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Why did the British Orthodox Church leave the Oriental Communion?

Jackson02

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Normally I would ask Father Peter about this, but since he's not available does anybody else know the answer?
 

xOrthodox4Christx

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I asked a similar question about the French Orthodox Church. Didn't get an answer.
 

Porter ODoran

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Just for any lurker who might not know, the British Orthodox Church and French Orthodox Church shouldn't be conflated with Orthodoxy in Great Britain or Orthodoxy in France, respectively.
 

minasoliman

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xOrthodox4Christx said:
I asked a similar question about the French Orthodox Church. Didn't get an answer.
I don't know what you're talking about.  His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasius is still within the Coptic synod.

The British Orthodox Church left for reasons not made public, so a lot of people do not share the reasons.  I don't know the reasons, but I pray for Metropolitan Seraphim for the best.
 

qawe

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Basically, the British Orthodox Church left because they were vagantes when they joined the Coptic Church, and remained vagantes at heart.  Those that joined later (eg Fr Peter) had desired to join Orthodoxy rather than a vagante group and so made sure to remain Orthodox rather than become vagante.  Their reception into the Coptic Church was based on the deception that they derived apostolic authority from the Syriac Church and Jules Ferrette, which is patently false - see this Wikipedia page on the cousin of the erstwhile Metropolitan Seraphim and his predecessor as "Patriarch of the West": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_George_de_Willmott_Newman
 

GregoryBOC

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The separation of the British Orthodox Church from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria was an action of the then Primate of the British Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Seraphim, without consultation with or the approval of the Synod of the British Orthodox Church. I was, at the time, a member of the Synod and Chancellor of the British Orthodox Church. I only found out about the break, after the event, via a posting on Facebook. I only subsequently became aware of the real (as contrasted with the public) reasons for what happened, and obtained copies of all the relevant documents. I was, indeed, lied to about what had happened. I have chosen, thus far, not to make the real reasons for the break public out of pastoral concern for those indirectly and inadvertently involved. Only one of the Priests at the time has followed Metropolitan Seraphim into his uncanonical situation. With one of my fellow Priests from that time, I have been involved in trying to provide pastoral support to those who were, and are still, traumatised by the events.

I appreciate that there are those who have a genuine interest in the separation of the British Orthodox Church from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, as opposed to some worldly enthusiasm for ecclesiastical gossip.

As a church historian, I had long been working on a scholarly history of the British Orthodox Church (making use of its internal archives) from its origins up to and beyond its union with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate (for which union I was present in Cairo), I accept that recording the historical facts is critical. However, for the present, my commitments as a church historian must take second place as my responsibilities as a pastor.

At some time in the future, I may feel justified in telling the whole story. At present, I do not.

Fr Gregory Tillett
 

RaphaCam

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minasoliman said:
xOrthodox4Christx said:
I asked a similar question about the French Orthodox Church. Didn't get an answer.
I don't know what you're talking about.  His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasius is still within the Coptic synod.
He's talking about the WRO under Archbishop German of Saint-Denis. I don't know the exact reasons for their separations, but canonical confusion and hierarchal misbehaviour separated them. Just like, sadly, the Portuguese Catholic Orthodox Church.
 

WPM

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Is basically the problem with it. Middle east refugee Christians are trouble
 

Alpha60

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GregoryBOC said:
The separation of the British Orthodox Church from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria was an action of the then Primate of the British Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Seraphim, without consultation with or the approval of the Synod of the British Orthodox Church. I was, at the time, a member of the Synod and Chancellor of the British Orthodox Church. I only found out about the break, after the event, via a posting on Facebook. I only subsequently became aware of the real (as contrasted with the public) reasons for what happened, and obtained copies of all the relevant documents. I was, indeed, lied to about what had happened. I have chosen, thus far, not to make the real reasons for the break public out of pastoral concern for those indirectly and inadvertently involved. Only one of the Priests at the time has followed Metropolitan Seraphim into his uncanonical situation. With one of my fellow Priests from that time, I have been involved in trying to provide pastoral support to those who were, and are still, traumatised by the events.

I appreciate that there are those who have a genuine interest in the separation of the British Orthodox Church from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, as opposed to some worldly enthusiasm for ecclesiastical gossip.

As a church historian, I had long been working on a scholarly history of the British Orthodox Church (making use of its internal archives) from its origins up to and beyond its union with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate (for which union I was present in Cairo), I accept that recording the historical facts is critical. However, for the present, my commitments as a church historian must take second place as my responsibilities as a pastor.

At some time in the future, I may feel justified in telling the whole story. At present, I do not.

Fr Gregory Tillett
Agreed.  I myself am privy to what happened, and I think it best we not disclose them for the forseeable future.

Suffice it to say, qawe. what actually happened had nothing to do with the BOC's vagante mentality or claims of apostolicity deriving from Fr. Jules Ferette; it was simply dark and evil.

