May 17, 2008
Celtic Christianity is quickly becoming a popular expression of Christianity. However, many misconceptions abound about what Celtic Christianity is, and many people are confused by the multitude of Celtic Christian groups with varying types of theology. Are Celtic Christians devout Irish Catholics? Or, perhaps, Anglicans? Are they, maybe, a unique brand of western Orthodox Christianity? Is there space in the Celtic Christian movement for evangelical Celtic Christians? In short, the answer to all of these is yes.
Celtic Christianity cannot claim any one group within the Christian faith. It’s a truly para-church expression of faith. Celtic Christianity encompasses those in historic denominations, those who attend distinctly Celtic churches, and those without a regular church home. It’s easy to hear the term Celtic Christian, and automatically assume that Irish Catholicism or Scottish Presbyterianism is meant. The Christianity of the ancient Celts was distinctive, and while some groups have retained Celtic practices, I’m not aware of any Celtic churches that have existed in a continuous line since the introduction of Christianity in the British Isles.
In short, ancient Celtic Christianity was more community-based, very incarnational, and managed to avoid most of the heresies and controversies that plagued the early Church. Many of the more divisive theological issues have their origins in teachings that the Celtic churches never embraced. For example, many Celtic Christians reject the belief of Original Sin, mainly because it wasn’t a part of Christian teaching at the time Christianity was introduced to their lands. Many Celtic Christians today are able to take the best of Celtic Christian belief and adapt it to their own faith. Here, I’ll highlight some of the “streams” within Celtic Christianity.
Probably the largest group of people who identify as Celtic Christians are in established denominations, often Catholic and Anglican churches. These Christians are able to bring Celtic Christianity into the mainstream, so to speak. Many Episcopal parishes here in the US are offering Celtic-style Eucharist services. Christians from many backgrounds are using Celtic prayer books to enrich their worship. Authors such as George G. Hunter have been very influential in bringing attention to Celtic Christianity in a modern context.
Celtic denominations typically tend to follow an Old Catholic, Anglican, or Orthodox form of worship. Most of these denominations have an apostolic succession that includes bishops from various backgrounds. Beliefs differ as to whether women may be ordained to the diaconate or priesthood. Many Old Catholic and Anglican Celtic groups are liberal in theology, while many Orthodox Celtic groups are conservative. Franciscan theology is very popular, since many Celtic Christians consider St. Francis to be an “honorary” Celtic saint due to his love for all creatures.
Yes, evangelical Celtic Christians exist as well! One such group in existence is a communion of Celtic Christian Anabaptists. Anabaptists represent the tradition within Christianity that the Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren belong to. Some independent Celtic groups are more evangelical in their approach. Another common expression of Celtic Christianity is what is known as the convergence movement. The convergence movement blends catholic, evangelical, and charismatic expressions of faith. Many Christians are embracing the convergence movement, as it brings together varying beliefs in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
As we can see, Celtic Christianity is not a monolithic movement by any means. It brings together Christians of all backgrounds, united by a unique theology about God’s incarnational presence in the world He created.
May 10, 2008
A form of worship unlike traditional Christian liturgy is being practiced in church communities around the United States. The ancient traditions of Celtic Christianity, practiced in Ireland from the 5th until the 12th century are being incorporated into worship services using versions of ancient Celtic prayers. The Celtic Christian Church is an Old Catholic Church which celebrates the Celtic Rite, and is inclusive.
Celtic Christians aren’t Catholic in the traditional sense, although they are Catholic. They differ from Roman Catholics since both men and women priests are allowed to marry, all baptized Christians may receive communion, and bishops are allowed to marry. Celtic Christians aren’t in full communion with Rome, neither are they Protestant. Celtic spirituality is central to the worship service and the traditional sacraments are celebrated.
The Celtic Christian Church is drawing more former Roman Catholics; especially women, since they can attend seminary and be ordained as priests. However, if you’re interested in attending a Celtic Christian church, it’s not easy to find one. There are only a few communities scattered around the U.S., one located in the Poconos of Pennsylvania., which has established several Cell communities. A listng of the communities is found on the Celtic Christian Church website (www.celticchristianchurch.org/communities.htm)
To learn more about Celtic Christianity, the following resources provide a wealth of information. St. Mark’s Episcopal church in Highland, Maryland has a page devoted to Celtic Christianity with special emphasis on what modern churches can learn from the Celtic Church:
Books on Celtic Christianity:
Celtic Christian Music:
Celtic Christian Webring: