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Universal Catholic Church

Last Updated February 2, 2014.

History [Continued]




James Wedgwood was in England. Charles Leadbeater was in Australia. Both were moving in the same spiritual direction, but their paths were separate and distinct. In 1915, Father Wedgwood decided to travel to India and Australia. This is the first of three tours that would have great results years later.In Sydney, Australia, Father Wedgwood met Charles Leadbeater. Leadbeater had been an Anglican priest but had resigned to study Theosophy. By the time the two met, Leadbeater was a well-known author of mystical books. During the trip, Leadbeater attended Mass said by Father Wedgwood. Later, Leadbeater would remark that he was impressed by the energy felt at the young Anglican's Mass. Things came into focus when Leadbeater realized that the Mass could be a source of Light and Love for all creation, not just for those present.


Back in England, Father Wedgwood's bishop decided to go back to the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. The English bishop's assistant—Bishop Willoughby—decided to do the same. However, Bishop Willoughby agreed to elevate two priests so that the Old Catholic Church could continue. The two new bishops—Robert King and Ruppert Gauntlet—were consecrated hastily. While Father Wedgwood was still in Australia, these two new bishops elected him to be Bishop-elect. They intended him to become the new Presiding Bishop of the Old Catholic Church. Since he was half a world away, he couldn't say No!



                           February 13, 1916—The consecration of Bishop James Ingall Wedgwood

(seated, l-r) Bishop Robert King, Bishop James Wedgwood, Bishop Frederick Willoughby, Bishop Ruppert Gauntlet. This ritual is marked as the official start of the Liberal Catholic Church.


Bishop Wedgwood continued his experimentation with the liturgy, even though he had to add the administrative duties of a bishop to his workload.

Over the next few years, the "Mother Church" in Utrecht, Holland, began to see the young group in England as an independent movement. This is an important change in thinking because it let Bishop Wedgwood and the others in England make their movement an international church, and that's exactly what they did.