Liberal Catholic movement
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|Liberal Catholic Movement|
The Liberal Catholic Movement refers to those churches whose foundation traces back to the founding bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church. It is different from the Roman Catholic Church. The Liberal Catholic Movement is one of the most recognized Old Catholic groups in the United States, with an estimated total worldwide membership of 45,000.
The founding bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church was J. I. Wedgwood who was ordained as a priest in the Old Catholic movement on July 22, 1913 by Arnold Harris Mathew (whose membership in the Union of Utrecht was terminated in 1910). Thus all Liberal Catholic churches claim to trace their apostolic succession back to Rome through Old Catholicism.
Differences of Opinion
First schism and the LCCI
In 1941, there was a schism in the Liberal Catholic Church in the United States, surrounding a controversy involving Bishop Charles Hampton who, while he was himself a Theosophist, wished to keep adherence to Theosophical tenets optional for the clergy. This was in keeping with what was taken to be the original intent of the church's founders who, although they were Theosophists, wanted the church to remain primarily open to everyone.
The controversy surrounding Bishop Hampton led to a legal battle in the United States which eventually split into two different divisions, both of which claimed to be the Liberal Catholic Church. Frank W. Pigott, the church's 3rd Presiding Bishop in England, who held to a more Theosophical ideal for the church, removed Hampton and then ordered the confiscation of certain church property at the regionary headquarters in California and forced the resignation of those clergy under Hampton who refused to support his new episcopal replacement. At the time the majority of Liberal Catholics in the United States supported Hampton and saw his removal from the office of regionary and the other subsequent proceedings as a breach of canon law and a violation of some of the laws of California under which the church had been incorporated in America. These clergy continued on their own and won the right to be called the Liberal Catholic Church in the United States (while being called the Liberal Catholic Church International in the rest of the world). Those who followed Bishop Pigott in England became known in America as The Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States of America. Both divisions have similar structures of government and administration.
After Frank W. Pigott retired as the Presiding Bishop, and after attempts at a reconciliation, some of the clergy in the LCCI returned to the Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States of America. Bishop Hampton died before the litigation was settled. While some clergy wish for more cooperation between the two divisions, they still exist independently.
The LCC Schism
In 2003 the issue of the limitation of the right of a bishop to ordain candidates of his choice gave rise to a schism into two groups: a 'conservative' and a more 'liberal' one. The ordination of women was the primary point of conflict.
The 'liberal' parishes in the Dutch, Belgian and Canadian provinces elected their own Episcopal Synod under the presidency of the Right Reverend Tom Degenaars, continuing to use the name 'the Liberal Catholic Church'. In 2003 the new General Episcopal Synod declared that women may be ordained. As of 2007 this Synod was represented in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Cameroon, both Congos, and Sweden.
The 'conservatives' remained under the presidency of the Right Reverent Ian Hooker. In 2002 the 'conservative' wing opened 'The Order of Our Lady' as an alternative for women seeking ordination. Representation of the original Synod continues its presence worldwide.
Since both groups call themselves The Liberal Catholic Church, distinguishing between the two may be confusing. It has been suggested that the 'liberal' synod be known as the 'reform' synod.
LCC Theosophia Synod
Right Reverend Ernest W.Jackson had been the Regionary Bishop of The Liberal Catholic Church Province of Canada. The GES of the LCC deposed Jackson and dissolved the Province of Canada. Jackson then founded the Liberal Catholic Church Theosophia Synod, 1982.
The Old Catholic Apostolic Church
Founded by a small autocephalous group of Christians in 1999, it was first called the British Liberal Free Church and then later the Society of the Divine Spirit (SDS). Subsequent developments saw the evolution of the SDS into the English Liberal Free Church (ELFC). In 2006, it underwent a major change. Specifically, those on its ministerial team set in place a reorganization and renewal of its mission. Having used the name Independent Old Catholic Church of the Utrecht Succession (IOCCUS) in the interim period, the Presiding Bishop announced on 1 January 2007 that the denomination would bear the name The Liberal Rite.
