Thomas E. FitzGerald
10. HERITAGE AND VISION
The visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople to the United States in 1990 served as an important affirmation of the significance of Orthodox Christianity in this country. While the Orthodox jurisdictions continued to look toward greater administrative unity, many signs of a mature presence and a fruitful mission were clearly visible. The Orthodox in America numbered over 3 million, gathered into over 1,500 parishes. Through their concern for liturgical and spiritual renewal, theological studies, ecumenical dialogue, and evangelization, the American Orthodox in recent decades had strengthened their own mission and witness in this country. They had also become a major influence upon Christianity throughout the world.319
THE VISIT OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople, together with a delegation that included five Metropolitans made an unprecedented visit to the United States 2–29 July 1990. Among the delegation was the present patriarch, Patriarch Bartholomew, who succeeded Patriarch Dimitrios in 1991. Although other Orthodox Patriarchs had visited this country in the past, this was the first visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch. His visit had a special significance because he is viewed as the first bishop of the Orthodox Church. As such, the Ecumenical Patriarch is frequently looked upon as the spiritual leader of the 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. Moreover, according to Orthodox canon law and ecclesiastical practice dating from at least the fourth century, the Patriarch of Constantinople has special responsibility for overseeing the development of the Orthodox Church in lands beyond the boundaries of other autocephalous churches.320
When he arrived in Washington, Patriarch Dimitrios spoke of his mission:
In particular as Ecumenical Patriarch entering this land, I reflect upon the fact that our Church took root here and flourished for whole generations, thus contributing also to the great and historic advance of the American people, to its attainments, in sharing its problems, its progress and its dreams for a better mankind. Today, Orthodoxy is not a strange and alien factor in America. It is flesh of its flesh and bone of its bones.... I greet warmly and without exception all the faithful children of the Orthodox in this country.... As the Ecumenical Patriarch, I convey to all the Orthodox of this country my love and blessing, and assure them that the full unity of the Church, by canonical order, has never ceased and will never cease to be my principal concern.321
The theme of greater Orthodox unity and witness in America would be repeated on many occasions as the Patriarch's limited itinerary took him from Washington to New York; Allentown and Johnstown, Pennsylvania; San Francisco; Chicago; Buffalo; and Boston. At each stop, the Patriarch not only met with members of the Orthodox Church but also met with representatives of other churches. In the former case, he stressed the need for greater Orthodox unity in America. In the latter case, he spoke strongly about the responsibility of all Christians to work for reconciliation that would lead toward visible unity rooted in the apostolic faith.
From the perspective of Orthodox unity, one of the most significant aspects of the Patriarch's visit was his meeting with Metropolitan Theodosius of the Orthodox Church in America within the context of a prayer service at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on 4 July 1990. The presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch at the cathedral of Metropolitan Theodosius was clearly a sign of a new relationship developing between the Church of Constantinople and the Orthodox Church in America, the former Metropolia. This encounter was the fruit of preliminary discussions between representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church in America that had been renewed in 1989.
In his words of welcome to St. Nicholas Cathedral, Metropolitan Theodosius said:
For us in particular, your presence is a sign of renewed hope for unity, witness and mission of Orthodox Christianity in America. As the «first among equals» within the brotherhood of Orthodox bishops throughout the world, you have as your primacy a unique ministry of unity. We ask that through your prayers our ministry in America may bring ever closer the full integration of our continued efforts, that the people and the society in the midst of which we witness may see that the Orthodox Church in North America is truly united in common mission, common witness, and common purpose. At this time in our history, there has never been a greater need, nor has there been a time of greater opportunity.322
Patriarch Dimitrios warmly responded to the welcome. In the course of his response, the Patriarch made reference to the situation of the Orthodox Church in the United States:
It is truly a scandal for the unity of the Church to maintain more than one bishop in any given city; it clearly contravenes the sacred canons and Orthodox ecclesiology. It is a scandal that is exacerbated whenever phyletistic motives play a part, a practice soundly condemned by the Orthodox Church in the last century. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, as a supra-national Church serving the unity of the Church, is not indifferent to the condition that has evolved, and will exert every effort in cooperation with the other Holy Orthodox Churches, and in accordance with canonical order, to resolve this thorny problem.323
The visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the meetings that he and his associates had with church leaders in America were seen by many as a sign that new attention was being given to the issues related to greater unity and common witness.
The major political developments in Central and Eastern Europe, especially in the period between 1989 and 1993, enabled the Orthodox churches in those regions to reaffirm their mission and witness. As in earlier periods of this century, these European changes were reflected in developments in church life in this country. This time, however, the developments were generally very positive. In conjunction with efforts to provide assistance to the churches in the Old World as they emerged from a period of oppression, many of the dioceses in this country, which had experienced divisions in the 1950s and 1960s, were reconciled or at least brought closer together.
The Serbian Orthodox dioceses, divided since 1963, were reconciled through the personal interventions of Patriarch Paul of Serbia, who visited this country in 1992. Bishop Kyril (Yonchev), who, together with a number of clergy and laity, separated from the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria in 1963, was recognized by Patriarch Maxim and the synod of that church during a visit there in 1992. The dramatic restoration of the Orthodox Church in Albania in 1992–1993 also led to greater contact between members of the two Albanian Orthodox dioceses in this country that were divided in 1950. Finally, the two Romanian Orthodox dioceses divided since 1951 agreed to the restoration of relations in 1993.324
While the changes in Europe provided a catalyst for these developments, they were, at a deeper level, the fruit of the process of reconciliation that had been taking place for decades, especially at the local level. American Orthodox had become less and less troubled by the old political issues that frequently led to the diocesan divisions in the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, most American Orthodox had matured in their appreciation of the common bonds of faith and the requirement for common mission and witness.
These developments also paralleled a renewed theological understanding of the diocese. Orthodox theologians began to reemphasize that the diocese is the expression of the «local church.» It is a gathering of clergy and laity in a number of parish communities in a given place who are in communion with the diocesan bishop. They are united in common faith, witness, and service. Their unity is most visibly expressed at the celebration of the Eucharist. This understanding clearly challenged the old view of the diocese that had developed among many Orthodox in America. The old view saw the diocese or archdiocese as a jurisdiction centered upon ethnic or linguistic particularities.
Three important principles directly related to the American situation began to emerge in the renewed understanding of the diocese. First, as a manifestation of the local church, the diocese must be geographically based and unite all the Orthodox believers of a particular place or region. This challenged the notion that the diocese contains only persons of a particular ethnic background. Second, the diocesan bishop must be viewed first and foremost as a sign of the unity of the church in a particular place. This challenged the notion of the bishop as an «ethnarch» leading a particular ethnic group. Third, the diocese must reflect in its organizational life a conciliar spirit that emphasizes the interrelationship between bishop, clergy, and laity in their service to the church and to society. This challenged the notion that there is no mutual accountability among the members of the church.
How long it will take for the renewed theological understanding of the diocese to refashion the actual administrative life of each particular diocese, and indeed the larger church in the United States, is difficult to tell. As we have seen, the administrative development of the Orthodox Church in the United States has been one plagued with difficulties. But the fact that the renewed vision of the diocese is coming from many quarters is viewed by many as a hopeful sign.325
Orthodox parishes have always been diverse in terms of both their size and their composition. By 1994, there were well over 1,500 Orthodox parishes in the United States, serving over 3 million parishioners. Some of these parishes include over 1,000 members. Others, considered to be missions, may include about 50 members. The vast majority of parishes average anywhere from 200 to about 500 members.
Throughout the period between 1960 and 1980 especially, many of these parishes undertook major building or remodeling campaigns in conjunction with the move of parishioners to the suburbs. Often, the new buildings were constructed in a manner that clearly reflected the principles of traditional Orthodox architecture. As the Orthodox were able to construct their church buildings in suburban locations throughout the United States, they were not reluctant to let their distinctive church architecture publicly bear witness to their presence. In many cities, the distinctive dome of the Orthodox church building has become a very visible reminder of the presence of Orthodox Christians.
While united in their profession of the same faith, the members of these parishes are quite diverse. Parishes in Alaska continue to bring together believers from the various Alaskan native peoples. Some parishes on the East Coast especially comprise newly arrived immigrants from wartorn Palestine and Lebanon. The vast majority of Orthodox parishes, however, comprise Americans of various ethnic and racial backgrounds. Some of these persons are the descendants of the Orthodox immigrants. An ever-growing number of others were raised in different religious traditions and subsequently chose to enter the Orthodox Church.
Membership in most Orthodox parishes today reflects the fact that persons have freely and consciously decided to accept the Orthodox Christian faith and to be part of an Orthodox parish community. These persons appreciate the faith and devotion of the pious immigrants who established many of the original Orthodox parishes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They also recognize the obligation of the church to serve the spiritual needs of new immigrants. Yet, at the same time, they see their Orthodox parish less and less as an ethnic community and more as a manifestation of the church established by Christ and nurtured primarily by His gospel.
Each parish is headed by an ordained priest. The pastor is engaged in a multidimensional ministry that centers upon leading the liturgical services, preaching, teaching spiritual direction, and pastoral care. Increasingly, the Orthodox are placing very high expectation on their clergy. While the parishioners are usually involved in a selection process, the parish priest is ultimately appointed by the diocesan bishop. Generally, an elected parish council, with the parish priest as its president, oversees the life of the parish. The majority of Orthodox parishes have religious education programs for children and young adults. Many have special religious education programs and Bible studies for adults. Lay women and men are very active in the liturgical, educational, and charitable ministries of the parish.
Orthodox theologians recognize that these important developments in parish life have accompanied a gradual movement that has emphasized the role of the parish as a center for Christian worship and life that is rooted in the teachings of Christ as reflected in the life of the Orthodox Church throughout the ages. Those who look closely at the Orthodox parish recognize also that further maturation is required. Central to this maturation is the vision of the parish as a Christian community of faith that both shares fully in the life of the surrounding society and is able to provide, when necessary, a Christian critique of the values of the society. Father John Meyendorff addresses this point:
In America today, we Orthodox face two major temptations. The one is to lose love for Divine Truth; to capitulate before the secular and relativistic environment; to consider the Church as a social club among many, using only more elaborate «Eastern» ritual than other clubs. The other temptation is to forget that the truth of Orthodoxy – Divine Truth indeed – has not been given to us alone, as our own private possession: it is a truth which saves the entire world, and of which we have been made witnesses at our own peril. If we hide it under a bushel of our human limitations, our ethnic cultures, our prejudices, we will be judged accordingly.326
LITURGICAL AND SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
During the past twenty-five years, there has been a steady movement for liturgical renewal throughout the Orthodox Church in the United States. This renewal has been nurtured by the writings and lectures of Father Alexander Schmemann, as well as by Father Alkiviadis Calivas, Father Laurence of New Skete, and Dr. Paul Meyendorff. Both clergy and laity have sought to reemphasize the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of both the believer and the parish community. Orthodox Christians expect their parish to be a center for worship and prayer that aids them in their spiritual growth and Christian identity.327
English translations of the Eucharistic Liturgy, the Sacraments, and other prayer services have been readily available for generations. These, however, often were literal translations in an archaic form of English and not intended to be used in the liturgical services. Fortunately, some of the more recent translations have been done with an eye toward their actual use in parishes. Thus, only in recent years have clergy and congregations truly become comfortable with the actual use of prayers and hymns in English.
Alexander Schmemann wisely recognized that the Orthodox in America were required not simply to translate old liturgical texts but to capture in the English language the power of the liturgical affirmations:
As long as American Orthodoxy is only translated it is neither fully American nor fully Orthodox. It is not fully American because the literal translations of Byzantine or Russian texts remain odd and alien to the genius and result in–to say the truth–Greek or Russian services in English, but not English services. And it is not fully Orthodox because what gives these texts their power and fulfills their liturgical function–their beauty, is simply lost in these literal renderings ... true continuity with the living Tradition requires from us more than translation: a real recreation of the same and eternal message, its true incarnation in English. The problem is not just to translate but to give again the hymns and texts of the Byzantine liturgy the power they have in the original, and which is rooted in the organic unity of meaning and «beauty.»328
The greater use of English in worship in Orthodox congregations, in the past three decades especially, has had two important consequences. First, the liturgical services now are able to contribute to the formation of the believers. The Orthodox have always emphasized the power of the liturgical services to form and inform the believer. The Orthodox faith is experienced, affirmed, and celebrated through the worship of the church. While the services offer, first of all, the opportunity for the community to praise and thank God, they also teach the basic affirmations of the faith. There is, therefore, a very close connection between participation in the liturgical services and growth in Christian life.
Second, the increased use of English has provided the basis for greater participation by the laity in the liturgical services. While practices vary from parish to parish, the liturgical services are increasingly seen as the common worship offered and celebrated by the entire church. No longer are the services of worship seen as the activity of the clergy and their assistants, at which most of the laity are passive bystanders. There is a growing movement to involve the entire parish community in the services of worship.
Central to this renewal has been the restoration of the importance of the regular reception of Holy Communion. Not long ago, Orthodox were accustomed to receive Holy Communion only a few times during the course of the year. While the Liturgy has always been the principal service of common worship, the reception of Holy Communion by the laity on a regular basis was not always encouraged. Now, with greater emphasis upon the importance of full participation in the Eucharist, more and more clergy and laity are welcoming the restoration of the practice of frequent reception of Holy Communion. This has also been accompanied by a greater appreciation of the value of personal prayer, fasting, confession, and charity. These serve as appropriate spiritual disciplines that can also contribute one's preparation to receive Holy Communion.329
Orthodox theologians in America recognize that they must continue to stress the centrality of worship and the importance of spiritual growth, especially in a society that frequently places great emphasis upon secular values accentuating individualism and materialism.
At the same time, many Orthodox theologians in America recognize that a slavish preservation of minor liturgical customs and practices can, in fact, prevent the liturgical services from accomplishing their most fundamental purposes, which are to glorify God and nurture human life. The Orthodox in America have inherited a wide variety of liturgical customs from the various traditions that are part of the church in this country. While maintaining a fundamental unity in faith and sacramental life with the Orthodox throughout the world, the Orthodox in this country are now involved in a process of developing liturgical traditions that serve the needs of the church in America. This is not a novel task for Orthodox. It is, in fact, a process that has occurred in every place that the church has grown as a result of mission.
The liturgical tradition, says Father Laurence of New Skete, «is always and everywhere characterized by an ongoing process of change and adaptation giving birth to new and varied forms of expression, and, thus, keeping the fountain of life, as it were, from drying up completely.» Referring to the need for a parish «order of worship,» he says that «a properly parochial "typikon» is therefore of crucial urgency. Protestations to the contrary reflect the rigid, museum frame of mind and/or the cast of mind that is frantically in need of security. The faith was never intended to be a security blanket, but the means, as St. Paul says, «whereby we find justification before the Lord.»330
WOMEN IN CHURCH SERVICE
Women have always been involved in the development of the Orthodox Church in this country. In the early years, they were active especially in the teaching of religion, in fund-raising, and in charitable work. Some were also part of monastic communities. During the 1930s and 1940s, most parishes established associations that brought greater direction to these activities. At the same time, most jurisdictions also established national organizations especially for women. Viewed in historical perspective, these organizations were established at a time when women were expected to have their own specific group within the parish or diocese. Established in 1932, the Philoptochos Society of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, for example, has a well-deserved reputation for its philanthropic activity and has ably adapted itself to changing circumstances.
Orthodox women in recent decades have also begun to be involved in many more aspects of the church's pastoral, liturgical, charitable, educational, and administrative life. They have taken up responsibilities in the church that would have been nearly impossible only a few decades ago. Some women have been blessed and tonsured to undertake specific ministries within parishes. A number of theologically educated women represent their church at symposiums, conferences, and ecumenical meetings. It is now quite common for women to serve as members of parish and diocesan councils.331
The ancient order of the ordained deaconess has not as yet been fully restored in the contemporary Orthodox Church. At a Pan-Orthodox conference held in Rhodes in 1988, the delegates from all the regional churches formally called for the full restoration of this ancient order so that the pastoral needs of the contemporary church may be better served. Many Orthodox in America believe that the restoration of this order in this country will contribute greatly to the pastoral and charitable ministries of the local parish.332
Issues associated with the role and dignity of women in the Orthodox Church frequently reflect the interplay between the Old World cultures and the Orthodox faith. The questions associated with the ordained ministry and women still need to be explored more deeply by Orthodox theologians. Moreover, the Orthodox have inherited prayers, ritual prohibitions, and canons that reflect the cultural, philosophical, and medical views of women in earlier historical periods. Many Orthodox theologians in America today recognize that these critical issues deserve greater theological investigation and pastoral sensitivity so that the influences of earlier cultures can be distinguished from the fundamental convictions of the Orthodox faith. The Orthodox in America will continue to be challenged to hear the concerns of Orthodox women.333
The education and formation of clergy and lay leaders for specialized ministry have been concerns that have been consistently present in the American Orthodox experience since the time of the Alaskan mission. A number of early pastoral schools provided the basis for the establishment of more stable seminaries during the 1930s. These seminaries generally served the needs of specific jurisdictions by providing rudimentary education for future clergy and lay leaders in the church's teachings and liturgical practices.
Two of these seminaries rose to higher levels of competence and mission during the 1960s and 1970s. St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, founded in 1938 by the Russian Orthodox Metropolia, now the Orthodox Church in America, received full accreditation from the American Association of Theological Schools in 1973. Founded in 1937 by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology was fully accredited as a graduate-level school of theology by the same agency in 1976. Its undergraduate college was given full accreditation by the New England Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges in the same year. These grants of accreditation marked important milestones for both institutions. In addition, Holy Cross has been a member since 1976 of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of nine theological schools. This unique association is the only association in the world to bring together fully accredited theological schools representing Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions.
While these two institutions continued to prepare future clergy and lay leaders for parish service, they also have recognized their responsibility to be centers of advanced study in the various disciplines of Orthodox theology. Increasingly, their programs have attracted not only those who seek to serve in the pastoral ministry but also those who wish to pursue studies toward advanced degrees in theology and related disciplines. Likewise, both institutions have begun to attract students not only from their own jurisdictions but also from other Orthodox jurisdictions both in this country and abroad. A number of American-born theologians began to join the faculties in the late 1960s and 1970s. At about the same time, both institutions became coeducational. These developments clearly contributed to the maturation of both schools.334
Founded in 1965, the Orthodox Theological Society has become a significant association of theologians that sponsors a yearly meeting devoted to a particular theme. In recent years, the meetings of the society have examined such important topics as ecumenical relations, women in the church, and the role of the laity. The society has fostered greater contact among theologians from the various jurisdictions and has addressed theological issues that affect all the Orthodox in this country.
During the last twenty-five years especially, Orthodox theologians from the United States also began to become more prominent in meetings of Orthodox theologians from throughout the world. A sizable number were present at the Second International Conference of Orthodox Theological Schools held in Athens in 1970. Since that time, both Holy Cross and St. Vladimir's have hosted a number of conferences and symposia that brought together Orthodox theologians from throughout the world. Most recently, in 1987, Holy Cross hosted the Third International Conference of Orthodox Theological Schools.335
The important contribution that American Orthodox theologians have to make to the worldwide church has also gained greater recognition. Orthodox theologians from America have been involved in some of the meetings preparing for the Great and Holy Council. A sizable number participated in the Inter-Orthodox Conference on the Role of Women held in Rhodes in 1988. A number have been appointed to Orthodox delegations to bilateral consultations with other churches and to the various committees of the World Council of Churches.
All of these developments have been sustained by the growth of a great body of literature devoted to various aspects of Orthodox faith, history, and spirituality. Up until about 1960, there was only a handful of books available in English dealing with the Orthodox Church. With few exceptions, most of these were written primarily for students of theology and history. In the past thirty years, however, hundreds of books have appeared that deal with all facets of Orthodox Christianity. Some are written especially for scholars, while others are written for a popular audience. Four Orthodox publishing houses – Holy Cross Press, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Light and Life Publications, and Oakwood Publications – have been in the forefront in publishing works especially by Orthodox authors and in providing substantial studies on various aspects of the Orthodox Church.
One cannot overlook the fact that in the past twenty to thirty years there has been a renewed interest in early Christianity, in the writings of the fathers and mothers of the church, and in the history of the Liturgy and Sacraments. Many of these specialized studies and translations, by scholars, both Orthodox and Western Christians, have contributed to an understanding of early Christianity free from the partisan debates and denominational polemics that characterized previous investigations. At the same time, these studies have sparked among many Western Christians a new appreciation of the development of Eastern Christianity in general and a renewed interest in the contemporary Orthodox Church. Indeed, through these books many Western Christians have first come to know about the Orthodox Church.
The degree of Orthodox involvement in local expressions of ecumenical witness continued to vary from place to place, especially during the period 1970–1994. In some cities, the Orthodox parishes have been active in the local Council of Churches. In other cities, the Orthodox have consistently avoided formal involvement in ecumenical associations. As a general rule, Orthodox clergy and laity participated in local inter-Christian associations that were devoted either to theological dialogue or to local philanthropic activities. All Orthodox continue to avoid any formal type of eucharistic «intercommunion.» The Orthodox believe that the restoration of eucharistic communion among Christians is primarily the fruit of reconciliation and not a means toward achieving the unity of Christians.
Orthodox involvement in the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCC) has remained problematical. The fact that it has been traditionally dominated by Protestants has meant that its agenda and concerns have not always been of interest to the Orthodox. As a result, Orthodox involvement in its various commissions generally has been weak.
On behalf of its member jurisdictions, the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops suspended Orthodox involvement in the NCCC on 24 October 1991. The reasons for this dramatic decision were many. Chief among them was the concern of many Orthodox that the NCCC was advocating positions that ran contrary to historic Christian teachings and the concern that Orthodox positions were not taken seriously within the various departments of the council. The decision of the Orthodox bishops led to a series of discussions between their representatives and the representatives of the NCCC. These meetings led to a decision by the bishops of SCOBA on 23 March 1992 to «provisionally resume» ties with the NCCC.336
Despite these difficulties, the active presence of Orthodox theologians from this country has been especially felt in recent years in worldwide ecumenical meetings. For example, Orthodox theologians from America have been especially active in recent years in work of the Faith and Order Commission and other committees of the World Council of Churches. Among those who have been deeply involved in the activity of these committees are Father John Meyendorff, Father Stanley Harakas, Father Thomas Hopko, Father Leonid Kishkovsky, Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald, Father Nicholas Apostola, and Dr. Constance Tarasar. Many of the Orthodox from America have been particularly adept in overcoming historic animosities and in bridging the gap between the theological differences of Eastern and Western Christianity. Certainly, many of the American Orthodox have benefited not only from their formal study of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism but also from the fact that they have had firsthand, personal relationships with Western Christian theologians.
Monasteries have always played an important role in the development of Orthodox Christianity. Orthodox monasticism did not develop particular orders as in the Christian West. Traditionally, each monastery has had the right to develop its own mission, provided that it does not run counter to the norms of community life and worship. Thus, throughout history, Orthodox monasteries, both those for men and those for women, have been involved in such diverse ministries as education, care for the needy, the preservation of manuscripts, liturgical renewal, and missions.
As we have seen, the first Orthodox missionaries who came to America in 1794 were monks. Their humble quarters on Kodiak Island were the first Orthodox monastery in North America. Dating from 1905, St. Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, was the first one established in the continental United States. Twenty-five years later, in 1930, the Holy Trinity Monastery was founded in Jordanville, New York. Since that time numerous other monastic communities have come into existence throughout the country. Regardless of the number of members, the monasteries are communities centered upon worship and spiritual life. The traditional cycle of common prayer is the pattern about which all other activities of the monastery are structured.
One group of Orthodox monastics has described their life:
In the community life of our respective monasteries, we not only profess the Gospel but manifest our intention of seeking sanctification with God's help through growth in wisdom and spiritual understanding. In so doing, we witness to the Kingdom of God which is to come and to the fullness of the promise made at baptism to every Christian. Thus, we hope to be responsive to the prophetic character of our vocation, which, from the very inception of monasticism in the desert of Skete [in Egypt], has made monks and nuns responsible not only for their own salvation, but for that of all God's people.337
Increasingly, many Orthodox clergy and laypersons have come to recognize the importance of monasteries for the growth of the church in America. These monasteries have become places of pilgrimages where pilgrims can go to worship, for retreats, and to seek spiritual direction from the abbot or abbess.
Because of its distinctive witness, one monastery in America deserves special attention: the Community of New Skete in Cambridge, New York. First established in 1966, the monastery formally joined the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America in 1978. New Skete actually comprises a community of monks whose house is dedicated to the Transfiguration, a separate monastic community of nuns whose house is dedicated to Our Lady of the Sign, and a separate community of married couples whose house is dedicated to the disciples of Emmaus. While each community maintains its own particular identity and mission, the members of the three houses meet daily for worship.
Thoroughly immersed in the tradition of monasticism, the members of these communities actively seek to bring the ancient spiritual insights of Orthodox spirituality into contact with the realities of twentieth-century America. Under the leadership of Father Laurence, the abbot and spiritual father, New Skete has become not only a vital monastic center but also a place of reflection and nurture that emphasizes the importance of Christian community and worship. Because of this, New Skete has also become a center that has encouraged contact, dialogue, and common endeavors for members of many of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America.
Among the ministries undertaken at New Skete, special attention has been given to the translation of liturgical texts, the composition of hymns, and the publication of liturgical books. Nurtured by their own liturgical life and enriched by their knowledge of the liturgical traditions, the members of New Skete have made their community renowned throughout the Orthodox world not only for their translations into American English but also for their efforts to restore and renew Orthodox worship in a manner both faithful to Orthodox tradition and responsive to the reality of American society.
SOCIAL CONCERN AND MISSION
The witness of American Orthodox clergy and laity can also be seen in ever-growing attention given to the social concerns of this society and the moral questions that face believers today. In sharp contrast to the lack of interest in societal issues during the early periods of Orthodox Church development in America, the Orthodox in recent decades have demonstrated far greater interest in the challenges facing America today. Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese joined Dr. Martin Luther King in 1965 for the historic Selma march. This event is frequently viewed as the beginning of greater involvement in social issues by the Orthodox in this country. It is an involvement that has been nurtured by the theological insights of Father Stanley Harakas, the preeminent Orthodox ethicist in this country.338
Orthodox theologians have sought to articulate perspectives on social issues and moral questions that are both rooted in the distinctive faith affirmations of Orthodox Christianity and, at the same time, truly responsive to the needs of today's Christian community. These perspectives have often found forceful expression in the statements issued by national meetings of clergy and laity of the various jurisdictions. They have also found concrete expression in the growing efforts by dioceses and local parishes to work for greater justice and to serve the needy.
The dramatic political changes and social upheavals in Eastern Europe, especially between 1988 and 1992, provided the Orthodox in America with a valuable opportunity to respond by providing both humanitarian aid and catechetical materials.
The needs of Orthodox Christians in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Commonwealth of Independent States were especially highlighted during the visit of Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow to the United States in 1991 and 1993. Traveling through this country in the wake of the historic political changes in the former Soviet Union, the patriarch called upon all the Orthodox to respond to the tremendous needs of all the people of Central and Eastern Europe and to assist the church in reestablishing its charitable and educational activities.339
The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) formally sanctioned in 1992 the establishment of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Initially organized by laypersons from a number of Orthodox jurisdictions, IOCC in its first year of operation organized the shipment of more than $5 million of food and medical supplies to Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. As IOCC began to enlarge the scope of its charitable activities, it became clear that it had become a valuable organization that provided both the vehicle for international Orthodox humanitarian aid and a new means through which Orthodox in America could cooperate in charitable endeavors.340
The Mission Center of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese also entered into a new phase of its development, especially during the period after 1980. For many years the center had been active in supporting missionary work in Africa. This had involved funding the education of African Orthodox students at Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. More recently, under the leadership of Father Demetrios Couchell, the center broadened its scope to provide scholarships for students from Indonesia, Korea, and Japan. In addition, the center has supported a number of missionary teams comprising American Orthodox young adults who traveled to such countries as Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Ukraine, Poland, Greece, and Russia. Depending upon the location, these missionaries were responsible for building or repairing churches, establishing medical clinics, and leading retreats for clergy and laypersons. The Mission Center formally became in 1993 the center for all the missionary activity supported by all the jurisdictions of SCOBA.341
IDENTIFICATION AND SHARING
The Orthodox in America are the inheritors of a rich tradition of faith, worship, and service that is as old as Christianity itself. This tradition was brought to North America by Russian monks in 1794. It was also brought by the pious immigrants from Greece, Asia Minor, Carpatho-Russia, and other parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East who came to this country especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Often escaping religious persecution in the Old World, these immigrants carried few material possessions with them. Among them were icons and crosses. Like the monks in Alaska, one of their first tasks in this land was to construct church buildings where they could pray together and teach their faith to others. Their crosses, their icons, and their church buildings were the external signs that Orthodox Christianity was taking root in a new place, that it was to affect a new people in a new world.
Now, 200 years after the founding of the mission in Alaska, American Orthodox are traveling to other parts of the world as missionaries. Over a hundred years after the first immigrants arrived from lands rich in Christian history, American Orthodox are traveling as missionaries to Russia, the Balkans, other parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Far East. With the prayers and financial support of their local parishes, these American Orthodox go to join Orthodox Christians in these lands to teach the faith, to build churches and clinics, and to care for the needy.
Yet, this is only a portion of a remarkable story of sharing that continues today. Both in word and in deed, the American Orthodox are contributing to the life of the church and to the life of the world. While difficulties continue to confront Orthodox Christians in America, they are part of a developing regional church that is making a profound impact upon the life of the Orthodox Church throughout the world and, indeed, upon all of contemporary Christianity. The writings of American Orthodox theologians are affecting their colleagues in Athens, Thessaloniki, Moscow, and Balamand. Religious education methods and materials from America enrich the programs in such diverse places as Syria, Indonesia, and Kenya. The participation of American Orthodox in both Orthodox conferences and in ecumenical meetings throughout the world provides an opportunity for personal contact and enrichment. Finally, all of this is nurtured by the daily liturgical prayers of the Orthodox «for peace throughout the world, the well-being of the holy churches of God, and the union of all.»342
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For insights into themes discussed in this chapter, appreciation is expressed to Father Nicholas Apostola, Father Anthony Nicklas and Father Joseph Mirowski.
See Nikki Stephanopoulos and Robert Stephanopoulos, eds., Dimitrios in the U.S.A. (New York: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, 1991); Thomas FitzGerald, «The Visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the United States,» Ecumenical Trends 19:7 (1990): 103–105.
«Remarks of Patriarch Dimitrios,» The Orthodox Church, 26:9/10 (1990): 9
«Greeting by Metropolitan Theodosius,» The Orthodox Church 26:9/10 (1990): 8.
«Remarks of Patriarch Dimitrios,» The Orthodox Church 26:9/10 (1990): 9.
See The Orthodox Church 29:7/8 (1993): 1; 29:9/10(1993): 14.
Thomas Hopko, «On Ecclesial Conciliarity,» in The Legacy of St. Vladimir, ed. J. Meyendorff et al. (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1990), pp. 217–220.
John Meyendorff, Witness to the World (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1987), p. 150.
See Thomas Fish, «Schmemann's Theological Contribution to the Renewal of the Churches,» in Liturgy and Tradition, ed. Thomas Fisch (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1990), pp. 1–20.
Alexander Schmemann, «Problems of Orthodoxy in America III: The Spiritual Problem,» St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly9:4(1965): 181.
John Meyendorff, Vision of Unity (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1987), pp. 115–116.
Abbot Laurence, A Book of Prayers (Cambridge, N.Y.: New Skete, 1988), pp. xx-xxi.
Kyriaki FitzGerald, «Orthodox Women and Pastoral Praxis: Observations and Concerns for the Church in America,» in Orthodox Perspectives on Pastoral Praxis, ed. Theodore Stylianopoulos (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1988), pp. 101–104; Deborah Belonick, «Women in the Church,» in Orthodox Perspectives on Pastoral Praxis, ed. Theodore Stylianopoulos (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1988), pp. 81–83.
FitzGerald, «Orthodox Women and Pastoral Praxis,» pp. 104–114.
See A Sub-Committee of the Ecumenical Task Force, Women and Men in the Church (Syosset, N.Y.: Orthodox Church in America, 1980).
See Alkiviadis Calivas, «The Fiftieth Anniversary of Holy Cross,» in Orthodox Perspectives on Pastoral Praxis, ed. Theodore Stylianopoulos (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1988), pp. xi-xiv; John Meyendorff, et al., A Legacy of Excellence: St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1988).
The papers of this conference will soon be published by Holy Cross Press. The editor is Lewis J. Patasaros.
«SCOBA Hierarchs Unite in Decision to Suspend NCCC Membership,» The Orthodox Church 27:10/11 (1991): 1; «Orthodox Provisionally Resume NCCC Membership,» The Orthodox Church 28:5 (1992): 8; Anthony Ugolnik, «An Ecumenical Estrangement: Orthodoxy in America,» Christian Century (June 17–24,1992): 610–616.
Monastic Typicon (Cambridge, N.Y.; New Skete, 1980), p. 2.
Stanley Harakas, Let Mercy Abound (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1983), p. 33.
«Ten Memorable Days,» The Orthodox Church 28:1/2 (1992): 8–9.
«IOCC Established,» The Orthodox Church 28:5 (1992): 6.
Alexander Veronis, «Eastern Europe: An Historic Challenge for Orthodoxy,» Mission 8:1 (1992): 12.
These words are from prayer petitions offered at the Eucharist and at most other services of common prayer in the Orthodox Church.