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Economical Ministrations to the Czecho-Slovaks, Syrians and Others.

From The Christian East, Volume IV, No. 2, May 1923; pages 101-105


I THINK that my letter had better be a catena of interesting documents which will illustrate what is going on here.

First, I will give these extracts from the Memorandum to the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, presented by Gorazd Pavlik, Bishop of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church to the Presiding Bishop and Council, New York City.

Being conscious that the Episcopal Church is closely related to the new Church which was organised among the Czecho-Slovak people in the year 1920 as the Czecho-Slovak National Church, and encouraged by the friendly and fraternal reception at the hands of the Episcopal Church in America, I take the liberty of presenting to the Presiding Bishop and Council the following Memorandum:--

The Czecho-Slovak Church arose from the withdrawal, in the year 1920, of a certain part of the Czecho-Slovak people from the Roman Catholic Church. This new Church, at its mass-meeting held in Prague on the 8th of January, 1921, rejected both the primacy and the infallibility of the Roman bishops, as well as their religious absolutism and religious mechanism which is ruling the Roman Church.

Dogmatically, this new Church stands, according to the decrees of the ecclesiastical mass-meeting held January 8th, 1921, upon the foundation of the Holy Scriptures, the Nicene Creed, and the Seven Oecumenical Councils. This decree was reaffirmed at the ecclesiastical meeting in Prague, held August 28th, 1921. At this meeting it was also declared that the name of the new Church shall be "The Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church." Further, it was declared that the Church desires to be affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. In accordance with these basic decisions, the first Bishop was consecrated at the hands of the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church at a session of the Holy Synod of that Church held in Belgrade, September 25th, 1921.

The Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church defines its own liturgy and orders within the limits of autonomy, best befitting the mentality of the Western Europeans. Thus the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church is half-way between the Eastern Orthodox Churches, with whose dogmas it fundamentally agrees, and the Western Episcopal Churches, with which it shares common practices, namely, the Missal or Liturgy in the language of the people, a common confession, and freedom of the clergy to marry.

The spiritual phase of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church is apparent in the awakening of the great masses of the people to a religious life, large attendances at the Divine Services as well as at the Holy Communion, diligent reading of the Holy Scriptures, the moral transformation of their daily life, the cultivation of brotherly love and cheerful sacrifice. There is nothing like it at present in Central and Western Europe. It seems as if the Divine Grace were shed abroad upon the nation [101/102] in an extraordinary manner, after centuries of suffering under the yoke of foreign oppression, both political and spiritual.

The young Church has formed at present three dioceses: the Western Bohemian, with a seat in Prague; the Eastern Bohemian, with a seat in Kutna Hora; and the Moravian-Silesian, with a seat in Olomouc, Moravia. But one Bishop has been elected and consecrated, namely, in the diocese of Moravia-Silesia.

The present Bishop, Gorazd Pavlik, came to the United States to establish some congregations among his own people. He was informed, even before coming to the country, that his countrymen in America were passing through a religious crisis, which is apparent in their non-participation in any church life, a religious lethargy and evident atheism. He hopes to counteract this evil by founding Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Parishes. Thanks be to God, he has succeeded in establishing four congregations of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church, through the brotherly co-operation of the Episcopal Church which put at his disposal their church buildings, and gave him the Reverend Robert Keating Smith to accompany him and assist him in his missionary tour.

The four congregations now established and in process of incorporation are in New York City (at present meeting in St. Thomas' Chapel), Perth Amboy, N. J., in Palmerton, Pa., and Masontown, Pa. In these last two places the Czecho-Slovak congregations established since the years 1909 and 1920 as independent Slovak Catholic Parishes, have already each a church edifice and a priest's house. Two more congregations, in McKeesport, Pa., and Monessen, Pa., are in process of organisation. Before the Bishop returns to Czecho-Slovakia, he intends to bid these organised bodies to choose a common ecclesiastical curatorium consisting of half clergy and half laity, who will take upon themselves the cares of Church affairs as well as the future development of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church in America.

