Posts tagged 1906
Regular readers of this website have no doubt noticed that I am really interested in early American converts to Orthodoxy. There weren’t too many, but the handfuls of people who did join the Church in the late 19th and early 20th century almost always present fascinating stories. The most notable converts, in terms of visibility, tend to be clergymen from other Christian groups, e.g. Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine or Fr. Raphael Morgan. But I would guess — and I don’t have any hard data on this, but I think it’s a reasonable theory — that most of the American converts to Orthodoxy at the turn of the last century were women.
The vast majority of Orthodox Christians in America in 1906 were male. In fact, we’ve got some solid numbers on that — according to the Census of Religious Bodies conducted that year, only 14.8% of American Orthodox parishioners were female. Among the Greeks — by far the largest group — that number was 6.1%. As you might expect, a lot of those Greek men were single, and many of those Hellenic bachelors found American brides. And while those American wives didn’t always join the Orthodox Church, many of them did. I would guess that the majority (and perhaps the overwhelming majority) of early converts were American women marrying ethnic Orthodox men.
St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Washington, DC was founded in 1904. By 1906, its priest was Fr. Joachim Alexopoulos, who later became one of the first bishops in the Greek Archdiocese. In June 1906, one of the DC Greeks, Nicholas Pappajohn (who had Anglicized his name to “Davis”) married a German-American girl named Helen Mohr in an dual Lutheran-Orthodox ceremony.
The whole thing took place in a local hall, rather than a church. An improvised altar was set up, and a local Lutheran pastor married the couple in a standard Lutheran ceremony. At the close of the service, the pastor left, and Fr. Joachim Alexopoulos entered, and celebrated the Orthodox wedding service from beginning to end. He certainly didn’t concelebrate with a Lutheran minister, but this compromise was apparently deemed acceptable to all parties. (Details from the Washington Post, 6/25/1906.)
Another, more complex, scenario played out the same year. In January, Nicholas Pappajohn/Davis’ good friend, a Mr. Anagost, married a German-American woman named Mollie Dietz. Although Ms. Dietz was of German ancestry, she was an Episcopalian, and the couple was married in an Episcopal church. But they didn’t turn around and celebrate an Orthodox ceremony, as did the Davis couple in June. Instead, the new bride spent the next nine months studying the Orthodox faith, preparing to be baptized into the Orthodox Church. The Washington Post (9/17/1906) reports, “Although it is not required, it is considered desirable that all who receive the Greek sacrament of marriage should be baptized according to Greek rites, so Mrs. Anagost, after study and preparation, decided to give up her old church affiliations and cast her lot with her husband’s church.”
Mollie Anagost was thus baptized in September, and she and her husband were then wed in an Orthodox ceremony. Her godfather was the aforementioned Nicholas Davis. The godmother, according to the Post, was Helen Davis, the newlywed Lutheran. It’s not clear whether Mrs. Davis converted to Orthodoxy shortly after her marriage and thus was actually the godmother, or whether she was merely on hand to provide assistance.
The whole Greek congregation was present at the beginning of the baptism. Mr. Anagost translated the priest’s words into English for his wife, and she swore that she was joining the Orthodox Church not out of compulsion, but by free choice and out of a sincere belief in the teachings of the Church. It was up to the godfather, Nicholas Davis, to decide the baptismal name of Mollie Anagost, and he chose “Sophia.”
The Post reports that, when the time came for Mollie to be immersed, “the congregation moved toward the kitchen, leaving Mrs. Anagost with her mother, husband, and priest. The real baptismal service was not performed in public, for only a night robe is worn, and the body is entirely dipped in the consecrated water.”
Once Mrs. Anagost was initiated into the Church, she joined the rest of the congregation, who crowded around her and congratulated her. The Post reporter, Elizabeth Ellicott Poe, writes, “The Post reporter was called back and a silver quarter presented to her in observance of the ancient Grecian custom of giving coins to the witnesses, especially those who left first… With hearty congratulations, these friendly Old World people prepared for an evenign of festal enjoyment.” The following Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. Anagost were married in an Orthodox ceremony.
I am interested in the contrast between the two couples, the Davises and the Anagosts. As I said, the Anagosts were married in the Episcopal Church back in January, but waited to have an Orthodox ceremony until after Mrs. Anagost was baptized in September. The Davises, on the other hand, had back-to-back Lutheran and Orthodox services, one right after the other. I can’t tell whether Mrs. Davis became Orthodox or not, but if she did, it wasn’t until after her wedding(s). Thus, in one parish, we see two very different approaches to “mixed marriage.”
