The Rev. Bruce Edward Greening, pastor of St. Martin de Porres and a former associate of Bishop George Augustus Stallings, has broken from the Archdiocese of Washington and has been installed as bishop of a newly created African American Catholic rite.
Greening said his consecration as a bishop Sept. 28 by Jamen Butler, the patriarch of the African Orthodox Church, was "monumental and significant," because "we now become the 24th Catholic rite."
However, a spokesman for the archdiocese said the rite is not recognized and that Greening and his followers are excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
"It is automatic, once you are ordained outside of the church authority you have virtually excommunicated yourself," said Will Pinder, assistant director of communications for the archdiocese.
St. Martin de Porres was known as Umoja Temple when it was affiliated with Stallings, founder of the African American Catholic Congregation. In August 1989, Stallings introduced Greening as the first priest recruited to his movement. But in February, Greening and about 300 followers parted with Stallings after Stallings had severed his ties with the archdiocese. Greening said then that he would seek reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church.
In an interview this week, Greening said he and his followers had declared their independence from Cardinal James A. Hickey and the pope on June 15 when it became apparent that the church leaders would not support the establishment of an African American Catholic rite.
Pinder said there was no support for creating a new rite, because the church leadership does not see a need for one.
Greening said his church, which holds services at McKinley High School in Northeast Washington, now has "valid orders claiming apostolic succession as a valid independent African American Catholic rite."
The African Orthodox patriach who made Greening a bishop in a ceremony conducted in the 19th Street Baptist Church said he represented a church that claims an unbroken line of succession with Rome beginning with St. Peter.