Posts tagged Ingram Nathaniel Irvine
Today being the ninety-eighth anniversary of the repose of St. Raphael of Brooklyn (+1915), here is a pastoral letter he sent out in 1912 regarding relations with the Episcopal Church, mostly likely written on his behalf by Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine. Thanks to Fr. Joseph Huneycutt of Houston for posting it today.
To My Beloved Clergy and Laity of the Syrian Greek-Orthodox Catholic Church in North America:
Greetings in Christ Jesus, Our Incarnate Lord and God.
My Beloved Brethren:
Two years ago, while I was a Vice-President and member of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union, being moved with compassion for my children in the Holy Orthodox faith “once and for all delivered to the Saints” (St Jude ver. 3), scattered throughout the whole of North America and deprived of the ministrations of the Church; and especially in places far removed from Orthodox centres; and being equally moved with a feeling that the Protestant Episcopal (Anglican) Church possessed largely the Orthodox faith, as many prominent clergy professed the same to me before I studied deeply their doctrinal authorities and their liturgy — the “Book of Common Prayer” — I wrote a letter as the Bishop and Head of the Syrian Catholic Mission in North America, giving permission, in which I said that in extreme cases, where no Orthodox priest could be called upon at short notice, the ministrations of the Protestant Episcopal (Anglican) clergy might be kindly asked. However, I was most explicit in defining when and how the ministrations should be accepted, and also what exceptions should be made. In writing that letter I hoped, on the one hand, to help my people spiritually, and, on the other hand, to open the way toward bringing the Anglicans into the communion of the Holy Orthodox faith.
On hearing and in reading that my letter, perhaps unintentionally, was misconstrued by some of the Episcopalian (Anglican) Clergy, I wrote a second letter in which I pointed out that my instructions and exceptions had been either overlooked or ignored by many, to wit:
(a) They (the Episcopalians) informed the Orthodox people that I recognized the Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church) as being united with the Holy Orthodox Church and their ministry, that is holy orders, as valid.
(b) The Episcopal (Anglican) Clergy offered their ministrations even when my Orthodox clergy were residing in the same towns and parishes, as pastors. And,
(c) Protestant Episcopal clergy said there was no need of Orthodox people seeking the ministrations of their own Orthodox priests, for their (the Anglican) ministrations were all that were necessary.
I, therefore, felt bound by all the circumstances to make a thorough study of the Anglican Church’s faith and orders as well as of her discipline and ritual. After serious consideration I realized that it was my honest duty, as a member of the College of Bishops of the Holy Orthodox Greek Apostolic Church, and Head of the Syrian Mission in North America, to resign from the vice-presidency of and membership in the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. At the same time, I set forth, in my letter of resignation, my reason for so doing.
I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices as well as the discipline of the whole Anglican Church are unacceptable to the Holy Orthodox Church. I make this apology for the Anglicans whom as Christian gentlemen I greatly revere, that the loose teaching of a great many of the prominent Anglican theologians are so hazy in their definition of truths, and so inclined toward pet heresies that it is hard to tell what they believe. The Anglican Church as a whole has not spoken authoritatively on her doctrine. Her Catholic minded members can call out her doctrines from many views, but so nebulistic is her pathway in the doctrinal world that those who would extend a hand of both Christian and ecclesiastical fellowship dare not, without distrust, grasp the hand of her theologians, for while many are orthodox on some points, they are quite heterodox on others. I speak, of course, from the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic point of view. The Holy Orthodox Church has never perceptibly changed from Apostolic times, and, therefore, no one can go astray in finding out what she teaches. Like her Lord and Master, though at times surrounded with human malaria — which He in mercy pardons — she is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 8:8) … the mother and safe deposit of “the truth as it is in Jesus” (Eph.4:21).
