Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America
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The Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada consists of four dioceses of the Church of Serbia (Serbian Patriarchate) that are governed by the Bishop of America and Canada Longin (New Gracanica Metropolitanate). The four dioceses of the Church in North America are : the Dioceses of Eastern (Bp. Mitrophan), Midwestern (Metr. Christopher), and Western (Bp. Longin - Administrator) United States and the Diocese of Canada (Bp. Georgije).
The first Orthodox Serbian immigrants arrived in mid nineteenth century in California and Louisiana where they participated in the founding of some of the first Orthodox parishes in the United States. During the latter part of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century additional ethnic Serbs arrived. In 1892, the first Serbian Orthodox parish was established in Jackson, California by Archimandrite Sebastian (Dabovich). He was the first Orthodox priest who was born in the United States. The Serbian parishes that formed during these time generally were served under the multi-ethnic Russian North American mission.
While Abp. Tikhon’s plans included the consecration of ethnic auxiliary bishops, the first attempts at forming a Serbian diocese was made in 1913, under the then Metropolitanate of Belgrade. But, this attempt failed as the Metropolitanate did not respond to the requests from America and the 19 Serbian parishes remained with the Russian diocese.
With the disintegration of the American diocese following the Bolshevik coup in 1917 the diocese was unable to consecrate Archimandrite Mardary (Uskokovich) as bishop for the Serbian parishes, in 1919, and the mission diocese requested his consecration by the new Serbian Patriarch Dimitriye. But, Pat. Dimitriye made Mardary head of the Rakovitsa Monastery instead. The American Serbians then asked the Patriarch to sent Bp. Nicolai (Velimirovich), which he did, with Archimandrite Mardary as his deputy. Serving as a parish priest in Chicago, Fr. Mardary did much of the organizational work for the diocese, including purchasing with his own funds the St Sava Monastery site in Libertyville, Illinois.
Archimandrite Mardary was called back to Belgrade and consecrated by the Serbian Patriarch Dimitriye in April 1926 as head of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of America and Canada, After his consecration, Bp. Mardary returned to the United States on May 8, 1927. He convened the first Church Assembly in Chicago May 29-30, 1927. Against various problems Bp. Mardary continued organizing the diocese, although an advancing case of tuberculosis began to take its toll, resulting in his death on December 12, 1935 at the age of 46.
When World War II enveloped the Serbian Patriarchate in 1941 with disruptions of peaceful life, first by the Nazis and then by the Communists, disorder came to the American diocese. Yet the need was evident that the size of the north American diocese prevented the ruling bishop from having close association with the far flung parishes. In 1963, The Holy Assembly of Bishops, at the request of the diocesan bishop, Bp. Dionisije, created three new dioceses and elected bishops to rule the diocese. However, this action also resulted in the deposition of Bp. Dionisije and a split among the Serbian Orthodox in America and litigation. Eventually, the reorganization was accomplished.
Through the years since 1963 a succession of bishops have served the dioceses. Today (2006) the ruling bishops of the four dioceses are:
- Eastern American Diocese - Bp. Mitrophan
- Midwestern American Diocese - Metr. Christopher
- Western Diocese - Bp. Longin - Administrator
- Canadian Diocese - Bp. Georgije
A seminary, the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox School of Theology is located at the St Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Libertyville, Illinois. The Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of America and Canada is a member of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), represented by Metr. Christopher.
- Constance J. Tarasar, Orthodox America 1794-1976 Development of the Orthodox Church in America, Syosett, New York, The Orthodox Church in America, 1975