Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm No Mathematician

I'm no mathematician, but a laborious perusal of the SCOBA Orthodox Church Directory lists a total of 1661 Orthodox Churches in the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii. This includes all jurisdictions. The most commonly quoted statistic is "about 6 million Orthodox people in United States". According to this, there is an average of 3613 parishioners per church. I have quoted the head of the SCOBA Media outlet as having said there are actually just under 2 million. Using that figure, there are 1,204 parishioners per church. Help me, but does something seem amiss with these statistics? Knowing that I am but a lowly artistic type- actor, writer, film producer, singer, composer, please help me with the math. How many Orthodox are there in America? Are we blindly choosing to use unverified stats in order to earn the title "rapidly growing church." Haven't we been here since the late 1800's? Please correct me if I am wrong or are there other equations to include for better accuracy? Congrats to Pennsylvania for having the most churches-222, but 37 states have under 50 churches. Of those 50, 19 states have under 10 churches. Of those 19, 7 states have under 5 churches. By the way, and attempting to be generous, I will offer one more math equation. Giving each Orthodox church in America an average of 250 members per church (and that is very generous), would mean that there are closer to 415,250 Orthodox parishioners in America. Orthodoxy is the second largest Christian body in the world, but it comes close to dead last in the United States. The first rule of change is to admit that something is wrong. The word is evangelism. Metropolitan Philip has expressed hope in the inclusion of the evangelicals to the Orthodox faith in America in that they may teach the rest of the church how to evangelize.

Okay, evangelism lesson number one: Not to lessen the importance nor the value of the tradition thereof, but, did the Apostles or the early church use the Eastern Rite? Thank God for the growth of the Church during the Byzantine period and the development of the Eastern Liturgy, but weren't there Orthodox Christians in the West at the same time? Turn the Western Rite loose. Better still, let SCOBA launch them in a public and dynamic way. Then and only then can the Orthodox Church even begin to come close to the 6 million people statistic and be one step closer to truly unifying as one, jurisdictional, American Orthodox Church.

UPDATE: In the June 2009 issue of The Word magazine, the Antiochians have revised their numbers. In the section "Orthodox World" on page 58, under the heading "The Orthodox Church Today: New Research Reveals Some Not-So-Obvious Facts about American Orthodox Christianity", there is the statement,

"With its historical roots in nineteenth-century Russian Alaska, Orthodox Christianity in the USA today accounts for ahout 1,200,000-1,300,000 faithful worshipping in 2,200-2300 local parishes spread all across the nation."

So, it seems they are getting closer to the correct mathematical truth of the size of the Orthodoxy membership in the USA. But this revised figure still gives each church an average of over 500 members. The article is still too generous and speculative to be accurate as illustrated by the fact that they don't seem to know whether there are 2200 or 2300 parishes. Where are the hundred parishes and why is there a question? Should not each jurisdiction know exactly how many parishes they have? This looseness or laziness with the facts seems indicative of what led to the overstating to begin with (6,000,000). I have yet to have anyone dispute my math (though I am not a Mathematician) which concludes that there are closer to 415,250 Orthodox Christians of any jurisdiction in ALL of North America.

With the seeming oblivion of it leaders and the current threat of a split within the ranks of the North American Diocese, there follows an obvious question:

Antioch, It's getting late. Do you know where your children are?


  1. Anonymous11:25 PM

    You are absolutely right. The impression some give of massive growth in Orthodoxy in North America is is simply an illusion. The Western Rite is a natural and it needs to be massively encouraged and supported. Still in much of Orthodoxy "Missions" are simply the herding of folk from the old country. Of course there are exceptions but the most dramatic growth and potential is in the Western Rite.

  2. Thanks "Anon". I hope the choice of posting anonymously isn't because you don't want to go on record with your view. I never intend this BLOG to be a gripe session because I know that some seeking this, the true Church, may be distracted from their Journey and critics may use the few negatives as fodder. On the other hand it is imperative that those on their journey realize that the Orthodox faith recognizes the Laymen as the fourth order of the priesthood. All must use the gifts that God has given to fulfill the commission to win the world. In this respect, one priest (layman) is speaking to another priest (ordained leaders)to bring the effective change within the Church in America and the world.

  3. I agree totally. The holy Orthodox church has not gained a proper share of Americans or Canadians. I live in Evansvile, IN (notwithstanding that I hold an old Scottish title) and there is no Orthodox church here. The Greeks use to have a mission here, the priest was great and the people were great. They met twice a month at a Lutheran church, but discontinued the mission due to low attendance. While I have great respect for the traditional eastern rite, I have a M.A. in European studies and have had two+ years of graduate theology, and I am more understanding of and open to the beauty of the ancient eastern rite than many who do not have a ethnic tradition of the ER. Most Americans have a western European culture and they find the eastern rite too "different". That is a real shame, but nevertheless true. Most Orthodox parishes have a very large percentage of ethnic members (Greek-Americans for Greek Orthodox; Russian-Americans for OCA and ROCOR/etc.). They are almost without exception very open to all of God's children but still tend to have a high ethnic membership and non-ethnic people thinking of joining look at the "strange" (to them) rite and the fact that they are not a member of the majority ethnic group of the parish and are very often reluctant to join. The history of the early Church was one that included taking the faith to all cultures and adapting it without weakening in any way the dogma of our faith. The Western Rite is very much in this ancient tradition. Further, in this time period, we see the Catholic Church and the Episcopal/Anglican having a real moral breakdown. Millions of Catholics and those in the Anglican and Episcopal traditions are hungry for orthodoxy (small "C") and the Orthodox (big "C") Church has always been true to the ancient faith started by Jesus Christ and His apostles. The real growth (when you factor out normal population growth) in the Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada is in the Western Rite. I think that Metropolitan Philip and the Antiochian Orthodox should be given credit for being the most successful at spreading the ancient this not a basic duty of all Christians?! I just wish we had a Western Rite parish in my hometown (Evansville, IN).

    Yours in Christ,

    Tim Alexander (Earl of Stirling)

  4. Polycarp Sherwood7:00 PM

    This is "Anon". I am sorry but I pushed the wrong button. I am quite happy to stand behind what I write. I would not want what I post to be an offense to anyone.

  5. Anonymous9:24 PM

    Thanks Poly. I like that name better than Anon. I have a button problem as well. I was once cast in a TV commercial where all I had to do was ring a doorbell. I missed.


  6. Megadittoes from me. The problem was made very clear by Met. Phillip: too many people are more interested in being Greek or Russian or Arabs than being Orthodox, and too many people think that only the Greeks and Russians are the true Orthodox (despite St. John of Shanghai saying the opposite) and too many people are stuck in their balkanized ghetto mentality and have no desire to change.

    Erstwhile people settle for Rome with all it's innovations, or go to various prot sects and make up their own rules.

    My question to Antioch is: What are you going to do about it?

  7. Valid question Vir. Dare I attempt to answer it? Repentance. Our leaders must repent, not just confess the problem as Metropolitan Philip has done, but repent. There is pervasive Arab bias as well. Our blessed Metropolitan and others hold to a dichotomy of supporting the Western Rite and the inclusion of Evangelical converts, but also sending a letter to all their churches denouncing Israel and standing in support of Hamas terrorists. What does this have to do with Orthodoxy? Nothing. It is a political statement birthed of Arab bias. Someone must be the first to stand before their SCOBA brothers and repent of putting Culture before Christ. My question to Antioch is, "Will it be you?"



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