The purpose of this monograph is to try as best as we can to answer a question before it is asked by all of those persons who generally get around to asking it anyway and who are seemingly somewhat confused about what point in time to which we are pointing when we say we are The Celtic Episcopal Church: Western Orthodoxy for the Third Millennium.

The Celtic Episcopal Church came into being as an autocephalous Western Orthodox jurisdiction February 2, 2002. As such, a tremendous amount of prayer and seeking the will of God for its identity was necessary, and the Holy Synod was instructed by the Holy Spirit to pattern itself after the Ancient Celtic Christian church that existed during the first millennium in the British Isles. What follows is something of the journey that was undertaken in trying to do what we were instructed to do.

As you can see by the chart, it has become necessary for us to try to clarify for inquirers who we are, how we are structured, something of our government (Book of Canons), our Ethos, the standards of our faith (Catechism), and the point in history upon which we focus. This was not easy to do as much of what we have done had to be pieced together from numerous sources many of which came from ancient myth and legend.

All journeys have a beginning, so let us begin.

St. Joseph of Arimathea is a biblical personality that can easily be identified by referencing him in each of the New Testament Gospel books and the book of Acts. We know from the New Testament that he was a well-educated, wealthy man, and member of the Sanhedrin who placed the crucified body of our Lord Jesus into his personal burial tomb which had never been used. This action alone placed him at crossed purposes with the Jewish authorities. After the Resurrection (Pascha/Easter) and the events of the Ascension and Pentecost, the Jewish authorities sent he (Joseph of Arimathea) and the Bethany women in a boat adrift without sail nor oar making them completely at the mercy of wind and tide. Eventually, they found themselves in Gaul whereupon the Apostle Philip consecrated (my word) Joseph and sent him to the British Isles, specifically to the region of Glastonbury to begin a Christian mission.

There are a great many other pieces to the puzzle that have helped us put together what we now have used in the development of our jurisdiction some of which include the notion that Joseph renewed his acquaintance with Druids who had met the boy Jesus in his earlier travels and were decidedly Old Testament and Patristic thus embraced the Gospel immediately and helped Joseph spread Christianity throughout the islands. Consulting the chart, one does not have to study it very long before you realize that from the time Joseph landed in Glastonbury, England all he had available to work with was the Decalogue and perhaps the Psalms. Remember also Joseph was a learned Jewish man who was well familiar with the Old Testament, and from the life he lived in Jerusalem at the time of Christ until the feast of Pentecost, he did not even have the Gospel of John. As we remember from our history, it was not until approximately 400 AD that the canon of Scripture was decided upon. Nevertheless, Joseph witnessed the events of Jesus observed with his own eyes and heard with his own ears and was able to communicate those accounts from memory to all those who would listen. Add to that the oral tradition that was in place with the Patristic Druids and you have the beginning of a method by which the Christian tradition was born and persisted until much later when the monks were able to write these things down in either Latin or Greek or even their own language. Be that as it may, there was very limited historical documents from which we could draw upon to develop what could be described as a first millennium liturgy except that we knew the Ancient Celtic Christian Church followed the example provided to them by the Orthodox desert fathers and were predominantly monastic.

So, we have Joseph on the island, he built a waddle church, taught from the Decalogue, the Psalms, and his own experience as a witness of Jesus Christ whose passion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension he observed firsthand. And, as an aside even though it is not in the biblical record, as a member of the family, he was undoubtedly part of the 120 present in the upper room when the promise of the father was poured out on the day of Pentecost giving him one of those little tongues of fire resting on his head. We think it is fair to say that during his life that he and his buddies throughout the land, that is the British Isles, spread the message of Jesus with great intensity that persisted for many centuries.

At this point in the narrative it would be helpful to read our web based page having to do with the Celtic Ethos as it will fill in nicely to show the mind set of the people as they lived a Christian life during the time that the Ancient Celtic Christian Church is in full swing. That particular information can be found by going to our Information Page.

