ROCOR and American Orthodoxy

When the history of the American Orthodox Church is written, it is my fervent belief that the jurisdiction which will prove to be the bulwark which made unity possible (if it is ever to come to fruition) will be the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

There are many reasons for this, one of them being that for a long time it was not viewed as a “canonical” jurisdiction and thus was protected from the internecine squabbling that plagued those jurisdictions that comprised the Standing Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America (SCOBA), now the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. Another reason was its fidelity to liturgical and theological rigor. Modernism, ecumenism, and sexual-liberationist “dialogue” was never a threat in the precincts of ROCOR. The example of ROCOR was such that it informed others who looked wistfully to the piety and ecclesiology of its members. Finally, it was true to its word. When the first synod of exiled bishops from Russia met in Karlovtsy, Serbia in 1923, they stated that the rupture within the Russian Orthodox Church would be healed when the godless Bolshevik regime was ended. Then, and only then, would it rejoin the Patriarchate of Moscow. It did so on Ascension Day, 2007 when Metropolitan +Laurus and Patriarch +Alekseii II signed the instrument of reunification in the Cathedral of the Holy Savior in Moscow. This honesty and integrity are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dank Orthodox milieu known for incessant and unnecessary byzantine intrigues.

This is not to say that the other jurisdictions in North America are not without their gifts and bring little to the table. Far from it. The Antiochians pioneered the universal application of English in their services. They also brought in the Evangelical Orthodox and as a result experienced explosive growth in their archdiocese. For the first time in North America, Orthodoxy became evangelical. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese under the late Archbishop +Iakovos made significant inroads into making contact with the American nation; the photograph of +Iakovos with Martin Luther King at Selma will be forever emblazoned in the American consciousness. They also pioneered SCOBA, the first serious attempt at trans-jurisdictional cooperation and subsidized many of its ministries. Both Metropolitan +Philip and Archbishop +Iakovos took the bold step at authentic Orthodox unity at Ligonier in 1994 to wide acclaim (if to no avail). The Orthodox Church in America (at least under the auspices of St Vladimir’s Seminary) pioneered the concept of autocephaly and serious engagement with America.

Of course, things have not always been easy. The OCA suffered greatly during the past year and all jurisdictions continue to lose membership. Scandals have erupted here and there. Paradoxically, these may be the growing pains of American Orthodoxy rather than its death rattle. Nevertheless, somehow, in some way (and certainly not in conscious fashion) we have been able to strengthen each other in certain subtle ways that have allowed us to arrive at this point.

Let me offer few examples. More than a few priests in the various jurisdictions have told me that if it were not for the OCA and its autocephaly, the other jurisdictions would have been swallowed up by one or the other of the foreign patriarchates. Since now-Metropolitan Elpidophorous Lambrianides gave his startling speech at Holy Cross some three years ago (in which he demanded “submission” to Istanbul), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which of the foreign patriarchates we are talking about (read the response I wrote for Orthodox Christian Laity). Others however continue to press their claims. If nothing else, the OCA is the wild card that continues to constrain the foreign patriarchates from pressing their claims too aggressively. After all, American Orthodox from various ethnic jurisdictions have found their way into the OCA in some way, shape, or form for several decades now. And of course the Anglification that proceeded in both the OCA and the Antiochian archdiocese has served to loosen the grip of Ecclesiastical Greek in the GOA for precisely the same reason. And since the GOA allowed the Athonites to pursue an aggressive form of monasticism here in the US, the stigma against monasticism that has existed in the OCA and Antioch has loosened considerably.

Which brings us back to ROCOR. Because ROCOR has been the most rigorous of the jurisdictions, it has served as a type of gold standard. On a more immediate level however, they have literally saved the day on more than one occasion. Rather than recount the unfortunate saga of the past year in detail, I will instead draw your attention to a sisterhood which came to America for the express purpose of establishing one or more monasteries. Some of His Beatitude’s antagonists tried to deport them back to Greece. For awhile, it looked like they almost succeeded. Thanks to ROCOR however, they were granted a canonical release and were able to remain in America. (Their story will be told in more detail in a following essay, for the moment, if you want more information on this sisterhood, please go to their website Entrance of the Theotokos.)

Other examples of such stalwart actions abound in the recent history of ROCOR. Hopefully in time, more will come out. No one can forget the solicitude and respect they showed His Beatitude during some recent concelebrations. It is very possible that they not only saved his ministry, but the ministry of the OCA itself. Their existence certainly strengthened the traditionalist wing within our Church. For this and other countless favors, we should all be grateful to them.

Against this backdrop, it is with great sadness that ROCOR recently announced that their central headquarters in New York City is dangerously indebted. Although the multiplicity of jurisdictions within North America make such occurrences inevitable (especially in the light of the continuing economic downturn), this is no time for forcing administrative unification under these circumstances. Indeed, it would be churlish for any of the other jurisdictions to demand such an action. Instead, we here at Monomakhos would ask that our readers seriously consider contacting the central administration of ROCOR and pledging money of whatever amount in order to help stabilize their immediate financial situation. I myself will do so.

Remember, they were here for us, it’s the least we could do for them.


  1. George, we are going to have to diagree on this one. I do not see how the 19th Centuy Russian state of mind that ROCOR espouses can help build a united Church in America. Sure ROCOR is attractive to Russian immigrants and the granola Orthodox but the R is ROCOR is Russian just like the G in GOA is for Greek. The 1/2 million dollar debt is a sign that the ROCOR model is cannot sustain itself just like the GOA is ultimately not sustainable. Now how on earth do you rack up 1/2 million dollars in debt and no one sounds an alarm along the way? Its called poor stewardship and management. Giving money to “save the Synod building” is more a moral hazard than an act of kindness.

    Economics is the wild card that can shape the future of American Orhodoxy and ROCOR’s 19th century Russian vision of Orthodoxy just put it in the hole $500,000. Btw, this number is probably only the minimum debt service payment to hold off the creditors. The overall finanical need is probably much greater. ROCOR needs a bailout and because of this need is now ripe for a takeover or merger by any number of Orthodox sources with deep pockets and some good old venture capital.

