CENTENARY OF THE
LIBERAL CATHOLIC CHURCH
A talk by (Regionary) Bp Graham Preston
at SYDNEY on 12th March,2016
We Liberal Catholics regard 13th February 1916 as the birthday of the LCC because on this day, in London, Canon James Ingall Wedgwood was consecrated to the Episcopate by Bishops Frederick Willoughby, Rupert Gauntlet and Robert King. Bishop Willoughby was himself consecrated by Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew . Bishop Willoughby consecrated Bp Gauntlett and Bp King to preserve the Apostolic Succession for Bp Wedgwood who was to become the first Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church.
All this is past history and you will have heard this story many times.
What is important about this year and this place is that just a short distance away is the place where the first Liberal Catholic Bishop consecrated in Australia, Bishop Charles Webster Leadbeater, lived for many years. Bp Leadbeater was consecrated by Bp Wedgwood on 22nd July 1916 – but this is also an oft repeated story.
Sydney played an important role in the establishment of the LCC, not just in Australia but the whole world. The Church of St Alban in Regent Street was not the first church owned by our forebears – The Church of the Holy Spirit in Punt Road Melbourne has this honour – but became the hub for the development of the LCC.
Linked to the LCC though not on Church property is the Chapel here in Mosman, variously referred to as St Alban’s Chapel, The Manor Oratory and of course, The Manor Chapel.
This is where Bishop Leadbeater lived for many years and where eight Deacons were ordained to the Priesthood, including many who are household names today – Christopher Bannister (later Bp Christopher), Ray Blanch, Bertram Bidwell, Leslie Furze-Morrish, Morris Briggs – to name those whose names are familiar to one who joined the LCC as a teenager in 1957. Frank Haines was ordained to the Subdiaconate and the Diaconate in this chapel and was later ordained to the Priesthood in the “original” Church of St Alban in Regent Street. The Very Reverend Ronald Rivett was baptised here by Bishop Arundale in 1930 and ordained to the Subdiaconate by Bp Lawrence Burt in 1952.
To return to the role Sydney played in the development of the LCC church records indicate that 18 Bishops were consecrated in this city, 9 of whom were for churches overseas. Needless to say, Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater, often both, were the Consecrating Bishops.
These were the glory days of the LCC. In our early years we were in the vanguard, we were the progressives, we were truly liberal. Today other denominations have caught up with us and some might feel we have been overtaken. We are certainly not in the vanguard as far as the ordination of women and same sex marriages are concerned but those are not issues for today. We can look back with pride on our manifold achievements over the last 100 years.
In my early days in the Church three organisations influenced the minds of many of our members. They were the LCC, the TS and the Co-Masonic Lodge. All three have suffered from declining membership. I have received numerous “simplistic” solutions but none so far have succeeded in bringing numerous people through our doors. I am open to suggestions but we need to bear in mind that Code of Canons does not allow me to implement some of the suggestions I have received.
I remember attending the funeral of a little old lady – she was only about five feet tall, if that and she was certainly very old. This was in the fifties – probably 1957. She had never married. She started off as a Pupil Teacher – not something we have today – and she owned her own home. Miss Barter left her estate to be divided three ways – the LCC, the TS and the Co-Masonic Lodge. These were the important things in her life. The world is different today.
Money, or the lack of it, is not our greatest problem – church membership and attendance are our greatest concern.
The Liberal Catholic Church
exists to forward Christ’s work in the world
Its outlook is liberal in that acceptance of its teaching and doctrine is not obligatory. It leaves to its members freedom in the interpretation of creeds, scriptures and traditions, and of its liturgy and doctrine.
It is Catholic in the sense of being all embracing, and also because it allies itself with the historic Church as the source of its Holy Orders and of its sacramental tradition. It regards the scriptures, creeds and traditions of the Church as the means by which the teachings of Christ have been handed down to us, but does not regard them as literally infallible. It deduces from them certain principles of understanding and conduct which it regards as important, but not necessarily exhaustive as a basis of further understanding.
Our Church seeks to combine Catholic forms of worship, their deep mysticism and witness to the reality of sacramental grace, with the widest measure of intellectual liberty, and respect for the individual conscience.
This website provides information about the Province of Australasia of our Church, its Parishes and activities, aspects of its history, teachings and principles. You are most welcome to join us in the services of any of our Parishes in Australia and in Indonesia.
(Image: Bp. J. I. Wedgwood)