1.    Adherence to the Canons of the Church
   2.    ACOC Structure: Bishops and Regions
   3.    ACOC Structure: Board of Directors and Annual Meeting
   4.    Clergy Training: Selection of Candidates
   5.    Clergy Training: Seminarians
   6.    Clergy Training: Mentors
   7.    Clergy Training: Sacramental Activities by Seminarians
   8.    Clergy Training: Leadership by Seminarians in Activities with Other Traditions
   9.    Incardination of Clergy
 10.    Ministerial Responsibility of Clergy (Requirements for Good Standing)
 11.    Ministry Record Keeping and Reporting
 12.    Clerical Attire
 13.    Confidentiality of Sacramental Confession
 14.    Non-sacramental Private Communications
 15.    Counseling by ACOC Clergy
 16.    Officiating at Marriages
 17.    Ecclesiastical Endorsement of Chaplains
 18.    Ecumenical Relationships
 19.    Discipline and Resolution of Grievances

 ACOC Clergy Code of Ethics


Adherence by all ACOC Clergy to the Canon Directives is necessary for the responsible ministerial presence that the Church is to provide to the people of God.  For this reason, all clergy in Major Orders are required to make a promise of obedience in all matters canonical.

A)        This Canon specifies that each ordinand to the deaconate is to make a declaration of conformity to the Canon Directives of the Church, in conjunction with the promise of respect and obedience to the Bishop.

B)        Should a question arise with regard to the requirements set forth by any of the Canons, the Presiding Bishop, after consultation with the Board, has the final authority to interpret the point in question.

C)        In the event of concern regarding the behavior of any clergy person, the procedures outlined in the Canon Directive on Discipline and Resolution of Grievances shall be followed.

Rev. August 1995


The Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church is an apostolic church of the historical Old Catholic Church tradition.  The Church retains the three-fold orders of ordained ministry:  Bishop, Presbyter and Deacon, who serve the People of God by proclaiming the Good News in teaching, courageous witness and sacramental ministry.   Lay leaders share with the ordained clergy in living and proclaiming the Gospel and in collaborative decision-making about the governance of this Church.

This church is governed by the spirit of the Gospels, relying on the enlivening wisdom of the Holy Spirit, through collegial decision-making about matters that pertain to the life and ministry of the church.  The Old Catholic Churches have retained as a core value the full participation of church members and the spirit of prayerful discernment towards consensus in decision-making processes.

A)   Bishops of the ACOC:

Bishops are elected from among the senior clergy of the church through due process when need for another bishop arises.  The ministry of the Bishop is to provide pastoral support for the clergy as they serve the People of God and to carry out the functions of apostolic leadership in the church as set forth in the Canon Directives and Bylaws of the ACOC.

The Presiding Bishop of the ACOC is the lead bishop of the Church and upon election serves for life, unless incapacitated or otherwise goes into retirement.  At the time of death, incapacitation or retirement, a synodal meeting of all clergy in good standing and representatives from the laity active in the church’s congregations and ministries will meet, and with prayer and discernment through the guidance of the Holy Spirit they will select a new Presiding Bishop.

If the pastoral needs of the church so indicate, the Board of Directors of the ACOC will make the decision to elect additional Bishops to assist the Presiding Bishop, at which time the selection process in the preceding paragraph will be followed.

The ACOC follows the Old Catholic tradition as practiced among the sister churches in Europe of consecrating new bishops only sparingly and rejects the current practice of the independent churches in the United States of multiple, often indiscriminate, participation in autocephalous consecrations.   ACOC bishops do not accept invitations to be consecrators for bishops of churches other than mainline Old Catholic and unless sharing full recognition of one another’s Orders.

When the need arises to consecrate a new bishop for the ACOC, the Board of Directors will seek out consecrating bishops from sister churches that follow Old Catholic tenets.

B) Regions of the ACOC:

Regions, encompassing geographic blocks of territory, are established in order to facilitate the ministry of the members of the church by providing for channels of communication and representative sharing of decision-making in the church.

The following principles govern the designation of Regions and their operating procedures:

1)         The number of Regions and geographic region encompassed by each may be revised over time according to the distribution of the clergy and ministries of the church.   Currently, the Regions of the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church are:

2)         Each Region will have designated Regional Representatives, both Clergy and Lay, who are chosen annually at the Annual ACOC Convocation by the clergy and lay members who are present at the Convocation.

The service role of the Regional Representatives includes the following:

a)  To serve as a catalyst for communication among the clergy and laity, encouraging mutual personal sharing and spiritual support, discussion of issues that pertain to the mission and witness of the church and opportunities to meet regionally.

b)  To be in regular contact with the Presiding Bishop about any needs or concerns pertaining to clergy members and ministries in that region.

c)  To sit on the Board of Directors of the ACOC as a board member.

3)         All Regions operate under the one corporate entity of the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church, a California Corporation, which also holds 501(c)(3) status granted by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States.

a)  All activities carried out in the name of each Region must conform with the Articles of Incorporation, the Bylaws and Canon Directives of the ACOC, as overseen by the Board of Directors.  All documents are to be open for inspection and forwarded when requested to the Presiding Bishop and Board.

b)  If required by individual states in which the Church has ministries, the ACOC  may apply for a Certificate of Authority to Operate or equivalent document.  The clergy resident in that state will take primary responsibility for the procedures, in coordination with the Presiding Bishop and the Board.


In keeping with the principle of Collegiality in the Old Catholic tradition, all clergy persons and lay leaders are to be actively involved in the decision-making dynamics of the Church, through open discussion, prayerful discernment and arrival at consensus, as well as by taking on of service roles for the good of the Church’s ministry. 

A)  Board of Directors

According to the Bylaws of the Church, a Board comprised of at least eight members, directs the annual meeting of the Church and performs any other supervisory duties described in the Articles of Incorporation, the Bylaws or these Canon Directives.

The Board Member positions are as follows:

The Presiding Bishop
Legal Counsel and/or Treasurer                                                
Regional Representatives (clergy and lay): Atlantic
Regional Representatives (clergy and lay):  Mid-Continent
Regional Representatives (clergy and lay):  West

Ex-Officio members: Retired bishops

The tenure and method of selection are as follows:

The Presiding Bishop serves as a permanent member of the Board.

The Legal Counsel and/or Treasurer is appointed by the Presiding Bishop and ratified by those present at the annual meeting each year.

The Regional Representatives serve one-year terms and are selected by the clergy and laity of each Region, as approved by the Presiding Bishop.  Criteria for selection include attendance at the annual meeting and constructive interactions, including regular communications and collaborative activities, with the Region’s ministerial leaders.

B) Annual Meeting and Convocation

Each year a Convocation will be held, during which a session for the Annual Meeting will be reserved.  All clergy in active standing and lay leaders of each Region are expected to attend the Convocation.  In keeping with Old Catholic tradition, decisions affecting the policies and ministerial style of the Church are to be discussed at this gathering and decisions arrived at through the prayerful deliberation and consensus (or, sense of the whole) of those present.  The Presiding Bishop may reserve the prerogative to exercise ecclesiastical authority on serious matters affecting faith and morals.

Rev. June 2003, March 2007


This directive contains the requirements set forth by the ACOC for the screening of potential candidates for the clergy-training program of the church and the guidelines to be used in the selection of those to be offered admission into the training program.

A)        The ACOC welcomes both women and men, single or married, to Holy Orders, and does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race or national origin, physical condition or age.  Candidates applying for training for Holy Orders must be over the age of 18 and will be at least 25 years of age before being ordained to the priesthood.

B)        The application procedure for admission into the clergy-training program of the Church includes the following:

1.         Interviews with ACOC personnel, including at least one clergy person and lay leader and the Director of Clergy Training: These interviews must be in person. Other contacts with each church representative must include at least one session by telephone.  Electronic means, such as email or other online services, are acceptable for additional interview exchanges.

If the impression gained by these initial interviews is positive, as determined by consensus of the persons interviewing the candidate, then the candidate may be invited to proceed to the next steps of the screening process.

2.         Each candidate must sign the Disclosure Accountability and Confidentiality Agreement before any other steps are taken.  This form authorizes the release of any and all information about credentials, employment, church affiliations, health status and other pertinent background information and assures the candidate of due care, discretion and confidentiality on the part of the ACOC.  All materials gathered for applicant screening will be maintained under strict confidentiality, as required by law, with only members of the Division of Clergy Training and Presiding Bishop to have access to them.

3.         Psychological testing: all persons applying for the clergy training program must complete a protocol of psychological, emotional stability and maturity, and vocational evaluations designed to assess the person’s suitability for pursuing seminary studies and carrying out public ministry.   The evaluation is to be conducted in person by a licensed psychologist not affiliated with the ACOC, as approved by the Division of Clergy Training.  Release for communications with the candidate’s current counselor and spiritual director will also be requested. The psychological testing is to be paid for by the candidate.

4.        Criminal Background Check: The candidate must submit to a standard criminal background check to uncover any past criminal behavior that would indicate that the individual is not fit for ministry as a clergy person of this church.  

5.         Completion of the Seminary Training Program Application Questionnaire: This includes demographic information and reflective answers about values, life experience and vocation.  Written recommendations by persons who can assess a person’s ministerial and personal qualities and capabilities are also required.

C)        Personal qualities to be assessed in each candidate for Holy Orders in the ACOC include the following and will be discussed with the candidate:

1.         The ability to articulate one’s sensed call from God and attraction to spiritual growth and ministerial outreach.

2.         Evidence of already established and on going involvement in spiritual and ministerial activities and evidence of a lifestyle, at home and in public, that expresses Christian spirituality, moral standards and commitment.

3.         Psychological/emotional stability and maturity, as measured by the psychological testing protocol.

4.         The commitment and readiness at the time of application to the program to pursue a disciplined course of studies toward the ordained ministry.

5.         Self-initiative, including the ability to work independently in studies with the mentor’s support and to establish one’s own livelihood and expression of priestly ministerial service.

6.         Honesty and openness, including candor in sharing experiences and needs with the mentor and other training support persons, as well as a cooperative and open spirit in accepting direction from mentors.

D)        Upon completion of the screening process, the candidate will either be respectfully declined or invited to enter the clergy-training program of the church.  The Canon Directive on Clergy Training: Seminarians outlines the process of advancement through the training program.

Rev. June 2003, March 2007


This directive outlines the general process to be followed by those in clergy training as they move towards ordination to the priesthood.  The training program design will be individualized for each seminarian, taking into account past training and life experience.

A)        When a candidate is accepted into the clergy-training program, the Director of Clergy Training will be responsible for selecting one or more clergy-mentor(s) for the new seminarian.

1.         Seminarians are expected to work directly with the mentors and to maintain respectful and open communications with them.

2.         Each seminarian is to take responsibility for communicating with the mentor on at least a monthly basis, and at the seminarian’s expense.  The form of the communication may vary, including the use of letters, email, telephone and fax.

B)        In addition to the mentor, and upon mutual agreement with the mentor, a seminarian may select a spiritual director and/or pastoral counselor or therapist of personal choice.

1.         All persons involved in a ministerial, therapeutic or otherwise supervisory capacity with the seminarian are to be made known to the mentor by the seminarian.

2.         Team consultation for support of the seminarian’s formation is encouraged.

C)        A studies curriculum appropriate for the needs of the seminarian will be designed by a team composed of at least the mentor and Director of Clergy Training, in dialogue with the seminarian.  The principles informing the studies program will include the following:

If the candidate for Holy Orders does not yet have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher learning approved by the Church, then he or she must become involved in an active program to obtain such. 

