The American Orthodox ‘Historiographical Problem’

Each age tries to form its own conception of the past. Each age writes the history of the past anew with reference to the conditions uppermost in its own time. — Frederick Jackson Turner

Did they have a plan for America?

Did they have a plan for America?

Here’s a new site worth a visit. The Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas has launched a new blog at The picture here, found in the archives of the Library of Congress, shows a meeting of Orthodox bishops in 1921. But, mysteriously, it’s not clear what the meeting was about. As explains:

Few photos from the early 20th century history of American Orthodoxy are so rich in significance as this one. This was taken during the 1921 visit of then-deposed Abp. Meletios (Metaxakis) of Athens to America, beginning the process of founding the Greek Archdiocese. He came traveling with Bp. Alexander (Demoglou), who would become the first Greek Archbishop of America. Meletios and Alexander did a remarkable amount of work toward uniting the Greek parishes in America, which were numerous by this time and deeply divided along political lines, with factions supporting either the Greek monarchy or the Venizelist democratizers. Meletios was later elected as Ecumenical Patriarch in November of this same year.

Here is how SOCHA describes its mission — from the “Real Church. Real History” post on the blog:

Anyone who has made a comparative study of the history of Orthodox Christianity in North America has probably quickly surmised that there is something of a historiograpical problem. That is, the writing of the history of Orthodox Christianity in America has been plagued with jurisdictional squabbles, claims to primacy and other agendas, often with little attention to what primary sources actually yield up as the story contained within them. Myths and ideology have often dominated these histories, rather than a close reading of historical documents.

With the formation of the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA), the membership desires to begin to shift the approach to studying and writing the history of Orthodoxy in the Americas (and elsewhere, of course, should members desire it) to reflect an earnest engagement with primary sources. There is no jurisdictional agenda attached to SOCHA, and there is no specific ideology or philosophy which members are required to share, excepting only the basic integrity crucial to historical study and the honesty required to have one’s premises challenged and revised should the evidence warrant it.

This site hosts essays, links to podcasts, book reviews, tidbits discovered in the course of research, photographs, and more. is authored by Fr. Andrew and Matthew Namee. Namee is doing a regular podcast now on American Orthodox History on Ancient Faith Radio. Listen here to the introductory talk:


  1. Fr. Andrew says

    The site is also authored by our Executive Director, Fr. Oliver Herbel.

  2. Is SOCHA going to address the claim on the territories of the Americas, surely soon to be made, by Patriarchate of Alexandria?

    Details here:

    Connecticut’s 5th Century Church

  3. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Joe, this report might warrant a bit of skepticism. The magazine also has an article on the “Kensington Runestone”, the stone that allegedly proves the Vikings were in Minnesota long before Columbus came to America. (I grew up in Minnesota so I know these things.) The Kensington Runestone is not considered credible anymore although the magazine makes no mention of that.

  4. George Michalopulos says

    Interestingly enough, this piece is being propagated within certain precincts of the GOA. It appears that the Russian/Metropolia claim is causing many in the GOA to run scared. That is to say to grasp for any straw that would claim that Byzantines were here before the Russians.

    I’ve actually bought several issues of this magazine and the most I can say about it is that it’s got a New-Agey type of vibe. Heavy on the anti-Trinitatian side and much more sympathetic to the Arian/pseud-Celtic side of things.

  5. George Michalopulos says

    p.s. there’s a runestone in Oklahoma as well. It’s in Heavener, quite impressive. The jury’s still out on that one.

  6. Sheesh, I try to lighten things up around here with a joke about the Alexandria Patriarchate’s entry in the American Autocephalous Sweepstakes and then someone has to spin it into propaganda” “It appears that the Russian/Metropolia claim is causing many in the GOA to run scared. That is to say to grasp for any straw that would claim that Byzantines were here before the Russians.”

    No, Orthodox Christians (Greeks, Russians, Americans) are sharing this piece with each other simply because of its “Wouldn’t it be cool IF” factor.

    It’s only a bit of fun like talking about the Loch Ness Monster (by the way first reported in the Life of St. Columba [Enlightener of Scotland]) or Bigfoot (Russian Priest to Investigate Bigfoot Sighting in Siberia

  7. George Michalopulos says

    The reason people are taking offense to this drivel is because of the stunning bad faith displayed by many people in the existing jurisdictions. When it first came to me last week, it was from a GOA priest. He did so because he knows my interest in history and the claims of canon 28 have been pretty much demolished, so another tack is being used. (This same priest once said that because one of Amerigo Vespucci’s sappers was a Greek named Theodoros, then the EP’s claims trumps Russia’s because of canon 13 of the Council of Carthage.)

    Anyway, I chose to be amused at this latest attempts just as I laughed at all earlier attempts. However, to play this game, Joe is right: these monks were under Alexandria, so given the logic of this infantile game, then that patriarchate’s claims trumps Moscow’s.

    Anyway, to be fair to the GOA, they are not the only ones who are propagating claims using less than rigorous reasoning. I for one remain disheartened by the careful picking and choosing of statistics and events by some in the historiographic community. At the risk of flogging a dead horse, I contended with Fr Oliver twice in response to a very well-researched essay he wrote back in April. (Both my original response and my secondary reply to his response can be found on the OCL and websites so people can judge for themselves whether my own criticisms in this case are warranted.

  8. Chris Jones says

    In the unlikely event that this entertaining article has any basis in fact, it still does not support the claims of any existing Orthodox Church to jurisdiction in North America. If, as the article states, the monks who purportedly built a Church in New England were from the western part of North Africa, they would have been part of the patriarchate of Rome, not of Alexandria. At that time the jurisdiction of Alexandria extended as far west as Libya; farther west, including Carthage (in modern Tunisia) and Hippo (in modern Algeria), was under the jurisdiction of Rome.

    With the Church of Rome being in schism, its jurisdiction is forfeit and the areas formerly under its jurisdiction are “up for grabs” according to whatever canonical principles the various parties want to follow.

  9. Father Hans, I thought everyone knew that there are Vikings in Minnesota. They have been there since 1961.

    A little more seriously – George, I hope the priest with whom you spoke “gets” the bigger picture, because it sure does not bode well when someone tries to build a lasting house on such sand.
    Using a plebe named Theodoros as the basis for anything? Seriously? Then I guess we should all be Catholic since that is faith of the king under whom he worked. (You have to skip an awful lot of other folks to pick that one out of the crowd. Talk about grasping at – low ranking – straws.)
    Any clergy who employs such tripe reminds me of Chris Banescu’s comments regarding Bishop Savas (with which I completely agree): it calls into serious question the foundations upon which his judgment is based. I hope it was a joke.

    Far more seriously – Is it just me, of does some of the jurisdictional infighting seem like a few beggars fighting over a small hamburger in front of the world’s greatest deli? To be crass: no one tells Microsoft what to do. If you want to set the terms of the debate, take market share. Those who are successful will define the agenda. More importantly, we have a huge, wonderful country that desperately needs the Orthodox faith, though they don’t yet know it. Light a flame and “thousands around us will be saved.” God will be glorified and those who have a different agenda will marginalize themselves as they go about their own business.

  10. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #7

    George, let’s be honest: your comments confirm that you continue to misconstrue Fr. Oliver’s point. His point was never that any particular jurisdiction was “here first” or that any “ought” to have some “claim” on America. Rather, his point was that, on the ground (that is, on the parish level, despite what anyone might have attempted to claim at the “canonical” level), Orthodoxy in America was never actually united under the Russians. That is, he was asserting historical facts. The myth that everyone was happily united under the Russians is more and more being shown to be a myth.

    I have yet to see any actual primary sources supporting the myth. There are many which debunk it. It doesn’t take “careful picking and choosing of statistics and events” to prove it, either. It’s pretty much everywhere in the sources. There have yet to be any primary sources put forth which go the other way. To those who believe there are, I encourage them, in direct language, to “put up or shut up.”

    With all due respect and love, your own published works on these matters are not based on primary sources. (I read your book and found it interesting, but not serious history, because its citations were largely secondary, with a heavy reliance on webpages.) Rather, they are mainly based on secondary sources and assertions of the same old myths, heavily informed by your own agenda (i.e., a claim for the OCA over and against all other jurisdictions). Fr. Oliver’s original article and your subsequent responses were really addressing two different things: he was making an assertion of fact which is easily proven, while you were making an assertion of agenda based on assertions of facts which have yet to be proven.

    Interested parties may see this whole discussion commented upon at the SOCHA website here.

    It’s all about the primary sources. If you’re going to make an assertion of historical fact (much less an agenda based on such assertions), it’s time to bring out the primary sources. Please, bring them out. We’re waiting.

  11. George Michalopulos says

    Fr Andrew, I realize that there was incredible disunity and chaos. As a cleric, I hope you can see that that type of situation is completely uncanonical. Regardless, my quibble, and it is a magnificent one, is that Fr Oliver used the words “never united.” To believe that, one would have to completely and totally ignore the first 100 years of Orthdooxy in America.

    The words “never” and “always” are categorical.

    Chrys, you are absoutely correct. The problem with “market share” though is that the present jurisdictional chaos precludes effective evangelism. In my first response to Fr Oliver, I mentioned the stunning acts of bad faith that came to the fore when we first set up our mission. (BTW, on all sides–I myself was far from perfect.) Of coruse, we should not stop evangelizing, it’s just easier if we were all singing on the same page.

  12. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #11

    George, I agree with you that our situation is uncanonical. (I am not a canonist nor a canon lawyer, but I think this much is obvious.)

    I also agree with Fr. Oliver that Orthodoxy in America has never been united, not for any definition of “America” (whose political territory? when?) nor of “united” (one parish? in which territory? one bishop everyone looked to?).

    After having looked at the primary sources for years, I’m willing to state, categorically, that Orthodoxy in America has never been administratively united. I have yet to see any actual evidence (not just assertions) that it has.

    If you don’t agree, please, bring forward the sources.

  13. George Michalopulos says

    P.S. Father, thank you for your kind words. I am not a historian nor do I play one on TV. I admitted that my own book was based on primary, secondary, and tertiaty sources. However, interestingly enough, mine was the only book whose primary reference was “A History of the Greeks in the United States” (Harvard Univ Press, 1964). An exhaustive and very well documented source free from many biases.

    Nor did I ever say that “everybody was united and happy.” Far from it, I talked about the Serbian schism and the Greek parishes that were created in defiance of the established presence (among other things). It’s just that I did not glory in the chaos. Indeed, my main complain about some of the present historiography is the extent to which buffoonery, chaos, schism and other uncanonical acts are exalted for main purpose of proving that there “never” was any unity.”

    As far as picking and choosing, let me prove my point: I read (and by the way, I thoroughly enjoy your website, it’s very fascinating) a posting from June 30 (I believe it was) about the turnover of priests. To “prove” that there was almost as much turnover in the Russian Mission as there was in the non-RM parishes, two data were included that caused me to raise a critical eyebrow:

    1. the dates chosen were arbitrary 1911-1915,
    2. No Alaska parishes were chosen.

    Why weren’t the dates 1900-1908 chosen, or 1915-1920? I’m just asking. Also, it never ceases to amaze me to what lengths modern critics of the RM will go to marginalize the Alaska diocese. That’s quite dishonest, rather like giving the crime statistics for New York state withou any mention at all of New York City.

    Anyway, I could go on, but that’s what I mean by “cherry-picking.” Pat Buchanan did essentially the same thing in his latest book “The Unnecessary War.” He went to great lengths to show how Wilhelmine Germany was pacific and not desirous of any military conflict in Europe. He begins his story in 1871 and truth be told, when looked at from angle, he’s quite right. Unfortunately, an honest critic would have to ask, “why start at 1871?” The reason is because that was the year that the Prussian kingdom finished its wars of conquest against the Autro-Hungarian Empire and the France of Napolean III. It was the time period before 1871 which proved that Prussia was on the militaristic ascendancy.

    P.S.S. When I wrote my first book, I was a member of the GOA and continued to be actively involved in my GOA parish for at least another 2 years. In fact, I continued to remain a steward in that jurisdiction until last year when work and family commitments (to say nothing of my considerble involvement in my OCA mission made it impossible).

  14. George Michalopulos says

    Fr: the only source I can give you is that from 1794 until 1892, all Orthodox Churches in North America (except for Hew Orleans) were “administratively united” and part of the Russian Mission. That’s 98 years. That’s why I can dispute the term “never united.”

    As for Holy Trinity in New Orleans, was it even canonical? It’s first priest was a renegade Ukrainian who said he was a priest. I dare say that you would never countenance such a state of affairs in your own jurisdiction.

  15. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #13

    If you’re interested in the reasons those dates were chosen, why don’t you comment on the post in question? In any event, the point (if you’ll read the post) was to compare St. Raphael’s administration with the others. It’s probably also simply the dates of the available sources.

    As for “glorying” in the chaos of early American Orthodoxy, I must confess that I fail to see it. There is no glory in it, and Fr. Oliver himself has said on many occasions that he himself desires unity. I can’t think of anyone who has seen any “glory” at all in the disunity. The point is not to pretend that it wasn’t there.

    Regarding the Alaskan diocese, it’s not being “marginalized,” but its separation (geographical, cultural, etc.) is really rather important. Its patterns of development were (and remain) radically different from the rest of American Orthodoxy. It had very little impact on what happened in the Lower 48. (Which Alaskans, for instance, evangelized the Lower 48?) As for your comparison to NYC and NY State—there aren’t hundreds (and usually thousands) of miles of difference between them, as there are with Alaska and the Lower 48. Alaska was evangelized by missionaries from Russia. Orthodoxy in the Lower 48 is, by and large, a product of immigration and very little actual missionary work. The only real connection between the two areas is really on paper and the occasional traveling bishop.

    Re: #14

    That’s not a source, George. That’s an assertion. (At least you’re not putting it at 1921-22.) Will you back it up with sources?

    I assume you choose 1892 because of the founding of the Greek parish in NYC, thousands of miles from the nearest Russian parish (SF). Really, it’s a bit silly to suggest that the ailing mission in Alaska, plus one parish in SF, somehow constitute a united American Orthodoxy, whose unity is suddenly shattered by the founding of a Greek parish on the other end of the continent.

    Whether the parish in New Orleans (1865) was “canonical” is rather a curious question, given that from 1872 to 1900, the Russian bishop lived outside his own diocese (it was “Aleutians Islands and Alaska” until 1900, yet he lived in SF from 1872). Sounds suspiciously “uncanonical” to me.

    So, I have yet to see a source proving a previously united American Orthodoxy.

