The Most Reverend Steven M. Harris, D. Min., D.D.
IOCC Bishop of Florida
A Brief History of the Independent Old Catholic Church
The Old Catholic churches are independent catholic, orthodox, and apostolic churches that trace their individual histories back to the Early Church and directly to the apostles themselves.
Old Catholics have their origins in the Roman Catholic Church of the Netherlands beginning in the seventh century. The Diocese of Utrecht became an Archiepiscopal See (under jurisdiction of a bishop) in 1145 when Pope Eugene III and the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III gave it the right to elect its successors to the See. This meant that the Archbishop of Utrecht was free to consecrate bishops without permission or approval from the Bishop of Rome (the Pope).
Following the First Vatican Council in 1870, considerable dissent grew among Catholics, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, over the newly-proclaimed dogma of papal infallibility. These dissenters could not accept the proposition that the Bishop of Rome was infallible. As a result, many formed independent communities that came to be known as Old Catholics because they sought to adhere to the beliefs and practices of the Early Church of the post-Apostolic era. The Old Catholic communities appealed to the Archbishop of Utrecht who consecrated the first bishops for these communities. Eventually, under the leadership of the Church of Holland, these Old Catholic communities joined together to form the Utrecht Union of Churches.
The Old Catholic Church in the United States has evolved from a centralized administration to a local and regional model of administration with self-governing dioceses. In 1908, Gerard Gul, Archbishop of Utrecht (who traces his apostolic succession back to St. Peter in the See of Rome), consecrated Arnold Harris Matthew as Old Catholic Bishop of Great Britain. Through his efforts the Old Catholic Church spread to United States and Canada.
In 1991, Bishop Maurice D. McCormick (who traces his apostolic succession back to Archbishop Arnold Harris Matthew) organized the Independent Old Catholic Church (IOCC). Today, the IOCC has clergy (deacons, priests and bishops) in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Cuba and Africa. The IOCC continues to grow and serve the Lord. It is presently led by Archbishop George H.W. LeMesurier of Ottawa, Canada.
The IOCC Statement of Beliefs
1. We believe that Jesus is the Christ and our personal Savior.
2. We believe in the Holy Trinity.
3. We believe in the inerrancy and divine inspiration of Holy Scripture.
4. We believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
5. We believe in the three historic creeds of the Church: The Nicene, Apostles’ and Athanasia Creeds.
6. We appreciate the wisdom and guidance of the doctrines of the seven Ecumenical Councils.
7. We appreciate the wisdom and guidance of the Early Church Fathers.
8. We believe in the seven Sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation, Matrimony and Holy Orders.
9. We believe that the Bread and Wine become the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
10. We believe that receiving the Eucharist is open to all Christian believers.
11. We believe that all Holy Orders are open to both men and women, married or single.
12. We believe celibacy of those in Holy Orders is a personal decision.
13. We hold valid Apostolic Succession.
14. We believe in the sanctity of marriage, however we believe that Jesus is merciful and those who have been divorced and/or remarried are offered the sacraments of the Church.
15. We believe that contraception is a personal decision.
16. We believe that abortion and euthanasia is the taking of human life.
2018 Synod members with Holy Orders that attended the dedication of St. Michaels Old Catholic Church
On Sunday October 20, 2019 Fr. Steven M. Harris was elevated to the office of Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Florida of The Independent Old Catholic Church. The Degree of Doctor of Divinity was also conferred by the Agape Seminary. And on October 10, 2020 The Most Rev. Richard White became the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese when he retired from active service. The Most Reverend Steve Harris, D.D., D. Min. has taken on the responsibilities as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Florida. He has served Pasco and Pinellas Counties as a funeral director for over 35 years and is currently a Funeral Director and Decedent Affairs Coordinator at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in Palm Harbor.