"The Orthodox Church is evangelical, but not protestant. It is orthodox, but not Jewish. It is catholic, but not Roman. It isn't non-denominational - it is pre-denominational. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago."
The African Orthodox Church was organized in America in 1921 by +Archbishop George Alexander McGuire. In 1934 +Archbishop Daniel William Alexander organized the African Orthodox Church through out East Africa and established a Seminary in Kenya where over 10,000 persons were affected by the African Orthodox Church of Africa.
His Holiness, Alexander II, Patriarch
Though history of the church and its last Patriarch which was in the U.S.. The Throne has been vacant for almost twenty five years. The new enthornment of Archbishop Partick Mkhize, OSB. See of South African, now enthornes the African Orthodox Church of Africa.
THEAFRICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Prepared by :
+Archbishop James Bramhan, OSB
Ref: Karl Pruter
George Alexander McGuire was the first Bishop, Metropolitan Archbishop and Primate of the African Orthodox Church (AOC). He was an Episcopal Priest who became involved in a movement to establish a Black Anglican denomination. He was consecrated a Bishop 28 September 1921 in Chicago, Illinois by Joseph Rene Vilatte, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of America of the Syrian Church of Antioch. Archbishop Vilatte was assisted by Bishop Carl A. Nybladh. This consecration placed Bishop McGuire in valid apostolic succession, something he greatly desired.
The AOC was originally called the Independent Episcopal Church. At its first Conclave (i.e., meeting of its House of Bishops), 10 September 1924, the name was changed to African Orthodox Church. Rev. McGuire was unanimously elected Archbishop of this new Church, enthroned with the title Archbishop Alexander.
Rev. McGuire has previously served for several years as the Chaplain of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA), an organization founded and led by Marcus Garvey. When he decided in 1924 to relocate UNIA headquarters to the West Indies, McGuire decided to leave UNIA and instead devote himself to the expansion of his Church. Endick Theological Seminary was founded shortly thereafter, as well as an Order of Deaconesses. A church magazine, the Negro Churchman, also began publication with McGuire as its Editor. McGuire founded a parish of his denomination in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1925. Two years after that, he nsecrated an African clergy as Metropolitan Archbishop for South Africa and central and southern Africa , William Daniel Alexander. At the same time McGuire was elected Patriarch of the denomination with the title Alexander I. The church then spread to Uganda , as well.
On 8 November 1931 McGuire dedicated Holy Cross Pro-Cathedral in New York City. His church maintained its greatest strength in NYC. Patriarch McGuire died 10 November 1934. He was survived by his wife, Ada Robert McGuire (a native of Antigua ), and one daughter. At the time of his death the African Orthodox Church had about 30,000 members and about fifty clergy in thirty parishes located in the U.S.A., Africa, Cuba, Antigua and enezuela.
