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Orthodox Christianity in USA

Author: Fr. J. Jacobse
May 10, 2010
Excerpts of the article entitled: “The Changing Face of Orthodox Christianity in America”


ART. 4
26-28 MAY 2010 NEW YORK

(Catholic Online)  In a few weeks Orthodox bishops will meet in New York to discuss changes that may permanently transform the public face of Orthodox Christianity in America. The meeting is largely under the public radar, so low in fact that few Orthodox believers are even aware of it. How do we understand its importance?  …

… We have today [in America] a very loose federation of Orthodox Churches divided along ethnic lines where each ethnicity has its own bishop. It creates all sorts of canonical anomalies including multiple bishops in one city that undermine the public witness, internal health, and cultural contributions of Orthodox Christians in America.

… No substantive theological divisions exist between the Orthodox jurisdictions even though they remain administratively divided along ethnic lines. Further, in many cities the divisions are more formal than material since the second and third generations self-identify as Americans more than they do with their grandparents’ country of origin. There the local parishes cooperate in catechesis programs, social outreach, youth and summer camp programs, and so forth even though each reports to a separate bishop.

… Recall what Roman Catholicism [in America] was a hundred years ago. There were Polish Catholics, Irish Catholics, German Catholics, Italian Catholics and others. A good Pole for example, would gravitate to the parish of his ethnic compatriots half a city away even though there was an Irish Catholic Church right down the block. Today those divisions don’t exist…

… The American Orthodox bishops made a self-directed attempt at unity about ten years ago at what is now called the “Ligonier Conference.” They decided to unify the ethnic churches into one American Orthodox Church. The Patriarch of Constantinople disagreed and forced the retirement of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop in order to derail it. Most people thought Ligonier was dead. Ten years later it looks like the train left the station anyway. Moscow is rising in authority and leads the effort to correct the American anomaly thereby completing the work they started over two centuries ago. Last year the Patriarchs of Orthodox churches the world over met in council at Chambesy, Switzerland to lay the groundwork for the New York meeting at end of this month.

One reason for the reluctance of Orthodox bishops to publicize the meeting is that no one really knows what will come of it. They have no historical precedents to guide them. The Orthodox change slowly, sometimes interminably so, and no one is willing to offer any predictions or promises. If it succeeds, even incrementally, the public face of Orthodoxy in America will be much different down the road…

3 Comments to “Orthodox Christianity in USA”

  1. Administrator Says:

    The author explains that the Orthodoxy in America is often structured on an ethnic basis that does not correspond with the canons and does not allow it to make important contributions a local Church could otherwise make, and this because the Church should have only one Bishop for one city. Too many Bishops and structures overlap each other.

    The author gives the example of the Roman Catholic Church in America 100 years ago. There were parishes ethnic parishes then, but with time they entered into canonical and territorial order.

  2. Administrator Says:

    Autorul explica ca de multe ori biserica ortodoxa in America are structuri bazate pe etnii care nu corespund cu canoanele si chiar bunul mers al bisericii locale, fiindca ar trebui sa existe numai un Episcop pentru un oras. Prea multi Episcopi si prea multe structuri se suprapun.

    Autorul da ca exemplu, Biserica Romano Catolica in America de acum 100 de ani. Existau parohii etnice atunci, dar cu timpul, au intrat in ordinea canonica si teritoriala.

  3. Fr. Gregory-Francis DesMarais Says:

    as posted on regarding: ‘Orthodox Christianity in USA’

    An interesting thumbnail article, Fr. Hans. People can appreciate the simplicity and direct comment approach. For those of us who are called to teach about the Church it can serve as a springboard article.

    One comment concerning the “national parishes” in the Roman Catholic Church. I was born in a city that had perhaps 20 “national” parishes at that time. I was baptised in the French Canadian parish which was across the steet and up a bit from the “Irish” parish. What we all came to understand later on was that the “Irish” parish was the geographic parish, and that there were 3 or 4 ‘national’ parishes within the canonical parish boundaries. The city - Worcester, MA, the French parish was St. Joseph and the “Irish” parish was St. Stephen. I think they are still both open, but the neighborhood has changed. The point to be made is that the “canonical” parishes were almost always the “Irish” parishes.

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