Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil

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The Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil (SSB) was formed from the Western Rite mission in America when the American Orthodox Catholic Church was dissolved. When the SSB entered into the Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese of New York in 1961, it became the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate.

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American Orthodox Catholic Church

This Society had its origin in the work of Bishop Aftimios (Ofiesh) in the 1930's. In the words of Father Alexander Turner:
It was . . . during the tempestuous days following the Bolshevik Revolution that the Society had its inception as a missionary organ of the nascent federation of American Orthodox colonies under Russian suzerainty, though of local Syrian administration. With the collapse of that plan and the submission of the ethnic groups to the churches of their homelands, the Society was left in isolation.
Bishop Aftimios of the Syro-Arab mission in the Russian Archdiocese, in 1932, consecrated an Episcopalian priest, Ignatius (William Albert) Nichols, as his auxiliary "bishop of Washington" specifically for WR work. This was part of Ofiesh's plan to lay the foundation of the "American Orthodox Catholic Church" which would transcend nationality and language. Eventually by 1934, Ofiesh’s group, including Bishop Ignatius Nichols, would find itself outside mainstream Orthodoxy in "canonical limbo."

Canonical Limbo

Fr. Alexander Turner at the offertory
Nichols founded the Society of Saint Basil, a devotional society for clergy and laity based on the daily recitation of the Western Breviary (Divine Office). Nichols' successor as head of the SSB was Alexander Turner. Turner was consecrated as bishop by Nichols in 1939 (before this Turner had been brought up Episcopalian, and was an ordained Old Catholic priest). He presided over a small parish, Saint Sophia, in Mount Vernon, NY, which he founded in 1946. Bishop Nichols reposed in 1947, leaving Turner as its sole leader. Turner would eventually come to the conclusion that there was no future for his little flock outside canonical Orthodoxy, and through his friend Father Paul Schneirla began unofficial conversations in 1952 on canonical regularization by Metropolitan Antony Bashir in the Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese of New York. Turner had been promoting the Western Rite Orthodox ideal for decades before this, and expressing his ideas through his periodical Orthodoxy.[1]

Re-entering Orthodoxy

In 1961, members of the Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil (mainly centered in Mount Vernon, New York) were received into the Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese of New York by Metropolitan Antony (Bashir) of New York, on the basis of Metropolitan Antony's edict of 1958. The Society had been led up to that time by the non-canonical but widely respected Bishop Alexander Turner ( Paul Tyler Turner), who upon the reception of his group as the Western Rite Vicariate, became a canonical priest of the Orthodox Church and continued to guide the group as its Vicar-General.

Leaders

  • Bishop Ignatius (William Albert) Nichols of Washington
  • Bishop Alexander Turner (then 'Father Alexander' on reception into Antiochian Archdiocese)
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