Questions about the OCA and the AOC

Greetings! I’m looking to clear up some info on the Orthodox Church in America and the American Orthodox Church. Both claim to have been established as autocephalous churches by Patriarch Tikhon (of the Moscow Patriarchate); however, why would he set up two competing autocephalous churches in the same region? I can understand if the Holy Synod set up one during the time when Tikhon was in prison and they thought he was dead, if this is so which one has primacy?

Also, since they appear to have the same mission statement (establishing orthodoxy in North America) have there been any talks about unification?

The OCA is the real one. I’ve never even heard of an American Orthodox Church (except as a hypothetical future church that would be created once we solve our jurisdictional issues here).

I’ve heard the phrase “American Orthodox Church” (caps due to all three being proper nouns rather than because it is a title) used to refer to the OCA. I’ve never heard of an organization claiming to be the “American Orthodox Church” (caps due to being a title).

I just typed “American Orthodox Church” into Google. The first link is to the OCA website, the second to the Wikipedia page on the OCA. The third, likely due to my location, was to the Canadian Archdiocese of the OCA’s website. Beyond that most were pages about the OCA or about Orthodoxy in America generally. No organizations with that name on the first page.

I checked my browser history and came up with the URL:

American Orthodox Church

This first page will go directly to an obit. Apparently Bishop +Harvey Beagle of of Wapato (Yakima), Washington died yesterday. May G_D keep him close.

Click on the Next button at the bottom of the page, and you go to the home page of the “American Orthodox Church and the North American Orthodox Church”.

I’ll let you suss out their authenticity, as I am but a heretic worshiping in an apostate church. :imsorry:

FWIW, on the OCA website ( in the History section, there is the “Tomos of Autocephaly” wherein the Moscow Patriarchate declares and confirms that: The Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America is confirmed and proclaimed an Autocephalous Church and named “The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America" This happened in 1970.

The AOC, on the other hand, is claiming to have to been established by Patriarch +Tikhon. The have whole pages dedicated to their lines of succession and canonicity, which arouses suspicion in me. I suspect that the confusion comes from the fact that the Tikhon had been imprisoned bye the Soviets and the Holy Synod had reason to believe he was dead, and so took action on their own. As I understand it when they found out he was still alive the managed to contact him and he confirmed the actions they had taken, and also created what became known as ROCOR, or Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, so that Russian Orthodoxy would not be beholden to the communists as the Greek Orthodox Church is to the Islamists in Istanbul (Constantinople). It’s possible that he also created the AOC at that time, but so far I can’t find any independent sources confirming that.

S’Mirem Bog!

Interesting, was unaware of them.

They aren’t a canonical body but appear to be one of the groups that arose out of the Bolshevik revolution and St. Tikhon’s granting of permission for the Church to break off communication (not Communion) with Moscow.

The OCA traces itself from the Russian Metropolis which existed in North America prior to the Bolshevik takeover. This group not so much.

You’re right though, excessive attempts to show apostolic succession are generally a hallmark of non-canonical groups. I’m pretty sure the OCA doesn’t make any attempts to show its apostolic succession back to St. Innocent on its website (and if it does it isn’t prominent), the first North American bishop and later Metropolitan of Moscow (and leader of the Russian Holy Synod). A legitimate Church just points to the diptychs of another Orthodox Church when asked.

Stupid me. I thought it was the ANTIOCHIAN Orthodox church being discussed. If any church can bring the Orthodox into one jurisdiction I would think it would be the OCA. They are the only American church that is (or claims to be Autocephelus).

But the other Orthodox churches in this country don’t accept that status. Maybe we are just condemned to have our separate jurisdictions forever?

Hopefully this Council in 2016 can clean up, or at the very least make inroads towards cleaning up, the mess of jurisdictions in North America.

The OCA has gone on record as saying it not only accepts the possibility, but expects to be disbanded when a new American Orthodox Church is formed.

I take it this council is separate from the one His Most Holiness Bartholomew mentioned that is hoped to occur in Nicea in 2025?

That’s not a council. It’s a celebration of the anniversary of the First Council of Nicea. The Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Churches has been in preparation for many years. Perhaps one day it will be declared ecumenical.

I just had a big misunderstanding of mine corrected. I just found an article in Catholic World Report from March of this year, The Fragile Promise of the Pan-Orthodox Council, about the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council in 2016. It had this statement about the Synaxis of the recent “planning sessions” for this upcoming council:

Finally, the signature of the Orthodox Church in America is also absent. This Church was granted autocephaly by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1970,* but that autocephaly is not recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the majority of other Orthodox Churches.***

So I take it that one of the issues to be discussed by the Council in 2016 is the organization and possible autocephaly of any American Orthodox Church? I can’t see them making an American Orthodox Church autonomous, since that would mean it would be subject to one of the autocephalous Churches.

Who knows what will be decided. This council has been in preparation for a very long time. If I had my preference I would hope all of the various jurisdictions in America would unite under the Ecumenical Patriarch until such time as the Church here is ready for autocephaly. Maybe sooner, maybe later.

I think ROCOR is out of any attempt of uniting into an American Orthodox Church

“During the discussion regarding the proposal to reorganize the Orthodox dioceses in North and Central America, the President of the Synod of Bishops stressed that the Russian Church Abroad is under the canonical authority of its dear and great Mother, the Russian Orthodox Church, and is obligated to minister to its multitude of devoted flock finding itself abroad and wishing to remain in her bosom. The members of the Synod of Bishops, agreeing with the opinion of their President, noted that Orthodoxy in America is not prepared for reorganization of Orthodox dioceses in America”

“Yet we can never deny, and indeed we heartily rejoice, in the fact that God has delivered unto this Synod a sacred charge to look after and care for, with special intensity, those of Russian heritage and descent, who find themselves “scattered abroad” to all the ends of the earth.”

“…and neither do we consider that the present situation of multiple Sister Churches tending to the diverse needs of the flock in the unique cultural situation of North America is, of itself, a violation of canonical order.”

I’m not going to guess at what they are going to decide. My hope is that we get a few autocephalous Churches out of it (Canada, US, Australia). To be honest though I don’t particularly care who my bishop is or what hierarchy he follows as long as he is Orthodox - Canonically and in belief. I joined the OCA because it had the only English speaking parish in my city.

I agree. I’ve been interested in this subject since I read an article in a secular newspaper some years back about the controversy in establishing what amounted to a national Orthodox church in North America. According to the article, there was a growing movement towards this because you had a growing number of couples where both sides were Orthodox, but one was (for example) Russian Orthodox and the other Greek Orthodox, and there were arguments over which church they should attend. America, Canada, and Australia all have this culture which encourages ethnicities and former nationalities to blend; when you have churches that serve specific ethnic or national groups that can leave such blended groups a bit on the outside.

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