“Smaller Parishes Need More Outreach in Order to Grow”

Met. Isaiah of Denver (GOA)

Not all is lost in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. In a stunning departure from the usual Greco-triumphalism that constitutes the majority of The Orthodox Observer‘s fare, we get some sobering analysis from His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah Chronopoulos of Denver. In essence, it’s a reaffirmation of an explosive piece written some four years ago by Fr John Peck, the rector of St George Greek Orthodox Church in Prescott, Arizona. What makes the metropolitan’s piece so important is that it gives a further episcopal affirmation to the continued attrition of American Orthodoxy.

Please take the time to read this very thoughtful essay. I had intentionally wanted to publish this last week, but with the uproar in the Diocese of the South over the possible candidacy of the Bishop of Baltimore, it got pushed aside. Some may view it as tangential to what is presently consuming us in the OCA, however given the most recent blog entry, which is specifically about the strength of the various territorial dioceses of the OCA, I think that its author has some remarkable insights. I chose to publish it in its entirety with no editorial comment [empahses have been added by yours truly –Ed.]. (The original may be found in The Orthodox Observer, April 2012 issue, page 8.)

“Looking accross our vast nation, we can say that our Orthodox Church has seen incremental growth, especially in devoloping urban areas. On the other hand, we realize that some of the smaller parishes of our Archdiocese are either not growing or are losing numbers of parishioners. For example, the once-thriving Holy Trinity parish in Grand Island, Nebraska, is no longer in existence. While it is an exception, unfortunately, Holy Trinity is not unique.

In regard to those parishes which are not increasing in membership, there has been very little, if any, outreach by the Church, due to lack of funding or lack of interest. In some cases, priests have been provided periodically through the year and for Holy Week services, but it is clear that this is merely a band-aid approach to a greater problem. Those parishes can grow if we make a concerted effort to assist them. We see from among Christians of different denominations who are leaving their congregations, or whose churches are ceasing to exist, that there is a good percentage who seek another church. We can be optimistic that the Holy Spirit is leading those who seek authentic Christianity to our Orthodox faith whose Church has preserved the Apostolic teachings which we are blessed to follow. There will continue to be a growing number of people who leave the non-denominational and other Protestant congregations which have radically changed their basic beliefs and follow all sorts of heresies and false teachings. Among them, as mentioned, there are those who have heard of Orthodox Christianity, those who realize that ours is the Church of the first millennium which has preserved he teachings of the undivided Church.

A good number of people, formerly of other Christian traditions have already gravitated to the OCA and to the Antiochian Archdiocese because of their nearly exclusive use of the English language in worship. Due to our title, Greek, many of these people do not initially realize that our parishes also use English. Even so, we can say about ourselves that we have an unconsious tendancy, based on self-preservation, to be a closed entity, and thus giving the false impession that we are concerned only for ouselves. One reason for this false notion is that our faith appears to be strongly connected to nationalism and not to the catholicy of our Apostolic faith and traditions. We know that this perception among many non-Orthodox is very strong in the major cities of our nation where our Greek culture appears to be strongly nationalistic. They do not see us being under the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, which officially carries no ethnic name, but simply preserves the original language of the New Testament.

The positive side of this reality is that more and more people who seek the true faith of Apostolic Christianity are realizing that the fact that we still use New Testament Greek in our services is a witness to the truth of our faith and the accuracy of our translations.

Because of this, it is essential for our clergy and the laity, especially in the smaller parishes, to be sensitive to the fact that an increasing number of people are looking to see if they should join us. If those people, who, we can say, are led by the Holy Spirit, do not come into our parish family, the smaller parishes will utlimately close their doors, as the parish in Grand Island did.

In all of this, when we do see converts coming into our parishes, some of our core or cradle members appear to be threatened because they see themselves as losing control. Control of what? The Church belongs to Christ, not to us.

Unfortunately, this biased attitude is not new in the life fo the Church. In the Book of Acts we read in the sixth chapter that the Christian Hellenists (the Greeks) were complaining that their widows were neglected in the daily food distribution, while the Jewish Christian women were given better care. Fortunately, through the power of the Holy Spirit, this problem was corrected. Yet, today, we see this same attitude of one-sidedness existing in some Orthodox parishes which grow to a certain point in membership and then stops. It is like a closed society or club in which new members seems to be a threat.

In reality, we should desire to see our parishes continually growing in numbers, and in some places we are. This is the spirit of missions which the Holy Spirit is developling. Likewise, we are also seeing the establishment of new parishes. In order for new and smaller parishes to grow and to flourish, it is imperative for all of us, clergy and laity, to accept the responsibility of sharing our great treasure of Orthodox Christianity with those who are searching for Chrsit and His true Church.

As our ancestoors received our holy faith from the Jewish Christians in the days of the Apostles and thereafter, so too, they should seek Christ and His Church should receive this holy treasure from us. This divine faith is not for us to hold only for ourselves, but to share with those people of goodwill who are seeking the true Christ and His holy Church, the only Church He established by the Holy Spirit on the great day of Pentecost.

It is, in fact, time to do something more, as we witness unexpected, radical events taking place throughout the world. Facing natural and man-made calamities on a regular basis, the message of the Church is so very important and applicable.

It is therefore most imperative that we share the good news of our salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ and His coming Kingdom with those who are coming to our doors, thirsting for His unchanging truths and for their salvation.


  1. Diogenes says

    Absolutely true! It’s my understanding that several weeks ago, the entire school of Holy Cross GO Seminary in Brookline, MA, was brought to task. They were reamed for not knowing their Greek and pushing the Hellenism agenda. So as you can see, Orthodoxy in America along with outreach is dying to come forward, but SOME want this stopped. So why? As said in the article, the “fear” of the loss of control. In the OCA, we’ve gone the other way very quickly. We have unbalanced converts wanting to run things with their own agendas. This too is a danger. The Church must embrace ALL who wish to come to the “knowledge of the Truth,” but LEADERSHIP must be responsible and wise.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Diogenes, not that I need it, but is there anybody willing to come forward from HC to speak about what happened? I offer my forum for them to speak as candidly (and anonymously) as possible.

      The picture you paint for me with the first part of your response confirms my worst fears about the intent and efficacy and seriousness of the Assembly of Bishops. I too hear rumblings which prove to me that the GOA is not in any way serious about true unity.

      However, you lost me with your last four sentences. Alexander’s response is spot on. People who speak about their faith are not “unbalanced.”

      • Rule #1 in the GOA, you can be successful in your outreach and ministry just as long as you are not too successful that you upset the omogenia.

  2. When I moved to Dallas in 1985 there were about six Orthodox parishes in the Dallas/Ft Worth area. Now there are about twenty. Most of them have a healthy number of converts in the congregation. But this is the South. People still dare to talk about religion here – even in public. Faith here is still something to be shared, and not a private embarrassment to be hidden away in the dusty attic of one’s life. As strange as it may seem, potential converts are not looking for a means to become Greek or Arab, or Russian. They are perfectly happy with their own ethnic roots. They are convinced that one can be of Scotch/Irish ancestry with a dash of German and English and Spanish and just a dab of Souix, and still love God and be loved by Him. They have no problem believing that God understands prayers uttered in English as well as He does those chanted in Greek or Arabic or Slavonic. And they really don’t give a crap whether their children can line dance or make pysanky.

