Saturday, January 15, 2005

Eastern churches
All three American parts of the Russian Orthodox Church send clergy to Christmas party at Russian consulate in New York
They are the Church of Russia, the Orthodox Church in America (Russian dioceses in America founded before the Russian Revolution in 1917; declared independent in 1970 by the Church of Russia after years of de facto independence after the Revolution) and the Russian Church Abroad, the New York-based (since 1949) synod of bishops in exile started in 1920 after the Soviet takeover in Russia.

In the fourth photo down are, from left, the Very Revd Andrei Sommer of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign, New York, Russian Church Abroad, OCA chancellor the Very Revd Robert Kondratick, Fr Serafim Gan, chancery, Russian Church Abroad, Church of Russia Bishop Merkury of Zaraisk (actually the exarch for America, based in New York), Russian Church Abroad Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan, Fr Joseph, a hieromonk, of the Church of Russia and Fr Deacon Vladimir Tsurikov of the Russian Church Abroad. (Many thanks to blog visitor Justin for giving me a link with all the names.)

Хорошо! Wonderful!

Some of you might be asking, ‘Why are there three Russian Orthodox churches in America?’

The short answer is the Russian Revolution fragmented it.

The slightly (I promise!) longer answer is a story in four parts.

Part I: The Russian Orthodox have been in America since 1794 when they set up a colony in Alaska (sold to the US in 1867) and a fort and trading post in northern California (Fort ‘Ross’, really Русь). There are some Orthodox Tlingit Indians (a tribe hostile to Christianity at first) and Russian-Aleut* creoles in Alaska to this day. They also ministered to Russian expats in the Pacific Rim city of San Francisco (which has a Russian Hill section) and farther away in New York.

Part II: The Ruthenian immigrant schism, as described briefly in the link ‘the Russian Revolution fragmented it’. Their descendents are 60% of the people in the old Russian dioceses today — not Russians! And they’re centred in America’s old industrial Rust Belt in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ruthenian immigration to America really ended with World War I.

Part III: The Russian Revolution. See the link again. The Russian dioceses under a metropolitan archbishop were left leaderless as it became impossible for the persecuted Church of Russia to govern them. Meanwhile in 1920 in Serbia some escaped Russian bishops started a synod in exile for Russians abroad. The Americans went under them for a while in the 1930s but in 1946 voted for de facto independence temporarily until, they hoped, the Communists fell.

Part IV: World War II. Right after it, 1) the Soviet Union sent a bishop to America who ordered all the Russian Orthodox to go under him. He picked up a few parishes but most said nyet (see above). And... 2) the synod in exile, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad or Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), moved from Munich to New York in 1949 bringing congregations of Russians fleeing the USSR.

(ROCOR were upset that the American sees had just left them and there was a culture clash between Russians and Americans.)

Hence, three Russian Orthodox churches in the same turf. They’re all small and essentially the same, only the now-OCA are Americanized (after all most never were Russian and have been American for three or four generations!), using a slightly modified version of the Russian recension of the Byzantine Rite (most use the Western calendar for fixed-date feasts for example, and note Fr Robert above hasn’t got a beard but has a Roman collar).

P.S. Props to the OCA, the one with the Byzantine Catholic strain in its background, for being the one that shows up at pro-life functions. Connexion?

*Catholic cultures intermarried with the natives. Witness Latin America.

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