Posts tagged Episcopalians
Editor’s note: Yesterday, we introduced Fr. Kyrill Johnson (1897-1947), a 1920s convert who spent most of his career in the Antiochian Archdiocese. What follows is an article by Fr. Kyrill which appeared in the Orthodox American (September 1943), which was a sort of forerunner to the modern-day Word Magazine. (Just to clarify: St. Raphael did have a periodical called Al Kalimat, which is Arabic for “The Word.” After St. Raphael’s death, Al Kalimat continued for a little while, but it eventually ceased publication. Many years later, in the 1950s, Metropolitan Antony Bashir started a new magazine, also called The Word. While the two periodicals have the same name and the same general audience (Antiochian Americans), they really are two distinct publications. Anyway, before the modern-day Word Magazine began, there was the Orthodox American.
Regarding Fr. Kyrill Johnson’s article (below) — one of the things that immediately struck me about Fr. Kyrill’s writing was its similiarity to the style and tone of an earlier convert priest, Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine. The two priests never met each other (Irvine died before Johnson joined the Church), and they seem to have been very different in most other respects, but reading this article, it almost sounds as if Irvine wrote it. He almost certainly would have agreed with Fr. Kyrill’s conclusions.
In temporal warfare, when there is a desire to destroy those who do not agree with you, there are two methods open to the aggressor. The first is to marshal on a field of battle one’s material strength, and to engage the opposition in a test of strength and endurance to determine which side is to be destroyed and which side is to survive. The second is more a technique than a method, and was perfected by Hitler in recent years. It is to carry on undercover warfare through the functioning of a fifth column in the area for which there is the hidden and secret desire to destroy. The purpose of this technique is to avoid carrying on a frontal assault until there has been carried on a process of inner weakening. For this purpose everything is considered legitimate for gaining victory: lies, deception, bribery, the playing on natural human weaknesses and vanity, the deliberate misuses of terms and ideals to make them mean what they were not intended to mean and to use them as instruments of inner destruction. On the whole, this technique is pretty low and despicable, and it is disliked by civilized people.
Unfortunately, in the spiritual warfare in which the powers of darkness seek to destroy those of truth and light, one finds too often the use of methods of temporal wars; there is in some instances the clean clash of truth and error in the open, and an effort at honesty and sincerity on both sides. Then there is the Hitler technique, used to divide, to weaken, to invade the sanctities by fifth column methods through operation from within.
Recently we have observed an example of this second technique put into operation within the sanctity of our Orthodox fold here in America.
It appeared in the form of an innocent enough appearing publication, with the title inscribed “The Greek Orthodox Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Arranged for Use in English.” It comes from the press of an educational institution of one of the more wealthy protestant sects and is sent out without any official imprimatur, so that those whose point of view it represents cannot be held morally responsible for its contents.
In his introduction the “arranger” writes his purposes as follows: “Finally, in making this adaptation, the editor has had in mind two possible uses, apart from private reading: first, for public use in English speaking congregations of the Orthodox in the United States; secondly, for occasional public use in churches of the Anglican Communion,” meaning, of course, the Protestant Episcopalian Church in the United States.
We must, as Orthodox Christians, grant a certain amount of Christian charity toward this self-appointed arranger of our sacred Orthodox Liturgy for our people in this country. We trust that he was merely simple-minded enough to presume that we are so bankrupt of scholarship and initiative as to be unable to perform this task for ourselves when we need to have it done.
At the same time we must confess that the result is an amazing performance of unmitigated effrontery toward Orthodox Christians. There is not the slightest understanding of the fact that for us, our Liturgy is part of Holy Tradition and therefore is entitled to the most scrupulous respect.
Before we are misunderstood let us make it crystal clear that this work is not a translation into English of the Greek text, nor does it pretend to be. Had the author, as a scholar, set himself to render into English any of the mss. or the printed texts, we could have understood and perhaps welcomed his efforts. This was not his purpose. His task, as he saw it, was to re-write our Divine Liturgy so that it might be brought into conformity with protestant notions as to what is [sic] should be. This intrusion into a realm which the Church safeguards with the strictest limitations is something for which there can be no forgiveness either on the score of intent or of performance.
Let us also make ourself clear on this point. We do not care a hoot what Protestant Episcopalians do among themselves. For their own use and spiritual edification they can adapt the Rig Veda, the poems of Walt Whitman, the Latin Mass, or even our own Sacred Texts. But when our sacred Mysteries are tampered with in the hope that they will be used by our Orthodox People in the protestant and not in the Orthodox sense, then indeed we protest throughout the entire length and breadth of universal Orthodoxy.
Let us examine this remarkable document ever so briefly. We have not the space for a detailed analysis. First we will list those sections which are cut out entirely, viz.: the First and Second Antiphons, with their prayers; the beautiful and necessary Prayer of the Trisagion; the Ektenia for the Dead; the First Prayer of the Faithful; all that follows immediately after “It is meat [sic] and right.” the Theotokion Megalynarion. It is suggested that in place of the Megalynarion a verse from a protestant hymnal be used- which it terms a “free translation of the original,[”] which it certainly is not. Also omitted is the Ektenia which follows the Great Eucharistic Prayer.
And there is added immediately after the Words of Institution a section which does not occur in the Liturgy but which gives the whole area a protestant Theological flavor. Moreover, prayers are changed about; Petitions are shifted hither and yon; liturgical directions are given which violate the whole spirit of the accepted Diataxis. In short, our most Sacred Mystery has been re-written to make it over and to make it acceptable to protestant ways of thinking. Besides the palpable heresy which comes to notice on almost every page (such as a mistranslation of “Theotokos” which would shock the Holy Fathers of Chalcedon) the total effect is one which will strike the heart of every Orthodox Christian as something very much akin to blasphemy.
Some of the omissions the “arranger” excuses by saying that his “edition” does not pretend to be an altar-book,” but the excuse looks pretty thin because he proceeds in a manner that is more capricious and arbitrary than it is systematic. For additions to the text and deformation of it no passable excuse is conceivable in the face of the expressed desire that the Orthodox themselves shall use it.
Had the “arranger” not stated his intention and hope that it would be used by Orthodox Christians, we would ignore it as another example of the working of the untutored protestant mind intruding into fields quite beyond the spiritual and academic depth of the intruder. Under the circumstances of the expressed hope of the dual function it is presumed to fulfill, we can inform the arranger that Orthodoxy will have none of such things. Any attempt to corrupt Orthodoxy by a fifth column of protestant heresy from inside is doomed to failure. We have intelligent and learned Bishops and no text can be used at the Altar without study by competent ecclesiastical authorities and due permission.
At the same time we expect from now on, in walking through various American cities, to find advertised on the conventicles of protestantism signs reading “The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.”
