Why are there so many different jurisdictions?

Not knowing why there are so many jurisdictions is a common deficit in our people's knowledge. It now seems like such a complicated mess that it can only be resolved with great difficulty - but only as difficult as submission itself. SCOBA is one attempt to cooperate, but parts of it have an agenda not so far removed from the original mess makers.

It was not always this way. The situation used to be quite simple, but one result of the godless revolution in Russia was that the environment here was made suitable for the arising of "the jurisdictional mess."

To simplify and condense much: prior to the revolution in Russia and for a short time thereafter all Orthodox in America _submitted_ (to use Doyle's perfect choice of words) to the ruling Russian bishops. The Russian Church was recognized as the ruling Church in the Americas by the right of being the first proselytizers on the continent.

Yes, even the Greeks recognized this status as evidenced by the Greek (and all other) priests serving only with the blessing of the Russian bishop. There were no dioceses in America except Russian dioceses. Canonically, of course, there can only be one bishop per city/territory and this is the way it was. There was support by the Russians for the needs of ethnic communities and the Tzars paid for the establishment of many of these missions, such as St Georges in Michigan City Indiana - an Arab community, and for the Serbian community in Galveston, etc...

More than one jurisdiction appeared first appeared in America only after certain parties took advantage of the weakness and chaos that the Russian Church was thrown into by the revolution. Greeks and Antiochians were, I think, the first to establish their own uncanonical (causing more than one bishop per city) diocesan organizations. This is the beginning of the mess.

While the revolution threw much confusion into the situation, the fact remained that there _was_ a legitimate Synod of Russian bishops free to act in America without the control/influence of the godless powers, and the actions of these other non-Russian bishops were clearly in conflict with the canons - albeit politically expedient.

I'll let others describe the infighting and movement of various Russian bishops in and out of this synod, but essentially that group is extant as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) It's also known as ROC-Outside Russia (ROCOR). This Church is also referred to as Synodal or simply "the Synod" as opposed to the Greek Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, or the Metropolia of the Moscow Patriarchate, or the Antiochian Archdiocese...

Much of the jurisdictional tension in America has its source in the communist controlled Moscow Patriarchate's granting of autocephalous status to its North American Metropolia - now known as the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Individuals, if not entire clergy conferences in the OCA, have often denied its status as a "Russian" Church (although the people often don't know that) but the OCA does seem to have designs on usurping the canonical jurisdictional authority of the ROCOR (which is exactly what ROCOR's past? enemy, the Communist- controlled church in Russia desired). Rather than being the original Russian Church that had jurisdictional authority in America, the OCA is the American Metropolia of Moscow that was granted Moscow's claim to authority in America. While ROCOR _is_ the direct successor of the united Synod of bishops _Outside Russia_ she is not the original unified Russian Church, and this is the reason for competing claims by the Moscow Patriarchate (which itself is not the direct sucessor of the united Russian Church).

The source of the tension between ROCOR and OCA is that ROCOR says Moscow had no rightful authority to give away to the OCA. The source of tension between the Greek Archdiocese and OCA seems to be that they are both competing for the same prize of authority in the Americas. For this reason the territory grasping Ecumenical Patriarchate refuses to recognize the canonicity of the OCA. Many other Churches also do not recognize the canonicity of the OCA, but not all for these political reasons.

In spite of the various claims/accusations of uncanonicity, all the Orthodox bishops in America were invited to join SCOBA (except Moscow I believe since the MP presence in America was essentially replaced by the OCA). The ROCOR bishops declined to join when asked because of the heretical ecumenism they saw being expressed by other members.

At the time ROCOR declined to join, SCOBA did not pretend to be more than a Standing Council of Orthodox Bishops in America. Now, we see that some members view it as a developing hierarchical structure for an american church, and view all who are not members as schizmatic. SCOBA has become SCCOBA - a self-proclaimed entity that claims to represent all "canonical jurisdictions" (such jurisdiction's mere existance being against the canons!). This latter goal is, of course, anathema to the Synod of ROCOR which already exercises rightful authority in America. Unfor- tunately, as Doyle mentions, the disobedient "jurisdictions" refuse to return to a canonical relationship by submitting to the rightful authority.

(Adapted from a post made on Fri, 18 Oct 1996 to the "Orthodox Christianity" list by Deacon Mark Gilstrap)





Redeeming the Time

↑ Grab this Headline Animator





We confidently recommend our web service provider, Orthodox Internet Services: excellent personal customer service, a fast and reliable server, excellent spam filtering, and an easy to use comprehensive control panel.

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas