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Matthew Namee serves as editor of OrthodoxHistory.org. He specializes in the history of Orthodoxy in America from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. His publications include "Father Raphael Morgan: The First Orthodox Priest of African Descent in America" in St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (2009), Wichita's Lebanese Heritage (coauthor, 2010), and the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches (contributing author, 2011). He has lectured at numerous conferences and hosts the American Orthodox History podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.
Matthew is the former research assistant to baseball author and Boston Red Sox executive Bill James, and he helped to produce the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (2004). Also in 2004, Matthew cofounded The Hardball Times, a popular baseball website. He earned his J.D. from the University of Kansas in December 2012, and currently works as an associate in the employee benefits department at Hinkle Law Firm in Wichita, Kansas. He and his wife Catherine have three children. Matthew can be contacted at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
Posts by Matthew Namee
I recently received the above photo in an email from Deacon Steven Kroll, who offered the following details:
Over the past several months I have been traveling up to Hartshorn, OK to serve alongside the priest who is caring for the remainder of the the faithful at Sts. Cyril & Methodius. This month I took my iPad with the intention of photographing several items around the church (old ledgers & metrical books, icons, and photograph in the church hall. One of these photographs in particular I want to share with you. Its from 1910 and there are quite a few orthodox clergymen in the photo, as well as a bishop’s portrait at the top of the photo. I was hoping you could take a look at it and see if you can identify any of the clergy by sight. The priest near the center seated in the front row resembles pictures I’ve seen on your website of Alexander Hotovitzky. The bishop at the top reminds me of St. Raphael of Brooklyn, but you may know better.
Thanks very much to Deacon Steven for passing this along. If any of our readers can identify some of the people in this photo, let me know and I’ll update this post.
Update: According to Fr. David Mastroberte, over on our Facebook page, the priest to the left of Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky is Fr. Peter Kohanik, who served in the Russian Archdiocese for many years.
First of all, I’m really sorry for my extended absence from this website. Beginning in December, my life went pretty crazy — first the end of law school, then studying for the bar exam, and then moving and starting my legal career. Unfortunately, I’ve had no time at all for historical research.
Right in the middle of this chaos, I received a really awesome email from Fr. Timothy Ferguson, an Antiochian priest in Boston. He had discovered a photo collage of Syrian/Antiochian priests from the late 1910s/early 1920s — 21 clergymen in all. The collage is posted above, and here’s a list of the clergy depicted (and I’m retaining the spelling provided by Fr. Timothy’s sources):
- Archbishop +Aftimious, Bishop of Brooklyn, Syrian Orthodox Mission in North America (Center)
- V. Rev. Basil M. Kerbawy, Dean of the Clergy (Left of Bishop)
- Rt. Rev. Emmanual Abu Hattab (Right of Bishop)
From Top Left:
- Rev. Daniel Tanoos Jerguis
- Rev. Eli El Hamati
- Rev. Ayoub Salloom
- Rev. Antonious Abu Alan Farah
Across the Bottom, Left to Right:
- Rev. Sliman Boulos
- Rev. Theodore Yanni
- Rev. Yousef Kacere
- Rev. Abraham Zaine
- Rev. Hanna Hakim
- Rev. Abdallah Khoury
- Rev. Constantine Dawani
- Rev. Philipous Abu Assaley Shaheen
From the Top Right:
- Rev. Mousa Abi Haider
- Rev. Elias Fraij
- Rev. Michael El Khoury Saba
- Rev. Solomon Faireny
Insert Below Fr. Kerbawy:
- Rev. Sophronious Beshara
Insert Below Fr. Abu Hattab:
- Rev. George Kattouf
- Rev. Solomon Merighe
- Rev. Simion Issa
- Rev. George Dow Maloof
- Rev. Yousef Elia
- Rev. Basil Mahfouz
Many thanks to Fr. Timothy Ferguson for sharing his amazing find!
