CONCORD OF INTERCOMMUNION BETWEEN
CHRIST'S APOSTOLIC OLD CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE AMERICAS
THE POLISH OLD CATHOLIC RITE OF NORTH AMERICA
THE CHURCH OF THE CULDEES
AND THE ORDER OF THE CELTIC CROSS
Our Lord Jesus Christ has expressed his will that all his children may be one. It is therefore incumbent upon Churches and particularly upon Bishops to work toward unity. It is a sad fact of Ecclesiastical history that this God-given desire for unity has often led to unfortunate results including personal animosity, further splintering of Christ's Mystical Body and outright heresy. This appears to be largely the result of attempts being made "from below" i.e., by strictly human means. This method is often the result of a viewpoint which sees the Church as a human organization like the Rotary Club or a political party rather than the Divine-human reality which it is. This view is often exacerbated by overgrown egos who see in organizational unity an opportunity to acquire titles and "positions of honor" at the expense of the Church's mission to be the Body of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and, in the normal economy of salvation, the place or rather, reality where the Good News of Jesus Christ is discovered and proclaimed; and where theosis and salvation are accomplished.
Unity from above, that is from our One Triune God, is, a matter of the people of God, in particular bishops, of two or more jurisdictions responding to God's call to be "One Body". The chief sign and necessary foundation for this genuine unity is doctrinal agreement. All too often, particularly among Church jurisdictions within the historic stream of Old Catholicism, sharing the Body and Blood of Our Savior in Eucharistic worship has served as the first step rather than the last step and seal of a movement toward union. This practice seems to be based on the erroneous assumption that if one is simply "nice" and doesn't "fret" about the details, everything will work out and that doctrine does not matter as long as everybody feels good and comfortable, warm and cozy.
We the people and bishops engaged in this Concord of Intercommunion, reject union from below, and in this document strive to be clear and open in regard to our common doctrinal understanding.
DEFINITION OF CHURCH:
The first step in reaching and expressing doctrinal unity is, of necessity, a common understanding of the nature of the Church. The Church is no less than the Mystical Body of Christ in the world, tasked with continuing his divine mission of proclaiming the Good News (Gospel) of salvation, hope and eternal life. The Church is to serve as the context of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments outside of which the Bible cannot be truly understood and inevitably leads to heresy. Additionally the Church is charged with guarding, preserving and passing on the whole body of faith which includes, in addition to Scripture, the accepted canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the teachings of the Mothers and Fathers of the faith, the teaching and lives of the Saints and the rest of Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition is not to be understood as something strictly of the past, but rather as the expression of the presence of the Holy Spirit within the whole body of believers continuing, as was promised by our Lord, to lead the Church into all truth. The Church is also to carry on the works of corporal mercy: Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and healing the sick which our Lord began in his earthly ministry.
The primary reality, and the necessary foundation for all other aspects of the Church is: The People of God gathered for Eucharist in Sacramental (Mysterious) continuity with the Apostles. Simply put, an organization which is not grounded in Eucharistic worship and which does not have bishops ordained to the episcopate within a valid Apostolic Succession, may be many things, but it is not the Church of Jesus Christ.
As Orthodox Catholic Christians our first point of agreement is the so called Nicene Creed. This statement is also known as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and as the Symbol of Faith.
THE SYMBOL OF FAITH
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us and our salvation came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the Right Hand of the Father. He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, and his kingdom shall have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver-of-life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.
I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The heretical addition of the "Filioque" clause is an example of both bad theology and of hubris sufficient to ignore the universally accepted teachings of the Ecumenical Councils.
As inheritors of the Western stream of the One Holy Catholic Orthodox and Apostolic Church of Christ Jesus, we likewise accept the validity of the so called Apostles' Creed as a sufficient Baptismal creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the Communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Additionally we recognize the historicity and worth of the Quicunque Vult, commonly called The Creed of Saint Athanasius:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold
the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord,
So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son , neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. (This does not imply a double procession as to origin, but that because the Holy Spirit Proceeds from The Father and rests on the Son,and therefore his Mystical Body the Church; the Spirit comes to us humans from both.)
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood;
Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sits at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead.
At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.
Also of high importance among the teaching of the early united Church are these two teachings of the Ecumenical Councils. First, Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D., Act V:
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homoousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only- begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.
