You may or may not have noticed these three statements on our Web site: Christian in outlook; Catholic in worship; Progressive in social teaching.
What in the heck do these mean?
We are Christian in outlook in that we embrace the continuity of the Christian tradition as handed down by the first apostles. We proclaim the Gospel – the Good News – of freedom and life through Jesus, whom we call Christ, Sovereign, and Savior. We not only follow Jesus, but we endeavor to live into Christ’s teachings of love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. What I have come to call “the Jesus love ethic”.
We are Catholic in worship in that we celebrate and observe the seven sacraments, which are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (Communion, the Lord’s Supper), Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders (ordination of clergy), Reconciliation (confession and forgiveness), and Anointing of the Sick. We celebrate the liturgy each Sunday – prayers, scripture reading, sermon, Eucharist.
And yet, we are a church for the 21st century. We observe liturgical traditions in form and structure, while at the same time are open to using language that reflects the sensibilities and understandings of today.
We are not only catholic in worship; we identify as catholic. Our history and therefore our very essence as a church is catholic. Old Catholicism grew out of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, separate and apart from the Protestant Reformation. Whereas the Reformers changed the face of Christian worship, Old Catholics maintained the beauty, symbols, and a sense of sacramental reality of the liturgical tradition. Old Catholics primarily pushed back against the universal, total authority of the pope. We recognize the pope as “first among equals”, however the pope does not have authority over the Old Catholic Church*. The Old Catholic Church accepts the decisions and doctrinal formulations of the seven ecumenical councils (the councils up through 787 CE). The decisions of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and the First Vatican council (1869-1870) are of particular concern to Old Catholics. These councils are not held as authoritative, while not truly ecumenical, they also changed the nature of the church.
We are progressive in social teaching in that Old Catholics fully recognize that as the human race evolves through the continued enlightenment of Holy Spirit, human knowledge and understanding continue to expand as well. Therefore, as a human institution, the teachings of the Church must also expand and change. Honoring tradition is one thing; but stubborn inflexibility making tradition an idol is quite another. Old Catholics hold fast to the idea of ecclesia semper reformanda: the church must always be reformed. The Church needs to allow Spirit to blow where she will in order to re-examine itself, to keep reforming, evolving, assessing practices and doctrine. Ecclesia semper reformanda asks the Church: What changes need to take place in order to be true to or return to the Gospel message and bring that message to the world. In order to stay true to the love ethic of Jesus, sometimes dearly held biblical interpretations and beliefs about humans or human nature must change. We ask the Bible: What do these words and teachings mean from an early twenty-first century understanding of the world and science, not a first century one. Holy Spirit was sent to humanity to inspire, to breathe new life into individuals and the institution. New life in Spirit includes new understandings through Spirit.
We are Old Catholic: Christian in outlook, Catholic in worship, Progressive in social teaching. We honor the beauty of our past while living fully in the present. The two are not antithetical. Indeed, to be true to our Christian roots, we cannot live any other way.
Join us. Come see how the ancient and the modern can complement one another.
* ”First among equals”, or primus inter pares,is an honorary title for someone who is formally equal to other members of their group but is accorded unofficial respect, traditionally owing to seniority of position, not dissimilar to the Chief Justice of the US.