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The ECC traces it’s roots to the Catholic traditions of the Conciliarists of the middle ages,

who held that the highest authority within the church resides in the church councils

in which the leaders of the entire church join together to determine and affirm its teaching and governance.  This, in fact, is the most ancient tradition of Christianity,

and is evident in numerous passages in the new testament, most notably in the book, Acts of the Apostles.

While it is commonly believed that the pope has been regarded as infallible,

and exercising universal jurisdiction, since the early days of the apostles,

in fact infallibility and universal jurisdiction were not instituted within the Roman church until 1870,

at the First Vatican Council. At that time, the pope declared his authority

to be higher than all church councils. The Roman church pronounced the pope

(and subsequent popes) as infallible.

Many catholic Christians, including laity, priests and bishops, refused to accept this new teaching. 

They gathered in protest in Utrecht,  formed the Union of Utrecht, and became known as Old Catholics

(i.e., "old" as they held to "old" practices about church authority and rejected 

the "new" dogma and practice of papal infallibility). 

The “old catholic” movement spread through Europe and eventually to America.*

In 2003, a group of Catholic communities, inheritors of this old catholic tradition,

entered into communion, drafted a constitution and formed the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC).

The ECC has grown rapidly, and currently has faith communities throughout North America and Europe.

The ECC practices the original understanding of church which existed universally

for the first 1000+ years of Christianity, and still exists in the eastern orthodox tradition.

In this understanding of Catholicism,

each local faith community (i.e., diocese) is led by its bishop and pastoral councils.

The people of each local faith community participate in the life of the church by electing their bishop

and taking an active role in the ministry of the community.

The pope, who has traditionally been the bishop of the community of Rome,

is regarded as an important spiritual leader, but does not (in the view of the ECC)

exercise infallible authority, or universal jurisdiction, over other local churches. 

Each local church (diocese) upholds the autonomy of its own life and governance.

Approval from Rome (or some similar centralized authority) is not required

in the decision making processes of each local church. 

Rev. Bjorn Marcussen, a theologian, has expressed it as follows:

"The fullness of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church resides in the local church,

understood as the local diocese.

The local church does not need a 'super structure' or a 'super bishop' to complete anything,

for nothing is missing in its catholicity and apostolicity.

The local church is the church in one specific place under one specific bishop."


* Rev. Jim Farris, an ECC priest, has written a more detailed account of the history the Conciliarists,

and the roots of the Old Catholic tradition. 

This is contained in the document, Unity and Peace: The Foundations and Vision of the Constitution

of The Ecumenical Catholic Communion, pages 5-19. 

If you are interested in reading this, click here

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