he only gave his consent to the consecration and was not present at it.
+Parris had been cons. in the spring of 1970 by +Fuge (sola). The only Canadian FPEC bishop is +Matthew John Carles Tuz (born 1951) of London, ON, Archbishop of Canada, who had been cons. on 3 July 1993 by +Rivette. On 8 March 2003 one of the last of the English ministers of the old FPEC, the Rev’d Cecil G. Cobran, B.Th., of London, England, died at the age of 88 years. + Means passed away on 19 April 2004; + Rivette died on 25 April 2004; + Parris on 24 Sept. 2008.
From 27 July 2001 to 5 January 2006 the Rt. Rev’d Aaron Robin Orr (1940 to 2010) of Hamilton, ON had been the bishop for all of Canada under Dr. Block’s International Free Protestant Episcopal Church. (He had been consecrated by +Block on 19 August 2001.) In January 2006 he and most of +Block’s bishops left his jurisdiction and formed the Christian Missionary Anglican Communion. Other former TIPEC bishops that left +Block included: Preston Bradley Carey (cons. 1 Aug. 1999 by + Robert George Montanus who was cons. 15 Dec. 1982 by +John M. Stanley), Joseph Spyridon Christopher Chaskos (cons. 15 Nov. 2004 by +Block), and Muhammad Wolfgang Schmidt (cons. 20 March 2005 by +Block). On 26 Nov. 2005 both +Block and +Schmidt had cons. Peter Leers at +Leers home chapel in Dusseldorf as Bishop for Germany. On 10 Aug. 2007 +Block and +Leers cons. Francesco Reale, a Lutheran pastor, as Bishop of Spain. On 12 February 2008 +Block died and +Leers succeeded him as the Primus of TIFPEC. In February of 2011 +Peers dissolved that jurisdiction, ending the schism.
The Free Protestant Episcopal Church continues advancing worldwide. Since 2012 the FPEC returned, after many years, to hands Rev Richard Palmer to the place of its birth in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with a bishop to lead the province and with assistant clergy.
After many years and many difficulties because once our communion was put in England came colonialism and the idea that all other countries were too little and therefore they were not given enough attention, therefore and after a long investigation and debates in the consistory of bishops, our highest authority decided to depose the bishop palmer and began a dark time for communion on the one hand the bishops who believed in the reform and on the other Palmer trying to impose and stay by force; after much prayer and peace the Anglican Free Communion International becomes consolidated as the structure that maintains the principles of the founders and that fills the Spirit of God remains in service to all.
This is how on January 1, 2020, the consistory and the bishops appoint the new primate Mons Ronald Lee Firestone to continue leading our boat, guide us along the path that the Lord has given us and keep the true communion united in the ministry and service, in spirituality and social work, in the sacraments and pastoral life, may God bless our work every day.