CATHOLICISM OF THE CHURCH OF ANTIOCH
The word Catholic means “universal” in the earliest traditions of the church. Within the Church of Antioch we hold that our role within Catholicism is to perform the liturgy and distribute the sacraments, while promoting individual freedom of choice and conscience. Our Catholicism encourages people to investigate virtually all possible avenues of spiritual fulfillment and growth.
Our form of Catholicism promotes traditional sacramental worship, while counseling individuals to seek to discover divinity within. We hold that no one should stand between the individual and God, “in Whom we live, move, and have our being.” The Church of Antioch is non-dogmatic, therefore we encourage the freest possible interpretation of those teachings which are handed down to us, consistent with the revelation of conscience.
We distinguish between spirituality and religion. Spirituality is openness to transcendence. Religions are means of rendering divine worship. Thus, we distinguish between priests, whose function is to perform the sacred rites, and spiritual guides, whose own personal experience qualifies them to assist others on the path they have successfully trod.
THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC PRIESTHOOD
In both the Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, priests are ordained by bishops who have been consecrated by other bishops, in an unbroken line, going back to the original apostles, and through them to Jesus Christ. This is known as “apostolic succession.”
Churches are justified in calling themselves Catholic when their orders are valid with respect to apostolic succession and their liturgies conform to the essentials of tradition. Because of our well-recognized apostolic succession, and liturgies that accord with accepted tradition, the Church of Antioch can claim to be truly Catholic in virtually every sense of the word. Our priests and bishops therefore validly administer the traditional Catholic sacraments.
OPEN HOLY ORDERS
Holy Orders are open, regardless of gender, marital status, or sexual orientation. While we sympathize with the concept of the priesthood of the laity, we put great stock in the importance of apostolic succession. Our solution is to make Holy Orders available to qualified candidates who wish to serve Christ. Such candidates are required to have a level of academic achievement and prior life experience which demonstrates potential for successful completion of a program of priestly formation and for the professional practice of religion. Spiritual and priestly formation is supervised by the church’s seminary, Sophia Divinity School.
Men and women are equal spiritually. We do not believe that the traditional bias against women in the priesthood can be justified any longer. The Church of Antioch has been ordaining women priests, as well as consecrating women bishops for many years. Before the Patriarch’s death he assigned the church to the Matriarch.
Many Catholic and Orthodox rites permit their clergy to marry. Even those rites which do not, admit the principle there is nothing in scripture to prevent it. Accordingly, we leave the option of celibacy to the individual. For we recognize that what may be spiritually helpful to one person, may be an obstacle for another.
The clergy of the Church of Antioch are self-directed and self-supporting. You may make of your ministry whatever you desire and are capable of. We do not require you to give up your current profession or life-style.
Your own energy, intelligence, creativity, competence, and resources are your primary tools in ministry. The church exists as a spiritual fellowship and community to provide support and assistance to self-sufficient individuals who are assuming responsibility for their own lives.
Our church is a spiritual fellowship of followers of the Spirit. We give ourselves and others encouragement to live the truth. To live the truth is to become ever more the Christ, the true Self of all and the source of real happiness and abiding fellowship.
We are a church of love. We accept Saint John’s testimony that God is Love. For us, Christ’s ministry is the law of love: “Love the Lord, thy God, with thy whole heart, thy whole mind and thy whole strength; and love thy neighbor as thyself. This is the whole of the Law and the prophets.” Saint Augustine epitomized Christian ethics in the precept, “Love and do as you will.”
We maintain that the Holy Spirit acts through pure channels everywhere, regardless of age, sex, race, creed or culture. There is only one true God, however this God is known or worshipped; hence, there is eternally only one holy universal Church, regardless of the cultural form it happens to assume in a given time and place. We revere the saints, sages, and holy ones of all ages and places.
MYSTICAL & SPIRITUAL
We seek to draw back the veil, first to discover the deeper intellectual import and then the experiential dimension which is the true meaning of spiritual symbolism in scripture, ritual, liturgy and theology.
We are a mystical church, keeping in mind the Old Testament words, “Be still and know I AM.”
We give a primary place to Christ’s saying, “The kingdom of heaven lies within you” and the belief that love is spiritual knowledge par excellence. God is Love, and it is through our love that we come to a real and abiding understanding of God and Christ.
You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.
– John 15:16
The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent: “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Mechizadek.”
– Psalm 109:4
As the Father has sent Me, so I send you. Then He breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit.
– John 20:21-22
They presented these men to the apostles, who first prayed over them and then imposed hands on them.
– Acts 6:6