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Catholic Apostolic Church Records

Call Number: RG 55

Scope and Contents

This collection of pamphlet material supplements the Library's cataloged collection of books related to the Catholic Apostolic Church. The pamphlets and books were acquired in 1973 from the Bodleian Library in Oxford and presumably represent duplicates in the collection which came to the Bodleian from Norman Priddle, librarian of the Catholic Apostolic Church.

The materials offer to researchers an opportunity to examine the life of the Catholic Apostolic Church in a way which would not have been possible during its active years, due to the desire of the Church to hold its more intricate beliefs and political struggles secret from the world at large. Biographical information about the important figures in the Catholic Apostolic Church is provided by the collection as well as bibliographic information regarding their writings.

It is difficult to determine how accurate a portrait of the Catholic Apostolic Church is provided by this collection. Although most of the apostles are represented, the degree of representation varies. No doubt the collection documents theological issues and historical controversies with corresponding inconsistency. The collection does, however, provide valuable insight into the Church's interest in prophecy, including specific predictions about the Eschaton, in Biblical number symbolism and in elaborate symbolism in liturgical practice.

One historian has characterized the liturgical emphasis of the Catholic Apostolic as follows; "Its quickly developed passion for gorgeous ceremonial and vestments, and its liturgical enthusiasm reflect the antiquarian and sensuous tastes of an age which studied as well as made history, which was devoted, however crudely, to art, and form, and color, and which gave birth to the Oxford Movement." (William A. Curtis, A History of Creeds and Confessions of Faith. Edinburgh; T and T Clark, 1911, p.378.) The theoretical writings and liturgical tools available in this collection provide a basis for fresh evaluation of the Catholic Apostolic Church's development of liturgy.

Series I, Sermons and Treatises, contains works on various subjects, arranged alphabetically by author. The titles and dates of these works are provided as available. Anonymous writings appear at the end of the series and are arranged chronologically. These anonymous documents are followed by one folder of pamphlets which were received with the collection but which could appear to have no direct relation to the Catholic Apostolic Church. It is possible that such pamphlets remain in the alphabetical section.

Series II, Historical Lists and Descriptions, includes Annals, Bibliographic information, Biographical Information, and Information regarding church buildings. The materials in this series provide concise documentation of the history of the church and its more prominent members.

Series II, Tools for worship and Instruction, includes Charts and lectionaries, Orders of worship, and Materials related to doctrinal instruction and polity.


  • 1825-1973


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.


  1. I. Sermons and treatises, 1825-1971, undated
  2. II. Historical list and Description, 1826-1973, undated
  3. III. Tools for worship and Instruction, 1885-1973, undated


3 Linear Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist primarily of printed pamphlets and sermons. The Catholic Apostolic Church was an eschatologically oriented group which split from the Church of England in the early 19th century.

Biographical / Historical

The Catholic Apostolic Church (CAC) originated in England during the early 1830s, developing out of a revivalist group led by Henry Drummond. The members of the CAC have been widely designated as Irvingites, despite their disavowal of the centrality of Edward Irving in the formation and development of the church. Irving was a member of Drummond's group and an influential preacher in London who was accused of heresy and expelled from the ministry of the Church of Scotland in 1833. Various aspects of the theology and terminology of the CAC have been traced to the teachings of Irving, but he was never accorded a high position in the hierarchy of the church and died only two years after the formal establishment of the CAC.

Theologically, the CAC has been characterized by the strong eschatological expectation, belief in Irving's view of Christ's assumption of sinful human flesh, and an extremely literalistic method of Biblical interpretation. In preparation for the imminent Second Advent of Christ, the group gathered around Drummond felt called to reinstate the full complement of ministries of the primitive church, and later to add other positions of ministry resulting in a hierarchical structure that included apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, seraphim, angels, deacons and coadjutors.

The first apostle, John Bate Cardale, was appointed in 1832 and was joined by eleven other apostles before the first Council of Zion was held in 1835. One of the first actions of the Council of Zion was the sending of the statements, or testimonies, to the bishops of the Church of England and King William IV, which set forth the mission of the Church. The apostles then began missionary work on the continent and in South America, each apostle being assigned a country or countries for his special attention. The work met with particular success in Holland, Germany, and Prussia, attracting many people of social and political prominence.

From the first, the CAC was distinctive in its polity and practices. In England, the church centered around the seven churches in London (modeled after those in the book of Revelation), chief of which was the church in Gordon Square, built in 1853. The Church was supervised as a whole from the Apostles' Chapel at Albury. An increasing inclination toward the Catholic doctrine and practices was apparent as the church developed, due in part to the influence of the ideas encountered in its missionary work and the views of the Tractarian movement in England. This trend was reflected in an elevated understanding of the sacraments and a preference for a more elaborate liturgy.

The church passed through a severe crisis in 1901 when the last of the apostles died. Because the apostles had been expected to survive until the second coming, no provision had been made for their replacement. Church officials of lesser rank therefore assumed leadership of the church, and its activities continued on a reduced scale. As more and more officials passed away and no apostles were available to appoint new leaders, local congregations ceased to meet and church buildings were sold, beginning in the late 1940s. Many church members were reabsorbed into the Church of England, although there is evidence that Catholic Apostolic Church members in many countries have retained a special identity and maintain communication with each other, despite the formal disbanding of the group.

For further information regarding the Catholic Apostolic Church see The History and Doctrine of Irvingism by Edward Miller (1878), The Catholic Apostolic Church by P.E. Shaw (1946), and A History of Creeds and Confessional of Faith by William A Curtis (1911).

Guide to the Catholic Apostolic Church Records
Compiled by Melinda Ann Reagor and Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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