Tag Archives: London

At Last an English-Speaking Russian Orthodox Bishop of London

From the Synod of Bishops of the Church Outside Russia, held in San Francisco on the 25th anniversary of the canonization of St John of Shanghai, more good news reached us yesterday, St John’s feast-day. This is that our new bishop, Irenei (Steenberg), is to be granted the title ‘of London and Western Europe’ as he arrives here permanently. This comes 90 years to the day since the last Russian Orthodox bishop of London, Bishop Nikolai (Karpov), who was consecrated as Bishop of London and Vicar of the Diocese of Western Europe on 30 June 1929.  Bishop Irenei becomes then the second Russian Orthodox Bishop of London to be consecrated since 1054. However, unlike Bishop Nikolai, he is English-speaking and has already lived in England for ten years. It means that, after so many decades in the wilderness and unrelenting striving, the refounded and now constituted Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia can expand further, the new backlog of candidates for ordination can be dealt with and more parishes opened.  With three priests in Wales, one in Ireland and several in England, much has been achieved after the transformations since January 2017 there is still much to be done. The only Russian Orthodox bishop living permanently in London, Bishop Irenei will be arriving in London on 5 July, St Alban’s Day.

After the establishment of the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Paris, another dream after 45 years of waiting has come true!

 

On the Legal Status of the Episcopal Title ‘of London’

The ecclesiastical title ‘of London’ was established in the Roman period, though it was not in continuous use. The first recorded Bishop of London was Restitutus who attended the Council of Arles in 314. The exact site of his cathedral was somewhere in the City of London. London reverted to paganism following the departure of the Romans and the Diocese was reconstituted only in 604 by St Mellitus, a monk who had come with St Augustine. He founded or refounded St Paul’s Cathedral and was succeeded by St Cedd (+ 664) and later St Erconwald (+ 693). London was part of the Kingdom and Diocese of Essex, which then included Middlesex, much of Hertfordshire and of course Essex.

Archimandrite Nicholas (Karpov), Rector of the Parish of the Dormition in London, was consecrated with the title of Bishop of London on All Saints Sunday June 30th 1929.

All laws prohibiting the use of the ecclesiastical title ‘Bishop of London’ (or similar) have been repealed.

There used to be an Act of Parliament, the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, which prohibited the use of the episcopal titles already used by the Church of England (‘Bishop of London’ being such a title). In particular, section 24 of that Act imposed a penalty of £100 on any person, not authorised by law, who should assume the title of any archbishop, bishop or dean. Section 24 read as follows:

“And whereas the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government thereof, and likewise the Protestant Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government thereof, are by the respective Acts of Union of England and Scotland, and of Great Britain and Ireland, established permanently and inviolably, and whereas the right and title of archbishops to their respective provinces, of bishops to their sees, and the deans to their deaneries, as well in England as in Ireland, have been settled and established by law, be it therefore enacted that if any person after the commencement of this Act, other than the person thereunto authorised by law, shall assume or use the name, style, or title of archbishop of any province, bishop of any bishopric, or dean of any deanery in England or Ireland, he shall for every such offence forfeit and pay the sum of £100.” 

This prohibition was extended by the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851 which prevented the assumption of episcopal titles in respect of any place in the United Kingdom (whether or not already used by the Church of England). This Act was adopted because there was some doubt as to whether section 24 of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 was wide enough to prohibit the assumption of a title not already used by the Church of England. Section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851 read as follows:

“… if any person, other than a person thereunto authorised by law in respect of an archbishopric, bishopric, or deanery of the United Church of England and Ireland, assume or use the name, style or title, of archbishop, bishop or dean of any city, town or place, or of any territory or district (under any description or designation whatsoever), in the United Kingdom, whether such city, town or place, or such territory or district, be or be not the see or the province, or co-extensive with the province, of any archbishop, or the see or the diocese, or co-extensive with the diocese, of any bishop, or the seat or place of the church of any dean, or co-extensive with any deanery, of the said United Church, the person so offending shall for every such offence forfeit and pay the sum of £100…”

Crucially, both section 24 of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 and the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851 have been repealed:

  • Section 24 was repealed by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1978 as it was considered to be obsolete. (Note that the State Law (Repeals) Act 1978 was subsequently repealed by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1998, but this was only because the 1978 Act was itself considered to be obsolete; this does not affect the repeal of section 24 of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, as confirmed by the Law Commission in a report (pp 103-105)).
  • The Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851 was repealed by the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1871 because it was ineffective, or more specifically because it wasnot expedient to impose penalties upon those ministers of religion who may, as among the members of the several religious bodies to which they respectively belong, be designated by distinctions regarded as titles of office, although such designation may be connected with the name of some town or place within the realm”