Fr. Longenecker axes Branch Theory

Over at the National Catholic Register, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a former Anglican clergyman but non-Ordinariate Catholic priest, takes the ax to Branch Theory, the idea the Anglican Church was a branch of One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church like the Orthodox Churches.

He writes:

When I lived in England I often heard members of the Church of England say, “We’re Catholic too; we’re just not Roman Catholic.”


The idea that the Church in England grew out of links that were independent of Roman authority suits Anglicans because they like to imagine that there are three ancient apostolic churches, Rome, the Orthodox and themselves. The Celtic-Coptic theory enables them to sustain this myth. It also helps them to defend their continued independence from Roman authority. The Anglican argument goes like this: “We are descendants of the first British Christians. They existed happily for 600 years independent of Rome; and we are simply part of that same stream of ancient apostolic Christianity.”

Unfortunately, the idea that Celtic Christianity sprang up on its own, independent of Rome, just doesn’t fit the facts.

I encountered Branch Theory in the early days of my attending Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa when it was part of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada.  It was one of those beliefs our priests and people had to shed as their conversion deepened in preparation for entering the Catholic Church.

Key was accepting that to truly be able to call oneself Catholic, one had to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome.  Otherwise, you might be able to say you were catholic, but with a small-c.

For some it was an easier “death” to an old way of looking at things than for others. Branch Theory was one of the reasons behind the painful split our parish experienced in 2011 and I am sure it is widespread among Continuing Anglican jurisdictions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s