Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcome To Universal Catholic Church

It is unity we are talking about, not uniformity. What is needed is to respect one another's points of view and not impute unworthy motives to one another or to seek to impugn the integrity of the other. Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to disagree and yet continue to love one another and to cherish one another and see the greater good of the other.
(Extract from Archbishop Tutu's archiepiscopacy sermon during his enthronement in St. George's Cathedral as the first black Archbishop of Cape Town, September 1986)
Welcome to St. Francis Universal Catholic Church. We're glad you stopped by. We further hope that you find something that is appealing to you as well as something traditional. Here at St. Francis we offer all Catholic Sacraments combined with the widest measure of intellectual liberty and respect for individual conscience. If being Catholic is important to you, if you want less guilt and fewer restrictions, then St. Francis is for you!
We are an independent and self-governing body, neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, but Catholic. We trace our apostolic succession to the Old Catholic Church of Holland, through a complete reorganization in 1916 of the Old Catholic movement in Great Britain. We draw our central inspiration from our faith in the Eternal Christ, who lives now and forever and is a mighty spiritual presence in the world, guiding and sustaining all his children.
We've had many families come to us over the years with various horror stories of how they were denied the Sacraments at other Catholic churches (predominately Roman Catholic). Families come to us to have their children baptized, because one or more church wouldn't do it. Whether it be because the parents were not married; the parents were married in a civil ceremony; or one member of the parents was not Catholic; the parents were not members of the church or were new members; the parents have not donated enough money to the church; or the children were born out of wedlock. We do not deny children being baptized because of the chosen godparents are not married to each other, the godparents were either too young or too old or because the godparents were not both Catholic.
Although these issues can be theologically debated, the more important aspect of this is that the children should not be punished for anything the Church feels the parents may have done wrong. It is ludicrous to hinder a child being baptized for any reason. It is ludicrous to not allow a child to go through catechism classes; to have their First Confession; or First Holy Communion; and be Confirmed, all because of something the parents have or have not done. When we're asked what our requirements are for something such as a baptism, we simply say, “If your child has not been baptized, then you have met the requirements!”
We've had many couples come to us asking us to perform their marriage ceremony. Why? Because, like the children who've come to us to be baptized, these couples have been denied a marriage ceremony for various reasons. Whether they have been living together prior to marriage or one or both of them have been divorced, will not be a complete impediment to our church performing a marriage. Once again these are all good theological debates, however the Church is meant to minister to people, not make their lives miserable or deny them the grace of God. We do not feel Christ mandated this nor should the Church. There are issues that may need to be worked out before they receive the blessing of the Church on their marriage, however we do not turn them away. Christ wants us to learn from our mistakes not suffer because of them.
We welcome those who have been marginalized by other churches, or treated like second-class citizens . We welcome the divorced and remarried back to the altar of Holy Communion, when they have been denied the Body and Blood of Christ elsewhere. We do not deny politicians Holy Communion based strictly on their voting record. We welcome diverse people who felt unwelcome in other churches for reasons of race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, economic status, age, disability, theological viewpoint, familial status, or issues of individual conscience. When other churches have said “no” to God's children, we said “yes”! Yes to being welcome in God's house. Yes to being loved, not for who you might be someday, but for who you are now. Yes to participating in the most precious gift of our Lord; the gift of his Holy Body and Blood the consecrated Bread and Wine of the Holy Eucharist.
Some will ask about our stance on Confession. We do teach this is one of the seven Sacraments. However, we have no church teaching that requires you to go at certain times or certain number of times per year. We do highly recommend that you do go to a priest for private confession for any major sins. As an example, if you said a bad word in traffic the other day, no we do not feel that you have to run to your first priest and confess it. We have a Confiteor during our Mass, in which the priest gives general absolution to everyone present. It is our belief structure that if you recite the confession sincerely, truthfully, and with true repentance, then you have satisfied the requirement of the Sacrament. Therefore, anyone who feels that they cannot take Communion because I haven't been the confession lately, need not worry, because we have confession and general absolution during every Mass which satisfies the requirement. However, as stated before, you are highly encouraged to see one of our priests for a major sin.
