Back to ECC+USA Church History



A Perspective and Timeline on

26 Significant Events in the History of the Catholic Faith.

(A VTS paper by Ed Kuhlman)

Some events, which share a great deal in common with others, have been adjoined as to add perspective,e.g., the Crusades, the Ecumenical Councils.


1) 33AD (estimate) – Pentecost Sunday, also known as the “birthday of the church”, saw 120 disciples of Christ gathered together seven weeks after the resurrection. As had been promised by Jesus earlier, the Holy Spirit filled the room and rested on their heads as “tongues of fire”.


This holds significant importance for the ECC+USA and all of Christendom as the birthday of the church. After the death of Jesus, the church began its work in earnest after this point. The coming of the spirit reminds us that God is always with us, working through the body of Christ.


2) 36AD (estimate) – Christianity receives its first martyr in St. Stephen. Tradition holds that a young Pharisee named Saul was a witness to the event.


3) 44AD (estimate) – Former Pharisee Saul, now Paul, joins Barnabas in the city of Antioch where Christianity was experiencing considerable influence.


Historically Stephen’s martyrdom is not all that important. Although spiritually it shows that the church is going to suffer its fair share; both in terms of physical persecution and internal discord. Additionally, we see that Saul was a witness to this event. Perhaps this was the beginning of the epiphany he fully encountered on the road to Damascus. I believe that this reference to Paul suggests just that. That hearts are not changed all at once, but through a gradual process that hits us like a boom (and may even knock us off our horse). In many ways, this speaks to an ascending Christology, or a Christology from below. As Christ progressed and grew in wisdom and became aware of himself, so too did Paul and so too, does the Body Of Christ as a whole.


This is important to the ECC+USA in that our mission of growing a church will not always be easy and may face naysayers along the way. It also works to embolden the church through the idea of Christ acting through a person or entity slowly. The growth of the church could be likened to the spiritual growth of Paul. It did not happen all at once but was a gradual process.


4) 51AD – The Council of Jerusalem stated that conversion to Judaism prior to being received as a Christian was not required. The council also stated that Christians need not adhere to dietary regulations and other aspects of the Mosaic Law.


Showed that reasonable debate and discussion amongst Christians is a healthy and necessary thing. Growth takes time and prayer. This council’s decisions were not reached over night. They were the result of an ongoing discussion recognizing the needs of the church while also keeping in mind the reality of society.


5) 110AD – In a letter to the Christians at Smyrna, the word “Catholic” is first used by St. Ignatius of Antioch to describe the universal Christian church.

If Pentecost was the birthday of the church, then 110AD was the naming ceremony. Names are important in the history of Israel. Abraham, Jacob, Paul, etc. Names are also important when speaking of spiritual bodies. In order for the church to flourish, it had to be readily identifiable by a specific calling card.  Catholic, meaning universal was the perfect moniker for the new church. It proclaimed that the church was to be a church of all people, as is the love of God. The ECC+USA strives to keep the spirit of the adjective alive and well.









6) 325AD (Council of Nicea) ~ First Ecumenical Council: In response to the Arian heresy, the Church affirmed that Christ and God are the same substance and share in a common divinity. The Nicene Creed was a development of this council.

7) 381AD(Council of Constantinople) ~ Second Ecumenical Council: In response to the heresy of Macedonius, the Chuch affirmed that there is one God in three persons. This is commonly referred to as the Holy Trinity.

8) 431AD(Council of Ephesus) ~ Third Ecumenical Council: In response to the Nestorian heresy, the Church states that Mary did in fact give birth to Christ the Logos and not a man. The council upheld that Mary was “theotokos” the Mother of God, not merely “Christokos” the mother of Christ.

9) 451AD(Council of Chalcedon) ~ Fourth Ecumenical Council: In response to the Monophysitism heresy, the Church affirmed that Christ had two natures; one human and one divine which are not divisible or separate.

10) 553AD(Council of Constantinople II) ~ Fifth Ecumenical Council: Re-affirmed that Christ has two distinct yet indivisible natures. One human and the other divine.

11) 680AD(Council of Constantinople III) ~ Sixth Ecumenical Council: Affirmed that each one of Christ’s natures did/does in fact exercise free will. That is, his natures were never at odds with each other.

12) 787AD(Council of Nicea II) Seventh Ecumenical Council: The Church proclaimed that icons could be used and were acceptable for veneration but not worship.


The seven councils of the undivided church guide the ECC+USA. They are the doctrinal basics of our church and give meaning and explanation to our beliefs. They are ecumenical in the sense that both eastern and western Christendom took part in their inception. They are catholic in the sense that they apply to the core beliefs of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Old Catholicism. Since these beliefs are what hold many churches together, they are the foundation of ecumenism. The hope of Christian unity may have much to do with how we look upon these councils and their outcomes.







13) 312AD – After defeating his rival Maxentius and having a dream of the Holy Cross, Constantine took control of the Roman Empire, legalizing Christianity. Much like Monica the Mother of Augustine, Helena the mother of Constantine had a profoundly positive affect on her son’s spiritual life.


