1. Name. The name of this organization shall be The Ecumenical Catholic Church. Within these canons it shall be referred to as “this organization,” “this church,” or “this denomination.”
2. Part of the Universal Church. This organization is a constituent member of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church (“the Church”), which unites all Christians throughout the world and throughout history.
3. Incorporated. This organization shall be incorporated in the State of California as a nonprofit religious corporation.
4. Use “Ecumenical Catholic Church.” Each affiliated local parish or other constituent body shall use the name “Ecumenical Catholic Church” as part of its official title.
5. Subject to the Creeds. This organization shall be subject, first and foremost, to the creedal statements established by the Ecumenical Councils of the Universal Church, those being Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon.
6. Subject to Law and Canons. Furthermore, this organization shall be subject to the corporation laws of the State of California, to this organization’s articles of incorporation, and to these canons, so long as they are consistent with the faith of the Ecumenical Creeds.
7. Amendment. These canons are subject to amendment as detailed herein provided such amendment does not contradict the faith of the Ecumenical Creeds.
8. Gendered Language. In cases where language is thereby simplified, these canons may on rare occasion use masculine singular pronouns; in all cases such pronouns shall be taken to apply equally to males and females. This church prohibits sexual discrimination with respect to all of its offices and positions.
9. Consensus Building. These canons create an organization which is hierarchical in nature, consistent with the operation of church polity since ancient times. It is understood, however, that wisdom is not the exclusive possession of the clergy. It is anticipated, therefore, that democratic principles and consultation will be used as means of insight by the hierarchy and that consensus-building will be routine within the operations and decision-making of the church to the extent possible.
1. Worship. The primary purpose of this organization is to worship the One True God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and to be a part of God’s Kingdom, open to all people by faith without regard to race, color, gender, sexual orientation or preference, nationality, or socioeconomic status.
2. Means. In order to obtain this purpose, the organization may establish dioceses, parishes, religious orders, and other institutions; hold worship services; offer sacraments; provide instruction; prophesy to the Church; and evangelize the world.
1. Triune God. This church and all persons in communion therewith shall confess One True God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and Jesus Christ as God the Son incarnate.
2. Nicene Creed. The Creed associated with the Council of Constantinople of A.D. 381 (the so-called “Nicene Creed”) shall be accepted as the definition of Christianity.
3. Apostles’ and Athanasian Creeds. The so-called “Apostles’ Creed” shall be accepted as a valid statement of faith, and the Quicunque Vult, or “Athanasian Creed,” shall be accepted as a valid statement of Trinitarian theology and christology.
4. Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the Tradition of the Church, and human reason and experience shall be the three pillars of Truth by which inspiration, revelation, law, and faith may be tested.
5. Nondiscrimination. This church shall hold no regard for a person’s race, color, gender, sexual orientation or preference, nationality, or socioeconomic class.
6. Baptism. Holy Baptism shall be the primary sacrament, the act by which God accepts a person as His reborn child and sends to that child the Holy Spirit. As the Creed teaches, there is but one Baptism, whether of an infant or an adult, and that Baptism determines membership in the Church. This denomination shall recognize as valid the baptism of any other Christian denomination provided such baptism was performed with water in the Name of the Triune God. Never shall a baptized person knowingly be rebaptized, for to do so would be an act of unfaith and denial of God’s infinite Grace.
7. Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament through which the baptized are fed with the real and substantial Body and Blood of Christ. This sacrament shall constitute the essence of the worship of this church, and all celebrations thereof shall be open to all who are baptized, confess the Creedal Faith, and believe that they are receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ. Inability to confess or believe because of age, mental capacity, or other physical reason shall not be held as a barrier to Communion.
8. Minor Sacraments. The five traditional minor sacraments shall also be performed by this church. In penance Christians receive grace by confessing their sins and offering a sincere attempt to amend their ways. In unction the sick are anointed to receive grace as a means of comfort and assurance of love in times of trouble. The three other sacraments are signs of commitment derived from the primary commitment of Holy Baptism. In confirmation Christians publicly confess their faith in the Lord and commit themselves to Him. In marriage people commit themselves to one another so that together they may better serve God and humanity. In ordination Christians make commitments to one of the special, consecrated, permanent ministries of the Church.
