We Are Church – USA is a coalition of Catholic organizations in the United States who are affiliated with the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC). Founded in Rome in 1996, IMWAC is committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit developed from it.
IMWAC evolved from the Church Referendum in Austria in 1995 that was started after the paedophilia scandal around Vienna’s Cardinal Groer. IMWAC is represented in more than twenty countries on all continents and is networking world-wide with similar-minded reform groups.
Pope Paul VI said: “It is to all Christians that we address a fresh and insistent call to action….it belongs to the laity, without waiting passively for orders and directives, to take the initiative freely and to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws and structures of the community in which they live.” (Octogesima Adveniens, 1971, #48)
We take that call seriously. We are adult believers who read the signs of the times in the light of the gospel and take responsibility for our faith community. As such, we seek to infuse a new Spirit into this ancient institution, which we love, by working for a church which is inclusive, egalitarian, affirming and democratic.
In 1996-97, we expressed our beliefs in a Referendum of the People of God which was signed by more than 2.5 million people worldwide. On October 11, 1997, we joined representatives from 16 other countries in St. Peter’s Square where we presented those results formally to an official representative of the Vatican. On October 12, we participated in an international meeting that approved a formal Manifesto for the International Movement.
In March 1998, we participated in a planning meeting in Mammolsheim, Germany where we met with Dr. Konrad Raiser, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches. Dr. Raiser urged us to do what we can to improve the ecumenical climate between Christian denominations.
In 1998, we issued an unprecedented international statement, A Pope for the Time to Come: Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor, which described the type of church and leadership needed in our church as we approach the new century and the new millennium. That statement was endorsed by more than 145 groups in 17 countries on 6 continents. The movement is strong and growing. For current information about our work, please visit the IMWAC website at imwac.net.
The Referendum of the People of God that originally united the various member organizations into the International Movement We Are Church is below:
We Are Church – USA Referendum
The movement for renewal of the Catholic Church is spreading like the fire of Pentecost across the globe. More than 2.3 million Austrian and German Catholics have signed referenda calling for widespread reforms. Similar initiatives have been undertaken in Italy, France, Belgium and Australia.
In union with our Austrian and German sisters and brothers, and those in other lands, we U.S. Catholics urge support from all sectors of our church for long overdue reforms. We seek genuine dialogue in the whole church on these issues and gradual, but steady, implementation of the referendum’s goals. These changes are necessary for the gospel message to be heard by the whole People of God as we enter the new millennium.
1. We believe in a loving church where the equality of all the faithful is respected, the gulf between clergy and laity is bridged and the People of God participate in the process of selecting their bishops and pastors.
2. We believe in a church with equal rights for women, where women are full participants in all official decision-making and are welcomed in all ministries, including the diaconate and the ministerial priesthood.
3. We believe in a church where priests may choose either a celibate or non-celibate way of life, where the right of a congregation to the Eucharist and pastoral care is more important than a rule of canon law.
4. We believe in a church which affirms:
- the goodness of sexuality,
- the primacy of conscience in deciding issues of sexual morality (for example: birth control),
- the human rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation, and
- the importance and urgency of issues other than sexual morality (for example: peace and non-violence, social justice, preservation of the environment).
5. We believe in a church which:
- affirms people rather than condemns them,
- respects primacy of conscience in all moral decision-making,
- embraces and welcomes those who are divorced and remarried, married priests, theologians and others who exercise freedom of speech.
We sign this with prayerful hope for a new movement of the Spirit in our church!