What is "Independent" Catholicism?


The Order of Magdal-Eder is not an independent church in the sense of being separate from all others. The term "independent" is used loosely in general parlance to designate an autocephalous rite of the Universal Catholic Church.

Many people have never heard the expression "Independent Catholicism". For most of us the word “Catholic” has been used only in a Roman context, without connecting the word to its true meaning: Universal - holding to the true teachings of the Christ continuously from the beginning of the apostolic age. For example, the Thomas Christians of Malabar, India, evangelized by the apostle St. Thomas, is a fully Catholic community that never fell under the Roman Empire’s dominion and continues to exist outside of Western influence as a true and valid apostolic Catholic church. But it has been little known to most Christians in the West because it had been misrepresented and maligned as a sect; yet it is one of many valid Catholic Sees. A look at Webster’s definition may be helpful:  “Catholic”: from Greek katholikos universal, general, from katholou in general, from kata by + holos whole.  The word Catholic means “universal and all-embracing.”

The word “Catholic” applies equally to many sacramental traditions including the Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Old Catholic, and other Orthodox churches of the East. All of these, as well as the Order of Magdal-Eder jurisdiction, are constituent parts of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church united by one Eucharist.

Universal [Independent] Catholics, then, are not simply a collection of people who are discontented with or distanced from Roman leadership, and the term Independent Catholic does not imply something less universal or less united to Sacramental Christianity, but sometimes less rigidly defined in dogmatic terms and in many respects more closely aligned with the original early churches of Jesus' apostles. In a sense, the term independent declares and celebrates a Bastille Day or a 4th of July that sets the mind, heart, and soul free to accomplish the soul's journey through following the Holy Spirit. In some jurisdictions it also means true egalitarianism that permits and approves equal freedom to receive the whole range of sacraments. In this light, then, independent stands for spirituality maturing to adulthood without abandoning the protection and pastoral care of our apostolic shepherds, through whom the sacramental life of the church is assured as it continues throughout time.

As the Order of Magdal-Eder's liturgies reveal our inheritance of influences from the Gallican, Mozarabic, Roman, and Celtic Churches, we are a blend of the many strands of tradition we have inherited through our multiplicity of lines of apostolic succession. As briefly as possible, our succession can be traced directly back to the apostles through the well known line of +Herman Spruit; who consecrated +Frank Ellsworth Hughes and +Chris Grier; who consecrated +Martha Mohring Shultz; who, assisted by +Dale Shultz and +Kennith Brin, was the primary consecrator of our Presiding Bishop, ++M. Elaine Bessette.

A wide variety of autocephalous Universal [Independent] Catholic jurisdictions possess valid apostolic succession and sacraments, many of which offer the fullness of expression in Eucharist centered liturgies. For an overview of the range of jurisdictions you might want to peruse Fr. Tony Begonja’s site at: http://www.ind-movement.org/ which, though it may not be regularly updated and current, yields some interesting information and even pokes a bit of fun at the Independent Movement’s diversity and quirkiness on the link: “The Lighter Side of the Movement.” You will find some wholesome and very catholic forms of Christianity as well as a wide range of expressions from somber, penitential, old-world formats to ‘new age’ experiments that have somehow displaced the Christ with unknown channeled ‘masters’ and promote “self” as the center of the universe. Yet, even with such diversity, modern theologians recognize that the church is moving into its finest hour as it becomes truly representative OF the people of God and AS the people of God, the fullness of its expression. The church is no longer understood to be an institution of elite hierarchy distanced from a silent laity, but a priestly people, Christ among us, pulsing and breathing a living, vibrant faith. Church is no longer a monumental structure or a place, but a visible Body of Christ whose quickening is vitally aided by a new angel traveling the speed of light on an Internet signal in much the same way that prayer transcends distance, time, and intellectual barriers. At the same time, the church is returning to its original form by becoming house-church once again, meeting in small groups, homes, and borrowed spaces; lightening the burden of husbanding property.   

Although the Order of Magdal-Eder appears liberal by some standards because it is egalitarian, it finds its model in Jesus’ teachings that removes all barriers and restores the marginalized to community. Our jurisdiction’s liturgies employ contemporary language that expresses how we think and speak today, inspired by Christianity’s most ancient and centrally important traditions. We are confident in the Word/Christ, and in the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than seeking substitute entities. We are proponents of the full range of sacraments and embrace theology that is grounded in sacred scripture. We espouse a joyful and confident approach to the Christ’s message, seeking to shepherd the flock with a well-educated clergy who give of their time and talents freely and without charge in service to the people rather than as aloof, inaccessible, corporate-administrative employees in a castle beyond the moat.  

We welcome pragmatists as well as mystics. 


Order of Magdal-Eder, Tacoma, WA Contact: magdal-eder@nventure.com