St-TikhonThe post below is from Fr. Ernesto.  Being an Orthodox priest, he is able to detail a bit of Orthodox – Anglican North American history.  I found it an interesting tidbit of history, even if, perhaps, somewhat difficult to work into conversation.  Fr. Orthohippo.

OK, for all of you trivia fans I have a question. When didernesto Anglicans and Orthodox first meet in the continental United States? Now in order to answer that question, you have to know something of the missionary expansion of the Russian Orthodox Church. Most people vaguely realize that the Russians were in what is now Alaska by the 1700’s. They were mostly fur traders, but within a few decades, during a time of revival in the Russian Church, monks crossed over the Aleutian straits into Alaska to set up a mission. But few realize just how far and how quickly that evangelistic explosion went.

When we are taught history, often too much talk of religious expansion is considered a taboo. Unfortunately, as a result we miss some of the dynamics in history that are related to religion. Now, when I say religion, I do not merely mean Christianity, I mean any religion. But, for Christianity, here in the USA where there is the additional fear of it becoming “established” by the government, mentions of Christianity are very hard to find. It may interest you to know that I do not hold just liberals or secularists or atheists or the ACLU as being responsible for this state of affairs. Some of our most conservative and Christian people have been equally responsible for some of our attitudes today. In the 19th century they were just as insistent as today’s people that the Church had to be kept forcibly separated from the State. There are laws that are still being enforced in a couple of states that prohibit “religious” wear in school. They were passed in several states in the 19th century during the rise of the Catholic teaching orders to prevent nuns who were hired by a public school system from wearing their habits to school, lest they unduly influence school children. Today those very laws are being enforced against Muslim teachers and evangelical Christian teachers. But they were authored by good conservative Christians who never realized what they were setting up for us just a century and a bit later.

But, back to the Russian Orthodox. The spiritual and missionary explosion in Russia in the 18th and 19th century paralleled the Protestant missionary explosion of the 19th and 20th centuries. But, where the Protestants went overseas, the Russians went overland, crossing through what is now Asian Russia into the New World.

By the time Anglican missionaries went to California in the wake of the gold boom of 1848, they found Russian missionaries there as well. The Russians did not arrive there too long ahead of the Anglicans, but they were there. And, because of the turns of history, they never ended up building cute little missions, like the Franciscan friars of the Roman Catholic Church. So, while we remember the Catholic cultural heritage of the Franciscan missions of California, we little remember or even know about the Russian Orthodox presence throughout the Inuit of Alaska, and in much lesser number down the coast all the way to California.

By the very early 20th century, however, Russian missions were strong enough, though small, that the Holy Synod of Russia sent a bishop as missionary bishop of North America and Alaska. He ended up strengthening the Orthodox Church in America, as well as appointing other bishop, one of whom is considered to be the first bishop of what was then called the Syrian Church here in the USA. Today it is called the Antiochian Orthodox Church. That bishop was chosen as the first Patriarch of Moscow after the restoration of the Patriarchy in Russian Orthodoxy. His name? St. Tikhon, Enlightener of North America, Martyr, and the first Patriarch who had to deal with Russian communism.

About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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  1. sjc says:

    I found this little bit of church history very interesting and delightful to read about. I had no idea that the Russian Orthadox in the U.S. has it’s roots by the way of Alaska. But it does make sense along what I know about other U.S. history. Thanks for sharing this.

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