Free Catholicism and Liberal Catholicism

Adrian Worsfold

This is an overview of two streams of Liberal Catholicism: the Liberal Catholic Church International, with its background in Theosophy as well as Catholicism, and the Unitarian inspired and connected Free Catholicism. Both use trinitarian sacramentalist liturgies. Both are part of the category of the Independent Sacramental Movement and emphasise the importance of the apostolic succession through lines of bishops. As such they overlap with the rationale behind other related groups, with or without further esoteric leanings - and some of these are mentioned in this overview to help show the diversity of the Independent Sacramental Movement beyond the liberal groups.
Independent Catholicism is may be about the size of the Free Church of England, but it is less visible than many Churches due to an absence of buildings: indeed it has undergone a tiny revival at present. A key figure is Arnold Harris Mathew who became head of a new British Isles branch of the Old Catholic Church. From him comes the majority of Old and Independent Catholic groups: others derive mainly from René Vilatte or from other Orthodox sources; from 1945 a great number came from Duarte Costa in Brazil and, from the 1970s, Roman Catholic sources such as Archbishop Thuc. Examples include the recently reduced Open Episcopal Church that looks back directly to Arnold Harris Mathew and has no position on Theosophy, the Church of the Celtic Cross, the Liberal Catholic Church which generally practises Theosophy, the Liberal Catholic Church International, for which they are optional, and even a Unitarian connection. The Unitarian connection is more properly grounded in Ulric Vernon Herford, who ministered to two Unitarian churches, started his own slighly connected Unitarian chapel, and developed in the Liberal Catholic direction. The Liberal Rite (now merged into the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church) and its antecedents represented a development out of Unitarian inspiration and Joseph Morgan Lloyd Thomas and the Free Catholics of the early twentieth century, being the impact of the Anglican Oxford Movement and Broad Church on the Free Christian anti-denominationalist side of Unitarianism (its association being the National Conference of Unitarian and Liberal Christians, Free Christians, Presbyterians and Other Non-subscribing Congregations, formed 1881) up to and just beyond time when a merger (with the British and Foreign Unitarian Association, origin 1825) formed the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (then its shorter name) that brought both wings together in 1928.



The first stream then is the Liberal Catholic, whose origins lie in the historical semi-independence of Dutch Roman Catholicism.
Originally three principal dioceses were established in Utrecht, Deventer and Haarlem to administer the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands, formed initially from missionary activity under Willibrord in the Seventh Century. After his consecration by Pope Sergius in 696, Utrecht became the archiepiscopal see and it supervised Deventer and Haarlem.
In 1145 Pope Eugene III granted the Cathedral Chapter of Utrecht the right to elect its successors, following a petition from the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad II and Bishop Heribert of Utrecht. The Fourth Lateran Council confirmed this in 1215. Utrecht was thus a Prince-Bishopric of the Holy Roman Empire,
Much later in 1520 Pope Leo X, in Debitum Pastoralis, gave to Philip of Burgundy, 57th Bishop of Utrecht, the right that neither he nor a successor, nor anyone under him, would be tried by the Roman Catholic Church, or that any proceedings would be null and void.
Nevertheless Utrecht ceased being a Prince-Bishopric in 1528 when the Prince-Bishop, Henry of Bavaria, ceded its sovereignty to the Emperor Charles V.
During the quickly following Reformation, Protestants took over a number of Dutch churches, and the Calvinist sympathising government confiscated other buildings. The Roman Catholic Church closed its dioceses. So from the 1600s popes appointed a bishop to be Apostolic Vicar for Utrecht and also named the Archbishop of Utrecht in partibus infidelium (in the land of unbelievers) as many Roman Catholics were served in secret by their priests..
So at this point there was a history of Utrecht being its own power base, different from other functioning Roman Catholic regions. This valued semi-independence was intensified by events.
In 1691 the Jesuits accused the Apostolic Vicar of Utrecht, Petrus Codde, of Jansenist tendencies. The Holy Father, Pope Innocent XII, and a Commission of Cardinals gave him an unconditional exoneration. Nevertheless, under the new Pope, Clement XI, another Commission tried him and again exonerated him. Ignoring this, in 1701 this pope suspended Codde and appointed a successor to be the Apostolic Vicar.
The Dutch refused to obey (as they believed was their right) and Codde only resigned in 1703.
In 1723 priests themselves elected a new Archbishop, Cornelius van Steenoven, and then the pope died. Rome resisted the choice saying the previous pope had neither accepted nor rejected the choice. Steenoven was consecrated without the new Pope's permission by French missionary bishop Dominique Marie Varlet in October 1724 (appointed as the Coadjutor Bishop of Babylon by the Pope, but had not taken up this duty). The Pope did not care for him because he confirmed several hundred into the Dutch Church. This restored apostolic succession. Again it was still thought that Utrecht had its privileges.The Pope had a different view, calling the election null and void and the consecration illicit and execrable; his successors would not be recognised; the participants were all excommunicated. Apostolic Vicars were then appointed to the northern Dutch areas.
Varlet in fact consecrated four Archbishops of Utrecht in succession, the last being P. J. Meindaarts. Rome recognised these as valid but irregular and stopped formally excommunicating them.
So the Roman Catholic bishops being appointed were new, and here were the Old Catholics as a minority movement being protected by the Calvinism and anti-papal stance of the Netherlands. By 1853 the Dutch King Willem II passed on guarantees of religious freedom to Pope Pius IX, and so a full Roman Catholic hierarchy returned to the Netherlands.
After the First Vatican Council in 1870, many Austrian, German and Swiss Catholics rejected the new teaching on papal infallibility and formed their own churches. These appealed to the Archbishop of Utrecht who consecrated their first bishops. Some time afterwards there was the Utrecht Union of Churches over several European countries.
In the spring of 1871 a convention in Munich decided to form the Old Catholic Church. The name was chosen because Roman Catholicism had produced the new innovation of papal infallibility. The first Old Catholic bishop was chosen at a second convention and he was consecrated by the Archbishop of Utrecht. Celibacy for priests was abandoned in 1874. A process of making the liturgy increasingly in the local language as fully introduced in 1877.
Support came from Bismarck in Germany because he was anti-Roman Catholic. German nationalists elsewhere supported Old Catholicism and Lutheranism. This allowed the Church to develop.
This would be the development to produce later the Liberal Catholic route, and yet here came one of the first connections with Unitarianism. It comes with Arnold Harris Ochterlony Mathew (1852-1919), born into an aristocratic family in France with titles not used after he became a priest. He is often counted as the first Old Catholic bishop for Great Britain, formally Old Catholic Regionary Bishop for Great Britain.

Arnold Harris Mathew was an Anglican ordinand but transferred his training to Roman Catholicism in 1875 and, showing high level academic skills, was accelerated through and ordained into the Roman Catholic Church on June 24, 1877. Then in St. Andrews cathedral as a curate and then being at a priory in Gloucestershire, and leaving due to active homosexuality among others, he was a priest at some parishes. He became troubled by papal infallibility and met a modernist, Fr. Hyacinthe Loyson of the Eglise Catholique Gallicane, a French outpost of the Utrecht Union of Old Catholics. As a result he sought ministry in Unitarian Christianity, and then the Church of England. He was given a lesser ex-communication when he resigned from Roman Catholicism; he did not renounce Roman doctrines but was able to officiate at Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, London. He married in 1892 to an Anglican woman in an Anglican Church. In 1899 homosexuality again was a reason for moving on, as there was a scandal involving his former Anglican rector at Sloane Street after this man had moved to St, Margaret's at Westminster.
To return to Roman Catholicism he would have to have rejected his marriage, so he had a secular career for a time including being a writer. With an interest in non-Roman Catholicism, he corresponded with former Jesuit George Tyrrell and they agreed on their opposition to the papacy. He wanted to practice ministry again in the Church of England, but could not meet a condition of probation. In 1907 started corresponding with the Swiss Old Catholic, Bishop Eduard Herzog and Mathew signed the Declaration of Utrecht of 1898 rejecting papal infallibility decreed in 1870. There was a papal bull of Pope Leo XIII in 1896 making Anglican orders null and void, and this troubled some Anglicans; Arnold Harris Mathew was persuaded by a disaffected Roman catholic prioest, Richard O'Halloran, that an Old Catholic alternative in the British Isles might be welcomed by modernist Anglicans and those who feared the Church might row back acquired Anglo-Catholic practice. Geraldus Gul was Old Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht prepared to consecrate to assist alternatives to Roman Catholicism. When the Church of England rejected Mathew's idea for a Church of England bishop to be an Old Catholic coadjutor, as a bridge between Anglicanism and the Roman Catholics, Mathew found himself elected regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and Ireland by a meeting chaired by O'Halloran. Thus Gerard Gul and others conscrated Arnold Harris Matthew, on April 28 1908, at St Gerturde's Cathedral, Utrecht, despite him being married when the Dutch Old Catholic Church had not yet abolished its rule of clerical celibacy (although it was not enforced; they were satisfied he had not left Roman Catholicism in order to marry).
