Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What are Vagantes Bishops?

Since my last post resulted in questions from a sincere man who wants to know if his orders are legitimate, I am giving the only answer I can. I really do not have an answer about each individual bishop out there who calls himself an Anglican. The best way to obtain a good answer about validity is to ask a bishop if you can read the account of his Apostolic Succession. This really ought to be posted in whatever church serves as his cathedral. It helps, as well, to know with whom he is in unity, to whom he gives any sort of account. What are the Canon Laws of his church and diocese? Furthermore, to those who see the importance of the principles of The Affirmation of St. Louis, a direct question about the Affirmation ought to be answered easily. Is he for it or against it? Such questions should be asked politely, with the assumption that they can be answered. But, if they cannot be answered, or if they create an unreasonable anxiety or defensive posture on a bishop's part, you have every right to be suspicious.

Furthermore, a vagans (="wandering") bishop may be validly consecrated, and able to ordain. But, if he has no actual ministry, then he fits the definition of a bishop with a vacancy. In this case there is no vacant See, but the reverse; a vacant office. The vagante are bishops with no diocese; they have no church. Look at a bishop's membership, and see if it consists only of his wife, his neighbor and his neighbor's dog. Usually, the smaller the church the larger the title: "Archbishop of North America" (or "the Paraclete of Kavorka"). My favorite title was that of an "Orthodox" rather than Anglican vagans. He called himself "Shepherd of shepherds, and Master of the Universe." This sounds like he may have trespassed on a copyright from the Marvel Comics Group. It certainly would have offended Orthodox Jews, to whom "Master of the Universe" is a jealously guarded Name.

And, then the question of education comes up.

But, as I said before, this vagante problem is distinct from a problem of disunity. It is not so much a matter of fragmentation as it is of imitation. The need to be vigilant about this is the price we pay to maintain a free society.


poetreader said...

Thank you, Father, yours is a very helpful statement.

In some respects the definition of vagante is a bit subjective, but there are certain marks that one can see. There is an emphasis on validity and a constant talk about lines of succession. Frankly, Father, when I see elaborate tables of succession posted prominently, and especially in a prominent place on websites, I get suspicious. Yes, there must be valid orders, but, when that is the leading thing one says about himself, he's probably not kosher. There is a great concern for titles and honors. there is a topheaviness, often more bishops than priests, and sometimes more clergy than laity. Years ago, in my young and foolish days I was connected with such a 'church' in which there were no laity. I'm quite familiar with this peculiar underworld.

I'll have to be frank. I was strongly drawn to return from Evangelical Protestantism to Traditional Anglicanism, but held back from doing so for nearly a decade because there was just too much resemblance to the mess I had run from. In other words I had to be sure that the Continuum was not just more of the vagantes mess.

We, that is the major bodies and also those more on the fringes that want to be legitimate, need to be putting in maximum effort to reduce that kind of appearance -- and a large part of that is to reduce the number of separate bodies, to control the number of bishops, and to discourage the "purple fever" that infects the vagantes and sometimes attracts Anglicans all too much.


ACC Member said...

The Vagantes generally have outstanding, beautiful websites that are very attractive. However, it is very hard to find a listing of any parishes, etc.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

There is an emphasis on validity and a constant talk about lines of succession.

True. That is very different from a simple chart that shows the Succession, which is simply what is to be expected in any cathedral church (i.e. where the bishop is resident). When the lines are a major topic, in the way Ed mentions, one can see a defensive posture in the whole manner of presentation. This is grounds for suspicion.

Anonymous said...

The title "Shepherd of Shepherds and Judge of the Universe" is one of the flowery, but ancient, titles of the Patriarchs of Alexandria (both Coptic and Orthodox)

Anonymous said...

VAGANTEISM - Vaganteism is a serious medical condition, and it should not be
treated lightly. Many would argue that it is a disease. It certainly is a
compulsion, one that is treatable but not curable. Many of us have friends
and loved ones who suffer in silence from this condition.
The most common symptoms of vaganteism are:
1. Illusions of grandeur, such as believing oneself to be a Patriarch or
2. An overwhelming urge to renovate one's garage to resemble a cathedral.
3. The complusion to photograph the renovated garage, and post the pictures
on the Internet.
4. An insatiable desire to compose lengthy charts of spurious episcopal
succession, and post them on the Internet next to the garage pics.
5. A tragic, debilitating urge to spend large sums of money on fabric for
elaborate episcopal robes.

Anonymous said...

I second Brian's comment. When it comes to the Anglicans outside the Anglican communion, beware of groups or individuals whose websites look very polished. Ha ha.


Anonymous said...

With regards to the topic in particular. I have a gut reaction to "vaganteism" that it seems these people don't want to play by the rules and are sort of cheaters.

They want to bypass all the hard slogging of pastoral work in a parish setting and not pay their dues to the Church. They don't know what it means to be obedient.


P.S. I seem to be able to only post anonymously

The Lemonts said...

I remember once attending a so called ecumenical parish of the Charismatic Episcopal Church and the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox church (which claimed to be Western Rite Orthodox). When I visited the parish it was a badly done charismatic contemporary service that contained the elements of older liturgies just with drums and a keyboard. After the service the Charismatic Episcopal church priest kept trying to prove his orders valid and that his orders were recognised by both the canonical Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic church. It was wierd to say the least as I had not asked and regardless of how I tried to change the topic he kept bringing it up. The so called "Orthodox" Priest was a former ROCOR priest that married an evangelical protestant who didn't care for Eastern Orthodoxy (something I can identify with). I think the emphasis on proving ones validity is a good indicator.

ACC Member said...

Father DeHart:

Your wonderful definition should be posted on Wikipedia. Delightfully humerous, but it is very true!

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Albion Land said...


