Sunday, August 4, 2013

Is a united American Eastern Church a realistic possibility?

When first immigrating to the United States, Eastern Christians usually intended to return to their homelands and thus considered themselves as in diaspora. Despite new circumstances, the mother Churches often continue operating from this conception. Though continuing as minorities, Eastern Churches in this country now have generations of history, American cultural characteristics, and numbers enough to regard them as a particular Church. Really, it doesn't makes sense for one location to have five or more Eastern bishops representing various jurisdictions. This redundancy weakens the ability of the Eastern Churches to evangelize, to catechize, and to do all that the Church must do in the world. 

This jurisdictional unity could only happen if the Churches would seek it and would self-identify first as Eastern Christians rather than as this or that ethnic group. Until Eastern Christians in the United States stop referring to themselves primarily as Russians or Ukrainians or Rusyns or Greeks or Arabs or this or that ethnicity rather than primarily as Christians, they will poorly reflect the one Church they truly are. 


Gene Yeo said...

Perhaps, but how would we go about uniting? We can't, as far as I know, create a new Sui Juris Church, which means we'd all have to either give up our history and conform to someone else, or we'd keep doing it the way we're doing it. I keep wishing that the Orthodox Church in America would come back into the fold and help, but I think it's just part of the Church breathing with two lungs.

Al said...

I assume you are referring to the Eastern Churches using the Byzantine rite not all Eastern Churches, ie Maronite, Syro-Malabar, etc.
I have a priest friend that has floated the same idea of 1 Byzantine Church in the USA. & I admit it makes sense.
Given what I know about the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church from friends who are members as well as other sources, that Byzantine Sui Iuris Church is mostly centered in the USA. I won't go into all the problems with the Eparchy & Exarchate in Europe, but it seems to me that they would be the logical one to form an American Byzantine Catholic Church around. The Orthodox Church in America coming back into the fold would be another.
1 of those Ruthenian friends I mentioned was ordained as a deacon for the Ruthenian Church, but served the local Melkite Church as there was no Ruthenian Church where he lived.
These are just a few thoughts of someone from the Latin (Roman) lung of the Church. I know there are problems, like how to combine the US eparchies into one Sui Iuris Church. In the end, we need to trust that God will see that it will work out as it should.

James Ignatius McAuley said...

As a Latin who has begun the formal processing going Byzantine, this would be practical. However, there are various little differences amongst the various Byzantine Churches. The Melkites are the most "orthodox" of all of us, and then everyone has their own particularities. Such a union could be done, if there was a Liturgikon that provided for various differences as options.

Such unity would be powerful, and would give the opportunity to more widely disseminate the wonderful works of the Melkites, especially their Prayer Book, which stands up quite well to the better known Jordanville.

John R.P. Russell said...

Gene Yeo,

The recognition of new self-governing Churches is possible. Each sui iuris Church that now exists, after all, began at a certain time and in a certain place.

John R.P. Russell said...


You make a good point. It may not be reasonable for the Eastern Churches to unite jurisdictionally across ritual lines.

John R.P. Russell said...

James Ignatius McAuley,

Many of the little differences to which you refer could be retained. It would certainly be possible and pastorally necessary for there to remain Melkite parishes, Ukrainian parishes, and so on, which maintain cultural distinctiveness. I do not advocate eradicating our various cultural heritages, but rather making them secondary to our Christian witness and identity. I see no real reason that a Ruthenian parish must have a different bishop than a Romanian parish.

While I'm dreaming, I do like the idea of a shared translation of the Divine Liturgy and the Divine Praises. This would make it easier for people to adapt to a parish from a different cultural tradition when moving or traveling. There could, however, be various editions of this translation that contain rubrics, music, and recommended omissions suitable to various customs.

I agree with you that the Melkites have put out some wonderful liturgical books.

Howard said...

I am Latin Rite, but I have visited Byzantine parishes when I have had the opportunity. My most basic suggestion is: Could you at least all use the same Creed? Omit the Filioque if you want -- I know it's not part of your tradition -- but don't have it vary from parish to parish. Secondly, would it be possible to work with the OCA for a common translation of the Liturgy? I know they will pray for their Metropolitan and not for the Pope, and that is something we need to work on, but there are concrete steps we could be taking in the meantime.

James Ignatius McAuley said...


Years ago the priest who the "Byzantine Ramblings" blog noted that if the various Byzantine Churches were united they would have the resources to create their own version of the Liturgy of the hours, combining the Horlogions, Synaxarion, Menalogion and Typika. Such a book would have the Troparia and Kontakia for every day of the year. ASs Father then envisioned it, it would be a multi-volume set. Such a set could then have option for the various cultural uses. IT could also contain all the variant days of the sanctoral. Finally,Father envisoned such a set having all of threading, and a set of patristic readings. For Example on Augsut 2, we had the Feast of the Relics of Stephen. IN the pre-1960 Roman Calendar, August 4 was the feast of the Translation of the Relics of Stephen. The patristic reading in the Roman Breviary for that day (not found in the LOTH) was from St Augustine about some women being healed by the relics of Stephen. This is what could be aimed for if the Church had their resources united. A wonderful idea, but I am sure there would be at least six volumes.

John R.P. Russell said...

James Ignatius McAuley,

Six volumes would be nowhere near enough to contain all the texts needed for the Divine Praises (the Liturgy of the Hours) in the Byzantine tradition. The Menaion alone, if it contains the canons for Matins, must ordinarily be twelve volumes. Certainly, an abbreviated version could be produced and may well be useful. Either way, the union of our efforts would be helpful, as you say.

John R.P. Russell said...


I absolutely agree with you that it would be best for all the Eastern Catholic Churches which use the Byzantine rite to use the same translation of the Creed.

If we were going to make the translation of the liturgy an ecumenical effort, as you suggest, by involving Orthodox, why single out the OCA as that Orthodox Church with whom we should collaborate?

Ultimately, the dream here is not just a united Eastern Catholic Church in America, but a united Eastern Church in America... while I'm dreaming.

Howard said...

"If we were going to make the translation of the liturgy an ecumenical effort, as you suggest, by involving Orthodox, why single out the OCA as that Orthodox Church with whom we should collaborate?"

Because they celebrate it in English, not Slavonic or Greek. If other Orthodox Churches use English also, then certainly invite them.

John R.P. Russell said...

Greek and Antiochian Parishes Merge in Tennessee

Most Popular Posts this Month

Most Popular Posts of All Time