This date rivals Pentecost for birthday of the church. Until the Edict of Milan was published, Christians faced unconscionable odds and persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. After this point, Christianity became an accepted religion and then to the surprise of the church, became the official religion of the empire. In relation to the ECC+USA one might say that growth and acceptance could come quickly and overwhelmingly, as they did for the early church. So be prepared for any eventuality. While growth for a church can be a wonderful thing, it can also spell disaster if effective plans are not in place.


14) 405AD – St. Jerome translates the Bible in to Latin vulgate otherwise known as the language of the people.


This was the first in many steps towards putting the word of God in to the hands of the Body of Christ. Ecumenically it speaks to reclaiming one’s own faith and heritage and perhaps going against the norm in the process.


15) 1054AD – The Great Schism between the churches in the west and east occurs.


Volumes have been written on this subject, so I can’t even attempt to do it justice here. Suffice to say, it still tells us much about the importance of communication and humility.

The two languages of east and west were becoming increasingly incomprehensible to the other, leading to many a problem. This problem was exacerbated when we add Barbarian invasions and the like in to the equation. Keeping open lines of communication despite the separation of miles is an important lesson for the ECC+USA to take to heart. Humility is also a huge factor. Realizing that all are equal in the Body of Christ will go a long way in shoring up any differences and disagreements. Humility also plays a role when accepting a decision for the best of the church when it might not be the best for an individual.








16) 097AD to 1099AD – First Crusade. Christian armies captured Antioch and occupied Jerusalem.

17) 1148AD to 1149AD – Second Crusade. This was a defeat for the Christian armies and the Muslims regained the Holy Land.

18) 1189AD to 1192AD – Third Crusade. During this crusade, the shields of the Christian armies bore the symbol of the cross. The Muslims retained Jerusalem.

19) 1202AD to 1204AD – Fourth Crusade. In a bizarre twist of fate, the crusaders sack Constantinople (the home of the Eastern Church) and loot the city entirely.

20) 1212AD - Children’s Crusade. Arguably one of the strangest chapters in the history of world religion. Children were sent on crusades in the belief that their “pure hearts” could win the day. The result was children being murdered and sold in to slavery.


Ecumenically speaking these events are a treasure-trove. A certain Muslim leader by the name of Saladin rose up in order to defeat the Crusaders. As it turned out, he was not all that opposed to Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy City and granting safe passage there through. Still, some in Rome were not satisfied with these concessions. They wanted much more. When growing a small church, we must be ever cognizant of the fact that reaching for things well beyond our grasp may cause us to lose the grip on what we currently possess.  Slow and steady wins the race.




20) 1517AD – On October 31, Catholic theologian at the University of Wittenburg, Martin Luther posted his now famous 95 Thesis in which he outlined his grievances with the Church of Rome. Among the more remembered of his concerns centered around the selling or indulgences by the Church which among other things, funded the Crusades and the construction of new church structures. The forming of a church around the principles of Martin Luther severely diminished the existence of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany.

The term Protestant, however, was not assigned to Luther directly but to German princes that ascribed to the Lutheran model of the faith. Once given the chance to choose their own branch of Christianity, the emperors now tried to revoke this ability, causing the princes to “protest.”


21) 1525AD – Anabaptists were formed in Zurich. This denomination of the Church was unique in that they only baptized adults. Citing the bible as their reasoning, they argued that nowhere in scripture is there an account of a child being baptized.


22) 1534AD – King Henry the Eighth, along with the British parliament, nationalized the Church in Rome in England declaring Henry as its head. Although it is often mused that Henry broke from Rome in order to Anne Boleyn, it must be noted that there is a bit more to the story. Henry had been married to a woman named Catherine, who was also his dead brother Arthur’s widow. Now typically it was forbidden to marry in this way, but the Church of Rome had given Henry a “special dispensation” in order to do so. When his marriage to Catherine failed to produce a male heir to the throne of England, Henry expected for the Pope to once again grant him a special dispensation and receive an annulment. To make al long story short, when the Church failed to do so, Henry and all of England, separated from the Church of Rome. With all due respect to both parties, the whole relationship seemed doomed from the onset. Granting permission for a King to marry his dead brother’s wife, is hardly a thing the Church would have done for the average serf. Perhaps then Henry expected special treatment, and when he did not receive it as he did earlier, the dye was cast. Whether he knew it or not, Henry was in many ways, establishing the first Independent Catholic Church. I say this because most if not all of the “catholicity” that existed in the English church before the break remained after. The only difference was in terms of papal authority.


The Age of Reformation clearly shows us that when you are going to go against the status quo or start a new movement, you had better have a plan on how to operate your church, etc. The overall feeling I get from reading about the reformers is how little they prepared for the event of their success.  Many reformers seemed to have no plan in place for their revolutions. Every eventuality needs to be planned for. The eventuality that is usually at the bottom of the list is success, when it should be at the top. Plan on succeeding and having a wonderful result. Then if things fail to happen as planned, you can adjust your plan accordingly.