Our young people must from henceforth b[e] very much on their guard; and our ancient discipline which forbids us to worship with heretics must be vigorously enforced. We remind our people once again that to attend the religious exercises of people outside the bosom of Orthodoxy is reckoned a major sin by the Church. Even though the sign may read “The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom”, the stranger should make sure that it is under the jurisdiction of a lawful Orthodox Bishop.
We cannot view activities like this “arranging” of our Divine Liturgy otherwise than with alarm and sorrow, no matter how well intentioned are their perpetrators. God may pardon the sins of ignorance, but the Faithful must be on their guard lest the wiles of evil enter into the fold of Christ.
As we’ve discussed several times in the past, in 1893, a Greek archbishop visited the United States. His name was Archbishop Dionysius Latas of Zante, and he came to America to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. That’s where we last saw him; today, we’ll pick up Abp Dionysius’ trail after the Parliament concluded.
The Parliament ended in late September, 1893. In October, Abp Dionysius was present in Boston for the consecration of an Episcopalian bishop (Boston Globe, 10/6/1893). The next month, he went to St. Louis and was the guest of the Episcopal Bishop George Seymour, who happened to be a friend of the future Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine. A couple of days after that, Abp Dionysius made his way back to Chicago, where he delivered a speech at an Episcopal Church conference. In fact, that speech is a good deal more interesting than anything Abp Dionysius said at the Parliament of Religions, and we’ll reprint the text in its entirety here. From the Galveston Daily News (11/12/1893):
My brethren in Jesus Christ: I consider myself again very happy in presenting myself before this most reverend council of the eminent divines and minsiters of your holy church. (You will excuse me if I make any mistakes in a language which is foreign to me, and in which of necessity I am obliged to speak before you.)
It is not the first time that a Greek archbishop approaches the Episcopal church and enters into the temples of this church, so eminent a member of the Christian body, a member of the Christian family. I am not the first and I think I shall not be the last. Twenty years ago another Greek archbishop, the archbishop of Syra, Alexander Lycurgus, was in London, when the Anglican clergymen and the archbishop of Canterbury solemnly and demonstratively received him and introduced him in the cathedral church of St. Paul, where the Greek archbishop, standing on the platform of the church, had the honor to give the blessing to the clergymen and laymen of the Anglican church.
By the opportunity of my invitation and my presence at the religious congress in this city, I have also had the great honor to present myself more than once in your churches, on your tribunes and platforms; and I am not only invited to this honor, but I also come self-invited and quite voluntarily, from the feelings which I have, with other bishops of Greece, toward your holy church. And I thank your dignified bishops, especially Henry C. Potter, bishop of New York, who not only opened to me, with brotherly feelings, the doors of the churches, but at the same time opened their arms and embraced me and conducted me to the most honorable places of your temples.
As self-invited also, and as voluntarily coming into the presence of this eminent council of your church, I speak before you to-day sincerely and with heart full of love, as a brother in Christ, as a friend in the love of the divinely inspired Gospel.
I approve and admire your practical work, your struggle and perseverance, and your great expenditures for the diffusion and propagation of Christian doctrine in every part of our globe; and lastly, for the pure moral Christian education, without distinction, to all members of Christian communities. We have such an instance and testimony in our country — the school established under the direction of the persons of happy memory, the Rev. Mr. Hill and Mrs. Hill, the Americans who sacrificed their lives while working incessantly for their lovely Greece. This school was the first girls’ school in our classic land after the freedom of Greece, which gave, nearly fifty years ago, many well brought up mothers to many families, rich and poor, without any distinction; and for that reason the entire Greek nation expresses her gratitude especially to your Christian association and generally to your American people. We regard not with indifference your church, but we look always to your work with the deepest interest, with hearts full of love, and also with hope for the future.
As regarding this hope for the future, it suffices me to repeat here before you, word for word, my address which I pronounced in Trinity church, at Boston, during the holy service of the consecration of the new Bishop Lawrence. “It is certainly,” I said, “a great pleasure for you to see a new bishop in your circle, but your pleasure can not be greater than the one I experience in being here and looking at your reverend persons and listening to the divine service of your church. For in your church, and in the eminent divines of that church, one can see concentrated the hopes of the union in the future of all the Christian churches in the world. Surely you are Protestants, but at the same time you are also Catholics. You are Protestants on the one hand; you only can embrace all the other Protestant bodies. And, on the other hand, as Catholics, you alone can command the attention of the Catholic churches. For wh ile you have protested, you alone have retained a great part of the rites of Catholicism, and you have not rejected all the traditions of the Catholic church.
“Hence your church, sister to the one on account of protesting, sister also to the other on account of the Catholic traditions, is the center toward which all the eminent persons of the distinctive churches will cast their eyes in the future, when, by the grace of God, they will decide to take steps for the union of all the Christian world into one flock, under one shepherd or pastor. In this pre-eminent idea and hope for the future, I embrace the new bishop and all the other bishops here present as my brethren in Christ. I embrace your church, the pen and ink of which anxiously awaits a bright page in the future history of the Christian religion.”
Needless to say, this sort of speech was music to the ears of the Episcopalians who heard it. Abp Dionysius expressed exactly the sort of role that so many Episcopalians envisioned for their Church: the great center towards which the Protestants and the “Catholics” (Orthodox and Roman) would ultimately move. It is quite possible that Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, then an Episcopal priest, was present at Abp Dionysius’ speech. Years later, Irvine expressly rejected the idea that Anglicanism was the platform for Christian unity, instead arguing that Christian unity was possible only in the Orthodox Church — the “Mother Church of Christendom,” as he called it, the true Church from which all others had deviated. That Abp Dionysius adopted, not the Irvinian position (which really is the Orthodox position), but rather the standard Anglo-Catholic one, is rather remarkable.
After the Episcopal conference in Chicago, Abp Dionysius traveled west, visiting San Francisco in early December (Los Angeles Times, 12/17/1893). It isn’t clear whether he met with the Russian Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, but he almost certainly encountered some of the hundreds of Orthodox Christians in the city.
On his return trip to Greece, Abp Dionysius went across the Pacific. On a train ride from Singapore to Calcutta, he happened to run into a Methodist bishop, who invited him to attend a Methodist conference in Calcutta. Abp Dionysius accepted. According to one American periodical, “Although he remarked privately that Bishop Thoburn was not a real bishop, he bestowed upon him when taking leave the apostolic kiss” (Congregationalist, 4/26/1894). At his host’s request, Abp Dionysius delighted the Methodists by delivering St. Paul’s Mars Hill sermon in its original Greek. (Christian Advocate, 4/5/1894)
Abp Dionysius made it home to Greece by the middle of 1894, but soon thereafter, late in the summer, he died. The New York Observer and Chronicle (1/24/1895) offered a fine obituary:
Some interesting details connected with the death of Archbishop Dionysios Latas of Zante, who died last August, and whose name is familiar to Americans since his visit to Chicago the year before, have very recently been sent to this country by Bishop Potter. Archbishop Latas was greatly beloved by the people of Zante. As a preacher he was eloquent and tireless; and in his work as a leader of the clergy he was most efficient, giving to the island good priests, and developing those whom he had found already there.
