Back in June, I gave a paper at St. Vladimir’s Seminary entitled, “The Myth of Past Unity and the Origins of Jurisdictional Pluralism in American Orthodoxy.” The unwieldy title notwithstanding, the premise of my paper was simple: that the commonly-held story of a unified American Orthodoxy which fragmented after the Russian Revolution is, quite simply, not accurate. In fact, administrative division has been part and parcel of Orthodox life in the United States from the very beginning.
In my latest American Orthodox History podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, I interviewed our own Fr. Andrew Damick on the “American Orthodox Catholic Church,” which was an attempt, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, to form a single American Orthodox jurisdiction. This is part of my miniseries on past attempts at administrative unity.
In that interview, Fr. Andrew explained that it was from the American Orthodox Catholic Church (henceforth, “AOCC”) that the “myth of past unity” originated. Until the AOCC came along in 1927, nobody, so far as I can tell, ever claimed that all of American Orthodoxy was administratively united prior to 1917. Sure, from time to time, Russian church leaders would claim that everyone should have been under their authority. That was the ideal, but it was obvious enough to everyone at the time that the ideal wasn’t being lived out in practice. It was only later, with the advent of the AOCC, that people started saying that administrative unity had been a fact prior to 1917.
Who first made this claim? As best I can tell, it was Fr. Boris Burden, one of the leading priests in the AOCC. In 1927, Burden wrote,
The advent of Greek-speaking Orthodox Catholics followed this establishment of the Russian Hierarchy by many years, and the early Greek churches and faithful were naturally and canonically under the protection and care of the Orthodox Catholic jurisdiction thus established by the Russian Holy Synod for all American Orthodox residents. […]
For nearly fifty years after the Russian Hierarchy in America had thus established the first Greek church in this country [in New Orleans,] Greek churches and faithful continued to increase and multiply under the care and authority of the Russian Bishops of America. […]
We have viewed the history of all these [ethnic groups] in outline down to the period just preceding the World War and seen them, at that time, united solidly under one Hierarchy of the Church in America established for them by the Russian Holy Synod.
Burden wrote that in the first issue of the Orthodox Catholic Review, the short-lived official publication of the AOCC. I won’t bother to refute Burden’s assertions here, since I’ve done that elsewhere. But it’s worth noting that Burden himself only converted to Orthodoxy in the early 1920s, so he wasn’t personally around during the supposed period of blissful unity.
A couple years after Burden’s article in the Orthodox Catholic Review, the head of the AOCC, Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, propounded the myth in a series of letters to Archbishop Alexander Demoglou, who was the head of the Greek Archdiocese. These letters appear in Volume II of Paul Manolis’ The History of the Greek Church in America in Acts and Documents. On January 15, 1929, Aftimios wrote,
[…] I secured from the Synod of Russian Bishops in America, who alone exercise the sole and exclusive canonical jurisdiction and authority in America held solely by the Patriarchate of Moscow from 1764 to 1927, the right and authority to establish and conduct an independent American Orthodox Church.
Aftimios repeatedly referred to the “sole and exclusive” canonical authority of the Russian Church in America, which established the AOCC, but at the same time he spoke of the AOCC itself as the “sole canonical jurisdiction” in America. He said that, for 130 years, the Russian Church had “undisputed […] administration over all Orthodox people in America.”
Aftimios repeated his claims in another letter, dated February 14. Echoing Fr. Boris Burden, he wrote, “[I]n 1860 the first Greek-speaking church was dedicated in the United States with its Greek Priest […] under and by the sole and exclusive Russian canonical authority and all without ever a word of protest or claim of jurisdiction on the part of Constantinople.” He went on to say that “the first intimation of any Constantinopolitan claim of American jurisdiction” came in the 1908 Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in which the EP gave over its authority in America to the Church of Greece. Aftimios continued:
In characterizing any claim to Orthodox jurisdiction in America other than the Russian as recent, uncanonical, and unhistorical no offence is intended — only the truth is stated plainly and the foundation of the true American jurisdiction derived from the Russian Bishops set forth in essential contrast to others. All others not derived from the Russian Bishops are recent, because they have appeared only during the last twenty years of more than a hundred and fifty years of American Orthodoxy, uncanonical, because they deliberately ignore the Sacred Canons […] and unhistorical, because they ignore the fact of a long Orthodox history in America under Russian Jurisdiction still continuing and still canonically excluding their claims.
Archbishop Alexander was not impressed. On February 23, he wrote to Aftimios, “[A]s long as Alaska was a Russian territory, the Russians had jurisdiction in their own house, but it makes a great difference thence to jump to Canada, to the United States, etc.”
That logic is reasonable; unfortunately, Alexander had a claim of his own to make. He went on, “The jurisdiction over all Orthodox in the Diaspora, including the whole Western Hemisphere, which includes Alaska as well, being no more a Russian territory, belongs undisputably to the Oecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.”
A few days later, in another letter, Alexander said,
It is not true that any group of Greeks in America did ever willingly recognize the asserted Russian jurisdiction in America. […] And not only the Greeks, but also the most important sections of other Orthodox nationalities in America, did and do reject Russian jurisdiction. […] Thus, your assertion that the Russian Church and its creations in America were universally accepted by the Orthodox people in America, and that they “governed the whole North American Province undisputedly, peacefuly and without opposition”, falls to pieces.
Basically, what we have here are dueling claims to exclusive jurisdiction, with Alexander appealing to Canon 28 of Chalcedon, and Aftimios holding to what might be called the “flag-planting theory.” And, to support his claims, Aftimios also espoused the myth of past unity, saying that not only did Russia have rightful jurisdiction in America, but that everyone — Greeks included — acknowledged it.
How did the leaders of the AOCC come up with this rendition of history? It makes sense that a newcomer like Fr. Boris Burden might not know the true story, but Aftimios Ofiesh had been in America since 1905. He certainly knew full well that there were numerous Greek and other Orthodox parishes which had no connection at all to the Russian Mission well before the First World War.
I suspect what was really happening was spin, pure and simple. The legitimacy of the AOCC depended entirely upon the legitimacy of the Russian Mission in America. If the Russian Mission wasn’t the “sole and exclusive canonical authority” in the New World, then the mission of the AOCC was in jeopardy. That explains why Aftimios would hold to the flag-planting theory, but why bother concocting an obviously false story about everyone actually being under one jurisdiction until 1917?
Well, really, Abp Alexander was right, partly: it was one thing for the Russians to claim Alaska, but to jump from there to Canada, Florida, and all points in between was another matter entirely. To really secure his claim that the Russians were the rightful authority, Aftimios (and Burden) had to act like everyone — the EP included — accepted this reality. He had to act like the very notion that America was up for grabs was, itself, a novel concept. Then, he could make another jump and claim that he, as head of the AOCC, held “sole and exclusive canonical authority” over all of America.
Nobody really believed Aftimios when he made that claim, but the broader myth of unity has hung around a lot longer, all the way up to the present.
ONE MORE THING: A couple of disclaimers, here at the end… I am not saying that the Russian Mission was not the rightful canonical authority in America. I’m not saying that they were, either; as I’ve said before, the question of what was is different than the question of what should have been.
Also, I promised I wouldn’t refute the myth of unity here, but I realized that using the term “myth” might cause some controversy, so I feel like I should justify myself. Here is my point:
- American Orthodoxy didn’t really exist prior to 1890. There was Alaskan Orthodoxy, and there were parishes in San Francisco and New Orleans, but the United States proper just didn’t have a significant Orthodox presence until after 1890.
- As soon as Orthodox parishes started popping up in the US after 1890, there was jurisdictional pluralism. This is a well-documented fact.
Thus, the “myth of unity” is a myth in multiple senses. One definition of “myth” is as follows:
A traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation.
Whether you agree with my conclusions or not, the “myth of unity” fits this definition. It is a commonly held simplification of our past. Of course, “myth” also has negative connotations, as in, a false story, a fiction. An alternate definition of the word is, “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.” I would argue that the “myth of unity” fits this category as well. It is based in truth — in the ideal of the Russian Mission — but it isn’t accurate, and it is often used as a bludgeon with which some American Orthodox Christians beat others over the head.
43 Replies to “The Origins of the “Myth of Unity””
Aftimos was on much, much firmer ground.
For one thing, the present countermyth of the EP, which as you point out Bp. Alexander was claiming, undermines its own foundation: it depends on a Protestant congregationalism (condemned earlier this year by the EP’s own Chief Secretary), at at odds with the the hierarchal nature of the Orthodox Church, one jurisdiction (i.e. the Church of Greece) that, according to this myth, had no jurisdiction in the New World (and would not until 1908) and another (i.e. the EP) which neither exercised nor claimed any jurisdiction here until a century (1794-1894) after the Russians had come and set up a diocese, neither “jurisdiction” exercising any episcopal oversight, whereas the Russians had, including (as shown in contemporary documents) Greeks. This is even before we getting into the authority of the first Greek bishops to come to organize a jurisdiction, Meletios and Alexander, the former whose elevation was voided by the CoG and he was deposed at the time, and the latter the CoG defrocked: the supposed source of their authority, the CoG (under the 1908 Tomos) having sent an exarch to bring them in line.
Since we are not Protestants, that is not how it should be, it is how it was.
The real interesting point Alexander makes is “[A]s long as Alaska was a Russian territory, the Russians had jurisdiction in their own house, but it makes a great difference thence to jump to Canada, to the United States, etc.” It basically concedes the argument (the adherents of his arguement now usually argue that Alaska was diaspora, and hence under the EP, not Russian, jurisdiction). The Alaskan mission expanded with Russian claims down to Fort Ross in CA, baptized the CA natives, and the Russian Church (and its hierarchy), and as St. Fr. Sebastian Dabovic recalls, the fruit of this labor ended up in San Francisco and were present for US annexation and Statehood, and, with the Greek Consul, founded the Russian Diocesan Cathedral.
It not a question of planting the flag, but granting the antimenson, and under terms of the Treaty of Cession, the Russian Orthdoox Church (whose bishop remained) explicitely was made legally a native US body, the European Orthodox (those who stayed in Alaska and those who joined the others in CA) would be native US citizens. Whether the Native Orthodox (full blooded Aleut, Tlingit, etc ) were given citizenship as promised, or lumped together with the rest of the Amerindians per the treaty (“The uncivilized tribes will be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may, from time to time, adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country”), they too were now part and parcel of that jurisdiction which extended to Florida (a fact show by the “Tlingit Orthodox Chiefs” petitioning the US President, and the Orthodox Bishop of Alaska stating “And so, Mr. President, be indulgent and gracious to poor, hapless Alaska and show the Orthodox Church there is respect to which it is entitled, if not by its whole record in that country, yet at least by Articles 2 and 3 of the Declaration of 1867.
[i.e. the cessation treaty]”. 70 Orthodox petitioned the Imperial Ambassador in Washington to enforce the terms).
In fact, as the monks and those who followed them were Russian subjects in Russian territory; who administered the oath to the czar to the aboriginal inhabitants to secure them rights as subjects of the empire; who intermarried with the AK and the CA Amerindian converts(as St. Sebastian noted seeing such families almost half a century after Fort Ross was closed), all of whom went from Russian subject to native US citizens by the treaties of cessation (and in the case of CA, nearly immediately part of a US state) or part of the “American Indian” class- it can be argued that the Russian Archdiocese/OCA was never in diaspora.
As the history shows, e.g. the early attempt in Chicago for a Church
there wasn’t confusion about what jurisdiction to join. That would not come until a century after the beginnings of Orthodoxy here, not in the very beginning.
About Abp Alexander, I should point out that he went on to say that, once Alaska became a US territory in 1867, it became “diaspora” and was thus under the EP. So I’m afraid he wasn’t quite as reasonable as we might have hoped.
I do think it’s valid to ask, does a diocese in Alaska, with one parish in California, give to the Russian Mission exclusive claim over all of the Western Hemisphere? In some ways, this logic (that Alaska = the entire Western Hemisphere) is very similar to the EP’s erroneous Canon 28 logic. The EP has taken jurisdiction in specific barbarian provinces and expanded it to mean jurisdiction over all the “diaspora.” Likewise, the Russians took jurisdiction in a specific territory (Alaska) and expanded it to mean jurisdiction over the contiguous US, Canada, and more.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if the Russians had, after 1867, expanded into the US, sent missionaries to convert Americans, and established churches in the major US cities, then these problems would not exist. Perhaps the Russians did have theoretical jurisdiction over America. That means nothing if they didn’t actualize that jurisdiction. You could argue that they actualized their jurisdiction in California (and even the whole Pacific Coast), but they didn’t do that for the rest of the country, until after the Greeks had already arrived.
Why does the US have to be a single ecclesiastical entity, when the Roman Empire was divided into several patriarchates? The early Fathers didn’t say, “The bishop of Jerusalem was the first in the Roman Empire; therefore, all of the Empire is under Jerusalem.” They were much more pragmatic in their approach, as evidenced by the creation of the EP after the capital was moved.
America was Russia’s for the taking. They didn’t take it.
At the risk of being accused of being a bludgeoner…..
All institutions have their foundation myths, in the sense of the definition you give. However, the OCA (to give it a title which I think all would find justified, with the OCA as successor to Russian claims) “myth” stands on firmer ground than both the GOARCH “myth” (again, a title I think all recognize) and the “jurisdictional pluralism myth” offered here. Rather than being the “plant the flag” myth for the OCA, I would suggest a more accurate, and more Orthodox, title would be “provide the antimens” myth. In 1894 the OCA (to use an anachronism, to simplify things) celebrated its centenial: accounts then do not show a context of jurisdictional confusion, and the “well-documented facts” contradicting this do not appear until just before that, with only the New Orleans parish being able to make the countercase. It cannot do that, however, without undermining the GOARCH myth. I will have return to these points.
I might do well to start with perhaps my most startling point of contention: the OCA has never been in diaspora, and has been from inception the native local Orthodox Church of North America.
Bishop Alexander unwittingly concedes this point (which is now counteracted by the present day exponents of the same GOARCH myth) when he says “[A]s long as Alaska was a Russian territory, the Russians had jurisdiction in their own house, but it makes a great difference thence to jump to Canada, to the United States, etc.” (the GOARCH school argues now that Russian Church was bound within the borders of the empire at the time of the “Golden” Tomos, i.e. the 16th cent.). History supports his first point, it fails him in his second, and I’m afraid does in the “jurisdictional pluralism” myth as well.
Taking Bp. Alexander’s concession as a start, there are connected well documented facts which are associated with that. The Alaska claims (and hence the mission-the Czar in 1820 made support of the Church a condition for renewals of the Charters) reached down into CA, to Fort Ross, just north of San Francisco At its height, during St. Innocent’s visit, it may have had over 10% of the European population in CA (the only European population who contracted a treat with the local Amerindians for occupation in CA), and achieved a number of CA “firsts.” It also baptized many of the local natives (half a century after its abandonment, St. Sebastian still met mixed families of the CA Pomon and Miwok with Aleuts and Russians at Sitka) Its presence caused the Spanish settlement of SF and the American settlement of Sacramento, whose Bear flag I conjecture may have drawn inspiration from the Russians (who, meeting with their Spanish counterparts, used to amuse themselves with a bear fighting a bull, representing Russia and Spain/Mexico respectively). Fort Ross closed in 1842. Not all however, left, and some of those who did soon returned.
The Orthodox who went to San Francisco interred their dead on the Hill above the Spanish Mission, where the grave crosses were visible until 1849, when the city of SF swallowed the area up, leaving the name “Russian Hill.” Alexander Rotchev, the last governor of Fort Ross (who opposed its sale), returned for the Gold Rush, setting up the first patented gold wash machine, which he set up near Sutter’s Mill (which Sutter built in an effort to pay off the Russian agent in SF). His predecessor, Peter Kostromitinov, also had stayed to serve as the Russian American Company’s agent in SF, then Russian Vice Consul there until 1862. His home served as the Church when the Russian Navy came with their chaplains, and where he, with St. Sebastian’s uncle Nicolas, first formally organized the gathered Orthodox into the Orthodox Society of SF, later joined by George Fisher (another Serb, famous American, and Greek Consul of SF, and head of the Greeks there) into legally incorporating the Society. This at a time ante-dating and contemporaneous with the establishmet of the Holy Trinity Church in New Orleans.
