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An American Orthodoxy? III

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#21 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 03:36 PM

Dear Rick,

I have to state one thing in the number of years I have looked at this situation, I have never seen Metropolitan Platon's name on any official documents (civil/legal) that stated he a part of the chartering process. That aside, the idea that a hierarch was part of two different churches, in this case being a heirarch subject to the Russian Church and at the same time the head of another "autocephalous" church is highly irregular canonically. I am sure that there are others that can chime in on this also.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

Edited by Father Anthony, 28 March 2008 - 03:41 PM.
grammar


#22 Matthew Namee

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 03:47 PM

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.

Fr. Anthony,

I'm not sure which texts you mean. If you mean the Surrency book, for various reasons, I only have about half of it (digitized), so if there are articles of incorporation in the back of the book, I won't have them. Just looking at the Census itself, the Apostolic Episcopal Church (etc, etc,) traces its roots through a certain Arthur Wolfort Brooks, who was consecrated in 1925 by various "Chaldean" bishops. It definitely isn't Ofiesh's church.

The other one, the American Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Eastern Church, states that it was incorporated in the State of New York on April 17, 1933, having been organized the previous May. Its primate in 1936 was Clement Sherwood, a name which frequently appears in the succession lists of these pseudo-Orthodox groups. From what I can tell from a quick Google search, Sherwood did not claim his succession through Ofiesh, though their "descendants" intermingled. It may be that Sherwood traces his succession through Joseph Rene Vilatte, an Old Catholic episopus vagans who spawned hundreds of little groups, most famously the "African Orthodox Church." In any case, I don't think that either of the other pseudo-Orthodox groups in the 1936 Census were connected to Ofiesh's church.

#23 Matthew Namee

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 03:51 PM

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.


I currently have a copy of Mariam Ofiesh's book on my desk at home, but (alas!) I am at work. I'll be sure to look at it as soon as I get a chance. As for the Census Bureau, I believe the Censuses of Religious Bodies were actually conducted in years ending in "6" but not released until a few years later. They weren't conducted in conjunction with the regular US Census, which of course always takes place in "zero" years. (The exception is the first distinct Census of Religious Bodies, which was in fact conducted in 1890. It was followed, however, by Censuses of Religious Bodies in 1906, 1916, 1926, and 1936.)

#24 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 03:51 PM

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


Afthemios Ofiesh was properly and canonically ordained as an Orthodox bishop under Bishop Raphael to serve the Syrian Orthodox Church under the Russian Metropolia. In the chaos that followed the Russian Revolution, the Church in America went through a very chaotic state and Bishop Afthemios was to some extent abandoned to his own devices. I doubt that the Church of Russia was ready to establish an independent Church in America at the time regardless, but was obviously ready to let Bishop Afthemios fare as best he could (what else could they do under communist persecution they had their own worries). He evidently did not handle this difficult situation well (I doubt many of us might have done much better all things considered). However, he cut himself off from the Church when he decided to get married in defiance of established Orthodox tradition, if not before. He tried to start an "American" Orthodox Church that was independent (I suspect all the better to do what he wanted rather than have to answer to anyone else). Whether it was intended or not, the "experiment" ultimately failed and to this day merely adds to the confusion that is the state of the Church in America.

#25 Matthew Namee

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 04:03 PM

"Mainstream" in 1927 was a far more complex concept than it is today. The Russian Church was split in three, basically -- the Metropolia, the Moscow Patriarchate, and the remnants of the Living Church. The Syrians had Ofiesh, but also Bp Emmanuel (Abo-Hatab) under the Metropolia, plus the official representatives of the Patriarchate of Antioch, plus Met Germanos (Shehadi), an Antiochian bishop operating without the blessing of the Patriarchate of Antioch. The Greeks were also split multiple directions, and I have yet to sort it all out enough to be able to speak about it off the top of my head.

I highly doubt that Met Platon meant to authorize the creation of a true autocephalous Local Church in America which all Orthodox in America would be expected to join. It seems to me that, in a chaotic situation, he was trying to give a free hand to Ofiesh and his American convert allies to operate without having to worry about Soviet intervention. Met Platon's entire second episcopate in America was occupied by constant battles with the various bishops and pseudo-bishops from the USSR.

Rick asked,

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

Well, was Met Platon an "Orthodox canonical authority"? To some extent, yes, though Moscow certainly didn't agree. The Greeks were the largest Orthodox group in America, and they didn't back Ofiesh's church. The other Syrians didn't back it. Not one single patriarchate or autocephalous Church backed it. Even if Met Platon is an "Orthodox canonical authority," he was just one bishop and the Metropolia was just one of many bodies in America. There certainly wasn't plural backing -- that is, nobody outside of the Metropolia backed it at all, and Met Platon of course removed his backing soon after he gave it.

