By Laws

10/12

Organizational Structure of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit

INTRODUCTION

The purpose for the existence of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit (CDOS) is two-fold.  First is to provide a structure to understand, live and make known the beautiful and freeing Good News proclaimed and lived by Jesus.  We make absolutely no claims that membership in any spiritual organization or church is “necessary for salvation” or is the “only way to God,” but rather acknowledge that we are and always will be – as human – an imperfect organization composed of imperfect (but working on getting better) human beings.  Our Communion of dioceses is here to continually perfect the understanding of Jesus’ message and to present this wonderful spiritual perspective to others, who will be free to choose it or not, as their individual needs express themselves at that time in their eternal growth.

The second is to invite people into a lived experience of the Good News of Jesus’ message by becoming involved in some type of ministry, either paid or volunteer, whereby they utilize their Spirit-given gifts and reach out to others in their time of need in a healing manner.

We feel that the sum of our parts (our people) will always be more than the whole, that we encourage and support one another in and through our overall worldwide Communion and local communities, through spiritual and ministerial activities. We have no barriers to anyone who would dedicate their lives in a special way to making this beauty of the Jesus-Message known by seeking to be members of one of our dioceses: men and women are welcome to ordination and membership and they are also heartily welcome as non-ordained members, married or single, straight and gay, old and young, educated and self-educated.  Everyone is welcome as a Member.  Criteria for serving as an Ordained Member are pastoral and welcoming.  As long as a prospective Member or Ordained Member holds to the essential “Catholic” (i.e., “universal”) theology of Jesus – that Divinity lives within everything and everybody, that everything and every individual is an individuated manifestation of God, fueled with the existence and love that is God/Loving Consciousness, and that this life is the way we are given to experience that by aligning ourselves with the workings of the universe as revealed by Jesus – then our Members and Ordained Members alike are welcome even if they belong to other Christian denominations or other religions.

These By Laws, Organizational Structure, are not written in granite.  In fact, they probably become outdated as soon as they are published, for that is the nature of our humanity: growth and change. We anticipate constant revisions to keep up with the times.  Our goal – which will be a constant challenge – has been to provide a structure enough to stay a viable, breathing, loving entity, but never to allow us to creep into dictatorial, patriarchal (or matriarchal), authoritarian, clerical, control mechanisms.

We are a Communion and a group of communities composed of spiritually kindred individuals, who love this world and the people in it (with all their/our faults) and who seek to become our better selves every new day, primarily through the Christ-Message, but also by being open to all the other revelations of Loving Consciousness in this world.

While we see as our particular charism the day-to-day lived spirituality that is meaningful and uplifting for our times and the re-framing of the Christian message in terms, concepts and contemporary mindsets so as to present it as relevant today as it was in Jesus’ time, we also acknowledge that people are where they are.  While the reason most people today are turning from church is that they no longer find it relevant, and we seek to change that, we also honor those who do find the mystery and spirituality of the past to be life-giving, and our members also seek to minister to those people. The old model of church/parish is that the people are required to come to the church building, but more and more (e.g., see “Europe” and the same growing trend in the USA) that model is fading.  In the new model, the ministers have to lovingly infiltrate to where the Communion is in its work world, clubs, activities, social gatherings, etc. and bring, first by example, the Good News of Jesus.

I. COMMUNITIES

“Communities” are not limited to small communities of faith which gather periodically for spiritual sustenance, encouragement, growth and Eucharist – though this is one ideal. There are also Communities of special interest, studies or activities, such as hospices, chaplaincies, education, pastoral outreach, existing membership groups, etc. The Eucharist has a special place in all Catholic spirituality, because it was the way Jesus asked us to observe and live his essential teaching, that everything is composed of God. The Eucharist is an essential part of our lives in whatever ways we may emphasize it in all our myriad current and future conditions.

The Call to be Friend/Minister within any of our diocesan ordained ministries must always be heard in relation to what is said by all the members of that person’s Community or Diocese.  We say “Friend” Minister, because – throughout these By Laws – “Friend” emphasizes the mutual respect, care and devotion to each other that is essential to any Christian relationship.

Nothing will limit the positive personal decisions of each member, made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, even though at times these need to be discerned also by the person’s Community and/or his/her Priest or Bishop, adding their assistance.

Our members are encouraged to not criticize other members of their communities, other communities, those who serve in ordained roles, or other Churches, dioceses, rites or Religions. We know that what we emphasize and life offers a resonant attraction to the deepest desires in a great many people. But we also recognize that other people are in other places, and they are where they need to be in the next step of their eternal growth. With those people, we chose not to argue, but to gently and politely “shake the dust from our sandals” move on to others who are looking for what we can express.

The members of our Communities are free to assist and participate in, or be members of, other Churches, dioceses, rites and Religious Celebrations, as long as those other entities are not in direct and material conflict with our diocese’s essential perspective and purpose. Our Diocese is ecumenical to its core because that is the way God made the world. This ecumenical core is to be in communion and not in submission to any particular denomination as a matter of choice and faith.

II. MINISTERS/FRIENDS TO THE COMMUNITIES

“There are many gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Teacher; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy or preaching; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of communication skills; to another empathetic understanding of differences. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person she wishes. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” (I Cor. 12:4-12)

Within the Church, and consequently in the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, ministerial Calls exist for the service of people in or through various communities, and not to impose authority over others.

