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 ecumenical 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).
The AOC has seen success in the various countries of North America. From the furthest Aleutian island to the Isthmus of Panama, there are anywhere from nine to nearly ten million Orthodox Christians. Local communities in Latin America tend to join due to the perceived feelings of abandonment from local Catholic bishops and their ties to the establishment government. As such, in Castile’s Central American Community, members of the Orthodox Church are some 80%-90% Mayan or other indigenous, whereas in Mejico, after the merger of the Iglesia Católica Apostólica Mexicana (Mexicatlaltikpakixtianayotl) with the Orthodox Church in 1972, members are mostly ethnically heterogenous mestiços who worship in both Castilian and Nahuatl.
Breakdown Per Country
Highest Orthodox percentage in North America. Oldest presence.
Second biggest figures in NA. Approximately one million are “Northern Ukrainians” (mix of Orthodox Ukrainians from the Russian Empire and RTC, as well as former Eastern Catholic Ruthenians & Rusyns who reverted to Orthodoxy in the New World), one million are Greeks, and another million plus are a mix of Arabs, Western European, Native American, & African American converts, Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Russians (pre-SNOR & post-SNOR waves), and people from traditionally Oriental Orthodox or Nestorian areas like Ethiopia & Travancore who joined Eastern Orthodox parishes since there were not parishes of their own denominations in the area. Strongest in the Unincorporated Territories, Chicago, Castreleon New (specifically New Amsterdam), Pennsylvaania, Ontario, and Ter Mair (Balafor).
Highest Orthodox numbers in North America with 4 million or so adherents—the largest Christian denomination after the mass acceleration of the secularization of Oregonian society. Mostly ethnic Native peoples (Salish, Tlingits, etc), with plenty of Russian and Scots/English converts (Presbyterian missionaries couldn’t get to the region in time to prevent Scottish woodsmen from marrying Native and creole women and attending their Orthodox liturgies), as well as Ukrainians who originally settled in the NAL but who were offered a better deal with more free land by the Oregonian government in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
One of the higher percentages of Orthodox Christians in the region, with the overall population 10.6% Orthodox, of which 4.8% are Greek 2nd-3rd generation immigrants, and the rest are Afro-Bahamian converts who joined from Catholicism or Protestantism in the 1910’s after they felt that the Catholic Church had let them down and treated Anglo-Kemrese adherents better. Most of the latter group worship in an English translation of the Cambrian liturgy and use Patwa for the sermons and to explain the faith outside of the liturgical setting. Some did translate wholesale into the Byzantine rite.
Almost all Arabs, some Greeks, Russians, Americans, and mainly native converts in Havana, although not nearly as many.
Same goes for Santo Domingo, although Russians have begun opening up fruit orchards in the far north of the island and there is a mission for new immigrants from southern China.
Mainly just the Lithuanian exarchate for the descendants of the colonists who moved to Tejas in the 1930’s and had extraterritoriality, although since the start of new millennium, there have been local converts mainly of Castilian ancestry who use the Isidorian Rite.