Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Fast Changing Religious World

The problem with a large webpage describing aspects of the Independent Sacramental Movement is that it is soon out of date. Groups come and go, some come under new management, they often change names, people get ordained and consecrated, and people change allegiance (and often frequently). So necessarily my main webpage on Free Catholicism and Liberal Catholicism covers groups and people historically and in general. However, I like to keep The Liberal Rite and ILCF up to date, and there have been some changes.

Bishop John Kersey has moved into the organising management, so to speak, of the Ancient Catholic Church, a body that was developed by Catholic, spiritualist and animal welfare friend H. P. Nicholson. H. P. Nicholson was Mar Joannes I and so Bishop Kersey is now Mar Joannes III. It is now separate from the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd in Clapton, London, which has different owners. The use of it ceased with the death of Revd. Deaconess Pam Schroder in January, upon which
Bishops Andrew Linley and John Kersey I were left as the only other members of clergy.

At one time about 5000 laity were associated with this Church. Also moving into the ACC are bishops Andrew Linley and also Alistair Bate (pictured) of Edinburgh, and Rev. Adrian Glover represents it in Bournemouth. The educational work of the Church is aided by the movement of the Society for Humanistic Potential into the ACC. I see that I appear on its blog a number of times.

Alistair Bate himself moved from the LCCI to being Independent but in the ILCF and since January this year these changes mean he is closer still to Bishops Linley and Kersey. The ISM has a characteristic of ministries which involve these changes, and then each has a particular characteristic of its own according to how it forms and relates to others. There is much in the way of offering rites of passage.

When Rev. Horseman was removed from the Church of England recently, and survives with his rites of passage business, I just felt for him and hoped that he does not have to feel isolated (should he so feel) and that there are others he can contact if he so wants. In that he has shifted to Paganism and Humanism as well as Christianity in the rites he offers, he might note that the ACC was always somewhat multi-faith in its Catholicism and that Alistair Bate himself has such a broad offering. I see that Alistair Bate is bringing a book out soon about the individualist bishop path.

My interest in these groups and the patchwork of ministries is in the inheritance of religious freedom and open, free Catholicism. I also think that historically you get the same anatagonism between the Church of England and ISM priests as you get between Baptists and Unitarians. The Unitarians acquired the General Baptist Assembly in 1806, and it's as if they've never been forgiven since. Arnold Harris Mathew reordained hundreds of Anglo Catholic priests in his day, and worried the Church of England authorities, which produced the Brandreth book, and it's as if they have never removed the animosity felt towards the British inheritors of the Old Catholic line, because of course they retain an episcopal line treated as valid by Roman Catholicism when Anglican orders were declared null and void by Roman Catholicism (though, actually, so many other bishops have intertwined into lines of Anglican consecrations that, even on this theory, Anglican bishops are surely valid. I just think these antagonisms are stupid and should be overcome.

I also appreciate the doctrinal developments that are so very broad. It seems to me that people are where they are, and this is where they can be met. From a Catholic point of view there is grace and confidence, from a liberal point of view the other kind of active resources liberalism rather than just liberal about. The conserving element in this is the ritual one, and the repetition, in core terms - these are eucharistic communities - whereas the radical element is in the theology. There is perhaps less tension than in Unitarian Christianity where the identification and conservatism is in the belief output and yet the liberalism is in the belief output: it is why the Unitarian radicals are almost always non-Christian. My own view was that this was a shame, plus I was eucharistic in orientation whilst plural in belief (I'm since more pathway orientated). I think these communities have a way to do it.

Whilst I value their flexibility, my difficulty with them is the lack of congregation. Yes the ministers meet many different people and they are ministries, often providing what the main Churches simply cannot - the difference between old container ships and nippy little boats making specific deliveries of specialist goods. With the rise of conservatism, that is the container ships restricting their steering, the little boats can nip in and out even more effectively. The lack of buildings among ISM clergy means a lower level of visibility and a necessity to reach out if and where there is reaching out. My own view is about a potential to reach out to a myriad of local groups that are on the margins of churches or rejected them, or even to build them up, to show that something spiritual can be offered and developed within a more liberal and democratic community.

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