The Rev. Frank Krebs, pastor of Sts. Clare & Francis church in Webster Groves, has been elected presiding bishop of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC). He was commissioned in his new role on Sept. 18 in a ceremony at Eden Theological Seminary.

Krebs, who founded Sts. Clare & Francis in 2005, was chosen as national leader of the ECC by a two-thirds vote of his fellow pastors and church members in a synod held at Denver, Colo.

Krebs succeeds the Rev. Peter Hickman of Los Angeles, who has led the ECC since its formation in the United States, in 2003. After Krebs is commissioned, the ECC will move its national headquarters to Eden.

The ECC has grown from eight to 10 churches in 2005 to 51 churches in 20 states – one in St. Louis. Membership in the United States is estimated at 10,000.

Since May of 2014, the ECC has been a member of the National Council of Churches. The council, with 37 members, describes itself as a "leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians."

Jim Winkler, general secretary and president of the council, will attend the commissioning.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Krebs, 68, was educated at Kenrick Seminary, Cardinal Glennon College and St. Louis University High School.

Krebs was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1972. He worked as an associate pastor in three suburban parishes. In 1977, he became pastor of Sts. Peter & Paul, a parish founded before the Civil War, and located in Soulard, adjacent to the Mississippi River.

In 1993, Krebs left the Roman Catholic priesthood to pursue a second career as a management consultant. Then, in his words, "with a yearning to do pastoral work again," Krebs joined the Ecumenical Catholic Communion as a priest in 2003, and founded Sts. Clare & Francis in 2005. The parish is located at 204 E. Lockwood in Webster Groves.

Krebs describes the ECC as "Catholic, but not Roman." He added that it is "similar to the Roman Catholic Church in matters of both creeds and sacraments," but he stresses that it is a separate religious body.

The ECC traces its origin to 1870 – the date of the First Vatican Council – when a group of European bishops meeting at Utrecht refused to accept the idea that the Pope was infallible in matters of church doctrine, and rejected allegiance to Rome.

"This group of European bishops formed what is commonly called the 'Old Catholic Church,' the predecessor to the ECC," Krebs said. "They believed in 'great autonomy for local churches,' a belief reflected today by the fact that the Ecumenical Catholic Communion elects its bishops and pastors."