St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

There are several marks or characteristics of the Church of Christ, His Body. The Nicene Creed gives four—one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic. As noted earlier, The Church is holy first & foremost because Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, is holy. Christ’s Church is also called catholic. The word catholic comes into English via Latin from the Greek word katholikos, meaning “universal,” itself based on the word katholou, meaning “on the whole” or “in general.” When applied to the Christian Church the term means that Christ’s Church is all-embracing or “universal” with reference to the wholeness or totality of its membership, inclusive of all who are truly united to Christ by Baptism & faith. Sadly, the term catholic is most often understood to refer primarily, if not exclusively, to those churches in communion with the bishop of Rome, commonly called “the pope,” as supposed head of the Church; and that hold to his particular doctrines, some of which are either not proved by or are even contrary to Holy Scripture.
Various churches, such as the Church of England in the 16th century, protested against such abuses of apostolic authority, and were dubbed “Protestants.” But as I hope to demonstrate below, “Catholic” and “Protestant” are not (necessarily) mutually-exclusive terms.

Rather than review centuries-old controversies to determine the nature & character of Christ’s Catholic Church, we instead will look at the account of the “birth” of the Church on the day of Pentecost found in The Acts of the Apostles, when the Holy Ghost was sent from heaven and lighted upon the Apostles and other disciples assembled at Jerusalem after Christ’s Ascension into heaven (for the Church is the work of the Holy Spirit). After the Apostle Peter preached the first sermon that day, speaking for (not above or over) all of Christ’s Apostles, St Luke tells us: Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:41-42) Here the New Testament gives four marks of the Holy Catholic Church:

1) Continuing steadfastly in the teaching/doctrine of Christ’s Apostles. The Church is built upon “the rock,” the apostolic confession, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Church’s one foundation, which God alone had revealed to the Apostles. (St Matthew 16:17-18) The teaching/doctrine of Christ’s Apostles is found first in the Holy Scriptures (in both Old & New Testaments); and it is encapsulated in the three Creeds and preserved & proclaimed through the on-going witness of the Church. (See esp 1 Corinthians 15:1-6; 2 Titus 3:15-16; 1 St Peter 2:6; 2 St Peter 1:19-21; Jude 3)

2) Receiving & administering the sacraments of Baptism & Holy Communion: After His Resurrection, Christ Commanded His Apostles, and through them the Church, that they should teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (St Matthew 29:19; for as Christ told Nicodemus, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.(St John 3:3)At the Last Supper He commanded that they should bless the bread and the cup of the Eucharist in perpetual remembrance of His death & Passion, and partake in the Communion of His Body & Blood. (See esp 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) And so new life in the Body of Christ, His Church, is begun & sustained through the sacraments of Baptism & Holy Communion, though the power of the Word of God and the Holy Ghost.

3) Abiding in the fellowship or communion of Christ’s Apostles: As the Apostles proclaimed the Gospel in accordance with Christ’s Great Commission, they established local churches in all the places where the preached, which they continued to oversee until their deaths. As we learn from the New Testament, St Paul ordained elders or priests (presbyteros) to rule these local churches. (See esp Acts 15:4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4; 20:17-36) and he appointed successors in the apostolic ministry, such as SS Timothy & Titus, to oversee the churches he founded through his apostolic preaching & witness after he and the other Apostles departed this life. We know also that the Apostles appointed ministers called deacons, who were charged primarily with care & protection of the poor in the churches. (Acts 6) And so, the three orders of bishops, priests, & deacons emerged in the Catholic Church by apostolic authority under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These ministries are empowered by particular gifts of the Holy Ghost. But each & every member of the Body exercises one or more of these gifts or ministries as befits his/her own particular vocation & ministry. But though the Body of Christ, the Church, has many members, there is only one Head, which is Jesus Christ; just as there is only One Vine, giving life to many branches. (See esp St John 15:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12:3-31a; Ephesians 4:4-13) The fellowship of the Apostles is ultimately fellowship with Jesus Christ, not primarily with one or more of them.

​4) Continuing steadfastly in (the) prayers of the Church: This refers not only to private prayer, which is of course important, but to the public or corporate prayers of the Church as enshrined particularly in the Daily Offices of the Morning & Evening Prayer and the Great Litany. The focus of this service is the praise & glory of God as expressed primarily in psalms & hymns; and prayer that God through the Holy Spirit would cleanse & defend His Church; and that all who profess His Holy Name may agree in the truth of His Holy Word, and live in unity & godly love.