Monday, 9 May 2011

Article Revision


My article is still rejected as being too long and involved regarding detail.

Thanks for the revision. I think our people will be much happier with a basic and not [an] in-depth appraisal of where the LCAC is coming from[;] then they can make up their own minds based upon that coupled with what [the bishop-elect] has to say.

So I shall look again at it, print it out and leave it on the side for people to read if they want, and because of this might put back in detail. People can imagine that little I submit gets included, and I have decided not to submit again. I'm happy for it to be edited down according to what the editor thinks people would read. Perhaps I should revise and submit it to
Faith and Freedom, adding sources and a bibliography, or send a news analysis version to The Inquirer.

This was the revised proposed double entry into the Hull Unitarian Calendar. It became headed by a different contribution and so I reduced mine, and simplified some points. I assumed people know too much.

An 'Open Pulpit' Service by Michael Tracey

It is a long time since we held an ecumenical or inter-faith service at our Church when the worship leader was not a member of the Unitarian movement. We will be holding such a service on Sunday 17th July when Bishop elect Mhoria Lauer-Patterson of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church will be leading our worship.

Until recently I knew nothing of the LCAC and was surprised by their liberal theology. Until then the words Catholic and Apostolic had given me a different impression.

In summarising what the members of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church believe I thought it best to quote what they say of themselves. The following paragraph is taken from their website.

'The Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church is non-dogmatic in nature, traditional yet relevant for today, and is open to the insights of all faiths and philosophies. This openness means that the LCAC has a unique spiritual character and appeal, and that its mission reaches beyond conventional boundaries to embrace a genuine universality. We see our work as firmly grounded in the wish of Jesus Christ that His church strive to attain unity in the face of its differences, and thus conceive the LCAC as a primarily ecumenical mission church'.

Michael Tracey

Unitarians and Liberal Catholicism by Adrian Worsfold

I have known about the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church since its birth, and indeed about its immediate forerunner. It connects liberalism and Catholicism, different from and yet overlapping with liberalism and Protestantism that is the evolved identity of Unitarians.

Unitarian identity is formed from across the Protestant spectrum, coming from Bible only trinitarian Calvinists, who evolved into Arminians, sometimes Arians, and whose congregations were 'captured' by ideological biblical Unitarians, to become later (in a divided movement)mainly broader based biblical critics and then liberal individualists.

The later broader based grouping was influenced by the Romantic movement, the Victorian mind that changed the rural from a setting of danger to one of idealised beauty into the past. It allowed some Unitarians to think of themselves as broad Church, almost like Anglicans, in a way that had not been considered since Puritans were Anglicans. Even non-conformist churches, like the one in Park Street until 1976, had steeples and enhanced church-like appearances instead of having simple plain meeting houses.

A few Unitarians took this romanticism to the point where Protestantism became Catholic. One minister, Joseph Lloyd Thomas, advocated a Free Catholicism of symbolism without credal restriction, and joined up with the Congregationalist W. E. Orchard. Their movement became somewhat contradictory, and Orchard became Roman Catholic. Lloyd Thomas represented that Unitarianism which was anti-denominational, like Martineau's, and he delayed Birmingham New Meeting from joining the new united General Assembly in 1928. Lloyd Thomas went into education and obscurity after the end of Free Catholicism.

One recent group was inspired by this history. In 1999 two non-conformists and a semi-detached Unitarian Rev. Stephen Callander formed the British Liberal Free Church, and this became the Society of the Divine Spirit and then the English Liberal Free Church. It was in 2006 that Rev. Stephen Callander left and the remaining two took on episcopal ordination as bishops, and from January 2007 formed The Liberal Rite. When the remains of the Ancient Catholic Church (at one time with many congregations in London - they had become somewhat spiritualist and later died off) were absorbed, the Liberal Rite became the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church (LCAC), and at transition the ex-Unitarian Alistair Bate became a bishop. He had been a student for the ministry at Unitarian College Manchester and a lay leader at Glasgow; he became a priest in the Open Episcopal Church and then Liberal Catholic Church International, and transferred to the Liberal Rite and LCAC. The LCAC represented an enhanced Catholicism, and the two founders and he left the LCAC to become even more Catholic and esoteric in another new creation. The LCAC that remained has, arguably, become more liberal and socially inclusive. Mhoira Lauer-Patterson, based in York, joined the LCAC at the time of its transition; she says that Alistair Bate regarded her as "too modern".

