- Press Release on the union of Coptic and British Orthodox Churches
- On the Trail of Seven Coptic Monks in Ireland
- With Lynch to Holy Etchmiadzin
- The Coptic Orthodox Church under Islam
- Journey Into Artsakh
- Biographies of former BOC members
- The British Orthodox Church – Mission & Ministry
- The Fraction in The Coptic Orthodox Liturgy
- The Ministry of the Deacon in the Liturgy of Saint James
- The Divine Liturgy of Saint James
- An Introduction to the Liturgy of Saint James
- That They May be One – 3:2 St. Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria
- That They May be One – 3:1 St. Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria
- That They May be One – 2. The Humanity of Christ
- That They May Be One – 1. Reflections on Christian Unity
- New Age or Old Faith
- One Lord, One Faith: Why Orthodox don’t practice Open Communion
- Pope Shenoudas El Kosheh Declaration
- Christian Spirituality in a Changing World
- The Saints – Pattern of Christian Virtue
- Reconstructing Celtic Spirituality: Searching for a Western Early Church
Annice Olive Rose Bourke, widow of Father Philip Bourke, died at her home at Blackheath, on 12 July 2009 aged 88 years.
Annice Barlow was born at Kidderminster, on 6 February 1921. She was the eldest daughter of William Frederick and Rosanna (née Ward) Barlow. Two further siblings followed, Nellie (1922) and Lionel (1925). Educated at the New Meeting House School and Kidderminster High School, she matriculated in July 1937. In 1939 she met Desmond Bourke, a young officer with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who was stationed in Kidderminster. They remained in touch throughout the war until he returned to civilian life at the end of 1945 and, having fallen in love at an early stage, she waited for him faithfully.
On 20 March 1948 Annice and Desmond were married and set up home in a flat at 7 West Grove overlooking Blackheath. In 1940 she joined the Civil Service. The Barlows were not a well-off family so they knew that if they wanted something they would have to work for it. In 1954 she passed her Advanced level General Certificate of Education in English Economic History, Economics and British Constitution, which qualified her for admission to the London School of Economics (University of London), from which she graduated with a B.Sc. (Economics) in 1959. In December 1961 she purchased the house in 22 Broad Walk, Blackheath, which was to be their home for the rest of their life. Annice’s promotions within the staff of the Air Ministry and her achievement in studying for and obtaining her degree were not inconsiderable achievements in an era when women had to struggle hard to make their mark in the world. So – in those days before sexual-equality legislation or women-only lists – we can be sure that those who did reach their goals, did so solely through hard work and undoubted ability. From March 1966 to March 1968 she was one of the three civilians and the only woman assigned by the Ministry of Defence (Air) to work on the F111 project at Fort Worth, Texas. The F111 were all-weather attack aircraft capable of low-level penetration of enemy defences to deliver ordnance on the target. They first came into production in July 1967 and remained in service with the USAF until 1998. Annice’s secondment, to work for two years in the USA, was a mark of her superiors’ high regard for her accomplishments. In April 1978 she transferred to the Parliamentary Commission for Adminstration, where she remained until her retirement in June 1981.
Yet Annice’s civil service career never stopped her from her personal commitment to her friends, family and neighbours. If at times her organisational skills somewhat overwhelmed those to whom they were directed who were jollied along with her own brand of no-nonsense, practical, common-sense; the motive was always a desire to be of service, to give of her best, to be useful. Her undoubted abilities and remarkable energy were placed at the disposal of others with selfless dedication. Her brother, Lionel Barlow, who had lived at home with his mother until she suffered a stroke and then with his elder sister, moved to London early in 1971. Whilst he lived in his own flat near to his sister, she and Desmond kept a motherly watch over him. When, early in 1984 he began showing symptoms of what turned out to be the early onset of dementia, Annice took charge of his medical care and arranged his early retirement from the civil service. By 1986 he was in permanent psychiatric care and developed terminal cancer, from which he died in 1987.
In 1976 Desmond was received into the Orthodox Church and was ordained as a deacon serving at the former Blackheath Parish, eventually being ordained as a priest with the name of Father Philip in November 1979 at the hands of Metropolitan Seraphim. He was to serve for the next fourteen years as the parish priest, overseeing the transfer of worship to Charlton in May 1989. He continued faithfully although his health was failing and he suffered a heart attack during a serious surgical operation in November 1992. He finally retired as parish priest on his seventy-fifth birthday in April 1993 and was elevated to the position of Hegoumenos on 25 July 1994.
