Thursday, October 14, 2010

Will the real Orthodox Church please stand up?

This is not a "harping" post and I'm not seeking to get into an argument with anyone. After reading this post by Ad Orientem I decided to post some helpful information for those who are looking for an Orthodox church.

Sometimes, people's only contact with Orthodoxy has been on the web. When they are interested enough to look for a church they might just look in the phone book or google the closest Orthodox church. Or you might do this if you are out of town and looking for a church. Now this will probably lead you right to an Orthodox church, whether it be Greek, OCA, Antiochian, ROCOR, whatever. On the other hand, if you don't know enough about Orthodox churches to be wary, you might just land in a church like the "English Nordic Orthodox Church of North America" or the "Autonomous True Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe and the Americas, Milan Synod". These names are odd enough that you might think twice, but what if it's called "St. Nicholas Orthodox Church"? How do you know if this is actually an Orthodox church? Because the people there will hasten to assure you that it is.

A site called Religious Groups That Use 'Orthodox' in Their Names But Are Not Canonical Eastern Orthodox Churches (link no longer working) helps identify known non-Orthodox churches. It is not merely a list, but includes quite a bit of information. These churches range from the crazy (trust me) to the merely misguided.

This page provided by the OCA contains links to the canonical Orthodox Churches world-wide. If you can't find the "church" listed on this page, then you are probably dealing with a non-Orthodox church.
I have to say that in the list of warning signs that you might be dealing with a non-canonical Orthodox church (or a non-Orthodox church) on Ad Orientem, this one is my favorite:
2. If any of the following words appear in the church's name (as opposed to the parish name) you may have a problem... True, Authentic, Real, Holy, Synod, Metropolia, Resistance, Exile, Underground, Old Calendar, Reformed, Liberal or Conservative, Canonical. If you run into the "Really True Old Calendar First Holy Orthodox Church of Dump Truck County Alabama in Exile" don't walk away. RUN!
Again, this is not meant to start arguments, just provide helpful information in case someone needs it.


  1. How ironic -- if the name actually says "Canonical", it probably isn't. This entire list is an excellent example of "The Lady Doth Protest Too Much"...

  2. This is a timely post for us, Mat. Anna. :) We recently met some new friends who invited us to visit them at their Russian Orthodox parish. Now, we have commitments to be at our services because my hubby and my oldest are acolytes - so they understood when I explained that we were unlikely to be able to visit. But I was grateful for the "excuse" when I went home and tried to figure out what jurisdiction they're parish is "in". You couldn't tell from the picture or the website that it is not in "communion" with everyone else - and as they've only been attending for the last two years, I don't even know if they know it. Not that it will effect our friendship with them... just our "comfortable-ness" in visiting their parish. :) Sometimes it all just feels so tiring... I want to cry, "Can't we all just get along!" :)


  3. ...i've(a Christ follower))been exploring orthodoxy fairly intensely this year and among other thigs i've learned that the same thing that has occured within protestantism had in fact occured within orthodoxy almost since it's's very telling as to the nature of man in general..and very sad for those of us(christians) with "no axe to grind" very often happens eventually with any successful noble endeavor we "lose sight" over time of the intended purpose through becoming somewhat fixated or adamant on "right" methods and techniques..this invariably devolves into division and schism..ALWAYS...always has and always will where mortal men are involved in "organizing"'s inherant in human nature most especially the male of the species.....Sociology 101

  4. There's actually a Milan Synod hermitage not terribly far from McComb. I could be wrong, but I think it has jumped "jurisdiction" several times...It was some kind of Greek Orthodox, was ROCOR for a while but bailed with the restoration of communion with the MP and is now part of Milan Synod.

    The heiromonk there may well be a Godly man, but...the closest I want to get to self-proclaimed "anti-ecumenists" is my HTM prayerbook.

  5. Vershal,

    You're right, and it has jumped all over the place. It really needs the name, "The Super-Authentic, Really True, Better than Anyone Else, Orthodox Church in Persecuted Exile". If you look at the site (and I don't suggest that you do) the man seems to have some mental, not to say spiritual, ills.

  6. This is a very helpful post. One of the best arguments I've ever heard for a single American jurisdiction is just this -- there must be clarity so that seekers know who is canonical and who is not. I know many people who wanted to become Orthodox, but became cult members instead, and deal with the emotional and spiritual consequences to this day.

    I was once approached to help develop Orthodox curriculum with a woman recently baptized at a nearby Greek monastery. She was very freshly Orthodox, and I thought she needed to be Orthodox a little longer before writing curriculum (she really didn't know much yet, so I was concerned) and then she called to say that she had Bishop Thomas of Texas to endorse her stuff. Alarmed, I searched him and found that he's one of these self-declared weird culty Orthodox, and had to explain much to her disappointment that though he seems Orthodox and says he is, and though his website is indistinguishable, to an 'insider' with knowledge of who is canonical and who is not, he is clearly a fraud.

    It should be easy for a seeker or a newcomer to know who is Orthodox -- you shouldn't have to be a member to know who's in the club. Thanks for increasing the clarity with this post!

    1. I have had to break it to too many people that the parish they wanted to join, or were planning to visit, etc., was not canonical. We received a man into Orthodoxy who had been attending a non-canonical church for years. He had no idea. It was so sad (but good that he found out and became Orthodox!).


Thanks for leaving a comment!