An Anglican Academic who became a Bishop of the Church of Constantinople
Timothy, later Father, then Bishop and finally, from 2007, Metropolitan, Kallistos, Ware, was born into a secure British Establishment family in Bath in 1934. His public school education at Westminster provided him with a solid Anglican upbringing. However, in 1952, at the age of 17, he visited the old ROCOR Dormition Cathedral at St Philip’s Church in London – later demolished to make way for Victoria Bus Station. There, as he fell under the spell of impoverished Russian aristocrats and later, briefly encountering the future St John (Maximovich), his interest in the Church deepened.
His family had not been concerned by his hobby until his interests had started to take a more serious turn. This became apparent when, after public school in Westminster, Timothy went to Oxford to study Latin and Ancient Greek (he never formally studied theology and never attended a seminary). At that time, Oxbridge was very much a finishing school for public schoolboys, and still to some extent is. As he related to me in 1974, with pro-Turkish British troops opposed to Greek Cypriot freedom-fighters in the British-occupied colony of Cyprus of the 1950s, his father, a very Establishment Brigadier in the Durham Light Infantry, whom I then met, wondered why his son wished to ‘join the enemy’, that is, the Orthodox Church.
Approaching the ROCOR bishop in London regarding possible reception into the Church, he had been informed that this was not possible. The fact was that, like many other very anxious Russian emigres in that Cold War period, the late Archbishop Nikodim of ROCOR was frightened by the prospect of receiving such a figure, a probable future Oxford don and Anglican bishop, into the Church. He considered that he might be sent back to Soviet Russia in what he thought would be an Establishment punishment.
This may seem strange to us in post-Berlin Wall Britain, but we should not forget that the British government had in 1945 already sent tens of thousands of anti-Communist Russians back to Stalin and often to their deaths. Indeed, the Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had, admittedly quite indirectly, been involved in the forced repatriation, carried out by a former Conservative Prime Minister Antony Eden, at the behest of his father-in-law, another former Conservative Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Those repatriated had included some old emigres from Paris who had been murdered by Stalin’s death squads or else sent to Siberian labour camps. Why should the self-interested Establishment not send back yet one more White Russian, perhaps in exchange for an arrested British spy?
In any case, after taking his degree brilliantly, Timothy Ware spent a year in North America, where he again asked to join the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Here, the then Archbishop Vitaly of Canada, who was very conservative, very strict and also very anti-English, refused him on the grounds that this very Anglican scholar would never become ‘a real Orthodox monk’. Thus, Timothy Ware did not join the Orthodox Church through ROCOR and was unwilling to be received into the then Communist-controlled Moscow Patriarchate. (Indeed, the British Establishment, like all Western Establishments, categorically forbids anyone working for its spy services to join the Russian Orthodox Church; only the Greek Orthodox Church is permitted). Given the unpleasant way the politicking Russians had treated him, what loyalty could he feel towards them?
Eventually, in 1958 Timothy Ware found a typically Anglican compromise in the Establishment manner: he was received into the Orthodox Church through the Patriarchate of Constantinople. After all, he did know Ancient Greek, but did not know Russian. In any case, Establishment Anglo-Catholics had always been rather Russophobic, as the British governing clique had mistakenly viewed Russia as a rival in what Russophobic Victorian imperialists like Palmerston and Disraeli imaginatively called ‘The Great Game’. The Moscow Patriarchate was in British eyes tainted with Communism. Therefore, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, with its connections through the British Royal Family, for example the late freemason Prince Philip, and populated in Britain mainly by Commonwealth Cypriots, was the ideal compromise for Anglicans of an Establishment background.
Having obtained his doctorate in Oxford, Timothy Ware wrote his book, ‘The Orthodox Church’, which appeared in 1963. This now seems to be a very dated and naïve work. It was a view of the Orthodox Church as seen through the eyes of an Anglican academic, written like a British civil servant’s report in public school style. Its scholastic approach was that of an outsider, who knew the theory of Orthodoxy, but did not know the practice. Nevertheless, we should remember that at that time there was very little for outsiders on the Orthodox Church in the English language at all. The book was a Godsend to educated Anglicans and other potential converts and although later updated editions attracted criticism from inside the Church, it is still a very convenient reference book.
