“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” -Acts 2:1-4
Presiding Archbishop Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
“And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love
Presiding Archbishop Brian Ernest Brown, OSH has been involved with the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM) since 1997. Prior to that, while growing up and as a young adult, he experienced several different Christian denominations and studied a variety of religious faiths, ultimately following a Wiccan path until his ultimate return to the love story of Christ. When he finally returned to the Christian Church we was baptized and confirmed within the Episcopal Church and the great Anglo-Catholic tradition that goes along with it. His spiritual journey is a circular one really and one that, in a round about way, brought him back home to a little stone chapel in the Ozark Mountains just a few miles from the home of his youth but not without allowing him to wander a bit first. However, as has been suggested before, not all who wander are lost.
In Bishop Brian’s own words: “I feel inextricably drawn to the love of Christ and to preach that gospel message of radical love everywhere I go. I celebrate inclusivity, compassion, grace, diversity, justice, peace, and love -the greatest of which is love. Since my earliest memories I have felt a calling toward care-giving, hospice, religious freedom, social justice, diversity, animal rights, compassion, peace, poetry, literature, music, and art. I’m an avid and vociferous supporter of LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) rights. They are, after all, simply human rights, rights for every one of us to be who God created us to be and love whom we choose, how we choose.
Spiritually, I continue to be drawn to the Free Catholic Movement and the Celtic expression of the Christian faith but I also has deep roots in Wicca and a love of the earth based religions. I’m very ecumenical and can find the seeds of truth and beauty in many different religious paths, but for me, the one that whispers to my heart and soothes my soul is the story about Jesus and his band of misfits. It’s because of Jesus and his example that I practice radical inclusivity, compassion, and hospitality in all areas of my life.”
Being drawn to Celtic Christianity he began his ministry in the ISM with the Celtic Catholic Church Diocese of Saint Brendan. He was tonsured within the Celtic Catholic Church and sent out to form a mission for the people of the Ozarks. Shortly after his tonsure, on an Easter morning many years ago he started a mission that continues to thrive here in the Ozarks to this day, Saint Melangell’s Celtic Catholic Mission. It was during this time that he also took vows in an ecumenical religious order sponsored by the Celtic Catholic Church, the Community of the Companions of God. For several years he shared ministry within this jurisdiction studying, learning, and putting his faith into practice.
At some point a difference in vision became clear and Br. Brian left the Celtic Catholic Church but not his love of Celtic Christianity nor his deep love of the folks of that jurisdiction. A local community had formed within the religious order, the Companions of God, in the Ozarks over the years and it was decided that this “home grown” community or family would stay together seeking sponsorship and charter elsewhere but continue to follow the same rule, practice the very same liturgies they had for years, and continue to be the “Companions of God” they had always been.
It was during this time that Br. Brian happened upon an Old Catholic ministry also in the Ozarks, that of Christ Catholic Church headquartered in Highlandville Missouri at the “World’s Smallest Cathedral,” the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace. He felt a kindred spirit in Bishop Karl Prüter, the Presiding Archbishop of Christ Catholic Church and they became fast friends. It became apparent that while they shared ministry, worship, and often lunch, there were some differences of opinions as to theology, particularly in the acceptance of women in leadership positions throughout the church and in offering all of the sacraments to GLBT people. Fr. Karl was a little more conservative and Br. Brian not so much.
However, even with their differences they shared a great deal of commonality, a deep love and commitment to the Prince of Peace and the peace movement, a particular interest in mysticism and experiential theology, a dedication to prayer and reflection, a love of the Eucharist and liturgy, a love of monasticism, a quizzical curiosity in all things pertaining to the Christian Church and its history, and a love of printing and the spread of knowledge. They also shared a mutual affection towards one another and a respect of one another’s differences. While Br. Brian chose not to affiliate the Companions of God canonically with Christ Catholic Church, at the time, he personally accepted an official appointment by Bishop Prüter to serve as the Chaplain to the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace and to serve on the Cathedral Chapter. From that point on Br. Brian held dual affiliation with Christ Catholic Church. Fr. Karl had become his mentor and role model as much as he had become his friend.
Seeking a more inclusive church body Br. Brian happened upon the United Catholic Church and made his home there. The United Catholic Church offered him autonomy to be who he felt God had called him to be and yet also the UCC offered a loose structure and a family unit or tribe of sorts, something very important to Celts. They were a church of peace, inclusivity, honesty, and love. It seemed a match made in heaven. Bishop Lawrence Michael Cameron OAC, a bishop in the United Catholic Church and the Abbot of the Order of the Anamcara, was asked to serve as the Episcopal Visitor for the newly chartered CCG and accepted the position.
Br. Brian had been elected by the CCG during the General Chapter of the previous year to serve as an interim abbot and spokes person for the Companions until a charter could go into effect, after which time the Companions would reconvene and officially elect an abbot to head up the Community. The UCC accepted the charter as did the Companions of God, Br. Brian was officially elected as abbot to the Community and on October 16, 2004 on the Feast of Saint Gall, Br. Brian was ordained to the Holy Order of Deacons and given the abbatial blessing by Bishop Lawrence Michael Cameron to serve the Community of the Companions of God as a mitred abbot.
