Lutherans Write the Patriarch: How the “German Orthodox Church” Almost Happened

By Subdeacon Vincent Martini from the On Behalf of All blog

A century after the fall of the Roman empire to the Ottomans, a Greek deacon named Demetrius came in contact with Philipp Melanchthon, one of Luther’s closest collaborators and systematic theologians of the early Protestant Reformation (ca. AD 1558).

Like Luther, Melanchthon believed that their “reformed” faith — as a “peeling away” of the numerous developments and supposed abuses of the Latin Church over the centuries — would be virtually one and the same as the faith of the “Greeks” in the east. To that end, the leading “Lutheran” theologians of the day had their Augsburg Confession translated into Greek, and sent with their new-found friend in Demetrius back to the Patriarchate of Constantinople (ca. AD 1559). Melanchthon died the next year, and so his successors in the reformation movement were able to continue in the effort.

When the Patriarch (Joasaph II) received the letter, the doctrines within were seen as “embarrassing” and “heretical” by Orthodox standards (Ernst Benz, Wittenberg and Byzanz, pp. 73ff), and so no reply was given. It was believed at this time in history that it is better to “be friendly” by giving no reply (pretending that it was never received) than to reply with condemnation and no-doubt spoil any potential friendship with the Germans. Demetrius himself, having no reply to bring back to the Lutherans, journeyed to Transylvania where he eventually reposed. The first effort at both friendly contact and ecclesiastical fellowship between the Lutherans and the Orthodox came to an abrupt end.

In 1570, a German ambassador named David von Ungnad arrived at Constantinople, accompanied by a Lutheran theologian named Stephen Gerlach, and he became friends with the chief secretary of the new Patriarch, Jeremias II. Incidentally, Jeremias II is considered to be one of the greatest Patriarchs and theologians of the Patriarchate during the Ottoman captivity, and so the Lutherans were rather fortunate to have made contact with him. A Greek-speaking German named Martin Kraus (a.k.a. Crusius) from Tübingen was appointed by Gerlach to carry on a theological “dialogue” with Jeremias II.

A fresh Greek translation of the Augsburg Confession was made and sent to the Patriarch. A copy was also sent to the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, but it is not clear whether or not they ever received it (no reply was ever given). Along with the confession, the Lutherans included a personal statement to Jeremias II. They were confident that their beliefs were practically synonymous with those of the Greeks:

… Because of the distance between their countries there was some difference in their ceremonies, [but] the Patriarch would acknowledge that they had introduced no innovation into the principal things necessary for salvation; and that they embraced and preserved, as far as their understanding went, the faith that had been taught to them by the Apostles, the Prophets and the Holy Fathers, and was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Seven Councils and the Holy Scriptures. (Stephen Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity)

The immediate reaction of Jeremias II to the confession was not entirely unlike that of his predecessor Joasaph II, although this time it could not be ignored, with the Germans in Constantinople eagerly awaiting. In cooperation with the Synod of Constantinople (all bishops of the Patriarchate), the Patriarch sent a response on May 15, 1576, responding to each and every one of the 21 articles of the confession in great detail. As Runciman notes: “Jeremias replied to each in turn, stating wherein he agreed or disagreed with the doctrines contained in them. His comments are valuable, as they add up to a compendium of Orthodox theology at this date” (Ibid.).

In the first article, he agrees with the Lutherans on their reception of the (Nicene) Creed, but notes that the “double procession” of the Holy Spirit (the Filioque) is an unacceptable addition of the Latins. He “amplifies” the Lutheran interpretation of the Creed with twelve points related to the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc., and also appends a list of eight “cardinal virtues” alongside the “seven mortal sins.”

In the article on “Justification by Faith,” the Patriarch quotes from Saint Basil at length, emphasizing that “faith without works is dead,” that one should not “presume upon grace,” while also denying that some people are predestined to an unconditional election.

He spoke highly of the Lutheran understanding of the sacraments, but was careful to point out that there are “at least seven” sacraments alongside both baptism and the holy Eucharist. Jeremias largely agreed with the eighth and ninth articles, which spoke to “validity of sacraments” when administered by “evil priests” and the commendation of infant baptism.

In the tenth article, perhaps the most substantial area of disagreement was seen. Jeremias condemned the “Latin” tradition of using unleavened bread for the Eucharist, objected to the Lutheran removal of the epiclesis or “calling down” of the Holy Spirit in the Liturgy, and emphasized the “change” of the bread and the wine into the very body and blood of Christ (following the scriptures and Jesus’ own words), but not according to “matter,” as the Latins claimed (i.e. rejecting transubstantiation).

The Patriarch was in general agreement with articles eleven through fourteen, making statements of gentle correction and admonition throughout (objecting, for example, to a view of confession as a “judicial” tool, but rather for spiritual “healing”).

In the fifteenth article, another area of stark difference was found. The Lutheran ambivalence to the celebration of various feasts and commemorations was offensive to the Patriarch, and he quoted from the fathers and scriptures at length, showing these to be not only necessary but also of great spiritual value, calling them “lasting reminders of the life of Christ on earth and of the witness of the saints” (Ibid.).

Articles sixteen and seventeen drew little controversy, but the Patriarch noted in article eighteen (on “Free Will”) that the Lutheran understanding was incorrect, and that — following John Chrysostom, accompanied by a number of his own words — only those who are willing to “be saved” can do so. Salvation is not a “one off” event in time, but is a continuing relationship with Jesus Christ that lasts forever.

Jeremias agrees with the confession in article nineteen that God is not the cause of evil in the world, but on the twentieth article (dealing again with “faith and works”), Runciman notes:

The Patriarch agrees about the dual need for faith and works; but why, he asks, if the Lutherans really value good works, do they censure feasts and fasts, brotherhoods and monasteries? Are these not good deeds done in honor of God and in obedience to His commands? Is a fast not an act of self-discipline? Is not a monastic fraternity an expression of fellowship? Above all, is not the taking of monastic vows an attempt to carry out Christ’s demand that we should rid ourselves of our worldly entanglements?

The final article, on the invocation of saints, was also condemned by Jeremias, noting from scripture the propriety of doing so.

