Orthodox Church in America

Orthodox Church in America

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The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is an autocephalous
Autocephaly
Autocephaly , in hierarchical Christian churches and especially Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, is the status of a hierarchical church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop...

 Eastern Orthodox church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. Its primate
Primate (religion)
Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or ceremonial precedence ....

 is Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen)
Jonah (Paffhausen)
Jonah , Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, is the primate of the Orthodox Church in America . He was elected on November 12, 2008, and installed to his see on December 28, 2008, in Washington, D.C...

, who was elected on November 12, 2008, and was formally installed on December 28, 2008. The OCA's headquarters are located in Syosset, New York
Syosset, New York
Syosset is a hamlet in Nassau County, New York, in the northeastern section of Town of Oyster Bay near the North Shore of Long Island. The population was 18,829 at the 2010 census...

, and consists of more than 700 parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

es, missions, communities, monasteries and institutions located primarily in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. Additional parishes and missions are located in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. Membership estimates for the OCA vary, with recent figures ranging from as low 27,169 to as high as 1,064,000.

The history of the OCA began with the arrival of eight Russian Orthodox
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s at Kodiak Island
Kodiak Island
Kodiak Island is a large island on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, separated from the Alaska mainland by the Shelikof Strait. The largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago, Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the United States and the 80th largest island in the world, with an...

, Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, then part of Russian America, in 1794. The monks established a mission
Mission (Christian)
Christian missionary activities often involve sending individuals and groups , to foreign countries and to places in their own homeland. This has frequently involved not only evangelization , but also humanitarian work, especially among the poor and disadvantaged...

 in Alaska, which was made a diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 of the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 a few years after the United States purchased Alaska
Alaska purchase
The Alaska Purchase was the acquisition of the Alaska territory by the United States from Russia in 1867 by a treaty ratified by the Senate. The purchase, made at the initiative of United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, gained of new United States territory...

 from Russia in 1867. By the late 19th century, the Russian Orthodox Church had grown in other areas of the United States due to the arrival of immigrants from areas of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. Many of these immigrants, regardless of nationality or ethnic background, were united under a single North American diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Due to the massive disruption brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution, Patriarch
Patriarch
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

 Tikhon of Moscow
Tikhon of Moscow
Saint Tikhon of Moscow , born Vasily Ivanovich Bellavin , was the 11th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of the Soviet Union, 1917 through 1925.-Early life:...

 in 1920 directed all Russian Orthodox churches outside of Russia to govern themselves autonomously if the central administration were disabled or if they were unable to contact it. Some Russian Orthodox churches outside Russia took this directive as applying to them as well, and used it as the basis for declarations of autonomy even without the necessary condition of the inability of the central administration to govern them. While many ethnic dioceses subsequently placed themselves under the jurisdiction of other Orthodox churches, a large number of Orthodox in America became a self-governing Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America (known informally as the "Metropolia") in 1924 under the leadership of Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky).

The Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America was granted autocephaly by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1970, and was renamed the Orthodox Church in America. Although the autocephaly of the OCA is not universally recognized by all autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches, it is in full communion
Full communion
In Christian ecclesiology, full communion is a relationship between church organizations or groups that mutually recognize their sharing the essential doctrines....

 with them. It also is a member of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America
Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America
The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas has been an Eastern Orthodox organization designed to help cooperation among the canonical Orthodox Christian jurisdictions to be found in the Americas...

 (SCOBA).

Official name


According to the April 1970 Tomos of Autocephaly granted by the Russian Orthodox Church, the official name of the Church is The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. The more comprehensive March 1970 Agreement of Tomos of Autocephaly, however, states in Article VIII that the legal name of the Church was changed to "Orthodox Church in America" (with no definite article
Article (grammar)
An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are the and a/an, and some...

).

In 2005, Tikhon (Fitzgerald), Bishop of San Francisco, Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, and the West, commented that the official name of the jurisdiction is The Orthodox Church in America (TOCA), but the definite article was dropped due to a printing error. The former uses (Orthodox Church in America and OCA) remain the most common both within and outside the jurisdiction.