Within the decade following the formal withdrawal from Fort Ross, the Russians from Alaska built up a trade to between CA and AK, a trade that really had never been abandoned. The family of Alexander Baranoff (the 1st governor of Russian Alaska, who brought over St. Herman’s monks) ended up in SF: Count Vladimir Baranoff, his grandson, came in the 1860’s when the SF parish (soon to be Cathedral) was being incorporated. These were joined by the Orthodox from Alaska after its sale, many of whom transferred to San Francisco to get away from the military administration the US put in Sitka, including Alexei Pestchouroff, the pleniplonary who transferred the territory on behalf of the Czar, and who joined the Orthodox Society of SF. Prince Maksutov, the last governor of Russian America, stopped at San Francisco on his way back to Russia, promising a priest for the parish, who came in 1868. Russian migration had continued during Mexican rule from (even from Siberia via) Alaska to SF, until the SF Russian colony become a community of considerable size, especially after the See of Sitka was transferred in 1871.
Y. J. Chyz and J. S. Roucek, “The Russians in the United States,” Slavonic Review. 17, No. 51 (Apr. 1939)
St. Sebastian, the first native US born priest of Old World parentage (born in SF harbor), summed up the links in this foundation myth, at the centenial of the Enlightener of Alaska, Apostle to America, and later Metropolitan of Moscow St. Innocent:
“This great missionary, who passed away from this visible world eighteen years ago, and whose remains rest in the holy Troitse – Sergief Monastery, still dwells in the loving hearts of the different peoples of his spiritual charge. I understand and feel the special privilege which I enjoy tonight, and for which I most heartily and humbly thank the Gracious Bishop and Most Reverend Father in God. Deeply feeling the love of our Archpastors, I become bold and venture to look into the unseen, where I behold the spiritual eyes of our first hard working missionary, with kindly light beaming upon this gathering, and approving of the feeble words of your son, and your brother and pastor — one of the first born of the young Orthodox American Church.
John Benijaminof was a great man, indeed! As one of the first Priests in Alaska he labored for fifteen long years in several parts of that vast region, making his home principally first in Ounalashka and then in Sitkha. In those pioneer days of Alaska an Aleutian baidarka, or small canoe made of the skin of a walrus, was the only means he had for his voyages of longa corsa. It often happened that, in a mean, wet climate, his only comfort for whole months would be found in an earthen dug-out covered with skins. I will not detain you by repeating; you will hear and read of his life, and you will see how in the Providence of God, the Reverend Father John became to be known as Innocent, and how he returned to Alaska as the first Bishop there, and likewise our first Bishop in America!
There are several people in this city, who have personally seen him, and remember well the wholesome instructions of their gentle pastor. Besides the elder brethren and the elder sisters among you, some of the people mentioned are also fathers in their community. Our present Bishop and beloved Father in God was at one time under the spiritual rule of the Most Reverend Innocentius, and that was during his student life in the academy of Moscow, when Innocent was the Bishop of the church of Christ in that Province.
I have strong reason for maintaining my assertion that the missionary priest John Benjaminof also landed on our shores here, and how I love to dwell on the thought — he bestowed GodÕs blessing upon our beautiful California. It was in the Fall of 1838 that this Godfearing worker left Sitkha in a sailing vessel to voyage down the whole length of the great Pacific and make his way around Cape Horn to Europe and St Petersburgh. At that time the Government of Alaska, following the wise counsels of Baranof, (another great man), obtained and held land in California, where it had a flourishing colony in the part now known as Sonoma County. Baranof was well aware of the worth of Alaska, but he needed California as a storehouse of grain for the Great North with its many resources and grand coast. The globecircumnavigating vessels coming from the North, certainly must have anchored in Californian waters, — in order to take on supplies and make a final preparation before setting sail to round the Cape for the old world. And so it is possible that our dear missionary may have even offered the Divine Liturgy in the chapel at Fort Ross, and also baptized the Indians in Russian River. I do not attempt to speculate on the idea that our Apostle trod the sands — where now our splendid City of San Francisco is built. For the sake of justice to memory I simply ask: is there not a history attached to Russian Hill in S. F.?”
Indeed, there is: we have St. Innocent’s own writings on his mission down the coast of CA
(a kayak like that he used can be seen in the Fort Ross museum), his visit to SF (then Yerba Buena and the Presidio of San Francisco), his service at the Fort Ross Chapel baptizing the native Kashaya Pomo and Miwok and blessing the stream. And he returned as Bishop of the see and capital Sitka/New Archangel when the Russian Flag still flew over the functioning chapel of Fort Ross, and welcomed the Russian, Aleut and CA Amerinidians who chose to remain under the Russian Flag in AK when Russia sold the buildings (but not the land) of Fort Ross to the “American” John Sutter (who came to CA via Sitka).
St. Sebastian said this summary on the occasion of the centennial of Bishop St. Innocent, which the Cathedral in SF said “The cathedral of the Aleutian Diocese commemorated modestly, but with fervent prayer, the one-hundredth birthday of its primate, the ever-memorable Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow and first Bishop of the Aleuts. Not only in Alaska, whose territory the hierarch covered on foot several times, but all across America under the shadow of Orthodox crosses ardent prayers were offered up for the repose of the soul of the departed. But in San Francisco, the Episcopal see of Bishop Innocent and his successors, August 26, 1897 was celebrated with unusual solemnity. On the eve of August 26, His Grace the Right Reverend Nicholas, Bishop of Alaska and the Aleutians, celebrated a memorial vigil in the cathedral…Divine Liturgy, which also was celebrated by the Right Reverend Bishop, began at 10:00 AM. The liturgy was served in three languages — Slavonic, Greek, and English, and ³Holy God² was sung especially movingly in a melody from Bishop Innocent¹s time in the Aleut language. Many people of many nationalities attended. The Russian Consul was also present…. After that, the reading in English of the booklet, “On the life and deeds of Innocent, Archbishop of Kamchatka and the Kuril and Aleutian Islands” was begun. At the behest of the Bishop, the booklet was translated into English by Hieromonk Sebastian. Four boys read: Thomas Dabovich, Theros Keppas, Ivan Gojkovich, and Thomas Constantine. The reading was interspersed (at each change of readers) with the singing of “With the saints give rest”…and — in Aleut — “Holy God.: At the conclusion of the evening, the principal of the school, Th. Pashkovsky, read a report ³On the Labors of Bishop Innocent for the Advancement of Parochial Education in America”….Present at the meeting were many who saw and knew Hierarch Innocent personally….The hall where the readings took place was decorated with the Russian, American, Greek, and Serbian flags….
On the nature of this American Church, the same year its Cathedral parish in SF said “The multiethnicity of our parish was the reason for last year’s visit to San Francisco of the rector of the Syrian-Arab mission in New York, Archimandrite Raphael [Hawaweeny], who satisfied the spiritual needs of the Arabs here. This year we were visited by the rector of Galveston mission, Archimandrite Theoclytos [Triantofilides; Cathedral rector in 1898-90]. In San Francisco, on the fourth Sunday of Great Lent, Archim. Theoclytos, assisted by Priest D. Kamnev and Hieromonk Sebastian, served Divine Liturgy in Greek; then he traveled to Seattle and Wilkinson in order to perform divine services and private rites there. On March 25, Greek Independence Day, Archimandrite Theoclytos served Liturgy in San Francisco together with His Grace; on this day the church was filled almost exclusively with Greeks.”
(the same source mentions “During Gr. Lent, as the readers know, His Grace visited Fort Ross”)
So the “providing the antimens” unity “myth” predates Fr. Burden quite a bit.
To sum up: Orthodoxy was brought to Alaska and California when they were part of the Russian empire, and hence, given Alexander’s concession, under the jurisdiction of the Russian Church, and united under that jurisdiction. This Church evangelized and baptized the local Native peoples, producing a Church whose hiearchy nor faithful were in “diaspora.” This Church continued in AK and in the outpost of CA in the SF area, which remained linked when both were brought into the United States. (to add to this, the US Hawaiian connection was also included: the Russians established a triagle trade and the Fort Ross census included Hawaiians). The implications of this I will have to further in a later post.
I thought my first post had been lost. It didn’t show up as usual when I sent it. Sorry for the duplications in the next one, which is a semi-revision.
But I’ll take the opportunity for a little commentary.
“About Abp Alexander, I should point out that he went on to say that, once Alaska became a US territory in 1867, it became “diaspora” and was thus under the EP. So I’m afraid he wasn’t quite as reasonable as we might have hoped.”
As I will be pointing out, the problem Alexander had is the terms of the Cession Treaty, by which the Local Russian Orthodox Church became the Local American Church. In the decades following the sale (during which the Church even in Alaska grew more than it had under the Czar) we have the Russians, Creoles, and “civilized” Amerinidians togethe with their bishops suing in US courts and petitioning the US President (and the Russian ambassador in Washington) for the rights guarenteed by that treaty. And, by terms of the same treaty, the “uncivilized” Orthodox (and non-Orthodox) were lumped by US law with the Powhatan (of Pocahantas fame) and the Wampanoag (the Thanksgiving Indians). So it wasn’t just the Russian hiearchy seeing Alaska, CA and the rest of the US as one entity.
“I do think it’s valid to ask, does a diocese in Alaska, with one parish in California, give to the Russian Mission exclusive claim over all of the Western Hemisphere? In some ways, this logic (that Alaska = the entire Western Hemisphere) is very similar to the EP’s erroneous Canon 28 logic. The EP has taken jurisdiction in specific barbarian provinces and expanded it to mean jurisdiction over all the “diaspora.” Likewise, the Russians took jurisdiction in a specific territory (Alaska) and expanded it to mean jurisdiction over the contiguous US, Canada, and more.”
It is, however, how the whole Patriarchate thing got started (hence Rome, not Italy, Alexandria, not Egypt, Antioch, not Syria) and how civil jurisdiction was established in North America in the governing entities that existed in 1794 (or even 1768) and continue to this day. I’ve been to Jamestown VA and Plymouth MA: they are not terribly impressive places, but yet within less than two centuries, they made good their transcontinental claim over a huge swatch of North America. I’ve been to a number of stops along that way, the Territorial Capital at Vincennes, the Cahokia Courthouse (just a large French log cabin), etc. Nothing impressive, but in their day they represented the authority of what was and is now the US. In contrast, the Russian Orthodox Diocese was able to establish transcontinental claims in 76 years.
There is of course another difference between the OCA “providing the antimens” myth and the EP’s canon 28 myth as regards North America, the OCA bishops, in contrast to the EP were actually resident, presiding, and involved with the spreading of Orhtodoxy in North America. I’ve seen no evidence of the EP or his synod involved at all until at least after century of the OCA.
This is an element of “what was” regardless of “what should have been.” “Where the bishop is, there is the Catholic Church.” No bishop, no Church: that is how it has been since St. Ignatius, the Apostles and till this day. Until 1918, or at least 1908 at most, we cannot speak of jurisidictional pluralism among the Orthodox in North America.
I’ll hold on commenting on your characterization of Russian action after 1867.
“Why does the US have to be a single ecclesiastical entity, when the Roman Empire was divided into several patriarchates? The early Fathers didn’t say, “The bishop of Jerusalem was the first in the Roman Empire; therefore, all of the Empire is under Jerusalem.” They were much more pragmatic in their approach, as evidenced by the creation of the EP after the capital was moved.”
A case for this might be made, if it were not the fact that the OCA (again to be anachronistic) hadn’t well criscrossed the continent, consecrating parishes throughout it long before the first Greek alledged resident bishop set foot in North America.
As for the Russians not “going for it,” the only area for exploration here would be the acceptance of the presence of the CoG parish in New York in 1893. The centennial celebrations, however, would seem to indicate that they the heirs of St. Herman had not given up their claims.
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Let’s try this from another angle.
You and I (and Abp Alexander) agree that, prior to 1867, the Russian Church had every right to be in Alaska. The ruling bishop’s territory was defined as, “Kamchatka and the Kurile and Aleutian Islands.” He was an enthroned diocesan bishop, governing a clearly-defined territory.
You and I (but not Abp Alexander) agree that, even after 1867, the Russian Church retained this claim on Alaska. In the wake of the sale of Alaska, the Russian Church redrew the diocesan lines, detaching Alaska from the Diocese of Kamchatka and creating a new diocese, the territory of which was formally defined as, “the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.”
The first problem, at least from a canonical standpoint, arose when the Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska established a parish (San Francisco) outside of its clearly-defined diocesan territory. Fortunately, you and I both reject the EP’s claims to jurisdiction over all “new territories,” so this action by the Russian Church did not actually infringe on the territory of any other Orthodox bishop. It was also consistent with precedent — that a nearby Orthodox Church could justifiably engage in missionary work on lands bordering its own territory.
We are faced, however, with a problem. You and I agree (but Abp Alexander does not) that the boundaries of the Russian Church do not necessarily need to be the same as the boundaries of the Russian state. This is fine; however, it also means that the boundaries of the new Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska do not automatically include the entire Western Hemisphere. (Likewise, the boundaries of the Patriarchate of Antioch do not include, say, China, even though said Patriarch’s title includes, “All the East.)
The problem is, even if the Russian Church may justifiably engage in missionary work beyond its borders (so long as it does not interfere in the territory of another Orthodox Church), such missionary work does not necessarily lead to clearly-defined borders. The diocese itself remained “the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.” Even when the bishop moved to San Francisco, he did not become, “Bishop of Alaska and America,” or even, “Bishop of Alaska and California.” The Russian Church certainly COULD have made this claim. The change in the name of the diocese coincided, in fact, with the move of the bishop to San Francisco, so it is actually somewhat odd that the new territory would exclude the state in which the bishop himself physically resided.
Nevertheless, that is what happened. You had a Russian bishop, with a cathedral in San Francisco and a large flock in Alaska, with territory defined clearly as including only Alaska and the Aleutian Island chain. Now, one might accuse me of nitpicking, of being overly legalistic about titles. But this is serious stuff: the territory was redefined following the sale, and it seems striking that the Russian Church did not make the leap (which so many now make) that the sale of Alaska inevitably meant the expansion of the diocese to include all of America. Maybe they thought this, but they didn’t say so.
Initially, it looked like perhaps the Russians WOULD expand the diocese to include the entire continent. There was, as we’ve seen, talk of assigning bishops to major US cities, and St. Innocent proposed that Americans be brought into the Church. But these things didn’t happen. Even the lone Russian effort east of California, Bjerring’s New York chapel, discouraged converts and was shut down within 13 years.
My points are these, then:
1) The Russian Church itself did not formally claim any territory for the diocese beyond Alaska.
2) One can make a de facto argument for California, given the bishop’s residence there. But to go beyond that is another matter.
3) Since civil boundaries need not equal ecclesiastical boundaries, the sale of Alaska did not automatically grant to the Russian Church jurisdiction over all of America.
4) The Russian Church DID have an exclusive missionary opportunity (one might even say “right,” or, even more, “responsibility”) in America for 25 years after the sale of Alaska. However, it did not do much in this respect, founding only one short-lived chapel outside of California.
5) A question for you: Is the EP, or any other Church, obligated to recognize Russian authority over all of America, even though the Russians did not explicitly declare that authority OR act upon that authority by establishing churches? If the answer is yes, then why?
Also, a postscript: In England, the EP operated churches dating back to the 17th century, even though it didn’t explicitly declare the UK to be a part of its jurisdiction. Does the EP have exclusive rights to the whole United Kingdom?
On a personal note, I am very interested in this debate. And I swear, my only interest is accuracy.
I just realized that my response was incomplete. I am pressed for time; however, I will say that the Russians didn’t do much to include the Eadt Coast Greeks in their diocese, and Bp Nicholas Ziorov even tried (with Fr Sebastian Dabovich’s help) to transfer the Serbs to the jurisdiction of Serbia. This suggests that even the Russians didn’t take claims to exclusivity too seriously. The 1894 celebrations commemorated Orthodoxy in the New World, and didn’t necessarily mean anything one way or another about diocesan boundaries.