23) 1545AD until 1563AD – During these years, the Church of Rome was forced to come to grips with the so called heresies of the Protestant Reformation. Their answer was something of a Counter Reformation, or as it is commonly know, the “Catholic Reformation.” During these years of reformation, the church called a council in the northern Italian town of Trent. Among the topics on the agenda at Trent were:


Justification- the Protestant churches believed in justification by faith alone, whereas the Church of Rome affirmed its belief in salvation through faith and good works.

Sola Scriptura- the Protestant held the belief that scripture alone was the root of all spiritual authority; while the Church of Rome affirmed that the supreme interpretation of scripture rested with the popes and bishops.

Holy Eucharist- the Roman Church shored up the belief in the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. The council went beyond declaring transubstantiation as a matter of faith but as a church dogma. As an aside, the eastern churches affirm the basic fact of transubstantiation (i.e., the bread and wine are changed into the Body anbd Blood of Christ) while not entering the philosophical realm of the topic preferring to deem it simply “a great mystery.”

Sacraments- Whereas the Protestants only retained two sacraments, baptism and “the Lord’s supper”, Rome retained all seven. 

Saints- Rome retained the belief in intermediaries in the form of Saints and prayers for those in purgatory. Protestants tended to shy away from these beliefs.

              The Counter Reformation shored up many of the issues addressed by the reformers in Western Europe. Whereas it may have been better served to revisit some of it’s own more unpopular practices. In the study of Communication and Linguistics there exists the term “groupthink.” In a nutshell it refers to the self-congratulatory style of many businesses, etc., that esteem their own beliefs as infallible and above reproach. Many times businesses call in what is known as a consultant to break up the congestion of groupthink. John the 23rd was such as person, facilitating the changes ushered in through the Second Vatican Council. What was needed at Trent was a man like John XXIII. Unfortunately the church had to wait another four centuries for that to happen.


Ecumenically speaking we must never put ourselves in the position of an ivory tower, beyond the criticism of our clergy or laity. Through the election of a presiding bishop rather than a primate for life, the ECC+USA has safeguarded against this possibility.


24) 1870AD – The First Vatican Council and the birth of the Old Catholic Church. This council pronounced the Pontiff of Rome to be “infallible” when speaking “ex cathedra” on issues of faith and morals. This declaration caused as schism which split many German, Austrian and Swiss Catholics from the Church of Rome. The result of this split came to be known as the Old Catholic Church. The OCC consists of the Union of Utrecht, the Polish National Catholic Church, and the OCC of Germany. These churches, via the Bonn Agreement of 1931, joined in to full communion with the Anglican Communion. At the Council of Utrecht in 1889, the OCC declared their belief in the Pope as first among equals, comparable to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Church. The OCC adopted an episcopal model of governance. That is, bishops ran the church.


If Pentecost was the birthday of the Church, the First Vatican Council may be called the birthday of the Old Catholic movement. The OC movement has inspired a host of like-minded churches to come to life.  Whether an OC church is directly in union with the original OC movement, they still strive to copy its likeness and spirit. Many of today’s OC churches combine an ancient faith with a modern perspective.



25) 1892 AD -  The episcopal consecration of Joseph René Vilatte as the first bishop and primate of the American Catholic Church.  Many bishops in the independent Catholic movement trace their lines of Apostolic Succession to Archbishop Vilatte.  +Vilatte was an interesting and many faceted person acclaimed in the literature both for his talent, resourcefulness and pioneering spirit, and villified by others because of his often impulsive and renegade style.  Some autocephalous and independent jurisdictions have declared him a saint and refer to him as Saint Vilatte, however, there seems to have been no groundswell to proclaim Joseph Réné Vilatte a saint.  


The ideal of the seamless garment of Christ, which is rent many times by the divisions of mainline and independent Catholic churches, would be more attainable if churches enjoying the same lines of Apostolic Succession received from the Old Catholic and the Vilatte successions would stress and share their commonalities and inter-dependency rather than their differences and independence. As an ecumenical Catholic church, the ECC+USA is open to such discussion, relationships, and inter-communion agreements.


26) 2001AD – “An ancient faith with a modern perspective


On November 1, 2001, The Ecumenical Catholic Church + USA is established. Founded upon core Catholic principles along with modern ideals, the ECCUSA positions itself as a home for “all saints.” From the un-churched and uninitiated to wayward churchgoers, to the spiritual seeker, the ECCUSA intends to be a safe harbor for all who seek rest.

True to its name, the ECC+USA strives to be an authentic ecumenical fellowship. With ministries to the poor, elderly, & lonely, and outreaches to other faiths, as well as vibrant faith communities, the ECC+USA acts as a welcoming house of prayer touching the lives of all it encounters.

© Ecumenical Catholic Church+USA, 2003  (Kuhlman)



Back to ECC+USA Church History