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Every ten years, from 1906 to 1936, the US Census Bureau compiled a Census of Religious Bodies. These censuses are gold mines of information on early American Orthodoxy. Also, unlike so many of the inflated numbers that you’re likely to see floating around, the census data is reliable. With its considerable resources, the Census Bureau was able not only to work with the jurisdictions themselves, but to contact individual parishes for precise information. The result is a thorough, well-researched, and generally unbiased collection of statistics and other information.
What can we learn from the censuses? Loads of things. For instance, we can track the growth of the various Orthodox groups and jurisdictions in the United States:
The Russian spike in 1916 was most likely caused by Uniate conversions. Overall, the Orthodox population grew from about 130,000 in 1906 to almost 350,000 thirty years later:
- 1906: 129,606
- 1916: 249,840
- 1926: 259,394
- 1936: 348,025
As you can see, the 1916-1926 period was rather stagnant; in fact, aside from the Albanians and Romanians, every jurisdiciton declined in that period. World War I probably had something to do with it, as well as the new immigration quotas imposed by the US government in 1924. It’s also likely that the various jurisdictional schisms of the 1920s – Russy-Antacky, Royalist-Venizelist, Metropolia-Living Church — affected the ability of the Census Bureau to collect data. (That is, there were probably more Orthodox than were reported in 1926.)
One of the things I’ve found most interesting about the census data are the gender ratios. In 1906, men represented 85% of all American Orthodox Christians. That is, for every woman, there were almost six men. Here are the percentages of women in each year:
- 1906: 15%
- 1916: 28%
- 1926: 40%
- 1936: 46%
By 1936, every group was between 42 and 51 percent female. For most of this period, the Greeks were the most overwhelmingly male jurisdiction (with female percentages from 1906-36 of 6, 17, 34, and 43 percent). Until ’36, the Syrians were the most balanced group, with 40% women in 1906, and 45, 49, and 47 percent in the years that followed.
The Serbian male population actually declined considerably from 1906-26, due most likely to the Balkan Wars and then World War I, but the female population (not just the percentage) increased dramatically:
- 1906: 2,228 women (14%)
- 1916: 3,301 women (23%)
- 1926: 6,421 women (47%)
The census also kept data on Sunday schools. In 1906, there were just 7 Sunday schools in all of American Orthodoxy. By 1916, there were 162 (of which 126 were Russian). The Russians actually closed a lot of their Sunday schools in the next decade (dropping to 90), but the Greeks and Romanians added a lot more, pushing the total number up to 198 by 1926. By 1936, there were 294 Orthodox Sunday schools in the United States, of which 129 were Greek and 101 were Russian.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available in the censuses. In the future, we’ll continue to unpack the data.
Very soon after his 1905 conversion to Orthodoxy, Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine wrote a letter to his archbishop, St. Tikhon, on “the Anglican Church’s claims.” It was, for Tikhon, a valuable document: a view of Anglicanism from one of its own, who had himself converted to Orthodoxy. Irvine, who retained a sincere affection for his old Church, was in the perfect position to outline the good and the bad of the Anglican Communion.
In 1906, Irvine published the letter as a small book, titled On the Anglican Church’s Claims. He contacted some of his old friends in the Episcopal Church, well-respected figures, to expand on specific aspects of Anglicanism, and their responses were included as appendices in the book. The preface was written by Rev. Daniel J. Odell, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation in Philadelphia. Odell, a longtime friend of Irvine, provides a perspective on Irvine’s ordination that differs markedly from the negative reaction of Bishop Grafton. I’m reprinting Odell’s preface in its entirety:
In view of the assembling of a council of the Holy Orthodox Russian Church for the recasting of its internal ecclesiastical affairs during the coming Autumn and the approaching Fourth Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops in 1909, it would seem pre-eminently fitting that the letter of the Reverend Dr. Irvine, “On the Anglican Church’s Historical Claims, Doctrines, Discipline, Worship, etc.,” written to his Grace, the Most Reverend Archbishop Tikhon of North America and Aleutian Islands, shortly after the reception of Dr. Irvine into the Priesthood of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church, should be reprinted; with the earnest hope that the cordial relations hitherto existing between the two Churches may be restored and, further, that something definite and explicit may be done by the Bishops of the respective Councils which, under the controlling guidance of the Holy Spirit, will make for righteousness and the reunion of Christendom.