    It order for the Church to grow in America it has to be pruned. Why not let the economics of this run its course on this one.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Andrew, you bring up some good points. ROCOR was definately nationalist but for some reason cnnverts fouind there way there in numbers that the GOA never emulated. I’m not sure what the breakdown of convert priests to Russian priests is but ever ROCOR priest I’ve ever known (about 10 or so) all seemed to come from different faith traditions. Among the dozens of GOA priests, I’d say about 5% were convert. If anybody knows the actual ratios involved I’d like to know.

      As to your other points about people’s giving habits as well as administors’ administrative habits, you are completely correct. That has to change throughout the spectrum of American Orthodoxy.

      And I see your point about giving money can be a “moral hazard” but maybe not. Even if we accept the pie-in-the-sky scenario of immediate administrative union taking place tomorrow, I see no reason why a city the size of Manhattan can’t have more than one parochial center other than the diocesan one. Perhaps ROCOR’s hq can be turned into a health clinic, or hostely, or even a mid-town monastery? How about an Orthodox university?

      • I think something close to half of ROCOR clergy are converts.

        The problem with Synod is that Russians are not by nature good business managers. 🙂 Communism might have worked, had the Germans been the ones to implement it.

        • That may be the case in the US (but even then it seems an extravagant figure), Fr John, but not in the wider ROCOR. I think it would be closer to 10% convert clergy in ROCOR as a whole.

          Anyway, the reason why (as some are asking) ROCOR maintains a presence in NY is that the building was gifted to them. Otherwise I’m sure Jordanville would be their HQ. But the gift has become something of an albatross around the Synod’s neck, albeit amagnificent one. I remember in the 1980s via ‘Orthodox Life’ a similar appeal went out for funds to repair the Park Ave property – it seems to be a generational necessity (we all know or can imagine the upkeep). In any case, the significant private donations that eventuated in that previous crisis have not been forthcoming this time. Perhaps there is a need to sell and relocate the chancery to Jordanville or at least convert part of the property into a revenue generating enterprise, retaining the Cathedral of the Sign and a suite for reception of dignitaries. Dare I suggest (no disrespect intended here) that the Metropolitan and other resident staff might commute?

          Meantime: Wow! 25 years ago no-one in their right mind would have suggested that ROCOR would have been a stimulus to Orthodox unity. I’m still trying ot get my head around George’s idea!

          • If you look over the official ROCOR directory, well over half of the clergy have non-Russian surnames. Some of those were raised in the Church, but most of those are converts… and that is world wide.

            • I also think that two of the great leaders who championed an English speaking American Church were ROCOR–St. John (Maximovitch), and (before other controversies) Fr. Seraphim (Rose). That’s no small thing.

              I think we American converts have much for which to be grateful regarding ROCOR, even with its attendant controversies. When there is, God willing, an American Orthodox Church, it will be American, not Russian. But we will benefit greatly from ROCOR’s advice, energy, and experience in very difficult times.

              • George Michalopulos says

                My point exactly. More specifically, American Orthodoxy will only be truly Orthopractic because of the witness of ROCOR and its traditionalist rigor.

            • You may be right after all, Fr John. I don’t have time to look over the whole directory (!) but I did a count of the names beginning with “A” and came up with about 50% non-Russian. Mind you, a lot of the non-Russian names were monastic clergy or assigned to missions. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does suggest that at the established parish level the ROCOR remains a Russian church, which is very much the case in my neck of the woods, where services are in Slavonic and Russian is routinely spoken at parish functions. Nevertheless, “if present trends continue” in another generation the face of ROCOR could be quite different.

    • Whenever I read such attacks on the Church Abroad, it is a veritable occasion of sin for me. Nothing good comes from responding to it, and yet the part of me that is so repulsed by injustice (the “thumos” of the Greeks) often wins in the ensuing internal struggle. These moments lead to my getting angry and developing hostility toward certain jurisdictions due to the actions of the few.

      In my life, no Orthodox person has ever insulted the Church Abroad to my face. Whenever I attend a pan-Orthodox function, the people are unfailingly cordial and welcoming. Even in Russia a decade ago, I had no problems. There was the tacit understanding that jurisdictional disputes are political matters for ecclesial politicians but such does not affect us as brothers in Christ. The only people that I have heard criticize the Synod have been two Roman Catholics, one of which was a Jesuit, who dismissed ROCOR as regressive, stating that its people only “care about weeping icons and such superstitious nonsense.” I understand their contempt because I know their perspective. I find it alien and wrong, but I get it.

      However, on the internet, whenever the Church Abroad shows up on some folks’ radar, ugliness surfaces. Is it that the net offers anonymity which allows people to show their true colors, or is it that the web is just full of nasty, unpleasant souls? The discrepancy of experience makes me wonder a bit about the sincerity of the Greek, Antiochian, and OCA well wishers that I have met in real life.

      And unlike the “Age of Aquarius” hippy Jesuits who despise traditional Christianity, I do not understand the contempt that my fellow Orthodox have for the Church Abroad. I want to believe that such originates from ignorance or insecurity, but I suspect that many American Orthodox have thoroughly gone native with their values by adopting Calvinism, liberalism, progressivism, you-name-the-wayward-ism of our culture. When they see that not everybody is on board, then they resent and hate the folks who won’t get with the program. “I mean, after all, it’s 2012! Venerating icons is so 5th century! When are you going to enter the Age of Enlightenment?”

      What else could the nineteenth century attack mean? I have seen that same cliché many times on the web, in various obnoxious forms, but what does it mean? Andrew, what did you mean? Is there something that we do that is intrinsic to the nineteenth century, or does “19th c.” stand for anything pre-modern, as in the way that leftists call anything short of their radical revolution of values “medieval”? If the first, then I don’t think that such is true. In iconography, no one uses nineteenth century forms anymore unless they are restoring icons from that period or rebuilding temples that the Communists destroyed that were originally in that style. In theology and practice, the Church Abroad does not emphasize the nineteenth century over others. If Andrew finds The Law of God unacceptable (though it was published in the twentieth century), he should know that the Moscow Patriarchate has adopted it for its catechetical programs, too. Concerning sacramental practices, the spirit of Sant John of Kronstadt is alive and well in the Church Abroad, but such is thankfully true in the MP and OCA, as well. Does Andrew find this repellant?

      I just cannot figure out what is so nineteenth century. about the Church Abroad as its many internet critics claim. So, I guess that they mean the second possible interpretation — that ROCOR’s mentality is old. Yet, I assume, perhaps naïvely, that such is true of all Orthodox Christians, who keep the faith kept through the ages by Abraham, by Moses and the prophets, fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and passed down by the apostles and fathers of the Church. The spirit of rebellion that characterizes the modern world — the Satanic Zeitgeist that worships the individual will and resents tradition, inherited wisdom, and authority — has no place in the Church. Yet, what else is behind the hatred of the Church Abroad? Wouldn’t such hatred be directed at all Orthodox Churches? Even the “modernists” of certain jurisdictions fail to flow fully with these groovy times. Why are they spared such wrath? I just do not understand, but I find it terribly offensive.

      • Fr Alexander says

        Joseph A.,

        I concur with you entirely. I have experienced exactly the same “to your face” cordial friendliness, often only to find that behind the scenes, it was nothing but a smokescreen. Not always though – which is heartening!

        I sometimes wonder at what point some people stopped understanding Orthodox Christian values to be timeless, and applicable equally to human beings at all points in time. It’s as if they somehow genuinely believe that human problems and human sin are somehow different today than they were in the past.

      • Jim of Olym says

        this is probably completely off topic, but I just last week spent a period of time in the 19th century, without electricity, internet, phone, cable and even water from my well. fortunately I had some flashlights and a bunch of books to read, and a fireplace. (yes, I live in Washington state and we had a serious ice storm and associated power outages etc.!) I don’t want to return to the 19th century. I like flannel sheets made in Portugal frinstance.
        they keep one warm at night!

        As to ROCOR, some of my best friends, I hope, are communicants there. Let’s keep our witness in the 21st century where we live, and talk to the denizens thereof, where we will get most of our new converts, if we learn to speak their various tongues.

        Please forgive my ramble here.

    • Fr Alexander says

      Andrew, what do you mean by a “19th Century vision of Orthodoxy”? This could be interpreted in a number of ways.

  2. It is a bit of a stretch to say “Both Metropolitan +Philip and Archbishop +Iakovos took the bold step at authentic Orthodox unity. ..”

    Everyone claims to want unity, but we want it on their own terms. We want unity a long as we can maintain our own turf, whether that turf is jurisdictional, liturgical (language, musical tradition, etc.), financial control, whatever. We want unity as long as it is comfortable for us, and we don’t have to sacrifice anything to achieve it. This is as true of most of laity as it is for bishops.

    We have not realized practical unity because our unwillingness to make the necessary sacrifices renders us unworthy of it.

    As for ROCOR, God bless them for remaining patient, steadfast in the Truth, and willing to endure the scorn of their supposed non-canonical status for so long. Only people who know who they are, refusing to allow other to define them, have such virtue.

    • Pravoslavnie says

      Perhaps a practical first step toward unity would be a single North American synod of bishops along with jointly supported seminaries, monasteries, and charitable organizations. To a lesser extent some of this cxoperation exists already, but it needs further development. Adfminstrative unity would follow in a matter of time.

      • It’s very sad to say, but the veneer of cooperation that currently exists in at least one of the archdioceses mentioned above is little more than a strategic power play. When they’re week in a given area, they appear to cooperate – but only in order to achieve their own goals and strengthen both their influence and reputation as being for unity. All the talk about unity from this particular archdiocese (which has carefully cultivated an image of being in favor of unity) is empty, merely a playing to the crowd. This is not to say that very real cooperation doesn’t occur among individuals as a result (in seminaries, for example). It is to say that it is not the cooperative effort for the glory of God it appears to be.

        Any discussion toward true unity on the local level, even if it makes sense in every way imaginable, is absolutely forbidden if it involves the loss of jurisdiction. You can take this as fact because our parish just experienced it first-hand this week. All discussion toward this end was thoroughly squelched in no uncertain terms.

        Someone has said there will be jurisdictional unity when the people demand it. Maybe that’s true somewhere, but not here, I’m afraid.

        • Monk James says

          G.K. Chesterton wrote: ‘Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.’

          I suspect that this is also true of us orthodox in America. We have not demanded ‘jurisdictional’ (ugh!) unity of our bishops, so we haven’t gotten it.

          I remember reading about the medieval election of a roman pope’s going on for more than a year. When the people who were hosting the electoral college ran out of patience, they put the electors on a bread-and-water diet. A new pope was elected PDQ.

          If our people could only get past ethnic and financial interests and move in the direction of christian unity, we could force the bishops to construct a unfied orthodox church in America. They really do need to be motivated.

          But this effort might take a sort of conspiracy on everyone’s part in their own ‘jurisdictions’ to starve the bishops into doing the right thing.

          So, vote with your wallets, and make the reasons clear.

          Or shut up, sit down, and remain part of the problem rather than of the solution.

          • Monk James,

            It is difficult to starve someone with “several million dollars” in personal assets that somehow, in a mystery as deep as the Holy Trinity, are also claimed to belong to the Church – someone who with a single phone call can easily raise another million, arrange personal visits with a Syrian head of state, or convince an entire Synod to reverse a course of action six years in the making.

            The words “shut up” and “sit down” are all-too familiar to those of us who’ve raised our voices of concern over the actions of this archdiocese.

            If the people of our local parish want unity to be realized, we have no alternative than to follow (in a very small and individual way) the path of truth and true unity followed by ROCOR and be perceived as schismatic (or in the twisted jargon of this archdiocese “disloyal”) by simply leaving and joining the other local parish. About half or more of us plan to do just that, and we’re fully prepared for the arrows of accusation that will fly.

            • Brian, I think Monk James is on to something here. However, I must caution that we the people are still part of the problem. And I convict myself in this. For many years I preached for administrative unity but given the lack of rigor among much of the laity, I think waiting isn’t going to hurt. The wheat will be separated from the chaff soon enough. Maybe I’m wrong.

              • Carl Kraeff says

                Patience is a virtue in this case. Before going further, I must caveat my remarks with the acknowledgment that my Orthodoxy universe is rather limited to the South and the West. I think that the ROCOR/OCA rapprochement seems genuine at the highest levels and should over time affect the clergy and laity as well, as they see that the differences are relatively minor, compared to similarities. Indeed, there is much similarity between the DOS and ROCOR parishes in my neck of the woods in the level of church attendance, parish activities, weekday services, lack of pews, use of prostrations, prayer life, use of English, etc.. In my experience,ROCOR and OCA parishioners do seem to feel that they are each other’s brothers and sisters, even though they reside in different houses. In contrast, the differences boil down to the calendar, preparation for/frequency of communion, and the segregation of men and women (in some ROCOR parishes). Most folks do not care about Church politics or national-level issues; they are working quite hard to work out their own salvation and be part of the Body of Christ, which they rightly experience as members of the local parish.

              • You won’t get any argument from me, George. But for those who have the desire, the opportunity, and the willingness to realize it in small way in a specific location to be told that it cannot even be a matter of discussion, that the very idea is forbidden is rather telling; is it not?

                The discussion was to be about leaving this archdiocese for another because that is what makes sense locally. They are larger. We are smaller. They have good facilities and location. We do not. They have the capacity to celebrate lots of services. We do not. They have a desire to reach out to the community and to the poor. Neither of us has the capacity to do so on our own. Combining our people and our resources creates the ‘critical mass’ to do all sorts of things neither of us can do on our own. We were (and still are) thrilled at the prospect of combining our talents. And if all these things were reversed, they would be equally thrilled to join us -not as feathers in our respective caps, but as brothers who understand our unity in Christ and realize just how foolish (and indeed sinful) it is to be within a few miles of each other yet remain separate, squandering the Lord’s resources on buildings, utilities, etc. for no reason other than maintaining the flag of a jurisdiction.

                Our Metropolitan is quick to accept praise for reunifying the Antiochians many years ago, but I note that it was the other bishop who graciously submitted to him. This was an opportunity to be 1/1000th as gracious for Christ’s sake, yet…apparently the flag trumps the Kingdom, and glory is when the other submits.

                To Carl’s point (forgive me, Carl. I know you weren’t directly addressing the local situation to which I refer), patience is a virtue; but it very often becomes a convenient way to make our unwillingness to repent appear virtuous.

                • Cark Kraeff says

                  Brian–It is my turn to ask for forgiveness for I had not realized that I may appeared to comment on your situation when I used the phrase “…in this case.” I am a strong believer that it is the right (and in some cases the responsibility) of each one of us to choose, to vote with our feet and our wallets. I am not happy that our brothers and sisters left us to establish a ROCOR church but I absolutely support their decision to do so and will not let my lack of happiness prevent me for treating therm as brothers and sisters in Christ. On the other hand, I am very happy that we have yet another Orthodox church in out locality, yet another opportunity to witness and evangelize.

                  To me the model is St Elias (Antiochian) Orthodox Church in Austin. St Elias was the only Orthodox church in the region when I was there but out of her came additional Orthodox Churches i the metro area: St Sophia (Antiochian), St John the Forerunner (Antiochian), Transfiguration (GOA), and and St Mary (Romanian currently using the facilities of St John the Forerunner). There are now even more churches in the area: St Nicholas (Western Rite), Holy Protection (ROCOR), and St Luke’s (Serbian), In any case, Thanks be to God that Austin is blessed with so many Orthodox parishes.

                • Cark Kraeff says

                  Brian–It is my turn to ask for forgiveness for I had not realized that I may appeared to comment on your situation when I used the phrase “…in this case.” I am a strong believer that it is the right (and in some cases the responsibility) of each one of us to choose, to vote with our feet and our wallets. I am not happy that our brothers and sisters left us to establish a ROCOR church but I absolutely support their decision to do so and will not let my lack of happiness prevent me for treating therm as brothers and sisters in Christ. On the other hand, I am very happy that we have yet another Orthodox church in out locality, yet another opportunity to witness and evangelize.

                  To me the model is St Elias (Antiochian) Orthodox Church in Austin. St Elias was the only Orthodox church in the region when I was there but out of her came additional Orthodox Churches in the metro area: St Sophia (Antiochian), St John the Forerunner (Antiochian), Transfiguration (GOA), and and St Mary (Romanian–currently using the facilities of St John the Forerunner). There are now even more churches in the area: St Nicholas (Western Rite), Holy Protection (ROCOR), and St Luke’s (Serbian), In any case, Thanks be to God that Austin is blessed with so many Orthodox parishes.

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Also, it’s relatively close to Holy Archangels Monastery in Kendalia.

                  • Nearby parishes also include ones in Fredericksburg and Kerrville.

                    I was at St. Elias when it was the only local parish, and was there when both the Greek Orthodox parish and St. John the Forerunner were founded. Also was there during some interesting commotion from non-Orthodox groups which insisted on calling themselves Orthodox! (I am not at all referring to legitimate Orthodox, such as ROCOR always has been.)

  3. with the money problems that rocor is now facing and with the return of our lady of kazan and our lady of tikhvin to russia – which i have a hard time believing were just altruistic gifts, would we now be seeing the kursk icon returned to mother russia and all of a sudden the financial woes of rocor vaporize? just speculation – I have talked with some icon dealers who have said that some new materials has slowly been showing up and both are suppossedly closely linked with rocor – nothing specific but just a perception to consider

  4. Pravoslavnie says

    The ROCOR has grown from its roots as a Russian church in exile into a missionary church with a significant number of non-Slavic converts. The present financial problems are a reflection of its shift in demographics and its redirection into the Orthodox mainstream since it reunited with the MP. In the case of my own ROCOR parish, I would confidently guess that upwards of 35% of its regular worshippers are converts with the remainder split between second generation, American-born Russians and recent arrivals from the former USSR. Then there is a smattering of Greeks, Serbians, and other traditional Orthodox although many of them are also American born. In recent years we have all witnessed the passing of more members of the old guard, with virtually all of our post-1945 parish founders now gone.

    The ROCOR of yesteryear is not what it once was and its development, in my observation, roughly parallels that of the OCA except that it has since reunited with the mother church. The Eastern American diocese has seen the planting of many new missions and the opening of new parishes and monasteries where the primary language is English rather than Russian. As a non-Slavic American convert myself, I was attracted to ROCOR by its stubborn traditionalism, and the piety that I observed in its members. It has always had and maintains a healthy support for monastics from all quarters. So I also look upon its financial problems as reflective of its growing pains as it slowly but steadily becomes multinational in composition. Despite this, I don’t care at all that I am part of a Russian church as I believe the suffering the church endured over the last century has much to teach Americans.

    As far as the Convent of the Entrance of the Theotokos, The sisters appear to be close to securing a lease-purchase on their proposed permanent home, and I heard they were allowed to serve a liturgy in its chapel a few weeks ago. However, despite continuing support from individual benefactors, they are still a little short of their financial goal. Their website has a link describing the property they are working towards in detail, and it is truly amazing. If anything drives the Orthodox jurisdictions towards unity in America, it’s probably demonstrated by this dire impecunity among us that dogs our parishes and monasteries, and hampers our growth. As the old guard continues to exit the scene, their fully American brothers and sisters will probably learn that inter-jurisdictional cooperation is necessary for our survival, and American unity will be achieved naturally. I’m optimistic.

  5. When faced with a financial problem of this magnitude, the one question I would ask is, “Why do we maintain our chancery in the most expensive city in the United States?” The OCA is asking the same question. In this day of instant communications, air travel, etc. it is silly to do so. The cost of good land and buildings outside the “corridor” should make it a no brainer to sell and move on.

    • Pravoslavnie says

      I don’t understand this fascination with having chanceries in the NYC area either. I know a nice proposed monastery in rural Maryland with 130 acres of farmland, 6-residences, a substantial brick church, and only 5 sisters. It has good access to an interstates and two major airports. Maybe the Synod can can work out a sublease agreement, sell its white elephant, and get back on its feet. Sounds like a no brainer for all parties.

      • Lola J. Lee Beno says

        And maybe . . . just maybe . . . OCA could move their headquarters from Syosset to this property. Just maybe . . . says she with a tongue in her cheek.

    • ProPravoslavie says

      The HQ of ROCOR in NYC is where the glorifications of the St. Xenia and of the New Martyrs took place, where many holy priests, bishops and First Hierarchs of ROCOR frequently ministered. Give it a little more time and it just might become a place of pilgrimage in its own right. Selling it now seems a little short-sighted and indicative of a lack of faith in the future. Is Orthodoxy doomed in NYC, or is it just going through a temporary hiccup?

      • Pravoslavnie says

        You make a good point about the current ROCOR HQ being a worthy place of pilgrimage in its own right, but I don’t think the financial situation indicates that Orthodoxy is in trouble in NYC. Orthodoxy is in trouble in general because it never mainstreamed itself and the ethnic base that supported it financially has assimilated into secular American culture, died off, and drifted away. Maintaining synodial headquarters in the NYC area represents a 19th and early 20th century mindset because that is the port from where a majority of eastern European immigrants would disembark upon entering the United States. For more than half a century that has not been true.

        If Orthodoxy wants to mainstream itself into American society, it needs to stop presenting itself as outposts of foreign churches that grandpa and grandma attended. Somehow the Roman Catholics have suceeeded in doing this, and decades ago stopped being viewed as an Italian and Irish church. For as long as Orthodoxy limits itself to the ethnic ghetto, its growth in this country will be at the mercy of dwindling numbers of immigrants and ethnic nostalgia. I view this reluctance to part from the big northeastern cities as a reluctance to leave the ghetto behind. If, in my own fantasy, the various jurisdictions were to get together and plant their respective HQ’s in Kansas, I think that Orthodoxy would be viewed by Americans in a whole different light.

        • Well, let me introduce a radical idea to you too.
          They could stay around and proselytize and grow that way….
          Is there a reason this doesn’t work?
          Is there a reason they dont have more processions through NYC? (I know they do once a year).
          Do some charitable activities, help the community around them!

          The fact that the USA is so racially based and bigoted. And white and blacks and a lot of ethnic groups, often based on skin tone separate themselves off and flee away from each other…doesnt help matters either.

          I for one am tired of all the “white people” fleeing the city.
          Stick around, convert the locals, live together! Do the work of the Holy Spirit.
          I’m cradle orthodox , very traditional, and I am young and I dont relate why this situation repeats itself.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Nektarios, as a participant in “white flight” myself, I congratulate you. One of the tragedies that we Greek-Americans perpetrated on ourselves was back in the 30s when we sold Ss Constantine & Helen Church on the South Side of Chicago to the Black Muslims. This was a jewel of a church built when Greek-Americans were very poor and it was an architectural triumph. And for the first time in our history, we didn’t have a church ripped from us by Muslims but willingly gave it up. And for what? Because we didn’t like blacks. They, as much as anybody else, need what Orthodoxy has to offer.

            • This particular sale was quite egregious (to me, anyway) because they left the iconostas in (sans icons) and it’s there to this day, used as a back drop for Farakhan’s mosque.



              • George Michalopulos says

                Spasi, if my eyes aren’t deceiving me, that iconostasis wasn’t removed because it is marble. Marble is not only heavy, but expensive. Think about it: the poor immigrants who built that jewel were shoe-shine boys, push-cart vendors, tinkers, busboys, and whatnot. They did without in order to build it. *sigh*

                • Yes, very sad. It’s just kind of shocking to see it in there. I’m sure there was a reason that was justified in their mind. What’s done is done.

          • Pravoslavnie says


            What I suggested is a radical idea for Orthodoxy in America, and it has nothing to do with white flight. I think we are both suggesting similar strategies using different tactics. The desired result is to spread the gospel and raise Orthodox visibility in America by leaving behind an outdated mindset. The immediate problem though is the financial stability of ROCOR’s central administration and the continued physical existence of the Cathedral of the Sign. I take the Synod at its word that the situation is dire, and the shortage of cash acute.

  6. Michael Bauman says

    The Orthodox Church has to move logistically, emotionally and spiritually to the heartland of America. As long as we hold to the East Coast, we will continue to be a federation of ethno-centric ghettos with the constant push to “liberalize” and “update” our theology and practice.

  7. cynthia curran says

    Well, I think the Antochian which is manily from Syria actually now have more immirgants in the west,California attracts usually the middle east more than New York. New York attracts Eastern Europe more.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Can’t fixate on the west coast either.

    • The Antiochian parish here is nicknamed “Ramallah West” becasue of the high number of palestinians who belong there.the entire service is in arabic..less english than the GOA and certainly less english than the OCA parish…The Antiochian parish is very much an ethnic club..

      • Archpriest John W. Morris says

        If the people in a parish speak a foreign language and the parish uses that language to minister to their spiritual needs, that parish is not an ethnic club. It is an Orthodox Church that serves the needs of its people. The Orthodox Church has always prayed in the language of the faithful. Because we have many immigrants, that language is not English in some parishes. In others such as the parish that I serve, that language is English. We must avoid all ethnocentrism, including American ethnocentrism.

  8. Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for your blog. You have some really great posts and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please shoot me an e-mail if interested. Kudos!

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      M-L, please feel free to send me anything you feel is important and/or newsworthy. If it’s cogent to what we present here, I’d be glad to take a look at it.

      To all: this goes for y’all as well. One of my most successful posts was one sent to me from an OCA priest in anticipation of the Seattle council.

  9. Archpriest John Morris says

    The reconciliation between the ROCOR and Moscow and the rest of Orthodoxy is a cause for rejoicing. An end to the division among the Russian Orthodox in America would be further cause for rejoicing. However, much still needs to be done to achieve Orthodox unity in this country. We must first learn to love and respect each other. We must also recognize that there is more than one expression of authentic Orthodoxy. I respect my brothers who follow Russian traditions, but also treasure my own Antiochian practices. Some how, we must find a way to come together to manifest the unity that we have in a spirit of mutual respect. We can begin by working together on campus ministry, prison ministry and charity. For example, every month Fr. Benjamin Crawford of the OCA and I serve Vespers at a nearby federal penitentiary. He chants using the Russian tradition and in some Slavonic and I serve out of my Antiochian Liturgicon. The two traditions come together perfectly. Then we must tackle the difficult problem of working together on the mission field. That means that we should not compete with each other when establishing missions. Where one canonical jurisdiction has a small struggling mission other Orthodox should not establish a competing mission. When that happens, it only causes further divisions among Orthodox. The only justification can be if the established parish or mission does not worship in English and it is necessary to establish a new mission to serve the needs of American English speaking Orthodox. In any case we must cease criticizing those who follow different musical and liturgical practices. We must also show proper respect for all Orthodox bishops and put an end to criticizing bishops of other jurisdictions.

  10. George, thank you for the kind words about the Synod. I am not sure about your theory of its usefulness in American jurisdictional unity, but I hope that the praxis of the Church Abroad rubs off now that we’re getting together more often.

    As far as the financial situation, I knew about the cathedral’s financial dificulties, but I did not know how the budget worked. From the statement that you linked:

    The Synod budget: The Synod has been running $450-$500k annual deficits in recent years. In addition to income from property rental, donations to the Kursk-Root Icon, candle and bookstore sales, one of the chief sources of revenue for the Synod has traditionally been parish dues. Parishes send 10% of their revenues to their regional diocesan administrations, which then transfer 50% of those dues received to the Synod. Many of our parishes, however, are barely able to provide adequately for their own priests or maintain their own church buildings. Likewise, diocesan administrations need revenue to function properly. Relieving some of the financial stress of maintaining the magnificent but decaying Synod building can free up resources for critical church needs on the local and regional levels.

    For the commentators who want them to sell the property, such is frankly discussed on the linked page. The transparency is appreciated.

    After reading the OCA members’ comments about this issue in their community last year, I found this budget interesting. It seems like a mixture of the OCA’s Dallas plan and the 50% plan, if I understand it correctly. Parishes send a tithe of 10% of their revenue to their dioceses, and the dioceses send half of what they get to the central administration. I wonder if that 50% funds Jordanville or if the monastery and seminary have their own funding, revenue (through work and tuition), and benefactors (I know that HTS has an annual fund)? If it does, it makes sense that little would be left over for the cathedral, as only 5% of parochial donations go to the Synod.

    So, it seems that the New York cathedral’s community is mostly responsible for its upkeep and that they are not able to fund it. Maybe, there are not enough wealthy members on the Upper East Side. The solution is obvious if they are to maintain the property — they must convert rich Protestant and Jewish New Yorkers who willingly finance their religious institutions!

    I believe that such is the reason that the OCA’s Dallas diocese does so well. Protestants tithe, and the diocese is full of converts from Protestantism. Hopefully and likely, they will pass that practice to their children, and the financial security of the OCA in the South will be solid. I expect the same to be true of all jurisdictions where they have large numbers of Protestant converts. Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians do not tithe in large numbers. I assume that this is a carryover from the time when monarchs and nobles largely supported the Church’s financial needs and when the Church had much land and industry to support itself. If peasants just scraped by, they might happily have given their widow’s mite but not tithed from necessity. Unfortunately, these peasants’ financially blessed descendants never adjusted when they crossed the ocean.

    Maybe, as we get more Protestant converts in the clergy as well as children from convert families, such priests will begin to preach tithing, and then the practice will spread to non-convert families. It is a good idea even if it is a Protestant practice. Our heart is where our treasure is, not simply vice versa. When people have “skin in the game,” they care more, and this applies to time and money.

    • Joseph,

      I’m afraid cultural realities need to be factored in to your plan to save the ROCOR’S NY HQ by converting more Protestants – southern US Protestants are a very different breed from north-eastern US Protestants. Maybe ROCOR should sell up and shift its HQ to Dallas ;0)

    • Joseph A,

      I read your comments with great interest. Much of what you say is true, but you might be a little wide of the mark on your reasoning of why the OCA diocese of the South sees more in the way of tithing than some others might.

      The success in tithing does not occur through converting those who tithe to Orthodoxy, (although it helps) but rather to teach and preach the concept of stewardship among the faithful, convert and cradle alike.

      Archbishop Dmitri of blessed memory used to frequently say that we faithful need to give much more than the Church needs to receive. The message was that tithing was a spiritual endeavor, like fasting. And like fasting, you start from where you are. Perhaps you first give up dairy and red meats, and move to stricter practice as you gain both experience and the fruits of that experience.

      Tithing was approached in a similar manner under the good Archbishop. Start with some regular giving, then increase toward the goal of a 10% tithe as you gain experience. Having come from a faith tradition that did not tithe, I know that what I learned about it, I learned from sitting across the table from Vladyka Dmitri (over some of the worst coffee you ever saw) and from homilies of both Vladyka and Fr. Joseph Fester at St. Seraphim Cathedral.

      And I know that both of those clergymen tithed themselves. That was compelling.

      So now I tithe too.

  11. cynthia curraWen says

    Actually, Texas doesn’t have many Orthodox and the convert ratio is exaggerated. Texas is growing in Roman Catholics and dropping in Protestants thanks to Immirgation. Same can be said of California thanks to immirgation Roman Catholics are the rastest growing group not protestant megachurches there. Orthodox don’t have the immirgated potiental since hispanics and asians are the biggest immirgated groups now in the us. While Greeks,Russians and other Eastern Europeans are now going more to Germany, Canada, and New Zealand and even Turkey were they think they can get a job

    • On what basis are you saying that the Texas Orthodox convert ratio is exaggerated? What statistics are you quoting to reach such a conclusion? I would be interested in your sources. Thank you.

  12. cynthia curraWen says

    Another comment on Roman Cathilics, the churches that are not immirgant tend tobe less in ethnic concerns, however as mention above Catholics particulary in heavily hispanic states are sometimes more ethinic than Orthodox and immirgants from Vietnam can be Catholic and be ethinic too. Actually, I would support immirgation changes where educated Greeks could come while more uneducated hispanics couldn’t not as much. But I doubt that either political party would support this.

  13. cynthia curraWen says

    I think the whole state is .30 percent which means there is small number of converts but maybe its not that bad concerning the whole us is about .30 percent orthodox. Anyway, people in Arizona and California also bragged about converts. Porbably there is not enough priest and parishes for a real jumped in numbers anyways.

  14. cynthia curraWen says

    Well, the biggest minority populated cities are not large cities. Brownsville Texas is about 98 percent hispanic while La is about 50 percent. Many hispanics in Texas and the Central Part of California live in rural areas that have some urban feel like a Frenso or El Paso. Whites don’t have much places to flee too since even nice burbs in Ca and Texas can have a section of illegal immirgants that do the service work. , Even Blacks have left large cities and some older burbs have a lot of blacks.

  15. cynthia curraWen says

    Well, also a lot of young whites like to go to places like Portland. A city over the 500,000 mark but not big in minority population. Cities with population over 300,000 Portland Oregon is the whiteiest. Portland Oregon about 6 percent black, 8 percent hispanic and about 7 percent asian versus Anaheim Ca around 335,000 people which is about 52 percent hispanic and about 14.8 percent asian and only about 2.8 percent black. So, the folks that state to folk to big cities it just depends upon which big city it is.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Right you are Cynthia. Portland, Seattle, Austin, Boulder, San Francisco, et alia are examples of what some demographers are calling “whitopias.” They have less “diversity” than so-called Red-state cities like Houston, Dallas, Memphis, Oklahoma City, etc. The irony is that these hip, urban enclaves that extoll diversity pursue zoning policies that make it difficult for minorities and poor whites to relocate there. Thus their preachments find no purchase for those of us who live in the real world.

      • I don’t know the proportion of white/black people in NYC and environs, although I suspect that it’s a bit higher than the usually cited 12% black population of the US altogether. If there are zones where black people are not likely to be, I’m not aware of them, but I think that large cities are probably home to more black people than rural towns, simply as a result of economic and occupational profiles resulting from the american Civil War in the 1860s.

        Perhaps my poor eyesight is to blame, but it seemed to me that — from the TV news reports — the victory parade for the Giants after their Super Bowl win, and especially the program at NYC’s City Hall, was attended by an overwhelmingly white crowd.

        I thought that this was odd, especially since so many of the footballers are black.

        Maybe black Americans aren’t as fond of football as they are of other sports?

        Not fond of football myself since it’s a ‘game’ which assumes you’ll get hurt ‘playing’ it.

        Give me baseball any day.

  16. cynthia curraWen says

    Well, George not certain about Chicago. In fact, one of its suburbs Cicero now is over 80 percent hispanic. Whites might have left Chicago but minorities moved to some of the older suburbs as well. Cicero also not high in income.

  17. Personally Im impressed by the quality of this. Generally when I come across these sort of things I like to post them on Digg. This article probably wont do well with that crowd. Ill take a look around your site though and submit something else.

  18. Pravoslavnie says

    Some welcome and long-awaited news regarding the “DC Nuns” of the Convent of the Entrance of the Theotokos near Washington, DC. People’s prayers and support have finally borne fruit as God has willed that the sisters should have a permanent location for their monastery. They will be taking up residence on a 130-acre property in Libertytown, Maryland this weekend and have sent out a call for volunteers to help them move in this Saturday.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Praise the Lord! Let their monastery be a sign of repentance for the way some of us in the OCA mistreated them last year.

    • Pravoslavnie says

      The sisters of The Convent of the Entrance of the Theotokos made their move today. Despite the blustery February day and squalls of wet snow, a group of about 30 volunteers arrived from throughout the region to help the sisters get the relocated monastery in order by cleaning and organizing the living quarters and the monastery church, and moving things inside. The turnout was truly pan-Orthodox with volunteers arriving from as far away as Annapolis, MD and Manassas, VA representing a number of parish communities belonging to ROCOR, OCA, the MP, and GOAA. Many people agreed that an Orthodox monastery so centrally located and convenient to the DC/Baltimore region is very necessary, welcome, and a Godsend.

      The monastery is in a peaceful location on 130 rural acres in central Maryland with ample room for growth, and endless possibilities for ministerial outreach. The sisters have not yet been able to purchase the property outright, but are in a lease purchase situation. The link below describes a little bit about their new location. This move is very positive for the sisters, as well as American Orthodoxy as a whole, since the sisters themselves hail from a variety of backgrounds in several jurisdictions which was reflected by the composition of their helpers and volunteers. So now that the move has been made, their real work has just begun.

      • Glory to God.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        The Steering Committee of the Friends of the Monastery is comprised of folks from many jurisdictions (to include the Antiochian Archdiocese)::

        Khourieh Joanne Bitar
        Matushka Anna Danylevich
        Khourieh Frederica Mathewes-Green
        Mrs. Renee Robinson
        Mrs. Marilyn Swezey
        Dr. Ioana Razi
        Mrs. Kalliope Calbos

        This is truly the sort of “unity” that counts.
        Dr. Photeine Zioga
        Eleni Palmos
        Kathryn Hanson

  19. cynthia curraWen says

    Well, New York City has a lot of blacks still around 22 percent but is dropping. There is a very deverse group of immirgants more so than San Fran which has a lot of asians around 34 percent. Granted, some foreign born from other countries there too in San Fran. San Fran is about 34 percent asian, about 5.5 percent black now and about 14.6 percent hispanic its more deverse than Portland but isn’t as much as Houston which is about 38 percent hispanic, 18 percent black and 5 percent asian. Seattle is about 15 percent asian similar to Anaheim. La ia about 49 percent hispanic, 9 percent black and 12 percent asian. There are burbs in La that are mostly hispanic or asian. Now Arizona and New Mexico are mainly white and hispanic. New Mexico is around 43 percent hispanic and only 2 percent black and 2 percent asian. Arizona is around 3 percent black and 3 percent asian and 31 percent hispanic.

  20. Ilya Zhitomirskiy says

    AFAIK, the majority of the opposition to ROCOR is because it is currently under the aegis of ROC-MP. That is the reason that my mother is opposed to ROCOR, at least. Does any of you have any idea of how MP is actually influencing ROCOR, besides concelebration and liturgical commemoration of +Kirill I? I respect ROCOR for their willingness to foloow traditional practices with regard to confession and helping people follow the rules. As far as I know, those rules don’t exist in a vacuum, but to prepare the person with the right mindset.

    • Which jurisdiction is your mother in, then, a True Orthodox Church ?

      I think there are a lot of behind-the-scenes pressures put upon the Rocor-MP Synod.

      Most won’t be seen directly by the flock. But simmering problems clearly exist.

      Why, for example, hasn’t the supposedly wealthy MP come forward with barrels of cash
      to pay all the outstanding bills ?

      It seems that the MP has done little to HELP Rocor and EVERYTHING to
      mold them into subservient servants.

      One can almost FEEL hidden tensions crackling away between the demands
      of Moscow to fulfill goals of Moscow’s – not anything of use to Rocor itself.

      There appears to be a KGB-like atmosphere reigning. It’s not overt, but
      if one reads between the lines, it is apparent.

      When Patriarch Kirill was this year caught RED-handed LYING about his $30,000 Breguet watch,
      one can imagine how most veteran Rocor clergy and laity felt.

      Did anyone grumble in public ?

      This is what I mean about the New Atmosphere at Rocor.
      Just 10-15 years ago, this event would have been front page news all over the
      world in alert Rocor parishes. And widely discussed.

      Today? Nothing due to the suppression of any criticism of the Moscow Patriarchate.

      Right there is one example of the rather negative influence which the MP wields
      over its hapless victims, and many others.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Catherine, I for one don’t believe that there is “repression” in the MP/ROCOR rapprochment. As a member of the OCA, I’d trade their troubles for ours any day of the week.

        • I supposed it depends upon what one means by “repression” in speaking of the relationship between the MP and ROCOR, but from all I here and read there is not only no “repression” but Moscow has a very light hand on ROCOR and only in an appropriate canonical way. So it’s more worthwhile to speak of what is “canonically correct” rather than “repression,” for which there is no evidence whatsoever. –Fr. Ambrose

          • George Michalopulos says

            Yeah, this “repression” includes the reality that ROCOR is setting up Spanish-speaking missions, sending priests to Africa, and running a Western Rite Vicariate. Meanwhile the “transparency and accountability” that obtains in the OCA includes sending bishops to sanitaria as a condition of their employment and bishops like Matthias who forced his priests to shut down their blogs and not get on Facebook.

            Gee, I’d like some “repression” like that.

      • Ilya Zhitomirskiy says

        My mother is in the OCA, and is opposed to ROCOR for political reasons.

        • What are the political reasons? THere is a vast difference in the ROCOR from ten or twenty years ago, for example.

          • Ilya Zhitomirskiy says

            She still believes that today’s ROCOR is improperly influenced by Moscow. I am not sure, but I think that Moscow respects the conditions that were set during the reunification agreement.

      • Dear Catherine 9,
        You state:

        When Patriarch Kirill was this year caught RED-handed LYING about his $30,000 Breguet watch

        Please elaborate. This is a serious accusation. When did he lie? What did he state? Please provide references. I am not aware of him lying. There was a lot of noise in anti-church media in Russia and abroad about the “disappearing watch” but I have never heard any credible accusation claiming that the Patriarch lied. Please explain yourself.