Current authority to grant degrees
The Western Orthodox University Faculties of Theology and Church Music derives its current authority to grant degrees from the State of Florida, USA. It meets the requirements found in Section 1005.06(1)(f), Florida Statutes and Rule 6E-5.001, Florida Administrative Code. It is not under the jurisdiction or purview of the Commission for Independent Education and is not required to obtain licensure or accreditation.
The University is listed as a Statute 1005.06 (1)(f) Religious Institution exempt from the Commission’s jurisdiction on the website of the Commission for Independent Education at this link.
The University’s annual letter of notification from the Florida Department of Education for 2020-21 can be viewed here.
The University is organized as an integrated auxiliary of the Apostolic Episcopal Church (which itself is a member of the Catholicate of the West). The parent corporation in the United States of America is The Primate and Presiding Bishop of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, A Corporation Sole, which is a religious nonprofit corporation sole in the State of Hawaii with file number 314114 D9. This corporation was subsequently awarded a certificate of authority by the Florida Department of State with file number F20000003428. The corporation was further certified to use the name The Western Orthodox University Faculties of Theology and Church Music pursuant to Florida Statute 865.09 by the Florida Department of State with registration G20000104201.
The Apostolic Episcopal Church, and the University as its integrated auxiliary, have mandatory tax exemption under 26 US Code 508(c)(1)(A) and donations to them are tax deductible under 26 US Code 170(b)(1)(A)(i).
Foundation and originating religious status
The founding Charter of the Western Orthodox Academy, issued on 1 August 1945, defined its authority as issuing directly from the powers inherent in the Chancellor as Catholicos of the Catholicate of the West as a fully autocephalous Orthodox and Catholic communion. These powers originate firstly in the commission to Mar Julius of Iona (Jules Raimond Ferrette) (1828-1904) on 2 June 1866 (Old Style) as Bishop of Iona and its dependencies by the Syrian Orthodox Church, and in the subsequent erection by Mar Julius of a British Patriarchate on 6 March 1874, united with the Catholicate of the West since 29 January 1945. Secondly, they originate in the acts of the Council of London of 17 October 1943, which established the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church as the continuation of the Western extensions of the Syrian Orthodox Church. The Western Orthodox Catholic Church, having been formed by a Deed of Declaration on 23 March 1944, was then erected by the Patriarch of Antioch of the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church into the Catholicate of the West. The Charter of the Western Orthodox Academy was issued by the Catholicos of the West on 1 August 1945. Subsequently, the Western Orthodox Academy was renamed the Western Orthodox University.
It may therefore be seen that the Western Orthodox University did not owe its foundation to any civil power or secular government, but was established purely on ecclesiastical authority. However, legal and regulatory developments since 1945 have meant that while the religious authority of its foundation has not at any point been rejected, the Western Orthodox University has been compelled to seek and obtain additional secular authority to grant degrees. It will be noted that the present legal position of the University is essentially the same as that of its foundation in that its degrees continue to be granted directly by its Chancellor in his religious capacity, organized as a church corporation sole.
Past secular authorities of the Western Orthodox University
The University has obtained the status of an incorporated body, thus gaining secular authority for its grant of degrees and related academic activities, on four occasions during its history. The first such incorporation was on 20 February 1950 in India, under Act XXI of 1860 (registration no. 5/1950), and the second on 6 August 1977 in California, USA (corporation 213240). Both corporations are now inactive. Between 2015 and 2019, the University was incorporated with degree-granting authority in the Commonwealth of Dominica.
The University is not accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The University is not required to seek such accreditation in order to award degrees legally, and believes that its religious and academic standards are best preserved through maintaining its independence from external control.
The University has a full relationship of reciprocal partnership, recognition and accreditation with the historic Pontificia Accademia Tiberina in Rome, Italy, founded in 1813 and recognized by the Sacred Congregation of Studies under Pope Leo XII in 1825. The University is also accredited by the Anglican Association of Colleges and Schools, the umbrella body for the educational institutions of the Catholicate of the West and the Apostolic Episcopal Church, and holds a number of other recognitions and validation agreements, including dual degree agreements with several government-recognized universities in Central America. The dual degree agreements allow graduates of the Western Orthodox University to obtain, without requirement of further academic work, a reciprocal degree from a government-recognized university on payment of a validation fee.