The Ecumenical Catholic Communion, a small denomination with 8,000 U.S. members, recently installed its first Florida bishop.
Bishop Steve Rosczewski, 53, was ordained in a ceremony attended by about 225 people at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Clearwater.
The Ecumenical Catholic Communion traces its roots to the Old Catholic movement in Europe, which grew out of a disagreement with Rome in the late 19th century. Members profess no allegiance to the pope but consider themselves fully Catholic.
The new bishop is a former Roman Catholic and religious order priest who served in the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg.
Rosczewski, who will continue to head Holy Spirit Ecumenical Catholic Church in Largo in his new role, agreed to answer a few questions for the St. Petersburg Times.
Where does the Ecumenical Catholic Communion stand on the issues of birth control, abortion, gay rights, celibacy and female priests?
The ECC invites the faithful to form and follow their consciences. The use of contraception and artificial birth control as a way of responsibly limiting the size of one's family is an issue of conscience to be decided by couples. We believe the use of contraception, if used responsibly, can be a positive good as a means of increasing the frequency of the gift of sexual union, reducing the incidence of abortion for unwanted pregnancies and limiting the spread of sexually transmitted disease.
We affirm the dignity of all human persons regardless of race, national origin, religious affiliation, gender or sexual orientation. The ECC celebrates the gift of women by ordaining them as deacons, priests and bishops. Celibacy is not required of our ordained clergy. We strive for justice within the universal church and the whole world.
Why did you leave the Roman Catholic Church?
My personal departure in 2001 from the Roman Communion was one of conscience with regard to how the church was not welcoming nor ministering to many kinds of people: the divorced and remarried; single parents; people of sexual diversity; individuals who struggled with formal church teaching and abuse by church leadership.
When was the Largo church established and why was Pinellas County chosen as the site?
Holy Spirit Ecumenical Catholic Church was established in June 2003 … as an accessible location that was diverse with backgrounds and peoples. The majority of the community is Pinellas-based while it draws from both Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
What is the religious background of your congregation and members nationwide?
The membership of most ECC communities is diverse: Catholics who have been seeking a new expression of their beloved faith; Christians of all denominations who seek a sacramental community; individuals who are unchurched or dechurched.
How does it feel to be a bishop?
It's an exciting thing and it's certainly something that I never dreamed of for myself, and it's a great opportunity in today's world to work together with others to build a church for people to express their faith in a safe space.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.