The unhappy position of the Protestant Episcopal Church, as an integral part of the Anglican Communion, in allowing herself to be constantly and continuously classified with the Protestant bodies which have no Historical Episcopate, and scarcely ever, as she should, fearlessly asserting her Catholic and Apostolic heritage, has naturally permitted herself and the whole Anglican Communion to be grievously misunderstood by the Holy Eastern Church. And again, as Dr. Irvine most clearly points out, she has never zealously and unitedly “pressed her claims before the four Eastern Patriarchates” during the past “three hundred years.” The English Church and her daughter churches, with the Protestant Episcopal Church, after drifting along all these years, apparently content with herself in the self-depending knowledge of her own claims or, possibly in a spirit of indifference as to what others may think or say of these claims, finds herself to-day in the unique and notable position where she alone, amidst the entire religious world, Catholic and Protestant, acknowledges and maintains her historical claim of Catholic heritage and Apostolic continuity. She has been unjust to herself, and her Episcopate is to-day receiving the due reward of their own compromising weakness and failure in not safeguarding the Priesthood of their own Church, which looks to them for perpetuation and protection.
In ordaining Dr. Irvine to the Priesthood of the Holy Orthodox Church, his Grace, Archbishop Tikhon, acted, as he was morally and canonically bound to do, in strict obedience to the canonical and ancient usage of the Catholic Church, and the ordination has not been held sacreligious nor discourteous to the Anglican Church outside of one or more irresponsible Church newspapers and some individual ecclesiastics who wrote hastily and unfavorably of the action as doing harm to the cordial relations then obtaining between the Protestant Episcopal and Holy Orthodox Churches. Even the Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Tuttle, in his individual protest to the President of the Holy Synod, seems to have moved unadvisedly as judging the act of Archbishop Tikhon intrusive and tending to disturb ecclesiastical relations when, in fact, no inter-communion really existed at the time or had ever existed.
The act of Archbishop Tikhon in ordaining Dr. Irvine has fearlessly and clearly opened up all questions of difference between the Anglican and Holy Orthodox Churches and boldly brings the chief and leading issues straight before the Bishops of the Lambeth Conference and of the Holy Orthodox Russian Church.
The Roman Catholic Church denies, without condition, the truth of any such claims made by the Anglican Church, but has been irrefutably and successfully answered in the noted “Response of the Archbishops of England to the Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII on Anglican Ordination,” dated February, A.D. 1897, and addressed to the whole body of Bishops of the Catholic Church. Yet it has not been followed up by any united organic action of the entire Anglican Church tending toward effectual inter-communion, and so long as the Anglican Bishops have not collectively and officially pressed her claims for recognition as “part of the Historical Catholic Church,” they cannot actively fault the Holy Eastern Church for not having full knowledge of her Catholic position; and until a conciliar and formal judgment and decision shall be given upon the facts at issue the Anglican and Holy Orthodox Churches will remain estranged and separated.
The opportunity for mutual investigation and explanation of all differences between the Anglican and Holy Orthodox Churches is greater to-day than ever, and he must appear blind who will not see the real bond of union now existing between the Churches made reasonably clear by the opportune and friendly letter of Dr. Irvine to Archbishop Tikhon on “the Anglican Church’s Historical Claims,” etc., in which he says:
“I would not do the Anglican Church a wrong. I would not any more than I would cut off this hand which holds the pen by which I communicate my thoughts to your Grace in black and white, withhold one truth or hide away one merit of which she glories. On the contrary, I trust my very frankness may be the cause of stirring up a spirit of interest on the part of the Holy Orthodox Church so that the Anglican claims may be fairly and quickly weighed and that the Saviour’s prayer so far as the Anglican Church and the Holy Orthodox at least are concerned, may be fulfilled — ‘that they all may be one.’”
God grant it, in His way and time,
DANIEL J. ODELL.
