Episcopi vagantes or bishops in schismatic times?

Damian Thompson in an article on the Telegraph titled, "Jade Goody, Archbishop Blake and the strange phenomenon of 'wandering bishops' remarked,

"A few years ago, the episcopi vagantes had all but died out; but furious schisms in Anglicanism have revived their number."

The "wandering bishops," "episcopi vagantes" are "persons who have been consecrated as Bishop outside the structures and canon law of the established churches and are in communion with no generally recognized Diocese.Also included are those who have in communion with them a group so small that it appears to exist solely for the alleged bishop's sake." (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005,episcopi vagantes. article)
Mr. Thompson writes, "A hundred years ago, Britain and America were awash with episcopi vagantes,"wandering bishops" who were no sooner made bishop than they would fallout with their denomination and found another one. Peter Anson's classic study Bishops At Large (1964) details the contorted"successions" produced by these manoeuvrings, and also contains pictures of splendidly robed Primates consecrating each other in their"cathedrals" (which often served a double purpose as the front room of their terraced house)."

In the current bog that is the Anglican Communion there are all sorts of wandering going on, some of which involves "episcopi vagantes." Who might be included among them? When does the wandering begin? Does a deposed bishop (say Schofield) of an "established church" heading up a diocese unrecognized by the Anglican jurisdiction where it is located or by the See of Canterbury count as "wandering"? He claims a temporary home in the Southern Cone. What about a bishop (say Minns) ordained for a missionary jurisdiction that is not recognized by either the Anglican jurisdiction in place or by Canterbury? What is to be made of the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church, who are not wandering at all within their own denomination but go unrecognized by The Episcopal Church from which they sprang?

The "wandering" is not, it seems to me, an immediate condition of bishops leaving The Episcopal Church, or some other "established" episcopal church to form a new church. The wandering begins in the actions of bishops increasingly detached or unattached to a synodical and canonical environment, or in the exercise of Episcopal acts, notably consecrating new bishops, in jurisdictions not their own.

So bishops in the Common Cause Partnership are not such wanderers, but unless the jurisdictional irregularities (including recognition as dioceses by Canterbury) were to be addressed, it would seem successor bishops, or even the bishops now included, would wander more and more into a wilderness filled already by an amazing array of prelates without a home.

Mr. Thompson suggests that we might find these wandering bishops in the "furious schisms in Anglicanism" that have occurred in the recent past. But it is not the schisms alone that produce the wandering bishop, it is failed or crashed schism that does so. Some bishops, ordained by wanders themselves or ordained by one bishop acting alone without synodical supervision, fall into the wander category almost immediately.

There are certainly enough candidate groups from which these wandering bishops might arise. Anglicans Online maintains a list of churches "not in communion." Some of the bishops who are wandering are to be found as bishops of the churches in this odd and sad list.

I have copied out the names only of the churches on the Anglicans Online list. Note that the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Mission in America are on this list. At some point other groups might also appear. The "not-in-communion" list includes bishops who would be considered "wandering" and other bishops whose situations are more stable.

My question is this: when does a bishop cease to be a legitimate bishop in reform, exile, etc, and become a wanderer?

Here is the list:

Churches not in Communion.

All Nations Anglican Church
American Anglican Church
American Anglican Convocation
Anglican Catholic Church
Anglican Catholic Church in Australia
Anglican Catholic Church of Canada
Anglican Catholic Communion, Diocese of Southern Africa
Anglican Catholic Church, Diocese of the United Kingdom
The Anglican Catholic Diocese of New Orleans
Anglican Church in America
The Anglican Church Incorporated
The Anglican Church International
Anglican Church International Communion
Anglican Church Of America
The Anglican Church of Virginia
Anglican Church Worldwide
Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes
Anglican Diocese of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest
The Anglican Episcopal Church
The Anglican Episcopal Church International - Australia
The Anglican Independent Communion Worldwide
Anglican Independent Communion Original Province
Anglican Mission in America
Anglican Orthodox Church
Anglican Orthodox Church in Canada
The Anglican Orthodox Church of the Fiji Islands
The Anglican Province of America
Anglican Province of Christ the King
Anglican Province of Saint Jude
The Anglican Reformed Catholic Church of America
Anglican Rite Catholic Church (Archdiocese of Pacific Northwest)
Anglican Rite Diocese of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church
Anglican Rite Old Catholic Church
Apostolic Anglican Church
Apostolic Communion of Anglican Churches
The Apostolic Episcopal Church
Archdiocese of the Southwest (The Catholic Anglican Church
The Charismatic Episcopal Church
Christian Episcopal Church
The Christian Episcopal Church of Canada
Christian Missionary Anglican Communion
Church of England, Cayman Islands
The Church of England (Continuing)
Church of England in South Africa
Church of India, Pakistan and Ceylon - Anglican Catholic Church
The Church of Torres Strait
Communion of Anglican Missionary Churches
The Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches
Conservative Anglican Church of North America
Diocese of the Holy Cross
Diocese of St Paul the Apostle
Diocese of the Holy Trinity
Diocesis Misionara Hispana
Ecumenical Anglican Catholic Church
The Episcopal Archdiocese of the Midwest
The Episcopal Missionary Church
The Episcopal Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of America
Episcopal Orthodox Mission in Italy
Evangelical Anglican Church OF America
Evangelical Anglican Church IN America
Evangelical Episcopal Church
FCE (Evangelical Connexion)/A Connexion of Covenanting Churches
Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas
Filipino Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches
The Free Church of England (see also Reformed Episcopal Church)
The Free Episcopal Church
Free Protestant Episcopal Church
Free Protestant Episcopal Church (Saskatchewan)
Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church
Holy Catholic Church Anglican Rite
Iglesia Catolica Anglicana Sagrado Corazon de Jesus
Iglesia Catolica Reformada de Venezuela - Rito Anglicano
The International Free Protestant Episcopal Church
Iglesia Anglicana Ortodoxa del Perú
La Iglesia Episcopal de Chile
Iglesia Evangélica Episcopal
Igreja Episcopal Anglicana Livre no Brasil (Free Anglican Episcopal Church in Brazil)
Independent Anglican Church (Canada Synod)
Latin Anglican Church of México
Mariners Church of Detroit
Missionary Diocese of New England
The National Anglican Catholic Church
Old Catholic Communion in North America
Oratory of St Jerome
The Orthodox Anglican Church
Orthodox Anglican Church of India
Orthodox Anglican Communion
Province of Christ the Good Shepherd
Province of Convocation of The Restoration Episcopal Churches: Diocese of Saint James
Province of The Holy Catholic Church-Western Rite: The Anglican Diocese of the Caribbean and New Granada
Province of the Holy Spirit
Province of the Transfiguration - Anglican Rite
Reformed Anglican Catholic Church
Reformed Episcopal Church
Reformierte Episkopalkirche in Deutschland
Saints Cyril and Methodius Church
Servants of the Good Shepherd
Southern Episcopal Church
The Traditional Anglican Church
The Traditional Anglican Communion
The Traditional Church of England
The Traditional Protestant Episcopal Church
The United Anglican Church
The United Episcopal Church of North America
The Universal Anglican Church


  1. A little note of interest:
    All Nations Anglican Church has a parish in Mississippi headed by a FEMALE bishop, Ruth Urban. (Her husband is the Archdeacon.)

  2. Father mark,
    It just so happens that I know at least two of these flagrantes. Mr. John David Mercer Schofield and the reverend John Guernsey. Neither would I call bishop.
    In the former case JDS has been deposed by a church that took due deliberation and only after an egregious 20 years and a final clear split did the Presiding Bishop and House of Bishops then depose him. Yes, you can give me all the reasons why JDS is still a purple shirted miscreant as opposed to ther common garden variety miscreant but the fact is he was deposed and the letter from the presiding bishop went to all the members of the "Anglican Communion". (BTW, that is the very same communion that AC and BB both believe really a tightly knit group of churches bound by some rules and regulations, apparently just not this one.
    In the later case, the reverend Guernsey, he decided to go to another time and place in order to pursue his dream. He was consecrated in a wonderful ceremony in Uganda. That's just great, but he didn't stay in Uganda. He came back to Virginia to fight for the rights of the common man. Can the Pope consecrate a Cardinal and then send this person (more than likely a man) to the Episcopal diocese of Virginia and expect to be recognized as a Cardinal? I think Father Guernsey is lucky he hasn't been drummed out of the corp also.
    But, in closing, let's look at the one characteristic that these two have in common and in fact appears to be the glue that holds all these in flagrante bishops together. Pride, pride is the one common characteristic. They all think they are unique and have been sent to save the world from the Episcopal Church. These folks want to tear down the Episcopal Church but from a toip down approach. The laity is not smart enough, not fast enough and not wise enough to be able to know what is good theology and what is not. Only they, these flagrante bishops can tell us the word of God, only they know which commandments are the ones that cannot be broken and which can, only they know what Jesus really said and what Jesus would really do if he walking the earth today. Boy, are we lucky to have them!

  3. Complicating any appreciation of this is that some of bodies listed have now connected with an Anglican bishop. For example, I believe a number of congregations within the United Episcopal Church placed themselves under supervision of Kenya.

    Although the practice has faded, early on a number of the churches on the "Not in Communion" page listed their episcopal succession. That especially highlighted those that had connection with the known 19th and early 20th Century "episcopi vagantes." I do appreciate your suggestion that "wandering" is as "wandering" does, and is not to be determined simply by who is or is not "in communion," much less "in the Communion."