    Care to meet a few of these catechumens and converts? http://forums.delphiforums.com/OrthodoxWay/start

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Very well said, Alexander. Such a worldview however is completely lost on the majority of the ethnic exarchates. That’s why I though His Eminence’s essay was worthy of a blog posting. It’s defiately an outlier within the GOA. I’m also curious as to whether it was toned down by the editors. I’m not at all cerain that the title is the original one. It seems that by stating “Smaller Parishes Need…” it softens the blow and comforts the 79th St Baklavarians.

    • I don’t think it is just smaller parishes that need more outreach. Larger parishes ESPECIALLY need more outreach.

      Anyway, I did mention that we would have smaller parishes in The Orthodox Church of Tomorrow.

      For listening to converts (one of the few folks who do), try Journey To Orthodoxy for converts.

      • Fr John,

        In principle, I agree with your predictions in “The Orthodox Church of Tomorrow.” My own parish, St Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral, in Dallas, is living proof. Our maximum capacity is about 400, though on a Sunday we have about 250. We sized the temple so that as we approach capacity, we can spin off a mission without cutting our own financial throat. It’s large enough to be able to found a new mission and recover, but small enough for one or two Priests to handle.

        Our congregation is a mix of all ages, from grandparents to babies. And babies there are aplenty! I keep saying that we make Orthodox Christians the old way – we breed them!

        About half our people are cradle Orthodox, most of those fairly recent Slavic immigrants. We have a sprinkling of Greeks, Serbs, Ethiopians, Eritrians,Arabs, etc. The bulk of the rest are American mutts – converts! – who share nothing with “ethnic” Orthodoxy except a love of Christ.

        Speaking of “ethnic,” it is a very silly and misleading term. Ethnicity is like accent – you only notice the other guy’s. Americans are just as ethnic as Slavs, Greeks, and Arabs. Orthodoxy needs to discover that authentic American ethnicity, build on it, adapt to it, learn to express the eternal Gospel in the cultural language of the “natives.”

        I do not suggest abandoning our beloved Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. But a serious effort to compose music to fit the American ear would be a good step.

        • And what on earth would “music to fit the American ear” mean? Banjos?

          As one who, despite being a cradle Orthodox with a love of his own traditions, has always detested how ethnicity can be a bar to bringing people into Christ’s church, I nonetheless find your comment deeply troubling.

          I don’t mind people using awful music in church – if you’re in the South you can’t swing a cat without finding ten places with said awful “Christian” music – but please don’t bring it into Orthodoxy.

          This is the sort of convert BS – I want Orthodoxy, but I want it to be my special (read: post-modern American) Orthodoxy – that drives many of us crazy and makes us deeply suspect of any parish which has too many mouthy, over-opinionated converts.

          There is a lot more musical diversity within Orthodoxy than most converts realize, due to a lot of ethnic diversity – might I suggest you try all those options first before making your own.

          • carl kraeff says

            Sava–You know, don’t you, that Russian choral music is quite different from Byzantine? Yet, the vast majority of Orthodox in the world use that Italian-inspired music (in the ROC). I don’t know about the Serbian Church, but in the Bulgarian, the chanters chant in Byzantine and the choir sings in four-part harmony (some inspired by Byzantine melodies and some not). So, please spare me that cradle nonsense about preserving real Orthodox music.

          • First, please get over this obsession you have with “converts.” As I have previously mentioned in another discussion, I’m a 58 year old cradle Orthodox, raised in ROCOR. I was in my early 20s before I heard the Liturgy in English. Fortunately, as many have not, I learned the difference between being Russian and being Orthodox.

            Second, were Saints Cyril and Methodius wrong to translate the Scriptures and the service books from Greek to ancient Bulgarian (which we call Church Slavonic) when they were sent to evangelize the Slavs?

            When the Slavs decided that Byzantine chant sounded like the bellowing of a raped camel and developed liturgical music based on their own musical scale and style, were they wrong to do so?

            The Ethiopians remove their shoes when they enter the temple. But Ethiopians temple floors don’t experience the thermal rigors of a northern Russian winter. Shall we then condemn Russian “converts” for keeping their boots on?

            The plain fact is that, while preserving the Gospel uncompromised, Orthodoxy has always adapted its customs to the local culture. These adaptations are small, theologically insignificant, carefully crafted, judiciously applied, but they do happen.

            Every language has its own rhythm and flow. I can tell the difference between a Chinese folk song and an American one. Is it beyond your imagination that some talented and spiritually enlightened composer might someday craft liturgical tones that fit the rhythm and flow of English? Or must we forever cram the square peg of English words into the round holes of Slavonic and Greek music?

            • Dean Calvert says

              Dear Alexander,

              Christos Anesti!

              Re: must we forever cram the square peg of English words into the round holes of Slavonic and Greek music?

              Well put. St Cyril said that any idiot could do a mechanical translation. the real genius is to convey the essence of the original, while also conveying the poetry, cadence and beauty of the original. I’m paraphrasing (with quite a bit of editorial license).

              My hair still stands straight up when I hear “Christ is Risen” sung in english. I admitted to my (OCA) priest only last week, “Father, I don’t know Christ is Risen in English…each time I hear it, it’s a different version, so I just stopped singing it. On the other hand, I’m more than happy to join in on the Greek.”

              Square peg in round holes…that’s EXACTLY what we’re doing…after 200 years. Shame on all of us for tolerating this travesty.

              Dean Calvert

          • Pravoslavnie says

            It’s possible to adapt music to local folkways, but still maintain tradition and reverence without corrupting major parts of the Liturgy and bringing in musical instruments like like our Heterodox bretheren. I found a good example in this Youtube link of the brothers at the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai & San Francisco in Manton, CA singing “It is Truly Meet”.

            • That is absolutely beautiful! That’s exactly what I pray American Orthodox music will develop into!

              • George Michalopulos says

                Unbelievable! Rapturous!

                • There go those pesky converts again. Taking the “Amazing Grace” melody and putting it to Orthodox chant. What will they think of next? No pews, English, New Calendar. 😉

                  • Amazing Grace? I thought it was Shenandoah!

                    • Yeah, I hear that too. Thank goodness I am not hearing voices from russia!

                    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

                      Only here in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia, Alexander!

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    I know! And isn’t it so unbelievably guache of them to actually talk about Jesus and Grace and all? C’mon guys, we “real” Orthodox like to talk about other things, like which Medieval Orthodox nation was better. As the Stokovites like to say: religion is supposed to be private.

                    • Again, you are extrapolating what I “must” think … very unsophisticated (ok, downright stupid) of you. Ask if you want to know. My comment was about music – and only music.

            • Anonymous Since It's All The Rage says

              Someone upthread mentioned banjos.

              Had this discussion just the other day. It was relayed to me that Monk Martin of St. John’s literally was using chord structures from bluegrass. Indeed, you can hear it. Fantastic stuff.

              • George Michalopulos says

                It is indeed. I love Mountain Music. Where would rustic Americana be without the banjo?

          • Truth is, this is already being done!

            While most people don’t know the names Mark Bailey, Rozanne Spires or Fr. Martin Nicolai, they are beginning to hear their music. American composers (good ones, not sing-songy stuff) writing Orthodox music being used all over the country.

