Thomas E. FitzGerald


The Orthodox immigrants did not sever ties with their homeland. Although they lived in a new country, the immigrants were very much influenced by the political and ecclesiastical developments that occurred in their fatherlands during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By means of ethnic newspapers, letters from relatives, and the reports of persons who recently arrived in America, the immigrants were kept informed of all the events that occurred in their homelands before, during, and after World War I.

Political differences in Greece following World War I spread to the United States and had a profound impact upon the Greek immigrants, as well as upon their ecclesiastical life. Similarly, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the events that followed it had a momentous impact upon both the immigrants from Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe as well as the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and the parishes associated with it. Having their roots in Eastern European politics, fratricidal disputes, parish divisions, and schisms became the principal characteristics of Orthodox Christianity in the United States in the two decades following the conclusion of World War I.


The formal organization of the Greek Orthodox parishes in the United States began at a time when the people of Greece were seriously divided between the followers of King Constantine I and the followers of Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos.114 Following the assumption of power by Venizelos in 1917, Meletios Metaxakis was elected Metropolitan of Athens. On 4 August 1918, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, under the presidency of Metropolitan Meletios, resolved to organize the Greek Orthodox parishes in America.115

Having great interest in the American situation, Metropolitan Meletios traveled to the United States in order to oversee personally the organization of the parishes. Accompanied by Bishop Alexander (Demoglou) of Rodostolou, Father Chrysostomos Papadopoulos, and Professor Amilkas Alevizatos of Athens, Metropolitan Meletios arrived in New York on 22 August 1918. Concerned with the need to establish a central ecclesiastical authority for the American parishes, Metropolitan Meletios began to meet immediately after his arrival with prominent clergy and laypersons. The metropolitan recognized that there was a great need for a bishop in the United States who could act with authority to bring unity and direction to the parishes, which at that time numbered about 140. Before leaving the United States on 29 October 1918, therefore, Metropolitan Meletios appointed Bishop Alexander of Rodostolou as the synodical representative.116

Bishop Alexander encountered severe difficulties from the very beginning of his administration. Although many Greek immigrants welcomed the presence of the bishop, others were firmly opposed to his leadership. This opposition was rooted in the struggle between the Royalists and the Venizelists, which divided not only the people of Greece but also the Greek immigrants in America. Both Metropolitan Meletios and Bishop Alexander were viewed by the Royalists as being closely associated with Venizelos and his republican political views. Therefore, the Royalists in America urged the priests to ignore the directives of the bishop, and they urged the faithful to disassociate themselves from priests who accepted the authority of the synodical representative.

Although Bishop Alexander had remained in the United States with the intention of uniting the Greek Orthodox parishes under his canonical authority, he rapidly discovered that many refused to accept his leadership. Politics, rather than canon law, had a greater influence upon the immigrants. A civil war among the Greek immigrants and division within the Greek Orthodox parishes had begun. This sad state of affairs would continue for about two decades.

The situation in the United States became even more acute following political changes in Greece. After the defeat of the Venizelos party in the election of 1 November 1920, the Royalists returned to power. Metropolitan Meletios was informed on 17 November 1920, in a letter from the minister of ecclesiastical affairs that Metropolitan Theokleitos was being restored to his see by royal order. Despite protests to Queen Olga and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan Meletios was forced to vacate his residence. Still claiming to be the legitimate Metropolitan of Athens, he left Greece and traveled to the United States in February 1921. Without regard for the decisions of the new Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, Metropolitan Meletios and Bishop Alexander continued to try to organize the Greek Orthodox parishes in America.117

Despite the division between the Royalists and the Venizelists, which continued to deepen, and the opposition of the new Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, Metropolitan Meletios and Bishop Alexander acted decisively to organize in a formal and legal manner the Greek Orthodox parishes in America. Through an encyclical dated 11 August 1921, Metropolitan Meletios called for the first Congress of Clergy and Laity of the parishes in America. This historic congress, held in New York on 13–15 September 1921, was the first time that clergy and lay representatives of the Greek Orthodox parishes from throughout the United States met together. The most important action of the congress was the establishment of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America.118

In order to give the new archdiocese a legal as well as an ecclesiastical authority, it was formally incorporated in the state of New York on 19 September 1921. According to the document of incorporation, the purposes of the archdiocese were:

To edify the religious and moral life of the Greek Orthodox Christians in North and South America on the basis of Holy Scripture, the rules and canons of the Holy Apostles and of the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the ancient undivided Church as they are or shall be actually interpreted by the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople and to exercise governing authority over and to maintain advisory relations with Greek Orthodox Churches throughout North and South America and to maintain spiritual and advisory relations with synods and other governing authorities of the said Church located elsewhere.119

New developments soon occurred in both America and Constantinople that further altered the direction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Less than two months after the organization of the new archdiocese, Metropolitan Meletios was elected Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on 25 November 1921.120 This dramatic turn of events was to have a monumental effect upon Orthodox Christianity in America. Although Metropolitan Meletios was chosen to become patriarch at a time when the Church of Constantinople was beset with many problems, he continued to have a profound concern for the Orthodox faithful in America. This is very clearly evident in his enthronement speech, which was delivered in the patriarchal Church of St. George on 8 February 1922. After reflecting upon the state of the Orthodox churches, the new patriarch spoke with much affection and with much vision for the church in America:

I saw the largest and the best of the Orthodox Church in the diaspora, and I understood how exalted the name of Orthodoxy could be, especially in the great country of the United States of America, if more than two million Orthodox people there were united into the one Church organization, an «American Orthodox Church.»121

Less than a month after his enthronement, Meletios and the Holy Synod of the church of Constantinople decided on 1 March 1922 to revoke the statement of 1908 that had placed the diaspora under temporary jurisdiction of the Church of Greece. Two months later, a new statement issued by Patriarch Meletios and the Holy Synod on 17 May 1922 canonically established the Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America as a province of the church of Constantinople. Bishop Alexander was subsequently appointed as the first archbishop.122


The establishment of the archdiocese in 1921, the election of Metropolitan Meletios as Patriarch of Constantinople, and the decision to restore the American parishes to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not immediately diminish the strife between the Royalists and the Venizelists in America. In fact, these great events may have contributed to further division.

Prior to these developments, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece acted to establish its authority over the Greek Orthodox parishes in America and to diminish the authority of then-Metropolitan Meletios and Bishop Alexander. In 1921, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece sent Metropolitan Germanos (Troianos) of Monemvasia and Lacedaemonos to be its exarch in the United States. The new exarch of the Church of Greece presented a serious challenge to the authority of Metropolitan Meletios and Bishop Alexander. Acting with the authority of both the Church of Greece and the government of Greece, Metropolitan Germanos sought to bring all priests and parishes under his authority.123 His presence, however, only contributed to the division among the Greek Orthodox parishes. Metropolitan Germanos extended his authority over about fifty parishes during his brief stay in the United States.124

As a consequence of improved relations between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of Greece, Metropolitan Germanos was recalled in 1923. With his return to Greece, the formal division of the Greek Orthodox in America into two rival ecclesiastical jurisdictions should have come to an end. But it did not. The division between the Royalists and the Venizelists in the United States persisted and also continued to manifest itself in the parishes. Under the leadership of Royalists, a small number of parishes continued to oppose the authority of Archbishop Alexander and the three newly consecrated bishops of the archdiocese: Bishop Philaret (Ioannides) of Chicago, Bishop Joachim (Alexopoulos) of Boston, and Bishop Kallistos (Papageorgakopoulos) of San Francisco.125

The schismatic movement was reinvigorated with the arrival in the United States in 1923 of Metropolitan Vasilios (Komvopoulos) of Chaldea. A strong supporter of the Royalist cause, this hierarch refused to accept his recent appointment as Metropolitan of Chaldea. Upon arriving in the United States, the metropolitan went to Lowell, Massachusetts, where the representatives of thirteen Royalist parishes proclaimed him to be the head of the autocephalous metropolis of America and Canada. Although the Ecumenical Patriarchate deposed Vasilios on 10 May 1924, he continued his activity in the United States and was viewed by the Royalists as a martyred hero. His qualities as a preacher, liturgist, and administrator aided him in his struggle against the authority of the canonical archdiocese.126

The introduction of the new calendar (revised Julian) in 1923 further aggravated the division in America. Following the lead of its mother church and in harmony with the Church of Greece, the canonical archdiocese adopted the new calendar and abandoned the old Julian calendar, which was thirteen days «behind.» This change, however, did not affect the manner of reckoning the date of Pascha (Easter). The rival metropolis under the leader of Metropolitan Vasilios retained the use of the old calendar. Thus, in addition to their political stance, the Royalist parishes also had an ecclesiastical issue to employ in their struggle against the archdiocese and patriarchate. The political views of the Royalists were merged with the religious views of the «old-calendarists,» and the union led to the increase of hostility. Among the Slavic Orthodox, the old calendar (Julian) generally continued to be followed both in this country and abroad.127

The division among the Greek Orthodox parishes continued without resolution until 1930. On 9 April of that year, Patriarch Photios II of Constantinople, with the support of Archbishop Chrysostomos of Athens, appointed Metropolitan Damaskinos (Papandreou) of Corinth as exarch to America.128 Having visited the United States in 1928 to collect the money for victims of the earthquake in Corinth, the metropolitan was well aware of the grave problems that afflicted the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its parishes. Following his arrival on 20 May 1930, Metropolitan Damaskinos began a series of meetings with clergy and laypersons. Being a highly respected hierarch who was admired for both his deep faith and his administrative ability, Metropolitan Damaskinos found support among many persons of both political persuasions. In accordance with his instructions, he formulated proposals to resolve the difficult situation and submitted these to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Based upon these recommendations, the Patriarchate, in cooperation with the Church of Greece, made two major decisions. First, Archbishop Alexander was relieved of his responsibilities. He was to be replaced by Metropolitan Athenagoras (Spirou) of Kerkyra, who was elected Archbishop of America on 13 August 1930. Second, all the bishops in America who had been involved in the dispute would be reassigned to new sees. Only Bishop Kallistos of San Francisco was permitted to remain in the United States to assist the new archbishop. While all the difficulties that afflicted the Greek Orthodox parishes in America were not resolved at once, these decisions provided a basis upon which reconciliation could take place.129


The Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America was also gravely afflicted by difficulties resulting from the political developments occurring in Europe following World War I. As we have seen, in the four decades prior to the war, the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese underwent a period of remarkable growth as a result of immigration and the return of Carpatho-Russian immigrants to the Orthodox Church. In addition to the parishes of these immigrants, the archdiocese also included a small number of parishes composed of either Arab, Serbian, Romanian, Albanian, or Bulgarian immigrants. Having about one hundred parishes in the continental United States by 1917, the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese had also established a number of institutions. Among these were the Theological Seminary in Minneapolis (1905); Saint Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania (1906); and the Holy Annunciation College for Women in Brooklyn, New York (1915).130

Following the revolution of 1917, however, the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America was thrust into economic and administrative chaos. The victory of the Bolsheviks, the disestablishment of the church, and the persecution of Patriarch Tikhon and the other hierarchs of the canonical church were the principal events that had a profound impact upon the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America, its constituent parishes, and the immigrant faithful.

The stability that the archdiocese enjoyed prior to the revolution was rooted in the intimate relations that it had with both the imperial government and the Church of Russia. Following the revolution, the relationship with the state was severed, and the relationship with the patriarchate was strained and eventually broken. Without the financial support that had come from the old imperial government and without reliable communication with the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese became afflicted with financial difficulties, internal dissension, and schism.131

Beginning during the war years, the voices of political dissent could be heard within the immigrant communities of the Russians in America. While most Russian Orthodox immigrants accepted the reality of the Russian monarchy and the relationship between the church and the imperial government, there was a small but vocal minority who publicly advocated socialistic principles. They also challenged the authority of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America, which they viewed as the representative of the imperial government. The Russian Socialist Party, which was associated with the American Socialist Party, had chapters in most of the major cities of the United States where there was a sizable number of Russian immigrants. At its first convention in 1915, there were eighteen chapters with about 300 members. Within only two years, the membership had more than doubled in size. The meetings of the local chapters were usually held on Sunday morning and featured lecturers who spoke not only in favor of socialistic principles but also against the church. With the coming of the revolution of 1917, these dissidents became even more critical of the clergy and hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America.132

As a direct consequence of the Bolshevik victory in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America was plunged into a twofold crisis of leadership and financial instability that was complicated by the activities of the political dissidents. On the eve of the revolution, Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky), the primate of the archdiocese, left the United States to attend the All-Russian Council, which opened on 15 August 1917. Prior to his departure, the archbishop had entrusted the administration of the archdiocese to Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) of Canada. Following the council and the revolution, Archbishop Evdokim never returned to America. He subsequently joined the Living Church movement in 1922. When the report reached America that the archbishop would not return, a council of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese was held on 12–15 February 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio. At this council, Bishop Alexander was formally elected the ruling archbishop of the archdiocese. However, his election was not confirmed by Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow until 27 August 1920.133

Despite his good intention, Archbishop Alexander was not able to bring harmony to the archdiocese, which was plagued by dissension and financial instability. Prior to the revolution, the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in America had received its financial support from the imperial government. In the year 1916, for example, $550,000 was received of the $1 million that had been requested. With the Bolshevik victory, however, all financial aid from Russia ended. Moreover, by 1919, the archdiocese had a debt that exceeded $200,000. In an effort to reduce the debt and to pay clergy salaries, Archbishop Alexander weakened his position by making some poor financial decisions. He resorted to making additional loans and to mortgaging church property. Both of these actions were not approved by many laypersons and priests, who began to charge the archbishop with gross mismanagement.

Recognizing that the situation was beyond his control, Archbishop Alexander resigned his position on 7 June 1921 and turned over the administration of the archdiocese to Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky), who had recently returned to the United States as a refugee. Archbishop Alexander left America for Europe on 20 June 1920. After spending some time in Constantinople and on Mount Athos, he was appointed archbishop of Brussels and Belgium.134

The Third Council of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese was held 5–9 November 1922 in Pittsburgh. Recognizing the decision of Archbishop Alexander, the delegates elected Metropolitan Platon as ruling hierarch of the archdiocese and invested him with the title Metropolitan of All America and Canada. Well known by many of the delegates, Metropolitan Platon had been archbishop of the archdiocese from 1907 to 1914. He became archbishop of Kishinev and Khotin in Russia in 1914 and was subsequently made Metropolitan of Kherson and Odessa. With the defeat of the White Army during the Russian civil war, Metropolitan Platon left Russian and went to Constantinople. There, he joined with other exiled bishops in establishing the Highest Russian Church Administration Abroad in 1920. He had returned to the United States initially to seek the support of the American government against the Bolsheviks.135


The authority of Metropolitan Platon was not recognized by all. Following the departure of Archbishop Alexander, Bishop Stephen (Dzubay) of Pittsburgh claimed that he was the rightful primate of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese. He charged that Patriarch Tikhon had not formally approved the transfer of Metropolitan Platon to America. Indeed, there was no formal documentation of the appointment of Metropolitan Platon. However, most believed that Patriarch Tikhon had given his oral permission for the appointment of Metropolitan Platon through a representative of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese who had been in Moscow in 1922. Bishop Stephen, however, did not accept this and became the leader of approximately sixty Carpatho-Russian parishes, which for a number of years had refused to recognize the authority of Metropolitan Platon.136

Another serious challenge to the authority of Metropolitan Platon came from the representatives of the Living Church movement in the United States. Beginning 1922–1923, a group of clergy sought to gain control of the Moscow Patriarchate with the covert support of the Soviet government. This schismatic group, which came to be known as the Renovated or Living Church, received the support of some bishops and began to introduce ecclesiastical reforms. Chief among these was the introduction of a married episcopacy. Hierarchs of the Living Church consecrated Father John Kedrovsky as their archbishop of America on 9 October 1923 in Moscow. He was a married priest from America and had been suspended in 1918 by Archbishop Alexander. Following his return to the United States, he became the leader of about twenty priests and a small number of faithful.137

With formal documentation from the Living Church synod in Moscow, Archbishop John Kedrovsky sought to take control of the Russian Orthodox parishes in the United States through the process of litigation. Although he was generally unsuccessful in his legal efforts, he did manage to gain control of the historic St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York City by a court decision in 1926. The control of the cathedral remained in the hands of his followers until 1943. This court decision was a critical blow to the authority and prestige of Metropolitan Platon.138

During the course of his struggle against the dissident cleric, Metropolitan Platon received a letter from Patriarch Tikhon dated 16 January 1924 that was to have great impact upon Russian Orthodoxy in the United States. The letter declared:

As we have data proving that the Metropolitan of North America has engaged in public acts of counterrevolution directed against the Soviet Power and of harmful consequences to the Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Platon will be dismissed from the government of the North American Diocese from the day on which this present decree is announced to him.

The choice of a candidate for the North American Hierarchical See will be the object of special discussion. It will be his duty personally to announce this decision to Metropolitan Platon and to take over from him all the Church property, governing the North American Diocese according to special instructions which will be given to him. Metropolitan Platon will be invited to come to Moscow to put himself at the disposal of the Patriarch.139

Not long after this decree was made public, the Fourth Council of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese was held in Detroit 2–4 April 1924. The delegates were confronted with the serious dissension in the archdiocese, the threat of the Living Church movement, and the recent patriarchal decree. In the light of all of this, the delegates made two major decisions. First, the delegates reconfirmed the election of Metropolitan Platon as ruling hierarch of the archdiocese. Second, the delegates resolved «to declare the Russian Orthodox Church in America a self-governed Church so that it be governed by its own elected Archbishop by means of a Council of Bishops, a council of those elected by the clergy and laity, and periodic Councils of the entire American Church.»140 The delegates also stipulated that «spiritual contact and communion» with the Church of Russia should not be broken despite the decision to break administrative ties. From this time, the Russian Orthodox archdiocese of North America and the Aleutian Islands came to be known formally as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church or, simply, the Metropolia.141

The decision of the delegates at the council of 1924 to proclaim the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese to be autonomous was not an easy one. Yet, it was made by them with the belief that the Patriarchate of Moscow was not in a position to oversee the dioceses outside Russia at that time and with the hope that the action would strengthen the position of Metropolitan Platon against the activity of schismatic groups.

In order to substantiate their decision, the delegates based their action upon a decree issued by Patriarch Tikhon on 20 November 1920. This decree provided instruction for diocesan bishops to follow in the event that communication with the patriarchate was severed because of the Russian civil war. While the decree was not designed to deal with dioceses outside Russia, it became a basis for the dramatic action of the Metropolia.142

The council of 1924 helped to strengthen the position of Metropolitan Platon, but it did not prevent further divisions. Within ten years of the council, two significant events occurred.

First, the Russian Orthodox Synod Outside of Russia, also known as the Karlovtsy Synod or the Synod Abroad, established a rival diocese in the United States in 1927. Composed initially of about twenty parishes, this diocese was led by Archbishop Apollinary (Koshevoy), who had been at one time a vicar bishop of Metropolitan Platon. Made up of bishops who fled Russia after the civil war, the Karlovtsy Synod claimed jurisdiction over the entire Russian diaspora. Both in Western Europe and in America, this diocese attracted those Russians emigres who were loyal to the monarchy and looked forward to the destruction of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union.

As a church organization, the Karlovtsy Synod Abroad was formally established by White Russian clergy and laity who fled their homeland in the wake of the Communist revolution and Russian civil war. In the company of thousands of refugees, some Russian bishops who had abandoned their dioceses in Russia fled to Constantinople in 1920. The Patriarchate of Constantinople provided assistance for these refugees in its schools, orphanages, and hospitals. On 20 December 1920, the patriarchate granted the Russian clergy limited canonical authority to minister to the refugees in the Archdiocese of Constantinople. Based upon this, the emigre bishops established an organization known as the Highest Ecclesiastical Administration of the Russian Church Abroad in Constantinople in 1921.143

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev, the leader of the exile bishops, decided to move the organization to Sremsky-Karlovtsy in Serbia in 1921 at the invitation of the Patriarch of Serbia. On 18 August 1921, the Church of Serbia permitted the exile Russian clergy to establish their administration within the canonical boundaries of the Church of Serbia and under its supervision. At Sremski-Karlovtsy, the Russian exiles held a council in 1921. There they called for the restoration of the Romanov monarchy in Russia. They also urged the European nations to arm the exiles so that they could return to Russia and overthrow the Communists.144

Recognizing the extreme political character of the administration, the beleaguered Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and the synod of the Church of Russia denounced the statements of the Karlovtsy Council and formally abolished the administration in a letter dated 22 April (5 May) 1922.145

The exile bishops accepted the decision, but they established a Temporary Episcopal Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1922. This new organization was established on the basis of the 1920 decree of Patriarch Tikhon. As we have noted, this decree addressed the situation of dioceses in Russia that lost touch with the patriarchate during the civil war. The decree permitted the temporary association of neighboring diocesan bishops in Russia to deal with church affairs until normal communications were restored with the patriarchate. While the decree was not intended to apply to their situation, the exiled Russian bishops used this document to justify their new organization and to circumvent the earlier decision of Patriarch Tikhon.

In the period prior to his death, the beleaguered Patriarch Tikhon appears to have authored another document that opposed the activities of the emigre bishops. Known as the Last Testament, the document appeared after the death of Patriarch Tikhon on 25 March (7 April) 1925. Here, the patriarch clearly opposed the existence and action of the Karlovtsy Synod in no uncertain terms.146

The members of the Karlovtsy Synod refused to have any type of relationship with the Patriarchate of Moscow after 1927. They held that the official church in Russia had become a tool of the Communist regime. Thus, they forcefully affirmed the conviction that their jurisdiction was the authentic Russian Orthodox Church «in Exile.»147

Second, Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov) came to the United States in 1933 as the exarch of the Moscow Patriarchate. After Metropolitan Platon refused to profess loyalty to the Soviet government as had been requested, Metropolitan Benjamin was appointed Archbishop of the Aleutian Islands and North America by Metropolitan Sergius, the acting locum tenens of the Patriarchate of Moscow, on 22 November 1933. This followed the formal suspension of Metropolitan Platon, which occurred on 16 August 1933. While only a few parishes initially joined the «exarchate» under Metropolitan Benjamin, he claimed to be the legal and canonical representative of the Patriarchate of Moscow. This diocese attracted those who believed that the Russian Orthodox Church in America had to maintain a canonical relationship with the Patriarchate of Moscow.148

By 1933, therefore, the Russian Orthodox in America were tragically divided. Four major Russian Orthodox jurisdictions claimed to be the rightful and legitimate successor of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese that existed in America prior to the Russian revolution of 1917 and that traced its origin to the Alaskan mission. In terms of size, these were the Metropolia, the exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate, the diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and the diocese associated with the Living Church movement. Each of these four jurisdictions had very different perspectives on the relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church in America to the Church in Russia.


The development of a separate jurisdiction for Arab Orthodox was accompanied by many peculiar features. As early as 1904, Bishop Raphael (Hawaweeny) had been consecrated to care for the Arab immigrants within the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese, a task begun as early as 1896. However, after 1915, the visiting Metropolitan Germanos (Shehadi) of Zahle in the Patriarchate of Antioch sought to draw the immigrants away from the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese. His followers, known as Antacky (pro-Antiochian), were opposed to the leadership of Bishop Aftimios (Ofiech), the successor of Bishop Raphael. They were known as Russy (pro-Russian). The former controlled about eighteen parishes, and the latter about forty.149

The Patriarchate of Antioch directly entered the situation in 1922, when it dispatched its first official observer, Metropolitan Gerasimos (Messara). He consecrated Archbishop Victor (Abo-Assaley) as the first bishop of the Syrian (Antiochian) Orthodox Archdiocese in 1924. Division among the Arab-speaking immigrants continued, however. In 1936, two rival groups of Russian bishops consecrated Archbishop Antony (Bashir) in New York and Archbishop Samuel (David) in Toledo, Ohio. The Patriarchate of Antioch eventually recognized both bishops and their parishes and permitted the two jurisdictions to function side by side. This situation remained in effect until a unified Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese was established in 1975.150


The internal difficulties that afflicted the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Antiochian Orthodox in this country, combined with a growing sense of nationalism among the immigrants, had a profound impact upon the other Orthodox parishes and ethnic groups.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople claimed authority over the developing church in America on the basis of canon law and ancient ecclesiastical practices. However, the tremendous difficulties that the Greek immigrants experienced throughout the early decades of this century demanded the full attention of the patriarchate. This meant that the patriarchate was not in a position to deal with the various other Orthodox immigrant groups and to unite them into a single ecclesiastical province as had been envisioned by Patriarch Melitios in 1922.

As we have seen, the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese had made an attempt to gather the Serbian, Syrian, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Albanian immigrants and their parishes under its authority during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Leaders such as Archbishop Tikhon attempted to devise a creative plan that would recognize ethnic differences but also maintain administrative unity among the Orthodox under the aegis of the Church of Russia.

However, the emphasis upon Russian nationalism and the attempts at Russification advocated by some leaders of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese, such as Metropolitan Evdokim (Mischersky), combined with a sense of nationalism among the other immigrants, provided a basis for alienation between the Russian and non-Russian members of the archdiocese. This was further compounded by the difficulties that the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese experienced in the wake of the Russian revolution.

The Serbian parishes, which numbered about thirty-six, were organized into a diocese by the Patriarchate of Serbia in 1921. From 1920 to 1921, these parishes received leadership from Bishop Nikolaj (Velimirovich). Their first formal resident bishop was Mardarije (Uskokovich), who was assigned in 1927.151

The Romanians, with about forty parishes at the time, entered into a relationship with the Archbishop of Sibiu in Romania in 1923 and were organized into a diocese in 1930 by the Patriarchate of Bucharest. Bishop Polycarp (Morusca) was assigned to be the resident bishop in 1935.152

The Albanians, with three parishes, were organized into a diocese associated with the Church of Albania by Metropolitan Theophan (Noli) in 1932. As a priest, Father Noli had begun to organize the Albanian immigrants as early as 1908. Although he was elected a bishop in 1918, he was not consecrated until 1923 in Albania. Bishop Theofan permanently returned to the United States in 1931.153

The Bulgarians, with only five parishes, established a relationship with their mother church in 1922 and were finally organized into a diocese by the Church of Bulgaria in 1938. The diocese was led initially by Bishop Andrey (Velichky).154

Ukrainian immigrants, considering themselves ethnically and linguistically distinct from both Russians and Carpatho-Russians, organized parishes, especially after 1918. These Ukrainian immigrants came from Galicia, a non-Hungarian province of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. When they arrived in America, most were Eastern-Rite Roman Catholics whose union with Rome dated from the Union of Brest in 1596. Like many of the Carpatho-Russians, a number of Ukrainians began to join the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese after their arrival in this country. Because of their growing sense of Ukrainian nationalism as well as the unwillingness of some Russian Orthodox leaders to recognize legitimate diversity in liturgical language and customs, the Ukrainian parishes gradually began to separate from the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese. In 1924, they organized an independent diocese under the leadership of Father John Theodorovich. He claimed to have been consecrated a bishop in Kiev. However, because of a question related to the status of those who consecrated him, Father John Theodorovich's ordination as a bishop was not recognized by other Orthodox churches. Because of this, the clergy and parishes associated with him had little contact with other Orthodox jurisdictions.155

The Ecumenical Patriarchate acted to establish a diocese for Ukrainian parishes and Carpatho-Russian parishes that left the Roman Catholic Church and entered Orthodoxy. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States, with about fifty parishes, was established in 1931. Under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Father Bogdan Spilka was consecrated as its bishop in 1937.156 The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic diocese was established in 1938 with Bishop Orestes (Chornock) as its bishop. At that time it contained about forty parishes.157

Writing in 1927, Archbishop Aftimios of Brooklyn emphasized the tragic consequences of the lack of jurisdictional unity when he said:

With a possible three million or even greater number of communicants residing in North America, the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church should be one of the major religious bodies in America. That it is not is due solely to the failure of its responsible leaders to come together as one Orthodox Catholic body for the organization of the Church in this country.... Though the Orthodox Church boasts a litany in her daily Divine Services beseeching God «for the peace of the Churches and the union of them all,» she is herself in America the most outstanding example of the disastrous effects of disunion, disorder, secret strife, and open warfare that this country of divided and warring sects can offer.158

The concerns of Archbishop Aftimios and others led to an attempt to establish the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America in 1927. Known popularly as the American Orthodox Catholic Church, this jurisdiction was designed initially to bring greater unity to a number of ethnic dioceses and to have special concern for Orthodox faithful born in America who were primarily English-speaking. Its organization had the formal support of Metropolitan Platon of the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese and the five other bishops of that jurisdiction. Much of the direction for the new jurisdiction came from Father Boris Burden and Father Michael Gelsinger. They had a genuine concern for making the Orthodox Church better known within American society. They were also concerned with the fact that many Orthodox young people were being attracted to the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church.

Despite the noble intentions of some of those involved in the new jurisdiction, it never received recognition from any of the mother churches. It also became afflicted with internal divisions. Metropolitan Platon of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia eventually distanced himself from the new organization. This led to serious tensions between him and Archbishop Aftimios.

In an effort to bolster the status of the new jurisdiction, Archbishop Aftimios began to consecrate others to the episcopacy. Father Sophronios Bashira was consecrated bishop of Los Angeles in 1928. Father Joseph Zuk was consecrated a bishop in 1932 and served about twelve Ukrainian parishes, which returned to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism. Father Ignatius Nichols was also consecrated bishop of Washington in 1932. He eventually disassociated himself from Archbishop Aftimios and became associated with other church groups claiming to be related to the Orthodox Church. After losing a court battle to Metropolitan Platon over control of his cathedral in Brooklyn in 1932, Archbishop Aftimios had few supporters. The plans for a unified church fell victim to the same tensions and conflicts that afflicted the ethnic dioceses in the 1930s.159

The difficulties attendant to the development of these parallel diocesan jurisdictions were great. With each wave of immigration, the disputes of the Old World often were manifested in the church life of the Orthodox in America. Although they were united in the same faith, the Orthodox were divided into numerous ecclesiastical jurisdictions. The establishment of these ethnic or even political dioceses, rather than genuine territorial dioceses, may have served the short-term needs of the immigrants. The practice, however, contravened traditional Orthodox polity and canon law.

These developments in America came a little more than fifty years after a historic council in Constantinople in 1872 dealt with very similar concerns. In the midst of the development of new regional autocephalous churches in the Balkans, this council condemned «ethnophylitism,» sometimes translated as nationalism or tribalism, as a basis for the organization of the church. The council affirmed that the church in each place must be organized in such a manner that it includes all the believers in a particular region regardless of their ethnic or linguistic differences. A diocese or even a collection of dioceses by very definition, therefore, cannot be created to serve only a particular racial or ethnic group of believers to the exclusion of other believers. On the contrary, in order to reflect the gospel, which calls all to unity in Christ, a diocese must bring together all the believers in a given territory without regard to their specific particularities.160

The decision of this council simply reflected traditional Orthodox teachings regarding the church and its bishops. According to Orthodox canon law, it is expected that there be one bishop in each city or region, that this bishop serve all the Orthodox in his territory, that the bishops of a given province form a synod, and that one among them be recognized as the primate. As the head of a diocese, each bishop is meant to be a sign of unity.161

The period after World War I saw the Orthodox in America subdivided into a number of ecclesiastical jurisdictions. While these jurisdictions were structured as dioceses or archdioceses, each served a particular ethnic group. Although they were united in the same faith, they were tragically divided in a very real way. Clearly, there was an absence of true administrative unity, which should have reflected their unity in faith. From that time onward, the Orthodox appeared to give the impression that there was a variety of Orthodox denominations. Referring to this development, Father John Meyendorff says:

The multiplicity of jurisdictions is the fruit of the religious nationalism which was so wide spread between the two World Wars. This nationalism found fertile ground in certain aspects of the American social structure… In the case of the Orthodox, religious nationalism imported from Europe was superimposed on the American social strata. The result is that often the «Russian Orthodox» is thought to belong to a different denomination from the «Greek Orthodox.»162

By 1933, there were at least twelve separate Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States. All claimed to profess the same Orthodox faith. But, there was very little contact or practical cooperation among them. This peculiar pattern of multiple and parallel ecclesiastical jurisdictions was alien to traditional Orthodox practice and contrary to canon law. However, the unparalleled immigration of Orthodox to America, combined with linguistic differences, cultural barriers, and Old World differences, led to the establishment of dioceses and archdioceses that gathered together the parishes serving the needs of particular ethnic groups. By 1933, the existence of parallel ethnic dioceses had become an unfortunate but characteristic feature of American Orthodoxy.

* * *


Theodore Saloutos, The Greeks in the United States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), p. 281.


Theokletos Strangas, Ekklesiastike Historia ek Pegon Apseudon, 1817–1967 (Athens: Papadoyanne, 1969), Vol. 2, pp. 845–850; George Papaioannou, From Mars Hill to Manhattan (Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1976), pp. 30–32.


Basil Zoustis, O en Ameriki Ellenismos kai e Drusis aftou (New York: D. C. Dirvy, 1953), pp. 117–125.


Ibid., pp. 126–129.


Ibid., pp. 132–133.


«Certificate of Incorporation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America,» Archives, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, New York.


See Basil Istravidis, «O Oikoumenikos Patriarches Meletios (1921–1923),» Theologia 47 (1976): 159–176.


Ekklesiastike Aletheia 42 (1922): 30. A portion of the text is translated in St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 5 1–2(1961): 114.


«Patriarchkos kai Synodos Tomos,» Ekklesiastike Aletheia 42 (1922): 190; Papaioannou, From Mars Hill to Manhattan, pp. 33–34.


Stragas, Ekklesiastike Historia, vol. 2, pp. 988–991.


Saloutos, The Greeks in the United States, p. 285.


Ibid., 290–291.


Strangas, Ekklesiastike Historia, vol. 2, pp. 168–172; Zoustis, O en Ameriki Ellinismos, p. 187.


In various forms, a number of Greek old calendar parishes and dioceses have continued to exist.


Orthodoxia 5 (1930): 131; Zoustis, O en Ameriki Ellenismos, pp. 188–189: Saloutos, The Greeks in America, pp. 298–304.


Papaioannou, From Mars Hill to Manhattan, pp. 37–40.


Basil Benson, The Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America (New York: Colonial, 1941), pp. 15–17.


Dimitry Grigorieff, «The Historical Background of Orthodoxy in America,» St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 5:1–2 (1961): 13.


Ibid., pp. 14–18.


Ibid., p. 128.


Constance Tarasar and John Erickson, eds., Orthodox America: 1794–1976 (Syosset, N.Y.: Orthodox Church in America, 1975), pp. 128–129.


Ibid., p. 128.


Grigorieff, «The Historical Background of Orthodoxy in America,» p. 20.


«The Archdiocese of North America and the Aleutian Islands,» in Inventory of Church Archives in New York City, Eastern Orthodox Churches, ed. Charles Baker (New York: Historical Records Survey, 1940): 62–67.


For an analysis of the Living Church movement, see Sergius Troitsky, «The Living Church,» in Religion in Soviet Russia, ed. William Emhardt (Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1929), pp. 298–379.


«Decision of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon and the Sacred Synod, January 16, 1924,» in Serafim Surrency, The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America (New York: Saints Boris and Gleb Press, 1973), p. A125.


Ibid., p.A126.


Alexander Bogolepov, Toward an American Orthodox Church (New York: Morehouse Barlow, 1963), pp. 78–83.


David Abramtsov, «The November 1920 Decree and Russian Orthodoxy Abroad,» One Church 25:5 (1971): 202–204.


Michael Rodzianko, The Truth About the Russian Church Abroad (Jordanville, N.Y.: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1975), p. 8. For the limitations placed upon the Russian bishops, see Echoes d "Orient 23 (1924): 365; Tserkovnya Viedomosti 15–16 (1924): 7–8.


Nicholas Zernov, «The Schism Within the Russian Church in the Diaspora: Its Causes and the Hopes of a Reconciliation,» Eastern Churches Review 7:1 (1975): 63. For the official account of the conference, see Dieianiia Russkago Vsegranichnago Tserkovnago Sobra (Sremski-Karlovtsy, 1922). The views of the Russian emigres are discussed in Robert Williams, Culture in Exile: Russian Emigres in Germany, 1881–1941 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972).


«Letter from Archbishop Thaddeus to Metropolitan Evlogius, April 22, 1922,» St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 19:1 (1975): 53–55.


The full text can be found in Matthew Spinka, The Church and the Russian Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 1927), pp. 285–290.


See I. M. Andrreev, Kratkii Obzor Istorii Russkoi Tserkvi ot Revoliutsii do Nashikh Dnei (Jordanville, N.Y.: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1961).


Grigorieff, «The Historical Background of Orthodoxy in America,» pp. 31–33.


William Essey, "The Antacky-Russy Dilemma,» The Word 9 (1976): 7–9.


Surrency, The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America, pp. 110–111.


Ibid., p. 108.


Ibid., p. 105.


Ibid, pp. 92–93.


Ibid., pp. 94–95.


Ibid., p. 112.


Ibid., pp. 112–113.


See Lawrence Barringer, Good Victory (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1985).


Archbishop Aftimios, «Present and Future of Orthodoxy in America in Relation to Other Bodies and to Orthodox Abroad,» Orthodox Catholic Review 1:4–5 (1927): 145.


Surrency, The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America, pp. 38–40. A valuable review of various groups is offered in John Bacon, «Orthodoxy and Canonicity» (Th.M. thesis, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Mass., 1992).


Metropolitan Maximos of Sardis, The Oecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church (Thessaloniki: Patriarchal Institute, 1976), pp. 303–309.


John Meyendorff, «One Bishop in One City,» St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 5:1–2 (1961): 54–61.


John Meyendorff, «Orthodoxy in the U.S.A.,» in Orthodoxy: A Sign from God (Athens: Zoe, 1964), p. 355.

Источник: The Orthodox Church Denominations in America / Thomas E. FitzGerald - ABC-Clio, 1995. - 184 / 182 p. ISBN 0275964388

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