His own training was well rounded. Besides his native tongue he was a master of German, Italian and English. He was distinguished by his fine presence and sonorous voice and by the gentleness and sweetness of his manners. Though far past the prime of life he had still before him many years of work. A writer in one of the Athenian journals, referring to the time of the late earthquake in Zante, says: “I remember him when the island was shaking and the houses falling in ruins, going about in his carriage through the narrow roads of the settlements from morning till night, comforting and advising, cheering and inspiring confidence in divine help, the only hope of people in the perilous state of the hapless Zacynthians. And I saw him, as they grasped his hand, secretly giving material help along with his prayers.”
The funeral took place with great magnificence, and in the midst of great emotion and sorrow, the people all through the two days previous flocking in crowds to the central church of the town, where the body had been placed, and reverently kissing the hand of their beloved priest.
A British writer, in the journal Academy, offered these comments (reprinted in The Dial, 10/1/1894):
A greater breadth of thought — acquired probably from his long studies in Germany — brought him closer to the intellectual classes in modern Greece than most of his brethren. Whenever he preached in the Metropolitan Church of Athens, the building was closely packed. When it was my privilege to hear him, his restrained yet burning eloquence and the but half suppressed applause of his hearers brought to my remembrance the accounts that are extant of the effect of the preaching of the Golden-mouthed [Chrysostom] at Constantinople, fifteen centuries ago.
Archbishop Dionysius Latas was 58 when he died, and had served as bishop of Zante (Zakhynthos) for ten years.
Editor’s note: Last week, we presented the first part of the first biography of St. Innocent, written by the Episcopalian clergyman Charles R. Hale. What follows is Part 2, which details the introduction of Orthodoxy to Alaska and the priestly ministry of Fr. John Veniaminoff, the future St. Innocent. Tomorrow, we will publish the last section of Hale’s article, which focuses on St. Innocent’s tenure as a bishop.
“Who in the West,” asks Mouravieff, “hears anything of the truly apostolical labors of the Archbishop of Kamchatka, who is ever sailing over the ocean, or driving in reindeer sledges over his vast but thinly settled diocese, thousands of miles in extent, everywhere baptizing the natives, for whom he has introduced the use of letters, and translated the Gospel into the tongue of the Aleoutines?” Few, indeed, have heard, doubtless there are many who would be glad to hear.
The present Metropolitan of Moscow, late Archbishop of Kamchatka, has been called “the Russian Selwyn,” but he began his missionary labors much earlier than the late [Anglican] Bishop of New Zealand, and has been called to a yet higher position of dignity and influence in his own Church, than that held by the Bishop of Lichfield. John Veniaminoff was born August 20 (September 1, o.s.), 1797, was educated in the Seminary of Irkutsk, from which he graduated in 1817, and entered upon the sacred ministry in May of that year. He was advanced to the priesthood in 1821. December 15 (27 o.s.), 1840, Innocent, for by this name he is henceforth known, was consecrated, by the Episcopal members of the Holy Synod, in the Kazan’s Cathedral at St. Petersburg, to the newly founded Bishopric of Kamchatka. In 1850, his See was made Archi-episcopal. Early in 1868 he succeeded the honored Philaret as the Metropolitan of Moscow. It is a curious coincidence that Bishop Selwyn was consecrated but a few months later than he, October 17, 1841; and the appointment of Innocent to Moscow was announced within a very few days of the time when the Bishop of Lichfield entered upon his new charge, January, 1868.
Of the first two years after his ordination to the priesthood, in which he seemed to have been engaged in parish work in the Diocese of Irkutsk, we have no record. But in 1823 he offered himself as a missionary and was sent by his Bishop to Ounalashka [Unalaska]. Let us preface the story of his labors there, as he himself does, by a brief account of earlier work in the same region. In doing this we translate from his own words, for lack of space however greatly abreviating [sic] his narrative.
How attractive his exordium:
Knowing how pleasant it is for the true Christian to hear of the propagation of Christianity among nations previously unenlightened by the Holy Gospel, I have determined to set forth what I know concerning the propagation and establishment of Christian truth in one of the most remote parts of our country, where, by the will of God, I have been led to spend many years.
Then he goes on to show how
The Christian religion crossed to the shores of Russian America with the first Russians who went to establish themselves in those parts. Among those who sought at once to establish a new industry for Russia, and to acquire gain for themselves, there were those who resolved, at the same time, upon the establishment of Christianity amongst the savages with whom they dwelt. The Cossack, Andrean Tolstich, about 1743 discovering the island known under the name Andreanoffsky, was probably the first to baptize the natives. In the year 1759, Ivan Glotoff discovering the island of Lisa, baptized the son of one of the hereditary chiefs of the Lisevian Aleoutines. He afterwards took the young man to Kamchatka, where this first fruits of the Ounalashka Church spent several years and studied the Russian language and literature and then, returning to his native country, with the position of chief Toen (Governor) conferred upon him by the Governor of Kamchatka, helped greatly by his example, in the propagation of Christianity.
The good missionary confesses that self-interest had something to do with the desire, on the part of many of the first settlers, for the spread of Christianity among the savages, they thinking that thus they would be able to establish better relations with the natives. When we think of the way in which Americans and English have too often acted toward the savage tribes with whom they have been brought into contact, instead of blaming the defective motive, on the part of some, we may rejoice that, in this instance: “The desire of Russians for gain served as a means for diffusing the first principles of Christianity among the Aleoutines, and aided the labors of the missionaries who came after.”
Mr. Shelikoff, founder of the American company:
Among his many plans and projects for the advancement of the interests of the American part of our territory, had in view especially the propagation of Christianity, and the founding of Churches. On which account, on his return from Kadiak [sic] in the year 1787, he laid a memorial in regard to this before the Government and begged it to found an Orthodox Mission, of which he and his associate Golikoff took upon them the expense both of establishment and sustaining. As a result of his intercessions there was founded at St. Petersburg a mission of eight monks, under the lead of Archimandrite Joseph, for the preaching of the word of God among people brought under Russian dominion. Well provided for by Shelikoff, Golikoff, and other benefactors, the mission set out from St. Petersburg in the year 1792, and in the following autumn arrived at Kadiak.
At once they entered upon their work, beginning on the Island of Kadiak. In 1795, Macarius went to the Ounalashka district on a missionary tour, and Juvenal visited the Tehougatches, and crossed over the Gulf of Kenae, both being everywhere warmly received by the natives. The year after, Juvenal, in the neighborhood of the lake of Pliamna, or Shelikoff, “finished his apostolic labors with his life, serving the Church better than any of his associates.” Many years afterward, the circumstance[s] of his martyrdom were related by the natives. Some other members of the mission gave special attention to the education of the children, one of them, Father German [Herman], founded an Orphan Asylum, of which he remained in charge until his death in 1837.
