(Ed. Note: On May 24, 2015, I became the second Presiding Bishop of the International Old Catholic Churches. I decided after being asked to do so, to publish my first letter to the church as my From the Editor this edition.)
To my brothers and sister of the IOCC,
Grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!
I am honored and humbled by your decision to have me as your Presiding Bishop. We have weathered many storms and have faced many challenges over the past few years, however, time and time again God has shown that he is control of our future and it is he who is guiding our ship.
Let me take a few moments to explain my views on the Office of the Presiding Bishop and what I hope to see over the next few years.
1) The Office of the Presiding Bishop is the mouthpiece of the College of Bishops and Vicars. He or she is to help guide the ship day to day, but the College of Bishops and Vicars must be the ones to make the long-term and difficult decisions that will impact the entire church. This was the vision I had when I was the Presiding Bishop of the Ancient Apostolic Communion, and it continues to be my vision today. As such, I will be bringing before the Synod in 2016 a list of recommended changes to Canon Law that will better explain the role of the Presiding Bishop and invest more power and authority in the College of Bishops and Vicars. The Office of Presiding Bishop should not have supreme and unfettered power and authority. Rather, the Presiding Bishop should be beholden to the College of Bishops and Vicars. On top of all of this, it is my belief that the job of Presiding Bishop should have term limits. I will be proposing to the Synod that the Presiding Bishop have a 5-year term with no more than 2 consecutive terms before the person must sit out a term. Over the next year leading up to the synod, more and more of the decisions of the church will be made by the College of Bishops and Vicars so that when Canon Law is changed, the College will already be doing the heavy lifting.
2) This entire process to date has shown a very large gap in our Canon Laws when it comes to the resignation (or death) and election of the Presiding Bishop. I will be proposing changes to Canon Law that will remedy this for the future. Some of those changes are to require a transition period if the Presiding Bishop resigns. It will be proposed that a 60-day notice must be given by the Presiding Bishop before his or her last day as Presiding Bishop. Should they not give this notice, Canon Law will be changed to give the College of Bishops and Vicars the authority to run the church until a new Presiding Bishop is elected. This will keep the church from grinding to a halt while this process is taken care of.
3) I will not be using the title of Archbishop. It is my belief that we need not have an Archbishop, but that a Presiding Bishop is far more effective and humble. It is my belief that we should not be attempting to be a little Rome or little Canterbury, but rather, we should be concerned with being the IOCC and standing on the hundreds of years of history the Old Catholic church has. Canon Law currently does not allow for the title of Archbishop anyway, so this would simply be a return to Canon Law. I will also be proposing a Canon to be added to Canon Law that addresses proper ecclesial dress for all our clergy.
4) It is my desire to see the position of Chancellor made a permanent office in the church. This will require an addition to Canon Law to make this a permanent office of the church. However, at this time, under the Canon Laws of the Church, I will exercise my authority to authorize any office or commission necessary to keep the church running smoothly and will appoint Bishop James St. George as the new Chancellor of the IOCC. I believe Bishop St. George’s ability to lead, his experience in a parish and the wonderful example we have in Saint Miriam make him the best person for this job. I have spoken with Bishop St. George and he has agreed to accept this appointment. I pray that as we work together, we will continue building up the IOCC and the Kingdom of God.
5) All other appointments made by Bishop Cass with respect to the offices of the IOCC will remain in effect. All Vicars serving as Diocesan Administrators will continue to function as such and will only be replaced if they request it or if there is an issue in the diocese.
6) Over the next few years, I would like to see us recruit more Deacons, Priests and Bishops. As for Deacons and Priests, these individuals will ultimately come from the rank of laity. However, I do not believe that we should consecrate any new Bishops while I am Presiding Bishop. The Independent Sacramental Movement has too many Bishops now. We do not need to add to the problem by making any more. Instead, it is my belief that we should be recruiting good Bishops from the ISM to join our ranks. This is why I am so happy that Bishop David Cronan has been going through the process to join the IOCC.
7) Lastly, as my predecessor stated on many occasions, it is not my desire to force anyone to start a parish. There are clergy that are suited for parish ministry and there are those who are suited to other avenues of ministry. It is important, however, that we all be doing something for the Kingdom of God. This is why monthly reporting by all our clergy is so very important. We must continue to work on that process and continue to reach out to one another for prayer and support. Open and honest communication will be vital to our continued success.
As I have said many times before, my door is always open. I am always open to suggestions and even the occasional criticism. That has not, nor will it, change.
Please lift me in your prayers as we move forward and know that I will be praying for each and every one of you every single day.
The Right Rev. Gregory Godsey, OSFoc is the Managing Editor of Convergent Streams. He is the Presiding Bishop of the Old Catholic Churches International and the Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of Saint Maximilian Kolbe (AL, FL, GA, and SC). He is also the Director of the Office of Communications and Media Relations for the OCCI. He lives in North Augusta, South Carolina with his wife and son.