Was Ofiesh's church mainstream at the beginning? Hard to say, but I'd suggest that it wasn't really. At the beginning it was on the edge of mainstream. By 1933 it had become increasingly irrelevant. By 1934, it was well outside the mainstream.

Edited by Matthew Namee, 28 March 2008 - 04:06 PM.
correction of typo


#26 Matthew Namee

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 04:04 PM

Afthemios Ofiesh was properly and canonically ordained as an Orthodox bishop under Bishop Raphael to serve the Syrian Orthodox Church under the Russian Metropolia.

This isn't true. Ofiesh was not consecrated during St. Raphael's lifetime. He was consecrated a couple years after St. Raphael died to be his (Russian-backed) replacement. A number of the Syrians refused to accept his authority, even at the very beginning.

#27 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 04:43 PM

Dear Matthew,

The book I am referring to, in order to check out regarding the names of churches is Mariam Ofiesh's book that would have the crest on the cover and have reproductions of the original articles of incorporation. One thing about this book, though it can be enlightening at times, the chronology of events is definitely skewed in it. I would have to have the book before me, but there are numerous events cited that are misrepresented (whether deliberately or not) by as many as ten years in it in regards to events in the teens and twenties.

----------------------

Herman,

If I recall correctly, Archbishop Aftimios was consecrated some three years after the death of Saint Raphael.

----------------------

A point to all, the Synod of ROCOR and the Patriarchate of Moscow both saw this establishment of this new "autocephalic" to be irregular at best and uncanonical at worst and actually questioned it publicly. The other Orthodox Churches ignored or publicly rebuffed the proclamation outright, and I have yet to see any sort of official recognition given to the effort documented. No matter whose book or article you refer to except possibly the book by Mariam Ofiesh, this is stated repeatedly.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

Edited by Father Anthony, 28 March 2008 - 04:58 PM.
spelling and grammar


#28 Rick H.

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 05:13 PM


Was Ofiesh's church mainstream at the beginning? Hard to say, but I'd suggest that it wasn't really. At the beginning it was on the edge of mainstream. By 1933 it had become increasingly irrelevant. By 1934, it was well outside the mainstream.



Dear Matthew, Dear All,

Thanks for the above, and I wonder if Herman's thought in the following provides a key to the unlocking of all of this?:


. . . Bishop Afthemios was to some extent abandoned to his own devices.



My mind goes back to the day President Regan was shot and I heard Alexander Haig come over the radio proclaiming that he was in charge. That was a chaotic day and by no means was Haig the next in line to assume control of the US. What Haig did was absurd/laughable that day, but he did it and it is a part of American History.

As I might attempt to boil this down, is it too *simple* on my part to compare the actions of Haig with those of Ofiesh?

In Christ,
Rick

#29 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 05:23 PM

As I might attempt to boil this down, is it too *simple* on my part to compare the actions of Haig with those of Ofiesh?

In Christ,
Rick


Dear Rick,

Are you sure now? It seems both of their careers where finished after similar actions. :)

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#30 Matthew Namee

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 05:31 PM

As I might attempt to boil this down, is it too *simple* on my part to compare the actions of Haig with those of Ofiesh?

A bit too simple, yes. I think I mentioned this earlier, but in Paul Manolis' The History of the Greek Church in America in Acts and Documents, Vol. II, part of a letter exchange between Ofiesh and the Greek Abp Alexander is reproduced. In it, you can get a good feel for how Ofiesh justified his claims. Initially, at least, he argued that the Metropolia, acting with the implicit authority of the Moscow Patriarchate (so said Ofiesh), had established the autocephalous American Orthodox Church. Ofiesh's claims were largely dependant upon the claims of the Russian Church over America. So in his mind at least, he had gotten approval from the necessary parties. He could and did construct a coherent argument for his authority. Now, his appeals to history are easily refuted and his arguments easily countered, but it's not like he just said, "Hey, I'm in charge here!" He went through what he considered to be the proper channels.

#31 Rick H.

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 06:56 PM

The Shape of an American Orthodoxy

A bit too simple, yes.

. . . Ofiesh's claims were largely dependant upon the claims of the Russian Church over America. So in his mind at least, he had gotten approval from the necessary parties.



After reading some of the letter exchange between Ofiesh and the Greek Abp Alexander two days ago, when you speak of Ofiesh's mindset/method and say "in his mind," above, this is what I am speaking to when I suggest a distillation of things in my last post. I think I have a kind of radar built in, and granted this could not possibly be more subjective and unreliable; however, through this letter exchange (and in light of Herman's comment) there is definitely a blip on the screen. I have had my fair share of dealings with so called religious men who are nothing more than ambitious politicians/opportunists with their own personal agendas for the advancement of their own personal kingdoms. But, I guess I am now making way too many assumptions. For that matter I am assuming Herman's comment is correct when he says:

. . . Bishop Afthemios was to some extent abandoned to his own devices.


Wherein, I wonder if this would be a point of agreement?

If this is a true statement, I think this speaks directly to much of what we see in this first attempt at an American Orthodox Church which was void of anything remotely resembling a natural occurring or organic process. Otherwise, I defer to the more informed in our midst.

The method which is seemingly employed here, in this example, is perfectly parallel to other church growth experts/gurus that I have met in the past whereby the end justifies the means every time, and all people and circumstances are means to be used to obtain the desired/contrived end. Whereby, in the wake of all such efforts destruction and division are to be found. Especially, in efforts/vehicles promoted for the purpose of unity, it seems that what initially was intended to unite is the very thing which divides, which becomes a vehicle of division. In this sense, my sense of things is that the mindset/method of Ofiesh is not unique, but is very recognizable.

And, while this may be a part of the history of Orthodoxy in America, I would like to suggest that this has nothing to do with an American Orthodoxy of the present day.

And, this is usually the point where I kill all conversation in these AO threads by means of speculative thought. . . but, I wonder if any here see a distinction between Orthodoxy in America and an American Orthodoxy? It seems that with great speed as the eye is turned to the history of Orthodoxy in America (especially just even a glance at the timeline) much of the intuitive writing in previous AO threads is fully supported with little research effort.

It is my view that Orthodoxy in America, and the history of Orthodoxy in America has little to do with an American Orthodoxy as it is emerging today. In fact, on the website we are using here, I appreciate it that they title their timeline "A Timeline of Orthodoxy in America" as opposed to 'A Timeline of American Orthodoxy,' because I think we are just now seeing the emergence of an American Orthodoxy.

Or, possibly the timeline on the website should be titled "A Timeline of the Divisions found in Orthodoxy in America?"

So, as I have made a move to begin to distinguish between Orthodoxy in America and an American Orthodoxy, I would also like to offer up a thought for additional conversation which is:

"The greatest hindrance to the emergence and development of an American Orthodoxy today is Orthodoxy in America today."


But, even in this proposition we begin to see another train of thought, a distinction between an American Orthodoxy of today and an American Orthodox Church of tomorrow--and my mind moves to the preacher of Ecclesiastes who speaks of division and unity when he says there is a time to rend, and a time to sew back together.

In Christ,
Rick

#32 Matthew Namee

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 07:30 PM

Well, for what it's worth, here are my own thoughts on the subject:

Orthodoxy in America is an historically unique phenomenon. For all intents and purposes, there was no organized Orthodoxy in the "lower 48" until the mid-1860s, and even then, it was very scattered. There were organized parishes in New Orleans, San Francisco, and New York, but the New York parish closed in 1885. Some have claimed that the New Orleans parish was under the Russian Church, but I have found little evidence to support this; it appears to have been a quasi-independent church with some affiliation to the Church of Greece. In 1890, there were only two parishes, San Francisco and New Orleans. The seven largest cities in the United States did not have an Orthodox church.

Can we all, then, agree that any talk of "Orthodox unity" in America prior to 1890 is a little silly? Orthodoxy barely existed in America at that point. In the 1890s, two things happened that totally changed the face of Orthodoxy in America: the conversion of the Uniates and the flood of immigrants from Greece, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. In an (historical) instant, the entire landscape of Orthodoxy in this country was dramatically altered.

These immigrants, among whom were my own ancestors, brought with them their culture, their ethnic foods, their languages, and, yes, their Orthodox faith. But their Orthodox faith was not usually something distinct from their larger identity as Greeks, Serbs, Arabs, etc. It was an essential part of their being, but while they acknowledged the oneness of faith with other Orthodox, the respective ethnic groups naturally tended to gravitate towards one another. This wasn't just along ethnic lines. In Chicago, for instance, a Greek parish was founded in 1892, but by 1897 a second parish was founded, the Chicago Arcadians wishing to have their own parish rather than attend the Spartan-dominated church. This sort of thing was not inconsistent with the general tenor of the times.

It is easy to sit back now, in 2008, and call these immigrants ethno-centric. But many were simple villagers. They were initially almost all young men, with very few women. In the 1906 US Census of Religious Bodies, we find that over 85% of the Orthodox in America were male. Specifically, the Greeks were 94% male, the Serbs 86%, the Russians (presumably including the Carpatho-Rusyns) 68%, and the Syrians 61%. By 1916 the women had made some gains, but still the population was overwhelmingly male: 71.5% male overall, Bulgarians 88%, Greeks 83%, Albanians 82%, Serbs 77%, Romanians 73%, Russians 63%, Syrians 56%.

Anyway, these were not missionaries who brought Orthodoxy to America and built churches and started Sunday schools. Many of us owe our very Orthodoxy to them, though -- I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to my ancestors who kept the faith in a foreign land. Many of their fellow Lebanese Orthodox did not: some would join the Roman Catholic Church, others the Episcopal Church or some other Protestant body. Some immigrants kept all their traditions except for their Orthodoxy, preferring to take the easy route and join an American church. But those immigrant Orthodox from this early period remained firm in their faith and preserved Orthodoxy, keeping it alive for their descendants as well as for future generations of converts. We should not criticize them too much. Yet we must admit that the very sentiment which led them to preserve their faith also led them to divide along ethnic and/or village lines. They were preservationists in a sense, not only of their religion but of their culture. The attitude of many towards their fellow Orthodox was something like, "Yes, we share the same Orthodox faith, but we are Syrians and they are Greeks; why should we feel the need to have one church?" These people were not thinking in the macro, and they were not planning for the year 2000. They were thinking of themselves and their communities, then, in 1900 or whatever.

So often in life, the good comes along with things which aren't so good. Orthodoxy in America is no exception. We owe our churches to these immigrants, but we owe our divisions to them as well. Rather than fault them, and rather than look back at the past as some sort of mythical idyllic period of inter-ethnic cooperation and unity (which it never was), we should instead appreciate the contributions of those who came before us while not using them as excuses for our present troubles. It is up to us to find unity. Diversity is the greatest, most defining characteristic of American Orthodoxy, both then and now, and with diversity comes division. The question is whether we can preserve diversity and accomplish unity at the same time.

#33 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 11:57 PM

So often in life, the good comes along with things which aren't so good. Orthodoxy in America is no exception. We owe our churches to these immigrants, but we owe our divisions to them as well. Rather than fault them, and rather than look back at the past as some sort of mythical idyllic period of inter-ethnic cooperation and unity (which it never was), we should instead appreciate the contributions of those who came before us while not using them as excuses for our present troubles. It is up to us to find unity. Diversity is the greatest, most defining characteristic of American Orthodoxy, both then and now, and with diversity comes division. The question is whether we can preserve diversity and accomplish unity at the same time.

Dear Matthew,

That is the million dollar observation there. For too long we have been told the myth that the church lived in a multi-ethnic cohesiveness prior to the Russian Revolution in this country. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have numerous examples of how from the 1890s on, there were serious cracks that have been gloss over in the name of that myth.

The majority of Greek parishes in this country at the turn of the century relied on clergy and antimins supplied from either the Church of Greece, Constantinople, or the Patriarchate of Alexandria depending on where most of that community was from. There is the famous incident in the late 1900s when the Russian Archbishop Platon (later Metropolitan) showed up at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church (now Cathedral) in Manhattan to preside at the vespers of Good Friday unannounced to claim his jurisdiction with that community. The parish barred him entrance claiming that they under the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece. In 1908, the Church of Constantinople transferred jurisdiction temporarily of it parishes in North America to the Church of Greece until 1922.

Then you have the Syro-Arab communities that as early as 1910 had initiated proceedings to come under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch. This became known as Russy-Antaky situation that would plague these parishes for almost 25 years after that finally being resolved with the full release of all those parishes to the Antiochian Patriarchate in 1935 or 36. Using the date of 1910, one can clearly see that this issue existed during the time of Saint Raphael of Brooklyn.

One of the reasons that Saint Tikhon made his bold proposal to the Holy Synod of Russia, was that numerous ethnic groups had begun to reach out to their churches in the old country and began requesting bishops to be sent and minister to them as extensions of their home territories. Saint Tikhon’s proposal may have had a chance to work, and then again maybe the time was not right. We will never know.

Now the question becomes as you have wrote, “...is whether we can preserve diversity and accomplish unity at the same time”. Hopefully by learning about these past issues, we can start working towards seeing if we can find a solution to that question.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#34 Rick H.

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 12:52 PM

Sentiment & Method : "On broad shoulders and crocuses"


Dear Father Anthony, Dear Matthew, Dear Herman, and All:

The last thing I want to do is to place myself at odds with you Father Anthony, or you Matthew, or you Herman. I appreciate, very much the spirit represented in all three of you (spoken of as the highest common denominator in the last paragraph of the first post here). I have gained so much awareness and found such blessing in your posts, especially you Pooh over the years, that I do not want to take a chance on pitting myself against you where it might work out that you would go mute on me in the future.

So if I thought your shoulders were not broad enough for this I would not bring it up; however, I would like to strip in some quotes now to begin to address an aspect of this exploration for all of our fellow explorers:


The question is whether we can preserve diversity and accomplish unity at the same time.




Now the question becomes as you have wrote, “...is whether we can preserve diversity and accomplish unity at the same time”. Hopefully by learning about these past issues, we can start working towards seeing if we can find a solution to that question.




Originally posted by Herman: >

Are we so insecure and afraid that Orthodoxy is not "up to" flourishing outside the green house, that it cannot supplant the native flora or thrive in native soil?

I bet it can, I know it will, I see it happening. And I and Owen and Rick and others want to do all we can to help it along. That's all, really.


And, these are all most excellent sentiments! I especially love the green house and native soil analogy! The sentiment behind what is being expressed is spot on, and I share this sentiment completely (100%). And possibly I am overly sensitive to this, but, regarding method, I wonder what happens when you go back over these quotes and reread them allowing the pronoun "we" to pop out as if it was in bold letters each time it is encountered?

-- whether we can preserve . . .
-- we can start working . . .
-- we can find a solution . . .
-- do all we can to help it along . . .

And, there is a very fine line here as we consider this, I think. Because when the muscles are straining at Herman's church in order to get that Beautiful tent up, for some this can be very taxing and require that some do all they can! The folks that are responsible for raising that tent *could* all just stay home and pray for divine intervention, and have faith and hope that God will put that tent up for them . . . but, I think chances are when it was time for the event to begin the tent would still be laying their on the ground with poles and stakes.

And, some of this gets back to a post above where one rascal was suggesting:

I. A distinguishing between Orthodoxy in America and an American Orthodoxy

II. A distinguishing between the history of Orthodoxy in America and the emergence of an American Orthodoxy in our time.


And, if I understood this person correctly, there was even a suggestion of:

III. An American Orthodoxy that exists today which is to be understood apart from an American Orthodox Church that may exist tomorrow (or which may never exist at all).


And, in this post also, we are possibly taking the long way round; but, I wonder if there is anything expressed here that speaks to the reader as it relates to an American Orthodoxy?

In Christ,
Rick

PS Are the crocuses blooming yet Marie?

Edited by Rick H., 29 March 2008 - 01:17 PM.
miserable quote tags


#35 Father Anthony

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 01:59 PM

Dear Rick,

Interesting post, and let me be the first to say that I have no intention on being pitted against you as an adversary.

The reason why I had you have a historical glimpse into the past, was to lay the ground work as to why we have such an ecclesiastical mess in North America at present. Almost without exception it was our forbearers that demanded and created the situation even though their were the likes of Saint Tikhon and Aftimios Ofiesh who were trying to project unity for whatever reasons. It is our present generation that seems to be happy to wallow in the mire that is the result of the past, instead of actually giving an honest effort at achieving an American Orthodoxy.

While I am all for some sort of ecclesiastical unity, I am perplexed by alleged advocates of such a cause today. We have the present claimants of the title Orthodox Church in America and despite numerous difficulties that they are experiencing from internal mismanagement, they are not growing but experiencing a serious decline in their membership. This is well documented in their pre-conciliar documents from which their numbers instead of being the alleged 100,000 to 1,000,000 that have been officially quoted publicly are actually hovering in the 30,000 faithful range. Recent evidence shows that the hierarch of the indigenous diocese of Alaska is suppressing local usages that extend the span of the history of that diocese. It is proving by reports to have dire effects, with a sharp drop in faithful being a part of the life of the Church there. The situation is actually one that hurts the Church outside of those effected in that particular locality.