Shelikoff realized the importance of having the work properly organized, and so he was not content with such a mission as was sent out. “He urged the founding of a Bishopric in Russian America, under the charge of its own bishop. He fixed upon Kadiak as a the proper residence of a bishop, estimating the population of that island as about fifty thousand. In consequence of his entreaties, and in consideration of the number of inhabitants,” an Episcopal See was founded, and Joseph, Archimandrite of the mission, was summoned to Irkutsk, and there consecrated, in March 1799, by the Bishop of Irkutsk, and there consecrated, in March 1799, by the Bishop of Irkutsk, to be the first Bishop of “Kadiak, Kamchatka and America.” The new Bishop, as he returned homeward, was lost at sea, in the ship Phoenix, with all who accompanied him, including the priest Macarius and the deacon Stephen, who had come with him from St. Petersburg, when the mission was founded.
Soon after this Shelikoff died, and all thought of extending the mission, and of setting up a Bishopric, seemed lost sight of for years. In the whole colony there was but one missionary priest, until in 1816, in response to the entreaties of Baranoff the Governor, Michael Sokoloff was sent to Sitka.
A fact in this connection, not generally known, may here be mentioned that a Russian settlement, under the name of Russ, was made, under the auspices of Baranoff, in California, on the coast about forty miles northwest of San Francisco. A number of Indians here became members of the Orthodox Church, and when the colony was removed to Sitka, went northward with it. Of these Indian converts or their descendants there were in 1838 nine still living at Sitka. In 1821 new privileges were granted to and new regulations made for the Russian American Company, and the duty was laid upon it of maintaining a sufficient number of priests for the colony. Accordingly three were obtained from Irkutsk, in 1823 John Veniaminoff for Ounalashka, in 1824 Frumentius Mordovsky for Kadiak and in 1825 Jacob Netchvatoff for Atcha.
Veniaminoff entered upon his work with enthusiasm and a hearty liking for those among whom he was to labor. He recounts how Father Macarius and others who had preached the Gospel amongst them
did not present to them with fire and sword the new faith, which forbade them things in which they delighted — e.g., drunkenness and polygamy, but notwithstanding this the Aleoutines received it readily and quickly. Father Juvenal remained in the Ounalashka district but one year, and voyaging to distant islands, and travelling from place to place with only one Russian attendant, the Aleoutines whom he had baptized, or whom he was preparing for Holy Baptism, conveyed him from place to place, sustained him and guarded him without any recompense or payment. Such examples are rare.
Although the Aleoutines willingly embraced the Christian religion, and prayed to God as they were taught, it must be confessed that, until a priest was settled amongst them, they worshipped one who was almost an unknown God. For Father Macarius, from the shortness of time that he was with them, and from the lack of competent interpreters, was able to give them but very general ideas about religion, such as of God’s omnipotence, His goodness, etc. Notwithstanding all of which, the Aleoutines remained Christian, and after baptism completely renounced Shamanism, and not only destroyed all the masks which they had used in their heathen worship but also allowed the songs which might in any way remind them of their former belief to fall into oblivion. So that when, on my arrival amongst them, I through curiosity made enquiry after these songs, I could not hear of one. And as to superstitions, from which few men well taught in Gospel truth are quite free, many which they had they quite gave up, and others lost their power over them. But of all the good qualities of the Aleoutines, nothing so pleased and elighted my heart as their desire, or, to speak more justly, their thirst, for the word of God, so that sooner would and indefatigable missionary tire in preaching than they in hearing the word.”
But Veniaminoff’s missionary service was not with the peaceful Aleoutines only. There was a fierce tribe, the Koloshes, who, to use his words, when first met with, in 1804, “like fierce wild beasts hunted the Russians to tear them in pieces, so that these had to shut themselves up in their fortresses or go out in companies.” And even in 1819 they still looked “on Russians as their enemies, and slew such as they could take by night, in revenge for the death of their ancestors slain in contests with them.”
To these he resolved to carry the Gospel. To this end he came to Sitka, in the neighborhood of which the Koloshes lived, towards the close of 1834. That Winter and the ensuing Spring imperative duties detained him among the Aleoutines at Sitka. When Summer came, he found that the Koloshes had left their settlements and were scattered in different parts for the purpose of fishing. Veniaminoff confesses, too, that he had a shrinking from meeting these hostile savages. Ashamed of himself for what he felt to be cowardice he resolved that immediately upon the close of the Christmas holidays he would take his life in his hand and go.
“Let no one wonder,” he goes on to say, “at the decrees of Providence.”
Four days before I came to the Koloshes the small-pox suddenly broke out amongst them and first of all at the very place where I had expected to make my first visit. Had I begun my instruction of the Koloshes before the appearance of the small-pox they would certainly have blamed me for all the evil which came upon them, as if I were a Russian shaman or sorcerer who sent such a plague amongst them. The results of such inopportune arrival would have been dreadful. The hatred towards the Russians, which was beginning to wane, would have become as strong as ever. They would perhaps have killed me, as the supposed author of their woes. But this would have been as nothing in comparison with the fact that my coming to the Koloshes just before the small-pox would probably have caused the way to be stopped for half a century to missionaries of God’s word, who would always have seemed to them harbingers of disaster and death.
But, Glory be to God who orders all things for good! The Koloshes were not now what they were two years previously (when he had meant to come among them). If they did not immediately become Christians they, at least, listened or began to listen to the words of salvation. Few were baptized then, for, while I proclaimed the truth to them, I never urged upon them or wished to urge upon them the immediate reception of Holy Baptism, but, seeking to convince their judgment, I awaited a request from them. Those who expressed a desire to be baptized I received with full satisfaction. I always obtained from the Toens (or chiefs) and from the mothers of those desiring to be baptized a consent which was never denied, and this greatly pleased them.”
Veniaminoff introduced inoculation amongst the Koloshes, and the good they saw ensuing from this “greatly changed their opinion of the Russians and of their shamans (or magicians). They neither forbade nor did anything to hinder the reception of Holy Baptism by those desiring it. Instead of despising or avoiding those baptized they looked on them as persons wiser than themselves and almost Europeans.”
After sixteen years of missionary toil Veniaminoff was sent to St. Petersburg to plead for help for the mission. The Czar Nicholas proposed to the Holy Synod to send one who had proved so faithful a priest back to the scene of his labors as a Bishop, for Episcopal supervision was manifestly greatly needed. “Your Majesty must consider,” suggested some members of the Synod, “that, though he is no doubt an excellent man, he has no Cathedral, no body of clergy and no Episcopal Residence.” “The more then, like an Apostle,” replied the Czar, “Cannot he be consecrated?” The objections of those prelates remind us of some that have more recently been heard nearer home. It is to be hoped that, where the need of a Bishop is evident, such objections may soon be things of the past.
As has been already stated the good missionary priest was, December 15 (27 o.s.), 1840, consecrated in St. Petersburg to be Bishop of Kamchatka, with the name, by which he will hereafter be known, of Innocent.
Editor’s note: The first biography of St. Innocent of Alaska was not written by an Orthodox author, but by an Episcopalian, Charles R. Hale, in 1877 (a year before St. Innocent’s death). Hale (1837-1900) was an Episcopal priest (and later a bishop) who had great affection for the Orthodox Church. For a good summary of Hale’s life and his connection to Orthodoxy, click here.
Today, we’re presenting the first part of Hale’s biography of St. Innocent. Next week, we’ll publish Part 2, and in the future, we’ll offer more of Hale’s writings on Orthodoxy. This biography originally appeared in the journal American Church Review (July 1877).
It has long been the habit of persons unfriendly to the Orthodox Churches of the East to speak of them as well night dead Churches. The charge has been but too eagerly repeated by such as, determined upon a certain course of public policy, through a blind selfishness which must surely bring, if persisted in, a dread Nemesis, were not inclined to think well of Eastern Christians, whom it would have been inconvenient to recognize as brethren. A favorite specification in the accusation brought against Christians of the East has been, that they were utterly wanting in a missionary spirit. In these days, we know something of what enslavement to the Turk involves. And what, in common justice, to say nothing of Christian charity, have we a right to expect from those groaning under such bondage? Does not Mouravieff’ well demand, as to these, in Question Religieuse d’Orient et d’Occident,
Have we the conscience to ask that they should make converts, when, now for more than four hundred years, they have been struggling, as in a bloody sweat, to keep Christianity alive under Moslem tyranny? And, in that time, how many martyrs, of every age and condition, have shed a halo around the Oriental Church? No less than a hundred martyrs of these later days are commemorated in the services of the Church, and countless are the unnamed ones who have suffered for the faith, in these four hundred years of slavery. In 1821, Gregory, Patriarch of Constantinople, was hung at the door of his cathedral, on Easter Day. Another Patriarch, Cyril, they hung at Adrianople. Cyprian, Archbishop of Cyprus, with his three Suffragan Bishops, and all the Hegumens of the Cyprian monasteries, were hanged upon one tree before the palace of the ancient kings. Many other prelates and prominent ecclesiastics were put to death in the islands and in Anatolia. Mount Athos was devastated. And yet, none apostatized [sic] from the faith of Christ.
Are not such martyrdoms the best way of making converts? It was thus that, in the first three centuries, the Church was founded in those lands. How can it be said that, among people who could so die for the faith, there was no real spiritual life? Has not the Greek Church shown by her deeds the steadfastness of her faith? The kingdom of Greece, in its fifty years of independence, has labored nobly to repair the desolations of many generations. But surely we, who find excuse in the circumstances of the times for the apparent lack of interest of the American [Episcopal] Church in the missionary cause during the first half century of our separate national life, must readily admit that the Hellenic Church has had and still has ample scope for her energies at home.
We come now to the Church of Russia, and what do we find? A large part of what now makes up the Russian Empire was, when it became such, inhabited by Mahometans and heathen. Yet everywhere the Gospel is, and long has been, preached, and God’s blessing has manifestly followed the proclamation of His word. Says Mouravieff, to quote again from Question Religieuse, etc.:
The loving principles of the extension of Christianity are at work here. The Russian Church, as dominant throughout a great empire, diffuses gradually the light of Christ’s Gospel within her own borders. Her more immediate duty is to labor for the conversion of the heathen, Jews, Mahometans and schismatics, who belong to her, scattered over the one-ninth part of the habitable globe. In those dioceses where there are heathen or Mahometans, the languages spoken by them are taught in the theological seminaries, so that, not only those specially devoted to the work, but the parochial clergy also, may be enabled to act as missionaries. Russia has sowed the seeds of Christianity over a vast field, ever establishing new parishes, which most naturally become also mission stations. In this mode of working, there is little to excite attention, or to create talk. When and how have so many of our heathen become Christians? It is not every one who knows. But multitudes of these are now enjoying the blessings of Christianity and civilization. There is yet, however, much to be done for the conversion and establishment in the faith of many tribes, who are more or less in darkness, and the Church still labors for and with them.
But the missions of the Russian Church are not confined to the heathen or false believers within her own borders. For many years she has had a mission at Pekin [Beijing], and the most successful mission work in Japan would seem to be that carried on by her.
If information in regard to Russian missionary work is not forced upon the attention it is yet not unattainable to those who seek for it. The literature of Russian missions is not a small one. The writer, in giving at the head of this paper a list of works now before him, has mentioned but a small part of those bearing on the subject. Let us cast a hasty glance at these. We shall find them filled not so much with talk about missions as with records of faithful missionary work. In the work first mentioned on this list, Mouravieff gives a Compte Rendu d’une Mission Russe, dans les Monts Altai. This paper, one of those translated by Neale, in “Voices of the East,” under the title The Mission of the Altai, describes a most effective work, begun in 1830 and still carried on, amongst wild nomads in the southern part of Siberia.
In the “Remembrancer of the Labors of Orthodox Russian Evangelizers,” Alexander S. Stourdza, a pious layman, began to give a record of missionary work done by the Russian Church, between 1793 and 1853. Mr. Stourdza died in 1854, leaving his work far from complete. The fine octavo volume before us was all that he was enabled to finish. In it he tells of the conversion of two tribes of the Caucusus, about the year 1820. Then he gives the journal of the Archimandrite Benjamin, an earnest missionary among the Samoyedes of Northern Russia, describing their conversion between the years 1825 and 1830. To follow extracts from the journals of other missionaries, two of these being Archimandrite Macarius, the founder of Mission of the Altai and the Arch-priest Landyscheff, who succeeded him in its charge. Then we have described to us the establishment of the Orthodox Church in Russian America, and a selection of letters are published fro the author of that account, Innocent, Archbishop of Kamchatka, to Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, to whom Innocent has now succeeded. The remainder of the work tells of missionary labors in the Aleoutine Islands and in Northwestern and Central Siberia. The other publications give more recent missionary intelligence and tell of the present condition of the missionary work.
From such a mass of interesting material it is difficult to make a selection. In setting forth, however, the story of that missionary hero, Innocent, now Metropolitan of Moscow, but for many years Archbishop of Kamchatka, the writer thinks that his subject will be one more than ordinarily attractive to American Churchmen. As Mr. Stourdza believed he could best make his great work of value if, “instead of an artificial narriative, he set before his readers the doings of Russian evangelists, as told at different times, and, for the most part, in the letters of the missionaries themselves, without embellishment or eulogies,” so the aim of the present writer will be to present in a summary form a translation of authentic documents, with the needful connecting and explanatory remarks rather than to tell the story for himself.
