The British Patriarchate Restored After 24 Years In Commission

Origins of the British Patriarchate

          The British Orthodox Church is in direct historical continuity with the mission of Julius (Ferrette), Bishop of Iona (1825-1904), who came to the British Isles “as a bishop consecrated for a Western Mission by one of the Eastern Churches.”[1] Anciently the only Primates to be called Patriarchs were the bishops of the five historic sees of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, but in the course of time (and especially during the twentieth century the primates of the newly independent churches of Russia (1589-1720, revived in 1917), Roumania (1925), Serbia (1920) and Bulgaria (1946) assumed Patriarchal rank, whilst Britain did so towards the end of the nineteenth century.

          The first British Patriarch was a Welshman, Richards Williams Morgan (1815-1889), who adopted the ancient British see of Caerleon-upon Usk, and  who under the title of His Holiness Pelagius, Bishop & Hierarch of the British Church from c. 1874-1889, published the Altar Service of the British Church in 1878, in which he noted:

“1. The British Church was founded by the Apostles and Apostolic Missions A.D. 49 – four centuries before the Foreign Roman Papal Church was founded in Kent by Pope Gregory and St. Augustine – fifteen centuries before the present State Church was established by Henry VIII.

2. In accordance with its name, as the Primitive Apostolic Patriarchal Church of the British Isles, older and nobler as a National Church than any other Church in Europe, it rejects all foreign authority or jurisdiction whatever.”

          His successor, as second British Patriarch (1889-1917), was Charles Isaac Stevens (1835-1917), who was style Mar Theophilus “Archbishop of Caerleon, Caertroia, Verulam, &c.; and Patriarch ŒC in the Church of God” but was also referred to as “Abp. Stevens, Pat. British Church”. The third British Patriarch (1917-1919) was James Martin (1843-1919) who also held the see of Caerleon-on-Usk and was styled “Mar Jacobus Antipas, Archbishop and Patriarch”.  His successor, as fourth British Patriarch (1919-1922) was Andries Caarel Albertus McLaglen (1851-1928), who styled himself as “Archbishop and Patriarch of the Ancient British Church” but retained the see title of Claremont, to which he had been originally consecrated rather than adopting that of Caerleon. His successor, Herbert James Monzani-Heard (1867-1947), styled Mar Jacobus II, also retained his original see title of ‘Archbishop of Selsey’ when he became the fifth British Patriarch in 1922 upon the abdication of Mar Andries. It was Mar Jacobus II, in his capacity as Fifth British Patriarch, who was responsible for promulgating “The Statutes of the British Patriarchate”[2] on 9 September 1943, which have been one of the constitutional foundations of the British Orthodox Church for the past 75 years.

In 1943 Mar Jacobus II abdicated in favour of Mar Georgius I, Archbishop of Glastonbury (1905-1979), who upon succeeding attached his rank to his episcopal see by using the style “Patriarch of Glastonbury”, but in 1969 reverted to the style of ‘Metropolitan of the Holy City of Glastonbury, the Occidental Jerusalem, and Sixth British Patriarch’.[3]

In 1977, at the episcopal consecration of Mar Seraphim (as he was then styled) as coadjutor, in order to show continuity with his predecessors the former see of Caerleon-upon-Usk was revived. By virtue of having been consecrated as Mar Georgius’ Perpetual Coadjutor cum jure successionis Mar Seraphim, immediately succeeded his predecessor at his death on 28 February 1979 in all his titles and offices; and at his Solemn enthronement at Glastonbury on 11 August 1979 was publicly proclaimed as ‘Metropolitan of the Holy City of Glastonbury, the Occidental Jerusalem, and Seventh British Patriarch.”[4] 

On 6 April 1994 Abba Seraphim (as he was now styled) and the late Pope Shenouda III jointly signed a Protocol defining the relationship between the Orthodox Church of the British Isles (the former title of the British Orthodox Church) and the Coptic Orthodox Church.[5] On 16 June 1994 – three days before his formal consecration as Metropolitan in Cairo –– having ceased to exercise his Patriarchal office out of courtesy to Pope Shenouda, but desirous to make provision for the preservation of the British Patriarchate as an ecclesiastical and historical jurisdiction, and in order to prevent specious claimants asserting claims thereto; as well as providing for some future eventuality when it might be revived by due and canonical authority for the good of the British Orthodox Church, Abba Seraphim placed the office of British Patriarch into commission.[6]   

Having eventually resumed its independence, on 5 October 2015 the British Orthodox Church in a “Joint announcement from the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom and the British Orthodox Church”[7], at the time made no change to the status of the British Patriarchate.  However, with February 2019 marking the completion of forty years of Abba Seraphim’s pontificate, the time was deemed to be appropriate to restore the British Patriarchate to its pre-1994 status. At a meeting of the Commissioners held at Cusworth on 22 December 2018, it was resolved that the Office of British Patriarch currently held in commission should be restored to active exercise;  that Abba Seraphim should resume this with immediate effect; and that the Trust established in 1994 should be wound up and the Commissioners cease to hold office as such.[8] In a Decree dated 23 December 2018, Abba Seraphim announced that with effect from 1 January 2019 he would resume the public exercise of his Office as VIIth British Patriarch with the style and title under which he was duly enthroned at Glastonbury and would henceforth be known as ‘His Beatitude’ rather than ‘His Eminence’. [9]


[1] Vide Abba Seraphim, Flesh of Our Brethren. An historical examination of Western episcopal successions originating from the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (British Orthodox Press, London: 2017).