The second instance that seems to me at least perplexing is the second largest group of Orthodox in this country, the Antiochians. While I read of the primate's wish and desire for Orthodox unity, his actions tend to state differently. Instead of working towards becoming part of either the OCA or some other body, thus eliminating one of the duplications jurisdictions and thus helping achieve the cause of American Orthodoxy, we seem to have the opposite occurring. I am directly stating the achievement from the Patriarchate of Antioch of setting up an autonomous church. This is generally a step on the way towards achieving at a future point autocephaly. This was done to the acclaim and fanfare of the majority of the faithful of that jurisdiction. How many autonomous or autocephalous churches do we actually need in one territory?

The above cited example was done not in the hopes of ecclesiastical unity, and if it was, I would really like to know how it is working to achieve such a goal by this action. Inter-Orthodox cooperation outside of a few public ministries really does not exist. I run the office of a department of my archdiocese, and when requests were made to collaborate with other jurisdictions on projects that could be mutually beneficial to all faithful the response has either been nothing or an actual declining of the offer with our efforts being duplicated.

The groundwork shown historically is present today. I have previously stated we can not progress forward unless we learn the causes and then from our education in these matters start to address and educate not only ourselves but the faithful as to the necessity of the importance of the goal of American Orthodoxy. This means going back to important concept that our mother taught us when we were children, that is the concept of sharing with our spiritual siblings and learning to play nice with each other.

We are squandering our resources with infighting and jealousy, with each trying to be the king of the hill. We have had two similar plans laid forth from the past, and neither seems to be palatable to the Orthodox faithful at present, for if they were it would be the Church today. Maybe it is time to rethink these proposals and rework how they might be put into an acceptable working model, that an American Orthodoxy can be achieved not only in word but in reality.

Sorry for my ramblings, but I am think I am expressing the realities of what is the Church in America today.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

Edited by Father Anthony, 29 March 2008 - 03:07 PM.
spelling


#36 Matthew Namee

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 03:08 PM

A few comments, though I won't even attempt in a single post to address all the important issues raised in the recent posts by Fr. Anthony and Rick.

First of all, I don't agree that Met Philip's efforts to gain a measure of self-rule are counterproductive for the general cause of Orthodoxy or Orthodox unity in America. It gives the Antiochian Archdiocese a freer hand; it allows their (our, in my case) bishops to have actual diocesan authority over their territories rather than be mere vicars (this was the cause of serious practical problems in the past); it allows for the election of bishops who don't speak Arabic (and even a convert bishop, Mark of Toledo); in general, I think it will make the hypothetical future independence from the Patriarchate easier and more feasible. It's a step in the right direction, and I don't think it's a step towards just another "autocephalous" church.

I also don't agree that an OCA-Antiochian union would be a positive step. As most are aware, the OCA is facing serious problems. Even aside from these, their canonical position is challenged by, among others, the Ecumenical Patriarch, who refuses to acknowledge their autocephaly. Real Orthodox unity means a unity that involves (and probably is led by) the Greeks, but an Antiochian-OCA union would make no progress toward that goal.

With regard to history, I think it is easy and convenient for many today to find someone to blame -- Lenin, Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis, Greek nationalism, Met Germanos Shehadi, etc. It's easy, but it's not accurate. History is so very complex. And this, as I tried to illustrate earlier, gets to the heart of the "American Orthodox/Orthodoxy in America" dichotomy being discussed here. Orthodoxy in America IS American Orthodoxy.

What is America, or American culture? Individualism, you say? What could be more individualistic than the Greek trustee parishes which hired and fired their priests at will in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Is America a "melting pot"? Here in America, we are the inheritors of not one Orthodox tradition, but every Orthodox tradition -- Greek, Russian, Serbian, Syrian/Lebanese, Romanian, Palestinian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, etc., etc. The defining characteristic of Orthodoxy in America (or American Orthodoxy, if you wish) to me is that of encounter -- an encounter between fellow Orthodox, an encounter between Orthodox and non-Chalcedonians, an encounter between Orthodox and Anglicans, an encounter between Orthodoxy and Western culture. This is who we are. Nothing is emerging, per se; it is evolving. There is a difference. There will not be a moment in the future where we look back and say, "Back then it was Orthodoxy in America, and now it is American Orthodoxy." Because qualitatively, the best things about American Orthodoxy in 1900 are the same as the best things about it today, and I dare say they will be the same as the best things about it in 2100.

#37 Father David Moser

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 03:48 PM

As regards the idea of a singe united American Church administration - I am basically neutral, or at most doubtful. Therefore to establishment of the Autocelphalus Antiochian archdiocese is really neither good nor bad in my opinion. However, I would like to give a little perspective on Matthew's comments.

First of all, I don't agree that Met Philip's efforts to gain a measure of self-rule are counterproductive for the general cause of Orthodoxy or Orthodox unity in America. It gives the Antiochian Archdiocese a freer hand; it allows their (our, in my case) bishops to have actual diocesan authority over their territories rather than be mere vicars (this was the cause of serious practical problems in the past); it allows for the election of bishops who don't speak Arabic (and even a convert bishop, Mark of Toledo); in general, I think it will make the hypothetical future independence from the Patriarchate easier and more feasible. It's a step in the right direction, and I don't think it's a step towards just another "autocephalous" church.


Autocephaly is not a "necessary condition" for diocesan bishops to be ruling bishops instead of just vicar bishops. That only takes a designation from the higher Church authority that the diocese in question is its own entity. If I am not mistaken, the GOA diocesan bishops were recently all raised to the status of ruling bishops without autocephaly. The election of non-Arabic speaking bishops is again not dependent upon autocephaly but is purely an internal matter of the Holy Synod. The American Antiochian Archdiocese has always had a pretty "free hand" in how it managed its internal affairs - the problem was not necessarily the Patriarch or the "old country", but rather the bottleneck was Metr Philip who used that situation as a means towards his ends. Autocephaly was simply the means which Metr Philip used to achieve these ends - but it certainly wasn't the only way that they could have been achieved. Thus it could be said that autocephaly was certainly sufficient, but not necessary for all of the conditions which were brought about.

Given the pace, size, communications links, ease and speed of travel, etc of the modern world, I'm not sure that the old idea of Orthodox missions (moving into a new territory, teaching the indigenous people the faith, baptising and in a few generations raising up Church leaders, eventually to establish new culturally distinct nationally Orthodox Church) is necessarily applicable anymore. I think that we may have to look at the North American model of multiple emigre Church administrations, tied to traditional centers of faith, coexisting throughout the world. Perhaps our efforts should not be to create an American Church but to work on the model by which the various Churches which are in America can work together and speak and act in unison.

But thats just me.

Fr David Moser

#38 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 05:15 PM

I very much agree with what Frs Anthony & David have written. Unity is a great desire among us, but the greatest fruits of this seem to have resulted only where the reality of our individual churches/jurisdictions have been taken into account. Wherever though all encompassing plans of unity have been attempted these have borne little fruit. And I would say for good (as well as bad of course) reason.

Our medium sized city of Winnipeg for example I think is a good illustration of this. We have a very good proportion of Orthodox parishes in proportion to population. In the very recent conditions of more canonical unity we are able to have services together that could not have been done in the past. (for the recent Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers there was 1 metropolitan, 16 priests & 4 deacons serving )

This however is working from the acknowledged reality of each of our churches/jurisdictions. If we tried to deny this little would be accomplished. And again as a note of disagreement with many past tendencies in Orthodoxy, I think this is for very good reason.

The fact is that each of our churches has by this time (ie after 100 years or so in N America) a distinct culture & people we are called to minister to. To overlook this or only portray this as falleness is plain wrong.

For example why as a priest would I minister to the many Russian people in my parish as if they other than they are? This seems quite wrong and so we- along with the jurisdiction we are part of- minister directly in response to who these people are. Even where parishes are mostly or completely English speaking we minister with a Russian spiritual perspective. This also includes issues unique to present day Russia as a country.

Where we have begun learning to change from the past however is in how we approach those Orthodox different from us. In these new conditions it seems blessed to approach each other in a more open hearted fashion than perhaps could be done previously.

And what do we find? That with humility & open heartedness our difference does not necessitate that other Orthodox change into our shape. But nor does it necessitate that we lose our own character either. Open heartedness to others must be balanced with faithfulness to who we are called to minster to.

So then I think the present conditions call for a unique balance between the character of each of our churches/jurisdictions. I think the evidence shows that through this we can attain a very rich level of Orthodox unity indeed.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#39 Rick H.

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 12:35 PM


History is so very complex. And this, as I tried to illustrate earlier, gets to the heart of the "American Orthodox/Orthodoxy in America" dichotomy being discussed here. Orthodoxy in America IS American Orthodoxy.

The defining characteristic of Orthodoxy in America (or American Orthodoxy, if you wish) to me is that of encounter -- an encounter between fellow Orthodox, an encounter between Orthodox and non-Chalcedonians, an encounter between Orthodox and Anglicans, an encounter between Orthodoxy and Western culture. This is who we are. Nothing is emerging, per se; it is evolving.



