Monday, April 27. 2009
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The primary problem with Mr. Michalopoulos's response is that it is a response to an issue different from the one raised by Fr. Oliver. Michalopoulos is attempting to make a canonical argument, i.e., what ought to have been the case, often contra what the people involved in the actual period thought was or should be the case, including those on "his" side.
Thus, his response is both beside the point and also anachronistic. It wasn't what Fr. Oliver was talking about, and the very bishops he tries to set up as the points of canonical unity at the time didn't even regard themselves that way.
GCM wrote: "To my knowledge, no one has ever said that there was a golden age of unity in North America under the Russian-established archdiocese."
This is precisely the claim that has been made in multiple places. It honestly surprises me that Mr. Michalopoulos has never heard of it. It has been made by Schmemann in Orthodox America (1975) and even Ware in The Orthodox Church (p. 187-8). It is also made by Abp. Gregory Afonsky in his book on American Orthodoxy 1917-1934 (p. 7). It is also made by Metr. JONAH in his paper on primacy. It's in the big "Orthodox Reunion" paper circulated from Fr. Josiah Trenham a couple of years ago. It was in the 1970 defense of Patr. Alexei I of the autocephaly of the OCA, along with that of Patr. Pimen. In short, everywhere.
What Fr. Oliver is addressing is the question of what the actual situation on the ground was, countering the frequently made claim that there was full agreement from all quarters prior to the establishment of the GOA that the Russians were fully in charge everywhere throughout the continent.
What ought to have been the case, canonically, is another question entirely. That, too, is a point of some dissension, and one can accept one school or other of interpretation on that point. There is no unanimous canonical view on annexing new territory, especially what one's territory has already been defined by pan-Orthodox consensus.
#1 Fr. Andrew on 2009-04-28 05:26
Wow! What a fine response and thoroughly presented!
#2 Anonymous on 2009-04-28 05:54
I think Mr. Michalopulos' piece was a rather hasty "Response" that needed some editing and revision when compared to the more organized and detailed reflection on the history of Orthodoxy in North America presented by Fr. Oliver Herbal.
That being said, I think Mr. Michalopulos raised a number of valuable points that are essential to the story of the genesis of Orthodoxy in North America, to its canonicity (or not), and what direction this may give to the process of episcopal, canonical and administrative unity in North America (and abroad, insofar as North America is a 'test case' for the expansion of Orthodoxy around the globe). These points include the following:
1. The Church of Russia is the autocephalous Orthodox Church that first sent bishops to the New World thus demonstrating the establishment of a diocese, a true local church (in the Ignatian sense). When and where did other autocephalous churches establish episcopal sees in/for North America?
2. No other autocephalous Church established any sort of jurisdiction or diocese in the New World until after the Bolshevik Revolution and the discontinuation of support (and money) for the Orthodox churches in North America. When and where did other autocephalous churches establish dioceses in/for North America?
3. It has not been demonstrated that autocephalous Orthodox churches founded parishes in North America rather than that parishes were started by those that self-identified as members of particular autocephalous churches. Parishes 'of' other autocephalous churches were started and the same have stated that they received antimens and priests from their 'Mother Churches', but no details seem to have been provided, i.e., did the parishes receive valid antimens from canonical bishops? were priests canonically assigned to these parishes or were they vagante, of some kind? did the bishops know these priests were for parishes in territory where another autocephalous church was already present and active? were the parishes in areas where another autocephalous church was already, in fact, present and active? did the Holy Synod of this autocephalous Church approve the foundation of parishes or was this a unilateral or uninformed action of a single bishop?
4. Most Orthodox immigrants never planned on staying in the New World permanently; this may have affected how their churches were organized, their canonical standing, and why bishops may have allowed services to be held, i.e., they were no more than private, community chapels for migrant workers rather than parishes of a diocese or of a missionary effort, i.e., it could be likened to a priest traveling overseas with a convoy of ships to serve the spiritual needs of the crew - episcopal jurisdiction would not thereby be gained of the sea route traveled (e.g., Bishop of the Atlantic; Bishop of the Indian Ocean; Bishop of the Panama Canal).
I am sure there are details regarding many of these points and I look forward to more facts emerging.
It is notable to me that these facts have not been published earlier and louder if they are as devastating to the Russian/Metropolia/OCA case as is being assumed. It makes me wonder if there are holes in the case or other unseemly facts that undermine what is being presented as an open and shut case against the claims of Russia and the Metropolia/OCA. I am eager for more information, and further reflection on the way in which jurisdiction is gained in new territory (only by imperial expansion?).
Response to George C. Michalopulos
It is true that the Russians had primacy in America at the beginning. However, the history of Orthodoxy in America is not simply a matter of other ethinic groups coming here and organizing without regard to the heroic work undertaken by the Russians. The Russians themselves gave up that primacy because they could not care for the various groups that formed the Orthodox Church in the New World. Among other things the loss of support from the Tsar and his government caused serious financial problems for the American Church. The victory of Lenin and his followers also caused serious administrative problems for the North American Church. The Living Church, a group of “Orthodox” who supported the Revolution and the Soviet regime, sent John Kedrovsky, a married priest they had made a bishop, to America to gain control over the Russian Mission in 1923. After he successfully used the American courts to gain possession of St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York, the leaders of what became the Metropolia advised each community to incorporate themselves as a separate legal corporation according to avoid a similar fate. This sowed the seeds of division, as well as the curse of trusteeism that continues to curse American Orthodoxy. It is true that St. Raphael was consecrated and served under the Russian Bishops. However, when they could not care for the Arabic speaking Orthodox in America they encouraged them to organize their own jurisdiction. They blessed the efforts of Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh to organize an independent American Orthodox Church in 1927. Following the failure of that visionary effort, due at least partially to pressure on Metropolitan Platon, by the Episcopalians, who was quite happy to support Orthodox as long as they remained “foreign,” but became terribly offended when Episcopalians began to convert to Orthodoxy, the Russians encouraged the Arab speaking Orthodox to organize their own jurisdiction under Antioch. Significantly, Antioch asked for and received the blessing of Moscow, the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, and the Metropolia, before it established jurisdiction over the Arabic speaking Orthodox in America. However, the Russian Bishops themselves contributed to further division among the Antiochians by supporting the organization of two Antiochian jurisdictions. On the day that Metropolitan Theodosius of the Patriarchate of Antioch assisted by Archbishop Vitaly of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile consecrated Metropolitan Anthony, who became the leader of the Archdiocese of New York, other bishops of the Metropolia including Metropolitan Leonty, then Bishop of Chicago, participated in the consecration of Metropolitan Samuel David who organized a separate Archdiocese for Arabic speaking Orthodox with headquarters in Toledo. Thus, the history of Orthodoxy in North America is rather complex. Arguments about who came first or who has primacy do not serve the cause of Orthodox unity. Unity cannot be forced from above or by one group claiming primacy, regardless of their historical pedigree, or appeals to ancient canons, but will come when we, the Orthodox of North America, come together in a spirit of unity and mutual respect.
Archpriest John W. Morris
#4 Archpriest John W. Morris on 2009-04-28 08:00
Interesting. So Antioch asked permission from Moscow, ROCOR, and the Metropolia before setting up bishops in the Americas. And from whom did the Ecumenical Patriarch ask permission before setting up GOARCH?
The issue in this debate is not whether the OCA is the True Church of America, but whether the EP's claim of sole jurisdiction in America is canonically valid. Plainly it is not.
#5 Anonymous on 2009-04-28 09:23
Mr. Michalopoulos' response is fantastic! As someone who has studied American Orthodox Church History, he is correct. Oliver and others here continue to want to twist history and misrepresent the facts. RIDICULOUS!
#6 Anonymous on 2009-04-28 16:47
It seems this responder didn't read the article closely enough. The article was a fine response, on point and relevant, to continue the conversation regarding the real history of Orthodoxy in America.
#7 Fr. Matthew on 2009-04-28 17:51
#8 Anonymous on 2009-04-29 01:31
There is consensus that our ecclesiology is wrong in North America. The current argument being debated, as you point out, deals with who’s right it is to be in charge. At the same time we must also face our sin that keeps us from any change. The sin of phylitism in the Church must be addressed. Who has jurisdiction is the canonical problem, but behind it sits phylitism, not just with the GOA but also with ALL of our jurisdictions. Phylitism, sometimes translated as racism, helps justify the greed and political agendas that trouble all the jurisdictions.
One Bishop in one city is the answer. Ethnic dioceses or Ethnic jurisdictions are our problem in North America. Smaller diocese with greater interaction between the Bishop and his flock, greater communication and time spent together in the services praying and in fellowship together.
A cultural identity is developed over time when the same group of people lives and interacts amongst themselves in the same place. Our jurisdictional divisions within the same city hinder development of an American Orthodox Culture. If such culture has been developed it is despite the administrative structure of the Church. But our current structure encourages our tendency towards phylitism, and phylitism helps keep our administrative divisions intact. So we must address it along with who has jurisdiction. Parallel ethnic dioceses under the Ecumenical Patriarch or under the OCA are not the answer. (Both groups having such diocese in North America) Having a Bishop you know, who is at your parish more than once a year, who will know if he needs to find a whatever language speaking priest to minister to your needs, who will know if your priest is caring for you spiritually, this is what we need for the sake of our souls.
#9 Anonymous on 2009-04-29 08:18
It is good to talk about the history of the Orthodox in the United States. But more important it is important to recognize the fact that the many Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States are not interested in resolving the cananocial issue. Especially if you are looking at the behavior of the jurisdictions presently. Will the bishops in the United States, Canada, Mexico etc be interested in sitting down together to discuss the issue of one Orthodox jurisdiction? If past history is an indicator, I think not. Metropolitan Philip has reduced his bishops to auxiliary bishops. ROCOR and Moscow Patricatriate parishes are separate even though both now are under Patriarch of Moscow. If the jursidications are serious about being one administratively, I would like to see some evidence. From where I sit there is no evidence of this. I see the ethnic jurisdictions leadership tied even tighter to their bishops in their Mother country.
#10 cshinn on 2009-04-29 09:28
"Fantastic" is indeed a good word -- that is, it is fantasy. Like all fantasy, however, it is founded on something less than reality. I should hope Mr. Michalopoulos might soon make use of primary sources in his historical commentaries rather than (as he does in his book with Mr. Ham) relying primarily on secondary and tertiary sources (many of them webpages!).
Simply repeating the assertions of OCA triumphalists and myth-purveyors is not good history. One must have actual sources from the period which give a broad, balanced view of what was actually the case.
In any event, Mr. Michalopoulos's comments were an attempt to hijack Fr. Oliver's point and instead make a different one (notice how often he tries to say what the "real" point is). But in doing so, his replies are off the point. He is responding to something that Fr. Oliver didn't say. Methinks he imagines that (for instance) stating that the situation prior to the Bolshevik revolution was chaotic is an endorsement of that situation! The historian's job is not to make endorsements of some agenda or other but rather to describe, as far as possible, the historical truth.
#11 A history student on 2009-04-29 13:01
I find it telling that Mr. Michalopulos' letter refrains from engaging any actual primary sources. One wonders, is he even familiar with the primary sources of the period in question? If you look at his book with Herb Ham, supposedly talking about the history of the "American Orthodox Church," they use virtually no primary sources. Has Mr. Michalopulos read anything on early American Orthodoxy outside of his own library and what can be found on Google in 15 minutes?
The bigger problem, as other have mentioned, is that Mr. Michalopulos doesn't even respond to Fr. Oliver's actual statements. Instead, he responds to a perceived threat to his own ideology of American Orthodox unity. Look, saying everyone was united prior to 1917 does not make it so. Saying that they were not united does not mean that we can't be united today. Being honest about the past and doing actual research should not be considered a threat.
I'm afraid any scholar who dares engage in actual research will be branded a traitor and a fraud (and a Soviet sympathizer and an agent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) by Mr. Michalopulos and his ilk. If you want to criticize Fr. Oliver or anyone else with similar arguments, I beg of you, do so in a respectful way, and don't just parrot back what you've been told. DO SOME RESEARCH YOURSELF. And don't kill the messenger.
#12 Ferris Haddad on 2009-04-29 13:54
Ferris Haddad? Com'on.
The "TRUE" history of Orthodoxy in North America has already been written. Oliver's attempt to show an "alternative universe history" is laughable. Why don't you admit your are a member of ROCOR? Why don't you admit you are taking a side with Oliver to twist the real history of Orthodoxy in America?
#13 Anonymous on 2009-04-30 11:05
Mr. Haddad writes:
I'm afraid any scholar who dares engage in actual research will be branded a traitor and a fraud
Yet another anonymous responds:
Oliver's attempt to show an "alternative universe history" is laughable. Why don't you admit your are a member of ROCOR? Why don't you admit you are taking a side with Oliver to twist the real history of Orthodoxy in America?
Either anonymous is attempting a kind of dry, ironic humor that doesn't translate well online, or he's just proved Mr. Haddad's point.
This whole debate completely baffles me. I've always more or less believed the conventtional founding myth of the OCA that some here are defending so fiercely. But hearing that the situation was more complex and less clear cut doesn't undermine my commitment to the OCA.
Is it really such a terrible thing to show that the situation prior to the Russian Revolution was a bit complicated, that there was only the Russian hierarchy, but that various ethnic groups also established their own churches, with varying types of relationship to the Russian hierarchy in America? Can anyone really imagine that things weren't a bit messy and complex? Why is it so threatening to acknowledge this?
We are not going to solve the American situation by an appeal to history. We are not going to solve it by an appeal to cannons. We can only solve it by building pragmatically and humbly from where we actually are today, even when that involves the humble act of giving up on some of our ideas about ourselves.
#14 Rebecca Matovic on 2009-04-30 15:47
The misinformation here regarding the history of the Orthodox Churches in America is astounding. Herbel's work only distorts the truth. How many historians have ending in the dustbin of history due to their supposed scholarly works? I find Herbel's conclusions as truly reaching. I don't believe his work offers any clarity, but certainly offers much mud.
#15 Anonymous on 2009-05-03 07:56
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