You'll never find a church where all of her members agree with their pastor or church leaders all the time. You'll never find a church were all of her members agree with all the principles and practices upon which the church is founded. You'll never find a church were all of her members interpret the Bible exactly the same way, or hold the same political views, or all vote for the same candidates or issues. You will find many, many churches expect those with different or minority opinions to change them, or at least to keep silent about them. Some people even go as far as hiding their marital status, sexual orientation, past history, or current values from their priests or ministers, in order to be welcomed at the altar for Holy Communion. In the Universal Catholic Church, we focus on common worship, not common belief. People who want to be welcome to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, are welcome just the way they are in our churches.
Who are we?
The Universal Catholic Church is one of a number of independent Catholic churches. Others include the Old Catholic Church, the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch, the National Catholic Church, the American Catholic Church, the Greek, Russian, Syrian, Bulgarian, Serbian and Coptic Orthodox Churches and many others. The Universal Catholic Church is a modern thinking, yet traditional liturgical church. Modern in that the forms of religion should keep pace with the human growth and enlightenment. Historical in recognizing the Church has handed down from ancient times a very precious heritage from Christ is himself. Traditional in liturgy, in that we use a variation of the Tridentine Mass that was used prior to Vatican II, though seemingly ‘old’ to some, it is a rich descendent of a form of worship that was in existence for hundreds of years. Yet progressive, and that leaves English not Latin. Therefore, we combine the Catholic formal worship; a solemn ritual, its deep mysticism, and its steadfast witness to the reality of Sacramental grace. We feel this style of worship is part of our heritage and calls upon us to seek a deeper mystical worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Universal Catholic Church combines the Sacramental worship of the Christian Church with a wide measure of intellectual liberty and respect for individual conscience, yet still preserving the mystical power of the Sacraments. The Universal Catholic Church welcomes to its altars all who reverently and sincerely approach them. The Church is a gathering of all those who turn to Jesus Christ. We attempt to balance ourselves between worship, spiritual devotion, mystical understanding, modern philosophical thought, and current scientific advances.
We are part of the Liberal Catholic Movement. A group of churches that came into existence as a result of the complete reorganization in 1917-1918 of the Old Catholic movement in Great Britain upon a more liberal basis. The old Catholic movement was developed shortly after the year 1870 and Vatican Council I, where the new doctrine of Papal Infallibility was declared an absolute doctrine of faith.
Contrary to popular opinion as stated in some circles, “liberal” is not a dirty word. It comes from the Latin word liberalis, which means “suitable for free man.” The idea of this ancient term is that “free man” is free to think for himself, and not be told what to think as a slave would be. We are “Liberal” in the sense that we erect no barriers around our Sacraments; all members of the Christian Fellowship are welcomed within our churches. All are welcome to our churches. Those who have faith and those who are searching for it. Those who believe in the literal exposition of the Scriptures and those who believe in a symbolic spiritual interpretation.
Some find the name of our church, the Universal Catholic Church, strange. The words “Universal” and “Catholic” some would say mean the same thing. And they would be partially correct. However our choice of this name is the idea that the church is “universal” by existing in all times and all places for all people. We believe that all of mankind has the possibility of being saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. That said, we teach a form of what is referred to in Christianity as, “Universalism”. Further, it is our teaching the Christ did not want any person singled out from His church. So “universal” has also come to mean for us, that all people universally are welcome to the Body of Christ. The church is called Universal Catholic because its outlook is both Universal and Catholic. (For more information on our denomination, you are encouraged to visit )
Therefore, here at St. Francis, we offer open communion; that is, we welcome all the members of the Christian Fellowship to receive Communion at our altars. The only thing that we ask is that if you are child, that you be at least seven years of age, baptized and confirmed; and if you are an adult, that you approach the altar with reverence, sincerity and respect.
We are traditional church, in that we believe in all seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Absolution/Confession, Holy Unction (Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick), Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders. We believe that, through administering Catholic Sacraments to all, we continue to be stewards of the precious heritage handed down from Christ himself.
Admittedly, if you're looking for church with dazzling multimedia presentations, with elaborate expensive sound systems, with hundred member choirs, with television ministries and radio stations, where you can show up, be entertained, and go home ….. well, you probably will not like the Universal Catholic Church. Most of our churches are very small and do not have the resources for the above mentioned ideas. Further, we do not feel the worship service is about being entertained; it is about coming together to worship God as one. But if you're looking for a faith community, a place to belong, a place where but he knows your name, a place to participate and get involved, a place for our members are family, in good times and bad, if you're interested not just in attending a church but helping to build a faith community, then we think you need the Universal Catholic Church and St. Francis.
Independent Catholicism:
One question often posed is, “Can one be Catholic without being Roman Catholic?” A short review of church history can assist us in coming to a conclusion.
History has not been kind Christian freedom. The first century of the Christian era was witnessing a religious riot when the Church erupted from the upper room on Pentecost with its startling message of freedom. A careful study of the New Testament in the earliest writings of the primitive Christian community reveals that the Church which burst forth from the upper room - the Church founded by our Lord Jesus - the Church of the Apostles - was Independent Catholicism. The church of Rome is always taught that there has always been a “Pope”. We do not deny the fact that there has always seemingly been one person who was at the leadership role within the church; we simply want to clarify, however, that this structure that the Roman Catholic Church has now, has not always been in place in this form. Just as the United States has the president; even the president does not hold all the power within the nation.
Some people find it hard to believe that the Church was not always “Roman Catholic”; it used to be “Independent Catholic”. Historical inaccuracy, repeated often enough, becomes accepted wisdom. But the fact remains that the Holy Catholic Church existed long before there was a Pope, before there was a single Eastern Patriarch, before there was even one bishop in England. The title or term “Bishop” was not even used until many years after the Apostles were no longer alive. In fact, those are all later developments in Catholicism. All this resulted in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Communions, but all three share a common Catholic heritage: Independent Catholicism.
As the Church emerged from the upper room they brought the message of the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the known world. St. Thomas brought the Church to India. St. Mark brought the Church to Egypt and the rest of Africa. Other disciples brought the Church to the wild isles of the Celts. The fact is, that all of the Apostles brought the Church to someplace in those early years. This courageous, diverse, responsive Church was united in the love of the Lord, the faith of the Apostles, the celebration of the Sacraments, and the apostolic succession of the independent Catholic Bishops from the Apostles.
Yes, Jesus stated to Peter that he would be the head of his Church. And this he was. However, what most people do not realize, is that in the early years of the Church, St. Peter was more of “a first among equals” such as that term that the Anglicans use in modern-day. Whether Jesus meant for St. Peter to be a “Pope” such as we have now, is open for debate amongst the many liturgical and sacramental churches in the world. We hold no ill feelings toward the Roman Catholic Church, only that we disagree with the supremacy of the Pope. The Pope is the Archbishop of Rome and deserves the respect as that of any Archbishop and/or that of a person who is first among equals. He is a successor to the Apostles such as all bishops are.
Every Christian, Catholic or Protestant, bows his or her faith to Independent Catholicism. Over the centuries, sects and denominations have fractionated, reformed, ruptured and revolted away from their Catholic roots. But the Holy Spirit who brought Catholicism into existence has never abandoned the Church. Pentecost is still happening today!
And yet, it is estimated that 62 million American adults will not go to church this week. They have opted out of the religious riot. Other millions will fill pews out of habit. Some will go seeking. Some will go for imaginary security of belonging to a large institution. Somewhat water fear. Some will go for their children. Some will try some other religion entirely. Some will try something new age. Some will simply not given it any thought at all. This is such a shame. When God originally created us, we were meant to be in his image; but most importantly we were meant to worship him. It is so sad that the situations that we have mentioned above exist in our world today.
