The Road to Unity ~ Day 1

The day began with a report from the Athenagoras Institute in Berkley, California. A study was completed last year in the OCA and the GOA on parish life. There was some sobering information. Here are just some bullet points:

As of 2000, about 1.2 million Orthodox Christian adherents total in the US
About 2,200 – 2,300 local parishes
Largest and fastest growth in the Southern US
The average GOA parish has 1140 parishioners
The average OCA parish has 180 parishioners
60% of those surveyed say you can still be Orthodox and not attend Church on Sunday

The next panel discussion was on three different ministries within the Orthodox Church. In the Orthodox world we call these Pan Orthodox, they cross several different jurisdictions.

FOCUS North America
Martha and Mary House
St. Peter’s Classical School

Unity at many levels was the topic of the next panel. This panel dealt with the history thus far of the Unity discussion. Starting with Legonier 1994 and talking about the questions what would need to be answered and looking at a blue print for the future. It was a difficult discussion and at times it was a little heated. One person asked when the resolution was coming to make English only in the Liturgy! Well not going to happen. The quickest way to cause a revolution would be to pass that resolution. Currently we have 12 different jurisdictions with 12 different sets of rules. This is going to take time. We need to be patient. The bottom line is not much will change at the local level most of the changes will take place with Bishops.

The last panel of the day focused on the legal aspects of where we need to go. The role of the laity in the discussion and future of the church. Transparency will be crucial if this is going to work. People need to know what is going on.

In the evening session Metropolitan Jonah spoke very eloquently about the future. The main point was that we need to maintain Communion with the Orthodox Church Schism is not an option. We cannot just decide tomorrow that we are going to form our own church. We have too much of that already. There is room for everyone and every one’s history needs to be maintained. He spoke of the work we need to accomplish on a spiritual level not on a material level. He talked about building great temples whilst the poor and hungry suffer. He said the greatest sin of Orthodoxy in America is that we have only taken care of our own! This needs to change. He spoke of his recent journey to the Republic of Georgia. The Georgian Church is just now emerging from the catacombs. In once diocese there were only 2 churches 10 years ago. and there were 80,000 Muslims. Today the bishop has built 120 churches and has baptized 80% of the diocese. And they did it by caring for everyone. Hospitals, school, food pantries, clinics, housing, etc. This is what church is!

Today we have the next session on Youth, Communication, and the Great and Holy Council. That will be for tomorrow.


  1. "The average GOA parish has 1140 parishioners
    The average OCA parish has 180 parishioners"

    That is a very big number. I am wondering if they are counting the same kind of thing.

  2. Ryan,

    Those are average numbers and it does not surprise me at all. The OCA has man more mission churches than the GOA with 35 or 40 parishioners. However numbers can tell different stories. When asked your population for assessment purposes to aim low when asked for other reasons you aim high.

  3. I know of a Greek Parish in a university town that used to be flourishing, they had many people from many nationalities and converts. I loved that parish and visited as much as I could when in that part of the state. But then a new priest came in the parish became more and more greek. More of the liturgy was said in greek. The whole attitude changed and most of the non-greek nationals stopped attending. The people who remained were apathetic and unwelcoming to converts. Friends of ours that used to go feel so heart broken when they go that they suffer terrible logismoi. They drive four three and half hours to spend the night at our house and go to our parish when they can. They were made catechumens by our priest who loves them, and we will probably be the parish that baptizes them. They are trying to find jobs in our city so they will be close to us. They have been inquierers into Orthodoxy for five or six years and they would have been baptized long ago if the parish in their town was as welcoming and loving and ecumenical as ours. Ecumenical as in being trans-national and not ethnically hellenic. I love the Greek people and lived in Greece for three months. But this makes me so sad. If I were to guess, the GOA is still counting all the people who have ceased to attend this parish as members. Soon the parish will just be a small ethnic club. Which is not something I am happy about. I wish they were a strong missional parish able to actively evangelize the town and the universities for Christ. And I know there are good GOA parishes and that the monasteries are very spiritual. Is there anything that can be done?

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