Secondly, we are in accord with the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the second at Nice (745 AD) which teaches us that the use of Ikons (images) in worship is both acceptable and efficacious for Christian growth and sanctification. This truth is expressed in the liturgical life of Eastern and some Western Orthodox Churches by the reading, on the First Sunday of Lent, of The Synodikon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council either in full or in the following abbreviated form:
As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught,…as the Church has received…as the teachers have dogmatized,…as the Universe has agreed,…as Grace has shown forth,….as Truth has revealed,…as falsehood has been dissolved,…as Wisdom has presented,…as Christ Awarded,…thus we declare,…thus we assert,…thus we preach Christ our True God, and honor his Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of All and accordingly offering them veneration. This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the faith which has established the universe. Amen.
As Old Catholic Churches, we adhere to the foundational doctrinal statement of Old Catholicism, the Declaration of Utrecht:
We adhere faithfully to the Rule of Faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: "Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum." For this reason we preserve in professing the faith of the primitive Church, as formulated in the ecumenical symbols and specified precisely by the unanimously accepted decisions of the Ecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church of the first thousand years. We therefore reject the decrees of the so-called Council of the Vatican, which were promulgated July 18th, 1870, concerning the infallibility and the universal Episcopate of the Bishop of Rome, decrees which are in contradiction with the faith of the ancient Church, and which destroy its ancient canonical constitution by attributing to the Pope the plentitude of ecclesiastical powers over all Dioceses and over all the faithful. By denial of this primatial jurisdiction we do not wish to deny the historical primacy which several Ecumenical Councils and Fathers of the ancient Church have attributed to the Bishop of Rome by recognizing him as the Primus inter pares.
We also reject the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Pius IX in 1854 in defiance of the Holy Scriptures and in contradiction to the tradition of the centuries.
As for other Encyclicals published by the Bishops of Rome in recent times for example, the Bulls Unigenitus and Auctorem fidei , and the Syllabus of 1864, we reject them on all such points as are in contradiction with the doctrine of the primitive Church, and we do not recognize them as binding on the consciences of the faithful. We also renew the ancient protests of the Catholic Church of Holland against the errors of the Roman Curia, and against its attacks upon the rights of national Churches.
We refuse to accept the decrees of the Council of Trent in matters of discipline, and as for the dogmatic decisions of that Council we accept them only so far as they are in harmony with the teaching of the primitive Church.
Considering that the Holy Eucharist has always been the true central point of Catholic worship, we consider it our right to declare that we maintain with perfect fidelity the ancient Catholic doctrine concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, by believing that we receive the Body and Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ under the species of bread and wine. The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is neither a continual repetition nor a renewal of the expiatory sacrifice which Jesus offered once for all upon the Cross: but it is a sacrifice because it is the perpetual commemoration of the sacrifice offered upon the Cross, and it is the act by which we represent upon earth and appropriate to ourselves the one offering which Jesus Christ makes in Heaven, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews 9:11-12, for the salvation of redeemed humanity, by appearing for us in the presence of God Heb. 9:24). The character of the Holy Eucharist being thus understood, it is, at the same time, a sacrificial feast, by means of which the faithful in receiving the Body and Blood of our Savior, enter into communion with one another (I Cor. 10:17). We hope that Catholic theologians, in maintaining the faith of the undivided Church, will succeed in establishing an agreement upon questions which have been controverted ever since the divisions which arose between the Churches. We exhort the priests under our jurisdiction to teach, both by preaching and by the instruction of the young, especially the essential Christian truths professed by all the Christian confessions, to avoid, in discussing controverted doctrines, any violation of truth or charity, and in word and deed to set an example to the members.
By maintaining and professing faithfully the doctrine of Jesus Christ, by refusing to
admit those errors which by the fault of men have crept into the Catholic Church,
by laying aside the abuses in ecclesiastical matters, together with the worldly
tendencies of the hierarchy, we believe that we shall be able to combat efficaciously
the great evils of our day, which are unbelief and indifference in matters of religion.
Utrecht, 24th September 1889
Although of less canonical authority we recognize the historical and educational importance of The Fourteen Theses of the Old Catholic Union Conference at Bonn September 14-16, 1874
I. We agree that the apocryphal or deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament are not of the same canonicity as the books contained in the Hebrew Canon.