[2] British Orthodox Church archives, Addit. Mss 7(i)/3.

[3] Mar Ignatius Peter, Ignorance is Bliss. The Historical Evidence for the British Patriarchate, (Metropolitical Press, Glastonbury: 1985).

[4] “An Act of the Holy Governing Synod proclaiming the Lawful & Canonical Succession of His Beatitude Mar Seraphim I to the Apostolic Throne of Glastonbury”, Glastonbury Chartulary, Vol. I, 1. (3 March 1979); “Memorial concerning the Solemn Enthronement of His Beatitude Mar Seraphim I as Metropolitan of Glastonbury & Seventh British Patriarch”, Glastonbury Chartulary, AS Vol. I, 14 (11 August 1979).

[5] “Protocol determining the relationship of the British Orthodox Church of the British Isles (BOCBI) to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria”, Glastonbury Chartulary, AS Vol. XVI, 2 (6 April 1994).

[6] “Trust Deed for the Commissioners holding the office of British Patriarch”, Glastonbury Chartulary, Vol. AS XVI, 5A (16 June 1994)

[7] The Glastonbury Review, No. 127 (December 2017), p. 9.

[8] “Resolution of the Commissioners of the British Patriarchate”, Glastonbury Chartulary, AS Vol. XL, 24

[9] “Decree concerning the Restoration of the British Patriarchate”, Glastonbury Chartulary, AS Vol. XL, 25, 23 December 2018).


In Secret Have I Said Nothing

When our Lord stood before the High Priest at His trial He was questioned for evidence of sedition but His reply demonstrates that He never had anything to hide,

“I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly.”

(John XVIII: 20)

Our father among the saints, St. Cyril of Alexandria, also suggests that our Lord wished to emphasise that the revelation given to Moses in the Old Testament in the form of types and shadows and prophecies spoke of Himself. Indeed, St Cyril reminds us that what our Lord was saying was the same as revealed by the Prophet Isaiah,

“I have not said to Jacob’s descendants ‘seek me in vain’. I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right”.

(Isaiah XLV: 19)

Although He sometimes conversed privately with His disciples, yet what He taught them was always a fuller exposition of what He had said in public and was never contrary to it or something intended only for them. After His Ascension, the Lord fulfilled His promise and did not leave them comfortless as the Father sent them the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost. Part of His ministry was directed towards the continued revelation of the truth,

“The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

(John XIV: 26)

which was manifested by the common mind of the apostles in teaching the doctrines revealed to them by the Lord  

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”.

(Acts II: 42)

Sadly, even in the early church, while the apostles were still alive, certain Christians allowed themselves to be influenced by pagan teachings and at the instigation of the devil, began to expound doctrines which were contrary to the revelation give by our Lord. The apostle Peter warns against this when he says,

“No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” 

(2 Peter 1:20)

This is why the traditional Christian churches study the Scriptures with respect, noting the comments of the saints and fathers of the church (patristic study) which generally demonstrates a consensus of understanding, which the Church upholds as truly representing the “mind of the church.” Just as it is believed that God revealed Himself through the written word revealed to holy men, so our Lord Jesus Christ, as God incarnate, is the Living Word.

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son”

(Hebrews I: 1-2)

The idea that there is a secret teaching for only select disciples is an early heresy but is still maintained by a number of groups extant today and much of what they claim to have as a secret revelation is quite contrary to our Lord’s teaching and in open opposition to Orthodox Christianity. Dr Harvey Lewis, a leading Rosicrucian, states:

“These facts give a different colouring to the picture of Christianity as a religious, philosophical, or moral system. In fact, they help us to understand that the original and true Christian instruction, and the original Christian doctrines, were divine things not intended for all human beings. Rather, they constitute a system of transcendental truths, esoteric revelations, and divine laws of unlimited application and omnipotent power.”

[Harvey Spencer Lewis, The Secret Doctrine of Jesus (AMORC, San Jose, California: 1998), p. 12.]

As early as the second century St. Irenaeus condemned a number of Christian sects which transmitted their teachings only to a limited circle of initiates, claiming that through various esoteric rites they would have access to a deeper knowledge of God. For them knowledge (gnosis) rather than Faith was at the core of their religion. It is quite clear from the Scriptures and from the words of our Lord at His trial that He repudiates the concept of esoteric teaching because the goodness and mercy of God is available to all who submit to the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The whole concept of  secret teaching and an élite group of initiates who are possessed of what they falsely call ‘knowledge’ runs totally contrary to the outpouring of grace made available to simple souls who embrace their Creator with true love and devotion. The Gospel of God is intended for each and every man and woman, without restriction and without distinction of education, degree or status. 