The general standard of the Church is that an earned Master of Divinity Degree, or equivalent, and at least one unit of CPE, or equivalent, is required before the seminarian is ordained to the priesthood.  Obtaining specialized clinical and academic credentials as appropriate to the person’s planned field of ministry is recommended as part of the seminary program.

3.  Persons who have already received alternative ministerial training for ordination in           sister churches will be approved for ordination or incardination on an individual basis.      Examples of this credentialing include Permanent Deaconate training programs in the       Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches or The Episcopal Church Canon 9 training         for ordination as Presbyter.

Before admission to deaconate and priesthood, the seminarian must demonstrate competency through successful course work in the broad range of disciplines required by the other apostolic churches, including: scripture, church history, systematic theology, liturgy, Christian spirituality, and pastoral care.

Competency may be gained through a combination of mentored reading courses, continuing education programs (such as Education for Ministry (EFM) and Stephen Ministry training, enrollment in a graduate school of theology, seminary or graduate program in associated fields such as counseling. During the course of study, a seminarian must complete at least some of the work in a group educational setting.

Successful completion of a ministry field practicum is required for seminarians before ordination to the priesthood. This may include a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, supervision in a counseling or other pastoral care provider training program, work in a parish in a responsible capacity, or other placements or a similar quality, as approved by the mentor team.

      Periodic evaluations of each seminarian’s progress will be undertaken, according to the following principles:

1.         Evaluations are to be both oral and written.  They are to include written reflection assignments completed by the seminarian as well as summaries between mentor and seminarian and submitted by the mentor to the Director of Clergy Training.

2.         Evaluations are to be conducted in an atmosphere of prayerful mutual respect, with adequate time provided for in-depth sharing. They are meant as a focus for assessment in growth and needs and as mutually helpful for the discernment process about vocation and direction of continuing training.

It is expected that the full sequence of preparation through seminary and ordination to the deaconate and priesthood will take at least three years. Many candidates require a longer period to move through the process.

E)        Completion of academic studies does not in itself constitute qualification for Holy Orders. Discernment about a candidate’s character, calling, capability and readiness has primacy over considerations about professional credentialing.

Compatibility with the particular ministerial style and spirituality of the ACOC, as expressed in the Church’s documents, worship and other lived ministry, must be clearly indicated for candidates recommended for Holy Orders.

Participation in the clergy-training program may be suspended or terminated at any time,
upon the initiative of either the church or the seminarian.

F)         Determination about Advancement to Major Orders:

1.         A seminarian may take a break from seminary studies or be put on temporary inactive status, upon approval of the mentoring team and Director of Clergy Training.  Reinstatement in the program is at the option of the Director of Clergy Training.

2.         If questions about the fitness of the seminarian arise, the mentoring team may require evaluative procedures, including referral for psychological testing, to be performed at the expense of the seminarian.

3.         If the seminarian is found to be unsuitable for the ordained ministry of the ACOC, upon recommendation of the mentor and approval by the Director of Clergy Training, that person is to be notified in writing and given the reasons for the dismissal.

4.         Before being ordained Deacon or Priest, the seminarian is to participate in an Annual Convocation of the ACOC.  Exceptions to this standard are to be made only for serious cause and at the discretion of the Director of Clergy Training and the Board of Directors of the Church.

5.         Advancement of a seminarian to Major Orders is by the approval of the Director of Clergy Training and ratification by the Presiding Bishop, upon recommendation by the mentor and others involved in the seminarian’s training. The Presiding Bishop’s decision, after all recommendations have been made, is final.

Revised August 1995, March 2007


The ACOC training program is for persons who feel a call to service in the Major Orders of Deacon and Priest and is centered in a mentoring system.  The appointment and duties of those mentors are described in this Directive:

A)        Mentors are senior ACOC clergy appointed by the Director of Clergy Training for each candidate for Holy Orders. 

B)        Mentors have the prerogative of teaming with resource persons, both within and outside of the ACOC, such as chaplaincy training directors, seminary instructors, licensed counselors and spiritual directors.

C)        Mentors work under the direction of the ACOC Director of Clergy Training, who assists local mentors in providing resources, consultation about application of the curriculum and advice in counseling clergy candidates.

D)        The responsibilities of the mentor include the following, adapted to the particular seminarian’s needs and in dialogue with the Director of Clergy Training:

1.         Assisting in the screening of potential candidates - discerning the candidate’s call to ordained ministry and suitability for clergy training within the ACOC, including the ability to successfully pursue the course of studies, in cooperation with mentoring, and to continue in spiritual growth.

2.         Designing under the direction of the Director of Clergy Training a course of studies that is appropriate for the needs of each candidate.  The Clergy Training Syllabus serves as the program basis.

3.         Seeing that the requirements of the ACOC Training Curriculum are fulfilled, adapting the time frame and providing spiritual care, academic and ministerial advisement, according to the goals set for each seminarian.

4.         Maintaining consistent communications with the seminarian. If the seminarian is not initiating communications, it is the mentor’s responsibility to work with the seminarian to determine the problem and suggest means of rectifying the situation.

5.        Communicating on a regular basis with the Director of Clergy Training.  Quarterly verbal and written evaluations and a written annual summary are to be submitted  to the Director of Clergy Training, who will confer with the Mentor and the Board about the seminarian’s progress and recommendations.

Rev. January 1993, 2004, March 2007


This Directive is addressed to ACOC seminarians. (Transitional Deacons in training are to be guided in their sacramental activities by pastoral discretion, in consultation with the priest or bishop with whom they are currently serving.) The points covered require exercise of common sense and stewardship of our joint ministry.

Sacramental leadership activities by persons in the clergy-training program are to be undertaken only with the explicit permission of their Mentor and the Director of Clergy Training.  This Directive pertains specifically to:

A)        Home liturgies involving the Eucharistic Elements conducted primarily for the ACOC, affiliated religious communities and their friends:

The Director of Clergy Training, through the seminarian’s mentor, is to be informed in writing about the Order of Worship used and how often the services are held. Seminarians are responsible for providing this information to their mentor prior to conducting the service.

