Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church etc. – Primatial Decree

Primatial Decree of the Metropolitan Synod of the Apostolic Episcopal Church in the matter of The Ancient Orthodox Catholic 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. (i) Whereas owing to the need of Western Christians who were attempting to maintain the Ancient Catholic faith and practice in Great Britain, America, Africa and elsewhere, the original Church of Antioch decided to extend its hierarchy to take in those of other lands who desired to be in communion with the Mother Church. This was done by Ignatius Peter III, 126th Prince Patriarch of Antioch, in direct line of succession from St. Peter. This Patriarch, known as Peter the Humble, started what has been called the reunion movement. He published a patriarchal bull, authorizing the establishment of self-governing churches in various parts of the Western world and elsewhere, and arranged for one of his metropolitans to consecrate an elected head of these Christians. The prelate chosen was Joseph Renatus Vilatte (1854-1929), who was duly consecrated in 1892 as Mar Timotheos, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Old Catholics of America. (ii) And whereas earlier, in 1866, before he became Patriarch, Ignatius Peter III as Bishop of Emesa had consecrated Jules Raimond Ferrette (1828-1904) as Bishop of Iona and its dependencies.(iii)And whereas from Archbishop Vilatte and Bishop Ferrette, both of whom confessed the Faith of the Seven Ecumenical Councils throughout their episcopates, many bishops in various parts of the world derive their apostolic succession and jurisdiction. [vide Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church, n.p., 1943]
  2. And whereas the Patriarch Ignatius Peter III died in 1894 and his successors took less interest in these extensions of the patriarchate. Finally in 1938 the Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem I repudiated all the aforesaid acts of his predecessors, and cut himself off from communion with the groups created by them, in spite of the fact that many of the clergy and laity concerned were anxious to remain under his jurisdiction. []
  3. And whereas an assembly of these Vilatte and Ferrette-descended missions called the Council of London took place on 17 October 1943, the Old Catholic Orthodox Church (under the Primacy of the Primate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church) and the Order of Antioch (today under united headship with the Apostolic Episcopal Church) being among the bodies represented. The other bodies were the Ancient British Church (Ancient Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in the British Isles), the Episcopal Apostolic Church and the Order of the Holy Wisdom.
  4. And whereas the Acts of the Council of London are summarized as follows:
  • the Council, embracing steadfastly the definitions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Apostolical Traditions repudiated the heresies of Monophysitism and Jansenism and all other heresies;
  • that in view of Ignatius Ephrem I having disclaimed all connection with the above mentioned extensions of his patriarchate, lawfully made by his predecessor, the said Ignatius Ephrem was no longer recognized as holding office, that in consequence of the Patriarchal Synod and many of the bishops in Syria and Malabar having adhered to the aforementioned the right to elect to the vacant see was declared to be now vested in the Council;
  • that in order to prevent confusion with the followers of the adherents of the aforesaid patriarch it was provided that the Church within the rightful Patriarchate of Antioch should no longer be called “the Syrian Orthodox” or “Jacobite” Church, but should be hereafter known as “The Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church” and by no other name; that the original jurisdiction of the Patriarchate should remain as heretofore, but its extensions in the West were specifically recognized and confirmed in their rights ; that the traditional name “Ignatius” in the official designation of the Patriarch should be abandoned, and the name “Basilius” substituted therefor; that the full Patriarchal title should in future be as follows: “His Holiness Mohoran Mar Basilius N., Sovereign Prince Patriarch of the God-protected city of Antioch and of all the Domain of the Apostolic Throne, both in the East and in the West ”;
  • Mar Bernard, Bishop of St. Sophia (Dr William Bernard Crow (1895-1976), Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Wisdom) was elected to the vacant Patriarchal See of Antioch, under the title of Basilius Abdullah III, to whom all bishops dependant upon the See of Antioch were required to make their canonical submission within six months from the date of the Council, unless lawfully hindered;
  • the Council supported all legitimate measures for Christian re-union and exhorted the faithful to pray to this end;
  • the Council protested against resolutions 27 and 28 of the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church 1920, which it negarded as an unwarranted attack upon the validity of the Episcopal Orders of many Catholic and Orthodox autocephalous Churches and a hindrance to the re-union of Christendom.

And whereas these acts were duly signed and sealed by the authorized representatives of the ecclesiastical organizations represented at the Council. [ibid.]