THE FIRST EXTENSION OF THE CHURCH TO AFRICA took place on January 1, 1925 when the First Provincial Synod of South Africa was opened in the Church of St. Augustine of Hippo, Beaconsfield , Griqualand West. The synod declared itself to be the African Orthodox Church ofSouth Africa and in communion with the African Orthodox Church in America
. The Divine Liturgy, and a local adaptation of the Constitution and Canons of the AOC. They had hoped to be received by the Fifth Synod of the Church which met inNew York City in September of that year. The AOC was cautious and voted to accept the South African Church as a Mission Territory . The action was well received in South Africa as the people there saw the reasonableness of a probationary period in the light of the distance between Africa and America. In the next year the Archbishop would have to deal with both growth and problems at home. The Church was reaching into Florida
, USA., and was prospering. The rapid growth in the state was not without problems and after one controversay some dissidents left and were received by Archbishop Lloyd into the American Catholic Church. Since it had been agreed that the ACC would confine its work to the Negroes, the AOC at its Fifth General Synod severed all relations with the American Catholic Church. At the same synod word was heard of the progress of the AOC in the Dominican Republic, and of the training of its priests at its Endich Theological Smeinary. The Seminary, at this time, had fourteen resident students and four receiving courses through the extension service. Because of the growth in the United States, Fr. Reginald Grant Barrow, a native of Barbados, was consecrated as Bishop of Long Island on the 8th of September by the three African Orthodox bishops, George A. McGuire, William Ernest Robertson, and Arthur Stanley Trotman, Archbishop McGuire soon discovered that he could not longer find sufficient time for his many labors nor the energy. As a physician, he realized that there were physical limitations which he must overstep. He had in 1924 suffered a physical collapse but unfortunately he did not heed the warning. On Sunday, May 2, 1926 after celebrating the Liturgy at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Miami , he again collapsed and only the early arrival of medical help saved his life. In the June issue of THE NEGRO CHURCHMAN there appeared his letter of resignation and he set sail for Bermuda for a few weeks of rest and recuperation. The resignation sent shock waves throughout the Church and letters poured in begging him to reconsider. Archbishop McGuire did heed these pleas and after getting another medical opinion, he withdrew his resignation and decided to serve a while longer. He stated at the Extraordinary Meeting of the General Synod which convened in Christ Church, Brooklyn, on September 1, 1926 that he suffered merely from, “an excessive increase of adipose tissue”, i.e. bishop’s syndrome. He set about to correct this problem with his usual determination and energy and quickly returned to health. He did, however, distribute some of his heavy burden to the other Bishops. Bishop William Robertson was given the administration of the new work in Nicarauga and Bishop Reinal Barrow was given the supervision of the work inSouth Africa . The Church in South Africa
had chosen its leadership well and the Archbishop-Elect was able to report substantial growth in membership and in the number of clergy. It is interesting to note where the clergy were coming from, it is as McGuire envisioned, a bringing together of Negroes from various denominations to unite in the African Orthodox Church. Fr. Alexander reported, We have recently gained four splendid clergymen, Fr. Damane, formerly a Roman Catholic, Fr. Dithebe, formerly Anglican, and Rev. S. Daniels, formerly Westleyan.” It is a tribute to the piety, the skill and charisma of Archbishop McGuire, that the Church continued to grow and experienced no schism during his lifetime. When he died in 1934 he left behind a strong and vigorous Church, not only in the United States but in British West Indies, and in Africa. In Kenya there are over a million adherents who either belong to the African Orthodox Church or one of the several offshoots from it. The African Orthodox Church has since its founding remained faithful to Orthodoxy and brought dignity and spiritual strength to the African race which it was founded, and it continues to serve in the spirit of Christ JESUS.
The African Orthodox Church through the history of time has reach and develope through Christ today a Patriarch of Africa, enthroned the year of Christ 2009. He serves over the churches of Africa and the African Orthodox Churches of Africa in the United States.
PITTS THEOLOGY LIBRARY
ARCHIVES AND MANUSCRIPTS DEPT.
RECORD GROUP NUMBER 005
EXTENT: 10 cubic ft. (16 legal-size archives boxes, 4 letter-size archives boxes, 6-8" x 10 1/2" archives boxes, 1-5" x 8" x 12" archive box,4 glass negative boxes, and 1 oversize archive box)
REPRODUCTION: All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.
COPYRIGHT: Information on copyright (literary rights) available from repository.
CITATION: African Orthodox Church Records, RG 005, Archives and Manuscripts Dept., Pitts Theology Library,Emory University
The African Orthodox Church was founded in South Africa in 1924 by priests from the independent African Church . These Priests were dissatisfied with the administration of the African Church and believed that they could establish and run an independent church for Black christians that would be more responsive to their own needs and to the needs of their parishioners. One of the priests in this group was Daniel William Alexander whose leadership abilities were recognized by the others. At the very same meeting in which the priests decided to resign from the African Church
and to form their own independent church, they also elected Alexander to the position of bishop. Alexander was born inSouth Africa on December 23, 1882. His mother is believed to have been a native South African and his father is known to have emigrated to South Africa from the West Indies . Alexander was baptized in the Anglican Church of the Province of South Africa and according to his own account of his life, he attended Roman Catholic schools until 1895. Shortly before the Anglo-Boer War broke out Alexander married Maria Horsely. During the war Alexander was commandeered into service and Maria died in his absence. At the war's end he took up service in the Church of the Province of South Africa
and later in the Ethiopian Catholic Church in Zion before joining the African Church. Although it appears that Alexander's formal education ended at the age of thirteen he was quite literate. It was supposedly he who read of the African Orthodox Church in America and brought news of its existence to the attention of his colleagues. The church in America of which Alexander had read had been established in 1921 by George Alexander McGuire. McGuire was an emigrant to theUnited States from Antigua and served as a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church until 1918. McGuire's experience in the Episcopal Church had been tainted with incidents of discrimination against himself and his fellow Black clergy. He severed his ties with the Church and decided that only in a denomination of Blacks with a Black administration would equality and spiritual freedom be attained. McGuire's search for Black equality led him to Marcus Garvey and to Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association. Garvey reinforced McGuire's notion of a Black denomination and once McGuire founded the African Orthodox Church, Garvey used his periodical entitled the Nero World to disseminate the news throughout Africa . The periodical also carried the story of McGuire's consecration by a white man named Joseph Rene Vilatte. Vilatte's religious background and consecration were dubious but his credentials satisfied McGuire and strongly impressed the priests in Africa. They wrote to McGuire requesting permission to affiliate with the African Orthodox Church and to send their bishop to be consecrated by McGuire.
McGuire's response to the South Africans' proposals was a request for information on the group and the church that they were forming. They were asked to send their statement of faith and their divine liturgy in addition to the credentials of the clergy. After review and some negotiation Alexander was invited to America. He sailed to America in 1927 and on September 11 he was consecrated by McGuire in Boston. Alexander returned to Kimberly and to his parish after his consecration. His church, St. Augustine of Hippo, became the center of African Orthodox activity in South Africa. From this base Alexander travelled all over South Africa and set up parishes wherever he found interest. His missionary activities also took him into countries outside ofSouth Africa such as Kenya, Uganda
and Rhodesia where he trained priests and baptized communicants. Back inKimberley he organized a seminary to educate his priests and annual synod meetings to discuss church business. All the while Alexander continued to correspond with McGuire in America
until a letter arrived in 1935 informing him of McGuire's death. After McGuire's death and the election of a new patriarch inAmerica , the relationship between the South African and the American churches continued to be amicable. The turning point came however, in 1960 after a delegation from America visited Alexander and his church in South Africa. The members of the delegation which included Patriarch James I were invited to South Africa by Alexander. At the age of 78 he no doubt feared for the survival of his church after his death. The African Orthodox Church needed a consecrated bishop and he had agreed after his own consecration by McGuire that only the Patriarch could perform a consecration. The presence of Patriarch James I was necessary if his two bishop-elects, Ice Walter Mbina and Surgeon L. Motsepe, were to assume their duties and lead his church after his death.
While the consecrations were performed without incident, the Patriarch's visit proved to be a disaster for Alexander. In order to usurp Alexander's leadership Mbina and Motsepe enumerated his mistakes and shortcomings to the Patriarch. Convinced that Alexander was inept, James I ordered him to resign his position as archbishop in favor of the two newly consecrated bishops. Alexander found this interference by the Patriarch intolerable and refused to relinquish leadership. He maintained that he and McGuire had agreed that the American church only had power over the African church in spiritual and not in temporal matters. The Patriarch was infuriated by Alexander's refusal to relinquish his leadership and both sides turned to legal counsel. Before the matter could be resolved both James I and Motsepe died. Alexander was reconciled by the new patriarch, Peter IV, and agreed to submit to Mbina. It is uncertain whether Alexander's submission was intended to give him time to rally his supporters or whether he simply changed his mind after his reconciliation. What is clear is that in 1963 Alexander broke away from Mbina and the American African Orthodox Church. With his supporters he formalized the autonomy that he believed McGuire had intended for the African church by naming his body the African Orthodox Church of the Republic of South Africa
and by becoming its patriarch. Correspondence with Mbina ended in 1963 and no further evidence of the survival of his church is contained in the collection.
Alexander died in May 1970 at the age of 88. He remained the Patriarch of the African Orthodox Church of the Republic of South Africa until his death although leadership of the church was shared with his godson Daniel Kanyiles during the last few years. Kanyiles assumed the title of Patriarch James II after Alexander's death.
Scope and Content Note
The archives of the African Orthodox Church (1880-1974) can also be considered the papers of Archbishop Daniel William Alexander. Practically all of the correspondence was either sent or received by Alexander and a large amount of the other manuscript material is in his handwriting. For fifty-one years the African Orthodox Church was at the center of Alexander's life. His wives headed the women's guild, his son and grandson were priests in the Church and many of the organizations that he belonged to were church-related. In spite of this, an effort has been made to separate the things that document the life of Alexander, such as family records, diaries, newspaper clippings and memorabilia, from the things that document the history of the church. The researcher will find that there are many "gray area" items such as Vilatte's memorandum of congratulations and the travelogue recounting Alexander's trip to the United States for consecration. Because of items such as these, the personal papers of Alexander have been treated as a part of the Church's archives and not as a separate collection.
The records have been divided into thirteen series. These are Personal Papers of Daniel William Alexander; Constitution and Divine Liturgy; Histories; Synod Records; Correspondence; Educational Records; Clergy Records; Local Church Records; Confirmation, Baptism and Marriage Records; Financial Records; Miscellaneous Material; Bound Printed Material; and Unbound Printed Material.
Series one, Personal Papers of Daniel William Alexander, includes the family records of Alexander (1880-1868); records of organizations he belonged to (1919-1963); financial records (1940-1970); diaries and travelogues (1927-1937); published and unpublished works (1931-1966); personal correspondence (1927-1970); newspaper clippings (1933-1964); and miscellaneous personal papers (1902-1970).
The second series includes the Constitution and Divine Liturgy of the Church (1921-1950). Series three includes Histories of or related to the African Orthodox Church (1924-1949). Included in the fourth series, Synod Records, are minutes of quarterly conferences and other meetings held between synods (1924-1948); synod minutes (1925-1961); and other synod materials (1928-1931, 1934-1935, 1938, 1941, 1944-1952, 1956, 1958-1960 and 1963-1969).
In the fifth series, Correspondence, are registers used to record letters sent and received (1948, 1950-1955, 1957-1965 and 1967); correspondence with African Orthodox Church members in Africa (1924-1963); correspondence with non-African Orthodox members in America (1924-1964); government correspondence (1924-1963); correspondence with businessmen (1926-1969); and miscellaneous correspondence (1928-1959).
Series six, Education Records, includes records from St. Augustine of Hippo Seminary (1951-1956); and the examination papers of Daniel Kanyiles while atSt. Augustine
(1962). Also included are the records of students tutored by Ice Walter Mbina at Holy Cross (1957). The seventh series contains Clergy Records. Included is a list of vicar generals, archdeacons and catechists (1943); a bound volume containing short biographies (undated); pastoral credentials (alphabetical); oaths of obedience (alphabetical); applications for admission (alphabetical); and government approval of clergy as marriage officers (alphabetical).
Local Church Records are contained is series eight. Included are the records of St. Augustine African Church (1921-1925); St. Augustine of Hippo (1923-1970); the African Orthodox Church in Mafeteng (1947-1948); the African Orthodox Church in Schweize Reneke (1943-1945); St. Cyprian, Queenstown (1949); St. James, Capetown (1954); St. Joseph (1930, 1933); St. Mary Magdalene, Delareyville (1968); and St. Peter, East London (1959-1960). In addition to these are the statistics of the churches (1940-1967). Series nine contains Confirmation, Baptism and Marriage Records including confirmations (1934-1960); baptisms (1917-1958); and marriages (1917-1970).