The only thing I think we should say about the separation is that it was not driven by any kind of theological dispute, even if the BOC might say otherwise (I recall they tried to spin it as Alexandrian interference on their worship or some nonsense, which was absolutely not the case).  The theology and liturgy of the BOC was not the issue.

One interesting fact, by the way, which is completely unrelated to the reason for the separation, is that Metropolitan Seraphim is the nephew of the founder of the Ecclesia Gnostica in the US, which I believe is the largest Gnostic church, presently under the leadership of Bishop Stephen A. Hoeller, who is rather a committed devotee of Carl Jung (to the extent of calling him a modern day prophet in one of his homilies, although I don't think they liturgically commemorate him).  However, rest assured, the schism did not occur because Metropolitan Seraphim converted to Gnosticism in the manner of his uncle.  Just a fun fact; it seems serving as the Bishop of small, independent and self-contained churches has become something of a family business.  This had nothing to do with the actual cause for the schism.

Actually if people knew why the schism occurred they would I think, I hope, pass through phases of disgust, sadness and resignation which would outweigh any morbid curiosity on their parts as to the cause of the event.

The current situation is this: the Metropolitan and the Coptic hierarchy have parted ways, but the bulk of the BOC is alive and well as the St. George Mission, as a canonical part of the Coptic church.  So if one asks where the British Orthodox Church is, I would point them to the St. George mission, or to any of the other canonical Oriental and Eastern jurisdictions in the UK.  The BOC Metropolis, in my view, was never by itself large enough to warrant calling itself the British Orthodox Church; I think in retrospect the name was a bit pretentious, and it should have instead been restyled the Oriental Orthodox Metropolis of Glastonbury when received into the Coptic church.  But alas, that would have not precluded the schism.  If one can even call it a schism.
 

peterfarrington

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As has been said, there is no great benefit to anyone in speaking in any detail about why the bishop of the British Orthodox Church led a very few people out of canonical Orthodoxy. Most of us remained Orthodox, and had always intended to be Orthodox above all else. Most stayed in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It is enough to say that it was not due to any negative attitude from the Coptic Orthodox Church. Indeed, since becoming a priest directly under His Holiness Pope Tawadros, in the Patriarchal Diocese, and serving in the Diocese of the Midlands, my experience has been entirely positive, and an overwhelming and unforeseen blessing.
 

peterfarrington

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I am so happy to have found such kindness and generosity in the wider Coptic Orthodox community in which I now serve. I am blessed beyond measure in the priests who I count as brothers and friends in my service in Manchester, Liverpool and Stoke on Trent. I am fortunate to be in the care of two wonderful bishops in different ways, Bishop Angaelos and Bishop Mina. I view the time I spent in the British Orthodox Church to have been a necessary means of arriving where I am now. And I do not regret my experiences and service with so many people over the years. I still pray for many people every day. But I am very grateful to God indeed for the place I find myself now. It was unimaginable to me a few years ago. And I am well aware of all the problems our community faces, and all the things that are frustrating and disturbing. But I still choose to be committed 150% to this family in Christ.
 

Alpha60

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Father Peter said:
As has been said, there is no great benefit to anyone in speaking in any detail about why the bishop of the British Orthodox Church led a very few people out of canonical Orthodoxy. Most of us remained Orthodox, and had always intended to be Orthodox above all else. Most stayed in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It is enough to say that it was not due to any negative attitude from the Coptic Orthodox Church. Indeed, since becoming a priest directly under His Holiness Pope Tawadros, in the Patriarchal Diocese, and serving in the Diocese of the Midlands, my experience has been entirely positive, and an overwhelming and unforeseen blessing.
+1

The Orthodox Church is still there, its just a rebrand and temporary change of bishops.  There will, for a while, be Egyptian bishops if only due to the lack of a suitable English candidate; in the future there will be English bishops as well, just as the EO in Britain have English bishops.  Alas Fr. Lazarus El Antony aside from being Australian is a committed Anchorite; in olden days however he is the sort or monk who the people would drag from the monastery with physical force and install as a bishop against their will.  But, fortunately, we have moved on from that era for the past millenia or so, and thus Fr. Lazarus can continue to pray for us in peace and solitude, and he, by example, will attract more English-speakers to the Coptic monasteries, and there they will acquire a formation in the Coptic church, and some will, I expect, be installed as bishops in due course.  Fr. Lazarus probably could have been a bishop had he pursued that road, but he really committed himself to the Anchorite vocation, and indeed is a bit of a specialist in that; I don't know of any other solitaries in the Oriental communion right now.

Metropolitan Seraphim was received as a bishop but not formed in a Coptic monastery.  This is not inherently bad; I think there are plenty of pious Roman Catholic bishops who could be received as bishops.  However, having Anglophone bishops who are not cradle Copts, or who are not ethnically Egyptian, be formed in the Coptic monasteries, or indeed the other OO monasteries, is a very good thing, because that monastic formation is like a seminary.
 