Annice also came from a family with a strong Christian tradition from which she never wavered. Brought up a Baptist, her family and social life centred on the Church so it is not surprising that she and Desmond first met at a church tennis club. When he made the decision to become Orthodox and to be ordained, it was primarily her loyalty and support for him that led her to become Orthodox too. Throughout his ministry she was a constant and faithful prop, insisting that time was set aside each week to prepare his Sunday homily, organising the annual Christmas tea party and sharing in the practical pastoral care for members of the congregation who were not so fortunately placed and visiting church members when they were in hospital. For many years Annice personally paid for and provided the wine, charcoal and incense and any other necessities for the Charlton Parish.
Her tireless support Father Philip as we knew him throughout their fifty-seven years of marriage was illustrated by her loving care for him as his health gradually declined. Through her energy and resolution they were still able to take foreign holidays together which would otherwise have been impossible for him, thus maintaining a precious quality of life, which would otherwise have been impossible. Well into her eighth decade Annice was not only looking after her neighbour’s garden as well as her own and when death carried off a neighbour, she was ready at hand to assist with the practical funeral arrangements.
When Father Philip died on 25 January 2005 she brought her organisational skills to good effect in sorting out his affairs but she felt his loss keenly. Her life lost its purpose and her decline – both physical and mental – accelerated. For a time she accompanied Abba Seraphim to ecumenical services and meetings in London, but her increasing deafness (from which she had suffered from childhood) sometimes made it difficult for her to engage. Although she became confused and anxious – which left her vulnerable and obsessed with imagined problems – and her deafness increased her isolation, she nevertheless maintained a strong personal dignity and was fiercely independent, scorning doctors and social workers. Before her husband’s death they had considered moving into sheltered housing, but nothing they saw measured up to her exacting standards. She loved their home in Broad Walk and was immensely proud that she had bought it herself from the fruits of her hard work “I want to die in my own home” was a constant refrain and although she was alone when Death came, her wish was granted. She knew her powers were failing and was prepared for death. Indeed she had started annotating her address book to indicate who should be notified of her death. Even here her dry humour shows through, “Better notify Saga or you will be buried with paper” and near the end, “I’ll try to get a new diary before I peg out!”
Annice Bourke was a woman of strong character and principals. Once she put her hand to the plough, there was no turning back. She delighted in being of service and she gave of her best without reserve. She loved her work, she was fiercely patriotic and saw her role as a civil servant as a duty to her country, which she discharged to the full. Whether it was the Baptist Church in Kidderminster, the British Orthodox Church at Charlton or the Girls’ Venture Corps, she was always ready to volunteer to be of practical help and support. Yet beneath the bustle and organisation there was considerable kindness and generosity. Her enormous energy was at the disposal of those around her and she was never happier than undertaking whatever was asked of her and doing it with drive and efficiency.
Dorothy Eugenie Whitfield, died at Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria, 14 September 2009 aged 88 years.
Known as “Peggy” by her family, Dorothy Eugenie was the daughter of Eugene Bagot Hatherly (1860-1935) and his second wife, Nellie Isabel Bloggs (1882-1943). She was born at Wallasey in Cheshire on 26 June 1921. Her father, Eugene, was the fourth son of Protopresbyter Stephen Hatherly (1827-1905), the first Englishman to be ordained as a priest in the Greek Orthodox Church. Having been born and educated in Liverpool, where his father had founded the Greek Seamen’s Church, Eugene worked as a ship-owner’s clerk and as a foreign correspondent. There were no children from his first marriage to Cora Florence Cooper (married at Birkenhead in 1896) but from his second marriage to Nellie Isabel Bloggs (1882-1943) he had the one daughter.
While still a youngster, the family moved to London, but it proved a difficult time. Eugene died unexpectedly in 1935 at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital where he was having a rodent ulcer removed. As there had been a recent outbreak of diphtheria he was vaccinated but died from anaphalactic shock. The family was under financial pressure at the time as Eugene’s wife suffered from thyroid problems, which were then poorly understood and believed to be symptoms of mental abnormality. Shortly before his death Eugene had taken one of his father’s fine ikons with a commemorative inscription to an art dealer to be restored, but as on-one knew where he had taken it, it was lost to the family. Peggy was only fourteen at the time but was left with a sick mother and her father’s debts, partly incurred for medical bills. This necessitated selling their two properties in Anerley Hill, South-east London and she passed from relation to relation.
Her first job with Ingersolls, but she worked as a cashier in the Army & Navy Stores. At the outbreak of she secured a very responsible job in the War Office involved in helping prisoners of war and their families. She had begun to feel a call to missionary work and decided that this could best be fulfilled through nursing. She then embarked on seven years of training, serving as a theatre nurse at East Grinstead Hospital, where reco0nstructive surgery was being pioneered. She then worked for a while as a District Midwife in Uckfield, East Sussex. Thus fully qualified she was accepted as a medical missionary under the auspices of the Universities Mission to Central Africa, later to become the USPG (c.1857–1965) a missionary society established by members of the Anglican Church within the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, and Dublin. It was the first such society to be founded by the “high Anglican” branch of the church, and the first to devolve authority to a bishop in the field rather than to a home committee. It had been founded in response to a plea by David Livingstone and established the mission stations that grew to be the bishoprics of Zanzibar and Nyasaland (later Malawi), and pioneered the training of black African priests.
From 1955 Peggy was in charge of a small mission hospital, St. Luke’s, at Msoro Mission station in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Here she met David Charles Whitfield, who had worked for two years in the Lay Administration. They returned to England and were married at Skelton in Cleveland on 28 May 1970. In 1971 they settled in Appleby-in-Westmorland in Cumbria, moving to Crackenthorpe in 1974 and returning to Appleby in 1997.
It was only in her retirement that Dorothy became interested in learning more about her grandfather’s ministry and established contact with Abba Seraphim, who was able to enlighten her about his history. She was delighted to learn that the British Orthodox now owned and maintained her grandparents’ grave in Bournemouth.
The Right Rev’d Dr. Eric Waldram Kemp, former Anglican Bishop of Chichester, died on 28 November 2009 aged 94 years.
Eric Kemp was born at Waltham, Lincolnshire, on 27 April 1915 and educated at Brigg Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. Originally intending to follow a legal career, he entered St. Stephen’s House, Oxford, to train for the Anglican ministry. He served as curate of St. Luke’s, Southampton, until it suffered damage during the war; before joining the staff of the well known Anglican Catholic centre, Pusey House, at Oxford. In 1943 he became chaplain of St. John’s College and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, later moving to Exeter College as Fellow, Chaplain and lecturer in Medieval History and Theology. As an authority on canon law he served for a number of years as a proctor for Oxford to the Convocation of Canterbury. He was appointed Dean of Worcester Cathedral 1969-1974 before being consecrated as Bishop of Chichester in 1974.
His years at Chichester coincided with the General Synod’s decision to ordain women to the priesthood, of which he was an opponent and he found himself both praised and criticised for his staunch defence of the Anglo-Catholic position. In 1975 a rule requiring bishops to retire at seventy was introduced by the General Synod, but as Bishop Eric was already in position he was exempt from it and continued in office until 2001, when he was a spritely eighty-six, before doing so. The significant was noted in the funeral address by the Very Reverend Richard Eyre:
“But of course, a watershed came with the decision of the General Synod that women could be ordained to the priesthood. Eric had found support in the Church’s tradition for the making of women deacons, but his historical understanding and his ecumenical concern made him a firm , even passionate, opponent of the priesting of women. Nevertheless, within the limits imposed by this, he made every effort to deal justly with the issue and with those who held different views from his own. If neither he nor his suffragans ordained women as priests, it was not impossible for women priests to function and hold office in the diocese. At the same time he was looked to as the figure amongst the bishops to give lead and encouragement to those opposed to the priesting of women. It was the consciousness of his role in this matter which was beyond doubt chiefly responsible for his decision to prolong his tenure of the see of Chichester far beyond the limit which had become mandatory after the date of his consecration. No doubt also he felt that having waited so long, he would wish to exercise an episcopate of more than eleven years, buttressed by the fact that his powers of work and concentration were still those of a much younger man.”
He was in the best tradition of Anglican scholar bishops and was a warm and kindly pastor in spite of his shyness and many priests came to love and appreciate him. In 1993 he responded to a request by Abba Seraphim for a suitable place of worship in West Sussex, by offering him the use of Trotton Church near Petersfield, which hosted Orthodox worship for some fifteen years.
Archpriest Michael Claude Harper, formerly Dean of the British Antiochian Orthodox Deanery, died on 7 January 2010 aged 78 years.
He was born into a nominally Anglican family in 1931, his father being an entrepreneur at Smithfield Market selling produce to shipping companies and shops; whilst his Irish mother worked as a beautician with Elizabeth Arden. He and his three sisters living in Welbeck Street and worshipped at St. Mark’s, North Audley Street. They were strongly influenced by their evangelical nanny who took him to a lot of Baptist churches and encouraged his prayer life. He was educated at St. Faith’s at Cambridge under the headmastership of W.G. Butler, until they were evacuated to Devon, then Gresham School followed by a scholarship to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he initially read law. Although a committed member of the Christian Union he underwent a conversion experience during the eucharist in King’s College Chapel and followed this by theological training at Ridley Hall when Cyril Bowles was Principal. He and Jeanne met at an Inter-Varsity Fellowship to Norwich in 1951, when she was C.U. Secretary at the Royal Academy of Music.
After ordination as a deacon in 1955 and priest in 1956 he served as curate at St. Barnabas, Clapham Common, under Canon Reg Bazirre, who’d served as a missionary in China, before becoming one of John Stott’s curate at All Souls, Lang ham Place, where for six years (1958-1964) his special responsibility was for the commercial world and shops in the parish. In 1962 he became one of the leading Anglican figures in the charismatic revival and went on to work as General Secretary (1964-1972) and Director (1972-75) of the Fountain Trust, an ecumenical agency formed to the renewal. Although this widened his ecumenical experience it didn’t bring him into contact with Orthodoxy until 1975. He became honorary curate of Holy Trinity, Hounslow (1975-1980). In 1980 the Fountain Truist was voluntarily wound-up and the Harpers moved to Haywards Heath, where he was licensed to officiate in the diocese of Chichester and in 1984 made a Canon and Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral in 1984. In 1984 he became Executive Director of SOMA (Sharing Ministries Abroad), an Anglican based mission agency with a charismatic and evangelical approach. Over the next few years he encountered Fr. Peter Gilquist and visited Orthodox communities in Cyprus, Egypt, Jerusalem and Finland but his attraction to Orthodoxy came quite late. The issue of the ordination of women as priests and the general liberal drift in Anglicanism revealed Orthodoxy as a serious option and in 1993 he became Chairman of Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy.
In 1995 the Antiochian Patriarchate established the British Antiochian Orthodox Deanery under Bishop (after 2000, Metropolitan) Gabriel Saliby (1925-2007), Patriarchal Vicar for Western Europe. Michael Harper was the first to be received and re-ordained and was appointed Dean. At the outset there were nine parishes. In 2002 he became a director of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge. Elevated to the rank of Archpriest on 24 September 2005, during the Deanery’s tenth anniversary celebrations. Ill health led to his resignation as Dean shortly before his death, by which time there were fourteen parishes and eight missions.
He was the author of a number of books about the Charismatic Renewal and later Orthodoxy: As at the beginning: The Twentieth century Pentecostal revival (1965); Spiritual Warfare (1970); None Can Guess (1971); Walk in the Spirit (1968); Glory in the Church: A guidebook to Christian renewal: Advent to Whitsunday (1974); A New Way of Living … How the Church of the Redeemer, Houston, found a new life-style (1973); Let My People Grow (1977); Power for the Body of Christ (1981); The True Light (1997); Equal and Different: Male and Female in Church and Family (1997) and A Faith Fulfilled (1999).
The funeral took place at St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in London on 14 January. Father Simon Smyth attended as representative of Abba Seraphim, who was in India, whilst Father Peter Farrington attended as the Secretary of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity, (Lion Hudson, Oxford); 317pp. £12.99. ISBN 978 0 7459 5367 0
“Christianity…has on several occasions been destroyed in regions where it once flourished. In most cases the elimination has been so thorough as to obliterate any memory that Christians were ever there, so that today any Christian presence in these parts is regarded as a kind of evasive species derived from the West. Yet such a comment about the destruction of churches runs contrary to the story of Christianity as it features in the popular consciousness.” This paragraph reflects the two themes that stood out prominently for this reviewer in Philip Jenkins’ excellent book, firstly the balance and corrective to the usual Christianity as an exclusively Western phenomenon (the USA and Euro centric [mis]understanding of Christianity) and the death or destruction of Churches.
The view of Christianity as a Western phenomenon is regrettably not something limited to ignorant or ill educated obscure fundamentalists, witness Pope Benedict’s (2006) insistence “that authentic Christianity had to be based on the Greek philosophical tradition, establishing the European intellectual model as the inevitable norm for all future ages.” Or maybe those obscure fundamentalists do not have a monopoly on ignorance? For “through much of history, leading Churches have successfully framed the Christian message in the context of non-Greek and non-European intellectual traditions, of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.”
Apart from its questionable historical accuracy the Euro-centric model is not particularly helpful to Christians: “the word Christendom implies for many a theocratic regime in which the most stringent moral and doctrinal codes were enforced by law, while Jews or other outsiders were excluded… all too often, Christian states were associated with ignorance, in a world that remembered only vestiges of classical learning and science.” If only we would “move our focus away from Europe, everything we think we know about Christianity shifts kaleidoscopically”. Some twenty years before the coronation of Charlemagne in AD800, the event and date by which many mark the beginning of Western or European Christendom, Timothy became patriarch of the Church of the East: “Timothy’s career violates everything we think we know about the history of Christianity – about its geographical spread, its relationship with political state power, its cultural breadth, and its interaction with other religions… Timothy was arguably the most significant Christian spiritual leader of his day, much more influential than the Western pope, in Rome” with something like a quarter of the world’s Christians considering Timothy their spiritual head. With metropolitans in Afghanisatan, Turkmenistan, China, Tibet; operating “in multiple languages: in Syriac, Persian, Turkish, Soghdian, and Chinese, but not Latin, which scarcely mattered outside Western Europe”, Philip Jenkins gives deserving but by no means exclusive attention to Timothy’s Church of the East. He also majors on the equally neglected Syrian Orthodox Church, one of our sister Oriental Orthodox Churches. The neglect of these Churches by Church historians is woeful and shameful – and we should find it as absurd as we would find European Christianity being left out of Church history.