Last week, I was privileged to speak at the Greek Archdiocese Clergy-Laity Congress in Atlanta. I gave the same talk on two days, July 5 and 6. Below, we’ve published the text of my lecture. A couple of things, up front: first, I didn’t include footnotes, because this was just the text I personally used in delivering the talk. And second, I make several references to Atlanta and Georgia, because that’s where I was speaking. Also, please forgive any typos or other errors; I know that there are a few, and I haven’t fixed all of them.
I’ve been asked to speak about Orthodoxy in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of course, this was the Ellis Island era, the time when hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the United States from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. It’s when many of your ancestors came here; it’s also when my own ancestors came here, from what was then the Ottoman Empire and what is today Lebanon. Of course, besides the Greeks and the Syrians and Lebanese, there were also lots of Serbs, Romanians, Carpatho-Rusyns, and Bulgarians. These were largely Orthodox people, coming to the United States from all over the Orthodox world, and bringing with them their ancestral faith. And while these people spoke different languages and had different local traditions, they all shared that Orthodox faith. Because they came here and preserved their faith – because of that, we have Orthodoxy in America today. My goal here today is to give you a sense of what it was like back then – what it was like to be an Orthodox Christian in late 19th/early 20th century America.
In 1890, only two Orthodox parishes existed in the entire United States of America: a Russian cathedral in San Francisco and a semi-independent Greek church in New Orleans. Of course, there was a significant Russian Orthodox presence in Alaska, but at that time Alaska was just a territory, not a state, and it was both geographically and culturally disconnected from the US mainland.
The church in New Orleans was founded in 1865 by a group of Orthodox people led by a Greek cotton merchant named Nicolas Benachi. This was a multi-ethnic parish, and besides Greeks, it included Antiochians and Slavs among its members. The U.S. Census of 1890 describes it as a part of the Church of Greece, “in connection with the consulate of Greece in New Orleans.” The first priest to visit New Orleans – he wasn’t the parish priest, but he visited and served the first liturgy there – he was a strange character named Fr. Agapius Honcharenko. This man was an itinerant Ukrainian of questionable credentials who was visiting New York in 1865 when he was contacted by the New Orleans parish. He certainly was not connected to the Russian Church; he actually claimed that the Tsarist government had put a price on his head for his involvement in revolutionary activities. Honcharenko had some sort of connection with the Church of Greece, but not long after his visit to New Orleans, he left Orthodoxy altogether and tried to start his own Protestant sect in California.
The New Orleans parish itself was a really interesting community. Before they had actually organized themselves as a parish, they raised their own Orthodox militia regiment to fight on the Confederate side of the Civil War. Later on, from 1881 to 1901, the community had a priest from Bulgaria. Until 1906, most of the church records were kept in English. It was only later that Greek became the dominant language.
After I finished preparing this talk, I learned of some very exciting developments happening with the New Orleans parish. After Hurricane Katrina, the parishioners were cleaning out the church, and someone stumbled onto bunch of old documents, tucked away in some long-forgotten cupboard or closet. As it turns out, these were the sacramental records kept by the parish priests in New Orleans, dating back to the earliest years of the parish. The papers were soaking wet, and right now, the parish is having them restored. They show that the parish had members of all different ethnic groups, and in particular, a lot of Antiochians. And these people weren’t just concentrated in the city of New Orleans – they were in small towns all over Louisiana, and probably beyond. We’re just now beginning to get a glimpse of what life was like in the first Orthodox parish in the contiguous United States. There are plans to digitize the documents, and there’s even talk of building an Orthodox museum in New Orleans, to house the hundreds of documents and artifacts the community has accumulated over the past century and a half. Anyone interested in Orthodox history or Greek history will want to keep an eye on what’s going on in New Orleans.
The other really old parish, the San Francisco cathedral, was founded in 1868 under Russian authority. Just like New Orleans, San Francisco had a multi-ethnic Orthodox community. That community largely consisted of Greeks and Serbs, and in 1867, they formally requested that the Russian bishop in Alaska send them a priest. Soon after this, the Russian bishop moved his own residence down to San Francisco.
The San Francisco parish seemed almost cursed with turmoil. In 1879, the dean of the cathedral was apparently murdered, and one of the prime suspects was his assistant priest. A few years later, the Russian bishop drowned at sea; this appears to have been a suicide brought on by a physical ailment. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, the cathedral community was rocked by scandal. The new bishop, Vladimir, was accused of all kinds of horrific crimes. The cathedral itself burned to the ground, and many people suspected arson. Eventually, Bishop Vladimir was recalled to Russia, and by the end of the decade – by the end of the 1890s – the bishop in San Francisco was an outstanding man, Tikhon Bellavin, who was respected by all the different ethnic groups in the community. Bishop Tikhon went on to become Patriarch of Moscow. He suffered under the Communists, and in 1988, he was canonized a saint.
Now, as I mentioned, the New Orleans and San Francisco parishes were the only churches in the United States in 1890. They were outposts, really; there wasn’t much in the way of established Orthodoxy in America, outside of the Russians and Orthodox natives in Alaska. But after 1890, things began to change really rapidly. On the one hand, as I said before, thousands of Orthodox immigrants were arriving in the United States. And at the same time, entire parishes of Eastern Rite Catholics were converting, en masse, to Orthodoxy.
These Eastern Catholics were from the Austro-Hungarian Empires, and their ancestors had been Orthodox, but in the preceding centuries, they had left the Orthodox Church and joined the Roman Catholics. When they came to the United States, they were not very well-received by the Roman Catholic hierarchy in America. The big moment came in 1889. An Eastern Catholic priest named Alexis Toth had just arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to take over pastoral care of the Eastern Catholics in the area. And as was the standard procedure, when he got to Minneapolis, he presented himself to the local Roman Catholic archbishop, a man named John Ireland.
Archbishop Ireland was absolutely livid that Toth had come to Minneapolis. Ireland shouted at Toth, “I have already written to Rome protesting against this kind of priest being sent to me.” Toth said, “What kind of priest do you mean?” And Ireland said, “Your kind.” And then he continued, “I do not consider either you or this bishop of yours Catholic. […] I shall grant you no permission to work there.” Later on, Toth said, “The Archbishop lost his temper, I lost mine just as much.”
Unwelcomed by the Roman Catholics, Toth began to look into other options. At this point – and here, we’re talking right around 1890 – there wasn’t much in the way of Orthodoxy in America, as we’ve seen. Toth eventually contacted the Russian bishop in San Francisco, and his entire Eastern Catholic parish in Minneapolis converted to Orthodoxy. Toth himself became a leading proponent of Eastern Catholic conversions to Orthodoxy. Tens of thousands of Eastern Catholics joined the Russian Orthodox Church in America over the next several decades. The core of the growing Russian Archdiocese – and the core of what we know today as the OCA – consisted of these former Eastern Catholic parishes. The significance of the Eastern Catholic conversions cannot be overstated – this was a major, major development.