The Orthodox Church differs absolutely with the Anglican Communion in reference to the number of Sacraments and in reference to the doctrinal explanation of the same. The Anglicans say in their Catechism concerning the Sacraments that there are “two only as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.” I am well aware that, in their two books of homilies (which are not of a binding authority, for the books were prepared only in the reign of Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth for priests who were not permitted to preach their own sermons in England during times both politically and ecclesiastically perilous), it says that there are “five others commonly called Sacraments” (see homily in each book on the Sacraments), but long since they have repudiated in different portions of their Communion this very teaching and absolutely disavow such definitions in their “Articles of Religion” which are bound up in their Book of Common Prayer or Liturgy as one of their authorities.
The Orthodox Church has ever taught that there are seven Sacraments. She plainly points out the fact that each of the seven has an outward and visible sign and an inward and spiritual Grace, and that they are of gospel and apostolic origin.
Again, the Orthodox Church has certain rites and practices associated and necessary in the administration of
the Sacraments which neither time nor circumstances must set aside where churches are organized. Yet the Anglicans entirely neglect these, though they once taught and practiced the same in more catholic days.
In the case of the administration of Holy Baptism it is the absolute rule of the Orthodox Church that
the candidate must be immersed three times (once in the name of each Person of the Holy Trinity). Immersion is only permissory in the Anglican Communion, and pouring or sprinkling is the general custom. The Anglicans do not use holy oil in the administration, etc., and even in doctrinal teaching in reference to this Sacrament they differ.
As to the doctrine concerning Holy Communion the Anglican Communion has no settled view. The Orthodox Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation without going into any scientific or Roman Catholic explanation. The technical word which She uses for the sublime act of the priest by Christ’s authority to consecrate is “transmuting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). She, as I have said, offers no explanation, but She believes and confesses that Christ, the Son of the living God Who came into the world to save sinners, is of a truth in His “all-pure Body” and “precious Blood” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom) objectively present, and to be worshiped in that Sacrament as He was on earth and is now in risen and glorified majesty in Heaven; and that “the precious and holy and life-giving Body and Blood of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ are imparted” (to each soul that comes to that blessed Sacrament) “Unto the
remission of sins, and unto life everlasting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).
Confirmation or the laying on of hands, which the Orthodox Church calls a sacrament—”Chrismation”—in the Anglican Church is merely the laying on of hands of the Bishop accompanied by a set form of prayers, without the use of Holy Chrism, which has come down from Apostolic days as necessary.
Holy Matrimony is regarded by the Anglican Communion as only a sacred rite which, even if performed by a
Justice of the Peace, is regarded as sufficient in the sight of God and man.
Penance is practiced but rarely in the Anglican Communion, and Confession before the reception of Holy Communion is not compulsory. They have altogether set aside the Sacrament of Holy Unction, that is anointing the sick as commanded by Saint James (see James 5:14). In their priesthood they do not teach the
true doctrine of the Grace of the Holy Orders. Indeed they have two forms of words for ordination, namely, one which gives the power of absolution to the priest, and the alternative form without the words of Our Lord, whosoever sins ye remit, etc. (John 20: 23). Thus they leave every bishop to choose intention or non-intention in the act of ordination as to the power and Grace of their priesthood (“Ordination of Priests,” Book of Common Prayer).
But, besides all of this, the Anglican Communion ignores the Orthodox Church’s dogmas and teachings, such as the invocation of saints, prayers for the dead, special honor to the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God, and reverence for sacred relics, holy pictures and icons. They say of such teaching that it is “a foul thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God” (Article of Religion, XXII).
There is a striking variance between their wording of the Nicene Creed and that of the Holy Orthodox Church;
but sadder still, it contains the heresy of the “filioque.”
I do not deem it necessary to mention all the striking differences between the Holy Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion in reference to the authority of holy tradition, the number of the General Councils, etc. Sufficient has already been said and pointed out to show that the Anglican Communion differs but little from all other Protestant bodies, and, therefore, there cannot be any intercommunion until she returns to the ancient holy Orthodox Faith and practices, and rejects Protestant omissions and commissions.
Therefore, as the official head of the Syrian Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church in North America and as one who must “give an account” (Hebrews 13:17) before the judgment throne of the “Shepherd and Bishop of Souls” (1 Peter 2:25), that I have fed the “flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2), as I have been commissioned by the Holy Orthodox Church, and inasmuch as the Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States) does not differ in things vital to the well being of the Holy Orthodox Church from some of the most arrant Protestant sects, I direct all Orthodox people residing in any community not to seek or to accept the ministrations of the Sacraments and rites from any clergy excepting those of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the Apostolic command, that the Orthodox should not commune in ecclesiastical matters with those who are not of “the same household of Faith” (Galatians 6:10), is clear: “Any Bishop; or presbyter or deacon who will pray with heretics, let him be anathematized; and if he allows them as clergymen to perform any service, let him be deposed” (Apostolic Canon 45). “Any bishop, or presbyter, who accepts baptism or the Holy Sacrifice from heretics, we order such to be deposed, for ‘what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?’” (Apostolic Canon 46).
As to members of the Holy Orthodox Church living in districts beyond the reach of Orthodox Catholic clergy, I direct that the ancient custom of our Holy Church be observed, namely, in cases of extreme necessity, that is, danger of death, children may be baptized by some pious Orthodox layman, or even by the parent of the child, by immersion three times in the names of the (persons of the) Blessed Trinity, and in case of death such baptism is valid: — but, if the child should live, it must be brought to an Orthodox priest for the Sacrament of Chrismation.
In the case of the death of an Orthodox person where no priest of the Holy Orthodox Church can be had, a pious layman may read over the corpse, for the comfort of the relatives and the instruction of the persons present, Psalm 91 and Psalm 118, and add thereto the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Strong One,” etc). But be it noted that so soon as possible the relative must notify some Orthodox bishop or priest and request him to say the Liturgy and Requiem for the repose of the soul of the departed in his Cathedral or parish Church.
As to Holy Matrimony, if there be any parties united in wedlock outside the pale of the holy Orthodox Church because of the remoteness of Orthodox centers from their home, I direct that as soon as possible they either invite an Orthodox priest or go to where he resides and receive from his hands the holy Sacrament of Matrimony; otherwise they will be considered excommunicated until they submit unto the Orthodox Church’s rule.
I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion as to the teaching or doctrines. Instead, I order that the head of each household, or a member, may read the special prayers which can be found in the hours of the Holy Orthodox Service Book, and such other devotional books as have been set forth by the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Commending our clergy and laity unto the safe-keeping of Jesus Christ, and praying that the Holy Spirit may keep us all in the truth and extend the Borders of the Holy Orthodox Faith, I remain.
Your affectionate Servant in Christ,
Bishop of Brooklyn, Head of the Syrian
Greek Orthodox Catholic Mission in America
Issued late in the year 1912; from The Most Useful KNOWLEDGE for the Orthodox Russian-American Young People, compiled by the Very Rev’d Peter G. Kohanik, 1932-1934 (pp. 297-303).
November 8, 1894: Memorial services for Tsar Alexander III of Russia were held in New York and Washington, DC. The New York memorial was held in Holy Trinity Greek church, because there was no Russian church in the city. In Washington, President Grover Cleveland attended the service, which was led by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about these memorials; click here to read it.
November 9, 1897: Fr. Sebastian Dabovich officiated at the marriage of his niece Ella to Theodore Pashkovsky, who later became dean of the Russian cathedral in San Francisco. After Ella died, Fr. Theodore was consecrated a bishop (taking the name “Theophilus”), and he ultimately became primate of the Russian Metropolia from 1934 until his death in 1950.
The Pashkovskys had a son, Boris, who shortened his last name to “Pash” and went on to live a rather remarkable life himself. He worked security on the Manhattan Project — in fact, he was one of two sons of Orthodox bishops on the project, the other being the son of Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich — and after World War II, he negotiated to have the Japanese Orthodox Church placed under the jurisdiction of the Russian Metropolia in America.