II. We agree that no translation of Holy Scripture can claim an authority superior to that of the original text.
III. We agree that the reading of Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue can not be lawfully forbidden.
IV. We agree that, in general, it is more fitting, and in accordance with the spirit of the Church, that the Liturgy should be in the tongue understood by the people.
V. We agree that Faith working by Love, not Faith without Love, is the means and condition of Man's justification before God.
VI. Salvation cannot be merited by "merit of condignity," because there is no proportion between the infinite worth of salvation promised by God and the finite worth of man's works.
VII. We agree that the doctrine of "opera supererogationis"* and of a "thesaurus meritorum sanctorum,"* i.e., that the overflowing merits of the Saints can be transferred to others, either by the rulers of the Church, or by the authors of the good works themselves, is untenable.
1. We acknowledge that the number of the sacraments was fixed at seven, first in the twelfth century, and then was received into the general teaching of the Church, not as tradition coming down from the Apostles or from the earliest times, but as the result of theological speculation.
2. Catholic theologians acknowledge, and we acknowledge with them, that Baptism and the Eucharist are "principalia, praecipus, eximia salutis nostrae sacramenta."*
1. The Holy Scriptures being recognized as the primary rule of Faith, we agree that the genuine tradition, i.e. the unbroken transmission partly oral, partly in writing of the doctrine delivered by Christ and the Apostles is an authoritative source of teaching for all successive generations of Christians. This tradition is partly to be found in the consensus of the great ecclesiastical bodies standing in historical continuity with the primitive Church, partly to be gathered by scientific method from the written documents of all centuries.
2. We acknowledge that the Church of England, and the Churches derived from her, have maintained unbroken the Episcopal succession.
X. We reject the new Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being contrary to the tradition of the first thirteen centuries according to which Christ alone is conceived without sin.
XI. We agree that the practice of confession of sins before the congregation or a Priest, together with the exercise of the power of the keys, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and that, purged from the abuses and free from constraint, it should be preserved in the Church.
XII. We agree that "indulgences" can only refer to penalties actually imposed by the Church herself.
XIII. We acknowledge that the practice of the commemoration of the faithful departed, i.e. the calling down of a richer outpouring of Christ's grace upon them, has come down to us from the primitive Church, and is to be preserved in the Church.
1. The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is not a continuous repetition or renewal of the propitiatory sacrifice offered once for ever by Christ upon the cross; but its sacrificial character consists in this, that it is the permanent memorial of it, and a representation and presentation on earth of that one oblation of Christ for the salvation of redeemed mankind, which according to the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:11,12), is continuously presented in heaven by Christ, who now appears in the presence of God for us (9:24).
2. While this is the character of the Eucharist in reference to the sacrifice of Christ, it is also a sacred feast, wherein the faithful, receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, have communion one with another (I Cor. 10:17). * "opera supererogationis" and "thesaurus meritorum sanctorum": these refer to the Roman doctrine that God expects so much merit from each human being, and that some saints lived exemplary lives filled with more merit than was required of God ("opera supererogationis" or works above those required). This extra merit was then kept in escrow by the Church ("thesaurus meritorum sanctorum" treasury of the merits of the saints), who has the authority to portion it out to her children. * "principalia, praecipus, eximia salutis nostrae sacramenta" original, distinguished, extraordinary sacraments for our welfare
In addition to the above, we agree on the following points:
We affirm the truth of God as Trinity of Persons and Unity of Being as it is revealed in Holy Scripture and taught by the early Fathers of the Church.
We affirm the goodness of God's creation by his original intent, that creation remains fundamentally good and beloved by the Creator, and that though by our rebellion creation was "subjected to futility" (Romans 8:20) and suffered decay, the creation is yet itself in hope of release through our redemption (Romans 8:21). We affirm that creation is our strong ally in the battle against forces of spiritual evil.
We affirm that the first humans rebelled and broke relationship with God, which rebellion then twisted and marred our relationship with ourselves, with one another, with the whole creation, and its Creator, that this condition of broken relationship - which we call sin - is universal and beyond our power to heal, and that without God's intervention both the human race and this earth are without hope.
