More on the ECC (Evangelical Catholic Church)

I don’t know why I’ve never heard of these churches, but they have some pretty good writings on their website. Here is one on infant communion which they embrace. Here’s another link to their doctrinal statements. Does anyone know anything more about them? Here is their statement on the Holy Ministry to whet your appetite:

Holy Ministry. The Evangelical Catholic Church confesses the Divine institution of the Holy Ministry, its Divine authority, and its Divine responsibility to rule in The Church. Acknowledging that The Holy Ministry does not derive its right and authority as being transferred from the local congregation of believers, but proceeds from the general call of the Apostles, She has adopted that ecclesiastical polity which The Book of Concord espouses and prefers, the emergency long ago having ended. The Sacred Ministry (Deacon, Priest, Bishop) is a Divine institution based upon a Divine commission and is one of the constitutive marks (nota ecclesiae) of The Church, having received its beginning and its mission directly from our Lord Himself and from The Holy Apostles (vide: Titus 1:5)..

Some might see a blending of Lutheran and Orthodox teaching on the Scriptures and Tradition in this statement:

Holy Scriptures The Evangelical Catholic Church accepts the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of The Old and The New Testaments as the only judge, rule, and standard, according to which, as the only test-stone, all dogmas shall and must be discerned and judged. We believe that The Holy Bible is the verbally inspired, inerrant, Spirit-breathed Word of God and that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. We believe that it is most appropriate, as the ancient Fathers did, that the Holy Scriptures are considered to be a part — the supreme part — of the Holy Tradition of the Church. It is only with the consensus of the Holy Tradition of The Church, guided by The Holy Spirit, that a proper interpretation of Holy Scripture is possible.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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12 Responses to More on the ECC (Evangelical Catholic Church)

  1. Rev. Benjamin Mayes says:

    Is the group that C. George Fry is a part of?

  2. Rev. Benjamin Mayes says:

    Looks like the website hasn’t been updated since 1996. I noticed they’re in communion with an Anglican group.

  3. Pastor Beisel says:

    Hmm. I don’t know about the George Fry thing. Here is another interesting piece:

  4. carlvehse says:

    Here are some excerpts from the ECC’s link that veer off the road from the confessional Lutheranism of my grandfather’s (and Walther’s) Missouri Synod:

    “The Evangelical Catholic Church confesses the Divine institution of the Holy Ministry, its Divine authority, and its Divine responsibility to rule in The Church. Acknowledging that The Holy Ministry does not derive its right and authority as being transferred from the local congregation of believers, but proceeds from the general call of the Apostles, She has adopted that ecclesiastical polity which The Book of Concord espouses and prefers, the emergency long ago having ended.”

    “The Evangelical Catholic Church, together with the whole Orthodox Catholic Church, affirms that the laity does not have the authority to rule in The Church, and therefore She does not believe or teach congregationalism (the belief that the final authority in ecclesiastical matters is to be found in the priesthood of all believers assembled in a congregational setting).”

    “Any element of Tradition which deviates from this full agreement, or is coerced out of a desire for worldly power or some other impure motive, indicates eo ipso, that it is not Holy Tradition. It is on the latter point that The Evangelical Catholic Church ignores the filioque clause politically and unilaterally added to the Nicene Creed by The Church of Rome.”

    The ECC also hawks the fairy tale of “Apostolic Succession within the ECC”:

    “Thus the bonds of The Evangelical Catholic Church with those first days in Nazareth and Galilee remain unbroken, assured both by its faithful proclamation of The Gospel in all its apostolic purity and by its regular episcopal ordination of Bishops in Apostolic Succession.”

    That the ECC is referring not only to spiritual apostolic succession (recognized by Lutherans) but also to the unbroken succession of the tactile “episcopal imposition of hands” is made clear in the link as well as in this additional link

  5. Chris Jones says:

    Unaccustomed as I am to being on the same side of any controversy with Dr Strickert, I must look askance at this Church body, as he does (though perhaps for slightly different reasons).

    Unlike Dr Strickert, I regard an episcopal/conciliar polity to be the correct polity for the Christian Church. So I am sympathetic to the fact that the ECC regards episcopacy as important. But the “tactile succession” is not the essence of “apostolic succession”.

    None of the early witnesses to “apostolic succession” (Irenaeus, Hegessipus, etc) had anything whatever to say about “who consecrated whom”; they spoke only of orthodox men succeeding to the office of other orthodox men as the shepherds of orthodox local Churches which had been founded by the Apostles. The historical continuity of each Church back to the Apostle who had founded her was what they chiefly had in view; the “succession lists” which they compiled were offered as evidence for that historical continuity – not as a guarantee of orthodoxy or “validity”. And those succession lists provide no evidence of “who consecrated whom”.

    When, for example, Irenaeus lists Linus and Cletus in his succession list for Rome, that does not mean that Linus consecrated Cletus — Linus had already died before Cletus was consecrated.

    Nothing could be further from the patristic notion of “apostolic succession” than the convoluted “episcopal pedigree” of the ECC, filled as it is with bishops, archbishops, primates, metropolitans, and catholicoi of breakaway “jurisdictions” and splinter groups of every description. Apostolic succession for Irenaeus is a clear line of apostolic and orthodox Churches tracing their history to an Apostolic foundation – not a complex chain of ordinations by “bishops” of highly questionable orthodoxy.

    That does not mean that Bishop Karl is not a good, sound pastor, nor that the ECC is a heterodox body. But the fact that he claims to be a “valid” bishop based on a succession of consecrations through breakaway Church bodies like the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, the Reformed Episcopal Church of Canada, and the Phillipine Independent Church, is no guarantee of his orthodoxy nor that of his Church body. The fact that he sets such great store by this sort of “apostolic succession” is something of a cause for concern.

  6. Pastor Beisel says:

    Good points Chris. I agree with you. I just thought it was interesting what I found. I had never heard of them before.

  7. Chris Jones says:

    Pr Beisel,

    You may find this post at Pontifications (by my friend the indispensible Dr William Tighe) to be interesting in this regard — Particularly the discussion (near the end of the post) of the so-called “Charismatic Episcopal Church,” which derives its “apostolic succession” from much the same source as does the ECC.

    If I were Bishop Karl, I think I should be embarrassed to be connected to such a dizzying array of heterodox groups.

  8. Anonymous says:

    But they sure do have some fancy duds they wear! Looks like they blew all their cash on silk and lace.

  9. Lawrence says:

    Thanks for the dicussion on this.

    I learned a few things. Things I really needed to know.


  10. Anonymous says:

    Hey Paul: I think John-Paul Salay wound up going to this group. Not sure if that is so, and if it is, if he’s still in it.

    I myself get a little uneasy with their understanding of Scripture as a part (even the main part) of holy tradition. Granted, tradition is something that can’t be denied simply because it’s not the Bible. I am not arguing for a nuda Scriptura approach. But tradition can err, such as if a whole denomination had been taught wrongly. I’m just not convinced that the argument from tradition is always a good one for a Lutheran to make.

    Take in point the liturgy debate. One could say, it goes against the tradition of the Church. Yes, and fine. But the internal connection is not made as to why the liturgy was part of the Church’s tradition in the first place. Maybe it is better to phrase it in Biblical or doctrinal terms, such as “God’s Word is living and active of itself. As such, we should trust that the Word will do its work without us helping. But to “energize” the service by adding a praise band, etc. will show how little we believe that the Word will work by itself. We will show our doubt that God’s Word is living and active, and make it seem dead and inert.

    Just two cents

    Rev. Robert Mayes

  11. Chris Jones says:

    Pr Mayes,

    You wrote:

    I myself get a little uneasy with their understanding of Scripture as a part (even the main part) of holy tradition.

    Without endorsing the content of this Church body’s website (being, as I said above, a bit suspicious of this group), I have to say that there is no problem with understanding Scripture as a part of Tradition.

    There are, of course, a lot of different ways of defining “Tradition”; but in my view, Tradition is simply the process of handing down the Gospel from one generation to another in the Church, under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. Unless you believe that the Church “deduces” the Gospel anew from the Scriptures in each generation, then you have to recognize that tradition (as a process of “handing over” the Gospel that we have received) is what actually takes place in the Church.

    The Scriptures play a key role in the Holy Spirit’s ministry of guiding the Church and protecting her from error. But the Scriptures are not, and can never be, isolated from the Church’s ministry of Word and Sacrament. It is precisely through the ministry of the Word that the Scriptures “do their job” as it were. And that ministry of the Word must always conform to the Church’s rule of faith.

    As soon as the Scriptures are divorced from the Church’s rule of faith; as soon as they are set up as an “authority” completely apart from the ministry of Word and Sacrament, they lose their proper interpretive framework. And in place of that proper interpretive framework, all manner of interpretation of human origin (or worse!) can play havoc with the faith.

  12. Anonymous says:

    In response to Chris Jones about tradition:

    I agree with practically everything you have written (especially about the danger of separating Scripture from the ministry of the Word and Sacraments). It bothers me immensely when I hear people wrongly think that they can intentionally skip church and read the Bible and still have God’s grace; or that any interpretation of the Bible is the right one. Scripture of course is not authoritative outside of the ecclesiastical, creedal, sacramental, and Christological interpretation that has been given to the Church. And that has been passed down.

    Certainly, tradition also has a big influence on our understanding of the Gospel. It was passed on down to the saints, thus making it a “tradition” if you want to call it that. The writings of historical pastors continue to teach modern Christians.

    And I do not believe that the Church “deduces” the Gospel anew in every generation, though every generation must certain grapple with the teaching of the Word in order to confess it purely against the influences of the sinful age.

    But my main question is: is the Formula of Concord’s understanding that Scripture is norma normans accurate? According to what I had read above about this Evangelical Catholic church body, I didn’t get that sense. That is, this group seems to be saying that Scripture is not the only foundation for doctrine; rather, it is a part of a larger foundation (even the main part), but not the only basis.

    This opens the door to error just as well as having a nuda Scriptura approach, divorcing it from the Office and the means of grace. Some church bodies have ungodly traditions, such as ecumenical services or open communion. Others have traditions that are suspect at best and have no foundation in Scripture, such as praying to saints. Individual congregations may have traditions that are funny, dumb, quaint, and the list goes on. Yet it would be possible by holding such a view of tradition that one could also support traditional errors, dumb or pointless traditions, and so on.

    Good discussion, and thank you for allowing me to clarify where I was coming from.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes

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