Orthodox Church in America

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The Orthodox Church in America

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is an autocephalous church with parishes mainly in the United States and Canada (though it has some parishes in Australia and elsewhere). The OCA was formerly known as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, or more informally, the Metropolia.

The current primate of the OCA is His Beatitude Herman (Swaiko), Archbishop of Washington and New York, and Metropolitan of All America and Canada.

Orthodox Church in America
Founder(s) Ss. Herman of Alaska, Innocent of Alaska, Alexis of Wilkes-Barre
Autocephaly/Autonomy declared 1924
Autocephaly/Autonomy recognized 1970 by Church of Russia
Current primate Metropolitan Herman
Headquarters Syosset, New York
Primary territory United States and Canada
Possessions abroad Mexico, South America, Australia
Liturgical language(s) English, Church Slavonic, Spanish
Musical tradition Russian Chant, Byzantine Chant (in some ethnic dioceses)
Calendar Revised Julian, Julian
Population estimate 30,000 to 1,000,000
Official website Orthodox Church in America


The OCA began with the missionary work of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution brought communication between the churches in North America and Russia to an almost complete halt. In the early 1920s, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow directed all Russian Orthodox churches outside of Russia to govern themselves autonomously until regular communication and travel could be resumed. (He died in 1925, and was glorified as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1989.) At that time, parishes which had been part of a single North American diocese organized separate dioceses and placed themselves under various other mother churches, giving rise to the current situation of multiple overlapping jurisdictions in North America.

In the early 1960s, the Metropolia (as it was then known) resumed communication with the Patriarch of Moscow, and in 1970 full communion was restored. At that time, the Patriarch of Moscow officially granted the OCA autocephaly, or self-governing administrative status. The OCA's autocephaly is not currently recognized by all other autocephalous Orthodox Churches, including the Church of Constantinople. Churches that do recognize its autocephaly include the Church of Russia, the Church of Bulgaria, the Church of Poland, the Church of Georgia, and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

The OCA Today

In the United States, there are 12 dioceses and 623 parishes, missions, and institutions (456 of which are parishes). The ethnic dioceses extend into Canada, which also has one non-ethnic archdiocese. Altogether there are 91 Canadian parishes. The OCA has a Mexican Exarchate with nine parishes and missions, and there are five parishes in South America. In addition, there are three parishes in Australia under the OCA’s canonical protection, two in Sydney and another near Brisbane.

There are three ethnic dioceses in the OCA: the Albanian (14 parishes), Bulgarian (19 parishes) and Romanian (92 parishes). These dioceses' geographic territory overlaps with the other dioceses of the OCA and they have under their care parishes with those ethnic associations. These dioceses are the result of smaller ethnic jurisdictions joining the OCA at some point in its history.

The OCA also has 27 monastic communities, six of which fall under the direct jurisdiction of the Metropolitan (i.e., are stavropigial). The largest of these monasteries are New Skete (Cambridge, New York) and St. Tikhon's Orthodox Monastery (South Canaan, Pennsylvania).

There are three seminaries operated by the OCA: St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary (founded 1937), St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (founded 1938), and St. Herman's Orthodox Theological Seminary (founded 1973). All three educate seminarians from multiple Orthodox jurisdictions, including those outside North America.

The OCA is a member of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).

Growth and membership figures

Altogether, estimates of OCA faithful number from about 28,000[1] to 115,000[2] to 1 million[3] to 2 million[4], depending on the report cited and method used for counting. The number of new parishes founded from 1990 to 2000 increased the overall parish number by about 12%, and new membership has been fairly equally divided between new immigrants, children of existing members, and converts to the faith. Overall, according to one report the trend during that decade held the population of OCA faithful in neither increase nor decline, but remaining steady.[5] According to another, however, that same decade saw a 13% decline.[6]

One of the ongoing difficulties that the OCA faces today is a financial and structural one—the institutions, episcopacy and structures of the OCA largely reflect probably very inflated population estimates based on obsolete figures. Additionally, the annual dues per church member is much higher than other Orthodox jurisdictions in America[7][8], which can often make realistic estimates difficult, as parishes may not wish to report their full membership in order to avoid the high dues. There is also a perceived "precipitous decline" in OCA reported membership [9], and while some interpret this as simply an ongoing transition in terms of the difference between reported figures and actual figures[10], the church's primate has referred to the situation as a "membership crisis."[11] A general shortage in clergy is also being cited in some reports.[12]

According to Fr. Jonathan Ivanoff, who is on the administrative committee of the OCA's Department of Evangelization and the board of directors of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, the OCA's American contintental membership (i.e., not including Alaska, Canada, or the ethnic dioceses) "has been declining between 6 and 9% for nearly 20 years. The OCA’s Census population in 1994 was 29,775; in 2004 it stood at 27,169."[13] Despite these sobering figures, however, the OCA's dioceses of the West and South have both reported steady growth.


According to Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) of San Francisco and Los Angeles, the name of this jurisdiction is The Orthodox Church in America, and its acronym should be TOCA.[14] There has not yet been any official announcement from the central administration of the church, however, and the former uses (Orthodox Church in America and OCA) remain the most common both within and outside the jurisdiction.

According to the 1970 Tomos of Autocephaly granted by the Church of Russia, the name of this church body was originally The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.[15] According to the current Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, the official name is The Orthodox Church in America.[16]


Diocesan bishops

  • Most Blessed Herman (Swaiko), Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Locum Tenens of the Diocese of New England
  • Most Reverend Kyrill (Yonchev), Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and the Bulgarian Diocese
  • Most Reverend Dmitri (Royster), Archbishop of Dallas and the South, Exarch of Mexico
  • Most Reverend Nathaniel (Popp), Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate
  • Most Reverend Job (Osacky), Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest
  • Right Reverend Tikhon (Fitzgerald), Bishop of San Francisco, Los Angeles and the West
  • Right Reverend Seraphim (Storheim), Bishop of Ottawa and Canada
  • Right Reverend Nikolai (Soraich), Bishop of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska
  • Right Reverend Nikon (Liolin), Bishop of Boston and the Albanian Archdiocese, administrator of the Diocese of New England
  • Right Reverend Tikhon (Mollard), Bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania

Auxiliary bishops

Retired bishops

See also

External links