The International Old Catholic Bishops' Conference (IBC) of the Union of Utrecht includes the bishops who
(a) together with their churches adhere to the “Declaration of Utrecht” of September 24, 1889;
(b) maintain the catholicity of ministry, doctrine, and worship in apostolic succession;
(c) together with their churches are in full communion with the other churches of the Union of Utrecht;1
are recognized by the members of the Union of Utrecht as having been elected lawfully and ordained canonically and exercise the catholic episcopacy in their church;
(d) have no links or obligations to other churches contradicting the “Declaration of Utrecht” and the present Statute;
(e) exercise their function as ordinary bishops, i.e. govern a church (diocese).2
The IBC does not infringe upon the jurisdiction of its members in their local churches.
The IBC has the following tasks:
(a) it takes the necessary decisions in all organizational or disciplinary matters concerning the maintenance of communion and regarding joint projects;
(b) it responds to controversial matters of faith and the ensuing ethical behavior as well as to matters of order;
(c) it issues declarations of faith and principle on behalf of the Union, if inquiries or the circumstances so require;
(d) it orders the relationships to other churches and religious communities;
(e) it decides about the admission of a church to the Union of Utrecht;
(f) it decides about the reception of a bishop into the IBC, aside from the procedure outlined in Art. 8;
(g) it ascertains whether a bishop has gravely harmed the confession of the “Declaration of Utrecht”, the catholicity of ministry, doctrine, and worship, or this “Statute”, or has seriously violated the moral order, and determines whether he ought to be deprived of the membership in the IBC;
(h) it initiates, whenever possible, a process of discussion regarding matters concerning Art. 3 b-d in universal Old Catholic discussion forums (for instance, International Old Catholic Theological Conference, International Old Catholic Congress), assisted by the Office of Information and Communication;
(i) it exercises jurisdiction over Old Catholic parishes and groups outside the local church of a member of the IBC or in formation, by commissioning one or more bishops (whether or not a member of the IBC) to fulfill this task;
(j) it maintains a permanent Office of Information and Communication for the benefit of the Union of Utrecht and other churches, staffed by a theologian;
(k) it maintains a Documentation Center for Old Catholic Literature and Publications of the member churches of the Union of Utrecht.
Each member of the IBC is bound
(a) to take part in the meetings of the IBC;
(b) to bring problems, insights, and developments which are receiving significance beyond his church, thereby affecting the Union of Utrecht as such, to the attention of the IBC early enough and with sufficient explanation and to get them on the agenda as business item for a statement;
(c) to initiate in his church a discussion of matters concerning Art. 3 b-d which will be dealt with in the IBC, assisted by the Office of Information and Communication, so that he can express his views in the IBC in knowledge of the conviction in his church;
(d) to make known in his church as doctrinal statements of the bishops united in the Union of Utrecht any declarations and statements of the IBC in matters of faith and the ensuing ethical behavior as well as order, thereby including the given justification;
(e) to implement himself, or have implemented, the decisions of the IBC on discipline, organization, and common endeavors in his church according to its internal order;
(f) to carry out in his church the decisions of the IBC on relationships to other churches and religious communities in suitable ways;
(g) to bring to the attention of the IBC the eventual non-reception of decisions of the IBC.
(a) A member of the IBC according to Art. 1 f is in principle bound to vote in decisions taken concerning Art. 3 a-g. A member does not take part in a vote on a matter immediately touching his personal interests.
(b) A bishop who does not take part in the meeting has to authorize another bishop of his own or of another church of the Union of Utrecht (whether or not a member of the IBC) or another member of the clergy of his church to speak on his behalf and to vote.
(c) In the case of a vacancy that particular church may delegate the diocesan administrator or another member of the clergy as an observer to the meeting. This person has advising rights. If, however, that church is represented by an ordinary bishop of the same national church, he may only cast his own vote.
(d) Abstentions are not taken into consideration at the voting results.
(a) In decisions and statements concerning Art. 3 b-d, the following procedure is observed. The same applies if a matter about to be decided is, after the first debate in the IBC, regarded by two of its members to be a matter touching the further maintenance of the communion of the Union of Utrecht.
(b) This procedure provides as a first step for an agreement by the IBC for the fixing of a period in which a consultation is held in all the national churches, possibly also in universal Old Catholic discussion forums, on the matter under discussion, the results of which are being made known to both the members of the IBC and the synodal governing bodies of the national churches. At the same time a simple majority is required for determining when the matter under discussion will be put on the agenda of the IBC for further decisions.
