Converts and Asylum Seekers
The unsettled political conditions across the Middle East and in the Horn of Africa have impacted on the lives of many Orthodox Christians, who have sought asylum in the United Kingdom, where government policy has not been sympathetic to encouraging settlement. In addition, there has been a steady stream of converts to Christianity from Islam, who face seriously life-threatening futures if they remain in their home countries. For many years Abba Seraphim has worked actively to support both groups when they come to the United Kingdom, co-operating and liaising with respected organisations such as the Barnabas Fund and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW); playing an active role on the Asylum Advocacy Committee, writing reports and witness statements, and appearing in person at Immigration and Asylum hearings to speak on their behalf.
Sharing the Orthodox Faith and Witness
British Orthodox clergy are frequency invited to speak at both national and international conferences and to witness to the Orthodox faith and teaching to both secular and ecumenical groups. In June 2005 Abba Seraphim gave an address ‘Towards a Common Christology’ at the Inter-Orthodox Conference “Christ He Who Is” at Sigtuna, Sweden; in 2006 & 2007 he led conferences on the ‘Desert Mass’ in Ekerö, Sweden for clergy of the Sweden Lutheran Church; in 2007 he spoke on ‘Scripture & Tradition’ at the annual Conference of the Fellowship of St. Alban & St. Sergius at London Colney; in 2008 he addressed the Orthodox Group of the Christian Council of Sweden in Stockholm on the subject ‘The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism’; in 2010 he was invited to address the twelfth annual conference of the North American Archdiocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Church; in 2011 he was the guest of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Malta and the Mediterranean Institute, where he presided at an ecumenical events to commemorate the new Coptic martyrs of Alexandria and delivered two public addresses; as well as numerous lectures to several scholarly societies and sermons at many churches, both Orthodox and ecumenical. In 2013 Ortodoksia, a journal published by Finnish Orthodox Clergy Association together with Department of Orthodoxy in the School of Theology of the University of Eastern Finland published his “The Two Families of Orthodoxy. An Ecumenical Perspective”, a lecture he had originally delivered at the Catholic Chaplaincy of the University of Exeter.
In 2008 Father Peter Farrington was invited to participate in a World Council of Churches Global Platform for Theology & Analysis meeting in Geneva; in 2011 the Serbian Orthodox theological journal Teološki pogledi (Theological views), published by the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, published his article, “The Christology of St. Severus of Antioch”; in 2012 he was invited the Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue at Oxford sponsored by the Fellowship of St. Alban & St. Sergius; Father Simon Smyth and his wife, Tasoni Sheila, were both speakers at the annual Family Conference of the Indian Orthodox Church in London in 2008 and for several years Father Simon has regularly taught on iconography at Moorlands Bible College in Dorset.
The British Orthodox Church also organises and hosts conferences for its own people and clergy as well as scholarly topics for a wider audience, such as the acclaimed 2013 Seminar in Glastonbury: “Glastonbury Abbey – Influence and Legacy”.
Sharing in fellowship
Abba Seraphim and the British Orthodox clergy have actively participated in sharing fellowship with the other churches comprising the Oriental Orthodox family. With Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church at Stevenage, he played a decisive role in reviving the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK (COOC) and since 2009 Father Peter Farrington of the British Orthodox Church has served as Secretary of COOC. Apart from his many visits to Egypt, Abba Seraphim has also visited the Churches in Armenia, Artsakh (Ngorno-Karabagh), Syria, Kerala (South India) as well as maintaining good relations with the Armenian and Syriac communities in Turkey.
Support for Eritrean Orthodox clergy and people
Since the day on which Abba Seraphim was ordained a Metropolitan by Pope Shenouda was also the day on which the Eritrean abbots were ordained as the first members of the newly independent Eritrean Orthodox Church, a close bond has existed between the British and Eritrean churches in the United Kingdom. In 2006, when Patriarch Antonios was uncanonically removed from office by the Eritrean government, Abba Seraphim became an active campaigner on behalf of the deposed patriarch as well as others who had suffered under government oppression. When the late Pope Shenouda authorised Bishop Makarios to oversee those Eritreans churches which remained loyal to the patriarch, Abba Seraphim proved himself their good friend.
In 2010 he was guest speaker at the annual conference of the North American Archdiocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and the following year, at the request of Bishop Makarios, ordained a priest for the Eritrean Church in Manchester. Following a pastoral visit to England in June 2012 and the establishment of a Eritrean diocese for Europe, Bishop Makarios authorised Abba Seraphim to act on his behalf in overseeing his clergy and congregations in United Kingdom, which currently comprise four congregations: London, Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield.
The Glastonbury Review was founded in 1944 by the late Metropolitan Georgius of Glastonbury (1905-1979). Its original name was The Orthodox Catholic Review but in 1970, when it merged with another church magazine, it became known as The Glastonbury Bulletin and in 1999 was renamed The Glastonbury Review. Abba Seraphim has been its editor since 1967. As the mouthpiece of the British Orthodox Church it is committed to the history and progress of indigenous Orthodoxy. It includes articles and book reviews about the Orthodox faith, Church History, Orthodox Spirituality, Celtic Christianity and various sympathetic figures and precursor movements in the West. As part of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate it contains items about the history and spirituality of Coptic Orthodoxy. It also chronicles and documents current events in the Oriental Orthodox churches, whilst endeavouring to be Pan-Orthodox and eirenic in its outlook as well as evangelistic and pastoral in outreach.
Oriental Orthodox Library
When the British Orthodox Church was united with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1994 there was a great demand for materials describing our Orthodox Faith. Many of the volumes which were available in English were difficult to obtain. In 2000 Father Peter Farrington began to use the services of print-on-demand publishers to make available many of these important works to an English speaking audience. The publications of the Oriental Orthodox Library have continued and presently there are over 30 volumes available in printed form from the Library. These include volumes on theology, spirituality, liturgy and church history.
The British Orthodox Press
Our own press publishes a variety of books and booklets on theological, historical and spiritual topics as well as collections of sermons and articles by the clergy. In addition it produces the various liturgical texts used in the services of the church.
British Orthodox Library
The Library and Archives of the British Orthodox Church is housed at the Church Secretariat in Charlton. It consists of around 10,000 books and periodical publications of general theology with extensive sections of Orthodox theology and liturgies. It is available to church members and scholars by appointment
London School of Orthodox Christian Studies
In 2012 Father Peter Farrington implemented the first plans to develop an online educational programme under the title of the London School of Orthodox Christian Studies. The London School now provides serious courses in Orthodox Christology, Orthodox Church History and Orthodox Monasticism. These courses are provided for a small fee to support the development of this ministry. At present 72 students from around the world are engaged in these studies. Each course contains 100 hours of material which is provided using the internet. New courses are being developed to extend the catalogue to six different topics.
Discovering Orthodox Online Catechesis
A great many people have shown an interest in studying the Orthodox Faith but are not able to engage in the detailed studies required by the London School of Orthodox Christian Studies. Therefore the Discovering Orthodoxy catechesis has been created and launched in January 2013 to allow students to study the Orthodox faith through smaller units requiring only an hour or two of study.
The materials are offered to students from around the world at no cost, and presently there are over 1100 registered participants in the catechesis from almost every continent and 30 different countries. These include Orthodox and non-Orthodox students. A Council of Reference has been formed to provide a pan-Orthodox oversight of the project and this includes His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim, His Grace Mar Thimotheos of the Indian Orthodox Church, and His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian of the Armenian Orthodox Church. Course materials continue to be produced on a regular basis and it is planned that 100 short units of study will eventually be available for interested students around the world to access through the internet.