Radical Hospitality and Good Manners

We are radically inclusive: Believing as Saint Isaac of Syria, “Do not try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all people be equal in your eyes for a good deed.”

As our life is built on love, we must let our love be genuine and practical. Love does not put on airs, it is not haughty, not even inside where only God can see. For out of the abundance of the heart do we speak and act. Love allowed to work in our relationships, both with ourselves and with other persons, is respect. Let us treat each other as Christ has treated us. My brother is lonely; my sister is frightened; both are struggling to do the best they can to find love and happiness. From a gentle heart be gentle with them. See their frail humanity, created for glory by God, and love it for what it is, respect it for what it can become.

Accept those around you for who they are. Accept–but this does not always mean to agree. Respect for your own integrity will not allow you always to agree with others.

The Order of the Shepherd’s Heart does not discriminate and holds no regard for a person’s race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, preference, relationship status, nationality, socioeconomic class, nor a person’s state of grace. We are fully committed to inclusivity and our support for the LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) and anyone who would seek to find a spiritual home within the Shepherd’s Heart is unwavering and unapologetic.

Dearest Folk,

The Order of the Shepherd’s Heart is a radically inclusive religious order and practices radical hospitality, meaning our doors are open to anyone. In fact, I have a saying that I took the doors off their hinges years ago.

As such, we’ve had a lot of different folks through our doorway over the years. Some came and went, some treated it as a revolving door – coming and going at their own leisure, some came and found a home and stayed, some are still here and some have passed into blessed memory. Everyone was welcomed the same, treated the same, and offered a home for as long as they wished. However, while our hospitality toward everyone has been the same regardless, the reaction to our hospitality over the years has varied from person to person, some wonderful and healthy, some manipulative and coercive. During our discernment process we hope to help encourage the former and heal the latter but sometimes we fail.

I recently had a great conversation with a dear friend of mine, also a religious in a different order, and we were speaking of radical hospitality and what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Her order also practices radical hospitality and she shared some of her experiences with me and I with her, finding great similarity in our respective journeys.

The analogy that she introduced in our conversation was that of hearth and home. I dare say, maybe hopefully so, one would never be invited to another’s home, and upon gaining entry, set about rearranging the furniture and or redecorating the place. Would they? Who would, upon being invited to the table to share a meal, criticize the host’s dinner plates or flatware? Would you? While we may or many not like the food being served, who would throw out the meal and offer to teach the host how to prepare a meal more to their liking? Who would criticize the cook for his or her menu selection, preparation style, or cooking attire? I would hope no one. Would you be critical of the gender of the host? Really?

Can you imagine doing any of this? I hope not.

Alas, this happens all too often in the Independent Sacramental Movement when we welcome people who seek to join us in ministry. When we open our doors and practice radical hospitality, all too often, people come in and then want to recreate the ministry in their own image, stylizing it to their own individual sensibilities, vision, practices, theological meanderings, and liturgical leanings. They often seek to come into our hearth and home and redecorate the place to suit themselves and to move the comfortable old furniture around to meet their needs or sense of proper decor, even setting some of our most treasured pieces out on the curb with a sign that says “free to haul off.”

Most of us wouldn’t dream of being welcomed into someone’s home and behaving this way. Why then do so many in the ISM think it’s okay to do this in jurisdictions or religious orders they join? I think it speaks to a much larger dysfunction and is part of the explanation of our fractured reality as a community.

Be that as it may, we cannot control others and how they respond to our hospitality, but at the same time, seeking to be inclusive, hospitable, and to provide sanctuary, does not mean that you become a door mat on which people tread and wipe their feet even though that seems to happen regularly.

I think mutual acceptance is the key. Now notice, I didn’t say mutual agreement. Sometimes agreement is a stretch and something to be working towards. Agreement can sometimes be an educational process. Acceptance however, is always an intentional choice. When we welcome new folks into our order we are saying, “we accept you, warts and all” and we’re asking them, “do you accept us?” A marriage is much the same way. I’m sure we all know someone who married another with the hope and or intent to change their partner. This is an ill-conceived practice that leads to madness, breakup, and despair.

