Five Church Leaders & Theologians


I am seeking assistance in narrowing a topic for a research paper. I am a Lutheran seminary student taking a class on “Religious Bodies in America” and am planning to do a paper on some aspect of the Orthodox faith in the U.S.

My request is this: could you identify for me five or so individuals whom you feel have had the most significant impact on Orthodoxy in this country or even this continent? I am particularly interested in church leaders and theologians, but not exclusively so. Any help you can give will be much appreciated.


Thank you for your email in which you ask for the names of five individuals who have had a significant impact on Orthodoxy on this continent during the past century. This is a difficult task, but I would mention the following:

Fr. Alexander Schmemann, late Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY; liturgical theologian, author, scholar, lecturer; many credit him with the renewal in participation in the Eucharist.

Fr. John Meyendorff, late Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY; Byzantine scholar, theologian and historian, author, lecturer; he is to be credited with a renewed interest in the writings of the Holy Fathers.

Archbishop Athenagoras, late Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America who later became Patriarch of Constantinople.

Metropolitan Leonty [Turkevich], late primate of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, known since 1970 as the Orthodox Church in America. His life literally spans the history in North America during the first six decades of this century.

Mrs. Sophie Koulomzin, founder of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission. Mrs. Koulomzin, who is now in her 90s and still active, was instrumental in the movement to establish Church Schools and other religious education programs on the parish level. The OCEC, of which she was the founder, has published curricula for such programs for many years. Her personal life is also extremely interesting and inspirational.