Our purpose is not to establish a hierarchy in which one ministry is seen as having more power than another and in which a “top-down” mentality prevails. Rather, we follow the inspiration and practice of the early Christian Church and recognize the development of various ministries for the service they bring to the needs of the members and of the world at large. The ideal is service and dialogue among all members, at all times, and in all places.

For this reason, all the designations for all the Callings in our Diocese will quietly have the technical designation “Friend” as part of their titles, so that all, especially those who are the ministers, can remember this: neither “above” nor “below” but journeying “with”, as a companion, in friendship. However, shortened versions of those titles will usually be used.

“You know that in the world the recognized rulers lord it over their subjects, and their great men make them feel the weight of authority. This is not the way with you; among you, whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be the first must be the willing slave of all.” (Mark 10:42-43)

Anyone is welcome to express the belief that he/she has a particular Call to be a Minister/Servant. There is no restriction for anyone who has received a Call to be a Servant, due to gender, race, physical challenges, age, sexual orientation, or other differences, although generally Priests will be at least 25 years old and Bishops 35, unless the Communion chooses a younger one.

There are six different Callings recognized in our Diocese: Baptized Christian, Deacon, Community Priest, Diocesan Priest, Provincial Bishop, and Principal Bishop. Generally each Call to a particular service needs to have already served in the preceding, either within or out of the Diocese, for a sufficient time to mature. We always emphasize that the only real prerequisite for each Call is that it come from the Holy Spirit, and be recognized by those who elect or receive those for ordination or service and by any Community they may be serving.

We have no objections to individual deacons or priests being members of other churches or religions as well as of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit. As long as a ministerial member of the diocese is in harmony with the thrust and general theology of the CDOS Communion of dioceses, that would not mean that that person could not also be in alignment with other philosophical or theological perspectives, and feel a bond to others, as well.

III. HUMAN TALENTS / CHRISTIAN (MINISTERIAL) ROLES

Our ordained ministers (deacons, priests and bishops) are Preachers / Teachers / Pastoral Leaders / Spiritual Coaches. We are only “Alter Christus” or “Mediators of Christ” or souls “indelibly marked” in as much as EVERY human being is such. Our message and reach is to ALL God’s people as they come to us, everyone, not just Christians or members of our particular ecclesiastical organization. Our goal is to effectively help bring the liberating and joyful message of Jesus to others: “how this life and this universe works; how we are internally aligned with the way God ordered the world, and now is our continuous chance to choose to be in resonance.” That said, we are also grateful for the grace of ordination.

Later in this section we will be distinguishing between a geographic CDOS diocese and a ministerial CDOS diocese.  It is noted that a deacons, priests or bishops who are members of a ministerial diocese are not formal members of the geographic CDOS diocese in which they may reside.

A. CHRISTIANS

To be a “Christian” is the highest Calling in the Diocese and of the Church, because it is the inspiration to follow the life and teachings of Jesus, not out of necessity of being in Jesus’ fold as an end goal, but rather to align ourselves with Divinity Within as he did, and in that way to ultimately achieve perfect happiness, personal joy. Out of this general, great calling, the other functions of Deacon, Priest and Bishop are set as servants to all God’s people – both those within the Diocese, as well as those outside the Diocese, Christians or not. In the Church the baptized Christian Person has the most important position. The deacon is the servant of the People of God; the Priest is the servant of the servers (Deacons) and the people; and the Bishop is the servant of the servant of the servants (priests) and of them all. In this way the structure is a “structure for service” not for power. Therefore the Ordination to the services (= ministries from the Latin “ministrare” which means to serve) is to deepen the presence of the Holy Spirit, to make a more fruitful action, each grade is a deeper grade/level of the Holy Spirit, and not a tool of or for power.

As to the gifts of the Spirit, some of which are suggested in the Acts of the Apostles, once one is a Christian, no Calling is more important than another. This was shown by Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles. Each Calling is equally important in the eyes of Jesus. We too choose this same belief and practice among ourselves. Neither pride nor jealousy was part of the life of Jesus.

We strive to always remember that we are all a priestly people. Everyone in our Church is called to follow Jesus equally. Non-ordained Christian people often follow Jesus in a profound way because they follow Him in lives which are very real, immersed in the world given us by God. The ordained members of the Diocese must always remember that they are Servants of the Christian people in their communities, following the example of Jesus.

Other than our ordained members, we do not know and will never know how many “members” our diocese has, because we are purposely not structured like the classic “churches,” nor the Roman model of Catholicism, nor the Evangelical, nor the Orthodox. Those who presently resonate with this message we preach (preaching in any of its myriad forms) can legitimately call themselves “members of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit” – even while being members of other religions or denominations or while being humanists, and even while espousing a myriad of spiritual beliefs or customs. Some may choose to formally join the diocese as ordained or non-ordained members; others may not. There are no file cabinets in heaven, as there are too often here on earth, to split people into their separate categories of exclusion. Like the earliest church, those associated with us desire to follow the original Jesus as we understand him today – at this time, in this place, not necessarily as he has been added on to over the centuries. We would hope that people who adhere to our spiritual perspective would be recognized because they love others and have joy in their lives (Leon Bloy: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God”). They would not be recognized by an adherence to a magisterium, to doctrines, creeds or dogmas – which were of only minor importance to the original followers of Jesus. In adhering to the full Body of Faith passed down from the Apostles through the centuries, we do what every time has done: ask what this means for us and how we best implement the power of Jesus in our own lives.

B. FRIEND/DEACONS

Following the teaching of the Acts of the Apostles, all Deacons are called to serve their Communities and assure that all are being ministered to. In our Diocese, the diaconate has the same position as in the Acts of the Apostles, that is, a direct and visible service to the Communion. The Deaconate is not necessarily a step to priesthood.

There may be as many Deacons in a Community as the Community deems necessary. The Deacons generally are elected by the Community they serve. Following the practice of the Apostolic Church, anyone moved by the Spirit, who has the permission of the Community, may preach during the Eucharists.

The Community, in union with their Priest, may remove a Deacon from his/her functioning Call for grave reasons.

C. FRIEND/COMMUNITY PRIESTS

Community Priests are generally elected by the Community then acknowledged by the local CDOS, or they are selected by the Bishop for evangelization/marketing service in specific fields, and they are presented to their Bishop for ordination. All the decisions concerning ordinations are made by the Bishop, often after the election by candidate’s Community. Since our most important Ministries are to preach and to heal the broken (and – as an integral, reciprocal part of that process – to heal our own brokenness), all our Priests must be able to demonstrate these gifts. However, we will always attempt to be gentle and non-judgmental.

Community Priests elected to celebrate the Eucharist only for their specific Small Communities of Faith or for their specific field of ministry do not need as much study as DiocesanPriests who usually will have obtained theological degrees, ideally at least at the Master’s level, but they need the approbation of their Bishop to be ordained. In this way there will hopefully always be a Community Priest to celebrate the Eucharist when the Community gathers. A Bishop may ordain a Priest who has not been elected by the Community for specific ministerial work not associated with Communities of Faith.

All the members of all the Communities generally will be called by their first names, including the Deacons, Priests and Bishops. Any member of any Community is free to approach any Community or Diocesan Priest – as a representative of all the People of God – for what used to be called “confession,” which is more closely appreciated now as a rededication / a reconciliation / a commitment to start over fresh.

D. FRIEND/DIOCESAN PRIESTS

Diocesan priests may be elected by the Community and presented to their Bishop for ordination, or they are selected by the Bishop for evangelization/marketing service in specific fields. Decisions concerning ordinations are made by the Bishop, often after the election by candidate’s Community. Since our most important Ministries are to preach and to heal the broken (and – as an integral part of that process – to heal our own brokenness), all our Priests must be able to demonstrate these gifts. However, we will always attempt to be gentle and non-judgmental.

Diocesan Priests with theological certificates – elected to celebrate the Eucharist for various Communities of Faith, and for their specific fields of ministry – require a degree of study which will mark them as Diocesan Priests able to communicate effectively with a wider range of people, and on a par with their peers, and who have attained a degree of scholastic recognition, at least equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.  Such scholarship could be self-learned, but is generally the product of university training.

All the members of all the Communities generally will be called by their first names, including the Deacons, Priests and Bishops. Any member of any Community is free to approach any Communion or Diocesan Priest – as a representative of all the People of God – for what used to be called “confession,” which is more appreciated now as a rededication / a reconciliation / a commitment to start over fresh.

E. FRIEND/ BISHOPS

Any Bishop not the Principal Bishop of the CDOS family of dioceses will have as his/her title “Bishop”, i.e. as a friend/bishop for all the people of God, but with loving obligations especially in his/her particular geographic or ministerial “province” of activities.

There are geographic dioceses within the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, e.g., “the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit in the Philippines” or “the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit in Kenya.”  These geographic dioceses are all a part of the overall Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, and they are headed by the loving leadership of their own bishops, who are themselves also members of the larger worldwide Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, and who will have pledged to follow these By Laws.

ROLE OF THE BISHOP

A Bishop in the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit does not have much of the job description generally associated with a bishop of the Roman Catholic rite (e.g., administrator, “superior,” owner of real estate holdings, etc.). A Bishop in the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit is a mentoring focus of a specific ministry or of a group of Communities of Faith, a hub of a concentric circle of spiritual influence, influencing and serving the rippling effects of his/her ministry. Bishops have, among others, the following responsibilities:

  • To discern, under the Holy Spirit, concerning the approbation of the callings to be Priests, and to celebrate their ordinations. All ordinations are to be immediately reported to the Principal Bishop for registration within the Communion of  CDOS dioceses.
  • To direct the administration of his/her geographic area or specific ministry with other deacons and priests in that sphere of ministry, and to help in the guidance of the worldwide Diocese under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
  • To make all necessary decisions for the highest good of his/her ministry, and the people in it, and to make known the CDOS opportunity for all those interested.
  • To orient all the ministers and Communities concerning what Jesus and the Apostles, and our Tradition say, and – most especially – to promote the particular spiritual charism of CDOS.
  • To celebrate, animate and make sure that the liturgies in his/her ministry and throughout his/her diocese are living liturgies, nor mere rites.

 

NAMING NEW BISHOPS

A priest must be presented to the Principal Bishop by any Bishop in the family of CDOS Dioceses in order to be considered as a candidate for ordination to the episcopacy. A Priest who meets the qualifications of Bishop may then be ordained a bishop, but usually only after at least three years as a priest. The Principal Bishop will make that decision in his/her sole discretion. If the Principal Bishop either decides to or declines to ordain a Priest a Bishop within the Diocese, the Principal Bishop may be overridden by a 60% vote of all the Bishops. Any Bishop may call for a vote of all the Bishops, and that Bishop shall communicate to the other Bishops why he/she feels the individual should be ordained a Bishop. Votes may be by email and shall be emailed to both the Bishop asking for the vote and to the Principal Bishop at the same time.

There will be Priests who do not wish to be ordained Bishop, because they do not choose to engage in all the activities of a Bishop. This could be for any number of reasons, including health, retirement, job-related time or other obligations, etc.

Bishops will refer to the Principal Bishop of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, the names of the candidates presented by themselves or by the Priests within their specific ministries for the calling to be Provincial Bishop. Only the Principal Bishop, after consultation with the Bishops of the Diocese, and after prayer for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, may name the Bishops, but he/she does so within the consensus of the Bishops’ judgment, but is subject to their 60% override as described above. It is expected that the Principal Bishop will accept the judgment of the local CDOS diocese unless the Principal Bishop believes that the nominated Bishop will not reflect the CDOS mindset or lifestyle.

Generally new Bishops will be named directly by the Principal Bishop, for new areas of ministry. All the Bishops must listen to the advice of their respective counselors before making any major decision. The counselors must always give their counsel based on what the Holy Spirit speaks to them, always seeking to be conduits for good.

When a Bishop of a geographic area or specific ministry retires from active service, dies, or is removed by the Principal Bishop, the new Bishop for that geographic area or specific ministry will be elected, after being put in prayer, by all the Priests, Deacons and non-ordained CDOS members within that ministry, and must be approved by the Principal Bishop.  If the Principal Bishop does not approve of the election of that individual, the Principal Bishop’s decision may be overridden by a subsequent vote of 60% of the eligible voters.  If the Principal Bishop’s decision is not overridden then the elected individual will not become the Bishop.  If the Principal Bishop’s decision is overridden, then there will be another, subsequent and immediate election, and the individual previously eliminated will not be eligible to be nominated or elected.

Whenever possible, although it is not obligatory, there will be three Bishops who ordain a Bishop, following the ancient custom. Deacons, Priests and Bishops all receive their faculties to exercise their Calling from their ordination. Priests and Bishops also receive their Call through and from their Communities.

TERM

The Bishop of a geographic or specific ministry within the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit may initially be appointed by the Principal Bishop, but he/she becomes subject to a four-year term election upon two events: at least  five (5) years in office, and at least 10 CDOS members in his/her diocese.  Elections will take place at every fourth year, at the local year Diocesan annual general meeting (see below), and will serve for the subsequent four years.  He/she will be installed at the end of the meeting which elects him/her.  Elections for local geographic and specific ministry Provincial Bishops will be held at the Council/Convocation of that local Diocese next held every fourth year, or at the Leadership Annual Convocation (see below), as may be best determined by the parties, after the initial appointment of the Bishop by the Principal Bishop.  The records of the local geographic or specific ministry within the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit will transfer to each new local Bishop from the previous Bishop.  The Bishop lives wherever he/she wishes within the diocese he/she leads, and there is no set geographic location for the headquarters of each Diocese.  Should the local Diocese in the future acquire a headquarters, the local geographic Bishop will not be required to live there or nearby, but may if he/she wishes.

REMOVAL OF A BISHOP

The Bishop may be removed from office is he/she seriously impairs the work of the diocese and the members within his/her diocese, causes grave scandal by his/her actions, or materially neglects his/her responsibilities by laziness or by incapacitation.  Removal may not be for character flaws, but may often result from health reasons of prolonged incapacitation.  In order to be removed, the Principal Bishop will serve notice to the Bishop being removed, while at the same time notifying the other Bishops of this move and seeking their advice by email.  If 40% of the other (not the Bishop named for removal) Bishops do not object, the subject Bishop will be removed from office, but will still be a Bishop (because all ordination is permanent) with only duties of a priest in good standing in that diocese and in the family of CDOS dioceses, unless removed from that standing as well.  If 40% or more of the other Bishops object to that Bishop’s removal, he/she will not be removed, but will remain in term.

F. THE PRINCIPAL BISHOP

The spiritual and administrative leader of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit shall be the Principal Bishop.

ROLE OF THE PRINCIPAL BISHOP

To have as his/her first Calling, to listen to the Holy Spirit about all aspects of the Mission and concerns of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, and to encourage all the other Friend/Ministers have this same approach. In that vein, then, to administer and manage the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit within the framework and spirit of these By Laws.

  • To call a Convocation every two years of all the Provincial Bishops and Senior Staff – also welcoming any Priests, Deacons and non-ordained Members, and all the others who may wish to attend as advisors.
  • To represent the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit before governments, societies, and other spiritual/religious or secular communities.
  • To foster the unity of the Church, of the Diocese and of the Bishops and all Members within our Diocese in particular.
  • To make the final decision, after prayer for the Inspiration of Holy Spirit, when no consensus could be reached in the previous levels. Decisions that cannot be made on a given level are always referred to the next level until a consensus decision can be reached.
  • To make the final decision concerning any removal of a Bishop. In grave and urgent cases the Principal Bishop may remove a Bishop directly with the council of his/her advisors, as detailed above.
  • To appoint new Bishops when the need arises and the Holy Spirit so inspires.
  • To make the necessary decisions for the good of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, after consulting with the other Bishops of the Diocese on important matters.
  • To begin and respond to initiatives with other branches of the Universal Catholic Church, and have ecumenical relations with all other Churches and Religions.
  • The Principal Bishop will be the repository for all records of all members of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit – the other Bishops, the Priests, the Deacons and the other Members, and will hold all records necessary for the administration of our family of dioceses.

SELECTION AND TERM

The Principal Bishop will be elected by all the Bishops, deacons, diocesan priests, Community priests and other non-ordained members of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit. Generally, to be elected Principal Bishop, one needs to have exercised the ministry of Bishop within a CDOS Diocese for at least two years.

(The original Principal Bishop, who started the diocese in 1999 which eventually became this Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, was James H. Burch of Clifton, Virginia USA.  In the early years, the development of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit was slow, and did not encourage the changing of leadership.  As of this re-writing of these By Laws, in 2012, James H. Burch is still the Principal Bishop, although this is not a life role.  The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit has now developed and grown, and attracted inspiring individuals, so that it is now proper that a process for election of the Principal Bishop be put on track.)

Beginning in the year 2014, the Principal Bishop will be elected at every other two year Diocesan general meeting, and will serve for the subsequent four years. He/she will be installed at the end of the meeting which elects him/her. The records of the Diocese will transfer to each new Principal Bishop from the previous Principal Bishop. The Principal Bishop lives wherever he/she wishes, and there is no geographic location for the headquarters of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit. Should the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit in the future acquire a headquarters, the Principal Bishop will not be required to live there or nearby, but may if he/she wishes.

IV. ADVICE AND PARTICIPATION

Each level of the Diocese will seek the counsel of its members, so that the Spirit of collegiality can represent the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There are no requirements of a quorum, although generally two or three, depending on the level, ought to be present. It is presumed that, should a quorum not be present, everyone would have been properly notified and included in the opportunity to make decisions. Such advisors are not there to direct, but to aid the Priests, the Bishops, and the Principal Bishop in their discernment. We decide by consensus rather than by majority or plurality. Consensus, of course, does not mean universal approval, but rather a sense that this is the generally preferred course of the members of the Diocese.

V. CONVOCATIONS, GATHERINGS AND REPORTS

At the end of each calendar year all the Bishops must send a report of what has happened in their ministry to the Principal Bishop. Likewise, each priest must send such a report to his/her bishop, and each deacon must send such a report to his/her priest. If they fail twice in this, without an acceptable explanation, they will be automatically suspended from the diocese.

Every two years each Bishop must visit the Principal Bishop, to give a report on his/her Mission. This can take place by the Bishop attending the General Convocation held every second year. This can also take place by the Principal Bishop visiting the Bishop during that bishop’s provincial convocation held yearly.

Every other year, in odd numbered years, there will be a General Convocation of all the Bishops and the Senior Staff (described later) of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.  It will be held in the location announced by the Principal Bishop, preferably a year in advance, and it will always be held in the third week of September.  Every Bishop and every Senior Staff person is expected to attend, unless they are excused by the Principal Bishop for good reason, in which case they must meet with the Principal Bishop by Skype or electronic video conferencing. Any member and any friend of the diocese are welcome to attend public meetings as well.  Should there not be enough members of any individual CDOS geographic or ministerial diocese to have its own convocation, the members of that diocese are expected to make every attempt to attend the General Convocations.

Every other year, in even numbered years, there will be Provincial Diocesan meetings of the various dioceses (geographic or ministerial) of each of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.  They will be held in the location announced by the respective Bishop, preferably a year in advance, and they will always be held in the months of September, October or November.  The Principal Bishop will make every effort to attend these Provincial Diocesan Convocations, so the Bishops should coordinate with him/her to see if a good schedule can be devised.  These Provincial Diocesan Convocations would only be held when there are five or more ordained members in that CDOS diocese.  If there are not five members of a particular diocese, the members of said CDOS diocese should make every effort to attend the General Convocation in order to foster the friendship of Communion.

 

VI. THE STRUCTURE OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESES OF ONE SPIRIT

The general structure – not of administration or of importance, but rather of management – of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit is:

  • Christians – the Body of the Church, the Body of Christ, whom all ordained ministers serve
  • Deacons
  • Communities, headed by a Communion Priest or by a Diocesan Priest
  • Diocesan Priests – priests engaged in full-time, retired or semi-retired ministry
  • Ministries – headed by a Bishop(s), who mentors geographic areas and/or specific ministries and the priests within those geographic areas or specific ministries
  • Principal Bishop – who administers the Diocese and synchronizes the good work of the other Bishops

At the death or resignation or removal of any Bishop, those within that ministry are charged with electing the successor. They will gather as soon as possible to elect that successor. Generally, in the case of resignation, a short period will precede the date, so that the successor may be elected before the date of the resignation, to maintain a smooth transition.

In case of the death or resignation or removal of the Principal Bishop, outside of the usual electoral process, there will be a gathering of all the Bishops (in person or electronically) for the single purpose of electing a new Principal Bishop. This may be done by email, by Skype or some other electronic method and will be administered by the Bishop with the most seniority as a Bishop within the Diocese, unless he/she declines, in which case the election will be handled by the Bishop next in line with seniority within the Diocese.

The Diocese has a record of ordinations. Each Bishop will maintain a full file of the application, resume, head shot photo, welcome letter and certificate of ordination or incardination of each ordained member of his/her diocese, and will forward to the Principal Bishop a full electronic copy of all such material so that the Principal Bishop will have a record of all ordained members of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.  As non-ordained members now join through the Internet at this time, the Principal Bishop will also maintain a record of all non-ordained members as well.  The other Bishops may maintain records of those non-ordained members in their areas of care as well.

Selection and Removal of Ordained Persons

Each election for Principal Bishop will require sixty percent (60%) percent majority, unless, after four votes, no new Principal Bishop has been selected, in which case the subsequent votes will require a 50% majority to elect a new Principal Bishop. If after generally seven attempts there is no consensus as above, the person for that office will be chosen by casting lots among the candidates who received at least thirty percent of the votes, as was done in the Acts of the Apostles 1: 26.

The process for removal of any ordained minister – from Deacon to Principal Bishop – will follow the same procedure as that for an election, as above. An ordained minister may be removed for substantial cause (in the sole discretion of those empowered to do so) by the Communion, ministry, bishop or bishops together in the case of considering the removal of the Principal Bishop.  An ordained minister may be removed from his/her duties upon personal request of said individual.  Any minister so removed is immediately relieved of his/her duties and ministry.

Within our collegial decision-making, the different opinions will be presented by someone who represents that point of view. Nothing critical will be said about anyone, any suggestion or any proposal, although the objective facts may obviously be presented. Then, as mentioned previously, all the decisions will be made by consensus. (“The Holy Spirit is not a Spirit of confusion” – 1 Cor. 14, 33.) If a consensus cannot be reached, the decision may be postponed temporarily, but never more than three days. If after a reasonable time, but never more than three days, no decision can be made, the matter will be sent to the next level for resolution. Any difficulty which cannot be resolved in a Communion, Mentoring Bishop, or Diocese shall be sent to the next level.
History of Ordination within the Catholic Church

The Diocese recognizes that ordination is never mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and that its evolution means that its use has changed over the centuries. For a more thorough description of how ordination might be legitimately viewed today, please see the section “About the Priesthood.”

VII. ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL DIOCESES WITHIN THE CATHOLIC DIOCESES OF ONE SPIRIT

Geographic or ministerial Dioceses within the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit have complete and absolute autonomy within these By Laws, and are united to the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit and the other CDOS dioceses spiritually and ecumenically. They may or may not be independent legally (often dependent upon the laws of the country within which they operate, which vary greatly), physically and financially, though they are a part of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit. As such they are a diocese within the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit. As dioceses within our Communion of dioceses, each Provincial CDOS Diocese pledges as it is established and set up within our Communion of dioceses, and each subsequent bishop promises as part of his/her taking of the episcopacy of that diocese, that it will promote the spirituality proclaimed by the Communion of CDOS Dioceses and that it will organize and run itself completely in accord with these By Laws.  They may not operate outside these By Laws.  Should they do that, they agree that they give up the name “Catholic Diocese of One Spirit” or any name that might be confused with it, and they break the bond with the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.

VIII. FINANCES

The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit has a checkbook and an account “The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit”. Policies may be adapted by the Principal Bishop as will facilitate the ease of administration. Three signatures should appear on bank records as being able to each sign checks, one of which will always be the Principal Bishop, who will keep the check book in his/her possession. The financial records of the Diocese will always be open during reasonable business hours to any member of the Diocese who wishes to see them, but they will be kept at the house or office of the Principal Bishop and not maintained elsewhere.

Every member of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit will be asked to contribute a modest monthly sum to be automatically withdrawn from his/her account.  Those who cannot afford to make such a donation will be excused from doing so.  These funds will be used to promote the work of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, to advertise its existence and spiritual stance, to provide travel for the Principal Bishop to visit the Provincial Dioceses, and also to provide funds, at the discretion of the Principal Bishop in consultation with the Director of Charitable Outreach, for the CDOS charitable outreach.

At the discretion of the CDOS diocese itself, any Bishop may establish a separate bank/checking account and obtain voluntary contributions of its members, in addition to that donated to the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, in order to promote the work of that CDOS diocese.

The purely charitable giving of the diocese is handled through its 501(C)(3) partner, the Institute for Catholic Contemporary Spirituality, Inc. and its affiliated charity, Sky’s The Limit. Income to CDOS covers overhead and some charitable giving. Income to Sky’s The Limit goes only to the CDOS charitable beneficiaries.  Both of these other institutions have as their automatic president and chief executive officer the Principal Bishop of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.

IX. RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Each member of the Diocese has the right to be loved and respected, as was shown by Jesus. Each member, and especially each Friend/Minister, has the responsibility to exercise his/her Calling under this same teaching.

Any member of the Communion or any ordained minister who seems to have done anything materially not in keeping with the teachings of the New Testament (everybody does things not totally in keeping) and/or outside of the Inspiration of Holy Spirit will be treated lovingly by his/her Mentor. If the problem or scandal cannot be immediately resolved, the ordained minister may be removed from his/her position as described above in Section VI.

We always see the removing of a Friend/Minister as temporary and any Deacon, Priest, or Bishop so removed may be returned to his/her ministry at any time when it is evident to his/her mentor that the problems that caused the suspension have been rectified. During this time of suspension, and after the return of the person, if appropriate, the person will always be treated with the same love that Jesus would give.

The Principal Bishop may be suspended or removed from his/her office only with the plurality consensus of 60% of the bishops, priests and all members of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, who may make their wished known by email.

X. FORMATION

Our formation candidates generally will be trained near their home and in a Mentor Model. The formation program will be simple, since the basic requirement for diaconate and priesthood is the Call of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, each formation candidate may choose any type of educational training he/she wants, after praying for discernment and consulting with his/her Communion and Bishop. Generally the formation candidates will pay their own costs of formation, or with the help of his/her Communion, at that Communion’s discretion. The Diocese offers its own formation program, administered by the Director of Formation. The Director of Formation will determine if a course of study requested by the applicant will suffice in place of the formation program offered by the Diocese.

In addition to any formation required by the Admissions group within the various dioceses on behalf of the respective Bishop, all incoming members of the diocese will be asked to take the full slate of “Conversations” courses offered by Bishop James H. Burch online. Upon completion of these courses, and upon supervised ministerial work, if needed, and upon other readings that may be put in place between the incoming member and his/her CDOS mentor, the student will be issued a non-accredited degree through the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.  This is to insure that the ordained members of all the dioceses understand the spirituality of Jesus in contemporary terms and are able to communicate it well.

Any formation candidate will receive a formation related to the Communion in which he/she will exercise his/her ministry, always taking into account the customs of each culture. Formation will be near individuals’ homes. In this manner they will not have to leave their culture to enter our Church. The respective CDOS bishop will see to the formation of any minister within his/her diocese, which will include the certificate of degree awarded by the Communion of Catholic Dioceses online as described herein.

An additional general required formation program may be put forth by the Principal Bishop in consultation with and administered by the Formation Director. Any substantive changes to the formation program will be presented to the diocese by the Principal Bishop in order to achieve a consensus.

XI.  ADMISSION TO A DIOCESE WITHIN THE CATHOLIC DIOCESES OF ONE SPIRIT

Ministry is God’s work, and the call of the Holy Spirit Within. It would, therefore, be completely inappropriate to begin the process of how an individual becomes graced through ordination within this Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit by first setting up all the hurdles to be passed in order to be accepted by us. Rather, the proper perspective invites us to ask of the individual what call he/she feels, how it is known to be true, and what that individual has done with that call to date … what activities, works, studies, or deeds of charity that call has set loose within the individual. Ordination within a Catholic Diocese of One Spirit is an acknowledgment, an acclamation, an honoring of an already-existing call of the Spirit.

Once that has been explained to our Discernment Group, someone from that group, plus the individual seeking to have his/her Call honored by ordination and/or acceptance into the Diocese, will together discern what gaps there may be in the individual’s development that may need to be filled prior to ordination and/or acceptance into the Diocese, which would then allow that person to function well in his/her new capacity, and which gaps there may be that need to be filled subsequent to his/her ordination and/or acceptance.

We do not wish to erect barriers to the Call of the Spirit of God. We wish to enhance the individual, so that he/she can more readily and easily function in that accredited role. The historical barriers of men-only, celibate-only, heterosexual-only, highly-educated-only, “litmus-test” orthodoxy as judged by others, etc. – all are jettisoned here. We apply the practical standards seen in the Acts of the Apostles, in which the real, down-to-earth challenge of how to spread the Good News brought by Jesus, through people in whom the Spirit was already active, was considered and then acted upon.

Therefore, a person seeking to become ordained a deacon, priest or bishop within the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit should exemplify the following characteristics, in order to effectively communicate that message today. These are the signs of that Call from the Spirit:

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Criteria for Diaconate/Priesthood In the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit

(a) A prayer life that seeks to recognize God in every aspect of daily life … prayer being the concentrated awareness of the presence of God in whatever we might be doing.

(b) A love of people, reflecting the love that Jesus showed for all people and the dignity Jesus respected within them, and rejecting no individual or category of people (as was the lived-style of Jesus).

(c) Although the Diocese imposes no creedal or dogmatic litmus test on applicants, membership implies an understanding of the Body of Faith passed down from the time of Jesus, and a respect and adherence to its call.

(d) A demonstrated (not just hoped-for) desire for service to others through spiritual ministry.

(e) A psychological wellness and wholeness, which allows the individual to get along well with others and to be well accepted by them because of a positive personality.

(f) An education and level of knowledge commensurate with the people he or she is to serve.

(g) A degree of personal adequate financial sustainability without help from the Diocese.

(h) A background free of continuing or overwhelming abuse of others, whether sexually, chemically, psychologically, managerially or otherwise.

(i) A demonstrated ability to be a positive influence on the Communion he or she will serve, and not a drainer of life or one who constantly stirs up problems.

(j) A positive thinker who calls others to recognize God’s love and does not burden them with guilt, beliefs in sinful nature, or debilitating personal reprimands.

(k) An articulate, pastoral promoter of contemporary theology and modern Christian concepts, as may be generally espoused by the Diocese.

(l) For priests and bishops, an ability to lead communal services with a command of language and insights, and an ability to bring life to liturgies without reading from a text or book.

 

(m) For Diocesan Priests only: a Masters of Divinity degree issued by either an accredited institution of higher learning or by the non-accredited Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, through its offered online courses, if and when that might occur.

 

(n) For Deacons and Communion Priests only: a selection of online “conversations” on selected topics offered through the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, as determined by the Principal Bishop or the Provincial Bishop, as advised by the Formation Director, and as decided in each case by the prospective deacon or Communion priest in concert with his/her mentor.

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The Process

The Principal Bishop and each Bishop will appoint a Discernment Group Chairman and two other ordained members of the respective Diocese who will review the applications of those deacons, priests and bishops already ordained through apostolic succession and wishing to join the diocese, as well as those who wish to be presented for ordination or formation leading to ordination. The name of each aspirant and each person seeking incardination will need to be presented to this group for the discernment. This committee will review the scholastic records, the personality of the candidate in reference to the criteria for pastoral work, have a criminal background check performed, and review the candidate’s ministerial work to date, and assess, with him/her, the candidate’s suitability to the charism of our particular Diocese. The purpose of this review will be to begin the discernment with the candidate of his/her call to ministry and what voids, if any, need to be worked on prior to joining our Diocese.

