Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of more than 250 million Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide, is in the midst of a 17-day apostolic visit to the United States — a pilgrimage that puts the focus on a diverse and important community of Christians that often receives little in-depth coverage.
Bartholomew’s visit could help to raise the profile of Eastern Orthodoxy in part because he is one of the more high-profile patriarchs of modern times, and also because he has made environmentalism a key part of his message.
The visit of the ecumenical patriarch also comes eight months after the Russian Orthodox Church elected its 16th patriarch – its first such election since the fall of the Soviet Union – during an elaborate ceremony that drew hundreds of hierarchs and Russia’s top political leaders. The election signaled the re-emergence of Russian Orthodoxy as an important force in Russian life — a role that Orthodox churches in other countries often play as well. That geopolitical factor also gives the story of Eastern Orthodoxy in the United States a relevance that may not be represented by its numbers alone.
This edition of ReligionLink outlines the basics of Eastern Orthodox churches and provides resources for covering the patriarch’s visit.
Bartholomew’s 2009 pilgrimage
Bartholomew arrived in New Orleans on Oct. 20 to preside over the eighth Religion, Science and the Environment Symposium. Theologians, scientists, policymakers, environmentalists, business people and journalists gathered for the five-day event, titled “Restoring Balance: The Great Mississippi River.” The Web site for the visit has complete coverage.
The ecumenical patriarch has led the symposiums since 1995 and helped inspire an environmental ethics movement. Bartholomew is sometimes called the “Green Patriarch” for his support of international environmental causes. In 2008 TIME magazine named him among its 100 Most Influential People in the World for “defining environmentalism as a spiritual responsibility.”
The symposiums assert that the analytical tools of science and spiritual message of religion can work together to safeguard the planet. Previous symposiums have drawn heads of state, environmental ministers, ministers of economic affairs and prominent intellectual figures. During his sixth trip to the United States, Bartholomew also will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York and President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, among others.
- A Web site about Bartholomew’s visit to the United States is here. The patriarch’s itinerary and press kit are also online.
- Read Bartholomew’s official biography and news releases. The patriarch’s press office is in Istanbul, Turkey. Contact 90 212 5210430.
- Articles are posted here.
- The Web site for the Religion, Science and the Environment Symposium includes the itinerary, a media center and other details. Contact symposia coordinator Maria Becket in Athens, Greece, 30 210 3636 092. A London office is at 44 207 589 1094.
One challenge in writing about the Eastern Orthodox is the debate over numbers. A figure often cited is 3 million adherents in the U.S., with about 2 million in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 1 million in the Orthodox Church in America, and some tens of thousands in the other 20 major Eastern Orthodox churches.
But a 2000 study by Alexey D. Krindatch of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, Calif., found that the total number of Orthodox believers in this country is about 1.2 million. In a summary posted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Krindatch says the “most likely reason for this discrepancy is the common practice of equating Church membership with the total number of representatives of a corresponding ethnic group.”
Krindatch notes that the Orthodox churches in the United States have been facing several challenges since the 1970s. They include the tug between assimilation and maintaining ethnic distinctiveness; incorporation of the “increasing proportion of the American-born members and of converts who came to the Orthodoxy mainly through the inter-Christian marriages”; and grassroots movements that want to see greater unity among the Orthodox communities.
Eastern Orthodox churches are rooted in the earliest days of Christianity and do not recognize papal authority over their governance. During the Great Schism of 1054, the churches split from those in the western half of the Roman Empire, when those western churches recognized the supremacy of the bishop of Rome above all other bishops.
Today Eastern Orthodox churches are organized mostly around national lines and recognize the patriarch of Constantinople as their leader. The churches have 250 million to 300 million members worldwide and include the Greek Orthodox Church and Russian Orthodox Church. In the United States the largest of these churches is the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, followed by the Orthodox Church in America, which includes followers of Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian and Syrian descent.
- The Web site of the Orthodox Church in America gives a detailed explanation of the faith. It also lists the 19 self-governing and self-ruling Orthodox churches worldwide, which include the OCA. (The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is directly under the authority of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople in Turkey, and is not administratively related to the Church of Greece.)
- The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas brings together the canonical hierarchs of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America. The purpose of the conference is to make the ties of unity among the canonical Orthodox churches and their administrations stronger and more visible. Contact 212-570-3500.
- The Orthodox Christian Education Commission is an agency of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas and was founded as a forum to exchange ideas and search for solutions to education problems. Contact 800-464-2744.
- The Orthodox Theological Society in America was organized under the auspices of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas to promote Orthodox theology, cultivate fellowship and cooperation among Orthodox Christians and coordinate the work of Orthodox theologians in the Americas. Email through the Web site.
- The Orthodox Peace Fellowship is an international association of Orthodox Christians who study and advocate on issues of peace and conflict in local, national and international contexts. Contact 31-72-511-2545.
- The Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration is a pan-Orthodox association that addresses environmental issues. Contact 707-573-3161.
