Thursday, February 01, 2007

Orthodoxy in America: Diaspora or Church?

This article by Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky reviews the history of Orthodox jurisdictionalism in North America and soberly acknowledges the perils and promise of a path ahead.

Worth reading. Again.

"The most common image of Orthodoxy in America is the image of immigrant communities, of parishes and dioceses gathered according to the organizing principle of cultural and linguistic heritages. Often, this is the view of Orthodoxy in America held in the patriarchates and "mother churches" of Europe and the Middle East. Often enough, this is the view of Orthodoxy held by the mass media in the United States and Canada. And it is all-too-common for many Orthodox Christians in America to see themselves in light of the "immigrant image."

As a result, any definition of Orthodoxy in America built on the "immigrant model" has more in common with sociological interpretations and cultural categories than it does with ecclesiology. This makes the question "Is Orthodoxy in America Diaspora or Church?" a relevant starting point for my paper on the Orthodox understanding of the Church in the American experience.

The historical origins of the Orthodox Church in North America are connected not to immigration but to mission and evangelization. In 1794 missionary monks from Valaam Monastery arrived on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The mission they inaugurated brought the Gospel of Christ to the native tribes of Alaska. At the center of their endeavor was the evangelization of the Alaskan peoples, and not the dissemination of Russian language and culture. Indeed, at the heart of the missionary approach of the monks from Valaam was a respect for the native cultures and customs and a desire to baptize what was legitimate and valid in the native cultural traditions.

Thus the first dimension of Orthodoxy in America was the apostolic dimension, a genuine missionary impulse to evangelize..."

Continue reading on the Orthodox Europe website by clicking here.