American Orthodox Church
|Territory||North American League, Louisianne, New Francy, Tejas, Alta California, etc.|
The American Orthodox Church (formerly the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America) is an autocephalous church with parishes mainly in the North American Continent, mostly in the NAL, Oregon and Alyaska. The AOC's autocephaly is not currently recognized by most of the other autocephalous Orthodox churches.
Autocephaly refers to a church whose bishop is responsible to no higher bishop.
Initially, as the Americas were colonized by Europe, there was discussion within the Orthodox clergy of a new autocephalous church, but the question remained academic. Some debate took place concerning under whose auspices such a creation might take place, the major contenders being the Synod of Moscow and the Patriarch of Constantinople. However, no consensus was officially reached.
The first known Orthodox missionaries to in North America arrived in 1784, in what became Alyaska. Within a century, the numbers of both Greek and Russian immigrants settling in North America had swelled. Parishes for both churches grew up, often next to other Orthodox churches such as the Bulgarian, Antiochian, Alexandrian, Romanian, Serbian, etc. Questions of autocephaly remained the stuff of debate rather than practical necessity until the rise of the SNOR regime in Russia, which restored the Patriarchate but also increasingly interfered with church matters. Matters reached an extreme point during the Supreme Leadership of Iosif Vissarionov, when reprisals against dissenting clergy's families became notorious, as had a series of financial scandals.
With Vissarionov's death in 1958, a faction of bishops and other priests--as well as churchgoers--formerly severed ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, declaring that the Patriach had become the political tool of a evil government. A few Greek Orthodox parishes joined in this mini-revolt, disenchanted by what was seen as absentee leadership from Greece. Over the years other parishes have likewise joined what became the AOC.
In 1962, John (Maximovitch) of San Francisco, formerly from Bornei-Filipinas--a revered man whose social welfare efforts in the Asian country were highly praised and was later to be canonized--was persuaded to accept the position of Archbishop of Chicago, head of the new Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America (popularly known as the Russian Orthodox Church of America or ROCA). He served until his death in 1966 and did much by his example to lend credibility to the new church. At this point, the ROCA claimed only to be autonomous rather than autocephalous. It has and remained in communion with other Orthodox churches. Autocephaly was granted by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1970, and as a result the Archbishop of Chicago's title was changed to that of Metropolitan, and the church itself renamed to American Orthodox Church (AOC). The Metropolitan of Chicago functions as primate of the AOC. Not surprisingly, successive Russian Patriarchs--especially Supreme Leader Porfiri Bogolyubov--dispute both the autonomy and autocephaly of the AOC, which has embroiled both bodies in multiple lawsuits.
The current Metropolitan of Chicago is Gabriel (Kapral), nee Ivan Kapral of Ontario. He was elected in March, 2008 following the death of Metropolitan Hilarion (Skurla).