A mind to Free Catholicism, and choices

For many years — thirty? — I’ve been trying to find my place within Unitarian Universalism. It has been my most constant companion, and it has lead me to strange places.

Today, I am happy as a Universalist Christian, and content to labor thus. Even if it means being orthodox among the heterodox. and thus heterodox myself. But it’s not all about religious opinions and never has been.

I muddle through because I have friends in the ministerial college and outside it. And because I’m happy in the church I’m a member of. And because I don’t pretend the reception is warm elsewhere.

I’ve not settled on an ecclesiology or a mode of churchmanship, but the insights of the Free Catholic movement among late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century English Dissenters, and the earlier catholicizing movements — including the Mercersburg movement — in American Protestantism are interesting and compelling. These were reforming and corrective movements to Protestanism’s insular, sectarian and anti-intellectual excesses, many of which have not vanished. And the Free Catholic approach eschewed dogmatism and accepted compromise.

I intend to investigate it, and what might convey to the twenty-first century. I’ll post what I’m reading.

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

5 thoughts on “A mind to Free Catholicism, and choices”

  1. I’ve seen a photo of the cover of a book related to the Free Catholic movement. I’ve never been able to find a copy of it. Are there any Free Catholics today? Did the Free Catholics affiliate with the Roman Catholic Church to any extent, or wish to?

    Here, the Liberal Catholic Church (theosophical) is often misunderstood as representing some sort of liberalized Roman Catholicism, and often when I mention the group, my hearer thinks I must mean a liberal local R.C. church called St. Joan of Arc.

    John

  2. One contemporary Free Catholic manifestation is the Ecumenical Catholic Communion. http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org Their manifestation seems to begin in the 20th century around issues like marriage for priests, women in ordained ministry, open communion for all Christians, and inclusion of GLBT persons.

    So they didn’t all merge back into the Roman Catholic Church. I believe in Europe there is also the Dutch based Union of Utrecht, which continues to exist in dissent from the issue of papal infallibility.

  3. I think the phenomena y’all are describing (apart from the Old Catholics) is one now known collectively as the Independent Sacramental movement, which encompasses so many communities that I’m loathe to try in a few words. Except to add that I have Independent Sacramental readers (welcome) and that the occasional Universalist minister was so attracted.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_Sacramental_Movement

    That, however, is not what I have in mind. The Fellowship of Non-Subscribing Christians may be a closer present-day parallel.

    http://www.fnschristians.org

  4. FN-SC feels like it has echoes of James Martineau, and the various Free Christian movements the emphasized liturgical worship and non-sectarianism. Interesting…

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