Archpriest Andrew Phillips (b. 1956) is an English parish priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), rector of St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church in his birthplace of Colchester, Essex, in the United Kingdom. With 840 square metres of space this multinational parish, which has a Romanian deacon and serves 24 different nationalities, probably has the largest Russian Orthodox Church building in Western Europe. From Colchester he has been encouraging the spread and practice of Russian Orthodoxy throughout the East of England and further still. Indeed, as Western European representative of the Missionary Department of ROCOR and a member of the ROCOR/Patriarchal Commission for the Diaspora, he actively promotes unity between the two parts of the Russian Church in Western Europe. This is in the hope that one day they will form a united Metropolia, as part of a multi-Metropolia Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, as foreseen in the 2007 agreement between the two parts of the Russian Church.
He is also a poet and prolific writer, especially known for covering topics of interest to Orthodox Christians in England, particularly ancient Orthodox Christianity in the British Isles and Ireland, but also current events. He is a member of the Ecclesiastical Court of the ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland, a member of the Theological Committee of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in the British Isles and Ireland and one of the very few ROCOR clergy with first-hand experience of both the old Patriarchate of Moscow and the Paris Exarchate over the last forty years.
Life and major writings
Fr. Andrew Phillips is an English native from the countryside near the Essex-Suffolk border, born in 1956 to a "non practising family." Indeed, his father was unbaptized. Since childhood, he was interested in the early history of England, particularly St. Edmund the Martyr but also King Alfred the Great. He began self-study of Russian at twelve years of age and also then read the New Testament for the first time. From fourteen years of age, after a number of religious experiences, he "conceived the desire to be received into the Russian Orthodox Church," which happened four years later when he was eighteen in 1975. "From the very beginning, he wished to make English this Orthodox Tradition, without in any way watering down the Orthodox Faith with cultural excuses."
He spent time in Russia, going on later to Oxford University and receiving there an M.A. in Russian, also studying literature, theology, hagiology and history. He began to compile a calendar with the Western saints (the local saints, mostly from well before 1054) and the New Martyrs and Confessors from Russia. Neither of these groups of saints was then being publicly venerated and bishops and priests in England were refusing to allow their veneration. In 1976 he spent a summer in Russia where he met the theologian and historian, Archpriest Lev Lebedev, who explained to him the reasons for the shortcomings of Diaspora Orthodoxy of all jurisdictions, which Fr Andrew had already experienced.
Having graduated, he then worked for a year in Greece, learned some Greek and made pilgrimages to Mt Athos, where notably at Philotheou he was influenced by Fr Ephraim (Moraitis), later of Arizona. He then went to Paris to study at the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, where he met and admired the elderly Archbishop George (Tarasov) of the Paris Jurisdiction (he had been a WWI Russian pilot on the Western Front) and made the acquaintance of others of the last White Russian emigres. He was tonsured reader in London in January 1981. In Paris he was ordained to the subdiaconate and diaconate in January 1985 and to the priesthood in December 1991 by Archbishop Anthony (Bartoshevich) of Geneva. He served in Paris and in 1992 founded the ROCOR parish in Lisbon, Portugal, which consisted of recent arrivals from the ex-Soviet Union.
He wrote his first book, Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church, in 1988, followed by The Hallowing of England in 1992. In 1995, he published an anthology of journal articles, Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition, along with The Rebirth of England and English, a study of 19th century English visionary William Barnes. "A fifth work, The Lighted Way, appeared at the end of 1999, providing Orthodox Christian perspectives for the Third Millennium. This was followed by a sixth work concerning the Apostle of East Anglia, St Felix, who came to England as a missionary from France." Since then he has written for the journal 'Orthodox England' and written much for the Orthodox England website, as well as poetry, brochures on Russian Orthodoxy, a play about Carpatho-Russians in London and a service book for the episcopal liturgy with detailed directions for clergy.
In 1997 he and his family returned to England from Paris, mainly because of the need to earn money. He is married with six children, four of whom are married to Orthodox, two not yet married. He has three grandchildren. His matushka is of mixed Anglo-Italo-Romanian descent, born in North Africa and brought up in the Russian Church in Paris (Paris Exarchate), and is a cousin of Claudia Cardinale.
