A Member of the Liberal Catholic Movement
Universal Catholic Church

Last Updated February 2, 2014.

History

 

Groundwork

 

In the late 1880s, two separate efforts began that would eventually cross paths in a synthesis that resulted in the Universal Catholic Church:

1.         H. P. Blavatsky spent a lifetime studying and teaching about the soul's journey. She incorporated ideas and techniques from a wide variety of sources, including Western occultism and Eastern Buddhism. Blavatsky and a few of her close friends settled in Adyar, India, and opened a center for studies. This came at a time of great interest in spiritual growth all over the world. Charles Darwin's book on evolution was still new and a best seller. Spiritualism and Mesmerism were all the rage. Blavatsky's group, called The Theosophical Society, was popular worldwide. It still exists today.

2.         In Australia, one person with a knack for clairvoyance and mysticism—Charles W Leadbeater—became interested in The Theosophical Society. He even moved to Adyar, India, to work more closely with the society's founders. Theosophists drew from all religions as well as their own spiritual insights. So did Charles Leadbeater, but he began to see that Theosophical lessons learned about the soul brought his own Christianity into sharper focus. Some say he “Christianized Theosophy,” while others say he “Theosophized Christianity.”

 

At roughly the same time, a young Anglican was becoming deeply involved in the “High Church” liturgies he found at the Church of All Saints, in York, England. This church was one of a handful in England that had restored the old sacraments of the catholic church. This young man was James Ingall Wedgwood. Mentored by the church's rector, Wedgwood delved into a deep spiritual journey. He experienced the old rituals as tools for inner growth, not merely formal words and music.

As Wedgwood was learning about the older liturgies at the Church of All Saints, his studies also took him to the cathedral church in York. There he studied music, learning to play the cathedral's pipe organ, seeing how music can be an integral and active part of the liturgy. He mastered the organ well enough that the Sorbonne University in Paris conferred a Doctorate for his research into organ construction and use. The book is still in use today.

Wedgwood's inner searchings led to several epiphanies. He was most surprised by a realization that he was connected to all of life in a fundamental, yet subtle, manner. He was one note in a glorious chord of heavenly music. In music, no one note is more important than any other note of a chord, but each note is important in the creation of the chord. One note is just a note, but many notes working together are a symphony.

The young Anglican priest had found the spark that would be the founding principle of the Liberal Catholic Movement: religion isn't just concerned with the hereafter, instead we can be connected and one with God here and now.

Connected, yes. But with what?

Buddhists? Sure.

Muslims? Absolutely.

Non-believers, too, and all of creation.

 

Father Wedgwood realized what had once been known but forgotton. In about 395ce, Augustineheavily influenced by Platoand bishop of Hippo in what is now Algeria (Africa) had this to say: “God has some people that The Church doesn't have, and The Church has some people that God doesn't have.”

Wedgwood was at a difficult point. His contemplation led him beyond the official teachings of the Church of England, but he was a Christian priest. His “calling” was to be a minister of the sacraments. He hoped to find a denomination of the Catholic tradition (i.e., sacramental) but with enough personal freedom to make room for his non-traditional beliefs. Any Catholic church will teach Christ's presence in the sacraments (baptism, confirmation, mass, etc). It will also have Apostolic Succession, which means an uninterrupted sequence of bishops that go all the way back to the original apostles.

In 1913, Father Wedgwood found that religion: the Old Catholic Church. Its head in England was Bishop Arnold Harris Mathew. Mathew (one "T") had been consecrated bishop by the Dutch Catholic Church in 1908. They allowed him to drop the word "Dutch" from the name in England.

Bishop Mathew's Old Catholic Church had the liturgy, the sacraments, and Apostolic Succession. Even more important, the bishop gave Father Wedgwood personal freedom to explore and grow in his spiritual life.

 

The groundwork was setCharles Leadbeater in AustraliaJames Wedgwood in England.

 

They were not aware of each others work.

 

But the plot is about to thicken.

 

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