9. One Church. This church confesses that Jesus Christ sought His Church to be one Body which unites all of humanity. To this end, this church shall (a) maintain its membership open to all persons who are in agreement with its doctrinal position and desire to be members and (b) maintain to its best ability an active role in the ecumenical movement, keeping in touch with the remainder of the Church and striving toward the visible unity thereof. Pursuing intercommunion and other ecumenical dialog is both a charge of the primatial office and within the sole jurisdiction of the primate.
1. Baptism. Holy Baptism is the primary sacrament by which a person is dedicated to a life of ministry. This is the priesthood of all believers.
2. Confirmation. By the sacrament of confirmation, baptized Christians make personal public statements of their own faith, committing themselves to the life of an active Christian.
3. Reaffirmation. Upon reactivation of life as a Christian, or upon transfer of membership from another Christian denomination, Christians should reaffirm their confirmation statements in a public rite.
4. Deacons. Some of those persons confirmed are called to a life of more intense dedication and service to their Lord, the Church, and humanity. After proper training and prayerful contemplation, these persons may be received into the diaconate by the sacrament of ordination.
5. Priests. Some of those persons confirmed, including some deacons, are called to a ministry of sacramental service at the Altar of God, celebrating the Eucharist and so representing Christ to the Church in a consistent manner. After proper training and prayerful contemplation, these persons may be received into the presbyterate by the sacrament of ordination.
6. Bishops. Some priests are called to a ministry of apostolic administration and prophecy in the Church, guarding and guiding the faithful. After proper training and prayerful contemplation, these priests may be received into the episcopate by the sacrament of ordination.
1. Primate. One bishop shall serve as primate and archbishop of this church, being the sole and ultimate ecclesiastical authority, with powers to overrule any other official or body within the denomination, except as detailed in Canon VII, Article 7.
2. Council of Bishops. All consecrated bishops of this denomination, gathered together in council, shall jointly share certain rights and duties as outlined within these canons.
3. Diocesan Bishops. Diocesan bishops shall be responsible for the operations of their dioceses, subject only to the directives of the primate and the council of bishops. If nongeographic quasidioceses are established for monastic purposes in accordance with Canon IX, the prefect for religious orders shall have duties similar to those of bishops.
4. Auxiliary Bishops. Bishops may be appointed by the primate to serve as auxiliary bishops reporting either to the primate or to a diocesan bishop.
5. Deans. At the discretion of the primate, dioceses may be divided into regional deaneries. A priest in each deanery shall then be appointed dean. Certain administrative responsibilities may be delegated to the deans by their bishops. The deans shall also serve in council as the bishop’’s primary advisors.
6. Pastors. Pastors, abbots, and local leaders of religious orders shall be responsible for the operations of their parish or chapter, subject only to the directives of their superiors.
7. Assistant Clergy. Bishops may appoint priests and/or deacons to assist the pastors of parishes in their dioceses.
8. Parish Wardens. At each parish pastor’s own discretion, the pastor may appoint a layperson as pastor’s warden (“senior warden”) to carry out various administrative duties and responsibilities within the parish. In addition, the members of the parish may elect a people’s warden (“junior warden”) to share in these duties. The wardens, together with the assistant clergy, shall serve as the pastor’s primary advisors. In general, once a parish develops a stable lay membership of any size, it is desirable to have both these wardens, though a pastor may decide otherwise if circumstances so indicate it to be impractical or disadvantageous to have wardens.
9. Parish Council. When the membership of a parish is sufficiently large, the pastor and the members may decide to organize a parish council. The size may be from five to fifteen, depending on the parish’s size. Members should be asked to volunteer. If more than fifteen are interested, the members should elect the members of the council. The parish council acts as an advisory body to the pastor, assistant clergy, and wardens.
10. Parish Membership Meetings. From time to time, pastors or wardens may call general meetings of their parish’s members. This is the forum for electing wardens or council members. Membership meetings may also be called in order to gain input before making important decisions. Nonmembers may also attend the meetings, but cannot vote in elections. If necessary, the president of the meeting (usually the pastor) may limit the participation of nonmembers, but not their attendance.
