Daily Archives: May 16, 2024

The Situation of the Orthodox Church in Britain in 2024

Introduction: The Apostasy of Non-Orthodoxy

In the last fifty years the situation of Protestantism and Catholicism in Britain has changed radically. That transformation can be summed up by one word – apostasy. In modern Britain once predominant Protestant sects, including religious organisations like the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the Church of Wales, the Methodist Church etc are rapidly disappearing. The covid period, when clergy voluntarily closed their churches, all too often it would seem through cowardice, was a disaster. Many people who were closed out then have not returned. Statistically those Protestant groups are predicted to disappear by 2060. As they were founded at earliest in the sixteenth century, they will have lasted at most 500 years. Their members have simply lost their faith. Why go to church, when its leaders preach the same secularism as everyone else and are afraid of covid?

For the moment, discredited Protestantism survives almost only among Pentecostal African immigrants and in faddish happy-clappy groups. Elsewhere, it would seem that, as one commentator has put it, the Gospel has been replaced by ‘The Guardian’. In other words, faith has been swept away by the tidal wave of secularism and wokeism, imposed from the USA: anything goes. Little wonder that some people look to Islam, whose Muslims actually believe in something. Meanwhile, pedophile-undermined Catholicism, led by a politician Pope who scandalises many faithful Catholics, has since the modernism of the 1960s also been fast collapsing. In Britain Catholicism is now populated essentially by Poles, Portuguese, Filippinos, Hungarians etc. Given this apostasy, where could the few native people in Britain who still actually believe in Christ-God look to go to church?

Orthodox Christianity

There remains the option of the Orthodox Church, also composed essentially of immigrants, and some of whose bishops are just as politically-minded and so just as secular as Non-Orthodox leaders. Over the last two generations since I have been active in the Orthodox Church, the situation of Orthodox Christianity in Britain has been transformed. Once consisting of a small number of elderly, highly politicised and often aristocratic White Russians, based in London, a few very closed Serbs and other Slavs exiled here after 1945, and large numbers of modest Greek Cypriots, living in north and east London or running restaurants in seaside resorts, today’s situation is very different. As the older generations of Orthodox immigrants have simply died out, leaving little trace, new waves of immigration have followed.

Over the last fifty years the population of Orthodox in Britain has gradually tripled from 220,000 to 670,000, to one in a hundred, mainly because of twenty-first century immigration. However, in large parts of the country, there is still no choice as to which Orthodox church to attend, since Orthodox churches are still few and far between. But in larger cities, above all in London, there is a choice of churches. What is the difference between them? Of Orthodox groups we do not include here the quite small groups of Serbs, Bulgarians, Georgians and Ukrainians, as these groups are almost always closed, mononational, and generally do not welcome native people as members. However, this still leaves four groups, which native British people could attend. These are:

The Greeks

A generation ago this was by far the largest Orthodox group in Britain. It is composed in fact not of Greeks, but above all of Greek-Cypriots. The clergy of this group, including bishops, was once notorious for sending away any English enquirers, often quite rudely, and telling them to ‘join the Church of England’, in a curious mixture of racism and syncretism. Only in recent years, faced with the possibility of dying out, has it changed. Now under Greek-American control, it realises that in order to survive and keep its young people or to attract others, it must use English in its services and stop pretending to be just some form of Greek nationalist Protestantism. It has also for political reasons accepted small groups of Ukrainians, a few Russians and some English people and has a large multinational convent or monastery, with largely Romanian nuns. With an excellent infrastructure of church properties, wisely and very cheaply amassed in the 1950s and 1960s, and still for the moment with more priests than any other Orthodox group, it has great opportunities.

However, many feel that the opening to English has come much, much too late. This group has already been destroyed by its Greek nationalism and racist imperialism, which revolts most Orthodox. Also the last thirty years when it should have made the transition to English have been wasted. The result: the Protestant Church of England has dozens of Non-Greek-speaking, but ethnic Greek clergy! Unable to speak Greek, these descendants of immigrants left for well-paid jobs with free housing in the Protestant Church of England, using a language which they spoke and understood. As a result, most of the Greek clergy in the Greek Church are elderly and many of its parishes are clearly dying out. In many parishes the only children are Romanian, the old people are all Greek Cypriots, who after sixty years here often still speak poor English. Their assimilated descendants have long since left the Church. Why should they attend the foreign Church of their great-grandparents, whose main article of faith appears to be waving Greek and Cypriot flags? They have learned that Christ was not Greek; apparently, most have not.

The Romanians

This is by far the largest, most welcoming and most dynamic Orthodox group in Britain today, with over 450,000 Romanians and Romanian-speaking Moldovans, average age about 35, not including children. The vast majority have arrived here in the last twenty years. However, the Romanian Church, made up almost uniquely of these recent and modest immigrants has very poor infrastructure, with only 70 parishes, not much better than that of the relatively few canonical Russians. The result is that many Romanians frequent other Orthodox churches (there is nowhere else to go in the absence of their own church – although when a Romanian church does open, they leave the church they used to attend). There are also some very overworked priests, some doing a thousand baptisms a year, up to 20 at a time and hundreds of confessions per week. However, the help of the Romanian ambassador has recently enabled us to obtain a bishop for Romanian Orthodox in this country, who is to be appointed next month.