  16. Fr. Andrew says

    One addendum: The first Greek parishes were not “created in defiance of the established presence.” All signs indicate that they were created in absolute ignorance of the Russians on the other side of the continent. Further signs indicate that the Russians, once they learned of their existence, were largely content to let them keep doing so. They didn’t even bother listing the Greek parishes in their directories.

    It’s not like the Greeks arriving in New York harbor saw a big Muscovite ecclesiastical flag flying from the Statue of Liberty.

  17. George Michalopulos says

    so from 1794 to 1892 there was not no Russian Mission with churches in North America? I made no assertion, just stated a fact. As for HT in New Orleans, how can you prove its canonicity? I went directly to the source there and was met with blank stares.

    I chose 1892 because that was the first authentic Greek parish in NYC. (Again, nobody can prove HT’s canonicity. As a rule, it’s best to err on the side of caution, hence nobody can make any positive assertions about that parish.)

    The fact that it was 2000 miles away from SF means…what?

    What of the Greek priests who were part of the RM? Admittedly a tiny number, but why did they recognize it’s authority? Let me ask this another way: Why did the EP or the Church of Greece not claim that all of the US parishes were under their purview? Let us press this point farther: Why did NO non-Greek priests recognize the authority of the EP/CoG? Even the Greeks in Chicago celebrated the centennial of Orthodoxy’s origins in America? That is not assertion, that is a fact. What were they celebrating? An assertion?

    Even Patriarch Athenagoras realized the authenticity of the RM’s presence in North America (albeit in a backhanded way: He trivialized it by stating that it had penetrated the lower 48 only as far as San Francisco.) Clearly he was trying to negate its importance. What was his point? That the ROC had jurisdiction over the Pacific Rim?

    Finally, I cannot abide the fact that Alaska’s experience is marginal and has no bearing on canonicity or the American Orthodox experience. Indeed, it was the American evangelistic endeavor par excellence. (We ethnic Orthodox should be so lucky to have solidified our respective cultures into the faith. Instead, our attrition has outstripped our growth by wide margins.) To follow this line of reasoning, one would have to engage in heresy, the heresy of phyletism. I know this is shocking, but let me explain: Presently Russians outnumber Greeks in Istanbul by perhaps 3 to one. It is very possible that the next crop of bishops in that ancient see are going to be Russians with Turkish citizenship as there are no Greek bishops under 65 yrs old and the Turkish govt will only allow Turkish citizens to enter the priesthood. In time, some future EP will no doubt be a Russian. (Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?) Regardless, are we to suppose that the Grecophone experience in Istanbul is trivial, inconsequential, or not germane to the present reality? That is a risible statement.

    The Greek presence may yet become extinct but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t endured or it’s not applicable. The irony of course is that the Orthodox Church of the Alaskan natives is far from extinct. It even has its own seminary!

  18. George Michalopulos says

    P.S. you are correct, many Greek churches were created in complete ignorance of the RM. Many however were created BY the RM (cf Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver’s essay “The Dangers of Multiple Jurisdicions in the United States,” 2001). And yes, some (such as HT in NYC) were created in defiance of the RM, else why would they evict St Tikhon from their premises? (See what I mean about “unfortunate” events? That will remain forever a black mark on the very cathedral of the GOA in NYC.)

  19. Richard Barrett says

    Fr: the only source I can give you is that from 1794 until 1892, all Orthodox Churches in North America (except for Hew Orleans) were “administratively united” and part of the Russian Mission. That’s 98 years. That’s why I can dispute the term “never united.”

    That’s not a source, George. That’s an assertion. (At least you’re not putting it at 1921-22.) Will you back it up with sources?

    …so from 1794 to 1892 there was not no Russian Mission with churches in North America? I made no assertion, just stated a fact.

    Mr. Michalopulos, whether or not there “not no Russian Mission with churches in North America” (sic) is a separate matter from whether or not “all (emphasis mine) Orthodox Churches in North America (except for Hew Orleans) (sic) were ‘administratively united’ and part of the Russian Mission.”

    And it remains that you provide no primary source as evidence for either matter, with the latter being the main one under discussion. When assertions are being disputed, supporting them with references from primary sources is a pretty basic way, as in Historiography 101 (heck, Research Paper Writing 101), to bolster one’s argument. Continuing to assert something unreferenced as fact while claiming that, because it is fact it does not require a source, does not in fact accomplish the same goal. That isn’t how scholarship works.

    I concur with Fr. Andrew — the trouble here is that historiography and, well, something different from historiography, are conversing on mismatched terms.


  20. Ilya Kharin says

    Here is a quote from the early 20th century “Encyclopedic dictionary of Brockhouse and Efron” (published over the course of a few years), from the article “Aleut and North-American diocese” (in Russian, translation mine):

    “Parishioners of the Aleutian diocese in 1903 numbered 38830: Russians — 1706, Galicians — 5747, Hungaro-Russians — 4676, Bukovinians (and Vlachs) — 3653, Serbs and other Slavs — 6386, Greeks — 731, Syro-Arabs — 5484, Creoles — 2124, American Indians — 2281, Aleuts — 2272, Eskimos — 3210, other nationalities (Estionians, Americans, other) — 76. Compared to 1902 there was an increase of 4330 persons.”

    See the article online at

    From this it may be said: there was pan-Orthodox unity in the Russian missionary diocese. Russians attempted to unite all Orthodox, they wanted to count Greeks “as their own” – and there were almost half as many Greeks in the diocese in 1903 as there were Russians (in the above list I surmise that “Russians”, per contemporary usage, means “Russian people from the Russian Empire” – as opposed to “Galicians, Hungaro-Russians, Bukovinians” who all in one way or another have been also called “Russian”, but in other contexts).

    Now, this pan-Orthodox unity was incomplete, as we know from the Greek case. This means that the Russian jurisdiction was not accepted by all. Still, we are left with the fact that the Russian jurisdiction was inclusive of all – I tried finding a contemporary Orthodox group in US not included in the above list and I can only think of Albanians, who may have been too few to get listed in anything other than the “other” section. Meanwhile, non-Russian jurisdictions, as far as I am aware, were exclusive of all who were ethnically alien. Am I getting this wrong?

  21. George Michalopulos says

    Ilya, you are completely correct. Thank you for providing this primary source. I’m stunned that you had to do it as I thought this was widely known. For anybody interested, please see Mark Stokoe’s book (which I referenced in my own). As for another authoritative source, please consult Timothy Ware’s excellent book “The Orthodox Church” (p. 182).

    Richard, I’m afraid we’re talking past each other, so let me ask this another way: What Orthodox Church existed in North America from 1794 to the present? Let me press further: When did the first ethnic exarchate form? Does it not stand to reason that until the creation of the first ethnic exarchate, then there was only one Orthodox presence in North America? This appears logical and non-controversial.

    Let me further ask: When did the last ethnic exarchate form? Are congregational churches canonical? Can a church be considered canonical if it has never been consecrated by a bishop? Can different bishops from different dioceses in foreign lands distribute antimins and holy Chrism to priests willy-nilly without first going through the Holy Synod to which they belong? If so, then what will stop the MP from sending Holy Chrism and antimins to the growing Russian presence in Istanbul? Or the Archbishop of Albania from doing to the same to the growing Albanian community in Greece and Bulgaria?

    I must now go off on a theological tangent so please forgive me: Are you aware what this means? That in Orthodoxy we are not in fact, non-papal, in that any Orthodoxy patriarch has the right of universal jurisdiction. The OCA has never emphasized the logical conclusion of its autocephaly, which is that all other Orthodox presences are non-canonical. Yet the logical outcome of the Patriarch of Serbia (for example) exercizing universal jurisdiction is that all non-Serbian churches are ipso fact non-canonical. He (and others) will have to do this eventually or else their own status will be reduced to that of mere ethnarch (which is a heresy). The only way out of this is to admit that territory must trump ethnicity which is in fact, the true Christian principle. That is to say that a bishop can only be a bishop of a political region and not the bishop of a race.

    I continue to stand by what I said in my previous responses to Fr Oliver: the canonicity of the non-RM churches during this time period is highly suspect. As for the antics perpetrated in these churches, I beg you to look at the footnotes of Matthew Namee’s excellent lecture. (I will supply them in due time in my own response.)

    Of course Mr Namee’s accounts from St Tikhon do indicate that this blessed saint himself took no action against the non-RM churches nor did he view them as schismatic or in an egregious state of non-canonicity. Nevertheless, he tried mightily to bring them into the RM fold and strived to come up with various schemes to accomplish this, towit the creation of ethnic vicariates. He realized that the North American experience was novel and as stated in a lecture last month at SVS, he exhorted the Holy Synod of Moscow to make several accommodations regarding the length of services, the languages used, the necessity of lay involvement, and of course the use of ethnic auxilians. These are facts.

    This begs an important question: why did he feel the need to do so? At this point, I will refrain from answering it and instead allow my critics to ponder this on their own.

    Lastly, I challenge any Orthodox priest in America today to operate under the same circumstances. As for my critics, I choose not to engage in insinuations of their motives, I would hope that they would extend to me the same courtesy. I have no jurisdictional axe to grind –that’s why I gave a brief biography–but as an amateur historian, came to my own conclusions about the origins of Orthodoxy on this continent.

    p.s. I still await an answer to my question: Did the Greeks and Russians of Chicago celebrate a fact regarding the centenary of Orthodoxy or did they celebrate an assertion?

  22. George Michalopulos says

    Fr Andrew, re post #15. Vladivostok is 7,000 miles from St Petersburgh with tens of millions of desolate acres separating them. Is Vladivostok not part of the ROC? As for which Alaskans “evangelized” the lower 48, I can state that an Alaskan native was martyred in California.

    Let me ask this another way: which Greeks were present at the Last Supper? Were all metropolitans of Kiev Russian?

    I hope you see my point. By emphasizing distances and ethnic differences, we are dangerously close to glorifying ethnicity here. This cuts very close to the bone: recently a GOA priest attended a vespers in which the St Tikhon’s Seminary chorale performed. They brought with them the Sitka icon of the Mother of God and he, along with about 80 other people received anointing from this icon. Should he not have been present? Is the Sitka icon not part of his Orthodox patrimony (he’s an American.)?

  23. Richard Barrett says

    Ilya, you are completely correct. Thank you for providing this primary source. I’m stunned that you had to do it as I thought this was widely known. For anybody interested, please see Mark Stokoe’s book (which I referenced in my own). As for another authoritative source, please consult Timothy Ware’s excellent book “The Orthodox Church” (p. 182).

    If somebody would like to correct me, I don’t believe encyclopedias are generally considered to be primary sources; whatever their other merits, Stokoe’s and Met. Kallistos’ books would be considered secondary sources. (“I thought everybody knew that” isn’t considered to be a primary source, either.) Presumably the encyclopedia’s numbers came from somewhere; census data, something. Whatever it was, that would be a primary source.

    The trouble I’m running into with the contour of your argument, even if you can come to a common understanding on what a primary source is, is that it can be applied today. There’s jurisdictional unity in the United States right now, we might say; the OCA is the autocephalous, local church, meaning the other groups are non-canonical and need not impact the answer to the question.

    As Fr. Andrew noted, there is a difference between an assertion of fact which is easily proven from primary sources, and an assertion of agenda based on assertions of facts which have yet to be supported by citations of primary sources. This difference will need to be resolved for your criticism of Fr. Oliver’s thesis to actually advance the discussion.

    I grant that it’s entirely possible that primary sources exist which support your assertions; we don’t yet know, however, because you haven’t referenced any.


  24. George Michalopulos says

    so, lemme get this straight: there were no Orthodox Churches in North America from 1794 to the present, or should I say, there was no Russian Mission? Or should I say, that the RM wasn’t a diocese of the ROC?

    If we’re gonna play this game, what primary source do we have for Leif Erickson’s discovery of Vinland?

  25. George Michalopulos says

    The contours of the present argument against unity are likewise bothersome. Most worrisome is the lack of concern for proper ecclesial norms. It’s almost as if anarchy, buffoonery, hyper-congregationalism, and even outright criminality are of no consequence. Why is this?

    Why not answer the questions I proffered? That jurisdictional anarchy and the presence of extraneous “jurisdictions” lead to schism? Or short of that, the perpetuation of heresy?

    Since you are not answering my basic questions about the antiquity of the RM, I assume that you accept its antiquity. Therefore, I’ll make it easy, why not answer this question: what primary sources do you (or anybody else) have that prove that other ethnic jurisdictions were here before or during the heyday of the RM?

  26. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Richard, you challenge George on his methodology to cast doubt on his conclusions, yet you offer no theory of your own and no evidence of any engagement with primary sources yourself. Is there anything more to your point? I am having a hard time figuring out what your larger argument is.

    Are you implicitly positing a different history, or is the point only to assert that George’s account is flawed? If the latter, then how about fleshing that out for us? If the former, what are the reasons you are making it?

    No disrespect intended here. I am trying to understand where you want to take us.

  27. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #25

    George, you must first understand that there is no one here who is arguing against unity, i.e., that there ought not to be unity. Nor is anyone arguing that there ought not to have been. Your comments are very much concerned with “oughts,” but no one else is even talking about “ought.” What we’re concerned about is what was, not what ought to have been. That means that saying, “But X was uncanonical” is really irrelevant to the actual point being addressed.

    No one disputes that Russian missionaries arrived in Russian Alaska in 1794 or that Russian tradesmen were doing business there beforehand. All that is well-attested in the sources.

    What is being disputed is the usual claim, i.e., that prior to the establishment of the GOA in 1921-22, all Orthodox in America were united under the Russian Archdiocese. (By the way, calling it a “mission” by that point is really not honest, since there was no real missionary work going on outside Alaska, and even by the late 19th c., the mission in Alaska had all but closed up shop.)

    Saying that Orthodoxy in America has “never” been united is, I suppose, probably more “categorical” than you might like, but it’s really silly to insist that the Orthodox in America were “united” when there was only one Russian parish in SF. That would be like claiming that everyone named “George Michalopulos” in this thread is united into one person. True, but… so? Now, if there were 10 George Michalopuloi who had all come from disparate places and were united together, that would be something.

    It’s also rather silly to make the claim that Russians setting foot in Russian Alaska in 1794 grants to Moscow jurisdiction all the way down to Florida (particularly since that would have involved claiming the colonial territory of several sovereign powers and a rather massive chunk of territory). This, of course, is a question of “oughts” and not of “was,” but if you really want to press the canons, note that the canons actually prohibit ordaining clergy for areas outside one’s defined canonical territory (in the case of Russia, it’s the Russian Empire).

    Anyway, the primary sources all point to the reality of Orthodox establishment in most of America and Canada: parishes of immigrants, most looking to their native lands for hierarchical oversight. (The parish in NYC kicking out St. Tikhon is not, by the way, evidence that it was established in “defiance” of him, especially since he wasn’t even in America when it was established! Nor were the Russians anywhere near the East Coast at the time.)

    As to why people won’t answer your questions, George, it’s because they’re non sequitur to the matter at hand. You want to make grand claims about jurisdictions and canonicity, while the historians just want to read the actual documents from the period and determine what was happening. The evidence shows that there was never a united Orthodox administration that covered all of America, and it even shows that the Russians often didn’t think so, either. As for the sources on that, I recommend taking a long look at the website. It’s crawling with them.

    Since you asked, by the way, the main sources on Leif Ericson’s discovery of and settlement in Vinland are the Grœnlendinga saga, Eiríks saga rauða and the Landnámabók. Historians differ on how accurate they are to be regarded.

  28. Re: “It’s also rather silly to make the claim that Russians setting foot in Russian Alaska in 1794 grants to Moscow jurisdiction all the way down to Florida…”

    Especially considering that Alaska became the 49th State of the United States on January 3, 1959!

  29. George Michalopulos says

    Fr Andrew, I am familiar with Leif Erickson’s saga and history. At one time, my passable knowledge of German (long attrited) fooled me into thinking I could read it for myself. Needless to say, I failed. (It stopped me from ever wanting to learn Finnish so I could read the Kalevala.)

    The reason I asked is because I wanted to find out not how reliable you think they were, but whether they were primary sources. They are not. They are redactions of oral histories. Just like Polybius’ histories of Ancient Greek and Roman eminences. And just like the Gospels. Yet we all know that Leif did arrive in Vinland, that Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, and that Jesus did rise from the dead.

    As to the claims of the ROC, its canonicity and primacy in North America, even Patriarch Athenagoras acknowledged it (albeit in a back-handed fashion.) Moreover, many Greek immigrants were members of RM churches. And of course, there were several Greek priests who were under the authority of the RM (and NO Russian/Serb/Arab/Albanian/etc. priests under the omorphor of the the GOA or the pre-GOA “jurisdiction”.) Moreover, the first “Greek” church in New Orleans (the one with a “renegade Ukrainian” as its first priest) was not founded in the United States. Therefore if we are going to play the “colonial” game the tables can easily be turned.

    So yes, I can state that it was accepted that the claims of the ROC for North America were uncontroversial. As for the RM “closing up shop” in the mid-1800s, one would have to ignore the massive outreach (mission?) to the Carpatho-Russians and Ukrainians in the late 1800s that was undertaken by this same Russian Mission (that supposedly closed up shop). I suppose you have access to primary sources which show that the Bulgarians, Serbs, Greeks, and Albanian “jurisdictions” –or shall I be fair and call them what they were: congregations–were now engaged in missionary activity to American natives and those outside their own ethnic groups? Please point me to these primary sources so that I may read it for myself.

    My questions were not non sequitur, but valid and as such bear scrutiny and response. If nothing else, they provide a strong circumstantial case for the claims of the ROC and its primatial claims in North America. And they provide an even stronger case against the present fantastic universalist claims of the canon-28 theorists. Here are some:

    1. Which Orthodox Church planted the first parishes in North America?

    2. Which OC planted the first parish in the lower 48?

    3. Which OC provided liturgical supplies, stipends, priests, etc. to all immigrant groups of Orthodox origin?

    4. Which OC set up ethnic vicariates for at least two non-Russian Orthodox ethnic groups?

    5. Why did this particular OC feel it necessary and just to do so?

    If the answer to any of the above is “The Russian-American Greek-Catholic Diocese of North America,” then the present and fanciful claims of the canon-28 theorists are obliterated. (Not that I ever knew that the GOA ever even claimed primacy over North America, that’s a new one on me. Until last year, I dare say such a claim was never uttered by members of the GOA. Certainly no serious claim was ever propagated. Even silly claims like the one about Theodoros, the Greek sapper of Amerigo Vespucci was never uttered except in the most half-hearted fashion.

    Further, as to these novel claims which point to Byzantine supremacy, further questions directly about them must be addressed:

    6. Why did the EP not press the present fantastic claims of universal jurisdiction in 1921?

    7. Why did the EP surreptitiously transfer its few dozen Greek parishes in the US to the Church of Greece in 1908 if in fact it enjoyed primacy over all the lands of the “diaspora”?

    8. What actuated the tomos of transfer in 1908? Did the EP act on its own volition or was it forced into it? (And if if was forced into it, is said transfer canonical?)

    9. Why was this transfer ignored by these same parishes? Since it was ignored, it was in rebellion against its primatial bishop (the EP). As such, were their mysteries valid?

    Finally, let me ask this question: was any such scandalous set of circumstances found in the ROC diocese of North America (again, I assume that you believe that there was a ROC diocese in North America) before the Bolshevik Revolution?

  30. George Michalopulos says

    Joe, if you do not understand the history of the United States and how it acquired sovereignty over Alaska, then clearly it would be beyond me to enlighten you. However, being that you are a man with the courage of your convictions, how come you are a member of ROCOR, which in your estimation is the legitimate successor to the original Russian Mission? Indeed, if the primatial claims of the ROC are illegitimate, then what difference does it make whether one is a member of the autocephalous American church or ROCOR since by these lights, only the EP has universal jurisdiction?
    More to the point, why aren’t you a member of the EP’s various exarchates in North America?

    Just askin’…

  31. George Michalopulos says

    P.S. Fr Andrew, I truly mean no disrespect. In reading my response, I realize now that my natural cussedness sometimes gets the best of me, so I beg your forgiveness.

    The lack of primary sources would be wonderful, but it is not as crippling as many would like to think. The reason for this is that the time lapse has not been that great. There are still people alive today who saw St Tikhon for example, and they knew people who knew his predecessors. And so on. The picture which they paint of American Orthodoxy –and this you will find across the spectrum of all ethnic groups–is that the Russians were here first. As my own elderly acquaintances used to tell me: “Oi Rossoi erthanai edho prota.” (“The Russians were here first.”)

    I realize that this is not strictly speaking, history, nor even good history, nor even “primary” sources, but it is a valid oral tradition –again, like the Gospels (which were not redacted until possibly AD 45 at the earliest). And the fact that many different ethnic groups tell the same story is probative. Likewise, the fact that no one else ever made a claim for the GOA’s primacy until very — and I mean very recently, lends additional weight to the original “oral tradition” (so to speak).

  32. Ilya Kharin says

    If somebody would like to correct me, I don’t believe encyclopedias are generally considered to be primary sources… Presumably the encyclopedia’s numbers came from somewhere; census data, something.

    You are right, Richard. Encyclopedias are simply considered more reliable, not very opinionated. But they are a primary source in their own right – if what we want to know is what the Russian press around 1906 proffered as encycolpedic truth.

    However, of course there are primary source references. The encyclopedia article quotes the diocesan “Church Herald” (in Russian: “Tserkovnye Vedomosti”) for the years 1900, 1903, 1904 (№№ 11, 13—14, 47). I am not presently in the US, but if you are, you should not have a hard time tracking down these publications. SVS library, for instance, should have them.

    What is being disputed is the usual claim, i.e., that prior to the establishment of the GOA in 1921-22, all Orthodox in America were united under the Russian Archdiocese.

    It appears that the matter of dispute lies in the deciphering of the word “all.” The side which affirms the above statement considers “all” to mean “all ethnic groups”. The side which disagrees – “all persons.”

    Before the age of catastrphies, the Russian ecclesiastical presence in the US was alone among Orthodox hierarchies concerned with the American continent in that it sought to be inclusive of all Orthodox, regardless of ethno-cultural identity. This drive failed – owing first of all to the resistance of Greek-speaking communities and hierarchy. Regardless of the oughts – i.e. regardless of whether it was good or bad for this drive to fail at that time – can these postulates serve as common ground for all of us?

  33. Ilya Kharin says

    Oral history is a genre onto itself, but oral witness is a bona-fide primary source. As all primary sources, it simply needs to be handled with reference to who and how is speaking.

    George, it might be of great benefit for history if you could write down what you hear from those survivors of St. Tikhon’s days. Most importantly, what they say would reflect their consciousness and memory of the events, and these are quite important aside from the factual correctness of their statements.

  34. Richard Barrett says

    Mr. Michalopulos, my point is methodological. Nothing more, nothing less. As #25 clearly demonstrates, as as is demonstrated throughout this thread, when questions are asked about methodology and sources, it appears that you respond by continuing to refer to the particulars of an agenda, which is what generated the questions about methodology and sources in the first place.

    The basic problem here is this: your issue with Fr. Oliver’s thesis, according to you, consists of the “never united” part of his argument. Fr. Oliver’s argument is supported through references to primary sources (and perhaps the issue here is that you don’t understand what these are from the standpoint of historiography); your disagreement is supported through referencing an agenda, appeals to secondary sources and assertions of fact that you claim don’t need to be supported. Now, you may very well be right; I’m not disputing that. The trouble is, from a historiographical point of view, you’ve offered little of substance. Your criticisms stand on very weak methodological ground, comparatively. When this is pointed out, you respond with more of the same.

    The good news is, if your argument is correct, than I would assume these concerns would be very easy to address and primary sources easily found.


  35. Fr. Andrew says

    Re #29

    George, I honestly believe you’d prefer to talk about something other than the question of whether all Orthodox in America were united under the Russians prior to the establishment of the Greek Archdiocese.

    You seem to be concerned mainly with who was “here first” (which “here”? Russian Alaska? Spanish Florida? French Louisiana? American New York?). You also seem to believe that anyone who disagrees with your assessment of the historical facts is a pro-EP apologist, set on pushing the interpretation of Chalcedon Canon 28 made famous by (but not originated by) Patr. Meletios Metaxakis. You also seem to be deeply interested in who was “uncanonical” but without defining what you mean by uncanonical. (Does that mean “not Orthodox”? “Not following the canons?” (Which ones?) “Orthodox but in big trouble”?)

    All of that is not my concern here, nor, I believe, was it the concern of the writing by Fr. Oliver which you responded to but, in my assessment, did not really address. You seem to prefer to talk about that, but please don’t presume that we’re really discussing the same thing or that you’re actually addressing the original points. You’re making other points, some highly contentious. (It’s no wonder that we’re asking for some backing to your points.)

    If you want to try to build a case for OCA or Russian hegemony based on your reading of history and who was “here first,” “canonical,” etc., go right ahead. I’m of the opinion that your reading of history is on pretty shaky ground, and I also think the “here first” argument is getting less and less traction by the moment, but go right ahead.

  36. George Michalopulos says

    Richard, the concern for “methodology” cannot be divorced from “agenda” in the case of the new historiographers. I never realized it, but it appears that there is an agenda in play. If I didn’t know any better, I strongly suspect that it has something to do with the present Constantinopolitan claims. I’m very chary about ascribing motives to these critics even though they have absolutely no compunction about my own supposed motives, but I feel that the masks are quickly coming off. (BTW, I don’t wear one, like Will Rogers, “all I know I get from the papers.”)

    Having said that, it appears to me that whenever historiographers get together and do their work, they do so from a very well-hidden ideological perspective. Please forgive me, but this reminds me very much of the work of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) whose main purpose is to debunk the historicity of the Holocaust. Now, I wasn’t at Buchenwald, neither were any of my ancestors or relatives there, either as wacthmen or as prisoners. That doesn’t mean that there was no Holocaust. Unfortunately, it is incumbent on disinterested observers who come across such reasoning to ask cui bono? (who benefits?). Why the interest? I’m sure some honest historians can be found in such venues. Ordinarily however, it is a nesting-place of rabid anti-Semites posing as scholars to better hide their odious views. Usually, the mask comes off when simple are asked, questions like: so 6 million Jews weren’t killed in the concentration camps? (ans: no, much less). “So was the Holocaust still bad? (ans: silence.) The apotheosis of this was the Holocaust conference in Iran last year where it was decided that there never was a Holocaust and the next one that happens won’t be a bad thing. This is an example of reductio ad absurdam argumentation.

    That is also why I like to ask questions. I want answers. I’d rather not peer into the motives of the new historiographers but the present Leftist paradigm which dominates our culture, academically and politically, leaves us no choice. In my seven years at various universities, it became obvious to me that the intent of most historiographers is to debunk the accepted view of history. An example would be Charles Beard’s account of the Constitution which he viewed as a means of ensuring wealth rather than as a governing document that strictly ennumerated the powers of the federal govt. Such work was necessary for progressives like Woodrow Wilson to dispense with the normal Constitutional restraints during his administrations. It is still the modus vivendi which gives the rationale for all progressives to similarly dispense with the Constitution.

    Enough of that. I’m a simple man living in the real world. Ideas have consequences and the more I study historiography, the more I realize that similar bad-faith reasoning is involved. Hence my claim that the present argument is being proffered with a hidden agenda, which I believe to be the present supremacist claims of certain Constantinopolitan groups. (Interestingly enough, Chambesy handily dealt a death blow to such claims.)

    Ilya is correct, and if I may emphasize his point, encyclopaedias can be better than “primary” sources in that encyclopaedias and dictionaries strive for impartiality, something that cannot be accepted generally from primary sources (who very often have their own agendas).

    I’m afraid you create a straw man however when you state that all I have to do bring forth the primary sources and the question will be settled once and for all (I paraphrase your last statement). It is not up to me to prove that there was a Russian-American diocese in North America, or that it had a continuous line of bishops, or that these bishops cared for their own flocks and those of other ethnic groups (or even non-Orthodox), these are facts. It is up to you and the other critics to (1) prove the opposite, (2) that there were other ethnic jurisdictions coeval to this time, and (3) that these same “jurisdictions” engaged in missionary activity (however you choose to define that term), hence validating their claims to North America based on canon 13 of the Council of Carthage. (Canon 13 is a clear protocol by the way. We desperate appeals to it in the legend of Theodoros the Greek sapper on Amerigo Vespucci’s ship.)

    The first you (and I’m being general here so please don’t take offense) cannot do because it is logically impossible to prove a negative (i.e. that there was no Russian Mission in North America). The second you cannot do because you have not provided any primary sources which give the history of these ethnic exarchates prior to the creation of the GOA (because they don’t exist), and the third you will not do because canon 13 establishes clear protocols for the creation of new dioceses.

