[Translated from the French-language summary in Religioscope.]
Religion in the UK: situation of the Orthodox Church
January 28, 2005.
In the winter 2004-2005 edition of the newspaper "The Forerunner", published by the Orthodox Brotherhood of St. John the Baptist, Bishop Kallistos (Ware) reflects on the future of the Orthodox witness in the West. He uses the opportunity to analyze the situation in Great Britain.
The number of Orthodox Christians in Great Britain is estimated at 280,000 states the Bishop. But only an average of 10% of that number attend church on an ordinary Sunday, according to a 1998 poll. On the other hand, two thirds of the Orthodox were in church on Pascha of the same year.
As is well known, the Orthodox in the west are divided into jurisdictions (which Mgr. Kallistos prefers to call "church families), broadly determined by national origin.
The most important group numerically is the Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Constantinople), which primarily brings together Greek ancestry and which has at least 111 "parishes and eucharistic centers". Then come the Moscow Patriarchate (35 parishes and places of worship), followed by the British bishopric of the Serbian Church (24). In total there are 215 parishes and places of worship, served by 208 clerics (7 bishops, 168 priests and 33 deacons).
This number is not large, but Mgr. Kallistos points out that this parish network is relatively new; in 1827, in all of Great Britain, there was only one chapel with just a dozen faithful. In 1914 - 5 places of worship, and the number of Orthodox churches always remained the same until the beginning of World War II.
At the end of the 1940's and during the 1950s, the immigration of Greeks from Cyprus and Slavs quickly this situation changed quickly. In 1962 there were 26 places of worship, and 57 clergy. 85% of the parishes were established in the course of the last forty years.
A feature to be noted: an unusually large number of converts among the clergy. While converts represent 2-3% of the faithful, they constitute about 40% of the Orthodox clerics in Great Britain. With 29 clergy of British origin, the Souroz diocese leads; the diocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has 26 convert clergy and the diocese of the Patriarchate of Antioch has 16.
Growth continues but Bishop Kallistos does not hide his worry about the future: many young people leave the Church.
Bishop Kallistos' article also contains his reflections on Orthodox monastic presents in Great Britain (relatively weak, in spite of the existence of the well-known monastery of John the Forerunner in Essex) and on the need to develop an institution of theological formation. At the end of the article, the bishop offers his thoughts on the perspectives for the Orthodox Church in Great Britain and on the possibility of forming a Local Church.
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