Our Common Rule of Life in the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart suggests this when seeking to live in community and I think it a good practice to keep in mind:

VII A Respect Born of Love

“Do not ever think yourselves better than the rest of your companions who share the same faith.” -St. Cuthbert

“Do not be deceived by those who seem to seek perfection, yet do not keep the basic commandments of God. There are people who eat little, who live simply and who are celibate; yet they show no love and compassion toward their neighbors. Before seeking perfection a person must first learn to love others and to be generous towards them.” -St. Morgan

“See in each herb and small animal, every bird and beast, and in each man and woman, the eternal Word of God.” -St. Ninian

As our life is built on love, we must let our love be genuine and practical. Love does not put on airs, it is not haughty, not even inside where only God can see. For out of the abundance of the heart do we speak and act. Love allowed to work in our relationships, both with ourselves and with other persons, is respect. Let us treat each other as Christ has treated us. My brother is lonely; my sister is frightened; both are struggling to do the best they can to find love and happiness. From a gentle heart be gentle with them. See their frail humanity, created for glory by God, and love it for what it is, respect it for what it can become.

Accept those around you for who they are. Accept–but this does not always mean to agree. Respect for your own integrity will not allow you always to agree with others.

In humor, be kind. In griping, be truthful. In conversation, be patient. In gossip, be silent. Trust your sisters and brothers to make their own decisions; believe them when they speak of their own inner state. It is our calling to support and pastor each other, but never to manipulate or mold our free fellows into our own pattern.

For those who practice radical hospitality, keep heart and hold fast to your calling. You are offering a way of living on earth as it is in Heaven, and as such, an answer to our Lord’s Prayer. For you guests, remember to open your heart and do your best to respond with love, gratitude, and humility. Accept one another for who you are and let’s all celebrate our diversity in this wonderful creation God has given us.

Love,
Abbot Brian

Pope Francis and True Christianity

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Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus,

Greetings and apostolic benediction from this humble servant of Christ and His Church and may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you and yours now and always!

It is with joy that we offer our prayers and heartfelt well wishes to our brothers and sisters under the spiritual care of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis I. We pray that the Holy Spirit will empower, encourage, and inform our Brother Bishop as he assumes his new role within the Roman Catholic jurisdiction and takes his place on the thrown of St. Peter. In all charity and humility, we pray for him and his ministry to over one billion souls of the catholic faith.

We would also offer prayer for our own jurisdiction, Christ Catholic Church, and for our sisters and brothers within the greater Independent Sacramental Movement as well, that we all might find compassion and patience within our hearts as the Holy Spirit continues to perfect Her work in the conversion of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio into that of Pope Francis I and within the Roman Catholic jurisdiction itself.

Rome was not made in a day and certainly one man will not rebuild or even disassemble it in one day. As a venerable brother commented recently upon the election of the new pope, “when the problem is the empire, a new emperor is not the solution.” A new pope is not the solution to all the troubles and trials of the Roman Catholic jurisdiction, though he may be an aid in righting some of the wrongs, only time will tell the story.

We acknowledge and give thanks for the humility that Pope Francis has shown thus far as he has assumed his new position within the church. True servanthood demands great compassion and charity and perhaps even greater sacrifice in death to oneself. It is a process with which we all grapple and are challenged by, whether we be a pope, bishop, priest, deacon, or lay person. Let us show charity for the conversion and process that Pope Francis now undertakes realizing our own shortcomings in our own similar spiritual growth process. Not one of us is perfect, though we follow He who was.

However, in our rush to celebrate the joy and hope this recent papal election brings, we would also pray for our LGBT sisters and brothers throughout the church, and the world at large, who now face the new reality of the election of a pope who once, as a “Prince of the Church” demonized the LGBT community and now will exert an extreme power and influence upon the entirety of the church and indeed the whole world.

Christ Catholic Church, while offering prayers for the conversion of Pope Francis, that he may one day celebrate the diversity of all of God’s children and support equality across the spectrum of the human condition, stands firmly and unapologetically in support of the LGBT community and the beauty, worth, and equality of all of God’s children regardless.