November 8, 1900: Bishop Tikhon Bellavin, along with Fr. John Kochurov and Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, attended the consecration of an Episcopalian bishop in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The gathering became known as the “Fond du Lac Circus,” and, honestly, it’s high time that this event gets a full article of its own. I’ll add it to the to-do list.
November 9, 1902: Bishop Tikhon consecrated St. Nicholas Syrian Orthodox Church in Brooklyn, NY. He was assisted by Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny, head of the Syro-Arab Mission in North America.
November 5, 1905: Ingram Irvine, a convert from the Episcopal Church, was ordained an Orthodox priest by Archbishop Tikhon at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in New York. Irvine had been an Episcopalian priest for a quarter century before being defrocked by his bishop for “conduct unbecoming a clergyman.” His ordination to the Orthodox priesthood sent shockwaves through the Episcopal Church.
I used to write about Irvine all the time here at Orthodox History, but not so much lately. Why, you ask? Because Aram Sarkisian (and, to a lesser extent, I) came upon some really important sources on Irvine — sources that don’t present him in a particularly good light. We’re still getting some things translated, and until Aram has a chance to present those findings, it’s a little difficult for me to say much about Irvine. In any case, my perspective on Irvine has changed quite a lot because of these new sources, and I’m much more inclined to think that the Episcopalians who disliked him had good reasons for doing so.
November 11, 1908: James Chrystal, a Protestant minister, died in Jersey City, NJ. Many years earlier, in 1869, Chrystal had traveled to Greece, converted to Orthodoxy, and been ordained a priest by the celebrated Archbishop Alexander of Syra. But Chrystal soon repudiated Orthodoxy because of his opposition to icons, and for the rest of his life, he held out hope that the Orthodox would abandon their “idolatry.” For more on Chrystal, check out my podcast and article on him and his fellow convert-turned-apostate, Nicholas Bjerring.
November 5, 1913: At a convention in Chicago, the Serbian Orthodox clergy in America formally requested to be transferred from the jurisdiction of the Russian Church to that of the Serbian Church. Nothing official happened until after World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, but the wheels were in motion to create a separate Serbian jurisdiction in America.
Incidentally, this fact is one of the many pieces of evidence against the notion that the Bolshevik Revolution caused the subsequent jurisdictional chaos in America. The Serbs — along with the Greeks, Syrians, and others — were already either not part of the Russian Mission, or openly talking about leaving it, well before 1917.
November 9, 1924: Archimandrite Victor Abo-Assaly was consecrated in Worcester, MA to be the first primate of the brand-new Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.
November 6, 1954: Robert Royster, a Baptist convert to Orthodoxy, was ordained to the priesthood by the BIshop Bogdan, head of the Ukrainian jurisdiction under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Royster took the name “Fr. Dmitri,” and he was just one of many American converts that Bishop Bogdan ordained. In his important 1973 book The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America, Fr. Seraphim Surrency wrote,
Bp Bogdan ordained over a dozen native converts to the Orthodox priesthood without requiring any theological training, and as might be expected the results were disastrous (an exception was Fr. Dmitry Royster who later transferred his allegiance to the Russian Metropolia and was consecrated Bishop in 1969).
Of course, the Metropolia morphed into the OCA in 1970, and Dmitri became one of its most prominent bishops. In 1977, he received by far the most votes in the election for a new OCA Metropolitan, but he was just shy of two-thirds, which meant that the names of both Dmitri and the distant runner-up — Theodosius Lazor — were submitted to the Holy Synod for consideration. In spite of Dmitri’s high vote total, the Synod quickly elected Theodosius as Metropolitan. The next year, Dmitri took over the fledgling OCA Diocese of the South, which he led until his retirement in 2009. Dmitri died in 2011.
And just to make quick plug: the best, most balanced and well-researched treatment of Dmitri that I’ve ever seen is Fr. Peter Robichau’s recent St. Vladimir’s Seminary thesis, From District to Diocese: An Examination of the Founding and Missionary Methods of the OCA Diocese of the South. It’s not published, but I hope Fr. Peter turns it into one or more articles in the future. If you happen to be at SVS, it’s worth a look.
November 8, 1979: Matushka Olga Michael of Alaska died. Many people today consider her to be a saint, and you can find icons and even an akathist service to her on the internet. For more on Matushka Olga, check out Kevin Wigglesworth’s 2008 article published in The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity, and available online. The article leans more toward hagiography than history, but you’ll get a good sense of why so many people admire her.
Once again, my apologies for the lack of new material over the past couple of months. We do have some really fascinating material in the pipeline, and I’m trying to get my “This week” series back on track, so stay tuned. – Matthew Namee
On Tuesday, Aram Sarkisian told the story of a mystery photo featuring an Orthodox priest, whom he eventually identified as the Syrian/Antiochian Fr. Job Salloom of Washington, DC. In the course of his investigation, Aram noticed that the mystery priest bore a striking resemblance to a priest in an earlier image — a 1915 group photo of clergy surrounding the casket of St. Raphael Hawaweeny. That led Aram and me to start another project: an attempt to identify all the clergy in that St. Raphael photo. That photo appears at the top of this article, and I’ve added numbers to make the identification process easier.
Our idea was to identify as many of these men as possible, and then ask our readers for help. We figure that, by “crowdsourcing” the image, we may be able to get the names of every single one of the clergymen pictured.
One of the first problems we ran into was the fact that the visiting Antiochian Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi is nowhere to be found in the photo, although he played a prominent role in the funeral service. And for that matter, there are only 18 or so priests in the photo (and that includes the Russian Bishop Alexander Nemolovsky), but there were many more at the funeral. According to A. Issa’s St. Vladimir’s Seminary thesis on the life of St. Raphael, 22 Syrian priests, three deacons, two bishops (Germanos and Alexander), and an unspecified number of Russian priests were present.
So what gives? Where are Metropolitan Germanos and all the rest of the Syrian clergy?
The answer is that they aren’t in the photo, because they weren’t in Brooklyn when this photo was taken — because this photo is not from St. Raphael’s funeral. Raphael died on February 27, 1915. The funeral took place on March 7, which allowed enough time for the Syrian clergy to converge on Brooklyn. But the day after Raphael’s death, on Sunday, February 28, Bishop Alexander celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Syrian cathedral. I’m nearly certain that the above photo was taken after this service. Metropolitan Germanos hadn’t even left Montreal for New York yet, and many other Syrian priests were only just making their travel arrangements.
So that’s our first clue: it’s very likely that all of the clergy in this photo lived within an afternoon’s train ride of Brooklyn, because that’s all the time they would have had to get there. Let’s look at each clergyman one by one, and see what we can find here at the outset.
#1: Fr. Job Salloom
It’s fitting that the man who started this whole project, Fr. Job Salloom, is #1 on our list (by virtue of standing at the far left of the photo). Check out Aram’s recent article to learn more about Fr. Job.
#4: Fr. Michael Husson (?)
Fr. Michael Husson was an active priest in America from 1902 to 1937, and most of that time was spent at St. George Church in Worcester, MA. His career encompassed a huge swath of Antiochian history in America, from St. Raphael’s consecration in 1904 through the dueling consecrations of Antony Bashir and Samuel David in 1936. In between, Fr. Michael’s parish was the first to throw its lot in with Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi’s “Antacky” faction. Later, in 1924, Worcester was the site of the consecration of Victor Abo-Assaly, the first primate of the modern Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. The above photo of Fr. Michael was taken in about 1900, so we can assume he looked a little different standing around St. Raphael’s casket in 1915. That said, Aram and I both think that Clergyman #4 looks rather similar to Fr. Michael — enough so that it could be him, 15 years later. If any of our readers has a later photo of Fr. Michael, please let us know. (And for a bit more on Fr. Michael, check out this article I wrote a couple of months ago.)
#5: Fr. Michael Ilyinsky
In 1915, 48-year-old Fr. Michael Ilyinsky was on the staff of St. Platon Russian seminary in Tenafly, NJ. In 1935, after the death of his wife, Fr. Michael was consecrated a bishop, taking the monastic name Makary, and served as the first Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary from 1938 to 1944. In 1946, Archbishop Makary left the Metropolia and in 1947 became Exarch (primate) of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Exarchate of North and South America. In 1952, he was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan. The above photograph was taken slightly before his death in 1953.
#6: Fr. George Maloof
Fr. George Maloof was the founding priest of St. George Church in Boston, and he served there from 1900 until his death in 1920. The photo on the right is from the St. George parish website. Fr. George was recently described as “an intensely spiritual man whose only concern was the welfare of his flock.”
#7: Fr. Aftimios Ofiesh
This is an easy one. Fr. Aftimios Ofiesh was one of the leading candidates to replace St. Raphael as Bishop of Brooklyn, and he was consecrated to the post in 1917. But a large portion of the Syrians rejected Aftimos’ authority in favor of Metropolitan Germanos, creating the “Russy-Antacky schism.” Aftimios eventually created his own jurisdiction, the American Orthodox Catholic Church, which drifted to the fringes of mainstream Orthodoxy. In 1933, Aftimios married a young woman, effectively ending his ecclesiastical career.
#8: Archdeacon Emmanuel Abo-Hatab
Another easy one: Archdeacon Emmanuel was St. Raphael’s right-hand man, and he accompanied the great bishop on many of his missionary trips. Adn. Emmanuel was just 25 in 1915 — far below the canonical minimum age for consecration — but he was one of the top candidates to succeed Raphael. In the end, Aftimios Ofiesh was chosen instead, and his former rival Emmanuel became a loyal lieutenant. In 1927, Emmanuel was consecrated a bishop for Aftimios’ American Orthodox Catholic Church, but two years later, Emmanuel bolted to join the Russian Metropolia. Aftimios had fallen out of favor with the Metropolia, and Emmanuel replaced him as bishop for the Syrians. Just a few weeks after Aftimios got married in 1933, Emmanuel died.
#9: Bishop Alexander Nemolovsky
In 1915, Alexander Nemolovsky was the Bishop of Alaska, yet from the departure of Archbishop Platon in mid-1914 until the arrival of Archbishop Evdokim in May 1915, Alexander was also serving as temporary administrator of the entire Russian Archdiocese of North America. Later, after the Bolshevik Revolution and the departure of Abp. Evdokim for the All-Russian Sobor, Alexander again served as temporary administrator, and was elected as diocesan primate at the 2nd All-American Sobor in 1919. The embattled Abp. Alexander served but three years in this post, and departed for Constantinople in 1922. He eventually became the Archbishop of Brussels under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, then the Patriarchate of Moscow, and was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan in 1959. Met. Alexander died in Belgium in 1960.
We don’t know who this man is, but he appears to be either a deacon or a subdeacon.
This priest may be Russian, rather than Syrian.
#12: Fr. Basil Kerbawy
Fr. Basil Kerbawy was dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn (where the casket photo was taken) from 1907 until his death in 1937. He was married and thus ineligible to become a bishop, but Fr. Basil threw his weight behind Archdeacon Emmanuel. He had a sort of love-hate relationship with Aftimios, sometimes serving as an ally, other times as an enemy. Awhile back, I wrote about a rather amusing incident involving Fr. Basil’s beard, some rotten vegetables, and the Mayor of New York. In 1924, he made a pastoral visit to Jamaica, which is where the grainy newspaper photo on the right was taken.
#13: Possibly Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine
Unfortunately, Clergyman #13′s face is obscured, so we can’t tell for sure whether he has Irvine’s distinctive, gigantic mustache — but if you look closely, it looks like he might. From other images, we know that Irvine had a bald head, just like #13. Also, both men appear to have dark eyebrows. We’re almost certain that Irvine was present for the casket photo, given that he was St. Raphael’s English secretary. None of the other priests in the photo look like Irvine, so we’re reasonably confident that we’ve made the right identification.
#18: Fr. Joseph Elia Xanthopoulos
I’ve written quite a bit about the few Greek priests who served in the Russian Mission, but until we started this project, I had never known about Fr. Joseph Elia Xanthopoulos, a half-Lebanese, half-Greek priest who served in the Syrian Mission. At the time of St. Raphael’s death, he was the pastor of St. Mary Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Later, he joined the Greek Archdiocese and served at St. George in Springfield, MA for two decades. He’s a fascinating figure who defies our neat little ethnic categories, and I’d love to learn more about him.
So, that’s it: we’ve got a pretty good idea about 10 of the 18 clergy pictured in the casket photo, but we need your help to identify the other eight (and to confirm the identities of the priests we’ve already found). Next week, Aram will be back with a follow-up article, along with more information to help with the identification process. In the meantime, if you’re at an Antiochian parish, see if you can match one of the clergymen in the casket photo to one of your old parish priests. If you have old parish commemorative booklets with photographs, compare them with the unknown faces. If you find any matches, or have pictures that could otherwise help with the identification process, please drop me an email at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com. We need your help!
January 23, 1921: Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine died of heart disease in New York, at the age of 71. Irvine has been a frequent topic on this website. Born in Ireland, Irvine came to the US as a teenager and served as an Episcopal priest for a quarter century before being defrocked by his bishop for “conduct unbecoming a clergyman.” In 1905, he converted to Orthodoxy and was ordained a priest by St. Tikhon, the Russian archbishop. Irvine was put in charge of “English work” in the Russian Church. He continued to attract controversy as an Orthodox priest, alienating most everyone he encountered, although St. Raphael found him useful in promoting the use of English. Needless to say, we’ll continue to examine Irvine’s career in future articles.
January 27, 1939: Fr. Michael Husson died at the age of 79. He was one of the first Syrian/Antiochian clergymen in America, and spent many years as the rector of St. George Church in Worcester, MA. Here is one account of Fr. Michael, quoted in Arab American Faces and Voices by my grandmother’s cousin Elizabeth Boosahda (page 92):
It was Rev. Michael who told my family about their relatives living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa… Father Husson came from Worcester and he would travel all over the West because there was no Syrian Orthodox priest. He went from one town to another to do the duties of a priest. There were very, very few Orthodox priests in this country. Besides, Father Husson once a year would travel — he would wire ahead — and he would go to these different towns. Father Husson baptized my sister Mabel, and she was born in Cedar Rapids. He would go out to these places by train. People would give him a few dollars for all he did and then he would be on his way more informed as to the eligibility of those for marriage.
January 27, 1980: Fr. Basil Essey was ordained to the priesthood. Later, he was consecrated a bishop, and of course today he is the Antiochian Bishop of Wichita and the Secretary of the Assembly of Bishops.
January 29, 1983: Bishop Job Osacky was consecrated as the OCA Bishop of Hartford, CT. He eventually took over the OCA’s Midwest Diocese and became an archbishop, and in his later years, he became famous (and, in some circles, infamous) for his call for openness and transparency in the OCA. He died unexpectedly in December 2009.
If you know of any other important American Orthodox events that took place between January 23 and January 29, please let us know in the comments!
I’ve written more words about Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine than about any other historical figure. Irvine was an Episcopal priest who converted to Orthodoxy in 1905, was ordained by St. Tikhon, and played a major role in American Orthodoxy until his death in January 1921. He was a trusted assistant to St. Raphael Hawaweeny, and he was the chief advocate of the use of English in Orthodox worship. Irvine’s significance to American Orthodox history is difficult to overstate.