These eastern Churches used texts which “according to most Western accounts should have been forgotten long since… abundant alternative scriptures and readings, some of them truly ancient”. There was the late Eighth or early Ninth Century discovery of a large collection of ancient manuscripts near Jericho (something akin to the Twentieth Century finds at Nag Hamadi or the Dead Sea Scrolls) which when compared with the Greek Septuagint and available Hebrew scriptures threw light on New Testament passages that referred to the Old but scholars had not been able to locate in the Old Testament – herein were the original references discovered. These ancient finds included among other things some two hundred Psalms some of which “also appear in the Qumran scrolls.” Western scholars of the time would have known few of the relevant languages of the manuscripts – indeed very few “Western Christian scholars…would have known how to hold the manuscripts: which way was up?”
What of “the destruction of churches” so “contrary to the story of Christianity as it features in the popular consciousness”? A chapter appropriately entitled The Great Tribulation chronicles something of the centuries of persecution and destruction Christians through the Middle East, Africa and Asia suffered under Islam. And the sufferings of our persecuted brethren are brought up to date even through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is something of a rarity to read in any book of the genocide of the Armenians and Syrians (the word genocide coined as a new term in response to what had been inflicted upon them) and still rarer to read Hitler’s reported words when challenged about his ethnic policies, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” All this Christian history deserves to be vastly better known than it too often is and this book is another excellent attempt to rectify this lack. The author’s exploration of reasons and circumstances for Christianity having vanished “utterly from regions…once dominated” makes for fruitful consideration. One particular point still desperately relevant today is Christians’ use of “material successes as proofs of their faith.” This is an argument just ready to backfire and reinforce the competing claims of an alternative religion when it triumphs over Christianity in terms or worldly power and success and has encouraged more than one Christian’s conversion to Islam. It is important to be reminded of a truth too many Christians find uncomfortable or maybe even ignore; that we have no guarantee of any Church continuing in any particular given place, as illustrated by Vincent de Paul’s observation during the Thirty Years’ War that “Jesus promised that his church would last until the end of time, but that he never mentioned the words in Europe.” One aspect of the death or destruction of Churches from particular areas possibly lacking was an sufficient appreciation that even if a once vast Church completely dies out, such a Church is not necessarily a failure – what, after all, of the millions of Christians who found salvation throughout its centuries of ministry?
In vivid contrast to the general tale of Churches dying out is the achievement of the Coptic Church in reaching the hearts of the people, being “firmly rooted among ordinary Egyptians, too deeply to be affected very badly by most disasters that might befall.” Philip Jenkins stresses the significance of the Coptic language in this achievement and in this he is certainly right but the Coptic Church put down roots throughout its native Egyptian culture, language yes but art too, transfiguring Horus slaying the serpent into the standard portrayal of Saint George slaying the dragon, and transfiguring the Ankh, the Key of Life into the new Key of Life, the Cross. “Even when Coptic itself gave way to Arabic, Christianity was too thoroughly naturalized to vanish without a lengthy struggle. Not all the disasters of the fourteenth century could eliminate this absolute association between Christianity and Egyptian-ness.”
One important corrective is highly relevant at this time when European and Western culture’s supposed debt to Islam is repeatedly mentioned. “It is common knowledge that medieval Arab societies were far ahead of those of Europe in terms of science, philosophy and medicine, and that Europeans derived much of their scholarship form the Arab world; yet in the early centuries, this cultural achievement was usually Christian and Jewish rather then Muslim. It was Christians…who preserved and translated the cultural inheritance of the ancient world… Much of what we call Arab scholarship was in reality Syriac, Persian, and Coptic… Syriac Christians even make the first reference to the efficient Indian numbering system that we know today as “Arabic”, and long before this technique gained currency among Muslim thinkers.” Ancient Eastern Christianity influenced more than Muslim Numeracy, medicine and science but even religion: “religious practices…including the prostrations that appear so alien to modern Westerners” and the “self-denial of Ramadan was originally based on the Eastern practice of Lent.” It is good to see again corrected this popular misconception that Copts bow because of Muslim influence when the reality is that the Copts were bowing in worship centuries before Islam existed and that it is their bows and prostrations that influenced Muslim worship. When it comes to Christianity and especially to Orthodox and Oriental Christianity ignorance abounds in the West as many of us know who frequently experience this. One thinking of joining the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate was quizzed by his supposedly educated English clergy friends as to why he wanted to join a Muslim sect! Well, the Coptic Church is in Egypt – right? And we all know Egypt is Muslim – right? Therefore…
One definite criticism, however, must be made of this generally outstanding book and that is the use of the term Monophysite (belief “that Christ had only one nature, so that the divine overwhelmed the human”) for Egyptian (Coptic) and Syrian (Jacobite) Christianity. Considering the author’s evident education, research and scholarship I really must regard this as a blot in, I repeat, an otherwise excellent work.