    Again, my hands are clean in that I have no agenda: I have stated on at least two occasions on this blog that I wish that canon 28 validated the present hyperbolic claims of the See of C’pole. That way, we could put aside our petty differences and just go ahead and unite adminstratively here in North America. Instead of people reacting positively to the same offer made by Lambrianides back in March, the extreme opposite happened in that this stupendous claim blew up in his face and was even rebuffed at Chambesy, even though that meeting was chaired by a Constantinopolitan bishop. Instead, a different tack appears, one in which certain historiographers engage in absurdly reductionist research in order to delegitimize the origin of American Orthodoxy.

  37. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Note 35.

    All of that is not my concern here, nor, I believe, was it the concern of the writing by Fr. Oliver which you responded to but, in my assessment, did not really address. You seem to prefer to talk about that, but please don’t presume that we’re really discussing the same thing or that you’re actually addressing the original points. You’re making other points, some highly contentious. (It’s no wonder that we’re asking for some backing to your points.)

    Then what is your concern, Fr. Andrew? What thing are you discussing? I’m stuck here with the same question I asked Richard Barrett above (#26): Where is it that you want to take us?

    Richard Barrett has already clarified that his concern is only about methodology (note #34) and offered nothing beyond a restatement of his objection. If you have the same complaint, give us something to show that there is more here than the complaint.

    I only mention this because I think the subject is interesting and important. I hear a lot of criticism of George Michalopulos’ work from your quarters, but I don’t see much beyond the complaint. Am I missing something?

  38. George Michalopulos says

    Fr Andrew, bless,

    why do you suppose this? (That I’d rather be talking about…). Do you have any insights into my own mind that I don’t possess? Admittedly, it is spiritually unprofitable to engage in revisionism, I’d much rather attend an All-American council in which all Orthodox bishops are invited to, and cast my vote for an American patriarch, but that doesn’t mean I am not interested in the history of North American Orthodoxy. I am. It is for this reason that I choose to challenge some modern critics, and yes, am forced now to question their motives. If I am wrong, I will concede any point that is incorrect. After all, at one time I believe that babies came from the stork. Once my father set me straight, I had to adjust my thinking on that matter.

    As for who was “here first” that seems the concerns of the present canon-28 theorists and their trusty sidekicks Theodoros and the pre-Columbian Orthodox church in Connecticut. I guess the ever-trusty “Greek church in New Orleans” is sitting on the sidelines presently awaiting the production of his birth certificate. (Was he born in the USA or the CSA?) Once that is settled to his coach’s satisfaction, I look for his to get back in play (unless it’s not settled to his coach’s satisfaction). At that point, he will be trotted off to the homeless shelter where he will shortly be joined by Theorodos the Sapper once all the laughter dies down. (I imagine the “Connecticut Church” will have a slightly longer play on the field; he may be quite useful as the magazine which introduced him is popular with New Agers and this may prove to be a fertile field of evangelism for the GOA. Then again, the jurisdiction of this church appears to belong to Alexandria since these monks came from North Africa.)

    As to the present hyperbolic claims of the canon-28 devotees (which again, have been swatted down repeatedly), the father of this red-headed stepchild is without a doubt Metaxakis. I sense a real desperation here (OK, I’ll start playing the motive game) in the efforts of some (including you) to discount his paternity. I think we can all understand why this illegitimately elected heresiarch is relegated to the historical attic along with the other crazy aunts. Hence, the need to prove that the milkman is the real father. Before Metaxakis, one has to travel back in time six hundred years to find another EP with such an exalted view of his office (Philotheus Kokkinus). Yet serious historians, realizing the abrasiveness of Kokkinus’ near-papalist claims, have strived to put Kokkinus’ claims within a proper Orthodox ecclesiological context (cf Aristeidis Papadakis), that is to say, not one of supremacy. Others however, have not been so sanguine (cf. John Erickson). Myself, I tend to agree with Papadakis, in that other EP’s were likewise elevating the role of the decaying Byzantine monarchy as the focal point of Christian unity, even in sovereign states. But I digress.

    The questions I ask Father are because as an Orthodox Christian, they bear on my salvation. Orthodox historiographical research cannot be divorced from ecclesiology or theology. Let me give you an example: It matters if the bishop which ordained the priest that married my parents was a real bishop. Otherwise my parents were not sacramentally married and their issue are illegitimate. More to the point, it matters to their own salvation because for several decades thereafter, my parents partook of the Chalice. Did they do so unworthily? If so, is that why one “got sick, and even sleeps”?

    Now we get to motive. Why the desire to invalidate historical questions? Especially ones that can be answered yes or no? As somebody who is involved in the forensic sciences, this silence means something. Indeed, it raises alarms.

    Again, I ask:

    1. was their an existent Russian diocese in North America?

    2. were their bishops of said diocese?

    3. did said bishops create at least two ethnic exarchates?

    4. was said diocese funded by the Holy Synod of Russia?

    5. why didn’t the EP claim universal jurisdiction based on canon 28 in 1908 or 1921?

    I could go on, but since I doubt I’ll ever receive any direct answers, I’ll stop there. At the risk of offending anyone, I will say only this point, that in argumentation, silence implies consent.

  39. orrologion says

    The argument seems to depend greatly on two things:

    1. Whether you see America or North America as the pertinent boundaries.

    2. Whether establishing parishes or dioceses in one corner of a continent gives claim to the entire continent, that entire country, that entire state or merely the immediate area of the parishes.

    Related is the question of what happens when political boundaries change. If we go country by country, would the Russian Mission in Alaska then give Moscow responsibility for the new country its parishes are now in, or not? Should responsibility for the Alaskan and SF have been transferred to someone else following Alaska’s sale to the U.S. since it is Fr. Andrew’s assertion that Moscow ONLY has jurisdiction over the territory of the Russian Empire. (Incidentally, I would very much like to see the sources undergirding this assertion). A reductio ad absurdum could be that Moscow would have taken over primacy of Istanbul, Greece and Asia Minor from the EP if it had been successful in its wars against the Ottomans.

  40. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #36

    Fr. Hans,

    Thanks for your comment. To reiterate, and to answer your question, I have two points I’m making:

    1. Prior to the 1921-22 establishment of the GOA all Orthodox in America were not united under the local Russian presence. (This is a separate issue from “ought to” or ”

    2. Credible historiography (the writing of history) requires reference to primary sources, not re-assertions of agendas.

    That’s all. As for the rest, George has been answered on all this before elsewhere, so I’m not going to dive into the seemingly bottomless pit again.

    Re: #39

    Christopher, the source defining the Russian church’s boundaries is the “Golden Seal Certificate” of 1591, reaffirmed in 1593 when the Metropolitan of Moscow was elevated to patriarchal rank. The relevant passage is: “the throne of the most venerable and Orthodox city of Moscow is and shall be called Patriarchate… and all Russia and the Far-Northern Territories shall be subject to the Patriarchal Throne of Moscow and all Russia. This has its place after His Beatitude of Jerusalem in the sacred diptychs, it is the head of this region of Moscow and all Russia and the Far-Northern territories.” This was an ecumenical (pan-Orthodox) decision marking its boundaries, and it followed precisely the title of the Czar at the time, King of Moscow and all Russia and of the extremely Northern territories.

    No Orthodox church’s ecumenically defined canonical territory currently includes any of the New World.

  41. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Fr. Andrew, well, that’s the thesis, but where is the proof? A critique of historiography presumes a counter-text. Lacking one, all that remains are objections and assertions (“agendas” to use your term) that never rise above the level of objection or assertion. That’s what I find frustrating. The same objections are raised over and over again, but nothing else is offered.

    This is very basic. (I have in BA in history, and the course work completed for an MA in Church History so I have some familiarity with these themes.) Historiography is examined and challenged by the comparison of texts. Where is yours?

  42. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #41

    Fr. Hans, the references and primary sources are found all over the weblog. See especially the posts in the “Pre-1921 Unity” category.

  43. Matthew Namee says

    Dear Mr Michalopulos,

    Above, you stated that you have a draft of my “Myth of Unity” paper and intend to post material from the footnotes. I do not know how you came into possession of such a draft, but I would ask that you kindly refrain from reproducing or disseminating my paper or any portions thereof without my express permission. I am currently preparing the final version of the paper for publication, and I do not want draft versions circulating on the Internet.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Matthew Namee

  44. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Fr. Andrew, I see a lot of posts, but I don’t see any essay confirming the thesis. Am I missing it?

  45. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #44

    Fr. Hans, this post in particular includes Matthew Namee presenting his paper “The Myth of Past Unity.” That’s probably the best one-stop pile of relevant information. The paper is also being prepared for publication.

  46. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #44

    Fr. Hans, this post in particular includes Matthew Namee presenting his paper “The Myth of Past Unity.” That’s probably the best one-stop pile of relevant information. The paper is also being prepared for publication.

  47. Geo Michalopulos says

    re #40, so I take it that canon 13 of the Council of Carthage is null and void? Can you point me to a primary source (i.e. other canon and council) which invalidates it?

    As to the “golden seal”: the Russian lands included “all the far-northern lands.” Alaska was sovereign territory of the Russian Empire. Its presence in the lower 48 is also attested. Why did Patriarch Joachim III of C’pole refuse to send a Greek bishop to the US from his own see? Why did he insist that any such Greek bishop should come from the ROC?

    And again, I ask, why did the EP not press its claims to North America in 1921? Also, why do some of its apologists make reference to Theodoros the Sapper (ca 1500) and the newly discovered “Orthodox church in Connecticut” (ca AD 500)?

    I think it is incumbent now upon certain apologists to speak openly and state what their real agenda is: that canon 28 of Chalcedon gives the EP jurisdictional supremacy over the entire non-Orthodox world. Let us say it openly and be done with it. Of course, it is increasingly clear that such cannot be said openly because of the derision with which such a stunning assertion would be greeted.

    And yes, it is an assertion: the ipsimma verbi of canon 28 carefully dilineate the boundaries of the see of C’pole.

  48. Geo Michalopulos says

    Mr Namee,

    No skullduggery was involved. You gave a very excellent presentation last year at Chicago. I quote from it as well as follow the aforementioned website ( These footnotes derive from contemporaneous newspaper accounts and are in the public record. I have no intention of disseminating any information from your lecture as it is going to be posted (along with all other presentations from the recent symposium at Crestwood) on special website created by SVS. I have been working on a synthesis of several of my responses to Fr Oliver and your own 2008 lecture for presentation on this website (should such permission be forwarded to me).

    in Christ,

    Geo Michalopulos

  49. orrologion says

    Thanks, Fr. Andrew. This is an important piece of information to be made available.

    No Orthodox church’s ecumenically defined canonical territory currently includes any of the New World.

    That includes the EP, correct?

    Is there any precedent in history of a local church evangelizing beyond or ahead of its borders without ecumenical approval? The Church of Russia would seem to be a case in point as its missionaries, monks and faithful brought Orthodoxy beyond its country’s borders along with the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow. Those that went north toward the White Sea would be covered by the “Golden Seal Certificate” of 1591, but those that went straight east would not have – unless one were to take “the Far-Northern territories” to be all those areas north of the Mediterranean basin through the Caucuses, which could include most of North America from a global perspective. (Of course, the Byzantines in 1591 likely didn’t have a grasp of the scope of the true geography of either the north [whether literally north or also including Siberia across to the Pacific and Bering] or the New World.)

    I would suggest that precedent would point to the fact that those churches that evangelize a region previously unevangelized do take over jurisdiction. This is why my second point is so essential:

    2. Whether establishing parishes or dioceses in one corner of a continent gives claim to the entire continent, to that entire country or state, or merely the immediate area of the parishes.

    And, whatever the answer is, whether this is regardless of later territorial shifts.

    I think we are taking too far the precedent regarding the matching up of dioceses and local churches with political boundaries. That is something as much followed in the breach, it seems, throughout history. I think this assumption that borders of political entities and dioceses is behind a good deal of this. Just as with the Church of Greece, I don’t see why a single country cannot have multiple – but not overlapping – jurisdictions. Let Alaska down to San Francisco be autocephalous or Russian, for instance. Let the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Florida be unequivocally under the EP. The rest can be divvied up based on horse trading between who was their first (with parishes, priests or bishops) and what the predominant population there is. It won’t take long for any or all of them to realize that demography is destiny and immigrants to North America assimilate; they may be under a given ethnic church, but they will die a slow death if they focus primarily on that ethnic group (the fact that jurisdiction assignment would encompass parishes, clergy and bishops of multiple and diverse ethnic and jurisdictional backgrounds will immediately dilute any monoethnic focus).

    Whoever we are under, we all need to be together and stop thinking separately. As it is Greeks really only think of Greek parishes and concerns, Russians Russians, Americans Americans, etc. We have to start concerning ourselves with each other, we have to begin expressing and hearing the concerns of others rather than ignoring each other. If that’s under the EP, so be it (overlapping exarchates would simply be the current situation under a different name); if that’s under Moscow, Jerusalem, as autonomous or autocephalous, the important thing is being together under one roof.

  50. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #47

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a proponent of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s current interpretation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon. Believe it or not, George, not everyone who disagrees with you is. There are many alternative views.

    And, if I may say so: Sheesh.

  51. Geo Michalopulos says

    P.S. Mr Namee, your lecture on the SVS website is in the public record.

  52. Richard Barrett says

    Good heavens. By pointing out the weaknesses in your methodology, we are evidently a) acting in bad faith, b) part of the grand conspiracy plotting for EP hegemony, and even c) on par with Holocaust deniers. According to you, this is actually our fault because we’re on the wrong side anyway. Bless me, I had no idea I was involved in such nefarious things.

    This is very disappointing, Mr. Michalopulos. There need not be an Indian behind every tree. For my part, I am hoping you address the weaknesses being discussed, because doing so will in fact advance the conversation and the understanding. I have no vested interest one way or the other in who may be right, be that you, Fr. Oliver, or somebody else entirely.

    What was refreshing about Fr. Oliver’s take was, in fact, that it was a scholarly approach and played by scholarly rules. So often this topic is not treated in such a manner. Unfortunately, how you have responded to that, and continue to respond to that, only serves to underscore why Fr. Oliver’s work was appreciated in the first place.

    If you want to be taken seriously in the arena for which you seem to be shooting, Mr. Michalopulos, the criticism being presented here (by others far more qualified to offer it than me, I will hasten to add) is something you’re going to have to figure out an alternative way of dealing with than claims that you don’t have to play by those rules and accusations of bad faith.


  53. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #49

    Christopher, the EP’s claim to the “diaspora” is precisely based on the grounds that it is not in anyone’s canonical territory (including its own). The EP does not claim that the “diaspora” is its canonical territory, but rather that it has a sort of default position as the caretaker for such areas until such time as they can be self-governing. (To be clear, I am not a proponent of this position.)

    My own opinion (which hasn’t really yet been asked, but I’ll volunteer it) is that the New World constitutes a previously unforeseen situation. The canonical tradition dates from a time when a significant amount of the Church’s administrative burden with regard to territory and mission work was being shouldered by the Empire. As such, the canons actually provide for no possibility of missionary work outside ecumenically defined canonical territories. (That makes it, by definition, uncanonical.) But that grey area of uncanonicity was largely taken care of before by the Empire. Not so any more.

    I don’t think any Orthodox church has a clear, indisputable claim to the New World. (The current disputation proves that.)

    Now, we have competing theories: Moscow’s seems to be that it is anyone’s game, so long as one gets there first. (This is coupled with the new canonical doctrine that autocephaly may be unilaterally granted.) Other churches have followed suit, though usually without making territorial claims. This is why so many Orthodox churches are now operating outside their canonical territory (the EP, Antioch, Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and even the OCA, by its own definitions). Constantinople’s theory is that there must be ecumenical agreement on this, and that it is the sole spokesman for that ecumenical agreement.

    I personally agree with the need for ecumenical agreement (since the other approach has yielded us our current chaos), though I don’t think that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is always the spokesman for it, unless there’s actually been discussion and real agreement. (That is, he can’t just say something and expect me to accept it as ecumenical.)

    Our modern canonical problem is a failure of the Orthodox churches to get together and speak with one voice. It is not simply that some are following “the rules” and others aren’t. There is no agreement on what the rules really are. We also clearly need some new rules, since we have a new situation. The days of hurling accusations of “uncanonicity” need to end, because they’re clearly not getting us anywhere. They’re also not what our tradition really entails, which is conciliarity.

    So, that’s what I think.

  54. Fr. Andrew says

    I forgot Poland. The Church of Poland has parishes in Italy and Brazil.

  55. Geo Michalopulos says

    Fr, please forgive me. (Damn cussedness again.) I would be highly in favor of the North American bishops coming together under the formula propagated at Chambesy. Metropolitan +Jonah himself has requested this. I know the man and he would humbly step down as president of said council in the interests of making this happen. In other words, forget Alaska, forget the primacy of the RM, forget the creation of the first non-RM ethnic jurisdiction –basically just wipe the slate clean and begin anew.

    However, it will not. Chambesy will probably work in Germany, Oceania, South America, etc., but it appears to be a non-starter in North America. The reason is probably because the GOA bishops would be outnumbered 4 to 1 in any such assembly (that’s even if we add the miniscule number of non-Greek EP bishops [ACROD, Uke, Albanian] to the mix).

    Again, I hate impugning motives, but I am a reasonable man and I can discern intentions based on acts. The speech by Lambrianides was vouchsafed to me by two people at Holy Cross as a trial balloon, that is pushing the claims of the EP to their logical, supremacist conclusion in anticipation of Cyprus/Chambesy. Everything since then from the GOA has been an attempt to solidify Lambrianides’ claims. (Indeed before: last year The Orthodox Observer printed an article entitled “The Palestinian Vicariate” in which it was flatly stated that the GOA is “the canonical jurisdiction in the US.” This means that there is no other canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in the US outside the GOA. (Or am I misunderstanding the rules of logic?

  56. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #55

    George, the text in question uses this wording: The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Jerusalem Patriarchate have agreed that the canonical and pastoral supervision of these communities and their clergy should belong to the canonically established jurisdiction in the United States which is the Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne in America, that is, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

    Notice the lack of comma between “States” and “which.” I suppose you could read that your way, i.e., that the EP is saying that the GOA is the only “canonically established jurisdiction in the United States.”

    My own reading is otherwise, however, and I don’t read a comma between “States” and “which,” thus making “the canonically established jurisdiction in the United States which is the Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne in America” one phrase which is then explained by “that is, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.” That is, “canonical established jurisdiction” modifies “the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America” without making any claim (in this text) to exclusivity.

    After all, the EP has several other jurisdictions in the U.S. (Ukrainians, Albanians, Carpatho-Russians, Belarusians, and certain Old Calendarist Greeks). I find it hard to believe that the EP would so disenfranchise it’s non-GOA jurisdictions.

  57. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #55

    George, the text in question uses this wording: The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Jerusalem Patriarchate have agreed that the canonical and pastoral supervision of these communities and their clergy should belong to the canonically established jurisdiction in the United States which is the Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne in America, that is, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

    Notice the lack of comma between “States” and “which.” I suppose you could read that your way, i.e., that the EP is saying that the GOA is the only “canonically established jurisdiction in the United States.”

    My own reading is otherwise, however, and I don’t read a comma between “States” and “which,” thus making “the canonically established jurisdiction in the United States which is the Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne in America” one phrase which is then explained by “that is, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.” That is, “canonical established jurisdiction” modifies “the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America” without making any claim (in this text) to exclusivity.

    After all, the EP has several other jurisdictions in the U.S. (Ukrainians, Albanians, Carpatho-Russians, Belarusians, and certain Old Calendarist Greeks). I find it hard to believe that the EP would so disenfranchise its non-GOA jurisdictions.

  58. Geo Michalopulos says

    Mr Barrett, I really don’t want to impugn motives. However we live in the real world. The inability (or unwillingness) to answer even the most questions inevitabaly raises concerns. As I am not a professinal historian, canonist, clergyman, etc., I have a very real interest in the canonicity of the various jurisdictions. Believe me, evangelism right now is at the breaking point in North America. And I don’t mean in a good way. Real concerns are being leveled by honest inquirers and our inability to put our house in order is of the gravest concern.

  59. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Richard (note #52), read note #53. That is how discussion should be handled. All these assertions and objections left unproven get us nowhere. State you thesis, start marshaling the evidence, then real conversation can begin.

    Frankly, I think the topic is interesting and necessary to examine. But you guys came here a bit defensive and started blasting away, when it is increasingly evident that you are only beginning your research. Very frustrating for people who take the history seriously and, I might add, a bit disrespectful to them as well.

  60. orrologion says

    …the canons actually provide for no possibility of missionary work outside ecumenically defined canonical territories. (That makes it, by definition, uncanonical.)

    Perhaps acanonical is a more exact term? Apart from the canons rather than according or not according to them.

    Now, we have competing theories: Moscow’s seems to be that it is anyone’s game, so long as one gets there first. (This is coupled with the new canonical doctrine that autocephaly may be unilaterally granted.)

    Two issues:

    1. How far does a claim extend? I think it as unreasonable to assume that Moscow ‘gets’ all of North America based on the establishment of the Alaskan Mission as them ‘getting’ all of the Americas. The same goes for assuming that the Russian Mission and its parish in San Francisco means Moscow ‘gets’ all of the United States. The US is a big place.

    For instance, Alexandria didn’t get all of Africa because that was the first city on the continent evangelized, they got responsibility for all of Africa except for the Latin regions west of Libya.

    2. I wonder if there should be a difference acknowledged between the unilateral or multilateral grant of autocephaly and its ecumenical acceptance.

    That is, the EP isn’t the arbiter of autocephaly, but it is the first see among the local churches and should be involved in a way similar to the interaction between bishop and Metropolitan as we see in Apostolic Canon 34:

    The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.

    I would suggest that the granting of autocephaly is an action “of consequence” that should be decided in Council with the consent of the see that is “first among them”. Of course, the opposite is true, too, that the “first among them” should not “do anything without the consent of all” either. That is, the EP is allowed to veto as both a one of the heads of the local churches and also as the “first among them”, but the EP is not the sole granter of autocephaly. (Old Rome held a similar position, and made a similar mistake in thinking its influence was sole and final rather than one of many and central).

  61. Geo Michalopulos says

    “…to the canonically established jurisdiction in the United States…” I’m sorry Fr, I still don’t see the distinction. Can we open this up for disctussion? Is there anybody else out there who thinks that this is a categorical statement of sole canonical standing? Anyone?

  62. Richard Barrett says

    Fr. Hans: I agree wholeheartedly that assertions and objections left unproven get us nowhere. That is the whole point I am making.

    I have not offered a competing thesis because I don’t have one. As I said, I do not have a vested interest in who is right, and who is wrong. The research I do is in a different period and in a different place. My point remains that with this kind of foundational weakness, it is difficult to see the way in which the work of various SOCHA members has been engaged by Mr. Michalopulos as either constructive or playing on the same field. Questions like “What is your counterargument?”, to say nothing of impugning motives, does not address the methodological criticism; it simply dodges it and makes Mr. Michalopulos and his arguments increasingly difficult to take seriously from a scholarly perspective. As I have said multiple times, his arguments may well be right, and if he would counter Fr. Oliver’s arguments with arguments equally well-researched and supported with primary source references, I have no doubt that it would advance the conversation considerably.

    Mr. Michalopulos: Real concerns are being leveled by honest inquirers and our inability to put our house in order is of the gravest concern.

    That is certainly the case. This has nothing, however, to do with the methodological criticism at hand. As it appears you either cannot or will not address the criticism in any meaningful way, I will assume at this point that we are talking past one another and bow out.


  63. Richard Barrett says

    Let me actually make one of my sentences readable English:

    Questions like “What is your counterargument?”, to say nothing of impugning motives, do not address the methodological criticism; they simply dodge it and make Mr. Michalopulos and his arguments increasingly difficult to take seriously from a scholarly perspective.

  64. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #47

    George, you wrote: “Why did Patriarch Joachim III of C’pole refuse to send a Greek bishop to the US from his own see? Why did he insist that any such Greek bishop should come from the ROC?”

    I’m curious as to what your source for this is. I think I’ve read it somewhere before, but I can’t remember where. Do you know?

  65. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Richard, I get the point. You make it over and over. And I don’t accept the implicit conclusion that Mr. Michalopulos’ arguments are not to be taken seriously when all you offer is the assertion and no supporting evidence. You come across as a cheerleader for Fr. Oliver, almost as if the volume of your cheer somehow proves Fr. Oliver’s research more accurate.

    I’d rather read the research. Any essays you could point me to?

  66. Richard Barrett says

    Fr. Hans: I am sorry that you feel that giving preference, in an academic disagreement, to the argument that is actually well-supported with references to primary sources, and wanting the counterargument to be similarly well-supported, is “cheerleading.”

    You and I now appear to be talking past each other as well, unfortunately. So, that’s it for me.


  67. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Sheesh, this is getting frustrating. You keep telling me that George Michalopulos’ approach suffers from a flawed methodology because he does not use primary sources, yet when I ask for a text or essay that uses them, you can’t provide any.

    So all I am left with is an assertion that Fr. Herbel’s approach is not flawed — and nothing else. See why it comes across as cheerleading?

    I simply want to evaluate your objection for myself. You have provided no reason why I should take your objection at face value. This is not the same thing as “talking past each other.” It is simply the inability back up your assertion with any evidence.

  68. orrologion says

    I think that is an important thing to note, Fr. Johannes. The SOCHA site is a valuable resource in helping to make primary source material more widely available. I think, too, that Mr. Namee’s presentation at SVOTS referred to a good deal of primary material. I hear that Fr. Oliver and Mr. Namee and others are in the process of publishing much of the material they have found by scouring archives, newspapers, etc.

    Perhaps Mr. Barrett and others have read drafts of the yet to be published materials or have seen some of these archival materials firsthand. Until they are published, however, it really is ‘he said, he said’ regarding the pertinence of the materials cited. It should be understandable to Fr. Oliver, Fr. Andrew, Richard and others that people don’t want to simply take their word for the existence of the primary materials referred to or to their proper analysis of those materials. That is, they seem to be doing very good work that will require peer review, and that won’t happen until there is greater access to the primary sources and to their conclusions. Godspeed them in their work.

    Overall, I have been very impressed both with the materials proved and the analysis of them on the SOCHA website. However, I have commented there regarding what I saw to be analyses that were either a stretch or slightly too broad a conclusion to draw from the material at hand. That doesn’t mean the conclusion isn’t or won’t be proven correct or that other corroborating materials won’t strengthen the case for that conclusion, just that the materials provided did not fully, necessarily prove the conclusion made. That being said, I think their work is a welcome, thoughtful and disciplined reevaluation of the history of Orthodox Christianity in North America as far as I can tell based on the materials made available from them thus far – regarding a historical narrative not often questioned even by those on opposing canonical camps regarding what ‘Ought To Have Been Done’ and ‘What Ought To Be Done’.

    I would very much like to see a bibliography on the SOCHA website regarding any published works that address the issue of ‘What Was’ by Fr. Oliver or others.

  69. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Note #68, BTW, just to be clear, I am making no judgment on Fr. Herbel’s work, or even your objection. For all I know you might have a point. Nevertheless, you do bear the obligation to defend the objection when challenged. Merely reasserting it isn’t enough since this is, as you said, an academic question. It has to rise above the level of polemics.

  70. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Note #69. I agree, the historical narrative needs clarification. It is absolutely essential in the work towards unity in America. Having said that, I welcome some substantive work from SOCHA but they have to tone down what comes across as aggressive polemics (they apparently don’t see it that way) if they don’t want to create a roadblock to credibility down the road. The historical record (and the narrative that will emerge from it) is too important to let it devolve into the partisan bickering that we Orthodox do so well.

  71. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #71

    For whatever it might be worth, the only inkling that the material on the SOCHA site might be construed as “aggressive polemics” has come from Mr. Michalopulos’s idiosyncratic approach to history. He honestly appears to believe that anyone who disagrees with any element of his writing is a Metaxakite (if I may) bent on making Constantinople the Eastern Vatican.

    In any event, I invite folks to look at the site and judge for themselves. It’s not polemic to insist on using primary sources nor to make use of them. It’s just standard historiography. It’s also not polemic to be critical by the approach of Mr. Michalopulos and to hold him accountable for his use (or lack thereof) of the sources, especially when it’s drawn out, invincibly repeated, etc.

  72. Richard Barrett says

    Fr. Hans: Yes, I agree, this has been frustrating for awhile.

    As I have stated, at least twice, academically, this is not my field. I doubt there are any Syriac texts from Late Antiquity that would be directly relevant to this matter. While I follow the SOCHA website as an interested observer, I have no relevant research, nor a counterargument, nor any particular skin in the outcome of the disagreement. I don’t claim that there are no flaws in Fr. Oliver’s argumentation, only that, even in less formal writings, he adheres to a standard academic method which a would-be critic would also have to adhere to in order to properly engage. Does Mr. Michalopulos disagree with his sources? Then let him produce sources which show something else. He hasn’t done this. Therefore, once again, all I really want is to see Mr. Michalopoulos show us a primary source, any primary source, that supports his assertions. A primary source, generally speaking, is not an encyclopedia. A primary source is not giving a specific year. A primary source is not secondary literature written decades, if not centuries, later. Again, this is not my field, so I don’t know with any precision what the sources are; my supposition is that census records, church rolls, baptismal certificates, newspaper accounts, articles of incorporation for parishes, letters between priests and bishops, letters or articles or books published by various figures within the narrative, and such things, all contemporary with the period in question, would be good places to start. This is basic, foundational, standard operating procedure in the world of not only historiography but any academic discipline. You appear to be suggesting that both arguing from primary sources and, well, not arguing from primary sources are equally valid from a methodological standpoint, and if this is really what you, or Mr. Michalopulos, think, then I’m afraid I really don’t know what to tell you.

    I would also go so far as to say that, ultimately, this criticism is intended to be constructive, and to suggest to Mr. Michalopulos how he might actually present his counterargument in a manner consistent with the methodology of the object of his disagreement, thus in fact furthering the discussion in a productive manner. I am simply baffled as to why neither you nor Mr. Michalopulos seem to consider this fair criticism, choosing rather to call it “cheerleading” or being “defensive” or “blasting away”, as well as making accusations of bad faith, and rather grave and uncalled-for comparisons to Holocaust denial.

    I have nothing further to offer. If the only answer either of you have is, “Show us the opposing research,” that is, in all charity, not an answer to a methodological criticism, but a dodge.


  73. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    No, it is not a dodge. I’m calling you out. No one goes public like this with merely an objection, or with assertions that someone else’s methodology is better (you did it again above) without offering any evidence. You say this isn’t your field, yet you nevertheless make all sorts of challenges to George Michalopulos that you demand he answer, and then fault him for not answering them to your liking.

    Look, here is how it works. If there is something you want to challenge, you cite page or footnote, and then ask George to explain it. Merely faulting him for not using enough primary sources, and then appealing to broad methodological principles to justify the complaint doesn’t say anything. If you were Jaroslav Pelikan or someone of his stature, the complaint would carry some weight. But by your own admission this is not your field. So what gives?

    This is polemics, pure and simple. And no, I am not really interested in your implicit assertion that I need to defend my rejection of standard historical methodology since I am doing nothing of the sort. I just recognize polemics masquerading as an argument when I see it.

    Look, let’s do this. Let’s let Fr. Herbel speak for himself. We don’t need to be told “Fr. Herbel good, George bad” by someone who admits historiography is not his field. I don’t mean any offense by this, but clarifying the historical record is too important to muddle it with this kind of bargain-basement analysis.

  74. Richard Barrett says

    Fr. Hans: A point of clarification for the factual record — I said that modern American Orthodox historiography is not my field. Historiography is in fact my field, but not that period or that geography, as I’ve said at least twice before. I am a PhD student in the Ancient Studies field of History at Indiana University, specializing in Byzantium and the Middle East in Late Antiquity.

    If you wish to write off “my” criticism (and I’ll simply note, again, that it is hardly just “my” criticism) as polemic, be my guest. I certainly agree that there has been a good deal of polemic in this discussion, and suggest that this exchange in all of its particulars speaks for itself. As I said, I have nothing further to offer.


  75. Geo Michalopulos says

    All: I think the debate is good and healthy. I’ve been asked certain questions now by Fr Andrew (note #65) and by Mr Barrett. Yet nobody is willing to answer some basic historical questions that I have posed. To my mind, this bespeaks bad faith. Basically that people can impugn my motives but I’m not allowed to ask my own questions. This is unChristian, illogical, or at the very least disingenuous.

    It reeks of sophistry as does much of the reductionism that has overtaken the present historiographical question. (Does anybody know the proper answer to sophistry? The ancient Greek philosopher who first proposed it said that “no one can step into the same river twice,” hence there were no absolute truths –or facts for that matter. A critic responded thusly: “well in that case, I don’t really owe you the 50 drachmas that I borrowed from you last month.”)

    I want to re-ask certain, very basic, simple questions. They are germane because unlike the sophists of yore, I actually live in the real world, not one of platonic archetypes.

    here they are (again):

    1. Which OC established the first churces in North America?

    2. Which OC had a continuous line of bishops in North America from its inception to the present?

    3. Which OC undertook massive evangelistic programs in North America during the 19th century?

    4. Which OC looked for, and cared for the massive waves of incoming Orthodox immigrants who were not part of its nationality?

    5. Which OC looked to create ethnic exarchates to minister to these new groups?

    6. Which OC actually created two ethnic exarchates for two of these new groups?

    7. Why did this OC do this? By what right did it do so?

    There are specific answers to the above questions. In fact, to questions 1 thru 6, there is only one answer to all of them. (I won’t bore you with answering it.) The following questions require a little more analysis but they are very germane to the issue at hand:

    8. Why did the EP not claim universal jurisdiction over North America in 1921 or any time prior to that? Why for that matter has the EP only recently claimed universal jurisdiction, especially over North America?

    9. When, in 1908 the EP transfered its parishes from itself to the Church of Greece, did it do so willingly?

    10. If it was coerced, is this canonical? Are such decisions binding or are they null and void?

    11. Does the EP indeed have universal jurisdiction over the “diaspora”? Which canon grants the EP such jurisdiction? And finally,

    12. Is there such a thing in Orthodox ecclesiolgy as a “diaspora”?

    I have several other questions, none of which require historiagraphical analysis but I would be tickled pink if at least questions 1 thru 7 were answered.

  76. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    The point still holds. In fact, it becomes even stronger. Engage the scholarship and leave off the appeals to authority. I’m not interested in polemical broadsides. I’m not interested in letting the blog be used for generalized criticism. If you understand historiography, then do history. Write an essay proving a point or two that forms the basis of your complaint (you have yet to offer any), and then you can link to it here.

  77. Richard Barrett says

    Fr. Hans: You’re on. As I am presently out of the country (i.e., not home) for yet another couple of weeks, I will not be able to do this immediately, but I will link to it here once it is done.


  78. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Excellent. Looking forward to it.

  79. Geo Michalopulos says

    Fr Andrew, re #55-59, 61, in re-reading the original text, I do believe I see your point that this was not an exclusive claim of canonicity by the EP for the GOA. If that is indeed the case, and the plain text means nothing more than that, then I stand corrected. (I still have my doubts however: would a more felicitous wording not be called for, something along these lines: “…the EP and the JP have therefore agreed that sole jurisdiction for these Palestinian parishes should belong to the GOA, which is one of the many canonical jurisdictions in the US.” Would this not have been a more charitable wording?)

    Such unfortunate choice of words would have been obvious to an organization that didn’t have such a tin ear and unfortunately, contributes to the overall cloudy picture of the GOA in these regards. Admittedly a stereotype but one that keeps on getting reinforced unwittingly or not. These stereotypes led me to read this statement as a categorical one that champions exclusive canonicity. I am probably not the only one. Again, if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

    Of course, this brings up many other issues, including the canonicity of the GOA, among others. In a previous post, I asserted that “the OCA has not expressed the full extent of its autocephaly which would mean that it is the only canonical church in North America.” (A paraphrase.) Should it do so, then it would be doing what every other autocephalous church has done within its borders.

    We can agree that this might not be a prudent thing to do. Nevertheless, the opposite scenario is also in play: that by not doing so, the OCA accepts that every other Old World jurisdiction enjoys “universal jurisdiction.” This of course is tantamount to papalism. Such a state of affairs has real-world consequences since it makes present situation untenable. Let me explain again: either these Old World patriarchates acknowledge that their American eparchies are noncanonical or their exclusive reason for being is that they are/were created for the maintainance of racial/ethnic churches. This is both unScriptural and uncanonical. It is in fact heretical (1872: Council of Constantinople). And truth be told, it is whispered in Phanar precincts that because of this nationalism, that the Bulgarian, Serbian, and Romanian, are not in fact, “real patriarchates.” (Unfortunately, the tables are turned on the EP in this regard: as the Church of Greece therefore not autocephalous? And: why was Poland, Albania, Estonia, and Finland granted independence by the EP? Are these not “ethnic and/or racial churches”? The plot thickens.

    Hence, the need for going back to territoriality. It is only in this way that the Balkan churches can combat the claim that they are nothing but racial caretakers. In retrospect, the rationale of the OCA continues to gain strength in this respect as it is not a racial church but a national church possessing discreet borders and encompassaing many different ethnicities and races. It has no claim outside of the North American continent. Indeed, no national church can have a claim outside of its border.

    I realize that this opens me up to this retort: then why should the ROC have claim to North America? My answer: it shouldn’t, and guess what? It doesn’t. That it took almost 2 centuries to give its former diocese independence is no shame. The ROC was an active and enthusiastic diocese of the See of Constantinople for almost 500 years.

  80. Geo Michalopulos says

    Fr Andrew, re #53. It is not a “new” claim that a church can “unilaterally grant autocephaly.” This was in fact the main way that autocephaly was granted in the first millenium. Metropolitan regions (which were autocephalous) grew out of older dioceses. The first church was in Jerusalem, then Antioch, then Damascus, then the newer churched radiated outward like spokes on a wheel from there on. Heracleia birthed Byzantium’s church, and from Byzantium came Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia, etc.

    The most famous such “unilateral” action was the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Georgia by the Church of Antioch. Theodore Balsaman stated that this was done singlehandedly by Patriarch Peter the Fuller.

  81. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #76

    George, I’ll answer your questions 1-7, though I don’t find them relevant to the original point. (That, by the way, is why I, at least, haven’t address them until now. It strikes me as an attempt to redefine the whole conversation in order to fit into a predefined script you’ve got running which has about as much to do with the original point as demanding what color the sky is has to do with a discussion on what tomorrow’s weather will be like.) So, we’re now having a different conversation. Or rather, I’m now leaving off the one you weren’t addressing and addressing yours.

    1. Which OC established the first churces in North America?

    Rome, actually, via St. Brendan the Navigator, around Newfoundland. The Russians established some churches in Alaska more than a millennium later.

    2. Which OC had a continuous line of bishops in North America from its inception to the present?

    None, actually, if you mean one who was continuously resident here in North America.

    3. Which OC undertook massive evangelistic programs in North America during the 19th century?

    None then, and none now, either. There were significant evangelistic programs in Alaska, but massive is the word I would use for them.

    4. Which OC looked for, and cared for the massive waves of incoming Orthodox immigrants who were not part of its nationality?

    Again, none. The overwhelming majority of the immigrants looked after themselves and got their clergy from “back home.”

    5. Which OC looked to create ethnic exarchates to minister to these new groups?

    The Russians started to (1904, Syrians), a rogue Antiochian did (Germanos Shehadi, 1916, Ukrainians), the American Orthodox Catholic Church did (1927-33, Ukrainians, Syrians, and “Americans”), the EP did (1937, Ukrainians; 1938, Carpatho-Russians; 1998, Old Calendarists; 2008, Palestinians/Jordanians), the ROCOR did (1964, Bulgarians), and the Metropolia/OCA did (1960, Romanians; 1971, Albanians; 1976, Bulgarians).

    I don’t think any of them were actually titled or canonically regard as “exarchates,” however.

    6. Which OC actually created two ethnic exarchates for two of these new groups?

    When? (Otherwise, see my answer for #5.)

    7. Why did this OC do this? By what right did it do so?

    I can’t read minds, nor am I a canonist, canon lawyer, or bishop, so I won’t claim to know either their motivations or their authority.

    I’ll even answer the rest, though I doubt you’ll like my answers any more than you like the above:

    8. Why did the EP not claim universal jurisdiction over North America in 1921 or any time prior to that? Why for that matter has the EP only recently claimed universal jurisdiction, especially over North America?

    Absent actual statements from the EP, I don’t know the answers to “why” questions (motivation speculation). I can say, though, that the premise of the question is false. As early as 1908 the EP was claiming jurisdiction in the “diaspora” via the tomos of Patr. Joachim III.

    9. When, in 1908 the EP transfered its parishes from itself to the Church of Greece, did it do so willingly?

    You got me. Do you know?

    10. If it was coerced, is this canonical? Are such decisions binding or are they null and void?

    I suppose that depends on whether they’re actually accepted later. There were many who claimed that grant of autocephaly to the OCA was a Soviet behest. I honestly don’t know if that’s true or not.

    11. Does the EP indeed have universal jurisdiction over the “diaspora”? Which canon grants the EP such jurisdiction?

    I’m not a canonist (canon history student), canon lawyer (one arguing for a particular interpretation), nor bishop (one who is authoritative in applying and interpreting the canons), so I really don’t know, nor am I qualified to render an opinion.

    12. Is there such a thing in Orthodox ecclesiolgy as a “diaspora”?

    Indeed, no. Our ecclesiology doesn’t include notions of “autocephaly” (which has meant many things over the years), either, nor any other supra-diocesan structure. Our theology of what the Church is has little to do with these things. The expression of that theology in temporal canonical structures has varied a lot over the years.

  82. Fr. Andrew says

    Correction on my answer to GM’s third question. I meant to write:

    There were significant evangelistic programs in Alaska, but massive is not the word I would use for them.

  83. otsukafan says

    Father Andrew. With your blessings I feel the need to humbly correct your statements.

    You said a couple of things that are historically inaccurate. I invite you to come to Hartshorne, Ok. It’s a sleepy little southern baptist town hidden in the Kiamichi Mountains that were once a coal mining bonanza.

    As you come over a small hill you will see 3 beautiful silver onion domes. Although it is now kept by a few faithful it was once a thriving parish started by Carpatho-russian coal miners in the late 1880’s. The parish hall is now quite a little historical gold mine. One thing that hangs prominently on the wall is their certificate of consecration by the Russian Bishop in Philadelphia dated in the early 1890’s. This, I think, would be considered a primary source.

    This corrects a few things:

    1. There was a Russian Bishop in Philadelphia. This is closer than “thousands” of miles from New York.

    2. It should also be noted that they awaited a priest assigned by the Diocese to shepherd them. St. John of Kochurov would take the train there from Chicago every other weekend to serve the Liturgy. I would say that that is definitely mission oriented. I am open to correction.

    3. It begs an understanding how this little town in the Indian Territory knew to seek the right Bishop and to start their little parish according to true Orthodox Tradition and others far closer in larger, better informed urban settings were ignorant rather than defiant.

    Disclaimer: I am nothing but an amateur historian but I invite those far more educated to see these primary sources for themselves.

  84. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #84

    Who was the Russian bishop of Philadelphia in the early 1890s?

    Every record I’ve ever seen tells of only three Russian bishops in America in the 1890s, Vladimir Sokolovsky (1888-1891), Nicholas Ziorov (1891-1898), and St. Tikhon (1898-1907). None of them resided in Philadelphia. Tikhon’s see was SF until being transferred to NYC in 1905.

    The first vicariates (Alaska and Brooklyn) were not established until 1903, with bishops for them following in 1904 and 1905 (respectively).

    The first Russian bishop for Philadelphia, Nikon de Greve, was appointed in 1948.

    I suspect that the Carpatho-Russian church in question may have been consecrated either by a Ruthenian Catholic bishop visiting from abroad or by the Russian bishop traveling from his see in San Francisco.

  85. George Michalopulos says

    Fr Andrew, I’m sorry, I should have been more specific. I meant in this universe, not the alternate universe in which the evil Mr Spock wears a beard. Forgive me for not making that clear.

  86. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #86

    George, that was pretty uncalled-for.

  87. SubDn. Lucas says

    Re: 86

    I was really disappointed by this comment. Fr. Hans has been encouraging everyone to elevate the discussion here, and I had hoped his plea would have been respected. Mr. Michalopulos, can you speak specifically to Fr. Andrew’s points?

    [disclaimer: I am NOT an historian. I am here because I am interested in learning about the history of Orthodox Christianity in America. Thus, my only ‘agenda’ is to learn from those engaging the historical matter on both sides.]

    the sinner,
    SubDn. Lucas

  88. George Michalopulos says

    On the contrary, according to the rules of debate and argumentation, a gratuitous statement can be gratuitously answered. The responses to my questions were not serious, hence they were gratuitous. I responded in kind.

    I’d much rather keep this on an elevated level but I can’t do it by myself.

  89. Fr. Andrew says

    Re: #88

    My responses were all completely serious. That you did not take them thus is your business. I must admit I am mystified (and a bit offended) by your behavior. You seem to have no desire even to be gentlemanly. I’m done, George.

  90. George Michalopulos says

    OK, then I’ll address this to an open forum: the first response was “St Brendan the Navigator.” This is legendary at best. I could have responded: “Did he preach to the Lamanites”? What makes this legend more real than Joseph Smith’s?

  91. George Michalopulos says

    SubDn Lucas,

    I have decided that I will instead deal with points in a more general manner as I have given offense to Fr Andrew (for which I am ashamed). As such I am preparing a more detailed “Response” to several of the newer historiographical points which I hope will be published soon so that people can judge for themselves which “narrative” is more closely aligned to the actual facts as we have them. If I am wrong, I will correct my own understanding of the narrative.

    in Christ, George, a sinner

  92. SubDn. Lucas says

    Mr. Michalopulos,

    Thank you! I look forward to reading, and learning from, your next post.

    the sinner,
    SubDn. Lucas

  93. otsukafan says

    Fr. Andrew.

    Again humbly, I will get the name. Also there is an old picture from the 1920’s I believe that show several Bishops titled “The Bishops of Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America” if I remember correctly. I have seen the deed for their land purchased from the Indian Territories and it was purchased by the Russian Church.

    They have always been a part of the Metropolita, this is clear from just what you see on the wall. These were not rouges Father, but actual practicing Orthodox who seemed to have gone through all the correct channels.

    I will be there again soon and I will get the name of that Bishop and take some photos since it seems my account may not hold much credibility here.

  94. George Michalopulos says

    Otsukafan, perhaps copies of the photos and the deed can be sent to SOCHA for publication on their website?

  95. Richard Barrett says

    The essay requested in comment 77 and agreed to in comment 78 has been posted to my own blog; link here.

  96. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Thank you for this Richard.

  97. Michael Woerl says

    The claims of Constantinople concerning jurisdiction over the entire world, the moon, the planets, the solar system, and all galaxies far, far away will soon be nothing to worry about-when they unite with Rome, they will no longer be an Orthodox Church, and that should clear the way for the Russian Orthodox Church …

  98. Isa Almisry says

    I have only time to skim through this. One “theoretical” point has to guide our historiography: we are not Protestants.

    As John Sanidopoulos stated on his blog “Mystagogy”:

    Now what does this say concerning the points brought up by Mr. Michalopulos? First, there was a Greek episcopal presence in America in the representation of the priests who presided over the Greek churches in America. A priest is never a priest based on his own authority, but exists as a representative of his bishop. These priests either represented the Synod of the Church of Greece or the Ecumenical Patriarch himself. Second, a parish does not require the physical presence of a bishop for consecration, but this can be done through a priest with the proper antimension from his representative bishop. No doubt this was done and there is no evidence to suggest anything to the contrary(1)

    Unfortunately for his argument, his footnote undermines it: it references the website of the Mother Church of the lower 48, Holy Trinity SF (OCA), where the report to the bishop mentions the first priest to serve at the New Orleans parish(brought by the report of the Russian Navy’s “Alexander Nevsky” ship: at the time the Navy champlancy had oversight for the Russian mission in America) coming to SF and demanding an antimens and vestments (New Orleans received vestments from Czar Alexnader II). Btw, the Galveston Church Constantine and Helen (now Serbian) predates New Orleans by a bit: it later requested priests from Alaska.

    A priest serves ONLY as the stand in for the bishop. A bishop may not send bishops into another bishop’s diocese. Doing so is uncanonical. The priest may serve ONLY with an antimens, and he must commemorate his bishop in the DL. According to Apostolic Canon 34, the bishop must be in the Holy Synod of the land/jurisdiction, and acknowledge its primate. That primate must be in communion with the rest of the autocephalous primates, whom he commemorates.

    Therefore New Smyrna doesn’t count: the only priest was a Latin under the Vatican’s bishop of Cuba, procured by the uniate Greek wife of the colonizer. New Orleans wasn’t consecrated, and as we have seen, had a priest of dubious credentials. In that sense, its canonicity is less than the Fort Ross Chapel, founded just north of SF around 1825.

    The GOA founding charter names 4 sees: NYC, Boston, Chicago, SF.

    The bishop of Alaska consecrated the Russian chapel in NYC in 1870, and it served the Greek consulate staff, among others. It closed in 1883, but within a decade there was another, and we know that the bishop of Alaska served a pontifical liturgy there for the arrival of St. Raphael in 1895. Before the Greeks had their own NYC Cathedral (without a bishop, and hence unconsecrated), the Russians had theirs consecrated and with a bishop, and the Russians consecrated had St. Raphael, the press recording that the Greek consulate snubbed the event.

    The Greek Boston Cathedral’s site admits that the Greek were served by a Syrian priest before the Greeks got a church. The website of that Syrian priest’s parish states that it was under the Russian mission at the time.

    Chicago’s Greek and Russian/OCA (and Serbian) Cathedrals started out of the same proto-parish. The Greeks invited St. Tikhon as bishop of North America to celebrate a pontifical DL at their Church.

    SF, founded on the remnants of Fort Ross and Alaska, had the Greek Conusul take part, with the Greeks, in its formation. A Greek priest, Fr. Andreas, went from there to his native Constantinople request a Greek bishop for America for the Russian Mission.

    The EP wouldn’t tolerate the Bulgarian excharch having a Church in Constantinople: why should the Russian bishop tolerate Greek bishops in New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, sees in which each and every one had episcopal oversight from the Russian Mission before the arrival of the Greeks?

    During the time of the Tomos of 1908, the CoG gave no epsicopal oversigte. The Russian Mission was a fully functioning Archdiocese, a NATIVE diocese (the President having replaced the Czar in the DL.

    If we were Protestants with no canons, the GOA’s claims would be fine. But since we are not, how is the actions of a defrocked bishop (Alexander) acting as exarch of a deposed primate elevated by neoptism (Meletios) orgainizing parishes establised along phyletism (an excommunicatable offense, according to the EP’s 1872 synod) in defiance of the local bishop (and the record shows, despite Melitios feigning ignorance, that the EP, CoG and Greek immigrants knew of the presence of the Russian bishops) make a canonical jurisdiction that invalidates the unity of the Russian Mission?

  99. Isa Almisry says

    I might add, as to jurisdiction disunity, during the time of the Russian Mission:

    • 1. Constantinople was embattled over jurisdiction with the CoG (still is: just 5 years ago it struck the CoG from the diptychs over this), Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus.
    • 2. Alexandria expanded to All of Africa, in an effort to create dioceses to curtail Constantinople’s role in Alexandria’s episcopacy. There were also issues with Jerusalem over Sinai. Btw, despite what the EP’s Chief secretary said, Alexandria’s Pope has been Pope of All Africa since 1934 (Meletios himself who took the title, with no approval from his successor as EP), not 2002.
    • 3. Antioch finally through off Phanar control. Constantinople refused to recognize Antioch’s jurisdiction over its own patriarchate.
    • 4. Jerusalem had several battles with Constantinople and Russia and Romania (where many of its monasteries were).
    • 5. Russia abolished the Georgian Church.
    • 6. Georgia was uncanonically abolished.
    • 7. Serbia’s patriarchate was officially abolished according to Constantinople. It survived, however, in three seperate jurisdicitons, one under Russian jurisdiction, another fighting Russian jurisdiction in Slovakia and Romanian jurisdiction in Romania.
    • 8. Bulgaria’s exarchate was having juridcition problems in its own house, along with Constantinople. In Macedonia, partisans of the Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, Greek and Constantinople jurisdictions were slitting each other’s throats.
    • 9. Cyprus had finally had its last jurisdction battle with Antioch, but was fighting with Constantinople. Out of that, Met/Arb./EP/Pope Meletios got his episcopal start.
    • 10. Romania was split into 5 jurisdictions, fighting with Constantinople, Jerusalem, Russia and Serbia on its own soil.
    • 11. Church of Greece started out excommunicate by Constantinople, with which it fought several battles, along with the Serbians, Bulgarians and Romanians. Gave some legitimacy to renegade priests in the Americas until 1908, after which, according to the novel interpretation of canon 28, it provided no episcopal oversight and never formed either an exarchate nor diocese.
    • 12. The Czeh lands and Slovakia were fought over by Serbia, one of the Romanian jurisdictions and Russia. The back to Orthodoxy movement that became the autocephalous Church (which Constantinople didn’t reconcile itself to until 1998) started in the Midwest under the Russian Mission, and autocephaly came from the Russians.
    • 13. Albania didn’t exist, and saying otherwise was excommunicatible by Constantinople. Hence the Autocephlous Church began in Boston, again, under the Russian Mission.
    • 14. Poland’s mother church was Russia, but Constantinople decided to give her autocephaly.

    So how pristine does the unity of the Russian Mission have to be in North America? Because it seems the Mother Churches wouldn’t withstand such scrutiny.

  100. George Michalopulos says

    Isa, I’ve been out of this fray for awhile. You bring up excellent points. I might add that the present Constantinopolitan claims of world-wide jurisdiction are invalid. Especially if they are predicated on canon 28 of Chalcedon which gave the EP the right to consecrate the metropolitans only of Thrace, Asia, and Pontus.

    Clearly, the history of evangelism in the Western Hemisphere does not support the view that the ROC had no jurisdictional authority in North America. Or that the EP has been an honest broker in the jurisdictional turf battles here and abroad. As you point out, quite the contrary.

  101. Dean Calvert says

    Dear Isa,

    What an outstanding recap!!!

    The bottom line is that there is no nice, clean, path to autocephaly. There is no progression, no gradual achievement of maturity. It is not an incremental process. Change never is…it’s a messy process.

    My own reading of history is that autocephaly is generally determined IN THE AREA of the new local church – not by agreement with the Mother Churches. It is almost always recognized after the fact, as a fait accompli by the Mother Church.

    And, as if the “maturity” test (so often mentioned by opponents of autocephaly in the US)were not preposterous enough, I’d like someone to please explain how a church becomes “un-autocephalous,” as happened in the cases of the Bulgarian and Serbian churches of the Middle Ages (both subsumed back into Constantinople) as well as in the case of the Georgian Church in your list. This has always been the most vivid example that autocephaly is, in many cases, no more than a political statement by the Local Church..taken at the time of the Local Church’s choosing…and certainly not after consultation with, or with the permission of, the Mother Church.

    The bottom line is that we have been sold a bill of goods by the Old World patriarchates. Autocephaly is ours for the taking, any time a synod of bishops develops the gumption required to declare it. The Old World is free to recognize it, or not. As a matter of fact, if there is any historical “path” to autocephaly…that is it.

    In any case…i loved your analysis. Just awesome!

    Best Regards,

  102. Isa Almisry says

    A primary source: Religious bodies, 1906 By United States. Bureau of the Census, William Chamberlin Hunt.

    “Of these churches, 4 are represented in the United States by regular church organizations. These are the Russian Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, the Servian Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox. Only I of these has a definite and inclusive ecclesiastical organization, and that is the Russian Orthodox Church. The Greek Orthodox churches are looking forward to such an organization, but it is not as yet completed. The Servian and Syrian Orthodox churches are under the general supervision of the Russian Orthodox Church, although reported separatedly.”

    On the Greeks it notes “application has been made by the communities to the ecclesiastical authorities of their own sections, and priests have been sent to this country, sometimes by the Holy Synod of Greece and sometimes by the Patriarchate of Constantinople…As in the case of the early Russian churches [?], there had been no central organization, each priest holding his ecclesiastical relation with the synod or patriarchate which sent him to this country. Arrangements are being perfected for a general organization of the Greek speaking communities representing both the Holy Synod of Greece and the Patriarchate of Constantinople…In doctrine the Greek churhces are in entire accord with other Eastern Orthodox Churches. Their polity and worship, however while in principle the same, vary somewhat in form to meet the peculiar needs. With a more complete organization these divergencies will either disappear or be defintely established…The entire organization of the Greek churches is practically on a home missionary basis.” It also records that in 1890 the Greeks had 1 organization with 100 communicants.

    For the Syrians it states “The churches of this body represent the immigration into the Unites States of communities from Syria connected with the Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch or Jerusalem. They all have priests of their own, but as a body they are under the general supervision of a coadjutor bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. In doctrine and polity they are in harmony with the Russian Orthodox Church….”

    As for the “Servians” [sic] they “are under the general supervision of the archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States, but have a special administrator an archimandrite of that church. In doctrine and polity they are in harmony with the Russian Orthodox Church…”

    The work was on voluntary self reports from the congregations themselves for the end of 1906, two years before even the 1908 Greek Tomos.