In 1966 the late Archbishop Athenagoras of the Greek Thyateira Archdiocese in London ordained Timothy to the diaconate and very quickly to the priesthood. His Greek name Timothy was transformed into the Greek name Kallistos (definitely not to be written in the Latin way, Callistus, as the then Fr Kallistos told me with a wry smile in 1975), so that this very Anglican figure would at least superficially be hellenised. Fr Kallistos, now an Oxford don a kind of advanced-level schoolmaster, had also become a nominal monk on Patmos, where he later told me that the Abbot and himself were the only two monks out of twenty who did not smoke. Such were those times in the Church.
Now Fr Kallistos served the Greek parish in Oxford. However, in reality, a unique situation had developed, built around the personality of Fr Kallistos, who would have preferred to be received into the then Russian Paris Exarchate under Constantinople (‘Rue Daru’). However, this was not allowed any jurisdiction in England then. The small Oxford community was then the combination of the Greek and Russian ‘Patriarchal’ parishes in one building.
In actual fact, Fr Kallistos was very much serving in the Russian parish, but under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This was possible because the Russian parish, officially in the Sourozh Diocese, was in fact a strange amalgam of Paris Russians, who in reality did not want to be under the real Moscow Patriarchate or ROCOR. ROCOR parishioners went up to London. Genuine Patriarchal parishioners looked elsewhere and complained, patiently waiting for better times and a new, non-Parisian bishop.
In 1973 there opened in Oxford the curious, rather Methodist-looking, Greek Orthodox chapel. In effect, this was a double parish, the canonicity of which was doubted by many Orthodox bishops at the time. The late Metropolitan Antony Bloom himself informed me in the late 1970s that he regretted his decision to allow this and that he would never allow it again. Indeed, as we know, this whole experiment ended in tears some thirty years later.
At the same time as being a Greek Orthodox priest, with the blessing of Metropolitan Philaret Fr Kallistos also served at the ROCOR Convent in London. At that time the Patriarchate of Constantinople had not yet broken off communion with ROCOR and vice versa. This situation continued until 1976, when the Patriarchate of Constantinople finally did break off communion with ROCOR, following the storm over ‘The Thyateira Confession’, written by the late Archbishop Athenagoras. This compendium of diplomatic and syncretistic nonsense, so beloved of Greek-American clerics of the 1960s was largely ignored by other Orthodox. They realised that it was just another example of Phanariot diplomacy, certainly not to be taken seriously, and they waited for it to be pulped.
Unfortunately, some converts to ROCOR, nearly all ex-Anglicans, did take this book literally and had themselves uncanonically rebaptised. These caused a great storm with extremists, mainly Protestant converts, who were supported by CIA-financed, right-wing elements then trying to usurp control from the saintly but extremely naive Metropolitan Philaret and the ROCOR Synod in New York. The danger of this Greek old calendarist mentality inside ROCOR with its censorious, neophyte attitudes and rebaptisms had already been discerned by the ever-memorable Fr George Sheremetiev of the ROCOR Cathedral in London.
Fr George had been Fr Kallistos’ confessor until his death in 1971 and had told Fr Kallistos not to join this new American, Old Calendarist, convert ROCOR. Had Fr Kallistos lived in Europe, I think he might have joined ROCOR there under the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, who was faithful to the old ROCOR and ferociously resisted crazy convert Americanisation and its sectarian spirit. Fr Kallistos had no time for the new ROCOR with its censoriousness, politicking and compete lack of understanding of English culture.
As a literal-minded ex-Anglican, Fr Kallistos, ensconced in Oxford donmanship, also took the Thyateira Confession seriously and asked to be received into the peculiar, personality-driven Sourozh Diocese. Typically, Metropolitan Antony Bloom, at that time was himself petitioning to be received into ROCOR after the Solzhenitsyn affair. This was when Moscow Patriarchal representatives had been taken hostage and were forced to support the atheist Soviet government against Solzhenitsyn. Metr Antony, his British passport in his pocket, resisted his own hierarchy but found himself punished by it.