You are the most well-identified anonymous poster we have!

Alice C. Linsley said...

Is there any possibility that Bishop Iker is in conversation with bishops of the Continuum?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Is it possible that Bishop Iker and the Diocese of Ft. Worth might join the Continuum? Everyone assumes a foreign Anglican Primate, but why not go where there are Anglican bishops in apostolic succession?

The Most Reverend Chandler Holder Jones, SSC said...

From my blog...

The phrase 'episcopi vagantes' was sadly developed out of necessity by Anglicans in the nineteenth century to describe the phenomenon of bishops uncanonically consecrated without flocks to serve or parishes to govern: bishops made by bishops whose orders are schismatic. The phrase simply means 'wandering' or 'vagrant' bishops, that is, bishops without jurisdiction or apostolic authority, bishops who do not serve as the officers of any legitimate Church. Vagantes are defined, technically, as bishops who lack communion with any historic see in Christendom or who lack any connection to any authentic catholic Church. They are also defined as bishops whose 'churches' are so small as to seem to exist only for the sake of prelate concerned - many 'continuing church' bodies are vagans, for they have no process for the election and accountability of real bishops in communion with other real bishops. Vagantes' sacramental orders may or may not be valid, depending on the succession involved, but they are all, as Dr CB Moss interestingly describes them, ecclesiastical freaks. They are bishops outside the Church. The most famous examples of vagans bishops are the quasi-Old Catholics AH Matthew and Joseph Rene Villate, from whom sprang countless sects claiming apostolic succession in a vacuum, but having no living communion with any historical catholic body. Today, in North America, all bodies aside from the PNCC describing themselves as 'Old Catholic' are in fact vagans sects, having no origin from or relationship with the Union of Utrecht. Only the Polish National Catholic Church can claim a genuine Utrechtine ancestry.

Thank you and God bless you!


Anonymous said...

I know this thread is about vagantes but Ms. Linsley referenced Bp. Iker. Do you mean to suggest that Foreign Anglican Primates are not in apostolic succession?


poetreader said...

I think she merely intended to point out that the increasing multiplication of jurisdictions gives a rather vagantes-like appearance, and should be avoided.

For that matter, Fr. Hart's point is that most of the Vaganti are at least formally in apostolic succession, but, lacking real jurisdiction, have no right to exercise the office. Jurisdictional chaos is the issue.

And +Iker would be most welcome were he to make what certainly appears to me to be the best choice.


J. Gordon Anderson said...

To build on what Fr. Jones said, I think the definition for "vagante" needs to be tweaked (how I do not know), because the older idea of being conneected with an historic see doesn't take into to account the possibility that the see could err (like Canterbury, or like the Articles say of the ancient sees and of Rome).

The "church of one" idea seems to be the better definition for today.

poetreader said...

It's attitude far more than observed phenomenon. [i]Athanasius contra mundi.[/i] He seemed to stand alone, having withdrawn from the 'official church'. He, however, neither intended to stand alone, nor to erect a new 'denomination' - even one representing the old truths. His intent (and the resulting reality) was that the historic sees would unite with him. Whether that is achievable in these times or not, it can't cease to be our desire and objective. Even for Athanasius, there is no such thing as a 'church of one'.


Ecgbert said...

This info is worth repeating. Many thanks for warning people away from these little, largely imaginary churches.

'Old Catholic' and 'Orthodox' (taking advantage of many people's ignorance about the Eastern churches) have long been favourite poses of the vagante. Any American who says he's Old Catholic or any bishop who says he's Western Orthodox is not.

A great source to learn the history of these little churches is Peter Anson's Bishops at Large, which covers them from their beginning in the late 1800s to the early 1960s.

The tangled modern history of these little groups is fairly well covered on the Internet.

Sometimes the Continuum uncomfortably resembles vagante-land but I still don't lump it in with the latter. Continuers tend to have real congregations, real ministries. Vagantes tend to be a bunch of people playing priests (who often weren't made real priests for good reasons... and a smattering of former real clergy), full stop.

And most vagantes are liberal: lots of gay churches.

And wedding chapels and officiants for hire (obviously catering to divorced RCs for example).

That said...

I wouldn't join one and wouldn't encourage people to join but know one liberal 'independent' bishop and one of his priests in person. Both are very bright and well educated (the bishop has a master's from Harvard). The bishop has a small congregation he ministers to every week and because of that gets my respect. He's honest and realistic about his ministry: he sees himself not as competing with the big churches but filling a need for people who don't go to them and otherwise would go to no church.

As for the remaining Catholic bishops in TEC talking to the Continuum about joining, +San Joaquin says no. Which is understandable; I think they're trying to stay with the other conservative dioceses to do what the Continuum initially wanted to do: be recognised by Canterbury as the American Anglican church and replace TEC.

There are sitting Anglican bishops in other countries who are in communion with the Continuum though, such as Ross Davies of The Murray, Australia and Maternus Kapinga in east Africa.

Ben Johnson said...

This has been a concern of mine, as well. I had to dedicate an entire section of my own blog to this:


BTW, you may enjoy this song, composed by a (legitimate) Western Orthodox priest and his (Eastern) bishop about vagantes:

I'd like to be a vagante (episcopus that is)
And wear the tallest mitre that ever was or is,
Or grow an Elder's whiskers with a mighty Eastern crown
And whisper a troparion whenever I was down.

I'd like to be an Eminence and always wear mozettas,
And have those little tassels for the red hat on my letters,
Or call myself Catholicos and wear a tall white hat
Perhaps alternate Thursdays when things were rather flat.

Whole song here: http://westernorthodox.blogspot.com/2006/05/song-of-vagantes.html

BTW, hi "Ohio Anglican"! Send me an e-mail if you get the chance.

God bless,