Independent sacramental movement

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The Independent sacramental movement (ISM) refers to a loose collection of individuals and Christian denominations (including, possibly, some Christo-Pagans and Thelemites) who are not part of the historic sacramental Christian denominations (such as the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox churches) and yet continue to practice the historic sacramental rites independently. Many such groups originated from schisms of these larger denominations, and they claim to have preserved the historical episcopate or apostolic succession, though such claims are frequently disputed or rejected outright by the historic churches of Rome, Constantinople, the Union of Utrecht (Old Catholic), and Canterbury.[1][2]

Groups cited by ISM adherents as being part of the movement may struggle to demonstrate a historical connection to other denominations apart from a claim to apostolic succession. In addition, some groups which do not claim apostolic succession may sometimes have been claimed by ISM sources as part of their movement.

Groups within the Independent sacramental movement (alternatively known as Independent Catholic, Old Catholic, Liberal Catholic, Autocephalous Orthodox, Free Sacramental, or, sometimes pejoratively, as micro-churches, parallel churches, or episcopi vagantes in the case of their bishops)[3] frequently share the following characteristics:

  • solitary clergy and small groups
  • centrality of the sacramental life (especially the Eucharist)
  • a mediatory priesthood mostly composed of volunteers
  • ordination potentially available to a significant percentage of the membership
  • a flexible or experimental approach to theology, liturgy, and group organizational structure.


The term was popularized in 2005 by John Plummer, in The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement,[4] although it was used earlier, in 2002 by Richard Smoley, in Inner Christianity,[5] and perhaps first used in the mid-1970s by a short-lived cooperative organization called the Synod of Independent Sacramental Churches.[speculation?] Independent sacramental groups range from the broadly inclusive (including marriage of same-sex couples and the ordination of women) to the socially conservative; also from the traditionally orthodox to the esoteric, although the term is most commonly employed to refer to the liberal end of the spectrum. While the term "Independent sacramental" originated as an etic description,[by whom?] it has been used increasingly as an emic self-description by members of some of these organizations.

Independent Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican Movement

The term is actually an expansion of an earlier term: the Independent Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican Movement. This earlier term was used extensively during many years when many of these groups cooperated, although they were not in formal communion with one another. The majority of these groups' holy orders and sequences of apostolic succession are derived through mutually common sources, especially Arnold Harris Mathew, Aftimios Ofiesh, Carlos Duarte Costa, and Joseph René Vilatte.

Independent Sacramental or Independent Catholic movement

It remains difficult to define the ISM as an entity and to distinguish it from the closely related Independent Catholic movement; the two terms can sometimes be used interchangeably, to refer to the same groups.[6]


  1. ^ Jarvis, Edward (2018). God, Land & Freedom: The True Story of ICAB. Berkeley CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 1-949643-02-6. pp 202-208
  2. ^ Paragargh 17 of
  3. ^ Jarvis, Edward (2018). God, Land & Freedom: The True Story of ICAB. Berkeley CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 1-949643-02-6. p 152
  4. ^ Plummer, John P. (2006) [2005]. The many paths of the independent sacramental movement: a national study of its liturgy, doctrine, and leadership (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press. ISBN 9780977146123.
  5. ^ Smoley, Richard (2002). Inner Christianity: a guide to the esoteric tradition. Boston, MA: Shambhala. ISBN 9781570628108.
  6. ^ Jarvis, Edward (2018). God, Land & Freedom: The True Story of ICAB. Berkeley CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 1-949643-02-6. p 152

Further reading[edit]

  • Bate, Alistair, ed. (2009). A Strange vocation: independent bishops tell their stories. Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press. ISBN 9781933993751.
  • Houston, Siobhán (2009). Priests, gnostics & magicians: European roots of esoteric independent Catholicism. Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press. ISBN 9781933993683.
  • Jarvis, Edward (2018). God, Land & Freedom: The True Story of ICAB. Berkeley CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 1-949643-02-6.
  • Jarvis, Edward (2018). Sede Vacante: The Life and Legacy of Archbishop Thuc. Berkeley CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 9781949643022.
  • Jarvis, Edward (2019). Carlos Duarte Costa: Testament of a Socialist Bishop. Berkeley CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 9781949643237.
  • Jones, Rob Angus (2010). Independent sacramental bishops: ordination, authority, lineage, and validity. Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press. ISBN 9781933993836.
  • Plummer, John P. (2004). The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement. Berkeley CA: The Apocryphile Press. ISBN 0-9771461-2-X.
  • Plummer, John P. (2010). Living mysteries: a practical handbook for the independent priest (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press. ISBN 9781933993935.
  • Plummer, John P.; Mabry, John R. (2006). Who are the independent Catholics?: an introduction to the independent and Old Catholic churches. Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press. ISBN 9781933993003.
  • Ward, Gary L.; Persson, Bertil; Bain, Alan, eds. (1990). "Independent Bishops". Independent bishops : an international directory. Detroit: Apogee Books. ISBN 155888307X.

External links[edit]