So, what do we teach?
Although we are listing forth with the following lists the teachings it must be stated in advance that these are just teachings, not required beliefs. One of our doctrines he is “freedom of thought”. We allow our members full intellectual discernment.
  • We teach the doctrine of the holy Trinity.
  • We teach that God the father is the creator preserver of mankind and that his love shall never fail.
  • We teach that the historic Jesus is the Christ, who is also the Ancient of Days. We teach that He was incarnated (born of the Virgin Mary), crucified, resurrected and ascended.
  • We teach that it is by Christ that “all things were made, and as the indwelling life all things exist, and as the transcendent glory all things live and move and have there being."
  • We teach that Christ lives on as a mighty spiritual presence in the world, guiding and sustaining His people.
  • We teach that we are created in the image of God and that we are heirs of God.
  • We teach that we are all immortal, both before and after physical death.
  • We teach that our bodies are vehicles were expressions of our consciousness, of the indwelling Spirit.
  • We teach that the Christian Church is the Mystical body of Christ.
  • We teach that there are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Absolution, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Holy Unction, and Holy Orders.
  • We teach that the Sacraments were instituted by Christ Himself and He is present in them.
  • We teach that all the Sacraments are received from the Hand of Christ Himself and the officiant is but an instrument in that Hand.
  • The church practices infant baptism, as the dedication of the child to Christ, as a grafting of the child into the mystical Body of Christ, and as a means of opening the child's whole nature to the most Holy Spirit of the living God.
  • We teach that in the Holy Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine become linked, or polarized, on the Life of Christ and become literal outposts of His Life and His Consciousness.
  • We teach that, as the corporate worship of the Church, the Holy Eucharist is designed to help those who physically take part, and to pour out a flood of spiritual power upon the surrounding world.
  • We teach that we are assisted from the beginning of the Eucharist by the Angel of the Mass, and later by all the various Orders of Angels.
  • We teach that Christ has given to the priests of his church the power to absolve the repentant faithful from their sins. We teach that the Sacrament of Absolution is a loosening from the bondage of sin, a restoration of the inner harmony that was disturbed by the wrongdoing, so that the person can make a fresh start toward righteousness. We do not teach that Absolution is a way of escaping the consequences of one's misdeeds. “Harbor no illusions; God is not deceived; for whatsoever man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
  • We teach that the Sacrament of Confirmation is intended to supplement the Sacrament of Baptism and thus bestow on the person the fullness of complete union with the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church Universal.
  • We teach regarding Holy Matrimony that the couple are the celebrants and that the method of sacramentalizing the marriage is the placing of the blessed ring by the groom on the ring finger of the bride with the reciting of the Names of the Trinity.
  • We teach that in the Sacrament of Holy Unction we are assisted by the healing Angel.
  • We teach that the power of the Apostles has descended to this day through the Apostolic Succession. In the case of the Universal Catholic Church, that Succession is derived from the Dutch Old Catholic Church and is complete and valid.
  • We teach that the minor orders (Cleric, Doorkeeper, Reader, Exorcist, and Acolyte) are intended primarily to assist the candidate and his own spiritual growth and life. We teach that the major orders (Deacon, Priest, and Bishop) are intended primarily to assist the Christian community. Subdeacon is an intermediate stage. Both men and women may be ordained to any of these levels.
  • We teach that the Holy Scriptures, Creeds, and the Traditions of the Church are the means by which the teachings of Christ have been handed down to His followers. We teach that they are fundamental, true, and sufficient as a basis for right understanding and right conduct.
  • We teach that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inspired in a general sense only, and can in no way be construed as verbally infallible. We hold that the books of the Old Testament are of unequal value.
  • We teach that all Christian worship is valid, of whatever kind, so long as it is earnest and true.