BTW, why do you call him “St” Sebastian?
“Also, a postscript: In England, the EP operated churches dating back to the 17th century, even though it didn’t explicitly declare the UK to be a part of its jurisdiction. Does the EP have exclusive rights to the whole United Kingdom?”
LOL. One hornet’s nest at a time….
I would start before, with the Bishop of Irkutsk. Baranov had brought the monks over to gain some respectibility/legitimacy for the Russian American Company, and the Holy Governing Synod expressed its intentions by elevating one of the monks in just 2 years to be consecrated as bishop of the fledgeling colony. That word of his elevation did not reach Joasaphat for two years, that the Synod took the unprecedented (and still unique) step of having the bishop of Irkutsk consecrate him a lone, and then him dying en route to his see underlined the problems of acutalizing their plans in the New World, and perhaps why a replacement was not sent and after over a decade the diocese was merged back into the Diocese of Irkutsk.
Things changed on all levels the following decade, which created trends taken into account when the company’s charter was renewed: The Czar made support of the Church (including from the company’s profits) a condition for renewal of the Company’s charter. He also required that the company use only naval officers as managers, which brought the naval chaplaincy and the mission field that the Russian navy could reach. This created a situation of different but indistinguisable authorities in the Russian Missionary Diocese, in which its boundaries were coterminous with the boundaries of the Russian state-and their extension.
Fort Ross epitomizes the new situation. The fruit of Rezanov’s dream of making the Pacific a Russian lake, it not only included Russians (and other Europeans subjects of the Czar), Alaskans, and local Amerindians but also Hawaiians. The Chapel was erected by local request and naval help. That it was unconsecrated and served only on occasion by the naval chaplain coming to port or the visit from clergy from Alaska (such as St. Innocent) doesn’t distinguish it from Alaska, where clergy shortages were (and are) endemic, and where at the time no bishop had ever set foot.
Part of the changes seen with the new charter was the renewed request/order for the Bishop of Irkutsk (whose diocese now, via the charter and the Russian navy, extended all along the Pacific down into California) to provide clergy: St. Innocent embodied the envisioned Church. A native priest of Irkutsk he ministered from one far flung parish to another, baptizing natives and translating and evangelizing in the native tongues, across Alaska and all the way down to Fort Ross, from whence he went to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev (i.e. the primary dioceses of his autocephalous Church) to argue his case for an expanded mission. These primates sent him back a bishop for the new diocese, whose seat was in Alaska but whose diocese, besides including all Russian claims in the New World (including Colony Ross), also included territory which was, and remains, part of Russia. I don’t know of another example of a missionary dicoese being given part of its mother Church, which I believe indicates the ambition of the Holy Synod for its new diocese, underlined by them elevating its bishop to Archbishop within the decade and then adding more territory from the mother Church to it (relocating the colonial seminary to the mother country, something only parralled by Boston being the Mother of the Church of Albania). That the Holy Governing Synod a decade thereafter made St. Innocent a member and then senior hierarch of the Russian Church, whereupon St. Innocent translated his Alaskan works into Russian and implemented his missionary vision from Alaska from the top of the Russian hierarchy. At least he tried: the Ober Procurator was still a brake on the Church, and the US government was hostile, which explains much of what happened to his plans:
The sale of Alaska, however, did not signal the unraveling of the symponia spelled out in the 1820 Russian American Charter, indicated by several facts:
1) The Diocese of New Archangel/Sitka was not closed, as the Diocese of Kodiak had been, indicating that the HGS (Holy Governing Synod) intended something permanent. In this, the OP (Ober-Procurator) did more than St. Innocent’s point A requested.
2) The Diocese of Sitka was detached from its daughter “Mother” diocese of Yakutsk, and set up as an independent diocese. During the first half century of the mission, the HGS, OP and Czar had no reason to see it as any different from any other part of the empire, and no doubt had no thought of it becoming an autocephalous Church in its own right. That they saw this changed, more in line of seeing the colonization of Alaska and CA as “one of the ways of Providence whereby Orthodoxy will penetrate the United States,” in light of the Cession, is underlined by this action, as renaming it the see of Alaska and the Aleutians, i.e. exactly the territory the Cession treaty was ceding to the US. Colony Ross CA wasn’t included for simple reason that those claims had come under the CA Land Commission (and were resolved by the Serb American George Fisher, who also helped to legally incorporate the SF Russian cathedral-to-be parish, and as consul of the Kingdom of Greece, headed what the contemporary NYTimes called the best organized Greek colony in the US).
3) Bishop Paul was recalled. This is to say nothing against him personally, but St. Innocent recommendation D, and the clause of the Cession treaty naturalizing Russians who remained after three years, underlines the intention of “nativizing” the clergy in this action. That this was not done right away, with John Mitropolsky being sent from the Academy in Moscow to the US, is explained by the facts of the case of Fr. Crystal:”The English Orthodox journal Orthodox Catholic Review (Dec/Jan 1868) noted that Chrystal “had for six years studied the Orthodox faith, and was fully convinced that it was the only true Catholic religion. The neophyte recited the Creed both in Greek and English. He intends entering the ministry of the Church, and will in due time become Bishop in Alaska, lately ceded by Russia to the United States. He is anxious to become a lawful medium between the Reunionist party of the Anglo-American Church and the Orthodox Church; and the Greek ecclesiastical authorities hailed his scheme. He is now busy in translating the necessary service-books into English”” but as “Fr. David Abramtsov explains, “The erratic Chrystal soon repudiated his ties with the Orthodox Church and, upon his return to America, formed his own Baptist-type sect.” How this was unfolding, alongside the Anglican and hence the British government’s issues, coupled with Crystal’s rejection of the offer to be bishop of New York as he rejected the Seventh Ecumenical Council, stalled these points D and E of St. Innocent:”The Russian Government has decided to establish a Bishopric of the Greek Church in New York. The fact was made known to a number of Episcopal clergymen by Count Catacazy, the Russian Minister, and the Count recently offered the position of Prelate of the proposed See to the Rev. Samos [the other versions say “James”] Christal, an Episcopal minister, who is understood to have favored the plan of Dr. (now Bishop) Young of uniting the Episcopal and Greek churches. Mr. Christal has, however, declined to accept the office, on the ground that he could not subscribe to the articles of the Seventh Synod of the Greek church, relating to the images and creature worship, and the new Bishopric has not yet been filled.
Two other Bishoprics are to be established by the Russian Government, one in San Francisco and the other in New Orleans, but the candidates have not yet been named.”
4) That Bishop John came, and Bishop Paul, departed via NYC I think might be with import, in particular as Bp. Paul was crossing the North American Continent in essence to go across the Bering Sea. As St. Innocent’s point C indicates, the sale necessitated a reorientation of the diocse towards the lower 48, and through them to Western Russia.
5)The plans discussed to bring the see to SF, i.e. firmly in the US mainstream, actualized in 1871. This may have been prompted by the fact that many Russians had already ended up in SF and that already within a year of the sale, English was being used in the services alongside Slavic and Greek.
6) The plan to have a hierarchy of NYC, New Orleans, SF and AK being mulled in 1870, indicating a vision a) over all North America, b) all Orthodox (e.g. New Orleans). The boundaries were only defined vis-a-vis Mother Russia’s Kamchatka diocese, not the other side, which remained as open as they had been at the time of Fort Ross. On this, the exact relationship between the Bishop in SF and Fr. Bjerring in NYC would illumine the matter. With a Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria in Cairo, the Patriarch of Antioch in Damascus, the Metropolitan of Kiev long resident in Moscow, etc. the problem of the Bishop of Sitka being in SF is hardly a novel nor serious one.
Perhaps I better skip to your points:
1) The Russian Church itself did not formally claim any territory for the diocese beyond Alaska.
===Russian had signed treaties with the US and Britain in 1824-5 which defined her claims as far north, and yet she kept Fort Ross down south (and didn’t sign a treaty with Spain/Mexico) and didn’t mention it. In the religious sphere the Russian Orthodox were already beginning the tangle with the Anglicans, which any explicit claims outside of Alaska would exaserbate. That the Russian Synod didn’t ask for trouble doesn’t suprise me: they were quite busy around the globe at the time.
2) One can make a de facto argument for California, given the bishop’s residence there. But to go beyond that is another matter.
===I agree, but the argument is easily made.
3) Since civil boundaries need not equal ecclesiastical boundaries, the sale of Alaska did not automatically grant to the Russian Church jurisdiction over all of America.
===The issue arises from the explicit terms concerning the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox in the treaty. We will deal with this later.
4) The Russian Church DID have an exclusive missionary opportunity (one might even say “right,” or, even more, “responsibility”) in America for 25 years after the sale of Alaska. However, it did not do much in this respect, founding only one short-lived chapel outside of California.
===Actually, the Church in AK, even from hostile accounts, began to take off after the Russians left, not without more than its share of problems from the Protestant martial US administration. As for the Anglo-Americans, the digressions with the Anglicans delayed this, and the experiences with the first converts (or, as you accurately point out, apostates) gave reason for pause. Interest in the New Orleasns parish, the abortive parish in Chicago in 1888, etc. show it wasn’t totally devoid of interest, the question may be of other pressures and means. The hiatus between bishops seems to indicate the HGS kept a “wait and see approach” through the 25 years, which is not a terribly long period in any case.
5) A question for you: Is the EP, or any other Church, obligated to recognize Russian authority over all of America, even though the Russians did not explicitly declare that authority OR act upon that authority by establishing churches? If the answer is yes, then why?
===If the Greeks were in 1893 what they were in 1918, the GOARCH myth might have a point. By the former date, however, the Russian Mission/OCA had already started accepting the uniate parishes, established its parish in Chicago, and around that time had parishes as far South as Galeveston TX. Further, a number of contemporary accounts portray the founding of the Greek parishes not in ignorance of the Russian bishop’s presence, but in spite of it (the import of this is shown by Meletios official report to the CoG in 1918, in which he claimed ignorance of the Russian bishop’s presence, and his account of the latter’s dealings with him). Except with New Orleans and perhaps the first Greek parish in NYC, we are comparing a functioning diocese with a disfunctional array of parishes which wouldn’t even qualify for vagrante status.
I expect I’ll be giving a fuller explanation of the latter later.
Isa, a couple of (completely sincere) questions for you.
How far, in your view, does Russia’s territory extend into the New World? Does it end at the Rio Grande, or the Panama Canal, or does it go all the way to the southern tip of South America?
Does the Russian closure of the New York chapel in 1883 mean anything to you in terms of their territorial claims in America?
As I’ve said many times, Russia consciously pulled out of New York, and when they did that, they had literally no organized ecclesiastical presence east of California. North America (or, the New World) is vast. I’m still not sold on the justification for Russia’s apparent claim to this entire piece of land. I’d be interested to hear how you explain this.
“How far, in your view, does Russia’s territory extend into the New World? Does it end at the Rio Grande, or the Panama Canal, or does it go all the way to the southern tip of South America?”
When we talkin’?
Before 1867? To the Bay Area. Colony Ross radiated out around the Fort, to the Ranchos of the surrounding areas, the islands outiside the bay entrance, to Mt. Saint Helena. The Russsian administration does not seemed to press any further claims, and the remnants of the Orthodox went to Sitka or congregated in SF. Unlike in China or Japan, I don’t know of any claim/mission of the Russian Church outside the Empire in the New World.
1867-c.70 at least the Mason-Dixie; if not before definitely the Rio Grande in 1870, when the last Confederate States were readmitted.
1890’s: Mexico, perhaps. St. Raphael traveled there to set up parishes but I am unsure of their status, especiallly as in the OCA Tomos, both the OCA and Russia deny exclusive claim to Mexico. Around the same time there are references to the bishop going to Brazil, and Galicians there embracing Orthodoxy, but details are scarce, and I know of no claims to jurisdiction on them.
“Does the Russian closure of the New York chapel in 1883 mean anything to you in terms of their territorial claims in America?”
Not much if it was attatched to the Bishop of Alaska. (if it was directly under the HGS, that might make things different).
In 1883 there was no bishop of Alaska. The canons state that a widowed diocese must remain whole until the new bishop takes her, neither her assets nor jurisdiction diminished in the meantime (this was one of the issues involved with the “auxilary” incident earlier this year). If the HGS had abolished the Diocese, which they could have (not without its problems) the case could be made that the closure in NYC meant something.
I take the question as rather theoretical, as where Fr. Bjerring only lasted 13 years, Fr. Hatherly did not last 13 weeks., nor was his mission the part of any diocese nor consecrated (nor for that matter were the two Greek Churches that followed in the succeeding decade). Before the first Greek parish (and we are speaking of Greek claims) in NYC, the Russian mission had already begun to bring in the uniates in the Midwest and East Coast.
That apparently the Diocese in 1870 envisioned having sees across the length and bredth of the US (including the Greek New Orleans parish, which seems to have had been quite forgotten in the process of the formation of GOARCH), and had begun acutalizing it by consecrating a chapel clear on the other side of the continent, would give an idea of the diocese’s self identification as to extent.
“As I’ve said many times, Russia consciously pulled out of New York, and when they did that, they had literally no organized ecclesiastical presence east of California. North America (or, the New World) is vast.”
The HGS had left the see of Kodiak widowed for 12 years before abolishing it, and then reincarnating it at Sitka almost two decades later. Obviously during that time, the claims of the Russian Church did not change during that period, except to perhaps be even more conservative after their enthusiasm set up a see only after two years of the mission.
The persons involved in these decisions and that to close NYC were not the same, but it was the same institution. Given that the HGS/Moscow was locked in a hosrse race in the Middle East and elsewhere with the EP, I find it hard to see the HGS giving the Green light, to Constantinople of all sees, to go ahead an claim territory. Given the correspondence on financial records between St. Petersburg and SF, and that Russia itself was embarking on the most expensive program of the Empire’s history (the Transsiberian Railway: only the WWI budget surpassed it), the HGS on advise of the Green Eye Shades simply stated they weren’t going to pay for NYC and left it at that. Fr. Hatherly proved them right, but his perhaps miscontruing of the response of the HGS wouldn’t be the first, nor last, miscommunication between the Russian Church and an Englishman.
Why would 1867 change the nature of Russian claims, if civil boundaries need not equal ecclesiastical boundaries? This is the flip side of Abp Alexander’s argument that Alaska was Russia’s until 1867, but was “diaspora” afterwards. I would say that the sale means nothing for ecclesiastical claims. More relevant is the 1870/72 move of the bishop’s residence to SF, and the 1870 establishment of the NY chapel.
In fact, the first Greek church in NY (under the Church of Greece) was founded two months before St. Alexis Toth and his parish joined the Russian Church. Really, these were simultaneous events (along with, another month later, the founding of the Chicago Greek church, and the month after that, the Chicago Russian church).
I guess I still don’t understand why the US can’t be treated as analagous to the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire didn’t need to be under one, single ecclesiastical authority, even if it was under one, single civil authority. For Russia to say, “Well, it’s all America, and we have a church in SF, and we’ve thought about going all-in in the US. So it belongs to us,” is a little bit of a reach. When the Near East map was redrawn this past century, the ancient city of Antioch ended up in Turkey, while the Patriarch was in Syria. Yet he retains jurisdiction in Antioch, and there is an Antiochian archdiocese that has territory in Turkey. Antioch’s territory in Turkey did not need to be ceded to the EP simply because the map was redrawn. Likewise, I don’t see why the redrawing of a map in 1867 should automatically, by itself, grant to Russia the entire United States of America, which before that was unclaimed territory.
About Hatherly’s letter, I don’t think we can assume he misunderstood Russia’s reply unless / until we see the actual document. The fact that Russia had no church east of California from 1883 to 1892 seems to confirm their lack of intention to practically exercise whatever claims they might have had.