Halloran's assurance of a widespread congregation for Mathew was false; having found none he tried to resign, but the Utrecht bishops refused and so he continued, despite the need to build a movement placing him in some opposition to both the Church of England and Roman Catholicism. One person he did not consecrate was O'Halloran.
At this time the Utrecht Union of the Old Catholic Church was developing more inclusive social views and a more diverse understanding of Christian origins (along with more Protestant essential teachings). Arnold Harris Mathew wanted to press for Church unity across Catholics, including towards Orthodoxy. So on 29 December 1910 this new Bishop of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland severed his Church's connection with the Utrecht Union via a Declaration of Autonomy and Independence. In any case, when alone he consecrated two dissident Roman Catholic priests (and a third man) in 1910, Mathew was censured by the Old Catholic bishops saying they had not agreed and they were under Roman subordination. He pointed out that Herzog had been consecrated without formal agreement of other bishops. This spat was secondary, however, to his complaint of the Old Catholic Church becoming more Protestant. He was convinced that Anglican orders were invalid, and European Old Catholics were mistaken to allow Anlgican priests to celebrate the eucharist in their churches.
In 1910 he separated from his wife.
Being ecumenically minded, in 1911 Mathew wrote to the Roman Catholic leadership seeking papal agreement to a British Uniate Rite. Rome gave him the greater excommunication. He did approach the Church of England with the same idea, but they were wary of him, that he might take Anglo-Catholics with him away from the Anglicans. So this meant independence. They also rejected his idea to reordain and reconsecrate the Bishop of London so that he could be a bridge between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism: obviously Davidson did not take too well to the idea in 1915 of the Bishop of London being reordained and reconsecrated. The Utrecht Union went on to establish intercommunion with the Anglican Communion in 1932, clearly against Mathew's views on the validity of Anglican orders.
As ever, Anglicans rarely leave their Church, even to form a non-Papal Catholic movement. Thrust into independence, he provided re-ordinations for about four hundred Anglican priests on its Anglo-Catholic wing by the end of his life.
Mathew's ecumenical efforts bore fruit by coming to communion with the Orthodox Church of the Jerusalem Synod, as held by Dositheus in 1672 in counting seven sacraments. The Anglican Church offered money to stop it - but not enough; Anglican efforts towards the Russian Orthodox Church prevented ecumenical agreement there. On August 5 1911 the the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Metropolitan-Archbishop Mesarra of Beirut, Syria, received the Old Catholics under Bishop Mathew into union and full communion with the patriarch. An Act of Union was signed in 1912 with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and Patriarch Photios. He became Provisional Bishop of the Eglise Catholique Franciase between 1912 and 1919.
Parishes were developed in the London area, and other locations, and even one in Dublin. Mathew sent missionary bishops into Scotland and the United States who had autonomy of organising, the Church intending to be less hierarchical than the European Old Catholics.
Mathew's Church upheld Penance, unlike Europe's modernist slippage. It venerated the Saints and the Virgin Mary - many Utrecht Union Old Catholics stopped venerating the Saints. The Church opposed the continental tendency to revise liturgies (except for the venacular). It disagreed with what it saw as the abandonment of the Rite of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament being dropped by Old Catholics. Whereas the Dutch stopped praying for the Pope, this Church maintained such practice. As the Old Catholics reduced the frequency of the Mass (to Sundays and feast days) this Church intended to maintain its daily frequency. It retained icons and other visual aids. It also maintained fasting, including before Communion.
Mathew's Church was both traditional and liberal: Mathew himself supported married priests, the possibility of ordaining women, liturgy in the venacular, and the acceptance of Theosophy at least until 1916; it became more conservative under his successor Bishop Bernard Mary Williams. The English Old Catholic belief was that Jesus Christ is the only saviour, that faith comes from God which humankind believes without doubting, followed by hope (trust in God through Christ in all the divine promises), and charity (loving and obeying God and neighbour for God's sake). The Church guards the scriptures and tradition, and the Church is the ground of revealed truth. The Nicene Creed is sufficient. The sacraments are baptism (first and necessary reception of grace for all others to proceed), confirmation or chrismation (receiving the sevenfold gifts), the Holy Eucharist (transubstantiation and transmutation, a perpetuation of the Calvary sacrifice by the Church), holy orders (a special grace to forgive sins), matrimony (an image of the union of christ with grace given), penance (the forgiveness of sins by the holy spirit via the ministry of the priest), and unction (anointing the sick to heal souls and bodies if God so chooses). The scriptures are inspired by God and the Church is the only divinely appointed interpreter. Tradition from the seven General Councils cannot be rejected. Discipline and ceremonial can be changed whereas faith and morals cannot be changed. The communion of saints is where the sould is united with Christ. Use of symbolism is relative (unlike what is signified). Christians should join in worship especially the eucharist. The Ten Commandments, made stricter in the New Testament, and the rules of the Church, should all be obeyed. The Monastic life is in full accord with the Scriptures and calls people into it. Christ is the head of the Church, all Christians should obey, authority went to the Apostles and to their lawful successors in order, the Orthodox and Catholic Bishops are the only lawful successors of the Apostles, and each bishop - subject to remaining in communion with the others - is supreme and independent over his area, and the collection of bishops is the divine authority over the whole Church, and all these Orthodox Catholic bishops with the sacraments and actual intercommunion keeps order, and not the Pope or other non-collegiate individuals. The seven main Councils are Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople (553), Constantinople (680), and Nicea (787). Hierarchy is from general consent of the Orthodox and Catholic Episcopate. Five Patriarchates (Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople) ought to be united and form the supreme authority in the administration of the over all Catholic Orthodox Church.
Into Arnold Mathew Harris's orbit in 1914 came Revd Frederick Samuel Willoughby, who had been priest at St John the Baptist at Stockton-on-Tees and claimed Protestant persecution. Mathew consecrated him. Also one of Mathew's priests, James Ingall Wedgwood (of the pottery family) sought and gained permission to work for the Theosophical Society Adyar so long as it did not affect the Old Catholic Church. Theosophy caught on through most of the clergy. Probably again homosexuality was in the background when Arnold Harris Mathew split from his priests, and then Willoughby consecrated Wedgewood. Mathew wanted to place himself and loyal people under the full jurisdiction of Rome, but Rome would only take him as a layman and ignored the remnants of his movement. Thus Mathew carried on, now creating the name Unitate Western Catholic Church in 1916, going on to offer this as an Anlgican Unitate Church and having that rejected and yet there was a meeting between him and Davidson, the Archbishop, with apologies all round but no agreement for Mathew to officiate. Bernard Mary Williams (made Grand Vicar and Administrator of the Vancant See) was effective in bringing back the name Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland. Arnold Harris Mathew drifted back into the Anglicans and died December 19 1919 after more than a year at South Mimms, where he was laid to rest by the Church of England.
Theosophy derives from the society founded in 1875 in New York by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907) and William Q. Judge (1851-96). Blavatsky said her ideas came from ancient Indian Mahatmas (Colonel Olcott drew in ideas from Sinhalese Buddhism). She claimed there is an omnipresent principle in all life as potential and incorporates all people have ever said about God and goes beyond all they have said. She also claimed a periodic principle, that just as the day and night has its cycle so does life and death go into rebirth. Karma continues through reincarnation. This can happen because all souls are connected and they go all through the cycle of incarnations. Every soul has a fundamental identity with the Over-Soul and so perfected beings (Jesus, Buddha) are universal beings. There are such masters who are either spiritually evolved people or spirit beings.
Changing his mind about Theosophy, but more probably concerned again about homosexuality among the priests under him, Mathew, via a pastoral letter to be read in parishes, then demanded all priests could no longer belong to the Theosophical Society. The letter was only read out in one place, but James Ingall Wedgwood was one of some ten priests who instead responded by leaving the Church. Most priests agreed with him. Archbishop Mathew dismissed Bishop Frederick William Willoughby of St. Pancras in 1915 from this the Old Roman Catholic Church for homosexual based offences.

These priests who were dismissed or had left were the nucleus of the new and later named Liberal Catholic Church. Given the blow this all involved to Mathew, he sent an Act of Submission to Pope Benedict XV to become again a Roman Catholic priest, but as he had married he could only return as a layman. He did hand over the remains of the Old Catholic Church to his one remaining priest made bishop, Bernard Mary Williams, who was Archbishop of Caer-Glow, (the Celtic name for Gloucester). It seemed that, in any case, Arnold Harris Mathew ended his days performing limited functions in the Church of England and sitting robed in a choir at South Mymms church. He consecrated Allan Hay, Rector of South Mymms; he had to re-ordain an Anglican priest in order that he could receive Mass from him.
