Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Bizarre World of the Tiny

Every so often, partly (I admit) because I once thought there was a good idea being reborn in one of them, I keep a watch on the progress or otherwise of some Liberal Catholic Churches, bodies usually very tiny and associated with the episcopi vagantes tag.

I can't keep up with the latest changes, that go from a good idea to messing up to the bizarre. Bishop John Kersey, once of the Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church, must have put in an incredible effort to develop the website of that little Church. Go back to before 2000 and there was the creation of British Liberal Free Church, later renamed the Society of the Divine Spirit, becoming the English Liberal Free Church, with the Society of Free Christians, all of which was based on the ideas of J. M. Lloyd Thomas, the Free Catholic Unitarian in the early twentieth century, the end point of the gothic revival in Unitarianism downwind from the Anglican Oxford Movement with some similar effects. The semi-detached Unitarian involved became detached from this creation, so that in the 2006 the Society of Free Christians in its Catholic side became the Religious Society of St. Simon and the English Liberal Free Church had rapid name changes from that to the Independent Old Catholic Church of the Utrecht Succession and then the Liberal Rite. A simple name at last, so to speak, in 2007, but incorporating the shadow remains of The Ancient Catholic Church in 2008 created the Liberal Catholic and Apostolic Church. This was a combination then of independent Catholic spiritualism and something that had become Liberal Catholic, trinitarian and somewhat Celtic, Druidic and even New Age in elements.

You'd think this might settle down and be developed, and it is only 2010. As far as I can tell, first John Kersey left his creation, and then (same location) did Andrew Linley. John Kersey was off creating another Church, this time a supposedly pre-Nicene orthodoxy one, though with a good, strong Gnostic aspect. This left the bishoped Adrian Glover, also known as Mar Trimlett, to run the show with Bishop Alistair Bate (once a Unitarian - used to lead at Glasgow), also known as Mar Alexei. In the Pentecost 2010 edition of The Catholic Liberalist Newsletter, a quarterly production, they announced that there would no longer be a Metropolitan, as was John Kersey, but there would be a Presiding Bishop, and rotated. Well, now, on 8th September 2010, all associated with the Companions of the Cross and Passion up in Edinburgh have ended their association with the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church, and so the three are exclusively in this new creation called the Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum.

The Mars have become Taus. So in London there is The Most Revd. John Kersey, OCR, DD (Tau Eleutherius, Ep. Gn.) Metropolitan Primate of the Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum, Archbishop of Great Britain of The Apostolic Episcopal Church, also Bishop and Rector Pro-Provincial of Canterbury, The Order of Corporate Reunion; and then also in London there is the Bishop in Anglia, Tau Andreas, the Most Revd. Professor Andrew Linley OCR, DD; whilst up in Edinburgh there is the Bishop in Caledonia, Tau Alexei, Ep. Gn., the Most Revd. Alistair Bate, CCP, OCR, DD.

One wonders what has happened to maintaining the tradition of Harold Nicholson, for example, the spiritualist-leaning independent Catholic.

The dynamic seems to be falling out, getting together and individuals tagging on to one creation and then another. Evolving a body isn't quite good enough. Presumably now the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church is in a bit of a mess. Alistair Bate's own website hasn't caught up with his own changes, which strikes me as rather odd. I know having a website is tricky when updating is necessary, but I would be quicker on the draw if I knew what I was about to do, unless I had reasons otherwise to hold back such information.

I used to think these folks carried at least some useful ideas amongst all the clutter. I also thought that at least Alistair Bate was developing some sort of a congregation once a month at the Theosophical Society. But they just end up feeding the critics, producing a fantasy nonsense of bizarre ecclesiastical titles and tiny transitional institutions that last a fleeting moment.

I know something about small Churches because I spend quite some time supporting one of them - the one with the actual and not imagined connection with Francis David of Transylvania, whatever the LCAC website claims. He expressly denied the Trinity and was very clearly Protestant low Church. Smallness itself isn't necessarily something to be criticised (though you do ask what strategies are available to grow) but surely one requirement is stability, because without stability you cannot build anything. You expect to evolve, to acquire and you might split, but not at breakneck speed.

I've updated my Where are the Liberal Catholics? page, which was only updated recently after a friendly email (sometimes I receive hostile emails after someone falls out with another and the 'jurisdiction' changes), but I can't really keep up with such rapid changes as these. It was just fortunate (or unfortunate) that I noticed these changes so rapidly after happening - but next week could be different.

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