Defining: Catholic, Apostolic & the Independent Sacramental Movement

Before we go too far afield, perhaps this is a good time to examine a few terms I’ve been throwing around, namely: Catholic, Apostolic, and what is called the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM). The Independent Bishop Movement (IBM) is similar to the ISM –and I have heard some persons use the terms interchangeably– but IBM leaves the question of the importance of the sacraments open, whereas all members of the ISM consider the sacraments to be important.

 
Sidebar: The New Advent website (www.newadvent.org) has compiled a vast amount of information as understood from the Roman Catholic perspective, and they in part define the word “sacrament” as (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13295a.htm):

“[Sacrament] in its broadest sense, [is defined] as the sign of something sacred and hidden (the Greek word is “mystery”), we can say that the whole world is a vast sacramental system, in that material things are unto men the signs of things spiritual and sacred, even of the Divinity.”

Wikipedia defines the word “sacrament” more generally as “a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance.” I would add to this, the word sacrament also implies the presence of a “hierophany” which is at the very least a manifestation of the sacred [Greek: (hieros), meaning “sacred” or “holy,” and (phainein) meaning “to reveal” or “to bring to light”], if not a “theosophy” meaning the revelation of “divine wisdom” [Greek: (theos = divine) + (sophia = wisdom)]. A theophany refers to the actual appearance of a deity (Moses receiving the Ten Commandments; Job meeting the Whirlwind; etc).

Wikipedia has some interesting web pages explaining these terms in greater detail. I especially enjoyed reading their page on theosophy, and think it would provide some useful insight for the discussions we sharing having on this blog:

 

Catholic

 

“Catholic” simply means “universal.” Everyone who is “catholic” claims to represent a Universal Church of Jesus Christ. Some churches take this to imply division between them and the rest of the world (the traditional Roman Catholic Church(RCC) view), and others take this to mean all of Christianity -if not all of humanity- is within the “universal” church of the Christ (the Old Catholic Church (OCC) view). It is worth observing this strongly stated position of the RCC has actually been softened since Vatican II, and appears to be slowly changing more broadly. Pope John Paul II was well known to have expressed views that all sincere religious paths are valuable. So the official RCC position on the plurality of faiths is more accommodating than I often find in “street” encounters.

 

Apostolic

 
“Apostolic” means your line of bishops can trace a physical laying on of hands, bishop-to-bishop, all the way back to the time of the original apostles, some 2,000 years ago. Needless to say, written records able to document this are in short supply 😉 so much of the early “lines of succession” are supported by traditional belief as opposed to hand-written records maintained for these past 2,000 years. Speaking from a historical perspective, it is unlikely this was a top priority of the early church. We see this quite clearly in the progression of the state of the churches in the letters of Paul. It is not until the late letters we find references to what we might today consider official clergy members.

 

Independent Sacramental Movement

 

Many members of what is known as the Independent Sacramental Movement are concerned about such matters as apostolic succession and by extension sacramental authority. As a result they have an interesting history of their own. I’m not going to get into this in any great detail. It is rather confusing to me even after having read several books on the topic.

Suffice it to say that following the schism between the “Old” and “New” Catholic Churches (meant with tongue in cheek humour: Old = Old Catholic; New = Roman Catholic) the Old Catholic Church continued to fraction and split apart. We see a parallel to this in the Protestant movement, following the schism instigated by Luther and then Calvin, there are now hundreds of Protestant Churches. Eventually, as we near the end of the 1800’s, the Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) is formed (as a branch within the OCC). None of the other churches are very large when compared to the Roman Catholic Church (which comprises approximately half of the world’s Christian population, and about 25% of the Christian population of the United States).

I mention the LCC because my church borrows from some of their liturgy. Their founding bishops did a great deal of research to ascertain what they could of the early church liturgy, and at the same time dropped most of the negative, fear-based language in the liturgy which had found its way into the Roman liturgy in the Middle Ages. The result is to my mind a more uplifting and “ascending” liturgy. And I truly believe we are better served worshipping in praise than by subjecting ourselves to self-hate, or fear.

One might also note the Old Catholic Church believes in “unity in diversity.” Therefore, they offer greater diversity in both belief and practice across their churches than is characteristic of either the Roman Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox churches. I personally find this very appealing.

Which, provided we ignore the vast series of schisms which took place on the Protestant side of the fence, I believe finally brings is to the point we can compare some of the key beliefs of the RCC and OCC, and when speaking specifically of the church to which I belong (EEC), adding some of the LCC influences.

Stay tuned to the same Bat Channel! heheh

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