As a body of believers, the Apostolic Western orthodox Church (AWOC), affirms decision-making based on the Holy Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, and Godly Wisdom inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Scriptures which spring forth from the Living Tradition passed on by the Lord Jesus Christ to his apostles and through them to the Apostolic Church are the primary and essential deposits of Truth requiring our unreserved submission in all areas of life. The Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition are the supreme authority in all matters of Faith and Life. The infallible and trustworthy written Word of God is a complete and unified witness to God’s redemptive acts, which culminated in the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God, Incarnate and written, provides the foundation for the following doctrines we affirm along with Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds:
- We believe in one God, the sovereign Creator, sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To Him be all honor, glory, and worship forever!
- Jesus Christ, the Messiah is the Living Word who became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His birth of the Virgin Mary. He who is true God became true man; His two natures are united in one person forever. He lived a sinless life and died on a cross, a perfect sacrifice for our sins, according to the Scriptures. On the third day He rose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, seated at the right hand of the Almighty Majesty on High, He mediates as our High Priest and Head of the Church. Jesus Christ is the exclusive Messiah. The only way to salvation, the only Truth, and the only Life in whom people may put their trust and obtain eternal life.
- The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and to apply the saving work of Christ to the hearts of sinful, repentant people. He convicts us of sin and draws us to the Savior. Jesus baptizes His disciples in the power of the Holy Spirit and empowers them through multiple infillings to do the supernatural work of ministry in His Name. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Holy Scriptures, instructs the hearts of believers, and guides us into all truth.
- Being alienated from God by our sins and looking forward to judgment with the present world, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s unmerited favor and graciousness. God imparts His righteousness to those who respond with a living faith to the saving grace offered by Christ alone, thereby justifying them in His Holy Presence. Only those who are born of the Holy Spirit and embrace Jesus Christ, in word and obedient action, as Savior and Lord, become children of God, members of the Body of Christ, and heirs of eternal life. Notwithstanding we affirm with our Catholic brothers and sisters throughout the world that those who through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by the grace of Christ in their heart, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience- those too may attain eternal salvation.
- The one Holy Catholic and apostolic Church, the true Church, is composed of all persons who, through saving faith in Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, are united together in the Body of Christ. The Church finds her visible, yet imperfect, expression in local congregations where the Word of God is preached in its purity and the Sacraments are administered in their integrity, scriptural discipline is practiced, and loving fellowship is maintained to nurture the believers in the life of Christ. For her perfecting, the Church awaits the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Jesus Christ will come again to the earth – suddenly, personally, visibly, and bodily – to judge the living and the dead, and to consummate history and the eternal plan of God. We seek to faithfully serve Christ in the world as His ambassadors as we joyfully anticipate His appearance.
- The Christian’s mission is to follow the Messiah’s first and principal command, the Great Commandment: “Hear, O Israel” separated unto Me and by Me, you who carry and are identified by My Holy Name, “The Lord our God is one” We, individually and corporately, are commanded and therefore choose of our own God-given will, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. Our mission is to show that we are Christians by demonstrating our Holy Spirit-inspired and empowered nature. Manifesting Almighty God’s gracious love compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness through us, individually and corporately, in word and action, by pursuing the highest and best interests of our neighbors, showing the same concern we have for ourselves.
- As we endeavor to meet the standards of God’s love, we are to fulfill the Risen Jesus of Nazareth’s Great Commission: “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in The Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
- Human beings are created in His likeness and image. The creation serves and is sustained by the Creator. We were created for communion with God and one another in purity and in accordance with the Holy Scriptures. Communion with God and the believers is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Self-control includes fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman and continence outside the bonds of marriage.
- We affirm the Author of Life, the stewardship of creation, through environmental preservation, and the protection and validation of the irrevocable and inherent sanctity and dignity of all forms of human life, from conception to the grave. We affirm peaceful resolution and reconciliation of conflicts between persons, groups, and nations.
- The 7 Sacraments — the sacraments are the normative means by which Catholic Christians encounter the Grace of God are brought into the Church, and are empowered and sustained for ministry.
How many sacraments are there? Two? Five? Seven? Eight? Twelve? Each of these answers has been proposed at some point by someone. This question was only answered after a long process, “The Church has discerned over the centuries that among liturgical celebrations there are seven that are, in the strict sense of the term, sacraments instituted by the Lord” Here we will offer a brief overview of this centuries-long discernment process.
We find support for the seven sacraments in the writings of the earliest Church fathers. Tertullian (Catechism, 200), who made important contributions to the early Church’s understanding of the sacraments, wrote about baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, holy orders, and marriage.
