Recognition of the OCA


I have been visiting an OCA Church and was wandering if the OCA has gained official recognition from Constantinople (or any other Church besides the Russian) yet. The books and such I’ve read to learn about the faith state that it had not, but they are a bit dated.


Concerning recognition of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), while the other autocephalous churches acknowledge that we are indeed a canonical church body with a canonical hierarchy—here there is really no debate—not all of the other autocephalous churches recognize our autocephalous status.

The Churches of Russia, Poland, the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Bulgaria, and I believe Romania recognize the autocephaly of the OCA, while the others do not. The Church of Serbia, while to my knowledge never issuing a statement one way or the other, does regularly address correspondence to our Metropolitan Theodosius using the forms of address and closure appropriate to an autocephalous church.

If one studies the histories of most autocephalous churches, you will quickly note that in virtually every instance, universal recognition of a church’s autocephaly has never come in an instant. Even the Church of Russia’s autocephaly took well over 100 years to be recognized.


One other question on the OCA. If I’m not mistaken, the OCA orginally came about as part of a decree set from St Tikhon to the exiled bishops of Russia. Are the bishops, priest, etc. still mostly Russian, or Greek, etc. This is more for general curiosity than anything else.


The OCA traces its roots to 1794 with the arrival of missionaries in Kodiak, Alaska. Until a few years after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the OCA—at that time variously known as the North American Mission of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church of North America, etc.—was the only Orthodox ecclesiastical entity on the continent. Hence, we existed before the decree of Saint Tikhon sent to exiled bishops. At the time, the North American bishops were, in fact, not exiles, but most had been here for a number of years. And even one of them, Raphael Hawaweeny, of Middle Eastern descent, was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in North America.

Today, the majority of our hierarchs are converts to Orthodoxy. While Metropolitan Theodosius, Archbishop Kyrill of Western Pennsylvania and Archbishop Herman of Eastern Pennsylvania are all “cradle” Orthodox, our other bishops—Archbishop Peter of New York, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas, and Bishops Nathaniel of Detroit, Job of Chicago, Tikhon of San Francisco, Seraphim of Ottawa, and Innocent of Anchorage—are all converts to Orthodoxy. A large percentage of our clergy are also converts to the faith.