Bashir, the Federation, and SCOBA

Meeting of bishops to "reorganize" the Federation. This led to the creation of SCOBA in 1960.

Meeting of bishops to "reorganize" the Federation. This led to the creation of SCOBA in 1960.

On today’s episode of the American Orthodox History podcast, I interviewed SOCHA executive director Fr. Oliver Herbel on the subject of the “Federated Orthodox Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions,” a 1943 attempt to create a national, pan-Orthodox organization.

The Federation is to SCOBA what the League of Nations was to the United Nations. Both the Federation and the League of Nations were missing a crucial player: the Federation lacked the involvement of the Russian Metropolia (today’s OCA), while the League of Nations didn’t include the United States. Both SCOBA and the UN were essentially trying to do the same things as their predecessor organizations, but they were obviously more successful and long-lasting.

Metropolitan Antony Bashir was the head of the Antiochian Archdiocese of New York, and he was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Federation. Even after it was basically defunct in 1944, Bashir tried to keep it going, at least on paper. In the 1955 and 1956 Yearbooks of American Churches, for instance, Bashir is listed as the President of the Federation, even though it has been non-functioning for more than a decade. In a 1961 publication commemorating Bashir’s 25th anniversary as Metropolitan, we find this sentence: “In March of 1960, he spearheaded the reorganization of the Federation into the much stronger Conference of Orthodox Bishops of the Americas, which he now serves as Vice-President.”

In a way, then, the Federation was SCOBA.

UPDATE (12/3/09): Fr. James Early sent an email asking if I could identify the people in the above photo; in particular, he asked whether the “right-most suit-wearing hierarch” was Metropolitan Antony Bashir. Here is my reply:

Metropolitan Antony is indeed the right-most suit-wearing hierarch, standing near the center of the picture. However, I don’t know who most of the other men are. Certainly, the bishop in the white hat is Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich, and I assume the bishop in between Antony and Leonty is Archbishop Michael Konstantinides of the Greek Archdiocese. Abp Michael died on July 13, 1958, so if he’s in the photo, we can be sure it was taken before that date. His successor, Abp Iakovos, is not in the photo, which further suggests a date of 1958 or earlier.

I doubt that all of the individuals in the photo are bishops. In fact, it may be that Bashir is the left-most bishop in the photo, as all the men to the left of him look like priests. 

UPDATE (12/23/09): According to Fr. Alexander Lebedeff in the comments (below), the second man from the left is Fr. George Grabbe, Chancellor of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. Fr. Alexander writes, “The ROCOR had been very involved in the precursor of SCOBA, and participated in the organizational meetings of SCOBA, as well. The ROCOR withdrew when informed that the Bishop in charge of the Moscow Patriarchal parishes in America would be invited to join SCOBA. That did not occur, but the ROCOR never returned to the table.”

UPDATE: (2/23/10): I have just received an email from Fr. Demetrius T. Dogias, in which he identifies several other individuals in this photo. According to Fr. Demetrius, the man standing at the far left is Bishop (later Metropolitan) Germanos Polyzoides. The fifth man from the left (that is, the man standing to the left of Met Antony Bashir) is Bp Demetrios of Olympus, who, at the time, was Chancellor of the Greek Archdiocese. The fourth man from the right (that is, the man with his head down, next to Met Leonty Turkevich) is Bp Bohdan, of the Ukrainian Archdiocese associated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Fr. Demetrius also offered this background information on the Greek Archbishop Michael, who is in the center of the photo (in between Bashir and Turkevich):

It may interest you to know that Archbishop Michael, also in the Dec. 2 picture, had studied in Kiev and that one of his teachers was the later Metropolitan Anastassy of the Russian Chuch Outside Russia.  Michael went to London as the priest at the St. Sophia Cathedral, and was granted the extremely rare title of Great (or “Grand”) Archimandrite.  He then was elected Metropolitan of Corinth in Greece, from which position he was elected Archbishop of North and South America.

Many thanks to Fr. Demetrius for providing all this information. We can now identify quite a few of the individuals in the photo. Here it is again, with numbers to make the identification easier:

Click on the photo to see a larger image. Here are the people we’ve identified so far:

1. Bp Germanos Polyzoides of Nyssa, Greek Archdiocese
2. Fr. George Grabbe, ROCOR Chancellor
5. Bp Demetrios of Olympus, Greek Archdiocese Chancellor
6. Met Antony Bashir, Antiochian Archdiocese
7. Abp Michael Konstantinides, Greek Archdiocese
8. Met Leonty Turkevich, Russian Metropolia
9. Bp Bohdan, Ukrainian Archdiocese

As more identifications come in, I’ll continue to update this article. And once again, thanks to all those who have sent in identifications so far.

5 thoughts on “Bashir, the Federation, and SCOBA

  1. Pingback: Before Scoba There Was The Federation . . - American Orthodox History - Ancient Faith Radio

  2. It is definite that the man pictured second from the left is Protopresbyter George Grabbe, Cahncellor of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The ROCOR had been very involved in the precursor of SCOBA, and participated in the organizational meetings of SCOBA, as well. The ROCOR withdrew when informed that the Bishop in charge of the Moscow Patriarchal parishes in America would be invited to join SCOBA. That did not occur, but the ROCOR never returned to the table.

  3. I contacted His Grace, Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald), retired OCA bishop of the Diocese of the West, and asked if he could identify the clergy in the photograph.

    He kindly responded with the following information:

    Starting on our RIGHT:
    1. Archbishop IHOR, Holy Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Exile.
    2.Archbishop Palladios, Holy Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Exile.
    3. Bishop Bohdan Shpilka, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America, Ecumenical Patriarchate.
    4. Metropolitan Leonty
    5. Archbishop Michael, GOA
    6. Archbishop Antony Bashir
    7. (unknown)
    8. Protopresbyter Joseph Pishtey, Metropolia Chancellor
    9. Count Protopresbyter George Grabbe

    Number 10 was familiar to Bishop Tikhon as a leading clergyman of the Greek Archdiocese, but he could not remember his name.

    In any case, this information is very helpful, and I believe we should express thanks to Bishop Tikhon for his assistance.

  4. Fr. Alexander,

    Please inform Bishop Tikhon that we at SOCHA do appreciate that he was willing to take a look at the photograph and name most of the people in the photograph.

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