The Liberal Catholic Church

Historical View

The Liturgy Revised

Their work of revising the Liturgy in the Old Catholic Missal and Ritual occupied much of the two Bishops’ time and effort during the following two years. In 1918 a small volume was published in London, containing:

The book was published under the name of The Old Catholic Church ‘for the use of English-speaking congregations of Old Catholics’.

The complete edition of the Liturgy was published in 1919, wherein the word Mass was replaced with Holy Eucharist. The structure used for the Holy Eucharist in the revised Liturgy followed the pattern of Tridentine Mass contained in the Roman Catholic Missal from 1570 to 1962.

A former Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, the Rt. Rev. Sten H. P. von Krusenstierna, writing about this important formative moment of the Church, said:

As in the case of the Liturgy and the other documents of the Church, the basic teachings of the new branch of the Catholic Church had by this time (1920) been given a definite foundation. In the space of about three years the two Bishops [Wedgwood and Leadbeater], between them, had accomplished what now seems an almost impossible task. For that reason they have not only earned the right to be called “founders” of the Liberal Catholic Church, but they have earned the deep gratitude of our own and all future generations of Liberal Catholics.

During that work Bishop Leadbeater wrote a letter to his co-worker and well-known writer and orator, Annie Besant:

We wish for your presence every day while we are working at the reconstruction of the Catholic Ritual. Your splendid gift of language, your wonderful power at putting things poetically would be invaluable to us. This thing ought to be done well – the Ritual of His Church, the only one combining the power of the ancient Church with a true theosophical expression of the real relation between God and man; all the great poets of the age ought to be working on it. . . .

Although a number of early members of the Church were also members of the Theosophical Society, it is important to note that there is no corporate or administrative connection between the two organizations which are completely independent bodies, pursuing their own work along their own unique line.

The new movement quickly spread to other countries thanks to several travels of Bishop Wedgwood. The name of the Church came under consideration at two different meetings of the Episcopate. Early in December 1917 Bishop Wedgwood called together a joint Clerical and Episcopal Synod in London. At this meeting recent criticisms of the English movement by the Archdiocese of Utrecht were considered. It was provisionally agreed that subject to the views of the Churches in Australia and America the official title of the church should be altered to the Liberal Christian Church (Old Catholic).

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