An additional thought:
It always confused me that, in the wake of the sale of Alaska, the Russian Church both reorganized the diocese (defining it as “the Aleutian Islands and Alaska”), and moved the bishop’s residence to San Francisco, which of course is outside of that defined territory. I don’t think the analogy to the Patriarch of Alexandria living in Cairo applies here; in cases like that, the see in question was occupied by a bishop for centuries, and only later, historical circumstances led to a change in the bishop’s residence. With Alaska, though, we have something completely different — literally simultaneous with the redefinition of the diocese, the bishop is moved to a location outside of the new diocese. Why? Why not just define it as, “Alaska and North America,” or, “Alaska and California”?
Here, and elsewhere, I think we’re seeing the influence of dialogue with the Episcopal Church. The dialogue was pretty serious in that era. For the Russian Church to formally grant a bishop territory that overlapped with the Episcopal Church may have upset the Episcopalians. This would explain why the Russian Church did not officially declare the bishop’s territory to extend beyond Alaska until 1905. (Of course, I know that the dialogue was also pretty serious in 1905, but we’re dealing then with another generation of people, and the dynamics may have been different.)
So the Russian Church had two positions. Formally, the diocese did not extend beyond Alaska. But informally — unofficially, implicitly, etc — the diocese stretched from coast to coast. The chapel in New York (which, as I’ve recently discovered, was planned as early as 1866, before Bjerring’s conversion or even the sale of Alaska — more on that in a future post), was not only an “embassy chapel” in the sense that it served the Russian and Greek embassies; it was a representation church, a metochion. With many feeling that unity with the Episcopalians was imminent, it was natural that an Orthodox representation church might be created in America to further the dialogue. This would explain Bjerring’s desire to discourage conversions.
In the 1890s, from the perspective of the other Orthodox Churches, there was a Russian diocese in Alaska that had a presence on the Pacific Coast of America. Why would they feel compelled to acknowledge Russian jurisdiction in the Eastern or Southern US, when the Russians themselves never actually claimed such jurisdiction? And furthermore, when the first Greek church was opened in New York, the Russian Church did nothing to oppose it. They didn’t claim (as they later would) that this church was under the authority of the Russian bishop. And it’s not like they weren’t aware of it; the Russian ambassador attended it for the memorial of Tsar Alexander III (since there was no Russian church in New York). In Chicago, the Russian and Greek churches had friendly relations, but the Greeks explicity acknowledged Athens, and the Russians (so far as I know) made no objection. Again, there seems to have been a live-and-let-live attitude on the part of the Russian leadership.
Bottom line, things would be a lot different had the Russians made a formal claim to America. As it is, they didn’t do that. The Greeks (and Romanians, and others) are not, in my opinion, to be blamed for thinking that America was “fair game,” that it wasn’t the exclusive territory of any one Church.
What do you think, Isa?
Quite a dialogue, I have found here!
I think a few things might be of use (and if not, feel free to move on without them):
1) Matthew, you keep drawing the parallel between the Roman Empire and the US. I think this raises the question of how one envisions America. That is, can jurisdictions be formed state by state? As you know, I’m a federalist at heart (without a political party!) so I’m sympathetic to that line of thinking, but I don’t think many would want to follow me in such a strong statement on behalf of states’ rights. Might a better analogy not be one you had already raised, the analogy of Byzantine borderlands? Of course that would require that we all read Chalcedon 28 properly, but neither of you are performing an anachronism we often hear elsewhere, so I think there could be a parallel, there. Of course, that doesn’t completely absolve the question. In these borderlands, does the claim on one territory and/or state mean a claim on all and, more than that, all of North America?
2) Isa, from what I have seen in the sources thus far, the decision to close Bjerring’s chapel was made in St. Petersburg, not San Francisco.
3) I don’t think it matters, on a technical level, whether Hatherly’s attempt lasted 13 years or 13 weeks. Matthew’s point is a technical one: the Russian Orthodox Church pulled out and even said the Greeks could have a go at it since they (the Russians) had relinquished any claims. This technical point might help in answering my question at the end of point one.
4) Finally, what I really would like to make sure is clear, is that I have no EP agenda. I am an OCA priest and glad to be one. I also have no pro-ROCOR agenda. Again, I am an OCA priest and glad to be one. My only agenda is good historical theology and so I hope what I have said will help further that cause. I may interject further if I “get the bug” to do so. Hope you two don’t mind.
On a related note, Isa, would you be so kind as to email me? I’d like to discuss Fr. Sebastian Dabovic.
I should clarify, that I think the parallel between the Empire and the US would apply NOW, in today’s reality. In that case, I would like to see a single American Orthodox Church, with a bishop in every state capital. Doubt I’ll ever see it, but I hope and pray.
“Why would 1867 change the nature of Russian claims, if civil boundaries need not equal ecclesiastical boundaries?”
They are not to be completely ignored either, e.g. Canon XVII of Chalcedon
The issue is the status that the treaty created for the Orthodox, both European and Amerinidian, in US law, with legal title to the Church properties etc in Alaska, as successor of the HGS authority. (there are related matters, e.g. 1% of the sale price was paid per annum to the American Diocese until the revolution, etc.). There are lots of de jure issues from how the US constition and case law would interact with the treaty, but as the US, besides paying the money didn’t keep the terms of the treaty, that might be too large a digression. Instead we might look at how the “Tlingit Orthodox Chiefs” tried to assert their rights under the treaty (ironic, as the Tlingit converted as a nation AFTER the Russians left) petitioning the US president: “The reason for this (petition) is following; because here we cannot get any satisfaction to our just and lawful demands. We know that the Russian Government at the time of the transfer of Alaska to the U.S. did not sell us as slaves to America, but left us some rights and privileges which were later made lawful and firm by the U.S. Congress….we never lost faith in the Government at Washington. This sorrowful reality only made us lose faith in persons sent out here by the government.” Some 70 Orthodox residents of Sitka, Russian and Amerindian, petitioned the Russian ambassador in Washington to enforce the terms of the treaty. And Bishop Nicholai wrote to President McKinley: “Our church allows us only to remonstrate with the highest authority on behalf of the oppressed and innocently suffering . . . but never allows us to incite dozens to sedition or treason . . . And so, Mr. President, be indulgent and gracious to poor, hapless Alaska and show the Orthodox Church there is respect to which it is entitled, if not by its whole record in that country, yet at least by Articles 2 and 3 of the Declaration of 1867” [i.e. the Cession Treaty]. The import of this is underlined by Jackson and others reply that the Orthdoox clergy were foreign agents of the czar etc. Alaska may have been on the other side of the continent but their place was in the polity headed in Washington.
“Haa tuwunáagu yís for healing our spirit: Tlingit oratory” By Richard Dauenhauer
Orthodox Alaska: a theology of mission By Michael Oleks
“Russian Orthodox Brotherhoods Among the Tlingit: Missionary Goals and Native Reponse,” Sergei Kan. Ethnohistory 32(3):196-223
Memory Eternal: Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity through Two Centuries” By Sergei Kan
“Likewise, I don’t see why the redrawing of a map in 1867 should automatically, by itself, grant to Russia the entire United States of America, which before that was unclaimed territory”
Because the Cession Treaty made the Orthodox part and parcel of the entire United States. (btw, when the Creoles in Alaska in the 1880 argued that they owned the Churches and were in charge of the Church, like the lay Presbyterians were, the Alaskan consistory pointed out that the hiearchy were in charge, and that although the US law and the Presbyterian military adminstration of Alaska made a distinction between European and Native Orthodox, as to control of the Church the Treaty did not (the natives looked to the bishops for guidance), so the Natives too had their say).
(btw, just for general interest:
“Russian Orthodox Church Of Alaska And The Aleutian Islands And Its Relation to Native American Traditions,” by Vsevolodovich Viacheslav Ivanov
“In fact, the first Greek church in NY (under the Church of Greece) was founded two months before St. Alexis Toth and his parish joined the Russian Church. Really, these were simultaneous events (along with, another month later, the founding of the Chicago Greek church, and the month after that, the Chicago Russian church).”
St. Alexis and his parish were received on March 25, 1891, the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The Greeks were motivated by the arrival of Prince George of Greece in NYC en route to St. Petersburg from a trip in Japan (where he saved the future Czar’s life), coming from SF where the Greek community there, organized in the OCA Cathedral, greeted him, but Prince George didn’t come until June 29 of that year.
By then it seems St. Alexis had already begun evangelizing the uniates up and down the Eastcoast on behalf of the Russian Bishop.
“Greeks in America” by Thomas Burgess
Burgess btw, states (p. 54) the New York “was spasmotic at first,” whereas “the Chicago community has had a continuous existence to the present time (1913).
Of course, the GOARCH “myth” has the problem of the 1st NY parish being under the CoG: according to it, the CoG had no authority to do so until 1908. Fr. Ferentinos ended up in New Orleans, at the parish that the original charter of the GOANSA seemed to ignore.
In any case, yes the events were close in date. However, given the actions the following year in 1892, one wonders how “under” the parish was to the CoG. The episcopal authority of the parishes in the Russian Diocese/OCA was quite clear.
“I guess I still don’t understand why the US can’t be treated as analagous to the Roman Empire.”
Because these are not Apostolic times. Since then (as the battles over SS Cyril and Methodius’ mission, the evangelization of Bulgaria, etc. shows) the model has been the establishment of a center and then radiating out from it (Ohrid, Kiev, etc.). The only examples we have are the modern Serbian and Romanian Patriarchates, and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, but these were only because of a single or related nationality being seperated by political boundaries (and hence laws, administration, etc.). Such was not the case in the US.
“When the Near East map was redrawn this past century, the ancient city of Antioch ended up in Turkey, while the Patriarch was in Syria. Yet he retains jurisdiction in Antioch, and there is an Antiochian archdiocese that has territory in Turkey. Antioch’s territory in Turkey did not need to be ceded to the EP simply because the map was redrawn.”
LOL. Bad example: the Syria government (and Arab ones generally) and the Patriarchate of Antioch do not recognize Ataturk’s illegal annexation of the Alexandretta province, his puppet Hatay Republic. Its status is like that of the Baltic Republics in the Soviet Union.
And two thousand years of Christian history is not like fledgeling Orthodox societies trying to organize parishes in the expansion of a missionary diocese.
“The Roman Empire didn’t need to be under one, single ecclesiastical authority, even if it was under one, single civil authority.”
By the time the Church hierarchy was codified, it wasn’t: the Church had passed under the tetrarchy, and its administration went on in the Dioceses and the constitutional principle of ” consortium imperii,” which lay behind “New Rome” (and its emperoro, senate, etc. and hence Patriarch).
“The fact that Russia had no church east of California from 1883 to 1892 seems to confirm their lack of intention to practically exercise whatever claims they might have had.”
Or that they were too busy elsewhere (i.e. fighting the EP in the Middle East and elsewhere), or pressed elsewhere (the increasing demands in AK, the correspondence on money matters to SF) to do anything at the time.
“I should clarify, that I think the parallel between the Empire and the US would apply NOW, in today’s reality. In that case, I would like to see a single American Orthodox Church, with a bishop in every state capital. Doubt I’ll ever see it, but I hope and pray.”
+Nathaniel made a similar point at Dormition, with some justificatin: WY, the least populous state, is comparable to Cyprus’ popluation.
Given the difference in constitution between the Roman empire of Constantine, and the resemblance to that of Czarist Russia, I think the US would follow the latter’s, unitary, model.
“2) Isa, from what I have seen in the sources thus far, the decision to close Bjerring’s chapel was made in St. Petersburg, not San Francisco.”
It would have to have been: SF was widowed at the time, the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg administrating it. As Arch. Sebastain Dabovic stated “After the death of his Grace Nestor (and for the space of 13 months) the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands was governed by the Metropolitan of Saint Petersburg, the Most Reverend Isidor and the Saint Petersburg Ecclesiastical Consistory, through a member of the Alaskan Ecclesiastical Administration, the Cathedral Archpriest Vladimir Vechtomov. Father Archpriest Vladimir governed in a manner similar to that of the Right Reverend Nestor. He economized wisely in financial matters and gradually paid off the debts of the Diocese.”
I think the last point explains things. Vechnomov was the one who suggested that the new priest sent to the Tlignit of Sitka (whom he baptized, something St. Innocent didn’t accomplish) shouldn’t be able to speak English, so he would concentrate on his pastoral duties rather than dabbling in politics as his predecessor had, though he insisted on quality education in English at the school he founded (on borrowed funds) for the Tlingit, to combat the slander that the Church kept the Orthodox in perpetual hostility to the US.
“3) I don’t think it matters, on a technical level, whether Hatherly’s attempt lasted 13 years or 13 weeks. Matthew’s point is a technical one: the Russian Orthodox Church pulled out and even said the Greeks could have a go at it since they (the Russians) had relinquished any claims. This technical point might help in answering my question at the end of point one.”
I’ve only seen Hatherly’s way interpretation of it being that way. I’ve seen a lot of things the HGS did in the Middle East which makes me doubt the Englishman was interpreting correctly. They only said that they were not spending money on it (understandable for a variety of reasons, not the least Crystal and Bjerring and the pesky High Church Anglican order campaign).
Reading what the HGS was up to can be tricky. My favorite example was Pope Photios at the turn of the previous century. He was a hardened foe to the Russian presence in Syria and the Holy Land and the Russian Church’s ambitions. The Russians had got him deposed from the see of Jerusalem when he was elected to it. But when he was elected to the second see of Orthodoxy, Russia forced Constantinople to accept it. Why? Because Britain was firmly entrenched in Egypt, so Russia could have no interests it could pursue there, so they had no interest who ran it. It turned out to be a good gamble: Pope Photios, coming to what had been reduced to a suffragan of Constantinople, started consecrating enough metropolitans to sees dead for centuries to form a synod, and then forbad any legate from Constantinople to set foot in Egypt, turning him into a thorn in the EP, and not the Czar’s, side.
“On a related note, Isa, would you be so kind as to email me?”
Is the cableone.net address good?
Yep, that email should work just fine. Glad to know Bishop Nathaniel has a similar vision of American Orthodoxy!
Concerning Bjerring, I simply made the point because I had thought I read you as saying it might make a difference whether the order to close came from SF or St. Petersburg.
I agree that we don’t have all the source material surrounding Hatherly. I also agree that one should try to keep in mind the other decisions Russia was making at the time. No doubt.
That said, Matthew’s take is still plausible and is consistent with three key pieces of evidence: Holy Synod closes NY parish, Hatherly says Russian Orthodox Church gave Greeks permission due to rescinding claims, diocese is still not named in such a way as to include North America.
On another matter, I’m not following you on the Cessation treaty. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I saw nothing in there that gave the Russian Orthodox Church jurisdiction over all of the United States. The treaty was concerned with Alaska and Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska. Would you mind restating your argument more succinctly? Maybe that will help me understand what you’re getting at.
I look forward to your email!
“Here, and elsewhere, I think we’re seeing the influence of dialogue with the Episcopal Church. ”
I agree with your points on the Anglican digression on this matter. In San Francisco, 1870 the “Slavonian” published Overbeck’s petition to the HGS.
so the issues around Anglican orders etc. and how to deal with the Anglicans was obviously a big matter, as abundantly shown elsewhere.
“when the first Greek church was opened in New York, the Russian Church did nothing to oppose it. They didn’t claim (as they later would) that this church was under the authority of the Russian bishop. And it’s not like they weren’t aware of it; the Russian ambassador attended it for the memorial of Tsar Alexander III (since there was no Russian church in New York).”
I’m curious as to the circumstances surrounding the opening of the first Greek parish. It was connected with the visit of Prince George, who was the guest in NY of the Russian Consul A.E. Olarovsky, accompanied by “his instructor, Commander Lomen of the Russian Navy,” coming from SF via Chicago, on his way to St. Petersburg to meet his mother, the Czar’s cousin and the Queen of Greece Olga, to receive thanks from the Czar himself for saving the then Czarovich Nicholas II. As “one enthusiastic Greek exclaimed in the American tongue” at the visit, looking at the Prince’s walking stick, “see, there is the stick with which he saved the Russian Grand Duke’s life.”