May this magnificent book to which this review cannot begin to do justice add its impressive weight to that small but growing list of books which are endeavouring to pierce through the dark clouds of Western parochialism and ignorance of Christian history.
Father Simon Smyth
Chalcedon in Context: Church Councils, 400-700, ed. Richard Price and Mary Whitby, Translated Texts for Historians, Contexts 1 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2009). viii + 205 pp. £65 ISBN 978-1-8463 1-177-2.
I was fortunate enough to attend a Colloquium on the Council of Chalcedon in 2006 at Oxford University, organised by Mary Whitby, one of the editors of this volume. Many of the papers which were read on that occasion were both interesting and informative, and although I still have the notes I took at the time they are never as useful as having the full text of the papers. This volume is a collection of the revised and expanded papers which were presented at the Colloquium, and together they provide an important source for placing the councils held during this period in a proper historical context.
Of course there are always aspects of any paper which might be disagreed with, but most of these papers are entirely and surprisingly free from a polemical or party spirit, and the position of the non-Chalcedonian communion is dealt with intelligently and respectfully. There are ten papers presented here, covering the period from Ephesus I in 431 AD to the Quinisext Council in 692 AD, although the majority of the papers are concerned with the period before and after Chalcedon.
Fergus Millar provides an interesting view of the Acts of the Second Council of Ephesus, 449 AD, which shows how the production of Acts for all councils was not a matter of verbatim record, but was a deliberate composition and exclusion of materials for a definite purpose. In the case of the Syriac Acts of Second Ephesus which have come down to us, these are dated to 535 AD and concentrate on the condemnation of various heterodox figures in 449 AD who became of wider interest at exactly this period in the 6th century during the Three Chapters controversy.
Richard Price provides three papers, and each one is a pleasure to read. He seems to always take a sympathetically critical view of our non-Chalcedonian fathers, and this allows him to present a much more balanced view of the historical context surrounding Chalcedon than those who take a strictly partisan point of view. His papers provide a refreshingly honest overview of Chalcedon, and he is able to speak of St Dioscorus as ‘the Athanasius of his age’. His paper on Constantinople in 553 AD is also thought-provoking, as he contrasts the idea that orthodoxy is conservative and unchanging, with the historical evidence that shows history being rewritten to produce a simpler narrative that excluded any recognition that the past had been confused and controversial.
There is an interesting paper included by Charlotte Roueché, which considers the place of acclamations at Chalcedon and elsewhere. These are often treated as if the council in question had descended into violent anarchy, but Roueché shows that in fact this was a normal means for the majority to make its views known. These acclamations were carefully recorded because they were as much a part of the official record of a council as the official contributions of leading bishops.
This volume is a pleasure to read, and I fear it is only the great cost which will prevent it being widely known and appreciated. Each paper adds something of value to the study of this period and the Christological controversies which dominated the attentions of the Church. The fact that our non-Chalcedonian position is treated in a balanced manner means that there is no constant irritation at being misunderstood and misrepresented. On the contrary, this book could very easily be studied with profit by any thoughtful Oriental Orthodox student of theology and Church history.
Father Peter Farrington
The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553 – 2 vol set: With Related Texts on the Three Chapters Controversy (Liverpool University Press – Translated Texts for Historians) Richard Price, 978-1846311789. 488pp. £120
Richard Price has already served the church well by producing the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, and has now shown himself worthy of a double portion of praise by producing this excellent and comprehensive translation of the Acts of the Council of Constantinople, 553, with many important supporting documents.
More than a third of the first volume is taken up with an introductory essay in which Price sets the scene for the council, and describes the ecclesiastical policy of the emperor Justinian, who was the driving force behind the event. He also produces a useful summary of the substance of the Three Chapters which were condemned at Constantinople, and the difficulties associated with its reception.
The translated material begins with correspondence describing the North African response to Justinian’s first edict against the Three Chapters, followed by the text of Justinian’s Second Edict. He concludes this preparatory material with a series of letters to and from the unfortunate Pope Vigilius, sent before the council.
