Universal Catholic Church
The Universal Catholic Church (UCC) is a Christian church formed in 2007 with headquarters based in the United States. The Church traces its founding to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles and regards the bishops to be the literal successors of the Apostles, holding their keys of authority. The Universal Catholic Church considers itself to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and to be both Catholic and Liberal. While it derives its apostolic succession from the Old Catholic Church, the UCC is not in full communion with either the Utrecht Union, or the Roman Catholic Church, and differs with them theologically in several important respects.
In the United States, as of 2011, the UCC has five dioceses, which are the diocese of the west (Alaska, Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada), the diocese of the southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado), the diocese of Texas (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana), the diocese of the middle-Atlantic (Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington D.C.) and the provincial diocese.
- The Holy Eucharist is considered to be the most important and central sacrament in the life of the Church. The Church teaches that in the Holy Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine become linked, or polarized, on the Life of the Christ and become literal outposts of his life and his consciousness. The Holy Eucharist is designed to help those who physically take part and to pour out a flood of spiritual power upon the surrounding world. The UCC does not restrict the Eucharist to its membership and allows all to partake.
- Baptism may be performed by either immersion, affusion (pouring) or aspersion (sprinkling).
- Confirmation is performed by a bishop.
- Holy Matrimony is performed by either a bishop, priest or deacon.
- Holy Orders include the Minor Orders (Cleric/Tonsure, Doorkeeper, Reader, Exorcist, Acolyte and Subdeacon), and the Major Orders (deacon, priest, and bishop) In the Universal Catholic Church all clergy are allowed to marry and ordination is open to both men and women.
- Absolution is performed by either a bishop or a priest.
- Extreme Unction is performed by either a bishop or a priest.
The UCC teaches the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
The UCC teaches that we are all immortal, both before and after physical death; and everyone shall "one day reach His Feet, however far they stray." Universal reconciliation is an accepted doctrine of the UCC, following the words of St. Paul: "Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all." (Romans 5:18)
The UCC teaches that the Holy Bible, the creeds, and the traditions of the church are the means by which the teachings of Christ have been handed down to his followers that they are fundamental, true, and sufficient as a basis for right understanding and right conduct.
The UCC teaches that all Christian worship is valid, of whatever kind, so long as it is earnest and true.
Constitution and canons
The UCC is governed by its constitution and canons.
The UCC is currently led by its archbishop, Dean E. Bekken of Arizona, and the General Episcopal Synod.
Laypersons in the UCC come from diverse backgrounds and from all spiritual paths. Due to the open nature of the UCC, no layperson is required to accept any of the more "formal" beliefs of the Church and are allowed to accept or reject them as they please.
The Church uses its own liturgy, today known as the Liberal Rite. This liturgy was mostly composed by Bishop Wedgwood, with Bishop Leadbeater assisting on the Collects, and selecting the Psalms, canticles, and weekly epistle and gospel readings. The rite focuses more on the glorification of God, rather than the depravity of man.
The Order of St. George of Cappadocia is a semi-monastic Franciscan spiritual community.
The Church traces its apostolic succession to Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew. Mathew was consecrated bishop on 28 April 1908, by Archbishop Gerhardus Gul of Utrecht, assisted by the Old Catholic bishops of Deventer and Berne, in St. Gertrude's Old Catholic Cathedral, Utrecht. Only two years later, Mathew declared his autonomy from the Union of Utrecht, with which he had experienced tension from the beginning. It was only a short time later that Bishop Mathew found himself at odds with his own clergy in Great Britain and ultimately walked away to seek union with the Roman Catholic Church.
The founding bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church was James I. Wedgwood of the Wedgwood China family, formerly a cleric in the Church of England (Anglican). Wedgwood grew dissatisfied with the Church, and discovered the Theosophical Society, which had a stronger appeal to his sense of life and justice. When Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew sought to ordain some clergy who were dissatisfied with the Church of England, Wedgwood was one who joined the new Old Catholic Church of England. Archbishop Mathew knew of Wedgwood's membership in the Theosophical Society, as well as that of other clergy in the Old Catholic Church of England, and originally promised that this would not be a problem, but later retracted that promise and asked all clergy to resign from the Theosophical Society. Not willing to do so, Wedgwood and most of the Old Catholic Church in England found themselves without a bishop as they withdrew from Archbishop Mathew's leadership.
One of the men whom Archbishop Mathew had consecrated to the episcopate, Bishop Frederick Samuel Willoughby, offered to consecrate and elevate one of the withdrawn clergy to the episcopate so that they would not be without a bishop. Wedgwood was selected and elevated to the Episcopate on February 13, 1916. The Church was eventually reorganized and renamed The Liberal Catholic Church. Archbishop Wedgwood then consecrated another former Anglican priest, Charles W. Leadbeater, later that same year, with Bishop Leadbeater going on to become the 2nd Presiding Bishop of the Church in later years.
The Liberal Catholic Church underwent a schism between the American Province and the worldwide Church in 1941. The American Province reorganized under the name Liberal Catholic Church International. In April 2007, Bishop Dean Bekken severed his parish and those clergy under him from the LCCI and formed the Universal Catholic Church.
In September 2010, the church incardinated the religious order of St. George of Cappadocia (OSGC).
Relations with other denominations
The UCC seeks to work in amity with all other Christian denominations, and is open to inter-communion agreements with other denominations. Open communion is a practice of the UCC.
The UCC maintains and operates the St Alban Press, the unofficial publisher of the Liberal Catholic Movement.
- The Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Rite, 3rd Ed.
- The Collected Works of James I. Wedgwood, Msgr. T.J. Howard ed.
- Cockerham, The Rev. A.J. The Apostolical Succession in the Liberal Catholic Church.
- Leadbeater, C.W. The Science of the Sacraments.
- The Collected Works of Edward M. Matthews, Vol. I