Liberal Catholic Churches
Liberal Catholic Churches
The Church of Gnosis (Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum)
New Order of Glastonbury
c/o Cathedral Chapel of St. Francis by-the-Sea, PO Box 577, 430 Park Ave., Laguna Beach, CA 92652
On December 29, 1915, as one of the first acts after founding his fledgling American Catholic Church, Joseph Rene Vilatte consecrated Frederick E. J. Lloyd (1859–1933), an Episcopal clergyman whose distinguished career included his election and then rejection of the post of bishop coadjutor of Oregon. In 1915, after four years as pastor of Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Illinois, he resigned to go with Vilatte. In 1920 at a synod of the church held in Chicago, Vilatte retired and turned the church over to Lloyd, who assumed the titles of primate, metropolitan, and archbishop.
Lloyd proved to be an able leader, but following the pattern of other independent bishops, he attempted to build the American Catholic Church by drawing priestly colleagues around him and consecrating them to the episcopacy. He hoped that the bishops would generate a jurisdiction, and he appointed them before there were congregations to oversee. Among the eight bishops he consecrated were Gregory Lines (1923), Francis Kanski (1926), Daniel C. Hinton (1927), and Ernest Leopold Peterson (1927). Each of them eventually left the American Catholic Church and established different jurisdictions.
Lloyd was succeeded in 1932 by Hinton, who in turn consecrated Percy Wise Clarkson the following year. Clarkson opened a successful church in Laguna Beach, California, but he was a Theosophist and brought a Theosophical perspective that came to dominate American Catholic Church life and thought.
Bishop Lines had problems with Hinton, and withdrew from the American Catholic Church in 1927 in reaction to Hinton’s consecration as bishop-auxiliary to Lloyd, and formed the Apostolic Christian Church. He returned a few years later, only to leave again when Hinton became primate. During his first year separated from the church, he consecrated Justin A. Boyle (also known as Robert Raleigh). In 1930 Raleigh consecrated a Theosophist, Lowell Paul Wadle. Wadle soon left Raleigh and placed himself under Clarkson, who had succeeded Hinton. In 1940 Wadle succeeded Clarkson and served as primate of the American Catholic Church for the next 25 years. During these years the Theosophical perspective introduced by Clarkson became the only perspective in the church, and interaction with Liberal Catholic Church branches was strong. Wadle participated in a number of Liberal Catholic consecration services.
During this time the other bishops, now separated from Clarkson and Wadle, initiated their new jurisdictions: the American Catholic Church (Syro-Antiochean) (Peterson); the Church of Antioch (Lines/Raleigh); the Traditional Roman Catholic Church in the Americas (Kanski); and the Apostolic Episcopal Church (Kanski).
In 1965 Wadle was succeeded by Hanlon Francis Marshall, who served only one year before being replaced by Hugh Michael Strange. In 2008 the primate was Abp. Simon E. Talarczyk.
The beliefs of the American Catholic Church are very close to those of the Liberal Catholic Church. It views itself as holding to an “orthodox” faith, but interprets it in the light of some basic truths: that our ignorance of God and nature is due to the lack of the spirit and life of God within us; that the way to the divine knowledge is the way of the gospel that leads to a new birth; and that the way of new birth is totally within the will of man to grasp.
The Cathedral Chapel of St. Francis-by-the Sea is a historical landmark. It is the second smallest cathedral in the world, seating only 50. Sunday Mass is at 9:00 a.m., and persons of all faiths are welcome to attend.
Not reported. There are only one or two churches and several hundred members remaining in the church.
Barry, Odo A. Outline History of the American Catholic Church. Long Beach, CA: American Catholic Church, 1951.
The Holy Liturgy. Long Beach, CA: American Catholic Church, 1955.
Wadle, Lowell Paul. In the Light of the Orient. Long Beach, CA: Author, 1951.
PO Box 953, San Jose, CA 95108
The American Temple is one of several groups that emerged from the former members of the Holy Order of MANS, an esoteric group that had merged into the Greek Orthodox Missionary Archdiocese of Vasiloupolis. Members of the American Temple strive to teach the Universal Truths that were taught in the Order from the Tree of Life (Kabbalah) lessons and the Christian Mysteries. The temple does not attempt to reform the order; instead, it builds on its foundation and continues its work.
The temple describes itself as following the teachings of the Master Jesus Christ and striving towards the unfoldment of the Christ light and self within each person. It is a school of universal teachings (the western esoteric tradition). Founded in the 1990s under the leadership of Mt. Rev. Michael Whitney, it has local centers, but operates primarily in cyberspace. In that regard, it has built an expansive web site and posted many of the publications of the Holy Order.
The temple offers its teachings to all motivated students. It emphasizes its base within mystical Christianity but adds the insights available from other traditions as well. The church attempts to build a strong spiritual community while supporting the family structure, and it invites members to a life of learning as well as charity and social service in the community.
For information: [email protected]
The Apostolic Johannite Church emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century under the leadership of its patriarch and primate for Canada, Most Rev. Shaun McCann, generally known by his ecclesiastical title, Mar Iohannes IV. McCann serves as archbishop of Alberta, and is assisted by Most Rev. William Behun (Mar Thomas), the primate of the United States of America, who serves as archbishop of Wisconsin. Both had been members of other Gnostic bodies prior to the founding of the Apostolic Gnostic Church. Archbishop McCann had originally been consecrated by Tau Iohannes III, of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Hermetica (EGCH), with Tau Valentinus of the EGCH as co-consecrator.
The church holds several lines of apostolic succession, including the Johannite lineage, and continues a Johannite Gnostic Christian tradition that can be traced to the Apostle John and the early Johannite Community based in Asia Minor at the end of the first century CE.
The church is Gnostic in belief and practice. It affirms the authority of the Bible as a teaching tool, along with the texts that comprise the Nag Hammadi Library (the most famous item being the Gospel of Thomas) and the Corpus Hermeticum. It affirms the Divine godhead who through a process of emanation caused the visible cosmos to come into existence, and the divine spark that resides in each individual. Awareness of one’s divine spark is the beginning of the knowledge (or gnosis) that gives the church its name.
The church teaches that the Godhead consists of three Persons: the Father, the Son (or Logos or Xristos Sother), and the Holy Spirit (or Pneuma Hagion). They are one in substance, which individuals experience by following the loving example of the Incarnate Xristos and the experience of the Holy Spirit, the source of continued Inspiration and Revelation. Because of its belief in the Divine Spark in each person, the church has opened its offices to all people, regardless of gender, race, social status, or sexual orientation.
The Apostolic Gnostic Church has close relations with the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Hermetica, based in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Archbishop Behun also serves as a bishop in that jurisdiction. Mar Iohannes IV is the president of the North American College of Gnostic Bishops, of which both jurisdictions served as charter members.
The church reports seven parishes, three in Canada, three in the United States, and one in Madrid, Spain. There are several affiliated study groups, including one in Australia.
Apostolic Johannite Church. johannite.org/.
Patriarch of the Apostolic Orthodox Church, The Most Rev. Mathias Mar Yusef, 248 Deer Creek, Boerne, TX 78006
The Apostolic Orthodox Church (AOC) was founded in 1994 by His Holiness, Mathias Mar Yusef (b. 1946), who was appointed Catholicos to the West in 1994 and elected to the Holy Office of Patriarch in 1996. The church has attained its apostolic succession through the lineage of St. Thomas Christians now possessed by several of the Liberal Catholic churches.
In 1983 its founder, a former Roman Catholic, visited India and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church that traces its origins to the Apostle Thomas. On this visit and a subsequent trip in 1986, he became fascinated with the tradition of St. Thomas and the reputed Sacred Tradition teachings that have persisted without reference to the historic councils of the Christian church. According to what Yusef learned in India, Thomas had preached a doctrine of individual salvation attained primarily through one’s own efforts, and founded a nonproselytizing community and invited others to join. As the church grew, the most spiritually advanced were ordained, and Thomas moved on. Before returning to the United States, Yusef was commissioned to spread the Sacred Tradition in the west.
The Sacred Tradition, a gnosis that transcends mere facts and beliefs and is impressed directly on the soul, was passed by Jesus to Thomas. It is this tradition that the AOC attempts to perpetuate.
Rev. Yusef holds a doctorate in sacred theology and a licentiate to lecture in sacramental and mystical theology from the Institut Koptisch in Kroeffelbach, Germany. He was ordained in 1982 into the Religious and Military Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
The church acknowledges its basis in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and uses the Nicene Creed. However, it does not concern itself primarily with doctrine, and the creed is seen as a symbol of the faith—an object of contemplation, not a statement of truth. The Bible is seen as a compilation of myth, allegory, legend, and fact. Like all scripture, it is given by inspiration of God and hence useful.
The church teaches that there is one existence, God, who is manifested as the Trinity. Humans, created in the image of God, are also triune—body, soul, and spirit. Humans exist as part of a vast progression of life, from the highest to the lowest. Humans have a duty to discern the divine light they have within. The church is a liturgical church and practices the sacraments instituted by Christ to provide an outward manifestation of the inner graces.
Apostolic Orthodox Church. www.geocities.com/thomasene_tradition/index.html.
437 Ninth Ave. S, Clinton, IA 52732
The Avalonian Catholic Church was founded in 2001 by Bp. Jon Ryner, formerly a bishop of the New Order of Glastonbury. The church operates out of the same Western Esoteric tradition that informs the Liberal Catholic Church, but has assumed a more distinctly Christian stance. At the same time, it seeks to develop the pagan influence in Christian thought. That quest has led the church to the ancient land of Avalon and the old Christian center at Glastonbury in eastern England.
Early in the twentieth century the archeologist and independent Catholic bishop Frederick Bligh Bond, who was in charge of excavations at Glastonbury, made unusual discoveries of building foundations around the cathedral and former monastery complex. Bond later revealed that his remarkable findings had been made from information received from a deceased monk who had communicated through automatic writing. Bp. Ryner and the members of the Avalonian Church look to the practices of the Glastonbury monks and the spiritual treasures of their monastic life for inspiration. From Bond’s several books, Ryner has noted the prediction that a greater work will come from Glastonbury, and that someone will come who will “build the great church—a son of Glaston from beyond the sea.” Revealing the secrets of Glastonbury leads into the heart of the esoteric mysteries and, claims Ryner, goes far beyond what was to be found in the older New Order of Glastonbury.
The Avalonian Church is presented as a church in the midst of a journey discovering the insights of various channels of esoteric thought—gnosticism, the Celtic tradition, spiritualism—and the way that they bring light to the Christian tradition and affect understanding of the liturgy.
Avalonian Catholic Church. www.geocities.com/avalonianchurch/.
c/o Rev. Apb. Roberto Toca, PO Box 8473, Tampa, FL 33674
The Catholic Church of the Antiochean Rite is a small jurisdiction founded in 1980 by the Most Rev. Dr. Roberto Toca (b. 1945), Archbishop for Florida and Exarch for Latin America. Toca was consecrated as bishop in 1976 by Abp. Herman Adrian Spruit of the Church of Antioch, who also consecrated him as archbishop in 1982. He was elevated to archbishop primate in 1987 and took the religious name Sar Mar Profeta. In January 2000 the General Episcopal Synod and the Universal Initiatic Conclave enthronized Toca, Sar Mar Profeta, as archbishop-patriarch and constituted officially the Gnostic Ecumenic Patriarchate in the Catholic Church of the Antiochean Rite.
The church has developed a ministry within the Hispanic community in Florida. Although independent of the Church of Antioch, it generally follows its beliefs and practices. Along with the Bible, the church recognizes the Apocryphal writings, such as the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi, as authoritative literature. Worship is primarily in Spanish. The church is headquartered in the Holy Trinity Cathedral and Gnostic Orthodox Abbey in Odessa, a suburb in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
Archbishop Toca has assumed a leadership role in the Cuban community of the Tampa Bay Area. He has won awards for his television series, University on the Air, Popular Academy, From the Point of Light, University of the Soul, and The Prophet of the Mysteries of Beyond. He has also won a number of awards from the National Association of Cuban Journalism, and is the head of a magical order, the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua, a Para-Masonic Memphis and Mizraim obedience. He has written several books in Spanish on esotericism, magick, parapsychology, and political issues.
In 2002 the church reported around 15,000 members in 196 congregations, mostly in Florida, Cuba, Latin America, and Spain.
c/o Most Rev. Dr. Sharon A. Hart, Beloved Disciple Seminary, 1300-G, El Paseo Blvd., Las Cruces, NM 88001
The Contemporary Catholic Church, formerly known as the Catholic Church of the Holy Grail, is an esoteric church founded at the close of the twentieth century. Its founder and presiding bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Sharon Hart, was consecrated in 2000 by David P. Goddard, assisted by Marilyn Hill and Evelyn Hill, who passed to her several apostolic lineages that passed through British bishop Hugh George de Willmott Newman (Mar Georgius I), Richard Duc de Palatine (Pre-Nicene Church), and George Boyer (Temple of the Holy Grail).
The symbol of the Holy Grail represents to church members the progressive unfoldment that occurs on the spiritual path. Members seek “at-one-ment with the Divine Source of all creation.” The church accepts the tradition that identifies the Holy Grail as the chalice of wine brought by Melchizedek, king and priest of the Most High (Gen. 14:18) who initiated Abraham, and also as the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. The church accepts into membership all seekers, even if they are new to the quest for spiritual life. They are not asked to subscribe to a common belief, only to a willingness to engage in corporate activity through a common ritual. The church recognizes that God, the Eternal Spirit, is One.
The church promotes an inherited worth and dignity of each individual. It encourages the right of conscience, manifested in justice, equity, and compassion in human relationships. It holds firm the acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.
The church carries many of the trappings of the western Catholic tradition, but adds esoteric content into the doctrines and symbols. Priests dispense the seven sacraments—baptism, confirmation, the eucharist/last supper, absolution, unction/anointing for healing, matrimony, and holy orders. Holy orders are open to both men and women.
The Contemporary Catholic Church is organized around small faith groups and has instituted a Church House program that allows members to meet at designated times and places convenient for them, and offers a sense of close community with others of like faith. Services can be arranged in any language. Priests generally work secular jobs and administer their sacramental duties as leisure time allows. The primary ministerial focus is chaplaincy. Training occurs through the Beloved Disciple Seminary, which offers theological courses through correspondence. Course work is provided for those interested in pursuing the ordained ministry. There are also classes available for laity interested in self-improvement and spiritual growth.
Contemporary Catholic Church. www.thecontemporarycatholicchurch.org.
Church of Antioch/Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch
111 W Cordova Rd., Santa Fe, NM 87505-3623
During the 1930s the American Catholic Church on the West Coast became thoroughly infused with Theosophical metaphysics. One instrument for moving the Church in that direction was Justin A. Boyle (1887–1969), more popularly known as Robert Raleigh. Boyle, a Roman Catholic priest, joined the Apostolic Christian Church, a splinter of the American Catholic Church schism formed by Gregory Lines (d. 1940) in 1927. Lines consecrated Boyle on April 7, 1928, and appointed him coadjutor with right of succession. Lines returned for a few years to the American Catholic Church, but seceded again upon the retirement of Frederick E. J. Lloyd (1859–1933), its archbishop. After Lines’s death, Raleigh continued as head of his independent jurisdiction. Over the years he also headed two Christian metaphysical organizations, St. Primordia’s Guild and the Mystical Prayer Shrine.
At the time of Bishop Raleigh’s retirement in 1965, his coadjutor was Herman Adrian Spruit (1911–1994). A pastor in the Methodist Church (1939–1951), Spruit left the church in 1951. He was inclined to follow the metaphysical movement in certain respects. Feeling that the Methodists were unable to accept his perspective, he joined the Church of Religious Science. Spruit quickly became the executive secretary of the church and taught homiletics in the school of ministry. He left in 1953 to become vice president of the Golden State University in Hollywood, California.
Spruit, having become familiar with Liberal Catholicism, sought out Abp. Charles Hampton (1886–1958), who ordained him to the deaconate in 1955 and to the priesthood the following year. Archbishop Hampton was joined by Abp. Lowell Paul Wadle (d. 1965) and Bp. Francis Marshall in consecrating Spruit to the bishopric in 1957. Spruit then interacted with Wadle and the American Catholic Church that Wadle headed, but joined himself to Raleigh’s independent jurisdiction, the Christian Catholic Church. In 1968, three years after Spruit succeeded Raleigh, he changed the name of the church to the Church of Antioch, Malabar Rite, to affirm the church’s orders through Abps. Joseph Rene Vilatte (1854–1929) and Frederick E. J. Lloyd, the first bishops of the American Catholic Church, who brought the Antiochean succession to America.
In faith and practice the church emphasizes a mystical Catholic perspective. In the interpretation of scriptures, it follows a liberal bent and relies upon the Ecumenical Creeds, but requires none. It is quick to state that “it seeks further light on the mystery and wonder of the faith by searching in the spirit of disciplined scholarship for those aspects of Christian evidences that preceded and followed the Apostolic Period.” The church was among the first Christian groups to ordain women to the priesthood, and in 1976 Spruit consecrated Helene Seymour (1926–2003) as the first woman bishop in modern times. In 1980 he consecrated his wife Meri Louise Spruit as archbishop, and on January 26, 1986, she was enthroned as Matriarch of the Church of Antioch, the feminine counterpart of the patriarch, with equal rights, powers, and responsibilities.
Archbishop Spruit resigned in 1991 due to health problems and died in 1994. Mt. Rev. Meri Louise Spruit headed the church until her recent retirement. She was named Matriarch Emerita. She designated the Most Rev. Richard Gundrey (b. 1934) as her coadjutor and successor. Gundrey had been consecrated as a bishop in 1990 by Matriarch Meri Louise Spruit, assisted by Bps. Michael Daignealt and Timothy Barker, at Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. He currently heads the church.
In 2008 there were 32 chartered churches in the United States. There are also affiliated clergy in Canada, Australia, Ireland, and England.
Sophia Divinity School, Santa Fe, NM.
Antioch Anecdotes. ? Worldwide Newsletter.
Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch. www.churchofantioch.org/.
Spruit, Herman A. Constitution and Statement of Principles. Mountain View, CA: Church of Antioch Press, 1978.
———. The Sacramentarion. Mountain View, CA: Author, n.d.
Spruit, Mary, ed. The Chalice of Antioch. Mountain View, CA: Archbishop Herman Adrian Spruit, 1979.
Sullivan, Edward C. A Short History of the Church of Antioch and Its Apostolic Succession. Bellingham, WA: Holy Order of the Rose and Cross, 1981.
Van Campenhout, W. John Kooistra. Apostolic Succession in the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Antioch. Scarborough, ON, Canada: Institute for Johannine Christianity Press, 1993. 86p.
