Sacramental Lineage of The Rt. Rev. Sherrie L. Albrecht
The Reverend Sherrie L. Albrecht was consecrated for the episcopacy of the Free Episcopal Church on 9 October 2004, at a public celebration of the Eucharist at St. Thomas United Methodist Church, in Glen Ellyn, Il. Bishop Albrecht's primary consecrator was the FEC's founding bishop The Rt. Rev. Rob Angus Jones. The Most Rev. Sharon Hart of the Contemporary Catholic Church, and The Rt. Rev. Rusty Clyma of The New Church - Inclusive Anglican Reform, assisted Bishop Jones as co-consecrators.
The consecration was according to the Anglican rite. Presenting delegates for the Free Episcopal Church were The Rev. Deacon Philip R. Taylor, and Mr. Roger Kim.
The Vilatte Succession from the Mar Thoma Churches of India
By Tradition, Christianity was first preached in India by the Apostle Thomas, in about 40 AD., predating the founding of Christianity in the Western world (except Britain) by many decades. The first known communities of Christians in India arrived in about 345 AD, and were Jewish Christians from Syria, led by Thomas of Cana. The indigenous church is known as the Mar Thoma Church, or in English: “The Christians of St. Thomas”, or “the Thomas Christians”.
Almost nothing is known with any certainty of the shape or nature of Mar Thoma beliefs and practice for its first 1000 years.
The Thomas Christians come to more certain light when the Portuguese encountered this Church while exploring the Malabar Coast of India in 1498. The Thomas Christians, though by then in full communion with the (Nestorian) Assyrian Church of the East, greeted the Portuguese as representatives of the Church of Rome.
The Portuguese brought in Roman Catholic missionaries and began imposing Latin custom and ritual. This culminated in the Synod at Diamper in 1599, where the Indian Church severed its ties with the Catholicos of the Assyrian Church. So thoroughgoing was the latinization of the Thomas Christian church that in 1653 most of the Church rebelled against this Westernization, and broke with Rome in an effort to regain their identity and historic church. The Thomas Christians split into no less than 5 jurisdictions. These bodies were supported by the Antiochene Patriarch, the Catholicos of the Church of the East, the Roman pontiff, and the Chaldean Uniate church, respectively.
In 1665, one of those groups of Thomas Christians who remained separated from Rome found themselves without a bishop. They placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the Syrian Orthodox “Jacobite” Patriarch of Antioch. This loose union provided the Thomas Christians with their eccesial hierarchy, and they became the Malankara Syrian Church.
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This arrangement becomes relevant to our story with the patriarchate of Moran Mar Ighnatiyus Ya’qub II (Ignatius Jacob II), Patriarch of Antioch and of All the Domain of the Apostolic Throne (Syrian Orthodox “Jacobite” Church of Antioch). Mar Ya’qub became convinced that he could be instrumental in returning Orthodoxy to the West to those places where it had long since vanished. He had previously consecrated Raimond Ferrette (Mar Jules), who began a line of bishops in Britain. Mar Ya’qub would instill this openness to a restoration of Orthodoxy in the West into his bishops.
Moran Mar Ighnatiyus Ya'qub II, Patriarch of Antioch and of All the Domain of the Apostolic Throne (Syrian Orthodox "Jacobite" Church of Antioch), on 12 February 1865, in Omeed (Deyarbekir) Turkey consecrated: Joseph Pulikkottil, Joseph Mar Dionysios V, Metran of the Malankara Syrian Church (Thomas Christians). Mar Ya'qub's successor was Moran Mar Ighnatiyus Butrus IV (Ignatius Peter III/IV), Patriarch of Antioch and of All the Domain of the Apostolic Throne (Syrian Orthodox "Jacobite" Church of Antioch). Mar Butrus would be responsible for promulgating a bull of consecration for the consecration of Joseph Rene Vilatte to the episcopacy. Mar Butrus also consecrated the following bishops, who figure in the lineage of +Vilatte.
Paulose Kadavil Kooran (Paulose Mar Athanasios), Bishop of Kettayam (later Catholicos- Metropolitan of the Malankara Syrian Church) & Legate of Moran Mar Ighnatiyus Butrus IV. He was consecrated 4 December 1876 by Mar Butrus IV, assisted by Mar Gregorios Abdullah and Joseph Mar Dionysios V. Paulose Murimattom (Paulose Mar Ivanios (also later called Mar Ignatius Abdullah II)), Bishop of Kandanad, India in the Malankara Syrian Church. He was consecrated 18 May 1877 by Mar Butrus IV, assisted by Mar Gregorios Abdullah and Joseph Mar Dionysios V. Geevarghese Chathuruthil Pallathitta (Geevarghese Mar Gregorios), Bishop of Niranam, Malankara Syrian Church. He was consecrated 10 December 1876 by Mar Butrus IV, assisted by Joseph Mar Dionysius V and Gregorios Abdullah. + + +
The last facet of the story comes directly from Peter Anson’s Bishops at Large, p. 105:
“In about 1888 about 5,000 Catholics of the Latin Rite of Ceylon and South India had formed a schismatic body known as the (Latin Rite) Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa and India. The reasons for this break with the papacy were political rather then religious. From the sixteenth century there had existed a concordat between the Holy See and the King of Portugal which allowed the latter to nominate Bishops to the diocese of Latin Rite India, as well as other colonies which had formally been Portuguese colonies. The arrangement was known as the Patrondo (Patronage). By the second half of the nineteenth century it had become obvious that it was high time for Patrondo to be abolished.