11. Clergy Council. The clergy of a deanery, diocese, or the denomination collectively may be called together in council by the appropriate dean or bishop or the primate in order to discuss important issues and provide their leader with input. These councils are inherently advisory and have no decision-making powers separate from the proper hierarchy. The leader calling the council may invite laity, or a specified selection thereof, clergy candidates, and others at the leader’’s discretion.
12. Clergy Conferences. At least biennially a denomination-wide gathering of all clergy shall be held for faith, friendship, enrichment, interaction, and communication. All clergy and candidates shall be invited and are strongly encouraged to attend. Dioceses may arrange similar conferences at a local level. Parishes should treat funding their clergypersons’’ expenses for such conferences as a major local priority.
13. Lay Attendance at Clergy Conferences. Clergy aspirants, inquirers, lay members of the church, and others may attend clergy conferences provided their numbers do not distract from the fellowship and clergy communication goals of the conference.
14. Advisory Nature. Except for the purpose of electing parish council members or parish wardens and certain duties regarding the replacement of the primate, all councils, meetings, committees, and conferences of the church at any level are advisory in nature. In general they shall work toward consensus, but consensus shall not be interpreted as a final binding decision nor shall failure to reach consensus prevent the hierarchy from implementing a decision. The president of the meeting may call for informal votes if deemed appropriate. Final decisions, however, remain with the hierarchy and not the councils. Wise leaders, of course, give serious consideration to the advisory input, especially when there is general consensus or unanimity.
15. Right to Call. Meetings of advisory groups are normally called by the person immediately responsible in the hierarchy. (Pastors call parish meetings; deans call deanery clergy conferences; bishops call diocesan clergy conferences; the primate calls denominational clergy conferences and meetings of the council of bishops.) However, if circumstances warrant, meetings may be called by any higher official. (For example, a bishop may call a parish council meeting to discuss a pastor-parish relationship.)
1. By Baptism. Any person baptized in a parish of this denomination or by any of its ministers shall become a member of that parish and diocese (or, if the baptism does not take place in a parish or diocese, of the parish and diocese with which the baptizing minister is associated) as well as of the denomination as a whole.
2. By Reaffirmation. Persons previously baptized with water in the Name of the Triune God in another Christian denomination may be received into a parish’s membership by reaffirmation of faith or, if not confirmed within their previous denomination, by the sacrament of confirmation. These persons also become members of the diocese in which the parish is located and the denomination as a whole.
3. Dual Affiliation.
a. A layperson may hold dual membership in this church and another Christian denomination provided such dual membership does not compromise the basic doctrines of this church.
b. Priests or deacons (or equivalent, regardless of title) from another denomination may serve as priests or deacons of this denomination at the discretion of the primate and diocesan bishop while still maintaining active or inactive clergy status in their original denomination. This relationship must be public information and may be included in church publicity, thus clergypersons with dual affiliation are responsible to themselves for obtaining any necessary permission from their original denomination.Clergy may hold dual affiliation in accordance with Canon XIV.
a. Dually affiliated clergy are responsible for full compliance with the theological and social positions of this denomination and must take this into account when establishing this relationship.
a. Clergy from other denominations that become dually affiliated with the ECC are received into the clergy of this church by the bishop in accordance with Canon XXII.17.
a. Dually affiliated clergy may be assigned to the same positions as regular clergy and are entitled to the same voting and responsibilities as regular clergy.
a. Clergy of the Ecumenical Catholic Church may work with parishes of another denomination with approval of the diocesan bishop provided such parishes are affiliated with denominations on an approved list established by the primate. In establishing such relationships the integrity of the Ecumenical Catholic Church must be retained. Special care must be taken when considering work with smaller, less stable organizations such as other independent catholic groups, and in general such association should be limited to denominations with which the Ecumenical Catholic Church has formal arrangements of intercommunion or similar status.
4. Transfer. Membership may be transferred between parishes of this denomination by letter of transfer at the request of the member. If diocesan boundaries are crossed, diocesan membership shall be transferred concurrently and automatically.
