Ecumenical Rift in Portland

News: US News
by Church Militant  •  •  January 4, 2024   

Archbishop ends Masses at Catholic-Lutheran community

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PORTLAND, Ore. ( - Portland's archbishop recently barred Catholic priests from celebrating Mass at the Spirit of Grace, a Catholic-Lutheran ecumenical community in Beaverton, Oregon. 

Abp. Alexander Sample

Archbishop Alexander Sample stated in his Dec. 5 letter that Catholic priests must cease celebrating Masses at Spirit of Grace after Dec. 10. 

He cited the need to discern the Catholic faithful's needs and adhere to principles governing sacred liturgy

Emphasizing the diocesan bishop's role in ecumenical matters, Sample expressed his intention to promote participation in sacraments at local Catholic parishes.

Community Reaction

The announcement shocked the Spirit of Grace community, with many members learning about the decision only a day before it took effect. 

An emotional final Catholic Mass followed. 

Spirit of Grace has attempted a Catholic-Lutheran cooperation, blending traditions from both.

Lutheran pastor Laurie Larson Caesar says she reached out to the archbishop for a dialogue. 

Vinci Halbrook-Paterson, the director of Catholic ministries at Spirit of Grace, left a message for the archbishop requesting a meeting but received no response. 

Spirit of Grace Community

Since its establishment in 1986 in Beaverton, Spirit of Grace has attempted a Catholic-Lutheran cooperation, blending traditions to foster an ecumenical experience. 

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Recognized as a mission of St. Anthony Parish and featured in the 2023 Oregon Catholic Directory, the community initially enjoyed support from Portland's auxiliary bishop, Kenneth Steiner, and Franciscan Fr. Matt Tumulty. 

Its dubious approach ... raised concerns.

Following the COVID panic, Spirit of Grace adapted its liturgical practices, alternating between Catholic Mass and Lutheran services.

Spirit of Grace, striving to balance Catholic and Lutheran worship elements, faced scrutiny over its Catholic identity. 


Its dubious approach — involving acceptance of all faith traditions and an affirmative stance on LGBTQ issues — raised concerns. 

Future of Spirit of Grace

The archbishop's decision has put Spirit of Grace's future in jeopardy. 

Catholic members, some having belonged to the community for decades, now face a critical decision: to adhere to Abp. Sample's directive, reaffirming their unity with the Catholic faith and its leadership, or to continue their involvement with Spirit of Grace, breaking from the bishop and the unity of the Church.

As the community navigates these changes, the broader implications for Catholic-Lutheran relations and ecumenical efforts in the region are yet to unfold.

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