Ancient British Church

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Cover of "The Ecclesiastical Antiquities of The Cymry or Ancient British Church its History, Doctrine and Rites"

The Ancient British Church was a British religious movement founded by Jules Ferrette (Mar Julius) and Richard Williams Morgan (Mar Pelagius).[1]


Morgan was given the full title Mar Pelagius I, Hierarch of Caerleon-on-Usk by Mar Julius in Oxfordshire in 1858. Mar Julius is said to have conditionally "baptised, confirmed, ordained and consecrated" Pelagius the first Patriarch of the Church.[1]

Pelagius and Julius planned the movement as an attempt to restore a form of Christianity in Britain that they called Neo-Celtic Christianity.[2] They claimed that it existed in a syncretistic, druidic form prior to the entry of Augustine of Canterbury and the Synod of Whitby. Pelagius hoped to establish a "tradition in Britain as part of a world-wide Orthodox Movement which would eventually lead to the reunion of Christendom".[1]

Notable works[edit]

The extensive publications of John Williams (Ab Ithel),[1] Iolo Morganwg,[3] Julius and Pelagius influenced the founding of the movement.[2] Notable works include Saint Paul in Britain and The British Kymry or Britons of Cambria by Morgan and The Ecclesiastical Antiquities of The Cymry or Ancient British Church its History, Doctrine and Rites (cover with a sword and crossed keys pictured) by Ab Ithel.[1][2]

John Pryce, vicar at Bangor, Gwynedd, "refuted all the legends concerning the introduction of Christianity to Britain" in an essay written in 1876,[1](p50)[4] shortly before the death of Pelagius.


Early days[edit]

The Church continued after Morgan's death, described as having "always remained rather shadowy, rather an idea than a community". It was thought that "the idea, no matter how shadowy was to survive."[1]

Charles Isaac Stevens (Mar Theophilus I), formerly a Reformed Episcopal Church presbyter, succeeded Pelagius in 1889.[5] Stevens in turn consecrated Leon Chechemian, an Armenian vardapet, who took the religious name Mar Leon.[2]

Merger (1897)[edit]

On 2 November 1897, the Ancient British Church, led by Stevens, merged with the Free Protestant Church of England, founded and led by Chechemian, and the Nazarene Episcopal Church, founded and led by James Martin, to form a new church called the Free Protestant Episcopal Church (full name: Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England). For its first three years, the united church was led by Chechemian, until 30 December 1900 at which point Chechemian handed-over the reins of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church to Stevens.

1900 to 1945[edit]

Stevens served until his death on 2 February 1917.

Stevens was succeeded by Martin, who served until his death on 2 February 1919.

Martin was succeeded by Andrew Charles Albert McLagan who served until his death on 16 October 1928.

McLagan was succeeded by Herbert James Monzani-Heard, a former Anglican deacon who lived until 1947.[2] Monzani-Heard had been consecrated Archbishop of Selsey in 1922.

On 18 May 1939, William Hall took over as primus of Free Protetant Episcopal Church, in succession to Monzani-Heard. However Monzani-Heard continued as leader of the Ancient British Church until 29 January 1945, when he was succeeded by Hugh George de Willmott Newman (Mar Georgius).

Catholicate of the West and British Orthodox Church[edit]

The Ancient British Church was led by Hugh George de Willmott Newman from 1945 until his death in 1979. For part of this time the name Catholic Apostolic Church (Catholicate of the West) was used. (Note: This should not be confused with the "Irvingite" church called "Catholic Apostolic Church", though de Willmott Newman had grown-up in that church and his thinking was influenced by it).

De Willmott Newman's cousin, William Henry Hugo Newman Norton (Mar Seraphim) took over in 1979, and continues to serve (as at 2014).

The name Orthodox Church of the British Isles was adopted, and later the name British Orthodox Church. Under Newman Norton, it became a canonical local church within the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in 1994.

Celtic Orthodox Church[edit]

Some adherents, who did not support becoming a local church within the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, considered that Newman Norton had seceded, and they continued as the Celtic Orthodox Church, and regard themselves as the genuine continuing body.

Ancient British Church of North America[edit]

Jonathan Vartan Zotique (born Thomas William Brennand on 21 March 1946 in Toronto, Ontario) was consecrated Mar Zitikos and formed the small Ancient British Church in North America (The Autocephalous Glastonbury Rite in Diaspora).

Ancient British Church (Agnostic)[edit]

The line of succession also continued at least into the late 1950s in Britain under Dorian A. F. Herbert of Newport, Wales, who was the head of the offshoot Ancient British Church (Agnostic).[6]

Free Protestant Episcopal Church (now re-named Anglican Free Communion)[edit]

Succession from Morgan's Ancient British Church is also found in the Free Protestant Episcopal Church (now the Anglican Free Communion).[7] From 1900 until 1939 the Ancient British Church and the Free Protestant Episcopal Church shared the same succession of leaders (Stevens, Martin, McLagan and Monzani-Heard). However, on 18 May 1939 Monzani-Heard appointed William Hall as primus of the Free Protestant Episcopal church, but retained leadership of the Ancient British Church until 29 January 1945 when he handed over the Ancient British Church to Hugh George de Willmott Newman. From 1939 onwards, the Free Protestant Episcopal Church had its own separate succession of leaders (namely William Hall, Charles Dennis Boltwood, Albert John Fuge (Snr), Charles Kennedy Samuel Stewart Moffatt and Edwin Duane Follick).

A splinter-group being led between 1978 and 2011 by Horst Block and Peter Lees.

Evangelical Apostolic Church of North America (Syro-Chaldean)[edit]

Succession from the Ancient British Church, via Charles Dennis Boltwood (primus of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church after William Hall) and John Marion Stanley (Mar Yokhannan) and Bertram Schlossberg (Mar Uzziah Bar Evyon) is to be found in the Evangelical Apostolic Church of North America (Syro-Chaldean).[a]

Pentecostal Churches of Christ and Apostolic Pastoral Congress[edit]

In 1995, the Evangelical Apostolic Church of North America (Syro-Chaledean) entered into collegial fellowship with United Pentecostal Churches of Christ (USA) and granted apostolic succession to Archbishop J. Delano Ellis and the UPCofC house of bishops. There is thus a succession from the Ancient British Church to the Pentecostal Churches of Christ (USA), the United Covenant Churches of Christ (USA) (both of these being bodies deriving from the United Pentecostal Churches of Christ) and to the Apostolic Pastoral Congress (another body deriving succession from J. Delano Ellis and UPCofC/PCofC).

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Pearson, Joanne (27 June 2007). Wicca and the Christian Heritage: ritual, sex and magic. Taylor & Francis. pp. 166–. ISBN 978-0-415-25413-7. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Günther H. Thomann (2001). A Short Biography of the Reverend Richard Williams Morgan (c.: 1815-1889), the Welsh poet and re-founder of the Ancient British Church: An enquiry into the origins of neo-Celtic Christianity, together with a reprint of several works by Richard Williams Morgan and Jules Ferrette, etc. St. Ephrem's Inst. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Marion Löffler (2007). The literary and historical legacy of Iolo Morganwg, 1826-1926. University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-7083-2113-3. Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Pryce, John (1878). The ancient British church : a historical essay. London: Longmans, Green. OCLC 680499284. 
  5. ^ "Block". [self-published source] This is a tertiary source that clearly includes information from other sources but does not name them.
  6. ^ James R. Lewis (2002). The encyclopedia of cults, sects, and new religions. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-888-5. Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Anglican Free Communion: History". The Anglican Free Communion. Retrieved 20 April 2013.