Mathew's consecrations have gone off in may directions so that many lines of bishops go back to him, and the Churches they represent include: English (Old Roman Catholic) Rite, Free Anglo-Catholic Church, Independent Catholic Church (renamed Apostolic Service Church then Old Catholic Orthodox Church), Liberal Catholic Church, Old Catholic Church in Ireland, Old Catholic Evangelical Church of God, Old Catholic Orthodox Church, Old Holy Catholic Church (Church of the One Life), Old Roman Catholic Church (English Rite), The Church Catholic; and, abroad: Église Catholique Évangelique, Independent Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Canada, North American Old Roman Catholic Church, Old Catholic Church in America (known later as Catholic Church of North America and Orthodox Old Catholic Church in America), Old Catholic Church in North America, Old Roman Catholic Church in North America, Universal Christian Communion and Universal Episcopal Communion.
Clergy and laity with Frederick Samuel Willoughby still used the Old Catholic Church name for eighteen months up to his retirement and reconciliation with Rome as a layman, and the later name change to the Liberal Catholic Church reflected the wider change brought about by Theosophy and a substantive move to freedom of faith and conscience. Bishop Willoughby simply passed the baton on to James Ingall Wedgwood for him to develop the Church.
So on February 13 1916, Wedgwood was consecrated by Bishop Frederick Samuel Willoughby. Wedgwood met and worked with Charles Webster Leadbeater in Australia and they agreed on material written by Wedgwood within the Theosophical Society. Leadbeater was from 1879 an Anglican priest who met Madame Blavatsky, joined her movement, and went to Ceylon and India studying Buddhism between 1885 and 1893 and was under the direction of a Spirit Master called Koot Hoomi. In 1906 he resigned as Secretary of the Theosophical Society for alleged sexual perversion, for which he proved his innocence, and he saw this episode as a kind of crucifixion on the way to becoming an Arhat, the fourth stage of Theosophist initiation. In 1909 Leadbetter discovered Jiddu Krishnamurti, and regarded this 14-year-old son of a poor Indian Theosophist as the current manifestation of Lord Maitreya (and amongst others was seen as Vyasa, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster and Christ, with messengers of Confucius, Lao-Tze, Pythagoras, Plato, Madame Blavatsky herself and Master Koot Hoomi, her chief Ascended Master). Leadbeater and Annie Besant managed to be given the legal guardianship of Krishnamurti, to become Theosophic Messiah (until Krishnamurti dissolved The Star in the East and broke with the Theosophical Society in 1929).

Leadbeater went to Australia in 1913, where he settled. He became Administrator-General in Australia of the Co-Masonic Order, Protector of the Order of the Star in the East, and Senior Knight of the Round Table (all being Masonic and Theosophical bodies). In July 1916, Wedgwood consecrated Leadbeater as a Bishop in Sydney, Australia. By 1919 the homosexuality controversy had passed and Annie Besant invited him back into the Theosophical Society. Wedgwood served as Presiding Bishop from 1916 to 1923, succeeded by Leadbeater until 1934. Around 1917 and 1918, Wedgwood and Leadbeater brought in a first name change to the Liberal Christian Church (Old Catholic) and then as the Liberal Catholic Church. They produced a Roman Mass, Vespers and Benediction in English. Charles Webster Leadbeater became the 2nd Presiding Bishop from 1923 to 1934.
The Church combined High Church Catholic liturgy with the Theosophic teachings and therefore the Hindu understandings such as karma and reincarnation. It was spiritualist, believing that people were eternal before birth as well as after death, with Leadbeater performing as a medium and clairvoyant.
The Liberal Catholic or sometimes Independent Catholic movement is one as much to do with individuals as groups, and so some backtracking is necessary to work out who they are, as they meet up with Old Catholic institutional forms and branch out alone.
Jules Ferrette was a French Protestant who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Catholic priest in 1855. In 1866 he was consecrated as Mar Julius I, Bishop of Iona, by the Jacobite Bishop of Homs (Emesa) in Syria. Mar Julius came to England to set up a British Orthodox Church. He consecrated Richard Williams Morgan, in 1874, as Mar Pelagius I. Mar Pelagius I became the first Patriarch of a restored Ancient British Church, supposedly founded in 63 CE. by Joseph of Arimathea. This bizarre belief is interesting in the light of it being almost shared with the recent emergence from Hessle, East Yorkshire, being the self-proclaimed Arian Catholic Church, run by the IT Systems Administrator Dr B. B. Michael John Mackenzie-Hanson, who with supporters elevated himself up to Arian-Catholic Archbishop of York on Wednesday 22nd February 2006. However, he claims that Joseph of Arimathea, who he says was Jesus's uncle, brought Jesus here during his missing years of the gospels, that Jesus travelled on his uncle's boat. The British Orthodox Church today looks back to Jules Ferette, and in 1994 it was joined with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate when Pope Shenouda III ordained Abba Seraphim a Metropolitan and he is a full member of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Patriarchate.
This then is the world of episcopi vagantes or wandering bishops, those individuals who receive consecration in a demonstration of apostolic succession, being valid lines of consecration (but would not include such as Mackenzie-Hanson). Even in small numbers, bishops can test the vocations of others who either seek or are perhaps forced to join an independent sacramental ministry, and organise their own relationships with one another across the wide variety of beliefs and stances across these small groupings and, occasionally, individuals.
Another Mar Julius I (different from Jules Ferrette, who was also Mar Julius I) was Antonio Alvarez, and he called himself the Metropolitan of the Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa, and India. He was a Hindu convert to Christianity getting his episcopal orders from prelates in Kerala, India. In 1892 he consecrated a man called Joseph René Vilatte in Colombo, Ceylon. He also ordained Luis Mariano Suares (Mar Basilius), who would go on to consecrate Ulric Vernon Herford. Vilatte started out as a Roman Catholic, went to Wisconsin and was involved in The Episcopal Church, and then was consecrated. The Old Catholic bishops of Europe did not accept his consecration as valid (although Catholic opinion has it that in becoming more Protestant their view hardly mattered). Vilatte was Metropolitan of the Old Catholic Church of America. He became reconciled with Rome, who allowed him to continue saying Mass, and gave him archiepiscopal honours at his funeral in France in 1929. His legacy was to start the Christian Catholic Church in Canada, and it has now affiliations with the International Council of Community Churches and of ICCC Canada, and has the religious community of the Society of the Precious Blood, also founded by Joseph René Vilatte, which is a missionary body interested in social and personal development and is a member unit of thje Christian Catholic Rite of Community Churches.
One Church that looks back to Joseph René Vilatte is the Independent Catholic Orthodox Alliance. Its origins were in the refounding of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain in 1968. Based in Kings Lynn, it was renamed to the Independent Catholic Orthodox Alliance in January 2007. Additional lines of succession were given to Archbishop Phillip Kemp by Bishops John Kersey and Andrew Linley of the Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church in a spirit of ecumenism. Unlike The Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church, the ICOA insists on clergy and laity believing in real presence, and participation with others depends on them upholding this belief. The Church does not ordain women.
Someone with Unitarian connections again is Ulric Vernon Herford (1866-1938), or Mar Jacobus, Bishop of Mercia and Middlesex, Administrator of the Metropolitan See of India, Ceylon, Milapur, etc., of the Syro-Chaldean Church and of the Patriarchate of Babylon and the East, and founder of the Evangelical Catholic Communion. His own elevation had two lines for 1902, the Syro-Chaldean (Nestorian) Church and Roman Catholic Church, Syro-Chaldean Rite when he was consecrated by Luis Mariano Suares, Mar Basilius, on November 30, 1902 at Palithamm, near Kaliarkoli, Madura District, South India. Here he took the episcopal name Mar Jacobus. This line is tracked back to St Thomas the Apostle, producing the Mar Thoma Church and accepted as valid by Rome. Herford was consecrated for a second time - sub conditione - in a line from Roman Catholic connections out of Mexico. Eduardo Sanchez Y Comacho was consecrated Roman Catholic Bishop of Tamaulipas Mexico on 29 June 1880 by Pedro Loza y Pardave, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Guadalajara. Comacho left the Roman Catholic Church and formed the Mexican National Catholic Church. He consecrated Edward Rufane Benedict Donkin in 1899. Donkin consecrated Ulric Vernon Herford on 10 August 1904, giving Herford a "valid but illicit" line of succession according to Roman Catholic understanding. The important matter here is that there was no test of orthodoxy, whatever was assumed (Plummer, 2005, 30). Nevertheless such an accident as this means he is now, for many, a spiritual head of those who pursue Catholicism combined with freedom of belief, along with J. M. Lloyd Thomas, and is one of those who further legitimates apostolic succession along with changed belief in a liberal direction. His intention on consecration was to unite East and West Chirstianity, which is why he chose the name Evangelical Catholic Communion, in bringing the Syro-Chaldean Church into Britain.