- The International Orthodox Christian Charities has provided humanitarian assistance through some of the most troubled decades in recent history. Contact 410-243-9820.
- The Orthodox Christian Mission Center focuses on evangelism. Contact 904-829-5132.
- The Orthodox Christian Fellowship is the official campus ministry effort under the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas. It is a pan-Orthodox effort, overseen by an executive committee and aided by an 11-person student advisory board. The office is in Fishers, Ind. Contact 800-919-1623.
- The Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry ministers to men and women behind bars. Contact email@example.com.
- The Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion exists to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and promote Christian fellowship among professionals in medicine, psychology and religion. Members pursue an understanding of the whole person that integrates the basic assumptions of medicine, psychology and religion with the Orthodox Christian faith in educating and serving church and community. Demetra Velisarios Jaquet is president. Contact 303-278-0815, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Beliefnet provides a page on Eastern Orthodox churches.
- Fordham University in New York offers an Orthodox Christian Studies Program.
- Read an Oct. 2, 2009, New York Times story on the lure of an Orthodox church for Protestant Christians.
- Read a Sept. 23, 2009, New Orleans Times-Picayune story on Bartholomew’s visit to the United States and the Religion, Science and the Environment Symposium.
- Read an April 8, 2009, Washington Post feature on the complex preparations for a Greek Easter feast.
- Read an April 2009 National Geographic story on the new Russian Orthodox Church rising after the fall of the Soviet Union.
- Read a Feb. 1, 2009, New York Times story on the installation of a new patriarch for the Russian Orthodox Church. He was the first patriarch elected since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The Greek Orthodox Church
- Visit the Web site of the Greek Orthodox Church.
- The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is based in New York City. The site provides a summary of the faith for reporters. Contact 212-570-3500.
- Several monasteries are scattered across the country. See a list with their contact information.
- The Hellenic Cultural Center of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was established in 1986 with the goal of cultivating the Orthodox heritage and Hellenic customs, culture and traditions within the Greek-American community.
- Greek Orthodox chaplains serve full-time as chaplains in the armed forces; others have assumed additional responsibilities as chaplains at Veterans Administration hospitals, with local police forces, at prisons and in hospitals.
- The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity has been serving Greek Orthodox Christians for more than a century. The cathedral provides regular worship, counseling, Christian education, human services and cultural programs for people in the New York City area. Contact 212-288-3215/6.
- Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology provide undergraduate and graduate education. Hellenic College and Holy Cross are on a 52-acre campus in Brookline, Mass. Contact 617-731-3500.
- St. Basil Academy is the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese home away from home for children in need. The academy is in Garrison, N.Y. Contact 845-424-3500.
- The St. Photios National Shrine is the only Greek Orthodox National Shrine in the country. It is primarily a religious institution and is located in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Fla.
- The Web site of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America also provides a parish directory that allows surfers to search by city, state and ZIP code.
The Orthodox Church in America
- The Orthodox Church in America is based in Syosset, N.Y. Contact 516-922-0550. The Web site provides summaries of the church and faith here and here.
- Several monasteries are scattered across the country. See a list with their contact information.
- The Department of Military Chaplaincies supports the ministry of Orthodox military chaplains who, while serving as full-time priests and noncombatant full-time military officers, celebrate Orthodox liturgical services and the Holy Mysteries; offer counseling on all levels; visit hospitals, units, barracks, flight lines and ships; attend command-level briefings; and advise commanders on religious, moral and social issues. Contact the Very Rev. Theodore Boback, executive director, 443-831-6870.
- The Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry trains clergy, parents and youth ministers in various aspects of ministry. Contact the chairperson, Deacon Joseph Matusiak, 914-318-7505.
- The Office of Communications produces and distributes official statements and news releases of the Orthodox Church in America, maintains relations with the media, responds to requests for information of a general and specific nature and oversees the content and functioning of the Orthodox Church in America’s Web site. Contact the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, vice chairperson, 516-671-6616.
- The Board of Theological Education establishes, maintains and oversees the general standards and curriculum for the education and formation of clergy in the Orthodox Church in America’s three seminaries. Contact 516-922-0550.
The Russian Orthodox Church
- Visit the Web site of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- Other sites include ones for the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church in America. The latter gives a history and summary of the church in the United States and lists parishes nationwide.
- St. Innocent Orthodox Theological Seminary was founded in 1976. Its name and location have changed through the years; since 2006 it has been in Roswell, N.M. Contact email@example.com.
- Visit the Orthodox Voices blog.
- Religious Books for Russia was founded in 1979 to provide religious books for Orthodox Christians in the Soviet Union. Since it is now possible to publish and distribute religious literature in Russia, the organization, which is based in LaGrangeville, N.Y., assists with the publication in Russia of the best contemporary Orthodox theological and educational materials. Books are distributed free throughout Russia. Contact 914-337-1910, OlgaP@RBRBooks.org.