Deacon Brian was later ordained to the Holy Priesthood on May 27, 2005, the Feast of Saint Melangell, the patron saint of his original ministry. The ordination took place at Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church surrounded by friends, family, and Companions from the four corners of the country.
In the late fall of 2005 seeking to better define who and what they were and to avoid any confusion with the original Community, the group, with the encouragement of the abbot, decided to change their name and broaden their focus and the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart was birthed.
Just prior to this, on the Feast of Saint Willibrord, November 7, 2005 a group of folks within the United Catholic Church gathered together in Springfield Missouri to form a new diocese, the Diocese of Saint Willibrord in the Ozarks, so named in recognition of their close association with Christ Catholic Church and Archbishop Karl Prüter and in celebration of their shared Old Catholic roots. Fr. Abbot Brian was elected to serve as the newly formed Diocese’s Bishop and appointed by Archbishop Robert Bowman as the Apostolic Administrator until such time as a proper consecration could take place. The proposed consecration was subsequently approved overwhelmingly by the House of Bishops, House of Laity, and House of Clergy within the United Catholic Church.
Possessing a little different vision and approach to being church, the diocese and its members left the United Catholic Church in the spring of 2006 seeking God’s will in their ministry. In early summer of 2006 on the Feast of Saint Kevin Fr. Abbot Brian, with the consent, support, and prayers of Bishop Larry Cameron and Archbishop Karl Prüter, was consecrated to the Office of Bishop. A unique an ecumenical communion was formed by the Chapter Members of the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace, the Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion, which had a unique emphasis of and focus on the unity of the Free Catholic Movement which Archbishop Karl Prüter had participated in during the later years of his Congregational ministry.
Bishop Brian was consecrated sub-conditionally by Bishop Karl Prüter of blessed memory, the Presiding Archbishop of Christ Catholic Church, on the Feast of St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, September 9, 2007 at the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace in Highlandville Missouri. Bishop Prüter had himself been consecrated by Bishop Peter Zurawetsky on the Feast of St. Willibrord, November 7, 1967. Bishop Prüter then turned over his ministry at the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace, “The World’s Smallest Cathedral” and the episcopal protection of Christ Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace to Bishop Brian’s care and continued episcopal oversight.
Honoring the relationship that the Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion had with Bishop Brian and Bishop Karl and in a strong acknowledgement of the chartering body of Christ Catholic Church Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace, the EFCC, on April 22, 2010 unanimously agreed to alter its name to that of Christ’s Catholic Church: An Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion (CCC-EFCC). The new designation celebrated its heritage, acknowledging its founder, Archbishop Brian Ernest Brown and honoring the memory and ministry of one of the great bishops of the Free Catholic Movement in North America, Archbishop Karl Prüter.
Christ Catholic Church Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace continues to carry on much of Bishop Prüter’s actual work and ministry under the servant leadership of Bishop Brian. The jurisdiction also serves as the caretaker of much of the physical historicity of the church as well as Bishop Prüter’s personal journals, writings, artifacts, vestments, and relics.
Upon his installment to the patriarchal cathedral, Bishop Brian was given the original antimension gifted to Bishop Prüter himself by Bishop Peter A. Zurawetzky upon his own consecration to the episcopacy. Bishop Brian, at Bishop Prüter’s request, also assumed day to day operation and leadership of St. Willibrord Press which continues to hold the rights to publish Prüter’s numerous books and pamphlets related to mysticism, Old Catholicism, Congregationalism, and theology, as well as other selected works on religious topics.
Christ Catholic Church Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace is currently composed of a handful of parishes and a religious order with clergy and ministries throughout North America. It operates St. Willibrord Press, Whithorn School of Theology and St. Martin’s Institute of Compassionate Presence (a peace studies program Karl Prüter helped to found and form), and Radio Free Catholic Broadcasting along with parishes, prison ministries, chaplaincies, and various other outreach programs. Christ Catholic Church also continues to faithfully support Bishop Karl Prüter’s clarion call to non-violence and peace through its work in the greater peace movement and social justice causes.
Bishop Brian is honored to follow in the footsteps and share in the legacy of Bishop Karl Prüter’s ministry in Christ Catholic Church Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace as his chosen successor. Out of his deep love of Celtic Christianity he continues to shepherd a group of like minded Celts in the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart and out of that same love of Celtic Christianity helps guide Whithorn School of Theology in the training of women and men in the ancient ways of the Celtic Catholic monks of long ago.
Following a God given vision that has been tested time and time again over the years he continues to love to share his vision, faith, and hope with fellow seekers and often offers, “while I know our destination is the Kingdom of Heaven, I’m not sure how we’re going to get there but just the same, I would love to share the journey with you!”