In volume I Price then provides the acts of the first five sessions of the council, which he completes in volume II, by providing the final three sessions. To make this work as comprehensive as possible he then adds translations of the constituta of Vigilius, and the anti-Origenist canons which were associated with the council. A selection of maps, and a lengthy bibliography round off volume II.
Clearly this volume will be of use to historians, as the series is intended, but it will also be of inestimable value to those Oriental Orthodox students of the Christological controversy who wish to understand the relation of this council to our own theological tradition. It will also be of great use to those engaged in ecumenical dialogue who wish to return to these primary sources and consider afresh how they can be made a means of unity rather than a source or object of polemics.
Richard Price has produced an interesting, and even exciting collection of translated texts and introductory materials. His writing style is easily accessible, without being populist, and his content is rewarding of study without being unnecessarily opaque. He is sympathetic and understanding of the participants in the events he describes, and has produced a finely balanced account of the council of Constantinople that can be entirely recommended to members and students of the Oriental Orthodox tradition.
This is a two volume edition, and is priced beyond the pockets of many of those who would find it interesting, and it is to be hoped that a paperback edition, as with the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, will appear in due course.
Father Peter Farrington
John Fenwick, The Forgotten Bishops. The Malabar Independent Syrian Church and its Place in the Story of the St. Thomas Christians of South India, (Gorgias Press, Piscataway, NJ, USA: 2009), Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies 20), xlvii + 636 pp. & illus. ISBN 978-1-60724-619-0. Price: US $160.
In 1992 John Fenwick published his delightful study of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (MISC), which until then had remained no more than a footnote in other histories of Christianity in Malabar. He has now returned to the topic with his usual thoroughness and attention to detail with this very substantial history, which is a significant contribution to the history of Orthodoxy in South India.
The first thing that needs to be noted is that this is much more than a history of MISC but actually chronicles Malankara Church history as a whole from its foundation to the beginning of the twentieth century. Although it is essentially an historical study, it stands its ground with Bishop Leslie’s Brown’s The Indian Christians of St. Thomas (1982) insofar as its stance is neutral and there is a willingness to critically re-examine historical sources.
Chapter 1 offers a simple but valuable introduction dealing with the geographical context, the ethnography and political organisation; whilst Chapter 2 on Syriac Christianity explores the Syriac tradition, the Christological controversies of the fourth century and Rome’s involvement with the Syriac churches prior to 1498. Chapter 3 briefly outlines the tradition concerning St. Thomas and India and the internal administration of the Indian Church under the Pakalomattom Archdeacons. These all prepare the ground for the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498 and its disastrous impact on the indigenous Christian community.
Having chronicled the subjugation of the local church to the Roman Catholic Church at the Synod of Diamper (1599) and the revolt of the Coonen Cross Oath (1653) followed by sporadic contacts with Mesopotamian bishops which led – almost in a fit of absent-mindedness – to the switch of allegiance from the East Syrian Patriarchs of Babylon to the West Syrian Patriarchs of Antioch, we move onto less familiar ground. This is not because the events are totally unfamiliar but because Bishop Fenwick’s use of sources is exact and his analysis sagacious.
The Malankara Metropolitan, Mar Thoma V (1728-1765) was not canonically consecrated but took the pontifical insignia from the hands of his predecessor when he was too moribund to perform the ceremony. Anxious to protect his position from the predations of the Catholics, Mar Thoma V sent several appeals to the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Gregorios III. Unfortunately the Patriarch despatched more than one bishop to Kerala, thus causing confusion. An impartial observer might even feel that Antioch’s interventions throughout Malabar Church history have remained consistent ever since. Mar Ivanios al-Arqugianyi arrived in 1746 and begun conforming the Indian Church to West Syrian traditions, although he surprisingly flirted with Rome. In 1751 Patriarch Gregorios sent Mar Basilios Shukr Allah, Maphrian of the East, and Mar Gregorios Yuhanna, Metropolitan of Jerusalem, to Malabar. Mar Basilios and Mar Ivanios soon quarrelled and the former induced the Dutch authorities to deport Mar Ivanios. Mar Thoma also proved a problem as he was not inclined to relinquish his authority and was in no hurry to meet the Syrian bishops. The result was that the Orthodox community split into two factions. Mar Basilios continued the process of training clergy in the West Syrian ways and in 1752 consecrated one of his retinue as Mar Ivanios Yuhanna of Malabar. A brief concordat was established with Mar Thoma V leaving him free to administer the church provided the supremacy of the Antiochian Patriarchate was recognised but this did not last and the irregularity of his position was not resolved. In 1760 he purported to consecrate his cousin, Mar Thoma VI, as his successor. In 1764 Mar Basilios died and was followed by Mar Thoma V the following year.