When the Committee has finished its work for each individual applicant, it sends its recommendations for that applicant to the respective diocesan Formation Director, who then works with the candidate to create an educational, ministerial and spiritual program. The Formation Director will also appoint a mentor for that candidate, in consultation with the candidate, which mentor will work with the candidate in all realms of formation. When that candidate is ready for ordination or for incorporation into the Diocese, he/she will be presented by the mentor and the Formation Director to the bishop within the diocese who sponsored him/her, or to the Coordinating Principal Bishop.

It is anticipated that there will be many cases where the individual is as prepared and ready for either ordination or (in the case of those already ordained) admission to the Diocese as an already-ordained deacon, priest or bishop. In such cases, the applicant is sent directly back to the bishop for incorporation or ordination, or perhaps conditional ordination if there is doubt of the Apostolic Succession, within the diocese.

 

Bishops ordained outside the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit and wishing to join CDOS will always be recognized as ordained bishops, but they may or may not serve as a bishop in office within CDOS, unless they fit the requirements of a bishop within CDOS, as determined by the Principal Bishop.  Those who enter CDOS without the portfolio of a CDOS bishop will have the role of a priest, and will be able to help out in ordinations if they can when requested by the CDOS Principal Bishop or Bishop.

Each ordained person joining the Diocese must sign the Code of Ministerial Conduct of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit (Appendix 1).

XII. ABUSES

Generally, there is no reason to enter the personal life of the members of the Diocese, with the exception of abuses; be they emotional, physical or sexual. In a case where there is an accusation that seems to be valid, the mentor of this person must immediately form a group to investigate the circumstances and help the people involved. If, after an initial investigation, it appears that the accusations might reasonably be valid, the person suspected of such perpetration will be immediately suspended. Of course, all laws requiring immediate reporting to civil authorities must be followed meticulously. A thorough investigation will be made by the person’s mentor or bishop and the Committee to determine the validity of the accusation. A final decision will be made by the person’s bishop.

The position of our Church on the subject of a pattern of abuse or a single overwhelming case of abuse is zero tolerance. Jesus himself spoke very clearly and firmly about scandalizing the little ones. It should be noted, in this context, that the lived Christian life is one of healing and renewal. The Diocese will continue to pray for those individuals who have abused others as they repent and seek reconciliation with God. There will be those who fail in the highly-visible faults of sexuality and who then realize their failing ways and change through the grace of God. Those individuals the Diocese must welcome back to ministry with open arms, making certain, however, that the individual does not place himself/herself in – and is not recognized by the Diocese for ministry within – circumstances that can either induce failings as before, or will appear that way to the general public and thus scandalize them. For one whose ministry is by nature public, there should be no appearance of impropriety.

 

The Diocese will continue to minister and support those who have been affected by the abuse of another. If abuse victims have left the fold, we welcome them back with open arms, and a chance to rebuild their relationship with Christ.
XIII. THE LEGAL STRUCTURE

The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit is a voluntary organization of progressive and spiritually-minded persons, operating in the spiritual structure of Catholic/Christian dioceses of the early church, and incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA.  The Diocese neither appoints its ordained ministers to assignments nor pays them any financial rewards whatsoever. No ordained or non-ordained ministers or members are in any way an employee or an agent for the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, or any of its Provincial Dioceses or any of its bishops or officers or other ministers. Rather, each ordained minister chooses his/her ministry, and is helped in that ministry by other ordained and not-ordained people who choose freely to join with him/her. Likewise, neither CDOS nor any Provincial Diocese pays any salary or fees to the ordained minister, but rather that minister derives his/her own income from his/her individual job and work. The commitment of individual deacons, priests and bishops to their work and to CDOS and their local Diocese is based on the mutuality of their spiritual perspectives and vision of ministry with the other members of CDOS and the local Diocese, and not on legal binds. The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit and all the Provincial Dioceses of One Spirit are not liable in any way, including financially, for any infraction of any law or any abuse by any member.

The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit is supported by the Institute for Catholic Contemporary Spirituality, Inc. (“ICCS”), insofar as ICCS chooses and is able. ICCS is a completely separate entity, and was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA, on November 29, 1999 by James H. Burch. It has remained a viable non-profit corporation ever since. ICCS has chosen to support the work of the Diocese whenever it can, and has the capacity to direct donations made to ICCS for the benefit of the Diocese or individual ministries within the Diocese. ICCS may also sponsor other charitable activities besides the Diocese.

ICCS was recognized as being exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in section 501(c)(3). Donations to ICCS are tax exempt. The Principal Bishop of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit will always be president and chief executive officer of ICCS.

Branding and Name Usage “One Spirit Catholic”

  1. The Administrative Office of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit will, whenever possible, use the three word combination “One Spirit Catholic” in all internet linkages, account creations, and other activities that bind sites and web addresses and search terms together.

 

  1. No Diocese or anyone related to the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, including members, individual dioceses, vendors, partners, or others will use the three word combination “One Spirit Catholic” in isolation in web linkages, page names, account names, or any other location on the web or in print or video media.

 

  1. Any Diocese of The Catholic Diocese of One Sprit may use the three word term “One Spirit Catholic” in combination with a modifier (location, service, etc.) that clearly defines that diocese as a member of The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit. Example: “One Spirit Catholic Diocese of Kenya.”

 

  1. All uses of the three word combination “One Spirit Catholic” shall be approved by the Administrative Office of The Catholic Diocese of One Spirit PRIOR to use in any and all web linkages.

 

  1. The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit President, in consultation with the Executive Committee, shall have all authority to approve or deny the use of the three word combination “One Spirit Catholic.”

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