    There is an Episcopal report of 1912 which says basically the same thing, adding the Albanians to the Russians jurisdiction and commenting on the refusal of the Greeks to admit the authority of the Russian bishop, and deploring the chaos that reigned in the Greek parishes as a result.

  103. George Michalopulos says

    Isa, you are a wealth of information! Are you an historian? At the risk of opening up a can of worms, it seems that the more we know –thanks to texts like this–the more it seems that the ROC was in fact the canonical diocese in North America. After all, this material came from the people themselves and was not the “party line” of the Metropolia.

    Note, I did not say that Orthodox immigrants were not canonically Orthodox, only the creation of parallel and/or schismatic parishes, then dioceses. If I may press the point further: that is what I believe Fr Touma Bitar meant when he recently wrote that the OCA is the only “canonical jurisdiction” in North America. I believe he meant that it is the only one that is set up according to canonical principles.

    It is 1) territorial, that is to say its borders are contiguous with the polity, 2) its bishops are autonomous, and 3)it’s synod of bishops is under no authority but that of Christ (as are all autocephalous churches).

    My only caveat is that within the OCA there exist certain ethnic exarchates (Romanian, Albanian, Bulgarian) which are not strictly territorial. In this, they come very close to violating the canonical norm, which was upheld by Constantinople in 1872. In other words, ethnicity over polity. Of course, none of the OCA’s critics want to press this as it exposes for all to see their own sin which is even more egregious.

  104. No, but I play one on TV. LOL. NELC (Ealry Islamic history/Islamic though), PhD U of C, ABS. LOL.

    I like the ethnic dioceses, as a solution to a somewhat unique situation in America. They actually, I would argue, are canonical: they are the descendants of the “barbarian” bishops that canon 28 is REALLY talking about, i.e. attached to Christians who don’t quite fit in the metropolitan system. So the ethnic dioceses actually uphold the canons, especially canon 28, whereas the EP’s Ultramontanism stand them on their head.

  105. George Michalopulos says

    Isa, I see what you mean. I have a different take on canon 28 however. When I studied it, I found out that it was instantly nullified by the same council because of its presumptions.

    Anyway, it became a fait accompli as far as the three contiguous dioceses were concerned The Pope couldn’t rightly argue as he had earlier seized the right to consecrate the bishops of the 10 suburbicarian dioceses within the (civil) prefecture of the city of Rome.

    I like however your take on salvaging the concept of ethnic dioceses in light of the “barbarian bishops” of Asia, Pontus, and Thrace. Of course, I could say that these barbarians were not long-term Christians and probably needed specific missionary bishops of their race. All of the ethnic Orthodox in America however have been Christians for generations.

    What do you think?

    Keep up the good work.

  106. Isa Almisry says

    Yes, a lot of the “barbarians” were new Christians, but they remained a distinct group within the Church and Empire, yet distinct from the Empire, the Isausrians for instance (btw, Leo III was not Isaurian, but Syrian, but Zeno was Isaurian). It is also interesting in that the proto-Romanians, Romans but not Greek speaking but nonethelesss in Constantinople’s orbit, came under canon 28.

    Althought the ethnic Orthodox MAY have been Christian for generations (communism makes that less certain: my Romanian ex-wife for instance was atheist for awhile until after the fall of Communism), they do have special needs that need attending to. Many communities for instance are taking in a lot of immigrants. As I have posted on, I think bishops with a Metropolitan/Archbishop see for each ethnic group (eg. Detroit for the Romanians, Brooklyn for the Arabs, New Orleans for the Greeks, SF for the Russians, Pittsburgh for the Carpathorussians, Chicago for the Serbs, Montreal for the French, Mexico City for the Spanish, etc Wichita? for WRO?), designated as “Protector/Defendor of X usage” (as with ROCOR’s bishop who oversees their Old Rite Churches), “regular” bishops as sufragans in the area, and a neutral primate in Washington or New York might, and strategically placed metochia, best fit the situation in North America. Ideally our situation should come to resemble that of the Vatican in this country before Vatican II: you can go into their churches, and although it is the same mass, you can tell which is Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Irish, German etc. Ethnicity doesn’t have to be done away with, just put in perspective.

    The Pope of Rome taking effective control of Italy wasn’t a problem for canon 28, as Nicea I c. 6 gave him as much right. A bigger issue was the complete subjegation of the North African church, which nonetheless happened because although emphasizing councels of maximally independent bishops, North Africa outside of Alexandria’s jurisdiction had always looked (but not without controversy) “over the sea” as a court of appeal (hence the famous “Rome has spoken” misquote). As fairly good paper on that situation is
    “The Structure of the Episcopate and the Eclipse of Christianity in North Africa” by Maureen A. Tilley

    Btw, I see I mistyped: my degree is PhD A[ll] B[ut] D[issertation]

  107. George Michaloupulos says

    Excellent ideas, Isa. I don’t know how workable though. I have a gut feeling that if the episcopal asssemblies ever do meet, it’ll just be “more of the same.” Feckless, ineffectual, and a subtrefuge for confounding true unity. Under these circumstances, I don’t think they’d have the gumption to come up with even your scenariou (which would be on the road to ideal).

    What depresses me is that we’ve been here anywhwere from 3 to eight generations, and we still have to play this game. My ideal would be perfectly territorial bishops with perhaps an “ethnic advisor” or “vicar-general for recent immigrants.” I.e. the Metropolitan of Chicago (a real metropolitan btw, with suffragan bishops), could have a protopresbyter leading a vicariate for recent Serbian immigrants, the Bishop of Detroit, a vicar-general for recent Romanian immigrants, etc. But his writ would extend only to Romanian immigrants within the dioese of Detroit. Those Romanians who may be in NYC would be under a vicar-general that reports to the archbishop of NYC.

    In my opinion this does at least three things:

    1. it cares for the pastoral needs of recent immigrants,
    2. it integrates them into the life of the territorial diocese, and
    3. it maintains the sovereignty of the bishop in that it eliminates the need for auxiliary bishops. (The vicar-general is a protosbyter who of course needs to be of the ethnicity in question and fluent in their language.)

    How would this work out? When the ordinary bishop of the diocese visits an immigrant mission/parish, he could take the vicar with him. This woul put a face on the bishop and integrate him into the life of the immigrant parish. As it is now, we have a Romanian/Serb/Bulgarian/etc patriarchal church which spans the continent. How many times a year does such a parish located in (say) Arizona or Northern California receive an episcopal visit from their ethnic ordinary?

    This of course exposes a dirty secret: most of these parishes don’t really care about receiving spiritual guidance from their ordinaries; their focus is on mainting their Bulgarian/Greek/Albanian/etc. heritage.

    Anyway, what do you think?

  108. The only problem, George, of having mere presbyters as vicar generals is in not having episcopal support on the Synod for peculiarly ‘ethnic’ and ‘local’ traditions. A situation similar to what drove St Alexis Toth out of the RCC could happen, i.e., a bishop ‘unfriendly’ to established, time-tested Russian or Greek or Ukrainian or Albanian or American or Alaskan traditions.

    My solution has been to create ethnic micro-dioceses that would be geographic but represent a very small territory. So, for instance, there could be a bishop of Jordanville who would be the ethnic Russian hierarch on the Synod or a bishop of Florence, AZ for the Greeks, or South Canaan, PA for the ‘Metropolia’ traditions, etc. These ethnic and at the same time geographic, diocesan hierarchs would also hold a vicar-general position within the local church dealing with questions or concerns of the ethnic flock of another diocese. This vicar-general position would likely be in assistance to the Primate and be part of the unifying role that hierarch plays on the Synod, i.e., conflict resolution of ethnic kinds.

  109. Isa Almisry says

    I agree with the Alexis Toth example. Let’s learn from others’ mistakes, as unfortunately Archb. Alexander didn’t over the Ukrainians.

    I think having a overarching “neutral” primate, ethnic diocese metropolitans, and ordinary suffragan bishops would meet the needs. Of course what are those needs might differ.

    I think each of the ethnic wants/needs assurances that it is not going to be swallowed up. A legitimate concern.

    They don’t want all the ties to the Mother Country/Church to be cut. Again, legitimate:personally I’m not for putting grandma in storage in the old folks home and forget her.

    So even beyond the immigrant issues (which are in the near future going to be greater, not lesser), for the long term there are “ethnic” issues that have to be put in perspective. We don’t all have to be the same. Again, my example of the Vatican’s churches: their ethnicities came through, although in the same langauge. Nothing wrong with that.

    As I’ve fleshed it out more elsewhere, I also propose something like the vicar system you suggest, but more on the order of a parish being the the point man (or priest) for the local diocesan bishop: something almost resembling metochia in each diocese for the various ethnic metropolitans. Thinks like dues etc. would be through the local Metropolitan, whose budgets etc. on the various ethnicities not his own would be coordinated/shared with his brother Metropolitans. The metropolitans will therefore be operating on both an ethnic and the geographical level. With a neutral primate and purely/primarily geographical suffragans bishops, the metropolitans can operate in the geographical scheme while giving each ethnic group the breathing room it needs without promoting ethnarchies.

    Say, for instance, that a Greek parish in Arizona has a complant that the Russian Metropolitan of SF is suppressing Independence Day celebrations on Annunciation. They could bring their concerns to the Greek vicor for the Metropolia of SF (say the protopriest at Greek Holy Trinity in SF), who would advise the Metropolitan on them, and if need be bring the Greek Metropolitan of New Orleans to consult with the Metropolitan of SF, and if need be, bring it before the whole Holy Synod for resolution. The Greek Metropolitan (NO) could advise the Russian Metropolitan (SF) on what is or isn’t appropriate for Greeks to do that day.

    Btw, I think Alaska should have a metropolitan for Amerindians.

    Not all bishopricks need be or should be divided along ethnic lines. Hence every metropolia will end up with a mix. But having someone designated to defend X usage makes sure it will be done, and not pull an archbishop Ireland (or Alexander). And for the Metropolitan, the geographical basis will be primary, e.g.: HH X, Metropolitan of SF and all the West, defender of the usage of Moscow/Russian usage, whatever. The primate should be barred from having such a responsiblity.

    We would also have to think if Canada and Mexico are destined for autocephaly, and plan accordingly. A French and Spanish Metropolitan should be set up too.

  110. George Michalopulos says

    Whew! That’s a lot! One day to address Orrologion’s concerns would be to make these protospyters/vicar-generals members of the Holy Synod. I for one am not beholden to the view that only bishops could serve on the Holy Synod. That way, the concerns of immigrants could not be swept under the rug by the diocesan ordinary. (Personally, among the bishops I’ve known, they are acutely sensitive to the concerns of immigrants.)

    anyway, as for the Holy Synod, maybe it can be structured thusly: two houses, an Episcopal Assembly (roughly akin to the Senate), and the Clergy-Laity Congress. Notice I borrowed two concepts: one from Chambesy and one from the GOA. The Episcopal Assembly could be presided over by the Metropolitan of All-America and Canada and the Clergy-Laity Congress by an elected layman.

    Both would meet separately maybe twice a year and together once every 4 yrs (for example). Of course, when they meet together, then the Metropolitan would be the president. Just ideas.

    But I really think that we should try as much as possible to stay away from the idea of auxiliary bishops for immigrant groups UNLESS said auxiliary bishop was a suffragan of an ordinary AND whose pastoral concern extends ONLY to immigrants within the territorial diocese. If so, then protopresbyters would not be necessary.

    My main concern (besides rigid diocesan boundaries) is to minimize as much as possible the idea that ethnic groups don’t really participate in the life of a diocese. Under this system, they would (admittedly) be a special group within a diocese but they would still be a part of the diocese. I see this for example in the Roman Catholic Church which has special monsigneurs and departments catering to the needs of Hispanic and Vietnamese immigrants. Eventually they get assimilated. At no time do they feel alienated because the bishop happens to be Polish or Irish or whatever.

  111. Isa Almisry says

    I don’t think ethnicity is an immigrant only issue. Maybe it’s because I’m from Chicago. 😛

  112. George Michalopulos says

    Isa, I didn’t mean to indicate that it was. However it is a priority for those who are immigrants and/or directly descended from them. At least in my opinion. Otherwise, what did you think about my rambling ideas?


  113. Isa Almisry says

    In the main I think we are in the same camp. I just would want a higher profile/rank “anchor” for each group, if for nothing else but a “security blanket” to get things going.

  114. George Michalopulos says

    not a bad idea. I like your reasonning.


  115. George Michalopulos says

    Isa, re #100: upon more reflection one can discern the bad faith and/or sloppy analysis of people like the author of Mystagogy. These are usually the first people to jump up and say that the ROC had no authority outside of its political territory (to which they grudgingly concede Alaska), but wave the antiminsion flag of the Greek/Serb/Bulgarian/etc. priests who were celebrating the liturgy in America.

    What’s rich about this is that the Church of Greece was likewise constrained by its own tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople from setting up churches outside of its own territory. This gets even more absurd: Greece had no political sovereignty in North America. The illogic further collapses upon itself because the EP granted a “tomos” directing all its parishes to subject themselves to the Church of Greece, in open contradiction to its own directives to Greece!

    One gets the definate idea that for too long, too many of the old world patriarchates make things up as they go alone. How credible is that?

  116. The photo from 1921was taken before Meletios Metaxakis was enthroned as Patriarch of Constantinople, possibly before he was “elected” (there were doubts about the validity of his election due to doubts about the reasons that his predecessor resigned … His “Pan Orthodox … meeting in 1923 not atrended by many Phanariot bishops, as they did not recognize his election) to that office. He had been recently deposed as Archbishop of Athens … Venizelos has deposed the “royalist” Abp of Athens, and had Meletios (some say his relative) placed in that office … When the royalists returned, Meletios was deposed … many Greek bishops also did not recognize his tenure as Abp of Athens … As Archbishop of Athens, he had “decreed” the Greek parishes in N. America under his jurisdiction, most probably because the Russian Church could do nothing at the time, as it was under dire persecution. After leaving America, and assuming duties as Patriarch of C’nople, then placed the Greek parishes in N. America under his jurisdiction .. again. What was this “meeting” in the photo about? A courtesy call … Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) ruled the N. American Diocese, Met. Platon
    not “confirmed” in office on his “return” until 1922 … If it was indeed, before Meletios’ election … at the time, he was the deposed Abp of Athens … Nothing more. I’d show all the “primary sources,” gladly … however, I’m not currently at the Phanar, and Patriarch Bartholomew won’t let them “out of the building!” 🙂


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