Posts tagged Platon Rozhdestvensky
Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen!
April 17, 1907: Fr. Demetrios Petrides arrived in America from Greece. He went immediately to Philadelphia, taking charge of Evangelismos (Annunciation) Greek Orthodox Church in the city. One of his first acts was to write a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarchate recommending that a catechumen, Robert Morgan, be received into the Church and ordained a priest. This took place in August, and Morgan became the first black Orthodox priest in America. Petrides went on to have a distinguished, eventful, and admirable career in Philadelphia and, later, Atlanta, before dying of diabetes in 1917.
April 19, 1934: Archbishop Victor Abo-Assaly, the first primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, died. Abp Victor, then an archimandrite, had come to America ten years earlier, as part of a delegation from the Patriarchate of Antioch. The delegation’s task was to organize the divided Arab Orthodox in America into a single jurisdiction. This led to the founding of the Antiochian Archdiocese, but it failed to produce unity. In addition to Abp Victor, the following hierarchs claimed a piece of the Antiochian pie in America:
- Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi, erstwhile leader of the “Antacky” faction. He had come to America on a fundraising trip back in 1914, but when St. Raphael died the next year, Germanos decided to stick around and try to lead Raphael’s flock. Only a strong minority faction followed him, and this support virtually evaporated in 1924, when the Patriarchate authorized Victor’s consecration and the creation of a legitimate Antiochian Archdiocese.
- Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, former head of the “Russy” faction of Arab Orthodox who pledged loyalty to the Russians. Originally, the battle was Germanos v. Aftimios, but in the late 1920s, Aftimios created his own “autocephalous church” and fell out of favor with the Russian bishops. A handful of parishes seem to have remained loyal to Aftimios, but most switched over to:
- Bishop Emmanuel Abo-Hatab, Aftimos’ former auxiliary and, before that, the archdeacon to St. Raphael. When the Russian Metropolia pulled its support for Aftimios, Emmanuel jumped to the Metropolia himself, taking over Aftimios’ title as bishop for the Syro-Arabs.
Anyway, in the span of about a year, three of the four claimants were dead, and the fourth (Aftimios) married a young girl, which removed the last shreds of legitimacy he had in the eyes of mainstream Orthodox people. The Antiochians in America were finally in a position to unite… but of course, it wasn’t that simple, and in 1936, they re-divided into “New York” and “Toledo” factions. About which, wait just a moment…
April 20, 1934: The early 1930s witnessed a lot of deaths of prominent Orthodox churchmen in America. Just one day after Abp Victor died, Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestvensky, the longtime primate of the Russian Metropolia, himself died. Platon had first come to America way back in 1907, as the successor to St. Tikhon as head of the Russian Archdiocese. He returned to Russia in 1914, but after the Bolshevik Revolution, Platon just kind of showed up in America again, this time as a refugee. The Russian Archdiocese already had a primate — Abp Alexander Nemolovsky — but Platon hung around for a while, until the embattled Alexander moved to Europe. Platon was Alexander’s natural successor, and it was under Platon that the Archdiocese morphed into what became known as the “Metropolia” — a de facto independent jurisdiction.
Platon’s second American tenure was filled with endless legal battles with John Kedrovsky, an “archbishop” of the Soviet-backed Living Church. The Metropolia lost its cathedral, and ultimately had to accept the charity of the Episcopalians, who offered worship space in one of their churches. By the end of Platon’s life, any notion of the Russian Church as the platform for Orthodox unity in America was a faint memory.
April 19, 1936: Exactly two years to the day after Abp Victor died, his successor was consecrated. Or rather successors, plural. On the very same day, two men, representing two Antiochian factions, were consecrated in different cities. Metropolitan Antony Bashir was consecrated in New York and took charge of the largest portion of the Antiochians. Meanwhile, in Toledo, Ohio, several Russian Metropolia bishops consecrated Metropolitan Samuel David. So now, instead of the “Russy” and “Antacky” factions, you had the “New York” and “Toledo” Archdioceses. This division persisted for almost 40 more years.
February 6, 1993: Bishop Job Osacky was enthroned as the new OCA Bishop of Chicago, almost exactly ten years after his consecration to the episcopate. Bishop (and later Archbishop) Job went on to become a key advocate for transparency in the recent OCA crisis before his untimely death in 2009.
February 8, 1973: St. Vladimir’s Seminary professor Basil Bensin died in North Carolina. Bensin lived an eventful life. Born in Russia in 1881, he met St. Tikhon (then the Bishop of North America) in 1903, when Tikhon was on a visit to St. Petersburg. Tikhon recruited Bensin to come to America, taking a position as professor at the first Russian seminary in Minneapolis from 1905-1912. In 1912, he earned a degree in agricultural sciences from the University of Minnesota — a credential which would come in handy later. The seminary moved to Tenafly, NJ, and Bensin continued to teach until the turmoil following the Bolshevik Revolution made seminary life impossible. Bensin moved to Czechoslovakia for a decade before returning to America to work as an agricultural engineer in Alaska. When St. Vladimir’s Seminary was established in 1938, Bensin was one of the original professors, and he remained at SVS until his retirement in 1952. In retirement, Bensin continued his scholarly work, devoting a lot of time to researching the history of Orthodoxy in America. He produced only a few articles on the subject, but there must be valuable material in his notes (which are kept at SVS). (My sources for this information are Bensin’s obituary in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly and a short biography at the Hoover Institution website.)
February 9, 1908: Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny ordained Theophan Noli, an Albanian student at Harvard, to the priesthood, on behalf of Russian Archbishop Platon Rozhdestvensky. Two years ago, I wrote about Noli’s first Albanian liturgy, but I erroneously said that Archbishop Platon had performed Noli’s ordination. But apart from that mistake, that old article is still pretty decent, and if you want to know more about Noli, you might check it out.
February 11, 1962: In Damascus, Fr. Michael Shaheen was consecrated as the Antiochian Bishop of Toledo, Ohio. This is a complicated story, and I don’t have time to tell it all here, but the gist of it is this: Since the mid-1930s, the Antiochians in America had been divided into two overlapping jurisdictions — the Archdiocese of New York (led by Metropolitan Antony Bashir) and the Archdiocese of Toledo (led by Metropolitan Samuel David). Met Samuel had died in 1958, and after a lot of behind-the-scenes machinations, the Antiochian Holy Synod chose Archimandrite Michael Shaheen to replace him. But Shaheen was a priest of the New York — not Toledo — Archdiocese, and although he was consecrated with the title “Bishop of Toledo,” in reality he was to serve merely as an auxiliary to Met Antony. In this way, it was hoped, the two Antiochian jurisdictions would be united at last. But it didn’t work: the Toledo parishes refused to accept Bp Michael unless he denounced Met Antony. In response to the impasse, the Holy Synod changed course, recognizing Toledo as an independent diocese and raising Bp Michael to the rank of Metropolitan. In this way, the Antiochian schism persisted for another 13 years, until Metropolitan Michael accepted a demotion of sorts, recognizing the authority of Bashir’s successor Metropolitan Philip Saliba for the sake of unity.
February 12, 1907: Bishop Platon Rozhdestvensky was elected to the Second State Duma (equivalent to a parliament) in Russia. Within months, he would replace Archbishop Tikhon Bellavin as primate of the Russian Archdiocese in North America.
January 16, 1924: Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow — former Archbishop of North America, and future canonized saint — issued an ukaz removing Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestvensky from his post as primate in America for “public acts of counter-revolution.” Of course, Tikhon was under pressure from the Soviet government. Really, “pressure” is an understatement; I have no doubt that he was compelled to issue that ukaz. Because this ukaz and stuff like it, later in the same year, the Russian Archdiocese declared itself independent from the Moscow Patriarchate.
January 17, 1869: Former Episcopal priest James Chrystal was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood in Syra (Greece). This would have been the eve of Theophany on the Old Calendar. Chrystal had only recently been baptized into the Orthodox Church, and very soon after returning to America, he left Orthodoxy, saying that he couldn’t tolerate the veneration of icons.