5. Voting. For the purposes of voting, membership shall consist of those persons either confirmed or received into membership as adults. Baptized children who have not been confirmed shall have all other rights of membership except voting privileges. All confirmed persons, regardless of age, shall be voting members. Persons 18 years of age or over may be received as adult voting members prior to their confirmation.
6. Removal by Request. Members may remove themselves for any reason from the membership rolls by written request to their pastor or bishop.
7. Active Status. In order to be maintained on the membership roll, members must receive the Holy Eucharist at a worship service of the parish of which they are members or from a minister associated with that parish at least once during a twelve-month period. Members who have not done so may be dropped from membership by action of the pastor with a six-week prior written notification to the member. Members of one parish who attend the services of another parish but not the services of the parish of which they are members may have their membership transferred by concurrence of the two pastors or by action of the diocesan bishop or primate without need of the members’ consent.
8. Dropped Members. A person dropped from membership loses all rights associated with membership in the parish, diocese, and denomination. As with any other Christian not a member of the denomination, however, the person dropped from membership may participate in the sacramental life of the Church.
9. Readmission. A person dropped from membership may be readmitted by formal request through reaffirmation of faith. Although such reaffirmation is normally a public rite, pastoral reasons may allow for it to be private in this case.
10. Excommunication. Members who fail to profess or follow the doctrinal statements of this denomination may be notified by their pastor or bishop of potential excommunication and instructed to formally reply to specific doctrinal charges. If a member who has been so informed agrees with and refuses to recant the heresy or refuses to reply to the notification, that member shall be excommunicated by order of the diocesan bishop. If the member sincerely recants the heresy, the excommunication process shall be terminated. If the member denies the heresy and successfully convinces the pastor or diocesan bishop that there is no heresy, the excommunication process shall be terminated. If no agreement is reached between the person accused and the diocesan bishop, the case shall be submitted to the primate, whose decision shall be final.
11. Rights Lost by Excommunication. Excommunicated persons lose all rights associated with membership in the parish, diocese, and denomination, as well as all rights associated with any holy orders to which they have been ordained. Their names shall be removed from the membership rolls. Furthermore, they shall lose the right to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. Excommunication and the details associated therewith shall be public information, and notice of excommunication shall be sent to all parishes and dioceses of the denomination. Excommunication is obviously extreme in nature and is reserved only for gross violations of basic Christian theology.
12. Restoration. An excommunicated person may be restored to communion and membership in the Church with the concurrence of the bishop upon public recanting of the specific heresy and public reaffirmation of faith. Notification of restoration to Communion shall be sent to all parishes and dioceses of the denomination.
13. Membership Not Financially Based. Although members are expected to support their church financially and through their time and talents, church membership is sacramental and spiritual in nature and shall never be affected by wealth, donations, or lack thereof.
14. Public Information. In accordance with ancient traditions, the membership records and statistics of this organization, including the denominational records and all such records of dioceses and parishes, shall be considered public information. By becoming a member of this organization, the member agrees to the public nature of and potential publication of such information as names, addresses, telephone numbers, and vital and sacramental statistics.
1. Chief Leader. The primate shall be the chief spiritual leader, ultimate ecclesiastical authority, and chief executive officer of the denomination.
2. First Primate. The incorporator and founder of the denomination shall be the first primate.
3. Term. The term of office of the primate shall be from installation until death, retirement, resignation, or removal as allowed herein.
4. Retirement. The primate may retire in accordance with the retirement plans for employees of the organization as allowed herein.
5. Resignation. The primate may resign at any time without cause.
6. Remains a Bishop. A primate who resigns or retires from office shall remain a member of the council of bishops unless s/he removes himself from the membership of the denomination.
7. Excommunication. The primate may be removed from office on grounds of failing to profess or follow the doctrinal statements of the denomination. In order for such removal to be effected, the following steps must take place:
a. The primate must be formally and specifically charged in a document signed by a majority of either the bishops, clergy, or total membership of the denomination. The document must specify in detail which articles of faith or doctrine are thought to be being violated and why.
b. The primate may formally recant the accused heresy, and the removal proceedings shall then cease.
c. The primate may admit the heresy, resign his/her position, and be deposed and excommunicated.
