Category Archives: Island Orthodoxy

The Glory of the Isles

Written from an Orthodox standpoint and intended primarily for older children and teenagers, this booklet, first printed in 2009, sold out and now reprinted, can also be read by adults. In simple language, it explains the history of the first thousand years of Christianity in Great Britain and Ireland. Giving the lives of the main saints of Britain and Ireland, it is abundantly illustrated with a map, eleven line drawings and thirteen icons, all printed on glossy paper.

Its chapters explain the Glastonbury legend of St Joseph of Arimathea, the stories of St Alban and the Celtic saints, Patrick, David, Columba, Aidan, the Italian Archbishop of Canterbury St Augustine, the Greek Archbishop of Canterbury St Theodore, then St Bede and other English heroes like St Edmund, St Alfred (with his unique icon) and St Alphege. It considers the Norman Invasion with sadness and looks forward to a potential rebirth of native Orthodoxy under the spiritual guidance of St John the Wonderworker and St Elizabeth the New Martyr. It concludes:

‘For we have a spiritual secret weapon buried in our Isles, which can deliver us from the fury of the Northmen, from whom we have suffered for a thousand years. This secret weapon, which the world cannot see, understand or take from us, is the prayers of the saints of the Isles – our True Glory. The Glory of the Isles is not in the pride of the past and its crimes. It is in the humility of the Saints. And this is what makes sincere Orthodox Christians different from others’.

Printed on high quality paper, with the 2012 icon of All the Saints of Britain and Ireland on the cover, this is an ideal resource for Orthodox church schools.

Bury St Edmunds, 2014. 38 pages. £4 (6 euros/$12) postage included.

Some Frank Thoughts about the Jurisdictional Situation in the Isles of Britain and Ireland

Introduction: Division

Seven of the fourteen universally recognized Local Orthodox Churches have diasporas, that is, jurisdictions outside their homelands. However, four of those seven Local Churches, the Serbian, Bulgarian, Georgian and, for the most part, the Romanian Patriarchates, are mononational, catering only for one ethnicity. Of the remaining three groups, that is, the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch and Moscow, the Patriarchate of Moscow is separated into two parts, one dependent on Moscow, the other based outside Russia and autonomous.

This separation is because we have to await the full implementation of the 2007 agreement between the two parts of the Russian Church and so, locally, the merging of the parishes of the Sourozh Diocese, still dependent on the Church inside Russia, into ROCOR (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia). Each of these four above groups of three Local Churches, Constantinople, Antioch and the two Russian groups, has its own strengths and weaknesses. In chronological order of their ethnic presence in Great Britain and Ireland, they are:


Firstly, there is the Thyateira Diocese, part of the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople, formed after the Russian Revolution. This is largely made up of post-War Greek Cypriot immigrants and their descendants. Representing Cypriot national clubs (even mainland Greeks and Cretans can find acceptance difficult), their parishes commonly tell English people who try to join them ‘to go away’ (and sometimes less politely than that). Without any missionary concept, they now face a generational crisis, as the original immigrants die out and their descendants, understanding hardly any Greek, have drifted away from the Church entirely.

This jurisdiction also includes some western Ukrainians, formerly of Polish nationality, very nationalistic and until relatively recently uncanonical, who are now also dying out. And it also includes some 250 mainly elderly, Establishment ex-Anglicans, rather naïve and Russophobic admirers of the late Metr Antony (Bloom) with his peculiar and unique variety of Orthodoxy. The great problem of the foreign-named Thyateira Diocese is that it faces extinction as its parishes literally die out. Those who immigrated in the 1950s and 1960s have now reached old age and it has to face up to its failure to keep its young people – the same mistake which the Russian dioceses also had to face up to thirty to forty years ago.


Secondly, there is the Diocese of the Isles (of Britain and Ireland) of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), also formed after the Russian Revolution. Although in the 1930s it had its own Bishop of London, it is now very small, though at least solid after the recent crisis, which dated back to the 1970s. At that time elements in its headquarters administration in New York accepted money from the CIA and political motives began to divide it from the persecuted Russian Church inside Russia. Politically and nationalistically motivated Russians, many of them in the USA working for the CIA, together with sectarian Greeks and conservative, Protestant-minded converts (in England converts of a sectarian Anglo-Catholic background), began to dominate it.

