Liberal Catholic Church: Wikis


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Liberal Catholic Movement
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Christianity · Western Christianity · English Reformation · Anglicanism · Old Catholic


Arnold Harris Mathew · James I. Wedgwood · Charles Webster Leadbeater


Liberal Rite


Liberal Catholic Church
Liberal Catholic Church International
Liberal Catholic Church Grail Community
Liberal Catholic Church Theosophia Synod
Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church
Old Catholic Church of British Columbia
Reformed Liberal Catholic Church
St. Mychal Judge Old Catholic Church in Dallas
Universal Catholic Church
The Young Rite

The Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) is a form of Christianity open to theosophical ideas and even reincarnation. It is not connected to the Roman Catholic Church. The title also is applied to various separate and independent denominations throughout the world holding many theosophical ideas in common.




The founding bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church was J. I. Wedgwood of the Wedgwood China family. Wedgwood was a former Anglican priest who left the Anglican church on becoming a theosophist in 1904. After serving in several high offices in the Theosophical Society, including General Secretary of the Society in England and Wales from 1911-1913, he was ordained as a priest in the Old Catholic movement on July 22, 1913, by Arnold Harris Mathew. Matthew in turn was a former Catholic priest who had left the Church to be ordained as a bishop in the Old Catholic Church, which had broken away from mainstream Catholicism in 1873 over the issue of papal infallibility. The Old Catholics maintained that their ordinations were valid within the Catholic tradition, and the Liberal Catholic Church thus claims to trace its apostolic succession back to Rome through Old Catholicism.

In 1915 Wedgwood visited Australia in his capacity as Grand Secretary of the Order of Universal CoMasonry, another of the organisations in which he was prominent. On his return to England he learned that Frederick Samuel Willoughby, a bishop of the Old Catholic Church of Britain, had become enmeshed in a homosexuality scandal and as a result had been suspended by Archbishop Mathew. He also learned that Mathew wanted all the clergy of the church to renounce Theosophy on the grounds that the beliefs of the Church and the Society were incompatible. Shortly afterwards Archbishop Mathew dissolved the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain and published a letter in The Times announcing his intention to return to the Roman Catholic Church.

Few bothered to reply to Mathew. Bishop Willoughby offered to consecrate Wedgwood to the episcopate, but Wedgwood, aware that the charges against Willoughby were substantially true and afraid of becoming tainted by the scandal, approached a number of other bishops seeking consecration, including the Old Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht Gerardus Gul (by whom Mathew had originally been consecrated), Bishop Frederick James, a fellow Theosophist and homosexual, and a number of other free-lance bishops, but none would oblige. With no other options open, Wedgwood was consecrated as a bishop by Willoughby on 13 February 1916 with King and Gauntlett assisting.

With the Old Catholics continuing to disapprove of Mathews' creation in Britain, Wedgwood started the organisation that would later become the Liberal Catholic Church, of which he became the first Presiding Bishop. At the same time he maintained his close connections with the Theosophical movement, and many of Wedgwood's priests and bishops were simultaneously Theosophists.

1941 schism

In 1941 a schism occurred in the church due to breaches of canon law and the laws of the state of California on the part of the Presiding Bishop, which led to the church known abroad as the Liberal Catholic Church International earning the legal right to be known as the Liberal Catholic Church in the United States. In America, the entity originally known as the Liberal Catholic Church may no longer use that name. [1]

2003 schism

In 2003 the issue of the limitation of the right of a bishop to ordain candidates of his choice gave rise to a differences of opinions which resulted into two groups: a 'traditional' and a more 'liberal' one. The ordination of women was the primary point of conflict.

Since both groups use the name 'Liberal Catholic Church' distinguishing between the two may be confusing.


The Liberal Catholic Church is governed by the "General Episcopal Synod" of all bishops. As the church is really the members, the General Episcopal Synod is the assembly of all bishops recognized as such by its members. The synod meets formally every three years and it elects a presiding bishop from among their ranks as the church's chief executive officer. The current Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church is the Right Reverend Maurice Warnon for the GES recognizing ordinations for all and the Right Reverend Graham Wale for the GES restricting the priesthood and the episcopate to only men. The General Episcopal Synod also elects priests to the episcopacy, with the approval of the parishes of their respective provinces. The bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church may hold office until the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Each province is governed by a regionary bishop who, in turn, may have one or more bishops functioning as assistants. A province may also have its own clerical synod of deacons, priests and bishops. For the most part these clergy are not financially compensated and hold secular jobs. They also may marry and hold property.

Training for the clergy varies from province to province. The Liberal Catholic Institute of Studies was created to standardise the program of studies for the development of future deacons and priests, but laypersons may follow the courses as well.

The church permits the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians.


According to church teaching the Liberal Catholic Church draws the central inspiration of its work from an earnest faith in the living Christ. It holds that the vitality of a church gains in proportion as its members not only revere and worship a Christ who lived two thousand years ago, but also strive to affirm in their lives the eternal Christ of whom St. John (Chapter 8:58) speaks: "Before Abraham was, I am." It is the Christ who ever lives as a mighty spiritual presence in the world, guiding and sustaining his people.

Liberal Catholicism regards these promises as validating all Christian worship of whatever kind as long as it be earnest and true. But it further holds that while the promise of the presence with individual believers is thus effective, Christ also appointed certain rites or sacraments, called 'mysteries' in the Eastern Church, for the greater helping of his people, to be handed down in the church as special channels of power and blessing. Through these 'means of grace' the Liberal Catholic Church believes that Christ is ever present within his church, in fellowship and communion, guiding and protecting them from birth to death.

Sacraments and apostolic succession

According to the Liberal Catholic Church's Statement of Principles, "The Liberal Catholic Church recognises seven fundamental sacraments, which it enumerates as follows: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Absolution, Holy Unction, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders. It claims an unbroken apostolic succession through the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht and claims that its orders are 'acknowledged as valid throughout the whole of those churches of Christendom which maintain the apostolic succession of orders as a tenet of their faith." The LCC International has modified their Statement of Principles to read "it (the LCC) has preserved an episcopal succession that is valid, as understood throughout the whole of those churches in Christendom that maintain the apostolic succession as a tenet of their faith."

Unity of all religions

The Liberal Catholic Church believes that there is a body of doctrine and mystical experience common to all the great religions of the world and which cannot be claimed as the exclusive possession of any. Moving within the orbit of Christianity and regarding itself as a distinctive Christian church it nevertheless holds that the other great religions of the world are also divinely inspired and that all proceed from a common source, though religions may stress different aspects of the various teachings and some aspects may even temporarily be ignored. These teachings, as facts in nature, rest on their own intrinsic merit. They form that true catholic faith which is catholic because it is the statement of universal principles. The LCC bases these beliefs on what St. Augustine said: "The identical thing that we now call the Christian religion existed among the ancients and has not been lacking from the beginnings of the human race until the coming of Christ in the flesh, from which moment on the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christian." (Retract I. XIII,3). The same principle is involved in the declaration of St. Vincent of Lerins: "That let us hold which everywhere, always and by all has been believed: for this is truly and rightly catholic." .

See also


  1. ^ Deceptio, Falsum, et Dissimulatio. Matthews, Edward M. St. Alban Press, San Diego. 1998.

External links

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