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Canon One – Church Unity
- The CCIA is a body of Christian believers (jurisdiction/denomination) joined together under the principles of Christian Unity. We are under the Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, while at the same time submitting to the spiritual leadership and authority of our Presiding Archbishop, and Council of Bishops.
- It is of primary concern that the hierarchy of the CCIA maintains a spirit of collegiality, unity and mutual respect.
- We recognize that the independent and autocephalous nature of many modern jurisdictions is allowing for doctrinal error to into their practice of faith, leading to division and schism. The primary purposes of our vision of unity is to both preserve collegiality among our various communities and defend the deposit of faith that has been handed down from the apostles, fathers, and apologists since the beginning of the Church.
- While each CCIA diocese and parish possess a great deal of autonomy and independence, matters of Christian faith, doctrine, and morals are never to be left to private or pastoral interpretation.
- This ecclesiological principle of unity constitutes the basis of CCIA polity. According to this principle, the Church is one because her Head is the Lord Jesus Christ. This fact constitutes a basic tenet of our faith and refers to the spiritual unity, which permeates the Church. Although the Church is one, she is made up of numerous local churches whose boundaries usually coincide with those of the lands in which they exist. These same churches are furthermore administered independently of one another.
- Our regional dioceses and churches are administered independently, but our essential unity of the Church still remains intact. St. Paul speaks of this fact when referring to the Church as the Body of Christ. In so doing, he likens the indissoluble bond existing among the members of the Church to each other and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the relationship existing among the members of a living body to each other and its head.
- As reflected in the writings of the New Testament, the multiplicity of local churches can be traced to the very beginnings of the Christian era. Instructed by our Lord to teach all nations, the Apostles founded churches in which they instituted pastors to continue the work, which they had begun. These pastors were at the same time invested with the necessary authority to regulate the affairs of their churches in accordance with local needs, variations in non-essential matters not withstanding.
- The existence of numerous local churches administered independently and with a variety of otherwise non-essential cultural traditions applies only to the external organization of the Church. It does not hinder her inner spiritual unity. The inner spiritual unity which permeates the Church finds expression in the following:
A. a common confession of faith by the entire body of the Church,
B. participation in the same sacraments; and
c. submission to the same canons and ecclesiastical decrees.
- The teachings of the church fathers, as well as ecclesiastical practice, support the above. In one of his many epistles, St. Cyprian writes: "Christ established one Church, even though it is divided throughout the entire world into many parts. It is the same with the unity of the bishops, who, although many, constitute a unity due to the identity of their conviction".
A. According to St. Irenaeus: "The overseers of the Church, to whom all the world is entrusted, vigilantly guard apostolic tradition, witnessing to us that all keep one and the same faith, that all profess the same Father, that all accept the same purpose of the incarnate economy, the same spiritual gifts; they make use of the same laws in the administration of the Church and in the execution of other ecclesiastical ministries."
B. Finally, in his epistle to all bishops, St. Athanasios remarks: "The Catholic Church is one body, in compliance with the commandment in holy scripture to preserve a bond of concord and peace..."
- It is in this spirit, i.e., in the acceptance of Christ as Head of the Church and in the unity of all the bishops, that the unity of the Church is retained by the "overseers" of the local churches through the means which each particular church has determined. This is achieved mainly by the relations of the local churches among themselves. The purpose of these relations is not so much mutual accord on local issues, but rather a general consensus on issues concerning the entire Church.
- Relations among the local churches are especially important whenever issues of faith are raised. It is then that the unity of the Church is truly evident. When there is a need for the mind of the entire Church to be heard, the local church may take the initiative in raising the consciousness of this need. As a result, the response of all the hierarchy to the issue at hand is considered a decision of the entire Church. This is the practical way in which the unity of the Church is maintained.
- Another practical way, in which the unity of the Church is maintained, is through the mutual recognition of one another's acts, in that they recognize each other’s sacraments as valid and licit. Consequently, one who is baptized in a local church is at the same time a member of all local churches and of the Church universal. On the other hand, one who has been excommunicated from a local church is at the same time in a state of excommunication from all the churches.
- Furthermore, the local churches must preserve intact legislation adopted by the CCIA, as well as customs and traditions emanating from the apostolic era. Such preservation refers not only to issues of faith and morality but also to issues of ecclesiastical discipline, order, and worship. It is only in this way that the unity of the Church can be upheld although there are many local churches. In the practical sphere, the CCIA recognizes the right of the local churches to exist independently of each other while they, in turn, preserve the unity of the Church according to mutually accepted principles.
- Such is the ecclesiological principle of unity and such is the canonical tradition of the Church. Corresponding to this principle and tradition is the territorial principle of the Church's organization according to which there is one Church and one bishop in one place. Stated in another way, the principle of hierarchical unity and the unity of local jurisdiction affirm the belief that all members of the Body of Christ - the Church, wherever they may be, constitute one church body, headed by one bishop, through whom they are integrally united with the Church universal.
- The CCIA encourages collegiality among our clergy and laity through intercommunion activities that bring together our various Archdioceses, and local parish communities, in the form of annual clergy conferences and jurisdiction-wide retreats and conventions.