Dear Matthew,

I must say that you are right on here with you focus in this thread/exploration! As you direct our attention so perfectly to:

1.) The Heart of an American Orthodoxy


2.) The Defining Characteristic of an American Orthodoxy



you take us to The Ground which offers the most fertile field for tilling and cultivation bar none. Thank you my new friend!


You have provided a vehicle for clarity in your last post which is most helpful as we may consider the two seemingly opposing views:



a.) Orthodoxy in America is to be equated with an American Orthodoxy


b.) Orthodoxy in America is to be distinguished from an American Orthodoxy


and, I think it is possible that the lens one looks through at these two seemingly competing propositions will have a bearing on one's perspective/point of view. Possibly, one with a pastoral bent would see these issues differently than one with a leaning to academic theology, and possibly a historian would see these issues differently than both of the afore mentioned. Possibly either clergy or lay which are 'non-cradle' Orthodox with no ethnic ancestral ties would have a slightly different view than the cradle Orthodox with ethnic ties.


And, Matthew, I noticed that added to this proposition, above, is the word "dichotomy." So I draw the conclusion from this that you see this proposition as being:


divisive or one that creates two mutually exclusive groups.


And, while I don't think this is the case at all, I would like to suggest that often times to add to a proposition is to change a proposition. And, while I don't want this to turn into a 'Spiritual IQ' question I would like to point out that the word "distinguished" above is used by way of


an estimation of difference in regard to differences or distinguishing circumstances.


And, as we may consider an Eastern Orthodoxy today, and an historic Eastern Orthodox Christianity it would be foolish to try to create dichotomies within the Church; but it is proper and helpful to draw distinctions. So I don't think we are seeing a dichotomy being discussed here at all.


I'm out of time now, but I hope to come back to what I think is the most insightful part of your last post (which is possibly more helpful as a pointer than any in any of the AO threads). As you speak of 'the heart of an American Orthodoxy' and 'the defining characteristic of an American Orthodoxy'--which I feel are ONE in the same--yes, this is all about "encounter," I agree fully with you there . . . although I'm not quite sure we have full agreement about an 'evolving' as somewhat opposed to a 'transcending,' and as presented I don't think we have agreement about the focus of the experience/encounter. What do you think Matthew[?] . . . what if we were to broaden our view, or lift our eyes a bit in consideration of an historic Eastern Orthodoxy and the history of Eastern Orthodoxy (which requires no indefinite article or question mark), I wonder if any of the above positions would change? But, a development of this for another day.


Oh I can't stop myself (thanks Owen!) . . . in light of Father Raphael's post above (which does sound good):


Is it better to a.) equate historic Eastern Orthodoxy with Orthodoxy in America today; or b.) distinguish between Orthodoxy in America today and historic Eastern Orthodoxy.


In Christ,
Rick


Edited by Rick H., 30 March 2008 - 01:09 PM.


#40 Owen Jones

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 01:15 PM

The great criticism by Protestants is that liturgical churches are spiritually dead. That we do not have a "personal relationship" with God in Jesus Christ. While at one level this is an ill-informed judgment bordering on judgmentalism, it is not entirely without merit. And I think the spiritual power of Orthodox Christianity has yet to really be discovered by most Orthodox Christians in America, partly because it is so easy in a liturgical church to observe the outward forms without the inner transformation that they are based on.

One has to tread lightly here because such sweeping statements sound judgmental as well, and I for one would not want to set myself up as judge, jury and executioner. Clearly there are many, many pious people in our faith in America, far more devoted and disciplined in the faith than I. What concerns me mostly is the things that we take for granted through the liturgical forms of worship. What really makes the Orthodox Christian different than other Christians, or other people in general? Are we really any different than just the average sort of pious church-goer just because we believe our worship is true? How does the difference in our worship, and the theology exemplified in our worship effect our "inner disposition" and the way we live our lives -- other than just trying to be decent, good people? Another way of putting it, how counter-cultural should Orthodoxy in America be, or strive to be, without being self-conscious about it? I think the last point is key, because there are clearly many Orthodox, especially converts, whose counter-culturalism is driving everything else, whereas it probably ought to be the other way around. In which case our faith is really an ideology, not true faith.

There should simply be something different about us/me and if that is not evident in some way, then we are failing to measure up to Christ's example. The ought to be cases of people saying, "there goes an Orthodox Christian," and not because he is Greek, or because he is a convert and has grown a beard.

Just some musings from a frustrated soul I suppose. But it seems to me that problems regarding Church polity really pale in importance to the problem of actually absorbing an Orthodox phronema towards the world around us.




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