The Church of Gnosis (Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum)
1965 Latham St., Mountain View, CA 94040
The Church of Gnosis (Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum), founded in the 1970s by Bp. Rosamonde Miller, began as a center of the Church of the Sacred Wisdom, a small jurisdiction founded and headed by Bp. Neil Jack, that was simultaneously associated with the Ecclesia Gnostica, led by Bp. Stephan A. Hoeller. In 1983 the Ecclesia incorporated as a separate entity. Bishop Miller had been ordained in 1974 by Bishop Hoeller, assisted by Bps. Neil Jack, Forest Barber, and Herman Adrian Spruit of the Church of Antioch. Bishops Hoeller, Jack, and Barber consecrated Miller as a bishop in 1981.
Bishop Miller claims a primal apostolic succession through the Mary Magdalene lineage. According to that tradition, Mary Magdalene had received her “hierophantic power” in the Isis Mystery schools of Egypt and later at the hands of Christ, as did the other apostles. Later she was the first to see the resurrected Christ. Unable to function in the immediate area because of sexist attitudes, she traveled west with Joseph of Arimathea, first to England and later to the European continent, where she lived out her life. She left behind a secret sisterhood that survives to this day. In January 1962 representatives of this sisterhood made contact with Miller, who was consecrated into it. She promised to keep her association confidential until after she had received the more recognized male lineage. She presently ordains both male and female priests in the Mary Magdalene Order. Teachings of the church are taken from the Mary Magdalene Order, Gnostic writings, and other Christian and non-Christian sources. However, the teachings are primarily firsthand, based on Miller’s own experience of Gnosis. A liturgy was developed based upon the writings of the Mary Magdalene Order, Miller’s own writings, and quotations from George Mead’s collection of Gnostic texts, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten (1960). The church is unconcerned with reviving any doctrine or system, including Gnosticism, and does not consider itself Christian, even though it uses a male/female Christos mythology as the basis for its ritual. It is concerned with the elimination of doctrines and systems altogether, in order to free the mind to experience “gnosis.” Miller always refers to the church as “the sanctuary” instead of as “the church,” because she sees it as a refuge in the midst of chaos, for travelers on the spiritual journey.
The church has no formal membership and no jurisdictions. Everyone is free to come and go as they please, without strings attached: The church believes freedom must begin with freedom. There is no affiliated work. There are several ordained priests with their own churches in various areas throughout the world. In 2008 it was reported that there were 35 ordained clergy in the United States and abroad. Membership is not counted, but in 2008 approximately 400 people regularly attended services throughout the year, and approximately 1,000 are loosely connected.
Church of Gnosis (Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum), www.gnosticsanctuary.org.
Shrine of Mary Magdalene. www.marymagdaleneshrine.org.
The Gnostics. Border Television, London, England, 1986.
Mead, George R. S. Fragments of a Faith Forgotten. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1960.
Miller, Rosamonde. The Gnostic Holy Eucharist. Palo Alto, CA: Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum, 1984.
Passions of the Soul, Part 4. Ikon Television, Hilversum, Netherlands, 1991.
Plummer, John P. The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement. Dallas, TX: Newt Books, 2005.
Segal, Robert, and June Singer. Allure of Gnosticism. LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1994.
For information: [email protected]
The Contemporary Catholic Church is an independent autocephalous jurisdiction in the Catholic tradition founded and led by the Most Rev. Dr. Sharon A. Hart, its presiding bishop and matriarch. While operating out of the Western Catholic tradition, it adheres to that tradition with a somewhat esoteric interpretation. It permits and even encourages a broad freedom in the interpretation of the Creeds, Scriptures, and Christian Traditions and points people to a direct experience of transcendent mystery and wonder, an experience found in all cultures. That experience also leads people to a renewal of the spirit and creates an openness to life-affirming forces. The church affirms the Triune Aspects of God as manifested in the Creator, the Son (the Redeemer), and the Holy Spirit (the Comforter/Transformer). It administers the common seven sacraments-baptism, Eucharist (Lord’s supper), confirmation/chrismation, matrimony, ordination, penance/reconciliation, and anointing of the sick. Its priests have a valid apostolic succession derived from lines of both the Eastern and Western Church.
The church uses a modern liturgy, based on early Christian and Orthodox-Catholic beliefs and liturgical language. This liturgy is designed to promote a balance between traditional ceremonial worship, devotional aspiration, mystic thought, and spiritual development.
The church is led by its matriarch and presiding bishop. Men and women are welcomed to the priesthood without regard to gender, gender preference, or race. The church’s clergy are primarily engaged in chaplaincy ministries rather than congregation building. Worship occurs in a number of house churches as well, and small, personalized groups engage in study and discussion.
The Contemporary Catholic Church has discontinued the practice of signing formal intercommunion agreements with other jurisdictions. Instead, it has adopted the following position: “Therefore, the CCC holds all communities and individuals of faith in Communion with us, who live out the All Inclusive Love of God, who follow the radical message of Jesus, and who recognize the face of Christ in all they encounter, thereby upholding the dignity of every human being. We recognize the validity of the various ministries (lay and ordained) and are always open to their participating fully in the life of this Church.”
Contemporary Catholic Church. www.thecontemporarycatholicchurch.org.
3363 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90039
Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller, born in Budapest, Hungary in 1931, is a popular writer of occult literature who also has written extensively on gnosticism and the wisdom tradition. Early in his career, he became acquainted with the writings of James Morgan Pryse. Pryse, a leader of the independent Theosophical movement in New York City early in the twentieth century, later moved to Los Angeles and became a popular lecturer and writer on the occult and gnosticism. The Ecclesia Gnostica continues, in a religious vein, the gnostic tradition of the Gnostic Society founded by Pryse in 1928. The society is now a chartered lay organization of the church.
In 1959 Hoeller was appointed to oversee the work of the Brotherhood and Order of the Pleroma and the Pre-Nicene Church as the American representative of Richard, Duc de Palatine. After de Palatine’s death, he and many members of the order left and formed the Ecclesia Gnostica. Hoeller had been consecrated as a bishop in 1967 by de Palatine, assisted by Bps. John Martyn-Baxter and Gregory F. E. Barber. He was reconsecrated subconditione by Abp. Herman Adrian Spruit (of the Church of Antioch), assisted by Bishop Barber and Neill P. Jack Jr., in 1972.
The Ecclesia Gnostica continues the teaching of the Brotherhood and Order of Pleroma, but has a much more open approach. From the headquarters, the Sophia Gnostic Center in Hollywood, California, regular classes and lectures and weekly worship are offered to the public, and a worshipping community has formed there. The church has been in the forefront of welcoming women to the priesthood and has one female bishop.
Ecclesia Gnostica offers Sunday morning Eucharist, Wednesday evening Eucharist, a Gnostic Mass for the gay and lesbian community held in the Chapel of Saints Serge and Bacchus, devotional services to the Holy Sophia, vespers, and a healing service. The public is welcomed to attend.
In 2002 the church reported approximately 300 affiliated lay people, 14 priests, and five congregations worldwide, as well as a seminary in Arizona.
St. Sophia Seminary, Sedona, Arizona.
Ecclesia Gnostica. www.ecclesiagnostica.com
Hoeller, Stephan A. The Enchanted Life. Hollywood, CA: Gnostic Society, n.d.
———. The Gnostic Jung. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1982.
———. The Royal Road. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1975.
———. The Tao of Freedom: Jung, Gnosis, and a Voluntary Society. Rolling Hills Estates, CA: Wayfarer Press, 1984.
Pryse, James M. Spiritual Light. Los Angeles: Author, 1940.
Current address not obtained for this edition.
Edta Ha Thoma is a small jurisdiction formed just before the disruption of the Federation of St. Thomas Christian Churches in 1984. It was founded by Abp. James A. Dennis, a bishop in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion who established a ministry at San Bruno, California. In the mid-1980s the jurisdiction was strengthened by the absorption of the Mebasrim Fellowship, which had been formed in 1976 by several former priests of the Church of Antioch. On Thanksgiving Day 1976 one of the priests, Michael G. Zaharakis (1946–1984), was consecrated by Lewis S. Keizer of the Independent Church of Antioch to lead the fellowship. An initial congregation of 22 members was formed at Santa Cruz, California.
The fellowship shared the gnostic-mystical perspectives of the Church of Antioch, but had placed its priorities on social action and community service. In Portland, Oregon, for example, a ministry to alcoholics was initiated, and in Santa Cruz, an outreach to migrants led to the development of a jail ministry. A variety of outreach projects flowed from these initial efforts. Basor Press was founded as a publishing arm of Mebasrim. Edta Ha Thoma, like the Federation of St. Thomas Christian Churches, recognizes the Gospel of Thomas as having scriptural authority.
In 1980 the fellowship affiliated with the ecumenical Federation of St. Thomas Christian Churches, an older organization that was attempting to tie together the scattered esoteric Christian churches. Zaharakis provided much of the leadership for the federation during the remaining few years of his life. The year 1984 proved traumatic for the fellowship. Due to internal disputes, the federation was disrupted and the fellowship withdrew its support. Zaharakis threw his support behind the formation of a new organization, the Synod of Independent Sacramental Churches, which included many of the churches formerly in the federation. However, before the synod could reorganize, Zaharakis died.
The fellowship supported the synod, but much of its work was assumed by Bp. Ismael Ford of the New Age Universal Church. Among the new members of the synod was Edta Ha Thoma. Within a short time the remnant of the Mebasrim Fellowship merged into that jurisdiction, where it now functions as an order. Basor Press is now the publishing arm of Edta Ha Thoma.
Formal membership is not required of those who are involved with Edta Ha Thoma.
St. Thomas Institute, San Bruno, California.
Western Orthodox Theological Institute, San Bruno, California.
