The most influential people in American Orthodox history

St. Tikhon, flanked by his two vicars, Bishop Innocent and St. Raphael

For a while now, I’ve had this idea of creating a list of the most influential people in American Orthodox history. Obviously, any such list would be pretty arbitrary, and would undoubtedly leave out many important people about whom I just don’t know much. But then it occurred to me that if we all put our heads together, we could probably come up with a pretty decent list. It also might be a fun sort of group project, and a way to give you, our readers, a chance to teach all of us from your own knowledge of history.

A few ground rules, to get things started:

  1. Let’s limit the nominees to people who have been dead for at least 20 years (1990 or earlier). So, Metropolitan Philip Saliba isn’t eligible. Nor is Archbishop Iakovos Koukouzis, who died in 2005. While both men are certainly among the 100 most influential people in our history, it’s just too early to evaluate them as historical figures. We need a little time.
  2. The nominees must actually be “American” in some sense. You could reasonably argue that Vladimir Lenin had a major influence on American Orthodox history, but he obviously wasn’t an “American Orthodox” historical figure. And it’s arguable whether Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis counts as an “American” figure, since he was only in this country for a three-year visit. (And I don’t even want to hear any arguments about whether he was “Orthodox.” Don’t go there, please.) No need for the individuals to be US citizens, of course, but they also can’t just have been passing through.
  3. I’ve gone back and forth on this, but I think we should allow nominations of non-Orthodox figures. So, Isabel Hapgood (Episcopalian) is eligible, as is the scourge of Alaskan Orthodoxy, Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson.

Certain people will obviously be on the list — St. Tikhon, Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou, Metropolitan Antony Bashir, etc. While it’s certainly worth hearing the arguments for why these people should be considered among the most influential, I’m especially interested in the lesser-known names. For instance, awhile back we introduced a Greek layman named George Anastassiou, the “Apostle of Organ Music.” There must be other people like him — probably dozens or hundreds. Who were these influential laymen? Who are the most influential women in our history? And while major figures from the biggest jurisdictions are reasonably well-known, what about smaller groups like the Romanians and Bulgarians and Albanians?

Please send in your nominations, with a brief explanation of why they’re so influential. You can comment below, or drop me an email at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com. I look forward to reading the nominations, and, if the response is good, I’ll publish updates on this little project over the coming months. Thanks!

[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]

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