B)        Liturgical leadership in public settings by persons in clergy training:

This is to be cleared in advance with the Mentor and Director of Clergy Training, as provided for in Part (A), above.  This means sending for review the liturgy to be used and information concerning the publicity about and setting of the liturgical service.

C)        Celebration of the Sacraments:

Those in clergy training, if not yet ordained Deacon, are not to act as celebrants of the Sacraments, except as appointed by the bishop in whose jurisdiction they serve or in the rare case of emergency service. Specifically:

1.         Sacramental actions permitted to laypersons, such as administration of baptism, are to be undertaken by seminarians only in the event of life-threatening emergency situations. All such sacramental activity is to be reported to the seminarian’s mentor and bishop of the diocese in which the ministry occurs.

2.         Reception of Catechumens into the Church and their preparation for Baptism and/or Confirmation is to be conducted under the supervision of an ACOC clergyperson in Major Orders, who will be responsible for administration of the sacraments of initiation.

3.         Eucharistic Ministers and Chaplains are to conduct their outreach ministries under the direction of their mentor and the bishop of the diocese in which they reside.

If any questions of interpretation or application arise, please consult directly with your mentor and she or he will collaborate with the Director of Clergy Training to provide clarification.

1995, Revised 2003


This Directive is addressed to ACOC seminarians as well as clergy in Major Orders and Lay leaders of the Church. The points covered require exercise of common sense and stewardship of our joint ministry.

Leadership in ecumenical contexts involving traditions other than Christian is to be decided upon with mature care, in light of the responsibility that ACOC ministerial service have for clearly representing leadership in our Apostolic Christian tradition. The Director of Clergy Training may permit leadership activities with other traditions by persons in clergy training only after clearance.  This Directive pertains specifically to:

 A)        Performing a leadership role in a ritual of a tradition other than historical Christian:

Prior to accepting such a role, the seminarian must obtain approval from his or her Mentor and the Director of Clergy Training.  The seminarian is to submit in writing information about the intended ritual, including publicity and setting.  Criteria to be used in determining the appropriateness of the proposed leadership role include assessing the setting and form of the ceremony, the tradition it represents and its compatibility with Christianity, particularly in light of the nature of the witness anticipated from taking on the leadership role in question.
B)        Public presentation of information (within such settings as conventions, academic and pastoral care organization meetings) that pertains to traditions other than Christian:
Common sense restraint is to be practiced when presenting material that represents traditions other than what the ACOC represents in its tenets and practice. Basic information about the topic, the audience and setting is to be forwarded before the event to the Director of Clergy Training for collaboration and approval. Intellectual honesty requires that the ACOC presenter make clear to the audience his or her Apostolic Christian affiliation at the outset of the presentation.

C)        Leadership in public ecumenical services:

Taking a leadership role as a Christian Church representative in public ecumenical services, particularly those sponsored by ministerial alliances and the like, is encouraged when the event is judged to be of worthwhile public service and the presence of the ACOC could constitute a positive witness. All persons are to clear leadership in public ecumenical services ahead of time with the Director of Clergy Training.

D)        Computer network communications that concern the Church, including the use of email, list serves and bulletin boards:

All such communications are to be conducted with mature discretion and thoughtfulness, respecting the sensitivity of the subjects under discussion and the maintaining of confidentiality.

Public electronic discourse, including participation in debates and provision of information about the Church, is to be conducted with restraint and courtesy, with mind to the fact that ACOC participants are de facto representing our Church and the larger Independent Catholic Church tradition.

If any questions of interpretation or application arise, please consult directly with your Mentor and she or he will collaborate with the Director of Clergy Training to provide clarification.

1995, Revised 2003, 2007


This Canon Directive sets forth the steps to be followed in the process of welcoming into the ACOC clergy in Major Orders from other apostolic church jurisdictions.

A)        Clergy persons expressing interest in the ACOC will be sent a packet of information about the Church and the history of the Independent/Old Catholic Churches and encouraged to contact other clergy of the Church to inquire more about the Church, including its style and practical aspects of continuing ministry as a part of this Church.

We encourage openness and in-depth prayerful discernment by each inquirer about whether our form of church organization would be most supportive of that person’s ministerial calling and personal and family needs.

B)        When an interested clergy person asks to transfer into the jurisdiction of the ACOC, the Petition for Reception / Incardination will be mailed to the petitioner, to be completed and returned to the Church office with the attached requested documentation and the completed Disclosure Accountability and Confidentiality Agreement

C)       Members of the Division of Clergy Training will review the completed Petition.  If their impression is favorable, the candidate must fulfill the steps under Section B of the Canon Directive on Selection of Candidates, including in-person interviews, psychological evaluation and background check.

D)       The Church will review all materials and will inform the petitioner in a timely fashion about its decision.  In any event, there will be open discussion and all materials will be maintained in confidentiality.

E)        As a general standard, all persons must participate in an annual Convocation before being accepted into the Church.  Any exception to this requirement must be approved by the Presiding Bishop and Board of Directors.

F)         Generally, a transferring clergy person who has been accepted into the Church will be on a six-month probationary period so that mutual discernment may continue and particular support may be extended.

Upon acceptance of transfer, the proper ministerial faculties will be granted, including faculties to offer the sacraments and ecclesiastical endorsement for chaplaincy, pastoral counseling and related outreach ministries.      

Rev. 2003, 2007



This Canon affirms the responsibility of each clergy person for ministerial self-direction and responsible decision-making as well as on-going spiritual and ministerial growth, as a participating member of a collegial church. The following principles of responsibility include:

A)        Maintaining mutually respectful communications with other clergy, lay leaders, the Presiding Bishop, and mentors, advisors and all involved in the ministry of the church.

B)        Being self-supporting in employment and ministerial endeavors.

C)        Determining type and setting of ministry, in dialogue with the senior clergy of the Church, through prayerful discernment about one’s calling as well as training, interests, other obligations and social concerns.