Traditional Russian Orthodox spiritual values, represented by Metropolitans Antony and Anastasy, the Jordanville Monastery, St John of Shanghai, Fr Seraphim (Rose) and the whole older generation of clergy and laity, were thus somewhat overshadowed by politics. The crisis came to a head in the two decades between 1986 and 2007, with the victory of traditional spiritual values and consequent unity with the by then free Church inside Russia and their common and uniting veneration of the New Martyrs and Confessors. Today, the great problem of this well-named local diocese of ROCOR is its lack of a resident bishop, which means that growth is painfully slow and the diocese numbers only about 2,000.


Unlike ROCOR, the Russian Orthodox Sourozh Diocese, formed in the 1950s and dependent on the Church Inside Russia, has a resident Russian bishop. However, it suffers from a severe lack of clergy, with many of the few clergy left elderly or untrained, and from a crisis of a lack of property. These two difficulties are both the sad legacy of the late Metr Antony (Bloom), who instead of building up a diocese, which he refused to do, built up a highly divisive personality. Belonging in ethos not to the Russian Church but to the liberal Paris School, his diocese, mainly unvisited by him, largely never knew the Russian Church Tradition at all.

However, since 2006, under new management, Sourozh has begun to return to the practices of ROCOR and the identical practices of the Church Inside Russia. Thus, icons of the New Martyrs and the Royal Martyrs have at last appeared in its Cathedral and elsewhere and its bookshops now sell the once banned books by Fr Seraphim (Rose). The great problem of the foreign-named Sourozh Diocese is its inability to turn outwards to the world around it, thus providing a real (and not fictitious) infrastructure of real, staffed parishes for local Russians and for English people. Its weak infrastructure, the legacy of the visionless past, is a real problem.


The fourth, smallest and most recently-formed group, under the Patriarchate of Antioch and still awaiting the appointment of a diocesan bishop, is often dismissed by outsiders as a club for retired Anglican vicars and their small flocks, with no consciousness of the real Orthodox Tradition. Its members, so it is said by its critics, have confused joining the Orthodox Church (through its Arab branch) with actually becoming Orthodox. Its Anglican ethos and practices has brought some to call it ‘Angliochian’. Certainly it is highly clericalized, one wonders if Non-Anglican vicars will ever be ordained for it and it is not attractive to Non-Anglicans, who feel out of place in it.

However, beyond such criticisms, fair or not, this group is probably the most vibrant of these four dioceses. And, in fairness, it must be said that its founding members did in 1995 ask to join both the dioceses of Sourozh and Thyateira. Through no fault of their own, they were refused, as the bishops of both dioceses were highly compromised by ecumenical accords with the Church of England and their own divisive attitudes. Sadly, they did not think to ask to join the uncompromised ROCOR. This was partly because, with an Establishment Anglican mentality, the Anglicans in question rejected the Orthodox calendar and the other disciplines of traditional Orthodoxy as practised by ROCOR, and partly because ROCOR, tragically without a local resident bishop, was also still dealing with its own inner crisis, which was not fully resolved until 2007.

Conclusion: Unity?

As we can see from the above, opportunities for unity have been lost in the past, although at least the two Russian dioceses are now spiritually united. It is especially tragic that the Antiochian diocese had to be formed because of the ecumenical compromises of the Russian and Greek bishops. It is even more tragic that the only local figure who could have united everyone, the now elderly Metr Kallistos (Ware), has for thirty years been trapped as a titular bishop in the Thyateira Diocese, unable to act as a diocesan bishop.

Had he overcome his Establishment concerns and joined either Russian diocese in his youth, or the Antiochian group in 1995, he would most certainly be their respected diocesan bishop today. Lacking him and a traditional Orthodox monastery to supply unity, it seems therefore that unity can only now come as a result of the vast changes in the wider Orthodox world since the fall of Communism inside Russia and the restoration of Holy Rus as a world power and therefore as a centre for worldwide Orthodox unity, as it was before 1917.

Why we do not speak of ‘British’ Orthodoxy, but of the Orthodoxy of the Isles

In contemporary England the word ‘British’ signifies the ‘Establishment’ as in ‘the BBC’, the propaganda-driven British Broadcasting Corporation. It thus refers to all the pitiful, imperial aspects of the history of this little country, whether in the period of the Romans, the Normans, the Georgians with their ‘Rule Britannia’ chant, or the Victorians who physically identified the figure of Queen Victoria with the mythical figure of Britannia and their cruel, worldwide empire.

