History of OCCA

Previous Mar Timotheus

The African Orthodox Church

The beginning of the twentieth century saw a strong movement for the dignity of Americans of African descent, with scholars such as W.E.B. DuBois and anti-lynching journalist-activists such as Ida B. Wells playing prominent roles on the national scene. In part this was because of the imposition of legal segregation and disfranchisement, which became stronger and more widespread at the turn of the century. Unfortunately the mainstream churches were not immune to these trends, and a number of priests of the Protestant Episcopal Church in particular grew increasingly dissatisfied with their marginalization.

One of these was George Alexander McGuire, a native of Antigua in the British West Indies. He received his theological education at the Moravian seminary on St. Thomas, then part of the Danish West Indies (now the U.S. Virgin Islands), and was later ordained deacon and priest by the Episcopal Church, serving throughout the northeastern United States. He, like many people of color at the time, was strongly influenced by Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. McGuire served as a chaplain for the UNIA.

Bishop McGuire

Bishop McGuire of the African Orthodox Church

Eventually McGuire, with a number of parishioners and fellow Episcopal clergy, decided that they needed to withdraw from the Protestant Episcopal Church whose racial ideologies they found oppressive. They assembled in synod in New York in 1921 and decided, naturally, to maintain an episcopal form of church organization and a sacramental system of worship, holding to the apostolic faith of the early councils. They also resolved not to subject themselves ever again to a white hierarchy. This necessitated obtaining their own bishops, and after some extended negotiations, Archbishop Lloyd agreed to ordain their elected candidate, Fr. McGuire, to the episcopacy. Mar Timotheus was the principal consecrator, and the third was Carl Nybladh, whom Mar Timotheus had previously consecrated for the Swedish National Catholic Church, also headquartered in Chicago. McGuire was duly consecrated in Chicago on September 21, 1921. This was to be Mar Timotheus' last public act. He retired to his native France in 1925, after one previous trip there in 1922, and made his submission to the Roman Catholic Church on June 23 of that year. From that time on he lived as a guest of the Cistercians at their abbey of Pont-Colbert near Versailles, where he reposed on July 8, 1929.


Archbishop Lloyd

Back in the United States, Archbishop Lloyd continued to guide the Church until his own repose in 1933. He was reportedly an active advocate for independent churches, performing ordinations and consecrations as his predecessor had done. He maintained close ties with the African Orthodox Church (AOC) as a member of the Synod. Although the constitutions of the AOC specified that, as a church for people of African descent, its hierarchy were never to be subject to a white superior, Lloyd kept jurisdiction over his own flock. Lloyd had been one of McGuire's consecrators and it may be that the arrangement was made during the extensive negotiations before that landmark event. However it came about, it is notable that our chief hierarch was willing to work together with people of color under the omophorion of a black Archbishop-Patriarch.

Sherwood with the African Orthodox Synod

Archbishop Clement Sherwood at the far right

This arrangement continued when McGuire consecrated Clement John Cyril Sherwood as Archbishop Lloyd's successor. Archbishop Sherwood functioned as a member of the AOC Synod and as hierarch of his own, largely Byzantine-rite followers, the continuation of our jurisdiction. Sherwood in turn consecrated George Augustine Hyde to the episcopate.


Archbishop Geroge Ausgustine Hyde

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