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STATEMENT
of
FAITH and DOCTRINE

As Held and Taught Within:
The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church
in America


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The Faith and Doctrine That We Confess, Maintain, and Teach




GOD is present in our midst within the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, as celebrated within the Divine Eucharistic Liturgy and is the foundation of belief within The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church in America. Welcome! We pray that the information proclaiming and in confession of what we believe will assist you in planning to contact us and perhaps coming to worship with us. We honor, uphold and teach the basic and foundational truths of the ancient Creeds of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanacian Creed.

Introduction

The Mystery that God is with us, is a fact of our lives. His presence has been experienced by people from the beginning of time, right down to our own present day. Many have reflected on this mystery and have tried to express it in words; that is what the Church calls theology. Some of these teachings have been recognized by the Church over the many years that have passed since our Lord walked this earth, as authentic reflections or defined experiences of God -- in our midst. These are what we call the "Doctrines" of the Church. They serve as markers, or signs, if you would, to keep us traveling spiritually, on the right road to God in this life. Will you join us for a moment in looking into a few of these important reflections or defined experiences of God?

Let's face it, God is a mystery:

It is hard to know a mystery, and certainly God's inner life is most unknowable, simply because it is so far beyond our capacity to understand Him. He is the Holy One; so unique and perfect that He cannot be compared to others. So when we try to use our own reasoning, we can only assume that HE, GOD, is the most excellent perfection of everything we know to be holy or good or beautiful. In reality, we have to say that God is beyond all our experience, even beyond existence as we know it today.

The Holy Spirit is the confirmation, always, of GOD with us:

As our Lord, Savior and God Jesus Christ was bringing to a close His earthly ministry, He promised His followers that He would send them the Comforter to take His place, to guide, teach and confirm. He told his followers He would send them "The Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit, He told them, would remain with them forever. In John 15:26, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will be the "Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father." This Holy Spirit came to the Church, His apostles and through them to all of us, at "Pentecost" and remains with us as the abiding Seal of God dwelling in our midst, The Holy Guarantor of the Kingdom of God. Literally, the power of God working in us, through us and around us. It is this Holy Spirit which inspires prophesy and consistently and constantly perfects the priesthood. It is this Holy Spirit which grants wisdom to God people, even as It did to the simple fisherman that followed Jesus as His Apostles. It is through this Holy Spirit that all things are confirmed.

What do we believe about the Church?

We understand that God has reached out to us and comes to us, or manifests himself within His Church. It is there, in His Church that we experience God in a most blessed and intimate union. It is there that we experience the Most Holy Trinity. For it is in the Holy Trinity that we come to experience God in process. We experience and see God as One, yet at the same time as Three. He is One in essence and being, One in activity and power, but Three in Person. And while the Holy Spirit is the continuation, if you would, of Christ's divine presence in the world, the Church is also the Temple of God, in which the Holy Spirit dwells, for we, each one of us, are the Church, the members incorporate of His Kingdom. How fitting then, that the early Church Fathers called the Church -- "The Communion of the Holy Spirit, that very force of God, aspect of God, divine essence of God that joins us to GOD in divine community whenever we gather together and assemble to worship Him, especially within the Holy and Divine Eucharistic Liturgy."

In 1 Peter 2:9, the Church is charged with the vision, the mission, the message: "to proclaim the wonderful acts of God." To proclaim that God remains in our midst, that God has not left us and that His Presence is forever with us, even until the end. As members of the Church, we are members of Christ's body, inseparably joined in Him, to the Holy Trinity, that we are most literally "the living stones," which make up God's Temple. It is within this relationship that we have our very life. The Church is the holy institution founded by our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of men and which extends His authority, love and Presence into the world.