January 21, 1957: Greek Archbishop Michael Konstantinides delivered the invocation at President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration. This was the first time that an Orthodox bishop was invited to participate in a presidential inauguration. In the years surrounding this event, Orthodoxy came to be recognized by dozens of states as the “fourth major faith,” along with Roman Catholicism, Protestantism (treated as a generic whole, in spite of its myriad divisions), and Judaism.
If you know of another major American Orthodox historical event that occurred between the 16th and 22nd of January, let us know in the comments!
The following letter was found in Ingram N.W. Irvine’s file in the OCA Archives in Syosset, New York. The letter is undated (the pre-printed date line “190_” does not have a specific year) and appears under the letterhead of the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory, 15 East 97th Street, New York, N.Y. It is handwritten and appears to be a draft of a letter that was sent to Irvine notifying him of his transfer from the Archbishop Platon to Bishop (now Saint) Raphael. This letter was probably written by Fr. Alexander Hotovitsky. The signature is not very legible, but the first initial is clearly an “A.” The first four letters of the last name are almost certainly “Hoto” or “Hato” or “Hito.”
This is to inform you that by the order of His Grace Archbishop Platon of North America you are […] now transferred to the Orthodox Syrian Mission in Brooklyn, N.Y. to be under […] jurisdiction of Rt. Rev. Bishop Raphael and perform such missionary work […] as His Eminence Bishop Raphael would desire for you within his diocese with understanding that all your service in N.Y. St. Nicholas Cathedral since now shall be discontinued and your connection with […] Cathedral cease, your name having been taken away from the list of clergy of the Russian Cathedral.
Therefore you have to remove your mailing box, etc. to any other address you wish and to make all necessary changes in your cards, letterhead, […], etc. without fail.
As to details in connection with this order please apply to the Bishop Raphael […] has a copy of this […]
[signed] A. Hoto[vitsky?]
Irvine is listed among the Syrian Orthodox clergy in the (Episcopalian) American Church Almanac & Year Book for 1912. Thus, the letter can have been written no later than 1911, when the book was published. In addition, the OCA archives have a letter from Irvine to the North American Ecclesiastical Consistory dated May 25, 1909 in which he talks about the Holy Synod blessing him to establish an English-speaking chapel in New York. More importantly, the archives also include a letter dated just one day earlier (May 24) from the Coudert Brothers law firm to Archbishop Platon regarding a lawsuit against St. Nicholas (Russian) Cathedral. The dispute involved a transaction between Irvine and a printing company. The Cathedral had won, but the printers were appealing, In a postscript, there is the following: “We understood from Dr. Hotovitsky that he had gone over this matter fully with you and that you were fully advised of the situation.”
I don’t think the printing company dispute related above would have been sufficient to precipitate Irvine’s transfer out of the Russian jurisdiction, but it was probably one of several factors. (Notice how strongly the letter’s author emphasizes that Irvine’s connection with the Russian cathedral has “ceased.”)
Irvine was a forward-thinking visionary, and that fit in well when St. Tikhon was in charge. But St. Tikhon was replaced by Abp Platon in 1907, and… well, let’s just say that Platon was no Tikhon. Abp Platon was probably far less encouraging of Irvine’s English work, and far less patient with Irvine’s idiosyncracies. On the other hand, St. Raphael was much more in like with St. Tikhon’s mindset, and would have welcomed a talented priest like Irvine. (In fact, even before he joined the Syrian diocese, Irvine had been writing articles for St. Raphael’s Al Kalimat journal.)
UPDATE: Since this article was published, we have verified that the above letter was, in fact, written by St. Alexander Hotovitzky.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Last week, Alexei Krindatch released his landmark 2010 census of Orthodox churches in the United States. (Also last week, Krindatch was interviewed by Kevin Allen on Ancient Faith Radio. Click here to listen.) Sifting through the census data, I naturally got to thinking about historical censuses. Every ten years, from 1906 to 1936, the US Census Bureau conducted a thorough census of all religious bodies in the country. And they did a good job of it: like Krindatch so many generations later, the Census Bureau gathered lists of individual congregations and then contacted each local congregation directly. They didn’t just ask the various denominations, “How many members do you have?” By working with each parish, they were able to obtain very reliable results. (For details on how these censuses were conducted, see the journals of the American Statistical Association from December 1920 and September 1927.)
