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An American Orthodoxy? III

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#1 Rick H.

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 09:43 PM

Dear All,

Thanks very much, to those who did, for your participation in the previous two versions of this thread. This thread to date has been a true blessing and has been a source of great enlightenment and blessing for me personally. There have really been some very fruitful discussions here, especially towards the latter half of "version II" I think. And, in an effort to hopefully continue this constructive and more focused trend that we have seen I would like to offer some thoughts in this first post of AO? III.

As Nina has well said repeatedly in the past, diversity is a huge part of an American Orthodoxy. And, our subject is a very broad topic. So I do think this thread needs to allow room for a variety of focus while at the same time avoiding an arena for a kind of free-for-all that ends up with no real focus at all, or one which simply becomes a hub of sorts for 100 independent conversations. But, also as both Herman and Owen have demonstrated in the recent past there clearly can be broad trajectories which do embrace various 'sub-plots' in a consistent and VERY useful way.

So, again, with this said, and so that we can have some deliberate and definable sense of focus as we begin, I would like to offer some possible aims/points of address at the outset. And, I do not think that these will encompass all points relevant to our theme; but, these are presented as a possible place of re-orientation or a way to draw points together that may be helpful if there would be a slipping off into tangents along the way:

I. An American Orthodoxy: its nature, limits, and boundaries

II. An American Orthodoxy today as compared/contrasted with Orthodoxy in America today

III. The diversity found within an American Orthodoxy

IV. An American Orthodoxy and Orthodox Evangelism/Outreach in America today

V. The relationship between an American Orthodoxy and "'the ultimate/radical individualism"

VI. The relationship between an American Orthodoxy and a "radical personalism"

VII. The relationship between an American Orthodoxy and jurisdictions and Orthodox hierarchies

VIII. The relationship between the spirit of an American Orthodoxy and the spirit of the desert fathers

IX. The relationship between the heart of an American Orthodoxy and a monasticism of the heart

X. The ontology and epistemology of a diverse American Orthodoxy today compared/contrasted with the state of being and the way of knowing of the various Orthodox churches in America today.


And, as I look back over this list that has just passed through my fingers and onto the screen, I see primarily broad trajectories as stated above. However, all under the umbrella of an exploration I think. But, I think what we may be seeing here for our discussion in '08, that could possibly be different from '06 with AO I and in '07 in AO II is that all of the above is somewhat limited to discovering the shape of an American Orthodoxy. Possibly, we can keep this in mind, as well as harken back to it if necessary, as we move forward in a constructive way with our conversation . . . or better yet with our "exploration" of the shape and dimension of an American Orthodoxy.

And, now here at the end of all of this I find myself trying to remember a quote from Alister McGrath in his book, "Christianity's Dangerous Idea." It was something like 'the past anticipates the present and the future.' And, I bring this up because I would absolutely love it if those who are more well read in the saints and the fathers (especially the desert fathers) could bring these writings into this conversation from time to time. This is the one aspect of our conversation that I think we have been severely lacking in. In fact, possibly it was no accident that the McGrath book that I only skimmed one day at the book store has come to mind now. As I remember another part of the book where he shared the wrestling of a text based group which came to be known by the historians as the Reformers. In this section he explained that the key question (and one that even Luther himself tried to pull them back from early in the Protestant movement) was: is true faith determined by an institution or by the individual? Possibly, there is some overlap here as we may consider the Church and the local churches, as we may consider those who in the earliest of days withdrew from their communities to follow the monasticism of their hearts [even before the institution of a Christian monasticism]. There is a spirit represented in all of this (even the Reformers who clearly missed the mark) that I am not so sure brings a lowest common denominator; but, instead the highest in their searches, in their explorations, in their ways of knowing and being.

In Christ,
Rick

#2 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 09:55 PM

For those who will read in future, the predecessors to this thread are found as:



#3 Rick H.

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 12:16 PM

An American Orthodoxy: its nature, limits, and boundaries



Dear Monachos Discussion Community,

As we may continue our exploration of an American Orthodoxy now, I am reminded of the words of Father Anthony, in the past, who repeatedly said that one must consider and be aware of what has been tried in the past as it relates to an AO.

And, with this in mind, it seems that, in another discussion community, I find myself in a one-on-one conversation with Metropolitan +Samuel of the American Catholic Orthodox Church at the present. From him I have been told of the "founding father" of American Orthodoxy (according to the ACOC) who was Aftimios Ofiesh, Archbishop of Brooklyn. And, as I attempt to learn more via. independent study of Archbishop Aftimios, I learn about the "The Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America."