Keizer, Lewis S. Initiation: Ancient and Modern. San Francisco: St. Thomas Press, 1981.
c/o Rev. Dr. Joseph Vredenburgh, Archbishop, Catholicos-Patriarch of St. Thomas Christians, 134 Dakota Avenue, No. 308, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The Federation of St. Thomas Christians was founded in 1963 by its archbishop and patriarch, Joseph L. Vredenburgh, a former Congregationalist minister. Vredenburgh was ordained in the Reformed Church in America in 1958 and for several decades served congregations in California, culminating in a year’s work in British Samoa (1977–1978). However, in 1963 he was also consecrated as a bishop by another Congregationalist minister carrying Old Catholic episcopal orders, Howard E. Mather. Through Mathers, Vredenburgh inherited orders from the Syrian Church of Antioch, the church of the St. Thomas Christians of India. Upon his return from Samoa, Vredenburgh settled in Santa Cruz and began the Federation of St. Thomas Christians as a fellowship of independent and autonomous churches. A number of small jurisdictions, many of which derived from the Church of Antioch, affiliated with the federation. By 1983 there were approximately 30 ministries and churches in the federation, including the Mebasrim Fellowship, the Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum, and the Independent Church of Antioch.
Disruption of the fellowship began in 1984. That year Bp. Michael G. Zaharakis, a leading member of the federation, died. Then Abp. Joseph L. Vredenburgh, who had moved to Hawaii, and Bp. Lewis S. Keizer of the Independent Church of Antioch had a disagreement on policy that led to a disintegration of the federation as it had been constituted. Many of the member churches withdrew and formed the Synod of Independent Sacramental Churches. Vredenburgh reorganized the federation as an umbrella group for the remaining independent ministries. In 1984 the Reformed Catholic Church in America, led by Most Rev. Brian G. Turkington, its founder, merged into the federation. Turkington was named co-patriarch of the federation, and and in 2008 he was sharing leadership with Vredenburgh. An annual synod convenes on the July 4th weekend.
The federation professes belief in the “True Light” that enlightened the Lord Jesus Christ and brings salvation, and acknowledges the necessity of a personal commitment to Christ.
The federation has grown steadily. In 1997, for example, the church added to its fold the congregations of Zoe Ministries in New York City; the Diocese of San Jose and Diocese of Sonoma County, California; and Christ Cathedral in Chesterfield, Virginia. A new ministry for bikers has developed in Flagstaff, Arizona, and a seminary program has emerged in Sedona, Arizona.
College of Seminarians, Santa Cruz, California, and Atlanta, Georgia.
American Apostolic University, Santa Cruz, California.
St. Andre’s Pastoral Institute, Alta Monte Springs, Florida.
Jesus of Nazareth Bible College, Nigeria, and Steward, Nebraska.
American Church of the East and the Federation of St. Thomas Christians. www.geocities.com/TheTropics/8371.
c/o St. Dydimus Free Liberal Catholic Church, Rt.1, PO Box 153, Manor, TX 78653-9801
The Free Liberal Catholic Church was founded in 1975 by a group of Liberal Catholic priests including Bps. Donald M. Berry (b. 1935), John Shelton Davis (1921–2000), and John Russell (1920–1985). Bishop Berry was consecrated by Bp. William H. Daw of the Liberal Catholic Church International. Bishop Russell was consecrated by Bp. William A. Henley of the American Orthodox Catholic Church. Abp. John Shelton Davis, vicar general at the time of the formation of the Free Liberal Catholic Church, was the bishop. Davis was consecrated by Berry in 1979.
The church is mainly concerned with ministry to Spanish speakers. All bishops were associated at some point with the Liberal Catholic Church International. Bishops Berry and Russell were subsequently bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church of Ontario, Canada, which was a providence of the Liberal Catholic Church International, and became Christ Catholic Church International.
The Free Liberal Catholic Church follows the Liberal Catholic tradition. The Bible is accepted as the guide and rule of life by members and priests, but no one is required to subscribe to a creedal summary or to a particular formulation of faith. Freedom of inquiry is encouraged. There are seven sacraments that operate by the power of the Holy Spirit and depend for their efficacy on the clear conscience of the supplicant.
There is a separate Liberal Catholic Church in Frisco, Texas, St. Clement of Alexandria, which is under Rev. Tony Howard, and it is part of the Liberal Catholic Church International.
Liberal Catholic Church International. www.liberalcatholic.org.
c/o Tonya Beckett, Convening Bishop, PO Box 60, Chesapeake, OH 45619-0060
The Friends Catholic Communion dates to a February 1994 retreat in Washington, D.C., attended by clergy and laity from a variety of previously existing Christian ministries. The retreat was a time for healing and fellowship, and from it emerged a new community that shared a common tradition and desire to keep an apostolic sacramental tradition of the early Christian church. The members of the community represented independent ministries that also wished to make the sacraments available to as many people as possible. Apart from these primary commitments, participants wished to emphasize their freedom to make choices about the direction of their individual spiritual lives and the expression of their ministries. The group affirmed that “to be truly free, we must be free to be different in individual ways and equally free to be similar, traditional, even conservative.”
To retain the apostolic tradition, the group decided that a bishop was needed. In their midst was Mt. Rev. J. C. Catherine Adams, a bishop from the New Order of Glastonbury. She agreed to teach Jesus’teachings, to keep the sacraments and successions according to the apostolic tradition, and to allow all the clergypersons to be free to pursue what for them was authentic spirituality and ministry. She was named the first convening bishop of the new Friends Catholic Communion. Within the communion, each ministry would be autonomous in all areas not directly impinging upon the integrity of the communion’s apostolic tradition or the community as a whole. As such, the communion is not Roman Catholic, canonically Orthodox, or Protestant. The Friends Catholic Communion values tradition-within-freedom. They are not dependent on any ecclesiastical institution.
The communion includes ministries nationwide. Each ministry is led by an independent bishop, and different bishops have different lineages of apostolic succession. On matters affecting the whole communion, each covenant ministry selects one layperson and one clergyperson to meet together for communal decision making.
Ministries with representation in the Friends Catholic Communion are: Woman at the Well (Alaska), St. Julian Without Walls (California), New Catholic Community (Florida), Mission Episcopate of St. Columba (Massachusetts), Breach Menders (New York), Friends of the Light (Ohio), Skellig of St. John (Pennsylvania), and Order of the Trinity (Texas).
The communion sees itself as called particularly to serve disenfranchised and marginalized people.
Not reported. In 2002 there were 12 ministries associated with the communion.
Among the bishops who have associated with the Friends Catholic Communion is Rt. Rev. Brian G. Turkington, formerly with the Old Episcopal Church of Scotland (OECS) and the Federation of St. Thomas Christian Churches.
Friends Catholic Communion. www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/3350/fcc.html.
c/o Missionaries of St. Benedict, 1212 N. Major Dr. #27S, Beaumont, TX 77706
The Friends Catholic Episcopate of the Resurrection was founded and is led by Bp. Tatiana Beckett (b. 1967). Beckett was ordained as a deacon in the New Order of Glastonbury by Bp. Martha Schultz in 1995, but the following year she was ordained as a priest by Bp. Catherine Adams of Friends Catholic Communion. Adams consecrated Beckett to the episcopacy in 1999. She passed on several orders of apostolic succession that traced back to Abp. Adrian Spruit of the Church of Antioch.
The Friends Catholic Episcopate has developed a major center of activity in Beaumont, Texas, where its ordered community, the Missionaries of Saint Benedict, is headquartered. The order is led by the Very Rev. Brian L. Watson, its abbot. Watson also directs the Holy Angels Chaplaincy in Beaumont. A second monastery of the order, the Catholic Community of Saint Patrick, is directed by prior Brendan Bearden. Bishop Beckett resides in Huntington and presides at worship at the Catholic Community of Saint Patrick.
The episcopate considers itself a representative of the ancient and undivided Church of Christ. As such, its does not accept labels such as Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. It thinks of itself as a free and self-governing episcopate within the one Church of Christ. It emphasizes the virtues of spirituality, community, friendship, and vigor. Its episcopacy possesses several line of apostolic succession that reach back to the undivided church, and administers the traditional Christian sacraments.
The episcopate affirms the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds, but also notes that though they best state the Catholic faith, the Holy Spirit is not limited by them. Members believe that the Holy Spirit has never ceased to be active within the Christian community. The episcopate reveres the ancient Christian tradition, especially as represented in such works as the Didache, the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, the Apostolic Constitutions, and the positive teachings of the seven truly ecumenical Councils of the Church. It also honors all the ancient rites of the Universal Church, including the Roman, Anglican, Orthodox, Orthodox, and Maronite, among others.
Not Reported. The episcopate is centered on the two communities in Beaumont, Texas, and Huntington, West Virginia.
Friends Catholic Episcopate of the Resurrection. www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/lesotho/1205/id23.htm and www.fortunecity.com/skyscraper/fatbit/1795/index.htm.
PO Box 8660, San Jose, CA 95155-8660
The Gnostic Order of Christ was founded in 1988 by members of the Order of the Golden Cross to provide a spiritual structure for those called to the Path of the Western Tradition of the Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek of the Order of the Golden Cross. The primary founders of the order have the apostolic rites of two lineages. The first of the rites stem from Fr. Paul Blighton, historically known as the primary founder of the Science of Man Church (SOM) and the Holy Order of MANS (HOOM). One of the founders of the Gnostic Order of Christ, Master Timothy D. Harris, received the rite to ordain from Blighton in 1970. Another founder, Master Jessica C. A. Lucas (formerly Lucas-Burkhouse), in 1988 received her rite from Harris and Master J. Anderson (also of HOOM). Lucas had previously, in 1984, received a Mantle of the Work initiating her as a master teacher, and a Mantle of the Sisterhood of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Mary (a suborder of HOOM), from Master Marian Carter (former Mother Superior of the suborder and also one of the founders of the Gnostic Order of Christ).
