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United Episcopal Church of North America

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Title: United Episcopal Church of North America  
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United Episcopal Church of North America

United Episcopal Church of North America
The UECNA crest.
Classification Continuing Anglican
Orientation Broad Church; some Evangelical or High Church congregations.
Polity Episcopal (with apostolic succession)
Leader Peter D. Robinson
Associations Intercommunion with Anglican Catholic Church, and the Anglican Province of Christ the King
Region North America
Founder Charles D.D. Doren 1915-2014
Origin 1981
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Separated from Anglican Catholic Church
Congregations 23 parishes, missions and affiliated congregations [1]

The United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA) is a traditional Anglican Christian church that is part of the Continuing Anglican movement. It is not part of the Anglican Communion.

The UECNA describes itself as "embracing the broad base of ceremonial practice inherent in the Historic Anglican Communion"[2] though historically the UECNA has tended to be Broad to Low Church in its ceremonial practice. The UECNA uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, in the USA, and the 1962 edition of the Canadian Prayer Book north of the border. Occasional use of the 1662 and 1789 editions of the Book of Common Prayer is permitted.

The changes in the mainline denominations that it and other continuing churches object to include the acceptance of lax policies on the authority of Scripture, divorce, abortion, the ordination of women, and changes to the theology of the Book of Common Prayer. They also object to more recent innovations such as the ordination of openly homosexual clergy, but these were not at issue when they broke with the Episcopal Church.


Founding of the UECNA

Bishop Charles D. D. Doren, the senior of the four bishops consecrated at Denver for the continuing church on January 26, 1978, is considered the founding bishop of the UECNA. He initially served as ACC Bishop of the Midwest, and then was translated to the new Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States. However, he soon backed away from active participation in the Anglican Catholic Church, worried by the increasingly Anglo-Catholic character of the Episcopate, and the numerous Constitution and Canonical revisions undertaken in 1978-1981. The UECNA was established in 1981 after three parishes left the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) to protest the near exclusion of Broad and Low Churchmen from the decision making process, and set about the task of forming a body that would be more hospitable to Low Churchmen. The standing committee of the new jurisdiction invited Bishop Doren to be their first bishop and, subsequently, the first archbishop. In more recent years, it has described itself as representing the Broad or Central Church tradition, but it also has a number of decidedly Low Church parishes as well as one or two parishes from the Anglo-Catholic tradition. The church's constitution and canons are modeled on the PECUSA's 1958 code with some amendments, including provisions for the erection of dioceses in Canada, and more specific direction is given as to the circumstances in which the jurisdiction will consecrate bishops for overseas. The last significant revision of the UECNA Canons was made in 1996.

Under the leadership of Archbishop Doren (1981–1989) and Archbishop Knight (1989–1992), the UECNA grew to over forty congregations. In 1988-90 these were divided between the Diocese of the Ohio Valley and at least three missionary districts - West, South and East. So far this has represented the high-water mark of the church's prosperity. The UECNA underwent a protracted decline during the early 1990s due to the illness and increasing incapacity of the then presiding bishop, John Cyrus Gramley (South 1985-96; Archbishop 1992–96). When the summons to General Convention was issued in 1996 only seven parishes responded. The Fifth General Convention then proceeded to place the missionary districts into suspension and the church was administered as a single diocese from then until April 2010. The Rev. Stephen C. Reber, Sr., was elected as bishop-coadjutor and consecrated in September 1996. Bishop Gramley died shortly thereafter.

During the late 1990s, Bishop Reber traveled many thousands of miles reactivating old UECNA parishes and receiving new congregations into the jurisdiction. He continued Bishop Gramley's policy of relaxing the rather aggressively Low Church stance of the jurisdiction allowing the range of churchmanship within the United Episcopal Church to broaden. However, unlike the ACC and APCK, the UECNA still requires that in addition to the Scriptures and the Book of Common Prayer, candidates for the ministry to assent to the Thirty-nine Articles. In 1999 the UECNA entered into a short-lived intercommunion agreement with the Anglican Province of America, causing the ACC to suspend its intercommunion agreement with the UECNA. However, that action was not mirrored by the Anglican Province of Christ the King.

In 2007, intercommunion with the ACC was restored after a lapse of eight years, so that the UECNA now has cordial relations with both the ACC and the APCK.[3] Currently, the three churches are exploring opportunities for greater cooperation and the possibility of achieving organic unity. Bishop Presley Hutchens of the ACC addressed delegates to the UECNA convention of 2008 and discussed the possibility of uniting the ACC and UECNA.[4] Although well received at the time, there was a feeling among many of the delegates that the matter was being rushed, and that no proper consideration were being given to the theological, constitutional and canonical consideration thrown up by the move. Moves towards unity with the Anglican Catholic Church were referred for further discussion.