D)        Bringing a spiritual attitude to one’s employment and other public endeavors, centered on the spiritual life-enhancing qualities which may be deepened by the work.  In this way, public domain involvements are to become integrated into that clergy person’s total sense of vocation and evaluated in light of one’s primary calling.

E)        Taking leadership in sacerdotal activities, including worship community and pastoral care ministries, in collaboration with the other local ACOC clergy, lay leaders and the bishops.

F)        Having a public presence that is in harmony with the spiritual ideals of the Church and the responsibility of servant leadership to which all clergy are called.

Accordingly, the responsibilities of each clergy person to maintain active status in good standing in this Church include:

1)         Regular communications with the Presiding Bishop and clergy colleagues.

2)        An annual letter to the Presiding Bishop, due in January, summarizing one’s ministerial and spiritual life; professional and self-care activities including continuing education; significant personal events; collegial outreach to clergy colleagues in the church and an attestation of ethical behavior in ministry.

3.         Keeping of appropriate records, submission of required records to the national Church office (See Canon on Record Keeping and Reporting), and submission of proper tax materials.

4.         Maintenance of a public ministry. As required, obtaining and maintaining credentialing and licensures, as well having active membership in civic and professional organizations and providing witness through public leadership.

5.         When in need, seeking whatever professional assistance is appropriate. This includes peer consultation and professional counseling, legal and financial advice.

6.         Spiritual self-care, pursuing spiritual growth and development, with daily prayer and meditation, participation in a worship community, annual participation in retreats, spiritual sharing/direction and educational opportunities. In particular, active sacramental ministry is required for all clergy; with regular celebration of the Eucharist required for priests.   

7.        Annual participation in continuing education programs, to include an Ethics component with discussion of confidentiality and sexual conduct.  Certificate of attendance to be attached to annual letter to the Presiding Bishop.  In addition, all ACOC clergy and all endorsed for pastoral care ministries must annually sign the ACOC Code of Ethics.

8.        Regular financial contribution to support the national church administration and ministries carried out on behalf of the Church.

9.        Attendance at the annual Convocation and Meeting. 

If a clergy person is unable to carry out the basic obligations of collegial ministry, as outlined above, the Presiding Bishop and the Division of Clergy Training will review that person’s faculties for public ministry. The clergy person will be asked to submit a plan for remediation and may be assigned in the interim to inactive status, probation or suspension of faculties.

In the event that serious concern arises regarding the activities of a given clergy person, the procedures outlined in the ACOC Canon Directive on Discipline and Resolution of Grievances pertain. 

Rev. June 2003


Each clergy person in major orders is to maintain permanent records of all sacerdotal services performed and finances related to these services and to provide a summary of these data to the national Church office.

A)  Recording of Sacraments

     1.    Each clergy person shall procure a professional parish records book, with sections in which to record the sacerdotal services provided through his/her ministry, including baptism, first communion, confirmation, marriage, burial.  This records book is to be maintained in perpetuity.

    2.     At the beginning of each year, a summary sheet for each baptism and wedding presided at is to be forwarded to the national Church office for central archiving on behalf of parties who may in the future request a copy of the records.

B)   Financial Records

Ministry Bank Accounts: Each clergy person is to open and maintain a bank account separate from personal accounts for all financial transactions related to one’s ministry and otherwise not covered by another ministerial organization. 

A year-end Income and Expense statement of ministry bank account(s) is to be produced and sent to the national Church office on an annual basis. Permanent files are to be kept by each clergy member.

C)    Personal Expenses on behalf of the Church: Each clergy person is to maintain for his/her own records an annual statement of all expenses incurred from one’s own resources on behalf of church ministerial activities. (This statement is also recorded on personal income tax forms).

The purpose of this financial accounting is to ascertain that all church financial functions are in compliance with the Church’s 501(c)(3) status.

April 2002           


Wearing of clerical attire by ACOC clergy is intended for the purpose of facilitating Christ-centered loving availability and service in one’s pastoral role. Used in this spirit, clerical attire can provide a sign of the Gospel values of simplicity, openness and outreach to all persons regardless of their circumstances and enable access for ministry.  Some public contexts and collegial considerations may dictate other attire. In no case is the wearing of clerical attire to be used for selfish reasons such as to express superiority over others or other forms of “clericalism”.

Given the above general principles, the following guidelines are set forth:

A)        Appropriate occasions for wearing of clerical attire include when:

1.         Carrying out sacerdotal services such as presiding at Eucharistic liturgies and ministering of other sacraments.

2.         Representing the Church at public and ecumenical functions.

3.         Making pastoral visits, such as to the sick or incarcerated and in pastoral advocacy situations.

4.         Traveling.

5.         In pastoral counseling, if it is clear that the clergy person is relating to the client in a primarily pastoral role and if the clerical garb is helpful to the client.

B)        Clerical attire is to be worn only by those persons who are in Major Orders, except as follows: seminarians for whom clerical attire is necessary for their ministry, such as participating in CPE activities, gaining access to hospital, prison or other restricted units, may do so with permission from their seminary Mentor.

C)        Wearing of dignified non-clerical attire as appropriate for employment and other public functions is a matter for the mature discretion of each clergy person. This consideration pertains when a clergy person is asked to perform in a capacity that does not involve sacerdotal functioning. 

The principle to govern this choice is whether wearing of clerical attire in certain contexts may be contrary to custom for a professional setting, such as in collegial gatherings with other professionals, or when clerical attire may produce possible harm through perceived conflicts of interest or confusion of roles, such as when giving testimony, consultation or otherwise providing services in matters not strictly sacerdotal.

1993, Revised 2003, 2007


This Canon pertains to communications between an ordained priest and a penitent who has sought the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession):

A)        The secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the confessor and must under no circumstances be broken by word or in any other manner.

B)        An interpreter, if one is being used, and all others to whom knowledge acquired from a confession shall come in any way are also absolutely obliged to maintain confidentiality.