It is my understanding so far, which is confirmed by Metropolitan +Samuel, that the above name (THEOCACNA) was 'the first attempt by mainstream Orthodox canonical authorities at the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church for North America. It was chartered in 1927 by Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky), primate of the Russian Metropolia and his holy synod. During its short existence, it was mainly led by Aftimios Ofiesh, Archbishop of Brooklyn.'

Today in a response to me, the Metropolitan has said [speaking of circa 1927]:


There was also a great deal of upheaval among the Orthodox Jurisdictions in this country at that time, as several arms of that Church were formed. From this came such Jurisdictions as the OCA and ROCOR, which, if I might add, were under Archbishop Ofiesh's omophora at one point. However, they chose to continue in an ethnic vein and walked away from Archbishop Ofiesh who clung tightly to a true American orthodoxy.


To date this last quote which claims that the OCA and ROCOR were under the jurisdiction of Ofiesh at one time is the most interesting in my study of the history of an American Orthodoxy. And, this claim is one that I am hoping some of the big guns can help to either verify or discredit. Or, if any at all would have any information on what is considered to be synonymous with an American Orthodoxy by some viz. the ACOC which claims to be a re-chartering of THEOCACNA I would really appreciate a sharing/education on this matter.

I actually thought that Father Anthony was probably referring to the Fr. Gilchrist group in his promptings to look back into the history of an American Orthodoxy; but, possibly what is spoken of above is part of the intended view in a look backwards?

In Christ,
Rick

PS Come to think of it, if I remember correctly, in one of Father Raphael's very first posts in "AO I" he was suggesting that a look to the history of an American Orthodoxy was in order for the contributors of that thread back then as well.

#4 Father Anthony

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 12:45 PM

Dear Rick,

My intention in the suggestion in looking back was simply what you have eluded to in your previous post. The history from the time of the Russian Revolution on, and the events that occurred here in America are rather complicated and have filled many volumes. There are many online sources that will give you a rounding of the events. One can not progress forward unless one understands what some of those events were and how we can avoid similar mistakes.

The example the good “Metropolitan” gives is a stellar example. An interesting short article is offered here, http://orthodoxwiki....Catholic_Church . As you can see just by this brief explanation that it was not a simple manner that involved one or two factions, but multi-fold. By carefully reading the history of the Church in America from the time of the revolution to 1970s will give you a better idea why things are rather complicated and certain issues need to examined and addressed. I would suggest you follow some of the links in that article and do some online hunting.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#5 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 01:37 PM

Bishop Aftimios was, indeed, at one time a legitimate bishop in a very chaotic time, ecclessiastically speaking. However, I believe that he gave up all claims of legitimacy when he married and started ordaining bishops single-handedly. The OCA was certainly never under his jurisdiction because the OCA did not technically exist until it was officially formed in 1970. ROCOR existed prior to Metr. Sergius who is not without some controversy himself, and to say that it was put under Bishop Afthemios is a stretch at very best. ROCOR exists in many countries, not just the US, so putting them administratively under Afthemios would have been tandamount to saying all Russians outside of Russia throughout the world are now American Orthodox. I just do not see that as a realistic possibility.

In a time of upheaval, turmoil, and chaos, figuring out just who was in charge of what can certainly be problematic. I suspect this whole episode can be basically summed up as an experiment that didn't work out, in that the spiritual descendents of Ofiesh are few, scattered and not in regular communion with any recognized Orthodox body.

My own litmus test when dealing with these groups (and I have had to owing to my monasteries directory), is to check into how closely they adhere to traditional Orthodox teachings. In that some of these groups allow women's ordination and advocate same-sex relationships, the determination is pretty easy. Otherwise, their "go-it-alone" attitude seems less than conscilliar at best and raises a warning flag at least for me.

Herman

#6 Matthew Namee

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 01:43 PM

The information on Orthodox Wiki comes largely from the book The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America by Fr. Serafim Surrency. The book is, as far as I'm aware, unavailable for purchase anywhere, but you can find copies via interlibrary loan. Also, in his massive three-volume The History of the Greek Church of America in Acts and Documents, Paul Manolis reproduces a number of letters exchanged between Abp Aftimios and the Greek Abp Alexander. These letters are invaluable in understanding Abp Aftimios' claims.