- Emmanuel Clapsis is professor of dogmatic theology at Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. Among his publications is The Orthodox Churches in a Pluralistic World: An Ecumenical Conversation. Contact 617-850-1266 or 617-731-3500 (department).
- John H. Erickson is professor of church history at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y. Contact 914-961-8313, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Donald M. Fairbairn Jr. is professor of historical theology at Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, S.C. He is the author of Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes. Contact 864-379-6694 or 864-379-6571 (department), email@example.com.
- Thomas E. FitzGerald is professor of church history and historical theology at Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. Contact 617-850-1212 or 617-731-3500 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- John Anthony McGuckin is a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He is the author of The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Its History, Doctrine and Spiritual Culture (2008) and many other books and articles. Contact 212-280-1391 or 212-662-7100 (department), email@example.com.
- Aristotle Papanikolaou is an associate professor in theology at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. Contact 212-636-6249 or 718-817-3240 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Veselin Kesich is professor emeritus of the New Testament at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y. Contact 914-961-8313, email@example.com.
- Jerry G. Pankhurst is a sociology professor at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. He is co-editor of Eastern Orthodoxy in a Global Age: Tradition Faces the Twenty-First Century. Contact 937-327-7506 or 937-327-6231 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Elizabeth H. Prodromou is assistant professor in international relations at Boston University. Her publications include Orthodox Christianity in American Public Life: The Challenges and Opportunities of Religious Pluralism in the 21st Century (forthcoming). Contact 617-358-3774 or 617-353-9278 (department), email@example.com.
- Andrew D. Walsh is an assistant professor in religion and philosophy at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo. His publications include “Protestants and Orthodoxy,” Religion and American Cultures: An Encyclopedia of Traditions, Diversity and Popular Expressions. Contact 573-288-6376 or 573-288-6000 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- George Dion Dragas is professor of patrology/patristics at Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. Contact 617-850-1221 or 617-731-3500 (department).
- James Constantine Skedros is a professor of Byzantine studies and early Christianity at Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. Contact 617-850-1254 or 617-731-3500 (department), Jskedros@hchc.edu.
- Theodore Stylianopoulos is professor of Orthodox theology and the New Testament at Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. Contact 617-850-1238 or 617-731-3500 (department), email@example.com.
- Peter C. Bouteneff is associate professor of systematic theology at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y. Contact 914-961-8313, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Michael Plekon is professor of religion and culture at City University of New York in New York City. He wrote a chapter titled “The Russian Religious Revival and Its Theological Legacy” in The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology (2008). Contact 646-312-4472 or 646-312-4460 (department), MJPlekon@aol.com.
- Frank S. Alexander is a professor and founding director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta. He is co-editor of The Teachings of Modern Orthodox Christianity on Law, Politics & Human Nature (2007). Contact 404-727-6982 or 404-727-6816 (department), email@example.com.
- Phillip Charles Lucas is a professor in religious studies at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. His publications include “Enfants Terribles: The Challenge of Sectarian Converts to Ethnic Orthodox Churches in the United States,” published in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions (2003). Contact 386-822-8894 or 386-822-8930 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- John Witte Jr. is a professor and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta. He is co-editor of The Teachings of Modern Orthodox Christianity on Law, Politics & Human Nature (2007). Contact 404-727-6980 or 404-727-6816 (department), email@example.com.
- Frederick W. Norris is professor emeritus of world mission and world Christianity at the Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tenn. His publications include “Gregory the Theologian and Other Religions,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review. Contact 423-461-1520, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Paul L. Gavrilyuk is an associate professor in theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. His publications include “Eastern Orthodoxy,” The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion (2007). Contact 651-962-5326 or 651-962-5300 (department), email@example.com.
- Alexander G. Golitzin is a theology professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He is an author of the Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church. Contact 414-288-7510 or 414-288-7170 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Robert L. Nichols is a professor emeritus in history at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. He is co-editor of Russian Orthodoxy Under the Old Regime. Contact 507-786-3167, email@example.com.
- Stephen K. Batalden is a history professor at Arizona State University in Tempe. He is the editor of Seeking God: The Recovery of Religious Identity in Orthodox Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. Contact 480-965-2830 or 480-965-5778 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ted A. Campbell is an associate professor of church history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He is the author of The Gospel in Christian Traditions (2008). Contact 214-768-4885 or 214-768-8436 (department), email@example.com.
- Eugene J. Clay is an associate professor in religious studies at Arizona State University in Tempe. His publications include “Russian Orthodoxy,” published in Religion and American Cultures: An Encyclopedia of Traditions, Diversity and Popular Expressions. Contact 480-965-1982 or 480-965-7145 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Alexey D. Krindatch is director for membership growth and research at the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and a leading researcher on Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The institute is “inter-Orthodox” and describes itself as an independent, not-for-profit teaching and research institution affiliated with the GTU and the University of California. Contact 510-649-3450, email@example.com.
- Richard G. Hovannisian is a professor emeritus in history at University of California, Los Angeles. Contact 310-825-3375 or 310-825-4601 (department), firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Massimo Finizio