  • We teach that the sign of the cross can be traced to the earliest times of Christianity; it is the Christian “sign of power.” We teach that it is a vehicle of spiritual force, flowing sometimes from the Priest to the congregation, sometimes from on high into the Priest and the people. We teach that when it is made over ourselves, it will draw around us unseen influences that will tend to drive away unwholesome thoughts, and at the same time make it easier to retain what is good.
  • We teach that the vestments worn by the Priest date from the earliest times of Christianity, and that they are part of the general scheme by which spiritual power is spread out upon the congregation.
  • We teach that the Seasons of the Church were “appointed for solace and instruction.”
  • We teach that the efforts of men and women can hasten the coming of the kingdom of God. We teach that the expectation of faith is victory; that good shall finally triumph over ill, and that death is but a gateway to eternal life.
  • We teach that everyone shall “one day reach his feet, however far they stray.” We teach that the “dead” passed to a life of higher service, where there is available to them the “Felicity of the …. Presence, ever more ….” what we shall experience “at His feet” is conscious life in Christ.

Frequently asked questions.
What relief requirements to you who's on prospective members of the Universal Catholic Church?
Universal Catholic Church has as one of its basic tenets freedom of thought. It permits its lay members entire freedom in the interpretation of the Creeds, Scriptures, Tradition, and of the Liturgy. The church hold strongly they believe should be the result of individual study or intuition, not its antecedent. The truth is not a truth for a man, nor a revelation, until he sees it to be true for himself. We make no belief restrictions on lay members; instead, we asked questions about the prospective member’s intentions. For example, in the Form of Admission to the church we ask: “Wilt thou strive to live in the spirit of love with all mankind, and with all your will to fight against sin and selfishness?” “Wilt thou strive to show forth in thy thoughts, thy words, and thy works, the power of God which is in thee?”
What is the Universal Catholic Church’s position on reincarnation?
We do not teach nor require a belief in the dogma were teaching of the principle known as reincarnation, “Christian” or otherwise.
What are the conditions for receiving communion in the Universal Catholic Church?
The UCC offers open communion; that is, we welcome all the members of the Christian Fellowship to receive communion at our altars. There are no membership or belief requirements. The blessed sacrament of Christ love was meant for the betterment of all people. Christ came not to heal the healthy but the infirm. The only thing that we ask is that if you are child, that you be at least seven years of age, baptized and confirmed; and if you are an adult, that you approach the altar with reverence, sincerity and respect.

Do Universal Catholics believe that the bread and wine in Communion actually become the Body and Blood of Christ?
We do teach that a change, known as transubstantiation, occurs in the bread and wine after they are consecrated in the Holy Eucharist. The Body of Christ is the vehicle of his consciousness and the Blood of Christ is His life poured out in sacrifice. Though the bread still looks like bread, taste like bread, and smells like bread; though the wine still looks like wine, tastes like wine, and smells like wine; both of these elements truly do become the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a miracle that is trusted in faith in most all Catholic churches.
Our Universal Catholic priests allowed to marry?
Yes. Many people are unaware that the practice of requiring celibacy, such as those in the Roman Catholic Church, was not always a requirement. This change to celibacy came about roughly 1000 years ago as a means of preventing the spouses and children of priests from inheriting church property. Prior to this time married clergy was very common. The Roman Catholic Church also teaches that celibacy allows for the clergy to not be distracted by married life or worldly things and thus is able to concentrate fully on the flock under his care. Though admittedly there is good value to this last explanation, we feel that other churches that have been successful with married clergy has proven that the opposite can also be true. Further, when Jesus chose His Apostles, many of them were married as well. We do not feel that Jesus necessarily was calling the priests of His church to be celibate.
Do you ordain women?
Yes we do. Put simply, we see no reason to hinder women from Holy Orders.
Are divorced are married people welcoming your church?