One of the arguments advanced is that Abp Aftimios, not Met Platon, was the rightful head of the Russian Church in America (and therefore, according to his logic, all of the Orthodox in America). The logic went like this: with the departure of the various Russian bishops from America, Abp Aftimios was the last remaining "legitimate" bishop and therefore the de facto head of the Church. Met Platon's situation was, of course, highly irregular -- he was a refugee who arrived in America and was accepted by the majority of the Russian Archdiocese (future Metropolia/OCA) as being their archpastor, but it was all somewhat less formal than one would have liked. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and all that.

Regardless of Abp Aftimios' claims, very, very few Orthodox outside of his own Syrian diocese ever accepted his authority. Even the Syrians were quite divided on the issue. Immediately after St. Raphael's death -- in early 1915, well before the Bolshevik Revolution -- there was a division among the Syrians with regard to jurisdiction.

One of Abp Aftimios' favorite things to do was to take canons and church regulations and extrapolate from them conclusions in favor of himself. He did this even though his logic was highly questionable and his support among other bishops, priests, and laypeople was very small. Of course, it all worked itself out when he married a 20-year-old girl in 1933, thus eliminating what little support he still had.

#7 Father David Moser

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 05:06 PM

I], which is confirmed by Metropolitan +Samuel, that the above name (THEOCACNA) was 'the first attempt by mainstream Orthodox canonical authorities at the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church for North America. It was chartered in 1927 by Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky), primate of the Russian Metropolia and his holy synod. During its short existence, it was mainly led by Aftimios Ofiesh, Archbishop of Brooklyn.'

Today in a response to me, the Metropolitan has said [speaking of circa 1927]:



To date this last quote which claims that the OCA and ROCOR were under the jurisdiction of Ofiesh at one time is the most interesting in my study of the history of an American Orthodoxy.


Bishop Aftimios was, indeed, at one time a legitimate bishop in a very chaotic time, ecclessiastically speaking. ... The OCA was certainly never under his jurisdiction because the OCA did not technically exist until it was officially formed in 1970. ROCOR existed prior to Metr. Sergius who is not without some controversy himself, and to say that it was put under Bishop Afthemios is a stretch at very best.


Ok, look at your own research and put the timelines together. In 1927, the North American Metropolia was still a part of ROCOR which was at that time headquarted in Serbia. It makes absolutely no logical sense that the Metropolia and/or all of ROCOR would be under Aftimios Oefish if they were, in fact, the ones who ordained and chartered him (btw, Aftimios Oefish was in fact defrocked after his marriage). The whole core of the Metopolia/OCA vs ROCOR dispute is about ecclesiastical authority over the Church in North America - is it conceivable that either of those bodies who have been nipping at each other's heels all these years about who is the true successor of the Russian Church in North America would give it all up to a newly consecrated Arab - I don't think so.

There is really no good single history of the Orthodox Church in North America. There was a time when I would have suggested Ware's The Orthodox Church but the recent revisions have compromised the accuracy of his history (But if you get a copy of the 1963 reprinting, then you should get a good history). In any case Ware is only an overview. As a result, I can only suggest that you read Bishop Gregory (Afonsky)'s book alongside the essays of the ROCOR Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) entitled "Toward a history of the ecclesiastical divisions within the Russian Diaspora" and St john of Shanghi and San Francisco's The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad: A Short History. In digging through my Libary fro these references, I came across another good book that will contribute to the topic of the Church in North America - The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Rusia: A History and Chronology by Fr Alexey Young. This last is out of print and so may be hard to find - but it is well worth the read.


I would be leery of any sources that connect back to Oefish, there are lot of very "fringe" people (well meaning, but not Orthodox) who look to him as their founder. I know of no Orthodox group that can trace its lineage to or through Aftimios Oefish that is, in fact, Orthodox.

Fr David Moser

Edited by Father David Moser, 26 March 2008 - 05:07 PM.
fix quote


#8 Matthew Namee

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 05:37 PM

(btw, Aftimios Oefish was in fact defrocked after his marriage)

Fr. David, do you have documentation of this? I'd be very interested to see it. I'm not challenging you at all; it's just that in the (very strange, near-hagiographical) biography of Ofiesh published a few years ago by his widow, the claim is repeatedly made that Ofiesh's marriage was never officially addressed by any Orthodox bishops. According to their account, Ofiesh wanted to be called before some council so that he could justify his decision to marry. He was upset that this never happened, and that the Orthodox world basically just ignored him after his wedding. So if in fact he WAS defrocked or deposed, this information should be published, along with its source documents. I always thought it was a de facto defrocking: the Orthodox as a whole recognized that this man had renounced his own episcopate by marrying, and no further action was required.