Missionary work


The first Russian colony
Russian colonization of the Americas
The Russian colonization of the Americas covers the period, from 1732 to 1867, when the Tsarist Imperial Russian Empire laid claim to northern Pacific Coast territories in the Americas...

 in Alaska was established in 1784 by merchant Grigory Shelikhov
Grigory Shelikhov
Grigory Ivanovich Shelekhov Grigory Ivanovich Shelekhov Grigory Ivanovich Shelekhov (Григорий Иванович Шелехов in Russian; (1747–July 20, 1795 (July 31, 1795 N.S.)) was a Russian seafarer and merchant born in Rylsk....

. Shelikhov's attempt to colonize Kodiak Island was met with resistance by the native population. He returned to Russia and installed Alexandr Baranov
Alexandr Baranov
Alexander Andreyevich Baranov , sometimes spelled Aleksander or Alexandr and Baranof, was born in 1746 in Kargopol, in St. Petersburg Governorate of the Russian Empire....

 as director of the colony. In order to convince the Russian imperial court of the seriousness of his colonial ambitions, Shelikhov recruited volunteers from the Valaam
Valaam Monastery
The Valaam Monastery, or Valamo Monastery is a stauropegic Orthodox monastery in Russian Karelia, located on Valaam, the largest island in Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe.-History:...

, an environment that appears strikingly similar to the Kodiak archipelago's landscape, and Konevitsa
Konevsky Monastery
Konevsky Monastery is a Russian Orthodox monastery that occupies Konevets Island in the western part of the Lake Ladoga, Leningrad Oblast, Russian Federation. It is often regarded as the twin monastery with the Valaam Monastery, also located on an island in the same lake.- Medieval origins...

 monasteries
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 to travel to the new colony.

The volunteers, led by Archimandrite
Archimandrite
The title Archimandrite , primarily used in the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic churches, originally referred to a superior abbot whom a bishop appointed to supervise...

 Joasaph (Bolotov), departed Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 on December 21, 1793, and arrived at Kodiak Island on September 24, 1794. When they arrived they were shocked by the harsh treatment of the Kodiak natives at the hands of the Russian settlers and Baranov. They sent reports to Shelikhov detailing the abuse of the local population, but were ignored. In response, however, the Holy Synod
Most Holy Synod
The Most Holy Governing Synod was the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church between 1721 and 1918, when the Patriarchate was restored. The jurisdiction of the Most Holy Synod extended over every kind of ecclesiastical question and over some that are partly secular.The Synod was...

 created an auxiliary episcopal see
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

 in Alaska in 1796, and elected Fr. Joasaph as bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

. Fr. Joasaph and a small party returned to Russia in 1798 for his consecration, and to offer first-hand accounts of what they had seen. During their return voyage to the colony in May 1799, their ship sank and all aboard died. In 1800, Baranov placed the remaining monks under house arrest
House arrest
In justice and law, house arrest is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to his or her residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all...

, and forbade them to have any further contact with the local population.

Despite the lack of leadership, the Orthodox mission in Alaska continued to grow. In 1811, however, the Holy Synod officially closed the episcopal see. It was not until 1823 that the Holy Synod sent instructions for a new priest to travel to Alaska. Father John Veniaminov of Irkutsk
Irkutsk
Irkutsk is a city and the administrative center of Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, one of the largest cities in Siberia. Population: .-History:In 1652, Ivan Pokhabov built a zimovye near the site of Irkutsk for gold trading and for the collection of fur taxes from the Buryats. In 1661, Yakov Pokhabov...

 volunteered for the journey, and left Russia in May 1823. He and his family arrived at Unalaska Island
Unalaska Island
Unalaska is an island in the Fox Islands group of the Aleutian Islands in the U.S. state of Alaska, at . The island has a land area of . The city of Unalaska, Alaska, covers part of the island and all of neighboring Amaknak Island where the Port of Dutch Harbor is located...

 on July 29, 1824. In 1840, Fr. John accepted monastic tonsure
Tonsure
Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members...

 and ordination as the Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, making him the first ruling bishop of the Alaskan mission since Bishop Joasaph. Bishop Innocent
Innocent of Alaska
Saint Innocent of Alaska , also known as Saint Innocent of Moscow was a Russian Orthodox priest, bishop, archbishop and Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia. He is known for his missionary work, scholarship and leadership in Alaska and the Russian Far East during the 19th century...

 was elevated to archbishop
Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

 in 1850. For his missionary and scholarly work that had focused on blending indigenous Alaskan languages and cultures with Orthodox tradition, Innocent became a saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 of the Orthodox Church in America in 1977, and is referred to as the Enlightener of the Aleuts and Apostle to the Americas.

Growth



In 1857, the first Orthodox church in the continental United States was established in San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

. Numerous parishes were established across the country throughout the rest of the 19th century. Although these parishes were typically multi-ethnic, most received support from the missionary diocese. In 1872 the diocesan see was relocated from Alaska to the city of San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

 in the United States. The mission itself was instituted as a separate Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands on June 10, 1870, subsequent to the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867. In November 1870, the first Orthodox church in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 was consecrated.

Eastern Rite Catholicism was viewed with suspicion by several Latin Rite (Roman Catholic) bishops in the United States; some, such as Archbishop John Ireland of Saint Paul, Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

 were actually hostile, especially concerning the matter of married clergy. In 1891, Father Alexis Toth brought a group of 361 Eastern Catholics
Eastern Rite Catholic Churches
The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous, self-governing particular churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Together with the Latin Church, they compose the worldwide Catholic Church...

 into Orthodoxy. From then until his death in 1909, Fr. Alexis brought approximately 20,000 Eastern Catholics from 65 independent communities to Orthodoxy. By 1917, 163 Eastern-Rite Catholic parishes consisting of more than 100,000 faithful had been converted. For his efforts, Fr. Alexis was glorified as a saint by the OCA in 1994.

In recognition of the expansion of the Church beyond Alaska, Bishop Tikhon (Belavin)
Tikhon of Moscow
Saint Tikhon of Moscow , born Vasily Ivanovich Bellavin , was the 11th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of the Soviet Union, 1917 through 1925.-Early life:...

 petitioned the Holy Synod to change the diocese's title to the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America. This was approved in February 1900. He consecrated an auxiliary bishop for Alaska in 1903, and in 1904 he consecrated Raphael Hawaweeny
Raphael of Brooklyn
Saint Raphael of Brooklyn , also known as Father Raphael, was born as Raphael Hawaweeny in Beirut, Lebanon, of Damascene Syrian parents...

 to administer to the Arab parishes. In 1905, Bishop Tikhon relocated the diocesan administration from San Francisco to New York City.

In a report to the Holy Synod that year, Bishop Tikhon proposed dramatic changes in the operation of the diocese. Recognizing the needs of the growing multi-ethnic Orthodox community, he recommended reforming the missionary diocese into a self-supporting American diocese, composed of numerous ethnic auxiliary dioceses. His plan called for Russian (New York), Arab (Brooklyn), Serbian (Chicago), and Greek dioceses. Additionally, he called for the formation of a governing council, composed of clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 and laity
Laity
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

, which would meet to discuss administrative and canonical issues. On March 5, 1907, the first All-American Sobor
Sobor
A sobor is a council of bishops together with other clerical and lay delegates representing the church as a whole in matters of importance...

 convened in Mayfield, Pennsylvania
Mayfield, Pennsylvania
Mayfield is a borough in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, about northeast of Scranton. In the past, it contained a silk mill and a coal mining industry. In 1900, 2,300 people lived here, and in 1910, 3,662 people inhabited Mayfield...

. Following Archbishop Tikhon's re-assignment to Russia that year, however, few of his reforms were implemented.

During this period, education and charity was a focus of the diocese. In 1905, Archbishop Tikhon oversaw the creation of an Orthodox seminary
Seminary
A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...

 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis , nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City," is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States...

. St. Platon's Seminary moved from Minneapolis to Tenafly, New Jersey
Tenafly, New Jersey
Tenafly is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 census, the borough population was 14,488. Tenafly is an affluent suburb of New York City....

 in 1912 and enrolled 78 students from then until 1923. In 1916, an unaccredited Russian Women's College was established in Brooklyn. An immigrant society and orphanage also were established, as well as the first Orthodox monasteries in the United States (Saint Tikhon's Monastery
Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary
Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan Township, Pennsylvania, is one of three institutions of professional theological education in the Orthodox Church in America. The other two schools are St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, Yonkers, New York, and St....

 for men in 1905 and Holy Virgin Protection for women in 1915).

By 1917, the American diocese was the largest in the Russian Orthodox Church. It had grown from ten parishes in 1890 to more than 350. Most of the funding for the diocese was provided by Russian Church, via the Imperial Missionary Society. The connections between the American diocese and the Russian Church would be severely compromised by the events of that year.

Revolution and turmoil


The Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 and the subsequent establishment of the Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 government ushered in a period of repression for the Russian Orthodox Church. Church property was confiscated, and when Patriarch Tikhon resisted, he was imprisoned from April 1922 until June 1923. On November 20, 1920, Patriarch Tikhon formally authorized Russian Orthodox bishops to set up temporarily independent organizations, until such time as normal communications with and governance from the patriarchate could be restored.

Ethnic groups within the American diocese began to re-align themselves with other national churches. In 1918, a group of Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

 in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 formed the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Canada
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada is an Eastern Orthodox Church in Canada, primarily serving Ukrainian Canadians. Its former name was the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada ...

, and in 1922, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, headquartered in New York City, is an eparchy of the Church of Constantinople. Its current primate is Archbishop Demetrios of America.-About the Archdiocese:...

 was established. In 1926, the Serbians aligned with the Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church
The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox Christian churches, ranking sixth in order of seniority after Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Russia...

.

In Soviet Russia, a splinter group known as the Living Church
Living Church
The Living Church , also called Renovationist Church or Renovationism was a schism in the Russian Orthodox Church in 1922–1946...

 gained official state recognition in place of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1922. In the United States, a group of Living Church clergy led by Father John Kedrovsky attempted to depose
Deposition (politics)
Deposition by political means concerns the removal of a politician or monarch. It may be done by coup, impeachment, invasion or forced abdication...

 ruling American hierarch Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky). Bishop Alexander, in addition to the political and ethnic struggles of his diocese, had also to deal with mounting Church debt as a result of the loss of funds from the Russian Church. He was forced to mortgage Church property to pay creditor
Creditor
A creditor is a party that has a claim to the services of a second party. It is a person or institution to whom money is owed. The first party, in general, has provided some property or service to the second party under the assumption that the second party will return an equivalent property or...

s, and was replaced in 1922 Archbishop Platon (Rozhdestvensky), who had previously served as archbishop of the diocese from 1907 to 1914.

After Archbishop Platon's return, he was elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the third All-American Sobor in November 1922. Soon after, Communist authorities in Russia (in collaboration with the Living Church) attempted to seize Church assets in the United States. In response, the fourth All-American Sobor convened in April 1924. During the sobor, the historic step of declaring the North American diocese to be temporarily self-governing was taken. This was meant to be necessary only until relations with the Russian Church could be normalized, and the justification for the move was the earlier decree by Patriarch Tikhon. The diocese was officially incorporated as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America.

Despite the conditions set out by Tikhon's decree for this temporary autonomy not being met, the American diocese of the Russian church declared self-governance in 1924, against the protests of the patriarchate, with which it had communication and which was capable of governance had its American branch been willing. The refusal of the American branch to submit to the patriarchate thus based itself officially on a document whose conditions it had not met. In reality, however, it was a fear of Communism and a belief that the patriarchate had been compromised which fueled the rebellion, paired with a desire on the part of the Metropolia to dissociate itself from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia , also called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, ROCA, or ROCOR) is a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church....

 (ROCOR) of which it had been part.

Despite the declaration of self-governance, Fr. Kedrovsky and the Living Church were awarded the Church's diocesan cathedral in New York City. To prevent further loss of property, the diocese allowed individual parishes to take ownership of their properties, which made them effectively independent. This, combined with the increasing number of ethnic parishes aligning themselves with other Orthodox jurisdictions (as well as some non-Orthodox), led to a unique situation in Orthodox America whereby multiple jurisdictions overlapped geographically. The remainder of the American Church became known informally as the Metropolia (named after Metropolitan Platon). Following Patriarch Tikhon's death, the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Sergius
Patriarch Sergius I of Moscow
Patriarch Sergius I , – May 15, 1944) was the 12th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, from September 8, 1943 until his death. He was also the de facto head of the Russian Orthodox Church as Patriarchal locum tenens in 1925-1943.-Early life:...

, began cooperating with the Soviet government. In 1933, the Russian Church declared the Metropolia to be schismatic.

A third Russian Church, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia , also called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, ROCA, or ROCOR) is a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church....

 (also known as the Karlovtsy Synod and later, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia or ROCOR), formed in 1921. The Synod saw itself as representing all Russian Orthodox abroad, including the Metropolia. The Metropolia cooperated with the Synod at first but severed relations with them in 1926, citing the Synod's increasing claims of authority in America. The Synod, for its part, suspended Metropolitan Platon and his clergy. In 1935, an agreement entitled "Temporary Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad" was signed that normalized relations between the Metropolia and the ROCOR. The 6th All-American Sobor, held in 1937, affirmed that while the Metropolia remained autonomous, it reported to the ROCOR in matters of faith.

The ROCOR, forced to leave Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 toward the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, eventually established its base of operations in New York City. In 1946, it was decided at the 7th All-American Sobor that the Metropolia would sever its ties with the ROCOR and attempt to return to the Patriarchate of Moscow. This return was proposed with the stipulation that the Metropolia be allowed to retain its autonomy. When this condition was not met, the Metropolia continued as a self-governing Church.

Although there were periodic attempts at reconciliation between the Metropolia and the Russian Church over the next few decades, no serious progress was made. During this time, the ethnic character of the Metropolia began to change. Since many Russian immigrants to America aligned themselves with the vocally anti-Communist ROCOR, the Metropolia experienced its growth increasingly through the addition of English-speaking converts
Religious conversion
Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

. As a result, the ethnic makeup of the Metropolia began to shift away from a purely Slavic
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 one that had included mainly Russians, Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

, Galicians, and Rusyns
Rusyns
Carpatho-Rusyns are a primarily diasporic ethnic group who speak an Eastern Slavic language, or Ukrainian dialect, known as Rusyn. Carpatho-Rusyns descend from a minority of Ruthenians who did not adopt the use of the ethnonym "Ukrainian" in the early twentieth century...

.

Move toward unity and independence


Prior to the 13th All-American Sobor in November 1967, a proposal was prepared to change the name of the Church from the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America to the "Orthodox Church in America." The Council of Bishops, already aware of the proposal, forbade a vote on the matter. After much debate however, a non-binding straw poll
Straw poll
A straw poll or straw vote is a vote with nonbinding results. Straw polls provide dialogue among movements within large groups, reflecting trends like organization and motivation...

 was permitted. The result of the poll was decidedly in favor of the name change. As a result, the decision to deal with the matter at another Sobor (to be held in two years) was made.

In the early 1960s, the Metropolia resumed communication with the Patriarch of Moscow. In 1968, the Metropolia and the Russian Church communicated informally to resolve long-standing differences. Representatives from the Metropolia sought the right of self-governance, as well as the removal of Russian jurisdiction from all matters concerning the American Church. Official negotiations on the matter began in 1969. On April 10, 1970, Patriarch Alexius I and fourteen bishops of the Russian Church's Holy Synod signed the official Tomos of Autocephaly, which made the newly renamed Orthodox Church in America the fifteenth autocephalous Orthodox Church. The name change, as well as the granting of autocephaly, was officially accepted at the 14th All-American Sobor (also known as the 1st All-American Council in recognition of the Church's new-found independence) in October 1970. The OCA's autocephaly is not currently recognized by all other autocephalous Orthodox Churches (e.g., the Church of Constantinople). Most of these churches recognize the OCA as canonical
Canonical
Canonical is an adjective derived from canon. Canon comes from the greek word κανών kanon, "rule" or "measuring stick" , and is used in various meanings....

 and its sacraments as valid, however.

Within the past twenty years, the OCA has established more than 220 new parishes. It is a member of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America
Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America
The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas has been an Eastern Orthodox organization designed to help cooperation among the canonical Orthodox Christian jurisdictions to be found in the Americas...

 (SCOBA), together with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, headquartered in New York City, is an eparchy of the Church of Constantinople. Its current primate is Archbishop Demetrios of America.-About the Archdiocese:...

, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America is the sole jurisdiction of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada with exclusive jurisdiction over the Antiochian Orthodox faithful in those countries, though these faithful were originally cared for by the...

 (AOCA) and the other member jurisdictions. Serious consideration has been given recently to a possible merger between the OCA and the AOCA. Both groups share a significant common history, in that a Syrian priest, Father Raphael Hawaweeny
Raphael of Brooklyn
Saint Raphael of Brooklyn , also known as Father Raphael, was born as Raphael Hawaweeny in Beirut, Lebanon, of Damascene Syrian parents...

, was sent by the Moscow Patriarchate in the late 19th century as a missionary to Arabic-speaking Orthodox Christians
Arab Christians
Arab Christians are ethnic Arabs of Christian faith, sometimes also including those, who are identified with Arab panethnicity. They are the remnants of ancient Arab Christian clans or Arabized Christians. Many of the modern Arab Christians are descendants of pre-Islamic Christian Arabian tribes,...

 living in North America. Raphael was ordained a bishop in 1904, and his flock eventually became the AOCA. Bishop Raphael was canonized in March 2000 by the OCA as St. Raphael of Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

.

Financial scandal



In the autumn of 2005, the OCA administration was publicly accused of financial misconduct by its former treasurer
Treasurer
A treasurer is the person responsible for running the treasury of an organization. The adjective for a treasurer is normally "tresorial". The adjective "treasurial" normally means pertaining to a treasury, rather than the treasurer.-Government:...

, Protodeacon
Protodeacon
Protodeacon derives from the Greek proto- meaning 'first' and diakonos, which is a standard ancient Greek word meaning "servant", "waiting-man," "minister" or "messenger." The word in English may refer to various clergymen, depending upon the usage of the particular church in question.-Eastern...

 Eric Wheeler. Wheeler has alleged that millions of dollars in donations to the church were improperly used for personal expenses or to cover shortfalls in church accounts.

Recognition of autocephaly


Currently, the Russian
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

, Bulgarian
Bulgarian Orthodox Church
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with some 6.5 million members in the Republic of Bulgaria and between 1.5 and 2.0 million members in a number of European countries, the Americas and Australia...

, Georgian
Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church
The Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is an autocephalous part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since the 4th century AD, Georgian Orthodoxy has been the state religion of Georgia, and it remains the country's largest religious institution....

, Polish
Polish Orthodox Church
The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, commonly known as the Polish Orthodox Church, , is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches in full communion...

, and Czech and Slovak
Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia is a self-governing body of the Eastern Orthodox Church that territorially covers the countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia...

 Churches recognize the autocephaly of the OCA, though the Bulgarian and Russian patriarchates continue to maintain parishes inside the OCA's claimed jurisdiction. Among the Churches that do not recognize it is the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople , part of the wider Orthodox Church, is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity...

, which argues that the Russian Church did not have the authority to grant autocephaly. Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon
Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451 AD, at Chalcedon , on the Asian side of the Bosporus. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th...

, which asserted the jurisdiction of the bishop of Constantinople in dioceses located "among the barbarians" (i.e. outside the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

), is cited as the source of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's authority in the matter.

Apologists
Apologetics
Apologetics is the discipline of defending a position through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers...

 for the OCA's autocephaly claim that the decree did not need the approval of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as it was an internal matter for the Russian Orthodox Church to decide. Many autocephalous Churches, the Russian Church included, were not recognized as such for many years, albeit their autocephaly was granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Membership


The exact number of OCA parishioners is debated. According to the 2006 edition of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches
Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches
First published as the Federal Council Year Book in 1916, The Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches is a comprehensive descriptive and statistical listing of major religious bodies and other important religion-related organizations in the U.S. and Canada. The Yearbook contains descriptive...

, the OCA has 1,064,000 members, an increase of 6.4 percent from 2005. This figure places the OCA as the 24th largest Christian denomination in the United States, and second to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, headquartered in New York City, is an eparchy of the Church of Constantinople. Its current primate is Archbishop Demetrios of America.-About the Archdiocese:...

. A study by Alexei D. Krindatch of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, performed in 2000, presented a substantially lower figure—115,100 adherents (baptized Orthodox who attend services on at least an occasional basis and their children) and 39,400 full members (persons older than 18, paying annual Church membership fees). The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, by comparison, was listed as having 440,000 adherents. In response to the study, an OCA representative stated the Church had "around 750,000 adults and children."

In 2004, a Fr. Jonathan Ivanoff stated in a presentation at the OCA's Evangelization Conference that the Church's census population in 2004 was 27,169, and that membership from 1990–2000 declined 13 percent. It further stated that the OCA population in the continental United States declined between six and nine percent per year.

Episcopacy


The supreme canonical
Canonical
Canonical is an adjective derived from canon. Canon comes from the greek word κανών kanon, "rule" or "measuring stick" , and is used in various meanings....

 authority of the OCA is the Holy Synod of Bishops, composed of all the Church's diocesan
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s. The ex officio chairman of the Holy Synod is the metropolitan
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

, currently Metropolitan Jonah. The Holy Synod meets twice annually, however special sessions can be called either by the metropolitan or at the request at least three diocesan bishops.

Metropolitan


The primate
Primate (religion)
Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or ceremonial precedence ....

 of the OCA is the metropolitan. He also serves as the bishop of one of the Church's dioceses. With the other bishops of the Church, the metropolitan is considered the first among equals. His official title is "Metropolitan of All-America and Canada." His role is to manage the welfare of the Church, and to act as its representative with other Orthodox Churches, religious organizations, and secular authorities. The metropolitan is elected, when necessary, by the Holy Synod at an All-American Council (a general council of OCA clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 and laity
Laity
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

). There are no age or term limits for the metropolitan, and he may retire
Retirement
Retirement is the point where a person stops employment completely. A person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours.Many people choose to retire when they are eligible for private or public pension benefits, although some are forced to retire when physical conditions don't allow the person to...

 at any time, but usually does so only for health-related reasons.

Dioceses


The diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 is the basic church body that comprises all the parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

es of a determined geographical area. It is governed by the Diocesan Bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

, with the assistance of a Diocesan Assembly and a Diocesan Council. The OCA is currently composed of twelve geographic and three ethnic
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

 dioceses. The boundaries of the ethnic dioceses overlap those of certain geographic ones. These dioceses are the result of smaller ethnic jurisdictions joining the OCA at some point in its history, usually after having broken from other bodies. Dioceses are established by the Holy Synod whenever needed, and the Synod may also modify the boundaries of an existing diocese.

All-American Council


According to the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, the All-American Council is the "highest legislative and administrative authority within the Church." The Council is composed roughly of the Metropolitan, all bishops, priests, and selected lay delegates. The purpose of the All-American Council is to discuss and vote on Church matters. When necessary, the Council has also elected new metropolitans.

The period between All-American Councils is set at three years, although this is not always the case. The first thirteen Councils (held from 1907–1970) are referred to as All-American Sobors, reflecting the American Church's jurisdictional ties to the Russian Orthodox Church. The fourteenth Sobor (held 1970) is jointly known as the 1st All-American Council, reflecting the autocephalous status of the OCA. The most recent All-American Council (15th) was held in November 2008, at which time the current primate of the OCA, now Metropolitan
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

 Jonah (Paffhausen)
Jonah (Paffhausen)
Jonah , Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, is the primate of the Orthodox Church in America . He was elected on November 12, 2008, and installed to his see on December 28, 2008, in Washington, D.C...

, was elected. The next All-American Council (16th) is scheduled for October 31 through November 4, 2011, in Bellevue, Washington.

Metropolitan Council


The Metropolitan Council is the permanent executive body of the Church's administration. It is tasked with implementing the decisions of the All-American Council, as well as handling the Church's budgetary concerns. The Council is headed by a chairman (the current Metropolitan), and is composed of the OCA's chancellor, secretary, treasurer, and selected clergy and lay delegates. It usually meets twice per year, but in December 2006 a rare joint meeting between the Metropolitan Council and the Holy Synod of Bishops was held.

See also


External links