            My parish uses music from all three of these excellent composers.

            Yours should, too.

            • Rebecca Matovic says


              There is a rich and wonderful movement underway, with church musicians developing settings that call on the depth of Orthodox tradition and bring it to life in ways that express and incorporate new and varied sensibilities.

              It’s not as simple as American v. Ethnic, or Byzantine v. Slavic. There are Byzantine pieces that have become widespread because of their beauty and fitness for certain contexts (e.g., 15th antiphon for Holy Friday matins). There are musicians working to revive and make accessible the depth and richness of Russian chant traditions beyond the overworked and familiar obkihod (e.g., Walter Obleschuk’s work on podobens). And there’s the growing set of talented musicians cited by Fr. John.

              There are many things to bemoan in the contemporary situation of Orthodoxy in America, but musical development is flourishing.

              • Antonia says

                There is merit to some of the arguments set forth in a soberminded discussion of “evolution” in Orthodox church music. I’m definitely not trashing everything “new” that I have heard. Some is beautiful and is appropriate for church use. Speaking as a trained musician, however, I admit to feeling ice-cold toward some of the music attempts I have heard. I’m just not ready for what I think of as “The Eight Tunes” [spelling deliberate].

            • Norman Wood says

              I am a composer of music for the Church as well as other kinds of music. I can speak only for myself, but when I write music for the Church I am not trying to write Russian, Greek or even American music. I am only trying to write good music that fits the English language and is suitable for use in church.

              • And may God bless you for your efforts!

              • George Michalopulos says

                Indeed. I would be extremely flattered if you would write an essay for this blog or better yet, send us examples of your work.

                BTW, that goes for everybody who reads this site. If you have any YouTubes like the one Pravoslavnie provided, please do so.

          • Pravoslavnie says

            Two more YouTube files, then I’ll leave it up to others.

            The first file has the melody we often used for The Lord’s Prayer when I was in the OCA. I’ve always had a soft spot for this one, but for some reason we don’t use it in my ROCOR parish although it is Russian in origin. This piece is sung in Church Slavonic, but it works just as well in English. Magnificent when sung with a full choir. Tradition is for things worth keeping, and some traditions cross ethnic lines very well.

            The second file is for all the newfound fans of the monk’s choir at the St. John of San Francisco Monastery. The first few pieces are sung by the same group of monks. This recording is apparently a demonstration of several Orthodox musical styles, so after about 5:00 the selections are sung by others. Enjoy!



            • Carl Kraeff says

              May be the ROCOR parish does not use Nikolai Kedrov’s Lord’s Prayer because it is not Russian but Bulgarian. Do they use the Bulgarian “Noble Joseph” as sung so beautifully in the following clip?


              • Pravoslavnie says


                Yes, I recognize the melody and remember it from my OCA parish. We don’t use it in ROCOR.

              • I have heard the “Our Father” to that setting before in my (ROCOR) parish, but it is not typical. The Bulgarian “Noble Joseph” is used almost exclusively, though. I love it.

              • Pravoslavnie says


                No, Nikolai Kedrov was in fact Russian, I’m told by several Russians that Kedrov is a Russian name, he was born in St. Petersburg and lived in exile in Paris after the revolution. Despite the recording I offered being Bulgarian in origin, he appears to never have had any connection with Bulgaria.

                I can’t dispute His Grace’s comments on the issue Kedrov’s “Our Father” being inappropriate for Orthodox worship. In my current ROCOR parish there is an ukase posted in the choir loft from St. John Maximovitch that reminds all choir members that liturgical music is prayer and he directs choirs to steer clear of offering entertainment during worship. With that in mind I guess I won’t tell His Grace about that same OCA choir which regularly allows a female soloist to sing “Lord Have Mercy” in a soprano arietta that would do the Met proud.

                • Carl Kraeff says

                  Thanks for the correction; N. Kedrov was indeed Russian.

                  I really do not know much about the theory of liturgical music–that is the right music that goes along with the words. That does not mean that I do not subscribe to the following principles:

                  1. The music should be appropriate for the words. It would be awkward, for example, to have an up-tempo melody to accompany most of the Holy Week hymns (not that we need to go to the other extreme).

                  2. The hymn and arrangement should be singable by the entire congregation so that all are participating in common work. I am not a fan of those who talk about a symphony where everybody has a part, but it boil down to the congregation being reduced to spectators. I am also not a fan of concert pieces that show off the technical abilities of the choir or, as it sometimes happens, of the chanters–especially if they are using Byzantine chant.

                  Regarding Kedrov’s Lord’s Prayer, I have read His Grace Tikhon’s critique and I disagree with him (Surprise, surprise!). It is singable by the congregation, it has a melody that is appropriate for the words, and it is one of those rare combinations of melody and words that make it truly worthy to be used in worship. Perhaps that is the reason why many heterodox and even high school choirs (Gasp, ITS” OUTRAGE!!!) are using it.

            • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

              I have to disagree rather emphatically with some of what Pravoslavie wrote, relative to Kedrov’s setting of the Our Father. Kedrov’s Our Father is extremely popular, but it is inappropriate in any Orthodox service. The melody is indeed, pretty and sentimentally moving, with a sensual and even yearning character. But it does not even remotely approach the purpose of church music as stated by, for example, Saint Basil the Great. it starts out mawkishly enough for a love song or lullaby, but its physicality and sentimentality grows and grows until it reaches the first real Peak of rapture with “and lead us not into tempta-aaaa-tion (which sounds like the most wonderful state open to mankind), but comes to a completely fulfilled rest on the word E-e-eeeeee-vil! A first time listener might conclude that temptation and evil are the two goals of life for those “performing” the Kedrov.
              The first time I heard this mawkish serenade to temptation and evil was when I was still a Protestant, i.e., in the 1950s. In English, it was a favorite “anthem” of my Presbyterian uncle’s church choir. We might have sung it in our high school a capella choir as well. Its first recording was on a 10-inch 33rpm record, possibly by Harmonia Mundi: it was sung in three versions: Slavonic, Latin, and another language, possibly French.. Was Kedrov senior a Bulgarian? If so, this is completely irrelevant. Most ***compositions” sung in the Bulgarian and Russian Churches come are the same repertory. Yes, some Russian composer, like L’vov, or Bortniansky, ETC., did harmonize the Bulgarian Tone Eight for “Noble Joseph.” Another well-known arrangement of a Bulgarian chant is by Bortniansky, “Come, let us bless the ever-memorable Joseph…” which is sung while all venerate the Plaschanitza at the end of the Vespers sung on Great, Good, and Holy Friday afternoon. Neither of those settings of Bulgarian tones is even remotely emotional or sentimental. NO composition by any Russian composer or arranger of Church music, though, comes even close to the sentimentality of the totally INCONGRUOUS composition: Kedrov’s “Our Father.”
              I suppose it does give not a few people the vapors, and some people need to feel the vapors now and then, right? But, please, in our services.
              Oh, one must’nt forget that it is a great crowd-pleaser, and many churches, not just OCA, but Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, ETC, churches it is a favorite selection of the Great American Wedding extravaganza, probably second only to “I love thee, dear” or “Because.”

        • “A serious effort to compose music to fit the American ear would be a good step.”

