Orthodox Church of the Mother of God

Joy of all the Sorrowful - Mays Landing, NJ (f. 1966)

Church History 7 - The Orthodox Church Since WWI

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The Orthodox diaspora, the calendar change and missions

Since World War I, millions of east Europeans were dispersed in various areas where Orthodox communities had never existed before. The Russian Revolution provoked a massive political emigration, predominantly to western Europe and particularly France. It included eminent churchmen, theologians, and Christian intellectuals, such as Bulgakov, Berdyayev, and V.V. Zenkovsky, who were able not only to establish in Paris a theological school of great repute but also to contribute significantly to the ecumenical movement. In 1922 Patriarch Tikhon appointed Metropolitan Evlogy to head the émigré churches, with residence in Paris. The authority of the metropolitan was challenged, however, by a group of bishops who had left their sees in Russia, retreating with the White armies, and who had found refuge in Sremski-Karlovci as guests of the Serbian Church. Despite several attempts at reconciliation, the "Synod" of Karlovci, refused to recognize any measure taken by the reestablished patriarchate of Moscow accusing the Moscow hierarchs of collaboration with the communists and the betrayal of the Church. This Church transferred its headquarters to New York and is also known as the "Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia." It is very well known for its missionary work, traditional piety and its firm stand against ecumenism and modernism. However this Church has no canonical relation with the official Orthodox patriarchates and churches. Recently ROCA has gathered certain moderate traditionalist, Old Calendarist Churches making thus a front against the ecumenism. A "Ukrainian Orthodox Church in exile" finds itself in a similarly irregular canonical situation. Other émigré groups found refuge under the canonical auspices of the ecumenical patriarchate.

The change of traditional Julian ecclesiastical calendar in 1924 and adoption of the so called "improved Gregorian calendar" by the ecumenical patriarchate and soon by a number of other local Orthodox churches has produced very painful schisms in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. In the meanwhile the Old Calendarist groups in Greece were even more divided over the question of the validity of the official Church sacraments. A rather uncontrolled reaction of the official Church of Greece only deepened the existing schism. The Old Calendarist movement which started as an opposition to the calendar change has gradually grown into a movement which strongly rejects any kind of ecumenical activity. In their opinion the change of the calendar only opened the door of the Church for further modernisation and secularisation. The radical ecclesiology of certain extremist Old Calendarist has finally isolated their groups from the communion with other Orthodox Churches. On the other hand the moderate Old Calendarists while recognizing the validity of the official Church sacraments still abstain from communion with other Churches waiting for their return to the traditional course.

After World War II, a very numerous Greek emigration took place to western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. In East Africa, without much initial effort on their part, these Greek-speaking emigrants have attracted a sizable number of black Christians, who have discovered in the Orthodox liturgy and sacramental worship a form of Christianity more acceptable to them than the more dogmatic institutions of Western Christianity. Also, in their eyes, Orthodoxy has the advantage of having no connection with the colonial regimes of the past. Orthodox communities, with an ever increasing number of native clergy, are spreading in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Less professionally planned than the former Russian missions in Alaska and Japan, these young churches constitute an interesting development in African Christianity.


 From the book The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware (Now  Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia)

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