(c) The matter once again being put on the agenda will then be discussed by the bishops in a second reading. By doing so, they are to take into particular account the written results of the consultations and of possible further expert opinions requested as well as the possible effects of a decision for the Union of Utrecht and for its existing ecumenical relationships.
(d) Normally the second reading is followed by a vote in which all members of the IBC present take part.
(e) A unanimous decision is communicated to the member churches as a decision of the IBC, with the justification provided.
(f) If a decision is not unanimous but reveals the mind of the IBC in the sense that a majority of bishops from each national church is in favor, the result is made known to the member churches as a decision of the IBC, together with the arguments of those in favor as well as the arguments of those opposed.
(g) If there is no unanimous decision or a decision “of one mind” according to Art. 6 e and f, no decision has been taken by the IBC, and the item is removed from the agenda. This result is made known to the churches of the Union of Utrecht, together with the arguments advanced in the IBC, the local churches, and - if it is the case - in universal Old Catholic discussion forums.
(a) Decisions on the admission of a church to the Union of Utrecht (Art. 3 e) are taken in accordance with Art. 6 e-g.
(b) In all other matters, a decision has been taken if and when the absolute majority of the members of the IBC present agree to it.
The election of a bishop is carried out by the respective church according to its order, the consecration is performed by the bishops of the Union of Utrecht.
(a) The respective church carries out the election being aware of the following impediments to consecration as determined by the IBC:
- the lack of theological formation and pastoral experience required for the episcopal ministry;
- a conduct of life incompatible with the dignity of the episcopal office;
(b) The responsible church authority notifies all the member churches of the Union of Utrecht of the election and supplies the respective certification.
(c) The president of the IBC for his part notifies the members of the IBC of the election.
(d) If within three weeks after the notification by the president of the IBC a member of the IBC raises an objection against the election or the elect, the question will be dealt with at a special session of the IBC and there decided by simple majority after having heard the respective church. If the IBC objects to performing the consecration, it is up to the respective church to draw the appropriate conclusions.
(e) If within three weeks after the notification by the president of the IBC no objection to the election or the person of the elect is raised, the president will send a copy of the “Declaration of Utrecht” and of the “Statute of the Old Catholic Bishops United in the Union of Utrecht” to the elect requesting him to document his assent to them by signing them.
(f) After having received the copies of the “Declaration of Utrecht” and the “Statute of the Old Catholic Bishops United in the Union of Utrecht” carrying the signature of the elect, the president of the IBC notifies to the members of the IBC that the consecration may be performed; he also communicates this fact in a letter to the responsible authority of the respective church.
(g) A member of the IBC who performs a consecration to which the IBC has objected in accordance with Article 9 d incurs suspension ipso facto pending a final decision by the IBC at its next meeting (cf. Art. 3 g).
(a) All the bishops of the Union of Utrecht are to be invited to the consecration by the respective church.
(b) If possible, the three principal consecrators are to be taken from ordinary bishops of various traditions of the Union of Utrecht. Whenever possible, the predecessor is not to be among the three principal consecrators.
(a) The bishops do not enter into any obligations concerning the ministry, doctrine, or worship to other bishops or churches, nor do they terminate them, without prior joint discussion and approval of the IBC.
(b) In particular, the bishops commit themselves not to consecrate any bishop for other churches or to take part in the laying-on of hands without the approval of the IBC.
(c) In the case of ordinations of bishops in churches with whom the Union of Utrecht is in full communion, a decision of the Bureau suffices which is notified to the other members of the IBC.
The bishops distribute among themselves the constitutions, their canonical provisions, pastoral letters, official prayer books and hymnals, rituals, pontificals, catechisms, manuals, the annual lists of clergy, the minutes of their synod, the study and examination regulations, particularly important decisions, and the like.
Deacons and priests going from one Old Catholic diocese to another and living there for a longer or shorter period are as a rule licensed to function if provided with letters of recommendation by their bishop; a formal reception into the clergy of another diocese can be made only after the canonical dismissal by the competent bishop. This does not apply to a member of the clergy being elected bishop of another diocese.
(a) Each bishop is bound to ordain or receive only such candidates to the diaconate and presbyterate who are duly qualified and can prove the required training, theological studies and examinations according to the order of the bishop's church.
(b) Candidates for the diaconate and presbyterate from other dioceses are ordained to the respective order only at the request or with the consent of the competent bishop or their church.
2 The Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church, although presently not governing a diocese, is a member of the IBC. [As the Polish National Catholic Church left the Union of Utrecht in 2003, this footnote is not valid any more.]
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