In 2008, following a year of significant growth, in which John Kersey was consecrated to the episcopacy for the Apostolic Episcopal Church by Archbishop Bertil Persson and the addition of the orders of the Ancient Catholic Church of Archbishop Harold Percival Nicholson, The Liberal Rite was renamed the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church (LCAC). In 2010, a major split took place. The more esoteric members formed under the Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum, with Archbishop Kersey becoming the Prince-Abbot of the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi. The remaining members of the LCAC continued working in the denomination before changing the name of the church to the Old Catholic Apostolic Church in 2012 to reflect its now dominant Old Catholic membership. The current Presiding Bishop is Adrian Glover, consecrated to the episcopacy in 2009 by John Kersey. He was joined in 2015 by Bridget Wilson Hall, consecrated by Adrian Glover and Bishop Louise Lombard. Later Bishop Bridget founded The Liberal Catholic Universalist Church.
Old Catholic Church of British Columbia
The Old Catholic Church of British Columbia was established in 1921 as in independent communion. They use the Liberal Rite in their church. In 2006, the church was granted conditional status as a member of the Utrecht Union. This lasted only a short period, as they withdrew from the Union the following year due to differences of opinion.
In the United Kingdom another Liberal Catholic Jurisdiction exists under the leadership of Bishop Richard Palmer. This Church was founded by mandate in May 1999 and is known as 'The Reformed Liberal Catholic Church (Old Catholic)'. The RLCC does not emphasise theosophy, vegetarianism nor belief in the Masters as it holds that the individual has the right to choose whether to subscribe to these beliefs and practices.
Palmer was consecrated to the episcopate in the 'conservative' wing in 1997 and subsequently consecrated Professor Elizabeth Stuart of the University of Winchester as a bishop in the Open Episcopal Church on 10 April 2003 at the chapel of Royal Holloway, Egham assisted by Bishop Jonathan Blake and Bishop Michael Wilson. Stuart has since left the Open Episcopal Church and has been appointed the regionary bishop for the British Province of the Liberal Catholic Church International.
The Church of Saint Thomas Int
Another Liberal Catholic Jurisdiction exists under the leadership of Bishop David D.La Rochelle (David Lindley). This Church was founded by mandate in May 2009 and is known as The Church of Saint Thomas Int. (Old Catholic)'. The CSTI does not emphasise theosophy, vegetarianism nor belief in the Masters as it holds that the individual has the right to choose whether to subscribe to these beliefs and practices.
Bishop La Rochelle was consecrated to the episcopate March 7, 2009 in Southampton,UK by Bishop Palmer (RLCC)
Bishop La Rochelle holds the RLCC USA mandate as an ordaining body.
Universal Catholic Church
In April 2007, former LCCI Presiding Bishop Dean Bekken, Bishop Alain Miller, several Priests and St Francis Parish of San Diego left the LCCI to form the Liberal Catholic Church of California, later renamed the Universal Catholic Church. In 2008 Bishop Bekken elevated Father Robert Winzens to the Episcopate.
The Young Rite
In 2006 another reform resulted in the formation of a new group called the Young Rite. The past Presiding Bishop of the "mother" Liberal Catholic Church, Johannes van Alphen, who had resigned from the LCC in 2002, had consecrated Mario Manuel Herrera (in 2002) who in turn had consecrated Benito Rodriguez Cruz (in 2005). These three bishops consecrated to the episcopacy Marcus van Alphen, a former priest of the Dutch Liberal Catholic Church, in June 2006 in Hilversum, The Netherlands. Bishop Johannes subsequently joined the Young Rite and remained active in it until his death on the 25th of January 2009. In March 2008 the bishops of the Young Rite and bishop (Aristid Havilcek of Slovenia) to the episcopacy. In 2012, Domen Kocevar was consecrated bishop at Celje in Slovenia, by Marcus van Alphen, Aristid Havilcek, Alistair Bate and Bruno Pedrini.