Edited by Matthew Namee, 26 March 2008 - 05:38 PM.
grammatical correction


#9 Father David Moser

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 06:12 PM

Fr. David, do you have documentation of this? I'd be very interested to see it. I'm not challenging you at all; it's just that in the (very strange, near-hagiographical) biography of Ofiesh


No, I don't have any doccumentation (at least not at hand and not that I know of). I sorted through this whole issue of "vagante" bishops a long time ago (one of them was a good friend - somewhat influential in my conversion in fact) and quickly learned that there is nothing to them. "Paper" credentials are worthless, the only credential that means anything is a living, viable, link to the whole Body of Christ. If you require "papers" to "prove" that you're legitimate, then chances are you aren't.

As for the documentation that you assume exists - if it was done by either the Metropolia or ROCOR, there is a good chance that those documents have been lost simply by the vagaries of war, time, chance, and so on. Keep in mind that the second world war was a tremendously chaotic time for the Church - especially for the emigre Russian Church - and that much was lost, destroyed or left behind due to the movements of troops, refugees and the like. In fact, I suspect that this was the origin of the litany in use in ROCOR where we pray for "this country, its authorities and armed forces" because all too often the people weren't sure which country they were in.

Fr David Moser

#10 Matthew Namee

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 07:20 PM

As for the documentation that you assume exists - if it was done by either the Metropolia or ROCOR, there is a good chance that those documents have been lost simply by the vagaries of war, time, chance, and so on.

Well, I checked some sources, and here's what I found:

Orthodox America, an official OCA publication from 1975, states that Ofiesh "was deposed by his followers" after his marriage (p. 195).

Fr. Serafim Surrency, in his book The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America (1973) states the following (page 42):

Curiously enough, the formal "Removal from Office and Suspension" of Aftimios was only done officially on the 7th of October 1933 by Bp Sophronius in his capacity as President Locum Tenens [of the American Orthodox Catholic Church]...

This must be the official deposition to which you're referring. Bp Sophronius (Beshara) was one of the other bishops of Ofiesh's AOCC. He died less than a year later, in September 1934. Lots of bishops died during this period -- all the other Syrian claimants (there were five total, four of whom died and one, Aftimios, who was deposed) as well as Met Platon and the Living Church bishop, John Kedrovsky. There may have been others... Anyway, it's one of the most dramatic slate-cleanings in history. Total chaos, and at basically the same moment, everyone drops dead.

#11 Rick H.

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 02:50 PM

Dear All,

Thanks very much[!] to each person who responded to the initial questions yesterday. This is an example of the Monachos.net discussion community at its finest in the way this was collectively addressed. Yes, direct answers to direct questions--very illuminating--and somewhat of an example of 'ask and ye shall receive.' Thanks especially to the one who contacted me with additional information--very informative/helpful.

As Father David wrote:


There is really no good single history of the Orthodox Church in North America.


this speaks volumes to me, and emphasizes a great need I think. And, moving forward with Father Anthony's advice I read the following timeline yesterday:

Timeline of Orthodoxy in America - OrthodoxWiki

I would like to recommend this to any with a limited knowledge of the history of Orthodoxy in America such as myself. While this does not fill the void that Father David highlights, it is very helpful, and I can see this being referred back to in the future.

And, while we might want to guard against this moving too far into a discussion about THEOCACNA, I would like to share the following from the constitution of THEOCACNA drafted in December of 1927:



Article III: This Church is independent (autocephalous) and autonomous in its authority in the same sense and to the same extent as are the Orthodox Patriarchates of the East and the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches now existing.

Article IV: This Church has original and primary jurisdiction in its own name and right over all Orthodox Catholic Christians of the Eastern Churches and Rite residing or visiting in the United States, and Alaska and the other territories of the United States, in Canada, Mexico, and all North America.


This is from the source Father Anthony has recommended above, and as Matthew Namee has indicated there was a response from Fr. Serafim Surrency, who said:



"To anyone knowledgeable in Canon Law, these two sections just quoted are absurd."


Whereby, I wonder if any could speak to this first attempt at an American Orthodoxy? It *seems* in this early stage this group had proper links to Eastern Orthodoxy . . . but, I wonder if any can speak to the 'validity of this ministry' (and my mind moves to a piece quoted by John Zizioulas once before on this), or to help bring clarity/understanding of this approach which seems to resemble more a hostile take over than anything else. If I relate this to past experiences in Protestantism/Evangelicalism then I can see that there are different names and faces but otherwise the same ole-same ole. But, without me making assumptions about politics, personal ambition, and the nationalist agendas . . . I wonder if there could be any additional informed discussion about this first attempt at an American Orthodoxy as we might consider the methodology as well as the seemingly genuine backing it had at the time? It occurs to me that this could be a "stellar"/outstanding example and very helpful in a consideration of both the limits and boundaries, as well as the nature of an American Orthodoxy and an Eastern Orthodoxy together.

In Christ,
Rick

#12 Matthew Namee

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 05:56 PM

The origins of Ofiesh's "American Orthodox Church" long predate its actual establishment, and the whole story has never been told. In 1905, a defrocked (unjustly, as many believed) Episcopal priest named Ingram Irvine was ordained an Orthodox priest by St. Tikhon. He spent the rest of his life working to promote inter-ethnic Orthodox unity and the use of English. He died in the early 1920s, and just before his death, a number of Americans (many of them former Episcopalians) converted to Orthodoxy and formed what they called the "American Orthodox Catholic Church," which was under the jurisdiction of the Russian archbishop.

Following Irvine's death, this group was transferred to the jurisdiction of Bp Aftimios Ofiesh, who at the time was the Syrian bishop under the Russian Archdiocese. (Incidentally, Irvine thought that Ofiesh was a scoundrel; he would have been dismayed had he known that his mission would end up under Ofiesh's omophorion.) Among the surprisingly large group of converts in this period were two who would play a decisive role in Ofiesh's later movement: Fr. Michael Gelsinger and Fr. Boris Burden. By 1927, when Ofiesh's AOC was formally established, Gelsinger and Burden were really leading the charge.

From the start, the AOC was a fringe group. They were founded with the blessing of Met Platon, whose own status in America was certainly not beyond dispute. Ofiesh himself would imply that he, not Platon, was the only rightful leader of the Russian Archdiocese (and thus, in his reasoning, by extension all the Orthodox in America). The Greeks, who (with a few exceptions) had never at any time accepted Russian authority, of course regarded Ofiesh's claims as absurd. The Arabs were already split, with many priests and parishes acknowledging the authority of the Patriarchate of Antioch. The other ethnic groups -- Romanians, Serbs, etc. -- had their own bishops. Converts, though more numerous at the time than most people now probably realize, were still not a large enough population to be significant in bolstering Ofiesh's claims. In short, Ofiesh had the support of a tiny minority of Orthodox laypeople and parishes, and while he initially had the blessing of the Metropolia, he soon ran afoul of them as well. He had a claim on paper; nothing more.

The biggest problem with the AOC, though, was Ofiesh himself. He was not the wise, steady leader which was necessary to unite the Orthodox of America. Instead he was erratic, idealistic, and (as evidenced by his later marriage to a 20-year-old girl) morally suspect. Many years earlier, Irvine, attempting to convince the Russian bishops not to consecrate Ofiesh a bishop, said that if such a thing were to take place, its result would be division and disaster. He would, sadly, be proven right.

Any attempt to form a unified "American Orthodox Church" must have the backing and participation of ALL the jurisdictions. In the cases of both Ofiesh's AOC and the later OCA, the groups went ahead with their plans despite the absence of support from the Greeks. Ultimately, they both failed to unite all the Orthodox in America, in part because without Greek support, something like half of the Orthodox in America are instantly excluded. Lessons no doubt can be drawn from all this. I would propose at least these two:

1) Any American Orthodox Church must include all the major jurisdictions.

2) This Church must have a leader who is an exceptional man. Multiple exceptional leaders would be preferred.