We affirm that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the very Word of God; that the Sacred Tradition of the Church is the historical living out of the Word by the Body of Christ under the guiding of the Holy Spirit, and that the whole of Sacred Tradition, including Holy Scripture, the Ecumenical Councils and the lives and teaching of our Mothers and Fathers in the Faith inform the whole People of God - the Church, and that it is the Church under the sure guidance the Holy Sprit leading it into all truth that is the ultimate authority in faith and doctrine, and that the human heart, enlightened by the Holy Spirit and under subjection to the Word and Sacred Tradition is the primary means of applying that Word in our world. For additional clarity on the role and nature of Holy Scripture we quote The Very Rev. Thomas Hopko: "The Bible is called the written Word of God. This does not mean that the Bible fell from heaven ready made. Neither does this mean that God dictated the Bible word for word to men who were merely His passive instruments. It means that God has revealed Himself as the true and living God to His People, and that as one aspect of His divine self-revelation God inspired His People to produce scriptures, i.e., writings which constitute the true and genuine expressions of His Truth and His Will for His People and for the whole world. The words of the Bible are human words, for indeed, all words are human. They are human words, however, which God Himself inspired to be written in order to remain as the scriptural witness to Himself. As human words, the words of the Bible contain all of the marks of the men who wrote them, and of the time and the culture in which they were written. Nevertheless, in the full integrity of their human condition and form, the words of the Bible are truly the very Word of God. The Bible is truly the Word of God in human form because its origin is not in man but in God, Who willed and inspired its creation. In this sense, the Bible is not like any other book. In the Bible, in and through the words of men, one finds the self-revelation of God and can come to a true and genuine knowledge of Him and His will and purpose for man and the world. In and through the Bible, human persons can enter into communion with God. All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). It is the faith of the Orthodox Church that the Bible, as the divinely-inspired Word of God in the words of men, contains no formal errors or inner contradictions concerning the relationship between God and the world. There may be incidental inaccuracies of a non-essential character in the Bible. But the eternal spiritual and doctrinal message of God, presented in the Bible in many different ways, remains perfectly consistent, authentic, and true."
We affirm that God intervened in human history, the Second Person of the Trinity setting aside His glory (Philippians 2:7) took on human flesh by being born of the Virgin Mary; that he lived among us as one completely human; that he demonstrated God's love through mighty works empowered by the Holy Spirit; that he freely gave his life on the Cross as a substitution for us and ransom for sin; that he was physically raised from death by the Father and now reigns as Lord over all; that he will return to this world at its consummation.
We affirm that the Holy Spirit who came in power upon the Church at Pentecost still works in the Body of Christ today, bringing new life to all who put their whole trust in the sacrifice of Christ, working still in signs and wonders to accompany the proclamation of the Word of God.
Occult practices and teachings, including Theosophy, Freemasonry, astrology, tarot cards and other means of "divination" have no place in and are anathema to the Catholic and Orthodox Church.
We reject the pernicious doctrine of "created grace", and agree with Saint Gregory Palamas, the Fathers of the Church and Sacred Tradition that grace is not other than the Divine Energy of God.
We reject the Augustinian notion of "predestination". We recognize that salvation is wholly a free gift of God, and may not be earned or acquired by human effort. Nonetheless, we believe that each human has a role to play in his or her own salvation. Each Christian must actively receive the grace of God. This active reception includes moral behavior, prayer, a willingness to learn what the Orthodox and Catholic Church, the living Body of Christ on earth, has to teach.
The ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood of Bishop, Presbyter and Deacon is neither forbidden by nor foreign to the full deposit of faith.
The only acceptable situation for full sexual expression is marriage, which is understood as a lifetime commitment of one woman and one man. The Church understands human frailty, and does not forbid divorce and remarriage, but this is always to be understood as a failure and the result of sinful choices. In no case will the Church solemnize a fourth marriage following divorce.
The practice of "therapeutic abortion" is only acceptable in the rare instances when, in the best available medical opinion, the physical life of the mother will be lost otherwise.
While we vigorously oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia, we do not promote or advise the pointless prolonging of suffering for patient and family by use of artificial means.
The Church opposes capital punishment.
We agree that those who may receive the Holy Mysteries are: Orthodox Catholic Christians, either members of our own jurisdictions or of a jurisdiction with which formal intercommunion has been established, who have fully participated in the Liturgy - particularly by joining in the recitation of the Symbol of Faith (Creed) and the Passing of the Peace. The Historic Church has never known the practice of "open communion" which is found among many of the denominations. There must already exist the essential unity of faith between those who partake of the One Bread and the One Cup. Holy Communion is not a means to that unity, but is the fruit of a unity already reached.
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