First, before we begin to consider our different approaches towards biblical truths, I want to quickly explain that this writing is not meant to counter already established doctrines, dogmas and long traditions of the Church. But nevertheless, it is coming from an unbiased and sentimental-free perspective and it will thoroughly be based on the bible which is of course our sole guide.
One might have wondered why I skipped asking who a Christian was, I believe before one genuinely and decisively becomes member of any denomination, he should know what Christianity is or rather should have been a Christian. A Christian is one who has confessed Jesus as his personal Lord and savior.
Popular view and common sense have it that to be a Catholic is to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church but far from that, the truth is not in such a statement. Catholic is one and indivisible. It means many and it is generally the assembly of all Christians all over the face of the earth. Let me explain:
Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Churches, Lutheran and the similar denominations are all Orthodox Churches both in practice and in liturgy. But after the great schism of the Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity began in the 11th century, what we know today as Roman Catholic came to be and Eastern Orthodox Catholics also moved with the name “Orthodox”. Till date, the mentioned Churches and their likes are all Orthodox Church even though a particular denomination bears it as a name. The current pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is Pope Theodore II; he is the 118th Pope, he was selected in 2004 after Pope Peter VII (1997-2004). They trace their Patriarchs to 43 A.D with Mark the Evangelist as the first Pope. Let’s get the logic, they are Orthodox and Catholic Christians in the Coptic just like Roman Catholic Christians makes up the Orthodox Church in Rome. What caused the schism between Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity is majorly based on disagreements on the issues of “Filioque” the source of the Holy Spirit, wether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist, and the place of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy.
Any Church which includes all the Pentecostal Churches which has the office of a Bishop is an Episcopal Church. However, the United States member Church of the World-Wide Anglican communion goes with the name “The Episcopal Church” (TEC). Does that mean they are the only Episcopal Church? No! Winners Chapel is as Episcopal as Roman Catholic Church (Although from the Roman Catholic perspective), the priesthood of Bishop Oyedepo is not valid since he was not a Bishop through the Apostolic Succession.
I can go on and on to write about other terminologies being used by Churches that are indeed a general term. The essence of the explanation is to solidify the point that all Churches are Catholic Churches and Roman Catholic Church represents just a number of Catholics (about 1 billion). The Anglican Churches in Japan is not called “Anglican”. Just like America’s Episcopal Church, it is known as “The Holy Catholic Church of Japan”. The Anglican Church is actually “The English Orthodox and Catholic Church”. The term Anglican comes from “ecclesia anglicana” which means “English Church”. It was called Anglican because the Church started in England.
Catholicism comes from the Greek word katholikismos which means “universal doctrine” and its adjectival form “Catholic” is used along with it in broad terms for describing specific traditions in the several Christian Churches. This is different from the use of same words to refer to the Roman Catholic Church. The earliest evidence of the term usage is the Letter to the Smyrnaeans that Ignatius of Antioch wrote in about 108 to Christians in Smyrna (not Rome). He wrote “…wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church”. From the 2nd Century, to same word was used to mean “orthodox” or non-heretical. It was in 380 that Emperor Theodosius I limited the used of the term “catholic” exclusively to those who followed the same faith as Pope Damascus I of Rome (Roman Catholic) and Pope Peter of Alexandria (Orthodox Church). Writers like Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine of Hippo (354-430) developed the use of the term “catholic” in relation to Christianity.
So, Catholic Church is a universal church, though invisible but one. This is a spiritual body. One must not be in full communion with Pope to be a Catholic. We may still freely call Roman Catholics “Catholics” but the reason and essence of this is to clearly explain that there is nothing special about being a Catholic far from what we already know. It is also okay to accept not to be called a “Catholic” if you still view it as a reference to a particular denomination. It is also right to tell your Roman Catholic friends that you are just as Catholic as them.
No Christian is more important than the other. We are all baptised into one baptism. We all share in the everlasting sacrifice offered on the cross and we all benefit from the resurrection of Jesus. His Grace qualifies you.