Orthodox unify their various national churches?

Why do the Orthodox subdivide themselves based upon ethnicity? I know there are many historical reasons for this, but is there ever any thought of merging together two or more national churches, with a unified hierarchy and diocesan (eparchial) structure, and so on? I have in mind particularly the historical immigrant Orthodox rites in North America — why have a Greek, Antiochian, and Russian parish all in the same town, when instead they could merge into one large Orthodox parish?

The same would apply to Eastern Rite Catholics.

You’re right - especially in America, it is primarily historical reasons, and I suppose it’s really just the inertia of the past. “It’s always been that way.” I could have sworn I read somewhere that the various jurisdictions in the US were working towards joining up in the very early 1900s but then the communist revolutions blew that plan out of the water. Sadly, I think some of the mother churches now see their US outposts as a cash cow that can’t be given up.

I’m an American convert to Orthodoxy so I don’t have any of the baggage regarding the past. I long for the various churches in the US to join as one jurisdiction. While I don’t mean to imply the Church should be operated as a business, I think we duplicate a lot of efforts and could have so much more impact if we all weren’t spending money on the same things. And, frankly, I don’t think it’s a good witness to Christ having multiple overlapping jurisdictions here in the US.

I don’t worry so much on a parish by parish basis though. While there may be a few limited locations with an abundance of parishes, there are so few Orthodox spread so thinly around the country that the impact of combining parishes wouldn’t be that great.

Historically, Eastern Orthodoxy evolved into fairly independent patriarchies, with the concept that all Bishops are equal. In time each entity became independent along national lines, the latest example the split between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox. My understanding is they have no interest in unifying among themselves.

1 Like

Is there much immigration now to add to membership of Eastern churches?
I wonder if language is currently a reason for maintaining certain parishes distinct.
I also wonder about the trend for Orthodox as for everyone else to move to new regions of the US for enployment. Do they join some other Eastern church if there is none of their heritage?

1 Like

I think they go to whatever Orthodox church is available. I can say that the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) seems to be more pan-Orthodox — it has Russian origins but is by no means exclusively Russian.

Both the Antiochian and OCA Churches have a big convert base. The Antiochians had a huge influx of converts in the 80s I believe when the Evangelical Orthodox (protestant) joined them.

This is an interesting topic though and I think the same could be said for the various Eastern Catholic Churches of the Byzantine Rite anyway. Parma OH alone is a jurisdictional mess.

note: An Eastern Catholic or Orthodox can correct any of this is I am wrong, but this is my understanding.

@HomeschoolDad, You have a misconception that the Orthodox divide themselves based on ethnicity. Historically, Churches were divided based on geography and typically national boundaries. Of course, 1500 years ago, that would be pretty much the same as ethnicity. But, ideally, there would never be any Dioceses overlapping between rites. And the patriarchies and/or rites were then groupings of these dioceses. If an person immigrated across rites, for example a Greek moved to the west, then he would fall under that Latin Bishop. If there was a whole group of people who moved into a certain area, then the local Bishop could start a extra-territorial parish under their rite, but it would be part of the local bishop’s jurisdiction.

All of this plays into your other thread as to why not have a “English rite” church. The Anglicans are spread all over the world. The Church does not would not desire a whole parallel set of diocese and Bishops covering the same areas.

1 Like

The Orthodox Church in America was formed out of a diocese under the Patriarch in Moscow. It became self governing after 1917, when the Patriarch asked those outside of Russia to govern themselves, to avoid communist influences on the church in Moscow. It accepts any Orthodox individual, and does not emphasize any ethnicity other than American. (except in some parts…)

Some other Orthodox Churches recognize it as autocephalous, or independent, while others do not. And developments in the last 30 years have complicated things a little.

Gathering together all the Orthodox who live in one area, like OCA attempts, is not the same as merging autocephalous churches from throughout the world.

I was referring to the situation in North America.

Am I correct in understanding that in each historically Orthodox nation, there is only one hierarchy, and everyone who is Orthodox, regardless of ethnicity, goes to that particular Church? In other words, if there were a large Russian expatriate community in Greece (for instance), do they all go to the Greek church, or is there a separate Russian jurisdiction for them?

Ideally, if there was a large number in one place, the Greek Bishop would establish a church for the Russian rite (assuming they are two different rites). If the Russians and the Greeks share the same rite, then they would just go to the Greek Church. Of course a bishop could always establish a ethnic parish (similar to some Vietnemese parishes around here).

ETA:

Yes, except that is not just for the Orthodox, it is also for the Latin Church (there are separate rites).
Think back to the time of the early church, you had a church in each major city with a single bishop as its head. That’s the ideal. Rites are a separate issue (although obviously related and overlapped)

But it would be a Russian-speaking parish within the Church of Greece, is that right? As you note, that would be no different than national parishes in the United States (Vietnamese, Korean, etc.).

Not necessarily. The Greek Orthodox Church in the Middle East is made up mostly of Arabs, not Greeks.

The various Orthodox churches all share the same faith anyhow, so being united in one big Church isn’t really as important an issue for them as us Catholics. They care more that they’re united in faith.

1 Like

Same rite, but there are some variations. Style of chant is the biggie, but also slight variances in rubrics as well.

In some cases, to use this example, the Church of Greece may allow the Church of Russia to have a parish where there is a large Russian population in Greece. Perhaps a reasonable analogy would be that of an embassy. The Russian parish would be under a Russian hierarch, but on Greek territory. But there’s also no reason the Greek church couldn’t set up a parish that follows the Russian practice.

Yes, but it would be fall under the jurisdiction of the local Greek bishop. That is the key point.

In North America, the situation is a little abnormal because this is a country of immigrants - each nationality brought their native church with them (and their language, native saints, etc.), so now we have a Greek Orthodox “Archdiocese of America”, a “Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia”, etc. Normally this isn’t the case: each nation should have its own territorial church (one American church like one Greek or one Russian church).

We do have a small and fledgling “Orthodox Church in America” in communion with all the other Orthodox Churches, but it will take a lot of time and hashing-out to undo the situation that has built up over the last 300 years.

The OCA is the successor to the Russian Orthodox Church that was established in the United States. The ROCOR is a separate body that was formed after the 1917 Russian revolution. The mainline Russian Orthodox Church and ROCOR established communion a few years ago.

OCA is more pan-Orthodox than the other national Orthodox churches in the United States.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.