Venezuela: Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic have consecrated three priests as bishops of a new church loyal to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
Last Saturday the dissident churchman formed the Reformed Catholic Church of Venezuela in a ceremony in the western city of Ciudad Ojeda. Organized along Anglican principles, the “Bolivarian” church seeks to combine the socialist ideals of the president and nationalist heritage of Simon Bolivar --- the country’s founder --- with the tenets of liberation theology.
While the estimated 2,000 parishioners in five parishes in working-class districts loyal to the president pose no ecclesial threat to the Roman Catholic Church, or smaller Anglican and Lutheran churches --- they have been denounced by the country’s Roman Catholic hierarchy.
"The apparent political goal of this association distances it from the true expression of Christian faith," Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino said in a statement on Sunday. "Jesus Christ's true church is spreading the word and the gift of Christ to the whole world, separately from political issues and party affiliation."
However, the Rev Enrique Albornoz, a former Lutheran minister who helped create the independent church told the Associated Press, “We don't side with any political banner, but we cannot fail to recognize and support the socialist achievements of this government," and “back the social programmes of this revolutionary government."
The Bolivarian Church, which models itself on the nationalist catholic church formed in Nineteenth century Mexico that has since become the Anglican Church of Mexico, uses the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and has adopted a liberal moral ethos, making clerical celibacy optional, permitting divorce and remarriage, and holding that homosexual conduct is not immoral.
Lord have mercy...!