Timeline of Orthodoxy in America

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The History of Orthodoxy in America is complex and resists any easy categorizations or explanations.

Early Visits and Missions (530-1900)

  • 530 St. Brendan the Navigator lands in Newfoundland, Canada, establishing a short-lived community of Irish monks.
  • 1738 Conversion of Col. Philip Ludwell III of Virginia at Russian church in London.
  • 1741 Divine Liturgy celebrated on a Russian ship off the coast of Alaska.
  • 1767 Community of Orthodox Greeks establishes itself in New Smyrna, Spanish Florida.
  • 1787 The US Constitution is drafted in Philadelphia, embodying the ideal of secular government with deliberate separation of "church and state" (First Amendment).
  • 1794 Missionaries, including Herman of Alaska, arrive at Kodiak Island, bringing Orthodoxy to Russian Alaska.
  • 1796 Martyrdom of Juvenaly of Alaska.
  • 1799 Ioasaph (Bolotov) consecrated in Irkutsk as first bishop for Alaska, but dies in a shipwreck during his return.
  • 1803 Louisiana Purchase expands American territory beyond Mississippi River.
  • 1804 The double-headed eagle became a motif widely used in Tlingit art, after the Russian-Tlingit Battle of Sitka in 1804, when Aleksandr Baranov, the first governor of colonial Russian Alaska and manager of the Russian-America Company, presented the Kiks.adi Sitka Tlingit leaders with a large medallion on which was found the Russian imperial symbol.[1]
  • 1816 Martyrdom of Peter the Aleut near San Francisco.
  • 1817 Russian colony of Fort Ross established 60 miles from San Francisco.
  • 1819 Various Spanish territories ceded to United States, including Florida.
  • 1824 Fr. John Veniaminov comes to Unalaska, Alaska.
  • 1825 First native priest, Jacob Netsvetov.
  • 1834 Fr. John Veniaminov moves to Sitka, Alaska; liturgy and catechism translated into Aleut.
  • 1830 Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church is founded on Saint Paul Island (Alaska), in the Bering Sea.[2]
  • 1836 Imperial ukaz regarding Alaskan education issued from Czar Nicholas I that students were to become faithful members of the Orthodox Church, loyal subjects of the Czar, and loyal citizens; Fr. John Veniaminov returns to Russia.
  • 1837 Death of Herman of Alaska on Spruce Island.
  • 1840 Consecration of Fr. John Veniaminov as bishop with the name Innocent.
  • 1841 Return of Innocent of Alaska to Sitka; sale of Fort Ross property to an American citizen; pastoral school established in Sitka.
  • 1843 First mission school for the Eskimos was established at Nushagak by Russian-Greek Orthodox Church.[3]
  • 1844 Formation of seminary in Sitka.[note 1]
  • 1845 Former Republic of Texas joins United States.
  • 1846 Pacific Northwest received by United States via treaty with United Kingdom.
  • 1848 Consecration of St. Michael Cathedral in Sitka; Pacific Southwest won from Mexico by United States.
  • 1850 Alaskan episcopal see and seminary moved to Yakutsk, Russia.
  • 1858 Peter (Lysakov) consecrated as auxiliary bishop for Alaska with Innocent's primary see moved to Yakutsk.
  • 1864 Holy Trinity Church, first Orthodox parish established on United States soil in New Orleans, Louisiana, by Greeks.
  • 1865 First Divine Liturgy celebrated in New York City, by Fr. Agapius Honcharenko.
  • 1867 Alaska purchased by United States from Russia;[note 2] Bp. Paul (Popov) succeeds Bp. Peter.
  • 1868 First Russian parish established in US territory in San Francisco, California; Innocent of Alaska becomes Metropolitan of Moscow.
  • 1870 Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska formed by the Church of Russia with Bp. John (Mitropolsky) as ruling hierarch; Nicholas Bjerring, a Roman Catholic layman, converts to Orthodoxy and becomes priest of a Russian chapel in New York City.
  • 1871-72 Visit of Russian Grand Duke Alexis to the United States.
  • 1872 See of the Aleutians diocese moved to San Francisco, placing it outside the defined boundaries of the diocese (i.e., Alaska).
  • 1876 Bp. John (Mitropolsky) recalled to Russia.
  • 1879 Bp. Nestor (Zass) succeeds John (Metropolsky).
  • 1882 Bp. Nestor (Zass) drowns in Bering Sea.
  • 1883 Fr. Nicholas Bjerring, priest of the Russian chapel in New York City, converts to Presbyterianism.
  • 1886-1895 In the face of their shamans' inability to treat Old World diseases including smallpox, many Tlingit people (an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America), converted to Orthodox Christianity.[4][note 3]
  • 1888 Bp. Vladimir (Sokolovsky) becomes Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska.
  • 1890-1917 Greek Immigration to USA: widespread unemployment and economic problems led to migrations to the US of 450,000 Greeks, one-fifth of the total population.
  • 1891 Fr. Alexis Toth, a Uniate priest, petitions to be received along with his parish in Minneapolis into the Russian church; Bp. Nicholas (Adoratsky) assigned as Bishop of Alaska but is transferred before taking up his post; Nicholas (Ziorov) becomes ruling bishop of the Alaskan diocese.
  • 1892 Fr. Alexis Toth and his parish in Minneapolis received into Russian church; Carpatho-Russian Uniate parishes in Illinois, Connecticut, and several in Pennsylvania soon follow; first Serbian parish established in Jackson, California; Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox parish founded in New York City; Greek and Russian parishes founded in Chicago; first American-born person ordained, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich.
  • 1895 Archim. Raphael (Hawaweeny) arrives in America; Fr. John Kochurov arrives in America and becomes priest of the Russian parish in Chicago; Fr. Anatole (Kamensky) arrives in Alaska; first Syrian parish in Brooklyn, New York, founded by Raphael of Brooklyn; first clergy conference, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
  • 1896 Bp. Nicholas (Ziorov) reports to the Holy Synod of Russia that "the commemoration of the Emperor and the Reigning House during the divine services brings forth dismay and apprehension among Orthodox in America of non-Russian background"; Alexander Hotovitsky appointed as rector in New York; Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is chartered by a special act of the New York State Legislature, being the first Greek Church founded in New York.
  • 1897 Bp. Nicholas (Ziorov) and Fr. Sebastian Dabovich petition Church of Serbia to oversee Serbian parishes in America, but are rebuffed due to an inability to support the infrastructure.
  • 1898 Bp. Nicholas (Ziorov) returns to Russia; Tikhon (Belavin) becomes Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska; American annexation of Hawaii.

Beyond Alaska (1900-1918)

Revolution and Rivalry (1918-1943)

Emergence of American Orthodoxy (1943-1970)

Union and Division (1970-1994)

Ligonier and Beyond (1994-present)

See also


  1. In 1844, St. Innocent (Veniaminov) organized the first Orthodox theological school in North America at Sitka, inaugurating a golden age of Orthodox educational ministry and mission in Alaska. This lasted until the catastrophe of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, when the last Russian-sponsored parochial school in Alaska closed.
  2. October 18 is now celebrated as "Alaska Day."
  3. Russian Orthodox missionaries had translated their liturgy into the Tlingit language. It has been argued that they saw Eastern Orthodox Christianity as a way of resisting assimilation to the "American way of life," which was associated with Presbyterianism.
    • Kan, Sergei. Memory Eternal: Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity Through Two Centuries. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1999. pp.xix-xxii.
  4. Saint Paul University in Ottawa is the home of the the "Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies", named after the primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Andrey Sheptytsky (1865-1944); it specializes in Eastern Christian Studies with special but not exclusive emphasis on the tradition of the Church of Kyiv.


  1. Two Views of Double-Headed Eagles. Northwest Coast Archaeology. Posted on March 1, 2010. Retrieved: 2013-10-06.
  2. SS. Peter and Paul Church. Orthodox Church in America (OCA) - Parishes. Retrieved: 2013-10-06.
  3. Alaska Native History - Timeline - Alaskool. Alaskool (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage). Retreived: 2013-10-06.
  4. Boyd, Robert Thomas. The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline among Northwest Coast Indians, 1774-1874. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. p. 241.
  5. Timeline of Archbishop Michael. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
  6. Loconte, Joe. "Peering over the Orthodox-evangelical crevasse." Christianity Today. 9 Nov. 1992: 63.
  7. Subdeacon Kevin Wigglesworth. Statistics of Orthodox Christianity in Canada. The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity. Volume V, No 1, Winter 2010. p.33.
  8. Pravoslavie.ru. Toronto Orthodox Theological Academy & Saint Paul University sign cooperation agreement. 16/12/2010.

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