Given that a lot of adulation was showered on Prince George by the Russians for saving the Czarovich (and soon as it turned out Czar), I am wondering if Russian indulgence of the formation of the first Greek parish in NYC shouldn’t be seen in this light. Another is the fact that at the time the Russian Palestine Soceity was involved in getting Pat. Gerasimos of Antioch to resign to become Patriarch of Jerusalem, to prevent Photios (a Russophobe) to become Patriarch, and to advance the cause of an Arab patriarch in Antioch (an outcome was St. Raphael being transferred from the Church of Antioch to the Church of Russia, due to the election of Spyridon, the last Greek Patriarch of Antioch). I’ll have to get my hand on Hopwood’s “The Russian presence in Syria and Palestine, 1843-1914. church and politics in the Near East” to refresh my memory, but it might also have been part of the Russian campaign to promote the CoG at the expense of Constantinople. It might explain the difference in the Russians attitude towards the CoG Holy Trinity and EP’s Annunication in NYC (a diffrence which also explains why Annunciation is the GOARCH Cathedral although Holy Trinity is older).
Queen Olga’s involvement in Church matters (culminating perhaps in the Evangelika contraversy) and alleged Russian involvement might be another factor in the pot, all of which might explain why “In Chicago, the Russian and Greek churches had friendly relations, but the Greeks explicity acknowledged Athens, and the Russians (so far as I know) made no objection.” (another reason why Bishop Dionysios of Zante caused no stir in Chicago nor SF, as he wasn’t from Constantinople). (there is also the factor that the ethnic Church problem was just beginning, and the Russian mission had yet to settle on the policy that produced St. Raphael).
“The chapel in New York (which, as I’ve recently discovered, was planned as early as 1866, before Bjerring’s conversion or even the sale of Alaska — more on that in a future post), ”
Looking forward 🙂
“I’m not following you on the Cessation treaty. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I saw nothing in there that gave the Russian Orthodox Church jurisdiction over all of the United States. The treaty was concerned with Alaska and Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska. Would you mind restating your argument more succinctly? Maybe that will help me understand what you’re getting at.”
Very quickly: the actual terms of the treaty made 1) the native European, Creole (at least some) and “civilized” Amerindians Russian subjects native American citizens, made the “uncivilized” natives as American as those who fed the Pilgrims (except as the Czar’s subjects, they had no sovreignty, which is why there are no native Alaskan reservations), 2) encorporated the Orthodox Church as an American corporation (just like the GOANSA incorporated itself in 1922 in New York) 3) put the subjects of point 1 in charge of point 2.
Given the terms of the treaty, the status of the Alaskans of whatever sort did not differ from that of anyone (white or Amerindian) in the 13 original states. Just like the GOANSA charter in NY has legal etc. force throughout the US on the constitutional basis of “full faith and credit,” so too the Russian Diocese. Even better: although the GOANSA charter was issued by the authority of New York law, the Russian Diocese was by treaty, which is on a par to the constitution (Supremacy Clause, article VI, paragraph 2).
Then of course, there is case law, interpretation, practice etc. The few examples I gave show how the Orthodox themselves were interpreting it, claiming two points 1) the Russian Diocese had a special status with rights for its members attached 2) it was a US institution, and had claims it could make on Washington.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. If the Greeks (and I focus on them, only because alone can and do make the argument), didn’t know or care about the claims of the Russian Diocese, once they got off the boat they had to learn. Evidently it seems they did: witness the “reception” the trustees of Holy Trinity gave St. Tikhon.
A grandfather exception to this is Holy Trinity in New Orleans. But since the GOANSA ignored it in the 1922 charter, that doesn’t help in making counterclaims against the Russians/OCA.
Bishop Alexander makes allusion to some legal attempt to gain the Greek parishes. I’d like to see if it got to court, and what the arguments were, and if the Cession Treaty played any role.
Thanks for the reply. At this point, I don’t see how the Cessation treaty argument you’re making is all that different from what others have said before: there’s a Russian diocese in America, therefore Russia had jurisdiction of all of America. You’ve added to that argument the Cessation treaty, but by itself, that does not prove your case, or perhaps more correct, does not disprove what Matthew’s saying. I happen to agree with Matthew on this, given the key factors he mentions.
I think you might be on to something with regard to how Russia may have looked at Greece versus Constantinople, but I wonder if there’s any source documentation that might sustain this.
I’m not aware of the Cessaion treaty ever playing a role in these discussions, but that does not mean it did not. If you come across something, do let us know!
“You and I (and Abp Alexander) agree that, prior to 1867, the Russian Church had every right to be in Alaska. The ruling bishop’s territory was defined as, “Kamchatka and the Kurile and Aleutian Islands.” He was an enthroned diocesan bishop, governing a clearly-defined territory.
You and I (but not Abp Alexander) agree that, even after 1867, the Russian Church retained this claim on Alaska. In the wake of the sale of Alaska, the Russian Church redrew the diocesan lines, detaching Alaska from the Diocese of Kamchatka and creating a new diocese, the territory of which was formally defined as, “the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.””
Just a small point: the new name also itself designated it as the American Diocese. Alaska wasn’t called “Alaska” until the Americans took possession. The new name dropped “Kamchatka and the Kurile Islands” (which remained, and still remain, Russian), left “the Aleutian Islands” (the original mission and location of its see) and added Alaska, the new designation by the polity it was now part of.
It might help to post the relevant parts of the treaty, the ones Bishop Nicolai and others referred to:
In the cession of territory and dominion made by the preceding article, are included the right of property in all public lots and squares, vacant lands, and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks, and other edifies which are not private individual property. It is, however, understood and agreed, that the churches which have been built in the ceded territory by the Russian Government, shall remain the property of such members of the Greek Oriental Church resident in the territory as may choose to worship therein. Any Government archives, papers, and documents relative to the territory and dominion aforesaid, which may now be existing there, will be left in the possession of the agent of the United States; but an authenticated copy of such of them as may be required, will be, at all times, given by the United States to the Russian Government, or to such Russian officers or subjects as they may apply for. 10
The inhabitants of the ceded territory, according to their choice, reserving their natural allegiance, may return to Russia within three years; but if they should prefer to remain in the ceded territory, they, with the exception of uncivilized native tribes, shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion. The uncivilized tribes will be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may from time to time adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country.”
The Treaty did not designate the Russian Church as the Orthodox Church in America. The First Amendment would prohibt that. But, like the turning over by the American military administration of AK (AK wasn’t even a territory, but a “military district,” i.e. exactly like the occupied Confederate States) to the Protestant missionaries, that did not preclude its status, or its operation in American law.
By terms of the Treaty of Cession, the Russian Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska, NOT the US governement, was the successor of the Czar as to the Churches in the territory. In other words, the US government had no claim to secularize or otherwise dispose of the Churches (contrast for instance, where the territorial government of Utah revoked the charter of the Mormon church and confiscated part of its trust property which the US government put to state use, Late Corporation of Latter-Day Saints v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=136&invol=1).
The Cession Treaty put in force the Charters granted by the Czar, as the U.S. Courts held “Where territory has been acquired by the United States from a foreign power, its courts will take judicial notice of the laws which prevailed there up to the time of such acquisition. They are not, as to such acquired territories, foreign laws, but laws of an antecedent government.” As such, the US courts found full US citizenship applied, to “Russian colonists, creoles, and settled tribes, members of the established Church, whom Russia engaged the United States to admit as citizens,” the settled tribes defined(by the US court) as those which “supported a Russian Church, attended and assisted in its services, and practiced the moral precepts taught therein.” (btw, the Russian Charter actually expressly guaranteed the exercise of native faith (sections 271-273). The Finnish Lutheran church had a similar status, and had a church in Sitka, approved by St.Innocent).
Rose’s notes on the United States Supreme Court reports
The reason why this issue comes up at all is because of the US Constitutions requirements that Congress (Art. I Section 8) shall have power…To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes,” because, as the Constitution required “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons…excluding Indians not taxed” it had excluded the “uncivilized” Amerindians from the US polity. Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause (Art. IV Section 2) “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof,” and the doctrine of (Art. VI Section 2) “The Supremacy Clause” “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding,” and the Cession Treaty’s impact (i.e. its preemption of Art. IV Sect. 3 “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State,” and hence the power of Congress to treat AK as an “insular area” under this “Territorial/Property Clause”) on on the Constitution’s mandate that “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States,” Constitutional US law required the determination of the status of the Czar’s former subjects, i.e. the Amerindians (the European and Creoles were never in question), which, by US law, involved the status of the Orthodox Diocese and its members.
That the diocese remained under Russian control did not matter: the US Supreme Court, in Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral 344 U.S. 94, determined that the Diocese, as a Hierarchal Church whose authority was derived from the HGS (and then the Patriarch of Moscow: Kedroff was decided almost a century after the period in question, but its cited legal authorities date from the period of Cession), it had to submit to that authority, although an American institution. It upheld Moscow’s authority on the basis of the First Amendment.
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=344&invol=94#t18. (btw, were it not for the clause on the Church’s status in the Cession Treaty, the US government could have exercised Art. IV, Section 3 propety powers over the Churches in AK, and could have excluded the population from the American polity by declaring it an insular area under the same clause).
The Alaskan consistory and the Cathedral had appealed to the Cession Treaty, which had entered into US Federal Case law (and hence binding under the Constition on the States). That is why I would like to know what bishop Alexander was referring to when he spoke of, in addition to “Tsarist Pressure” that “It is not true that any group of Greeks in America did ever willingly recognize the asserted Russian jurisdiction in America. On the contrary, it is historically true, that they fought staunchly these baseless claims, especially in 1907, when the Russian Church tried to legalize their pretentions by legislative act with the legislature of the State of New York. The Greeks rose as one man and happily annulled these designs.”
What legistlative act is he talking about?
He’s talking about 1909 legislation in the NY State Legislature to put all Orthodox churches under Russian authority. Fr. John Erickson talks about the reason for this in his recent interview with me on AFR. Basically, according to Erickson, the purpose was to prevent rogue or fake Greek priests from operating in America.
I still don’t get your point about the treaty, Isa. I don’t dispute Russian claims to Alaska, which is what the treaty deals with. How is this relevant to a claim over all of America?
” I don’t see how the Cessation treaty argument you’re making is all that different from what others have said before: there’s a Russian diocese in America, therefore Russia had jurisdiction of all of America.”
America, meaning the US, or North America? For the latter, the Cession Treaty had no immediate effect. It did when the Russian Diocese introduced Orthodoxy into Canada and Mexico.
As for the US, as I indicated, I”m not sure of the ramifications in the Reconstructionist South, an issue because of the New Orleans parish and the putative existence of the Galveston parish. With the readmission of the Souther States, before, during and shortly after the Cession Treaty, this becomes moot in a sence, but I’ll deal with the New Orleans parish, the “grandfather” parish. Since the Galveston parish was, at the very latest 1895 under the Russian Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska, I do not think space warrants the digression.
Before I do, perhaps I should first quote Archb. Meletios’ report in 1920 to the CoG on his episcopal oversight over America, as the first Greek bishop (except for the visiting Bp. Dionysios of Zante) to set foot in America in 1918. The context of his speech was that he had been elected Archbishop of Athens and head of the Holy Synod of Greece (an election which the whole episcopacy of Greece in synod later declared “void,” the status at the time of the deposed Meletius’ issuing the 1922 GOANSA Charter), and on August 4, 1918 the CoG’s HS created a “Archdiocese of America” to govern “all Greek Orthodox of permanent and/or temporary residence in North and South America” and “shall be considered as one of the Dioceses of the Autocephalous Church of Greece.” This of course is interesting, as although the Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska was in CA, outside the territory in his title, the CoG’s action not only created a bishop of North and South America outside its terriory, but placed its see outside its “canonical” territory, in Athens, which was also the see of another diocese, and “incorporated” this Archdiocese-in whose creation on the ground the CoG and the EP’s involvement was miminal at best-into its own jurisdiction.
This it did on the basis of Constantinople’s 1908 tomos, which is the first notice of the EP of America. It claimed in pertinent part (evidently: I have not been able to get the text of the whole document: if someone can get whole document (e.g. out of Met. Maximos of Sardis’ “Ecumenical Patriarchate”-a work I have not been able to get a hold of-and post it (preferably with the original Greek), that would be of capital value):”As per canonical order and as has been the practice for centuries, all Orthodox communities outside the canonical geographical boundaries of the Holy Churches of God are under the pastoral governing of the Most Holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne…Since it has become more practical for administrative purposes to unite the Greek communities of Europe, America and elsewhere, to the Most Holy Autocephalous Church of Greece, it has proved necessary to transfer the pastoral responsibility for these communities to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.” How making “canonical” orders on the basis of Greek ethnicity-the Tomos speaks only of Greek communities-does not violate the EP’s own Anti-Phyletism Synod of 1870 I do not know.
Archb. Meletios, on the day of this Act, left as “Exarch” of the Greek Parishes (or “of North and South America?” Not having the full text, I can’t tell) left for his “diocese.” On his return he was reporting:
“During my visit to America, I was informed of the presence of a Russia Bishop on American soil without the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate….The Patriarchal Tome of 1908 directed the immediate assignment of a Greek Bishop in America. However I learned in America that for a decade, diplomatic pressures prevented the implementation of the Patriarchal Tome. Upon my arrival, I waited for the Russian Bishop to come to me; however, he did not. In order to give him the opportunity, I sent Archimandrites Chrysostom and Alexander to him. He, in turn, reciprocated by sending an Archimandrite to visit me. I then realized that he expected me to visit him, thus recognizing him as the canonical Bishop in America, under whose jurisdiction the Greek Church ought to belong. I held a press conference with the Greek and English language newspapers, in which I quoted Orthodox teaching relative to lands outside the existing Patriarchal boundaries that canon law places them under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Thus, the Church in America is under the canonical authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and only by its authority can certain actions be taken. Our presence in America is by virtue of the permission granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Tome of 1908, rendering us the only canonical jurisdiction[emph. in the original] No other such permission has been granted. We are aware only that the Patriarchate of Antioch requested the permission of the Patriarchate to send the Bishop of Seleucia [Germanos Shehadi] to America for the needs of the Syrian Orthodox. Prior to this, Efthymios [i.e. Aftimios Ofiesh], who was ordained by the Russians for the Syrians, but never recognized by the Patriarchate of Antioch, was abandoned by the Russians. This event reinforced our position regarding canonicity in America. Throughout our presence in America, the Russian Bishop attempted indirectly to impose this position of hegemony, yet never openly or officially”
American Orthodoxy and Parish Congregationalism By Nicholas Ferencz p. 133-7
Besides mischaracterizing both the activities of Met. Germanos (who came to raise funds for his diocese in Syria and was received by St. Raphael and the Russian Diocese for that purpose. Ignoring calls from Antioch for his return, he created his own rogue diocese (“without the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarch” LOL)), and the status of Bp. Aftimos (who was in good standing with the Diocese at the time), Archb. Meletios is flat out, well, stating other than the facts:the Greek Consul had helped found the SF Cathedral Parish way back in the 1860s, Rev. Hatherly from Constantinople wrote to Russia according to his own words, Prince George of Greece prompted the formation of the the first NY Greek parish having been just greeted by the Greek community who worshipped at the OCA Cathedral, the Greek Consul in NY made headlines by snubbing the episcopal consecration of St. Raphael (with all the other resident bishops there), St. Tikhon was barred from Greek Holy Trinity, and Bp. Alexander speaks of some legal action by the Russian bishop to take over the Greek parishes in 1907 in New York at least, etc. The Russian bishop wasn’t a suprise, but it is telling how Archb. Meletios feels compelled to so claim.