#13 Matthew Namee

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 07:07 PM

I just found something else regarding the deposition of Abp Aftimios Ofiesh:

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y., July 31 (AP) -- Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh who claims to be the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church of North America, says Alexander Tathen, Patriarch of Antioch, has no authority to rule his marriage a violation of church regulations. A recent letter by the patriarch declared the archbishop had severed his connection with the church as a result of his marriage to Miss Marion Namey, 22-year-old church worker, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

"Contests Ruling of Greek Patriarch," New York Times, August 1, 1933, page 19

Patriarch Alexander III (Tahan) of Antioch was Patriarch from 1928 to 1958. So it appears that not only Bp Sophronios but the Patriarch of Antioch himself weighed in on the Ofiesh situation. Ofiesh had never acknowledged Antiochian authority, but as most of his followers were Arabs, it's understandable that the Patriarch of Antioch would make some sort of statement. In the end, within a very short time all of Ofiesh's former Arab parishes would join the Antiochian Archdiocese.

#14 Father Anthony

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 10:20 PM

Dear Rick,

As you can see, the matter of the first attempt at ecclesial unity in North America is not as clear and is rather complicated. Instead of providing a spring board for unity, it went to create further division and upheaval, some of which we are dealing with today. We can begin to see certain parallels to that time at present. As a church history "buff" I have many of the books in my possession that are cited. If you are looking for fast answers, it isn't going to happen. I have spent a good part of 20+ years researching this from various sources from many sides. just keep on digging and reading, and you will start to get a better idea as to what I mean.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#15 Rick H.

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 02:11 PM

Researching the Shape and Dimension of an American Orthodoxy


Yes, Father Anthony, it is these 'certain parallels' that I think are helpful in this present conversation. Somewhat ironically, these same parallels may provide a springboard for us here. And, continuing on with Matthew Namee's top shelf work, I would like to present the following, for review, from the words of another today who is attempting to bring understanding of the links between today's American Orthodox Catholic Church (AOCC) and an historic Orthodox Christianity. Father David's words in his posts here in this thread are ringing in my ears as I continue a conversation with this person and as I ask for input on the following information:


To bring the historical perspective of the AOCC I have been trying to impart to all of you into a more contemporary focus though, I begin with a certain Archbishop Walter Myron Propheta who was consecrtaed to the Episcopacy in 1964 by Archbishop Peter Zhurawetsky, who was then the exarch for the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria in the United States; with co-consecrators being Archbishop Joachim Souris, Primate of The Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church in America (Old Calendarist), and Archbishop Theodotus DeWitow, Primate of The Holy Orthodox Church in America (Eastern Catholic and Apostolic).

Archbishop Propheta was a Mitred Archpriest with the Ukranian Orthodox Church in America. He excardinated from that Jurisdiction because the then sitting Primate of the UOCA refused to allow the English language to be used in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. In 1963 Archpriest Propheta came under the omophora of Archbishop Souris.

A little more background ... all three of Propheta's consecrators were consecrated in Apostolic Succession to Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh; Zhurawetsky in 1950, Souris in 1951, and DeWitow in 1936.

DeWitow received his consecration from a certain Archbishop Ignatius Nichols, who received his consecration from Archbishop Ofiesh in 1934.
Archbishop Ofiesh received his consecration in 1917 from three Hierarchs of the Orthodox Church of Russia. We maintain a record of the consecrations, via consecration certificates, as far back as Archbishops Nichols, DeWitow, and Zhurawetsky to prove our claim.

As far as the Oriental Orthodox background of the AOCC as it exists now ... its roots, as I have stated, are with the Ethiopian Church, extending from Abuna Basilios, first Patriarch of that Church. Sadly, and unfortunately, the Ethiopian Church has thus far not cooperated with us in providing any documentation. I do, however, have it on corroborated verbal authority from both Archbishop David Worley and a Priest of the Ethiopian Seminary in Ethiopia that Abuna Basilios did indeed consecrate a certain Archbishop Gabre Kristos Mikael, who in turn consecrated the afore mentioned Archbishop Worley, who in turn consecrated me.

Our Orthodoxy, thus, comes from those sources. Both Archbishop Propheta and Archbishop Gabre Kristos Mikael in no way wavered from the True teachings of the Church. They implanted this in their Hierarchs and Clergy.

We believe that, through those sources I have spoken of, we have maintained as unbroken the Orthodox faith.


In Christ,
Rick

#16 Matthew Namee

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 02:36 PM

Ignatius Nichols, following the example of Aftimios Ofiesh, got married while he was a bishop. According to Fr. Serafim Surrency's book (p. 42), Bp Sophronios formally deposed and removed Ignatius Nichols on November 2, 1933. Anyone who traces their "apostolic succession" through Nichols is probably illegitimate.

