Nov 21 2011

The Armenian Church in Britain and Ireland has been celebrating its
new bishop over the second weekend in November.

The Very Rev Fr Vahan Hovhanessian, who was elected Primate of the
Armenian Church on 14 December 2009, has now become The Rt Rev Dr
Vahan Hovhanessian, Bishop of the Armenian Church, following his
Episcopal ordination by HH Catholicos Karekin II at Holy Etchmiadzin
in Armenia on 6 November 2011.

Since then, and on Sunday, 20 November 2011, the newly-ordained
bishop also celebrated his first Badarak or Holy Divine Liturgy at
St Yeghishe Armenian Church in London.

The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest national church.

Part of the Oriental Orthodox tradition, it is one of the ancient
Christian communities with a continuing, living presence in the
21st century.

Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity officially, in
301 CE. The Armenian Church traces its origins to the missions of
Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century.

There has been an Armenian presence in the UK since the 18th century.

There are up to 18,000 ethnic Armenians including those who are
British-born and of part Armenian descent, living in Britain at

By way of personal introduction and reflection, Dr Harry Hagopian

Born in Baghdad almost five decades ago, Bishop Vahan received
his BA in Electrical Engineering from Iraq. He later pursued his
graduate studies in Theology at St Nerses' Armenian Seminary and at St
Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. His Master of Divinity from
St Vladimir was titled "The Council of Shahabivan 445AD: Introduction,
Translation and Commentary." He later continued with his doctoral
studies in Scriptures at the Jesuitical Fordham University in New
York and successfully defended his thesis titled "Third Corinthians:
Reclaiming Paul for Orthodox Christianity".

Bishop Vahan is also the author of numerous articles and books in the
fields of biblical studies, theology and Armenian Church history. His
publications include In Remembrance of the Lord: Biblical Introduction,
Historical Review and Contemporary Commentary (2008) as well as
Exegesis and Hermeneutics in the Churches of the East (2009) and The
Old Testament As Authoritative Scripture in the Churches of the East

I personally had never met Bishop Vahan prior to his arrival in
London, nor had I even heard of him. So what I witnessed personally
at the initial stages of his presence in our midst as pastor of the
Armenian Church was a man with a robustly confident faith, a dogged
determination to serve the church in its authentic definition of an
assembly of believers (rather than just of long traditions and few
buildings) and an ability to strengthen the institutions that define
the Armenian ethos within the UK & Ireland.

In fact, there was suddenly so much church activity in London,
Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff or Dublin that I often joked with
Fr Vahan (then) as much as with my own friends or colleagues that
he is kicking up so much dust in such a short time! And for an
ancient institution such as the Armenian Church, when coupled with
its sedentary and almost self-defining approach to matters of faith
in many instances, there was certainly a lot of dust swirling about!

Almost two years into his arrival to London, and his subsequent
ordination a couple of weeks ago, I tend to believe that Bishop Vahan
should apply his abundant Christocentric energies toward further
strengthening the church as a visible manifestation of the Mystery
of the Incarnation and as a relevant living and engaging presence
in the lives of Armenians in the UK & Ireland. Moreover, and perhaps
crucially, I strongly believe that Bishop Vahan should continue the
leading and quintessential legacy of his predecessor Bishop Nathan
by reaching out to the other churches and cementing the ecumenical
role that the Armenian Church plays today in the life, presence and
witness of Christians at the WCC in Geneva and across all continents.

The Armenian Christian faith is neither insular nor torpid; it
reaches out to share the Evangelos or the Good News. But this is
done neither by compulsion nor by an archaic sense of tradition or
institutionalised inheritance that focuses on rituals and sidesteps
the real message! After all, 'For where two or three meet in my name,
I am there among them' (Mt 18:20).

Rather, this outreach both within (critically) and without
(essentially) should be done by applying the one and only power -
often very sorely wanting - that defines the Church of Christ. Have
you second-guessed me already? I am of course referring to the power of
love as the determining tenet of Christ's teachings that is abundantly
clear in, say, St Luke's Gospel and one that sits comfortably alongside
the more exalted fundamentals of faith and hope.

So Serpazan Hayr is no longer a Hayr Sourp and I wish him well ... In
fact, I have often found myself in the past reflecting upon First
and Second Timothy. St Paul's warmth as he wrote those two epistles
encourages me, just as his exhortations to his protege Timothy
challenge me, and his example of sacrificing all for the Gospel
humbles me. No wonder my mind keeps returning to St Paul's last words,
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept
the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness
..." (2 Tim 4.7-8).

To cross necessary bridges, one must at times tread on some delicate
marshlands. Besides, and to paraphrase loosely Lord Tennyson in his
Ulysses, Christians should not rust unburnished but rather shine in
use. And in terms of faith, all of that requires prayer, meditation,
reflection, discipline, perseverance, humility and ... again ... love
for the other.

* Diocese of the Armenian Church of Great Britain:

From: Baghdasarian