He concluded his reply to the Lutherans with a summary of five main “points”: the use of leavened bread in the Eucharist, the validity of both married and celibate clergy, the importance of the Liturgy, the necessity of the sacrament of repentance/confession for salvation, and a defense of the institution of monasteries and the ascetic ideal. He also included a few words of fatherly encouragement:

And so, most learned Germans, most beloved sons in Christ of Our Mediocrity, as you desire with wisdom and after great counsel and with your whole minds to join yourselves with us to what is the most holy Church of Christ, we, speaking like parents who love their children, gladly receive your charity and humanity into the bosom of our Mediocrity, if you are willing to follow with us the apostolic and synodical traditions and to subject yourselves to them. Then at last truly and sincerely one house will be built with us … and so out of two Churches God’s benevolence will make as it were one, and together we shall live until we are transferred to the heavenly fatherland.

His reply reached the theologians of Germany in 1576, and they worked diligently to reply to the Patriarch’s objections, making several clarifications on their viewpoints (especially as related to “Justification by Faith”), while standing firm on their beliefs regarding the existence of only two sacraments and the incorrectness of praying to reposed saints. Their response reached Jeremias in 1578, and the presence of Gerlach in Constantinople necessitated that he send another reply (which was done in May of 1579).

In this follow-up, Jeremias was less cordial than before, making it clear that unless the Lutherans peel away their innovations and fully accept the Orthodox-Catholic faith, they could not continue in dialogue or hope for ecclesiastical relations. A council of Lutheran scholars drafted a reply to Jeremias in the summer of 1580.

After Jeremias returned to office (for the second term), he eventually sent yet another letter to Tübingen in 1581. Resolute, he simply replied ”Go your own way, and do not send us further letters on doctrine but only letters written for the sake of friendship.”

The Lutherans stubbornly sent more clarifications and arguments to the Patriarch, but he never responded. The dialogue had come to an end.

Scripture and Tradition

If someone wants to be protected from tricks and remain healthy in the faith, he must confine his faith first to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and secondly to the Tradition of the Church. But someone may ask, is not the canon of Scripture sufficient for everything, and why should we add thereto the authority of Tradition? This is because not everyone understands the Scriptures in the same way, but one explains them this way and another that way, so that it is possible to get therefrom as many thoughts as there are heads. Therefore it is necessary to be guided by the understanding of the Church ... What is tradition? It is that which has been understood by everyone, everywhere and at all times ... that which you have received, and not that which you have thought up ... So then, our job is not to lead religion where we wish it to go, but to follow it where it leads, and not to give that which is our own to our heirs, but to guard that which has been given to us.

- St. Vincent of Lerins (died c. 445), "Notes of a Pilgrim"

