Steps towards cooperation and greater unity

Confronted with the divisions both within and beyond their flocks, Archbishop Athenagoras and Archbishop Antony (Bashir) (1898-1966) of the Syrian (Antiochian) Orthodox Archdiocese recognized the need for greater jurisdictional cooperation.

Antony in particular advocated the greater use of English in liturgical services and envisioned a more united church in the United States. Together with Antony, Athenagoras made a bold proposal for a pan-Orthodox seminary in 1934 and for a pan-Orthodox journal in 1941. Divisions among the Russian jurisdictions prevented common action on these. However, the 'Federated Orthodox Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions in America' was established in 1943. This was a voluntary association of the primates of the six jurisdictions that were associated with one of the patriarchates. Dedicated to increasing harmony and cooperation, the federation did much in its few years of existence to achieve greater recognition of the Orthodox Church, especially by governmental agencies. However, the largest of the Russian jurisdictions, the Russian Orthodox Metropolia, was not in communion with its patriarchate, and so was not a member of the federation. Its absence was a major weakness in it, and by 1949 the federation had ceased to function.

The decades following the Second World War were an important period of transition for the Orthodox in the United States. Most importantly, the demographics were changing. There was a notable decrease in immigration of Orthodox especially after the 1920s. This meant that the composition of most parishes was rapidly changing and they were losing their immigrant character. At the same time, new parishes were being established in the suburbs beyond the traditional centre of immigrant life in the inner cities. The majority of the parishioners were born and educated in America. They were less in contact with the politics and issues of the land of their grandparents. These people were more frequently marrying beyond their ethnic communities. There was also a gradual increase of marriages between Orthodox and Roman Catholics or Protestants. In addition, people coming from other religious traditions were beginning to embrace the Orthodox Church and its teachings. This movement would increase as time went on. Many parishes were led by clergy educated at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (193 7) near Boston, at St Tikhon's Seminary (1938) near Scranton, Pennsylvania or at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological School (1938) in New York.

These developments were reflected in the gradual increase of pan-Orthodox endeavours. Orthodox from various jurisdictions began to recognize that they shared not only the same faith but also the same challenges and obligations within the American society. They began to establish a number of avenues of cooperation, especially in the areas of retreat work, religious education and campus ministry. New catechetical materials in the English language were prepared. English translations of liturgical texts were made. In addition, there was growing use of English in the liturgy and other services. Bringing together clergy and laity of a number of jurisdictions, joint liturgical services began to become more common in large cities, especially on the first Sunday of Great Lent, celebrated as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. In some cities, pan-Orthodox clergy associations and councils of churches were established. These endeavours were led by clergy and laity chiefly from the three largest jurisdictions: the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Syrian (Antiochian) Orthodox Archdiocese and the Russian Orthodox Metropolia. All of these were important signs that Orthodoxy in America had entered into a new phase of its development.

There were growing pains. In some jurisdictions, new tensions developed. Those who viewed the Church chiefly as the preserver of a particular ethnic identity, political perspective, or language were troubled by these developments and the tendency toward greater cooperation. Others emphasized the importance of maintaining links with the mother churches and were troubled by the possibility of a united Church in the United States. Indeed, new divisions developed as new Orthodox immigrants arrived fleeing political changes in the Balkans. Opposing the Communist government and the Church in the homeland, rival dioceses developed among the Romanians in 1951, the Bulgarians in 1947, the Ukrainians in 1950 and 1954, and the Serbs in 1963. The larger jurisdictions, however, continued on a trajectory which recognized the growing American identity of its faithful and the Church's responsibilities in the United States.

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