In addition to the 1906-1936 censuses, a less rigorous study was conducted by the Christian Herald in 1947. It’s in this latter census that we begin to see the inflated numbers that would become the hallmark of Orthodox population data until Krindatch did his work over the last decade.
Today, I’m going to focus solely on raw population data from the historical censuses. For starters, here is what American Orthodoxy looked like in the 1906 census. Keep in mind that these numbers don’t include Alaska:
- 90,751 Greeks
- 19,111 Russians
- 15,742 Serbs
- 4,002 Antiochians
That’s a total of 129,606 Orthodox in the United States of America. A decade later, the Orthodox population had nearly doubled, to 249,840. Much of this growth was from the Russians, who grew by more than 80,000 members. I assume that most of these new members were former Uniates.
- 119,871 Greeks
- 99,681 Russians
- 14,301 Serbs
- 11,591 Antiochians
- 1,994 Romanians
- 1,992 Bulgarians
- 410 Albanians
You know, I’ve always had it in my mind that the big growth of the Russian Church in the continguous United States came during the era of St. Tikhon (1898-1907) and St. Alexis Toth (1891-1909). But this data shows that the really big increase didn’t happen until 1906-1916. I find this fact especially ironic in that this period coincides almost precisely with the episcopate of Archbishop Platon, who ruled (and I mean ruled, with an iron fist) from 1907 to 1914. Abp Platon did encourage Uniate conversions to Orthodoxy, but he also wanted the ex-Uniates to become “real Russians” — to give up their distinctive ethnic languages and traditions and fully embrace Russian-ness, in all of its meanings. It’s all rather contrary to the traditional Orthodox missionary outlook espoused by people like St. Innocent; nevertheless, Abp Platon oversaw a period of massive growth in the Russian Archdiocese.
Moving ahead another ten years, to 1926, we find that the population has leveled off. At 259,394, American Orthodoxy had grown by less than four percent in the preceding decade. However, I strongly suspect that the actual numbers were higher than this. Remember that 1926 was right in the middle of a period of schism, with competing jurisdictions for almost every Orthodox ethnic group. Do the 1926 census numbers include, for instance, both the Russy and Antacky factions of Antiochians? The same sort of question could be asked of the Russians, Greeks, and others. It’s just a hunch, but I’d wager that a sizeable number of Orthodox Americans fell through the cracks in this census. Anyway, here’s the breakdown for 1926:
- 119,495 Greeks
- 95,134 Russians
- 18,853 Romanians
- 13,775 Serbs
- 9,207 Antiochians
- 1,993 Albanians
- 937 Bulgarians
It’s especially striking to see the Romanians jump to the #3 spot on the list. Realistically, I think the Antiochians may well have been as populous as the Romanians, but by 1926 there were three strong claimants to leadership of the group — Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh (Russy), Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi (the original Antacky), and newcomer Archbishop Victor Abo-Assaley (leader of the newly-founded Antiochian Archdiocese). As I said above, it’s likely that the Census Bureau didn’t get data from all three factions, the result being an apparent decline in the Antiochian population.
Anyway, growth had resumed by 1936. The Orthodox population (counting mainstream jurisdictions only — that is, excluding the Ofiesh spinoff groups and such) was 348,025 — a 34% increase over the 1926 figure. Most of that growth was fueled by the Greeks, whose numbers rose by 58%:
- 189,368 Greeks
- 89,510 Russians
- 20,020 Serbs
- 18,451 Antiochians
- 15,090 Romanians
- 11,480 Ukrainians
- 3,137 Albanians
- 969 Bulgarians
This was the second decade in a row that the Russian Orthodox population had declined. Keep in mind, though, that the Russian data has much the same problem that the 1926 Antiochian data had — the Russians were split into three groups (Metropolia, ROCOR, and Moscow Patriarchate), and I think that only the Metropolia was counted in the census.