          Gregorian chant does just that. It is one less hurdle for inquirers and catechumens when they attend a Western Rite Orthodox parish.

          • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

            I have never been to a Western Rite Parish or really understood how it all worked. I assumed (wrongly) that it was similar to a Catholic Mass, maybe a bit more formal but that was about it.

            Then I built a website for a Western Rite Parish (St. Gregory Orthodox Church). I had to reformat the Liturgy of St. Gregory for the web was captured by the sheer beauty of the language and theological comprehensiveness as I read it. I saw that my conceptions were sorely off the mark.

            Now I want to go visit and see how it’s done.

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            The western academic ecclesiast and connoisseur of the Medieval European church music scene, reveres “Gregorian Chant” above all existing tunes. However, NOTHING could be farther from being an American music form, than Gregorian Chant. Nothing at all. How could any American find; anything American in Gregorian chant? American choral singing is almost without exception part-singing, especially when groups of Americans actually get together to sing Even the Roman Catholic Church finally recognized that for Americans who would sing the responses at mass, Gregorian Chant just “didn’t cut it.” Travel around to campfire singing, college pep songs and alma maters, etc., and you won’t find a monophonic song at any of them. “Amazing Grace?’ You know how “into it” Americans get when they sing it in parts. Listen to backwoods Appallachian people singing their hymns. Listen to the GREAT Afro-American choirs and you’ll hear music built on the very same foundation as Bachmetev’s arrangements of the 8 canonical tones: 4-part HARMONY. What could be more Orthodox than HARMONY? Some people have the delusion that Americans will take to having some cantor or psalmist honking away in a solo melisma, or even a group doing the same, while another group groans and drones underneath it all. The Byzantine and Byzantino-Tukro-Arabic chants can aound, indeed, heavenly in a Byzantine or Byzantino-Turko-Arabic church, but, please, don’t imagine that such honking will sound anything but weird and exotic to anyone being told he or she is visiting an “American’ church! What an idea!
            Gregorian is strictly for the transplanted connoisseur, in love with it’s ethereal and even monophysitic “loveliness”, but it ain’t American.
            Many Greek and other Middle Eastern immigrants object to “Russian” music. Why? NOT because it’s Russian, but because it’s American style- four-part harmony singing.

        • Pravoslavnie says

          Alexander, your description of life at St. Seraphim is similar to my own experience at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (ROCOR) here in Washington, DC. Obviously the leadership in both our parishes is doing something right, but it helps to have the hierarchy behind you. Orthodoxy has no choice but to spread a big tent if it is to grow in America, and the draw will be to stick to the teachings of Christ as revealed in the Holy Gospels. Metropolitan Isaiah’s advice is appropriate for all the jurisdictions, and they disregard it at their own peril. So to His Eminence I add a chorus of Many Years!

  3. Fr. Peter Dubinin says

    I have such mixed emotion when I read a piece like this from leadership in the GOA. On the one hand I’m glad leadership is speaking; on the other hand, the things being said are so painfully obvious that it makes me cringe that there are apparently so many Orthodox who still don’t get it. I wish I could say that ethnicity, nationalism and racism in the Church will fall by the wayside, but I’m doubtful; Lord help mine unbelief. I’m sure what I propose may be considered an over reaction but I hope the EA insures only a US citizen (dual citizens need not apply and or renounce their non-US citizenship) sits as Patriarch of an US Orthodox Church.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Fr Peter, I agree. Dual citizenship is morally wrong.

      • Alas! My poor “morally wrong” husband and children who hold dual citizenship through no fault of their own. Their paternal grandfathers were born in Greece, so they hold dual citizenship in the eyes of Greece. (This is true, unless Greek law has been changed since my husband learned about this topic.) The United States government, however, does not recognize the dual citizenship. Therefore, I don’t consider the concept of “dual citizenship” to be worth any anxiety within the context of electing a hierarch.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Well, don’t you think it would be wrong as an American citizen, your government doesn’t recognize your dual citizenship? That’s just on it’s own terms. What if the other country demanded that your husband commit espionage?

          Antonia, I’m not trying to be tendentious, my own father was born in Greece but he repudiated his Greek citizenship in order to remain in America (he was an illegal alien). Things got dicey for us whenever we went back to Greece because my father never served in the Greek military (he was in the merchant marine). If the Greek gov’t likewise thinks I’m a Greek citizen, then I too would repudiate it simply on general principles. I would do this not because I’m anti-Greek (I’m not, rather quite proud of my Greek heritage) but because I could be called upon to do something that would conflict with my loyalty to this country.

          For an Orthodox bishop of Greek descent however, we would not be talking about divided loyalties between two countries that are “frenemies” at best (Turkey and the US) but loyalties divided between three countries (Turkey, Greece, and the US). That is an untenable position.

          Later this month, I intend to write an essay about the conflict of divided loyalties.

          • Antonia says

            . . . not an organized answer forthcoming, as I must begin dinner and am running late. . .

            You readily (and probably) will write me off as superficial; however, I’m working with a model derived from “possession is 9/10 of . . .” In other words, if I have dual citizenship and live in the U.S. by choice, my loyalty, should it be tested, defaults to the country in which I have chosen to reside. All the more so if the dual citizenship under discussion accrues to me as a “benefit of inheritance”, rather than as a direct effect of having been born in Country X. If having been born abroad might influence me, then I should pull up stakes and return to wherever.

            We have joked over the years that our sons had best steer clear of Greece lest they be conscripted during an unexpected war.

            If the U.S. government does not recognize the “Greek component” of the dual citizenship, that does not bother (or affect) me, in line with what I wrote in the first paragraph.

            An Orthodox bishop of Greek descent would not have his “loyalties” divided among three countries; just (in possible theory) between two. Unless, of course, he was born in Turkey. Currently, I think — and please correct any error — ONLY the E.P. is required to have been born in Turkey. He thus would have no U.S. citizenship in the first place (unless he had an unusual parentage, with a Greek holding U.S. citizenship happening to be in Turkey at the time of the baby’s birth). Local (i.e. based in the U.S.) Greek Orthodox hierarchs can have been born anywhere on the planet. (in theory, perhaps not in practice)

            At any rate, I thought (in error?) that you were writing about bishops elected for a future U.S.-based Greek Orthodox jurisdiction without any formal ties to the E.P. (apart from “ties” of the general good will owed to any hierarch). They could be of Greek, Samoan, French, Malaysian, or of any other heritage, so long as they be Orthodox Christian men of good character.

            Again, though, you may have been trying to communicate something entirely different.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Lots to chew on there, Nicole. The division of loyalties between three countries is very real however. Besides being the holders of a Turkish passport, the Greek gov’t treats GOA bishops and high-ranking clergy (like Karloutsos) as unpaid agents of influence. Also, the Greek gov’t strong-armed then Metr Bartholomew to shut the door in the face of the Evangelical Orthodox.

              This is just a few of the things I mean by “divided loyalties.” Admittedly, these are not as extreme as other cases but the possibilities exist for outright sedition and in case of a shooting war, treason.

              • Antonia says

                That was Antonia writing, not Nicole. :>)

                Would you posit that the fragmented loyalties characterize Greek Orthodox more than [they do] other Orthodox national groups? Asking this from academic interest only.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Not at all. I was just using anecdotal evidence from my own life story/sub-culture/etc., to show that the reality of divided loyalties is not a bigoted trope put out by nativists. It’s real.

                  How real? Last year, a Jewish magazine in Atlanta published an editorial in which the editor (an American citizen) suggested that “all options were on the table” regarding the current President, who in their regards, is uniquely hostile to Israel. And I do mean “all options.”

                  Admittedly, this is the most extreme example I can give and I’m not suggesting anything of the sort is at play in American Orthodoxy. But between patriotism stopping at the water’s edge and outright treason, is a lot of ground that can be exploited to our country’s detriment.

    • Isa Almisry says

      Ahem. What if he is Canadian? Or Mexican? both of which find nothing wrong with dual citizenship.

      I’d be fine with the autocephalous primate of North America remaining a metropolitan.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Isa, the Metropolitan of a US church should be an American citizen, a Mexican church a Mexican citizen, etc. I’ll flesh out my concerns about dual citizenship in a later essay. Reader’s Digest version: it leads to divided loyalties.

        I’m also not hung up on the title, Patriarch, Metropolitan, Catholicos is all fine to me.

        • Isa Almisry says

          At present, the OCA is not a US Church. It is, and has been for over a century, the Church of Canada and Mexico as well. For a variety of reasons, both for the Church in the US, and for the Church in Canada and Mexico, I’d prefer it stay that way for now. Once the OCA’s status as a Mother Church is universally recognized and respected (I include in that any autocephalous structure that comes out of ACOB with the OCA in it), we can start the devolution into more local Churches.

          I’m aware of the concern about dual citizenship. It’s a very American thing. Not only an American thing, but a very American things.

          I would want us to show the other Episcopal Assemblies how it is done.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Isa, I respect what you say about the Mexican and Canadian archdioceses of the OCA. I think they should devolve post-haste into autonomous churches with their own metropolitans and regional synods. They could look to the Metrolitan of the US in the same way that the Metropoitan of Japan looks to the Patriarch of Russia.

            And I think that we should do that now. Why? Because I don’t believe that the OCA’s autocephaly will be “universally recognized and established.” Even if all US eparchies unanimously joined the OCA, the Phanar won’t have it. Let’s face it: the ACOB was not created in good faith. It’s possible that something good may come out of it (I certainly hope so) but I would be greatly surprised if that happened.

            Bottom line? Take our eggs out of the ACOB basket. Stay there for appearance’s sake but don’t let it hold us back from doing the work of the Church.

  4. Margaret says

    It is not that smaller parishes need outreach. It is not that larger parishes need outreach. For Christians outreach is not an option it is a command!

  5. As a member of Metropolitan Isaiah’s flock, I would like to commend him for his brave words. They certainly row upstream against the omongenia before Orthodoxy mentality that pervades 79th Street. Having served as a USA Marine, Metropolitan Isaiah is a uniquely American Bishop who understands America like few others do.

    Looking ahead though, I am worried as I see the Metropolitan age. The quality of candidates for bishop in the GOA is certainly poor and many of them tow the omogenia before Orthodoxy line. Many of them also lack the basic skills to govern a diocese in a healthy manner.

    The Metropolis of Denver has always been a safe place in the GOA. Our geography and demographics protect us from many of the shenanigans we see in other places. However, if the Phanar dumps some ethnic hiearch on us who tows the 79th line then all the success of the Metropolis of Denver will be wasted and people will be damaged. Denver is not Astoria, Boston, or San Franciso.

    I hope the Metropolitan will give some consideration to a transition plan for the Denver Metropolis and plan an orderly transition of governance that will respect the unique culture of the Denver Metropolis and the many people who are served by it. He can certainly set a example for the entire GOA in his regard.

    • Perhaps it’s time to reopen the office of Bishop to married men, and expand the pool of well qualified candidates, husbands of one wife and so forth.

      • As I understand, the people of Mexico (and South America?) cannot accept married priests. If so, what would they think if we presented them with married bishops?

        • Jews can’t accept the Trinity. Moslems can’t accept the Deity of Christ. Baptists can’t accept a cold beer – at least in public.

          I sense an educational opportunity.

          Otherwise, we have a whole lot of stuff to get rid of because someone, somewhere “cant accept” it.

        • Isa Almisry says

          I don’t buy “can’t accept married priests.” The Vatican just hasn’t learned from Abp. Ireland.

          The Protestants are spreading like wildfire through Latin America. Mexico and Latin America can accept married priests.

          That said, I’d open to the idea of married (presently) bishops. I just doubt this right now is the time, and I know that it is not the cure all it is made to be. Married bishops haven’t saved the Episcopalians.

          • Harry Coin says

            Isa: No, married bishops haven’t saved the Episcopalians as you write. Has mostly ordained young never married bishops done so great either? It is time to recover a lost balance– whether you fall off the ladder on one side or the other the result is that you aren’t growing.

            I notice the common cause of loss in both instances is the lack of insisting upon lived standards as a requirement for retaining great decision making authority. In one case the evident, visible, victim-creating inability to police one’s own ranks according to widely bruted about moral precepts as a condition for holding high office. In the other case the ‘problem’ is ‘solved’ by removing the felt need to comply with moral precepts.

            • Yes, as bad as it is, we are nowhere near the pit that Episcopalianism has fallen in. That said, that doesn’t say much.

              • Harry Coin says

                Isa, we need to recover what was in our tradition but was lost in our practice when the church became conflated and otherwise gummed up with the state and its various agendas and inheritance laws.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          To be clear, no one is proposing a 100% married episcopacy. After discussing this topic for a couple of years or so, the following are clear.

          – There is no ecumenical canon that forbids the consecration of married men. The canons that exist merely require them to not to cohabit with their wives.

          – There has never been a time when we had married bishops only.

          – After the Council in Trullo, the practice gradually evolved over the centuries to consecrate monastics only, even if they were monastic in name only and for a very short period of time.

          – The original reason given in Trullo was that the common folks were scandalized by a bishop and his wife living together (read: having sex). OTH, Trullo did not compel priests not to cohabit with their wives (having sex) so it seems that there were other reasons behind that decision. Some scholars think it was because local bishops were passing the office to their offspring and thus building a power base that could vie with central authority. Regardless of that unstated reason, the circumstances have changed.

          – Instead of folks being scandalized by a man and a woman having lawful sexual intercourse, today folks are more likely to be scandalized by sexual misconduct by bishops (and priests). If we use the Trullo rationale, we should revert back to the Apostolic practice. I do not propose to use that rationale because it was wrong to use it then and it would be wrong to use it now.

          – The decision at Trullo was not undertaken by an Ecumenical Council, even though all Orthodox Churches have accepted it. I am saying this because I think that a local church can initiate the reintroduction of married bishops. Actually, at the present there are many bishops whose marital status remains “married to one woman” even though their wives have passed on. The road to married bishops with living wives (or if you prefer: married bishops cohabitating with their wives) is a short and theologically easy one.

          Only if we had the courage to apply the Lord’s and His Apostles teachings on this subject!