We who are His Church, continually, constantly, consistently and absolutely need to clearly extend the message about what we believe concerning our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in this day and age in which we find ourselves living.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is truly God. That He is Jesus, that is the Savior and Christ, God's Anointed, a Son not created of another substance, as is the case with each of us, but a Son begotten of the very substance of the Father (i.e. God). He is also truly man, like us in every respect, except sin. That the denial, either of His divinity or of His humanity constitutes a denial of His incarnation and of our own salvation.
As Orthodox Catholics we hold and teach that the eternal truths of God's saving revelation in Jesus Christ are preserved in the living Tradition of the Church under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
We believe and teach that "The Holy Scriptures" are at the heart of the Tradition and the touchstone of the Christian faith. We also believe that while the Bible is the written testimony of God's revelation, Holy Tradition is the all encompassing experience of the Church under the abiding guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. Tradition must never be dead, but alive with the breath of the Holy Spirit at its very core.

The Holy Mysteries/The Sacraments of the Church

We partake of this God given life, as members incorporate in the mystical and physical Body of Christ Jesus our Lord through the Holy Mysteries -- the Sacraments. We recognize seven Holy Mysteries or Sacraments within the Church of our Lord and Savior and God, Jesus Christ. They are: Baptism, Chrismation or Confirmation, The Holy Eucharist, Confession, Ordination, Marriage and Holy Unction.

It must be noted here that the very true nature of the Sacraments does not depend on scriptural evidence for their justification. The Sacraments were established before the writing of the Bible, and they are not subordinate in rank to the Bible, but equal. We must also remember that the same Holy Spirit which inspired the authors of the Holy Bible also inspired the Apostles and early Fathers of the Church as they taught about our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Sacraments.

In the early Church, as in the church today both Baptism and Chrismation/Confirmation is closely linked. Baptism is the spiritual birth, it is the way in which a person is actually united to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the experience of the individual of Christ's death and resurrection. In it our sins are truly forgiven and we are quite literally energized by our union with Christ to live a holy life -- and Chrismation is the bestowing of the Holy Spirit upon the believer. (John 3:3-8 and Acts 19: 2-6) Please also note that in this scripture, (John 3:3-8) the phrase "born again" is used twice. When reading this sacred scripture it should be remembered that in Greek the words: "gennethei anwthen," and in the second usage in this scripture: "gennethenai anothen," both give a literal translation of: born from above, not: "born again." The use of the phrase "born from above," gives added understanding and meaning to the spiritual experience of Baptism and Chrismation. In the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, with the consecration of the bread and wine, we partake of the very Body and the very Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for remission of sins and eternal life. It is the most frequently celebrated Sacrament/Holy Mystery within the Orthodox Catholic Churches of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Both the New Testament and Sacred Tradition bear witness to the Actual and Real Presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. (1 Corinthians 10: 16-21 and 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26, 27-30 and John 6: 47-59) Is it any wonder that the early Christians began calling the Holy Eucharist, "the medicine of immortality!" In the sacrament of Confession our Lord Jesus Christ, the founder of the sacrament, through the confessor, forgives the sins committed after Baptism by the person who confesses his/her sins and sincerely repents of them. Ordination/Holy Orders is that Sacrament, the ceremony within the rite of ordination, which by the Grace and calling of God, elevates those who are called, to the Holy Orders of the Church. The sacerdotal priesthood has three major orders: Bishop, presbyter (elder) or priest, and deacon. The bishop functions and stands in the authority of "high priest," the "president of the Eucharist and all the Mysteries." Each priest and deacon are his assistants. They represent the bishop, who is "the living icon of Christ," as they go forth into the Vineyard of our Lord to preach, teach and administer the Holy Sacraments of the Church. In the sacrament of Ordination through prayer and the laying-on of hands by a bishop, divine grace comes down upon the ordained enabling them to be a worthy ministers of the Church. Apostolic succession is fundamental to the Church. Without it there can be no continuity of apostolic authority within the Church. In the sacrament of Marriage, divine grace sanctifies the union of husband and wife. Holy Matrimony is NOT a contract within the thinking of the Church. It is the mysterious or mystical union of a man and a woman -- in imitation of Christ and His Church -- in the presence of "the whole People of God," through her bishop or his presbyter. Divorce is, of course, forbidden -- BUT, as a concession to our human weaknesses, divorce is allowed on the basis of Adultery. Second and third marriages can also be allowed, not as a legal matter, but on the basis of mercy, a further concession to human weakness. This Sacrament or Holy Mystery, like all the Sacraments is completed by the Holy Eucharist. In the sacrament of Holy Unction, the sick person is anointed with sanctified holy oil and divine grace heals his bodily and spiritual ills. In this Sacrament, Holy Oil (Unction) is received for healing. Often illness/sickness is caused from sin. Therefore in this healing Sacrament/Holy Mystery -- Holy Oil is used for Anointing, along with the Sacrament of Confession and at the end of the rite, the anointed receive the Holy Eucharist.

The Holy Theotokos (i.e. God-bearer or the Mother of God):

We believe that the Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary bore the Son of God in her womb and that from her He (Jesus) took His humanity. In honoring the Holy Theotokos, the Church confirms a very basic truth of the Christian faith; that Jesus is truly the Son of God and He dwells in our MIDST. (Luke 1:43-48). As Orthodox Catholics we honor her highly as the model of holiness, the first of the redeemed, the Mother of the new humanity in her Son.

Our Closing Points of Belief and Summary Within the Nicene Creed

To summarize our belief, we must again turn to Holy Scripture. In the teachings of the Apostle Paul in Colosians 2:8, we find: "Beware least any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

As Orthodox Catholics, we believe that the "teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ" have not changed and do not need to be changed. We believe and affirm "the faith once delivered unto the saints," (Jude 3) is now as it was in the beginning. It is indeed that same faith delivered unto the Apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20)

As Orthodox Catholics we also recognize that "external changes," (such as vestments of the clergy, new feasts, the canons of ecumenical, regional councils AND the internal canons of various Orthodox Catholic jurisdictions) will always be a part of the living tradition of the Church, always governed by the Unchanging Faith as once delivered by our Lord Jesus Christ unto His Apostles. The external changes that the Church will always experience and need to adjust to, will have but a single purpose: To express the Faith under new circumstances.

As Orthodox Catholics we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ gave "His life as a ransom for many." (Matthew. 20:28) and (Mark 10:45). The "ransom" is paid to the grave. As revealed to the Prophet Hosea (Hosea 13:14) that our Lord Jesus Christ would come to ransom us from the grave, we read: "I will ransom them (i.e. us) from the power of the grave. I will redeem them from death." Satan's greatest tool of fear is thus ransomed by our Lord Jesus Christ and is removed in our behalf. (Hebrews 2:14)

Our Lord Jesus Christ "voluntarily" gave Himself up to the Cross. This voluntary action on the part of our Lord was (the ransom for many or of the many). He rose from the dead in His crucified body, for death had no power over Him. Indeed it has no power over anyone. The human race is therefore redeemed from the grave, from death and from sin. To be free of these (i.e. death, the grave and sin) we become like God (that is deification) and enables us to live with Him, in His Kingdom forever.

Orthodox Catholic churches believe and teach that all bishops are equal. There are, of course, different ranks of bishops (patriarch, metropolitan, archbishop, bishop); never-the-less, a bishop is a bishop. Differences in rank are only administrative in nature to the jurisdiction of the church or group of churches. The president of a synod of bishops is called archbishop (a Greek custom) or metropolitan (a Russian custom).

Orthodox Catholic Churches teach and believe that bishops are "the living icon of Christ," and his flock constitutes the Church in a certain place; or, as St. Ignatius the God-bearer says, "the Church of Christ is 'in the bishop,' his priests and deacons, with the people (i.e. the faithful), surrounding the Holy Eucharist in the true faith." All the bishops, with their flocks so constituted together, compose the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Without the bishop, there can be no church. There can be no bishop without the Holy Eucharist, and there can be no bishop or Holy Eucharist without the true Apostolic Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ as given and delivered unto the Apostles. St. Cyprian of Carthage writes: "The Church is in the bishop and the bishop in the Church."

Finally, we wish to bring to bear, once again, the belief, meaning and importance of the Holy Eucharist (i.e. The Mystical Supper) within the Church. Most literally there can be no Church without the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of unity, because the Church is formed through it. The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ unites the Faithful to God: This fellowship, this bond, this unity or "Koinonia" is the whole purpose of our Christian experience here. It is within this Holy Mystery that we strengthen and renew our very life within the Church. It is this very Sacrament with which God "inspires" His Church, (i.e. breathes life itself - placing Himself - in our midst).