As the Presiding Bishop of Christ Catholic Church I would like to remind us all that as a Christian people we are to embrace faith, hope, and love. Ours is a faith built upon conversion and reconciliation, and founded in charity. Let us offer ourselves and our prayers for all concerned, Pope Francis, the See of St. Peter, the LGBT community, the Independent Sacramental Movement, Christ Catholic Church, and the world at large that the will of our Father in Heaven be made manifest and perfect here on earth and that someday we may all be one in Christ Jesus and celebrate together the beauty and diversity of creation as a unified people of one voice.

Pax et Caritas,
The Rt. Reverend Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
Presiding Bishop – Christ Catholic Church

Epiphany 2010 Waiting

Dear Sisters and Brothers – Beloved in Christ,

The term epiphany means “to show” or “to make known” or even “to reveal.”

On this Epiphany of 2010 most of the United States waits in anticipation, perhaps not in a religious anticipation but one of worry and concern to see what the weather may be like tomorrow. The country is gripped in an arctic blast that reaches deeply into our southern most regions even threatening farmers and crops. We wait. Some of us huddled in our homes, some of us working busily to stock our pantry’s in case more snow should fly, some of us in the fields trying to protect orange trees with their fruit hanging in the balance of what might be. But all the same we wait.

On this Epiphany of 2010 most of the United States waits in anticipation, perhaps not in a religious anticipation but one of worry and concern to see what the government and those in leadership positions throughout the country may do tomorrow. The country is gripped in financial hardship the likes of which is felt across the spectrum of our communities, homes, and families. Some of us are huddled in our homes unemployed wondering how we will eat or even survive tomorrow, some of us work feverishly just to provide for our families with an ever tightening budget, a shrinking paycheck, and all the same bills we had yesterday, and some of us are trying to save a business, cutting costs, expenditures, and growth just to stay competitive. But all the same we wait.

On this Epiphany of 2010 most of the United States waits in anticipation, perhaps indeed in a religious anticipation wondering why the church has seemed to fail us, where God is in our lives, if He exists at all and if so, how we might find Him once again. The country is gripped in a spiritual crisis, one of our own making, one that threatens to tear the church apart and render Christianity as an irrelevant faith with an irrelevant message, and an irrelevant God who seems to have walked out on us just when we need Him the most. Some of us are huddled in our churches, sitting in the pews, hanging on to shreds of hope and a weary faith that tells us God is still out there and He still loves us; some of us search from church to church to find a church home and to discover a faith, of inclusion, love, celebration, and compassion, looking in one place and then another, seemingly in vain, knowing that it must be true somewhere; and some of us are standing up preaching the Gospel message leading others to Christ with love, celebrating the Spirit that lives in each one of us by the very nature of our own individual creation, engaging a faith that can resonate in our minds with the 21st century world in which live, and cherishing the soul of diversity in the myriad of people the Lord our God has made in His image, all the time wondering if anyone is listening. But all the same we wait.

Seldom do epiphanies happen in thundering moments of noise and bustle. Seldom do they flash across the screen or streak across the sky. Sometimes there’s a gentle nudge, a quiet manifestation, or a simple event that triggers a change in our hearts and in our lives. Epiphanies happen when we wait quietly with ourselves and with God. Sometimes epiphanies happen when we least expect them.

Such is the Epiphany that happened some two thousand years ago in Bethlehem when the Christ child was born. Such is the Epiphany that happened to the “wise men” as they traveled to see this still, wet behind the ears child, helplessly clutching his mother. There in a simple nondescript cave or manger, their lives and hearts were touched and forever changed by a simple and yet miraculous birth of the High King of Heaven, made flesh, ever to dwell among us; there also our lives and hearts were touched and changed forever and so why do we wait? Or better yet, what do we wait for?

The Epiphany celebrated by the Church during this time of the year is the presentation of the Christ child to the Gentiles, that is those people who weren’t Jews. Even then, from the very beginning, from the moment of His first breath, Jesus came to those whom others would cast out or turn away simply because of their societal or religious convictions, or lack there of. Should we not take note that in all the world with limitless options available, the Almighty Maker of Heaven and of Earth, manifested himself in this way to these people? Should we not take note that from the very beginning He did things, taught things, and encouraged things that went against the norm and challenged the preconceived notions of society at the time? If this is true then isn’t it possible that He does the same today? Isn’t it possible that He is still working in simple nondescript ways to make Himself known to the Gentiles of today and challenging the preconceived notions of society today?

After the revelation to the wise men, we are told that the wise men, having been warned not to return to Herod in a dream, returned to their own country by another road. What an interesting statement to be included in the passage.

It is exactly this “different road” that I wish to speak to you today. I want to speak to you about a different way of being church, a different way of being catholic, a different way of being Christian, a different road leading to Christ, His Church, and the Sacraments.

Let me tell you and bit about the Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion. The EFCC is a different, small, and nondescript bunch of folks who have come together out of a love of Christ, His Church, and the Sacraments. We have come together to make known His love in a broken and often heartless world. We have come together to preach the Gospel Message to the ends of the earth and we do so one person, dare I say, one Gentile at a time?! We do so not from the pulpits of mainstream churches but from simple often nondescript places throughout the world – sometimes in shared churches, sometimes in buildings of our own, sometimes in living rooms, sometimes in nursing homes, sometimes on city streets, sometimes on beaches and in parks, and sometimes in the quiet of our sleeping quarters. In small and simple ways we preach the message delivered some 2000 years ago. In small and simple ways we try to mirror Christ’s love in this broken world, turning no one away. We’re not a flashy church with huge buildings, monstrous budgets, deafening sound systems, or many golden altar appointments. Our clergy don’t get payed, often they haven’t retirement plans, or health insurance, but what they have is more valuable than all of that, they have love – a love of Christ, His Church, the Sacraments and of God’s children, ALL OF THEM!

In small and simple ways we go about our lives and ministries doing what we can, where we can. We meet people at their needs, offering a new way of being catholic. A way not bound by dogma, doctrine, and canon but rather free in the Spirit. We offer a home to the church’s homeless, throwing no one away and leaving judgment in the all knowing care of the Almighty and not in some council, curia, or confessional. We offer love, hope, celebration, compassion, mercy, and reconciliation to all of God’s children regardless. Did you hear that? Regardless!

May God make Himself known to you this Epiphany and may that revelation, like the very first Epiphany, change your heart and your life so that you can stop waiting and share the Good News with the broken and hurting world around you! And may you be blessed, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit now and forever, Amen!

Pax Christi,
+Brian E. Brown, OSH
Convening Bishop, Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion

Seasons of Love and the New Year

As we come to the close of 2009 may we all reflect how we have measured it in our lives. If we haven’t measured it in love then sadly I think we have missed the point. I would invite you to recommit your lives to loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God with all of your heart so that in 2010 you can look back and measure your life in love. Love really is all you need folks.

I would invite you to commit to loving more deeply, openly, and liberally in the new year to come. Life is short and love is the most beautiful gift we can give to one another and in fact to ourselves. You can change the world by making love a guiding force in your life and by sharing it with the everyone around you! Happy New Years! I love you!

Pax et Amor,
Abbot Brian

Seasons of Love
From the Rock Musical Rent
Written by Jonathan Larson

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love? Measure in love

Seasons of love. Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.

It’s time now to sing out,
Tho’ the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Seasons of love!

Oh you got to got to Remember the love! remember the love,
You Measure in love know that love is a gift from up above Seasons of love.
Share love, give love spread love Measure measure you life in love.

Shepherd’s Heart and Celtic Christianity

Here is a letter composed by the Abbot-Bishop of our Order several years ago. One can get a feel for our Order and ministry from it.

December 1, 2005
Feast of Saint Tudwal

Dear Folks,

As we reform our newly renamed Order I think there are some things of importance to address and things to keep in mind while we move forward. I think it important to discover the depths of where God is leading us now as a group and the ramifications of those depths in our ministries and relationships to one another. I feel it’s also important to acknowledge who we’ve been as a group and who God is calling us to be, defining ourselves and our ministry. Already we are seeing some blooms blossom in our “new meadow.” There are new opportunities and blessings just waiting to be discovered. The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, our meadow is pretty green already. However, let us not forget our center and our focus both in the past and present.

Are Old Catholic Orders Valid?