          • Harry Coin says

            Carl– a sidebar to one of your points above. Folk back in the day were not at all prudish about sex as such. One look at some of the icons of the tomb with vague womb like characteristics suggestive of new life and its great joy makes that quite plain. Suffering and death were well known to the young and old, much moreso than today. You write that the record shows folks then were scandalized by the bishop and his wife having sex. True as far as it goes, but not for the adolescent ‘tee -hee’ reasons today’s pop culture might presuppose. No. The reason for the scandal had to do with the fact owing to the age of the bishop and the high incidence of death in childbirth there would be the undue creation of orphans. Then as now some people don’t like that because it costs them money. Then as now some people don’t like that because it represents avoidable suffering. Others felt threatened by the laws to do with inheritance and church property (they preferred to control the property owing to their higher estimation of their own stewardship capacities over against the bishop’s heirs).

            Anyhow, it wasn’t about prudishness to do with sex as such. I bet if zero-conception-risk birth control existed back then the change to ‘so called’ monastic only would never have happened.

            • Carl Kraeff says

              Thank you Harry; you raise an interesting point. In any case, I would imagine that you would concur that the circumstances today are radically different and that we can go back to Apostolic Canon 6; “Let not a bishop, a priest, or a deacon cast off his own wife under pretense of piety; but if he does cast her off, let him be suspended. If he go on in it, let him be deprived.” After all, we are an Apostolic Church.

              • Harry Coin says

                I do concur Carl. Absent the force of a civil authority pressuring the people to join a church, blatant displays of moral dissonance in high places with the central texts– when the title on the door is ‘Orthodox’ — will attract only those very few who either enjoy moral dissonance, or are able to see past the dross to value what it could be “a shining city on the hill” “without stain, or spot, or any such thing.”

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Harry, Carl, interesting discussion. Personally, I think an ascetic (and I mean a true ascetic, not a formal one) brings something to the episcopal table that a father (married or widowed) cannot: and that is a desire to be a father to his priests and diocese. We saw this with the Venerable Dmitri.

                  Otherwise, a saintly man who is married and even cohabiting with his wife is fine by me.

                  • Harry Coin says

                    I see no lack of desire regarding a married person being a father to his priests and diocese if a bishop, neither did those who wrote as much in the Gospel specifying that exact thing along with the many other canonical and historical points mentioned upstream. You by your writing above apparently do. Why can’t a married or widowed man have the desire to be a father to his priests and diocese as you state?

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Logistics and human nature Harry. It’s hard for a man to love others as much as his own posterity (note: I said “hard” not “impossible”.) In addition, a married man must please his wife. Let’s be honest, all married men are in competition with each other to secure the best possible financial outcome for their wives and children. An episcopal family would be just another family unit within the corporate structure of the Church. It would subject to the competitive pressures that inure to corporate America.

                      What follows is going to sound mysoginistic but it’s nevertheless true: the wife of a bishop would lord it over the wives of the priests and the deacons. Unless she was the godliest of women, her opinion of certain priests would be made known to her husband and eventually color his own impressions. This would be different if the bishop-elect’s wife herself took monastic vows and lived in a sisterhood for several years, cultivating the ascetic life. Then she could be his best advisor.

                      One reason Arb Dmitri was so personable is that he lived with his sister and she provided with perspectives that only a woman could give. As she was a spinster herself, there was no necessity to grow the diocese in order leave something behind for the children but merely to grow the church for the sake of the church itself.

                      I very much think that bishops should cultivate a spiritual relationship with wise abbesses.

                    • Harry Coin says

                      My answer to your appeals to ‘history and logistics’ is the Gospel. If appeals to history and logistics rule the day as reasons to ignore loss and not uphold what a group with ‘Orthodox’ in the title must be seen to uphold if it is to survive: we should all depart immediately from the church and give our full efforts to Rotary International, The Red Cross.

                      There is no merit in any argument that points to the possibility of poor behavior as a reason for anything. Of course poor behavior is going to happen. For example, notice http://www.pokrov.org How’s that working out? Was it ‘bishops wive’s have to be monastic’ for reasons not to do with inheritance and disposal of property and not creating orphans and widows owing to life expectancy back then? No it was not.

                      Leave us unbalanced and inauthentic to our inheritance as applied to our times and we doom ourselves.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Harry, there’s nobody on this site more vociferous (obnoxious?) than your truly regarding the simple preaching of the Gospel. That trumps all. You simply will not get an argument from me on that point.

                      My concern with the fallenness of human nature (of which I am Exhibit A) is that we shouldn’t necessarily increase the burdens on episcopal candidates. I’m a family man and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But if I were a bishop and I were serious about being a father to the priests and people of my diocese, I would have alienated my family. Hell, there were times I worried that my bags would packed and left sitting on the stoop when I got home after a lousy parish council meeting.

                      The other extreme is even worse: hoarding all power and resources for myself and neglecting the diocese because I love my wife and kids more than I like the pastor at St Joe of Kokomo’s parish. I know these are two extremes and that there is a happy medium, but in my 52 years, I’ve yet to find managers who can strike it.

                      Just my 2c. Like I said, I got no problem with married men in the episcopate once they’re empty nesters.

                  • Carl Kraeff says

                    The question is whether a bishop today (and for the centuries that followed the expansion of his see from a single church into dioceses) is the pastor of any given congregation. While he is indeed the arch-pastor, the answer is no: that job has been assigned to his deputies, the parish rectors. I have chosen the term “deputies” carefully; not only does the bishop authorizes his priests to be pastors of a congregation, he also deputizes them to act on his behalf (except for a few functions that he keeps to himself). For all practical purposes, a priest is thus a Deputy Bishop. Of course, the vast majority of our priests are married and we are quite content with this situation, notwithstanding the occasional bad apple or dysfunctional wife or children. It is of course true that if the bishop were married and had a wife and children in his household, the effects of an over-reaching wife and errant children would not be limited to one location but felt by many more parishioners. Thus, we see the wisdom of 1 Timothy 3.

                    One thing that can help (and it has been done for centuries with priests and deacons) is to move the bishops around. Having the bishop married to a diocese made sense in the Early Church of city congregations; as the Canons indicate, there was too much problem caused by freewheeling bishops who were moving from city to city. However, now that we have (potentially) a way to control such potential problems (the Holy Synod), it would not be a bad idea to apply the same common-sense management tools that are applied to priests and deacons also to bishops.

                    Regarding the need of the bishop to be the spiritual father to his priests, I would say that is the ideal situation. However, I do like the current practice of each priest choosing his own confessor/spiritual father. I do not like to make comparisons to non-church organizations, but it is clear to me (from my career in the military) that the bishop is like a commander, who is responsible for his outfit getting the job done. He does so mainly by managing/leading people; particularly his immediate subordinates–in our case, the diocesan administration and his Deputy Bishops. Of course, our organization being part of the Body of Christ, all leaders at all levels must act as servant-leaders, that is , like Christ Himself. If that happens, I do not think it matters much if the bishop is married or not.

                    Regarding asceticism, isn’t it true that married folks are called to their own ascetic struggle?

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Harry, I agree with you, but we can’t forget the heavy responsibility that a corrup laity bring to this drama. As I mentioned last year in The Dumping Ground, we laymen cultivate this culture of corruption by encouraging immoral men to become priests. At the very least, the Archons could put a stop to this but they choose not to. Why? because it’s easier to control corrupt men.

                  That’s probably the main reason that Isaiah can issue his directives in SLC while all the other GOA bishops are largely silent about almost everything. They got nothing on Isaiah but files on all the others. I can’t see Isaiah backing down but I can see them getting rid of him. They don’t want straight-arrows.

                  • Harry Coin says

                    The return to practice long upheld as proper is more likely to generate health than is noting the various lacks of those not clergy with us from the beginning of time.

                    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

                      Harry and Carl, I do wish you would give the married bishops meme a rest. Whatever biblical, patristic, or historical merits the obsolescent practice may have, the Church has long decided since the Quinisext Council that the issue is moot, primarily for pragmatic reasons, and there is, to my knowledge, no movement for a married episcopate–or even meaningful discussion of reverting to the earlier practice–anywhere in contemporary world Orthodoxy. If either of you enjoy spitting into the wind, then by all means continue your folly. But please do not clog this message board with such quixotic distractions from the real challenges confronting Orthodoxy in America today.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      Father bless!

                      Dear Father Alexander,

                      The claim that there are “no movement for a married episcopate–or even meaningful discussion of reverting to the earlier practice–anywhere in contemporary world Orthodoxy” is not correct. Some examples to the contrary:

                      – A position paper by an Orthodox priest (I believe from Australia) was posted on St. Mary Orthodox Church (AOCA), Cambridge, MA website (2007).

                      – In a 1990 New York Times article, the following was reported: “Representatives of the clergy and the laity of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Western hemisphere have recommended that the church allow married priests to become bishops. The proposal, which would alter 1,300 years of Eastern Orthodox practice, would require an unusual consensus among Orthodox Christian bishops.The action by the Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America came Thursday in Washington. The congress was presided over by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople.”

                      – This issue has been discussed in various fora in the past 10 years.

                      Frankly, my priest’s attitude is rather like yours. He acknowledges the merits of my argument but thinks that I am spitting in the wind. That’s OK. I will keep on plugging. On the other hand, this latest round happened because yet another person brought it up; this time it was Alexander from the SSOC. LIke Senator Dirksen said about money, one person here, one person there, and pretty soon it is a “movement.”

                      What disappoints me is the cavalier disregard of “biblical, patristic, or historical merits” just because that’s the way we are doing it.

            • A bit of a quibble: tradition does not require a bishop to have been a lifelong celibate, or to be childless. Patriarch Filaret Romanov, father of Tsar Michael had been a nobleman who was forcibly divorced from his wife and both of them remanded to monasteries by order of a former tsar.
              St Innocent of Alaska was a widower with adult children when he was raised to the mitre.
              Closer to home, Bishop Michael, OCA, New York, lost his wife his in a tragic accident that nearly took his own life too.

              • Here is a link to the position paper to which Carl refers: http://www.stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/orthodoxy/articles/2007-01-26-marriedbishops.php

                It strikes me that if the reasoning behind a celibate episcopate is purely pragmatic then purely pragmatic reasons might commend a return to the practice. Might not the lack of a vibrant monasticism in the West from which mature, celibate candidates for the episcopacy can be drawn be such a reason? If all things were as they should be in world Orthodoxy, this is something the future Council might discuss profitably, especially since we have been blessed with many suitably gifted married parish priests whose spiritual and administrative abilities are well suited to episcopacy. Of course, since any such move would move Orthodoxy in the West further from the control of the Mother churches, it is unlikely to be resolved in favour of a change at present. In any case, since George bids commenters here to speak their minds, I have no problem with Harry or Carl mentioning the subject when it is apropos to do so.

    • Isa Almisry says

      Given that we have lost Met. Maximos of Pittsburgh to retirement (God grant him many years still!), we must say ever so louder “Many Years!” at the mention of Met. Isaiah of Denver.


      • Isa, I fear the omogenia first folks are going to get more and more bitter and unreasonable as time and modern demographics unfold.

        Also, I saw yesterday on the National Herald Website that at the big GOA Church in Miami that the priest quit and the Church owes a huge amount of debt and cannot sustain itself for much longer. This is what a lack of outreach gets you: a beautiful building that is a monument to mediocrity.

        I wonder how many other big GOA Churches out there have a huge amount of debt and cannot sustain themselves. I bet its more than we think

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Andrew, I saw that too. What will happen I expect, to forestall the closure of the bigger parishes, will be for the $33 million that the Leadership 100 has in endowments to be used.

          • Isa Almisry says

            Bigger families and bringing in more members (and beyond lost sheep) would be better, but then there is the question of whom we are dealing with.

          • StephenD says

            The GOA parish in Pensacola operates at a deficit every month…draining off their endowment. They still have Greek and their Festival though…OOPPA!

          • George, $33 million is not a lot when you consider the cost of maintaining our hierarchs in their present lifestyle and the costs of running some of these larger parishes. $500,000 here…. $700,000 there to pay off debts and that $33 million can disappear faster than people think. Plus factor in some intangibles like unforeseen legal problems. If parishes keep running deficits and choose not to pay their bills then eventually the money will run out and physical assets will need to be liquidated.

            I wonder if we will see a GOA parish enter into bankruptcy in the not so distant future?

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Quite possibly (bankruptcy I mean). I think there’s more of a probability of what you wrote up-thread: more bitterness and pridefullness as things start going south. That’s another reason I don’t believe the EA process is going anywhere.

  6. Diogenes says

    Study shows Mormonism is fastest-growing faith in half of U.S. states

    Kevin Eckstrom | Apr 30, 2012 |

    CHICAGO (RNS) Mitt Romney may or may not become the first Mormon to move into the White House next year, but a new study shows that Mormonism is moving into more parts of the country than any other religious group, making it the fastest-growing faith in more than half of U.S. states.

    The 2012 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, released here Tuesday (May 1), shows that the mainline Protestants and Catholics who dominated the 20th century are literally losing ground to the rapid rise of Mormons and, increasingly, Muslims.

    The study is conducted once every 10 years and can track Americans’ religious affiliation down to the county level, from the largest (Los Angeles County, where Mormons grew 55 percent while Catholics shrank by 7 percent) to the smallest (Loving County, Texas, which is home to 80 people and one nondenominational evangelical church).

    Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported 2 million new adherents and new congregations in 295 counties where they didn’t exist a decade ago, making them the fastest-growing group in the U.S.

    Mormons were the fastest-growing group in 26 states, expanding beyond their historic home in Utah to the heart of the Bible Belt and as far away as Maine.

    Muslims came in second, with growth of 1 million adherents in 197 new counties, to a total of about 2.6 million. Overall, non-Christian groups grew by 32 percent over the past decade.

    “Mosques have multiplied at a growth rate of about 50 percent,” said Dale Jones, a researcher with the Church of the Nazarene who worked on the study as part of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. “They have more religious centers, and simply moving into the suburbs puts you closer to where a lot of your folks are living.”

    While other studies tally total membership, beliefs or worship attendance, the RCMS study counts the actual number of people who are affiliated with U.S. congregations — or, as Jones put it, the people who are “involved enough to the point where they know to count you.”

    The study found that while upwards of 80 percent of Americans claim to be Christians, only about 49 percent are affiliated with a local congregation. And that, Jones said, should concern church leaders.

    “In some ways, our chickens have come home to roost,” Jones said. “Churches have talked about needing to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – what you hear is, ‘I need a relationship, I need to be born again,’ but not, ‘I need to be involved in a congregation.’ Guess what? That’s where we are.”

    Overall, the survey identified nearly 350,000 religious congregations in the United States, from Albanian Orthodox to Zoroastrian. Those churches, temples and mosques are the spiritual home for 150.6 million Americans, and researchers say they were able to capture 90 percent of all U.S. congregations.

    Like most surveys, the RCMS study relies mainly on self-reported data from churches and denominations. Some, including several historically black churches, failed to submit information on new numbers. Researchers were able to reach only one-third of U.S. mosques and had to estimate the rest.

    The survey did not track growing numbers of secular or religiously unaffiliated Americans – estimated at about 16 percent of the country, according to other studies – because they do not belong to a local congregation.

    Jan Shipps, a respected non-Mormon scholar of Mormonism who’s now retired from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said Mormons’ “astonishing” spread into new counties is likely due to church leaders’ decision to split large wards (congregations) into separate smaller wards on opposite sides of a county line.

    “The way they organize themselves makes for more congregations,” she said. “They don’t have big huge congregations like the independent churches.”

    The study also tracked the growth of nondenominational and independent evangelical churches, which combined represent the nation’s third-largest Christian group, at about 12.2 million adherents across 35,000 congregations.

    Catholics, while losing about 5 percent of adherents in the past years, nonetheless remain the nation’s largest religious group, at about 59 million. The Southern Baptist Convention came in second, at 19.8 million, but its 50,816 congregations made it the group with the most churches.

    The rapid growth among American Muslims likely has several explanations, researchers said: growth in the suburbs, an increased willingness by U.S. Muslims to stand and be counted, and more mosques being built to serve more worshippers.

    Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, saw growth explode by a whopping 473 percent in and around Orlando’s Orange County, according to the RCMS study, and he thinks the growth is actually double the 10,000 new Muslims reported by the study.

    He said Muslim growth has been fueled by a wave of post-9/11 converts, American-born children of immigrants having kids of their own, and jobs in the booming medical industry. In central Florida, he said, Muslims are just following everyone else in search of “better weather, cheaper prices, cheaper homes.”

    “I doubt in the next decade we will grow as much,” he said. “It’s like a new product when it’s first introduced, there’s lots of interest. But now we’re more of a known quantity and we’re not going to be opening as many new mosques as we were in the last decade.”

    • StephenD says

      Interestingly enough many of those converts to Mormonism do not stick around .A PEW study found that of all of the converts in one year only 29% take their endowwments in the temple which devout converts do after one year. The study says that many cannot handle the rigors of being a mormon as the faith takes up a lot of time or the newly converted hear the rather ,to be kind, interesting dogmas they weren’t told during the lectures with the missionaries which led to their conversion.
      Do converts to Orthodoxy stick around?

      • I have seen a few Orthodox converts fade away. I know many, many more who persevere and become pillars of the community. It would be interesting and useful to see a detailed study of this question.

      • Isa Almisry says

        Btw, one of those who got sucked into Mormonism and quickly escaped include Marco Rubio’s family. Given the talk, of VP, ironic.

    • So it may turn out to be Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon vs. Muhammad and his Koran.
      I wonder which of the two “angels,” the one who revealed the “true faith” in a vision to Joseph Smith, or the one who revealed it in a vision to Muhammad, was telling the truth?

    • Michael Bauman says

      Not surprising the Mormanism grows. They go out into the highways and byways with well-trained enthusiasm and focus. The sales pitch they use is sophisticated and quite effective with people who are hurting and unfamiliar with basic Christianity.

      That they use the unethical sales technique of mini-maxing (minimizing the negatives while maximizing the supposed benefits) means they will tend to loose a lot of the sales once the reality is experienced. Not unlike the Orthodox triumphalism actually. But we don’t go out, we are unsophisticated and untrained in expressing our faith and rely too much on self-appointed experts who tend to talk in incomprehensable language about stuff few really care about.

      It is really too bad because all of the questions the Mormans raise in their pastiche of a theology can be answered in a truthful, simple and straight forward manner if we would invite folks with the same degree of dedication and caring.

  7. Everything Metropolitan Isaiah said was something a child in my prior life as an Evangelical would have known as simple common sense. That being said it is very valuable to have an “insider,” as it were, say these things because there is an audience who may only listen to that voice.

  8. I like this web site so much, saved to favorites. “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.” by Peter De Vries.

  9. What do you mean the GOA is not doing outreach? It was by his own hand that Metropolitan +Isaiah did not allow a group to form an English predominant GOA parish in South Tulsa in 2003. The request was denied. That decision led to the establishment of a thriving OCA parish in the Tulsa suburd of Bixby – Holy Apostles Orthodox Christian Church (http://holyapostlesorthodox.org/). With the blessing of Archbishop +Dmitri of Blessed Memory, this small parish has seen amazing growth while sending two young men to seminary, establishing an Orthodox day-school cooperative, regular Sunday attendance of 90+ all while averaging ten Christmations and baptisms per year since its founding. Well done GOA!

  10. Roddy Diaz says


    Why wouldn’t the Metropolis of Denver want to open a mission as you say? What are the conditions?

    • George Michalopulos says

      Roddy, speaking for myself, I can tell you that what I was told regarding mission-formation in the GOA, was that certain conditions would have to be met.

      1. we would need $200,000 cash in the bank, and
      2. at least 50 families.

      Both are remarkable unrealistic given that perhaps 85% of all parishes in the GOA do not meet these standards.

    • Roddy,

      George is correct in his response regarding financial and demographic requirements. Additionally, the ethno-centric political climate at the existing GOA parish in Tulsa would not allow the Metropolitan to establish a non-Greek parish. (In his defence, he would have been pilloried.) The good news is that the existing parish has since learned, as a result of the success of the Holy Apostles OCA parish, that reaching out to the non-ethnic (non-Greek) community is the only way to ensure parish long-term viability. That is not to say that ethnocentrism and festival mania has been eliminated at the GOA parish – it has not. But there are signs of progress in this regard. Now if we can just convince them to partake of Holy Confession.

  11. cynthia curran says

    Well, I would not count Roman Catholics out, take Orange County Ca, now there are over a million Catholics because of immirgation from Latin America mainly Mexico and asian countries like Vietnam. Back in the early 1970’s when megachurches like the Garden Grove Community were around you were lucky to have 300,000 Roman Catholics and the diocense of Orange brought out Robert Schuller church. Catholics have declined in the Northeast and rapidly grew in the two largest states California and Texas and also Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.

  12. cynthia curran says

    Roman Catholics grew in Los Angeles because of continue immirgaiton from Latin America and the mormons are down in La since their are fewer whites, granted mormons are making inroads with Mexicans and others.

  13. cynthia curran says

    Well, George since your orthodox Greece would accept you, I heard its harder in Greek to be considered Greek in you belong to Islam or a Roman Catholic or Protestant religion in Greek, orthodoxy is apart of national idenity. more so than the US. I agree foreign policy is difficult but I did support Greece’s fence to keeep out illegal immirgants that enter Greece from Turkey, other issues not so much. Are you also Italian since you mention Sicily or Greek ancestory from Italy in your family. Greeks were in southern Italy before the Roman Republic.