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

From the Paredwka: Catching the Ball blog by Benjamin Harju
"You who are sinning, it is your responsibility to stop, become sorry, and return to God."
"You who have returned, God has led you away from your sins, brought you to repentance, and numbered you among His elect in Christ."
Wait, but didn't God decide before the foundation of the world which of us He was going to save?
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
"You who are sinning, God will hold you responsible for your sinful actions, unless you change your ways."
"You repentant in Christ, God alone has saved you apart from any work or merit on your part."
Wait, but didn't doesn't God alone ultimately decide who ends up turning away from sin, being repentant, and coming to Christ?
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
Wait! If God alone determines who will come to repentance, receive forgiveness, and be numbered among the elect - and man has no cooperation towards this end - then why is it my job to change myself? How can you tell me God will hold me accountable for my actions, if I have no way out of the condition that causes my actions except God chooses to release me from that cause? If I am bound, how can I be blamed for what binds me? If the only way to change depends solely on God, then why doesn't God change everyone?
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Those teachings are not being used in the right place, even though they describe our beliefs correctly. We are not supposed to tell people that their coming to faith and remaining in it depends solely on God, and that it has nothing to do with them, but only God's choice, EXCEPT when we are talking to current believers who need more reason to hope that they will be saved. You're not supposed to tell people this up front!"
Why? If God alone chooses who gets to be saved, and He alone makes it happen, then being up front about this belief can harm nothing. God's will shall still be done, right? So long as His Word and Sacraments are administered according to His command those whom He chose to be saved will be, and the others will not.
"It's not faithful to tell people up front that God alone has already decided who will believe, and which believers will remain in the faith until the end. You have to tell people this truth at the right time. Only once they've believed everything else we've taught can you tell them this. Then it's comforting. That's what God wants."
Really? So God doesn't want people to know that the seating in heaven and hell has already been assigned by Him before the world began?
"Now that's not fair! God does not choose who goes to hell from before the world began. All people are going to hell because of Adam and sin. God just chooses which of us He'll save. He only assigns the seating in heaven from before the world began."
So what about people who believe but fall away from the faith?
"That's their own fault. We always have freedom to reject God."
So God alone can cause a person to become a believer; people have no freedom in that. But a person does have the freedom to reject God?
"Yes."
So that means regarding those that fall away that God gives saving faith to some people, but He didn't provide them with the ability to persevere in the faith until the end. They relapse due to their own fault, and God's okay with that. He just lets them go. But He knew they were going to relapse, because He didn't plan for them to make it to the end in the first place. So why did He give them faith in the first place?
"It's a mystery."
Indeed. You said a mouthful. Maybe just so He could use them to help other people come to the faith, or something like that?
"Who knows. God can do what He likes. He's wiser than us."
I see. So unless God forces a person to believe, they will never believe. And if a person believes by God's power, they can still reject that, right?
"Right, except God doesn't force anyone. He just makes the unwilling willing."
What's the difference?
"To be forced is to do something against your will. God doesn't do that. He just changes our will entirely."
Really. You have a dazzling intellect.
"Wait till I get going! Mankind, due to sin, is an enemy of God, unable to receive the things of the Spirit. His will is at enmity with God. Not only is his will inclined to not believe in God, but it is hostile to God in spiritual matters. No human being could possibly believe in God, because deep inside he doesn't even like God! So God, through the Word and Sacraments, has to come upon a person and renew his will! Then a person can believe - no, wait -- then a person DOES believe! Fantastic, isn't it!"
It's really something. But tell me, if man's only hope is for God to fix his will so that he doesn't shluff off from Christ and end up in hell, why doesn't God just do that for everyone? If that's the only way, then why wouldn't God do this for everyone? Doesn't He want everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth?
"Yes, He does, but you forget that we have freedom to reject God."
Actually, no I didn't forget. According to your theory everyone is born rejecting God. It is God alone who changes that rejection into belief. He does this, according to you, based on a predetermined cosmic plan of election, in which God determined before a single human being existed which would end up saved out of all those destined for hell. And this plan is not changed on the fly, but is fulfilled according to God's purpose precisely. Ultimately if I am saved, God gets the credit for putting me on His list before any human being ever existed. And if I am not saved it is because God refrained from changing my will toward faith and causing me to remain steadfast until the end. Sure there is initial blame for man's condemnation with man (though maybe I'll ask you about that another time, since it doesn't seem fair to write off everyone just because their father sinned...), but since only God can save us, don't you think it would be great if He would?
"You are going beyond Scripture here. God's will is a mystery. He wants to save everyone, but doesn't. He doesn't have to explain it further."
That's not very nice. It makes God look like He doesn't care, but that maybe He's just using us as some kind of plaything. You don't believe in Limited Atonement, do you?
"Oh goodness, no! Yuck! We believe Christ died for the salvation from sin for all people, both those going to heaven and those going to hell."
But the only way for a person to be saved through Christ is if God wills it from eternity.
"You're taking it out of order again. We don't talk about that, except to a believer who needs to be comforted with a greater sense of security that he or she is going to heaven. It's more pastoral that way."
Pastoral? What's pastoral about taking something you believe to be absolute truth and hiding it from your parishioners, and only sharing it when they are emotionally vulnerable and more succeptible to believe whatever makes them feel better. Is that really what you call being pas-tor-al?
"That's not nice. I think you're putting the worst construction on that."
Am I?
"Yes. You just don't believe the Bible. All of this is from the Bible."
Actually, it's not. It's from a bunch of Europeans who came along 1400+ years after the New Testament was written. They couldn't see past the problems of the previous 200 years, so they re-read their Bibles and found all sorts of interesting new teachings that had never been recieved in the Church of Christ. This is one of them.
"You're way out of line now. The Bible is clear that our teaching is the truth."
Then why did we have to wait 1500+ years from the time of Christ for these teachings to be formulated?
"That's because --"
This is going on too long. Let me suggest an older interpretation that has been around as far back as we have records of Christian interpretation of Scripture, and that has always been believed everywhere by all people in the Church: God predestined salvation for the human race from before the foundation of the world. The whole human race is on His planned seating list in heaven. But not everyone is willing to come to the wedding feast. God desires all to come. God makes everything ready. His guests need only accept the invitation. Though He knows ahead of time who will come, versus who will reject Him, He makes the same preparations for all, because He loves all and wants all to come to the same end - blessedenss in His kingdom forever. Everyone has the same chance - He reaches all with the same powerful, grace-giving and illuminating call. But He forces no one, because He does not want slaves or pre-programmed robots, but sons and daughters. And it turns out that it is our own marriage feast that we are invited to enjoy. If we accept God brings us to the blessedness He has prepared. If we reject we will burn with the malcontents. It's that simple.
"Wait - I have one question for you: if a person has freedom to accept or reject (even if God helps him have the greatest possible chance to accept), doesn't that detract from the honor of Christ as our only Savior? Don't I become my own Savior?"
No, because Christ's honor does not lie our cosmic manipulation (as if we were robots to be programmed), but in the restoration of the human race to the family of God. The honor of Christ is that He corrects all that is askew with humanity in His incarnation, that He carries our personal sins to its end in His death, that He defangs death by sanctifying it with His own Life, and grants unto us life in a new creation of which He is the New Adam, and that He sends us the Holy Spirit to incorporate us into this mystery, that we may become one Body with Him, and remain with Him always. His honor is preserved for all time in the salvation established and offered to each person. But since He does not decide for us whether we will be saved or not, He leaves that to you. That's why the Scriptures everywhere appeal to us to do, to act, to believe, to change, to return, to accept. Those words are not clever codes for something else, but mean what they say. To will something, though, is not a work. A slave can will to be free, can will to not obey his master's wicked commands, can will all sorts of things - but never does the will translate in ability or power to the one who is bound. It is entirely free in its choosing, yet impotent and powerless in its ability. It is this way for the unconverted man. The only reward he receives is from willing evil, and the reward is pleasure from sin. Such a spiritually bound person can freely will to do the good, but lacking the power and ontological freedom to accomplish it he remains under the power of sin (i.e. he gets nowhere). Christ comes to the man in this bondage and offers release. In this situation the sinner's will is illumined and enboldened by Christ's powerful and very real offer. In this situation, due to the power and salvation of Christ, if he wills it the slave is set free, and becomes a son of the Kingdom. If we speak this way we give far more honor to Christ than we ever had before. Amen.

Can Four Solas be "Alone"?

Anonymous quote posted on the Ex occidente ad orientem blog:
One thing I find funny about the solas* is that if they are all "alone", why are there four of them?
* i.e., sola fide, sola, Scriptura, sola gratia, solo Christo.

Does the Rhine Flow into the Tiber, Bosphorus, or Both? An Interview with 2 Former Lutherans

From the Eastern Christian Books blog Dr. Adam DeVille

Last month I mentioned a new book written by two former Lutheran theologians, one of whom became Orthodox, the other Catholic: Mickey Mattox and A.G. Roeber, Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran Theological Conversation (Eerdmans, 2012), 336pp. This whole phenomenon of large numbers of former Protestants becoming Catholic and, more recently, Orthodox, has come in for increasing study in, e.g., Amy Slagle's The Eastern Church in the Spiritual Marketplace: American Conversions to Orthodox Christianity, which I reviewed here. Earlier works to treat the Eastward movement of Protestants include Peter Gilquist's Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith and his Coming Home: Why Protestant Clergy are Becoming Orthodox. Mattox and Roeber's book is not only new but quite unique, in my estimation, in at least two respects: it is written by two senior academics and scholars, and it does not focus exclusively on either Orthodoxy or Catholicism, but on both, offering a very helpfully comparative approach. I asked both authors for an interview about the book, and here are their thoughts:

 
AD: Tell us both a bit about your backgrounds and current interests.
A.Gregg ROEBER: I was born and raised Catholic, and studied for the priesthood before becoming Lutheran. By profession I am an early-modern historian who has published on a variety of topics involving both legal and religious history in North America, Europe, and, most recently, India.
Mickey MATTOX: I was baptized at age nine in the Southern Baptist faith, and count a number of Baptist ministers in my extended family. As a young adult, I was brought into the Lutheran tradition (Missouri Synod) through my wife’s family. Lutheranism eventually grew on me to the point where a pursued a career in Lutheran studies. After four years in the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, my work on Luther came to be informed not only by historical theology but also by ecumenical theology. In addition, I lead the program in Luther studies in a Catholic context at Marquette University.
AD: What led you to write this book in particular?
ROEBER: As we explain in detail in the preface, this came about while Mattox was the research professor in Strasbourg at the Ecumenical Institute and I was a guest presenting a paper on Orthodoxy and Lutheranism. Mattox was serving on the Orthodox-Lutheran International Commission and I suggested that the book would be a good project and he agreed—though in the interim he became Catholic and that caused us to re-think and re-write the book almost from scratch.
MATTOX: We initially had in mind to evaluate the nearness of Orthodoxy and Lutheranism after the revolution in Luther studies effected by Finnish scholars. To what extent have Lutherans and Orthodox come to agreement in the matter of justification/theosis? But we abandoned that question after we figured out that the world did not need another book in “convergence ecumenism.” After I became Catholic, however, it seemed to us that writing out of a shared Lutheran past and a separated Orthodox/Catholic present could offer a perspective that might be helpful to folks on all three sides of that divide.
AD: What do you see as some of the underlying causes for the doctrinal alterations of some Protestant traditions on questions such as sexual morality? Are these discrete issues or part of a larger pattern or problem?
ROEBER: Some would probably claim that the changes all point to the lack of authority, but I at least don’t quite see it that way. It’s true, of course, that without some kind of settled doctrine of who is in charge of articulating the sensus fidelium, Protestantism can get dragged this way and that on issues of sexuality and more besides. But it is also true that Protestantism historically tried to place marriage at the centre of the Christian life and yet the history of women’s roles in the Church within Protestantism led in more than a few cases to an overemphasis on obedience, subordination, and the like in cultures and places where women have become educated. In those places, there’s been a pretty severe backlash against a sometimes lopsided insistence on male authority with very little convincing theology on the role of mutual servanthood in marriage. If partnership and friendship are not to be found in this way of life, I suspect that some Protestants might conclude that people are likely to look elsewhere and that can mean multiple divorces and remarriages, or sexual activity outside marriage. None of those conclusions is very easy to reconcile with the historic positions of Protestantism on human sexuality and marriage but the “causes” are probably many, and can’t be boiled down to just one.
MATTOX: Well I’ve just read the manuscript of Gregg’s new book on marriage in Lutheran history and theology in the early modern period, and I think he really gets this one right in his remarks above. At the same time, I would want to draw attention, as we did in the book, to the distorting effects of consumerist culture of sovereign choice that prevails in the West now. I would hasten to add that we, too, are caught up in this culture, so I don’t want to point any figures that don’t ultimately point back at me as well. At the same time, I do believe that the Protestant capacity for an authentic ecclesial parsing of today’s questions about gender and sexuality is significantly impaired. The same is true, I would say, for both Catholics and Orthodox but to a lesser extent based on our relatively more solid grounding in Tradition and history.
AD: The former Lutheran Richard John Neuhaus, who became a Roman Catholic priest in 1991, wrote an article in First Things in January 1997 that greatly influenced me: "The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy."  There he argued that those trying to preserve "orthodox" doctrine and "catholic" sensibility in liturgy within Protestant traditions were fighting a losing battle. Only Orthodoxy and Catholicism, he argued, could guarantee orthodoxy and catholicity. What are your thoughts on this? Should various "continuing" movements within Anglicanism or Lutheranism abandon the fight and just become Orthodox or Catholic?
ROEBER: Well I think Mattox and I both clearly were part of the “evangelical catholic” part of Lutheranism and over and over again we saw pastors lose these battles since there is no broad consensus within any of the Protestant churches about letting the law of worship establish the law of faith—not as a set of propositions or dogmatic statements, but with the Eucharist at the very centre of the Church’s life. And in that sense, Father Richard was of course correct.
MATTOX: Ditto to Gregg’s remarks, but at the same time, though, I would express my reticence to endorse a general principle like that one. History has a way of surprising us all after all. Still I do agree that the trajectory of capitulation to cultural expectations within Protestantism is unmistakable. Is it also unstoppable? Only time will tell. I still pray for, and with, my many friends in the Lutheran tradition who struggle to retain their historic hold on the catholic faith. My decision for “individual conversion,” however, should be seen as an appeal for others to do the same, providing, of course, they can do so in good conscience.
AD: What has been the biggest surprise for you in entering the Catholic/Orthodox Church?
ROEBER: I suppose getting used to all the implications behind understanding God’s relationship to His creation and to the Orthodox teaching on sin, which holds that it is a sickness we’re being cured of and that the trampling down of death involves the renewal of the cosmos and can’t be reduced to “my” salvation alone. It’s in the liturgical life of the Church that one learns this more than from study in the usual sense. It takes time to see in the teaching of the iconographic tradition that the glory of God really is made manifest in humans who are fully alive and aware of that presence in themselves and in each person. Moreover, despite the appearance of rigid customs and practices, there’s a remarkable freedom that comes from the Orthodox reluctance to define or dogmatize unless forced to do so; and all of these surprises occur not, perhaps, in any particular order and depending on what one brings to the Orthodox faith.
MATTOX: I have been very pleasantly surprised by the open arms with which the Catholic faithful have received me as one of them. I am deeply grateful for that.
AD: I have numerous friends who have traveled out of Protestantism and then gotten stuck at the fork in the road: to Rome or to Constantinople? Is it possible to tell how you each answered that question—or is it the sort of thing, as Cardinal Newman famously said, that cannot be answered “between the soup and the fish”?
ROEBER: That is too long and difficult a question to answer briefly—indeed it’s what the book is about. For myself, I had already suffered a crisis of faith in Catholicism so Orthodoxy was quite simply the only option.
MATTOX: I agree with Gregg. The book is our answer to that question of how the two of us, when we were at those very crossroads, decided for different paths. I am struck, however, by how very much we will have in common, and how united we are in pursuing the unity of the Catholic and Orthodox tradition. My own decision for Catholicism reflects perhaps most fundamentally my deeply Augustinian of the shape of the Christian pilgrimage.
AD: When I was thinking about becoming Catholic, I talked to Stanley Hauerwas about it, and he raised a question I could not answer satisfactorily: would not such a move still be predicated on the notion of the autonomy and authority of the individual ("choice") to decide matters of truth, the very problem, on a larger scale, that some see bedeviling Protestantism in general? How would you tackle that question?
ROEBER: Yes, of course, there’s an individual accountability for choosing, but both of us have emphasized that we did so with an acute sense of our responsibility for our spouses and children, and I’d have to add that the example of others who had chosen likewise suggested—to both of us, I think—that this was not a move that we were making alone: we were part of a much larger pattern of choices being made by other Christians struggling to be faithful.

MATTOX: Okay, now I’m really glad I let Gregg answer first. I agree with him completely that this was anything but the last gasp of autonomous ecclesial individualism. I reject that criticism utterly as a dodge that seems to have as its point simply to render such a move impossible, out of bounds. For my own part, I well know the long history of conversions out of Protestantism and into Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and I was inspired by their examples and courage. Notably, the conversions of two noted Lutherans, Reinhard Hütter and Bruce Marshall, just prior to my own conversion, were communally validating decisions that stiffened my own resolve to just go ahead and do the right thing, and figure the rest out afterwards. I would also say, paraphrasing Augustine a bit, that I would not have come into full communion if the Catholic Church had not moved me by its authority.
AD: Some Catholic observers (e.g., Aidan Nichols) have said for some time that the ecumenical dialogue that must have pride of place for Catholics is that with Orthodoxy because both churches are already very close to one another and this dialogue is the one with the greatest prospect of actual unity. In other words, the prospect of unity between Catholicism or Orthodoxy on the one hand, and mainline Protestants on the other, recedes further into the future every year. What are your thoughts on that?
ROEBER: Our book does I think pretty clearly indicate that Orthodox-Catholic dialogue is the pressing issue and that’s where the attention of both is focused internationally and in particular countries. But it would not be accurate to suggest that these two parties are in fact “close” or that resolution of schism is imminent. The problems are acute, and there are different strains within both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches who would emphasize pessimism or indifference on the one hand, and optimism on the other.
MATTOX: That’s correct. At the same time, I think both Gregg and I are much heartened by the work of the dialogue commissions, and of scholars like you and Olivier Clément in trying to press the discussion forward. In the course of writing this book, Gregg reminded me that the authority of the Church at Rome was originally built upon its prestige as the Church in which the two great martyrs, Peter and Paul, had shed their blood for the cause of Christ. With that reality in mind, we are both hopeful at the prospects for an ecclesial reunion in the future that the Spirit may give, one that will bring change of a certain sort to all sides.
AD: In an article published in 2000, John Erickson, then-dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary, spoke of some of his students from Eastern Europe who said "when the Soviet Union existed we had to be ecumenical. Now we can be Orthodox." What is behind the hostility towards ecumenism (the "pan-heresy") on the part of some Orthodox today, including those here in North America who never lived in Soviet lands, and also those on Mt. Athos?
ROEBER: The Orthodox in Eastern Europe or the Middle East have historically been on the receiving end of economic and ecclesial pressure and proselytizing for a long time, and their suspicions with regard to Rome tend to run deep. Numerically, of course, the Orthodox in North America are a tiny minority compared to the huge numbers (at least on paper) of Catholics, so a sometimes irrational fear of being overrun tends to make some voices in Orthodoxy sound a bit hysterical. By “pan-heresy,” of course, what the Orthodox mean is the kind of soft ecumenism that tends toward dismissing the hard questions that have divided the Churches and encouraged the notion that the Churches are after all pretty much the same. That there are different ecclesiologies in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches has to be taken seriously, and that has happened to such an extent that both sides do recognize that papal primacy is “the” issue that has to be resolved before the schism has a chance of being healed.
AD: The late Pope John Paul II pushed so hard for Christian unity, above all in Ut Unum Sint, and some have have said that at the end of his life his greatest regret was not seeing full unity with Orthodoxy. Do you think that such full unity between Catholics and Orthodox is a realistic prospect this century?
ROEBER: Probably not since the Orthodox have stated repeatedly that while they need to re-examine their own understanding of primacy and get clear on just what that means (and it means a lot more than a tip of the ha toward a particular patriarch), the biggest change is the one facing Rome—so much will depend on both sides continuing to be clear and consistent about what they mean by the word “primacy.”
MATTOX: Well, I would point to universal papal jurisdiction as the crucial issue. About that I think there is reason to hope for a significant rapprochement between East and West. What the next century brings in Catholic-Orthodox unity, however, may depend more on what grave challenges the future holds in store for the Christian faith. Nothing is more unifying for the Church than external hostility and persecution. I’m not pretending to have a crystal ball here, but the way the Lord leads us into unity may involve the cross and suffering in imitation of His own path.
AD: Most responsible theologians today say that major obstacles to Orthodox-Catholic unity (e.g., the filioque) have either been resolved or are no longer regarded as church-dividing. The only major obstacle left is the papacy, which I address in my own book, Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity (Notre Dame, 2011). Some have said to me that I'm too optimistic and that there are all kinds of problems still to be worked out. What are your thoughts on this?
ROEBER: That your book was ingenious, a work of love, and that you should be congratulated—but, yes, that your proposed solution is too optimistic!
MATTOX: I believe that your work was just the kind of courageous exploration and proposal required to press the conversation forward between Catholics and Orthodox. Speaking more or less off the cuff, it seems to me that papal infallibility in terms of ultimate authority in doctrinal decisions will prove less a barrier to unity than papal jurisdiction. As Brian Daley and Susan Wood have argued, papal primacy has to mean something more than a primacy of honor. How far it may prove possible for Orthodox to embrace papal involvement in the affairs of the patriarchates, and how far the Catholic Church will be willing to develop its own tradition and understanding of the papacy in a consensual direction remains to be seen. I do think good will on all sides and hard theological work coupled with a spirit of genuine repentance holds out hope for real progress.
AD: Thank you very much. Sum up briefly, if you would, your hopes for your book and what you were trying to convey:
ROEBER: That Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, and other Christians will learn a good deal more about each of the traditions that they thought they knew and move beyond trite and easy mischaracterizations of each other admitting both what is good and what needs to be the subject of continued repentance and growth toward the unity that is demanded by Christ, the head of the Church.
MATTOX: All of the above. Plus, I’d like Martin Luther to become a meaningful conversation-partner, not just a convenient foil, for both Catholic and Orthodox theology today.

Response to A Lutheran Looks at ... Eastern Orthodoxy, Part I

From the Paredwka: Catching the Ball blog by Benjamin Harju

A friend of mine from Facebook asked me to read Robert J. Koester's book A Lutheran Looks at ... Eastern Orthodoxy (Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 2012) and give it a review from an Orthodox perspective. Specifically he would like me to determine if the book accurately describes Eastern Orthodoxy, as opposed to what many may think Eastern Orthodox Christians believe.

The book is divided into three Sections:
1.History
2.Teachings
3.Impressions
In this first part I will review the entirety of Part 1: History.

The Book's Platform

First, though, I would like to quote the stated purpose of the book series "A Lutheran Looks at..." according to what is written on the back cover of the book.
A Lutheran Looks at ... series provides a confessional Lutheran perspective on the teachings and practices of other denominations. The authors all subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and conduct their evaluation on that basis. Their clear analysis, with gospel emphasis, will help you understand friends or relatives who belong to other denominations and will prepare you to better share your faith with them.
So I will try to keep in perspective that this book is written from a Lutheran perspective. However, it must be pointed out that even among those calling themselves "confessional Lutherans" there is a bit of variation when it comes to evaluating early and medieval history. The author of this book, Robert Koester, is only one voice out of many. He is an editor of the WELS Northwestern Publishing House, a former parish pastor, and an author of books and Bible studies from the WELS perspective. This book reflects that association, which members of the LCMS and ELS may find uncomfortable at times (or may not).

Part I: History

This Section is divided into four Chapters:
1. How the Orthodox Church Began
2. The Great Division
3. Russian Orthodoxy
4. Orthodoxy Today
Each section is begun with a first-hand account of the author's visit to an Orthodox Christian parish in his local area. Then he proceeds into the chapter's topic.

Right away it should be pointed out that the author is visiting churches that are not necessarily Eastern Orthodox. In Chapter 1 he visits an Armenian church. He mixes in Oriental Orthodox (like the Armenians) and Eastern Orthodox in his book, despite the title's focus on "Eastern Orthodoxy." What this means is that, even though the title of the book focuses on "Eastern" Orthodoxy, really the Oriental Orthodox are part of that focus. So the book actually deals with a general Orthodoxy [or Eastern Christianity - ed.].

Generally, Chapter 1 (How the Orthodox Church Began) is good. Much of his material is familiar, most likely taken from books I myself have read (some of the phraseology matches). It's a nice, simplified account of early Church history for the average layperson.

It should be pointed out that at times the author not only relates objective data but also mixes in his opinions rather than reserving his judgments to a separate section in the chapter. So, for instance, instead of simply describing the relation of the church to the state in this chapter he first tells the reader that the relationship is unhealthy (p.6). This issue intensifies a great deal once we get into the chapters about Teachings. The concern I wish to raise at the outset is that the author makes judgments for the reader without always providing enough information for the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. This is not a scholarly book, but a book of data mixed with strong opinions and personal reflections. The opinions are presented as if they were facts in and of themselves, as if they should be accepted outright. I will try to limit my commentary to the author's representation of the data while ignoring as many opinions as I can.

The following areas are worth noting in terms of accuracy:

  • The author accurately identifies the Orthodox Church as the original Church. (Pages 3-4)
  • The author describes the rise of monasticism (viz. monks, monasteries, etc.) as coming from those seeking a higher level of spirituality. It might be better, since this is an Orthodox history, to say they wanted a more focused spirituality. Since monasticism is built on humility, prayer, faith, and love it is misleading to suggest it is about having a higher spirituality (which suggests superiority). The heights of spirituality in the early Church as well as in Orthodoxy today are available to the lay person in the world as well as the monk in isolation or in a monastery, because the spiritual life between the monk and layman are all about the same things. So in this case the author has misstated the point. (Pages 5-6)
Chapter 2 is a fair chapter, too. I disagree that the final nail in the coffin between the Western and Eastern churches was in 1453 when the Orthodox people rejected the union agreement made in Florence by their leadership. It is more accurate to say, as the author does later on, that the real break happened between 1054 and the fourth crusade when Western (Roman) Christians sacked the Eastern capitol of Constantinople. But for the average lay person this is a small issue. It's important to note, though, that usually the split between East and West is tied to the 1054 date.

In this chapter the author tries to explain the difference in approach between East and West, but seems to fail. He writes:

The Eastern Orthodox did not care as much about knowing the details of Christian doctrine (at least beyond the doctrines of the Trinity and Jesus' divine and human natures developed in the first four ecumenical councils) as they did about about experiencing the blessings of union with Christ and creating a heavenly worship experience. The West wanted to know what Scripture taught on all aspects of Christian teaching, which gave rise to debate, discussion and a heavy emphasis on teaching. (Page 20)
This gives the impression that the Orthodox are uninterested in the "details" of the Scriptures. The author seems completely unaware of the significance of the other three Ecumenical Councils, or the role the fathers of the Church play in the teaching and interpretation of Scripture. Perhaps the author is assuming too much because he does not see the intense obsession with defining everything under the theoretical microscope that characterizes the West. The Orthodox Church teaches what Scripture teaches on all counts, and continues to do so. This is one of the great values of the Councils and the Church Fathers and approved great teachers. Perhaps the author comes to this conclusion because he does not see in Orthodoxy the intense in-fighting that ultimately shattered Western Christendom into many factions.

In Orthodoxy a theologian is not one who thinks and defines and narrows, but is one who leads a holy life of repentance, faith, love, and prayer by God's Grace. How can one be fit to handle the divine teachings of our Lord if he or she has not first submitted to them and been transformed by them? A good theologian is one who is him- or herself transformed by Christ's teachings and kingdom, not an academic who comes up with clever questions. Really what is behind this mischaracterization of the East is a difference in methodology, not in goal. The West and East equally want to know God and be faithful to Him.

Orthodox teaching on Scripture is very thorough (consider great teachers like Irenaeus, John of Damascus, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, St. Symeon the New Theologian, and Maximos the Confessor to name a few). Perhaps it is that we have so many expounders of the holy Scriptures, and so many thorough presentations of divine truth that the author mistook these for relics of the past and not current movers and shakers in Orthodox theology that they are?

Chapter 3 focuses on Russian Orthodoxy. This chapter is decent. I like his impression of the mixture of formality and informality at the Orthodox Liturgy, because I have the same impression. The author spends an inordinate time relating the story of Avvakum, though he admits he does so from personal interest.

Chapter 4 focuses on Orthodoxy today. This chapter seemed relatively fine.

Overall the first four chapters are decent for a layperson to read. Since this is just history (i.e. neutral data) there should not be room for too much error when it comes to accurately representing Orthodoxy. Those areas which actually seemed to represent Orthodoxy inaccurately I have noted above.

Next time I will focus on Section Two, Chapter Five - The Meaning of Salvation: Theosis. This is where things get sticky.

Changing Churches in Milwaukee

Marquette University in Milwaukee is hosting the authors of Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran Theological Conversation (Eerdmans, 2012) for an event on March 8 from 3:30-5:00 at Straz Hall. 

"Co-authors Mattox and Roeber provide a theological account of their similar yet different decisions to leave the Lutheran Faith Tradition: one for Orthodoxy, the other Catholicism."

"Sharp controversies - about biblical authority, the ordination of women, evangelical "worship styles," and the struggle for homosexual "inclusion" - have rocked the Lutheran church in recent decades. In Changing Churches two men who once communed at the same Lutheran Eucharistic table explain their similar but different decisions to leave the Lutheran faith tradition - one for Orthodoxy, the other for Roman Catholicism.

Here Mickey L. Mattox and A. G. Roeber address the most difficult questions Protestants face when considering such a conversion, including views on justification, grace, divinization, the church and its authority, women and ministry, papal infallibility, the role of Mary, and homosexuality. They also discuss the long-standing ecumenical division between Rome and the Orthodox patriarchates, acknowledging the difficult issues that still confront those traditions from within and divide them from one another."

A. G. Roeber is Professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University and Mickey L. Mattox is Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University.

For more, see a flyer for the event here.

Brief Introduction to Orthodox Christianity in North America

From the website of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Stroudsburg, PA

We are a community of Orthodox Christians struggling to 'work out our own salvation with fear and trembling' (cf. Philippians 2:12).  We are Greeks, Cypriots and non-Greeks; American converts to the Orthodox Christian faith and our children; immigrants from various nations and our children and grandchildren. [Obviously, "Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Arab, Georgian", etc. would be added in other parishes. - Ed.] 

We live, teach and worship according to the traditions (cf. II Thessalonians 2:15) of the ancient, apostolic churches of the eastern Mediterranean evangelized by the Apostles in the first century AD, as documented in the New Testament book of The Acts of the Apostles.  

We worship in both Greek and English:

  • Greek (the ancient world's lingua franca or 'common tongue'), to preserve and celebrate the language of the Septuagint Old Testament and the New Testament, the Church’s Ecumenical Councils and many of her theologians and saints, as well as the immigrant founders of this parish; and
  • English (the lingua franca or 'common tongue' of this parish, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, the diverse peoples of North America, and the world today), in obedience to the biblical commands to “pray with understanding” and to “teach all nations” (1 Corinthians 14:15, Matthew 28:19).

  • [Positive reasons to continue using Old Church Slavonic, Old Church Bulgarian, Romanian, Arabic, Georgian, etc. can be multiplied, as well. - Ed.]
Our parish was founded in 1979 and dedicated to the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (see below).  We are under the authority of our American-born bishop, His Eminence, Metropolitan Savas (Zembillas) of Pittsburgh.  Our diocese, the Metropolis of Pittsburgh, is an integral part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which is a provincial synod (eparchy) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople based in the modern-day city of Istanbul, Turkey. 

(Constantinople
also named "New Rome" was founded in 324 AD by the Emperor St. Constantine the Great on the site of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium as the new, Christian capital of the Roman Empire. This Christian Roman Empire endured in the East until its capital fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 AD – long after 'Old Rome' and the western Roman Empire had fallen.) 

Mission Statement

“The mission of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America” – and therefore the mission of Holy Cross in Stroudsburg – “is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, to teach and spread the Orthodox Christian Faith, to energize, cultivate, and guide the life of the Church in the United States of America according to the Orthodox Christian Faith and Tradition.”



“The Greek Orthodox Church in America sanctifies the faithful through divine worship, especially the Holy Eucharist and other Sacraments, building the spiritual and ethical life of the faithful in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, the doctrines and canons of the Ecumenical and local Councils, the canons of the Holy Apostles and the Fathers of the Church and of all other Councils recognized by the Orthodox Church.”

  Our mission is to serve “as a beacon, carrier, and witness of the message of Christ to all persons who live in the United States of America, through divine worship, preaching, teaching, and living of the Orthodox Christian Faith.”


Our Parish Feast: The Exaltation of the Cross

Our church is dedicated to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross (September 14), which commemorates the rediscovery of the wood of the Cross upon which the God-man, Jesus Christ, was crucified....

The Orthodox Church


Our parish, the Metropolis of Pittsburgh, the Greek Archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate are in full communion with the ancient, apostolic Orthodox Christian Churches of Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch (Syria and Lebanon), Jerusalem (Israel/Palestine), Greece, Cyprus, and the Republic of Georgia, as well as their missionary 'daughter churches' in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Albania, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Alaska and North America (the 'Orthodox Church in America'), Japan, and with communities in Western Europe, Australia, the Americas, Africa and Asia.  The Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian communion in the world behind the Roman Catholic church and ahead of the Lutheran and Anglican churches none of which are in communion with the Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox Church today, numbering over 250 million faithful worldwide, is a communion of self-governing Churches, each administratively independent of the other, but united by a common faith and spirituality. Their underlying unity is based on identity of doctrines, sacramental life and worship, which distinguishes Orthodox Christianity.  All local Orthodox Churches share full communion with each other, and they recognize the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as primus inter pares, their 'first among equals'. The living tradition of the Church is expressed through the gathering of the entire Orthodox episcopate in council, as the need arises. Except in extraordinary circumstances, the internal life of each independent Church is administered by the bishops of that particular Church. In addition, the Orthodox Church believes in the universal priesthood of all its faithful, i.e., the laity share in the responsibility to preserve and propagate the Christian faith and Church (see the 1848 Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, A Reply to the Epistle of Pope Pius IX, "to the Easterns".)

Orthodox Christianity in North America



Before the establishment of a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America there were numerous communities of Orthodox Christians in North America from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, e.g., Greeks, Russians, Arabs, Serbs, Native Alaskans, even Colonial American converts.

In 1794, a small group of Russian missionaries, including St. Herman and St. Juvenaly,
arrived in Russian Alaska to serve Russian workers and to bring the Orthodox Christian faith to the Native Alaskans (Aleut, Alutiiq, Tlingit, Yup'ik, Eskimo and Athabascan Indian), most of whom remain Orthodox to this day (see M. Oleksa, Orthodox Alaska and Alaskan Missionary Spirituality).

Following the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867 and under the authority of the Church of Russia's bishops in the New World, parishes were established beyond Alaska in San Francisco, New York City, New Orleans, and throughout North America as Eastern Rite Catholics in communion with Rome converted back to the Orthodox faith (see the life of St. Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre & Minneapolis) and as Orthodox Christian immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East arrived in the New World.  Among the leaders of the Orthodox Church in North America at this time were Sts. Innocent of Moscow (then priest and bishop in Alaska), the Russian-Aleut priest Jacob of Alaska, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow (then Archbishop in New York), the Arab bishop Raphael of Brooklyn, as well as Alexander Hotovitsky and John Kochurov who labored in New York and Chicago, respectively.  Links to these and other saints' lives may be found here.

History records that on June 26, 1768 the first Greek immigrants landed at St. Augustine, FL.  The first specifically
Greek Orthodox parish in North America was, in fact, a multiethnic parish of Greeks and Slavs established in New Orleans in the 1860s under the loose jurisdiction of the Church of Greece and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The first Greek Orthodox parish in North America under the Ecumenical Patriarchate was Annunciation parish in New York City, founded in January 1894 as an offshoot from the first Greek Orthodox church in New York (Holy Trinity, January 1892.)  The first priest of Holy Trinity in New York, Fr. Paisios Ferentinos, had been sent by the Archbishop of Athens (Church of Greece), apparently in consultation with the Ecumenical Patriarch.  What is now the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York is today the seat of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America (under the Ecumenical Patriarch).  (For more on early Greek Orthodox history in the United States, see posts by Matthew Namee here, here, here and here, among others on the site.)

Especially following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the various Orthodox immigrant communities in America sent home to the Old World for priests and bishops.  This led to the creation of various 'ethnic' jurisdictions (church bodies) of Orthodox Christians in North America – all of whom were and remain in full communion with one another.  The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America -
the largest single Orthodox 'jurisdiction' in the United States - was incorporated in 1921 and officially recognized by the State of New York in 1922.  Today, all canonical Eastern Orthodox bishops in America are members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, the successor body to the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and its ministries.

According to the 2010 Census of Orthodox Christians in the United States by Alexei Krindatch for SCOBA, and completed as a part of the national 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, there are just over 1 million adherents of the various Orthodox Christian churches in the United States. (This figure includes 227,000 members of the so-called Oriental Orthodox Christian Churches such as the Coptic, Armenian, Jacobite Syrian, Assyrian, and Malankara Indian Orthodox churches that are not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church or any other Christian church.)  Orthodox Christians in America worship in 2,380 local parishes belonging to 20 different national Orthodox Church bodies (including six Oriental Orthodox church bodies).  Orthodox Christians live and have churches in all 50 US states. Almost half (48%) of all Orthodox Church members live in just five states: California (14.5%), New York (13.5%), Illinois (7.2%), New Jersey (6.9%) and Massachusetts (5.9%).; and five states have the largest number of Orthodox parishes, i.e., California (254), Pennsylvania (249), New York (240), Florida (136) and New Jersey (128).  In addition, there are 78 typically small, Orthodox Christian monastic communities in the U.S. (41 male, 37 female), the oldest of which is the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk in South Canaan, PA and the largest of which is St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ.

See the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches (Boston: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2011), ed. Alexei Krindatch for more on Orthodox Christian demographics in North America today, and visit the website of the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA) for more on the history of Orthodox Christianity in North America.


The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America



Today the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is composed of an Archdiocesan District (New York) and eight Metropolises (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and San Francisco). It is governed by the Archbishop and the Eparchial (provincial) Synod of Bishops. The Synod of Bishops is headed by the Archbishop and comprised of the Bishops who oversee the ministry of the Metropolises. It has all the authority and responsibility which the Church canons provide for a provincial synod.



There are 525 parishes, 20 monasteries, 800 priests, and just under 500,000 faithful in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.  The Archdiocese receives within its ranks and under its spiritual aegis and pastoral care Orthodox Christians, who either as individuals or as organized groups in Metropolises and Parishes have voluntarily come to it and which acknowledge the ecclesiastical and canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.


Mission Statement’, ‘The Orthodox Church’, and ‘The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’ are freely adapted from About the Archdiocese on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA).  The 'Reading' for the feast is courtesy Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA as posted on the website of the GOA.  Data from the "2010 U.S. Orthodox Christian Census" conducted by Alexei Krindatch and completed as a part of the national “Religious Congregations and Membership Study 2010” has also been incorporated, as well as information from SOCHA's OrthodoxHistory.org website.