Continuing church

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Continuing Churches are often numerically small denominations that formed from disputes within a larger parent organization. The ‘continuing’ organizations may be old or the split between the parent Church and the Continuing Church may be recent.


The term Continuing Church has been used by a number of Christian denominations formed in response to a variety of doctrinal disagreements between members. The use of this term is meant to suggest that no new doctrines were being promoted by the dissenters, but rather that the historic faith allegedly abandoned by the parent body was being preserved—or continued—in these newly founded churches.

Examples of Continuing Churches

Examples of Continuing Churches include the Free Church of England (1844), Presbyterian Church in America (1973), Continuing Anglican Movement (1977), Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (1991), the Episcopal Missionary Church (1992), and the Free Church of Scotland (continuing) (2000).

In the USA, the ordination of women beginning in the 1970s played a major part in the formation of a number of Continuing Churches, as did Fundamentalist and Evangelical convictions. The Southern Methodist Church (1940) and the Evangelical Church (1968), for example, were both bodies which refused to join with the Methodist Church the United Methodist Church, respectively, on grounds of theology and polity. And there are many remnants of the former Congregationalist denominations which now comprise the United Church of Christ merger, such as the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (1948). The North American Baptist landscape is replete with organizations that originate from a refusal to join a larger body.

In Australia, both Fellowship of Congregational Churches and the Presbyterian Church of Australia continued after the Uniting Church in Australia formed in 1977.

Apostolic succession

Continuing Churches with a Catholic or Anglican tradition have sometimes found it difficult to manage the initial separation in that there are a limited number of Anglicans or Roman Catholics who have passed on valid Apostolic succession. Prior to the 1970s, ‘Continuing Churches’ often approached English speaking Old Catholics to obtain Apostolic Succession and to place themselves within the historic episcopacy. This means that although such churches may have continued the beliefs and practices of Anglicanism, they have Apostolic Succession through the Old Catholic bishops Arnold Harris Matthew or Rudolphe De Landas Berghes. Most Continuing Anglican churches, however, descend from the "Denver Consecrations" of 1978 in which the consecrators were bishops in good standing in the Anglican Communion.


‘Continuing Churches’ are frequently less tolerant of doctrinal diversity than the parent Church and claim that they hold on to an 'orthodox' position. The separation of the ‘continuing’ Church from the parent body often leads to a position of conflict between the two organisations.