Herford added to the number ordained and consecrated. He consecrated Hedley Coward Bartlett on 18 October 1931 and a line from there runs in directions including a number of routes to Terry Flynn of the Ecumenical Catholic Church United Kingdom; he consecrated William Stanley McBean Knight, or Mar Paulus, and that goes in several directions including to Bishops Lana M. Schramm and Gwendolyn Hord of the Universal Order of the Rose; and to Horst-Karl Friedrich Block, Diocesan Bishop of Liberia, W.A. who in 1980 became the Bishop Primus of The International Free Protestant Episcopal Church; and to Bishop Karl Julius Barwin as Primate of the significantly named Evangelical Catholic Church on 5 August 1989, and to Mar Uzziah bar Evyon (Bertram S. Schlossberg), who was elevated to Archbishop Metropolitan of the Syro-Chaldean Church of North America, now known as the Evangelical Apostolic Church of North America. These are just a few.
A more interesting development closer to Herford's was with the Evangelical Catholic Communion name. The influence of the Evangelical Catholic Communion was picked up by the Community of the Love of Christ (Evangelical Catholic) with origins in 1959 as the Primitive Catholic Church (Evangelical Catholic) under Mikhail Francis Itkin. Itkin had been involved in a Church for gays with George A. Hyde, but split from him when accusing Hyde of going back into the closet. Archbishop Christopher Maria Stanley carried out orders from Hugh George de Wilmotte Newman of the Catholicate of the West to consecrate Mikhail Francis Itkin and this meant lines of the Syro-Chaldean succession brought to the West by Ulric Vernon Herford continued there. This group (that curiously used the name Free Catholics for a time) ended up calling itself the Western Orthodox Catholic (Anglican Orthodox). It corresponded with European bishops of Herford's influence, and was able to adopt and adapt the Evangelical Catholic Communion in the United States, to be described by W. Martin Andrew, Mar Anthony, who was Herford's or Mar Jabobus's successor in Britain, as "the sole jurisdiction carrying out the work of Mar Jacobus and the original Evangelical Catholic Communion." Gale, 2003). The group developed an increasingly socially activist inclusive stance, though opposition among some to women's ordination led to later splits - the conservatives in 1968 calling themselves the Evangelical Catholic Communion and the group under Itkin still called the Community of the Love of Christ. Itkin died in 1991. Interestingly it sees itself as both Catholic (Syro-Chaldean) and Protestant (Mennonite) and continues with its radical agenda. (Gale, 2003)
Herford also ordained the demonologist and Restoration drama scholar Montague Summers, who was consecrated by Mar Georgius of the Catholicate of the West. Summers wrote studies of the 17th century English drama but also The Vampire in Europe and The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. This occultist said that he loathed Socialism, Communism, Liberalism, and modern secular rationalism and he loved tradition, respect and old wine.
Ulric Vernon Herford was from a family of Unitarian ministers. Father was William Henry Herford born 20 October 1820 in Coventry and ministered between 1848 and 1854. Ulric Vernon Herford himself was the youngest of three brothers and was born 16 November 1866 in Manchester and died on 15 August 1938. He studied at Owen's College, Manchester, the forerunner of the University of Manchester (with its Unitarian roots), from 1886 to 1889, but prepared for the ministry at Manchester College, Oxford, which was of the broader Free Christian tradition. In 1891 he went on to St Stephen's House, high Anglican then and now, also in Oxford, for a year to study. Herford published The Hymnal in 1892 which contained unitarian and trinitarian hymns. From 1893 to 1896 he ministered to a Unitarian chapel in Kings Lynn, and then went to Whitchurch. He returned to Oxford to be minister to a small congregation at Manchester College. Its Free Christian basis suited him. In 1898 he actually opened a Unitarian Church in Percy Street about Magdalen Bridge on Oxford's east side called Church of Divine Unity, but it was already semi-detached from the denomination. In fact, with its cultivated garden, he tried to make it monastic in nature. From 1900, the Order of the Christian Faith published The Christian Churchman and the church was known as the Order of the Christian Faith - Liberal Christian Church after he had become a bishop. On 21 November 1902 he was ordained Deacon, on 23 November he was ordained priest, and on 30 November was made a bishop all by Mar Basilius in India. He was appointed Regionary Bishop of Mercia and Middlesex in what was made a missionary diocese of the Syro-Chaldean Church and of the Patriarchate of Babylon and the East (or more briefly called the Assyrian Church or, more generally, the Church of the East). He was, with this, Administrator of the Metropolitan See of India, Ceylon, Milapur, etc.. He had a further consecration in 1904 by Benedict Donkin (though one connection back to René Vilatte is highly questioned). The Order he had established did not last. By 1907 the church had become the Liberal Christian Church. James Walter Blay became the minister in 1908. From 1910 to 1913 it was the Evangelical Catholic Church as Ulric Vernon Herford was founder of the Evangelical Catholic Communion and indeed the Evangelical Catholic Church was the name of his see. In 1913 the buidlings were purchased to be a Roman Catholic church and manse.
John P. Plummer (2005) refers to him as "saintly" and "a tireless worker for pacifism, animal welfare, and a wide variety of social causes. The generally dishevelled bishop was often seen bicycling around Oxford, promoting the betterment of all creatures, before returning home to his patient Anglican wife and large herd of cats. Even his detractors note his sincerity and his kindness." (30) After 1913 he had started to wander.
Ulric Vernon Herford himself makes the further connection with the Free Catholic strain of contemporary versions of Liberal Catholicism in two principal ways. One was creedless liturgical development that included a doxology: "through the Only-begotten, Jesus Christ in holy spirit, through whom to Thee be glory and power...", as in the 1915 publication, Divine Service of the Lord's Supper According to Saint Sarapion Scholasticus, Oxford: 1915 (Plummer, 2005, 61, and Note 184, 180), and the second was when ordaining W. E. Orchard, the congregationalist minister of the King's Weigh House from 1914 who, with the Unitarian minister Joseph Morgan Lloyd Thomas, started the Free Catholic Society and continued the practice of symbols without dogma.
Herford ordained Orchard in 1916. Herford later ordained the assistant minister to the priesthood and three members of the congregation to the diaconate. Like J. M. Lloyd Thomas, Orchard was progressive regarding women (Lloyd Thomas supported the suffragettes) and, ordained in his chapel, Constance Coltman went on to train for the ministry at Mansfield College, Oxford, and became the first woman ordained trinitarian minister (the Unitarian Gertrude Von Petzold started training in 1897 and ministered from 1904). Orchard's extremities led to the Free Catholic Society collapsing, and Lloyd Thomas resigned from Birmingham New Meeting in 1932 to himself wander, with preaching and writing about the same ideals. Orchard wanted his chapel to relate to the Church of England but when this did not happen he became a Roman Catholic in 1932. Strange that his chapel should end up as the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Apostolic Exarchate in Great Britain, though part of the ceiling fell in in August 2007.
Joseph Morgan (Lloyd - mother's maiden name) Thomas was born in 1868 and was brought up in South Wales. He was one of three people who started Unitarianism in Pontypridd in 1892. He went to Manchester College, Oxford (the non-denominational Unitarian college) between 1894 and 1898 and went to minister at a Free Christian church in Chester. He published a pamphlet A Free Catholic Church in 1907. Then he went to the steepled High Pavement Unitarian Church, Nottingham, now the Lace Museum, between 1900 and 1912. Laurence Percival Jacks and W. E. Orchard were close friends, the latter in particular being his route into Catholic worship. This happened at his time at Old Meeting House, Birmingham, from 1912, up to and beyond leaving the formal ministry in 1932. Here he began to practice the Free Catholic bug. In 1914 he published Administration of the Lords Supper or The Holy Communion. In 1916 he published Free Catholic? A Comment of the Rev. R.J. Campbell's 'Spiritual Pilgrimage', which connected him to New Theology, and this is when he started to publish and edit The Free Catholic up until 1927. In 1925 he published an abridged version of Reliquiae Baxterianae, adding an introductory essay, notes and appendix. He considered that Baxter was a moderate episcopalian, so it was a biased work. He announced that he was a trinitarian and described himself as a Free Catholic priest with his Society of Free Catholics. Lloyd Thomas also included the Nicene Creed in his liturgical material. As well as by his view of Baxter, he was inspired by James Martineau, F. D. Maurice and Catholic Modernism. In turn Free Catholicism received the admiration of his friend L. P. Jacks, the Principal of Manchester College Oxford, who kept that institution outside the newly formed General Assembly as did Looyd Thomas and the Old Meeting House. He lectured on Toleration and Church-Unity at the Dr. Williams Lecture at Carmarthen Presbyterian College in 1941. He died on 2 July 1955. Although Lloyd Thomas became a Free Catholic he always held to a Free Christian background, that is his understanding of the English Presbyterian inheritance, and fell out with W. E. Orchard when he went to Roman Catholicism.
Few Churches gained any considerable size beyond their collections of consecrated and ordained individuals. The Liberal Catholic Church retained some congregations and clergy. Two others did. The Polish National Catholic Church departed from the Utrecht Union and is now the largest grouping of Independent Catholics. The Philippine Independent Church joined the Utrecht Union and is now in communion with The Episcopal Church and indeed the Church of England, having received its orders from Archbiop Davidson. Originally it combined Unitarian theology and Catholic ritual, a combination seen elsewhere, but it moved to a more consistent Anglo-Catholic theology to accompany the liturgy, which was the Saint Augustine's Prayer Book first published in 1947 and revised in 1967 from the Order of the Holy Cross, and Anglican Benedictine monastic community. Its educational textbooks were created by the Spanish anti-clerical and anarchist educator Francisco Ferrer Guardia (1859-1909). He was executed in October 1909 by the Spanish government for allegedly being the brains behind the July 1909 republican-based church and convent burning Barcelona riots, in protest to a military expedition to Morocco to attack locals attacking Jesuit interests.
Another independent individual was Harold Percival Nicholson (1905-1968). He represents someone who relates to spiritualism (a medium reassured him that his infant eldest son who died of hospital negligence was at peace with God) and arrived at effectively a Liberal Catholic Church somewhat under his own steam. He wanted a Church with charismatic gifts as understood by early Christians after Pentecost.
After ordination in 1943 by Mar Georgius (de Wilmott-Newman), Prince-Catholicos of the Catholicate of the West and Patriarch of Glastonbury, he founded a house church in Clapton called the New Pentecostal Church of Christ. It was able to move to a former Baptist Chapel in Thornton Heath, and then after the war to another former (and bombed) Baptist chapel in Lower Sloane Street which was turned into a neo-Byzantine Romanesque building called the Church of the Good Shepherd, which became the cathedral when the New Pentecostal Church of Christ was renamed the Ancient Catholic Church. It was in 1956 when he conducted the funeral of Ruth Preece, the leader of the controversial Agapemonites, when no Anglican would, and that as a mark of appreciation his Church received a lease to their cathedral (the Agapemonites group was defunct before Preece died) and the community used it up to the death of Deaconess Pam Schroder in January 2008. Nicholson was released by the Catholicate of the West and consecrated by Mar David (Foster), Bishop of Devonia and Patriarch of the English Orthodox Church in 1949, and rejoined the Catholicate of the West in the next year - consecrated by Mar Georgius again plus Bishop Richard Huirgon (Mar Benignus). He received the Coptic line of succession in 1951 when he and Mar Georgius were consecrated sub conditione by Bishop Davison Quartey Arthur (Mar Lukos), the Bishop of Lagos, Accra and Trinidad of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who became Archbishop of the West Indies in the Ancient Catholic Church. In this year three religious orders were also begun, and there were five churches and some more chapels along with 5000 or so laity.
Two years later the Ancient Catholic Church was no longer in the Catholicate of the West, and took in the remnant of the Free Catholic Church. Nicholson continued to receive consecrations sub conditione and consecrate others. Sometimes other Independent Catholic groups ordained and consecrated at the cathedral as the congregation became led by the one surviving member of clergy, Deaconess Pam Schroder, the widow of its last Archbishop, Clive Richard whom Nicholson had consecrated as his co-adjutor in 1967. With her death, the Ancient Catholic Church in January 2008 acquired the Most Reverend John Kersey as titular Archbishop of Karim in the Ancient Catholic Church and is known as Mar Joannes III, H. P. Nicholson having been Mar Joannes I. Under Mar Joannes III the Society for Humanistic Potential was moved under the Ancient Catholic Church, to continue the educational outreach of the Church. Most Reverend Andrew Linley became titular Archbishop of Mount Carmel in the Ancient Catholic Church and Bishop Alistair Bate became titular Bishop of Hebron. The ACC, like the Liberal Rite, was Catholic, esoteric and open, although under the Schroderrs it had become more spiritualist and less high Catholic. They were still sufficiently similar and under the same (new for the ACC) leadership to become merged in March 2008. As a result of these changes the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church has integrated representation in Bournemouth (Rev. Adrian Glover of the Liberal Rite), London and Edinburgh (Bishop Alistair Bate) and also the United States.
Mar Joannes I's particular speciality was ministry to animals, with blessing services, and he was a healer. The laity could lead some services and he favoured ordaining women. He thought there was truth in other faiths. Like Theosophists he believed in the Ascended Masters. His spiritualism told him that there was no death, and he believed in reincarnation. He used the Aquarian Gospel. His liturgy was Services of Love and Blessing and are modern and ancient, Eastern and Western and use material from the Liberal Catholic Church. So H. P. Nicholson, then is a model of esoteric Christianity and about evolving into something close to Liberal Catholicism. Now the spiritualist services have moved, but this inheritance is recognised.
The Liberal Catholic Church has its own later stream of history; after maintaining itself steadily after Leadbetter's leadership it hit a major crisis in 1941. Bishop Charles Hampton in the United States decided that theosophical beliefs should be optional for the clergy, argued to be consistent with Wedgwood and Leadbetter's position. He was still a Theosophist. Others disagreed. Frank W. Pigott, the Church's third Presiding Bishop, and who, in England, deposed Hampton, confiscated property at the headquarters in California and ejected clergy who did not agree. Thus it became a more hardline Church and lost its inherited liberality. Most US clergy supported Hampton. Forming their own group they won the legal right to continue to be called the Liberal Catholic Church in the United States, but confusingly were called the Liberal Catholic Church International anywhere else. Ray M. Wardall became its next Presiding Bishop in 1943. Outside the USA, except in the Netherlands and Canada, where they were independent, the Liberal Catholic Church meant following Piggott. Inside the USA it is called the Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States of America. Relationships between the Liberal Catholic Church and the Liberal Catholic Church International are not harmonious.
The Liberal Catholic Church (the more theosophical one, as outside the United States) split over the ordination of women. Whilst the name theLiberal Catholic Church continues, a New Synod was elected and forms the name of those who ordain women. The Old Synod does not ordain women. Many countries, including the UK and much of Europe, have both Old and New Synod communities. The Old Synod started the Order of Our Lady in 2002 as a lay Order for women. Membership of the New Synod is about 50,000.
The General Episcopal Synod of the Liberal Catholic Church International decided to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy in 2004. In the same year the Order of St. Thomas decided to affiliate with the Liberal Catholic Church International.
The Liberal Catholic Church - Theosophia Synod comes from 1982 when Ernest W. Jackson had resigned from Province of Canada. On May 15, 2005, its Presiding Bishop John Schwarz III joined the progressive branch of the Liberal Catholic Church (with just a few parishes) and the remainder of the Theosophia Synod continues independently under Fr. William Delahunt. They are members of the Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship. It requires all its clergy to be members of the Theosophical Society, and it teaches the Trinity, real presence, reincarnation and karma, but uses Theosophy in an approach of freedom of thought.
However whilst all these discussons were going on, in Britain on the 10th of April, 2003, Professor Elizabeth Stuart, having already been ordained to the diaconate and priesthood, was consecrated according to Liberal Catholic Rite by Bishop Richard Arthur Palmer, former Auxiliary Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church in Great Britain at the chapel of Royal Holloway, Egham, assisted by Bishop Jonathan Blake and Bishop Michael Wilson, both of the Open Episcopal Church. A fourth Bishop from another succession laid on hands. So this consecration was guided by Richard Palmer of the United Episcopal Church; the Reformed Liberal Catholic Church states that it gave the Open Episcopal Church its orders. Stuart, a major queer theologian at the University of Winchester, left the Open Episcopal Church to become the Archbishop of the British Province of the Liberal Catholic Church International in Great Britain [which is after Theosophy in legacy, but optional, rather like the Reformed Liberal Catholic Church, which comes from the Liberal Catholic Church where theosophical elements are central].
She was joined by Alistair Bate, who started out as a Unitarian ministry trainee. He has since left the Liberal Catholic Church International and, consecrated bishop at Witnesham, on 15 August, 2007, by Bishops John Kersey and Andrew Linley, become Independent (in the ILCF) and also a bishop of the Ancient Catholic Church in January 2008. He has a background in herbalism, Celtic Shamanism, Druidism, works with Celtic Reiki and offers healing. He heads the Companions of the Cross and Passion and attempts to live closely to the charism of the Passionist Congregation. His rites of passage reflect his own (and Unitarian) view that celebrations are tailored to the needs of the individuals, about the life of the deceased or the active design input of partners at a marriage.