Yesterday, we began publishing a series of excerpts from Matthew Spinka’s 1935 article on worldwide Orthodoxy in the years following World War I, originally published in the journal Church History.Spinka’s article is a succinct and quite balanced summary of the state of affairs in global Orthodoxy in a very chaotic period. From the standpoint of Orthodoxy in America, it helps a great deal to understand just what the Orthodox climate was like in this era. As I noted yesterday, this was precisely the time when national ethnic jurisdictions were being established in North America. A better understanding of the global Orthodox situation will help us to put the American situation in its proper context.
What follows is the section of Spinka’s article dealing with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
To begin, then, with the group of Greek churches, we may first of all turn our attention to the patriarchate of Constantinople, the lineal descendant and heir of the Byzantine church. But this body, which had survived the fall of the Byzantine Empire and despite the prolonged misery and degradation suffered under the Turkish reign, had exercised ecclesiastical and civil sway over territories co-extensive with the Turkish Empire, scarcely escaped a total destruction when the new nationalist Turkey was set up by Mustapha Kemal Pasha. When the Kemalists refused to accept the Sevres treaty and in the end raised a standard of revolt even against the sultan himself, Greece, under the leadership of King Constantine, ventured to attack the embattled hosts of the Turkish nationalists, a megalomaniacal venture which ended in a complete fiasco and cost the king his throne. The Greeks of the patriarchate remained loyal to Venizelos, thus antagonizing King Constantine; but despite this, they could not altogether refrain from following with patriotic pride or solicitude the fortunes of the Greek armies in Anatolia. Although Turkish subjects, they held commemorative services for the fallen, collected contributions for the war cause, and openly espoused the Hellenic “grand idea” of restoration of the Byzantine Empire.
It was under these conditions that the patriarchal see, vacant since 1918, was filled in 1921 by the election of the former Archbishop of Athens, Meletios. But the new patriarch’s enthusiastic espousal of the Hellenic cause made his tenure of the patriarchal see quite impossible. After the debacle of the Greek armies in the disastrous battle of the Sakaria River in the autumn of 1922, Meletios’ situation became desperate. The victorious Turkish nationalists openly announced their intention of wholly abusing the ecumenical patriarchate, regarding it as a perpetual source of anti-Turkish agitation. At the Lausanne Conference in 1923, the British commissioner, Sir Horace Rumbold, had to exert all his diplomatic ingenuity to forestall the radical measure insisted upon by the Turks. In the end, the patriarchate was permitted to exist, but it was shorn of all the civil jurisdiction over the Greek community which it had exercised for the past four centuries, and its functions were restricted to purely ecclesiastical ones. But in the matter of Patriarch Meletios’ deposition, the Turkish delegation remained adamant. He had to go.
Beside these measures, the Lausanne Conference adopted a plan of forcible exchange of population between Turkey and Greece, from which none but the Greeks established in Constantinople and its immediate environs prior to October, 1918, were exempted. The exodus of the Christian population of Asia Minor in the wake of the defeated Greek armies as well as the forcible expulsion of the rest, in accordance with the population exchange measure, had a disastrous effect upon the ecumenical patriarchate; in fact it all but ruined it. Only four metropolitanates out of forty-one survived the measure, some of the ruined sees having been among the most ancient and celebrated, with traditions which went back to the times of Paul. The Orthodox population of Asia Minor and Thrace, which in 1914 had numbered 1,800,000, was reduced to between thirteen and twenty per cent (the church claiming 350,000, but the official Turkish count reporting 250,000). Even this number is continually dwindling, for the Greek population is moving out of Turkey. Thus the numerical strength of the ecumenical patriarchate has been so radically reduced that it now ranks among the smallest of the Orthodox communions.
The present patriarch, Photius II, who was elected in 1930, was able to establish a precarious modus vivendi with the Turkish government. Just because of the great diminution of the power and extent of the ecumenical patriarchate within Turkey, it strives with great earnestness to preserve for itself the traditional privileges inherent in its honorific status as the “primus inter pares” among the Eastern Orthodox communions. In this endeavor it has often exceeded its authority in acting as judge and arbiter in the various disputes or administrative changes which have taken place among the different Orthodox communions, over which, strictly speaking, it has no jurisdiction.
Next, we’ll publish Spinka’s discussion of the other “Greek churches” — the Church of Greece and the Church of Cyprus.
In the June 1935 issue of the journal Church History, Matthew Spinka of the Chicago Theological Seminary published a 20-page article entitled, “Post-War Eastern Orthodox Churches.” The “War” he was referring to was, of course, World War I, and his article offers a succinct and quite balanced snapshot of the state of the world’s various Orthodox Churches in the years immediately following the war. I’m going to publish a series of excerpts of the article, beginning with the Spinka’s introductory comments.
Of course, this period — 1918 to the mid-1930s — was the era in which the various ethnic jurisdictions were firmly established in America. It’s a critical period in American Orthodox history, and it helps to understand the global context of that time.
From the downfall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the center of Eastern Orthodoxy slowly shifted from the Byzantine church, which suffered a tragic deterioration under the rule of the Turk, to the Empire of the Russian Orthodox tsars. Before the World War, the predominant role in numbers and resources as well as in spiritual and theological leadership was played by the church of Russia. Out of a total of some 144 millions of Orthodox adherents, the Russian membership comprised about 110 millions. By reason of its wealth and of the generous financial aid which it freely dispensed to the rest of the needy Orthodox communions, Russia exercised a far reaching, in some instances controlling, influence among them. Moreover, Russian Slavophil[e] thought has affected all Orthodox communions and has exercised a dominant theological influence over them.
The World War has produced another radical regrouping of the separate units of the Orthodox churches, and has once more shifted the center of gravity, this time from Russia to the Balkan peninsula. In accordance with an unwritten law in which the Erastian principle, so characteristic of Eastern churches, finds its expression, each independent political unit is accorded an autonomous or autocephalous ecclesiastical status. Accordingly, the creation of new states or expansion of the already existing ones has resulted in the organization of nine new Orthodox communions, while some formerly independent organizations have lost their separate existence and have been incorporated into larger national bodies. The net result of the various changes has been that the total number of Orthodox communions has considerably increased: there are at present twenty-one autocephalous or autonomous Orthodox bodies, instead of the fifteen which existed before the War.
In order to divide the subject in some logical fashion, one might conveniently group the Greek churches together, for they in reality form a self-conscious whole; the so-called Melkite group may be treated separately [ed. note: here he refers to the Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, rather than the Melkite Catholics who are in communion with Rome], the Russian church, and its successional ecclesiastical groups, form a separate group by reason of their historical sequence and territorial propinquity. The Balkan churches likewise form a convenient grouping.
Next time, I’ll publish Spinka’s discussion of what he calls the “Greek churches” — that is, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Church of Greece, and the Church of Cyprus.
We just finished running a series of six articles on the 1872 Council of Constantinople, published contemporaneously in the Methodist Quarterly Review. The following article is from about a decade earlier, and describes the early stages of the Bulgarian split from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This piece is from an American journal called The Independent, March 28, 1861:
Separation of the Bulgarians from the Greek Church – The Hopes of the Protestant and the Roman Missionaries – Establishment of a United Bulgarian Church.
An actual separation from the Greek Church has already been commenced on the part of the Bulgarians, a tribe which counts a population of about four millions, living mostly in the province of Bulgaria Proper and in the northern part of the provinces of Macedonia and Thrace, and in which of late a special interest has been awakened in America by reports of the missionaries of the American Board and of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who have been laboring among them, if not with great actual results, at least with good prospects for the future. The Bulgarians have been engaged for several years in a struggle against the heads of the Greek Church, for the recovery of their national ecclesiastical rights, which only needs to be more generally known in order to enlist the liveliest sympathy of all friends of religious liberty.
