African Orthodox Church

views updated May 17 2018

African Orthodox Church

The African Orthodox Church (AOC) was founded September 2, 1921, by George Alexander McGuire, an Antiguan follower of Marcus Garvey who had been ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church. The purpose of the new denomination was originally to create a kind of state church for the Universal Negro Improvement Association and to further black nationalist religious symbolism, but when the AOC did not become an official part of the Garvey movement, it concentrated on defending the validity of its claims to apostolic succession through orders from the West Syrian Jacobite Church of Antioch.

The AOC has never grown beyond a few thousand members in the United States, and they are concentrated primarily along the East Coast. Its clergy and members have been largely West Indian, although it occasionally appeals to dissident Roman Catholics and a few traditional Protestants. The church's liturgy is formal and high, a combination of Anglican and Roman rites with some Orthodox influences and usages. The AOC spread to Africa, where its membership numbers in the millions and where it exists uniquely as an independent church with legitimate ties to historic Christianity as well as involvement in African cultural nationalism.

In the United States, the AOC has been a channel of "valid though irregular" ordinations and consecrations among so-called Old Catholic bodies. McGuire was canonized in 1983, but the church did not participate in or benefit from the postcivil rights movement surge of black nationalism. In California, a communitarian group formerly gathered around the widow of jazz musician John Coltrane has affiliated with the AOC and appears to give the denomination its best hope for active continuity.

See also Garvey, Marcus; Universal Negro Improvement Association


Newman, Richard. "The Origins of the African Orthodox Church." In The Negro Churchman (19231931). Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus Reprint, 1977, pp. iii-xxiv.

Platt, Warren C. "The African Orthodox Church: An Analysis of Its First Decade." Church History 58, no. 4 (December 1989): 474488.

richard newman (1996)

African Orthodox Church

views updated May 11 2018

About this article

African Orthodox Church

All Sources -
Updated Aug 08 2016 About content Print Topic