Of course, at the same time that this was happening – literally, at exactly the same time – thousands of people who were already Orthodox were coming to the United States from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. And these people were also starting their own Orthodox churches.
One of the most interesting of these early communities was in Chicago. In the 1880s – so, even before the big immigration started – Chicago had a growing Orthodox population. By 1888, there were about a thousand Orthodox in the city. Most of them were Greeks and Serbs, and despite the fact that they weren’t Russian, they petitioned the nearest bishop – who was Russian – to send them a priest. In 1888, the Russian bishop responded to their petition by asking them to hold a meeting, to figure out if there was enough interest to support a church. The main speakers at the meeting were a Greek, a Montenegrin, and a Serb. The Greek man was George Brown, who had come to America as a young man, and had fought in the American Civil War. George Brown gave a short speech, and it’s short enough that I’ll read most of it to you now, exactly as the Chicago Tribune reported it the next day:
“Gentlemans,” he said, “Union is the strength. Let everybody make his mind and have no jealousy. I have no jealousy. I am married to a Catholic woman but I hold my own. Let us stick like brothers. If our language is two, our religion is one. The priest he make the performance in both language. We have our flags built. It is the first Greek flags raised in Chicago. We will surprise the Americans. Let us stick like brothers.”
The meeting ended with everybody wanting to start an Orthodox church, and they agreed that the services could be done in both Greek and Slavonic. The Russian Bishop Vladimir traveled east from San Francisco for a visit later that year, but unfortunately, this was the same Bishop Vladimir who became embroiled in a series of horrible scandals. One of Vladimir’s strongest opponents in San Francisco was a Montenegrin who happened to be the brother of one of the leaders of the Chicago community. So the Chicago Orthodox were hearing all these horrible things about Bishop Vladimir, and they decided they wanted nothing more to do with the man. They put out feelers to numerous other Orthodox churches – the Serbian Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Church of Greece.
Eventually, the Church of Greece sent a priest named Fr. Panagiotis Phiambolis, and in 1892 Phiambolis established the first Orthodox parish of any kind in Chicago. But this was not a multi-ethnic parish, like San Francisco and New Orleans. This parish was specifically for Greek people. The Chicago Tribune reported that the new Greek church “wants no one but those of Hellenic blood among its members” Almost exactly one month after the Greek church began in Chicago, the Russians established their own church. By now, I should note, Bishop Vladimir had been recalled to Russia, and was replaced by Bishop Nicholas.
So now in 1892, there were two Orthodox parishes in the city of Chicago – one Greek, one Russian. This was the first time in our history that two Orthodox churches, answering to different ecclesiastical authorities, coexisted in the same US city. But there’s a flip side to all of this. Despite the fact that they had separated based on language and ethnicity, they still got along with each other. In 1894, the Chicago Greek and Russian priests concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Russian church to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian mission to Alaska. When the Russian Tsar Alexander III died the following month, a memorial was served by both the Greek and Russian priests at the Greek church, which was simultaneously dedicating its new building. When the new Russian bishop, Nicholas, visited Chicago in later that year, the local Greek priest, Phiambolis, participated in the hierarchical Liturgy at the Russian church. Later on, in 1902, the church bell was stolen from the Russian parish, and the Greek priest invited his Russian counterpart to come to the Greek church and ask the Greek parishioners for help. The two churches, Greek and Russian, then held a joint meeting of both parishes, to organize an effort to find the bell.
On the Pacific Coast, Orthodox communities began to organize themselves in places like Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. In both Portland and Seattle, there was a lot of diversity among the Orthodox, with Greeks, Serbs, Antiochians, and Russians all in the same community. And in both Portland and Seattle, these diverse Orthodox populations affiliated themselves with the Russian Church. Seattle is a really interesting story, because, while it was under the Russian Church, the parish itself was named after St. Spyridon, who of course is a Greek saint. How did that happen? Well, the land for the church was donated by a Greek family, and because of that, they got to choose the name. Church services were in Greek, Slavonic, and English, and one of the prerequisites for being the pastor in Seattle was an ability to work in multiple languages.
Seattle’s multi-ethnic community didn’t last forever. By 1917, there were over two thousand Greeks in Seattle, and they decided they needed their own Greek church. But there weren’t any hard feelings. People said that they were just happy that there were enough Orthodox in Seattle for two churches.
Fr. Michael Andreades was of the early priests of that original multi-ethnic Seattle parish. Andreades was Greek, but he had been educated in Russia, and he was under the Russian bishop in San Francisco. He was one of several ethnic Greek priests who served under the Russian diocese. This was certainly not the norm for Greek clergy in America, but it definitely was not unheard of.
Another of these Greek priests was Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides. His father was an Athenian who fought in the Greek War for Independence, and then afterwards moved to the Peloponnese. That’s where Triantafilides himself was born. As a young man, Triantafilides went to Mount Athos and was tonsured a monk. He became affiliated with the Russian monastery of St. Panteleimon, on Mount Athos, and from there, he went to Russia itself, where he studied at the Moscow Theological Academy. This is where things get really interesting. Triantafilides was asked by King George I of Greece to come to Greece and tutor the king’s young son, Prince George. Then the Russian Tsar, Alexander III, asked Triantafilides to return to Russia and tutor his children, including the future Tsar Nicholas II. Triantafilides was actually one of the priests who served at the wedding of Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra.
So how did Triantafilides go from the royal courts of Greece and Russia to the United States? Well, in Galveston, Texas – which was a major seaport in the 19th century – there was another one of those multi-ethnic Orthodox communities. The Greeks and Serbs of Galveston got together and petitioned the Russian Church to send them a priest. Tsar Nicholas II himself answered their petition by sending them his old tutor, Triantafilides, who by this time was in his early sixties.
Triantafilides was the priest in Galveston for over 20 years, until his death in 1916. But he didn’t just take care of the Galveston parish. He took responsibility for the Orthodox people living throughout the Gulf Coast, traveling thousands of miles by horse and by train. His parish, which was named Ss. Constantine and Helen, eventually came to be predominantly Serbian, and many years after his death, the church switched from the Russian to the Serbian jurisdiction. But to this day, they continue to venerate their original Greek priest, sent by the Russian Tsar.
But Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides was not the first prominent Greek priest in America. That title belongs to Fr. Kallinikos Kanellas, who arrived in San Francisco in the early 1890s. Kanellas came to the US from India, where he had been the priest of the Greek Orthodox church in Calcutta. He initially came to America just for a visit, but he was a sickly man, and he became ill, which forced him to stay for awhile. He became affiliated with the multiethnic Russian cathedral in San Francisco. Of course, with so many Greeks there, having a Greek priest would have been particularly helpful. Like so many of his fellow priests, Kanellas traveled all over the country. He actually seems to have been the first Orthodox priest to visit this state – Georgia – when he baptized a Greek child in Savannah in 1891.