d. The primate may argue that his/her beliefs are not heretical. This argument shall be presented to the council of bishops and a specially-called denominational clergy council. If 75% or more of all bishops and 75% of all clergy, whether present at the council or not, agree that the primate’s professed beliefs are heresy, the primate shall be removed from office, deposed as a bishop, and excommunicated unless s/he publicly recants his/her position.
e. If the same primate is again charged and by the above procedure again found guilty of the same heresy, s/he shall be removed from office. If s/he again recants s/he shall be spared excommunication but not removal from office or deposition as a bishop.
f. If the total confirmed membership of the denomination is less than one thousand persons, the primate may not be tried for heresy unless s/he consistently and publicly denies the Trinity of God, the Deity of Christ, or the authority of the Nicene Creed as definitive of Christianity.
8. Legal Incompetence. If the primate is declared by a court of law in the state of his/her legal residence to be mentally insane or incompetent, s/he may be removed from office by a unanimous vote of the council of bishops (excluding the primate) in conjunction with a 75% majority vote of the clergy of the denomination.
9. Transition. When the primate chooses to retire or resign, s/he should preside over the election process for a new primate in order to maintain a stable transition. The former primate’s effective retirement or resignation date should coincide with the installation of the new primate.
10. Acting Primate. In the event of death, deposition, immediate resignation, or other sudden termination of a primacy, the council of bishops shall appoint an acting primate from among its own membership. This acting primate shall fulfill the executive and ecclesiastical duties of the primate, except that s/he shall be responsible to the council of bishops in all actions and may be removed from acting office by the council of bishops without cause.
11. If No Bishops. If there are no bishops, the primacy shall remain vacant until a new primate is elected and installed.
12. Election Process. Within ninety (90) days of the termination of a primacy or the announcement of a planned retirement or resignation, a new primate shall be elected in accordance with the following:
a. A qualified candidate for primate shall be a bishop of the denomination or a person qualified to become a bishop in accordance with these canons.
b. The council of bishops shall select two qualified candidates who are willing to be elected and present them to the total membership of the denomination.
c. Each active voting member of the denomination, both clergy and laity, shall be given a chance to vote for either of the two candidates. Write-in votes for other candidates shall not be counted. The candidate receiving the greatest number of votes shall be deemed elected. In the event of an exact tie a new vote shall be taken, and this procedure repeated until one candidate exceeds the other by at least one vote.
d. If an open search has been conducted and there is only one qualified person willing to be elected, that person shall be presented to the total membership of the denomination.
e. This single candidate shall be deemed elected upon ratification by a simple majority (fifty percent plus one) of the membership submitting votes. A vote of nonratification by a member must include the name of another potential candidate in order for the vote to be counted against the candidate presented.
f. If the single candidate is not ratified, the candidates recommended by the members withholding ratification shall be approached by the council of bishops. All qualified candidates willing to be elected shall then be presented to the membership for vote. A candidate shall be deemed elected if he receives either (i) a simple majority of the votes cast or (ii) twice as many votes as the next runner up.
g. If none of the candidates recommended by the members is both qualified and willing to be elected, the single candidate originally proposed by the council of bishops shall be deemed elected, with or without the ratification of the membership.
h. If there are no bishops in the denomination, the corporate secretary shall for a period of thirty days solicit and accept nominations from the members. Persons nominated must be qualified and willing to be elected. The secretary shall then conduct an election, with each member entitled to one vote. A candidate shall be deemed elected if he receives either (i) a simple majority of the votes cast, or (ii) twice as many votes as the next runner up.
i. In any case where there are not two qualified candidates willing to be elected, a person may be deemed to be conditionally qualified if that person is capable and willing to fulfill the ordinary requirements for consecration into the episcopate within a reasonable time frame not to exceed five years.
j. The newly elected primate shall be installed into office within thirty days of the election. If the new primate is not already a bishop, he shall be so consecrated at the time of installation.
13. Denominational Staff. The primate may establish a denominational staff to assist in the ecclesiastical and operational functions of this church. This staff may consist of paid or volunteer bishops, priests, deacons, and laypersons.
14. Subordinate Corporate Officers. The primate shall appoint the corporate secretary and corporate treasurer, which may be the same or different individuals. The primate may serve as corporate treasurer, but may not serve as corporate secretary.