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Evangelical Orthodox Church

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Evangelical Orthodox Church
TypeEvangelical Christianity
ClassificationEastern Protestant
OrientationCharismatic · Evangelical
BishopJerold Gliege
RegionUnited States, Canada, parts of Africa and Sweden[2]
LiturgyByzantine Rite (optional)
HeadquartersIndianapolis, Indiana, United States
FounderPeter E. Gillquist, other unnamed Former Campus Crusade for Christ members
Official websitewww.evangelicalorthodox.org Edit this at Wikidata

The Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC), founded on January 15, 1979, is an Eastern Protestant Christian denomination established by former leaders of Campus Crusade for Christ, who, reacting against the Jesus People movement, developed their own synthesis of Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Shepherding Movement principles.[3][4][5][6]



On January 14, 1979, the six members of the General Apostolic Council of the New Covenant Apostolic Order (NCAO)—Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, J.R. Ballew, Gordon Walker, and Kenneth Berven—stood in a circle and self-ordained and proclaimed each other bishops.[7] The following day they announced the formation of a new denomination—the Evangelical Orthodox Church—consisting of congregations following the NCAO.[8] According to NCAO leaders, the EOC was launched with 2,500 members in fifty churches organized into seventeen dioceses.[9][10] However, former members reported the membership as less than 1,000.[11][12]


The EOC generated controversy throughout its short history, mostly regarding its view of apostolic succession and of apostolic authority. In mainstream Eastern Orthodoxy the hierarchy of authority is based on belief in an unbroken line of apostolic succession, from which the appointment of bishops proceeds. Jack Sparks argued that any attempt to trace such a succession inevitably included false apostles and bad men. In place of the Eastern Orthodox tradition of apostolic succession, Sparks argued for “charismatic” succession.[13]

The EOC was itself criticized by both secular and evangelical sources for the bishops’ exercise of binding authority over members.[14][15][16] The EOC was plagued with internal problems, one notable case involving disclosure of confidential communications from a penitent in confession which was taken to civil court. In that case the California Courts of Appeal denied the EOC leaders’ legal claim to ecclesiastical privilege.[17]


In 1977, the first contact with the Eastern Orthodox Church was initiated through Orthodox seminarian and former Berkeley Christian World Liberation Front member Karl "John Bartke", who introduced them to Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).[18] EOC leaders invited seminary faculty to instruct them in Orthodoxy and pursued dialogues with the OCA from 1978 to 1983, but talks broke down because of the EOC’s divergent conception of church government.[19] EOC leaders also opened dialogue with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in 1981.[20]

In 1984 the bishops applied for the EOC's membership in the National Association of Evangelicals. Their application was tabled over concerns by members of the executive committee concerning the EOC’s teachings and practices.[21][22] Growing impatient with the lack of progress in dialogues with the OCA and Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the EOC bishops travelled to Istanbul where they were turned away and not given an audience with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.[23][24][12] Orthodox sources have stated that the two primary reasons why the collective Eastern Orthodox Church was hesitant to embrace the EOC were the continued influence of Shepherding Movement teachings regarding hierarchical authority and the EOC bishops’ desire to remain as bishops, which was unacceptable as Eastern Orthodox bishops must be celibate and appointed by the appropriate authorities through standard procedure based on apostolic succession. It was unthinkable that any Eastern Orthodox Church patriarch would agree to these terms.[25][26]

Disposition of parishes[edit]

Fr. John Bartke, who had been a member of the Christian World Liberation Front with Jack Sparks and had acted as the primary intermediary with the AOCANA, served as host for the initial set of chrismations and ordinations of the EOC at St. Michael's Church in Van Nuys, California.[27][28] The group of 20 parishes became known as the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission, which subsequently issued a statement to Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America stating that they knew what Orthodoxy was. The Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission lasted until 1995 when it was disbanded and the parishes put under the standard diocesan framework of the archdiocese.[29]

Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

On 8 September 1986, the majority of the EOC became part of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America under Metropolitan Philip Saliba. The bishops of the EOC who joined were demoted to the rank of priests—a requirement by the Antiochain Archdiocese which caused some EOC bishops to refrain from joining. According to Peter Gillquist, about three-fourths of the bishops accepted Metropolitan Philips' terms and joined, a total of 17 parishes.[30][12]

Peter Gillquist said to the Los Angeles Times, “We will not be a ‘church within a church.' Metropolitan Philip wants us to maintain our evangelical identity and to concentrate on evangelism and building mission churches.”[12]


According to the EOC's official website, today it has about 120 churches spread across the USA (4), Canada (1), Sweden (1), Rwanda (4), Burundi (100), Kenya (4), Uganda (4) and D.R Congo (3). The EOC is overseen by a synod of bishops currently consisting of: Bp. Jakob Palm (Saskatoon, Canada), Bp. Thomas Andersson (Halmstad, Sweden), Bp. Joshua Beecham, presider (Indianapolis, USA), Bp. Telesphore Ntashimikiro (Bujumbura, Burundi), Bp. Jacinto Kibuuka (Kampala, Uganda), Bp. Nestor Misigaro (Rutana, Burundi) and Bp. Denis Mugabo (Nyanca, Rwanda).[31]

Views on Orthodoxy[edit]

The official EOC website says,[31]

  • "We believe that apostolic succession is primarily a matter of holding apostolic faith..."
  • "We believe that the traceable lineage of bishops is one aspect of apostolic succession but not the exclusive condition upon which apostolic succession rests."
  • "We have retained our self-governing status in order to avoid being required to follow some other ethnic expression of the faith rather than an indigenous and culturally authentic one."

The EOC today is not in communion with nor recognized by any Eastern Orthodox Church.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://www.evangelicalorthodox.org/who-we-are Who we are
  2. ^ https://www.evangelicalorthodox.org/where-we-are Where we are
  3. ^ Lloyd R. Thompson, “A Critical Analysis of the Evangelical Orthodox Church (New Covenant Apostolic Order)” (Ph.D. diss., Yale Divinity School, 1979), 20.
  4. ^ Ruth Stiling, “An Examination of the Evangelical Orthodox Church” (M.A. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, May 1980), 17-18.
  5. ^ Steve Barth, “Development of Evangelical Church Traced: Twelve Years of Theology Change Moves Away from Anti-Authority,” Daily Nexus (November 13, 1979): 2.
  6. ^ D. Oliver Herbel, Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church (Oxford University Press, 2014), 104-117.
  7. ^ Walker, Gordon (September 1983). "Odyssey to Orthodoxy". Again. Vol. 6, no. 3. p. 10.
  8. ^ Stiling, Ruth L. (1980). An Examination of the Evangelical Orthodox Church (MA). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary. p. 25.
  9. ^ Hitt, Russell T. (March 1980). "Go East, Young Men". Eternity. Vol. 31, no. 3. p. 13.
  10. ^ Vecsey, George (March 11, 1979). "New Group Combines Evangelism and Orthodoxy". The New York Times. p. 25.
  11. ^ Counts, Bill (November 2, 1979). The Evangelical Orthodox Church and the New Covenant Apostolic Order (Report). Berkeley, CA: Spiritual Counterfeits Project. p. 1.
  12. ^ a b c d Dart, John (1986-11-15). "The Evangelical Orthodox Church, a tiny denomination..." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  13. ^ Herbel, D. Oliver (2014). Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of the American Orthodox Church. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 108–110. ISBN 9780199324958. OCLC 869486494.
  14. ^ Counts, "The Evangelical Orthodox Church..."
  15. ^ Wollenburg, Bruce (July 2, 1980). "The Evangelical Orthodox Church: A Preliminary Appraisal". The Christian Century. Vol. 97, no. 23. p. 700.
  16. ^ Barth, Steve (November 12, 1979). "Local Church a 'Potentially Dangerous Situation': Sources Say EOC has Total Authority Over Members". Daily Nexus. Vol. 60, no. 44. p. 1.
  17. ^ Hayden, Paul T. (1993). "Religiously Motivated 'Outrageous' Conduct: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress as a Weapon Against 'Other People's Faiths'". William and Mary Law Review. 34 (3): 659–661.
  18. ^ Liacopulos, George P. (2000). Lights of the Modern World: Orthodox Christian Mission and Evangelism in the United States. Minneapolis, MN: Light & Life Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 1880971577.
  19. ^ Fester, Joseph H. (1982). The Evangelical Orthodox Church and Its Dialogue with the Orthodox Church in America (M.Div.). Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary. p. 46. OCLC 926121110.
  20. ^ Gillquist, Peter (1992). Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith (rev. ed.). Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press. pp. 125–128. ISBN 9780962271335. OCLC 27034433.
  21. ^ Herbel, Turning, pp. 120-122.
  22. ^ National Association of Evangelicals Papers (SC-113), Wheaton College Special Collections.
  23. ^ Herbel, Turning, pp. 122-123.
  24. ^ Gillquist, Becoming, pp. 135-143.
  25. ^ Zengerle, Jason (April 25, 2010). "Evangelicals Turn Toward … the Orthodox Church – Orthodox Christian Resource Center". Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  26. ^ Fester, "The Evangelical Orthodox Church," p. 49, citing Alexander Schmemann, “Report on Participating in the Session of the Council of Bishops of the Evangelical Orthodox Church—Santa Barbara, Ca., June 7–9, 1981,” a report submitted to the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America.
  27. ^ Herbel, Turning, p. 123.
  28. ^ Gillquist, Becoming Orthodox', p. 141.
  29. ^ "Evangelical Orthodox Join Antiochian Jurisdiction". Theosis. Vol. 9, no. 9. September 1986. p. 8.
  30. ^ "The Life of Metropolitan Philip | Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese". ww1.antiochian.org. Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  31. ^ a b "www.evangelicalorthodox.org". evangelicalorthodox. Retrieved 2024-02-20.


  • Gillquist, Rev. Peter E. Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith. Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 1989. (ISBN 0-9622713-3-0)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]