Yes. If we look at Jesus' treatment of the woman caught in adultery as well as the woman at the well, we see that Jesus still treated these women with great respect. Although Jesus did state that divorces were granted by Moses because the people were simply stubborn, and he did indicate the divorce was wrong. However, we can see by his actions of the two examples listed above, the he knew well of the human condition. For many unfortunate reasons, divorce does take place, and following Jesus' example, we do not turn anyone away. Staying in an irreconcilably bad marriage is not good for anyone. If a couple comes to us for marriage, after one or both of the couple have been previously married and divorced, we most certainly will consider the request, as being divorced in itself is not an impediment for remarriage in our denomination. The couple in most cases will be required, however, do have some discussions with our pastor to help ensure that the right choices are being made in a remarriage.
Do Universal Catholics practice artificial means of birth control?
The Universal Catholic Church places no restrictions on its members use or lack of use of birth control methods. In fact, many Universal Catholics, in keeping with church belief that religion should keep pace with human growth and enlightenment, consider family planning an important part of responsible human sexuality. Artificial birth control and/or the use of condoms is not restricted in our church.
Are homosexuals welcome in the Universal Catholic Church?
Yes. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people they receive Holy Communion at our altars, with no need to hide or repress their sexual orientation. Although many churches teach that homosexuality is sinful and in some cases even evil, many people would be surprised to know that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality at all. We might wonder why so many Christians are worried about something that Christ never once mentioned. If Jesus mention so many things as being sinful, yet did not mention anything about homosexuality, it begs the question as to whether homosexuality is as bad as some make it out to be. While the Old Testament does condemn certain forms of homosexual behavior, it also condemns men cutting their facial hair, eating pork, and many other things that today's Christian churches do not consider sinful. Science is slowly showing that Homosexuality likely has a biological basis. Christ did not single out homosexuality for scorn, neither should we.
I am still concerned, though, that many of these things – divorce, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage - our sins. Doesn't a person need to be in a “state of grace” before receiving Holy Communion?
Christ taught us in the story of the woman caught in adultery, that only the person who is without sin among us can cast the stone. We have all committed sins. We seek to recall the original meaning of the word “sin”, which means error. We have all made errors. Consider the company Jesus kept – drunkards, prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, the poor and the oppressed - and that nearly all of His critical comments were aimed at religious leaders. When Jesus walked the earth He did not withhold His love from all but the perfect, nor does He now.
What do Universal Catholics think about Mary?
The Universal Catholic Church does not seek to clearly define the role of the holy Lady Mary as other churches have done. There are a great many of our followers that have a special devotion to her. Some view her in a very traditional Catholic way as the Theotokos, your “God-Bearer”, while others see her as the World Mother - a manifestation of the feminine aspect of divinity. She is often honored in the devotion of the Rosary.
Some of the early bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church were Theosophists. The Liberal Catholic Church led to the Liberal Catholic Movement of which the Universal Catholic Church is part of. What is theosophy and is it a belief that is required in Universal Catholic Church?
Theosophy is a school of thought founded in the late 1800s. The purpose was to study comparative religion and mysticism. Some of its basic principles our beliefs in the eastern concepts of reincarnation, karma, vegetarianism and abstention from the use of alcoholic beverage. While many liberal Catholic churches early bishops did, in fact, hold Theosophical ideas, a belief in them was never required nor forbidden in most Liberal Catholic Church circles. The Universal Catholic Church respects the freedom of individual conscience on these issues, as in others. There are branches within the Liberal Catholic Movement that require their members to believe in Theosophy. We are not a part of that branch.
Does your church have a hierarchy similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church?
The Universal Catholic Church is governed by what is called the “General Episcopal Synod”. The Synod is simply all the bishops of our church. In comparison, think of the Synod is the House of Representatives or the Senate of the church. The Synod meets formally approximately every three years. The sin is the governing body, or Board of Directors, of our church. The Synod also elects from one of its bishops, a Presiding Bishop, who is the spiritual head of our denomination. Much like the Anglican Church, the Presiding Bishop is a first among equals within the ranks of our bishops. The Presiding Bishop does not function in the capacity such as the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church would.

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