Clergy of the Ancient Catholic Church: Mar Lukos of Lagos, Accra and Trinidad

Mar Lukos (Davison Quartey Arthur) was a bishop of the Ancient Catholic Church, appointed in 1951.

Davison Quartey Arthur was born in Ethiopia, but travelled to the United States as a young man, where he worked with Bishop St-John-the-Divine Hickerson (sometimes rendered Hickersayon, or referred to as St-John-the-Vine) of the Malankara-Syriac Vilatte succession in an evangelical mission called the Church of the Living God. In 1942, the two prelates established the Coptic Orthodox Church Apostolic Incorporated in Harlem, New York, and Hickerson consecrated Arthur as Mar Lukos, Bishop of Lagos, Accra and Trinidad.

This church adopted the Coptic rites and traditions familiar from Mar Lukos’s youth, and found a following among Black African-Americans who, influenced by the teachings of Marcus Garvey, were looking to connect with their roots and heritage in Africa. Hickerson corresponded with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, hoping for a formal church relationship to be established, but this was not forthcoming.

John A. Hickerson’s faith journey had taken him from Pentecostalism into the Baltimore African-American movement under the travelling preacher Samuel Morris. Here he met the cleric known as Father Divine. Both Morris and Father Divine asserted that they were divine manifestations of God. In 1912, Hickerson broke with Morris and Father Divine, holding that divinity was in fact present in all mankind (1 John 4:15) and that the two of them did not hold a monopoly on the same.

Hickerson was also an early believer in the ideas of Ethiopianism, which holds that the true Jews are Africans and that Jesus Himself was an African. In 1938 he was consecrated in the succession of the African Orthodox Church, one of the first major Black church movements established by George Alexander McGuire and Mar Timotheos (Joseph-René Vilatte, fifth Prince-Abbot of San Luigi).

In 1950, Mar Lukos relocated from the USA to London, UK, where he was resident in Chelsea. He came to know Mar Joannes I of the Ancient Catholic Church (Harold Percival Nicholson) at the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd, then at Lower Sloane Street, Chelsea, and through him Mar Georgius of Glastonbury.

Mar Lukos presented papers relating to his clerical status which, after initial scepticism on the part of Mar Georgius, were scrutinized closely and accepted as fully authentic on account of their Coptic seals. While Mar Georgius accepted that there was a Coptic Orthodox origin to Mar Lukos’s consecration, it is notable that his account in Successio Apostolica (1959) does not trace that succession beyond Hickerson, and the same work refers to his church as an American mission of the Coptic Orthodox Church. This was certainly true in respect of its religious practice and heritage, even if it was not in communion with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. Indeed, in the United States, a tradition of independent Coptic Orthodoxy has continued in New York to this day.

On 19 February 1951, Mar Lukos participated in an episcopal consecration for the Catholicate of the West and the Ancient Catholic Church in the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd, Chelsea, London, where he received subconditional consecration for ecumenical reasons from Mar Georgius of Glastonbury assisted by Mar Joannes I (Nicholson). At the same ceremony, Mar Lukos consecrated the two prelates sub conditione. A photograph from the ceremony is reproduced above, in which an English translation of the Coptic Orthodox rite was used. The consecration was reported in the local press.

Mar Lukos was subsequently appointed Archbishop of the West Indies in the Ancient Catholic Church. In 1957, he was further appointed to the Sacred Synod of the Eglise Catholique Apostolique Primitive d’Antioche Orthodoxe et de Tradition Syro-Byzantine under Prince-Patriarch Mar Joannes Maria (Assendelft-Altland).

Although none of the churches to which he belonged was in communion with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, in 1952 Mar Lukos travelled to Ethiopia and was received by Emperor Haile Selassie at the Imperial Palace in Addis Ababa.

Remaining in London, Mar Lukos during the 1950s conducted a correspondence with various members and hierarchs of the Church of England, who were generally hostile to him, and his request to them to use a redundant church for worship was refused. The Church of England would not consecrate a Black bishop until 1985.

Nonetheless, Mar Lukos continued to make a contribution to the London community, and the photograph above, which appeared in the Kentish Mercury in April 1957, shows him with the Mayor and Mayoress of Deptford at a Boys’ Brigade inspection. Of his life after the 1950s, nothing is known.

The Apostolic Succession that was held by Mar Lukos is a branch of the Malankara-Syriac succession from Mar Timotheos I (Vilatte) descending through the African Orthodox Church. This branch is preserved today in the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi, and indeed Archbishop Phillip Lewis, one of the consecrators of the present Prince-Abbot and a prelate in the contemporary independent Coptic Orthodox movement, stands in the same succession.

Mar Lukos’ first name is also sometimes mistakenly recorded as Denison, but Mar Georgius’s published references to him make it clear that it was in fact Davison.