Outside England, in particular in Scotland and even more in Ireland, the word ‘Britain’ means imperialist exploitation and the barbaric colonialism of the past. Thus, the Irish Embassy in London actively discourages the use of the term ‘The British Isles’ to refer to Ireland; for the Irish it is an insult. In the Orthodox context we note that the term ‘British Orthodoxy’ is used only by Establishment, ex-Anglican convert types among the tiny British Coptic group and a few others elsewhere.

Those elsewhere are usually under the once Anglican-dominated Patriarchate of Constantinople or else are connected with the former British Middle East and British-imposed freemasonry and new calendar. Often such people are connected with the Duke of Edinburgh, a Greek Orthodox freemason, and the current Prince of Wales, who appears to follow in his father’s footsteps; certainly he hates President Putin, absurdly identifying him with the Nazis.

The hatred of the Russian Church by the British Establishment became abundantly clear at the time of the extraordinarily biased British press coverage of the 2006 Sourozh schism, when former Anglican Establishment converts abandoned the Russian Church for Greek Orthodox freemasonry. What term then do we use to describe the Orthodoxy of those who live in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales and their dependent islands and of the saints who dwelled in these islands?

Quite simply we use the term the Orthodoxy ‘of the Isles’ (of Britain and Ireland), and the Saints ‘of the Isles’ of Britain and Ireland. This term is not only inclusive of the whole archipelago of the British Isles and Ireland, but also avoids the sad connotations of the past, which saw scenes of the burning of British flags for arrogant, ‘British’ colonialist meddling. Ex-Anglican ‘British Orthodoxy’ is one thing, but Insular Orthodoxy, the Orthodoxy of the Isles, is quite another.

Local and Faithful, or Westernised and Hellenised

Since the Russian Revolution the Patriarchate of Constantinople has taken into its jurisdiction a variety of Russophobic dissidents. Their schisms have come about because the dissidents have been too spiritually weak to remain faithful to the Russian Tradition and so have been dragged down into party politics or personality cults. Thus, they have either been virulent nationalists or else anti-Tradition liberals and freemasons, cultivating political and theological schisms caused by that Revolution. Having lost sight of the big picture of Orthodox civilisational values, the Orthodox world-view, they have been brought down into petty, provincial concerns.

Some of the dissidents have been Slavs – Russians, Ukrainians or ex-Catholic Carpatho-Russians – others have been Western converts – Finnish, American, French, Estonian or ex-Anglican. Here we look at the dissidents, originally Russophobic, pro-Kerensky aristocrats from Saint Petersburg, who, leaving Russia, then the Church outside Russia and then the Church inside Russia for Constantinople, over 80 years ago formed the Rue Daru jurisdiction in Paris. After nearly a year without a leader, they are now hoping to elect a new archbishop in November 2013.

Although issued from the Russian Tradition and even claiming to belong to it, since they left the Mother-Church these dissidents have gradually become more and more Westernised and absorbed into the US and Turkish-controlled Greek Patriarchate in Istanbul. This can clearly be seen in their forsaking of the Orthodox liturgical calendar and Orthodox liturgical, dogmatic and pastoral practices for modernist, Western, secular practices. This simultaneous Westernisation and Hellenisation is inevitable and can only be avoided by their leaving schism and taking the path back to the Mother-Church.

If, after the election of a new archbishop, they cannot return to the Mother-Church, they will consign themselves to remaining a small archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, perhaps 5,000 in number in all, most of their parishes set up in temporary or rented premises and less than 25 strong. Their ethos will continue to be intellectual, not spiritual, philosophical, not theological, disincarnate, not incarnate, with mainly untrained clergy, without a living Tradition and without a Mother-Church, yet dependent on the Russian Church for vestments, literature, musical culture and people to fill its small parishes. Clearly, eventually, they will disappear, absorbed into Greek Church structures and practices.