To end our summary of beliefs without proclaiming to all,  that document and statement of unity of belief as contained within the Nicene Creed, would only give us half the summary of our beliefs  We herewith summarize in unity with other branches of the historic Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord, Savior and God Jesus Christ and bring to focus from our statements above, the conclusion of our beliefs as contained within the Nicene Creed, as follows:

The Nicene Creed was composed by the Fathers of the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils. The first seven articles of the Creed were drawn up at the 1st Ecumenical Council, and the last five were drawn up at the 2nd Ecumenical Council. The 1st Council met in Nicea in 325 A.D. to confirm the true teachings about the Son of God and to oppose the false teachings of Arius. Arius believed that the Son of God was created by God the Father. The 2nd Council met in Constantinople in 381 A.D. to confirm the true teaching on the Holy Spirit and to oppose the false teachings of Macedonius. He rejected the divine origin of the Holy Spirit. The Creed is named the "Nicean-Constantinopolitan" after the two cities in which the Fathers gathered for the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils. The Creed consists of twelve articles. In the 1st article we speak of God the Father; from the 2nd though 7th articles we speak of God the Son; in the 8th article about God the Holy Spirit; in the 9th about the Church; in the 10th about Baptism; and in the 11th and 12th about the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.

What do we believe in according to the Creed?

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light: true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried; And arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures; And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets. In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the age to come. Amen.

We begin the Creed with "I believe." This is because the essence of our religious convictions depends not on external experiences but on our acceptance of God-given truths. Surely one cannot prove truths of the spiritual world by any laboratory experiments. These truths belong to the sphere of personal religious experience. The more a person grows in the spiritual life - the more one prays, thinks about God, does good - the more his inner spiritual experience develops, the clearer the religious truths become to him. In this fashion, faith becomes for him a subject of personal experience.

We believe that God is one fullness of perfection; we believe that He is a perfect spirit, timeless, without beginning, all-powerful and all-wise. God is everywhere, sees all, and knows beforehand when something will happen. He is good beyond measure, just and all-holy. He needs nothing and is the reason for everything that exists.

We believe that God is one in Essence and Trinity in Persons (i.e., the one true God has appeared to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the Trinity, one in Essence and indivisible. The Father is not born and does not proceed from the others. The Son pre-eternally was born of the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father.

We believe that all the Persons of the Holy Trinity are equally in divine perfection, greatness, power, and glory. That is, we believe that the Father is true and perfect God, the Son is true and perfect God, and, the Holy Spirit is true and perfect God. Therefore, in prayers, we simultaneously glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as one God.

We believe that the entire visible and invisible world was created by God. In the beginning God created the invisible, great angelic world, otherwise known as Heaven. As stated in the Bible, God created our material or physical world from nothing. This was not done at once, but gradually during periods of time which in the Bible are called "days." God created the world not out of necessity or need but out of His all-good desire to do so in order that His other creations might enjoy life. Being Himself endlessly good, God created all things good. Evil appeared in the world from the misuse of free will, with which God has endowed both angels and people. For example, the Devil (Satan) and his demons were at one time angels of God. But they rebelled against their Creator and became demons. They were cast out of Heaven and formed their own kingdom called "hell." From that moment on, they tempted people to sin and became our enemies and the enemies of our salvation.

We believe that all things are under God's control; that is, he provides for every creature and guides everything to a good goal. God loves and looks after us as a mother looks after her child. For this reason nothing bad can befall a person who trusts in God.

We believe that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came down from heaven for our salvation. He came to earth and took on our flesh by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Being God from all eternity, He in the time of King Herod took on our human nature, both soul and body, and is therefore truly God and truly man, or the God-man. In one divine Person He combined two natures, divine and human. These two natures will remain with Him always without change, neither blending nor changing from one into the other.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, while living on earth, enlightened the world by His teaching, His example, and miracles. He taught people what they should believe and how they should live so that they may inherit eternal life. By His prayers to His Father, His complete obedience to the Father's Will, His sufferings and death, He defeated the devil and redeemed the world from sin and death. By His Resurrection from the dead, He laid the foundation for our resurrection. After His Ascension in the flesh to Heaven, which took place forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ sat at the right hand of God the Father; that is to say, He received equal power with God the Father and since then together with Him governs the face of the world.