The Bulgarian Church was free from any dependence on the Patriarch of Constantinople up to the year 1767, when, by the intrigues of the then Patriarch Samuel, backed by the Greek archons, the Turkish Government was induced to abolish the Bulgarian archiepiscopal see of Ochrida [sic], and to place all the Bulgarian people under his jurisdiction. From that time, the Greek prelates have imposed on the Bulgarians the same odious yoke which the Church of Rome has so successfully laid on all the churches of Western Europe. They have introduced into their churches the use of a language which the people do not understand, and have sent them bishops who have always shown themselves hostile to its cultivation in church and school.
Since the issue of the Hatti-Houmayoun in 1856, the Bulgarians have urgently demanded the restoration of their ancient rights. There seems to be no difference of opinion among them on this point; bishops, priests, and laity appear to be perfectly unanimous, and the national movement, in this respect, is as strong and sound as the one which has been recently so successful in Italy. They demand the erection of an independent Bulgarian patriarchal see, and the appointment of only Bulgarian bishops, and in support of their demand they instance the fact that the Greeks themselves have four patriarchal sees, viz., those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch, and one archiepiscopal see, (that of Cyprus,) all independent of each other. The justness of these claims becomes the more apparent, if it is remembered that the Bulgarians are by far more numerous in European Turkey than the Greeks.
Nevertheless, the higher Greek clergy have made to such reasonable demands the most obstinate and defying resistance. Not only did they turn a deaf ear to all the appeals for the restoration of the Bulgarian language at Divine service, but when the new ecclesiastical constitution was being framed, they treated the Bulgarians with utter neglect, and almost ignored their existence. The Bulgarians, therefore, very properly refused to be represented in the assembly electing a new Patriarch of Constantinople, either by laymen or ecclesiastics, saying that it was a matter in which they had no concern, as they would no longer acknowledge the Patriarch as their spiritual head.
The Turkish Government has unfortunately sided in this question with the Greek clergy, and not with the Bulgarians. It has believed the insinuation that the Bulgarian movement has been set on foot by agents of the Russian Government, and that the latter was using the ecclesiastical agitation as a means for effecting a closer union of all the Sclavonic [sic] tribes of Russia among themselves, and with Russia. When thus all the attempts of the Bulgarian churches had failed, a part of the people have at length listened to the cunning advice which the Roman Catholic missionaries, aided by French diplomacy, have given them. The Roman priests suggested to the leading men among the Bulgarians that, by only acknowledging the Pope as the Supreme Bishop of the Church, they might obtain their independence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, or constitute themselves after the example of the United Greeks, United Armenians, United Copts, the Chaldeans (i.e., United Nestorians,) and the Catholic Syrians, (United Jacobites,) as an Independent National Bulgarian Church, and thus be at once put in possession of all their ancient rights, including the use of the Bulgarian language at divine service. The leaders of the movement seem, at first, to have used this expedient as a means of forcing the Greek clergy into compliance with their wishes; and a memorial, holding out the probability of a union of the entire people with Rome, if the national wishes were not gratified, was very numerously signed. It was on the strength of this memorial that, a few months ago, the Roman Catholic papers of Europe and this country prematurely announced that the union had been actually consummated.
This, as yet, is far from being the case. But a beginning has been made. A correspondence from Constantinople in the Presse of Paris, gives the following description of it: “It was on Sunday morning, (Dec. 30th,) immediately preceding high mass, that the formal act of abjuration was received. The national deputation numbered 200, and consisted of two archimandrites, three priests, and twenty esness, (chief magistrates,) who bore an address containing signatures, and were supported by a body of civic officers. They were received by Monsignor Brunoni on the part of the Pope, and Monsignor Hassoun, the Primate of the United Armenians. The following transaction then took place between Mr. Ivanoff, the spokesman to the party, and Mgr. Brunoni: ‘We petition to be admitted into union with the Church of Rome.’ ‘Do ye yield to the dogma of the said Church, that she alone is one and true?’ ‘We so believe it.’ ‘Are ye prepared to sign this declaration as an act of your faith?’ ‘We are so prepared, and we ask you to present the same as our united deed to the head of the Church — the Pope, at Rome. We would also add that we wish to retain our liturgy.’ Hereupon the Bulgarian deputies annexed their names to an official document — the clergy taking precedency in the signing. After this, the Archimandrite Macariog stood forth and pronounced an address in the Bulgarian tongue, which was full of fire. The oath of the Gospels was next received, and then the Armenian Archbishop pontificated. On the conclusion of the high mass the kiss of brotherhood was exchanged between the members of both bodies, clerical and lay, beginning with the Primate as he descended from the altar.”
The Monde of Paris reports some additional details. According to its correspondent, the Bulgarians of Constantinople on the same day issued a manifesto to the entire nation, announcing that December 30th would henceforth be celebrated as the greatest national festival. The Grand Vizier is said to have declared on the next day to a Bulgarian deputation that the Government would lay no obstacles to this new movement. The United Bulgarians have purchased a building which is to serve as a school and the dwelling of their future Patriarch.
The Roman Catholic papers are of course again very sanguine, and expect that the majority of the nation will speedily join the union. Other reports, however, ill accord with such expectations. It is maintained that all the chief Bulgarians in Constantinople, including several bishops and priests, have published a protest against the seceders, declaring them to be men of no influence or character, and unworthy to lead the Bulgarian nation. They have, moreover, appealed to the Constantinople branch of the Evangelical Alliance for aiding them in securing the recognition of their ecclesiastical independence, and the Evangelical Alliance have called the attention of the Protestant Embassadors [sic] at Constantinople, viz., those of Great Britain, United States, Prussia, Denmark, Holland, and Sweden, to the interesting movement, and begged them to exert their friendly influence in favor of the just demands of the Bulgarians. The movement thus has entered upon a new stage, and greatly increases in interest and importance.
Again, this is from 1861 — more than a decade before the Council of Constantinople. Some key takeaways, for me:
- I don’t know a lot about Bulgarian Church history, but if in fact the Bulgarians more or less governed themselves until the 1760s, and only after that were subjected to ecclesiastical control by the Greeks, then it makes a lot of sense that they would resent that control.
- It’s particularly notable that the Bulgarians and other Slavs outnumbered the Greeks in the European part of Turkey. Yes, there were a lot of Greeks in Asia Minor, but from the Bulgarians’ perspective, Constantinople was an elite minority that was imposing its own Greek language and practices in a region that was mostly Slavic.
- The Bulgarians were hardly alone in their predicament. Over in Syria, the Arab Orthodox were governed by a Greek hierarchy — this was referred to as the “Greek captivity” of Antioch. Same thing in Jerusalem. I don’t know about the ethnic makeup of the Patriarchate of Alexandria (I suspect it was largely Greek), but still, that’s two ancient Arab patriarchates that were governed by, essentially, puppets of Constantinople. And St. Raphael, writing against this a generation later, got kicked out of the Patriarchate of Antioch for his views.
Soon, I’ll try to write something to tie this whole Bulgaria / 1872 Council / phyletism thing together, at least preliminarily. To be honest, I’m still trying to make sense of it all myself, but it does seem to me that what the Bulgarians were guilty of wasn’t necessarily “phyletism” so much as it was the desire to have bishops from their own region, familiar to and with their own people, and friendly to their indigenous culture. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what most Orthodox people want, everywhere, and in every age. That’s not to justify what the Bulgarians did, which seems to be pretty clearly uncanonical. But there’s a difference between uncanonical, schismatic acts and heresy.
Oh, and one final thing: I’ll be a guest on Kevin Allen’s live call-in show “Ancient Faith Today,” on Ancient Faith Radio, this Sunday, December 9. The topic is “ethnocentrism,” and among other things, I’ll be talking about the 1872 Council that condemned phyletism. The show begins at 5 PM Pacific / 6 Mountain / 7 Central / 8 Eastern, and you can listen live at this link: http://ancientfaith.com/ancientfaithtoday. You can also download the show after it’s finished and listen later. If you do listen live, feel free to call in with a question. I’d love to hear from some of our readers!