Ancient British Church – Primatial Decree

Primatial Decree of the Metropolitan Synod of the Apostolic Episcopal Church in the matter of The Catholic Apostolic Church of the West, otherwise known as the Ancient British Church

The Metropolitan Synod of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, having convened a Committee of Inquiry into this matter and having received that Committee’s Report, upon the resolution of the Primate and Presiding Bishop motu proprio decrees as follows:

  1. Whereas the Ancient British Church was defined by its first Patriarch, Mar Pelagius (Richard Williams Morgan, c.1815-89) as follows:
  • “(17) That the spiritual or ecclesiastical head of the British Church was always a Briton, resident in Britain, amenable to British laws, and British laws only, and having no superior in the Church but Christ. (18) That whatever may be the religious advantages or disadvantages of the union of the ecclesiastical and civil governments in the person of the Sovereign, such union has been, from the first colonization of our Island, first in Druidic and then in Christian times, the native British, as opposed to the foreign papal — and, in later times, dissenting — principle of their separation.” [Mar Pelagius (R.W. Morgan), St Paul in Britain, or, the Origin of British, as opposed to Papal, Christianity, Oxford and London, J.H. and James Parker, 1861, p.216.]
  • “1. The British Church was founded by the Apostles and Apostolic Missions A.D. 49 – four centuries before the Foreign Roman Papal Church was founded in Kent by Pope Gregory and St Augustine – fifteen centuries before the present State Church was established by Henry VIII. 2. In accordance with its name, as the Primitive Apostolic Patriarchal Church of the British Islands, older and nobler as a National Church than any other Church in Europe, it rejects all foreign authority or jurisdiction whatever.” [Mar Pelagius, Preface to the Altar Service of the British Church, London, Edward Stanford, 1878, quoted in Mar Ignatius Peter, Ignorance is Bliss, Metropolitical Press, Glastonbury, 1985, p.2.]
  1. And whereas the Statutes of the British Patriarchate of 9 September 1943 (Glastonbury Chartulary, vol. II, add. MSS., 7(i)3) provide as follows, inter alia,

I. The British Patriarchate, founded in 1874 upon the authority of the Syrian-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and held successively by their Holinesses the Patriarchs Mar Pelagius I, Mar Theophilus I, Mar Jacobus I (Antipas), and Mar Andries I, is now vested in the present Patriarch Mar Jacobus II, and shall descend in perpetuity to his lawful and canonical successors appointed in accordance with these statutes. II. The Patriarchate is fully autonomous and autocephalous, being subject to no external authority other than an Oecumenical Council of the whole Orthodox Catholic Church, both Eastern and Western. III. The Autocephalous Church dependent upon the Patriarchate is known as a whole by the title of the Catholic Apostolic Church of the West, but in England is known as the Ancient British Church.”