The Open Episcopal Church around 2006 and 2007, having suffered the loss of Stuart, seems to be renewing itself. It does not carry any Theosophy (either integrally or as a past imprint) as it looks back to Arnold Harris Mathew and not afterwards. It therefore appears to be the most mainstream of the episcopal groupings, and is aiming to be ecumenical in co-operating with other Christian denominations. It is quite pluralistic regarding liturgies (many independent Catholics are more regulative) but it proclaims real presence in the eucharist (the main belief). It is still liberal and socially inclusive, but it appears to be like an episcopal United Reformed Church in its breadth (and indeed one of its ministers preaches at the URC).
A new group from 2006 is called The Young Rite. Johannes van Alphen, Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church from 1992, resigned in 2002 and that year consecrated Mario Herrera and he consecrated Benito Rodriguez in 2005. All three consecrated Markus van Alphen (ordained into the Dutch Liberal Catholic Church) in June 2006, in Hilversum, The Netherlands, Then Bishop Markus van Alphen started The Young Rite, separate from any of the varied Liberal Catholic Churches and they seem not to recognise its sacraments.
The Young Rite makes explicit the general position among Free and Liberal Catholic Churches that it opposes the signing of agreements of Communion as it implies exclusion of the unsigned, and that there is an open table, regardless of status, wealth, physical condition, sexual identity or gender. It does not demand a doctrinal test. Any who strive to witness to the life, ministry and teaching of Christ by whatever means are already in communion, on the basis that Christ cannot be divided in himself.
Johannes van Alphen was also involved in events that led to the creation of the Reformed Liberal Catholic Church in Britain. Basically the Liberal Catholic Church had all but collapsed by 1997. All the bishops but one were dead and that one had left. A priest left at Bournemouth, Richard Palmer, was consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop on 20 September 1997. He then wanted to rebuild the Church following the ethos of the British bishops and Rev. W. E. Butler, an occultist, estoterist and teacher, who had known Bishop Wedgwood and guided Richard Palmer. He also handled the financial legacy of Bishop Eric Taylor. Richard Palmer was under the Regionary Bishop ex-officio, and Presiding Bishop, Bishop Johannes van Alphen, who wanted to elevate Rev. Graham Wale who had returned from South Africa. Richard Palmer did not, though he relented (annoying some LCC priests). Nevertheless, disagreement including over the handling of financial matters led Johannes van Alphen to ask Richard Palmer to become inactive. Having stepped down, some Liberal Catholics wanted him to continue and so the Reformed Liberal Catholic Church was born in 1999 at Catisham near Fareham. The Church permits clergy and laity freedom to interpret scriptures, creeds and liturgy, intellectual liberty in general and freedom of conscience. Theosophical elements (vegetarianism, reincarnation, belief in the Masters) are optional. It also ordains women. It affirms real presence and seven sacraments. So this Church has moved in the direction of the Liberal Catholic Church International.
Another formed group was The Liberal Rite, inspired by J. M. Lloyd Thomas and Ulric Vernon Herford (and so has clear Unitarian inspired origins). Two of its clergy, John Kersey and Andrew Linley, had begun their free Church ministerial careers being ordained non-episcopally, but were ordained and consecrated in the Apostolic Succession on 29 July 2006 by Archbishop Illtyd Thomas, Primate of the Celtic Catholic Church and former Assistant Bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church of Ontario. The line of succession goes back to James Ingall Wedgwood and Charles Webster Leadbeater. They were further ordained sub conditione on 11 November 2006 by Archbishop Phillip Robert Kemp of the Independent Catholic Alliance (now Independent Catholic Orthodox Alliance) in a mutual exchange of consecrations to give additional connection back into a Roman Catholic line and using the Roman Rite rather than the Liberal Catholic Rite as used before.
The Liberal Rite combined episcopal validity, and a traditional vernacular adapted Tridentine liturgical approach to the celebration of the sacraments, with complete freedom of intellect and conscience. Experience, mysticism and esotericism are parts of the whole. The Liberal Rite emerged after a number of forerunner names, including the British Liberal Free Church, the Society of the Divine Spirit and then the English Liberal Free Church, and it was here that Rev. Stephen Callander left and so the transitory IOCCUS (Independent Old Catholic Church of the Utrecht Succession) came about with apostolic ordinations and consecrations, and then from January 2007 The Liberal Rite itself.
The Ancient Catholic Church came under John Kersey's wing, and so only just over a year later in 2008 the Liberal Rite was merged with the Ancient Catholic Church as a matter of rationality and efficiency, and in order to make a fresh start. The effect of this is to move the Liberal Rite from what might be called Liberal Catholicism to liberal Catholicism. There are creeds and statements inherited from the ACC, and its spiritualist background (though this was reduced back). The non-dogmatic nature of the Liberal Rite and indeed the ACC continued in the Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church. The name comes from origins back in the Catholic Apostolic Church under Mar Georgius in the 1940s as well as Liberal Catholicism.
John Kersey, Andrew Linley and Alistair Bate left the LCAC as they became more latinate. Alistair Bate moved from his base in Edinburgh to Switzerland. This left behind the newest recruit to the LCAC episcopate, Adrian Glover (Adrian Trimlett Glover, post consecration). Under his leadership the group became more standardly ecumenical; a parish in Swindon grew and then led to division. Mhoira Laura-Patterson from Australia and resident near York was given a role and consecrated bishop; she attempted to become a Unitarian minister (and joined the Unitarian Ministry International, a Unitarian Christian grouping not recognised by the British General Assembly nor Unitarian Universalist Association). She left the LCAC and it was rumoured that she wished to become a rabbi. The LCAC was renamed the Old Catholic Apostolic Church.
Groups now associated with the Old Catholic Apostolic Church include The Cross-Denominational Mission, The Religious Society of St Simon (see below), The Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship (see below), the Independent Catholic Churches Council, and The Sacred Heart of Jesus (seminary).
The Religious Society of St Simon was closely connected with the Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church, although independent. It began as the Society of Free Christians (along with the birth of the Society of the Divine Spirit) in 1999 by Revd. George Stephen Callander, with Ivan Franks (who died) and others, based on the inspiration of J. M. Lloyd Thomas and the Society of Free Catholics in the early twentieth century. The Society used The Free Church Book of Common Prayer of 1919 as compiled and edited by J. M. Lloyd Thomas, and it used the Common Prayer of King's Chapel Boston (the Unitarian chapel that is something of a working liturgical museum in the context of the evolution of the Unitarian Universalist Association). The Society of Free Christians had members drawn from Unitarian, Free Christian, Reformed and Liberal Catholic related traditions. Stephen Callander went to a more standard Unitarian connected ministry, though remaining somewhat independent and known through the Unitarian Christian Association, a group affiliated to the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.
In November 2006, the Society divided into the Catholic part as the Religious Society of St Simon and the ecumenical and interfaith side became the Society for Humanistic Potential, which has its own independent ministry and educational role.
Clergy and laity can be members and use the postnominal letters RSStS. Again the emphasis is on liturgical language over dogma or theology, remaining consistent with J. M. Lloyd Thomas. The Religious Society of St Simon encourages freedom of religious thought and practical expression. It is socially inclusive.
The Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church people and Bishop Alistair Bate set up the Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship (ILCF) early in 2007. ILCF was organised directly by The Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church with Bishop John Kersey as Administrator for some time. The Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church was a member of the ILCF. Members in the Apostolic Succession, and accepting the liberal basis of the Fellowship associate with one another as a form of support and the ILCF has no dogmatic basis. It does not want to attract those in schismatic revolt against another group.
It has a membership basis of clergy and communities. So clergy regardless of their communities can join (though they need their Ordinary's permission), and then communities can join. When joining the community or ministry should then clearly state that it is part of the Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship and that it adheres to a liberal interpretation of the Catholic faith in theology and practice. Someone ordained non-apostolically can approach one of the communities that is a member of the ILCF and, providing he or she meets the conditions of that community for ordinands, may receive apostolic ordination when joining. ILCF members can, by choice, also formally subscribe to the canons and policies of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church as affiliated ministers whilst not actually joining. This lets independent ministers gain episcopal oversight. ILCF has community and clergy members in the UK, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Slovenia, South Africa and the USA, reaching several thousand people.
Its basis is combining Catholic sacramental worship without the dogma - belief can be mystical (and would include the non-realist; the essentials of Christianity are based in the sacramental nature of worship). It is socially inclusive. It aims for tolerance and freedom of conscience and the notion of strength in our diversity.
Individually-structured theology courses are offered for growth in ministry and preparing ordinands via distance learning from St Simon's College.
Directly linked to the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church and ILCF were the Companions of the Cross and Passion, who lived by the Passionist Charism as exemplified by St Paul of the Cross and the other Passionist Saints. These are a fraternity of Priests and lay Brothers who lived in their own homes, singly or in small groups. There were no vows but there is an act of commitment reaffirmed each year by all Companions on Holy Cross Day. Bishop Alistair Bate handled vocations. They said a daily Mass and recite the Divine Office according to Catholic customs. Lay Brothers attended or received reserved sacrament; Brothers recited the Divine Office or a shorter Office or Rosary, morning and evening. Daily meditation and devotion towards the Passion of Our Lord was encouraged. The fraternity was led by a Father Superior and all the Companions in Chapter; decisions were arrived at by mutual consensus wherever possible. New recruits had a six month probationary period. Lay and ordained were admitted as Associates who supported and prayed for the fraternity.
This grouping was not unlike the Apostolic Society of St Brigid of Kildare, established by Elizabeth Stuart (before she was consecrated into the Open Episcopal Church and later LCCI) and Kevin Woodward in 2001. Elizabeth Stuart was elected its first Provincial Prior in 2001. It sees God as completely inclusive, and this group prays for people and offers sacraments. Clergy pray the Divine Office and offer Mass every day. Lay people say either Lauds and Vespers/ Compline from the Divine Office, or the Rosary, morning and evening, and they receive Holy Communion daily whenever possible or can receive a reserved sacrament. The Society holds Mass twice a month at St Julien's Church, Winkle Street, Southampton.
So these groups all share in the consecrating of bishops who otherwise have diverse views. Bishops who can demonstrate apostolic succession can belong to The Sophia Circle and this does not demand dogma, doctrine, practice, intercommunion or agreement, though is part of the esoteric tradition. It is just a badge of apostolic succession and a place for sharing and assistance. Meetings are held in public, meaning anyone can attend and international meetings happen once a year.
Wandering bishops are as old as the Christian religion. It can be said that some of the first apostles wandered. The first bishops also wandered. After Constantine, bishops who were deemed heretical were forced to wander. So there has long been an association of wandering bishop with different beliefs. The beliefs considered here are distinctly liberal, though not indicated by the liturgies or by the office.
Both the theosophical/ Old Catholic and the Unitarian inspired are called, in general, the Independent Sacramental Movement or, alternatively, Independent Catholic. The Free Catholic side follows on from James Martineau's stance of individual conscience and that belief is personal but also on conserving belief in collective liturgy. Also the Oxford Movement impacted on a few in non-conformity and emphasised sacramental worship. These were developments out of the liberal Protestant or Reformed tradition into the Catholic - where confidence in the delivery of grace through the sacraments gives space regarding interpretation of beliefs. The LCCI remains perhaps more doctrinal than the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church (via Theosophy and restrictions on concelebration and something of a credal approach) but all emphasise valid sacraments from valid orders, and this can mean a belief in real presence (but not necessarily enforced). Therefore the one uniting feature is this demand or need for apostolic succession and a community with at least a bishop.
The issue arises as to how the lines of succession translate into any form of agreement over intercommunion and sharing of ministries. The answer, made explicit in the establishment of The Young Rite, is perhaps surprising: they often don't. The various Liberal and Free Catholic Churches are cagey about agreements of intercommunion, although some may be more flexible about sharing altars with other clergy. What they often do is incardination, where they take an ordained cleric with a letter of dismissal from one community and bring him or her into their own. To sign an agreement of communion with one Church is to imply exclusion of those not signed. Using incardination instead means that a man or woman comes into relationship with a bishop in a named Church, and in the case of a priest to a bishop this is subordinate. Lines of apostolic succession provide one form of recognition of validity and therefore ecumenism, but the named Church with its Presiding Bishop (or other title) provides a barrier and a discipline. Reformed Churches have to generate agreements where they recognise one another's basis of faith: this is not necessary with lines of succession and a Community and is why, therefore, Catholicism as Order can run along with various beliefs.
An important question is why now, especially for those groups with a liberal essence? In one sense, it is not now: the groups are tiny in any comparison with the so-called mainstream. The LCCI maintains itself, and the ILCF has (in 2007) eighteen clergy and several thousand followers. Yet there is also an effort at some revival of witness of what was, in the early twentieth century, the last wave of the Oxford Movement coming into the Free Churches. The Free Christian Unitarians were, in the nineteenth century, the non-denominationalists, and those on the fringe of this (like Lloyd Thomas) refused to join the new General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in 1928 because it was a move to create a combined denomination. Also, however, the Free Catholics went so much further into sacramentalism that it was on the outside of the Presbyterian-Puritan heritage. Indeed, the English Liberal Free Church, prior to The Liberal Rite, sought to join the GA and were told it was "too Christian". Well, so is the Unitarian Christian Association - but it is not Free Catholic.
One reason why may be the rise of the postmodern and poststructural, in the sense of a focus on the signifier (e.g. proper liturgy) over the signified (real(ist) presence), of image over text (thus more symbolic religious services), and the mystical over the literal (allowing space and less dogma), and of the narrative as a story rather than a proof. A Puritan shadow service then is a very cool, plain, thinly spread spirituality, whereas the Catholic approach tends to be fussy, warm and colourful. It provides a sense of otherness within its dramatic theatre, a richness and depth which congregants can draw upon.
James Martineau in his conserved attitude to liturgy, which expressed views to the theological right of his own beliefs, somewhat contradicted his insistence on conscience. Nevertheless he knew that the poetic and mystical involved liturgical conservatism and that this was a means to devotion rather than an expression of personal views. Independent Catholicism does precisely this: often grand liturgical masses are combined with very liberal beliefs. This can be understood but the second question is the insistence of apostolic succession, and not just into liberal Catholicism but into the actual Roman Catholic line (and in some cases Russian Orthodox), thus Ulric Vernon Herford, or John Kersey and Andrew Linley of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church, all had two consecrations. Indeed some independent bishops (such as Christopher J. Hegarty of the Spiritus Church or Karl Julius Barwin of the Evangelical Catholic Church) like to show multiple lines of consecrations from various different historical Churches around the world - being, in this Catholic understanding, the basis of ecumenism.
Nevertheless there is a disjunction between the liberalism of the content and the necessity, as expressed in the Sophia Circle, for example, for apostolic succession. When these hands are laid, are they supernatural acts that bind one person to another before in some magical act of continuance? All these lines in any case fade into uncertainty, and Peter as the first Bishop of Rome is something of an after the event myth, as well as unbroken deliberate laying on of hands after him. Nevertheless these independent bishops, as well as the Roman Catholic Church itself, go to great lengths to preserve apostolic validity.
Lines of bishops can be likened to family trees. Do family trees tell the truth? How are they demonstrated - usually through records, but sometimes the child counted as a descendent was the result of an illicit affair. In some cases the family line melts into the unknown past and perhaps further back a family line is believed to be the same one. This analogy is useful, in that all children have parents, but of course Catholicism is a cultural development from more primitive origins that can be understood differently. Indeed evangelical Protestants, liberal Protestants, and the various branches of Judaism, analyse and understand the origins of Christianity variously. The answer to this is to emphasise spiritual succession over historical detail (just as a Universal Christ can be emphasised over a historical eschatological Jewish preacher and healer). Just as a family line becomes "the family" (whatever the milkman may have done one day in the past) so the line of succession is regarded as spiritually maintained. Some may see this as a concession - and a concession too far and that history must be maintained throughout. The problem is, of course, that nothing can be proved when the records fail. Yet this is the argument of many Anglicans - so what if there is a problem of the apostolic line; it is maintained as a spiritual line of apostolic succession and understood in that manner whatever the historical detail.
Then the issue is what is a bishop: is it a continuance or is it a function in the situation, and can it be just the latter, or if both, when can it start? So does it matter, for example, that US Methodist bishops go back to priest John Wesley, or that Anglican Orders are regarded as null and void by the Roman Catholic Church but valid by the Anglican Church, or even that Free Church people are ordained but without a bishop in sight? If the Methodist Church joins the Church of England, some Anglicans think all ordained Methodist ministers will have to be ordained again, but other Anglicans who care less for apostolic succession think this is just silly.
The issue of being a bishop is not just a laying on of hands, but a teaching, organising and shepherding role that is active. Order is combined with faith. Whilst there can be hermits, or wanderers, and have been throughout history, normally a community is a significant part of the relationship implied in being an ordained minister, and shepherding the clergy and people in a community or communities in being a bishop. These communities are often gathered as reasonably stable congregations. Some of these bishops would prefer to minister to gathered communities: it's just that there are so few and so they operate as those bishops who actually prefer small groups of people coming together.
