Author Topic: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?  (Read 6297 times)

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Offline Mr. J

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Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« on: Sat Aug 15, 2009 - 23:13:45 »
I'm ignorant of most of Orthodoxy and Catholicism.  My question is about how many Orthodox churches there are and particularly how the Old Believers fit in.

My grandmother was Russian Orthodox (born in Alaska) and went to an Eastern Orthodox in the Midwest when I was growing up.  Is there a difference?

I have read about Russian history and am aware of the Old Believers which were persecuted by the State Approved Orthodox.  At least some of them fled persecution in Russia and went to Argentina and some are in Alaska (via Argentina, I understand).

How do the Old Believers fit in and how many "Orthodox" churches are there and what is the difference?

Offline Mr. J

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #1 on: Fri Aug 21, 2009 - 16:03:23 »
Since the above posting, I've done some reading about Old Believers...

It appears the Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Nikon underwent some church reforms, apparently to get into the same groove that the Greek Orthodox church had changed to.  The group who would become known as the Old Believers protested the changes.

In 1666, there was a split in the Russian Orthodox Church; the Old Believers maintaining historical practices, while the state-approved Russian Orthodox Church continued on the path of church reforms.

The Russian Orthodox Church, with the backing of various czars, persecuted the Old Believers with economic sanctions, torture, burning at the stake, and other methods.  Many were killed.

Some Old Believers were able to escape persecution by going to China, Turkey, Australia, USA, Argentina and other places.

The Old Believers do not follow one patriarch or group of priests, but are scattered groups due to the persecution from the Russian Orthodox Church, not being able to have a central leadership.  The number of Old Believers at the time of the split is estimated to be in the millions, so it was a huge schism.

The Russian Inquisition?

Who is the real Orthodox Church?
« Last Edit: Fri Aug 21, 2009 - 17:33:49 by Mr. J »

Offline DCR

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #2 on: Fri Aug 21, 2009 - 16:06:03 »
Sounds interesting.  I will have to read up on this group.

It appears that their separation from the Russian Orthodox Church coincided during the same time as the Protestant Reformation in Western Europe.

Offline trifecta

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #3 on: Sat Aug 22, 2009 - 20:26:58 »
Hello Mr. J and DCR!

I did read your original post about a week ago and ran into the issue in my readings.  I was going to post an answer to your question but you beat me to it.  Your analysis seems  accurate to me.   I am an Orthodox Christian, but I am not Russian (although some of my ancestors were affected by them) and am a convert.   

The persecutions of the Old Believers were tragic and wrong, but no group comes out of history smelling like a rose.    I would add to your analysis that one of the issues was the way of the crossing oneself.   I know this sounds extremely minor, but ritual is important in the east, because of the slippery slope. 

Let me demonstrate the argument using Protestants as a good example.  The sign of the cross was an ancient Christian custom.  No one knows how far it goes back but it has to be at least the 5th century (where is was common practice) and probably earlier.

The great thing about it is a physical action demonstrates and reminds us of the most holiest of the things--the Trinity.   The Protestants come along and decide to drop the whole thing.   I was a Protestant for more than a dozen years and in references to the Trinity in most services were few.   I am sure in my Protestant church, a kid could grow up in the church and not really know what the Trinity is, unless he had a good Sunday School teacher.

So where are we today?  Protestants  bring up the Trinity primarily when talking about the Jehovah's Witnesses, who, paradoxically, keep Protestants from heresy by espousing their heresy.  On the the other hand, we have some "legitimate"  Protestant leaders and groups who are questioning or even denying (Oneness Pentacostals) the Trinity.  Many Ps no longer baptize in the name of the Trinity.

The most ill-educated of Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, understands the Trinity and if they go to church., they know that the Trinity is "one in essence and undivided."   How do we keep on track?  Through ritual.   We say the Nicene Creed and the above-quoted phrase in our liturgy.   

Hope this gives you an idea of how the eastern Church thinks.  We feel if we lose the ritual we risk losing the correct theology.




