Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

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St. Andrew Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, New Jersey — headquarters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
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The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (UOC of USA) is a jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate) in the United States. It consists of three eparchies (dioceses), ruled by two diocesan bishops, including about 85 active parishes and missions. The Church's current leader is Metropolitan Antony. The Church's head offices and Consistory are based in South Bound Brook, New Jersey.

History[edit]

Autocephalous Church[edit]

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, large numbers of ethnic Ukrainian members of the Russian Orthodox Church and Greek-Catholic immigrants came to the United States, with many of the latter group converting to Orthodoxy after their immigration. Around 1915, a number of parishes organized themselves into an independent Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdiction in North America, finding guidance in a visiting Antiochian hierarch, Metropolitan Germanos (Shehadi), whose leadership was sought out particularly by Ukrainians who previously had been under the Russian Metropolia, which under its hierarch of the time, Alexander (Nemolovsky), did not regard Ukrainians as a separate ethnicity, but rather that "the Ukrainians are not a separate people nor a nation but only one of the Russian political parties". This was strange because Archbishop Alexander was from the Ukrainian region of Volyn.

Eventually, a petition was sent in 1923 to the newly formed Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), a jurisdiction formed in the aftermath of Ukrainian independence in 1918, but which has never enjoyed canonical recognition in mainstream Orthodoxy.

The UAOC sent Metropolitan John (Teodorovych) in 1924 to head an American-Canadian diocese, arriving amid questions about the validity of his consecration, given that he had been ordained by UAOC bishops, whose consecrations were unrecognized by the mainstream of the Orthodox Church. Metropolitan John had great success in organizing parishes, due to his considerable administrative skill and his insistence on the liturgical use of Ukrainian (rather than Church Slavonic or English) as well as other Ukrainian cultural identifiers. In the aftermath of Ukrainian independence, Ukrainian self-awareness grew, and so an emphasis on Ukrainian identity was welcome by those who gathered under Metropolitan John. Metropolitan John's diocese was called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Several years later, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America was formed as an organization of former Greek-Catholic parishes who had disagreed with the Vatican over the issue of parish property ownership and enforced clerical celibacy. On April 9, 1929, a meeting of 15 clergy and 24 laity was held in Allentown, Pennsylvania, at St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church, in which those attending agreed to form a diocese of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians, however, unlike those in the UOC of USA who had affiliated themselves with the UAOC, they wished to be part of a recognized canonical authority.

Another meeting of the UOC in USA took place in New York City two years later, at which Fr. Joseph (Zuk) was nominated to become their bishop. He was ordained in September 1932 to be the bishop of this new group, becoming an auxiliary of Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, the primate of the American Orthodox Catholic Church (an early attempt at an autocephalous church in America by the Russian Metropolia). Bishop Joseph died two years later, and in 1937, through the leadership of Joseph's successor, Bohdan (Spylka), the diocese was received into the Ecumenical Patriarchate by Archbishop Athenagoras (Spyrou) (then head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and later Ecumenical Patriarch), who ordained Bohdan in New York City. Bishop Bohdan at one point had rule over around 45 parishes, also having some initial success in attracting parishes away from the UOC of the USA, due to his more moderate views.

During and after World War II, Ukrainian Orthodoxy in America changed significantly. A number of bishops came over from Europe who had been connected either with the UAOC, the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (another canonically unrecognized group), or the autocephalous Church of Poland (then unrecognized by Moscow, but recognized by Constantinople). These bishops tended to prefer Metropolitan John's organization over that of Bishop Bohdan, contributing to the growth of the former's ranks to around 80 parishes, while the latter could claim perhaps only around two dozen.

Seraphim Surrency writes:

Bishop Bohdan, with what backing the Greeks could give him, which was mostly moral and very little financial, continued to give some competition to the organization of Teodorovich, now commonly called the "Ukrainian Metropolia", but it was a losing battle. In addition to the administrative ineptitude of Bishop Bohdan, his very moderation in matters Ukrainian seemed to work against him. Bp Bohdan did succeed in attracting some Americans who were interested in Orthodoxy and most in ordination. Bp Bohdan ordained over a dozen native converts to the Orthodox priesthood without requiring any theological education and as might be expected the results were disastrous (an exception was Fr. Dimitry Royster who later transferred his allegiance to the Russian Metropolia and was consecrated Bishop in 1969) (p. 113).

In 1942, when persecution of the Church in Ukraine eased under the German occupation, a number of bishops were consecrated for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church there. One of these bishops, Archbishop Mstyslav (Skrypnyk), emigrated to Canada in 1948 to head the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. In 1949, however, he moved to the U.S. and joined Bishop Bohdan's group. After Archbishop Mstyslav's departure from Canada (after a disagreement with the Canadian Church's governance), the Canadian Church was headed by Metropolitan Hilarion (Ohienko). Mstyslav desired the unity of the two jurisdictions and worked to reconcile the two churches and convince Metropolitan John to accept re-consecration as a condition for union.

In 1949, Metropolitan John (Teodorovych) was re-consecrated privately, thus ending some of the questions regarding his previous consecration and attracting a number of the parishes of Bishop Bohdan into his flock. Despite becoming the largest Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdiction in the United States at this point, the diocese however was still not recognized as canonical by the rest of the Orthodox Church, and the hierarchs who re-consecrated John (Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) and Christopher (Contogeorge), exarch for the Patriarchate of Alexandria)) were themselves considered dubious by some.[citation needed]

In 1950, the two rival jurisdictions held synods (in the same cathedral in New York) at which unification was approved by both, and on October 13, a combined unification synod was held, with both groups signing onto union. A number of clergy and parishes under Bishop Bohdan were unconvinced of the sincerity of the "UOC of USA" group, however, and convinced him to reject the union. Union was proclaimed, but it was not complete, lacking the support of Bishop Bohdan and those who had convinced him to remain separate. Archbishop Mstyslav joined the new united church - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, along with a number of Bishop Bohdan's parishes, and the union was celebrated on October 14 by those who participated.

In 1958, at the twentieth anniversary celebration in Allentown of the consecration of Bishop Bohdan during a Sobor of the "UOC in America" elevated him to the status of Metropolitan and elected three candidates for consecration to the episcopacy to assist him (in Canada, Western Europe, and England). Constantinople did not, however, recognize the elevation or agree to the consecration of the candidates elected by the Sobor. After 1957, Metropolitan Bohdan became less and less active, due mainly to advancing age, all the while continuing to lose parishes to the UAOC. He died on November 1, 1965, leaving no successor.

After the death of Metropolitan Bohdan, the Greek episcopacy resident in North America attempted to promote unity between the different Ukrainian factions, but met with failure. Eventually, Fr. Andrew (Kuschak) was elected by six parishes of the UOC in America and consecrated to the episcopacy on January 28, 1967, by Archbishop Iakovos (Coucouzis) and other bishops of the Greek Archdiocese. Bishop Andrew then ruled about a dozen parishes.

Metropolitan John fell asleep in the Lord in 1971 and was succeeded in 1972 by Archbishop Mstyslav, who served as head of the church until his death in 1993.

In 1989, just prior to Ukraine regaining independence, a group of parishes formerly with the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine reformed the Ukrainian Autochephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and in 1990 the UAOC elected Mstyslav the first modern Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine.

Mstyslav died three years after his election as Patriarch, His death was followed by an enormous division of the UOC in Ukraine, and in the United States. He was buried in a crypt under St. Andrew's Memorial church in South Bound Brook, USA. After the death of Patriarch Mstyslav, on October 20, 1993 Volodymr (Romaniuk), at that time was the Metropolitan of Chernigov was elected Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine. Archbishop Antony was also present at the local council as he was a candidate for the position of Patriarch as well.

Archdiocese of Ecumenical Patriarchate[edit]

In 1994 the Hierarchs of the UOC-USA met with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul and entered an agreement renouncing autocephaly and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyivan-Patriarchate and made the church in the United States an archidocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. On March 12, 1995, the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA were formally received into the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In November 1996, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America (under Constantinople since 1937) were united under Metropolitan Constantine, who also headed the Central Eparchy of the Church. Bishop Vsevolod was elevated to Archbishop and headed the Western Eparchy of the Church. Archbishop Antony heads the Eastern Eparchy, and is the Consistory President. One of the conditions of being received into the Eccumenical Patriarchate was for the UOC-USA to renounce the autocephally of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and as a result, there are no ties with any of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in Ukraine except the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate, which is the only church in Ukraine that is canonically recognized by the UOC-USA.

In October 2007 during the 18th Regular Sobor Hieromonk Daniel (Zelinskyy) was elevated to Archimandrite and nominated for the office of Bishop, and his name was submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarch for approval.[1] This election was made with the ill health of Archbishop Vsevolod. On December 16, 2007,[2] at the age of 80, Archbishop Vsevolod reposed. On May 10, 2008, Daniel (a former Eastern Catholic deacon) was consecreated Bishop Daniel of Pamphilon.[3][4]

On 21 May 2012 Metropolitan Constantine died and was buried in Pittsburgh, his place of birth.[5] On January 26, 2013 Metropolitan Antony (secular John Scharba) was formally enthroned as the 4th Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.[6]

Schism[edit]

The act of renouncing autocephaly and entering the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which left the UOC-USA with no direct tie to any of the Orthodox churches in Ukraine, led to several parishes leaving the UOC-USA to enter under the omophorion of the Kyiv Patriarchate in Ukraine, although some supporters of these parishes argue that it is they who remain in the same church and that it is the hierarchy of the UOC-USA which is now in a different church.[7]

A lengthy lawsuit which in 1999 the UOC-USA began against one such parish, the Church of the Holy Ascension in Clifton, NJ, discouraged some other parishes from taking similar action. Although New Jersey's Appellate Division eventually sided with the parishioners of Holy Ascension against the UOC-USA and the New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification of the issue, in 2007, the Consistory of the UOC-USA filed a fresh suit against the Church of the Holy Ascension. After this suit was dismissed with prejudice by the Superior Court of New Jersey in June 2008, the UOC-USA filed an appeal, but on August 19, 2009 the Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal, holding "that Holy Ascension, and not the UOC-USA, has title to the property". The UOC-USA again appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which, on December 9, 2009, again denied certification.

The UOC-USA website continues to list the Church of the Holy Ascension and several other parishes which are today legally part of the UOC-KP as parishes of the UOC-USA.[8][9]

Structure[edit]

As of 2013 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA was divided into three eparchies (dioceses):

In total, there are about 85 parishes, two monasteries, and one seminary - St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Bound Brook, New Jersey. Besides the three hierarchs, the clergy consist of 106 priests and 15 deacons. 15 of the parishes currently have either no pastor or are served by clergy in their deanery.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Text originally taken from Orthodoxwiki:Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA
  • Hewlett, Dn. Edward. The Formation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
  • Surrency, Archim. Serafim. The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America: A History of the Orthodox Church in North America in the Twentieth Century. New York: Saints Boris and Gleb Press, 1973.
  • Eastern Christian Churches: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora, by Ronald Roberson, a Roman Catholic priest and scholar
  • An Outline of the History of the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (official website)

External links[edit]