I am posting this because Matthew is very busy and traveling about today (although I suppose posting it myself risks vanity).
I am honored to have been invited to be a guest of the pan-Orthodox clergy group in the Buffalo, NY area for the weekend and thought I’d call your attention to the Sunday of Orthodox Vespers to be held at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. If you are in Western NY or Ontario and are interested in a talk on early converts, with a special mention of some important happenings in Buffalo, please stop by. Also, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself. One of the best ways we can all further reflections on American Orthodox church history is through personal contact and communal worship.
In other posts here on Orthodoxhistory, we have mentioned Frs. Boris Burden and Michael Gelsinger. What many might not know is that later in life, after the Federated Orthodox Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions fell apart, Fr. Boris established the Orthodox Catholic Alliance, which sought to further the education of youth and perform charitable work. In addition to that work, the American Orthodox Catholic Alliance established the OrCathA collection of Byzantine and Orthodox materials by donating its library to the University of Buffalo in 1966. The university established a matching grant and soon expanded its holdings. As of 2006, the collection contained approximately 45,000 volumes. The University of Buffalo’s website had stated [in link that now appears broken] that five years after establishing an endowment in 1974, the Alliance provided the library with another “substantial gift of materials.” The date proves to be important as the 1974 immediately follows the death of Burden (who died in 1973). Fr. Michael Gelsinger died later in 1979.
Although the link to the OrCathA Byzantine collection is currently down, it may be found here:
Over on his blog, Fr. Oliver Herbel has decided to re-frame his presentation of the St. Peter the Aleut question. He’s taken down both of his earlier articles on the subject and replaced them with a new one, which you can read by clicking here.
Recently, the posting of an article on the first Armenian Orthodox churches in America was the occasion for some controversy on the SOCHA Facebook page. Why are SOCHA resources being spent on this, etc.?
If you have a Facebook account and read the responses to these comments, you will see some very good reasons. Foremost among them is that this website is a private, cooperative endeavor between those who happen to be spending their own time on it. We don’t receive funding from anywhere other than our own pockets, so there’s no reason why anyone should fear that official funds are being used in some objectionable way.
Yet one must ask why this is supposedly objectionable in the first place. Ironically, we’ve covered a number of apostates and outright non-Orthodox in the past without much protest, yet there are folks who object to Non-Chalcedonians being covered. How they’re okay with the former but not the latter is frankly a bit beyond me.
To be sure, there are some among the Chalcedonian (“Eastern”) Orthodox who look upon the Non-Chalcedonian (“Oriental”) Orthodox as heretics and therefore utterly irrelevant to such a site as this. Readers are left to determine for themselves what they think about this theological issue. At the same time, the official dialogues between the two church bodies have pretty much determined that we have the same Orthodox faith. Whichever may be the case, it is an unmistakable fact that of all the church bodies in the world, the Oriental Orthodox are the closest to the Eastern Orthodox. Although we share the same literal language of Christology as the Roman Catholic Church, anyone who’s ever spent time with both the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox church families will find much more in common there than between Eastern Orthodoxy and Rome. As such, it only makes sense that we would spend time together. How or if the theological problems will be solved is another matter, to be sure (and an important one), but that is not the point of this website, nor of SOCHA in general.
SOCHA consists of people who like history, both reading it and often writing it. If we happen to like writing about Non-Chalcedonians (something we’ve largely not done as yet because most of us are unqualified), or if we want to invite someone to write about them for the site, then that is simply for furthering our mutual interest in history. If readers want to read it, great! If not, then they can simply skip it. No one’s losing anything by virtue of there being such articles on OrthodoxHistory.org.
At the same time, even if we were to receive funding from a church or foundation or the like, we would still have no problem publishing material about the Non-Chalcedonians. After all, there are print publications that do the same thing—even from Chalcedonian seminaries. And who is harmed by this? I would argue that we are all actually benefited by getting to know each other better. There actually is some real possibility for reunion between the two church bodies in the future—whether readers happen to think this is a good idea or not, it is nonetheless actually a possibility, and it’s being discussed at the official level by both bodies in a way more serious than they treat any other church body.
In any event, I myself am not interested only in Orthodox Christian history (whether one defines that only as Chalcedonian Orthodoxy or to include Non-Chalcedonian), but Christian history in general and even non-Christian religious history. If you’ve ever listened to any of my podcasts comparing Orthodoxy and heterodoxy, you know I’m not particularly “ecumenical” (I like to practice what I call “Ecumenism with a Gun“). So believe me when I say that I think it’s worthwhile for us to include material from the Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Indian, Ethiopian and Eritrean churches on this site. And if you don’t believe me, well, then don’t read it! You’re most likely not paying for it, anyway.
This article was written by Fr. Andrew S. Damick.
This morning on his Frontier Orthodoxy blog, Fr. Oliver Herbel offered a post with the provocative title, “St. Peter the Aleut Did Not Exist.” Fr. Oliver says that he intentionally did not publish the article here at OH.org so as to spare us the inevitable debate; however, I do think it’s appropriate that we link to the post and give people a chance to read it.
Fr. Oliver’s argument boils down to six main points:
- Unlike so many Alaskan Orthodox stories (e.g. St. Juvenaly), the St. Peter story has no supporting oral tradition.
- Fr. Michael Oleksa, the foremost scholar on Alaskan Orthodox history, has written next to nothing about St. Peter. In Orthodox Alaska, Fr. Michael makes not a single mention of Peter’s story. (I would add that Fr. Michael mentions St. Peter only in passing in Alaskan Missionary Spirituality.)
- No corroborating evidence exists — that is, there is no other evidence of Spanish-Russian violence in California in that era. The St. Peter incident sticks out as an anomaly.
- On the contrary, there is an internal Roman Catholic document from the period that actually contradicts the idea that the Spanish would torture Native Alaskans.
- There is no evidence that St. Peter and his alleged persecutors would have been able to converse in the same language, which makes the exchange between them unlikely.
- There is only one primary account of St. Peter’s martyrdom, and it is suspect for various reasons.
I’d encourage you to read the whole article, as I’ve just barely summarized Fr. Oliver’s observations. And, for the time being, I’m going to stay out of the public debate over whether St. Peter was real (and, if he was real, whether he was really martyred). I do think it is of paramount importance that the original account of St. Peter’s martyrdom be made public and translated into English. We don’t have that account, and I don’t know of anyone who has ever seen it, although in the comments to Fr. Oliver’s post, someone says that it was due to be published in a book.
At some future point, I’ll examine the pro-Peter arguments, and generally discuss the merits of his case.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.