This week in American Orthodox history (April 23-29)

April 29, 1900: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, MA split into two factions. Here’s what I wrote about that schism in my paper, “The Myth of Past Unity”:

[O]ne portion of the parish wanted to discharge their priest, Fr. Nathaniel Sideris, and “hire” another. “We have the right to tell a priest that he is no longer needed and to engage another priest,” one parish leader explained. Other parishioners were appalled at such an approach. “Our complaint,” said the leader of the opposition, “is that the people upstairs are conducting the affairs of a Greek church different from anything to which we have been accustomed, and we do not consider it right. The bishop of the Greek church in Athens alone has the power to assign a priest.”

In the paper, I went on to observe that while one group wanted total independence from the hierarchy and the other recognized the authority of the Church of Greece, neither side said a word about Tikhon, the Russian bishop in America. Of course, that’s because the Lowell Greeks didn’t consider themselves to be under Tikhon — a fact that is perhaps unsurprising today, but which, a couple of years ago, contradicted the commonly held belief that all Orthodox in America recognized Russian authority prior to the Bolshevik Revolution.

April 28, 1901: St. Tikhon, the Russian bishop, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago. At least, that’s what some modern sources say; I can’t find any references to the event in the Chicago Tribune, although the newspaper covered a lot of other Orthodox happenings in that era. If anyone has more information, please let me know.

April 27, 1903: St. Alexis Toth, one of the leading priests in the Russian Diocese, was awarded the “Order of St. Vladimir” and received a miter. Toth, of course, had been a Uniate Greek Catholic priest until his conversion to Orthodoxy in 1891. He went on to spearhead the conversion of tens of thousands of former Uniates into the Russian Diocese, until his death in 1909.

April 23, 1917: St. George Syrian Orthodox Church in Worcester, MA became the first official “Antacky” parish, declaring its loyalty to Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi. Informally, the Russy-Antacky schism began immediately after St. Raphael died in 1915, when his priests disagreed on whether to acknowledge the authority of Antioch or Russia. But the Worcester declaration marked the formal beginning of the schism, which divided the Arab Orthodox in America until the mid-1930s.

April 27, 1922: The Holy Synod of Russia named the refugee Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestvensky as the temporary head of the Russian Archdiocese of North America. Soon enough, the Russian Church (under Soviet pressure) changed course and condemned Platon, who led the Russian Archdiocese to declare its independence from Moscow.

April 25, 1926: Archimandrite Mardarije Uskokovic was consecrated in Belgrade to be the first Serbian bishop for America. According to this article, the original plan was for Bishop Nicholai Velimirovich of Ochrid to lead a new Serbian diocese in America, with Archimandrite Mardarije as his administrative assistant. But Bishop Nicholai’s flock in Serbia apparently protested, and Nicholai himself recommended that Mardarije be consecrated in his stead. Thus, in 1923, Mardarije was appointed administrator of the Serbian churches in America, and three years later, he was elevated to the episcopacy.

Bishop Mardarije’s greatest legacy may be his founding of St. Sava Monastery in Libertyville, Illinois. He died in 1935.

April 29, 1933: Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, of the fringe “American Orthodox Catholic Church,” married a young girl named Mariam Namey (no relation to me) in a civil ceremony in Niagara Falls, NY. This effectively snuffed out any remaining legitimacy Ofiesh had within Orthodoxy.

April 28, 1952: Romanian Bishop Valerian Trifa was consecrated by the Ukrainian Metropolitan John Theodorovich. The trouble was that Theodorovich was a “self-consecrator,” rendering Trifa’s consecration invalid in the eyes of mainstream Orthodoxy. Later, Bishop Valerian was properly consecrated by bishops of the Russian Metropolia.

April 29, 1956: Archbishop Adam Phillipovsky died. He was a colorful character who was, at various times, on seemingly every side of the unending Russian Church disputes of his day.

April 25, 1959: Reginald Wright Kauffman, a noted writer and journalist, died. Kauffman had converted to Orthodoxy four decades earlier in the short-lived convert parish of the Transfiguration in New York. Unlike nearly all of the Transfiguration converts, Kauffman remained Orthodox for the rest of his life.

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