Offline Mr. J

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #4 on: Sat Aug 22, 2009 - 23:37:38 »
Trifecta

You separate yourself from the Russian Orthodox, so that infers differences between churches that call themselves Orthodox.  This brings me back to my original question.....

How many Orthodox churches are there are what is the difference?

Do Orthodox welcome the Old Believers, or are they still out casts?  

Is Orthodox like the Protestant religions in that there are too may variations to give a simple answer?

Would Greek and Eastern and Russian and other Orthodox at the same party get along, or do they argue about differences (Like Protestant (name your favorite religion)  like to attack (....name your favorite Protestant denomination...))?

I'm asking questions about he Orthodox religions because I have considered going to an Orthodox church as I'm finding it hard to find a Protestant church that actually believes the Bible and teaches from the Bible (not a perversion of the Bible).  I know there are good churches out there, but where I live there are not many choices.

So, my questions are sincere.

As an aside topic:

The Old Believers history brings up the question as to who is really the flag bearer of the early church?  If you separate yourself from other Orthodox, does that mean there is a particular Orthodox that you think is right and others have more faults in them?

From what I've learned form the excellent posts by CDHealy and you, it is very obvious that the Catholic Church was the break away from the old Church, which makes the Catholic the first breakaway denomination.  It could be said that they are actually a Protestant religion as they protested the Orthodox Church and made an unbiblical Pope position.  (Yes, I'm having a little fun with that point.  I suppose I'll get intense email!)

The Russian Orthodox church does not deny that they made reforms and that the Old Believers did not.  So this makes is very clear that the Russian Orthodox (joining up with the already changed Greek Orthodox) was the breakaway and the Old Believers are the carriers of the banner of the Original Orthodox Church.

Yes?

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #4 on: Sat Aug 22, 2009 - 23:37:38 »



Offline trifecta

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #5 on: Sun Aug 23, 2009 - 17:07:50 »
Hello, Mr. J

You ask good questions.

Trifecta

You separate yourself from the Russian Orthodox,


Oops, I  could see why you thought that.  I meant to say that I am not Russian, but my church is (sort of).  Expect this kind of answer when it comes to American Orthodoxy.  But, fear not, explanations show it's not as crazy as one may think.  Read on, please.

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so that infers differences between churches that call themselves Orthodox.  This brings me back to my original question.....

How many Orthodox churches are there are what is the difference?

The answer is about a dozen, but we are (mostly) in communion with each other.  The Russian Orthodox were the first Orthodox church in America--due to Alaska, where missionaries contended well for the faith.  (Orthodoxy is the largest Christian group in the state).  But when the Russian Revolution happened, even the Russian Patriarch said  the Russian Church was too persecuted to help.   In come the Greeks, followed by every country with an Orthodox church--Serbs, Ukrainians.  etc.

But lets go further back; the Orthodox model is like in the New Testament:  Different places had different churches, but they were united.     By the fifth century, the church follows this model.  The world is divided into five churches--the biggest of which is Rome, then Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.    Alexandria splits in about 450 because of an ecumenical council, and we'll get to Rome later.  

Fast forward again to the Industrial Revolution.  The immigration wave gets big, as unskilled labor is suddenly in demand.  People bring their religions with them from the old country, and settle in places like Chicago and (in my family's case) New York.  So, all the issues in the old country are imported into the new country.

Ninety years later, we have all these churches.  The good news is that most are in communion with each other.  The bad news is we got a whole lot of churches.  But the big three in America are:
1) Orthodox Church in America (Russian).  This is the church that went to Alaska and the one I belong  to.  They changed their name from the Russian Orthodox Church in America.

2) Greek Orthodox Church in America.  They come from Greece (duh!) and come in the 1920s.  Think "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."   You don't have to be Greek to be in this church, but, generally, it helps.

3) Antiochian Orthodox Church.  This is the American branch of the Antiochian Church.  Orthdoxy is the biggest Christian group in the Middle East (although the Muslims outnumber us by a wee bit).  In the 1980s, a big group of former evangelical Christian leaders (about 2000) en masse joined this group.  It has been growing since.  Edited to add:  This is CD's church.

