History Of The Open Catholic Church

Healing Ministries: Serving God, Serving Others

Bishop Martha Theresa Shultz (1937-2007)

The Open Catholic Church was founded as a religious order called the New Order of Glastonbury in 1983 by seven clergy members of the Church of Antioch Syro-Malabar Rite, founded by Archbishop Herman Adrian Spruit.  Bishop Frank Ellsworth Hughes was the first Presiding Bishop.  The Order was centralized in Garden Grove, California, and under the leadership of our second Presiding Bishop, Martha Theresa Shultz, they began teaching a unique blend of esoteric Christianity, ancient Celtic spirituality, theosophy, metaphysics, together with a liberal serving of New Thought as well as traditional understanding and interpretation of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, celebrating all of the Catholic rites rich in  formal, elaborate ceremonies and rubrics from both of the Latin and Eastern streams.  A national following of the spiritually curious developed, and correspondence courses were expanded into seminary coursework formally established in Cortez, Colorado as the Seminary of St. Mary Our Lady of Glastonbury, where Bishops Martha and Dale Shultz purchased a seven-acre farm with the intention of creating a monastic center for religious studies.

This group of seven shared a vision of community and a desire to manifest that vision in physical reality.  They had an abundance of enthusiasm but limited time, and even less money.  They dreamed of creating an intentional family; a small community of mostly unrelated persons coming together to worship, celebrate and teach; a loving, caring group of people dedicated to similar goals, bridging the gaps between races, sexes, social status and religious belief and practice; but most of all, the gap we perceive between ourselves and the Wholeness we call God.  As with any intentional community, religious or secular, it must have a common purpose or mission to survive and expand.  The Open Catholic Church’s mission, purpose and apostolate has been to create a community of clergy healers where differences of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or spiritual practices were far less important than the interior journey of spiritual formation with a singular purpose:  to learn to love God and one another through service.

We are not the only jurisdiction in the Independent Catholic/Sacramental Church (ICSC), sometimes referred to as the Parallel Church.  The diverse ministries within the ICSC reflect so much independent thought that they create and hold space for congregations that choose to worship as traditional Tridentine faith communities or establish open and affirming worship centers for the LGBT community.  Many other communities follow the familiar and comfortable post-Vatican II Novus Ordo liturgical expression, while still others have developed Gnostic or Celtic liturgies, or serve the specific, cultural needs of ethnic groups.  What is most common within the many ICSC is a coming together of people who have been disenfranchised by other religions to create faith communities where they are accepted, supported, loved, and their spiritual needs are being met.  We believe that the original vision of being a catholic (universal) church included embracing diversity.