Six years later (1770) Mar Thoma VI submitted to be consecrated at the hands of Mar Gregorios and Mar Ivanios who gave him the new name, Mar Dionysios I. The delay in resolving his position appears to have been due to the insistence of the Syrian bishops that the West Syrian uses should be adopted unequivocably. However, once again relations broke down between the Syrian bishops and the new Indian bishop – who, like his uncle, also began flirting with Rome – so that in 1764 Mar Mar Basilios consecrated one of his protégés, Ramban Abraham Katumangat, as Mar Koorilose I and named him as Metropolitan of Malabar. When Mar Gregorios died in 1773 he bequeathed all his possessions to Mar Koorilose as his heir. Initially accorded recognition as Metropolitan by the Rajah of Cochin he soon faced fierce opposition from Mar Dionysios who used his influence with the more powerful Rajah of Travancore to have that recognition rescinded and Mar Koorilose dispossessed and imprisoned. Managing to escape to Anjur, only 5 kilometres outside the territory of Cochin and just within British Malabar, he eventually purchased land at Thozhiyur, which became the centre of his diocese.
However, the MISC does not disappear from view with this defeat as the line of Mar Dionysios I eventually died out in 1816 and the MISC Metropolitan, Mar Philoxenos II, was not only asked to consecrate bishops for the larger church but on two occasions occupied the position of Malankara Metropolitan himself (1817 and 1825-9). In due course the death of Mar Koorilose III of Thozhiyur in 1856 ended the succession from Mar Gregorius of Jerusalem and it became necessary for Mar Koorilose IV to receive consecration from the Malabar Metropolitan, Mathews Mar Athanasios, who had received direct consecration from Patriarch Elias II of Antioch in 1842. Although he was subsequently deposed by Patriarch Peter IV of Antioch he retained government recognition as Metropolitan until 1876. This relationship with the “Reformers” meant that the MISC metropolitan provided the episcopate to the Mar Thoma Church in 1894. In 1935 the Mar Thoma bishops were able to return the favour and since then have consecrated subsequent MISC Metropolitans. Despite this co-operation, however, the MISC has not adopted the Mar Thoma reforms but has remained faithful to Syrian Orthodox faith and order.
Bishop Fenwick steers his way through these intractable problems with remarkable skill and analyses contradictory accounts with a clinical detachment. Apart from this he has unearthed resources previously little, if ever, used whilst drawing on the CMS records at Birmingham University and other archives in Britain.
Gorgias Press is to be commended for its encouragement of such works, but its proof-reading is sadly lacking and the use of the same cover design for several different books is strangely unimaginative. It is sad that the price is so inflated, especially as this is an essential work of reference for those wishing to understand the convulated history of Malabar Christianity.
Exegesis and Hermeneutics in the Churches of the East. Ed. Vahan S. Hovhanessian. Peter Lang. 2007. 175pp. 978-1-4331-0495-4
The Orthodox tradition is often viewed in a populist manner in the West as if it had no interest in Scripture. Perhaps it has picked this mis-perception up from the same populist view of Roman Catholic history. This volume, a collection of papers presented at the 2007 meeting of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Traditions unit of the Society of Biblical Literature will surely go some way to proving such views to be entirely misguided.
The eleven papers presented here reveal that the Orthodox traditions have always been rooted in the study of the Scriptures, and have always based their theological and spiritual developments on their reading of Scripture.
Although the titles of some of the papers might suggest that they are beyond the interest of the intelligent lay Orthodox reader, nevertheless the time spent in reading each paper is well rewarded with a greater understanding of the place of Scripture in our Orthodox tradition, and important insights into the manner in which Scripture was understood and treated by the eastern Fathers.
Some of the Fathers studied in this volume will be less well known to the wider Oriental Orthodox community. Several of the papers deal with the exegesis and hermeneutics used by Aphrahat for instance, a fourth century Syrian writer in Persia. Two others are concerned with Ephrem the Syrian. Another paper provides some interesting insights into the place of the Book of Revelation in the lectionaries of the East. Each of the papers will be of great interest to a serious student of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Scriptural tradition.
The fact that these papers were presented at an international conference means that they are not so long that the lay student will get defeated by academic detail, nor so short that nothing of value will be communicated. The volume benefits from the respectful and entirely Orthodox manner in which the Fathers of the past are studied. This is not a critical deconstruction of the Orthodox view of Scripture, but equally each paper is reflective and provides insights into the views of those Fathers that are considered, the contexts in which they studied and wrote, and the value of these insights for our own Orthodox Christian study of Scripture.
Father Peter Farrington