The tenth series consists of Financial Records and includes documentation of the sale and purchase of property (1940-1963); receipts from construction ofSt. Augustine
(1926, 1967-1969); other receipts (1905-1969); and income and expenditures (1925-1926, 1931-1933).
The eleventh series, Miscellaneous Material, consists of records of the Crusader's League (1958); the Guild of St. Monica (1926-1969); The African United Church (1929); the record book of the Star of Africa Temple (1926); and miscellaneous African Orthodox Church archives including blank forms (1922-1955).
The twelfth series contains Bound Printed Material found with the archives including the Marriage Lawbook (1942); the North African Church (1880); Amaculo Echurch: Zulu Hymn Book (1956); Nyimbo Cia Kunira Ngai: A Book of Hymns in the Kikuyu Language (1935); All of Grace (1892); The Catholic Christian Instructed (1917); Bishop Crowther's Experiences in West Africa (1930); and the periodical The Negro Churchman (1923-1931).
The items contained in series thirteen are Unbound Printed Material. Religious material included in this series is scattered issues of the African Orthodox Churchman (1929, 1930, 1938, 1939, 1945, 1946 and 1948); Umkhuseli: The African Orthodox Defender (1954); The Bystander (1927); the Emancipator (1940); catechisms in different African languages (undated); printed material on apostolic succession (1946 and 1974); synod material (9133-1958); special service programs (1927-1960); notices of clergy deaths (1946-1958); St. Augustine weekly notices (1928); appeal for financial support (1945); twenty-fifth anniversary program of the African Orthodox Church in America (1946); twenty-fifth anniversary program of Holy Cross Cathedral (1952); and miscellaneous African Orthodox Church material (1935-1951). Other religious material includes items from non-African Orthodox Churches in South Africa such as the Anglican Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, Congregational Union of South Africa, the Ebenezer Congregational Church, the Ethiopian Catholic Church in Zion , The Methodist Church and the Kikuyu Independent Schools. There are also Kikuyu tracts, a Moslem publication, pamphlets of the Church Historical Society and miscellaneous printed religious material (1923-1967). The secular material in the series includes a pamphlet called The Awakening of a People (1950); and secular printed material on race relations (1924-1952).
Oversized material from several series have been combined in one box.Box 19
consists of printed calendars (1942-1948, 1955); blank diplomas of the African Orthodox Church (undated); two editions of the newspaper Abantu Batho (1929); the certificate of election of Patriarch Kanyiles (1972); and the certificate of consecration of Daniel William Alexander.
The archives cover a very broad scope of topics and document many different aspects of the organization and history of the African Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, many of the series contain only scattered items that do not paint complete pictures. For example, it will be impossible to accurately ascertain the financial position of the Church using only this collection. Another example is the archives of the local churches. These records provide evidence on the actual size and geographic locations of the parishes but one cannot seriously discuss the everyday workings of these parishes. Still another example is the series that contains the records of the clergy. The records in this series provide evidence of the progress of a member once he had attained a minor order but it provides little on that clergyman's prior experience or education. The weaknesses in these areas, however, are balanced by the wealth of information to be found in the correspondence and in the synod records. From these records the researcher will be able to discover the relationship between the archbishop and his clergy, between the archbishop and his parishioners, between the Church and the South African government, between the Church and the secular community and between the African Orthodox Church and its religious neighbors. In the minutes of synod and in the sundry other material relating to synod and other conference and district meetings, the researcher will find the raw material that will help him/her document the internal workings of the African Orthodox Church.
The researcher should pay special attention to miscellaneous folders found in almost every series. The vast scope of this collection made it difficult to put each item that relates to a unique subject in a separate folder. The researcher should also be aware that while most of the documents are written in English, there are also a few written in Afrikaans, Sotho, Tswana and Xhosa.