On separate occasions in 1984, Harris and Lucas received the lineage of the Wandering Bishops of the Sacred Order of the Episcopate of Jesus Christ, stemming from the lineage of Michael Zaharakis, who was ordained by Bp. Lewis Keizer of the Home Temple Movement. Keizer received his consecration through Herman Adrian Spruit, archbishop-patriarch of the Church of Antioch (Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch, Malabar Rite). The lineage incorporates 16 lineages, one of which can be traced back to Cardinal Scipione Rebiba, Roman Catholic Bishop of Troia (1566), and from there to the Apostles.
The Gnostic Order of Christ is a training body whose purpose is to facilitate the spiritual unfoldment and consciousness of the individual through teaching and initiation, and to ordain those called to serve under the spiritual mantle of the Order of the Golden Cross. All vows are taken to God and not to any earthly organization or person. There is no formal membership. Teachings are primarily Christian, but include the study of all religions, metaphysics, healing, the sciences, and philosophy. Those ordained vary in teaching expression according to the training background of the particular teacher, and may include elements of Buddhism, Sufism, Zen, and Native American traditions. What is common are the initiations and sacraments particular to the Order of the Golden Cross.
In 2008 the president of the order was Rt. Rev. Timothy D. Harris, and the director of education was Rt. Rev. Jessica C. A. Lucas.
Membership consists of the board of directors. All priests and teachers ordained through the order establish their own ministries independent of the order. In May 2008 approximately 45 persons had been ordained as priests. An unknown number of people are in training across the country. The order has affiliates across the United States.
Correcting the Internet About the Gnostic Order of Christ. www.gnosticorderofchrist.org/about/correcting_the_web.htm.
The Most Rev. Abbot George Burke, Light of Christ Monastery, Borrego Springs, CA
The pilgrimage of Abbot George Burke and the group of monastics that surround him at the Holy Protection Gnostic Orthodox Monastery outside Geneva, Nebraska, (including the convent for women in Geneva) is among the most fascinating of the stories of the independent apostolic churches. Burke was raised a conservative Protestant among people with a mystic bent who had prophetic powers and practiced spiritual healing. As a young adult he discovered the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Hindu scripture from India, to which he was immediately attracted. He began a study of Eastern religious literature, then traveled to India, where he became a disciple of Sri Sri Ananda Mayi Ma (b. 1895), a famous female guru, and was initiated into the classical Hindu monastic order of Shankaracharya.
He returned to the United States and resided for three years in a Greek Orthodox monastery, where he discovered the convergence of mystical Eastern Christianity withHindu spirituality. Upon leaving the monastery he gathered a small group around him and in 1968 they went to India. Upon their return in 1969, they settled in Oklahoma City and created the Sri Ma Anandamayi Monastery and began publishing a magazine, Ananda Jyoti. As disciples of Anandamayi, they practiced japa (or mara) yoga, a spiritual discipline that requires the repetition of a mantrum, word(s) of power. The practice leads to the spiritual liberation that all seek.
Then in the early 1970s Burke, known then as Swami Nirmalananda Giri, became acquainted with Abp. Robert Williams of the Liberal Catholic Church International. On August 23, 1975, he was consecrated by Williams and Bp. Jay Davis Kirby working with a letter of concurrence from Abp. E. R. Verostek of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church-Utrecht Succession.
During the mid- and late 1970s Burke and the monastery functioned under the episcopal authority of Williams as the American Catholic Church. They created Rexist Press, from which flowed some of the most substantive material produced by Old Catholics in America. Burke’s catechetical text, Faith Speaks (1975), remains the most complete theological text produced by any American Old Catholic. He also wrote several booklets, reprinted several classic Old Catholic works, produced a series of Bible guides, and in 1976 began The Old Catholic (later renamed The Good Shepherd), one of Old Catholicism’s few high-quality periodicals. During this period Burke’s writings were traditional Catholic in their theological perspective, and widely read and appreciated by Old Catholics.
More recently, Burke openly moved toward Liberal Catholicism in belief, and the early attunement to Eastern Orthodoxy has asserted itself in practice. He remains a member of the Shankaracharya Order and has sought an affiliation that will provide an ideological compatibility. The concept of reincarnation and karma are integral to his theology. In 1984 he founded the Gnostic Orthodox Church. The church has relocated to the Light of Christ Monastery in Borrego Springs, California. It is in communion with the Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States.
Burke, George. Faith Speaks. Oklahoma City, OK: Rexist Press, 1975.
———. Magnetic Healing. Oklahoma City, OK: Saint George Press, 1980.
Nelson, Fr. Anthony. “A Word about ‘Monastery Icons.’” Orthodox Christian Information Center. Available from www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/monasteryicons.aspx.
Sullivan, Edward C., and Jeffrey A. Isbrandtsen. “An Interview with Abbot George Burke.” AROHN 3, no. 3 (1980): 24–30.
c/o Mt. Rev. William Hains-Howard, 4520 Huron St., Apt. 602, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada I2E 6Y0
The Independent Catholic Church of Canada is a Catholic jurisdiction founded in the late 1970s, one of a set of fraternally related independent Anglican, Catholic, and Liberal Catholic jurisdictions that associated in 1981 in the Independent Catholic Church International (ICCI). Peter Wayne Reynold Goodrich, consecrated in 1978 by William H. Daw of the Liberal Catholic Church International, became the first primate. Goodrich also headed the ICCI. He resigned both positions in 1983 to become primate of the North American Episcopal Church, and was succeeded by William Vincent (Paul) Hains-Howard.
Hains-Howard had been consecrated in 1970 by Earl Anglin James of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church. He also heads the Order of St. Gilbert of Sempringham, an ordered community.
Ward, Gary L. Independent Bishops: An International Directory. Detroit, MI: Apogee Books, 1990.
The New Church Center, 350 Santa Cruz St., Boulder Creek, CA 95006
The Independent Church of Antioch is a small jurisdiction founded by its primate, Bp. Robert Branch. Branch was consecrated by Abp. Herman Adrian Spruit (1911–1994) of the Church of Antioch, but left that jurisdiction to found the Independent Church of Antioch. The new jurisdiction became known in the 1970s through the varied activities of its regional bishop, Lewis S. Keizer (b. 1941).
Keizer, a former Episcopal priest, received his doctorate from the Graduate Theological Union in 1973. In the late 1960s, while serving as a deacon at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, he met Jeannie Maierader, a teacher of esoteric wisdom known affectionately as Mother Jeannie. She convinced Keizer to resign from the Episcopal Church, and on March 30, 1975, he was ordained and made vicar general of the Church of Antioch by Archbishop Spruit. Two weeks later he was consecrated bishop by Spruit. Soon after that consecration, Keizer left Spruit’s jurisdiction and aligned himself with Bishop Branch and the Independent Church of Antioch. Besides authoring a number of books and scholarly papers, Keizer has founded and directed a nationally recognized school for gifted children, and has attained fame as a jazz and classical musician.
The Independent Church of Antioch functions not so much as a traditional body of believers, but as an association of five theosophically inclined teacher-bishops. Besides Branch and Keizer, the bishops are Dr. Daniel Fritz, a close associate of Manly Palmer Hall (1901–1990) and Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov; Warren Watters (1890–1992), head of the Center for Esoteric Studies in Santa Barbara, California, and editor of the Esoteric Review; and Torkom Saraydarian (1915–1997), head of the Aquarian Educational Group.
Esoteric Review. Send orders to 533 E Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA 93013.
Keizer, Lewis S. The Eighth Reveal the Ninth: A New Hermetic Initiation Disclosure. Seaside, CA: Academy of Arts and Humanities, 1974.
———. Initiation: Ancient and Modern. San Francisco, CA: St. Thomas Press, 1981.
———. Love, Prayer, and Meditation. Santa Cruz, CA: Author, n.d.
———. Priesthood in the New Age. Santa Cruz, CA: Author, 1985.
For information: [email protected]
The Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship is an ecumenical association of clergy, ministries, and church communities in the Liberal Catholic tradition. It was formed in 2007. It welcomes clergy who have been ordained in an apostolic lineage and those who hold a theosophical or esoteric interpretation of Christianity who wish to receive an apostolic lineage. The Fellowship also receives congregations and non-congregationally oriented ministries into its membership.
Clergy members of the Fellowship may hold dual membership in other church organizations with the consent of their bishop, but the Fellowship is especially open to otherwise independent clergy who wish to keep their autonomy while accepting some degree of Episcopal oversight.
The Fellowship was organized by the leaders of the Liberal Rite, a small British Liberal Catholic jurisdiction. Bp. John Kersey, the head of the Liberal Rite, is the current administrator of the Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship. Members are located in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Slovenia, South Africa, and the United States.
The Fellowship sees itself as offering an alternative Christian tradition that is non-dogmatic in nature. It focuses on Catholic sacramental worship apart from teachings believed to be at variance with God’s love. It is welcoming to the divorced, those living in a civil partnership, and those in homosexual relationships.
Clergy members of the fellowship are offered the option of continuing their education through the Liberal Rite’s school, St. Simon’s College, a distance learning institution.