Alpha60

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Father Peter said:
I am so happy to have found such kindness and generosity in the wider Coptic Orthodox community in which I now serve. I am blessed beyond measure in the priests who I count as brothers and friends in my service in Manchester, Liverpool and Stoke on Trent. I am fortunate to be in the care of two wonderful bishops in different ways, Bishop Angaelos and Bishop Mina. I view the time I spent in the British Orthodox Church to have been a necessary means of arriving where I am now. And I do not regret my experiences and service with so many people over the years. I still pray for many people every day. But I am very grateful to God indeed for the place I find myself now. It was unimaginable to me a few years ago. And I am well aware of all the problems our community faces, and all the things that are frustrating and disturbing. But I still choose to be committed 150% to this family in Christ.
What excites me is the future.  I think there will soon need to be the development of more missions and more parishes; there are also converts to the Syriac and Ethiopian churches, and probably the Armenian church as well.  I would like to see work done on coordinating the reception of converts into the OO churches, increased liturgical concelebration, and also, perhaps, a system whereby clergy could be trained to serve the liturgy in multiple rites, as many as all four of our rites if they could handle it, and thus be available to serve small isolated ethnic communities and mission parishes, basically being loaned from their "home jurisdiction" to other jurisdictions as needed to help alleviate the priest shortage (which in the Syriac Orthodox Church is a limitation in my diocese at least; some churches have only monthly or occasional services due to the lack of a full time priest, and I believe the Copts have the same problem).
 

qawe

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Alpha60 said:
Suffice it to say, qawe. what actually happened had nothing to do with the BOC's vagante mentality or claims of apostolicity deriving from Fr. Jules Ferette; it was simply dark and evil.

The only thing I think we should say about the separation is that it was not driven by any kind of theological dispute, even if the BOC might say otherwise (I recall they tried to spin it as Alexandrian interference on their worship or some nonsense, which was absolutely not the case).  The theology and liturgy of the BOC was not the issue.
Thank you Alpha60, I will resist the urge to enquire further.

Do you mind elaborating on the bolded section though?  I don't recall reading anything like that in the statement released at the time of the schism.
 

GregoryBOC

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The claim that “Metropolitan Seraphim is the nephew of the founder of the Ecclesia Gnostica in the US” is blatant nonsense, regardless of who that “founder” is claimed to be (I assume that the reference is to the self-styled “Richard, Duc de Palatine”, born Ronald Powell).

There was no theological basis for the split, and it was certainly not a result of any “hostile action” by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate which has, as Fr Peter notes, largely “picked up the pieces”. Some of the “pieces”, alas, remain profoundly wounded.

Fr Gregory


 

Alpha60

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GregoryBOC said:
The claim that “Metropolitan Seraphim is the nephew of the founder of the Ecclesia Gnostica in the US” is blatant nonsense, regardless of who that “founder” is claimed to be (I assume that the reference is to the self-styled “Richard, Duc de Palatine”, born Ronald Powell).
Fr Gregory
Ah, my mistake:  it was Metropolitan Seraphim's cousin, and not his uncle, HG Hugo de Wilmott-Newman, who ordained HG Richard, Duc de Palatine, who then did the bulk of the work of forming the Ecclesia Gnostica.

I am inclined to regard HG Hugo de Wilmott-Newman however, as a founder of the Ecclesia Gnostica, even if he is not the founder, because he did ordain their first bishop, and as far as I am aware, never criticized their church or their Gnostic theology.

However, to my chagrin, I did conflate the two persons; HG Hugo de Wilmott Newman was, like HE Metropolitan Seraphim, very interested in setting up some kind of legitimate "Catholicos of the West" and accomplished this by accumulating as many apostolic lines of succession as he could, whereas Metropolitan Seraphim took a more direct and legitimate route, and he could have held onto his legitimate ordination as the primate of the autonomous, canonical British Orthodox Church under the Patriarchate of Alexandria had he wanted to.

When you write your history of the BOC, you should explore the history of the Newman family, and how the views of his cousin may have influenced both the career choice of His Eminence, and the decision of Metropolitan Seraphim to pursue canonical union with Alexandria.  I wonder how, when they were both alive, the two cousins related to each other; was the elder an inspiration or a rival to Metropolitan Seraphim?  It should be quite interesting to explore.

However every reader should be aware that all of this has precisely nothing to do with the cause of the schism.  Two rather posh British cousins of the upper middle class with what one might call a shared ecclesial eccentricity is, by itself, harmless; the tragedy is just that one of those cousins wntered into a legitimate and important role, and furthermore published some very good articles and gave some very interesting lectures, and the Glastonbury Review, and then left of his own volition the legitimate, canonical home he had found, abandoning that dignity and gravitas, and abandoning most of his flock.
 

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