Will There Be An “Indian Orthodox Church Of North America”?

Written By: on May 20th, 2010 and filed under Columns, Features, Opinions.


Until 1993 there were only five Oriental Orthodox Churches. On May 3rd, 1993 Eritrea became an independent state and broke it ties with Ethiopia. Eritrea was part of the Ethiopian Kingdom from 8th Century and went under different powers. Ethiopians, under Coptic patronage became non-Chalcedonians during the Christological controversies when Eritrea was part of Ethiopia. Eritrea became independent political- national unity in 1993. This caused the increase in number of Oriental Orthodox Churches to six.

The question here: Is political or national boundary the clear mark of autocephaly? Second, if not why Ethiopian or Coptic Orthodox Church do not claim “spiritual authority” over the Eritreans like the Syrian Patriarch’s claim on Indian Orthodox Church?

When Armenians or Coptic, or the Greek people migrated to the United States or any other country, they consider themselves as a diocese of their Church of origin even after their existence in a different political/national system well over a Century. Second and third generation Greeks still keep their allegiance to the Greek Church. Greek Orthodox Church enjoys the commitment of the Greek Orthodox Diaspora in the US. A historical look at the formation of the Episcopal Church shows us that it was a breakaway from the Anglican Church not on theological reasons but on political or philosophical reasons. The ideal of separation of Church and state was one such reason. Love of Nationalism and contempt for foreign domination was another reason.

Russian Orthodox Church was started as a mission under the see of Constantinople and eventually it gained independence. “Liberating itself from the invaders, the Russian state gathered strength and so did the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1448, not long before the Byzantine Empire collapsed, the Russian Church became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Metropolitan Jonas, installed by the Council of Russian bishops in 1448, was given the title of Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia”. When more and more clergy and bishops started to come from Russian land, the Church broke away from its mother Church.

Today, Immigrant Indian Orthodox Church in the Americas has several ordained deacons, aspirant theological students and clergy who were born and brought up in the United States. Most of these deacons had bulk of their theological training from seminaries run not by the Indian Orthodox Church. Eventually the Church will have a metropolitan born, raised and trained in the America if we allow current tend to continue. (Russian Church had its first Russian metropolitan after one hundred years of existence).

History is the great teacher. It would be highly desirable that two dioceses of Indian Orthodox Church in North America jointly take initiatives to establish a clergy training center in North America to keep the tradition and heritage of the Indian Orthodox Church. One day an “Indian Orthodox Church of America” will be counted among the Oriental Orthodox Churches, just like the Eritrean.

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9 Responses for “Will There Be An “Indian Orthodox Church Of North America”?”

  1. Aji says:

    So, if there is Indian Orthodox Church in North America in future, there will be freedom struggles for them to get freedom Indian orthodox who claim authority over them! What a paradox! The very basis of Indian Orthodox is shaken!

  2. As respected Pyngolil achen said there is no harm in having an Indian orthodox church of America in future. But now there is no scope for it.Comparing Malankara church-syrian church-autocephalacy has no meaning as the Malankara church was already existed before the syrian relation and the families in Malankara are not migrated from syria.Here in America the orthodox families are migrated from Malankara.So let it remain as an integral part of the Indian orthodox church.
    2. As far as the seminary is concerned there is no harm in studying in these 2 seminaries.A short orientation training in Indian orthodox seminaries is an advantage and advisable.Or a campus of the Indian orthodox seminary should be set up in one of the diocesan headquarters with one or two seminary proffessors.
    Thomas Kuttikandathil,
    Houston.

  3. Although the article is logically incorrect by comparing Apples to Oranges, may agree the need for seminary. But the question of no. of people available to run the seminary in a self sustainable way with enough no. of people. If there are enough no. of students we should be open for it.

    The author should have provided some clear statics of student from NA other universities and in India…….

  4. joy pygolil says:

    No, Mr Georgekutty. These clergy are accountable but thinking ahead of time. There is no apple and orange comparison- the comparison is limited to the national or political boundaries. Please get it. We in India claim “autocephaly” after few years of relationship with the Syrians (set aside the Apostolic claim at this point) So, it is natural ,in few decades our children will look into the national boundaries. That is a natural process of growth with which we should be comfortable. There is no harm in having an Indian Orthodox Church of America in future.
    Fr. Dr. Joy Pyngolil

  5. Let me correct the last portion of my note. I tended to say “… of a few clergy who DO NOT want to be accountable to the Church or to the people.

  6. First of all let me ask, Fr Joy, that is it not like comparing apples and oranges to equate the Eritrian situation to that of the immigrant community of the Malankara orthodox christians of North America. Later on in the future if a portion (greater or lesser) of this community wants to function as an autocephalous church, let them be. But is it not true that these two dioceses are the natural offshoot of The Malankara Orthodox Church in India ? I Believe the problem, now a days, in individual parishes and the Church in general is basically the ‘ aspirations’ of a few, not based on real issues, but due to vested interests of a few clergy who want to be accountable to be Church or to the people.

  7. Manu says:

    I seriously doubt whether we had a steady tradition. We received bishops from Persia and followed Nestorian tradition and liturgy till 16th century. Only when Portuguese catholic missionaries tried to bring us under them, we decided to get in contact with Syrian Orthodox Church. Historically I don’t find any great desire on our part to follow Non-chalcedonian tradition other than getting some bishop (if possible Non-Nestorian and with Syrian rite) to ordinate our first Mar Thoma metropolitan. From then we had to accept Syrian Orthodox church traditons and liturgy. Other than that I don’t think we have a tradition of our own.
    But now Coptic and Greek Orthodox leadership has acknowledged that there was actually no doctrinal differences at Chalcedon, only a misunderstanding of terms used. But if we look carefully we will see that it was an ego clash between Popes of Rome and Alexandria, political issues with Emperor and some cultural differences more than doctrinal differences.
    And afterall, our priests in India get their degrees from Serampore University which is a Protestant University. What our church should first do is to make our Theological Seminary at Kottayam a degree granting institution, develop a good orthodox curriculum and then think about sending deacons in US to India. Till then I don’t find anything wrong in our deacons going to Vladimir’s or Tikhons. Afterall it is an Orthodox seminary, eventhough Eastern Orthodox. Even deacons from Armenian and Syriac Orthodox church goes there. But I think Syriac Orthodox Church send their deacons to spend sometime at Seminary in Damascus which we are also started doing with our deacons recently.

  8. vilson says:

    I would like to raise some doubts, hope some one who knows about will clear my doubt.

    1) What are the basic of the split of Orthodox church in Kerala.
    Only for power, or just we just don’t want to be under Syrian Orthodox church.
    If so, it is the wish of individual or families to be with us or not be with us.
    If majority families are with us , the why don’t have a discussion with those don’t want to be with us and settle the matter by compensating them according to their strength to built a separate church and the majority can own the church and vice versa.
    ( or till some solutions arises let them use the church with their priest at another times)

    If the money ( donated as subscription and in various name by common people, not from the individual who is interested to prolong the cases, and advocates are not doing their job free service ) we both churches were used for court cases could have been used to settle the matter for disputes.

    2) Whether any of our priests or bishops are allowed to carry out Holy Koodasa in any other syrian church for the members of that church ( not for our church members) .

  9. ma.dhawan says:

    honestly ,we dont need that because our church was united,will be united under one catholicose and malankara metropolitan till end of days.we dont require another church in indian orthodox church.

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