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Arnold Harris Mathew Center for the Study of the Independent Sacramental Movement

The University's Arnold Harris Mathew Center for the Study of the Independent Sacramental Movement (CSISM) is the first university center anywhere in the world to be devoted to the study of the independent sacramental movement originating within Catholicism and widely prevalent today. It disseminates rare archive material online, principally photographs and documents, and conducts research into the historic and contemporary independent sacramental movement. The Center is directed by the University President, John Kersey, who serves as a bishop of the Apostolic Episcopal Church and Order of Corporate Reunion.

In its broadest sense, the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM) is an academic rather than a theological distinction. It embraces many independent Christian communities, most relatively small, which stand in the Apostolic Succession from the Papacy and/or the Orthodox Churches and have, in the main, developed during the period from the mid-nineteenth-century onwards. In the entirety of their range, these communities vary in outlook from arch-conservative to highly liberal and embrace almost all possible shades of Christian belief and practice.

The ISM is necessarily broad from a taxonomic perspective, but it is important to appreciate that any classification that seeks to unite such disparate groups and theologies is not generally embraced by the more conservative denominations which tend to see themselves as either proto-Uniate Rites of Rome or indeed as representing a "traditional Catholic" standpoint in correction of Rome's doctrinal errors. The many groups that represent a "Continuing Anglican" standpoint tend to take a similar view in respect of Canterbury. Both of these sectors tend to reject any concept of union or classification with more liberal groups, whereas those liberal groups are in turn less likely (but not invariably so) to object to being part of groupings that include conservatives. The most prominent contemporary image presented by the use of the term ISM is one concerned more with those groups that represent a progressive and emerging theology and praxis, often characterized by esotericism and liberalism, albeit with those two words defined in each case along what may be starkly divergent boundaries. However, since there is extensive historical cross-fertilization between different churches and theologies, the ISM designation remains a useful overall classification for both conservative and liberal groups and, importantly, a neutral and accurate descriptor in what can be an emotively charged field in which a number of commonly-employed descriptors are seen to varying degrees as inaccurate or pejorative. The Old Catholic Sourcebook by the late Bishop Karl Pruter and J. Gordon Melton (Garland Publishing, New York, 1983), while long out of date, remains the best overall survey of the ISM in the United States, covering both conservative and liberal groups.

To an outsider, the ISM often appears impossibly complex, and this complexity is increased by the wide degree of change and mutability of the groups concerned and the clergy within them. Yet there are common threads that unite even the most disparate of groups. In its diversity, the ISM offers a contemporary parallel to the pre-Constantinian Church, in that it is decentralized - even anarchic at times - and open to wide spiritual influence stemming from the leaders of each group and their spiritual influences in turn. Those leaders are also highly diverse in every respect; most notably in their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, educational backgrounds, theological standpoints and approaches to worship. This very diversity and specialization is argued by some to be the whole point of the ISM, since it mirrors the diversity of creation itself and in a global sense promotes a far greater model of active inclusivity than do most of the major denominations. Equally, such issues raise important points about unity and Catholicity/Orthodoxy, particularly in those groups that take upon themselves an identity of radical separatism.

Scholarship concerning the ISM is extensive but has generally taken place outside the mainstream, not least because of hostility towards the ISM influenced by the vested interests of the major denominations, which have often seen the ISM as a threat and a competing movement. This attitude continues to characterize material about the ISM on a number of websites today. The study of the ISM is important both in order to establish a historical record for its own sake, and also because the more experimental and evolving of these communities point the way to new means of becoming church, and of fulfilling ministry in the modern world. 

Much publication from within the ISM has been private, in the form of books, monographs and pamphlets which have seen limited circulation within the denominations concerned. Some of these have been works of high quality and historical significance. A number of more recent works have sought to establish a postmodern identity for the "progressive" elements of the ISM as a movement in their own right  and in opposition to the traditionalism of the major denominations. All of this activity indicates that the ISM has an important part to play in the study of church history and church development in the modern era.

>>Official CSISM blog

General historical and organizational studies
>>About Catholicism beyond Rome 
>>About the Apostolic Succession and independent bishops
>>Roman Catholic views on holy orders in the Old Catholic and independent sacramental movements
>>The legitimate successor of Jesus by +Bertil Persson

Monographs by Professor Bertil Persson
>>Antoine Aneed (Antoun Anid) 
>>Sophronios Beshara (Bishara) 
>>William Montgomery Brown 
>>William Albert Nichols 
>>Joseph John Skureth 
>>A Biographical Sketch on Joseph Rene Vilatte: part 1; 2; 3.

Related programs
>>Master of Theology in the Independent Sacramental Movement
>>Master of Theology in Thanatology
>>Master of Theology in Liberal Catholic Studies

The Mathew Center maintains its own extensive library of contemporary and historical works on theology and church history in e-text form. These are available for use and consultation by enrolled students affiliated to the Center. In addition, a number of archival holdings of books and documents are preserved.

Book publications

Arnold Harris Mathew and the Old Catholic Movement in England 1908-52
John Kersey

A revised and condensed reprint of the author's "A History of the Old Catholic Movement in England", this book gives a detailed account of the life of Arnold Harris Mathew, first Old Catholic bishop in England, and outlines his successors in the form of the Old Roman Catholic Church of Great Britain and the Liberal Catholic Church.

