On Sunday, 4 November, Deacon Antony Holland of Portsmouth was formally reincardinated into the British Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Seraphim during the Divine Liturgy celebrated at St. Felix Church at Babingley, at which he diaconised alongside Archdeacon Mark Saunders and Father James.
Deacon Antony was originally ordained a deacon by Abba Seraphim at the Bournemouth Church on 8 February 2015. Following the agreement of 5 October 2015, whereby the British Orthodox Church returned to its pre-1994 independent status, he chose to remain within the Coptic Patriarchate, but subsequently resolved that this had been an error and requested to return to British Orthodoxy, where he was welcomed home. He will now be attached to the ministry of the Bournemouth Church to serve alongside Hieromonk John.
This summer Dr. Ajesh T. Philip and George Alexander’s published an important study, Western Rites of Syriac-Malankara Orthodox Churches. The Mission Untold (OCP Publications: 2018) which was written under the auspices of OCP-MARP (Metropolitan Alvares Julius Research Project) as part of their research and study of the work, mission and life of the legendary Metropolitan-Archbishop Mar Julius I (1836-1923) of the Syriac-Malankara Orthodox Churches. It extended its remit to cover the Chaldean Syrian-Malankara Churches, which historically and theologically originate from their connection with the ancient Church of the East, whose theology derives from the Nestorian rather than the Orthodox faith.
To complement their important study and research Abba Seraphim, using extensive material from the library and archives of the British Orthodox Church has written:
Abba Seraphim, As Far as the East is From the West. Sidelights on Assyrian Church History, No. 5 in the Seraphic Press’ series “Byways of Church History” (ISBN 978-0-244-42261-5), Hardback, v + 279 pp. + illustrations. £23.00
As far back as 1981 Abba Seraphim wrote a series of three articles entitled “Sidelights on Assyrian Church History”, in the Glastonbury Bulletin (now the Glastonbury Review), which form the basis for this book. Having examined the origins of the Syro-Chaldean Catholic Church and its ministry in south India, he traces through the circumstances in which the “Mellusians” left the Catholic Church and reunited with the Assyrian Church of the East. In 1902 an Englishman, Ulric Vernon Herford (1866-1938) was consecrated as Mar Jacobus, Bishop of Mercia, and founded the Evangelical Catholic Church, which was notable for introducing Catholic theology and sacramental worship to the Free Churches. After the death of Mar Jacobus, some of his principal followers became Orthodox and united with Abba Seraphim’s predecessor, the late Metropolitan Georgius of Glastonbury. Drawing on much original archival material, including Mar Jacobus’ own contemporary account of his visit to India in 1902 to receive episcopal consecration – which had been published in 1954, but has long since been unavailable – as well as tracing the complex history of the Assyrian Church through the extraordinary life and ministry of the late Catholicos of the East, Mar Eshai Shim’un XXIII (1908-1975), the last of the hereditary patriarchs.
Copies can be obtained online from Lulu.com:
Issue No. 128 (October 2018) of the Glastonbury Review has just been published. This issue is 118 pages. The front cover carries a picture of Abba Seraphim with the late Metropolitan Bishoy, whose recent death is the front page news, whilst it also includes his obituary. The back cover has two coloured photographs of the Library of the British Orthodox Church as this issue also contains an article on the Church Library.
The “Here, There & Everywhere” section contains key items of news since the last issue with photographs. The “Oriental Orthodox Church News” section contains a detailed report of the recent tragic murder of Bishop Epiphanius, the Abbot of St. Makarius monastery and an article on “The Impact of Political Change on the Church” specifically examining recent events in Armenia and Egypt. Among the articles is one on British Orthodox Saints by Father John and “Image and Likeness. Mankind’s Original Calling” by Abba Seraphim. A valuable reprint of the long out of print “The Body of Christ. A Century on the Vision and Purpose of the Church”, which was originally published in 1989, offers a spiritual vision to complement the solid theological content of “The Glastonbury Confession”. Another regular feature is “Abba Seraphim’s Question Box” based on recent correspondence. The “Book Review” section covers a well illustrated guide to the Ecumenical Patriarchate headquarters in Istanbul; a new study by the leaders of the Orthodoxy Cognate Page Society on Western Rite Syriac-Malankara Orthodox Church. The Mission Untold and Hugh Allen’s scholarly study on New Llanthony Abbey. Father Ignatius’ Monastery at Capel-y-ffin as well as notices of several new publications issued under Abba Seraphim’s auspices. One of these is a rare, previously unpublished manuscript from the British Orthodox archives, Archbishop Mathew and the Old Roman Catholic Rite in England compiled by his successor, Archbishop Bernard Mary Williams; another George & the Dragon. The Controversial exchanges of Mar Georgius of Glastonbury & F.H. Amphlett Micklewright with a detailed introduction by Abba Seraphim; whilst the third is Ex Oriente Lux, Abba Seraphim’s well-researched book on the two nineteenth century Orthodox pioneers, Overbeck & Hatherly. This issue concludes with obituaries of Father Theodore de Quincey, Deacon John Stuart and Metropolitan Bishoy. Copies can be obtained directly from www.Lulu.com
It was with much sadness that the British Orthodox Church heard of the sudden death from a heart attack on Tuesday, 2 October of His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, aged only 76 years.
He served as General Secretary of the Coptic Holy Synod from 1985-2012, until the death of the late Pope Shenouda III. When the British Orthodox Church entered into union with the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1994, Metropolitan Bishoy played a leading rôle in drafting the Protocol of Union and proved himself, over the following years, to be very supportive of Abba Seraphim and his ministry. Like Abba Seraphim, Metropolitan Bishoy, lost his father at the age of four and was brought up by his widowed mother and also, both were consecrated to the episcopate in their thirtieth year. As scholars and theologians with teaching experience they also shared a love of writing and lecturing to promote the Orthodox Faith. Abba Seraphim recalls with delight meeting Metropolitan Bishoy’s mother and aunt and also the occasion when he and his own mother welcomed Metropolitan Bishoy to the Church Secretariat and Library at Charlton.
Although by training a Mechanical Engineer, who taught in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alexandria, he was also active in the Sunday School movement, where he also taught in the districts of Bacchus and Sporting in Alexandria. In early 1969 he entered the Syrian Monastery (Deir Al-Sourian) – the same monastery to which Abba Seraphim was later admitted – and was professed as a monk, under the name of Father Toma El-Suriani, before being ordained to the priesthood in 1970. Two years later, on 24 September 1972, whilst he was only in his thirtieth year, Pope Shenouda consecrated him to the episcopate to serve as Bishop of Damiette, the region where his family had lived for many generations and who had produced the martyr, the deacon Saint Sidhom Bishay (died 1844), whose relics now rest in the Cathedral at Damiette. When President Sadat imprisoned leading Coptic clergy who were loyal to Pope Shenouda, Bishop Bishoy also served a prison term of several months in 1981-82 before being confined to a monastery. In 1985 he was permitted to resume his duties and returned to Damiette.
Metropolitan Bishoy was a leading Coptic scholar and theologian and in recognition of the important rôle he played in inter-church dialogue, especially that between the two families of Orthodoxy, Pope Shenouda elevated him to the rank of Metropolitan in 1990. His ministry was distinguished by his unwavering loyalty to the late Pope Shenouda and his fidelity to the Orthodox Faith as witnessed by the Coptic tradition. As a traditionalist he never ceased to expose teachings and behaviour which undermined Orthodoxy by his writings and through using his influence as Secretary of the Holy Synod.
Abba Seraphim has directed that memorial prayers should be offered in all British Orthodox churches for the next forty days and that there should be special prayers on the fortieth day, which happens also to coincide with Remembrance Sunday.
I find myself gravely concerned about the suggestion currently being put forward in certain quarters that we should avoid referring to God by masculine pronouns, as these suggest that God is male. The rise of radical feminism has encouraged a rejection of patriarchal images and concepts of God which they contend diminish, rather than empower women. Such an attitude, however, disregards the teaching of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who instructed us to pray to God as “Our father”. To regard the Fatherhood of God solely as patriarchal imagery is a gross distortion of what our Lord reveals about God the Father, whose love and compassion for humankind is boundless.
It is a profound tragedy that some people do not accept God as He has revealed Himself to us but rather wish to recreate Him according to their own imagination and sympathies. As in all such cases they do not worship the God who created them in His image, but rather choose to create God in their image. Stereotypical images of masculinity and femininity must not be allowed to colour our understanding of the Divine. By nature God manifests all that is good and to view our relationship with Him through our perception of gender roles in society is unacceptable. Father figures may not always be loving and supportive of their children, but the fact that human frailty leads to imperfection which sometimes causes pain and suffering does not mean that fatherhood in itself is flawed. Equally those positive characteristics of love, compassion, gentleness and tenderness which we associate with maternal nature are not solely the preserve of females.
The Aramaic term ‘Abba’, translated as Father, is used by our Lord Jesus Christ, and has a closeness and intimacy, which is actually far from patriarchal. St. Paul tells us “because you are sons, God has sent the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba Father’ so through God you are no longer a slave but the son, and if a son then an heir.” (Galatians IV: 6-7). Although he here uses masculine imagery what he says is not intended only for men but embraces all Christians. Our Lord Jesus Christ is God’s son by nature, but through the generosity and mercy of God we too are enabled to become sons of God by adoption, whilst the imagery of God’s boundless generosity is captured by suggesting that we are to be beneficiaries of His inheritance. The same image of God’s bounty and freeing us from the bondage of sin and death is also conveyed by St. Paul when he says “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans VIII: 5).
The Scriptures are full of rich imagery and we must not overlook the fact that John the Baptist’s alludes to Christ as the bridegroom (John III: 29), which St. Paul interprets as His loving fellowship with His church, which in the book of Revelation is referred to as the Bride and New Jerusalem.
Attempts to counteract what they see as male dominance has led some to adopt feminine language and refer to God as ‘mother’. Sylvia Browne, an American psychic medium and author of “Mother God. The Feminine Principle to our Creator” (2004) draws inspiration from the female divinities of the ancient world. There is, however, a grave danger here of reverting to pagan and neo-Gnostic teachings which undermine orthodox Christian teaching.
It should be sufficient for us to follow in obedience our Saviour’s teaching as to how we should pray. God is our Father, emphasizing a uniquely intimate relationship; whilst we are His obedient and loving children. Again, the imagery of God’s fatherhood reveals to us a bond of fellowship with humanity, our brothers and sisters in creation.