Commemoration of St. George Alexander McGuire

The Brooklyn Diocese of the African Orthodox Church has just completed its Bi-Annual Conference at St. Michael’s AOC Church in Brooklyn. One of the events was to visit the tomb of St. George Alexander McGuire at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. This is a biography composed by Archbishop Brennan (San Luigi Grand Prior for the United States and member of the AOC House of Bishops) last year for the Woodlawn Cemetery Biography Project.

St. George Alexander McGuire was one of the last to be created a Prince of the Crown of Thorns by Prince-Abbot Joseph III.

Saint George Alexander McGuire (1866-1934)

The Most Reverend George Alexander McGuire is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. He was the founder of the African Orthodox Church in New York City. He was an outstanding preacher who wanted to gain social justice and equality for his Black brothers and sisters. He was one of the early clergymen who prepared the way for Martin Luther King, Jr., to do his work as a civil rights leader in a later generation. The AOC was established to give the Black Caribbean people their own Independent Church where they would no longer be segregated as they were in the Episcopal and other churches of their time.

McGuire was born in Sweets, Antigua on March 26, 1866. He attended local schools, a teacher’s college and the Moravian Seminary. He became the pastor of the Moravian Church in the Danish West Indies from 1888 to 1894. When he came to the United States in 1894, he first joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church, but soon joined the Episcopal Church and was ordained a priest in 1897. He served small Black Episcopal Churches in Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania. He served as Archdeacon for Colored Work in Arkansas from 1905 to 1909 and increased the number of parishes from one to nine. When the local bishop insisted on continued segregation, McGuire resigned and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he established a church for West Indians in Boston. He became a medical doctor and surgeon in 1910 at age 44, at the Boston College of Physicians and Surgeons. McGuire traveled across the US and saw that in the other Episcopal Churches Blacks were still segregated. McGuire returned to Antigua to tend his sick mother. He gained notoriety there for his preaching and for his expertise in medicine.

When he returned to the United States, he joined with Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association to which he became Chaplain-General. The African Orthodox Church was founded on September 21, 1921, as the combined work of McGuire and Garvey. It was a church of traditional Catholic teachings but with Black leadership and Black control. McGuire was elected Patriarch and was consecrated a bishop by Prince-Abbot Joseph III (Archbishop Joseph Rene Vilatte) whose holy orders as a bishop in apostolic succession came from the Syrian Orthodox Church. McGuire left the Garvey movement in 1924 and put his efforts into expanding the African Orthodox Church which grew dramatically. Parishes were begun in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and eventually spread to Nova Scotia, Africa, Cuba, Antigua, Venezuela and South Africa. When Patriarch Alexander died on November 10, 1934, the church had about thirty parishes, with fifty clergy and 30,000 congregants. His church was part of the Harlem Renaissance and it continues its presence in Harlem today at Holy Cross AOC (Pro Cathedral) Church. McGuire was canonized as a saint by the African Orthodox Church on July 31, 1983. Memory Eternal!

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