​August 15, 1907: Ordination In Constantinople Of Fr. Raphael Morgan

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Morgan is 1st Black American Orthodox priest, “Priest-Apostolic” to America and the West Indies.

Very Rev. Raphael Morgan (born Robert Josias Morgan) was a Jamaican-American priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, designated as ‘”Priest-Apostolic” to America and the West Indies’, later the founder and superior of the Order of the Cross of Golgotha, and thought to be the first Black Orthodox clergyman in America.He spoke broken Greek, and therefore served mostly in English. Having recently been discovered, his life has garnered great interest, but much of his life still remains shrouded in mystery.

Fr. Raphael is said to have resided all over the world, including: “in Palestine, Syria, Joppa, Greece, Cyprus, Mytilene, Chios, Sicily, Crete, Egypt, Russia, Ottoman Turkey, Austria, Germany, England, France, Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Bermuda, and the United States.”

LEGACY: Scholar Gavin White, writing in the 1970s, states that if Morgan tried to organize an African-American Greek Orthodox church in Philadelphia, its memory has vanished, and nothing whatsoever is known about Morgan in later years. However he hastens to add that:

“…there can be no doubt that McGuire knew all about Morgan and it is very probable that he knew him personally. It is just possible that it was Morgan who first introduced McGuire to the Episcopal Church in Wilmington; it was almost certainly Morgan who introduced McGuire to the idea of Eastern episcopacy.”

This concurs with Matthew Namee’s conclusion above, that it was Fr. Raphael who was George Alexander McGuire’s inspiration to form namely an “Orthodox” church. In time the African-based portion of McGuire’s “African Orthodox Church” in Kenya andUganda, eventually did end up under the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa in 1946. And although those two churches were already upon their own set path towards full canonical Orthodoxy, McGuire was an important part of that process at one stage, and Fr. Raphael Morgan in turn, was behind McGuire’s inspiration to form an “Orthodox” church. In this regard, by planting the seed, it can be said that Fr. Raphael was also in some small measure, indirectly or incidentally, a part of that process in Africa as well.

In the end, while Fr. Raphael Morgan’s work among Jamaicans in Philadelphia appears to have been transitory,nevertheless he did serve as an important precedent for current African American interest in Orthodoxy,especially that of FatherMoses Berry, director of the Ozarks African American Heritage Museum, who served as the priest to the Theotokos, the “Unexpected Joy,” Orthodox Mission (OCA) in Ash Grove, Missouri.

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