C)        The confessor must in no way make external use of any knowledge gained in confession.


1.         The content of a confession is not normally a matter of subsequent discussion with the penitent, unless initiated by the same.

2.         A confessor if in authority must in no way use information acquired in confession for external governance.

3.         The obligation of confidentiality rises above the demands of the civil legal system.

(Also see Canon Directive for Non-Sacramental Private Communications.)

Rev. January 1993


In keeping with the historical discipline and practice of the apostolic Christian tradition and the sacred trust inherent in the ordained ministry, the following guidelines shall be followed:

A)        Non-sacramental private communications received in a pastoral, professional capacity shall not be divulged by ACOC clergy except with the express permission of the person giving the information or to prevent the commission of a crime (as set forth in State statutory laws.)

B)        ACOC clergy should become cognizant of the legal statutes pertaining to privileged communications with clergy and the reporting laws for stated intent to do harm to self or others, specifically the duty to report child and elder abuse.

C)        ACOC clergy communications among pastoral team members or other professionals for the purpose of peer consultation or supervision must be undertaken with discretion. Information obtained during such exchanges must be maintained under confidentiality.

D)        If the clergy person providing care is serving in a dual capacity with a client, such as parish pastor as well as a counselor, or in a supervisory capacity, the clergy person is to preserve the primary pastoral role and not disclose information that may be confidential or otherwise jeopardize the pastoral relationship. This prohibition pertains regardless of the client’s permission to reveal such information to third parties. 

The clergy person must exercise discretion and seek consultation before accepting a role that puts the pastoral care role into jeopardy. If a perceived conflict does arise, the clergy person must discuss the matter with the other person(s) involved and also seek consultation with ACOC colleagues and then take appropriate action.
Rev. January, 1993, 2007



This Canon pertains especially to counseling by ACOC clergy outside of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In practice, counseling often occurs within the sacrament; thus these guidelines pertain as well to sacramental settings where counseling takes place (Refer also to the Canon Directive on Confidentiality.)

The following principles of sacred due care, as well as professional prudence and responsibility, shall be adhered to by all ACOC clergy:

A)        Each ACOC clergy person must realistically assess her/his professional training and area of special competence within the disciplines of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction.  Assistance from the bishops and Director of Clergy Training should be sought if needed.

B)        Only those persons who possess appropriate training and licensing and credentialing are to offer formal or professional counseling services. Liability insurance and membership in the appropriate professional associations are required for those clergy in clinical practice as pastoral counselors or in allied fields of service.

C)        A clear distinction must be made by the ACOC clergy between spiritual counsel provided in pastoral ministry and the offering of an ongoing therapeutic counseling relationship. This distinction must be clearly communicated to the person with whom the ministry is occurring.

D)        Assessment of fees for services and advertising as a counselor by means of a business card or other public means of communication must indicate one’s professional qualifications for service.

E)        ACOC are to keep up to date with knowledge of the statutory laws where they are located, pertaining to privileged communications, duty to warn and protect, and licensing requirements for counselors. The Director of Clergy Training is available for consultation.

F)        ACOC clergy, intentionally centering their outreach in integrity of ministry, must be willing and able to refer clients to other professionals when appropriate. Thus, each provider must:

1.         Know and communicate one’s personal and professional competencies and limits.

2.         Maintain a comprehensive listing of high quality referrals within the region.

3.         Consult when needed with other ACOC clergy and professional resource persons.

 4.         Refer clients when the need is indicated and on a timely basis. 

Rev. January 1993, 2004


1.         ACOC clergy shall not officiate at any wedding or “blessing of union” ceremony that is illegal in the state where the marriage ceremony is being performed, when clergy officiate as agents of the State as defined by that State

2.         ACOC clergy shall only perform Christian marriages and blessings and shall not act only as an agent for the state but primarily as clergy. ACOC clergy may serve as co-presider in an interfaith marriage ceremony as a representative of the Christian tradition, giving a Christian blessing to the marriage.

3.         ACOC clergy shall require the same standards of commitment, stability and maturity from the participants in all marriages and blessings of unions for which they officiate. Pastoral responsibility for ACOC clergy includes some form of pre-marriage counseling and availability for post marriage counseling

4.         If ACOC clergy plan to perform a same-sex marriage or blessing of the union, he or she shall first consult with at least one other ACOC clergy person, and shall also discuss their plans with the Presiding Bishop beforehand.

5.         ACOC clergy shall demonstrate pastoral sensitivity and discernment concerning the social context and standards of the community and therefore shall not take part in any marriage ceremony or blessing of union for the purpose of protest or political demonstration in their community, or gaining of personal notoriety or prestige.

6.         Each clergy person in the ACOC is free to exercise his or her conscience about whether to participate in or preside at any marriage or blessing of union as long as it does not contradict any other provision of this canon.

2004, Revised April 2005


This Canon Directive sets forth the requirements for training and ecclesiastical endorsement of members of the ACOC and churches with which the ACOC is in intercommunion, clergy and lay, who are called to public ministry in chaplaincy, pastoral counseling and related forms of pastoral care.

The intent of this Directive is to facilitate access to training programs, professional recognition by other faith groups, professional credentialing bodies and the public, and continuing growth for ACOC personnel engaged in public ministry.  The definition of chaplaincy and requirements for ecclesiastical endorsement by this Church are as follows:

A)        Ministry that requires endorsement includes public service representing our faith community (ACOC and churches in intercommunion) in the context of paragraph B.

Health Care Chaplaincy, in settings such as hospitals and their clinics, mental health facilities, nursing homes, hospices.

Industrial/Corporate Chaplaincy, ministering to employees in terms of their worklife, in their place of work, at chaplaincy centers, military bases or other field locations.

Institutional Chaplaincy, serving special populations such as prisoners and refugees.

Other chaplaincy-type outreach, such as urban, ethnic, and rural ministries with established programs.

Pastoral Counseling or Spiritual Direction, when provided on a professional and public basis, beyond parochial ministry.