Available in softcover. 256 pages with a supplement of illustrations. To purchase a copy, please visit the University Press page here.

A History of the Old Catholic Movement in England (2 volumes)
John Kersey

This pioneering history traces the development of the Old Catholic movement in England from its origins to the present-day. It discusses each of the churches that have been involved in this movement, and profiles the clergy who have been responsible for them. It is a direct response to the appeal by Fr. Kenneth Leech that “... the issues raised [by the Old Catholics]...will not go away; and we need a more thoughtful, less hostile, and more discriminating approach to a subculture that, however odd and marginal, deserves to be treated with respect, compassion, and intelligence.”

English Old Catholicism is a tremendously diffuse movement in which the outsider can find it difficult to discern structure or commonality. Between 1908 and 1910, that structure was provided through the formal alliance of the Old Catholic Church of Great Britain with the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches on the Continent. The Union appointed Arnold Harris Mathew, a former Roman Catholic priest who had also served as a curate in the Church of England, as Old Catholic Regionary Bishop of Great Britain. However, the Union was moving ever closer towards Canterbury as Mathew was moving closer towards a Romanist position in keeping with the original mission of Old Catholicism. These and other factors caused a breach whereby Mathew declared his autonomy from Utrecht in 1910.

Organisationally, the Old Catholic movement is both a structural and a theological entity. Structurally, it is a decentralised church that manifests as a series of small groups, most of which take on an autocephalous and autonomous identity based on their ultimate origins within the Roman Catholic Church. This leads variously to groups which are proto-Uniate in character, seeing their mission as closely aligned to Rome, as well as groups that express a wider ecumenical identity.

Published in a limited, numbered, softcover edition: Volume 1, 522 pages. Volume 2 (Supplement), 126 pages.

Sold out; revised reprint available above.

Two Works by Archbishop Bernard Mary Williams, Second Archbishop of The Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain: A Summary of the History, Faith, Discipline, and Aims of The Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain (1924); A Pastoral Letter for Advent, 1920
New edition edited and with a preface by John Kersey

Archbishop Bernard Mary Williams was the successor to Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew in the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain and established the strongly traditionalist and conservative pattern still followed by that church's successors. These works speak of his conception of the ORCCGB as a Uniate Rite conforming to the Roman Catholic Church in most respects, but differing in the admission of a married priesthood and a vernacular liturgy.

Unavailable for many years, this edition has a Preface by John Kersey and is available as a free-to-download e-book as well as in hardcover. 47 pages.

To download or purchase a copy, please visit the University Press page here.

The Science of the Sacraments
Charles Webster Leadbeater
New edition edited and with a preface by John Kersey

This book, first published in 1920 is of crucial importance in understanding the origins and spiritual significance of the Eucharist and other sacraments within the Liberal Catholic rite. +C.W. Leadbeater explains the esoteric significance of each moment during the liturgy with side-by-side comparisons with the Roman (Tridentine) Rite and many pictures and diagrams. This new edition, complete and unabridged with a preface and updated notes by John Kersey, is available as a free-to-download online e-book as well as in hardcover. 495 pages including all original illustrations and tables.

To download or purchase a copy, please visit the University Press page here.

An Outline of Theosophy
Charles Webster Leadbeater
New edition edited and with a preface by John Kersey

This short and accessible book, first published in 1902, is a key introduction to Theosophy from one of its most significant advocates. +C.W. Leadbeater was a master of the spiritual arts and of what we would now refer to as an interfaith and synthetic outlook on faith. With +J.I. Wedgwood he created the Liberal Catholic movement that continues today. This new edition by John Kersey is available both as a free online e-book and in a printed hardcover edition for $10. 59pp.

To download or purchase a copy, please visit the University Press page here.

The Apostolic Succession in the Liberal Rite
John Kersey

The book "The Apostolic Succession in The Liberal Rite" by its former Presiding Bishop John Kersey was published by the University Press in 2007. It was available in hardcover only and runs to 276 pages. Extensively illustrated, it is one of the most complete surveys of the Apostolic Succession in the independent sacramental movement ever published. This work is now out of print.

Monographs by Archbishop Professor Bertil Persson
Some significant monographs by Archbishop Professor Bertil Persson have been reproduced with his permission at the Mathew Center and without prejudice to his copyrights.

Archbishop Professor Bertil Persson is Primate Emeritus of the Apostolic Episcopal Church and was from 1987-95 Archbishop for Europe of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church (Iglesia Filipina Catolica Independiente). He has held clerical office in many other denominations since his ordination as a Pastor in the Church of Sweden in 1962 with responsibility for special projects. As a result, his role in the independent sacramental movement has been uniquely and widely ecumenical. His episcopal lineage has spread across the world. His scholarship, published through the former St Ephrem's Institute, Solna, Sweden, which he co-founded in 1974, has addressed the history of the ISM and many of its key figures, focussing in particular on the Apostolic Succession as a means to unite otherwise separated communities.

See: Ecclesiastical Biography of the Most Rev. Prof. Dr. Bertil Persson, FRSA (1983)