This website is sponsored by the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of New England. In one of our churches located in a summer vacation area visitors frequently asked, "Does an inclusive church like this exist near where I live?" This website came about as a response to these questions, and today lists small faith communities from 38 states and growing. The communities listed are Eucharistic Communities with roots in a Catholic heritage. If you would like to list your small community click here.
Some Background on Different Catholic Churches
There are many Churches that consider themselves Catholic. While the Roman tradition is the largest, it is not the oldest. The term "catholic" was first used in the early second century by Ignatius of Antioch to refer to the worldwide Church, long before there was a Roman or Latin Rite. The Church in both the Eastern and Western cultures of that day was still united. Over the ensuing centuries the differences in culture and distance led to differences in both liturgy and theology. Some key turning points were that the Church in the East placed less emphasis on the teachings of Augustine of Hippo, while the Church in the West gave great importance to his teachings The West also began to place far more weight on the primacy of the Bishop of Rome than did the East. These differences, along with different understandings of the role played by Scripture and Tradition, eventually led to the disagreement which caused a split between the Eastern and Western Church in 1054.
The West's emphasis on papal primacy and power, which had continued to grow prior to the schism, took on even greater importance in the Western Church after 1054. This view of Rome as the center of power in the Western Church resulted in a shift from a worldwide Church governed by councils to a greater reliance on governance by the Bishop of Rome. Political ambition and concern with maintaining power led to numerous abuses, and eventually to the Reformation and the rise of the Church of England in the 16th century. There seemed to be little concern among Roman Church authorities as to what might have caused so many Christians to go their separate ways; instead Rome reacted with the Counter-Reformation. It latched onto the term Catholic (capital C) and firmly rooted itself in the belief that it was the only, true Catholic church. This position, along with the centralization of governing power in Rome, was structurally cemented in place by the Council of Trent in the mid 16th century. It is this 16th century Tridentine structure which most contemporary Roman Catholics were led to believe was "the" Church that Jesus established two thousand years ago. The Roman Church to this day maintains that it alone is the Catholic Church (inclusive of those rites which are in full communion). Nevertheless, the term "Catholic," first used by an Eastern Bishop (Ignatius) to refer to the world-wide Church, is used by many other Christians to identify themselves today. Kenneth Collins, in Roman but Not Catholic, writes, "...given the subsequent history of the church, especially the schism that occurred between East and West in 1054, no one theological tradition can now accurately maintain that the "Catholic Church" subsists in its own particular communion of faith." (p.22)
Today, there are 7 non-Roman Catholic rites that are in communion with Rome. There are other Catholic Churches not in communion with Rome (e.g. The Old Catholic Church and some Eastern Catholic Churches) along with many other Christian Traditions some of which self-identify as "catholic" by their profession of the Nicene Creed and/or claims to apostolic succession. In addition, over the last century, numerous parishes and communities around the world have arisen which identify themselves as inclusive Catholic communities who welcome all to Jesus' table. Some of these are independent Catholic communities, while others have joined together in larger entities (the Ecumenical Catholic Church, the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, and the American Catholic Church are examples). Many of these have their roots in the Old Catholic Church, which some scholars trace back to the 16th century or earlier. The communities listed on this website identify themselves as Catholic and celebrate the Eucharist in an inclusive manner.
For More Information
Here are some works, along with a brief explanation of each, that can provide more information for those interested: