An update on the “Most Influential” project

Archbishop Iakovos was arguably the single most influential person in American Orthodox history. He is pictured here with Martin Luther King at the famous 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced an ongoing project to create a list of the most influential people in American Orthodox history. In that article, I laid down some ground rules:

  1. The person must have died at least 20 years ago (1990 or earlier).
  2. The person must be sufficiently “American” (someone like Tsar Nicholas II wouldn’t qualify).
  3. The person need not be Orthodox (allowing someone like Isabel Hapgood onto the list).

That original article generated a lot of responses, and several readers suggested that I re-think the ground rules. The 20-year requirement disqualifies a lot of important people, most notably Archbishop Iakovos Koukouzis of the Greek Archdiocese. Does it make sense to exclude Abp Iakovos but to include Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who was ten years younger than Iakovos but died young? No, it doesn’t. While we must proceed with care when evaluating the historical legacies of recent figures such as Abp Iakovos, that’s not a sufficient reason to exclude them from the list.

I’m less comfortable including still-living individuals. Yes, of course, someone like Greek Archbishop Demetrios¬†Trakatellis probably belongs on a list of the most influential people in American Orthodox history, but we need more time before we can truly begin to evaluate his place in that history. The same goes for Elder Ephrem, and Fr. Thomas Hopko, and so many others. And those are the (relatively) easy ones. Are we really ready to consider the historical significance of, say, OCANews’ Mark Stokoe? I don’t mind acknowledging that certain living people will inevitably belong on a “most influential” list, but this is a history website, and I’d like to avoid contemporary church politics as much as possible.

The other rule that needs modification is #3 — that nominees need not be Orthodox. Yes, Isabel Hapgood had a major influence on American Orthodox history, but allowing non-Orthodox people onto the list just overcomplicates things. It would actually be interesting to come up with a separate list of the most influential non-Orthodox people in American Orthodox history, but they probably don’t belong on our current list.

With that out of the way, here are some of the nominations I’ve received, broken down by jurisdiction / ethnicity for convenience purposes.

Albanian

  • Metropolitan Theophan Noli

Antiochian

  • Metropolitan Antony Bashir
  • Fr. Michael Gelsinger
  • Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny
  • Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh

Bulgarian

  • Archbishop Kyrill Yonchev

Carpatho-Russian

  • Metropolitan Orestes Chornock

Greek

  • Fr. Michael Andreades
  • Demetrius Botassi (Greek consul and founder of Holy Trinity Church in New York)
  • George Anastassiou (the “apostle of organ music”)
  • Bishop Athenagoras Cavadas
  • Xenophon Diamond (Greek Orthodox educator)
  • Archbishop Michael Konstantinides
  • Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis
  • Metropolitan Germanos Polyzoides
  • Archbishop (later Ecumenical Patriarch) Athenagoras Spyrou
  • Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides
  • Solon Vlasto (newspaper publisher and parish founder)

Romanian

  • Fr. Moise Balea
  • Fr. Ioan Podea
  • Archbishop Valerian Trifa

Russian / OCA / ROCOR

  • Monk Herman of Alaska
  • Archbishop (later Patriach) Tikhon Bellavin
  • Fr. Boris Burden
  • Archbishop Arseny Chagovtsov
  • Fr. Georges Florovsky
  • Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky
  • Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine
  • Barbara MacGahan (New York parish founder)
  • Fr. John Meyendorff
  • Fr. Jacob Netsvetov
  • Fr. Seraphim Rose
  • Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestvensky
  • Fr. Alexander Schmemann
  • Fr. Alexis Toth
  • Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich
  • Metropolitan Innocent Veniaminov
  • Metropolitan Philaret Vosnesensky
  • Bishop Nicholas Ziorov

Serbian

  • Fr. Sebastian Dabovich
  • Bishop Mardarije Uskokovic

Ukrainian

  • Archbishop John Theodorovich

Keep in mind, these are just the initial nominations. There are certainly many, many more names that warrant inclusion. If you know of someone who isn’t listed above but should be, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.

[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]

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