The problem of course, is that Archb. Meletios, as his words show, is claiming jurisdiction over the Russian Diocese, which reveals the problems that render the CoG’s actions uncanonical (unless one accepts in toto the EP’s present interpretation of canon 28, a problem because at the time the accepted canonical authority of the Greek Church, the Pedalion, knows nothing of this superjurisdiction, despite the Tomos of 1908 implying otherwise). In 1908, and 1918 the Russian mission had a diocese with resident bishops (plural), and had by 1908 already made good its claims across North America, and had by then explicitely stated so in the primate’s title. The canons barr interferring in the diocese of another bishop, on pain of deposition. The 1908 Tomos spoke only of the Greek communities, not the rest of the Orthodox, and if Meletios only claimed the Greek parishes in North America, and could explain how that didn’t fall under the anathemas heaped on Phyletism under the EP and CoG’s own 1870 synod, he could make an argument (which, I think, however, would have to fail too). But Meletios and his CoG wasn’t doing that: they were claiming ALL the Orthodox on North (and South!) America. This would include the Diocese of AK, from which the EP was barred from interferring with or claiming not only by Orthodox canon but, as skimmed above, US law, in fact Supreme US law. It was even worse in Canada: there it was assented June 19, 1903 that “the bishop of the Russo-Greek Orthodox Church for North American and the Aleutians,” i.e. St. Tikhon, “he and his successors having jurisdiction over the said Church in Canada, and each of the duly authorized parishes and missions in the Territories be incorporated” (at the time, only the Russian Missions had a presence, except the one Romanian parish which had just come in Regina, which at the time was NW Territory. Now under Bp. Nathaniel of the OCA Romanian Episcopate, Bishop Ghicherie of Iasi was listed on the property title. The parishioners were mostly from Bucovina, at the time an autocephalous Church, which reported refrained from sending clergy out of deference to the Russian bishop).
Meletios was a foreign national, of no legal standing under US law. The decision of his synod, though legal in Greece, had no standing in US law. In contrast, the “Russian Bishop on American soil without the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” had the legal status in both America and Canada, as primate of the Orthodox Church incorporated in American and Canadian law. In America, the effect of standing, or its lack, can be compared to the treaty between the US and the Czar on mutual recognition of corporations of the others (in effect the US, which were not recognized in Russia until then).
it got involved with the issue of Russian law on Jews, and applying them to American Jews:
“Throughout our presence in America, the Russian Bishop attempted indirectly to impose this position of hegemony, yet never openly or officially.” It would seeem that the message, maybe not as explicite as we would like, got through loud and clear.
How the Tomos of 1908 failed to bring any order is witnessed by the cotemporary Burgess (1913, “Greeks in America” p. 57)
“And now for the position of the priest, the pastor (ephemerios) of the community. He has no power as far as the written constitution goes. Thus we find a most anomolous condition in the Greek churches in America. It works something like the worst side of the vestry system of the Episcopal Church parishes, without the legal rights of the rector, nor the possibility of intervention by the Bishop; or another analogy might apply in some instances,-Congregationalsim run wild in a mission of the Apostolic, Catholic, Eastern Church! From afar the Metropolitan Archbishop of Athens (note: The Patriarch of Constantinople has ceded to the Holy Synod of Athens the charge of the Greek Orthodox missions in America) rules without the possibility of settling anything, much as the Bishop of London had charge of the Anglican parishes in this country before the Revolution. So the Greek priest is hired, and often “fired,” by a parish committee composed usually of poorly educated peasants. And thus come the wranglings and disputes and divisions into two rival church communities of a city; and thus the poor priests, sent out by the Holy Synod in response to the cry for spiritual help, sometimes find themselves as office boys at the mercy of their employers. Moreoever, there are also some priests who have no right here; these are Macedonians, mostly of little education, who, coming to America, have slipped their bishop’s jurisdiction and are ministering without authority wherever they can make the most money, sometimes underbidding and ousting the priests sent by a bishop. Of course, conditions are not everywhere bad in communities, but the system is sadly irresponsible. The only solution seems to be a resident bishop for America; may his advent be soon!”
The US government did note the different status of the Greek versus the Russian Diocese, e.g. “Religious bodies, 1906” By United States. Bureau of the Census, William Chamberlin Hunt. http://books.google.com/books?id=5zsTAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA436&dq=Churches+Greek+Church+1897&lr=#v=onepage&q=Churches%20Greek%20Church%201897&f=false
After recounting the autocephalous Churches of the time (not identical to today’s diptychs, btw) it states: “Of these churches, 4 are represented in the United States by regular church organizations. These are the Russian Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, the Servian Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox. Only I of these has a definite and inclusive ecclesiastical organization, and that is the Russian Orthodox Church. The Greek Orthodox churches are looking forward to such an organization, but it is not as yet completed. The Servian and Syrian Orthodox churches are under the general supervision of the Russian Orthodox Church, although reported separatedly.” On the Syrians it states “The churches of this body represent the immigration into the Unites States of communities from Syria connected with the Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch or Jerusalem. They all have priests of their own, but as a body they are under the general supervision of a coadjutor bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. In doctrine and polity they are in harmony with the Russian Orthodox Church…” On the Serbians “Servians” [sic] they “are under the general supervision of the archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States, but have a special administrator an archimandrite of that church [St. Sebastian Dabovich]. In doctrine and polity they are in harmony with the Russian Orthodox Church…” But on the Greeks “application has been made by the communities to the ecclesiastical authorities of their own sections, and priests have been sent to this country, sometimes by the Holy Synod of Greece and sometimes by the Patriarchate of Constantinople…there had been no central organization, each priest holding his ecclesiastical relation with the synod or patriarchate which sent him to this country. Arrangements are being perfected for a general organization of the Greek speaking communities representing both the Holy Synod of Greece and the Patriarchate of Constantinople…In doctrine the Greek churhces are in entire accord with other Eastern Orthodox Churches…The entire organization of the Greek churches is practically on a home missionary basis”
Which of course is the problem with sustaining Meletios claims. Under the canons and US law, the Orthodox Church has a hiearchal nature. I will have to continue that later. Right now, I just some up that under Orthodox canon and US law, congregationalism doesn’t make a valid parish.
You’ve gone to great lengths to refute Metaxakis, but neither Fr. Oliver nor I have endorsed Metaxakis. We’re not talking about the GOA or anything of the sort. We’re talking about the fact that, prior to 1905, the Russian Orthodox Church did not have a diocese with territory that officially included the Americas outside of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. The 1867 treaty, which you cited at length earlier, seems irrelevant to the question of whether the Russian Orthodox Church did in fact claim jurisdiction over the whole of America (either the country or the continent). The fact of the matter is, Russia itself officially stated that its canonical territory included the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. It said nothing — officially — about California, or New York, or anywhere in between. That this claim may have been implicit does not make it official.
Basically, unless I’ve missed something (which is entirely possible), you haven’t really answered my question — what does the 1867 treaty have to do with the idea that Russia laid claim to all of the United States of America (or North America; take your pick).
On the subject of the 1908 Tomos, an English translation of the text is underway. I don’t believe there has been an English translation up to now. Details will be forthcoming.
Anyway, Isa, if you could speak directly to the relevance of the 1867 treaty to this discussion, that would be very helpful. I remain confused — a fact just as likely the result of my own ignorance as it is a result of any deficiency in your explanation.
A tangential comment… Let’s assume for a moment that you are right, and that Russia retained exclusive territorial claim on America into the 1920s. What do we make of the Metropolia’s release of Syro-Arab parishes to the Antiochian Archdiocese following Bp Emmanuel’s death in 1934? This action seems to have sanctioned the multi-jurisdicitonal situation in America (at least, in the case of the Antiochian Archdiocese). How, then, could the Metropolia accept autocephaly in 1970 — an action which implied exclusive claim to America? Did they not relinquish that claim when they sanctioned the existence of the Antiochian Archdiocese?
(I realize this is rather off-topic. My apologies in advance… perhaps I should stick to one argument at a time, but it occurred to me in the course of thinking on this subject, and I thought I’d pose the question for discussion.)
One thing I should probably state up front is that I am of the opinion that autocephaly cannot be abolished. For instance I consider the abolition of the Patriarchate of Georgia a void act, and only minimally canonical in that the Exarch of Georgia was ex officio a member of the HGS. The Russian mission wasn’t autocephalous, but this idea is in the background.
The queston is not unprecedented: The EP “aboished” the Serbian Patriarchate. I take this act as void, for the reason stated above, and so did the Serbs. The EP claimed jurisdiction over all of Serbia, but the Patriarch of Serbia who escaped to the Hapstburg empire set up the Patriarchate of Karlovici. The bishop of Montenegro, out of reach from the Turks, refused to recognize the abolition, de facto became autocephalous, but connected to the Russian Church (for one thing, it had to borrow bishops to consecrate successors over Montenegro). Another Serb autocephaly, Prizrend and Uskub, was on the verge of formation (it already had millet status) on the verge of the Balkan War, and Bosnia and Hercegovina was autocephalous in all but name before WWI. Romania was similarly in a dismembered state, the CoG was formed piecemeal, etc. All this had to do with the Ottoman expansion and control of the Phanar, and the Austrian, Hungarian, Russian, etc. and the Balkan peoples efforts to push the Turk (and in the process, the Phanariot) back. The situation in North America was similar, with the Soviets playing the Ottomans in that drama.
The Romanians and even more so the Serbs never ruptured communion with the EP, continued to acknowledge him in a sense while freeing themselves of him. The compromises along the way with multiple jurisdictions in their own house did not compromise their exclusive claims, which they were finally able to make good after WWI.
The situaiton in America resembles that of the Czech lands and Slovakia, but to get into that, we would have to get into when she became autocephalous and who was her Mother Church.
I don’t find the Tomos of 1970 compromised, but I’ll have to defend that later.
Yes, we can discuss the OCA’s autocephaly later. I’m sure it will be an interesting discussion.
More to the point: what of the fact that the Russian Church did not formally claim territory in America, outside of Alaska, until 1905? What is the relevance of the 1867 treaty to this issue?
That autocephaly discussion ought to be good!
The central problem in American Orthodoxy is the failure of the various Churches in the Old World to communicate better and develop a means of addressing the problem. That has started now at Chambesy. I guess we’ll see if it nets any results.
Isa, you quickly moved into discussing the Greeks. The treaty was nearly left aside.
Citing the Kedrovsky case is intriguing, but keep in mind that the U.S. courts had shifted how they reflected on these questions. The Watson v. Jones had become the standard. Although it predated the dispute in Wilkes-Barre that Toth witnessed, by about 30 years, Toth still lost his case, because of the older English law assumptions. The Cessation treaty was not the main thinking of the court in Kedrovsky’s victory. The Watson v. Jones case was.
Even so, granting you the argument only shows that the cessation treaty was important for intra-Russian Orthodox questions. That’s it.
Matthew and I also grant that it gives guarantees to Orthodox in Alaska.
There’s nothing in that treaty that indicates that by virtue of recognizing the Orthodox Alaskans as citizens, the Russian Orthodox Church has automatic national jurisdiction. As you admitted, the first amendment would prohibit that, anyway.
So, the treaty is a part of the picture, but not the central object within the picture.
I think at this point I may be pulling out. Other than commenting on Watson v. Jones, there wasn’t much reason for me to say the rest. Matthew and I are at risk for parroting one another, here.
On the autocephay of the OCA, however, we might differ in places. My guess is that the three of us will each have a slightly different take on the question of “autocephaly” more generally.
“More to the point: what of the fact that the Russian Church did not formally claim territory in America, outside of Alaska, until 1905? What is the relevance of the 1867 treaty to this issue?”
I’ll start with the legal ones, as they’re the easiest.
The Terms of the Cession Treaty were a jurisdictional act (which, by Senate ratification, required the Congress to impliment by appropriate legistlation). It incorporated the Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska (or rather, at the time “Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands.” I’ll deal with that point below) as the successor of the Czar. The status was somewhat analogous to that of Guantanamo Bay, which, by Treaties etc. stemming from the independence of Cuba from the US, the US withdrew from Cuba but remain at Guantanomo over which Cuba has the right of sovereignty but the US has the right to exercise jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court had already stated that (Fremont v. United States, 58 U.S. 17 How. 542, 547 (1854 CA) “The laws[enacted by the previous sovereign] of these territories [acquired by the US],….[are] never treated by this [US Supreme] Court as foreign laws, to be decided as a question of fact, but the Court held itself bound to notice them judicially, as much so as the laws of a state of the Union.” The Charters in force in Alaska, the Ecclesiastical Statute, etc. had lots to say about the jurisdiction of the HGS, the Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands and his auxiliary in Sitka, over the Diocese, the Churches, the Faithful etc, all of which did not contradict the First Amendment immediately became American law, and was treated as such. So though one might think that the 1st Amendment would preclude judicial notice of the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church over the Amerindians, in fact the courts made such jurisdiction according to the Russian laws, “membership in the established [Russian Orthodox] Church” a sine que non for US citizenship for Amerindians.
On June 20, 1870 the Russian subject Bishop Paul committed a jurisdictional act: he was still in AK, and by terms of the treaty was now automatically a native US citizen. If he wanted to run for US president, there would be no legal disability. However, he instead soon committed another jurisdictional act: he was recalled by the Russian HGS, and he left, confirming the jurisdiction of the HGS, according to the Ecclesiastical Regulation, over AK, the same jurisdiction the US Supreme Court would uphold almost a century later.
As the US extended its sovereignty, the HGS began to extend its jurisdiction over the US, as the jurisdictional acts under law and canon began to merge. The HGS recognized the US sovereignty by making the Sitka auxiliary independent of the bishop of Kamchatka, attaching the Aleutians, now American territory, to the jurisdiction of Sitka and renaming the Sitka Diocese as “Alaska,” the name the US gave to its new territory. Besides the jurisdcition the Alaskan Diocese had under the Treaty and US law, it had already begun to exert its jurisdiction in the rest of the US.
The HGS had exerciesed its jurisdiction with Russian sovereignty at Fort Ross, and continuedt to do so per the Russian American Charter via the Russian Navy, as it made ports of call to SF, and the Champlains served the remnants of Fort Ross there, as they had when the Russian flag still flew over Northern CA. Kostromitinov, former governor of Fort Ross and then in SF Russian agent then Vice-Consul oraganized the Orthodox-Russian, Greek, Serb-into the The Russian-Greek-Slavonian Church and Philanthropic Society, which worshipped in his house and on board the Russian Navy ships in port. In 1867 the Russian and Greek Consuls (George Fisher, acutally an American pioneer, born in Serbia) incorporated this Society in CA, a jurisdictional act establishing it in CA. The Russian Consul Klingovstrem then committed another jurisdictional act, writing to the Sitka bishoprick:
“This Society through me (…) into correspondence with the Russian Government and the Most-Holy Synod regarding the construction of a temple, etc. The Society asked me to inform the Spiritual Directorate regarding all this, especially because, it seems, another society has the intention to form, also using the name Russian Slavonian Benevolent Society. Our Society has no relations whatsoever either with that society or with the church under the directorship of Mr. Honcharenko. The signature of the Chairman and the Russian Consul will serve as proof of the true Society. If the Spiritual Directorate will be in the position of helping the Society, it is to be done through the Russian Consul, who at the same time is the Society’s Chairman. Time (…) does not allow to enter into details. However, in due time the Society will have the honor of forwarding to the Spiritual Directorate its Statutes and directives from the Russian Governing Most-Holy Synod.”
With this jurisdictional act, the SF parish, previously canonically, now legally was under the jurisdiction of the Alaska Diocese, and by the Cession Treaty, the Supremacy Clause, the Privileges and Immunities, and Full Faith and Credit the Americanized Ecclesiastical Regulation and Russian Charters became binding precedence as to the Orthodox.
As argued in the CA Supreme Court in 1856 (Nobili v. Redman 6 Cal. 325, ) “The former laws of California are not foreign laws. To the extent therefore in which the canon law was formerly recognized by the civil power and thereby made part of the municipal law, the Court will take judicial notice of it. In the case of Fremont v. The United States, (17 How. R. 357,) the Supreme Court say: “It is proper to remark, that the laws of these territories under which titles were claimed, were never treated by the Court as foreign laws to be decided as a question of fact. It was always held that the Court was bound judicially to notice them, as much so as the laws of a State of the Union.””
