Unified Western Church

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Overview

Also known as the Church of the Powers of Light and more recently as the Unified Church of the Western Kingdom, the Unified Western Church consists of a number of separate but co-operative religious organizations (Sects and Orders) who collectively represent the Powers of Light in western Alusia.

While the Church attempts to present a unified face to outsiders, internally each of the major Orders consists of several Chapters, each with its own history, rituals, beliefs, and approach to the worship or veneration of the Powers of Light. Disagreements between the Chapters and Orders is common, and although usually polite in nature can become heated; violence within the Church is unusual but sadly not completely unknown. This is also complicated by differing days of worship for Sect. The church has decreed Sunday as the notional day of worship in area's that have multiple sects represented but each still holds it's own day sacred a fact that has often brought the church and secular authorities into conflict with people attending church on different days.

Beliefs

The main belief and purpose of the church is the opposition and eradication of the Powers of Darkness, their followers and agents, the restless dead (undead), Black Mages, and the corruption and chaos they generate. While united (in general terms) on these aims, each of the Sects has its own beliefs, approach, and philosophy around the best way to achieve these ends and the suitable way to deal with mortals that stray into the clutches and influence of the Powers of Darkness.

As with any large organization internal strife, politics and greed have limited the effectiveness of the Church in fighting their ancient enemies.

Geography

The church is widespread and powerful within the restored Western Kingdom, and some of its ancient territories where the bulk of the populace will attend church (at least occasionally) and many tithe to the church. Outside of the borders of the Old Kingdom the Church's power significantly less, with small followings and varying respect. The Church is seen by many outside the Western Kingdom to be an arm of the Kingdom itself and some smaller neighbours see the church as part of expansionist aims of the Western Kingdom. In these areas the Church has learned to continue the war against the Powers of Darkness quietly and out of sight of the general populace who continue to worship other Gods and Powers.

History

In the year 184 under the rule of Otto the Gentle the Church of Uriel, which had originally been a small sect, became popular in the far north of Aquila. When Otto was blessed by a member of the sect's order he paid for a cathedral to be built so that he could attend mass. Following the King's lead the number of followers of Uriel swelled and the Order as we know it was founded.

In 243 The Church of Uriel joined with a smaller sect of Michael and both religions flourished until 351 when Louis the Severe took a dislike to the growing power of the combined church and persecuted the followers. While no church influence was ever discovered in the death of Louis in 363, most of the laws oppressing the church were quickly repealed and Maximilian was known to have had Michaeline advisors. Becoming concerned that the Church was too powerful an independent entity in his Kingdom, in 374 Maximilian proclaimed the Church to be under the authority of the King. The King was thereafter the head of the Church and retained this authority until the end of the Old Kingdom.

The twinned church grew steadily, and in 390 the Raphaelite sect was added under Albert the Healer. The summer conclave of 405, recorded as The Council of Vallon and convened during the evangelical crusades of Frederick Aladar, was responsible for several major events in the Church's history: Doctrinal differences were finally resolved between the Triple-Church and the Church of Gabriel, leading to the Gabrielites joining the other sects and the creation of Unified Western Church; the Sun in Splendour symbol was adopted as their common emblem, and the Inquisition was created.

The reigns of the Norden Kings, Eirikir Bloodaxe and his son Sigurd the Mage-Hater saw a dark time in the history of the fledgling Unified Western Church, being used by the kings to root out and destroy political opponents and dissenters. Sigurd also used the Church to significantly suppress magic use in the Kingdom and many mages were executed by the Church on the King's authority. (Much of the belief that the Church cannot abide magic use dates to this time, and although no longer true the myths and stories are rather durable).

After the fall of the Norden Kings the Church worked hard to restore its name (and made changes to ensure that the King's authority was more symbolic than actual). Much of the respect lost during the previous reigns was restored as the Church supported Albert Vladislav against the (eventually successful) coup of his uncle Ivan the Vampire, and in their continued opposition to the usurper. In 441 an army of Church knights overthrew the Vampire King and enthroned Frederick Aladar's grandson Branden Joachim, and in 452 restored him to the throne after a second coup by his undead relative.

From there the power and influence of the church grew, reaching its peak under Sigismund the Pious. In 499, after Sigismund's disappearance and with the collapse of the Old Kingdom the forces of the Unified Church declared themselves neutral in the succession dispute, an act that may have prevented Sigismund's eldest son Frederick Albert from claiming the throne, but almost certainly prevented a bloody civil war. As the Duchies of the former kingdom settled down the Church continued much as it had, working against the Powers of Darkness and their followers, removing threats to communities, protecting the weak, and ministering to the poor.

The restoration of the Western Kingdom led to dissension in the Church, and although the Conclave officially supported the move, Chapters served on both sides in the Baronies War with Orders in the Confederacy choosing to support their local rulers.

Even now a number of legal and scholarly arguments surround the primacy of King Ulric in the Church under the restored Kingdom, with the current position effectively being that King is head of the Church provided he doesn't try to order them to do anything.

The recent addition of the Sammaelite Sect to the Unified church has also unsettled the organization and the church is currently showing a somewhat less than unified front.

Glossary

Sect 
Major divisions within the Western Church, encompassing different modes of thought, manner of life and, philosophical tenents embraced. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with Church, hence The Michaeline Sect, or The Church of Michael.
Order 
Independent divisions within a Sect, although closely aligned with a Sect's philosophy and policies. Orders may vary widely on their interpretation of Sect doctrine. Some Orders do not belong to any of the major sects and may be considered effectively independent.
Chapter 
Semi-independent divisions within an Order under the overall authority of the Order's Bishop. Depending on the Sect and Order the Chapter houses vary from fortified keeps, to hospitals, to libraries. The title of the head of a Chapter similarly varies; common titles are Abbot/Abbottess, Deacon/Deaconess, and simply Master.
Bishop 
Derived from an ancient term meaning Overseer, Bishops are either the leader on an Order, or senior clergy overseeing a defined geographical area, such as a County or a large city. Although technically considered equals in the Church, the actual amount of political power and influence a Bishop wields will depend on the size, wealth, and prestige of their Order or lands. In the Michaeline Sect, with its more military organization, the leader of an Order may be titled Grandmaster to emphasize their authority over their group of Chapters. Alternate titles are also used by a few groups in the Church.
Conclave 
Each year at Midsummer the Bishops of the Western Church meet to discuss political and doctrinal matters, and to elect from within their number an Archbishop as a first among equals to speak on their behalf in matters of the greater Church. The current head of the Western Church, (and also of the Michaeline Sect, is Tomas Xerxes, Bishop of Mordeaux.
Eloran 
The Church language for rituals (and formal prayers), Eloran is derived from Ancient Elven (Eldaran) with various other language influences. It is written in either Elvish script (old form) or Westron (new form).

Organization

Major Sects

Independant Orders / Minor Sects