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The (extremely) Unofficial Home Page of:
The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, or
The (almost) Total Catholic Home Page

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. I've tried to be objective, although I'm sure my bias my shows (in case it doesn't, I'm a "Roman" Catholic). I've kept to a traditional interpretation of "Apostolic," in which I 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 I apologize for any confusion this may cause. Also, because I limit this to the Apostolic succession, many wonderful Christian groups--Protestants, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Messianic Jews, etc. are not described here. It's my prayer that someday, we all may be able to join together in joyful intercommunion, testifying to the unity of our faith in Christ. Come, Lord Jesus! Maranatha!

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. The Bishop of Rome (successor of Peter) was considered to be the "first among equals," with a special role leading the Church, based on several statements by Jesus to Peter.

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. (A very few Independent Apostolic Churches have describe themselves as "Gnostic"or "Theosophical."  I do not know if these adhere to the Creed.)
  • 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.
  • Have funny hats for their bishops.
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
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 
1054 AD Catholic Church Church of the East Oriental Orthodox Eastern  
1517 AD Catholic Church Church of the East Oriental Orthodox Eastern Orthodox Apostolic  
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 

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Name: Catholic Church (Alapadre's unofficial but very useful site with 6,000 links.)
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
  • 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.
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 (this is the official site, and, although I hate to say it,  a rather obtuse one)
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
  • Chaldean 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

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Name: Church of the East  
(Do not confuse this Apostolic Church with the Gnostic "Church of the East")
Also known as:
  • Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East
  • Assyrian Church
  • Assyrian Church of the East
  • "Aturai" or Ashurai Church of the East
  • "Nestorian" Church (somewhat inaccurate, sometimes derogatory)
  • 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, is the most reliable text.
  • Calls Mary "Mother of Christ" instead of "Mother of God." (But affirms Christ's divinity).
  • Greatest concentration in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran.
Very strong with Catholics, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Most theological differences have been resolved.
and "CEO":
Chicago, Illinois, USA (official site) 
Catholicos Patriarch, Mar Dinkha IV
with estimated  
No self-governing constituent churches. Dioceses are world-wide. 
c. 300,000 
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.

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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.)
  • 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.
  • These churches seem to make unusually good and informative Web sites!
Very actively engaged in ecumenism, especially with the Eastern Orthodox Church, and also with the Catholic Church.
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 --?
with estimated  
Together, the Oriental Orthodox Churches have about 36,000,000 members.  
Notable newer 
Churches which have become
distinct from this  
Church since 1550*:

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.

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Name: Eastern Orthodox Church (unofficial, but very informative site)
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
  • 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 (Head) Patriarch is actively engaged in ecumenism, but some constituent churches are much more reticent, e.g. the Russian Church.
and "CEO":
Istanbul, Turkey (offical site) 
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I 
with estimated  
Total membership may exceed 220,000,000. Second-largest Christian denomination in the world.  

Autocephalic Churches 

Autonomous Churches:  

Notable newer 
Churches which have become
distinct from this  
Church since 1550:
  • Old Calendarists
  • True Orthodox
  • Free Orthodox

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Name: Apostolic Lutheran Churches (here I am 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)
  • 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.
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.)

and "CEO":
Stockholm, Sweden (Church is governed by a Synod) 
Helsinki, Finland (Church is governed by a Synod)
with estimated  
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:

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Name: Anglican Communion (unofficial site, but very informative)
Also known as:
  • Anglicans
  • Church of England (now properly refers to one province of the Anglican Communion)
  • Episcopalians Note:(most constituent churches do not bear "Anglican" or "Episcopalian" in their title. E.g., "Church of Ireland")
  • Identity became separate  in 16th century by King Henry VIII of England. 
  • 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.
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."  

and "CEO":
Canterbury, England, UK, (official site) 
Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey  
with estimated  
Links below are to pages of the Official site of the Anglican Communion. Some appear to need updating. Total membership is estimated at about 70,000,000. 
Notable newer 
Churches which have become
distinct from this  
Church since 1550:

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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.

  • 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 varies very strongly among different denominations. Some are relatively happy with their status as separate jurisdictions, others are greatly pained by it.
Some of my favorite  
Web sites of 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!
Links to Independent Churches from the  
Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican streams: is Fr. Tony Begonja's excellent and comprehensive site dealing in greater detail with the newer Apostolic Churches.



A few possible groupings in the maze of newer Apostolic Churches:

This is in no way intended to be exhaustive, but merely a sampling of some of the many newer self-governing churches with Apostolic succession.   Furthermore, the groupings represent nothing more than my perception of some possible streams of spiritual kinship among these Independent Churches.  These are my impressions from available information only and do not necessarily represent the views of these Churches:

Anglican stream (Most links from Anglican Online) 

Celtic stream

Charismatic stream:

(Very, very, very) Conservative Catholic stream:

Conservative Orthodox stream:
(in progress)

Duarte-Costa stream:

Old Catholic stream:

South Indian stream*:

Vilatte stream:

*Note: Links to the  Mar Thoma Orthodox Church Outside India have been removed at their request.  I regret this omission of a significant body and the resulting diminution in the comprehensiveness of the list.

Last updated: August 31, 2002