St. Augustine, who died in 430, listed all of the sacraments except for the anointing of the sick. However, one of his contemporaries, Pope Innocent I, wrote about the sacrament of anointing in a letter in 416.
There is, in fact, no record of adulteration, falsification, or controversy concerning any of the seven sacraments in the first five centuries. According to Johann Auer, “This entitles us to trace the Church’s silent tradition on the matter of the seven sacraments back to apostolic times” (A General Doctrine of the Sacraments and the Mystery of the Eucharist, 93).
It was during the Early Middle Ages that theologians such as Master Roland Bandinelli (later Pope Alexander III) and Hugh of St Victor began to affirm seven sacraments, although consensus had not yet been reached. Some medieval considered consecration of a king or queen the eighth sacrament, and St. Peter Damian (died 1072) counted 12 sacraments.
However, from the mid-13th century onward seven sacraments were considered a truth of the faith, a truth that was affirmed by the Council of Lyons in 1274: “The same Holy Roman Church also holds and teaches that there are seven sacraments of the Church.” In 1439 the Council of Florence listed the “seven sacraments of the New Law, namely Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order and Matrimony.” The orthodox churches also have affirmed the same seven sacraments since the 13th century.
Once the number of sacraments was set at seven, it was given a variety of interpretations and justifications, including the seven stars of Revelation 1:16, the seven lampstands of Revelation 1:13, and the seven pillars in the temple of wisdom (Proverbs 9:1-3). Others are seven Letters to Churches in Revelation 2-3 or the seven petitions of the Our Father.
Alexander of Hales in the 1220s associated them with the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues: Baptism instills faith, confirmation instills fortitude, the Eucharist love, penance justice, marriage temperance, priestly orders wisdom, and anointing of the sick hope. This association was affirmed by St. Thomas Aquinas, the Common Doctor of the Church.
The number of sacraments was challenged by Reformers. After some vacillation (from two to five), Luther concluded that only baptism and Eucharist were sacraments. Later reformers such as Zwingli (died in 1531) and Calvin (died in 1546) accepted only Baptism and the Lord’s Supper “in a highly symbolic sense” (Paul Haffner, The Sacramental Mystery, 11). The Anglicans also traditionally affirmed two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the Reformation, strongly condemned the teaching of the Reformers regarding the sacraments. In its Decree on the Sacraments in 1547 it stated: “If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law…are more or fewer than seven that is: baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, extreme unction, Order and matrimony; or that any one of these is not truly and properly a sacrament, he is cut off from the Church.”
Our Catechism summarizes the Church’s discernment of the sacraments thus: “As she has done for the canon of Sacred Scripture and for the doctrine of the faith, the Church, by the power of the Spirit who guides her ‘into all truth,’ has gradually recognized this treasure received from Christ and, as the faithful steward of God’s mysteries, has determined its ‘dispensation’.”
- Sacraments of Initiation —
The Sacraments of Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
- In the early Church, initiation was presided over by the bishop. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century A.D., the number of people seeking initiation greatly increased, making the presence of the bishop at every ritual of initiation impossible. Permission was granted to local pastors to preside over initiation celebrations. The Western church opted to emphasize the unity of local churches with their bishops by reserving the Confirmation ritual for the bishop while allowing local pastors to baptize. In the West this practice has continued to the present day, resulting in a gradual separation of Confirmation from Baptism and the Eucharist. Some dioceses, however, now celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Restored Order. The Eastern churches opted to maintain the unity of the Sacraments of Initiation, allowing local pastors to confirm at the initiation celebration. As the majority of those being initiated were infants, they would be baptized, anointed, and receive Eucharist soon after they were born, a practice that continues today. We as a jurisdiction, reaffirm the unity of the Sacraments of Initiation through the restoration of the catechumenate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Local pastors are allowed to confirm newly baptized members of the Church who have participated in the RCIA at the Easter Vigil.
Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA)
- The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults — This is our normative means for preparing and welcoming adults into the Catholic Church.
The RCIA process is as follows:
- a period of evangelization and pre-catechumenate
- acceptance into the order of catechumens in a liturgical rite in which the candidates express a desire to respond to God’s call and the Church accepts their expression
- a period of the catechumenate
- a liturgical rite of election or enrollment of names celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent
- a period of purification and enlightenment, during the Lenten season
- the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation during the Easter Vigil; and, and
- a period of post-baptismal catechesis, known as mystagogy.