Order of Corporate Reunion
The Order of Corporate Reunion (OCR) is an ecumenical association of clergy and laity of Anglican origin. The order was founded in London in 1874 by Frederick George Lee, Thomas Mossman and John Thomas Seccombe. It is an Anglo-Papalist society, founded to continue the work of the Association for the Promotion of the Unity of Christendom (APUC) and to restore an apostolic succession recognised by the Roman Catholic Church through reordinations as a means for reunion. The order affirms and supports what is Catholic in Anglicanism and in other Christian churches. It encourages work and prayer for Christian unity, especially the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity celebrated from January 18 to 25.
The three founders each claimed to have been consecrated a bishop by an existing bishop standing in a recognised apostolic succession from the original apostles of the first century of the Christian era. However, they did not state in public the names of the bishops who had consecrated them. Now, nearly 150 years afterwards, there are claims on the Internet as to who the original consecrating bishops were. However, the veracity of these claims are disputed.
The Order of Corporate Reunion regards valid apostolic succession as an essential aspect of the church Catholic. It preserves and protects its own apostolic succession.
Following the deaths of its three founders, the order fell dormant. The episcopal succession, however, had been maintained, and in 1912 the order was revived.
The holy orders of the Church of England and of the other Anglican Communion churches had been declared by the Roman Catholic Church to be "absolutely null and utterly void". Some other scholars and commentators also questioned the validity of Anglican orders. During the first half of the 20th century, numerous serving Anglican clergy therefore sought and obtained ordination by OCR bishops as a conditional ordination (reordination), with the aim of receiving holy orders which they could regard as valid, or that others would regard as valid, or of in some way bolstering or improving their claim to be validly ordained. Most of these OCR ordinations took place in secret, though information about some of them became public. It is claimed[who?] that some who became very prominent leaders within the Church of England received OCR ordination in addition to their Anglican ordination.
The revived Order of Corporate Reunion continues to exist today, or claims to continue, though there have been (and perhaps there still are) rival claims as to which manifestation of the OCR is the genuine and authentic successor to the organisation founded by Lee, Mossman and Seccombe. One of the bodies claiming to be the authentic OCR had Peter Paul Brennan as its primate until his death on 1 August 2016. Bishop Brennan served in succession to Bertil Persson who retired. Michael Kline has been appointed primate in succession to Bishop Brennan.
In the United Kingdom, the OCR led by Bp Michael Kline (and previously by Bishop Peter Paul Brennan) is represented by Archbishop John Kersey, leader (from 2015) of the Apostolic Episcopal Church.
Some views regarding the identity of the original consecrators
In a "Pastoral" statement drawn up by OCR during its synod in London on 2 July 1877, OCR itself appears to lay claim to three distinct lines of episcopal succession. This "Pastoral" was published by being read on the steps of St Paul's cathedral on 8 September 1877 and also by being published in an OCR publication "Reunion Magazine". This 1877 "Pastoral" describes the work of OCR as being that of "recovering .... that which has been forfeited or lost - securing three distinct and independent lines of a new Episcopal Succession, so as to labour corporately, and on no sandy foundation, for the healing of the breach which has been made". The "pastoral" does not name the bishops from whom the three distinct lines of succession had been obtained, nor does it state the particular churches/jurisdictions in which they were serving and whose lines of succession they brought to the OCR. A letter (written by a Revd W Allen Whitworth) published in the "Church Review" on 28 December 1878 asserts that the OCR lines of succession derived from Roman, Greek and Armenian bishops. OCR's Registrar (a Mr William Grant, a layman) responded to a number of the points in the 28 December 1878 letter but, perhaps significantly, Mr Grant's response does not seek to question, deny or refute Mr Whitworth's assertion that the new OCR succession derives from Roman, Greek and Armenian bishops.
Writing in 1947, Henry R T Brandreth (in his book "Episcopi Vagantes and the Anglican Church", SPCK, page 124) opines that: "Certain facts are beyond dispute, namely that a consecration did take place in the summer of 1877; that it took place in Italy; that the bishops consecrated were Lee and Mossman; that the consecrating prelates held Orders accepted as valid at Rome. It is probable that the prelates were in communion with Rome. The remainder of the story is open to question. ..... The whole business was so shrouded in secrecy that it is probably impossible today to arrive at any certainty as to the facts of the case".
In the year 2000, Bertil Persson wrote a 53 page paper on the origins and history of the Order ("The Order of Corporate Reunion" by Bertil Persson, 2000 Solna, Sweden). At page 23, having cited and reviewed various items of correspondence and accounts of events, Persson expresses the following conclusions: "Based on the accessible facts, we are able to state that: .... Lee was consecrated in June 1877 in Milan by Archbishop Luigi Nazari di Calabiana [Roman Catholic archbishop of Milan] .... Mossmann was consecrated in June 1877 in Milan by Archbishop Luigi Nazari di Calabiana".
Consecrations by OCR
Among those consecrated by the leaders of OCR were Richard Williams Morgan and Charles Isaac Stevens, both of these consecrations being on 6 March 1879. Morgan had previously (1874) been consecrated by Jules Ferrette. Morgan joined in the consecration of Stevens on 6 March 1879, as principal consecrator.
Successors to Lee, Mossman and Seccombe
Mossman died in 1889, Seccombe in 1895 and Lee in 1902. It was 1912 before the Order was revived. However, prior to their deaths, Lee, Mossman and Seccombe (acting together) had consecrated Henry Arthur Stanton (1839-1913), Percy Dearmer (1867-1936) and Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare (1856-1924). On 1 November 1909, Conybeare, assisted by Stanton and Dearmer, consecrated Arnold Harris Mathew. (Note: Mathew had previously (1908) been consecrated by Gerardus Gul, Old Catholic archbishop of Utrecht).
- APUC was formed in 1857. Among its original leaders were Anglicans such as Frederick George Lee and Roman Catholics such as Ambrose de Lisle. Orthodox Christians later became involved in the association. Source: Thomas E. Fitzgerald The Ecumenical Movement - An Introductory History, Praeger, Westport, CT 2004.
- Henry R. T. Brandreth, Dr Lee of Lambeth: A Chapter in Parenthesis in the History of the Oxford Movement, London, 1951.
- For example the website of the Apostolic Episcopal Church https://www.apostolicepiscopalchurch.org reports who it considers the consecrators of Lee, Mossman and Seccombe were. Click on "Intercommunion" and then on "The Order of Corporate Reunion". Retrieved 22 November 2015.
- Revival of the Order of Corporate Reunion was reported in The Torch on 19 June 1912.
- Papal Bull Apostolicae Curae issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1896.
- "The Order of Corporate Reunion" incorporated 2010 in the State of Missouri has Bp Peter Paul Brennan as its leader (and Bp Bertil Persson as its former leader) and is linked to the Apostolic Episcopal Church; see website https://www.apostolicepiscopalchurch.org and then click on "Intercommunion" and then on "The Order of Corporate Reunion". See also https://orgsites.com/ny/corporatereunion/, Retrieved 22 November 2015. The "Apostolic Episcopal Church - Order of Corporate Reunion" incorporated in the State of New York 1995 claims to be a single body being a merger of the Apostolic Episcopal Church and the Order of Corporate Reunion and to have adopted the Celtic Gallican Christian tradition; see website https://celticsynod.org/, Retrieved 22 November 2015.