Friday, July 19, 2013

Is one American Orthodox church possible?

Since the Russians were here first, the OCA’s the canonical Orthodox church. (The old Russian metropolia from before the revolution.) Most parishes would be Greek, since most American Orthodox are Greek, but under the OCA with everybody else. Probably unworkable at least because of different languages, reinforced by immigration, but it makes sense on paper. Would uniting American Orthodox in one jurisdiction, strictly following Orthodoxy's rule on that, be possible or desirable, and if it’s possible, what would it look like? Is American Orthodoxy American enough now to pull that off? Will it be? If you can integrate the Greek majority into the smaller Slavic church, you’d have an American Orthodox church with normal dioceses. The current situation’s not a schism so it’s not a big deal in Orthodoxy.

Whatever happens with that, they lose newer generations as they Americanize, so they’ll keep shrinking; the question is how much.

Related: Eastern Christianity in greater Philadelphia. It started in the late 1800s with the Ruthenians at Holy Ghost then on Passyunk Avenue.


  1. My guess is: no, impossible. I know little about the Orthodox in North America, but a lot about ethnic Catholic parishes and ritual Catholic Churches in the U.S. a) Now and then Latin Catholic dioceses still meet with tremendous resistance when they try to close an ethnic Catholic parish or merge it with a "melting-pot" parish. How much more difficult would it be to merge the various brands of Russian-and-other-Slavic Orthodox, who have huge political and historical differences? b) The Ukrainian Catholic and Ruthenian Catholic Churches in North American still have their respective hierarchies, even though their language and culture are virtually identical. Could the Orthodox, anywhere, ever be more homogeneous than the Catholics?!

    1. Good points. Happened to my parish when the archdiocese suppressed St Donato's, merging it with us. The Italians to their credit didn't want to give up their old neighborhood parish so it's still a 'worship site' having Mass once a week as far as I know. The OCA has both its Slavic-American (Ruthenian/Ukrainian descendants of ex-Greek Catholics) base and a few Russian immigrants who are a lot like ROCOR's base; the big challenge would be putting the relatively big number of Greek Orthodox under what's now the little Slavic church, the OCA, since the latter has the canonical claim to North America. Ruthenians and Ukrainians are essentially the same but Ruthenians aren't nationalistic and stopped immigrating here before WWI; they're Americans. The Ukrainians are a mix of the Americanized and WWII refugees, much more nationalistic and less American. But as both's numbers go down I can see the Ruthenians folded into the Ukrainian Catholic Church. (Rome separated them in America in 1924 because the two immigrant groups didn't get along.)

    2. Or all of them (Romanians/Ruthenians/Ukrainians - Russian Catholic parishes, etc.) folded in under the Melkite patriarchate of Antioch. Some such solution is inevitable -- but I expect the Ukrainians would resist it to the end, or at least until their metropolia has to face their dioceses going bankrupt.

  2. You make the fine distinction between Ruthenians and Ukrainians (of whom yours truly is one) neatly and accurately. I would just add that there was a post-1989 immigration of Ukrainians also, although a small percentage of them are churchgoing Catholics. (I would guess that those young families who are already had "anchor relatives" in the U.S.)
    A forerunner of the "folding in" process that you foresee: the major Ruthenian "fraternal financial association" going back to the early 1900's recently merged with the (Ukr. Cath.) Providence Association (which just celebrated its centennial).


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