Are Old Catholic Orders Valid?
By Bp. Brian Ernest Brown | July 19, 2008

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” -Ephesians 4:1-7

The debate on the validity of autocephalous sacramental or Independent Old Catholic holy orders is long standing and often offers nothing but confusion and suspicion. It is a belief of the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart that validity is most assuredly found through ministry within the community one is called to serve. So that, it is the very act of service that assures us of God’s grace, blessing, and authority to answer the call to ministry. It is through the natural connection of that kind of relationship, shepherd to sheep, that validity and authority are realized and made real to the world in which we live.

The OSH does participate in and uphold the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and all of its clergy have been validly ordained by the laying on of hands of bishops within that historic succession, which we hold dearly.

Realizing that the traditions of the Church Universal and the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, as they relate to the validity of Independent Old Catholic orders, can weigh heavy on the seeker’s spirit, we offer these references from various reputable Roman Catholic sources:

From the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Declaration: Dominus Jesus

Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

A reference on the Old Catholic Movement from: Catholic Visitor 1978

“Old Catholic – several groups, including: (1) the Church of Utrecht, which severed relations with Rome in 1724; (2) The National Polish Church in the U.S., which has its origin near the end of the 19th century; (3) German, Austrian and Swiss Old Catholics, who broke away from union with Rome following the First Vatican Council in 1870 because they objected to the dogma of papal infallibility.

The formation of the Old Catholic communion of Germans, Austrians and Swiss began in 1870 at a public meeting held in Nuremberg under the leadership of A. Dolinger. Four years later Episcopal succession was established with ordination of an Old Catholic German bishop by a prelate of the Church of Utrecht. In line with the “Declaration of Utrecht” of 1889, they accept the first seven ecumenical councils and doctrine formulated before 1054, but reject communion with the pope and a number of other Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. They have a valid priesthood and valid sacraments. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that they have recognized Anglican ordinations since 1925, that they have full communion with the Church of England since 1932, and have taken part in ordination of Anglican Bishops.”

Other Quoted Reputable Sources

“A validly consecrated bishop can validly confer all orders from the minor orders to the episcopate inclusively … For this reason the ordinations performed by the bishops of the Old Catholics are consider valid.” A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, revised and enlarged edition, by Rev. Stanislaw Woywod, OFM, LLB. Vol. 1, Sec. 881 P. 558.

“Every validly consecrated bishop, including heretical, schismatic, simonistic or excommunicated bishops, can validly dispense the Sacrament of Order, provided that he has the requisite intention, and follows the essential external rite (set. Certa). Cf. D 855, 860; CIC 2372.” 1952 Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott, pp. 456.

“The Old Catholic Church has received valid episcopal consecration”, Christian Denominations, by Rev. Konrad Algemissen.

“We have no reason to doubt that the Old Catholic Orders are valid. The Apostolic Succession does not depend on obedience to the See of Peter but rather on the objective line of succession from Apostolic sources, the proper matter and form, and the proper intention … likewise Old Catholic bishops are bishops in Apostolic Succession … The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, posses a valid priesthood.” Separated Brethren, William J. Whalen, pp. 204, 248.

“The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and other Sacraments.” 1974 Catholic Almanac, by Felician A. Roy, OFM, page 368. “Our Sunday Visitor.”

“Their [Old Catholic] Orders and Sacraments are valid.” A Catholic Dictionary, by Donald Attwater.

“When a Catholic sacred minister is unavailable and there is urgent spiritual necessity, Catholics may receive the Eucharist, penance, or anointing from sacred ministers of non-Catholic denomination whose holy orders are considered valid by the Catholic Church. This includes all Eastern Orthodox priests, as well as priests of the Old Catholic or Polish National Church.” Rights and Responsibilities, A Catholics’ Guide to the New Code of Canon Law, Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., page 44.

“They [Old Catholics] have received valid orders.” Roman Catholic Dictionary, by Addison Arnold.

“The Far East Magazine of June, 1928, published by the Saint Columban Fathers of St. Columbans, Nebraska, in reply to any inquiry about the Old Catholic Church, published the reply that: “These [Old Catholics] Orders are valid.”

“Whenever there is no appearance of simulation on the part of the minister, the validity of the sacrament is sufficiently certain.” Apostolicae Curae