Inspired by Lloyd Thomas, the LCAC nevertheless derives its pattern from the Liberal Catholic Church originating around 1916 that had links with Theosophy and connection with the Hindu sage Krishnamurti for a time. This group derived from the failed Old Catholic mission into England under Arnold Harris Mathew (1852–1919). From the very beginning, Mathew's Old Catholic Church, derived from the original Dutch Old Catholics into Europe, was a clergy-led grouping, and this clergy-led approach has continued since. Intellectual liberality has been combined with a sense of the esoteric (or magical - a different interpretation of the Eucharist and the power of priesthood).

A third history is that of the Unitarian ministry family, the Herfords. Ulric Vernon Herford (1866-1938), after training subsequently in Oxford and picking up its anti-denominational spirit, had two ordinary ministries and then he wanted "sacraments of grace for the heart and will, and sermons for the intellect". To achieve the core basis of Christianity (as sought by many Unitarians) he approached what he considered the most primitive of Churches in India and became ordained himself by travelling to India. Herford's ordinations of others have added to a succession of many bishops of different ideological varieties and shades; he also ordained W. E. Orchard into the priesthood. Many bishops have multiple lines that go back in time to Roman Catholic and Orthodox leaders and before the Great Schism of 1014.

So dotted around the world are small, clergy-led, liberal and other groupings. They often provide rites of passage ministries and develop a few congregations. For example, Alistair Bate runs regular meetings in Edinburgh. There is a newer LCAC congregation in Swindon. Nevertheless, numbers are small and fluid. The most extreme group in this model is The Young Rite, mainly in continental Europe, where the priesthood of all believers means that anyone will be ordained as a priest.

Most people associate bishops and priests with the Church of England, Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox but this ignores the Old Catholic movement, from which Liberal Catholicism is derived. But there are at least four Unitarian bishops! There are two Superintendants for Hungary and Romania, Carlton Pearson from the charismatic movement in the United States who joined the Unitarian Universalists and an overseer of congregations in Kenya. The Unitarian minister in Norway is Superintendent Pastor Knut Heidelberg and is thus as a bishop: he was ordained in Hungary in 2009 with a sermon that emphasised the non-apostolic nature of Unitarian bishops! Just to confuse, Rev. Maurisa Brown (USA) is Senior Pastor of Unitarian Ministries International and is a Messianic Unitarian - not in the UUA!

Mhoira Lauer-Patterson is taking our service in July and is bishop-elect of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church. She was ordained in Australia and changed Churches on coming back to the UK. The range of belief in the LCAC is from unitarian to trinitarian. I suggest that the two largest of these 'Independent Sacramental Ministries' in the future will be the LCAC and the Open Episcopal Church (OEC), the latter created by the ex-Anglican Bishop Jonathan Blake and again promoting social inclusion.

My own view is that Unitarians and LCAC are distinct. We are low liberals and will be so even if becoming more symbolic, postmodern and absorbing more neo-Pagan romanticism. We are lay led, congregationalist and have largely dropped Eucharistic practice. But that does not prevent the liberal religious associating together. The religious landscape is shifting at present, and independence is growing.

I knew about Free Catholics when at Unitarian College. I first learnt about Liberal Catholics when asked to present a paper a few years ago [2007] to Sea of Faith Yorkshire, including David Arthur, on why liberal groups do not co-operate with each other. I rather wish they did and hope they do.

Adrian Worsfold

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