How can the United Catholic Church be Catholic, but not connected to the Roman Catholic Church?
There is only one Catholic Church, but many Catholic denominations. Roman Catholicism represents one understanding among many. It is by far the largest Catholic denomination, and the second largest grouping, the Orthodox family of churches, represents another group that is known to many, but there are many other, mostly smaller churches, as well.
What do you believe?
We are both Christian and Catholic. As Christians, we believe what most Christians believe. We believe in one loving, personal God in three divine persons. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, that he died for us, rose from the dead, and will come again. We believe that we are saved by grace through faith and are made new by the Holy Spirit, and that if we trust in Jesus, our life will change (faith without works is impossible). We believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church made up of all Christian believers. We believe in working for the unity with diversity of the church, the Body of Christ, and in obeying the Great Commandments to love God and love our neighbor.
We are also Catholic, and hold to some beliefs not required of many Protestants. A “Catholic” is one who holds to the universal beliefs of the early undivided church. These beliefs are found in the Scriptures, in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, and in the writings of the Church fathers. We believe that through the Holy Spirit, the sacraments impart the grace which they signify. We believe that through the Apostolic Succession, Jesus empowers clergy for ministry. We believe that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist.
How does the United Catholic Church differ from the Roman Catholic Church?
The United Catholic Church holds to a synodal structure where bishops, clergy and laity all have an active voice in the church. The United Catholic Church also holds to a theology that is centered, not in a prescriptive canon law, but in grace. As we have been embraced by God in love, we who are recipients of this grace are in turn to walk in grace in our dealings with others, letting things unnecessary to the core faith be matters of private belief, and a matter of charity between fellow Christians. In this we follow St. Augustine who said, let there be: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, diversity; in all things, love. In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church’s self-understanding is centered in a hierarchical structure, in which the Magisterium, the body of bishops as a whole, in alignment with the Pope, decides what single interpretation is Christian truth, and how the Christian faith and worship will be practiced by all in that faith group. As a result of these two differences in view, while both the Roman Catholic and United Catholic churches are fully Catholic in our faith, our practice particulars will be quite different.
1. We respect the Roman Pontiff but do not accept the Roman concept of a universal jurisdiction or the idea of papal infallibility.
2. Following St. Jerome, we reject the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books.
3. We do not require belief in doctrines lacking biblical support. The various Marian doctrines therefore lose their status as dogma. People are free to believe in them, but are not required to do so. Likewise, we reject as dogma the non-biblical concepts of purgatory, indulgences, and prayers for the dead, which are unsupported in the canonical books.
4. Prayers to the saints are not a part of our public worship.
5. We use the pre-1054 form of the Nicene Creed (See the document “What Does It Mean To Be Catholic?” for a discussion of the “filioque.”)
6. We have returned to the practice of the early church of having laity participation in the election of bishops, and in alignment with Scripture, which advances the concept of a priesthood of all believers, of having a Synodal-based decision-making process that incorporates laity and clergy participation as well as that of the church’s bishops.
7. We seek to bring our parishioners to a balanced and mature understanding of the faith and to walk in grace, in a church where all are given that same latitude of thought.
8. We believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and hold that the means by how this happens is a mystery, rejecting the various legal formulas that have been proffered as man-made, not revealed.
9. While we discourage divorce, we do not require or believe that an annulment is necessary for a second marriage to take place in the church.
10. We affirm the dignity of all human beings and welcome all Christians to fully participate in the sacramental life of the church.
11. We in the United Catholic Church also believe that, following the example of Jesus, we should dispense the sacraments with great generosity, and should limit the impact of man-made rules in the lives of the faithful.
Can a Protestant or a Non-Denominational Christian fully participate in the life of the United Catholic Church?
Absolutely. Denominations are a creation of man, not Christ. There is only one Body of Christ, and baptism into the Christian faith, regardless of the denomination (or lack thereof), is the point of incorporation of an individual into His Body. We do not put man-made rules above what Christ himself created. All baptized Christians are welcome to participate fully in the United Catholic Church.
Are there other things that give the United Catholic Church a distinctive theological identity?
Yes. Each church has a theological center, which if truly believed, always informs that church in its decision-making and action taking. For example, the Roman Catholic Church without the Pope would still be Catholic but it would be a different church. The concept of the papal office and power is central to the Roman Catholic self-understanding. In a like manner, the Augsburg Confessional Statement is central to what it means to be Lutheran, while the tenet of lex orandi-lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief) and that denomination’s resultant core use of the Book of Common Prayer has traditionally been seen as being central to what it means to be Anglican. The theological center for the United Catholic Church is a theology of grace that is encapsulated for us in Augustine’s statement: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, diversity; in all things, love,” or as it is sometimes translated, charity.
The participation of women, non-hetrosexuals, and transgendered people in the church has created a lot of conflict within Christian groups, both positive and negative. What position does the United Catholic Church hold in this area?
The first thing that can be taken off the table in looking at this, is viewing these items through a social justice lens. Social justice is important to Christian life certainly, but the church and society are separate things, and therefore a church should always have a theological grounding for the position it takes.
The first thing then to look at from our viewpoint is theology, whether these items constitute being matters of faith, the essentials that must be followed by all. No. They are questions of practice that are framed in historical precedent. There is nothing definitive in Scripture or elsewhere that can be applied as a prescriptive answer that demands that the Church do what it has done in the past. Choosing one position or another on these issues therefore does not make anyone more or less Christian or Catholic.
If it is not a question of belief, the next test is how the issue applies to the core tenet that gives a church its unique theological identity. The United Catholic Church holds to the tenet of diversity in the non-essentials, and in all things a walk in charity and love. This holding to diversity in the non-essentials means, that for this church it is neither essential that women be ordained, or that gays be ordained, or that one or the other not be ordained. In practical terms this position means all levels of ordination are open to all people. Our holding to the concept that always, in all things, to show love and charity, also means that the same respect is accorded to every person in the same way. We therefore do not accept, and will not support, the concept that person x can function as a deacon/priest/bishop in one part of the church but not in another because their human attributes somehow offends local sensibilities. This response does not exemplify Christian behavior and it certainly is not a walk that exemplifies charity and love. A walk in grace equally means that this church will not belittle, or condemn, or exclude anyone who possesses a minority view, for holding that view. To do so would turn us into a confessional church that implements a purity standard to satisfy the thinking of either the progressives or conservatives at the expense of the other, on what is a nonessential. It would also strip us of the walk in grace, the living out of love and charity that we in this church prize as part of our understanding of what it means to follow Christ. That loss would be unacceptable.