We are all in communion with each other.   There are others but this account for most of the Orthodox.

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Do Orthodox welcome the Old Believers, or are they still out casts?  


This is where I have to speculate because I know no Old Believers.  Officially, we are not in communion with them.  This means they cannot receive communion in our church (nor obviously be clergy).  However, as with other Orthodox groups, exception shave been made.  They are on a case-by-case basis.  This is not a cop out, but is actually part of O doctrine.

That leads me to the Coptic Church.  Remember the Alexandria church that split?  They are still around and the case-by-case thing applies there too.  We hope to be in official communion soon.

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Is Orthodox like the Protestant religions in that there are too may variations to give a simple answer?

There are far fewer schisms, which is pretty good considering we have been around a lot more time (2000 years) than the P's have.  

Quote
Would Greek and Eastern and Russian and other Orthodox at the same party get along, or do they argue about differences (Like Protestant (name your favorite religion)  like to attack (....name your favorite Protestant denomination...))?

Before I answer this one, let me clarify.  The Greeks and Russians (and Serbs, Ukrainians, Antiochians, etc) are all Eastern Orthodox.  The Coptics and their mission plants (they are big in India) are Oriential Orthodox.   Back to the question, my best answer is the young folks would get along well, while the older folk would fight like cats and dogs.  It is a human tendency to fight more with the people who are like us than those we don't know.   Of course, there are exceptions here.  It seems to me to be getting better.  I am a convert and have felt welcome at many Orthodox churches, but not all of them.


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I'm asking questions about he Orthodox religions because I have considered going to an Orthodox church as I'm finding it hard to find a Protestant church that actually believes the Bible and teaches from the Bible (not a perversion of the Bible).  I know there are good churches out there, but where I live there are not many choices.

I do hope you will go to any of the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox Churches.  It will be far different than the Protestant services.  A word of warning though.  The Russian tradition is to stand for the whole service.  There are chairs, but unless you are over seventy, don't sit in them.  Some Orthodox church have pews, but a majority don't.

We preach the Bible well (since we introduced it to the world) and we worship with the five senses, as you will see.   It is very beautiful, but not very Western, so it may seem a little strange to you at first.  Some people I know were hooked immediately, but others had to go a few times.  



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The Old Believers history brings up the question as to who is really the flag bearer of the early church?  If you separate yourself from other Orthodox, does that mean there is a particular Orthodox that you think is right and others have more faults in them?


This is a good question. We can trace our church to the 12 apostles. While my I like my church, if I were to move, I could just as easily attend the Greek or Antiochian churches (and some others.)   There are small differences (e.g., vestment colors) but we all use the same liturgy which is from seventh century!

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From what I've learned form the excellent posts by CDHealy and you, it is very obvious that the Catholic Church was the break away from the old Church, which makes the Catholic the first breakaway denomination.  It could be said that they are actually a Protestant religion as they protested the Orthodox Church and made an unbiblical Pope position.  (Yes, I'm having a little fun with that point.  I suppose I'll get intense email!)

Yes, we would consider the RCC a schism.  We are more laid back about it today, but we still are not in communion with the RCC.  There are theological differences (e.g., papal infallibility), but I pray this schism will heal.  The strange part is the RCC theologically has accentuated the differences, but we are in better dialogue than 50 years ago.

Quote
The Russian Orthodox church does not deny that they made reforms and that the Old Believers did not.  So this makes is very clear that the Russian Orthodox (joining up with the already changed Greek Orthodox) was the breakaway and the Old Believers are the carriers of the banner of the Original Orthodox Church.

Yes?

Yes, I am sure that is how the Old Believers see it.  Unfortunately, we do not have enough accurate ancient records to show who is correct.   I will say that both the Old Believers and us can trace our roots back to the early church.   Personally, I would let bygones be bygones and unite with the Old Believers as well as the Oriential Orthodox Churches.
« Last Edit: Tue Aug 25, 2009 - 20:57:22 by trifecta »

Offline Mr. J

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #6 on: Sun Aug 23, 2009 - 21:15:27 »
Thanks for the thoughtful answers.  I think I'm getting a better idea of Orthodoxy.

I would be very interested in suggestions for literature about early church history.  If you (or others (CDHealy?)) have suggestions on good books, I'd be very interested.

Thanks
Mr. J

HRoberson

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #7 on: Sun Aug 23, 2009 - 22:33:54 »
The Orthodox Church, by Ware, Timothy
Eastern Orthodox Theology, A Contemporary Reader, by Clendenin, Daniel (ed)
Eastern Orthodox Christianity, A Western Perspective, by Clendenin, Daniel

An older book (rev 1993) that seeks to present the history of the church to the Great Schism:
The Early Church, by Chadwick, Henry. This book is part of the Penguin History of the Church. This series is largely written from a Western perspective, but this first volume is decent.
« Last Edit: Sun Aug 23, 2009 - 22:45:06 by HRoberson »

Offline trifecta

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #8 on: Mon Aug 24, 2009 - 16:58:07 »
Wow, I can't believe I am agreeing with a Protestant's book recommendations, but I am.  Way to go, HR! 

Delving into church history, as I am finding, is not so easy, but some thing become obvious fast (I won't say what they are and derail this thread.  )

Some notes:

The Orthodox Church, by Ware, Timothy


Ware is a convert to Orthodoxy.  His chapters on church history are excellent.  (Church history is important to Orthodoxy, so they receive a good amount of attention in this book.)

Quote

Eastern Orthodox Theology, A Contemporary Reader, by Clendenin, Daniel (ed)


This a reader of primary sources.  I haven't finished it yet, but I don't recommend it for a beginner, because the readers are from Orthodox theologians writing to Orthodox.  Therefore, you don't have to background knowledge to understand what the authors are saying.  For example, one chapter assumes you know what apophatic theology is.

On the other hand,

Quote

Eastern Orthodox Christianity, A Western Perspective, by Clendenin, Daniel


is excellent because Clendenin explains the concepts of Orthodoxy in a way Westerners would understand.  Interestingly, Clendenin is sympathic towards Orthdoxy but remained a Protestant, but appreciates Orthodoxy.  Also, try to get the second edition that explains why Clendenin did not convert.  Apparently, the original edition made Orthodoxy too appealing to some.   Personally, I find his explanation for not converting lame, but you will have to decide that one.

Quote
An older book (rev 1993) that seeks to present the history of the church to the Great Schism:
The Early Church, by Chadwick, Henry. This book is part of the Penguin History of the Church. This series is largely written from a Western perspective, but this first volume is decent.

This book is excellent because it not only talks about the movement of history in the church, but theology as well.  It is clear that we all don't just pick up the Bible and all come up with the same interpretation.  The interpretation of the early church fathers is quite at odds with the Protestant fathers.  Interestingly, Chadwick is a Protestant (Anglican) which makes his version all the less bias. 

My only complaint about this book is it takes a while to know the historical characters, but such is the problem of studying a long period of history.  People pass off the scene fairly quickly.  I hope to read this book again, now that I know the personalities better.   The book chapters cover themes in history which makes it easier to plow though as well.  Highly recommended.

Also, Jaroslav Pelikan has a 5-part series on the History of the Church.  Pelikan was probably the most published church historian of the 20th century.  Despite his family's attachment to Lutherism, Pelikan when confronted with the evidence converted to Orthodoxy, although this was late in his life.  Few of his many writings appeared after his conversion.

There are all some excellent stories of how people found Orthodoxy from different traditions, but for now, let's stick to church history.


HRoberson

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #9 on: Mon Aug 24, 2009 - 21:09:26 »
Well thank you.

I'll add a prayer for you as I round my chotki tonight.

Offline trifecta

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #10 on: Tue Aug 25, 2009 - 16:11:24 »
  rofl       Thanks, HR  ::smile::

Offline CDHealy

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #11 on: Mon Nov 23, 2009 - 13:00:12 »
A slight clarification.

