George Augustine Hyde started the first gay congregation in Atlanta, Georgia in 1946 while he was a member of an independent Catholic movement; the congregation formed the Eucharistic Catholic Church, which was the forerunner of the present gay church movement.
Bishop John Kazantkis' troubles started in Greece c.1944 when he protested the defrocking of several priests in other dioceses on the charge of being "sodomites". In the course of this affair he announced to a regional Synod of Bishops that while he had not violated his vows of celibacy, he, like the several priests, was a person of "a same gender affectional and sexual orientation". That pretty much "did him in".
He arrived in the USA in early 1946 and settled in Atlanta, GA. George Hyde was at that time living in Atlanta, having just recently left a Roman Catholic Seminary. Bishop John Kazantkis was employed as a Greek teacher in the Public Schools of Atlanta, and George Hyde had just been assigned to the teaching staff at the same school.
About that time, at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Atlanta, a confrontation was going on where the priests denied communion to a half dozen or so men and women who were denied absolution at confession because they would not agree with the priest that their lifestyle was an abomination to God. For four or five consecutive Sundays they would go forward to receive communion but were by-passed by the priest. Nevertheless, they continued standing at the altar rail until the end of mass. The priests considered this an act of disorder.
During the course of this display of defiance of priestly discipline a modest number of non-gay parishioners began standing in support of the "gays". The actions and activities of these protesters eventually were reported in the local paper. Bishop John and George Hyde discussed the matter and found that they were thinking alike about the situation, and arranged to meet with some of the protesters.
Subsequently they organized a small group which met weekly to discuss the plight of "gays" in living a same gender lifestyle and at the same time trying to be faithful to God's moral standards. Out of this grew the Eucharistic Catholic Church.
By July 1946 both Bishop John and George Hyde were in agreement that they had no other choice than to lay the foundation for a new ecclesiastical entity. They selected the name "The Catholic and Apostolic Church in America" for our umbrella name, and "Blessed Sacrament" as the name of our first congregation. Shortly thereafter they discovered that both the Episcopalians and the Roman Catholics had parishes in Atlanta named "Blessed Sacrament". So they changed the name to "Holy Eucharistic Parish". In time, in common usage this developed into "Eucharistic Catholic Church".
George Hyde accepted ordination to the priesthood in July 1, 1946, and accepted Bishop John as his hierarchial superior. In January 1947 George Hyde settled in Savannah, GA and from there served the sacramental and pastoral needs of a scattered constituency throughout South Georgia.
On Christmas Eve 1946 the first public service of the newly organised jurisdiction was held in a gay bar, the "Cotton Blossom Room", in Atlanta with 85 people - both gay and hetrosexual - in attendance. It must be remembered that in those days being gay and lesbian in both the USA and Canada was illegal and anyone being found to be gay in a public place ran the risk of ending up in prison or in a mental institution.
Fr. George was consecrated a bishop on 7 May 1957. Bishop Hyde continued on his Eucharistic Catholic Church work in parallel with that of the Orthodox Catholic Church of America. In 1959 Bishop Hyde moved from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. and became more involved in his Orthodox Catholic Church work. In January of 1970 he became archbishop of the Orthodox Catholic Church of America.
By 1974 it was recognised that more clergy was needed for the Church. Archbishop Hyde was still the sacramental head of the Eucharistic Church but he was suffering from ill health during that period and could not go to New York City to ordain new priests.
What is noticeable about the Eucharistic Catholic Church is that the preferred liturgy used in worship was an English translation of the Gallican Mass attributed to St. Germain, Bishop of Paris from 555 to 576. However any standard liturgical text could be used by a priest and his congregation, depending on the worshippers' taste.
In 1983 Archbishop Hyde retired as head of the Orthodox Catholic Church of America. In 1995 this jurisdiction decided to ordain women to Holy Orders but a minority of the clergy and laity did not go along with the decision deeming it heretical. They appealed to Archbishop Hyde to come out of retirement and serve as their bishop.
On 3 January 1996 the Autocephalous Orthodox Catholic Church of America, Inc. was incorporated in the State of Florida to serve as the legal entity for this continuing OCCA. Its headquarters is located in Belleair, Florida.