Thomas E. FitzGerald
Orthodox monks from Russia established a mission on Kodiak Island in Alaska in 1794. It marked the formal entrance of organized Orthodox Church life into North America. Two hundred years later, the Orthodox Church in the United States is firmly established. The presence of over 3 million Orthodox Christians gathered into over 1,500 parishes is the fruit of those missionaries and of the pious immigrants who struggled to establish the Orthodox Church in this land. All the problems associated with the organizational unity of the Orthodox in America have not been fully resolved as yet. However, the Orthodox have reached a significant point in their maturation. This is evident in the vitality of parish life, in the renewal of worship, in theological education, in ecumenical witness, as well as in social and missionary concerns. The presence of the Orthodox Church not only has begun to contribute to this society and to religious life in America but also has begun to contribute to the witness of the Christian faith throughout the world.
This book is the first attempt to describe in a comprehensive way the story of the origins and developments of the Orthodox Church in the United States during the past 200 years. It is the story of missions and immigrants, of the quest for survival and the desire for recognition, of the intention to preserve the faith and of the willingness to share that faith with others. For the Orthodox, it is ultimately a story that has its roots in Palestine and its origin in the message of Jesus Christ. Yet, it is a story colored by the life of distant places such as Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Moscow.
This study has some important limitations. It examines only the Orthodox Church in the United States. Presently, the Orthodox Church here is actually composed of a number of ecclesiastical jurisdictions, usually a diocese or a number of dioceses that constitute an archdiocese or a church. These ecclesiastical jurisdictions are related to the family of autocephalous Orthodox churches throughout the world. This family is frequently referred to as the «Eastern Orthodox Church.» While the term «Eastern» is used less and less, it often serves to distinguish this family of churches from the family known as the «Oriental Orthodox Churches.» The ecclesiastical jurisdictions in this country that are associated with the Oriental Orthodox churches are not covered in this study. It should also be noted that only limited reference is made to those ecclesiastical jurisdictions that call themselves Orthodox but that are not related to the autocephalous Orthodox churches. These limitations have been imposed primarily because of space.
As a teacher, I am deeply conscious of the influence that others have had upon my own reflections, research, and writing. Space does not permit me to acknowledge everyone who has assisted me in bringing this project to fruition. But, I am obliged to acknowledge those who have been especially helpful.
My wife, Kyriaki, deserves special mention. I have greatly benefited from her continuous support and her own insight into the themes discussed in this book. I am especially happy that she not only has read the story with interest but also has been an important part of the story.
My formal research into the development of the Orthodox Church in this country began during my doctoral studies under the direction of Professor Anthony-Emil Tachiaos of the School of Theology of the University of Thessaloniki. I have greatly benefited from his example as both a scholar and a theologian and from his constant support, which has carried over into the writing of this book.
During the course of my research, I had the opportunity to speak at length on a number of occasions with Father John Meyendorff, dean and professor of church history at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological School. His own broad understanding of history and theology enabled him to offer me many very insightful perspectives on the development of Orthodox Christianity in this country.
I am deeply honored that Professor Henry Warner Bowden of Rutgers University selected me to prepare this volume as part of the series of which he is the general editor. Throughout the process, often marked by delays and frustrations on my part, he has been a source of helpful direction, generous encouragement, and scholarly perspective.
During the research for and writing of this book, I have had the opportunity to be part of a number of important communities. I appreciate the assistance of many of my colleagues and my students at Hellenic College-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. I have also benefited from the assistance offered by the members of the communities of New Skete and from my colleagues at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. Likewise, I also express my special gratitude to the good people of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Finally, I want to express a special word of appreciation to Archbishop Iakovos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Chairman of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. Throughout his episcopal ministry in this country, which has spanned thirty-six years, he has contributed immeasurably to the witness of the Orthodox Church. I am deeply grateful for his encouragement of my scholarly work and especially for his interest in seeing this study brought to completion.
Note: Asterisks next to various names throughout the text indicate that these individuals are the subjects of entries that make up the Biographical Dictionary which appears in the expanded hardcover edition.