From the time of Joseph until the time of the Roman Legion visitation, there was a progression of learning and change. The Ancient Celtic Christian Church evolved as to how they wanted to be governed, how they wanted its clergy to be attired, how they wanted its clergy to function in society and how they wanted its liturgy to be developed.

The Celtic Episcopal Church had to make decisions very much like the Ancient Celtic Christian Church did as well. We did not know what liturgy the Ancient Celtic Christian Church used as no one wrote anything down, and thanks to King Henry VIII, all that was written in the monastery libraries was destroyed. So we had to make some decisions. There are some things that we decided we did not want to do. We did not want to copy the Roman Catholics nor the Anglicans. But, we wanted to be Orthodox since the early Celtic Christians were decidedly Orthodox (check the chart, Orthodoxy was the only game in town); nevertheless, we did not want to just rubber stamp their liturgy either. Another aspect of our thinking was the need to maintain close ties with our Hebrew roots in Jerusalem, so we chose the Orthodox liturgy of James of Jerusalem (this is the oldest of the Orthodox liturgies) as a starting place. In our examination of that liturgy, we knew that it had to undergo some changes so that it was more suited to English-speaking Christians in the Western Hemisphere and in particular the United States of America plus other English-speaking peoples. To that end, we also wanted to shape it in such a way that it would be just familiar enough to those who might come to us from other jurisdictions such as Roman Catholicism or Anglicanism so that they would be at home. It appears that we have done, by all accounts, an honorable job.

Next, in keeping with the monastic manner of life particular to the ancient Celtic Christians, we then began to try to imagine how the clergy of the day might have been attired. For every day clothing, it would not be unusual for all orders to wear a hooded tunic with a rope around the waist and a simple cross on a cord around the neck. The bishops would frequently attire themselves similarly to the king in the area where the monastery was located even to the point of the type of Crown that they wore. We then decided on several items that we did not want to do. We did not want to have the same appearance as that of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Orthodox clergy, so we had to develop our own which we have done which we believe has turned out nicely and has reflected well in our attempt to honor our historical brethren in the first millennium within the British Isles. For the time being, we elected to retain the standard tab collar shirt in various colors according to ecclesiastical order as clericals.

Now, just a word about government. We have deliberately avoided the use of the diocesan designation associated with the responsibility of our Bishops, rather we designate our Bishops as Pastoral Oversight Bishops who are pastors to pastors and who are not provided with Faculties (a word used to describe sacramental functions clergy are permitted to perform by canon law) to perform ordinations without the express authority and permission of the Holy Synod and approval of the Metropolitan. Not even the Metropolitan can go about laying hands on people for the purpose of ordaining them to the diaconate or priesthood never mind to the episcopate. Our Book of Canons deliberately prevents individual bishops from building little empires but rather requires them to take care of, in a loving manner, those clergy that have been placed under their care. They must truly be pastors and not just administrators. They must also be a pastor of their own church.

Except for the fact that we like to think that we have taken advantage of the wonderful biblical scholarship that has taken place down through the course of history, we have also tried to avoid falling into the trap that seems to have ruined a large portion of the church universal as characterized by the chart that we have provided at the top of this article. We think you can now see why we have focused on the period of time from about 33 A.D. to 1054 A.D. in the British Isles among those who are called the Ancient Celtic Christian Church as difficult as it is and has been to reconstruct what it might have been like during its most glorious period of time until it was over come by the Roman Catholic dominance. And just for the record, this did not actually happen until several hundred years following the ridiculous so-called Council of Whitby which sought to make the Ancient Celtic Christian Church use the same method of dating Pascha (Easter) and the manner in which the monks performed the tonsure which they did not do for some time after that. And, if we may be so bold, the Ancient Celtic Christian Church has never been Anglican. It has always been Orthodox. The Church of England only became Anglican when Henry VIII broke away from Rome.

We hope this has been helpful in trying to figure out who we are, how we came to be, and what we represent as you continue to pray and seek the Lord’s will concerning whether or not we might be a good fit for you at this time in your spiritual journey. May our dear Lord and God Jesus Christ bless you and keep you both now and forever unto the ages of ages. Amen!