However, if, after the election of a new archbishop, they can return to the Mother-Church, they will be able to rejoin the multinational and multilingual free Russian Orthodox Church, fifty times bigger than the tiny and captive Patriarchate of Constantinople. They will be able to take part in the construction of the Metropolia of Western Europe, with its hundreds and hundreds of real parishes and historic churches all over Western Europe, the stepping-stone to a future new Local Church and yet at the same time authentically faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition and Church in all ways. Local and Faithful, or Westernised and Hellenised: this is the choice that they face.

English-Language Island Orthodoxy


Seven of the fourteen universally recognised Local Orthodox Churches are represented in the Diaspora and therefore in the British Isles. The Local Churches present are: the Russian with two dioceses – the Sourozh Diocese, directly dependent on Moscow, and the Diocese of the self-governing Church Outside Russia, known as ROCOR; the Greek Thyateira diocese, under the Church of Constantinople; the Antiochian deanery; the Serbian; the Romanian; the Bulgarian; the Georgian. However, the last four dioceses, though witnessing to a venerable Orthodox Tradition, are not relevant to our consideration here, as we are concerned with parishes which make extensive use of English. What then is the situation of the first four groups today, with regard to their use of the English language in services?

The Sourozh Diocese

The Sourozh Diocese, founded in 1962, originally consisted of only two tiny parishes, because 90% of exiled Russians saw it as a Soviet institution and deeply mistrusted it. In order to exist as a diocese, however small, it therefore had to recruit members among Anglicans – hence its need to use English. The difficulty with this was that Sourozh, based around a personality rather than the Tradition of the Church, often failed to integrate these Anglicans into the Church, receiving them very swiftly. The result was that many of the faithful Orthodox, either Russian or else English, but Non-Anglican, left Sourozh, or rather were forced to leave it. The modernistic, new calendarist ethos being promulgated by the Anglican newcomers was alien to those who knew the Tradition.

Being based around a single divisive personality, Sourozh therefore never had a real diocesan structure and premises outside London and, just, Oxford; this today is yet another bitter fruit of its past legacy, which is not yet buried. For the same reason, once the personality had died (as all personalities do), a schism took place. For decades, the followers of the personality cult had ejected actual Russian Orthodox, because the former were a majority imposing their politically-minded Orthodoxy on the minority. However, once Russian Orthodox had become the majority through immigration, the old majority of 300 decided to leave. This was in 2006. Reality had caught up with fantasy and political Anglican-Orthodox syncretism could only continue outside the reunited and restored Russian Tradition and Church discipline.

Of course, they were free to leave. No-one would have minded that. The error of its leaders was to try and take away Church property and the Russian Orthodox name with them. For, as is clear with the example of those centred in Paris who also left the Russian Church in order to create a modernist ideology, you can only be Russian Orthodox if you are faithful to the Russian Orthodox Church. After the 300 had left, diplomacy was required. Nevertheless, even a diplomat of foreign culture with some English can misunderstand English people. Misunderstandings are inevitable. Today, the future direction of Sourozh is not clear, other than that it will, in time, merge with the ROCOR Diocese as part of the future Western European Metropolia, one of probably three in the future ROCOR.

The ROCOR Diocese

In the 1950s the ROCOR Diocese, with a bishop living in Preston and a saintly archbishop on the Continent, had been second only to the Thyateira Diocese in size. However, within a generation it had gone from big to small. Even in the early 1980s its London Cathedral was still attended by some 400 every Sunday (600 in the 1960s). But they were nearly all elderly. Insisting on Russian ethnicity and language, ROCOR lost the young and parishes closed one after the other. Within a few years ROCOR was to lose its bishop, its clergy (who went to North America or Western Europe), its Cathedral and most of its diocese. Greek old calendarism appeared with an Anglo-Catholic tint. Many in the 1990s thought that the local ROCOR Diocese would die out completely; however, in recent years there has been a revival.

Nevertheless, ROCOR’s great weakness is the lack of a resident bishop. The problem here is that the Diocese is now too small and poor to have a bishop; but this is a vicious circle; it only became small and poor because there was no bishop in good health or resident. This may be called ‘the South American syndrome’, where in a similar situation, action was also taken too late. A uniting, bilingual (and bicultural) bishop would be the solution, especially as the Sourozh Diocese is to merge into the ROCOR Diocese. Such a figure is also necessary, for if the situation in Russia were to degenerate and, for example, some pro-Western regime came to power there and began to persecute the Church, as happened in Constantinople, the self-governing Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) would have nothing to fear.