In 2008 the fellowship reported 21 clergy members of whom 6 were from the United States. Community members included the All Saints and Angels Ancient Catholic Church of Portland, Oregon, the Liberal Catholic Church-Theosophia Synod, and the Sodalitas Sacerdotalis Mariae Vitae, based in Texas.
Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship. www.independentoldcatholic.org/ilcf.html.
Free Catholic Diocese of St. Paul the Apostle, PO Box 3454, Clearwater, FL 33767
The International Free Catholic Communion is a liturgical Christian church founded in 1991. It is an independent rite of the one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church. It is not Catholic, not Eastern Orthodox, and not Protestant. On Pentecost 1991, the first synod of the communion was held at Bremerton, Washington, by Bp. Timothy Barker (b. 1953), Bishop-elect Michael Milner (b. 1954), and his wife, Rev. Maru Milner. The Statement of Union was completed at that synod. Bishop Barker had been consecrated in 1989 by Patriarch Herman Adrian Spruit of the Church of Antioch and served as the bishop of the church’s diocese of New England. Bishopelect Milner was consecrated in 1991 by Barker, assisted by Bps. Brian G. Turkington and Joseph P. Sousa, and Louis Boynton. Milner had an eclectic background, having studied Taoism, served as a Pentecostal minister, and worked with the Roman Catholic Church prior to a brief period with the Church of Antioch. Milner, a Franciscan contemplative, has helped to establish a number of churches and seminaries in the United States and in Latin America.
The International Free Catholic Communion follows the Free Catholic tradition earlier exemplified in the Church of Antioch. It sees itself as a viable sacramental alternative to the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions. It accepts the traditional Apostles’and Nicene Creeds as the basis of Christian unity, but also emphasizes the right and privilege of individual freedom of thought. The church offers seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing the sick, matrimony, and holy orders. The communion believes the sacraments are outward signs that confer the grace they signify. They believe the church must seek to cultivate and to protect individual freedom of thought, conscience, and choice. They seek to be tolerant, respectful, and open to the values of others. Women are admitted to all orders of the ministry: deacon, priest, and bishop. In like measure, married people are also admitted to all levels of ministry. The Eucharist is open to all, whatever their religious affiliation.
The communion has formal intercommunion agreements with the Federation of St. Thomas Christian Churches and the Orthodox Church of the East. Bishop Barker also founded the Koinonia Institute to foster communication among independent Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox jurisdictions.
Not reported. There are two dioceses, with headquarters in Florida and California.
Free Catholic Communicant. Send orders to 1250 Grand Ave., 10, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420.
International Free Catholic Communion. www.freecatholiccommunion.org.
18372 Highway 94, Dulzura, CA 91917
The Johannine Catholic Church was organized in 1968 (incorporated in 1971) by J. Julian Gillman and his wife, Rita Anne Gillman, as a ministry to those rejected by or disillusioned with the traditional churches. Initially it was directed to the hippie culture of the late 1960s. Gillman was consecrated “sub-rosa” by a “renegade” (unnamed) Episcopal bishop, but in 1977 both he and his wife were consecrated by H. Ernest Caswell of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church-Utrecht Succession.
The church is described as New Age in orientation, open to clergy of both sexes, and making no distinctions due to sexual preferences. The designation Johannine refers to the Gospel of John and its central message of love. Love, not theology, is considered the overriding principle of Christianity.
The church sponsors several religious orders, all open to men and women, both married and single. The Order of Saint John the Evangelist is the order of clergy whose ministry is to the rejected. The Order of Saint John Bernadone is a street ministry to street people. The Paracelsian Order is a New Age community of monks and friars seeking to develop an alternative lifestyle. Members are trained in loving kindness, meditation, and healing professions. The headquarters for the Paracelsian Order is located at the Madre Grande Monastery in Dulzura, California, about 40 miles northeast of San Diego. The Rt. Rev. John H. Drais is abbot of the Paracelsian Order and bishop of the Johannine Catholic Church. The church is a member of the Synod of Independent Sacramental Churches. Gillman edits SISCOM, the journal of the synod. Saint Dionysius’Press is the church’s publishing arm.
Not reported. In 1988 the church reported approximately 100 members in four congregations served by eight priests. The church centers were located in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Dulzura, and San Francisco, California.
The Madre Grande Journal. ? The Philosopher’s Stone. Send orders to PO Box 102, Dulzura, CA 91917-0102.
Nihle, William. A True History of Celtic Britain. San Diego, CA: Saint Dionysius Press, 1982.
The People’s Liturgy. San Diego, CA: Johannine Catholic Church, 1968.
741 Cerro Gordo Ave., San Diego, CA 92102
The Liberal Catholic Church (being the American Province of the Liberal Catholic Church International) was constituted in 1983 by the merger of the Liberal Catholic Church and the Liberal Catholic Church International. The Liberal Catholic Church was one of two groups claiming to continue the original Liberal Catholic Church incorporated in 1928. In that church (under the second regionary bishop Charles Hampton) a strong division of opinion developed. Hampton articulated an independent stance regarding the Theosophical Society. As a result, he was deposed in 1944.
Most clergy and congregations supported him, and a schism was created. Then in London, the presiding bishop of the church, F. W. Pigott (d. 1956), appointed John T. Eklund as the new regionary bishop. Eklund in turn consecrated two priests as bishops without obtaining the required approval of the priests and deacons of the province. This act precipitated a second schism under Bp. Ray Marshall Wardall (d. 1954). A majority of the clergy and congregations in the United States supported Wardall.
In response to the Eklund consecrations, Wardall consecrated Edward M. Matthews (1898–1985), whom the Eklund faction had deposed from his position as dean of the Liberal Catholic Cathedral in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, Matthews retained possession of the cathedral. In 1950 Matthews succeeded Wardall as head of those clergy and congregations under his control. At that point, the Eklund faction filed suit against the Wardall-Matthews faction, asking the court to deny Matthews the use of the name Liberal Catholic Church and the title regionary bishop. In 1955 Matthews exercised his powers as head of the jurisdiction by consecrating two priests to the episcopacy, William H. Daw and James Pickford Roberts.
The litigation took more than a decade, by which time Pigott, Eklund, Hampton, and Wardall had all died. The court ruled in favor of Matthews, who it declared to be the presiding bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church. However, during the years of litigation most of the clergy and congregations had become aligned with other jurisdictions. (Also, detached from the organizational strength of the Theosophical Society, the Matthews faction had lost a major source for new members.) In 1964, shortly after the ruling, Bishops Daw and Roberts left the Mathews jurisdiction to form the Liberal Catholic Church International.
Matthews eventually sold the Los Angeles Cathedral property and moved his headquarters to Miranda, California, where it remained until 1976, at which time Matthews reported eight churches, eight clergy, and 4,000 members. (In fact, the church had only two parishes, one in Miranda and one in San Diego, California, and several priests.) The church splintered, and Matthews, along with the congregation in Miranda, returned to the Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States. The San Diego parish under the leadership of then Very Rev. Dean Bekken, vicar general of the province, retained the corporate structure, and began to rebuild the church.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Catholic Church International had picked up strength internationally. In 1974 Daw, the presiding bishop, resigned in favor of Joseph Edward Neth.
On July 4, 1983, the Liberal Catholic Church merged with the Liberal Catholic Church International and became its American province. Neth remained as the presiding bishop but also became the provincial bishop for the United States. In 2008 the presiding bishop was the Most Rev. Charles W. Finn, and the Liberal Catholic Church International had parishes in Africa, North America, Australia, and Europe.
Among the important documents produced by Bishop Matthews was the 1959 encyclical “Freedom of Thought,” which outlined the distinctives of this branch of Liberal Catholicism. Matthews attempted to move the church away from Theosophical distinctives by affirming traditional Catholic ones. He specifically attacked the doctrine of reincarnation, noting that Liberal Catholicism does not now, nor ever has at any time insisted or prescribed the dogma or teaching of the principle known as reincarnation, “Christian” or otherwise, as a tenet of belief and practices. Reincarnation is often a basic “text” belief in one’s acceptance or rejection of Theosophy.
In 2002 the church reported 6,570 members in the United States, 19 priests, and 9 congregations in the United States.
St. Alban Theological Seminary, Morongo Valley, California, was established in 1923. It is the official seminary of the Liberal Catholic Church worldwide. In 2008 the Very Rev. Terence Herrera-LaFavre served as dean of the seminary. Students study for the Holy Orders as well as courses in church history, doctrine, scripture, liturgy, spirituality, homilectics, counseling, and comparative relation. The ordained and the laity may enter the religious life as friars or sisters. Postulants take distance study courses.
Liberal Catholic Church International. www.liberalcatholic.org.
The Holy Eucharist and Other Services. San Diego, CA: St. Alban Press, 1977.
Matthews, Edward M. “Freedom of Thought, an Encyclical.” Los Angeles: Liberal Catholic Church, 1959.
———. The Liberal Catholic Church and Its Place in the World. Los Angeles: St. Alban Bookshop, n.d.
Statement of Principles. San Diego, CA: Liberal Catholic Church, 1977.
c/o Our Lady and All Angels Church, Rev. James Voirol, Rector, 1502 E Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93024
Bp. James Ingall Wedgewood brought the Liberal Catholic Church to the United States on the round-the-world tour he took during his first year as primate. Crossing the United States and meeting with Theosophists, he ordained as priests Charles Hampton (Los Angeles, August 19, 1917), Dr. Edwin Burt Beckwith (Chicago, September 16, 1917), and Ray Marshall Wardall (New York City, October 4, 1917). In 1919 Charles W. Leadbeater joined Wedgwood in consecrating Irving Steiger Cooper as the first regionary bishop for the United States. That consecration led to a war of words: Independent American Theosophists, especially those led by Katherine Tingley, used the emergence of the Liberal Catholic Church as an opportunity to denounce the Annie Besant-led Theosophists for selling out to Catholicism.