I’m now working on a book about Irvine. No specifics yet, but I plan to finish it by the time I graduate from law school in a year. I’ve slowly begun to review my sources on Irvine, and I stumbled onto a really, really strange bit of information.
Irvine died in Brooklyn on January 23, 1921. The first obituary was published the next day, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This obituary seems to have been the main source for the obituaries that appeared in numerous other papers in the following days. Here’s the weird part:
The Rev. Dr. Ingram N.W. Irvine, 71 years old, in charge of the English division of the Eastern Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of America, died on Sunday, of heart trouble, at his residence, 677 Sterling pl. The funeral services will be held tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock, at Dr. Irvine’s late home, the Rev. A.L. Charles, rector of St. Mark’s P.E. Church, officiating, and the internment will follow in Greenwood Cemetery. Dr. Irvine is survived by his wife, Mrs. Emmalena Wilson Irvine, and a daughter, Mrs. Annie Chapin.
There’s not really any question that Irvine remained Orthodox to the end of his life. Even this obituary speaks of him as being the head of the “English division” up to his death. And if you know anything about Irvine, you know that he was a stubborn mule who wouldn’t just cut and run from a church at the first hint of discomfort. I’m 99.9% certain that Irvine did not revert to Episcopalianism in the month before he died.
So why was Irvine’s funeral in his home and not in a church — and why did an Episcopal priest officiate? Apart from the almost impossible prospect of a deathbed apostasy, here are the most likely scenarios I can come up with (with help from Aram Sarkisian and Fr. Oliver Herbel):
1. Irvine’s widow and/or daughter arranged for an Episcopalian funeral. This, in my view, is the most likely scenario. We don’t know much of anything about Emmalena, Irvine’s wife. Yes, she helped Irvine with his teaching ministry, but we don’t even know if she formally converted to Orthodoxy. For all we know, she remained Episcopalian even after her husband’s conversion. As for daughter Annie, she was a very dysfunctional person. It’s a story for another day, but suffice it to say that Annie stole from a lot of people, probably was a con artist, and left her children to be primarily raised by their grandparents (the Irvines). I doubt she’d demand an Episcopalian funeral, but her motives are difficult to follow. In any case, Emmalena and/or Annie may have asked Rev. A.L. Charles of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to officiate.
2. Irvine himself asked for an Episcopalian funeral, but remained Orthodox. This is less crazy than it sounds. According to Aram Sarkisian’s research, Irvine’s bishop, Abp Alexander Nemolovsky, was in Canada when Irvine died. And Irvine had just been through a bad experience with a failed convert parish led by the erratic Archimandrite Patrick Mythen (who, incidentally, was probably in Canada with Abp Alexander when Irvine died). The nearest Orthodox bishop was the Syrian Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh of Brooklyn — a man Irvine hated. Irvine may have been so upset with the nearby Orthodox authorities that he preferred to be buried in a quiet ceremony officiated (perhaps) by an Episcopal priest that Irvine respected.
3. Irvine had an Orthodox funeral and an Episcopalian memorial service. This theory, suggested by Fr. Oliver, assumes that the newspapers just didn’t know about the Orthodox service. Along similar lines, Fr. Oliver points out that the Orthodox and Episcopalians may have officiated at the same funeral service. After all, in that era, it wasn’t unheard of for Orthodox and Episcopalian priests to officiate at the same marriage ceremony. I find this suggestion somewhat less likely than the possibility of dual funerals, simply because the Episcopalian funeral reported in the Eagle took place at Irvine’s home, rather than a church. Which suggests that it was something less than an “official” event. If Orthodox clergy were involved, why not do it at a church?
Anyway, at this point, we don’t know what was going on with Irvine’s funeral. But the three of us — Fr. Oliver, Aram, and I — are trying to track down what happened.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.