The problem is, these groups HAVE to justify themselves with "apostolic succession" lists. That very fact should disqualify them. When you visit the websites of, say, the Greek or Antiochian Archdioceses, do you see prominently displayed (or displayed at all) a detailed list of successions and consecrators? Of course not; they are mainstream. While such lists could no doubt be produced, they are unnecessary. Indeed, they are insufficient -- "apostolic succession" is not merely the legalistic lineage of consecrators. It is living; it requires the living Orthodox faith and participation in the life of the Orthodox Church. Even if Ofiesh was never formally deposed, he cut himself off from the Church by his marriage, and from that moment he was no longer a bishop. Likewise Nichols, from the moment he married (if not at some point earlier), effectively ceased to be an Orthodox bishop. They were rejected and ostracized by the body of the faithful and the entire Orthodox hierarchy.

I once knew a man who was an Orthodox priest. One day, every member of his parish received a letter from him stating that he had decided to join the Byzantine Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. Eventually, his name was removed from the list of priests in his (former) Orthodox jurisdiction. But he was never actually deposed, and it was not the removal of his name which effected the end of his Orthodox priesthood. He did it himself, the moment he chose to renounce the Orthodox faith and join himself to a body which is not Orthodox. I am not trying to raise an argument about the validity of Roman Catholic orders; that is not my point at all. My point is that deposition and excommunication usually are accomplished by the person themselves and are only later formally confirmed and declared by the Orthodox Church as a whole. It is the same, I suppose, with sainthood -- the saint is a saint whether he is canonized or not; the formal glorificaiton is merely the recognition of something which is true -- it does not make someone who was not a saint, a saint.

#17 Matthew Namee

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 03:04 PM

Another thing -- I thought I would point out how numerically insignificant Ofiesh's church was.

The 1936 US Census of Religious Bodies (compiled by the US Census Bureau) includes statistics for the "Holy Orthodox Church in America." This is Ofiesh's church. According to the Census -- which gets its numbers from the churches themselves -- the HOCA had one parish (in New York) and three missions (in Alabama, Illinois, and Pennsylvania). It reported 804 members.

The HOCA was not even the largest pseudo-Orthodox group in America in 1936. A body called the American Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Eastern Church, founded in 1932, claimed 5 bishops, 16 clergy, 9 parishes and missions, and 1,700 members. (Actually, they reported conflicting numbers -- in another place they are shown to have only 4 parishes and 1,420 members.) There was also the "American Episcopal Church (The Holy Eastern Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church)," which claimed 12 churches and 6,380 members.

For the sake of comparison, in 1936 the Greek Archdiocese had 241 parishes and 189,368 members.

#18 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 03:17 PM

Dear Matthew,

You may want to check the names of those two church organizations against your texts for that period. I am sure that at least one of those is the original name for the Ofiesh church. Specifically check the reproduction of the articles of incorporation to see what I mean.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#19 Rick H.

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 03:26 PM

Final Jeopardy

Matthew, thanks very much[!], your contributions are invaluable and bring into view this aspect with great speed. Very enlightening.

I think now after re-reading all of the above posts, I really just have one last question. As I put up for review a piece quoted in this thread from the site Father Anthony recommended:


'the first attempt by mainstream Orthodox canonical authorities at the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church for North America. It was chartered in 1927 by Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky), primate of the Russian Metropolia and his holy synod. During its short existence, it was mainly led by Aftimios Ofiesh, Archbishop of Brooklyn.'


In the beginning, was this attempt one that was "MAINSTREAM" and backed by "Orthodox canonical authorities?"

(cue Jeopardy music . . . do-do-do-do . . .do-do-do . . .)

In Christ,
Rick

Edited by Rick H., 28 March 2008 - 03:32 PM.
addition of one more 'do' to first round of 'dos'


#20 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 03:30 PM

Dear Matthew,

If I recall right (I am in my office and not at home were the repository of my historical books are), Mariam Ofiesh's book about her husband bears the official crest of the church. If I recall right, the name of the latter in your post was the official name of the church, which could have been used by one of the former hierarchs of that group at that time.

Also, I believe that the US Census Bureau compiles its data at the beginning of a decade and then releases it as statistics during the years that follow. In other words the data may have been collected in 1930, but not released until other vital and required statistics were released first.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+




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