Bishop Francis Krebs, the Presiding Bishop of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC), is in Poland to visit European colleagues and to ordain two deacons in the ECC’s member church, the Reformowany Kościół Katolicki w Polsce (Reformed Catholic Church in Poland). Suzanne Schloemann and I joined Bishop Frank in Poznan earlier this week.
The regional gathering on Saturday 23 July 2016 included Poles, Belgians, and Americans. We sat together in the our Polish colleagues’ chapel in Fr. Tomasz Puchalski’s apartment in Poznan. We celebrated the Eucharist together, with various parts in Polish, Flemish, and English in the morning followed by Fr. Tomasz’s (perhaps famous?) pasta and zucchini for lunch.
In the afternoon we talked about how European colleagues might systematically prepare over the next few years for the formation of a new ECC diocese with its own bishop in Europe. The discussion covered matters such as fostering local initiatives and leadership, responsiveness of the ECC’s present bishops to the needs of ECC-related churches in Poland and Belgium, and the nature of the agreements among the several European parishes and the larger church organization of which they are key, emerging members.
This is a fascinating conversation that notes and appreciates multiple values and approaches: both local autonomy and global accountability combined with regional initiative and international presence. Holistic balance creates unique regional approaches that further a replicable global process for nurturing relationships with sister churches in the Old Catholic tradition. Inspiration can flow both east and west. For example, Anna’s and Joanna’s report on their anti-[age, gender, sexual orientation] discrimination work in Poznan can inspire colleagues in Belgium, the US and elsewhere to explore similar advocacy outreach.
Multiple issues and creative possibilities became apparent in the dialogue. European colleagues might hold their own decision making gatherings while consulting regularly with the Office of the Presiding Bishop. The Reformed Catholic Church in Poland will certainly evolve its own constitution while establishing appropriate working agreements with the ECC. The network of priests and lay colleagues who comprise the Oecumenische Katholieke Kerk in België (Ecumenical Catholic Church in Belgium) will take its own unique path for membership in the ECC.
Several people spoke from the heart about the experience of creating faith communities. All of us were deeply moved by the common experience of building relationships. All three societies represented—Polish, Belgian, and American—share major issues around social compassion amidst profound social change. All of us gathered in Poznan were aware of the profound gift of healing spirit that allows us to meet one another as disciplined colleagues and revered friends.