In Nobili, the Latin church lost because the Court determined that she had no power to own property until decree of secularization of 1833 by Mexico (which declared the missions public land), “the limitations contained in it would not entitle the Church to the property sued for.” In our case, the Article 2 of the Cession Treaty (and the AK and Fed. case law relying on the canon law recognized by the Russian power) would be controlling. Such would be strengthened in 1868 by passage of the Citizen, Equal Protection, Due Process and Incorporation/Immunities and Privileges Clauses of the 14th Ammendment, and the decision of Watson v. Jones 80 U.S. 679 (1872), the precedent for Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral of Russian Orthodox Church, 344 U.S. 94.
to be cont.
“Citing the Kedrovsky case is intriguing, but keep in mind that the U.S. courts had shifted how they reflected on these questions. The Watson v. Jones had become the standard. Although it predated the dispute in Wilkes-Barre that Toth witnessed, by about 30 years, Toth still lost his case, because of the older English law assumptions. The Cessation treaty was not the main thinking of the court in Kedrovsky’s victory. The Watson v. Jones case was.”
The issues involved with the Cession treaty were not in dispute, nor on point, in Kedroff. The court’s summary disposed of any need of invoking it.
“Greek Catholic Church v. Orthodox Greek Church, 195 Pa. 425,” where the PA Supreme Ruled against St. Alexis, and stating “The opinion of the learned court below contains an exposition of this controversy so full and exhaustive and so eminently in accord with the testimony taken on the hearing and with our own decisions, that we adopt it as the opinion of this court and affirm the decree for the reasons and upon the considerations therein expressed,” adopted the fact that “It is also undisputed and acknowledged by all parties to this controversy that the United Greek Catholic Church is an organization separate and distinct from the Orthodox Greek Catholic Russian Church, and that its doctrines, tenets, rules, etc., are the same as the Roman Catholic Church, except in some matters of discipline, both acknowledging the pope as the ecclesiastical head of the church and acknowledging the authority of the bishops appointed by him. While the Orthodox Greek Catholic Russian Church differs in many respects in its faith, doctrines, tenets, rules, etc., from the United Greek Catholic Church, and acknowledges as its spiritual or ecclesiastical head “the Synod of Russia, consisting of bishops appointed by the czar of Russia,” and “It is also undisputed that before Rev. Toth became pastor of the church and prior to the acceptance of this congregation and church under the jurisdiction of the Bishop Nicholas, Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, with jurisdiction over the United States, and before the decree of the court making Bishop Nicholas one of the trustees, the Rev. Toth and Bishop Nicholas required trustees of the church property and the officers of the societies of St. Peter and Rome and St. John the Baptist, to sign a renunciation of their belief or connection with the “United Greek Catholic Church,” of which the following is an extract:
“We, the undersigned, trustees of the Annunciation Church, and inhabitants of the City of Wilkes-Barre, State of Pennsylvania, and also we, the officers of the following societies, viz, St. Peter and Paul, St. Nicholas and St. John the Baptist of the same church and city, humbly beseech your eminency that you kindly accept us and our church in your protection and your spiritual jurisdiction,…3. We hereby grant and deliver to the jurisdiction of your Eminency, our church property, parsonage; . . . also all documents in relation with the said church to the amount of ten thousand dollars, and the keys of the said church. ”
Thus in PA in 1900, the jurisdiction of the bishop of Alaska was recognized.
I still don’t quite understand how the US government’s position vis-a-vis the Russian Orthodox Church is relevant to the question of Russia’s supposed exclusive canonical territorial claim to all of the US. Really, it wasn’t anything for the US to grant. And it wasn’t anything the Russian Church *explicitly* claimed until the time of St. Tikhon. Yes, there was a Russian Church presence in the contiguous US. Yes, there was almost certainly an implicit claim to the US by at least some of the bishops. But nothing was made explicit until Tikhon.
If the Russian Church was so intent on claiming America as its territory, why did it define the diocese in 1870 as including only the Aleutians and Alaska? Why did it take three decades for the Russian Church to make its claim to America explicit?
I’m open to being wrong on all this; this is not nearly as clear-cut as the “myth of unity” issue. But based on what I’ve seen so far, the notion that the whole of the United States of America was the exclusive canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1870, or 1890, or whatever, doesn’t hold up.
And, given that any claims to jurisdiction prior to Tikhon’s time were implicit, are we really to expect the Church of Greece or the EP to acknowledge those claims? Shouldn’t something be spelled out on paper?
“The central problem in American Orthodoxy is the failure of the various Churches in the Old World to communicate better and develop a means of addressing the problem. That has started now at Chambesy. I guess we’ll see if it nets any results.”
I’ve already said my piece on Chambesy.
I don’t think a failure to communicate was a problem. I think the Old World jurisdictions understood each other quite well. They should have addressed the problem in their own houses: each and every one of the Old World jurisdictions during the 19th century had serious jurisdictional problems. America is quite tame in comparison: look at Macedonia at the time! At least 5 Old World jurisdictions (including the EP) slitting throats (literally) over jurisdiction!
“Isa, you quickly moved into discussing the Greeks. The treaty was nearly left aside.”
Not reallly: the Greek claims always have to be dealt with as the context of the Russian.
Met. Jonah I believe is correct: it comes down only to those two. Other than a phyletistic justification, the other schools/jurisdictions do not really have an argument to explain their presence in the New World.
The canons are quite clear: no two bishops in one city/diocese. The Greek canon 28 argument is a constitutional one. If it is correct, that the EP has jurisdiction under the canons, and Bp. Alexander is correct:everything that the Russian bishop did is null and void. ANYTHING SHORT OF THAT, i.e. the EP having less than that universal jurisdiction, then just by virture of including Alaska, Meletios charter of 1922 and his setting up of his hiearchy in North America is null and void.
It is not a theoretical question, e.g. EP Sophronios III (1863-8) found that out the hard way: when he answered a request of the Archbishop Abbot of Sinai to help discipline the monks of St. Catherine’s. Since the Patriarch of Jerusalem must consecrate the Abbot of Sinai, Pat. Cyril summoned a synod in 1867 which declared the EP had no authority to interfere in anything that happened outside his own patriarchate. “If we acted otherwise people would think that we tolerate such anti-canonical interference, and that we acknowledge foreign and unknown authorities in the Church as well as the only lawful and competent high jurisdiction of the Ecumenical synods.” The Acts of the synod were then sent to all the other autocephalous Churches, who then forced not only the Abbot of Sinai to resign, but the EP Sophronios as well.
Fortescue, “The Orthodox Eastern Church” p. 310-1.
Like I said, North America was far, FAR from being the only area of Orthodoxy with jurisdiction problems.
The deposition of EP Sophronios coincides with the Cession Treaty and the arrival of a canoical priest at New Orleans. If the Greek argument is right, then the terms of the Cession Treaty voids all subsequent action stemming from it: leaving the Alaskan Diocese with jurisdiction was (as Bp. Alexander pointed out) “anti-canonical interference” in the EP’s territory. If the Russian/OCA argument is correct, then the presence of any parishes, not to mention the absence of any other bishops, do not count: as Greek Catholic Church v. Orthodox Greek Church shows, by December 1892/January 1893 AT THE LATEST, “the Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, with jurisdiction over the United States, of San Francisco, California” was recognized as having extended his jurisdiction from the extreme Northwest of the continent to the Northeast. In other words, if the OCA argument is the constitutionally correct one, the other parishes have no more bearring than the states of Franklin, Westsylvania, Westmoreland, Superior, Sequoyah etc. have on US law.
“Even so, granting you the argument only shows that the cessation treaty was important for intra-Russian Orthodox questions. That’s it.”
Actually, I don’t see it having any bearing on intra-Russian questions (I take that you mean MP/OCA/ROCOR questions), as there is no dispute between them on it.
“Matthew and I also grant that it gives guarantees to Orthodox in Alaska.”
Which was either canonical, or “anti-canonical interference.” If Bp. Alexander was around, and tried to assert jurisdiction, the US courts would be bound by those guarantees to find against him.
“There’s nothing in that treaty that indicates that by virtue of recognizing the Orthodox Alaskans as citizens, the Russian Orthodox Church has automatic national jurisdiction. As you admitted, the first amendment would prohibit that, anyway.”
The citizenship issue (which, the First Ammendment notwithstanding, is bound up by US case law with Russian Orthoodoxy as “the established Church”) vitiates Bp. Alexander’s “diaspora” argument. The US couldn’t leave Russian Orthodoxy as the “esbalished Church,” but it was bound to recognize its jurisdiction. If Bp. Alexander tried to enforce Meletios charter there he would lose.
The problem here is that, on the question of jurisdiction, it is all very theoretical. Until 1918 there cannot be any issue of jurisdiction for the simple reason that there was no non-Russian Diocese bishop who even CLAIMED to be the bishop in North America. Even if we, retrospectively, count the 1908 Tomos or even the mere presence of a parish, that only brings us (with the seperate cases of New Orleans and Fr. Hatherly, which I’ll Lord willing get to) to the end of 1891. By then the Russian bishop of Alaska was exercising jurisdciton (as I’ll further show) across the continent.
“So, the treaty is a part of the picture, but not the central object within the picture.”
yes and no. If its terms left a canonical Diocese in AK, the Greek argument’s rational and justification is vitiated. By the time there could be a dispute over that, however, much more water had gone under the bridge.
“On the autocephay of the OCA, however, we might differ in places. My guess is that the three of us will each have a slightly different take on the question of “autocephaly” more generally”
LOL. I don’t think we are the only ones…
“He’s talking about 1909 legislation in the NY State Legislature to put all Orthodox churches under Russian authority. Fr. John Erickson talks about the reason for this in his recent interview with me on AFR. Basically, according to Erickson, the purpose was to prevent rogue or fake Greek priests from operating in America.”
Was legislatiion passed? Do you have a link to the bills, or references in the newspapers? I’d be interested in seeing the particulars.
“I still don’t get your point about the treaty, Isa. I don’t dispute Russian claims to Alaska, which is what the treaty deals with. How is this relevant to a claim over all of America?”
On point is that the Greek argument is a zero sum theory of jurisdiction in North America, all or nothing. If the EP didn’t have jurisdiction over AK, he didn’t have jurisdiction over any of North America. 1918 was too late. Even if we are generous and go by Fr. Hatherly in 1884, the EP still arrived too late: the Russians had already by canonical and legal jurisdictional acts, established their jurisdiction over the US.
I bring the Greeks up, because in the period we are discussing, they were the only ones making a counterarguement to Russian claims, an argument which, unless it is constituionally correct, they also made too late.
Sitka has claim on the rest of the US, the same way Alexandria has taken claim (under the ex-EP-turned-Pope Meletios, without his successor EP’s approval) over All of Africa, Sirmium (St. Methodius’ see: note that although sent by Constantinople, he had to get approval from Rome, whose jurisdiction he was laboring in) laid claim over Pannoia, Great Moravia and Serbia (EP Meletios dusted off these claims to interfere in Czechoslovakia with Serbian, Russian (and Romanian?) jurisdiction there), Ohrid gave jurisdiction over the Bulgarian empire, Kiev laid claim on All the Russias, etc. It is a common paradigm repeated over and over, e.g. Athens over Greece.
The counter argument can be made, but neither the EP nor the CoG (as I’ve said, the only ones who made a counterargument in the period at hand) are the ones to make it: the Phanar was quite fine with “abolishing” autocephalous Churches that fell to their Ottoman state, and the CoG extended its jurisdiction wherever the Greek Kingdom annexed territory (e.g. the Ionian islands, over the EP’s objections and just before the Cession Treaty of AK. Great Britain played the role of Russia there. In 1881 Thessaly and Epirus were annexed by Greece, and their diocese by the CoG, and the EP didn’t even protest).
Btw, the Ionian Islands had a status comparable to the Alaskan Diocese post Cession, until GB ceded them to Greece.
The Orthodox Church and Independent Greece, 1821-1852 By Charles A. Frazee, p.
Btw, for those who read Greek etc., I’ve just found that the documents of the dispute between the EP and the CoG over autocephaly, with Jerusalem and the EP over Sinai, leading to the EP’s deposition, the jurisdiction fight with the Bulgarian exarchate, etc. (including the Romanian organic statute for the Romanian Church) can be found in Mansi:
But back to the discussion at hand: the argument can be made that the establishment of the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthoodx Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska gave jurisdiction to the rest of North America, based on Orthodox precedents. I think it would be a waste of space here to argue that, as it can, as I hope to completely show, the Diocese, by a series of jurisdictional acts, established its jurisdiction over the US undisputably by 1891 and over Canada by 1903, before the 1905 date.
“Anyway, Isa, if you could speak directly to the relevance of the 1867 treaty to this discussion, that would be very helpful. I remain confused — a fact just as likely the result of my own ignorance as it is a result of any deficiency in your explanation.”
…or the theoretical nature of the question.
If the Tomos of 1908 had been issued in 1868, and the CoG pointed Meletios bishop for North America (not only outside its nominal territory but not even close to that territory), that year instead of 60 years later, and he come to SF that year instead of over 60 years later to establish his jurisdiction, and better yet (for our purposes) initiate a suit Greek Orthodox Church v. Russian Orthodox Church to settle matters, etc… we would have documents etc. to analyse to reach a historical judgement.
Instead, we are forced to more or less deal in alternative, contrafactual and virtual history. Until 1867 we are not dealing with any other claims of any sort over any part of North America except the Russian claims, and it is not until 1891, when the Russian bishops had already traversed the continents, and the HGS had made known their designs, that we even get a question of no or multiple jurisdictions in North America, with the visit of Bp. Dionysios of Zante in the continent.
Under a number of canons (for a handy survey of some: “Unity and Autocephaly: Mutually Exclusive?” byDr. Lewis J. Patsavos http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8131) in particular Apostolic canon 34-5, canons 15-16 of Nicea I, canon 17 of Chalcedon, canons 20 and 38 of the Quinsex/Penthekti, Sardica c. 11, etc. outline the basis and limits of episcopal authority. There can be only one bishop a diocese, the bishops must acknowledge the canonical head of the region and his jurisdiciton, and bishops shall not linger in or ordain, etc. in the jurisdiction of another.
Hence, the mere presence of a bishop is a jurisdictional act, more so when he consecrates, forms parishes, claims parishes, etc. And until 1891, throughout the US and Canada, the only one doing that in North America (both metaphorically and literally) were the Russian bishops.
“Basically, unless I’ve missed something (which is entirely possible), you haven’t really answered my question — what does the 1867 treaty have to do with the idea that Russia laid claim to all of the United States of America (or North America; take your pick).” If I would just argue the same paradigm in play at the time in Athens and Greece at the same time (or earlier Kiev over the Russias, etc.). It wouldn’t make a difference. I think it better to trace the exercise of jurisdiction from Sitka to New York City, where it was, fully formed, when first counter jurisdictinal act which any note need be conisdered, the EP-CoG 1908 Tomos.
In that vein, I’ve just demonstrated the HGS jurisdiction just to SF. I’ll proceed, Lord willing, to All of North America.
“You’ve gone to great lengths to refute Metaxakis, but neither Fr. Oliver nor I have endorsed Metaxakis. We’re not talking about the GOA or anything of the sort.”
I’m aware of that. But their arguments, as I say, have to be dealt with. If their argument is sound, it is also constitutional, and hence whatever the Russians did, as Bp. Alexander claims, is void.
“We’re talking about the fact that, prior to 1905, the Russian Orthodox Church did not have a diocese with territory that officially included the Americas outside of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska….The fact of the matter is, Russia itself officially stated that its canonical territory included the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. It said nothing — officially — about California, or New York, or anywhere in between. That this claim may have been implicit does not make it official.”
For 19 centuries Alexandria was officially metropolis of “All of Egypt.” But that didn’t stop it from exercising jurisdiction in Sudan, Ethiopia etc for 16 centuries, before Pope Meletios (who didn’t check it out with his successor in Constantinople per the canon 28 claims) changed it to “All of Africa.” It’s not an isolated case, and doesn’t mean much, in particular, as you have pointed out (e.g. the Episcopalian issue) and I point out (the title gave the Diocese, per the Treaty, gave the Diocese a solid legal status in American Law), there were other issues involved.
