How the Old Catholic Tradition speaks to us in ECC
Two central features are the question of jurisdiction and the appeal to the early Church.
- First, the entire church possesses jurisdiction over the church. This means clergy and laity alike. Authority is vested in the whole church. It is the church that hands jurisdiction down to the bishop, who then has the task and obligation to proclaim the gospel. The bishop is accountable to the church. In other words, ministry is responsibility and task, not right and power. Participation of the laity is an essential principle in both jurisdiction and liturgical practice.
- Old Catholics appeal to the early Church and this principle is a dominant feature. Even before the split after the Council of Vatican I in 1889 when the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht were formed, the term “Old Catholic” was being used to describe those who appealed to the early Church before the schism of 1054. This appeal emphasizes the unity of Christianity. They use the early church to interpret and solve contemporary problems. This is summed up in the sentence: “We were there in the beginning and we are here now.” This is the consistency of apostolicity.
The unity is built on scripture and the Nicene creed, and Eucharist is the visible sign of community unity.
- One is not baptized into a church, but into Christ, so baptism is the widest boundary of the one church. But baptism is not a limitation to God’s saving power and love.
- Catholicity means continuity with the undivided Church of the first millennium. The bishop becomes both the center and means of unity with the task of presiding over the local church. The bishop represents the apostolicity of the whole church.
- Every local church (bishop, priests, deacons, and laity) is the whole church. They represent the whole in one place.
- Catholicity means everyone is to be saved, and salvation is offered to all. Every church is on its way to catholicity.
- Unity is without uniformity. Part of being catholic is to seek union.
- All bishops are equal and maintain unity by being in contact with one another. Each bishop is autonomous in their own diocese.
The Old Catholics see themselves as the continuation of the Catholic Church of the West, and the continuation of the early Church. Roman Catholics are the New Catholics.
- The concept of the church as a corporation is a corruption and fundamental error because this becomes a closed system and replaces the open system of catholicity. This equals the disappearance of the whole people of God.
- All churches need to return to the common ground of the early Church. This is in the areas of scripture, creed, sacraments, episcopal ministry, and synodality.
- Priest and bishop share the same functions, and the bishop acts on a different level. The threefold ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon is unnegotiable for the Old Catholics.
There is an interdependence of laity and ministry. Ministry is not above laity but is before laity.
- The role of the priest is based on authority bestowed and entrusted by the Church. Role is to go ahead of the people.
Liturgy is the central activity of the Church as the body of Christ. Members and head act inseparably.
- Unity is symbolized in three ways by the bishop: at the altar the uniting place of Christ, when gathered with the other bishops, at the altar when representing the diocese to God.
- Unity is also symbolized in a church with the bishop, priests, deacons in a semi-circle completed to a full circle by the laity, with the Christ altar in their midst. We reverence the altar because the altar represents Christ.
- The bishop incarnates the apostolicity of the Church and is the guardian and sign of that apostolicity and catholicity. Bishop is the guardian of oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.
- Liturgy is a communal ritual and a divine-human unity.
Salvation is the restoration of the unity between God and humanity, and between humans themselves. There is no such thing as individual salvation.
- Salvation is communion, and therefore implies there must be community. Being a community in unity should be the church’s main characteristic.
- The existence of a real community is proof to the world of the reality of salvation.
- Life in communion means full participation in each other – God and humanity. Salvation makes us partakers of the divine trinitarian life.
- A human being is a member of humanity, and only secondarily a being of its own. We are intersubjective creatures.
- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each other’s counterparts, each other’s over and against, each other’s call and response. They are in relation to each other.
- Clergy and laity are in relation to each other the same way as call and response, over and against, counterparts.
- Clergy mainly represent Christ, and the laity mainly represent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is heard through the laity.
- Every Christian is a representative of Christ, and every ministry can only be fulfilled in the power of the Spirit.
- It is not the clergy who make the church. Each person has the responsibility to take process in being Church.
- In decision making each member has the responsibility to define their position, and decisions need to be received by the members. The process is conciliarity, and the goal is to reach consensus.
- Apostolicity is the continuity and identity of the message handed down in every local church from generation to generation and it needs to be repeated in every time and place, and interpreted and made active for today.
- Continuity is personalized in the bishop. When a local church elects a bishop they are expressing their wish to continue being church.
- Bishops are co-responsible for the other churches, and every member of the church is required to participate in the whole communal life of the church. Church should be about every part of every human’s life.