"On January 2, 1887, Pope Leo XIII set up a new Latin hierarchy for India and Ceylon, with the bishops (except for the province of (Goa) directly dependent on the Congregation of Propaganda. This change aroused considerable indignation because there still existed strong sentimental link between Indian Catholics and Portugal. Many native priests were indignant at being transferred to jurisdictions of French or Italian bishops.
"Thus came into being what was called the 'Patrando Association'. Its leaders petitioned King Luis I of Portugal, to use his influence at Rome to have the royal patronage restored. On February 10, 1888, A Goan priest, who had beena Brahmin, Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvarez, was elected by the Association as first bishop of the schismatic church. He applied to Mar Dionysios V, Jacobite Metran of Malankara since 1876, to consecrate him, but with no result. His appeal to Moran Mar Ighnatiyus Butrus IV, Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch was more successful.”
And so, at the direction of Mar Butrus IV:
Joseph Mar Dionysios V, assisted by Paulose Mar Athanasios, Geevarghese Mar Gregorios, and Paulose Mar Ivanios (all of the Malankara Syrian Church), in the chapel of the Syrian Orthodox seminary in Kottyam in Malabar, on 29 July 1889 consecrated: Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvarez (Mar Julius I), Archbishop of Ceylon, Goa and India for the (Latin Rite) Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa, and India. + + +
In the late 1800s, a Frenchman, Joseph Rene Vilatte was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Herzog of the Utrecht succession (the Old Catholic Church). He began his work in Wisconsin to create ethnic Old Catholic parishes. He immediately ran afoul of the Episcopal Church, which blocked his work, and damaged his relationship with Utrecht. Fr. Vilatte realized he needed episcopal authority to fully continue his work, but the door to Utrecht was closed. After seeking help from various Apostolic churches, Fr. Vilatte discovered the work of, and decided to write to Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvarez (Mar Julius I). Mar Julius sent this reply to Fr. Vilatte (again, from Anson):
Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvarez (Mar Julius I), Archbishop of Ceylon, Goa and India for the (Latin Rite) Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa, and India, who on 29 May 1892, assisted by Paulose Mar Athanasius, and Geevarghese Mar Gregorios (both of the Malankara Syrian Church), in the Portuguese Cathedral of Our Lady of Good Death at Columba, Ceylon consecrated: Joseph Rene Vilatte (Mar Timotheos), Archbishop of North America & Exarch of the American Catholic Church, who on 29 December 1915, assisted by Bishop Paolo Miraglia Gulotti (who had been consecrated by Vilatte), in St. David's Church, 536 E. 36th Street, Chicago, Illinois, USA (+Lloyd's home church) consecrated: Frederick Ebenezer John Lloyd, Bishop of Illinois, afterwards Primate of the American Catholic Church, who on 1 July 1923 in St. David's Church, 536 E. 36th Street, Chicago, Illinois, USA (+Lloyd's home church) consecrated solo: Gregory Lines, Bishop of the Pacific for the American Catholic Church, who on 20 December 1933, assisted by Bishops William Albert Nichols and George S. A. Brookes (themselves both in the Vilatte line), in St. Illuminator's Armenian Apostolic Cathedral, 221 East 27th Street, New York City, New York State, USA consecrated: Howard Ellsworth Mather (Mar Timothy), Archbishop of the Order of Antioch, who on 26 August 1963, assisted by Bishop Cyrus Augustine Starkey (also in the Vilatte line), in the Order of Antioch Chapel, Middletown, New York State, USA (+Mather's home chapel) consecrated: Joseph Laverne Vredenburgh (Mar Narsai), Patriarch of the Federation of St. Thomas Christians, who on 26 July 2001, assisted by Virginia Vredenburgh (Mart'a Virginia), and Joseph Eaton (Mar Tooma II), (both of whom were consecrated by Mar Joseph), in Bishop's Chapel at 525 Airport Rd. Watsonville, Ca. (+Eaton's home chapel) consecrated: Robert Angus Jones, founding bishop of the Free Episcopal Church; who on 9 October 2004, assisted by Sharon Hart (Contemporary Catholic Church) and Rusty Clyma (The New Church - Inclusive Anglican Reform), at St. Thomas UMC, Glen Ellyn, Il., consecrated: Sherrie L. Albrecht, second Presiding Bishop of the Free Episcopal Church.
We are indebted to The Rt. Rev. Darrel Hockley (Presiding Bishop of the Eucharistic Catholic Church in Canada) for sharing the fruits of his historical researches on the successors of Archbishop Vilatte.