As we begin our seventh year of publication, I felt it was time to tackle a very big question that we have chosen as a group not to discuss. That topic is the one of what is good, bad, or indifferent about the Independent Sacramental Movement. What can we change, improve, get rid of, or leave alone in our community?
There have been a lot of good articles written in this edition about that topic. I wanted to offer my own thoughts on this subject. Some of these thoughts are my own and some of them are the thoughts offered to me by others in my 20 years in the ISM.
One of the first things I want to address is the notion that we should continue to do things the way they always have been done, even if they do not work. Building seminaries is a prime example of this notion. For decades, if not longer, the ISM has tried to start seminaries and each jurisdiction claims to have the best seminary around. However, not a one of them is accredited. Most of them do not even rise to the level necessary to get licensed by the states they reside in so that they can issue certificates. This is because most of us do not have the money, resources or personnel necessary to establish a real seminary.
That said, rather than working to build a seminary when all others have failed, we should be focused on building training programs that focus on providing candidates with the tools they need to minister. Rather than worrying about giving them useless alphabet soups behind their names, we should make sure they can minister to those who seek their help.
Another major issue in our movement is the vetting processes. Many jurisdictions have improved in this category. However, there are still those who do very little vetting. In my opinion, a minimum standard for vetting candidates, ordained or lay, should include a Criminal Background Check (preformed by a company contracted by the jurisdiction), psychological screening, educational records verification, and military service verification (if they claim to have served). Each jurisdiction should also have a panel of clergy and laity that review all applications and vote on their acceptance. This gives an extra layer of protection so that nothing ends up falling through the cracks.
I have heard more and more claims of Bishops in our movement offering ordinations for a fee. This is a serious issue in our movement and causes us to lose credibility. Simony, the selling of orders, is a grave sin. More needs to be done to combat this sin and if someone in your jurisdiction is accused of it, then it behooves you to immediately investigate. If you find they are guilty of this sin, you must stop them from continuing. Maybe even send out a private email to all bishops you know to warn them of their propensity for committing simony.
Communication between jurisdictions is greatly lacking in our movement. We may not agree with each other and we might even dislike each other, but communication about issues in our movement is necessary to make us all better. When you have to remove a clergy person for grave misconduct, there should be a way to communicate that privately to other bishops in the ISM in order to protect the entire movement from such people. I am not talking about rumors, I mean when there is solid evidence of misconduct.
Before you think that I am all negative and that I am a big downer, let me discuss some of the great things about the movement.
We have the ability to reach people who might otherwise be ignored or dismissed by other larger churches. It is a great privilege to serve those who are ignored. They respected to me the Christ. I see Jesus in each and every one of them. Many of them have been thrown out of other larger churches. We have a duty to serve them and to not end up treating them the way others have treated them.
The great breadth of expression in our movement is also a blessing. You can find parishes who celebrate the Latin Mass, the 1929 Book of Common Prayer, the Novus Ordo, the 1979 BCP, various Orthodox liturgies, and even liturgies that are a combination of all of these! This wide ability to express our love of the Divine is a great strength.
I joined the ISM in 1999. I will admit that many people made my life miserable for many years. I was an outcast. No one accepted me or my orders. I had to go through a subconditional ordination and consecration because of the frauds that exist in our movement. There are far fewer frauds now than ever before and I am grateful for that. But it still made my path through this movement difficult. Add to that my own transformation from a very conservative, hate-filled person to a more liberal and loving person and you can imagine the hard road I had.
But I love the ISM. I love my brothers and sisters, even those I disagree with. It is my hope that I have many more years in this movement with all of you.
I would like to see us all work to make things like USBN, Convergent Streams, and the Independent Movement Database (https://independentmovement.us) bigger and better. There is a poll up at Independent Movement Database concerning some updates and improvements to our database. We have the ability to make it a place to exchange ideas, host history on people and jurisdictions, as well as a clearinghouse for information about clergy.
Your input on these possibilities is greatly appreciated. Let’s continue to make the ISM a bigger and better place for everyone, clergy and laity!
Until next time,
Blessings and all my love!
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.