  1. And whereas by the Deed of Declaration of 23 March 1944 the Catholic Apostolic Church of the West (Ancient British Church) was one of the constituent bodies that united to form the Western Orthodox Catholic Church, subsequently elevated by the Patriarch of Antioch in the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church into the Catholicate of the West.
  2. And whereas the Instrument of Relinquishment of the office of British Patriarch executed by Mar Jacobus II on 29 January 1945 vests the British Patriarchate in Mar Georgius, declares that the British Patriarchate “no longer has a separate existence” in confirmation of the Deed of Declaration of 23 March 1944 and that “the Patriarchal Title should…attach to the See of Glastonbury and the said Mar Georgius and his successors in that See be known as and called Patriarch of Glastonbury”.
  3. And whereas on 11 April 1946 the Holy Governing Synod of the Catholicate of the West, “bearing in mind that the Catholicate was not now attached to any Patriarchate, were of the opinion that the time had now arrived to make effective within the Catholicate the canonical act of Mar Jacobus.” (being the Instrument of 29 January 1945 referenced above) and at this point, the Archiepiscopal and Metropolitical See of Glastonbury and Caertroia in the Catholicate of the West was elevated to the rank of a Patriarchal See, and the former Patriarchate of the Ancient British Church was merged therein.
  4. And whereas the Catholic Apostolic Church of the West (Ancient British Church), being one of the constituent bodies of the Catholicate of the West, was incorporated as part of that body into the Indian corporation of the Catholicate of the West on 5 February 1950.
  5. And whereas on the abandonment of the Catholicate of the West by Mar Georgius on 29 November 1953 the Catholic Apostolic Church of the West (Ancient British Church) continued to be a part of the continuing Catholic Apostolic Church (Catholicate of the West) as established previously (see Primatial Decree n0. 15/2015), but that the office of British Patriarch could not inhere to a prelate who was not of British nationality and was therefore dormant for as long as the office of Prince-Catholicos of the West was held by prelates who were not British subjects.
  6. And whereas on 10 April 1969 Mar Georgius abandoned the title “Patriarch of Glastonbury” and adopted for himself and his successors in the Orthodox Church of the British Isles that of “Metropolitan of the Holy City of Glastonbury, the Occidental Jerusalem, and British Patriarch”, but did so in opposition to the authentic British Patriarchate which continued, though dormant, to be attached to the Catholicate of the West.
  7. (i) And whereas the said Orthodox Church of the British Isles throughout its existence confessed the Faith of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and accepted the Hypostatic Union as defined by the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon [vide Glastonbury Confession, all editions, Trust Deed of the Orthodox Church of the British Isles, 3 February 1970, p.7]. (ii) And whereas the Glastonbury Confession states of the Seven Ecumenical Councils that they are “inerrant and therefore binding on all Christians” [Glastonbury Confession, Second Edition, 1960, Glastonbury, Tit.VI, chap.3, p.15]. (iii) And whereas the Glastonbury Confession specifically defines Monophysitism as heresy, and “rejects, condemns, repudiates and anathematizes” it. [Glastonbury Confession, Second Edition, 1960, Glastonbury, Tit. VI. chap.7, p.16]
  8. (i) And whereas the Synod of the said Orthodox Church of the British Isles on 19 March 1994 voted to join the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, and that on 6 April 1994 a Protocol was signed by the Primates of both jurisdictions. (ii) And whereas on 29 October 1995 the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, which was formed following the Protocol of 6 April 1994, issued “A Declaration Concerning the Episcopal Progenitors of the British Orthodox Church” in the course of which (p.3) it is stated that “The British Orthodox Church confesses the same faith as the Coptic Orthodox Church and rejects all that the Coptic Orthodox Church rejects.”
  9. (i) And whereas the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate does not accept the Seven Ecumenical Councils, but only the first three. (ii) And whereas notwithstanding scholarly discussion as to what is meant by the term “Monophysitism” and whether that term can be accurately applied to the beliefs of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, it can be said to accept “Monophysitism” as that term was understood in the Glastonbury Confession. (iii) And whereas therefore by the published definitions of the Orthodox Church of the British Isles, and the faith of the Ancient British Church, it is a heretical body.
  10. And whereas clergy of the Coptic Orthodox Church are subject to “foreign authority or jurisdiction” in the person of the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, and therefore by definition are ineligible to hold the British Patriarchate.
  11. Now therefore it is declared that the Ancient British Patriarchate will revert to its original position held between 1874 and 1919 whereby it was attached to the See of Caerleon-upon-Usk.
  12. And the lineage of the Ancient British Patriarchate is as follows:
  • Mar Pelagius (6 March 1874-22 August 1889)
  • Mar Theophilus (22 August 1889-2 February 1917)
  • Mar Jacobus I Antipas (2 February 1917-1919)
  • Mar Andries (1919-4 June 1922)
  • Mar Jacobus II (4 June 1922-29 January 1945)
  • Mar Georgius (29 January 1945-29 November 1953)
  • (Administrator of the vacant See) Mar Paulos (29 November 1953-29 April 1965)
  • (Administrator of the vacant See) Mar David I (29 April 1965-8 August 1976)
  • (Administrator of the vacant See) Mar David II (8 August 1976-26 December 2000)
  • (Administrator of the vacant See) Mar Timotheos III (26 December 2000-5 February 2015)
  • Mar Joannes Edmundus (5 February 2015-)

(L+S) ++JOANNES EDMUNDUS
1 August 2015 a.d., no. 16 of 2015

Attest: ++ANDREAS
Secretary to the Metropolitan Synod of the Apostolic Episcopal Church