The Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church
A Century of Portuguese Anglican Witness
The Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church is a small and minority Portuguese church, very keen on its Anglicanism, while living in the midst of a mainly Roman Catholic ambience. Its character is summarised in its seal: Apostolic Order, Evangelical Truth. The liturgy is said, not in English, but in Portuguese.
The reaction of some Roman Catholic priests and lay to a number of dogmas from Vatican I (1869–70) and the witness of two Anglican priests who passed through Lisbon in 1839 and 1868 were the main forces which led to the establishment of the Lusitanian Church in 1880. This was at a Synod presided over by Bishop Riley, consecrated in the American Episcopal Church to serve in its new mission in Mexico. From the beginning we were assisted by a Council of Bishops presided over by Lord Plunkett, at that time Bishop of Meath, Church of Ireland, and years afterwards there were some American Episcopal Bishops who provided Episcopal ministrations and pastoral care, particularly Bishops in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, until the consecration of the first Lusitanian Bishop in 1958.
Since 1980, it has been an extra-provincial Diocese under the Metropolitan Authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his capacity as the focal point of unity of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, and as President of both the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Consultative Council.
From the very beginning of their religious movement the Lusitanian fathers clearly decided to adopt the doctrinal and liturgical standards of the Anglican Communion for the new-born Church, stating at the same time: "We do not desire to found a new religion, but simply to cleanse the Christian Religion from the corruption of the ages, and to reconquer the ancient liberties of the early Lusitanian Church – so long subjected to the foreign yoke of Rome – and to spread through all this country a doctrine, which shall be Catholic and Apostolic, in a church that shall be Portuguese not Roman".
The Church was named Lusitanian, Catholic, Apostolic, Evangelical. The word LUSITANIAN – referring to Lusitania, a Roman Province situated in the territory which, in part, was to constitute the Portuguese kingdom – was selected to signify that the purpose of the new community was to restore the ancient Christianity and maintain the faith of the Primitive Church; the word CATHOLIC avoided the idea that the community might belong to the specifically Protestant world; the word APOSTOLIC was to emphasize her loyality to the apostolic succession; and the word EVANGELICAL declared the aim to proclaim Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour, in contrast with a supposedly dead ritualism and the Marian devotion of the dominating religion.
Diocesan Departments DJIL - Lusitanian Church Youth Department It is a very alive and committed Department led by a young and active couple. Besides seminars and retreats on pertinent issues, it organizes annual summer camps for 100 children and young people, where Bible studies and worship, side by side with moments of leisure, have been blessed times of evangelization and fellowship in Christ. A good number of participants in the camps are not members of the Church.
DMIL - Lusitanian Church Women's Department
Though very new in the life of the Church, DMIL has been developing an important role in the Diocese, particularly awakening women to their relevant action and presence both in the individual parishes and in the Diocese as a whole. The life of some parishes has changed as the women parishioners have become involved in DMIL. At the same time, DMIL provides great support for some poor families. This department also organizes summer camps for older people and has nursing activities in the Day Care Center for older people (AETP).
As a way of witnessing the love of Jesus within the community, the Lusitanian Church has been promoting a true ministry of service to the under-priviledged. At present there are three institutions of the Lusitanian Church with social responsibility:
The Torne and Prado School Association, in Vila Nova de Gaia, which provides social services for 150 children split into the Day Nursery (25 children: 2 years old), the Kindergarten (75 children: 3-5 years old) and the Spare Time after-school schedule (50 children: 6-12 years old). Last year this association also started a service that has been providing meals, various activities and home support for 60 older people. The Social Center of Sagrada Família, in Queluz, near Lisbon, which has a Day Center for older people who come from an area with many social problems. The former priest of the Parish of Sagrada Família promoted the building of 40 houses for people who were living in bad conditions. The Bartimeau Mission, based in St. Paul's Cathedral, in Lisbon, which is just beginning. The aim of this institution is to spread the Gospel and to promote social and cultural activities among blind people. This mission is coordinated by a blind man, Carlos Araya, who was ordained Deacon of the Lusitanian Church in November 1997.
The Lusitanian Church is one of the three founding churches of the Portuguese Council of Christian Churches (COPIC). It regularly takes part in the Ecumenical and Interconfessional Meetings in Portugal involving the Roman Catholic Church, COPIC and the Portuguese Evangelical Alliance. The Lusitanian Church is also a member of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches.
Places of worship 16 (divided into two arch-deaconries: 6 in the North and 10 in the South)
Baptized members 5 000 Communicants 1 500 Canonically active priests 8 Missionary priest 1 Canonically active deacons 6 (3 of them women) Lay readers 9 (3 of them women)
Two final comments
We are a Church where words such as availability, service and commitment in a voluntary way are fully understood and practised. Of the eight active priests and six deacons two are university professors, one is a secondary school teacher, two are accountants and two are clerks; even the Diocesan Bishop was a bank officer until 1996. Because we are small and financially weak, we depend heavily on non-stipendiary or part-time clergy and lay volunteers.
In contrast to many Anglican Churches which are integral parts of central state structures and in some cases have a form of religious civil service, the Lusitanian Church, because of its great lack of material and financial means, has based its modus vivendi on koinonia (communion and service) rather than on structure.
This is a picture of a very small Church which has been living for more than a century in a hostile environment, ever faithful to the promise of Jesus: "I am with you till the end of time" (Matthew 28:20), and ever committed to carrying out Jesus' mission to the Portuguese people.
Fernando Soares, Bishop
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