Christianity came very early to the Peninsula. According to some ancient writers (Clement of Rome, Eusebius), even St. Paul visited Iberia; at least he had that desire (Romans 15,24 and 28).
When the Visigoths, whose leaders professed Arianism, invaded the Peninsula, the Church was already well established. It held its own councils and used a liturgy different from the Roman, known later on as the Mozarabic Rite. Although in full communion with the Rome See, the Iberian Churches or Dioceses enjoyed a certain autonomy. With the conversion of the Visigoths to the Catholic Faith, the Church became much more influential. But with the Islamic invasion, in the beginning of the 8th century, the Christians suffered greatly, although many Christians communities, with their Bishops and other clergy, were tolerated. They were called “Mozarabic Christians”. The Christian reconquest was accompanied with the imposition of the Roman Liturgy and strict Papal jurisdiction. In some cases the Mozarabic communities were slaughtered together with the Moors.
In the 16th century the Portuguese intelligentsia was rather influenced by Erasmus, but not by the Reformers. The Inquisition was established more on account of the Jews, the Moors and witchcraft than because of Protestantism. In the 18th century the Gallican and Jansenist influences were very strong inn Portugal; if it were not for the supersticious fear on the part of the King, his powerful Prime Minister, the Marquis of Pombal, would have achieved a sort of the Old Catholic schism. Later Ultramontanism never destroyed completely this Jansenist influence which developed later into some sort of Febronianism. That train of thought helped to create the atmosphere which made possible the starting of our small movement later in the 1880s.
In fact, the historical origin of the Lusitanian Church, in the 19th century, is a consequence of the Portuguese reaction to the dogmas of the Pope’s universal jurisdiction and infallibility; the religious hierarchy despotism defending the Pope absolutism on the spiritual as well as on the temporal (ultramontanism) which was beginning to marginalize those whose mentalities were suffering the influence of the liberalism; the marian proclamations of that time and also the Old Catholic movement which was felt in Portugal. On the other hand, after the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 1834, a certain amount of religious freedom was granted in Portugal. In consequence two Anglican Priests came to Lisbon, the first in 1839 opening a chapel at the centre of the city, which was closed in 1870, and the second in 1868, starting a congregation in the lines of the Episcopal Church.
Therefore, in the presence of those doctrinal reasons and under the influence of this Anglican witness some Roman Catholic Portuguese Priests and laymen began to form congregations in several places. Despite the existence in Portugal, at that time, of Protestant missions of foreign protestant confessions, the members of those congregations maintained the obedience to the pure catholicity of the Church not gathering any kind of religious confession.
Then, on March 8, 1880, these Priests and the lay representatives of their congregations met at a Synod presided by the Bishop Riley, consecrated in the American Episcopal Church to serve in the newly formed Church of Mexico. At that Synod a Constitution was approved and the decision was taken to abide by the doctrinal and liturgical standards of the Anglican Communion saying: “we do not desire to found a new religion, but simply to cleanse the Christian Religion from the corruption of the ages, and to reconquer the ancient liberties of the early Lusitanian Church - so long subjected to the foreign yoke of Rome - and to spread through all this country a doctrine, which shall be Catholic and Apostolic, in a church that shall be Portuguese not Roman”. Since the beginning we were assisted by a Council of Bishops formed by Irish Bishops until 1964 and years afterwards there were some American Episcopal Bishops who provided Episcopal ministrations and pastoral care, particularly Bishops in Charge of the American Convocation in Europe, until the consecration of the Lusitanian first Bishop in 1958.
In1884 took place the edition of the first Common Prayer Book in Portuguese, based on Anglican, Roman and Mozarabic liturgies.
Also, in 1961 the American Episcopal Church established a Concordat of Full Communion with the Lusitanian Church, under the terms of the «Bonn Agreement». The same occurred in 1963 with the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. And later, in 1965 the Bishops of the Union of Utrecht (Old Catholic Communion) established a similar concordat with our Church, on the lines of the «Bonn Agreement».
In July, 1980, the Lusitanian Church was formally integrated into the Anglican Communion under the status of an extra-provincial Diocese under the Metropolitical Authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his capacity as the focal point of unity of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, and as President of both the Lambeth Conference and of the Anglican Consultative Council.
In 1998 the Church, through its Diocesan Synod, approved the Porvoo Declaration and took the decision of making a request of being integrated in the Porvoo Communion expressing as well its willingness to establish co-operation, with interchangeable ministries, with the congregations of other Porvoo churches in Iberia. It was accepted and since its integration in the Porvoo process a representative of the Lusitanian Church has been taking part in the Porvoo Contact Group meetings.
The Church was named Lusitanian, Catholic, Apostolic, Evangelical. The word LUSITANIAN, referring to Lusitania, a Roman Province situated in the territory which, in part, was to constitute the Portuguese kingdom, was selected to signify that the purpose of the new community was to restore the ancient Christianity and maintain the faith of the Primitive Church; the word CATHOLIC avoided the idea that the community might belong to the specifically Protestant world; the word APOSTOLIC was to emphasise her loyalty to the apostolic succession; and the word EVANGELICAL declared the aim to proclaim Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour, in contrast with a supposedly dead ritualism and Marian devotion of the dominating religion.
The Lusitanian Church is one of the three founding churches of the Portuguese Council of Christian Churches (COPIC). It regularly takes part in the Ecumenical and Interconfessional Meetings in Portugal involving the Roman Catholic Church, COPIC and the Portuguese Evangelic Alliance. The Lusitanian Church is also member of the World Council of Churches and of the Conference of European Churches.