Church Landscape Begins to Change in North America

Ed. We tend to avoid speculation at AOI blog but this tidbit caught our eye. HT: Orthodox England.

As a result of a teleconference on 1 July, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America has divided its Washington and New York Diocese into two. This means that it has changed the title of its head, Metropolitan Jonah. He is now to be known as ‘Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of all America and Canada’.

This change means that there is now no overlap between Metropolitan Jonah’s title and that of Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America.

This appears to be the beginning of further profound transformations in the Orthodox Church landscape of North America and indeed worldwide. We remind readers that the former head of the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in North America, Archbishop Mercurius, was earlier this year removed to Moscow and has not been replaced.


  1. Christopher :

    Yes, but the titles of many other Orthodox hierarchs, including Abp Demetrios of the GOA, still include New York in their titles.

  2. George Michalopulos :

    Christopher, Arcb Demetrius’ official title is “Archbishop of America.” He has no metropoitan or diocesan seat. I’m not passing judgment, just sayin’.

    And let’s be honest, the other “metropolitans” in America are archbishops of ethnic exarchates. I’m talking about Philip, Christopher, Joseph, etc., therefore just ethnarchs with no territorial jurisdiction over Christians not in their eparchy. As for the GOA metropolitans, they have no suffragan bishops electing them so their seats are not really eparchies.

    This leaves us with +Jonah and +Hilarion as being the only true metropolitans in North America.

  3. Fr. Andrew Phillips (the author of the above, not me) is something of a Russophile and often interprets church events in light of Russian Messianism. He’s long held that the “diaspora” in Europe and America should be uniting under Moscow, and even perhaps that God Himself is taking us all there.

    In any event, this particular bit of fanciful speculation should probably fall by the wayside when the OCA elects a new bishop for the restored Diocese of New York and New Jersey. I rather doubt they’ll give that bishop some title other than “of New York.”

    Regarding Bp. Mercurius’s removal back to Russia, that’s pretty standard for the MP’s representative here in America—a few years and then back home. They’ll probably replace him in due time.

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Thanks for the clarification Fr. Andrew. I probably should have stuck with the policy of no speculation.

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Hans,

    the author Fr Andrew is on to something. I can confirm from my own contacts in Russia that there are plans afoot for ROCOR and the OCA. As for Archbishop Job, Bishop Mercurius’ replacement, his title has changed: he is “temporary administrator of the patriarchal parishes” whereas Mercurius was “administrator.” Plus +Jonah is now commemorated as “metropolitan of all-America and Canada” (his OCA title) by these same patriarchal parishes, per directive of Patriarch +Kirill. So there is something afoot…

  6. More speculation from Fr. Andrew Phillips:


    Felixstowe, UK. June 29. Fr. Andrew Phillips: ROCOR Has the Potential of a Global Church

    There should be One (Russian Orthodox founded – nobody else will do it) Metropolia of Europe. Within such a Metropolia, each of the six Non-East Slav groups (Romanian, Greek, Serb, Bulgarian, Arab, Georgian) should have its own Deanery or Diocese, with a Dean or Bishop of its particular nationality, united under a Metropolitan. Each group must enter into the Metropolia structure voluntarily, free to keep its ties with its Mother-Church. This is the solution to the jurisdictional and administrative chaos in the twenty-one countries of Western and Central Europe – Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Portugal, Hungary, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, Luxembourg, Iceland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco: An Orthodox Metropolia of Europe

    Furthermore, there needs to be One (Russian Orthodox founded – nobody else will do it) Metropolia of the Americas. The OCA experiment, whatever its merits, has not worked. It was a child of its time and of a conformist immigrant generation with its psychological and sociological complexes, which excluded others of a more traditional Orthodoxy. The OCA came out of the Cold War, with its all too human limitations. In the words of its present head, Metr Jonah, at its recent Conference on 20 June 2009: ‘The OCA’s charter and vocation is for it to disappear’. In other words, those in the OCA who are beginning to return to the Orthodox Tradition have at last understood that the OCA has only ever been a half-way house, a necessary stage or means to the formation of a Local Regional Church, not an idol, not an end in itself.

    One of the multiple reasons for the OCA’s problems is that it was largely shaped by the Protestant cultural background and mentality of the USA and Canada. The Roman Catholic background of the third North American country, Mexico, as well as Central America and South America would help it develop. Too narrow a cultural background can lead to local nationalism. We have seen it not only in a certain US/Protestant nationalism in parts of the OCA, but also in Western Europe, where French/Roman Catholic nationalism (in the Paris Jurisdiction) and Anglican nationalism in the old Sourozh Diocese and the Antiochian Deanery have weakened Church unity.

    Furthermore, there also needs to be One (Russian Orthodox founded – nobody else will do it) Metropolia of Australasia. This would cover not only Australia and New Zealand, but missionary territories such as Indonesia, South Korea, Indo-China, India, Pakistan, Nepal etc. (The remaining territories in the world, not so far mentioned, are Africa, which is the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and China and Japan, which depend on the Moscow Patriarchate directly).

    In other words, the best days of ROCOR, to become the true and complete Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, are before us. ROCOR is to become a Church of Three Metropolias.

    We live in global times. Now, at last, ROCOR in three Regional Orthodox Metropolias has the potential of a global Church acting locally, working together with others, eventually helping and preparing, with the support of Moscow, to set up new Regional Orthodox Churches. For, by the grace of God, one day, even if in the distant future, these Metropolias will be able to receive a mature, not premature and immature, autocephaly, in the Americas, in Europe and in Australasia.

  7. Wow, ROCOR as a global Church with a Metropolia of Americas!
    George,I pray that you are right and Fr. Andrew Phillips is indeed “on to something.”

  8. George Michalopulos :

    Joe, I hope you misunderstood me. It appears that ROCOR is accepting the claims of the Metropolia. As has always been the case of the MP (even when things weren’t good under Theodosius & Herman). Which is a good thing. (Although you might not think so.) You see, compared to the GOA and AOCA things are a lot better now. That’s because the OCA is an autocphalous and canonical church, like Abbott Touma admitted.

  9. May 2009: “It was also decided to form a commission to study the relationship with the Orthodox Church in America and to hold joint meetings to discuss the sources of the division between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the American Metropoliate. Included in this commission are Bishop George, President; Archimandrite Luke (Murianka); Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff, Secretary; Protopriest David Moser and Priest Peter Jackson. The commission is to study and present findings on the reasons for the division and to evaluate the mutual accusations, and propose methods of healing the separation.”

    Don’t jump the gun, George. There is lots of work to be done on the ROCOR side before we even begin talks with the “Metropoliate.”

    The ROCOR officially rejected the Metropoliate’s autocephaly in 1971 and has not rescinded this rejection.

    If the ROCOR accepted the claims of the Metropoliate, then it would have come under the omophorion of Metropolitan Jonah two years ago.

    BTW, all of this jogs my memory about the former OCA priest who was accepted into the ROCOR after his baptism on Mount Athos. He was accepted as a priest because the ROCOR considered (considers) the Metropoliate to be a body in schism from it since 1946 and so ROCOR graciously received him back from a schismatic body. (cf. Luke 15:11-32).

    Fr. Andrew Phillips, an English ROCOR historian, describes the 1946 split: “After 1917, they first joined together with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. However, eventually after much hesitation, a small number of Russian bishops in North America cut themselves off from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and formed an independent but uncanonical group, called the Metropolia. In 1970 this group was given autocephaly (independence) by the still enslaved Church in Russia.”

    I understand you very well and still agree with you that Fr. Andrew Phillips is on to something.

  10. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Joe, no disrespect intended, but you still seem stuck in a dated paradigm. If ROCOR has reconciled with the MP, and if the MP recognizes the autocephaly of the OCA, then who is ROCOR to make any decrees about the OCA that contradict the MP?

    Sure, ROCOR did not recognize the autocephaly back in 1971, but circumstances have changed — radically in fact. You seem to want to fight a fight that no one is fighting anymore.

    Strong winds are blowing. My conviction is that the Holy Spirit is moving the Church in America towards unity.

  11. George Michalopulos :

    Or, if A is greater than B and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C. I simply can’t understand the need for certain people to fight yesterday’s battles. Aren’t there historical reenactment societies that one can belong to?

  12. Re: “…then who is ROCOR to make any decrees about the OCA that contradict the MP?”

    Who indeed? Let’s see how the ROCOR decides to deal with “the division between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the American Metropoliate.”

    The ROCOR only announced the formation of their commission in May 2009 to deal with the issues, so how can anyone declare that the work of the commission is already done, a “fight that no one is fighting anymore?”

    Ridiculous. Wishful thinking?

    We in the ROCOR have not yet begun to fight.

  13. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Well, Joe, ROCOR is under Moscow, Moscow recognizes the autocephaly of the OCA — so that’s that. If you have difficulty with this development, you will have to hash it out somewhere else. It won’t be here.

  14. Fr. Johannes,

    Re: “ROCOR is under Moscow…”

    I guess I can’t blame a member of the OCA for not knowing about the Act of Canonical Communion, especially when the hierarchs of the OCA were frozen out of the talks leading up to it.

    The first three parts of the Act of Canonical Communion are self-explanatory:

    By this Act declare:

    1. That the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, conducting its salvific service in the dioceses, parishes, monasteries, brotherhoods, and other ecclesiastical bodies that were formed through history, remains an indissoluble, self-governing part of the Local Russian Orthodox Church.

    2. That the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is independent in pastoral, educational, administrative, management, property, and civil matters, existing at the same time in canonical unity with the Fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    3. The supreme ecclesiastical, legislative, administrative, judicial and controlling authority in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is her Council of Bishops, convened by her Primate (First Hierarch), in accordance with the Regulations [ Polozheniye ] of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.


    In other words, in God’s good time and after the work of the Commission (convened in May 2009)is finished, the ROCOR will officially speak with its own voice and out of its own prayerful convictions about the terms of its relationship with the Metropoliate.

  15. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Fine. Until then, any further pro/anti ROCOR/OCA discussion is closed.

  16. As a member of a “non-canonical” jurisdiction, I cannot help but notice that the tone of all the above comments revolve around the “power structure” of the local churches, in an administrative sense. My many years of study of Church history, have led me to the understanding, that the administrative structure of the church is small in significance, when compared to the importance of maintaining a right and God-pleasing confession of faith in the written and verbal voicing’s of a particular hierarch.

    Please do not misunderstand me, I have the greatest respect for the need to have administrative cohesiveness in the Orthodox Church, and this is most easily recognized through the application of canon law in “a Christ centered sense”, and not in an ungodly “rabbinical sense”. That is: the spirit driving such canonical discussions must be one that has the God-pleasing mission of the preservation of Orthodox doctrinal purity, and liturgical practice as its driving force. Such a spirit is the self-same spirit that inspired our Holy Father John the Divine to correctly confess the Divinity of Christ, which was so wonderfully expressed in a most exact sense at the seven great councils.

    I would be much happier to see the discussion revolve around synodical counciliar decisions, that express our Orthodox faith in a clear and concise manner, with respect to the many perversions of the Orthodox faith, that are currently observed in the writings and voicing of many Hierarchs of the churches of “world Orthodoxy” today. I think that undertaking such an approach to Church unity – being a God-pleasing approach – would yield an administrative structure in and of itself, for such an approach would clearly express a desire to please God, and not express a desire to abrogate power in a most ungodly sense.

    I also think that the whole concept of “canonical” needs to be defined in terms that are more appropriate to the current historical/political environment the Orthodox Church finds itself in today. It is foolish for any individual to deny the grace of the sacraments of “un-canonical” or “canonical” bishops, given that the arguments, and canonical litigatory approaches taken to justify these absurd claims cannot be applied in a “Christ-pleasing” way in the modern political world.

  17. Isn’t it odd to dream of a world jurisdiction for a juridiction whose very name “Russian Orthodox Church OUTISIDE of Russia” indicates it is outside its canonical jurisdiction?

    Not knowing if reply is an official site moderation, I’ll hold comments on the OCA/ROCOR.

  18. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Isa, this blog does not enter the OCA/ROCOR fray. We consider that an in-house spat and leave it to them to work out.

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