This is good news, because it represents closer cooperation of another “canonical” jurisdiction with the main grouping of other canonical jurisdictions.  Bishop MERCURIUS of Zaraisk, who administers around three dozen parishes in the U.S. – referred to sometimes as “the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA” – on behalf of the Patriarch of Moscow personally, has attended some SCOBA meetings in recent years as an observer.  AFAIK there has never been any question about the “canonicity” of the Patriarchal Parishes of the ROC in the USA (as they are also called) as such, ie, their Communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church, at least since Moscow and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) reconciled in 1970.  (Don’t ask me about before 1970 though; my history’s rusty.)

The PPs aren’t officially a diocese, but are under the personal jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, though as far as I can gather, they function almost like a diocese.  (There’s a similar cluster of parishes in Canada with its own administrator-bishop under the Patriarch.)  They were part of a rival diocese Moscow launched here, also called The Exarchate, after the OCA, then referred to as the Metropolia, declared temporary autonomy as a result of the Russian Revolution and Civil War through the 1920s and the disruptions it inflicted on the Patriarchate.  IOW, Moscow officially didn’t always recognize the Metropolia between the ’20s and ’70, although OCA histories point out that at least a couple times they continued to submit their newly-elected Primates to the Patriarchate for confirmation, and it confirmed them, sometimes years later.  After 1970, these were parishes that didn’t wish to be merged into the OCA right away, when Moscow assigned its canonical territory here to the OCA, and so it was agreed they wouldn’t have to, and that Moscow would only facilitate their integration into the OCA when each parish desires it.

To my knowledge, essentially only two other local canonical “jurisdictions” are not in SCOBA now, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR, aka ROC Abroad / ROCA) and that of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.  AFAIK there is no question about their Communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church, it’s just that SCOBA membership isn’t mandatory.

A word about SCOBA itself is in order.  The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas* actually is comprised ‘only’ of the 9 member-primates of certain jurisdictions headquartered in the U.S., and now also the PP administrator vicar-bishop, Mercurius (at this writing SCOBA hasn’t updated this page yet).  Jurisdictions themselves technically aren’t part of SCOBA, and neither are the other Bishops of jurisdictions with Primates in SCOBA, although SCOBA has organized so far three meetings of many of their other Bishops here, in Ligonier, Penna., in 1994; in Washington in 2001; and in Chicago two years ago.  SCOBA also sponsors several officially interjurisdictional ministries or organizations.  SCOBA is not a synod or jurisdiction, but a voluntary working-group for greater collaboration among Orthodox here, with an ultimate goal of jurisdictional unity of the Orthodox here.  There are (or perhaps have been) similar organizations in Australia, Germany, and France.  SCOBA has its critics: some say they’re going too slow towards Orthodox unity, others say they’re too involved with the Ecumenical Movement.  The Primates convene twice a year; this is interesting because according to ancient Orthodox Church Canons (rules), a local (provincial) synod of bishops is supposed to meet twice a year.

(*–“Americas,” I believe, because at the time the Greek Archdiocese of America was “of North and South America,” although today a couple other groups have some parishes in South America also.  But most Orthodox there are not part of SCOBA.)

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  1. The Moscow Patriarchate was an original member of SCOBA, and resigned when the OCA was granted autocephaly by that Patriarchate. At that time, since the OCA was then, according at least to the Moscow Patirarchate, “THE” Local American Orthodox Church, the MP promised it would NOT increase the number of parishes (or monasteries, convents, etc.) under its jurisdiction in North America, as that would be a violation of the “canonical territory” of the OCA. Also, all of the Patriarchal Parishes were to be turned over to the OCA withun a certain number of years. Both of these agreements seem to have been conveniently forgotten.
    The MP is playing a different tune nowadays, and that tune is called “protector of Russians no matter where they may be,” that is, the MP claims a right to open parishes ANYWHERE in the world where there are Russian emigres. Of course, if a large number of Greeks started moving into Russia, and the Greek Church tried to play the same tune, there would be a great protest made by the MP, and probably legislation in Russia making the opening of parishes under the Greek Church in Russia illegal.
    Be that as it may, I sincerely doubt that the MP’s interest in SCOBA has ANYTHING whatsoever to do with
    “an ultimate goal of jurisdictional unity of the Orthodox here.” Probably, it has to do more with the establishment of the principle that the MP has the right to “care” for Russians no matter which Church’s jurisdiction they find themselves living under. Also, the MP seems intent upon establishing itself as at least EQUAL, if not “superior” to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox World because of its superior numbers of faithful, parishes, Bishops, Monasteries, etc., as well as the “superior” powers of the Russian Government over the absolute lack of a civil authority that the EP may ask for protection, or furtherance of its interests.
    If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. May God’s WIll be done!