  1. And whereas the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church under the Patriarch of Antioch Mar Basilius Abdullah III entered into intercommunion with the Apostolic Episcopal Church shortly after its foundation, and that its Presiding Bishop, Dr Arthur Wolfort Brooks (Mar John Emmanuel, 1889-1948) was awarded the degree of Doctor of Sacred Scripture honoris causa of the Apostolic Academy of St Peter at Antioch, and appointed a Legate to the Patriarchal Throne of Antioch by Mar Basilius Abdullah III. [See announcement of the former in Orthodox Catholic Review, vol. 1 no. 3, June 1944, p.13, also Mar Georgius, A Twig on the Tree of Life, 1960, p.16]
  2. And whereas the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church accepted and steadfastly affirmed the Orthodox and Catholic Faith of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, rejected what it understood as Monophysitism as heresy, and rejected the filioque in accordance with the Acts of the Council of London, cited at item 4(i) above. See also the pastoral letter of Mar Basilius Abdullah III of Easter 1966 in which he says “…the Syrian Orthodox group from which we separated are generally regarded as tainted by the monophysite heresy. We have never tolerated this, mindful of the ancient Faith handed on to us by the original British Church, which was of Syrian origin and traditionally ascribed to St Joseph of Arimathea.” [p.1]
  3. (i) And whereas in 1969 the Patriarch, Dr Crow, in celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his accession, revised the structure of his organization, whereby the Order of the Holy Wisdom was thereafter constituted as an independent organization belonging to the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church and the whole of his work was now contained within the Apostolate of the Holy Wisdom. [Aletheia, no. 11, Candlemas 1969, p.1] (ii) And whereas it was stated in 1973 that “those wishing to join the Order of the Holy Wisdom must accept the faith and practices of the Ancient Catholic Orthodox Church” [Aletheia, no. 16 (no. 4, 2nd series), Easter 1973, p.2], and that the said faith was as has been defined at item 6 above.
  4. (i) And whereas on 11 April 1972, at Dr Crow’s domestic oratory at 78, Broadmead Road, Woodford Green, Essex, Dr Crow imparted conditional episcopal consecration to the Most Revd. Prince Kermit Poling de Gniezno and appointed him as Mar Titus, honorary bishop of the Apostolate of the Holy Wisdom. (ii) And whereas in a letter of 19 September 1972 Dr Crow further affirmed that Mar Titus was an honorary member of the Order of the Holy Wisdom.
  5. And whereas it has been asserted by the former Orthodox Church of the British Isles that Dr Crow resigned his sacred and secular offices and appointed two clergy of that church in his stead on 11 September 1975, thereby intending that his organization and its work should continue under them [vide Glastonbury Bulletin, 43, July 1976, p.vi]
  6. 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 (n.b. Glastonbury Bulletin, no. 67, May 1984, pp187-9), Trust Deed of the Orthodox Church of the British Isles, 3 February 1970, p.7].
  7. (i) And whereas the said Orthodox Church of the British Isles and its predecessor body had on 25 February 1967 initiated a “General Council of the Catholicate of the West, to be called the Second Council of London”. (ii) And whereas this assembly in the event did not complete its work until 1975, and its decrees were not ratified and confirmed until 30 December 1978, some two years after the death of Dr Crow. (iii) And whereas these decrees included the repudiation of the Acts of the 1943 Council of London and the impudent statements that the Council’s actions had been “uncanonical” and that it had “exceeded its authority”. (iv) And whereas by admission of the participants in this assembly, “out of respect for [Dr Crow], its decisions were not made public at the time” [Glastonbury Bulletin, no. 53, May 1979, p.63].
  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” wherein (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 by the 1943 Council of London. (iii) And whereas therefore by the definitions of the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church and the Order of the Holy Wisdom, it is a heretical body.
  10. And whereas nothing in the foregoing item should be taken to imply any disrespect to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, its beliefs or its clergy, with whom we have enjoyed and continue to enjoy good ecumenical relations, but merely that it should establish that they have no more right over our patrimony as Western Orthodox faithful than they would accord us over their own church and heritage.
  11. And whereas as stated by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) in his seminal work “Orthodoxy”, “The doctrinal definitions of an Ecumenical Council are infallible. Thus in the eyes of the Orthodox Church, the statements of faith put out by the seven councils possess, along with the Bible, an abiding and irrevocable authority…Among the various elements of the Tradition, a unique pre-eminence belongs to the Bible, to the Creed, to the doctrinal definitions of the Ecumenical Councils: these things the Orthodox accept as something absolute and unchanging, something which cannot be cancelled or revised.” [1993 ed., pp.202-06]
  12. Now therefore (i) we continue to uphold the Acts of the Council of London of 1943 and to affirm steadfastly our Faith in the Seven Ecumenical Councils and our rejection of Monophysitism as that term was understood in this context. (ii) And we uphold the agreement of intercommunion between the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church and the Apostolic Episcopal Church of 1943.
  13. And we reject unreservedly the so-called “Second Council of London” and its decrees inasmuch as these reflect pejoratively on the 1943 Council of London.
  14. And we reject unreservedly any claim by clergy of the Coptic Orthodox Church to authority within the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church, the Apostolate of the Holy Wisdom, the Order of the Holy Wisdom and all cognate bodies, on the grounds that membership in those bodies rests upon the Faith of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and that the clergy of the Coptic Orthodox Church do not accept this Faith.
  15. And we declare that since at least 6 April 1994 the only member of clergy of the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church, the Apostolate of the Holy Wisdom and the Order of the Holy Wisdom was the Most Revd. Mar Titus (Dr Poling), and that he actively maintained his office as Prelate of these bodies, and merged the Christian Orthodox Church (a dynastic ekklesia of the Byelorussian nobility) into the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church.
  16. And we declare that on the death of Mar Titus on 31 March 2015, he was succeeded by the Head-at-line of the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church, the Primate and Presiding Bishop of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, Mar Joannes Edmundus.
  17. And we declare that the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church, Apostolate of the Holy Wisdom and Order of the Holy Wisdom are therefore now bodies held in personal union with the Primacy of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, with which they have enjoyed formal relations since 1943.

(L+S) ++JOANNES EDMUNDUS
1 August 2015 a.d., no. 14 of 2015

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