  4. Fred,

    Your comment, perhaps, comes off in a different way than you intended. For example, “Can the Pope consecrate a Cardinal and then send this person (more than likely a man) to the Episcopal diocese of Virginia and expect to be recognized as a Cardinal?” Well, yes, Fred, actually, he can, and he has (although the person is not a Cardinal, but merely an Archbishop) – as have the Orthodox. In this, these two groups are behaving consistently with many Primates of the Anglican Communion itself, in that nobody in the foregoing factors letters from the Episcopalian Presiding Bishop into their planning, or gives much thought to the jurisdiction she exclusively claims for herself.

    This is also rich: “Pride, pride is the one common characteristic. They all think they are unique and have been sent to save the world from the Episcopal Church.” Did you miss the irony that this is coming from an Episcopal Church that is convinced it, alone, has the corrective to 2,000 years of Christian teaching? That not only much of its own laity and clergy, but the majority of the world’s Christians and Churches are seen as, “not smart enough, not fast enough and not wise enough to be able to know what is good theology” when it comes to moral teaching?

    The larger reality is that +Schofield and the rest can’t really be compared to the episcopi vagantes of the past. They are in full communion with most of Anglicanism (which means they are in communion with you, and vice versa, whether either of you like it or not). What’s more, all of the Primates just deigned to take up their situation in an official forum and saw fit to recognize that these groups are Anglican, in some sense. Neither of this is in any sense comparable to the situation of past breakaways, some of whom appealed to the Communion for help, and were ignored. This time, the appeal has been answered, if only tentatively.

  5. So, if ECUSA leaves the Anglican Communion (as per another post) would that make all y'all Episcopalii Vagantes?

  6. Well Phil, you generally come of in a way I don't expect. Twist the words how you see best, but the fact is that at least one of these two bishops isn't, and in any other person's reality would not get traction at all.

    You folks want to establish your own exclusive country club religion no one is going to stop you -- just as long as you do not take someone else's property to do it.

    The Episcopal Church is always willing to talk and to discuss and to pray and to discuss and to pray until consensus is reached. Apparently your guys got tired of all that "senseless talking" and that "idle prattle" and decided to pick and choose the bible verses and create their own brand of Anglicanism. That's okay Phil, just do not do it on our dime.

    Finally, I did not idly pick on these two persons. I worked closely with one and I helped pick the other. I think I have a pretty good handle on both these men. It is my considered opinion that they both have huge egos that could not fit in the same room at the same time. If you know one or both of these men I would be more than happy to compare notes with you. Otherwise, find another axe to grind.

    By the way, my magic word is "supper" I guess I will sing for my supper.

  7. Fred,

    I’m hard pressed to understand how holding to the unbroken, universally held moral teachings of the Church makes me the one holding the “exclusive country club religion.” As a corollary, the teaching in question has never been at issue even within the history of Anglicanism. Therefore, “pick[ing] and choos[ing] the bible verses and creat[ing] their own brand of Anglicanism” is something of which you, not me, are guilty.

    I’m sure you do know better than me about the size of the respective egos of these men. However, as we both know those egos are probably matched by several Episcopal bishops that would meet your approval, I don’t see the relevance.

    Well, my magic word is “prebranp.” Since that isn’t really a word, maybe that’s a sign that I write nonsense. With that slow pitch over the plate, have at it.

  8. I’m hard pressed to understand how holding to the unbroken, universally held moral teachings of the Church makes me the one holding the “exclusive country club religion.”

    You heard it here first: *I* hold views that are NOT universally held.

    (There, I said it)

    But can someone tell me, if there are "universally held" views, why we argue so much?

    I don't get it.

  9. Phil,
    Thank you Phil. I now know that because I think I am an apostate. I now know that because I value the words of Christ in the two great commandments, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Prodigal Son and in Jesus' words on clothing and feeding and visiting etc. I am an heretic. Because of all that I am not one which Phil or anyone of the true brand of Anglicanism will sit down with and pass the peace and break bread.
    Phil, this old apostate says, I give up, you win. Leave my trinkets and bobbles and stuff at the door. Peace, your faith has saved you. Go your way -- just leave my property, real and personal, where you found it. And thanks for judging me, I knew that the Lord's judgment was insufficient and I needed someone from the Righteousness Squad to tell me I am a sinner. Perhaps, someday, you will find forgiveness in your heart, kinda like what Jesus did for me on Calvary.

  10. I think the question comes down to laity. If a bishop oversees churches with honest-to-goodness laity and does not exist mostly on paper, then that's a denomination. Otherwise all of Anglicanism has been "wandering" since the Reformation. It's hypocritical not to extend the same courtesy to others.

  11. Fred,

    To whose comment were you responding? I'm just curious, because you used my name but referenced a bunch of stuff I didn't write.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.