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is actually directly "descended" from the Russian Orthodox Church via the Patrarichate of Moscow.  After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Russian Orthodox Churches Outside Russia (ROCOR) temporarily separated themselves from the Patriarchate because of concerns that the Patriarchate had compromised the Faith by cooperating with the Bolsheviks (and their Marxist-Leninist descendents).  There was a third group who were similar in origin and constitution as ROCOR (called, themselves, Russian Orthodox Church  Abroad [ROCA]).

In the U.S., the Church now known as the OCA is the one with the most direct unbroken connection to the Russian Church, and has remained in communion with the Patriarchate throughout.  Recently, however, ROCOR reestablished communioin with Moscow as well.  I am not familiar with the ROCA.  It remains to be seen what will be the relationship between the OCA and ROCOR now that both are in communion with Moscow.

Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Antioch among others recognize the OCA as an autocephalous Church (though Constantinople does not), and it appears to some that if the Orthodox in the U.S. are to be united administratively into one jurisdiction, it will be via the OCA/ROCOR groups.

With appropriate communications and adherence to eucharistic disciplines, any Orthodox may commune in any Orthodox Church.  All Orthodox Churches are united in faith and sacrament.

Offline extranos

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #12 on: Mon Nov 23, 2009 - 19:52:22 »
A question about the Russian Orthodox Church..............is it true that Moscow considers itself to be the modern-day Constantinople and somewhat the seat of the Orthodox world?

Offline trifecta

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #13 on: Tue Nov 24, 2009 - 20:08:20 »
The short answer is no.  At one point, Moscow tried to make itself the new 5th patriachate but it backed off.  Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a redrawing of the lines, but the parties would have to agree.

On the other hand, yes, Moscow does view itself as a leader in the Orthodox Church, especially since there are few Christians in Istanbul these days.  The Moscow Patriarch has more influence than the, say, Albanian patriarch, but that is to be expected because of sheer numbers.

Remember though, important decisions in Orthodoxy are made conciliarly, following the model in Acts 15.

Offline Macrina

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Re: Old Believers, and other Orthodox?
« Reply #14 on: Thu Apr 22, 2010 - 12:31:17 »
I'm ignorant of most of Orthodoxy and Catholicism.  My question is about how many Orthodox churches there are and particularly how the Old Believers fit in.

My grandmother was Russian Orthodox (born in Alaska) and went to an Eastern Orthodox in the Midwest when I was growing up.  Is there a difference?

I have read about Russian history and am aware of the Old Believers which were persecuted by the State Approved Orthodox.  At least some of them fled persecution in Russia and went to Argentina and some are in Alaska (via Argentina, I understand).

How do the Old Believers fit in and how many "Orthodox" churches are there and what is the difference?



Hello Mr. J,
I know this topic has not been addressed in a while here, however I would like to clarify, as I am what could be termed an "old believer".

There are two ways the term "old believer" are used. One is in reference to the calendar issue, which was also one of the Roman church's first reforms in medieval times. The other is what some Orthodox in Russia came to be called for not accepting reforms, done by the Russian Patriarchate.

"Old believers" are also called "old calendar" because of the calendar reforms ie. new revised Julian and Gregorian calendar.
However, a "calendar" is irrelevant to the Church which is beyond man's measurement of time.

The following link is a good article on the subject, and I believe it will address your questions.
http://www.roacusa.org/Catechism/THE%20CALENDAR%20QUESTION.pdf

By the way, one does not need to be associated with a particular patriarchate to be Orthodox. ie. Rome is one of the five patriarchates of Christianity, meaning where the holy Apostles began churches. Orthodoxy is both conciliar and autocephalus and/or autonomous. We do not need a pope. All Orthodox churches are overseen by their bishops.
The catechism topics at the roacusa.org site addresses many questions. (ROAC is the group that formed after ROCOR split to join with the OCA and Russian Patriarchate)