In 1892, a new Russian bishop took over in San Francisco, and he released Kanellas, who then traveled to the eastern part of the United States. Around 1902 or 1903, Kanellas was asked to become the priest of the Greek church in Birmingham, Alabama, which was under the Church of Greece. He spent the next eight years there. The Greek-American Guide described him as “a very sympathetic and reverend old man.” He was one of the only Orthodox priests in the entire American South, so like Triantafilides, he traveled quite a bit. One of the places he visited was Atlanta. Kanellas eventually became the first priest of the Greek church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and he remained there until his death in 1921.
Priests like Andreades, Triantafilides, and Kanellas were not Russian, but they all spent time serving in the Russian diocese. The reverse didn’t happen – Russian priests didn’t serve under the Church of Greece. But there is a fascinating story that I must tell you – because not all of the Greek priests were, in fact, Greek.
Just after the turn of the twentieth century, a man named Robert Morgan began to attend the Greek church in Philadelphia. The curious thing about Robert Morgan is that he was a black Episcopalian deacon from Jamaica. In 1907, he traveled to Constantinople, and was ordained an Orthodox priest. He was sent back to Philadelphia, and I’ll quote directly here, “to carry the light of the Orthodox faith among his racial brothers.” Morgan took the name “Fr. Raphael,” but unfortunately, he wasn’t very successful in his missionary work. Aside from his own family, there’s no clear evidence that he converted anyone else to Orthodoxy. But the startling fact remains that at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Ecumenical Patriarchate initiated a mission to convert black Americans to Orthodoxy.
Now, as I said, Fr. Raphael Morgan was attached to the Greek church in Philadelphia. When he went to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be ordained, he had two letters in his possession. One was from the Greek community of Philadelphia, which supported Morgan’s ordination, and said that if he failed to establish a black Orthodox church, he was welcome to be the assistant priest at their parish. The other letter was from the parish priest in Philadelphia, a remarkable man named Fr. Demetrios Petrides.
Petrides was born on Samos in the mid-1860s. He was a married priest, with children, but his wife died before he came to America. Back in Greece, Petrides’ daughter fell in love with a young man, John Janoulis, and they wanted to get married. Petrides approved, but the Janoulis’ father wanted his son to get an education, rather than get married. So Janoulis was disowned by his father, and Petrides took the couple under his wing. The young Janoulis left for America to earn money, which of course was common practice at the time, and then Fr. Demetrios was asked by the Church of Greece to become the new priest in Philadelphia. He arrived in 1907, and brought along his daughter, reuniting her with her husband. Just a couple of months after he arrived in America, Petrides wrote his letter, recommending that Robert Morgan be ordained a priest. For a while, Morgan actually lived in the Petrides family home.
Like so many of his fellow priests, Petrides traveled throughout his region of the country, ministering to the Orthodox people he found who didn’t have a priest. One time, he went to Ithaca, New York, to do a baptism. After the service, unbeknownst to Petrides, a 16-year-old Greek girl had advertised that she would go into a “spirit trance.” Greeks had traveled from all over to witness the spectacle. Petrides caught wind of what was going on, and he burst into the room, stopped the girl’s trance, and told the people that spiritualism is against the teachings of the Orthodox Church. This was the sort of man he was – completely unafraid to stand up for what was right, no matter what.
It was this gumption that got Petrides run out of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia church was dominated by a rich layman, Constantine Stephano, who was a millionaire cigarette manufacturer. Stephano and Petrides did not get along. Things came to a head in 1912, when Stephano sent the following message to Petrides – this is almost unbelievable. It said,
“Constantine Stephano commands you to appear at his office every evening at sunset and salaam low upon entering his presence. Then you are to stand erect, with folded arms, with your eyes cast downward, awaiting a word from Stephano before sitting down or otherwise changing your position. If you are not asked to be seated you are to remain in this position until Stephano leaves his office, and when he passes through the door you are to salaam low again and depart with bowed head.”
Stephano was obviously trying to humiliate Petrides, and Petrides would have none of it. He responded, “I will not thus humiliate myself before this maker of cigarettes.” Now, in the early twentieth century, Greek parishes in America had only a loose connection to the church authorities in Athens or Constantinople. As a practical matter, the parishes were run by lay boards of trustees, which would hire and fire priests at will. Constantine Stephano arranged for Petrides to be ousted from the Philadelphia church, by the slim margin of seven votes.
But, characteristically, Petrides left with his head held high. In September of 1912, newspapers in Georgia began reporting that a daring Greek priest was coming to Atlanta. One newspaper called Petrides “the stormy petrel of the cloth.” Another paper said that he was famous for his “lambasting of the rich Greeks who loved money for the sake of power.” He was warmly welcomed by the Greeks in Atlanta, who seemed to have a good idea of the sort of priest they were getting.
But Petrides was not simply focused on his fellow Greeks. At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a very active dialogue taking place between the Orthodox and the Episcopalians. This led to the creation of a group called the “Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union.” The Orthodox members of the group included clergy from various ethnic backgrounds, including Antiochians, Russians, and Greeks. For several years in the teens, Fr. Demetrios Petrides was the organization’s Greek representative. He thus was engaged in this national inter-Christian dialogue, and he was also cooperating with his fellow Orthodox of different ethnicities.
As the teens wore on, Petrides developed diabetes, and in the days before insulin, that was a death sentence. He died in September of 1917. Annunciation Cathedral here in Atlanta should be very proud to claim Fr. Demetrios Petrides as one of its first priests. He was a significant historical figure, and an outstanding pastor.
We’re nearly at the end of this talk, and I’ve basically just told you a series of stories. So what’s the point – are there any common threads, or lessons to be learned, from this admittedly limited look at early Greek Orthodox history in America? I think there are, and I’ll just touch on them very briefly here at the end.
First and foremost, it should be clear that Greek Orthodoxy in America did not develop in a vacuum, somehow separated from the rest of Orthodoxy in America. Most of the earliest communities of Orthodox Christians here were multi-ethnic. This was largely a matter of practicality: there simply weren’t enough people in each individual group to start forming separate ethnic parishes. In many places – San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle, Galveston – there was a clear sense that, for Orthodox Christians to survive in America, they needed each other. They needed – we still need – to work together to build up Orthodoxy in our local communities. No matter what we’d like to think, we’re simply too small, too weak, to thrive on our own, without each other. And just as in those early parishes, cooperation and a unified effort does not imply the abolishment of our individual identities. I will always be Lebanese, just as so many of you will always be Greek. Working together, on a practical level, does not have to mean a compromise of our heritage. It didn’t a hundred years ago, and it does not now.
I’d like to close with the words of that Greek veteran of the Civil War, George Brown, the early leader of Chicago’s Orthodox community: “Union is the strength. Let everybody make his mind and have no jealousy. Our religion is one. We will surprise the Americans. Let us stick like brothers.” Thank you.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]