A quick note to our readers: Last week, Bobby Maddex of Ancient Faith Radio interviewed me about SOCHA’s latest developments, especially the journal and the upcoming symposium. Click here to listen to the interview.
Last week, we introduced the first issue of the Journal of American Orthodox Church History (JAOCH), which is available from Prairie Parish Press (PPP). In addition to publishing JAOCH, PPP has begun producing a “Collected Works Series,” featuring the writings of important Eastern Christian figures, with a special emphasis on American authors. The first book in the series is a collection of Nicholas Bjerring’s writings (appropriately titled Nicholas Bjerring: The Collected Works). The e-book is edited by Fr. Oliver Herbel, who has spent years researching Bjerring.
Regular OrthodoxHistory.org readers are probably familiar with Bjerring, a Roman Catholic who converted to Orthodoxy in 1870, was ordained a priest in Russia, and established the first Orthodox chapel in New York City. Bjerring published an English-language Orthodox journal and acted as a sort of embassy priest until 1883, when the Russian government closed the chapel. Rather than accept a teaching position in St. Petersburg, the discouraged Bjerring converted to Presbyterianism before ultimately returning to Roman Catholicism shortly before his death.
Nicholas Bjerring: The Collected Works opens with an introduction by Fr. Oliver, who provides an 11-page biographical sketch of the man. This is followed by two letters by Bjerring in 1870 — one to Pope Pius IX in which Bjerring denounces the dogma of papal infallibility and informs the Pope that he will become Orthodox, and the other to the Russian Holy Synod in which he requests reception into the Orthodox Church. Next come four of Bjerring’s best sermons, all from his days as an Orthodox priest. My favorite, I think, is his 1873 Sermon on Unbelief and Indifference. The last two pieces were written at the end of Bjerring’s life, when he was a Roman Catholic layman, and they are essential in understanding how the once anti-papal Bjerring came to be convinced that Rome was, in fact, his true home.
All told, if you have any interest in Bjerring, 19th century Orthodoxy, or early American Orthodox converts, this book is a must-have. The introductory price is a mere $1.00, and is available until September 1. After that, the price will go up a bit, although it will remain very affordable. I hope you’ll consider buying a copy.
And in case you missed it, here’s a link.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
Earlier today, we posted a press release announcing the publication of the first issue of SOCHA’s peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of American Orthodox Church History (JAOCH). This has been in the works for a long time, and I’m really excited that it’s here. The table of contents is available here, but I thought I’d briefly discuss some of what you’ll learn if you buy the journal.
- Back in 2009, I gave a paper called “The Myth of Past Unity” at a St. Vladimir’s Seminary conference. It’s gotten a fair amount of attention, and some people took issue with my conclusion — that there was not a single, unified American Orthodox Church prior to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution (or, if you prefer the 1921 incorporation of the Greek Archdiocese). Anyway, over the past couple of years I’ve been asked many times if (or when) that paper would be published. It’s here in JAOCH, beginning on page 2.
- The second main article in the journal is by Fr. Oliver Herbel and discusses the work of Fr. Boris Burden, one of the most influential convert clergymen in American Orthodox history. Burden, and his longtime (and better-known) associate Fr. Michael Gelsinger, were behind multiple attempts to bring together the various American Orthodox jurisdictions. As far as I know, this is the first substantial scholarly treatment of Burden’s efforts.
- Fr. John Erickson is the foremost historian of American Orthodoxy, and we are very fortunate to have a major contribution from him in the first issue of JAOCH. His paper, “Slavophile Thought and Conceptions of Mission in the Russian North American Archdiocese, Late 19th-Early 20th Century,” provides an essential framework for understanding the sometimes-mythical Russian Mission in North America. This is the era of Tikhon and Platon, Hapgood and Hawaweeny, and Fr. John’s paper helps us better understand the ideas that shaped that period.
- Next, the journal features a 1967 article by ROCOR author Fr. Constantine Zaitsev, translated into English by Evgueni Kadossov. This is a remarkable text. It proposes the idea of America as a sort of “Fourth Rome.” You have to read the article, and Dr. Kadossov’s introduction, to really grasp the concept, but it’s a fascinating argument, and a wonderful contribution to JAOCH.
- Finally, the journal features two book reviews, one by Fr. Oliver and the other by Amy Slagle. Fr. Oliver reviewed Fr. John McGuckin’s ambitious Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Dr. Slagle wrote about a biography of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, an important French Orthodox theologian who died in 2005. She taught at the famed St. Sergius Institute in Paris, which had such an influence on American Orthodoxy (by way of figures like Schmemann and Meyendorff).
The journal runs 98 pages and costs $10. There’s some really groundbreaking material in there, and I hope all the readers of OrthodoxHistory.org will get a copy. (Oh, and in case you missed it, here’s a link to purchase the journal.)
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
August 16, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Journal of American Orthodox Church History
The Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA) is pleased to announce a new, affiliated academic publication, the Journal of American Orthodox Church History (JAOCH). JAOCH is peer reviewed by established scholars within the field and published electronically. JAOCH is published annually and consists of articles, book reviews, and translations of historically significant texts.
—Future articles will be developed from the upcoming history symposium at Princeton Theological Seminary.
—Submissions are also encouraged.
The journal is available through Prairie Parish Press and the cost is $10 per issue. More information, including the table of contents and an introduction to the first issue, may be found on the website of Prairie Parish Press. You can also find PPP on Facebook.
This is the second issue of our SOCHA newsletter, first introduced last month. If you know of anything we should include in the next issue, or to offer any other feedback about the newsletter, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
WHAT’S NEW AT SOCHA?
- Today, August 15, is the last day to get the early-bird discount on your registration fee for the upcoming SOCHA symposium at Princeton. The symposium takes place on August 30 and September 1. For more information, see the symposium’s web page or send an email to email@example.com.
- The first issue of the Journal of American Orthodox Church History (JAOCH) will be launched THIS WEEK. The cost is $10. We’ll have lots more information in the coming days, so stay tuned.
- Things have been rather slow lately here at OrthodoxHistory.org, and for that, I apologize. A brief update on my personal research: As many of you know, my recent studies have been focused on Orthodoxy and the US civil courts. I’ve completed an initial paper on the subject. First, I review the history and existing rules used by courts. I then dissect those rules and (attempt to) demostrate why they don’t work, either constitutionally or in practical application to Orthodox cases. Finally, I propose an alternative approach which (so I argue) avoids the constitutional problems and also works better for the Orthodox Church. I’ll be presenting a short version of my paper at the upcoming SOCHA symposium, although (1) I may focus on the history and current rules rather than my proposed alternative, and (2) I won’t actually be presenting the paper in person. Unfortunately, circumstances prevent me from attending the symposium, so I’ll have a friend present the paper on my behalf. In addition to that short paper, I plan to submit my longer paper to a scholarly legal journal. So, yeah — that’s what I’ve been up to in terms of historical research.
IN THE NEWS:
- In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned the plight of Holy Protection OCA Cathedral in New York City. The cathedral community is in a fight with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is trying to have the cathedral declared a historic landmark against the wishes of the cathedral itself and its diocesan bishop. If the Commission is successful, the cathedral will be forced to get government approval for any changes to the church exterior (anything from replacing a broken window to adding an onion dome). They may also be forced to make “improvements” deemed appropriate by the city. This is an unacceptable infringement on the religious freedom of the cathedral community in the name of “historic preservation.” As I said last month, I’m (obviously) a huge supporter of preserving history, and so are the folks at the cathedral, but we don’t need the government telling us how to do it. Here is an update from Fr. Christopher Calin, dean of the cathedral: “The Community Board #3 voted 32 to 9 to endorse the Landmark District which would include our Cathedral and other houses of worship in the EV [East Village]. We are currently working with a Local Faith Communities group to find alternatives to the forced landmarking of our buildings and have a meeting scheduled for 9/12 with the Commissioner of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Tierney. There is support to NOT designate religious institutions as individual landmarks, but the well-funded and staffed preservationists are lobbying the LPC and city council members very hard.” We at SOCHA strongly and officially support the cathedral in its efforts to resist the coerced landmarking. In a future article, we’ll let you know how you can help.
- On August 31, 1963, a major gathering of thousands of Orthodox young people took place in Pittsburgh. It’s an event that we should eventually discuss here at OrthodoxHistory.org. The Orthodox Christian Laity organization (OCL) is looking for video of that event. Here’s a statement from OCL’s executive director, George Matsoukas: “Since December 2010, we have conducted a search that includes contacting most Archdioceses and various dioceses of all Orthodox Jurisdictions, individual hierarchs, clergy, laity and various archives, as well as CBS, looking for the 1963 ‘Lamp Unto My Feet’ Documentary of the CEOYLA Pittsburgh Festival. If you know anyone who has it, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to keep the memory alive of this great event. It is a shame that somehow the video tapes have disappeared. Thank you for your consideration.”
- A Russian expedition to Alaska began on July 16 and continues through the end of this month. From the article: ”During the expedition its participants will be collecting ethnographic material, writing an academic diary, questioning local people and describing the land.” The plan is to make a film and a school manual about Alaska for Russian students.
- Speaking of Alaska, on July 15 in Moscow, an event was held to mark the 270th anniversary of discovery of “Russian America.”
- On September 9-10, St. Theodosius OCA Cathedral in Cleveland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its construction. The cathedral was founded in 1896, making it one of the oldest Orthodox parishes in the United States, and the current temple was built in 1911.
- Another centennial was celebrated in South Bend, Indiana, where Ss. Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox Church was founded in 1911.
- The Secretariat of our Assembly of Bishops has begun a series of interviews with the hierarchs of the Assembly. The first five interviews, conducted by Fr. Josiah Trenham, are available on the Assembly website. Eventually, there will be interviews with every active Orthodox bishop in America. Over at the respected Orthodox blog Byzantine, Texas, the author had this reaction to the interviews: “Having listened to some of these talks, let me say they are not fluff. Fr. Josiah Trenham asks direct, probing questions and the bishops answer with great candor.”
- A video in memory of Fr. John Meyendorff was recently produced and is available on YouTube. Meyendorff, a longtime professor and former dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, died in 1992. He was one of the most influential theological writers in American Orthodoxy. To learn more, see this article from the St. Vladimir’s website.
Matthew Namee, Editor