Campus ministry, serving students, faculty and staff populations.

B)        The Division of Chaplaincy of the ACOC provides oversight for chaplaincy training and endorsement.  The Director of Chaplaincy and Board of Endorsement facilitate this process and provide professional support to ACOC personnel in their chaplaincy service.

The Division and Board issue letters of Ecclesiastical Endorsement and verification of clergy status, regarding standing and endorsement, to certifying bodies and employers.  When a clergy person’s status changes, the Director is responsible to inform the appropriate organizations of the change and the person’s current status.

C)        Persons seeking training and endorsement as chaplains or pastoral counselors by the ACOC are to take the following steps:

1.         Initiate contact with the Division of Chaplaincy and work with them on goals and plans for ministry. When agreement is met, Chaplain Candidate Endorsement will be granted.  The Director and Board will assist the candidate with training options, applications for entry to training programs and the needed recommendations.

The candidate is to maintain communications with the Division and to continue satisfactory progress in training programs undertaken to retain Candidate Endorsement with the ACOC.

2.         The Chaplain Candidate is expected to satisfactorily complete professional preparation, including academic training and clinical field practicum, and work toward obtaining recognized credentialing, as appropriate for one’s field of public ministry.

      During chaplaincy training, the Chaplain Candidate is to continue endeavors in           spiritual growth and involvement in one’s own faith community, integrating                personal spirituality with ministerial identity.

      Upon completion of training when seeking regular employment, the Chaplain              Candidate may apply for ACOC Chaplain Endorsement.

The requirements for Chaplain Endorsement by the ACOC are as follows:

1.         Satisfactory completion of the appropriate academic education as well as specialized clinical pastoral education training.

2.         Evidence of ministerial and theological competence.

3.         Demonstrated ability to work collegially in diverse and pluralistic environments.

4.       Willingness and ability to adhere to the codes of ethics prescribed by the institutions served and the agencies providing certification for one’s field of ministry.

5.         Membership in at least one nationally recognized professional pastoral care practitioner’s organization that focuses on one’s field of ministry.

Maintain status as clergy in good standing.  This includes, but not limited to, submitting required annual letter, attending the annual clergy conference, continuing education, including 3 hours of pastoral ethics, and contributing in good faith to the annual budget.

Approval by the ACOC Director of Chaplaincy and Board.

The Division of Chaplains reviews ecclesiastical Endorsement of chaplains annually.  Requirements for renewal of endorsement include:

1.         Letter from the chaplain summarizing the year’s work and plans for the coming year.

2.         Documented professional continuing education units completed during the past year, including successful completion of seminars, national or regional organization meetings, retreats, and the like.

Continued active membership in appropriate pastoral care organization(s).

 Attendance at the ACOC annual clergy conference which will include seminars of pastoral best practices and ethics.

Rev. February 2014


The practice of the Old Catholic churches has been to seek cordial, collaborative relationships with other Christian bodies, especially those of Apostolic tradition and sacramental ministry.  Historically these include the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Churches.

The ACOC aims to foster opportunities for joint Christian witness and service by formal and informal participation in ecumenical events and organizations and by shared ministry.  When members of the clergy plan to participate in such activities, the following policies pertain:

A)     Ecumenical Events and Organizations:  

1.  Representation by ACOC Clergy in Ecumenical Organizations:  All persons wishing to be representatives at functions or on committees are to be cleared by the Presiding Bishop, who will send confirmation to the representative and the organization.

2.  Celebrations and Proclamations:  Church representatives are to consult the Presiding Bishop in advance on their roles in public celebrations and proposed statements that will be seen to represent the stance of this church.

B)      Licensing or Faculties to Operate as Clergy in another Church Body’s Ministry:

1)       Proposals to seek such licensing are to be discussed with the Presiding Bishop before
formal negotiations or plans are entered into with clergy or leaders of another jurisdiction.          

The purpose of seeking the licensing must relate to facilitation of a ministry needed in the community and not for using the ACOC to gain access to another jurisdiction for employment or status facilitating the gaining of employment. 

2.  If the licensing is provisionally approved by the Presiding Bishop, the clergy person is to provide the Presiding Bishop with the name and access information of the jurisdictional leader and site supervisor/pastor.  These persons are to contact the Presiding Bishop and discuss the feasibility and requirements of the proposed ministerial position and to exchange understanding about the relationship between churches and personnel.

3.  If an amicable understanding is reached, the Presiding Bishop will give approval to proceed and will provide assistance with whatever documentation and screening is required to meet the requirements of the position.

The clergy person is to report regularly to the Presiding Bishop on his/her activities, represent his/herself as ACOC and facilitate opportunities for ecumenical exchanges.

April 2002


This Canon pertains when a serious breach of the spirit and norms of the Church, as expressed in the Canon Directives, the lived witness of the Church, and secular law is alleged to have been committed by a clergy person or seminarian of the ACOC.

Any issue of concern relating to problematical ACOC clergy behavior and public ministry ought to be addressed as much as possible on the local level, according to the principle of subsidiarity.  This pertains to all attempts to discern the facts of the situation and to resolve the problem. 

In all cases, the Presiding Bishop is to be notified of the situation. The Presiding Bishop will become directly involved either when local remedy is not forthcoming or when serious violations that jeopardize the ministerial integrity of the Church have occurred.

The Presiding Bishop will maintain contact with the senior clergy persons of the local area affected and with other senior clergy advisors.  In all cases, proper confidentiality will be maintained on a need-to-know basis. Procedures are to include the following:

1.         A clergy person or other member of the Church who becomes aware of a problem with a clergy person or seminarian of the Church that requires remediation must become directly involved in helping to resolve the situation.  The first step is to talk with the clergy person in question and then inform the ACOC supervising clergy person.

2.         The senior clergy person to whom the person committing the alleged offense reports is to inform the Presiding Bishop and then confront the person with the observations, allegations and the like in a timely manner and seek the person’s openness to deal with the situation at issue.

