Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Western Orthodox Christian Church

Western Orthodox Christian Church

Over the course of the past several years we have witnessed countless challenges with the name of our previous Church. Although historically we evolved out of the Old Roman Catholic Church, the path that several of her jurisdictions have taken either reflects poorly on who we are as Orthodox Christians or not at all. 

In 1700s we evolved from the Roman West and became known as the Church of Utrecht or Old Catholic Church. Another evolution ensued when the Roman Catholic Church, at her First Vatican Council, declared the Dogma of Papal Infallibility, resulting in the German Old Catholic Church developing in Munich, Germany with Father Dollinger at the helm. In 1910 Archbishop Arnold H. Mathew of Great Britain declared autonomy from the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht due to their increasing disconnect from historical Christianity and what represents who we are as Christians. Archbishop Mathew’s, to distinguish us from the Old Catholics, nuanced the name of our Church and hence the evolution of the Old Roman Catholic Church. In 1911 Archbishop Mathew reached out to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and arranged through Archbishop Gerasimos Messarra, the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Beirut, the historical Statement of Union and Organic Articles. This exchange was acknowledged by the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. The Old Roman Catholic Church, through the efforts of Archbishop Mathew’s, became the first Western Church to embrace Orthodoxy since the Great Schism of 1054 AD.  The same Church was planted in the United States by the efforts of Archbishop Rudolph de Landas Berghes and Archbishop Carmel Henry Carfora, etc. 

The name “Old Roman Catholic Church” does not correctly represent who we are as Western Orthodox Christians. The name of our Church should have been changed over 100 years ago when we embraced the holy Orthodox Faith. For years this name has clumped us with the likes of the Old Catholics and various Old Roman Catholics who do not have a proper historical sense of their identity. Therefore we are at a historical moment in the life of our Church, our Synod of Bishops and our love for the holy Orthodox Faith. Theologically it does not remain sensible for our Church to be known by a name that does not reflect our beliefs and profession of Orthodoxy. Time and time again, many have been confused by the name “Old Roman Catholic Church.” Many have been confused by us as trying to set ourselves up as some sort of replica of the Roman Catholic Church but without the authority of the Pope of Rome. Catholic laity have tried to understand this name often inquiring of our clergy: ‘Are you under the Pope?’ Some of our clergy who are involved in public ministry, myself included, have had to endure severe attacks by the Roman Catholic Church because they perceived us and falsely accused us of misrepresenting ourselves as ‘Catholic clergy.’ Some have faced the question: ‘What Church do you belong to Father?’ Our clergy who know our history would appropriately answer: ‘I belong to the Old Roman Catholic Church. We are Western Orthodox.’ As true as this statement is, it nonetheless left us explaining ourselves over and over again. This has resulted in many of our beloved clergy, some deceased, facing terrible public humiliations and ministry set-backs because of a name that does not correctly identify us as who we truly are as Western Orthodox Christians. 

It has come to that period in the life of our Church to act and identify our Church’s name with who we are as Orthodox Christians. We are the Western Orthodox Christian Church. Just as the Polish National Catholic Church distinguished itself from the Roman Catholic Church, we, out of respect for the Roman Catholic Church and her faithful, have determined to not use a name that does not appropriately identify who we are ecclesiastically and theologically.

As Western Orthodox Christians we are moving forward united under one banner so that in all things God may be glorified. 

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