Bishop Marcus started the Young Rite as an autocephalous group operating within the Liberal Catholic tradition, yet separate from any of the Liberal Catholic Church organizations. Although the Young Rite shares many beliefs and customs with the Liberal Catholic Church and derives its apostolic succession from it, they are not affiliated with any of the Liberal Catholic Church organizations. The book expounds further on the doctrine and philosophy regarding this rite. The Young Rite operates in Slovenia, South Africa, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States of America.. The Young Rite USA operates as the Community of St. George and is led by Presiding Bishops David Oliver Kling, Robert Lamoureaux and Kirk Jeffery 
The Ascended Church of Christ
In 2014 the Liberal Orthodox Church Universal changed its name to The Ascended Church of Christ. In 2009 Bishop Teklemariam Gezahagne, presiding Patriarch of the Ethiopian Apostolic Church, commissioned and ordained the Rev. Didymos Judas Thomas(W. L. Vincent) as the presiding Patriarch of North American branch of the EAC. The EAC draws its Apostolic succession from a unique line descending from the Apostle Philip and being passed forward in the Ethiopian Churches. As newly appointed Patriarch D. Judas Thomas changed the name of the North American Church to the Liberal Orthodox Church Universal. In 2014 Patriarch Didymos Judas Thomas was appointed as the reigning patriarch of all Churches in the LOCU and forthwith changed the name of the Church to the Ascended Church of Christ. The Church has since focused on establishing communities and training ministers to expand the Church worldwide. Also in 2014 the ACC opened Alpha & Omega Institute, a distance learning Seminary with the mission of training laymen and clergy for service in the Church.
The Liberal Catholic Union
The Liberal Catholic Union is an autocephalous branch of the Liberal Catholic Movement formed after the Consecration of Tau Meinrad(Michael Robert Lawrence) McDonald, OSM/EBOE to the office of Bishop in the old/Liberal Catholic and Gnostic lineages of Apostolic succession held by Tau Michael Bertiaux through Tau Allen H. Greenfield. Along with several Bishops and Clergy the Liberal Catholic Union formed as a vehicle for reintroducing Theosophical context that they felt had been stripped from common Liberal Catholic Practice. The LCU creates a distinct practice through the incorporation and infusion of not only Theosophical but French Gnostic theological concepts. The Church is active in several states with its largest community established in Indiana. The LCU does not have a seminary and instead relies on the "apprentice" method that they believe was originally the model of training used in the early Christian community. The Liberal Catholic Union is seen as a heavily esoteric order and promotes such practices as open communion offered to Christians as well as Non Christians without distinction.
Differences of various branches
- The (original) General Episcopal Synod of The Liberal Catholic Church worldwide permits its clergy to believe in such Theosophical tenets as reincarnation and the ascended masters. It encourages its priests and its bishops to have a vegetarian diet and to refrain from using tobacco as well as alcohol. Significantly it also continues to require deacons, priests and bishops to be male.
- The (new) GES of the Liberal Catholic Church (Dutch, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Sweden), retains the emphasis on the tenets defined by the founders of the Liberal Catholic Church, but practices the ordination of women to the Holy Orders, including the episcopate.
- The Liberal Catholic Church International does not as a group require any belief in theosophical tenets, while it continues to accept them if they are the personal choice of the individual. Since 2004, the Liberal Catholic Church International opens the ordination of women to all Holy Orders up to and including bishop.
- The Reformed Liberal Catholic Church began facilitating the ordination of women to all orders before other branches of the Liberal Catholic Church. It doesn't emphasise theosophy but holds that theosophy is a lens through which we can gain a deeper and broader understanding of religion. Clergy and laity are free to accept or reject this, but are expected to accept those who have differing views.
- The Church of Saint Thomas Int. Ordination of women to all orders. There are no barriers to holy orders for any qualified individual. It doesn't emphasise theosophy but holds that theosophy is a lens through which we can gain a deeper and broader understanding of religion. Clergy and laity are free to accept or reject this, but are expected to accept those who have differing views. CSTI does concentrate on the teachings of the founding Bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church in the training of Clergy.
- The Universal Catholic Church, like the LCCI, does not require any belief in theosophical tenets, leaving that to the individual. It practices the ordination of women to all Holy Orders, including the episcopate.
- The Ascended Church of Christ (formerly called the Liberal Orthodox Church Universal) under the direction of Patriarch Didymos Judas Thomas appointed 2014, permits its clergy to believe in such Theosophical tenets as reincarnation. It promotes ascetic practices such as dietary restriction and to refrain from using tobacco as well as alcohol abuse. It allows for the ordination of women into all offices.
- The Catholic Universalist Church places a special emphasis on the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation. Like the UCC, it does not require its lay faithful and clergy to believe in theosophical tenets, leaving that to the individual. It allows for the ordination of women to the episcopate, as well as members of the LGBT community.