Abba Seraphim


Pastoral Visit to Cusworth with Monastic Profession

During the weekend of 22-23 December, Metropolitan Seraphim, accompanied by Father James, visited Abba David and the Church in Cusworth, Doncaster. On Saturday, 22 December Abba Seraphim presided over a clergy meeting and during the Raising of Evening Incense, Father James made his monastic profession in the presence of Abba David, who conferred the monastic tonsure and Abba Seraphim who admitted him to the ‘Monastic Brotherhood of Glastonbury of the Syrians’ and clothed him with the Little Monastic Habit.

On the Sunday morning, Abba Seraphim concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Abba David & Fr. James, assisted by the newly ordained Subdeacon Vladimir Roze, after which a pastoral visit was paid to a local care home to take communion to Mrs. Hazel Rockliffe, a long-standing member of the Cusworth congregation.


Ordinations & funeral

Recent Ordinations

On Sunday, 16 December, at St. Mark & St. Hubert’s Church at Cusworth, Doncaster, His Grace Bishop David ordained Reader Vladimir Sandis Roze to the Order of Subdeacon; and at the Church of Christ the Saviour, Winton, Bournemouth, Metropolitan Seraphim ordained Father James Maskery to the Order of Hegoumenos.

Funeral of Vanessa Tinker

Following a Requiem Liturgy held at Charlton on 25 November, the funeral service of the late Vanessa Tinker, the ikonographer of the British Orthodox Church, took place at St. Thomas’s, Charlton, on 17 December, being the fortieth day after her repose.  The service was conducted by Metropolitan Seraphim, assisted by Fr. James and Deacon Antony. The coffin was borne into a full church to the singing of ‘Dido’s Lament’ (from Henry Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas). The organ was played by Mr. John Dawson. Following the Prayer of Thanksgiving, the congregation  sang the hymn, ‘Now Thank we all our God’ and the lesson from 1 Corinthians XV: 12-022 was read by Father Dominic Pyle-Bridges. At the beginning of his address,  Abba Seraphim stated,

“Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. Through it we reflect the beauty of God, the Creator of all things, as the Book of Ecclesiastes says, ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time.’ Vanessa was a many-dimensional artist: as a painter she produced reflective still-life pictures of buildings, objects or scenery; impressive portraits of friends and bustling scenes of daily life; she was also a fine etcher, a potter, a keen photographer, a carpenter, an ikonographer, an interior designer, and a garden planner. Whatever she turned her hand to revealed the world around her from her own perspective, as Henry Ward Beecher claimed, ‘Every artist dips their brush into their own soul, and paints their own nature into their pictures’. The result was often to highlight the charm and uniqueness of persons and places, as George Sand wrote, ‘The artist vocation is to send light into the human heart’.”

Jim Kinsella then sang The Russian Kontakion of the Departed and the paschal theme of the funeral was emphasised by the congregation singing the hymn, ‘The Day of Resurrection’ composed by St. John of Damascus. Following the prayers, Absolution and Psali Adam, the coffin was borne out of the church to the singing of the hymn, ‘Thine be the glory’, sung to the tune from Judas Maccabeus by G.F.Handel, another of Vanessa’s favourite composers. The coffin was then accompanied to Eltham Crematorium by Deacon Antony, who presided over the Committal.


Archdeacon Mark laid to rest at Babingley

Following the repose of Archdeacon Mark Saunders on 27 November, a Requiem Liturgy was celebrated at the Church of St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley, Norfolk by Metropolitan Seraphim on Sunday, 2 December and his funeral took place at noon on 10 December.  The service was conducted by Metropolitan Seraphim, assisted by Abba David, Bishop of Priddy, and Father James and the church was filled with family, friends, neighbours and regular worshippers.

As with all services, it began with the ‘Prayer of Thanksgiving’ followed by the hymn, “Now Thank we all our God”. His grandson, Nick Chapman, read a short poem by Linda Ellis about leading a meaningful life. Following this the lesson from St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians was read by Valeria, Viscountess Coke. In his address, Abba Seraphim gave a brief outline of Archdeacon Mark’s long and full life and spiritual commitment to God and the Orthodox Church; before preaching on the Christian Hope of the Resurrection, drawing on the message enshrined in the ‘Russian Kontakion of the Departed’, which was also chanted, after which all present sang the Paschal hymn, “The Day of Resurrection.” Father James led the Litany of the Departed and Abba David offered further prayers, including the ‘Prayer for Deacons’ which included the phrase, “As he was a minister of Thine altar upon earth, let him minister at Thy heavenly altar wherein is neither spot nor blemish, taking delight in Thy holy and blessed will.”  Abba Seraphim then pronounced the Absolution,  and the congregation sang the hymn, “O Jesus, I have promised/To serve Thee to the end” in recognition of Archdeacon Mark’s profound commitment to God and the Church. The Psali Adam was then chanted as the congregation filed outside and followed the coffin and clergy into the churchyard, where Abba David pronounced the committal as Archdeacon Mark was laid to rest next to Sybil, his beloved wife of seventy years, and all present chanted “Memory Eternal!”