At the 2008 General Convention, the delegates elected three suffragan bishops with the intention that they would serve the UECNA and also assist the ACC and APCK when requested. Two of them subsequently departed the UECNA for the Reformed Episcopal Church, leaving the Right Rev. Peter D. Robinson as the sole suffragan bishop in UECNA until his appointment as Bishop of the Missionary District of the West in November 2009. Bishop Robinson succeeded the Most Rev. Stephen C. Reber on September 6, 2010, and confirmed as Presiding Bishop by the 10th General Convention, held in Heber Springs, AR, on 12 May 2011.

By August 2014, there were 23 UECNA congregations in 13 states, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The UECNA also has clergy in Canada.


The UECNA traces its apostolic succession from the Church of England as follows:

  • John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury, who assisted by the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Bath and Wells did consecrate on 7 February 1787
  • William White, as first Bishop of Pennsylvania, and 1st and 4th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, who in 1832 consecrated
  • John Henry Hopkins, as second Bishop of Vermont and subsequently Presiding Bishop, who in 1867 did consecrate
  • Daniel S. Tuttle, as first Missionary Bishop of Montana, who in 1911, as Presiding Bishop did consecrate
  • James DeWolf Perry, as seventh Bishop of Rhode Island, who in 1930, as 18th Presiding Bishop did consecrate
  • Henry Knox Sherrill, as eighth Bishop of Massachusetts, who in 1950, as 20th Presiding Bishop did consecrate
  • Arthur C. Lichtenberger, as ninth Bishop of Missouri, who whilst 21st Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and assisted by Horace Donegan, Bishop of New York and Reginald Mallet, Bishop of Northern Indiana, consecrated (1962)
  • Albert A. Chambers, as Bishop of Springfield, who in 1978, as acting Primate of the Anglican Church of North America (Episcopal), and assisted by Francisco Pagtakhan, and Charles D. D. Doren consecrated [5]
  • James Orin Mote, as first Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Trinity, who assisted by Bishops Burns, Lewis, and Rutherfoord, consecrated (1980)[6]
  • Robert Condit Harvey, as first Bishop of the Southwest in the Anglican Catholic Church, who in 1996, assisted by Bishops Ogden Miller, Edwin Caudill, John Hamers, and John Gramley (PB III UECNA), did consecrate,[7]
  • Stephen C. Reber Bishop-coadjutor of the UECNA, and subsequently IV Presiding Bishop of UECNA, who assisted by William Wiygul, Bishop of the Southeastern States (APCK) and D. Presley Hutchens, Bishop of New Orleans (ACC), on 10 January 2009 consecrated,[8]
  • Peter D. Robinson, as a suffragan bishop in the UECNA, who subsequently became III Bishop of the Missionary District of the West, and V Presiding Bishop of the UECNA.

Intercommunion agreements

See: Anglicanism

The UECNA has effected intercommunion agreements with a number of other Continuing Anglican churches. Those presently in effect are with:


Dioceses and Missionary Districts

The United Episcopal Church is divided into the Diocese of the Great Lakes and three missionary Districts (or Missionary Dioceses) -- the West, consisting principally of churches in Arizona and California; the South and Ozarks, consisting of Churches in Missouri, Arkansas, western Kentucky, and Alabama; and the East, consisting of churches in Florida, eastern Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. These are governed on a day-to-day basis by Missionary Bishops appointed by the National Council who act in concert with the Council of Advice (standing committee) and the District Convocation.

District Convocations consist of every clergyman in good standing Canonically resident within the Missionary District, plus lay delegates from each congregation. District Convocations are unicameral, and are responsible for general policy within each district, including the allocation of funds received from the National Council.

The General Convention

The General Convention meets every third year, and consists of two houses. The larger is the House of Deputies which currently consists of one clergyman and up to four lay representatives from each parish and mission of the UECNA. However, once a fourth diocese is established, the Canons require that the representation be changed to a diocesan basis and that four clergy and four lay deputies be elected for each diocese by its Convention. This would reduce the size of the House of Deputies 32 members, plus alternates against the current maximum of over one hundred! The House of Deputies has a President, who is usually a priest. The present holder of this office is the Very Rev. Richard Desroches, Priest-in-Charge of Christ the King, Lexington, NC. The House of Deputies is the Lower House of the General Convention. The lower house elects the President, Treasurer, and Secretary of the General Convention who continue in office until the commencement of the next General Convention.