3.        The clergy person under scrutiny will be required to sign the ACOC Disclosure Accountability and Confidentiality Agreement.  This includes a release and authorization for the ACOC Division of Clergy Training and Chaplaincy and the Presiding Bishop to obtain the information and consultation necessary towards the resolution of the situation and assures the clergy person of due care in the confidential handling of the information.

4.         If the breach is of a nature that suggests emotional or mental impairment, psychological testing and evaluation may be ordered, upon approval of the Presiding Bishop, to be paid for by the clergy person under discipline.  Full releases of the resulting medical and counseling records are to be provided.  If indicated, the Division of Clergy Training will coordinate with the mental health professional(s)’ recommendations to develop a plan of remediation for the impaired clergy person.

5.         If the breach includes civil or criminal legal action, there must be full cooperation on the part of the accused party with the secular legal process, while the church will provide spiritual ministry that no way interferes with the legal process.

6.         If there is good cause to believe that the clergy person or seminarian has indeed seriously violated Church or secular law, and/or is found to be unfit to carry out his or her ministerial responsibilities, then that person will be put under immediate Suspension of Ministerial Faculties, including revocation of ecclesiastical endorsement for pastoral care ministries, until the case is resolved.  The Presiding Bishop will put the notice of suspension into writing.  The notice will include the conditions that must to be met in order for the person to be restored to active ministry.

In particular, any allegation of sexual misconduct will bring with it immediate suspension of public priestly or diaconal duties until the matter is resolved.

The Presiding Bishop has the option to place a clergy person under investigation in a temporary Probationary status, instead of suspension of ministerial faculties, contingent upon that person’s fulfilling of specific conditions.  This may occur in the case of a person who is currently employed in a public ministerial position that requires ecclesiastical endorsement from one’s faith group.

7.         The status of any clergy person under suspension or probation will be reviewed on a regular basis, as set forth in the notice to him or her, and progress towards restoration to the active ministry will be monitored and encouraged.

8.         When the case is resolved, the person will either be reinstated to his or her position in the Church, with or without disciplinary sanctions, or will be given a letter of dismissal for cause from the Church’s ministry, which will include permanent revocation of ministerial faculties and ecclesiastical endorsement.

When appropriate, he Presiding Bishop will provide written notification of the action taken to the person’s employer and any professional pastoral care organizations or certifying bodies that require such notice.

9..         An ordained clergy person who has received a disciplinary action has the right to appeal to the Presiding Bishop, who will make a binding decision after consultation with the local parties, senior clergy advisors and the Board of the Church.

Rev. June 2003

All of the elements of accountability and ethical conduct that are required of all ACOC Clergy, including those endorsed for chaplaincy and any other persons endorsed as pastoral care givers.

Screening of Candidates for Seminary and Holy Orders:

            .  Prior to selection as a candidate for Holy Orders, applicants must sign a release for production of all pertinent personal and professional background materials and submit to a criminal background check as well as psychological and spiritual evaluations by credentialed professionals  (Ref. Canon 4).

            .  During seminary training and associated formation, a candidate is under the direct supervision of a Clergy Mentor, who makes periodic assessments of the candidate’s fitness for pastoral service, including ethical conduct  (Canons 5 and 6).

            .  At ordination, each ordinand makes a sacred pledge of conformity with the Canons of the Church, as well as collaboration with and respect for the bishop and co-ministers (Canon 1).

Annual Representation of Responsibility for Accountability:

             .  All clergy of the church are to take part in an annual clergy Ethics workshop (provided at the Annual Clergy Convocation and Retreat; if necessary, an ethics workshop given locally may be approved by the Bishop).  At the conclusion of this seminar all clergy will register their attendance.

            .  Each January, as part of the Annual Clergy Letter to the national Church, the clergy person completes a statement (part 5) on the following:  “An affirmative statement that your conduct during the past year has met the highest standard of moral responsibility as a clergy person in public ministry.”

Daily Responsibility for Ethical Conduct in Provision of Pastoral Care:

Essential elements of conformity to spiritually mature and responsible conduct include:

      Personal boundaries in relationships with parishioners, counselees, and others in
one’s care:  Explicit is absolute prohibition of any conduct that violates sexual / physical boundaries.

(See Canons 11, 14-16, 17).

      Self-care and spiritual growth:  All clergy and chaplains are to attend to their personal   
spiritual, emotional and physical well-being, as persons of infinite value and for fitness for service.  This includes engaging on a regular basis in spiritual reflection, worship and retreats / spiritual direction.  (Canon 11)

      Professional fitness:  All clergy and chaplains are to engage in professional and
theological / pastoral care continuing education on an annual basis.  (Canon 11)

       Pastoral care providers who are endorsed by the Church must be active in at least one
recognized professional organization appropriate to their area of specialized ministry, sign the organization(s)’ Code of Ethics and follow its provisions. Similarly, as required, providers must obtain and keep in good standing with any public (state or national) licensures and certifications required for practice, including compliance with their Codes of Ethics. (Canons 16 and 17)

      Pastoral Confidentiality:  All pastoral care providers must comply with Canons 14, 15 and 16, in maintaining the strictest of respectful confidentiality, holding in trust the information shared.  Sacramental disclosures are confidential without exception; pastoral non-sacramental disclosures are to be held confidential to the extent required and/or allowed by public legal statute.

      Professional Relationships:  All clergy and chaplains of the church are to maintain
mutually respectful and helpful collegial relationships with one another and with those other providers with whom they serve.  Included is the obligation to take part in the annual ACOC Clergy Convocation. 

Acknowledged and signed by:

___________________________________________            ____________
Clergy / Chaplain                                                                                          Date

___________________________________________            ____________
Preesiding Bishop                                                                                         Date

Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church

Rev. June 2003

The Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church

Clergy and Endorsed Chaplains

Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church



A communion of persons gathered for worship and public service within the Christian Apostolic tradition

Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church