African Orthodox Church
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The African Orthodox Church is a primarily African-American denomination founded in the United States in 1921. It has approximately 15 parishes and 5,000 members, down significantly from the time of its greatest strength.
The AOC holds to the historic three-fold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons, and lays strong emphasis on apostolic succession. The church celebrates the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. Its worship is liturgical, of Eastern and Western rites. The Nicene, Apostles', and Athanasian creeds are affirmed.
The African Orthodox Church (AOC) was founded in the belief that black Episcopalians should have a denomination of their own. Episcopal rector George Alexander McGuire was consecrated a bishop on September 28, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois, by Archbishop (episcopus vagantes) Joseph Rene Vilatte, assisted by Bishop Carl A. Nybladh who had been consecrated by Vilatte. This placed Bishop McGuire in apostolic succession, which was something he had greatly desired.
The new denomination was originally called the Independent Episcopal Church, but at its first conclave, or House of Bishops meeting, on September 10, 1924, the denomination was formally organized as the African Orthodox Church. Bishop McGuire was unanimously elected archbishop and enthroned with the title of "Archbishop Alexander".
McGuire served for several years as chaplain of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA), founded and led by Marcus Garvey. When Garvey decided in 1924 to relocate UNIA headquarters to the West Indies, McGuire left the UNIA and began to devote himself to the development and extension of his church. Soon Endick Theological Seminary was founded, as well as an order of deaconesses, and the Negro Churchman magazine began publication with McGuire as its editor.
The African Orthodox Church originally attracted mostly Anglican West Indian immigrants. It spread to the South in 1925 when McGuire started a parish in West Palm Beach, Florida. Two years later he consecrated an African as metropolitan, Daniel William Alexander of South Africa and central and southern Africa. At this time McGuire was elected as patriarch with the title of Alexander I. The church then spread to Uganda where it grew to about 10,000. Its greatest strength, however, was in New York City where on November 8, 1931, McGuire dedicated Holy Cross Pro-Cathedral, a remodeled house purchased by McGuire from funds obtained by mortgaging his own home.
In 1932 a bishop of the church went to Uganda and ordained Ruben Spartus Mukasa and one of his associates there priests of the African Orthodox Church. However, a few years later, Mukasa and his followers decided to align with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Mukasa went to Alexandria and was ordained by the patriarch there, while the African Orthodox Church lost its connection in Uganda.
McGuire died on November 10, 1934. He was survived by his wife, Ada Robert McGuire, a native of Antigua, and a daughter. At the time of his death the church had about 30,000 members, about fifty clergy and thirty churches located in the United States, Africa, Canada (e.g. St Philip's, Whitney Pier, Nova Scotia), Cuba, Antigua and Venezuela.
- Mead, Frank S., Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 10th edition, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995, pp. 128-129
- history of Orthodoxy in Uganda
- Sunday Religion, Inspired by Saturday Nights - New York Times
- Arthur C. Thompson's The History of the African Orthodox Church (1956)
- Byron Rushing's A Note on the Origin of the African Orthodox Church (JNH, Jan. 1972)
- Gavin White's Patriarch McGuire and the Episcopal Church
- NetMinistries - African Orthodox Church, Inc.
- The Origin of Orthodoxy in East Africa - by His Eminence Metropolitan Makarios (Tillyrides) of Zimbabwe
- Orthodox mission in Tropical Africa - by Stephen Hayes, published in Missionalia, the journal of the Southern African Missiological Society (Archived 2009-10-24)