House of Bishops

The upper house of General Convention is the House of Bishops which consists of all UECNA bishops in good standing. It meets under the chairmanship of the Archbishop, and has the power to nominate bishops for Missionary Dioceses, to take order for the administration of vacant dioceses and missionary districts, and to set policy with regard to ordination and other related matters. Unlike the House of Deputies it customarily meets annually on the second Thursday after Easter to discuss matters of mutual concern between meetings of the General Convention.

At present its membership consists of:

  • The Most Rev. Peter D. Robinson, Archbishop of the UECNA and Missionary Bishop of the West; Rector of St. Paul's Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
  • The Right Rev. Glen Hartley, Missionary Bishop of the South and Ozarks, and Rector of St Francis Anglican Church, Ava, MO.
  • The Right Rev. David Hustwick, Bishop of the Diocese of the Great Lakes, and Rector of St Andrew and St Matthias, Hastings, MI.
  • The Right Rev. Steven Murrell, Assistant Bishop, Missionary Diocese of the East (former Presiding Bishop of the Primitive Episcopal Church).
  • The Right Rev. John Pafford, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of the Great Lakes.
  • The Right Rev. Joseph Hamlin Dobson, IV, Bishop Emeritus of the Missionary District of the East
  • The Most Rev. Stephen C. Reber, Presiding Bishop Emeritus of the UECNA.
  • The Right Rev. Jackson Worsham, Jr., Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of the Great Lakes.

Bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King may sit in the UECNA House of Bishops and have voice but not vote.

Business may be originated in either house of General Convention, though the budget customarily commences in the House of Deputies, and Canon changes in the House of Bishops. After a first reading it passes to the other House of the General Convention for review and approval. If amendments are made it must be approved and returned to the originating House and be approved as amended before going to the Presiding Bishop for signature.

National Council

The National Council is composed of the Presiding Bishop, two other bishops, three priests, six laypersons, and two representative of UECW. The Bishops are elected by the House of Bishops, the clergy and lay members are elected members by the House of Deputies, and the two representatives of UECW by their Triennial Meeting. The National Council meets regularly each year, usually on the second Friday after Easter in non-Convention years, and at the end of General Convention when it meets. The Presiding Bishop has the authority to convene special meetings should circumstances so require. The Canons describe the functions of the National Council as being to coordinate the Church's social work, missions, and publicity, but over time it has become a sounding board for the House of Bishops assisting them in their administration of the Church between General Conventions. The present archbishop has suggested that it may be time to expand the role of the National Council, and rename it the 'Administrative or Executive Council' and formalize its expanded purpose.


The doctrinal position of the United Episcopal Church is primarily defined by the Declaration of Conformity contained in Article VIII of the UECNA Constitution which grounds the doctrine of the Church in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Common Prayer (1928) and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (1571/1801) stressing the jurisdiction's continuity with the English Reformation and the old Protestant Episcopal Church. This is intended to center the Church's doctrine firmly in the 'Classical Anglicanism' tradition as contained in the historic formularies of the Church; the Thirty-nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. These, in turn, refer back to the inerrant Holy Scriptures and the Ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church, as well as to the "New Learning" of the Reformation era.

The UECNA considers the Affirmation of St Louis as being among its founding documents, but does not incorporate it into the Constitution and Canons of the Church. The Affirmation is largely seen as a response to the theological and moral crisis in the Episcopal Church in the early 1970s, and as a call to action on the part of orthodox Episcopalians to preserve the traditional teaching and worship of the Church. The United Episcopal Church most often quotes the Affirmation of St Louis in connection with moral issues.

In September 2012, Archbishop Robinson issued a statement affirming his support for those church bodies opposing the HHS Contraception Mandate. The UECNA is opposed to same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and condemns abortion on Biblical, moral and ethical grounds.

In ceremonial matters, the present Archbishop, the Most Rev. Peter D. Robinson, points outs that the UECNA has a greater diversity of churchmanship and ceremonial practice than it did in the 1980s. However, the church is very insistent that ceremonial use conform to traditional Anglican or Episcopalian customs. Historically, the minimum of vestments required for services in parish churches is surplice and tippet (rochet, chimere and tippet for bishops.) At the other extreme, the 1559 Ornaments Rubric represents the maximum of vesture and ornament contemplated by the compilers of the BCP. Most parishes are Broad Church.

