British Orthodox Church

British Orthodox Church
Classification Oriental Orthodox
Theology Miaphysite
Polity Episcopal
Primate Seraphim
Region British Isles
Language English
Liturgy Alexandrian Rite and Latin Rite
Headquarters Glastonbury in Somerset, England
Founder Jules Ferrette
Origin 1866
Branched from Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (2015)
Members [lower than] 2,000
Official website

The British Orthodox Church, formerly known as the Orthodox Church of the British Isles, is a small independent Oriental Orthodox church defining its mission to the people of the British Isles.

The present British Orthodox Church has developed from a Frenchman, Jules Ferrette, who, in the year 1866, was consecrated as a bishop by the Syriac Orthodox Church with the purpose of establishing Oriental Orthodoxy in the West. Various names have been used, for example the Ancient British Church and Catholic Apostolic Church (Catholicate of the West) (not to be confused with the "Irvingite" movement known as the Catholic Apostolic Church).

Metropolitan Seraphim is Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Glastonbury and Primate of the British Orthodox Church.

The British Orthodox Church came under the jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in 1994.

On 4 October 2015 the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, in response to a request from the British Orthodox Church, "in the same spirit with which this union came into being", agreed to the British Orthodox Church returning to its pre-1994 status "in fulfilment to what it sees as its current mission in the light of the developments and changing dynamics of the Middle East and Britain". The British Orthodox website spoke of it "amicably returning to its original status in order to fulfil its mission more effectively".[1]


Seraphim (William Henry Hugo Newman-Norton), Metropolitan Archbishop of the Holy Metropolis of Glastonbury and Primate of the British Orthodox Church. He was a full member of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria from 1994 to the church's autocephaly in 2015.

Relationship with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria

Over the years the British Orthodox Church lost touch with its Eastern origins, but in 1994 under the leadership of the present bishop, discussions with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria bore fruit and the church was reunited with the Oriental Orthodox Churches from which it had come. On the feast of Pentecost in 1994, at Saint Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Abba Seraphim was ordained as Metropolitan by Pope Shenouda III, and the British Orthodox Church became a constituent of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.

The British Orthodox Church comprises parishes and missions throughout the British Isles. All its services are in English and it venerates the Orthodox saints of the British Isles and those of the wider Orthodox Church. It uses the ancient Liturgy of Saint James as its normal liturgy, together with all the traditional services of the Coptic Orthodox Church, such as the morning and evening "Raising of Incense".

Although the British Orthodox Church is a small community, it is committed to evangelism and wider ministry.

Continuing church after 1994

In 1994, much of the UK branch of the church followed Metropolitan Seraphim into formal union within the Coptic (Oriental) Orthodox Church, thus forming the British Orthodox Church.

However, in 1995, a remnant of remaining bishops elected Mar Mael I (Paul Eduard de Fournier de Brescia) as patriarch. Mgr Mael remained in office until his death in July 2014. The French and other members who did not join the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria adopted the name L'Eglise Orthodoxe Celtique (the Celtic Orthodox Church -officially the Celtic Apostolic Church), thus indicating that its jurisdiction covered the area of the former Celtic missions. In 1997/1998, several of the former Celtic parishes of the newly formed British Orthodox church left the Coptic church and returned to their mother church, being received by Mar Mael I into the Celtic Orthodox Church.

Return to independence

Following 21 years of unity with the Oriental Coptic Orthodox Church, a statement was released on 5 October 2015, stating the decision of the British Orthodox Church to return to "its pre-1994 status" of independence. In so doing, this ended the autonomous status of the church under the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria


Through the church press it publishes the Glastonbury Review, the only English language journal committed to regular reporting about the activities of the Oriental Orthodox churches and it has also begun to republish some important theological works. Through the internet, it maintains a number of international and ecumenical email discussion groups, as well as promoting the work of the Joint Commission for the Dialogue between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches through the website.

Dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox churches and the Anglican Communion takes place in the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Commission.

See also


  1. Joint Announcement from the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom and the British Orthodox Church of the British Isles, 5 October 2015
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