Rectory, Church of the Annunciation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 1905, the Holy Synod of Russia was preparing for an All-Russian Council. In advance of this, the Synod asked all the diocesan hierarchs of the Russian Church to send in their opinions on various church reform issues. St. Tikhon was among the respondents, and a portion of his reply has become rather famous among American Orthodox Christians. There are a couple of translations of this section of Tikhon’s response; I’ll print one of them here:
The diocese of North America must be reorganized into an Exarchate of the Russian Church in North America. The diocese is not only multi-national; it is composed of several orthodox Churches, which keep the unity of faith, but preserve their peculiarities in canonical structure, in liturgical rules, in parish life. These particularities are dear to them and can perfectly be tolerated on the pan-orthodox scene. We do not consider that we have the right to suppress the national character of the churches here; on the contrary, we try to preserve this character and we confer on them the latitude to be guided by leaders of their own nationality. Thus, the Syrian Church here received a bishop of its own (the Most Rev. Raphael of Brooklyn), who is the second auxiliary to the diocesan bishop of the Aleutian Islands, but is almost independent in his own sphere (the bishop of Alaska having the same position). The Serbian parishes are now organized under one immediate head, who for the time beign is an archimandrite, but who can be elevated to the episcopacy in the nearest future. The Greeks also desire to have their own bishop and are trying to settle the matter with the Synod of Athens. In other words, in North America a whole Exarchate can easily be established, uniting all orthodox national Churches, which would have their own bishops under one Exarch, the Russian Archbishop. Each one of them is independent in his own sphere, but the common affairs of the American Church are decided in a Synod, presided by the Russian Archbishop. Through him a link is preserved between the American Church and the Church of Russia and a certain dependence of the former on the latter. It should be remembered however that life in the New World is different from that of the old; our Church must take this into consideration; a greater autonomy (and possibly autocephaly) should therefore be granted to the Church of America, as compared with the other Metropolitan sees of the Russian Church. The North American Exarchate would comprise: (1) the archdiocese of New York, with jurisdiction over all Russian Churches in the United States and Canada. (2) the diocese of Alaska, for the orthodox inhabitants of Alaska (Russians, Aleutians, Indians, Eskimos). (3) The diocese of Brooklyn (Syrian). (4) the diocese of Chicago (Serbian). (5) a Greek diocese.
That translation comes from St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, in 1975. There was, however, an earlier translation, commissioned by St. Tikhon himself. This earlier version appeared in the Vestnik (the official periodical of the Russian Mission), in March of 1906. There are some notable differences between the two translations. Among them:
- The 1906 version includes St. Tikhon’s full (and fascinating) response to the Holy Synod, which runs 22 pages. The 1975 version consists only of the section quoted above, thus lacking the context of St. Tikhon’s proposal.
- The 1906 version says that St. Raphael is “nominally the second vicar”; the 1975 version does not include the word “nominally.”
- The 1906 version does not include the parenthetical “(autocephaly)”, which the 1975 version has. On this point, the 1975 version appears to be more accurate; I am told by those who can read Russian that the original Russian text does include that parenthetical.
- The 1906 version, when it mentions a diocese (bishopric) for the Greeks, includes a question mark: “The bishopric (?) of the Greeks.” The 1975 version omits this question mark, which does in fact appear in the original Russian.
Otherwise, the two versions basically agree with each other, aside from the obvious differences in word choice in translation. I don’t know who translated either version — neither the 1906 nor the 1975 version credited anyone.
Needless to say, St. Tikhon’s vision was never fully realized. Fr. Sebastian Dabovich never became bishop for the Serbs, and the Greeks weren’t about to submit to Russian authority. And, as pragmatic as it might have been, St. Tikhon’s proposal was also completely uncanonical, predicated as it was upon overlapping episcopal territories that were a total violation of Orthodox ecclesiology. But St. Tikhon’s vision would inspire two later efforts to form a single American Orthodox jurisdiction — the “American Orthodox Catholic Church” in the 1920s/30s, and, in 1970, the OCA — and it is still hailed by many today as a viable solution to our present jurisdictional situation.
PODCAST NOTE: Today on the American Orthodox History podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, we’re airing Part 2 of my interview with Fr. John Erickson, on the subject of the Russian Mission. In this two-part interview, Fr. John gives us, among other things, the context to understand St. Tikhon’s vision.
On today’s episode of my American Orthodox History podcast, I discuss Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, a famous Episcopal priest who converted to Orthodoxy under St. Tikhon in 1905. We’ll have lots more to come on Irvine, but for starters, here are his seven reasons for converting to Orthodoxy. This is from his 1906 book, A Letter on the Anglican Church’s Claims.
First, the Anglican Church is not the true platform of unity. She is too political and diplomatic, always compromising for expediency and shading like a chameleon to attract each Protestant Sect.
Second, because the Anglican Church, while she teaches the true Faith, still permits the filioque.
Third. Because she allows her Bishops in some respects to be more papal than the Pope of Rome and she gives to her laymen the casting vote in Doctrine, Discipline and Worship.
Fourth. Because I can do more good for Jesus Christ according to the dictates of my own conscience, and for the Unity of Christendom, in the Holy Eastern Church than I can in the Protestant Episcopal.
Fifth. Because the Holy Eastern Church says just what she means; and means what she says.
Sixth. Because all of her priests and children have but one mode of conducting worship and believe exactly in one interpretation of the Sacraments.
Seventh. Because God the Holy Ghost, on the morning of Whitsunday [Pentecost], 1905, in St. Mary’s Church, Philadelphia, in response to my the inquiry of my soul, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ commanded me in an irresistible way, ‘Go and work for the Holy Eastern Church.’ And I was obedient unto the voice.
This is my answer.