- The Old Catholic Apostolic Church allows belief in theosophical tenets to remain a matter for personal belief, while seeing them as a vital part of its history. It ordains and consecrates those seen as qualified and called, regardless of gender, sexuality, or gender identity.
Disbanded and inactive churches
International Liberal Catholic Church
The International Liberal Catholic Church was founded in 1966 by Bishop Edmund Walter Sheehan and others who left the Liberal Catholic Church branch led by Bishop Edward M. Matthews. He had previously served as an auxiliary bishop under Bishop Charles Hampton. His disagreement with Matthews concerned administrative matters.
Sheehan linked the International Liberal Catholic Church to the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament, a Dutch group which had broken with the British headquarters of the Liberal Catholic Church. The Brotherhood had originally sided with Matthews but had broken relations with him in 1962.
The International Liberal Catholic Church followed the Matthews faction in doctrinal and liturgical matters. While reporting 9 bishops, 25 clergy, and 3,000 members in 1969, the International Church dwindled to only a few parishes during the 1970s, and in the early 1980s was disbanded.
Independent Catholic Church International
The Independent Catholic Church International was formed in 1981 as both a new jurisdiction out of the Anglican heritage and an ecumenical body which related a variety of independent episcopal bodies, some out of the theosophical Liberal Catholic tradition. The first primate was Peter Wayne Goodrich. Goodrich resigned in 1983 and was succeeded by R. V. Bernard Dawe (b. 1925), who had been consecrated in 1980 and had served as the church's international legate.
As constituted, the small jurisdiction has freely developed interchanges with a variety of Old Catholic and Anglican jurisdictions and has remained open to theosophical currents. It is a member of the Synod of Independent Sacramental Churches.
Free Liberal Catholic Church
The Free Liberal Catholic Church was founded in 1975 by a group of Liberal Catholic priests including Bishops Donald M. Berry (1935- ) and John Russell (1920–1985). Bishop Berry was consecrated by Bishop William H. Daw of the Liberal Catholic Church International. Bishop Russell was consecrated by Bishop William A. Henley of the American Orthodox Catholic Church. Archbishop John Shelton Davis, vicar general at the time of the formation of the Free Liberal Catholic Church, is currently the presiding bishop. Davis was consecrated by Berry in 1979.
The Free Liberal Catholic Church follows the Liberal Catholic tradition. The Bible is accepted as the guide and rule of life by members and priests, but no one is required to subscribe to a creedal summary or to a particular formulation of faith. Freedom of inquiry is encouraged. There are seven sacraments that operate by the power of the Holy Spirit and depend for their efficacy on the clear conscience of the supplicant.
- Warren Prall Watters
- Free Church of Antioch
- Old Catholic Church Utrecht Union
- Old Catholic
- Liberal Catholic Church International
- Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States of America
- Catholic Universalist Church
- Whalen, William J. Separated Brethren: A Survey Of Protestant, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox And Other Denominations in the United States. P. 153
- Rt. Rev. Maurice Warnon, Liberal Catholic Church in the USA Newsletter, Summer 2006.
- Canon Law of the Old Catholic Apostolic Church. July 2012.
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- "The Pillars of the Temple". Archived from the original on 2016-02-10. Retrieved 2015-12-14.
- Svobodna Katoliška Cerkev
- Liberal Catholic Church LCC Conservative Branch
- Liberal Catholic Church This website provides information about the Progressive Branch of the Liberal Catholic Church
- Liberal-Katholische Kirche in Deutschland Progressive Branch in Germany
- Liberal Catholic Church International The church in which theosophical tenets are allowed but not emphasized
- Liberal Catholic Church International, Province of Great Britain and Ireland
- The Liberal Catholic Union
- Universal Catholic Church
- The Liberal Catholic Church – Theosophia Synod
- The Liberal Catholic Church Grail Community
- Old Catholic Apostolic Church
- Liberal Catholic Universalist Church Liberal, Catholic, Universalist, Inclusive
- The Young Rite USA
- The Catholic Universalist Church
- Iglesia Católica Liberal Occidental Liberal Catholic Church Western – Church in Spain
- Church of St Thomas Int.