  2. Nicholas John's

    There are three other (metropolitan) dioceses of the Greek tradition under the Oecumenical Patriarchate in the “Americas”, (i)Toronto and All Canada (ii) Mexico and All Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and the Carribean(iii) Buenos Aires and All South America except for Colombia and Venezuela. They function separately under Constantinople though they co-operate with other jurisdictions, i.e., the Antiochians etc. It must remembered of course that all the Ukrainian bishops in the Americas ( as well as Western Europe and Australia and new Zealand are under Constantinople directly and have titular ancient sees, Eirinoupolis, Skopelos etc, except for the Ukrainians in Canada who is styled Archbishop of Winnipeg and Metropolitan of Canada. It would seem that SCOBA will end up having three Russian jurisdictions within it, a ridiculous situation if ever there was one…

  3. Nicholas John's

    Regarding M.Woerf’s most incisive comment on MP Russians claiming a “protectorate ” over all Russians everywhere and what if the Greeks who exist in Russia (and the Ukraine, for example Mariopol) were to be claimed by a Greek jurisdiction ! MP whose ecclesiastical imperialism is well established, since czarist days, follows the policy of what is mine and what is yours could be mine or will be one of these days. Their incursions into the Near East in the 19th century are well-known and estalbished by historians. Their Palestinian Society became notorious for its intrigues. Russia’s protecting mantle over the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman Sultan, though beneficial in some ways, had its sinister side. Their attempts to take over Holy Mount Athos in the late 19th century and the early 20th prior to the October Revolution is another sad chapter
    in the machinations of the caesorapist machinery developed by the Imperial establishment which took the Byzantine prototype and adulterated it beyond recognition. Pobedenotsev, the Imperial Procurator on the Russian Synod, enjoyed powers which the most militant Byzantine Emperors could not even dream of. Strangely enough, the expansionism of MP under Stalin into Central Europe, reminds one of western churches following in the trail of Colonial Powers in Africa in the 19th century. Witness the virtual confistation of Orthodox churches in Hungary by MP which it refuses to surrender now that the Stalist edifice has been dismantled.

  4. Nicholas John's

    I should apologise for the misprints in the two previous comments. Some words were misspelt due to my haste and poor reading glasses(!), they should read where they appear as “caesaropapist”, “established”, “confiscation” etc. Also, in the fourth line of the second comment, it should read” what is mine is mine and what is yours could be mine or will be mine one of these days”
    Finally in my first commentm it is implied when three o t h e r dioceses if the Greek tradition under the Oecumenical Patriarchate are mentioned that there are also of course the nine dioceses in the U.S.A., the primatial one in New York with several auxiliary bishops attached and the nine metropolitan ones.

  5. Leo Peter O'Filon

    Greetings, friends, and welcome, and thanks for your posts.

    M. Woerl, can you tell us more about that proviso that MP parishes join the OCA within a set number of years?, because it isn’t mentioned in the OCA’s own Autocephaly documentation at oca.org. Thanks.

    Also, readers should know that it is considered a truism that the MP contests certain or many aspects of Constantinople’s claimed or actual role(s) in the worldwide Orthodox Church on the basis of history or more recent developments; I haven’t made a study of it factually to know its exact nature or extent, although in a Church of semi-independent Patriarchates / Autocephalous Churches in Communion, this is frequently the case, both in Orthodoxy historically and in other churches. Also conflicts over exact ecclesiastical boundaries, “rights” or powers in special or interim situations, and so forth. Such “church politics” may or may not be theologically significant … and so I’d prefer to keep this blog from being dragged into them. 😉 But I will note that even a church with a central authority considered to possess universal, immediate jurisdiction, such as Catholicism, has its own brand of “church politics.” “Politics” seem to be a habit of organizations that include humans in them! Angels too, for that matter, at least once….

    Nicholas John’s, I should probably just clarify that some Ukrainian parishes / bishoprics / jurisdictions in “the Diaspora” are not part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and not considered part of “canonical Orthodoxy” at this time; though of course the ones you indicate are both. Some others are linked with the “Kiev Patriarchate,” the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” or other groups. And the KP and UAOC are the subject of ongoing efforts at resolving the split among Orthodox in Ukraine, involving the Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates.

    As for multiple jurisdictions of certain immigrant backgrounds under the SCOBA umbrella, also note that it includes 2 Albanian (one with C’ople and one with the OCA), 2 Bulgarian (one with the Patriarchate of Bulgaria and one with the OCA), and 2 Romanian (one with the Patriarchate of Romania and one with the OCA, although these two are the subject of the reunification talks I’ve covered in this blog). Division of these Orthodox countries’ emigrations into “parties,” if you will, was brought on by differing approaches to the problem of Communist rule in their countries, among other conflicts.

    To further complicate matters(!), IIUC the ‘mainline’ of the OCA, ie, of its territorial dioceses lacking ethnic adjectives, actually contains more people of Carpatho-Russian / Rusyn / Ruthenian / Lemko / Galician (today’s Poland) background than ethnic-Russian / Great Russian. These Rusyns are descendants of Ruthenian Eastern-Rite Catholics who returned to Orthodoxy between 1895 and 1920 under the leadership of St. Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre. The historic membership of the American Carpatho-Russian Diocese of the Constantinople Patriarchate represents descendants of Ruthenians who came back in the 1930s-40s, and chose to go with C’ople rather than their cousins in the Metropolia / OCA, over issues of adopted ethnic-Russian culture there.

    (The OCA’s Alaska diocese, called “Russian Orthodox,” is almost entirely Aboriginal in membership, incorporating I believe more than half of all Alaska Natives, ie, Aleuts, Inuit, and Indians. They use the term Russian Orthodox to indicate not their ethnic background — IIUC few of them actually have any ethnic-Russian ancestry, though many of them acquired Russian surnames through Russian godfathers of their ancestors — but their religious / spiritual heritage / tradition, as they were evangelized by the Patriarchate of Moscow. [Other Alaska Natives belong to Catholic, Presbyterian, Evangelical Quaker, and other churches … and some to none.])

    So the truism of division by ethnicity is only partly true in fact; there are also intra-ethnic issues. OTOH, North America’s Serbian jurisdiction represents the reunification of two of these ‘partisan’ groups, though they have not yet completely integrated, and continue to overlap each other, covering the same territory, ie, the US and Canada together.

    So Orthodoxy is not only The Church ‘in process’ temporally or across time, but for now in the Western world and sometimes in other fora of “church politics,” across space as well. But all these at this time recognize each other as members of each other in the one holy Catholic, Apostolic Church of Christ, and o/Orthodox.

    The “caesaropapism” you mention, of course, is a frequent Western slam against Orthodoxy, and so I will take this opportunity to point to its analogues in historical Western European “Established” Churches both Catholic and Protestant, often quite at the mercy of their secular rulers (in England it has customarily been referred to as Erastianism) … as well as “papocaesarism,” some Orthodox critics’ name for the historical Latin doctrine that the Bishop of Rome made and broke kings and emperors as a kind of Suzerain of Suzerains, as “Vicar of Christ” – a title ever denied by o/Orthodox Christians as t/Theologically erroneous and spiritually dangerous.




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