Chapter 1

The Life of the Seraphic Church

In the name of the Lord begins the life of the Friars Minor.
— The Rule of St. Francis

In the name of God the Father, the Creator (Gen 1:1) and Giver of Life (Psa 36:9); and God the Son, the Word (John 1:1-5) and Liberator (John 8:31-36, Rom 8:2,21, Gal 5:1); and God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter (John 14:26) and Guide (John 16:13), here begins the life of the Seraphic Church, who through the prayers of our Immaculate Mother Mary (Matt 12:33, Luke 1:28, 6:43, 1 Cor 6:17,), Queen of All Hearts (1 Kings 2:20, Luke 1:32, Rev 12:1-3) and Mother of Compassion (Luke 1:32, 1 John 4:8); and our Seraphic Father Francis, the Angel of True Peace (Isa 33:7) who marks the faithful with the seal of God (Rev 7:2, Ez 9:4, 28:12), walk in the Light of God as Ambassadors for Christ and his Kingdom (2 Cor 5:20).

The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without anything of one’s own, and in chastity.
— The Rule of St. Francis

The vow to live the Gospel by living in obedience, without anything of our own, and in chastity means something altogether different to a lay movement than they would to a Friar.

Obedience

For a Seraphic Christian to live in obedience is not a matter of bowing the knee to an earthly authority. Humans are always prone to mistakes, no matter how well intentioned they may be. To follow any person or institution blindly is dangerous and likely to cause pain and suffering.

We vow our obedience to Jesus Christ, our heavenly High Priest (Heb 4:14-16) who stands before the mercy seat of God. All Christiana can be asked to do is in good conscience with their own understanding of the will of God, and to collectively try to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in the same fashion as the Religious Society of Friends.

This is the problem with the Obedience and reverence to the Pope, who ever that might be at the time.  As we build our home in the tradition of Creation Spirituality, we know that solitary voice speaks alone, but as Jesus said, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst (Matt 18:20)." 

When the body of Christ gathers, through the discernment of each member of the body, when speaking with one voice, the Word of God can be discerned and known.  Small groups are capable of discerning small questions, but larger groups are needed to discern larger questions. 

No individual surrenders their will to any person or assembly of people.  Each and every one of us must submit our conscience to God, and live according to the Will and Providence of God without ever thinking that any one other than Jesus Christ who is very God and very Man speaks on behalf of the Holy One.  Humans can only discern our best understanding of truth, and not truth itself.

The church has never been and should not be a democracy, but it should seek consensus, unity, and accord of the faithful through prayer and study to discern the will of God. The Spirit’s voice has been heard to free the scriptures from the control of the clergy so everyone can read them. She has freed the slaves from the ecclesiastical blessing of slavery. She has revealed the injustice of racism, sexism, and colonialism. These were not easy words for the church to hear when the Word came to us, but eventually the clergy discerned the will of God on these issues.

The work of the church is to live the Gospel, not to enforce a set of particular beliefs that have evolved and changed over time and which will continue to do so.

Detachment

It is obviously unrealistic to ask a lay believer to live without anything of their own as the rule says, but it is imperative that all believers learn to live in a state of detachment from the the things in their life to help them cultivate an enlightened mind and a heart of compassion.

"My possessions are not my own. They come and go as time passes. The same is true about my beliefs. Every time I read the scriptures, I see something that I didn’t see the last time through. I do not allow myself to become so attached to my preconceived notions that I cannot hear the Spirit speak in Lectio Divina. I can read the same passage three times and see it three different ways. That is the power and the glory of faith."

We have to remember the Four Noble Truths of Practice:

  1. All life is unsatisfying. (we always want more)
  2. The cause of this is attachment and aversion.
  3. There is freedom from this unsatisfactory nature of all things.
  4. The cause of enlightenment is the Noble Eightfold Path.

This is the heart of the second vow, the vow of detachment.

Chastity

We are not Shakers, and do not expect believers to live a life of celibacy. Chastity is a state of living morally pure. Do not use others.  This is the the heart of the seventh Vow:

7. Avoid sexual misconduct. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual irresponsibility, I vow to honor human sexuality and never degrade it through violence, ignorance, selfishness, or deceit.
The Ten Vows (Short Form)

Friar Francis promises obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Honorius and his canonically elected successors, and to the Roman Church; and the other friars are bound to obey Friar Francis and his successors.
— The Rule of St. Francis

Loyalty

The Seraphic Father swears his loyalty, and all of his successors’ loyalty to the Pope and his successors.

We, the Seraphic Church, do not take this stance lightly, nor do we change or alter the Rule, we discern the sense of the text and still follow the path. We do not look at the rule and say these chapters we will follow, but these we will not. If we are going to apply this line item veto to the rule, then we might as well not even have one. Our embrace of this monastic model for the rebuilding of the church through the new reformation means that we have to read this chapter carefully.

The Seraphic Father swears his and his successors’ loyalty to the Pope and his canonically elected successors. That last phrase is the problem: Who is the canonically elected successor to the Pope. Prior to the western schism and the reformation or even the great schism, this was an easy question to answer, but after the reformation, the answer is muddy.

As always, let us turn our eyes to Jesus, and learn the source of this Divine Authority:

[Jesus] said unto them, “But whom do you say that I am?”
And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven.”
— Matt 16:15-17

This is the first, seventh, and eleventh Articles of our Confession of Faith.  The Light of God shines into the darkness and through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the will of the Father, Christ is manifest within us so that we may know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

And I say also unto you, That you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
— Matt 16:18

Now that Simon has witnessed before the Lord to the inward manifestation of Holy Spirit and that he lives in the Pure Light of God, he receives a new name, like Jacob.  Then, our Lord extols the power of the Gospel.

And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
— Matt 16:19

This is the power of the Spirit working in the world to reform all things toward perfection.

Leadership of the church passed from Christ to his brother St James, then to Peter and Paul.  This is the key to understanding the loyalty the Seraphic Christian must hold to.  Even our Seraphic Father was not loyal to physical Pope in Rome, but the the power of the Holy Spirit to make the will of Christ manifest through the Bishop of Rome.

Before the exile, we gave our loyalty to the the Vicar of Christ in Rome, who is the successor to St Peter.  Now, after the first reformation and in this new reformation, we give our loyalty to the successors of St Paul who called by Christ and the Holy Spirit, was named an Apostle to correct the errors of St Peter.

The Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, congregationalist, and Quakers have all answered this question differently and the same. In one way or another, they have all sworn their allegiance to the Holy Spirit and each has crafted their own method to try to discern the will of the Spirit, but if you believe that any or all of these groups are guided by the Holy Spirit, then the charism of the Apostles has been passed to them. So I too swear loyalty to the guidance of the Spirit of Truth and seek to find the best method for discerning the will of the Spirit.