The movement originated in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada. Related churches in other countries, such as the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia and the Church of England (Continuing), were founded later. The movement represents approximately 667 parishes across approximately 20 different continuing churches.
Anglicanism in general has always been a balance between the emphases of Catholicism and Protestantism. Clergy and laity from both of those factions were active in the formation of the Continuing Anglican movement. The issues that most contributed to the founding of the "continuing churches" were the approval by ECUSA of women priests and the introduction of revised prayer books.
Out of this meeting came a new church with the provisional name of Anglican Church in North America (Episcopal). The first bishop of the church, the Right Reverend Charles Doren, was consecrated by a retired bishop of ECUSA, the Right Reverend Albert Chambers, along with Bishop Francisco Pagtakhan of the Philippine Independent Church as co-consecrator. Although expected to be the third bishop participating in Doren's consecration, the Right Reverend Mark Pae of the Anglican Church of Korea sent a letter of consent instead. The newly-consecrated Bishop Doren then joined with Bishops Chambers and Pagtakhan in consecrating as bishops, the Reverend James Mote, the Reverend Robert Morse, and the Reverend Francis Watterson. Bishop Watterson left the movement shortly afterwards and became a Roman Catholic priest.
During the process of ratifying the new church's constitution, disputes developed which split its dioceses into two American churches and a separate Canadian church. These were the Anglican Catholic Church led by Bishop Mote, the Diocese of Christ the King (now the Anglican Province of Christ the King) led by Bishop Morse, and the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada. In 1981, Bishop Doren and others left the Anglican Catholic Church to found the United Episcopal Church of North America in opposition to the alleged inhospitality of the other jurisdictions towards Low Churchmen.
The principles of the Affirmation of St. Louis and, to a lesser extent, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion provide some basis for unity in the movement, but these jurisdictions are numerous and often splinter and recombine. Reports put their number at somewhere between 20 and 40, mostly in North America, but fewer than a dozen of the churches popularly called "continuing churches" can be traced back to the meeting in St. Louis. The 2005/06 Directory of Traditional Anglican and Episcopal Parishes, published by The Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, contained information on over 400 Continuing Anglican parishes which requested to be listed.
These churches are not always considered to be Continuing Anglican churches, although the REC has recently moved to associate itself more closely with them by entering into agreements with a number of Continuing churches such as the Anglican Province of America. Both of them also have formal agreements in place with several provinces of the Anglican Communion that have been critical of ECUSA. See Anglican realignment.
The following is a list of seminaries associated with the Continuing Anglican movement: