Growth Numbers by Diocese: A Report to the Metropolitan Council (Spring 2012)

The controversy that has erupted because of the possible inclusion of Bp Mark Maymon’s name to the slate of candidates for the OCA shows little signs of abating at present. Regardless, it has been very edifying in many ways.

Rather than embroil ourselves further in the fitness of the erstwhile candidate himself, questions have come to the fore regarding the viability of the Diocese of the South vis-a-vis the other dioceses. As certain correspondents (and your truly) have indicated, the Diocese of the South is the “financial backbone” of the OCA.

Yesterday, one correspondent requested that we provide evidence for this assertion. Here it is. This report was presented to the newly-installed Metropolitan Council which met in Feb 21-23, 2012. It’s a good report and it has a lot of insights, but for our purposes, please scroll down to page 11 “Evangelization and Parish Evangelization,” (Ivanoff: years reported 00-06), so you can judge for yourself.

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Note: only two dioceses grew in the first six years of this decades: the South and the West, with the South far exceeding the pace of growth in the West. Only one other diocese in another jurisdiction (the Diocese of Wichita and the Midwest in the Antiochian archdiocese has experienced comparable growth).

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  1. Does the plug-in work with Macs? I cannot access the info.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Mr. Michalopulos,

      The report is a pdf of a PowerPoint presentation (?), the plugin for which has been disabled/patched in macs (I believe because of the recent virus vulnerability in Java) and can’t be viewed. It would be helpful if you were to make the the pdf available for download for mac users. Thanks!

  2. Its pretty obvious.The Dioceses of the South and the West are the only two dioceses which showed any growth. The Diocese of Western Pennsylvania declined 21% !!
    Now….why would anyone with half a brain want to mess with the Diocese of the South?

    • All the more reason + Jonah should become the Bishop of Dallas and step down as Met!

      • Then in a few more years all that would remain of the OCA would be the DOS and a little of the bit of the DOW and you would have to choose another jurisdiction to belong to.

      • Lola J. Lee Beno says

        Could you please stop with this fantasy and move on to something else? Thank you.

  3. For this to have all that much meaning, each diocese’s growth needs to be corrected against regional growth rates for the period 2000-2010. Ideally this should even be done on a county-by-county basis. The same general trends might be there, but the contrasts will be greatly muted. In all aspects of American demographics, the rust belt rusts and the sunbelt shines….

    • Carl Kraeff says

      True. However; I do not believe that the South has grown at anywhere near the 36% growth rate of the Diocese of the South.

      Here are the state by state figures:

      Alabama 7.5%
      Arkansas 9.1%
      Florida 17.6%
      Georgia 18.3%
      Kentucky 7.4%
      Louisiana 1.4%
      Mississippi 4.3%
      New Mexico 13.2%
      North Carolina 18.5%
      Oklahoma 8.7%
      South Carolina 15.3%
      Tennessee 11.5%
      Texas 20.6%

      • Another wrinkle here is that these very large growth rates are based on very small initial populations. Also, particular patterns of growth have to do with particular patterns of migration, such as Georgia and Florida’s growth perhaps being connected (aside from Russian and Romanian immigration that no longer goes towards the rust belt), to the southward migration of Yankees down the I-75 corridor from regions that have been losing Orthodox population.

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Samn, you introduce a very interesting wrinkle, specifically “initial” populations of each church. The joke for a long time was that Arb Dmitri could start a mission with two old ladies and a hat. Our own mission started with less than 20 people. The question however is not initial population but subsequent growth as well as determination of priests to be part of these start-up missions. Basically, we’re talking about faith.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          Once again you point out another important consideration; the baseline. As you know, the figures above cover only one decade, 2000-2010. Archbishop Dimitri became the ruling bishop of DOS “…in 1970s and was charged with the development of the diocese, which at the time consisted of a few churches in Florida and Texas and several missions. In the 1980s, Bp. Dmitri was elevated to the rank of archbishop. Under his leadership the Diocese of the South has grown to approximately 60 parishes and missions (as of 2005).”

          So, is the baseline 1980, 1990 or 2000 (if we are to use round numbers for the sake of convenience)? I would think that there would be two baselines: one of the very beginning, say 1980, and another one of the tipping point, when the rate of expansion changed dramatically as what was once an experiment became settled policy/operations. It would be interesting indeed to plot the start of each mission/church in DOS.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Thanks for the info, Carl. Much appreciated.

  4. Pravoslavnie says

    Broken link!

  5. Wondering how this data squares with larger population growth/etc in America….

  6. Love is the ingredient that makes a church grow. From what I know about Archbishop Dimitri of Blessed Memory is that he loved everyone, in fact some people said that he was the example of love! That is what is needed in America, bishops that love their people and will do anything for them. Bishops that will lead from the heart and not from their mind. We need to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and love everyone. If we do that the Church in America will grow in leaps and bounds!

    • George Michalopulos says

      Fr Peter, you have hit the nail right on the head. If I may add, the report that was presented to the MC in Feb was fantastic. It had all the right bells and whistles. A lot of work was put into it, of this there can be no doubt.

      But… (there’s always a “but”)

      …I’ve sat through too many of these same Evangelism Workshops while in the GOA. They tend to be very good and some actually address the issues. This latest one is by far the best I’ve ever seen. Ultimately however they are superfluous. We never had any of these in the DOS when Arb Dmitri took over on a wing and a prayer. Just preach the Gospel. The Church will grow. People in America are starved for it.

      • Right you are, George. What these meetings really need to address is the internal issue of false shepherds within the Church leading sheep astray. Remember that “rubric of repentance” crap was written by an OCA priest.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Helga, thank you. Being descended from generations of Orthodox, it was not easy for me to shake a lot of the cultural pietisms that I believed were necessary for an Orthodox parish to function. It’s little things like: how can you build a mission if you don’t have a kouvouklion or processional standards or authentic, egg-tempura icons from Mt Athos? Don’t get me wrong, these are all wonderful things that no church should be without. But for a validly ordained priest to serve the liturgy, all that is necessary at first is an antiminsion from his bishop. If he has this, a core of dedicated congregants (read: tithers), and preaches the Gospel, the tiny storefront mission will grow.

          It took me a long while to get that through my head. Luckily, we in the South had a missionary bishop who preached the Gospel and knew that food-festivals (which I like) were not the way to make things happen.

          Is Orthodoxy difficult? Yes and no. Having come off a 50 day Lent, I’d say it wasn’t a walk in the park. But Jesus did say that His yoke was easy, and the burden light. We have to accept that paradox and know that if we manifest the light of Christ, then America will become Orthodox. I can’t say this enough: Orthodoxy in America will grow if the people who want to start missions are serious. The Holy Spirit will provide godly men to take up the ministry and episcopate.

          • Michael Bauman says

            The first step in mission is (as has been expressed frequently here) love, but it is a love of the people who are being evagelized. That is where we Orthodox fall far short. There is little love for the uncouth, barbarian Americans and our young, raucous ad hoc culture.

            The Church and the US don’t fit easily as all tradition, of any type, is often rejected out of hand here in the home of revolution.

            I was reading in the OCMC magizine about the current Orthodox mission to Mongolia. The primary priest is quoted as saying he wants to establish a local church led by Mongolians. Until that is the goal for the Americas: Canada, US, Mexico and each South American country Orthodox evangelism will wilt and die. It is obvious to everyone that the dhimmi churches of the Middle east don’t want that and seem to be incapable of even thinking in those terms. We’ll see about Moscow I guess, but they seem more interested in Orthodox-Catholic cooperation in Europe.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Michael, to me it’s not either-or (ROC/RC cooperation/Evangelism) but both-and. I know it’s hard to believe given the state of Orthodoxy in America, but I do believe we can chew gum and walk at the same time.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          Helga–If you don’t mind, would you please explain “Remember that “rubric of repentance” crap was written by an OCA priest” ? Thanks, Carl

          • It’s from one of those pro-homosexual articles on OCAN last year. He argued that we shouldn’t ask a “married” homosexual couple to divorce under the “rubric of repentance”, but instead provide them a “spiritual home”.

    • I’m glad to see Fr. Peter’s introduction of the topic of love into this discussion. My parish, in the midwest, has grown by leaps and bounds. A member of another parish asked one of our parishioners what caused the growth. She replied, “We love each other and we’re darned nice.” Practically every month new members join, sometimes cradle Orthodox, sometimes converts. The love in the parish may be the main reason for its growth, but I’ve heard many comments to the effect that the congregational singing is a big factor too. We have no choir, or rather, the entire congregation is the choir.

      My 2 cents…

  7. Is it known what proportion of these converts are Christians coming from heterodox groups and what proportion are formerly “unchurched” ?

  8. You know, all these questions are good ones, and interesting, but the real challenge for the OCA, indeed for Orthodoxy in general, gets lost.

    The question is not how many have moved from the rust belt to the sun belt, although many Orthodox have done that. There are many who moved to the sunbelt and there converted to Orthodoxy. This “squeeze the balloon” numbers philosophy will not get us anywhere. By ‘squeeze the balloon’ I mean the argument that the South is growing by the numbers that are lost in the rust belt parishes, leaving a net sum zero effect for Orthodoxy/OCA as a whole.

    The real question is, are we preaching the Good News, and gathering all peoples? Are we spawning new missions? In short, are the numbers of Orthodox faithful growing? Are we keeping our young people? Are we bringing new converts into our churches? Are we keeping them once they come? Fighting over how a fixed pie is sliced is a tragic waste of time and treasure.

    We, in all jurisdictions, need to make the Orthodox pie bigger!

    A little humility might be in order, as the OCA in NA as a whole is not as large as any of several of the fundamentalist Protestant churches one might find in Dallas TX or Tulsa,OK or South Barrington IL. There are scores ofsingle church congregations that are larger than the whole OCA!! If we spent as much time and money on growing the church as we did on say, SIMPAC, what might we accomplish?

    Yes, the South is growing from a relatively small basis. But the growth is due to a missions minded focus. Presiding over a dwindling flock is not a strategy that fulfills the command, “Go and preach to all peoples.”

    In the South, Archbishop Dmitri was a missionary bishop. I pray we are given a bishop of wisdom and strength, with a similar missionary bent. This steep growth won’t last forever as the base increases, but positive growth is positive growth.

    And erosion is erosion.

    Normally, data like this is used in business to determine allocation of resources – where do you place your best talent? Where do you invest in infrastructure (read churches)? Where does leadership spend its time and attention? Of course, in the OCA, the resources flow upward through a one way valve in large part. Additionally, we have in place an assessment model that practically guarantees distortion in reporting.

    So rather than argue about this growth, what can we do to foster much more of it, in every belt, rust or sun?

    • I see no-one has answered my specific question. Permit me an observation that might be controversial – conversion of the heterodox may result in church growth (and I’ve nothing against it) but it is not mission, unless we are defining mission differently from the New Testament. The most effective Orthodox mission in the US – as opposed to church growth via transfers from heterodox Christian confessions – from what I know (happy to be corrected!) was the St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood in Platina CA, until things went majorly awry there towards the end of Fr Seraphim Rose’s life, anyway. They were also in the most post-Christian region of the US. Might be worthy of study?

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Basil, of course this would be worthy of study. I think the phenomenon of missions, evangelism, outreach, the definition of heterodoxy, etc, should be investigated at length. I’d like to do it myself but I’m not qualified to do so, nor do I have the time. Perhaps somebody else could?

      • Basil, I’m guessing you’re saying that we need to start evangelizing the unchurched, right? I agree with that. However, I don’t agree that evangelizing members of heterodox religions is in any way a lesser fulfillment of the Great Commission than evangelizing the unchurched. Being outside the Church, they are in need of Christ and His Church.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Helga, it’s sad that we even have to point this out. I know that there are good people out there in the heterodox confessions. Better than myself anyway. But believe me, these people are spiritually hurting. They need the rigor of Orthodoxy and they respect our adherence to Tradition.

          As I wish I said to a certain GOA priest two years ago: would you refuse to give a thirsty man a drink?

          • Yes, George. I had to object to Basil’s definition of evangelism specifically excluding so-called “transfers” from heterodox churches for this reason: if coming to Orthodoxy from heterodox churches amounts to a ‘transfer’, why on earth did Metropolitan Jonah have to tell Anglicans – from what is arguably one of the closer Protestant denominations to Orthodoxy – that they would have to leave Calvinism behind? Never mind the denominations that don’t even practice baptism or the Eucharist.

        • That’s not evangelizing, Helga, it’s proselytizing.
          It’s one thing to share the Orthodox faith with someone who expresses interest, but it’s another to actively target members of other confessions for “conversion”. Orthodoxy has suffered much from this itself, but that doesn’t make it right when we do it to others. And no, I’m not proposing some sort of confessional relativism here, I’m saying proselytising is basically unethical behaviour. It’s a mark of the sects, not the Church.

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Speaking one’s mind is no such thing. Besides, all that we do is to say “if you are looking for a church home, we would love you to come and check us out,” give church tours during festivals or talks at venues that invite us. We do not go door to door, we do not bad mouth other churches, and we do not target anyone. If anything, we are too timid.

            • I’ve no problem with what you’re talking about, Carl.
              But the larger problem, as I see it, is that so much Orthodox church growth -such as it is – comes from heterodox Christians transferring in rather than non-Christians being converted by the preaching of the Gospel. We are not effective at reaching unbelievers and the unchurched – we need to look into that more and not be content thinking that receiving disaffected Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists looking for Tradition constitutes mission.

              • Carl Kraeff says

                I do agree with you in the sense that we should offer not only the “fullness of faith” but also “salvation.” However, there are many on Orthodox and heterodox church rolls who are lost to sin, many are nominal Christians, and some are even agnostic or worse. I submit to you that we convert mostly from amongst the heterodox because of our passive, non-proselytazing methods. The only way to convert the unchurched would be to go out and evangelize like Father Maximus Urbanowicz or like Billy Graham. Alas we have very few missionaries and evangelists.

                PS: Check out Father Maximus and his “Gospel to All Nations” at

  9. Fr. Peter Dubinin says

    A significant obstacle to Church growth and evangelism in the Orthodox Church from my experience (Ukrainian & OCA) is the significant, almost unrelenting, malicious gossip, verbal assassination, bad-mouthing, etc., we the faithful engage against each other and our leadership. I’m not talking about reasoned and measured assessment and analysis of circumstances, methods, etc., but the un-Christian behavior of a few within just about every parish to raise suspicion about the virtue and motivation of those committed to preaching and living the Gospel. The number of people staying away from the Orthodox Church and leaving the Orthodox Church is growing. And why? Some will tell you – Orthodoxy plays well in the books; wow what a faith. This stuff makes so much sense…. But, the reality of “Orthodoxy” in too many parishes falls so horribly short of our own print.

    As a military chaplain I have long advocated the Church establish a core of Church revitalizers and Gospel evangelizers made up of retired military priest chaplains. By and large these have more experience in pastoral care and counseling and leadership than many of their civilian couterparts. If they have been blessed to retire from the military, they have their pension, healthcare, medications already covered. Many will be between 50 and 60 years old at military retirement with a good 10 to 15 years of service remaining to the Church. Retired military chaplains don’t need to be placed on established parishes collecting a salary on top of their military pension; leave those parishes for married clergy with families to raise. By and large they are accustomed to sacrifice and selfless service (along with many of our civilian clergy) which would be essential virtues to this core of clergy. Point is, we could tap an already existing platform (military chaplaincy) which wouldn’t cost us a “dime” as a Church to foster and build on it to move the mission of the Church to revitalize dying parishes and preach the Gospel to bring people into Christ’s Holy Church.

    This would be for naught along with all other efforts if we can’t adequately and rightly address the ugly, malignant and venomous chatter that takes place in our Churches undermining every effort to know Christ and make Him known; after all who would want to voluntarily be a part of such a group?

    • George Michalopulos says

      Fr Peter, excellent points! I think we need more chaplain-retireers and “tent-maker” priests pastoring our congregations. I for one, would welcome publishing an essay from you on this subject (as I have read several of your other essays in the past, I can attest to their cogency, sobriety, and readability).

      If you will permit me to explain the current decrepit culture that characterizes much of the Orthodox reality on the street, which you correctly point out is malicious, slanderous, and a stumbling block to evangelism.
      If I may, a major part of this is fed by the culture of secrecy which our hierarchy and higher clergy engage in. The recent tumult within my Diocese is a case in point. We’ve had a procedure in place to vet, interview, and investigate candidates. Unfortunately, they haven’t been followed as resolutely as they should have been. In addition, precious resources have been gobbled up (I won’t go into the details), which have made it difficult to do so. This is the yeast which makes the toxic brew you describe ferment.

      Expanding from our own jurisdiction, I can tell you that it’s almost universal that during episcopal vacancies, candidates are named, then mysteriously dropped. Murmurs and whispering campaigns are mounted. The election process itself is murky. To this day, no one has explained to me how the more recent bishops in the GOA are chosen. Except for Arb Demetrios and Met Isaiah, I have yet to stumble upon the CV and published writings of any of these men. (Pace Harry Coin, it’s easy to glide by seminary and get on the episcopal track if you remain celibate, so to speak.)

      I don’t mean to excuse our (the laity’s) willful engagement in rumor-mongering. It’s evil and it should stop. But it’s inevitable given this cult of secrecy. More accountability and transparency (yes, Stokoe was right superficially at least) is what is called for.

    • A significant obstacle to Church growth and evangelism in the Orthodox Church from my experience (Ukrainian & OCA) is the significant, almost unrelenting, malicious gossip, verbal assassination, bad-mouthing, etc., we the faithful engage against each other and our leadership.

      But, but, but: They deserve it!

  10. Diogenes says

    In the OCA, the Midwest diocese is growing and the DOS is growing. The Midwest is still top dog. The West is stagnant as is PA & NE. The growth of the OCA is equal to population shifts in the U.S.

    The Greeks include everyone of Greek extraction in their numbers while actual church attendance is probably 1/2 or less of what they claim.

    The Antiochian numbers seem pretty accurate.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Diogenes, thank you for your clarification. I certainly hope that Chicago is growing and they should given that they’ve got a good bishop finally.

      The Greek numbers are pretty bogus, so you’re right, but Krindatch had to start somewhere and if you can’t trust the numbers that the parish priests give you, then it’s a sad situation. I will say though that the present GOA numbers are far more honest than the previous “1.5 million” that were constantly trumpeted about by the GOA. That’s a start I guess.

      • The Jury says

        >>>given that they’ve got a good bishop finally.

        Actually, we just broke for coffee. We’ll get back to you on that one.

  11. Deacon Michael says

    Dear Brothers and Concelebrants and Faithful of the Diocese of the South,

    Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

    I apologize that this update to the Episcopal Search Committee’s work has been so delayed in coming. This past year since becoming Chancellor of the Diocese of the South (June 1, 2011) has been a challenging one. While the life and work of the Diocese have continued and by many standards even thrived, we have also faced sadness and adversity. First, it must be noted, that on August 28, 2011, our beloved, retired hierarch, Archbishop Dmitri, fell asleep in the Lord. One of my first tasks as Chancellor had been to visit St Seraphim’s Cathedral in early June of 2011 where I met with its priest and parish council. It was also my great joy to serve at the liturgy on the Monday of the Holy Spirit where His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri was present. The impact of his death upon all of us cannot be underestimated. Shortly after this, Bishop Nikon, our locum tenens, was to undergo another major surgery as well as further treatment for cancer that would not be completed until the beginning of 2012. We had of course the 16th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America to prepare for and attend. Behind all of this was also the suspicion and uncertainty that had entered the life of our Orthodox Church in America, and also its Diocese of the South, during Great Lent of 2011.

    My hope is to provide below a bit of background to our search for a new diocesan hierarch, as well as to provide the procedure which will, Lord-willing, lead to the nomination of a candidate whose name will be submitted to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America who has the statutory responsibility of canonical election. This nomination will take place at a Special Assembly of the Diocese of the South to be held on Thursday, July 19, 2012, at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Miami, FL, in the context of the 2012 Diocese of the South Assembly (July 16 – 20). The importance of each assigned priest and
    parish delegate being at this assembly cannot be stressed enough.

    Wishing you every joy of the Paschal Season, I remain

    Faithfully yours in the Risen Lord,

    VRev Marcus C Burch, Chancellor

    Diocese of the South

  12. cynthia curran says

    Well, personality the sunbelt doesn’t have an advantage anymore, Minnesota has a lower unemployment than North Carolina, if you are older and want to get to where its warmer then yes, but not so much anymore in the job market. Take little North Dakota, lousy weather but its easier to get a job there in Florida. I think some of the mid-west section will come back and some will not even Michigan which was very high in unemployement is closer to the national average, people should give the mid-west a go, not that I’ver ever live there but going west and south isn’t always to your advanrage anymore. True, the west and the northeast have a lot of immirgants and that’s why they are stagant and the native born doesn’t relate to immirgant churches.

  13. cynthia curran says

    than in Florida, I mean.

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  15. Anonymous Since It's All The Rage says

    In fairness, George, I asked you to back up your assertion that “the DOS is the financial backbone of the OCA”.

    This PP doesn’t do that.

    That in no way disparages the impressive growth rate of the DOS.

    • George Michalopulos says

      I’ll see if I can get the numbers. If memory serves, we give in the six figures (about 45% of our income) to Syosset. NY/NJ gives 90% but the actual number I don’t believe is as big as Dallas’. I could be wrong on that.

      However since we’re on this subject, how much do the ethnic eparchies of the OCA give to Syosset?

  16. cynthia curran says

    Good point, about Megachurches, did fame Rick Warren Saddleback with some other campus is probably around 22,000 and take all the orthodox in Orange County Ca including Eastern and Oriential less than 9,000 people.

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