Finding the Episcopal Church to be the nearest kin to the young Czecho-Slovak Church, the Bishop desires to present to the Rt. Rev. Presiding Bishop and Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church the following supplications and motions:

First, that the Presiding Bishop and Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church enter into a covenant with the hereto subscribed Bishop, concerning the mutual fellowship of both Churches, to the effect that the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America be fully authorised to minister religiously to the communicants of the Czecho-Slovak Church in such places where it may be either difficult or impossible to secure a priest of the Czecho-Slovak Church; and, vice versa, that the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church in the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia be authorised to minister to the communicants of the Protestant Episcopal Church where similar difficulties may prevail.

Second, that the Presiding Bishop and Council bring about the creation of a commission whose function would be to keep in vital intimate touch with the situation, needs and development of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church, both in Europe and America.

I hope and pray that the Presiding Bishop and Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church will consider this Memorandum favourably, and answer its supplications and motions by taking immediate action thereupon.

The National Council of the American Church made the following answer by Synodical resolution on December 13th, 1922:

"The National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America has received, with pleasure, the Memorandum presented by the Rt. Rev. Gorazd Pavlik, Bishop of the Czecho-Slovak Church, dated 11th December, 1922, which Memorandum was read to the Council at the opening of its regular meeting, held 13th December, 1922, by the President. The Council has watched with interest the re-establishment of the ancient National Church in Czecho-Slovakia, and notes with gratification the statement in the Memorandum that the dogmatic standards [102/103] of the newly-organised Church, as set forth in the decrees of the Ecclesiastical Mass Meetings held in Prague in the year 1921, have the same foundation as our own, and that the new Bishop was regularly consecrated by the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose orders we recognise as Apostolic. Our Church has long been concerned for the spiritual welfare of the Czecho-Slovak people in America, such large numbers of whom have been living and bringing up their children without any religious ministrations. It is with a deep sense of responsibility that we receive this expression of Bishop Gorazd Pavlik of his desire for our Church's co-operation in reaching his unchurched people in America, and we earnestly express our desire to do everything in our power to co-operate in this all-important matter. Concerning the first of the specific requests of the Czecho-Slovak Bishop, namely, for the mutual fellowship of our respective Churches, we will communicate with our Bishops in the various Dioceses in which communicants of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church live, and urge them to provide the Sacraments and Pastoral Care for them in such places where it may be either difficult or impossible to secure a priest of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church. And also we will advise the Bishops in the various dioceses to give fraternal co-operation and moral support to the parishes of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church which may be established in America. Moreover, we express our desire that the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church minister in like manner to communicants of our Church visiting or residing in the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia. In response to the second specific request of the Czecho-Slovak Bishop, the Council has directed its Department of Missions to keep in vital and intimate touch with the situation, needs and development of the Czecho-Slovak Orthodox Church, both in Europe and America."

The American Church has also been approached by the Rumanians in U.S.A. who have taken action, as in this letter, which they have addressed to Dr. Bular, Metropolitan of Sibiu.

YOUR EMINENCE,

A Convention of the priests of the Rumania Orthodox Church, deriving their jurisdiction from the Holy Synod of Rumania and the Consistory of the Archdiocese of the Holy Russian Orthodox Church of North America and the Aleutian Islands, appointed a committee to study the conditions of the Rumanian Church in America and to recommend a plan of organisation and co-operation which would preserve the integrity of the Rumanian Orthodox Church in the face of the disintegrating forces met in American life and establish for it a place among the religious organisations of America.

This committee met in Pittsburgh, State of Pennsylvania, February 21st and 22nd, 1923.

After lengthy discussions this committee found the Church in America in the same position as the autonomous Rumanian Orthodox Church in Transylvania before the happy restoration of all the Rumanian Provinces to the Royal Government, and the present relation of the Episcopal Church in America to the Church of England. It was the strong conviction of all present that the religious bodies in America faced conditions entirely different from those obtaining in the homeland. Property rights and the legal position of clergy are based upon American conditions and American law. Ignorance of these conditions has caused, not merely misunderstanding, but a long succession of law suits, and has often made possible the alienation of property acquired through the labours of members of the Orthodox Church to other religious bodies more skilled in American procedure. This confusion has been the cause of bringing discredit upon the Churches that have courted these sources of discord in American life.

[104] The Committee was strongly convinced

(1) That unity should be established among the Rumanian priests owing obedience respectively to the Metropolitan of Sibiu and those ordained by the Russian Archbishop;

(2) They believed that the spiritual welfare of the members of the Holy Rumanian Orthodox Church in America depended on their close union and affiliation with the Holy Synod of the Rumanian Orthodox Church;

(3) That the difficulties frequently arising in parishes and carried to the courts should be avoided, because American tribunals experience great difficulty in passing judgment on matters of ecclesiastical procedure and discipline of foreign Churches.

It was the unanimous agreement of the Committee that the best interest of the Holy Orthodox Rumanian Church, both at home and abroad, would be conserved by the establishment of an autonomous Church in America, which, until a national hierarchy could be created, should turn to the Bishops of the Episcopal Church for ecclesiastical protection and discipline.

The Committee have, therefore, adopted the following resolutions:--

"Whereas the Holy Rumanian Orthodox Church in America suffers through lack of immediate Synodical oversight; and

"Whereas in many communities our members are led astray from the Orthodox Faith by propaganda of Protestant and Roman Catholic bodies; and

"Whereas, prior to the happy restoration of the Rumanian Provinces to the Royal Government, the Rumanian Orthodox Church created the precedent of establishing independent autonomous churches among peoples living under foreign jurisdiction; be it

"Resolved, that we humbly request His Eminence the Metropolitan of Sibiu to take measures to transfer his jurisdiction over members of the Holy Rumanian Orthodox Church in America and authorise the creation of an autonomous Church in the United States of America, provided that such Church retain the doctrine and discipline of the Holy Rumanian Church; and be it

"Resolved, that the autonomous Church thus created be authorised to adopt such constitution and laws as may be in conformity to the canons of the Holy Rumanian Church and the laws and customs of the United States. Such constitution should receive the approval of the Holy Synod of the Rumanian Orthodox Church.

"Whereas the Patriarch and Holy Synod of Constantinople has acknowledged by Synodical action the validity of the ordination of Bishops, priests and deacons of the Church of England, and by implication those of the Episcopal Church in America; and

"Whereas the Episcopal Church by the statements and actions herein has disclaimed any desire to gain converts from the Churches of the Eastern Orthodox Faith; be it

"Resolved, that the National Council of the Episcopal Church be requested, until such time as an ecclesiastical hierarchy be established in America, to request the Bishops in whose dioceses are found Rumanian Orthodox Churches to take the priests and congregations of such Churches under their ecclesiastical protection, assuming responsibility for discipline of priests and congregations, and performing such episcopal acts as from time to time shall be requested by the Holy Synod of the Rumanian Orthodox Church."

These arrangements with the Czecho-Slovaks and Rumanians will, doubtless, be notified to the Central Orthodox authorities. But by themselves they are interesting and important acts of economy.

The National Council has also decided to arrange for the care of the Syrians of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (at the request of his representative).

[105] The Assyrians (Nestorians) in U.S.A. have also approached the National Council, as follows:--

Whereas the Assyrian Eastern Nestorian Church has many members scattered throughout America and has been able to establish but few congregations; and

Whereas, because of the absence of Bishops, there has been no ecclesiastical jurisdiction and many members are drifting from the fold; be it

Resolved, that we, the Assyrian Eastern Nestorian Clergy, hereby invite the National Council of the Episcopal Church to make proper provision for the episcopal oversight and jurisdiction of Assyrian Eastern Nestorian Christians of America and that the President and Secretary of this meeting be authorised to enter into agreement to this end and affix their signatures to such agreement; and be it

Resolved, that we commend all members of the Assyrian Eastern Nestorian Church who cannot obtain the ministration of their own priests to place themselves under the care of the nearest priest of the Episcopal Church.

Trusting that Your Eminence may favourably hear this our petition and invoking your blessing,

(Signed) Rev. SIMON YONAN, President.
Rev. GEORGE AZOO, Secretary.
Rev. EMANUEL OUDA.
Deacon EMANUEL JOHN.
Rev. B. ODISHOO.
Ex. Mano OSHANA.
Ex. J. R. ASLAN.
Ex. AZIZ BENJAMIN.
SAM SUMO.

Rev. GEORGE H. THOMAS, St. Paul's, Chicago, Illinois.
Rev. SAMUEL SUTCLIFFE, St. Mark's, New Britain, Conn.

Adopted 28th January, 1923.
Chicago, Illinois.


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