The Liberal Catholic Church prospered and spread under Cooper, but ran into trouble under its second regionary bishop, Charles Hampton (d. 1958). Hampton questioned the necessity of the provincal board and its beliefs. As the controversy continued, Hampton was deposed, and John T. Eklund was appointed to succeed him. Eklund’s consecration of Newton A. Dahl and Walter J. Zollinger led to a second schism by priests led by Bishop Wardall, who objected to the legality of the action. Among those opposed to Eklund was Edward M. Mathews, the priest in charge of the leading congregation of the church, in Hollywood, California. Eklund instituted suit against the schismatic group in hopes of denying it the use of the church’s name. The suit was lost in a 10-year court battle, but in spite of the loss, most Liberal Catholics adhered. In 1973 it reported 29 congregations, 61 clergy, and 2,393 members. The church retained the recognition of the international church headquartered in London, but it was forced to reincorporate in 1962 in Maryland in order to continue the use of its original name in the United States.
This branch of Liberal Catholicism is most closely tied to the Theosophical Society. The cathedral church of Our Lady and All Angels is located in Ojai, California. The province of the United State of America is aligned with the world headquarters of the church, which is in London, England. The presiding bishop of the Liberal Catholic Chuch is the Rt. Rev. Ian Hooker of Western Australia. In 2000 the Rt. Rev. William S. H. Downey became the regionary bishop for the United States of America, succeeding the Rt. Rev. Hein van Beusekom.
In 2002 the church reported 2,400 members, 23 congregations, 38 priests, and 9 deacons. The Liberal Catholic Church has parishes in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Wisconsin.
Liberal Catholic Institute of Studies (LCIS).
Ubique. ? The Voice of the Synod.
Liberal Catholic Church, Province of the United States. members.tripod.com/LiberalCatholic/.
Cooper, Irving S. Ceremonies of the Liberal Catholic Rite. London: St. Alban Press, 1964.
Leadbeater, Charles Webster. The Science of the Sacraments. Los Angeles: St. Alban Press, 1920.
The Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church. London: St. Alban Press, 1983.
Norton, Robert. The Willow in the Tempest: A Brief History of the Liberal Catholic Church in the United States from 1917–1942. Ojai, CA: St. Alban Press, 1990.
Pitkin, William H. Credo, First Steps in Faith. Ojai, CA: St. Alban Press, 1977.
Wedgewood, James Ingall. The Beginnings of the Liberal Catholic Church. Lakewood, NJ: Ubique, 1967.
c/o Church of St. Raphael Archangel, 1606 New York Ave., Orlando, FL 32803
The Liberal Catholic Church-Theosophia Synod was founded in 1982 as the result of disagreements within the General Episcopal Synod of the Liberal Catholic Church-Province of the United States. Without informing Most Rev. Ernest W. Jackson, the regionary bishop of the church’s Province of Canada, the other bishops voted to dissolve the Province of Canada. As a result, Bishop Jackson led in the formation of the Liberal Catholic Church-Theosophia Synod. The new synod continues the beliefs, practices, and liturgy of the parent body, the disagreement that led to its formation being purely administrative. Shortly after its formation, Jackson consecrated John R. Schwarz III as the church’s second bishop and his successor. The church is led by its General Episcopal Synod.
In 2005 Bishop Schwarz withdrew from the Liberal Catholic Church-Theosophia Synod, which is now led by Bps. James Lippert and Judson Saas.
Liberal Catholic Church-Theosophia Synod. www.lcc-orlando.org/.
Box 285, Yellow Jacket, CO 81335
The New Order of Glastonbury began in 1979 when seven independent Old and Liberal Catholic priests decided to establish an ordered community. The organization incorporated in the State of California in 1980 as a nonprofit, tax-exempt, religious body and received official sanction from both state and federal governments. The previous year, one of their number, Frank Ellsworth Hughes, had been consecrated by Abp. Herman Adrian Spruit of the Church of Antioch. The group decided to add a Protestant-style ministry as a means of serving the lay public. A number of the clergy established churches and ministries.
In 1991 the Mother Center moved to Whitethorn Farm, in the Four Corners area of Colorado, along with the Seminary of St. Mary, Our Lady of Glastonbury.
The order is very eclectic but generally follows a Liberal Catholic perspective. Their statement of principles espouses a belief in One God, manifest as the Creator; the Cosmic Christ, the Son; and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. In life and worship, the order combines emphases from Catholic (apostolic succession, seven sacraments); Protestant (freedom of belief and mode of worship); and Metaphysical (the study of comparative religion, occult and psychic reality) traditions. A variety of liturgies are approved from the more orthodox (such as the Tridentine Latin or Byzantine) to the theosophical liturgy of the American Catholic Church written by Lowell Paul Wadle.
The order is governed by a seven-member board of directors. Most Rev. Frank Ellsworth Hughes was elected as the first presiding bishop. The order admits both men and women married or unmarried to all levels of its ministry. Fr. Merle D. Mohring, Sr., served as the first president of the board of directors, while his wife, Most Rev. Martha Theresa (Martha Jo Mohring Schultz), served as secretary-treasurer. In 2008 she was presiding bishop, the position to which she was appointed in 1985.
In 2002 the order reported 10 congregations and 300 members served by 52 priests and ministers.
Seminary of Our Lady, Yellow Jacket, Colorado, and Boulder, Colorado.
The order also offers a correspondence study program leading to ordination.
The New Order of Glastonbury, History and Apostolic Succession. Rialto, CA: New Order of Glastonbury, .
Current address not obtained for this edition.
The Old Holy Catholic Church, Province of North America, was founded in 1979 by the Rev. George W. S. Brister. Brister had been ordained to the priesthood by Bp. James A. J. Taylor of the Order of St. Germain, Ecclesia Catholica Liberalis, in 1969. He headed the Maranatha Ministry Church and the Order of St. Timothy, Ecclesia Catholica Liberalis, both in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. By 1975 Maranatha Churches could also be found in Tulsa and Las Vegas. He was consecrated by Bishop Stephan A. Hoeller of the Ecclesia Gnostica in 1980. His church, as is true of Liberal Catholic congregations, was quite eclectic and combined teaching drawn from theosophy, Buddhism, New Age metaphysics, and religious science.
In June 1987 Brister retired as archbishop primate of the church and appointed Bp. Alvin Lee Baker to succeed him. Besides his role as archbishop emeritus of the church, Brister served as vicar general of the Liberal Catholic Church (Oklahoma Synod), with which the Old Holy Catholic Church is in communion. Baker then served as pastor of St. Timothy’s Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The Old Holy Catholic Church affirms the Nicene Creed, and the beliefs of the undivided church in Christ and redemption, though it understands them with a Liberal Catholic interpretation. It affirms its oneness with the one church founded by Christ that consists of the Roman Catholic Church, all the independent Catholic hierarchical churches, the Eastern churches such as the Orthodox, Coptic, and Armenian. The church condemns moral permissiveness, immodest dress during worship, homosexuality, and, in general, conforming to the “spirit of this world.”
The church follows the liturgical year in its worship and emphasizes fasting during penitential seasons (such as Lent). It advocates the use of pious images, the rosary, and Gregorian chants.
Succession in the Old Holy Catholic Church was established by Archbishop Charles Brearley in the United Kingdom. Brearley was succeeded as primate in 1977 by the Most Rev. Rainer Laufers, previously archbishop to Canada of the Old Holy Catholic Church, based in Ontario. There are parishes in Germany and the Netherlands.
For information: www.palmtreegarden.org/contact.php.
Palm Tree Garden is a product of the rising interest in Gnosticism that developed during the last quarter of the twentieth century. It began as and remains primarily an online Gnostic community, but has begun to implement its ultimate plan of founding local communities of Gnostic believers that it terms soldalities. Bro. Jeremy Puma, the founder of the Palm Tree Garden, attributes much of the current interest in Gnosticism to science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) and the books and films he influenced. Dick is best known as the author behind the movie Blade Runner. Dick called the common human condition a “Black Iron Prison,” and saw the “Palm Tree Garden” as an ideal.
It is the position of the Palm Tree Garden that modern Gnosticism has been negatively affected by its many years as an underground faith. It has become ultra-individualistic, with its advocates adhering to a wide variety of very different positions and theoretical constructs. It is threatened with becoming a mere spiritual abstraction with no real grounding in the visible world. This problem has served to limit the spread of Gnosticism as anything more than an intellectual exercise.
The Palm Tree Garden seeks to address the issue of Gnosticism’s lack of unified identity by focusing on what it sees as a beginning development of a unified sense of purpose and direction among those who have accepted the label Gnostic. Thus, Palm Tree Garden has sought initially to create a virtual forum where Gnostics could meet and seek common ground (without demands of uniformity).
The virtual forum is seen as leading to a true Gnostic community, which can saturate the World of Forms and serves those who seek to Know the Light. To accomplish its ends, the Palm Tree Garden developed a set of goals. It began with providing a place for self-identified Gnostics to meet online. As a sense of unity has manifested, it has begun to form the first soldalities, physical communities that are designed to carry the Garden’s goals into face-to-face interactions.
The unity that the Garden proposes has been seen as compatible with the Path of Radical Inquiry-a willingness to collaborate without dictating, to converse without imposing groupthink, to argue without developing strong negative feeling toward those with whom you disagree. One of the products of the development of the Palm Tree Garden community is a consensus on a set of ancient texts with which dialogue seems essential to the development of modern Gnosticism-the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Truth, the Exegesis of the Soul, the Apocyphon of John, the Hymn of the Soul, and the Treatise on the Resurrection.