The 1936 census was the last one conducted by the Census Bureau, but as I said earlier, the Christian Herald did its own census in 1947. The numbers aren’t quite as reliable. I don’t know what their methodology was, but… well, take a look at their data, and then I’ll offer some thoughts:
- 300,000 Russians
- 275,000 Greeks
- 42,000 Serbs
- 39,500 Ukrainians
- 21,000 Romanians
- 20,300 Antiochians
- 3,137 Albanians
- 1,336 Bulgarians
It seems that the Christian Herald‘s numbers came directly from the jurisdictions themselves, rather than from the individual congregations. And look at the growth: the Christian Herald reported 702,273 Orthodox in 1947, almost exactly double the population in the 1936 census. Are we really to believe that America’s Orthodox population experienced 100% growth from 1936-1947? Looking at the jurisdictions, some of the numbers are more believable than others. The Antiochian, Romanian, and Bulgarian figures are reasonably in line with their 1936 populations. And notice that the 3,137 number for the Albianians is exactly the same as it was in 1936 (meaning, obviously, that it was taken directly from the ’36 census, without additional research).
Could the Greeks have grown from 189,368 to 275,000 in just 11 years? Absolutely. That would be a 45% increase for the Greeks, after a 58% jump from 1926-1936. It might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s well within the realm of possibility. Even being conservative, the Greek Archdiocese must have had well over 200,000 members in 1947. But I simply don’t buy that there were 300,000 Russian Orthodox in 1947, when there were fewer than 90,000 in 1936. Here, I think we see the beginnings of a process that culminated with the OCA officially reporting a nice, round, 1,000,000 members until recently. Reducing the Russian data to a more reasonable level — say, 150,000 rather than 300,000 — we’re left with somewhere around 550,000 Orthodox in America in 1947. If we accept that as roughly accurate, here are the approximate increases in population from 1906-1947:
- 1906-16: 93%
- 1916-26: 4%
- 1926-36: 34%
- 1936-47: ~58% ?
According to Krindatch’s 2010 census, there are 799,400 members of the mainstream Chalcedonian jurisdictions. If we take the 1947 data at face value — that is, if we accept that there were 702,273 Orthodox Americans in 1947 — then the US Orthodox population has grown by just 14 percent in the past 63 years. Even if we halve the 1947 Russian figure, the growth since 1947 has been 45%, which is pretty modest considering over six decades have passed. While the 1947 data isn’t precise, I think it’s safe to say that we grew more in the 11 years from 1936-1947 than we have in the 63 years since.
Finally, note the exponential growth of the Serbs and Ukrainians from ’36 to ’47 — 110% and 244% (!), respectively. The Ukrainian figure, while very high, is definitely plausible, as the Ukrainians were a fledgling jurisdiction in 1936 and grew through the conversion of Uniates in the years that followed. I don’t know enough about the Serbs to say whether their number is accurate, but I know that many Serbs came to America during World War II (including St. Nicholai Velimirovich in 1946). I’m inclined to believe that there were roughly 42,000 Serbian Orthodox by 1947.
As far as I can tell, this 1947 Christian Herald census, while obviously flawed, was the last reasonably accurate census of American Orthodoxy to be conducted in the 20th century. From 1947 until Alexei Krindatch began his work in the early 21st century, American Orthodox jurisdictions (and, in some cases, politicians) began to come up with their own statistics, and the results were way out of line with reality. Yes, there might be four or even eight million US citizens who are descended from an Orthodox Christian. And there may well be several million Americans who were baptized into the Orthodox Church as infants. But it’s incredible — literally, not credible — to count them all as Orthodox parishioners. Future historians will be indebted to Alexei Krindatch for his meticulous work, just as we, today, can be grateful for the accurate censuses conducted in the first half of the 20th century.
UPDATE (10/11/10): I happened to have lunch with Alexei Krindatch just yesterday, and he pointed out that a much higher proportion of Americans were religious in the 1906-1947 period than today. To get a real sense of the relative growth of American Orthodoxy from 1947-2010, we need to take into account the overall population of religious Americans. I don’t have the data right now, but suffice it to say that it isn’t quite so simple to compare the raw 1947 population to the raw 2010 population.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]