Metr Antony was refused by ROCOR for very good canonical reasons (which we will not go into here, that is another sad story to be related in the future) and he refused to receive Fr Kallistos. Thus, the naïve Fr Kallistos remained under Constantinople. This was the turning-point. Had he joined the Sourozh Diocese of the Russian Church, perhaps he would with time have become its diocesan bishop after the death of Metropolitan Antony Bloom. On this he could perhaps have steered that diocese back to normality, instead of which it divided itself in a bitter schism and later fell into nationalism. Again, that is yet another sad story to be related in the future.
Now, half-way through his life, Fr Kallistos was transformed into a liberal Phanariot. He found outlets for his energies in academic work and his academic love for the Church Fathers and setting up the Greek Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist. In time this became a fellowship for the three jurisdictions of Anglican converts, in Antioch, in the ex-Sourozh group and in the Greek Archdiocese. Realizing that they might lose their illustrious convert, the Phanar in Constantinople took fright at the above events and decided to consecrate Fr Kallistos to the episcopate. In this way, as a vicar-bishop, he would effectively be theirs. Fr Kallistos had refused consecration twice, but in 1982 finally accepted, becoming the titular bishop of a village in Turkey called Diokleia.
As the years passed, the titular Bishop Kallistos, unable to ordain without the blessing of the Thyateira Archbishops, turned increasingly to the safe isolation of academic work and public relations with Non-Orthodox. Pastoral activities were limited to the scholarly sort, mainly with ex-Anglicans. With these in mind, he also wrote for converts on pastoral, historical and academic themes, such as those in ‘The Orthodox Way’. In later years he also began ordaining ex-Anglican vicars to serve in the then Antiochian Deanery, created for them by the Antiochian Church.
It is most regrettable that the only liturgical translations carried out by Bishop Kallistos were those of the 1970s. I am referring to his brilliant co-translation of ‘The Lenten Triodion’ and his excellent editing of the translations of the Sunday Octoechos. If only he had translated or edited the Pentecostarion, the Menaia and other liturgical books as well, we would through him have had a stock of more or less definitive liturgical English-language translations of the Orthodox liturgical books, translated by him, instead of the very peculiar American convert translations, which all have to be thoroughly Englished. It is clear that Metr Kallistos’ gifts in this domain were extraordinary. On the one hand he had a brilliant grasp of liturgical English, on the other hand he had a brilliant understanding of Byzantine Greek and Ancient Greek as well as of Orthodox academic theology. His translations were far, far better than any others.
Instead of liturgical translation, the idealistic Bishop Kallistos, supervised others, the ROCOR layman and ex-MP, George Palmer, and the former Platonist philosopher Philip Sherrard, in their translation of the Philokalia (except for the fifth and last volume, as both translators had died by then). The English-speaking Orthodox world owes a great debt to Metr Kallistos and especially his colleagues for these translations. In the late 1990s St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, searching for liberal academic writers, began to publish Bp Kallistos’ collected writings, which by now had accumulated. An agreement was made and his writings for converts duly appeared under the unusual, almost Buddhist-sounding title of ‘The Inner Kingdom’.
A scholarly speaker on the academic circuits, Bishop Kallistos was appreciated in many places, not least in the then Paris Exarchate (which was dissolved in 2019). A fluent French speaker, Bp Kallistos was a close friend of the late ecumenist Fr Boris Bobrinskoy. Jesuit-educated, the latter was notorious for having celebrated the Liturgy with the filioque, ‘so as not to offend the Catholics’.
The titular Metropolitan Kallistos, beloved by tiny groups of converts and rather upper-class English intellectuals, rather hostile to Irish and Scots in the old Anglican way, completely unknown to the masses of ordinary Orthodox who fill our parishes, was the most distinguished Anglican convert of his generation. Understanding Anglicans very well, in later years Metropolitan Kallistos helped build the Anglican-Orthodox group in the Antiochian Deanery. Very much a bridge-figure, who stood between Anglicanism and Orthodoxy, not giving up his Establishment culture or the branch theory, he helped many Anglicans to ease themselves into a version of Orthodoxy on the convert fringes of the Church. And some of these did later move on from this first course to the main course – the understanding and practice of Orthodoxy.
In 1977, the then chaplain of Keble College Oxford told me that in his view Fr Kallistos was merely ‘a High Anglican who had gone over the top’. Of course, Fr Kallistos’ manner of celebration and intonations (inherited from his mother) were deeply Anglo-Catholic, but later, as a Greek bishop, he also became somewhat hellenised and many missed the old Fr Kallistos, whom they did not find in his later Phanariotism. But the remark of the chaplain and others similar to it overlooked the fact that Metropolitan Kallistos selflessly helped fellow Anglicans and others reach out towards Orthodoxy and he was a most brilliant translator. And it must be said that he was at least prepared to talk to both ‘foreigners’ and to English, especially Anglican, people who were not of his own social background.
The death of his beloved mother (who had joined the Church adopted by her son) in 2000 was very painful for Bishop Kallistos. In 2011 he told me that he had no longer wanted to live and had asked God to take him then. The 2006 Amphipolis (ex-Sourozh) split caused Metr Kallistos huge pain, making much that he had worked for seem to be in vain. Some may say that he had always laboured under illusions and compromise and that his work would fail, being built on false premises, that of building an Anglican Orthodoxy. This seems uncharitable. Such a view overlooks his efforts to make Orthodoxy known to academics and the fact that in his generation even joining the Orthodox Church, let alone actually becoming Orthodox, was in itself a huge difficulty for someone from his deeply Anglican background.
Metr Kallistos was much pained by the recent and totally unnecessary schism between feuding Greeks and Russians after the uncanonical intervention in the Ukraine by his own Patriarchate of Constantinople and its invention of yet another Ukrainian ‘Church’. He openly criticised Patriarch Bartholomew for this, which is perhaps why he has largely been gnored by them since. However, Metr Kallistos also believed that the Russian Church had over-reacted by forbidding concelebration with Constantinople and then intervening in the affairs of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Africa. All his life he had worked for Orthodox unity. What a huge disillusionment Greek and Russian political infighting was for him, as indeed for all Orthodox. Both were in the wrong, obsessed with their nationalism. Disunity was his lot. The end of his life, however, was marked by his taking communion from Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of the Moscow Patriarchate, rather than from the American Phanariots.
Metr Kallistos was an Anglican convert, one of a generation which is dying out and which had a very Anglican view of Orthodoxy, which rather shocked the naive. That old Anglican Orthodoxy, with its interest in studying theeology, is now all but gone, really together with old-style Anglicanism, which hardly exists any more. I can remember Metr Kallistos telling me with regret some fifteen years ago that he had been to the Russian Cathedral in Ennismore Gardens, but ‘I did not see anyone I knew, just young Russians’. We Orthodox rejoiced that we saw the Cathedral full of young Orthodox; to him the passing of the old, Edwardian-style, old-school (like him) emigres was a matter of regret.
However, in a generation of decadence among many senior Orthodox clergy, Metropolitan Kallistos stood out from the uninspired political appointees, faithless bureaucrats, ruthless careerists, cowardly diplomats, secular failures, moral degenerates, heartless narcissists, anti-canonical powerbrokers, underhand politicos, blind nationalists, blinded freemasons and fraudulent charlatans who characterised a good part of the Orthodox episcopate in the Diaspora (we have known them all and have suffered from them all).
Metr Kallistos was much criticised in some quarters for his liberalism, ecumenism and apparent, quasi-Anglican sympathies for women clergy and even perhaps for homosexual marriage. This seems a bit harsh. However, it is true that although he was beloved by Anglican converts, Metropolitan Kallistos was less appreciated by Non-Anglicans and those with roots in Orthodoxy. Indeed his colleague, Metropolitan Polykarpos in Spain, like many others, always referred to him as ‘o anglikanos’, ‘the Anglican’. Metropolitan Kallistos was also criticised by some for not standing up for Orthodoxy and instead always choosing woolly compromises in the Anglican way. That too is a bit harsh. I would defend his well-meaningness.
Indeed, Metropolitan Kallistos was a very sincere, kind and honest man, a naïve, Anglican academic with all the illusions of the unworldly, public school gentleman. As such, he will be remembered with fondness and regret. You will not see his kind again. Personally, I shall recall him with great nostalgia. He stood head and shoulders above many. Let those without sin cast the first stone. Pray for the repose of his soul, as it passed into eternal life today.
To His Grace Metropolitan Kallistos – Eternal Memory!
24 August 2022
Note: Metr Kallistos’ funeral will take place in a Roman Catholic church, as both the Greek and Russian chapels in Oxford are far too small to accommodate those who will wish to attend.