The African Orthodox Church

The African Orthodox Church (AOC) is an independent Christian denomination with roots in the African American community. It emerged in the early 20th century as an effort to establish an autonomous and culturally relevant expression of Christianity for African Americans. The church’s establishment was a response to the discrimination and segregation faced by African Americans within existing Christian denominations during that time.

The African Orthodox Church traces its origins to the work of Archbishop Alexander McGuire (1869-1934). McGuire was an African American Episcopal priest who, in 1919, was consecrated as the first bishop of the African Orthodox Church in the United States. He had sought to address the racial segregation and discrimination within the Episcopal Church and, failing to bring about significant change, he decided to create an independent denomination.

Holy Liturgy during the Celebration of 100 Years of Orthodox Christianity in Uganda at Lubya Hill

The AOC’s theology and liturgical practices draw from both Eastern Orthodox Christianity and traditional Western Christianity, making it a unique blend of the two traditions. However, it also incorporates elements of African culture and spirituality, making it distinctive in its expression of the Christian faith.

Over the years, the African Orthodox Church has experienced various challenges and undergone changes in leadership and structure. Several jurisdictions of the AOC have been established in different parts of the world, and some have experienced schisms and realignments. These developments have led to multiple branches of the African Orthodox Church, each with its own leadership and administrative structure.

The African Orthodox Church continues to exist today, although its size and influence have varied over time and differ between different regions. It remains an important institution in the history of African American Christianity and represents a significant effort to establish an independent African-centered Christian tradition.

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