We believe that the Holy Spirit, proceeding from God the Father from the beginning of the world, together with the Father and the Son gives existence to all creation, gives life, and governs all. He is the source of a grace-filled spiritual life, both for angels as well as people, and equally with the Father and the Son is worthy of all glory and worship. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament spoke through the prophets. Then in the beginning of the New Testament, He spoke through the Apostles and now lives in the Church of Christ, guiding her pastors and people in the truth.

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Church on earth for the salvation of all who believe in Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles on Pentecost. Since that time the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, that grace-filled community or union of believing Orthodox Christians, and preserves her in the purity of Christ's teaching. The grace of the Holy Spirit abides in the Church, cleanses those who repent of sins, helps the believers grow in good deeds, and sanctifies them.

We believe that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is One because all Orthodox Catholic Christians, although belonging to different national, local churches, are one family together with the angels and saints in Heaven. The oneness of the Church depends on oneness of Faith and Grace. The Church is Holy because her faithful children are sanctified by the word of God, prayer, and the Sacraments. The Church is Catholic because what we believe is the same teaching held to be true by all Orthodox Catholic Christians, always and everywhere. The Church is called Apostolic because it preserves Apostolic teaching and the Apostolic succession. From ancient times, this Apostolic succession passes on without interruption from Bishop to Bishop in the sacrament of Ordination. The Church will remain of our Lord and Savior until the end of time.

We believe that in the sacrament of Baptism the believer is forgiven all sins. The believer becomes a member of the Church. Access to the other sacraments of salvation becomes available to him or her at this time. In the sacrament of Chrismation the believer receives the grace of the Holy Spirit. In Confession or Repentance, sins are forgiven. In Holy Communion, offered at the Divine Eucharistic Liturgy, the believer receives the absolute very Body and Blood of Christ. In the sacrament of Matrimony, an inseparable union is created between a man and a woman. In the sacrament of Ordination Deacons, Priests, and Bishops are ordained / consecrated to serve the Church. In Holy Unction, the healing of physical and spiritual illness is offered and received.

We believe that before the end of the world Jesus Christ, accompanied by angels, will again come to the earth in glory. Every person, according to His Word, will resurrect from the dead. A miracle will occur in which the souls of people who have died will return into the bodies which they possessed during their earthly life. All the dead will come to life. During the General Resurrection, the bodies of the saints, both those resurrecting and those still living will be renewed and become spiritualized in the image of the Resurrected Body of Christ. After the resurrection, everyone will appear before the Judgment of Christ, to receive what he is due, according to what he has done when he lived in his body, good or evil. After the Judgment, unrepentant sinners will enter into eternal torments and the righteous into eternal life. This will begin the Kingdom of Christ, which will have no end.

With the one word "Amen" we witness to the fact that we accept and acknowledge with our whole heart this Creed which we confess to be true.

The Creed is read by a Catechumen (one about to receive Baptism) during the sacrament of Baptism. During the Baptism of an infant, the Creed is read by the Sponsor. The Creed is sung at the Liturgy and should be read daily at Morning Prayers. An attentive reading of the Creed greatly strengthens our faith. This happens because the Creed is not just a formal statement of belief but a prayer. When we say "I believe" in a spirit of prayer, along with the other words of the Creed, we enliven and strengthen our Faith in God and in all those truths which are contained in the Creed. This is why it is so important for the Orthodox Christian to recite the Creed daily or at least regularly.

For more information about what we believe, please do not hesitate to contact us, either by electronic mail or surface mail.

May God bless you and keep you always. May He make is face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, both now and always and even unto ages of ages. And the blessings of God [+] the Father, God [+] the Son, and God [+] the Holy Spirit, be with you now and always. AMEN....




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