To show its support of the larger Gnostic community, the Palm Tree Garden keeps a list of functioning Gnostic churches and groups.
Not reported. The Palm Tree Garden sponsors four soldalities, one each in Salt Lake City, Utah; Seattle, Washington; Memphis, Tennessee; and New England. There is a fifth sodality that operates through the popular Web site, My Page.
Palm Tree Garden. www.palmtreegarden.org/about.php.
Puma, Jeremy. The Face of the Sky and Earth: Mysteries of the Gospel of Thomas. Author, 2007.
———. Mysteries of the Gnostic Ascent.Lulu.com, 2006.
———. The Pirate’s Garden: Gnostic Essays.Lulu.com, 2006.
23301 Mobile St., Canoga Park, CA 91307-3322
The Pre-Nicene Gnosto-Catholic Church was chartered by Mar Georgius (de Willmott Newman), Patriarch of Glastonbury, in 1953, under Abp. Richard Jean Chretien, Duc de Palatine (born Ronald Powell, in Australia; 1916–1978). De Palatine was consecrated by Mar Georgius. There are established communities in the United Kingdom and in the United States.
De Palatine was succeeded by Bp. George Boyer (1921–2008). Bishop Boyer’s widow, Countess Bishop Leila Boyer, coordinates several bishops and priests of his community in the United Kingdom. In the United States, there are two major descendant communities of the church. The direct successor is the Ecclesia Gnostica under Tau Stephanus Hoeller.
Before founding of the Pre-Nicene Church, de Palatine had been given the office of archon (ruler) of an Italian-based order, the Ancient Mystical Order of the Fratis Lucis. The Church was a liturgical community open only to members of the order.
The order and church differ from many Liberal Catholic groups by their emphasis on gnosticism. The Gnostics were second-century Christians who rejected the humanity of Jesus. They said he never became human—that is, fleshly—and only seemed to have a material body. Gnosis means “knowledge,” and the Gnostics sought salvation through the secret knowledge (occult wisdom) teachings.
The order and church emphasize a Western approach to the ancient wisdom, as opposed to theosophists, who draw heavily on Eastern occultism. The church emphasizes Jesus’ role as the bringer of gnosis and deemphasizes the Oriental yogic disciplines. It is an active system, calling members to strive for enlightenment and push aside any self-abnegation. God is identified with nature and is pictured as fragmented into billions of parts, which are the spiritual selves, sparks of the divine, which man is. This spark is buried in the tomb of flesh. Humanity’s task is to realize his God-nature and actualize his divine potentials. Reincarnation is a part of this scheme of actualization.
The method of actualization is the arcane (hidden) discipline, a way known to mystics of all ages. It includes the esoteric sacramental rituals of the church, which are based on the allegorical interpretation of Holy Scripture.
The order and church are headquartered in London. The Sanctuary of the Gnosis is the corporate body created to give legal and civil status to the order in America. The president of the Sanctuary is George Ricci. The apostolic succession was passed by Powell to John Martyn-Baxter, who passed it to the subsequent bishop leaders of the church.
Gnostic Info. “The Pre-Nicene Gnosto-Catholic Church, by the Most Rev. Richard duc de Palatine.” www.gnostic.info/palatine_pre-nicene.html.
Duc de Palatine, Richard John Chretien. The Inner Meaning of the Mystery School. London: Pre-Nicene Publishing House, 1959.
———. You and Reincarnation. Sherman Oaks, CA: Aeon Press, 1976.
Kinney, Jay. “Gnosticism: Ancient and Modern.” New Dawn Magazine 85 (July-August 2004). Available from www.newdawnmagazine.com/Article/Gnosticism_Ancient_and_Modern.html.
52501 E Sylvan Dr., Sandy, OR 97055
The Science of Man (SOM) was originally conceived of by Rev. Earl W. Blighton (1904–1974), an independent minister, from a revelation he had in 1930 that called him to work for “the uniting of science and the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Blighton participated in a variety of theosophical and esoteric groups over the next decades, but in 1960 he assembled a small group of 14 people in the San Francisco Bay Area to begin the work of helping the world and freeing it from the effects of 2,000 years of dogmatism. They began to absorb the western esoteric teachings with a Christian perspective.
The Science of Man Church evolved out of the group’s deliberations and was chartered in 1961. Blighton led the church as teacher and preacher and developed a ministry to former convicts. The church opened a prayer shrine that serviced the street people in San Francisco’s Tenderloin section. People from the Tenderloin volunteered to assist, and a brotherhood began to form within the church. Brotherhood members worked on the streets to help any in need. The somewhat informal brotherhood evolved into a more ordered community, the Holy Order of MANS, formed in 1968. At that time the Science of Man Church became inactive. The Holy Order grew into a large organization with centers in cities across the United States and Europe. Following Blighton’s death in 1974, the new leadership of the order began to move it away from its esoteric teachings and to place almost exclusive emphasis on its traditional Christian roots, especially Eastern Orthodoxy. In 1986 they led the order to merge into the Greek Orthodox Missionary Archdiocese of Vasiloupolis.
In the mid-1970s Blighton’s widow, Ruth Blighton (Mother Ruth), quietly reactivated the original charter of the Science of Man as a way to preserve the vitality and spirit of the original organizations. In the mid-1980s she moved to Oregon, where she worked in close association with former Order members to reactivate the work of the Science of Man. She continued to act as spiritual director and published books including The Middle Path, which contains excerpts from classes, sermons, and lectures by Father Paul, and The Story of Jesus, which relates the earthly life of the Master Jesus in narrative and commentary drawn from the Gospels and other writings. Other books published by the Science of Man are The Golden Force, a handbook explaining the laws of creation, The Heavenly Two, a coloring book for children, the Stars of Heaven, astrology basics, and three Tarot volumes.
The church’s teachings flow from the general western esoteric teachings, but its teachings are occult and thus are given only to members and fully revealed in the experiencing of them. It is also the belief of the church, however, that all religions have been inspired by the Cosmic Christ, which gives the church a nondogmatic openness to various spiritual paths and perceptions.
The current membership offers the sacraments, counseling, and classes based on the Tree of Life lessons and other works.
Science of Man Quarterly. Send orders to 52501 E Sylvan Dr., Sandy, OR 97055, or read online at web site.
Science of Man Church. www.scienceofman.org.
741 Cerro Gordo Ave., San Diego, CA 92102
The Universal Catholic Church was founded in 2007 after the members and leadership of St. Francis Liberal Catholic Church withdrew from Liberal Catholic Church International. St. Francis Church, founded in 1969, has been one of the more prominent congregations in the Liberal Catholic movement and its founder, Bp. Dean Bekken, is one of the movement’s most well-known leaders. The new jurisdiction follows the beliefs and practice of the parent body, the differences being administrative. Shortly after its founding, the Universal Catholic Church named Bekken as its presiding bishop and Robert Winzens as a bishop-elect. Winzens now serves as the pastor of the St. Francis congregation.
Universal Catholic Church. www.stalbanpress.com/StFrancisPage.html.
c/o Presiding Archbishop John F. Gilbert, 507 Old Toll Cir., Black Mountain, NC 28711
The Universal Gnostic Fellowship is one of the products of the revival of interest in Gnosticism that occurred as the twentieth century was coming to a close. It is an open fellowship drawing on a wide variety of believers who self-identify as Gnostics. The Fellowship defines a Gnostic as anyone who seeks personal knowledge of or communication with the Divine. The fellowship’s goal is to assist individuals in finding their own path to spiritual wisdom (gnosis).
The Fellowship accepts all who subscribe to the “Law of One,” which it defines as meaning that “There is One Intelligence in the Universe which expresses itself as everything, and everything in the Universe is an expression of this One Intelligence.” It finds room for a wide variety of interpretations of that basic belief, coming from both Eastern and Western religious traditions, including different conceptions of the degree to which humans are separate from or included within the One and of the need or lack of need of a priesthood to assist in contacting the One. While open to a wide range of beliefs, the Fellowship publishes lessons on what is termed universal Gnosticism, which emphasize that while existence is a part of the Divine, the Divine is more than creation; that human freedom allows for spiritual self-determination; and that our present life in the body is the result of our prior choices. The Fellowship’s recommended reading list includes ancient Gnostic texts, and books on both the Western and Eastern esoteric traditions.
The fellowship has established a clergy and accepts both men and women into this ordained ministry as deacons, priests, and bishops. The Fellowship’s bishops—John F. Gilbert, Betty Jean Reeves, Rhodonn Starrus, Marie Harris, Roberta Harris, Rita Baker and Santu Little Dog Peltier—were consecrated in 1994 with several lines of apostolic succession derived from Abp. Adrian Spruit (1911-1994) of the Church of Antioch, the Liberal Catholic Church, and Louis Keizer of the Independent Church of Antioch. Those who seek ordination must complete the basic Gnostic Lessons designed by the fellowship and then complete a variety of additional studies in related fields of healing and esotericism. The fellowship also licenses spiritual healers.
The bishops of the Fellowship are brought together in the House of Independent Bishops, which also includes bishops who exercise their functions in other jurisdictions. Within the Fellowship, some bishops may be designated archbishops and assigned to mentor other bishops. The presiding archbishop is a mentor to the several archbishops.
Not reported. In 2008, the fellowship reported 28 bishops affiliated with the House of Independent Bishops.
Universal Gnostic Fellowship. universalgnostic.com/.