Though perhaps best known outside the UK and in Russia for his writings on ancient Orthodoxy in England (such as his book, Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church, now in its third printing), much of his published writing consists of articles on various subjects of interest to contemporary Orthodox Christians. He has published the Orthodox England journal continuously since 1997, but writes far more directly for the Orthodox England website. He has also composed services to St Felix of Dunwich, St Audrey of Ely, St Edmund, King and Martyr, St Alfred, King of England (with the blessing of two ROCOR bishops and of Metr Kallistos Ware), All the Saints of the Isles, and All the Saints of the Western Lands.
Fr. Andrew is a strong apologist for the Russian Orthodox Church, whether inside Russia or outside Russia, regarding ROCOR as founded by St. Tikhon of Moscow, and looking on the Moscow Council of August 2000, at which the new Martyrs and Confessors were canonized, as a miracle. After this Council he battled for Russian Church unity and continued to fight against what he called ‘the sectarian, nationalist and political wing of ROCOR’, which he considered had persecuted St John of Shanghai, who had allowed the new calendar and refused to condemn the Moscow Patriarchate. He strongly supported Metropolitan Lavr (Shkurla), whom he saw as in the same tradition as St John of Shanghai, and accurately predicted the unity that came in 2007. He has also always been notable for his support of Russian Orthodox Messianism and Orthodox Monarchism, greatly venerating Tsar Nicholas II and his family, even before they were canonized by ROCOR in 1981. Having himself proposed a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe in a consultative document that he wrote in French back in 1986, he was naturally in favor of the Metropolia that Patriarch Alexei II (Ridiger) of Moscow promoted after 2004.
Fr. Andrew's commentaries on current events are often critical of those perceived as extremists, whether modernists or ecumenists, including the use of the New Calendar, or old calendarists, calling them sectarian and pharisaical, as well as being critical of pietistic guruism, which some converts of all nationalities, including Greek, Romanian and Russian, fall into. His particular focus is on the contemporary situation of Russian Orthodoxy in the West, and as such, his criticism has been levelled at the old leadership of the Diocese of Sourozh in the UK (referring to the Anglicanizing administration of Metr. Anthony (Bloom) as a "personality cult") and at the Exarchate of the Russian Tradition, based in Paris. He sees a lack of vision in them, a direct result of his personal experiences in the 1970s and 1980s. However, he is a supporter of Archbishop Job (Getcha) in Paris, just as he was of Archbishop Sergiy (Konovalov).
He also occasionally publishes remarks critical of non-traditional sections of the OCA (referring to it as "Eastern-rite Uniatism"). He personally knew quite well Metr Antony (Bloom), Metr Kallistos (Ware), Metr Vitaly (Ustinov), Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), Bishop Vasiliy (Rodzianko), Fr Alexander Schmemann and Fr Sophrony (Sakharov), among many others, including figures in contemporary Russia like Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Archbishop Mark (Golovkov), Fr Tikhon (Shevkunov) and Fr Vsevolod Chaplin. He is also critical of the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the leadership of which he regards as US-appointed since the deposition of Patriarch Maximos in 1948 and "in the forefront of ecumenism and modernism in the twentieth century." He calls such deviations ‘Halfodoxy’ and ‘Establishment Orthodoxy’.
Fr Andrew was one of the ten speakers at the Fourth All-Diaspora Council in San Francisco in 2006, and was present at the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion between the two parts of the Russian Church in Moscow in 2007. In May 2012, at a Sunday Liturgy in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow he was awarded a jewelled Patriarchal cross by His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill (Gundyayev) for his lifelong services to the Russian Orthodox Church and struggles for Her unity, despite forty years of intimidation, including a death-threat that he was to receive in 2015.
- Autobiography of Fr. Andrew Phillips
- Orthodox England on the 'Net
- Interview with Fr. Andrew Phillips at the Pravmir website
- Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church
- Criticisms of the Diocese of Sourozh
- A Continuing London Russian Orthodox Pastoral Tragedy: Old Problems Surface Anew at the Patriarchal Cathedral
- Sourozh: Russian traditions without the Russian Orthodox Faith
- The Sourozh Schism and the Last Christians
- After the Council
- The Wisdom of Patience: The Moscow Patriarchate Draws Nearer to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia: Current Events Inside the Sourozh Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate
- On Rebuilding the Church: Feed My Sheep
- Criticisms of the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe