The message that Jesus brought was never a condemning one, or a set of beliefs to be adhered to under fear of punishment. It was, rather, a message of individual freedom, of each of us being a manifestation of Divinity itself, of love actually being the center that holds all things together, and of an invitation to recognize Divinity within all creation and within other people as the source of an ever-more-happy life.
The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit is a group of world-wide Catholic dioceses (organizations) which try to pay attention to this beauty and to understand what it means, in order to bring more meaning and joy into our own lives at every moment. We try not to be pious, stiff, judgmental or demanding. We support each other when we are down, and encourage each other when things are going well.
The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit (“Catholic” here is used in its earliest meaning: “universal”) welcome everyone, no matter their denomination or religion, if this core spiritual perspective and personal trajectory resonate with you. Religious institutions are like “clubs” … various clubs use various techniques to bring about certain end results. The end result of the spirituality of them all – certainly of Jesus! – was that each person become the loving embodiment of God, who is the all-pervasive Giver of life and existence to us all.
There is no reason people cannot belong to various insightful organizations at the same time (even if those organizations are churches), as long as those people are getting something from the groups to which they belong and generally believe the perspective of the groups to which they belong.
We often work independently, and sometimes meet as small groups with no intentions of becoming giant mega-churches; that is not the CDOS chrism. We do not want to become impersonal or “institutional.” We are primarily into many forms of spirituality and spiritual structures besides Sunday morning services.
We are looking for ways to bring the attention of the 80% of the US “church”-avoiding population and those who get little from institutional church (higher percentages in other countries) to the spirituality-within that they seek. We hope to present the Jesus-Message in more relevant ways, and draw attention to its life-giving beauty in contemporary circumstances.
We are, also, very “secular.” That is because we know that God is the beginning, the source, the substance and the sustaining force of the entire physical universe and all the life within it. Nothing is more “secular” than God. This is God’s gift to us, so that we might, in this physical life, come to an ever-greater realization of the life of God living within us. We, therefore, love this earth and all the people in it.
The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit are fully-Catholic models of Christianity as it was practiced by the early Christians. They had no dogmas, no creeds, and no doctrines – but rather they were followers of “The Way” in wanting to live their lives like Jesus invited them to. That is what we want.
We are not an “independent” Catholic Church, because that is a contradiction. Because there is only ONE baptism (i.e., if you are baptized in one Christian denomination and join another, you are not re-baptized), only ONE Body of Christ, there is, therefore, only ONE Church. All Christians are members of it.
Originally, Catholics who loved the spirituality but thought the rules were an embarrassment began groups which were a home for those who had been rejected by the Roman Catholic Church because of some man-made rules that have nothing to do with the Christ Message (e.g., divorced, gay, living together, can’t buy the whole parcel of dogmas and doctrines, birth control, etc.).
At the time, they did away with a host of other rules that had emerged over the centuries, also not from Christ and now clearly harmful to individuals (e.g., married priests, women priests, and LGBT priests, are realistically needed and appropriate). What emerged from that was the recognition that, once those matters, which really are of secondary importance to the beauty of the Gospel message, were disposed of, there came the clearly recognized freedom within this great blessing we have in Jesus and the example of his life.
It became more and more obvious that love without judgment and a Body of Faith without dogmas or doctrines (i.e., you do not have to believe it the same way everybody else does or has) are just what the world needs today, as it was in Jesus’ time.
We are small in organization, but large in the “audience” that wants to hear what we say … because it resonates in their heads and in their hearts. We are formulating what it means to scrub away the encrustations of Christianity that stand in the way of real Christian and “catholic” spirituality.
The innate resonance that we are one with the indwelling God is the message most people already believe, even though they may never have articulated it. People who do not go to church, people who do not feel themselves even Christian, people who have been bored or insulted away from the Catholic Church or any church — all these people feel at home with this liberating message of love that is the basis of the Gospel and the lifeblood of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit.
All groups need leaders, people from within who naturally create pastoral structures, even if loose and not overly-burdened with regulations. The designation of these leaders within the church has historically been a process called ordination. In the Catholic tradition, apostolic succession has been seen as continuity from the time of Jesus, but we are always cognizant that the Spirit flows where it will, and is not restricted by humanly-imposed limitations.
For those who follow lines of apostolic succession, the lines of Bishop Burch, and those whom he ordained, are documented from the Petrine (Roman), Russian Orthodox, Orthodox Church of Antioch, and Athanasius (Malabar) churches of Catholicism. Within the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, ordination to the priesthood is felt as a reasonable conclusion to the movement of God’s Spirit within God’s people, and it is a pastoral process.
Leaders are a necessary part of any organization, and accepting ordination is the way they are designated within the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit. Being a priest without the institutional power of the Roman church can be difficult, because there is no financial back-up. But it is exceedingly rewarding.
Because our priests are free to give the Christian message without the “company line” that so often does not work any longer. The rewards of helping people to find their own spirituality are immense. The diocese can help by giving their priests and deacons formats on how to start wedding and funeral ministries that do much good and help bring in a little income as well. Many priests have to have a regular job as well as their priestly ministry, but most prefer that anyway.
We are very cognizant of how important knowledge is to a priest. Only by knowing history, theology, scriptures, counseling and mystical life in God will a person feel the sufficient self-confidence to put forth his or her ministry, and only with it will that ministry be received effectively. For all priest and deacon applicants, we want to know what, if any, spirituality studies they many have had, and if they are willing to study at home under our teachers and mentors in order to fill any pastoral gaps.
While there are indeed many people who think like we do, they are hard to round up. Most fear separation from that which they have known all their life, even though it does not satisfy them. Moreover, our diocese is not large.
We have the same Body of Faith (the way people through the ages understood the message of Christ) as all Catholics/Christians. While some may have their own beliefs, doctrines, creeds, etc., the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit will not allow any of our members to IMPOSE dogmas, creeds or doctrines on others (e.g., parishioners, those receiving sacraments, those being counseled, etc.).
People are free to believe what they want to believe … because they do anyway! God made us this way, with consciences. They become a part of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit if what we stand for motivates them. What moved people to understanding centuries ago (even decades ago) is no longer the viewpoint that brings insight today. The challenge is to constantly be interpreting “Who is Christ for me today?” and “How am I to recognize God in myself and others today?”
We are part of the Catholic tradition for many reasons, some tangible and some not so. Catholicism has taught (though often forgotten to practice) that we are “sanctified”, temples of the Holy Spirit, made in the image and likeness of God. We start off loved, in other words, and not as sinners (gets rid of the bent man-made theology of “original sin”). We love the mysticism and spirituality of so many people in the Catholic tradition throughout the ages … mostly the average people, not so much the hierarchy that was so often scandalous.
We like a liturgy well done, something that has some structure to it, yet remains human, warm, inspirational. We honor the love for the poor and the sense of social justice that was Jesus’ message and the backbone of the Catholic Church even through its worst moments. We find some common thread permeating apostolic succession and the continuity from the early church, even while recognizing that most of this did not come from Christ (that is alright), but was structural accommodations throughout history (as it should have been, and as it gives us a lesson today to do likewise).
Yet, we are NOT “Roman.” We simply do not follow any “company line.” In the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit there are no tangential things you must believe, or things you must do in order to avoid hell (is there any place “hell” other than what we temporarily create?). You come to our diocese and you stay here only because you basically agree with our perspective on Christian spirituality.
Rarely does anyone believe every detail of Christianity the same as another. Ours are dioceses where we look to see what Jesus said about our relationship with God, and to follow Jesus as an example. We prefer to do what Jesus did: to offer ideals and non-judgmental love. He himself was a pretty smart fellow; if he had wanted to write a rule book, he would have written a rule book. Obviously, he did not.
“Love without judgment” is a constant challenge for us all. Because God lives in every person, in every creature, and in all of creation, then none of us have a right to put down whatever else God obviously loves and sustains. Even in the worst of us, God never steps out and says “I’ll be back when you finish that!”
We break beyond our limitations when we gain insights from others who do not think like us, have different backgrounds and experiences, and thus different perspectives. The world would be a mighty boring place if so many people’s wishes were granted that everyone be just like them.
We have great freedom of thought, no litmus tests of orthodoxy (Jesus would not pass the Vatican’s litmus tests today), and great acceptance of new attempts to think out the wonderful Christian message. We try, try, and keep trying, to understand Christ’s living out of our relationship with God in the world in which we live.
We experiment with insights. We put it in new, “lowest-common-denominator” phrasing. We stretch theology. We use new scientific discoveries about the God who sustains all the universe. And it is gradually working! People who have not articulated the spirituality they have, perk up and announce they “got it”!
For those who might be interested in our priesthood or diaconate, we honor all those who have a job or other life obligations while being a priest or deacon. For many of us, it is a necessity. For many others it is part of a beautiful, integrated life, one that keeps them in tune with human reality.
It should not be forgotten that we have no large institutional backing like the Roman Catholic Church. What we begin we must recognize that it will pay for itself (and make us a living) or it will fail. Our initiatives may be intellectually more bold, but our physical undertakings are incremental by necessity! This is not easy. It requires a trust in God that is practical and every-day. For those who are easily discouraged, it would be doubly difficult.
In our church we have gay priests, married and unmarried men and women priests. Within our limited structure, all are free to live the Christian gospels and to set their local ministries up, with minimal to no outside (i.e., hierarchical) interference. We also have priests who are also ministers in good standing in other denominations or religions; they only have to also have a generally similar spiritual perspective as that expressed by the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit and presented on these pages.
Apostolic succession is important to us, and to all Catholics, though it appears to be of human origin and not from Jesus, and, so, not a necessity to God’s graces. It is the continuity, the life-stream, the connection throughout the ages with the apostles. The bishops of this diocese support and encourage our Christian/Catholic people, and do not restrict them.
To Christ, there were no barriers. Everyone was welcome. By this then shall we be known also: that we love one another.