Again, this is very theoretical, as the CoG, the first to contest the Russian Diocese of North America, did not even name a diocese here until 14 years after the Russians had changed it to “and North America,” and the Greeks we know were welll aware of that (despite Meletios’ claims to the contrary).
“The 1867 treaty, which you cited at length earlier, seems irrelevant to the question of whether the Russian Orthodox Church did in fact claim jurisdiction over the whole of America (either the country or the continent).”
For one, it prevents the Greek claim under Tomos of 1908 and Meletios’ charter of 1922. Either one is canonical and valid or the other: they cannot both be.
And the retention of the HGS under the treaty of its jurisdiction in AK is precursor of all that follows, whether arguing that AK gives title to all North America, or that, as I will be arguing, just the first step in extending its jurisdiction.
As my Guantanomo analogy, I hope, shows, just a residual jurisdiction in a transfer of sovereignty can have far reaching consequences.
Isa, I think you and I are coming at this issue from completely different perspectives. The question, in my mind, is this: Did the Russian Orthodox Church have formal, exclusive territorial jurisdiction in the entire United States of America in the 19th century? I don’t agree that Greek arguments are relevant here. There need not be a Greek-Russian dichotomy; in fact, the more appropriate dichotomy is an Episcopalian-Russian one.
The US government cannot give the Russian Church jurisdiction over all of America. It can grant citizenship to whomever it wishes, and it can resolve property disputes, but it has no authority — either according to the US constitution or the Orthodox canons — to actually grant ecclesiastical territory to the Russian Orthodox Church.
I’ve said this many times before, but I’ll say it one last time (for now):
The Russian Orthodox Church did not formally declare the United States (outside of AK) to be under its jurisdiction until the turn of the 20th century. The ROC had the opportunity to do this, when it reorganized the diocese in 1870, but it did not. If the implications of 1867 are as you claim, then the ROC should have included “America” or “United States” in the name of the diocese. It did not. My own theory, which I think is reasonable, is that the ROC did not want to create a conflict with the Episcopal Church, with whom it was engaged in close ecumenical dialogue at that time.
Also, what was to be gained from claiming America? In 1870, nobody knew that in two decades, Orthodox immigrants would flood the East Coast. And the ROC pretty clearly did not want to convert Americans to Orthodoxy. Yes, the ROC engaged in “jurisdictional acts” in America in the 19th century (SF, NY), but to jump from this to a claim that the whole country was their territory is too far a leap, based on the evidence I have seen.
There are two types of jurisdiction — de jure and de facto. The ROC would have had de jure jurisdiction if they had included America in the name of the diocese. They didn’t. They would have had de facto jurisdiction if they had spread throughout America and resisted the establishment of independent Greek churches in the 1890s. They didn’t. Until the 1890s, the Russian diocese in the contiguous US had only one church in SF and a defunct chapel in NY. That’s not enough, in my book, to qualify as de facto jurisdiction over the entire, extremely large, country.
Anyway, I am going to withdraw from this discussion for now, as I’d like to focus my energies on other lines of research for a little while. But I’m sure we’ll come back to it in the future, and I’d be happy to continue corresponding via email if you wish — mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
I’ll close with this: For what it’s worth, I wish that the early Greek parishes had joined the Russian diocese. The diocese wasn’t perfect, but had the various ethnic groups endorsed St. Tikhon’s plan, they all would have been better off.
Just to be brief (I’ve come across a very tantalizing books “Guide to materials for American history in Russian Archives,” By Frank Alfred Golder, David Maydole Matteson
the tid bit summarizes are very interesting. The date (1917) makes one wonder what has survived the Bolsheviks.
Anyway, yes I perhaps we are looking from a different perspective, as I see nothing unusual or unprecedented in Orthodox history at least until 1891. And even then after, there are parallels, e.g. the battle over Bulgaria in the 9th century.
No, I don’t see the claims unclaimed:the court records show
that St. Alexis was accepting a claim of Bp. Nicholas as “Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, with jurisdiction over the United States, of San Francisco, California” by 1892/3. I recall something similar regrarding Bp. Vladimir in 1890-1 (btw., I just was reminded about the reported falling out between him and the Russian Consul Olarovsky, who hosted Prince George when he suggested the formation of Greek Holy Trinity
which might explain the lack of complaint from him with what the Greeks were doing). Perhaps the argument can be made that they just claimed jurisdiction over all the Russians only, on a phyletistic basis no diferent from the othe Orthodox jurisdictions here. Such an arugment would have to explain why that contrasts with Russia’s attitudes and doings in the rest of the world, the call of St. Raphael, the actions of the diocese taken with the Greeks in SF before the Alaskan sale and afterwards, etc. On these points, a couple of things in the above document I find interesting:
(p. 12) In the archive of the chancery of the Ober Prokurator of the HS, from 1872 “Report of the priest Bierring on the situation in New York City” and “Problem of drawing the Greeks in New York into the Church, etc.” Other reports follow.
(p. 32) In the St. Petersburg principal archive of the foreign ministry, a letter from the Russian ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1819 on the “Question of a Greek church in Washington.”
And in basis of those who challenged Russia’s jurisdiction at the time, I’ve yet to see anything but a foundation of sand. As we are a hiearchal Church, someone has to be in charge.
“I’m not aware of the Cessaion treaty ever playing a role in these discussions, but that does not mean it did not. If you come across something, do let us know!”
“Isa, you quickly moved into discussing the Greeks. The treaty was nearly left aside.”
I had been putting something aside, CALLSEN et al. v. HOPE et al. 75 F. 758, because it is later (1896), technically delt only in AK, and wasn’t even an Orthodox Church (and hence, not the subject of art. II of the Treaty), and and so tangential. But its reasoning is relevant as to the standing of the Orthodox Church at the time of 1867 (I know I am stating that in retrospection, the reason why I see this case somewhat a tangent).
Hope had taken position of the land on which had stood the Lutheran church in Sitka had stood, having “contended that, inasmuch as the Congregation of the Lutheran Church is nonincorporated, as disclosed by the bill, it can obtain no standing as a party in court, and that its trustees have not capacity to bring this suit.” A Lutheran, Callsen, sued for a restraining order.
How the court dismissed the problem of the congregation being non-incorporated is what is of interest:
“I do not think this contention can be sustained. Stripped of its surplusage, it appears by the bill that there is a voluntary religious association at Sitka known as the Congregation of the Lutheran Church; that such congregation has been in existence for a long term of years, before and since the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States…that prior to the treaty of cession and the transfer of the territory the said congregation became the owner in fee by grant from Russia of lot No. 33 of the town of Sitka…that the church building located on said lot, and for a long term of years occupied by said congregation as a place of worship, has fallen into decay, and some years since was removed from said lot; that no new structure has been erected in its place; that there is at present no pastor of said congregation; that there are members thereof still residing in Sitka, and that the congregation has never disbanded…The question of legal capacity of the plaintiffs to sue has been settled by the supreme court of the United States in Beatty v. Kurtz, 2 Pet. 566, wherein the facts presented are very similar to those of the case at bar. Indeed, with the single exception that in the case cited the lot in controversy had been set apart for the benefit of the Lutheran Church of the city of Georgetown, Md., by the original owner of the fee, who had platted an addition to said city, and had marked on the plat the lot of ground in controversy “For the Lutheran Church,” but had made no conveyance, the facts in the case now here and in the one above cited are substantially the same. Mr. Justice Story, delivering the opinion of the court in the case cited, said that, while it was not necessary to decide the point as to whether trustees of a voluntary religious association have legal capacity to sue as such, as persons belonging to such a society, and having a common interest, they may sue in behalf of themselves and others having the like interest, as part of the same society, for purposes common to all and beneficial to all. The doctrine here laid down has been adopted by the supreme court of the state of Oregon in the case of Trustees v. Adams, 4 Or. 77. These cases sufficiently determine the law, and our equity jurisprudence would be faulty, indeed, if its doors were closed against parties seeking to reach the forum of the court with a case like that presented by this bill.”
The court was not impressed by Hope’s “contention is that equity cannot be invoked, for the reason that the plaintiffs have a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law; and it is further urged that the lot of ground in question passed to the United States under the treaty, and that, if it did not, inasmuch as it is no longer occupied for church purposes, or as a place of worship, any title thereto derived from Russia is forfeited, and the lot has become part of the public lands of the United States, and subject to occupation and possession by citizens of the United States as such. I do not think these positions can be maintained….Equity will not sit by and permit an intruder upon lands belonging to another to use, occupy, and enjoy the same, and possibly divert them from the purposes of the real owner, or perhaps impair and destroy them for the uses designed by him, while he is seeking to establish and enforce his rights in a court of law…and, before the rights of the plaintiffs herein could be adjudicated in ejectment, a saloon or a dance house might be in operation upon a lot of ground belonging to an Evangelical church.”
The court then forcused on the term of the Treaty:
“The contention that the lot passed to the United States under the treaty, or has since become public lands by reason of nonuser for church purposes, leads to an investigation of the terms of the treaty and the contents of the protocol of transfer; and, as the conclusions the court has reached in relation thereto affect quite a number of land titles in this district, and may prove decisive of this case, the court has deemed proper to state somewhat fully the determination reached upon these questions. Under the constitution of the United States (article 6, par. 2), all treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States are the supreme law of the land; and courts take judicial notice of them. This court will therefore take judicial notice of the treaty of March 30, 1867, between Russia and the United States, ceding the territory of Alaska from the former government to the latter;…Article 6 of the treaty, among other things, provides that:
“The cession of territory and dominion herein made is hereby declared to be free and unincumbered by any reservations, privileges, franchises, grants, or possessions by any associated companies, whether corporate or incorporate, Russian or other, or by any parties, except merely private individual property owners; and the cession hereby made conveys all the rights, franchises, and privileges now belonging to Russia in the said territory and dominion and the appurtenances thereto.”
It would be utterly inconsistent with well-authenticated historical events, as well as with the time-honored policy of the Russian government upon religious matters, to assert that the term “associated companies,” used in the section of the treaty just quoted, has reference to any religious association…companies grew quite formidable in their rivalry for the possession of the northwest coast of North America, now comprising the territory of Alaska. The more important of these were consolidated in 1799, and a charter was granted by the crown to the Russian-American Company, under which said company asserted and maintained occupancy of the Russian possessions in America until the time of the treaty and transfer. In the light of these historical facts it is perfectly clear that the intention of the high contracting powers, as expressed in the portion of the treaty above quoted, was to extinguish all the reservations, privileges, franchises, grants, and possessions of said corporation, or other companies or parties, carrying on business within the limits of the territory ceded, and not to affect private individual property rights theretofore granted. It is also manifest from the concluding words of the section quoted that Russia ceded only that which belonged to the empire at the time of the treaty; and it is by no means certain that under the doctrine of vested rights, which, since the decision of the supreme court of the United States in the Dartmouth College Case, 4 Wheat. 518, presented with such great intellectual power by Mr. Webster, has found a secure lodgment in our law, fee-simple titles antedating the treaty would not be sustained, without the exception referred to…Article 4 of the treaty provides that each of the parties thereto shall appoint “an agent or agents for the purpose of formally delivering the territory, dominion, property, dependencies, and appurtenances ceded,” and in pursuance of this…Prince Dmitry Maksoutoff, governor of the Russian colonies in America, made or caused to be made inventories and a map of New Archangel, or Sitka, showing by numbers all property holdings, public and private, in that town. These inventories consist of (a) public property passing to the United States under the treaty; (b) property of the Greco-Russian Church; (c) fee-simple titles, with the names of persons holding the same, who were furnished with certificates thereof; (d) dwelling houses, establishments, and lots of ground held by possessory rights only. These inventories and the map were attached to and made a part of the protocol of transfer. By them lot No. 33 is designated as the property of the Congregation of the Lutheran Church, and appears in the inventory of fee-simple titles, as is alleged in the bill in this case, and as appears by the certificate of such [**12] title executed by said commissioners and authenticated by said governor, a copy of which is set out in the bill. From these facts, derived from a public document of the very highest order, of which this court is bound to take judicial notice, the conclusions are irresistible that this lot falls within the exceptions provided for by the treaty; that the title thereto never became vested in the United States; and that the Congregation of the Lutheran Church holds the absolute and indefeasible title in fee simple of said lot of ground, as granted to it by Russia. No title thereto can be obtained except through said congregation, and a failure to use and occupy the lot for church purposes will not divest the congregation of its title. The lot, therefore, is not open to possession and occupancy as public lands of the United States… ”
Continuing, the court put aside questions of the First Amendment, and ruled on the basis of the Czar’s ukazes regarding religion:
“Further than this, and notwithstanding the existence of an established church — the Greco-Russian — in Russia, the settled policy of that government for a long period of years has been to foster and protect among its people religious associations and organizations of every known shade of belief or doctrine; and within the limits of the empire, from the Arctic Ocean to the Chinese border, and from the North Pacific to the Baltic Sea, may be found congregations whose members are believers of every known religious doctrine and form of worship, from the faith of Islam and Mohamet to the Catholic creeds and high-sounding liturgies of the Greek and Roman Churches; all enjoying the protection, if not the patronage, of the crown. Among these the membership of the Lutheran denomination ranks next in numbers to that of the established church, and the population of the Baltic provinces and Finland are almost entirely Lutheran. The reasons for this policy are not far to seek, as it is one which must inevitably bind to the autocrat adherents of all the different denominations thus fostered and protected by the sovereign head of the empire. It would not only be unjust, but utterly contradictory to this long-continued policy of the czar, to hold that in granting the territory of Alaska to the United States, Russia intended to transfer, with the territory ceded, the title to church property theretofore granted by that government. It follows, therefore, that in construing the portion of the treaty cited, church property must be held to be “private individual property,” falling within the exceptions of the treaty; and this view is sustained by the protocol, inventories, and map.”
Thus the court found that the Lutheran parish, although unincorporated, by terms of the Treaty preserved the rights the Czar (and St. Innocent) had given them, and the US government was bound to recognize a religious entity not incorporated under US law, concluding that “…among the considerations moving between the high contracting powers to the treaty are the exceptions to the cession of territory and dominion granted. Following its long-established policy on religious matters, Russia desired to protect the Congregation of the Lutheran Church, with others to whom title to lands in Alaska had been given, in the enjoyment of the property so granted, and the United States acceded to that desire. Treaty, art. 3 [note: this is the article where the Orthodox Church generated the most US case law, dealing with Russia’s ” long-established policy on religious matters”.] Our government therefore is bound upon its national honor to maintain in good faith these stipulations of the treaty by sustaining the fee-simple titles set forth in the protocol, including that of the Congregation of the Lutheran Church, and by protecting the holders of such titles in the enjoyment of the property so granted. This court will certainly not assume the responsibility of placing the government of the United States in the position of having violated these treaty obligations.”
Callsen v. Hope, and the Cession Treaty, did come up much later (1948) in an acction of the Orthodox congregation against the Orthodox priest and the primate Met. Theophilos of SF. The jurisdiction of the bishop was upheld.
“[I]n 1860 the first Greek-speaking church was dedicated in the United States with its Greek Priest […] under and by the sole and exclusive Russian canonical authority and all without ever a word of protest or claim of jurisdiction on the part of Constantinople.”
Is he refering to Holy Trinity in New Orleans, or some other parish (Galveston?).
Burden is referring to the New Orleans parish, although he has the wrong year.
I have heard about a parish in Galveston in the 1860s, but I have yet to see any concrete evidence that an actual Orthodox parish existed there prior to the 1890s. There may well have been an organized group of Orthodox Christians, and they may even have had a chapel, but I’m still looking for hard evidence of this.
So Archbishop Aftimios was just parroting Burden here?
Or Burden is parroting Ofiesh. I know the Burden reference predates the Ofiesh one, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Ofiesh is the one who told Burden his own version of American Orthodox history.
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