For some a sense of elevation and self-aggrandisement might be of appeal, looking for a group that would ordain and consecreate them. The Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church (for one) addresses this (via care, checking and nurturing) as indeed it also addresses bishops making changes through schism. Of course it is a question of attitude; it must be a question of vocation. There are those in any Church who seek ordination and consecration - the desire for a pointy hat - for the wrong self-serving reasons. Another aspect is a self-giving fantasy: what is it to be ordained and be consecrated to be on one's own or with a few others, or indeed surrounded by a large congregation that bows as a bishop passes by?
Bishops can simply be overseers. There are actual Unitarian bishops - all of two. One is for Rumania and one is for Hungary, representing that central European Unitarian witness (with a catechism) among Magyars, starting with Bishop Francis David. But these are elected, functioning, overseeing bishops: they are very Protestant. They teach, organise and shepherd. There is no apostolic succession as such, and succession is something in the mind. They all do go back, in a mental sense, to Francis David, the founder, inspirer, and self-sacrificer, who then by his past connects to several communities beyond the Unitarian, but they are not using some supernatural chain via hands laid from the right person and liturgical words spoken. These bishops do not wear fine clothes, and are respected but are not on a higher level: they are ontologically the same as everyone else. They just serve their people, including the ministers who serve the people. This is indeed a matter of attitude as well as basis, and so Independent Catholics may have a similar attitude even with a higher view of ordination and consecration.
Consecration by a bishop does allow an identity with others down a historical line, of certain kinds of communities, with the spiritual heritage (whatever is the questioning of its historical basis), This is the cse with the Unitairna bishops. The Catholic difference is the belief that proper order imparts grace through sacraments. Yet liberal Protestants and simply liberals (the Protestantism fades away with the Christianity!) see apostolic succession as another kind of dogma, and therefore as mythical as the dogma of content that is yet laid aside in favour of liberality within Free and Liberal Catholicism.
I used to identify myself with a continuing community that once started with Puritanism and evolved its beliefs, and I say a "We believe" creed as another form of identification. Identity, like culture, is communicative and mental.
One justification for apostolic succession is to support real presence in the consecrated elements. But many non-conformists believe in real presence too: for most of them this is likely to be the work of Christ in the elements, and semiotic theory is used to refer here to transignification (the signifier is bread and wine, the real signified is body and blood). Some hold to the apparent Lutheran view (disputed) of consubstantiation (elements are both bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ) and a very few hold to transubstantiation (the reality is the body and blood of Christ whatever the outward appearance). Some non-conformists believe this without bishops. Free Catholicism seems to need bishops - it does not determine how precisely real presence is understood; Liberal Catholicism includes transubstantiation and real presence options that follow on from apostolic succession, but are usually left to individual conscience and belief. The issue of myth and real presence follows on from one's view of apostolic succession, but they are not quite tied together in a Free or Liberal Catholic community because of the liberalism.
In the Church of England one does not have to believe in real presence. In this case the issue is less to do with thoroughgoing liberalism and more because of the impact of Reformation ideas (especially memorialist views, and even Zwingli). This Church is an amalgam of Catholic and Reformed. The Church of England has a liberal element too, but is forced to be dogmatic as a public face. Its Reformation element qualifies the Catholic element: and the Reformation went in both liberal and literalist directions. The issue raised here is now much liberalism comes from Reformation understandings (as this aspect formed Unitarian views prior to the Enlightenment) and how much liberalism can emerge from a "letting-be" about inessentials once it is determined that grace proceeds from sacraments. Also liberalism is an Enlightenment and beyond ideology, and (if not ideology) a value in itself for space and argument, and issues about truth, clashing truths left to clash, and relativity. This is liberalism as a good thing in itself, worth having because it offers toleration and growth. Some of this comes from the Reformation as change, some of it is purely secular. The Catholic is often able to absorb and syncretise because the fixed point is the Order of ministry not a set of propositional beliefs.
Independent Catholicism then is a curious mixture of liberalism and the Catholic, with the Reformation bypassed. It is liberalism with the Reformation stripped out. It emphasises clergy because it ignores the Protestant democratic concept of the priesthood of all believers. However, there is the radicalism of human equality and liberality too, where the Catholic alternative to the priesthood of all believers is found in those radical bishops who ordain all who ask and involve themselves as apostolic into non-Catholic groups. For the Liberal Catholic Church International, and similar expression, Theosopy was not a form of Reformation, but a universalising belief, and made optional in the context of the Catholic. Unitarianism, however, most definitely is Reformation: it comes from the Reformation, and the radical Reformation that saw movement from Calvinism to Arminianism, or even liberalism as drift, and later liberalism as ideology (Joseph Priestley). Joseph Morgan Lloyd Thomas came out of the Presbyterian line: it was the Presbyterian myth that their Church was broad and inclusive of the population. The Puritans were notoriously lacking (and deliberately so in some cases) in their discipline of ordination during Cromwell's era, which was why a number were ejected in 1662 - because they could not be restored as priests without accepting ordination. Later Unitarians were indisciplined regarding ordination, and few now regard it as important (the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland still does ordain ministers). So Unitarians are modernist regarding belief and order: lay people can do precisely what a minister can do, and a minister is only such by training. (A Unitarian minister may usually express a vocation too, though some have said is just a job.) Consecration to secure a route into the Roman or any other line is not a part of Unitarian modernism at all: and yet, in seeking a strengthening of identity and something extra, a few sought it out. Unitarianism as a whole rejects the Free Catholic, and use is made by Free and Independent Catholics of Unitarianism as an inspiration (especially Lloyd Thomas and Herford) rather than incorporating its combination of Reformation and liberalism. Indeed most Free Catholic movements use trinitarian liturgies, so that the Unitarian element is a crossover of individuals and ideas into a somewhat different container, though some groups make use of 1986 updated 1785 in origin liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer According to the Use in King's Chapel, 9th Edition, Boston: King's Chapel (Plummer, 2005, 180).
The disjuncture still is that ordination and consecration is an act of traditional authority (in Weberian terms), usually interacting with traditional beliefs and culture, whereas contemporary liberal belief is modern and postmodern. Somehow these two jar against each other. The argument can be made that liberalism comes in the space made by grace, and a form of traditionalism, but it hardly holds in terms of the inheritance of Theosophical and Unitarian movements and the nature of the interaction between these and the Catholicism.
In Church of England terms, combining a continuation of the line of bishops in apostolic succession and a Catholic understanding of unity is High Church, whilst being modern or postmodern in belief is (by older terminology) Broad Church and now just Liberal. These are two different emphases, either of which can exist without the other (but who histories have been intertwined). However, it is worth pointing out today that with the Ordination of Women traditionalist Catholic Anglicanism was sidelined, and a group like Affirming Catholicism does combine a higher sense of Church order with a liberalism of belief and social inclusivity - with a good does of the Reformed as well.
The history of forms and ideas in religion is multilayered and complex: the Oxford Movement did impact right into non-conformity, and architecturally because it levelled preaching with the other cultural aspects of the service. Out of that broad Church Protestantism came Free Catholicism, a movement now taken into Independent Sacramental Ministry. Liberal Catholicism evolved partly through syncretising with Theosophy, which is the other main strand of liberalism taken into Independent Sacramental Ministry. What is important to these two strands, as with all the vast variety of small groups, is demonstrating apostolic lines through which grace can be imparted. Sociologically this is a clash of traditionalism and modernism/ postmodernism. Theologically the combination seems strange - a rigidity of orders and a breadth of belief, but the explanation is there and should not be. It is a vision of the universal and the spiritual. It is undergoing a small revival on the fringes of organised religion and amongst the few (but organised religion is becoming fringe and marginal), but clearly as religion becomes more sectarian and literalist, others are forming esoteric sects that deny the sectarian spirit and combine a rigidity of clergy and formal liturgy with an openness of intellectual expression.


Many thanks to Bishop John Kersey of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church for his extensive and detailed comments and corrections sent via correspondence on 9 October 2007. These corrections have been incorporated.

Chryssides, G. D. (1998), The Elements of Unitarianism, Shaftsbury: Element.
Plummer, J. P. (2005), The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement, Independent Catholic Heritage Series, Berkeley, California: Apocrophyle Books. I am very grateful for the donation of this book, arriving on 22 November 2007, which I was otherwise unable to obtain.
Short, H. L. (1968), 'The Later History of the English Presbyterians - 9', The Hibbert Journal, Vol. 66, 263, July 1968, Oxford: Manchester College, 131-136. The series, 1 to 9, runs from volumes 64 to 66, numbers 252 to 263, 1965 to 1968 (and I have all the articles right the way through).
Stouder, Donald Bruce (2004), Along the Thomasine Path: Rituals, Readings and Resources for the Post Christian, Post-Denominational Follower of Jesus, Appendix D: Herford and Itkin Biographies, 107-111, iUniverse.

The following are web-based sources, all last accessed on 7 October 2007


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful