Our History

In 1927 a Charter was created by the Russian Metropolia to establish a Church with the jurisdiction of North America. The purpose of this charter was to create an American Church, in which all of the warring jurisdictions could find unity and brotherhood. A Syrian bishop from the Brooklyn mission was elected as the first Primate. Not only was Aftimios Ofiesh a respected bishop who had proven his loyalty to "Orthodoxy" over ethnicity, but being a Syrian it was hoped that he would have a placating effect on those ethnic bodies seeking to establish their own separate Church.

Unfortunately, pride and the desire to maintain a seperate ethnic identity prevented the Eastern Churches from submitting to this new American Jurisdiction. After it became obvious that the Eastern Churches would not submit to the young American Church, the Russian Metropolia eventually withdrew its support. A law suit enabled the eastern bodies to take posession of the American Churches Cathedrals. Left naked and standing alone, it was expected that the new Church would die.

Not hardly! Today that rejected American Church continues as the OCCNA. We have continued through the years utilizing mostly home chapels pushing forward by our strong feeling of responsibility to evangelize North America. We are mostly ignored by the Eastern Patriarchs. We continue as a traditional body, always holding to those ancient traditions of the early Apostolic Church.

Our focus is the early Apostolic Canons. While we acknowledge the later canons as historicaly valid, they were adaptations of that earlier canon, as required by the Church to deal with specific circumstances. An example of this is the issue of the married Episcopate. Not only was the married Episcopate accepted in the early Church, but it was the standard. Circumstances forced the developing Church to later move toward a monastic episcopate (and to do so was within the Church's ecclesiastic rights), but as circumstances changed allowing us the opportunity to return to the Apostolic traditions, we feel the obligation to do so.

"hold fast to those traditions we have learned, both the oral and written" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

On issues of doctrine, we are rooted in the first seven councils. In that undivided Church, the doctrines were clarified, and we accept them as such. We are traditional in that we do not accept new or re-defined doctrines. We are Orthodox. On issues of Church ecclesiology as stated previously, we refer back to the Apostolic Canons, recognizing the synods responsibility and historic pattern of the Church to adapt them to meet current circumstances (always returning to the Apostolic Tradition when circumstances allow).

A brief comment regarding those other Churches who claim our identity

In our past, a few bishops separated from the Synod and now present themselves as the historic Church. We have gone through several name changes in the last 70 years, and today there is at least one bishop claiming each historical name. Some have gone so far as to attempt to copyright our own web sites, thinking that by doing so they will become us. Keep in mind that while other bishops may rightly claim a connection to us, they have in fact seperated from our Synod.

In order to keep innocent people from confusing us with others claiming to be us, we simply changed our name to a shortened version of the original. We are known as the Orthodox Catholic Church in North America (OCCNA). How then do we respond to those claiming our historical names? In truth, most of these have a valid historical connection. Let me clarify our position with two verses from Holy Scripture:

1) "...'Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us'. But Jesus said 'Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of me".
Mark 9:38-39

If these men are spreading Christ's message and doing good works, then they are our brothers, united in His holy Church. But we must also be aware of the following verse

2) "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears bad fruit. ... therefore by their fruits will you know them". Matthew 7:15-17,20

The claim of a false prophet is made evident by the fruit they produce. Ask yourself if this fruit is grape and fig, or is it bad fruit gathered from thorn bushes and thistles? "You will know them by their love for one another".

If they come in our name and offer Christ, they are our brothers. If they use our name to snare the innocent and to perform evil, then they are not of our Father.

Our Future

Our emphasis and direction is to spread Christ's message through the fullness of Orthodoxy. All baptized Orthodox Christians are welcome to join us in Holy communion. There is no schism in Orthodoxy. One is Orthodox or one is not! Those who sincerely seek to spread Christ's message are our brothers, and we do not use jurisdictionalism as a weapon to divide that brotherhood.

The OCCNA today works to bringing jurisdictions together (just as it was originally created to do). We are not "Ecumenical" in that we compromise our doctrine for the sake of unity, but we welcome those Orthodox who hold to the uncompromised ancient and traditional Orthodox doctrine. Having originally been created as the jurisdiction in North America, we feel it is our responsibility to offer those who adhere to traditional Orthodox standards an opportunity to spread Christ's gospel. But again, we do not suggest that those outside of our jurisdiction are any less Orthodox.

The Orthodox Catholic Church in North America has entered into a relationship with the Holy Orthodox Catholic Patriarchate of America, which is paternally affiliated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and is administered by the Holy Synod of Bishops -- The Standing Episcopal Conference, comprized of hierarchs from member jurisdictions. It remains a canonical and historically established Orthodox body, providing a unity of brotherhood and episcopal fellowship, especially for "non-SCOBA" jurisdictions in North America. The Standing Episcopal Conference has been expanded to include members from Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The first Synod of The Standing Episcopal Conference of American Bishops was fully established in March of 1951. Member hierarchs and jurisdictions of the SEC included: Metropolitan JOSEPH (Klymowycz) of the Russian Orthodox "Living Church," Metropolitan THEOPHANIES (Noli) of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, Archbishop ARSENIOS (Saltas) Exarch in the United States and Canada for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, Bishop PETER (Zhurawetzky) of the Holy Eastern Catholic and Apostolic Diocese of America which existed under the Alexandrian Patriarchate since 1940 (later to be the Presiding Bishop of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Catholic Churches in America), Metropolitan NICHOLAS (Bohatryretz) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, Archbishop KONSTANTIN (Jaroshevich) of the Alexandrian Patriarchate and, through Oeconomia, Archbishop JOSEF (Zielonka) of the Polish Old Catholic church of America and Europe.

The Roman Orthodox Church is a Charter Church of the OCCNA. It is a western rite within the OCCNA that expresses its Orthodoxy through the Holy Rule of St. Benedict. St. Benedict was a pre-schism western saint, who offers us an example of traditional western orthodoxy. The "Old Roman" identity is merely a tool to reach western hearts. It is both Orthodox and familiar, rather than the unfamiliar estern pattern of worship. For the first millennium, Rome was Orthodox.

A statement on Churches that are in communion with the OCCNA can be found on the Roman Orthodox Church site.

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