His Cathedral in Edmonton, North London, bought last December, will be ready later this year. There is great potential here, but only if the Romanian Church can avoid the errors of the Russians, all repeated by the Greeks. Avoiding this error means keeping the masses of young people in the Church, despite the fact that they will inevitably end up speaking better English than Romanian and be assimilated. The error of flag-waving Russian and Greek nationalism and politics must not develop into flag-waving Romanian nationalism and politics. That would be just as irrelevant to the assimilated descendants of Romanian and Moldovan immigrants, as Russian and Greek nationalism was to the assimilated descendants of Russian and Greek immigrants. Waving a foreign flag is of no interest to those who feel more British than Romanian, Greek or Russian and have little interest in the old country. Christ was not Greek, but he was not Russian or Romanian either.

The (Canonical) Russians

The Moscow Russians were once well-known among Anglicans for their famous émigré bishop and missionary, Antony Bloom. He knew how to talk to Anglicans, some indeed thought him rather Anglican, and certainly his presence developed into a controversial personality cult. Son of an atheist diplomat from the Tsar’s Russia and of the sister of the composer Scriabin, he was a very talented man, who created a small, multinational, though rather elitist, diocese. However, he died twenty years ago, in the past. Most Russians here never knew him. Under the present wave of Russian nationalism, the remains of his diocese are tending to resemble a national ghetto. The present Russian diocese appears to have rejected a lot of Ukrainians and treated Moldovans badly, exactly as it has done some English people. Today, this group exists only in the embassy area of west London and in a number of chapels outside London. Outside the capital most of its clergy, who knew Metropolitan Antony Bloom, are dying out. Despite recent bright prospects, today its future is in serious doubt. But perhaps changes in Moscow will soon be under way.

(There is also a former émigré group of Russians, known as ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia). This now numbers fewer than 1,000, perhaps only 500. Having rejected its traditional Russian roots, gone into schism in 2021 and as a result lost over half of its already small diocese, this tiny Trump-voting, US-based and US-cultured cult has tried to attract others. Having seen its original Russian émigré base die out or leave it for non-schismatic churches, they have attracted mainly right-wing, sectarian-minded English people, including Anglo-Catholics of an unusual orientation. Having seen its original Russian émigré base die out, it is trying to recruit Ukrainian refugees unsuccessfully, as they reject anything that is called Russian and psychologically normal Ukrainians do not wish to frequent a sect anyway. The schismatic ROCOR appears to have no future, since it has cut itself off from the Church).

The Antiochians

Critics call the Antiochians ‘Angliochians’, as they seem to be largely composed of ex-Anglicans. Probably with fewer than 2,000 laypeople, and many of these visiting Romanians with nowhere else to go, the mainly ex-Anglican clergy under the Patriarchate of Antioch (in fact of Damascus in Syria) are few, elderly and often do not know how to celebrate the services. Some of these appear to be more anti-Anglican rather than Orthodox.

However, in defence, we must say that, apart from a few recent converts who have pathological chips on their shoulders, members of this group are sincere, well-intentioned and have made great sacrifices to enter this Arab Patriarchate. The mere fact of their existence is a witness to their faith and zeal, despite the discouragement of Greeks and Russians alike. Hence those who declare that ‘Anti-och’ is for those who are ‘anti-Russian and anti-Greek’.

Conclusion: Disenfranchising the Franks

For the few remaining Christians in Britain, Orthodox Christianity probably represents a step that culturally goes too far, it is too radical. For Orthodox Christianity is the millennial opposite of Secularism, whose ancestor is Protestantism, whose ancestor is Catholicism. All are cut from the same secular block. Catholicism is secular because it wanted to control the world, making the Pope of Rome into a Super-King, an Emperor of the world, higher than all rulers. Protestantism was secular because it subjected itself to secular rulers and so to worldliness, for example, in England it was an invention of the rulers Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

For this reason, to join the Orthodox Church is an act that disenfranchises, that is, ‘defranks’ the Norman-imposed Frankish Establishment, depriving them of their freedom, privileges and self-appointed right to tyrannise the people. Only if you have understood this and wish to reject this inherent secularism, would you wish to belong to the Orthodox Church. It is the only logical solution, if you want something that is not inherently and institutionally compromised by Secularism. If you have not understood this, you will remain somewhere inbetween, in what is now the no-man’s land, outside Orthodoxy Christianity. However, surely a no-man’s land is not the best place to be at a time when the fiercest spiritual warfare is raging from the trenches in the anti-Christian modern world all around us?