The Thyateira Diocese

Under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Thyateira Diocese has been the largest of the Local Churches present in the British Isles and Ireland ever since post-War immigration from Commonwealth Cyprus. However, its situation is now increasingly similar to that of ROCOR about forty years ago. Many of its parishes are dying, attended by the elderly. The young have been lost because of the insistence on ethnic identity and the Greek language. Thus the Anglican Diocese of London has for instance six priests of Greek background. Not speaking Greek, but only English, they felt no identity with the ‘Greek’ Church. And even educated young people, who remained faithful to Greek Orthodoxy, have left for the Greek Church in USA, where they are not reprimanded for using English.

Within this Diocese there are a small number of ex-Anglicans, who entered mainly under a previous archbishop in the 1980s. They have faced hellenisation, with their Christian names being supplanted on ordination by names such as Kallistos, Aristobulos, Athanasios, Pankratios, Palamas, Athenagoras etc. At the same time, clergy imported from Greece and Cyprus go by names such as Peter, Paul, Michael, John etc. There is also the small deanery of some 300 mainly ex-Anglicans who left the Sourozh Diocese. Supposedly following Russian Church music and its clergy in Russian dress, they are deprived of a Mother-Church, as their former head, Archbishop Gabriel, pointed out. Inevitably, they will be swallowed up into post-1948 American new calendarist Phanariotism, like the rest of what is now a de facto deanery.

The Antiochian Deanery

Of the four groups concerned here, this is the newest and also the most English-language oriented. It was founded eighteen years ago by ex-Anglican clergy and laity. Indeed, virtually all of its priests are Anglican-trained and there is some doubt as to whether Non-Anglican clergy, that is regular Orthodox, would be accepted into it. Asking to enter the Church with its own agenda, this Anglican group was rejected first by the Sourozh Diocese and then by the Thyateira Diocese – it did not ask the ROCOR Diocese. As a result, the group was received into a new and separate Deanery under the Arab-speaking Patriarchate of Antioch (Damascus). The problem here was that the group had in effect no training and no Mother-Church, being cut off by language and culture, disincarnate from the Tradition, yet actually using elements of Russian Church music and its clergy in Russian dress.

With no possibility of integrating the Mother-Church through contact with its representatives, some members of this group in fact remained Anglicans. In such cases ordinary Orthodox were alienated by it, not feeling at home in it. Charismatics continued their unOrthodox practices; those of Low Church background remained in their Puritanism; those of High Church background remained in their unCatholic Catholicism. Without integration into Orthodoxy, some continued to act and think as Anglicans, with intercommunion and new calendarism, the Divine Liturgy interrupted for ‘speaking in tongues’ and confession unknown. This was mirrored by the exclusive use of English and a phyletist insistence on a ‘British’ Orthodoxy, on Protestant-style proselytising and ‘outreach’ only to Anglicans.

This part of the Deanery was in fact in hock to the British Establishment, the inventor of Anglicanism, and so out on a limb with the rest of the Orthodox Church in this country. Hence, a refusal to concelebrate. Such an ethnic Anglican ‘Orthodoxy’ will die out, since it is of no interest to real Orthodox, even less to Non-Anglicans. However, although this above aspect exists, there are many in the Antiochian Deanery who have integrated the Orthodox Church, understanding that their survival is dependent on this. Here there is cause for optimism and good pastoral work is being done, and Romanian and other Orthodox are teaching the Deanery what Orthodoxy is and how to do the services. But in such a case will the Deanery not one day be released by Antioch and sent to join another Local Church?


It is clear that all English-language Orthodoxy has a Russian background; it refers to the Russian Tradition, Russian Church music and Russian practices, however simplified and ill-understood. Then why are not all united in the Russian Church? It is clear that the fault lies half with representatives of the Russian Church and half with those who have come to the Church. Neither side has always met its responsibilities, sidelining the Tradition, diverting from the mainstream, putting first not the Kingdom of Heaven, but an ethnic or political identity and a lack of cultural understanding, or a personality cult and a lack of competence. Unity is lacking because of the lack of any uniting personality in any of these groups. Despite this, we should never underestimate the grace of God to transfigure the present situation in these Isles.