Ordination and lay leadership

See: Episcopal polity

The UECNA's leadership is divided among lay leaders and ordained ministers as follows:


An Anglican altar


Lay Ministry

  • Lay Reader - Is a layman licensed by the bishop of the diocese to read Morning and Evening Prayer, the Litany, and the Penitential Office, as well as the Burial Office. He is expected to have a good knowledge of Holy Scripture, and some knowledge of theology, so as to be able to answer questions from lay members of the church, and lead Bible Studies.
  • Diocesan Reader - Is a layman who has already served as a lay reader, has completed a formal course of theology and is licensed to preach sermons of his own composition.
  • Deaconess - The Canons of the UECNA make provision for Deaconesses to be set aside not ordained. The order is open to women over the age of 25 who meet the same criteria as men entering the diaconate. Their training is similar to that of deacons, but with less emphasis on liturgy, and a particular focus on pastoral and educational work.

The Clerical State

  • A Postulant for Holy Orders is a student for Holy orders, but is not yet ordained. However, under Canon Law, they are regarded as having entered the clerical state, and may not be vestrymen or churchwardens. They are usually expected to serve as Lay Readers and Diocesan Readers whilst in training. A postulant must complete not less than one year of study consisting of Church History, Pastoral Work, Liturgics, Doctrine and Holy Scripture before being admitted as a Candidate for Holy Orders. He assists the local parish as a layreader in the offices of the church as called upon and allowed by the canons of the church.
  • Candidates for Holy Orders are those students who are sufficiently advanced in their studies that their ordination to the diaconate is expected within the next year. They are expected to function as diocesan readers during the period of their candidacy, preaching under supervision, and assisting the clergy in the conduct of divine worship.
  • Deacon - A deacon may be either permanent or transitional, though the UECNA makes no formal distinction between the two. Permanent deacons are those deacons who have decided not to study for the presbyterate, and therefore remain as deacons. Transitional deacons are training for priesthood. Before ordination to the priesthood, a deacon should serve for not less than one year and complete a course of study.
  • Priest - Priests or presbyters are ministers of Word and Sacrament who are authorized to undertake all ministerial functions except ordination and confirmation. In the UECNA only priests and bishops are allowed to be Parish Ministers.
  • Bishop - Bishops are "assigned a Diocese consisting of a given number of parishes, and will provide regular oversight, counsel and guidance to those parishes. An Episcopal visit to each parish will be made not less than once in three years and attendance at national counsels and meetings as called."

Lay leadership positions

In addition to Lay Readers and Diocesan Readers, the following lay ministries exist in the United Episcopal Church

  • Vestryman - every parish has an elected council consisting of between five and thirteen members of the laity. Vestrymen are expected to be communicant members of the church, over the age of 18. Their function is to maintain and administer the physical plant of the local parish, and to advise the rector concerning mission, and parish affairs. Although the traditional term 'vestryman' is used the position is open to both men and women.
  • Senior (Rector's) and Junior (Peoples') Wardens take leadership in the vestry and are responsible for relations between the Rector (Minister) and congregation in the case of the Senior Warden, and the maintenance of the parish buildings and plant in the case of the Junior Warden.
  • Each parish is free to create such lay ministries as it may require provided that it has the approval of the bishop for so doing. These ministries may include District Visitors who are appointed by the Rector and Vestry to oversee communicant members of the church; Sunday school teachers and superintendents who undertake to train the children of the parish in Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church.

United Episcopal Church Women

The UECW is an official organization of women who serve the church. Their particular focus is to raise funds for the missionary work of the Church. The work of UECW is coordinated by an Executive Council which is elected at the UECW Triennial Meeting which occurs during the General Convention week.

Religious Orders

The Order of St Benedict (Anglican) - a religious society living under an adaption of the Benedictine Rule.

Order of St Stephen the Protomartyr - a Society of the Common Life living under the Augustinian Rule.


  • Glad Tidings. The Quarterly Magazine and Journal of the UECNA.

See also


  1. ^ UECNA website.
  2. ^ The United Episcopal Church - An Introduction (UECNA 1990, rev. 2013)
  3. ^ Excerpts from the website of the UECNA
  4. ^ Youtube video of the Convention
  5. ^ - Chambers Succession
  6. ^ ACC Website; Chambers Succession
  7. ^ The UECNA records preserve the program for Bishop Reber's consecration, which names Bishop Harvey as the principal consecrator.
  8. ^ UECNA records
  9. ^
  10. ^ UECNA ordination guide on-line

External links

  • Official UECNA website
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