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Not to be confused with the much smaller Orthodox Church of America, the Orthodox Church in America is an autocephalous Church associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church in North America., with parishes, monasteries, schools, communities, and institutions in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Orthodoxy in America began in 1794, when a group of Orthodox monks and novices traveled from Russia to Kodiak Island in Alaska, which was then a Russian territory. These Russian missionaries were following up on the initial evangelization that had been started by Russian lay people in Alaska soon after its discovery in 1741. Soon afterward, the Church began baptizing native inhabitants, who were mostly Inuit and American Indian heritage. Notable missionaries in Alaska were Saint Herman of Alaska and Father John Veniaminov, a married priest who was consecrated as Bishop Innocent after the death of his wife, founding the first missionary diocese in Alaska, as well as the its first cathedral and seminary at Sitka, on the west coast. Before he was recalled to Moscow, Bishop Innocent had translated the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the text of the Divine Liturgy, and the Catechism into Aleutian. He was canonized in 1977. When Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867, the Alaskan missionary diocese was moved to San Francisco, and later became the Russian Orthodox Church, Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and North America, and its missionary work in Canada and the eastern United States was expanded. In 1904, the Diocesan See was elevated to the rank of Archbishop, and moved to New York a year later. The Russian Orthodox Church had jurisdiction over all Orthodox Christians in the United States and Canada until 1914. During and after the Russian Revolution, funds from Russia sufficient to support the Archdiocese were no longer available, and the arrest of the Patriarch of Moscow by Soviet authorities in 1922, both contributed to the split that occurred within the Russian Church in America. There were some within the American Church who wanted to remain loyal to Moscow, while others refused to accept the authority of a Soviet-controlled Church. Those who asserted independence from Russia formed the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. In 1946, a synod of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church was held, at which four bishops and several delegates opted to submit to the Patriarch of Moscow in return for recognition of their autonomy. However, Patriarch Alexis of Moscow made impossible demands that were rejected. In 1970, he agreed to allow them administrative autonomy, and the Church was renamed as the Orthodox Church in America. Non-Russian Orthodox Churches that had been formed within the United States were unwilling to unite with Moscow, and opted to remain outside the OCA, whose jurisdiction extends throughout the United States and Canada, with an exarchate in Mexico. Other parishes opted to remain directly under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, and outside the OCA; they were organized as the Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada, but some of these parishes have since joined with the OCA. The official name of the Orthodox Church in America is the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. The supreme authority of the OCA is the Holy Synod of Bishops, which is made up of all of the Church’s diocesan bishops. The primate of the OCA is the metropolitan, who also serves as the bishop of one of the Church’s dioceses. The diocese is the basic church body that comprises all of the parishes of a defined geographical area, and is governed by a diocesan bishop. The highest legislative and administrative authority within the Church is the All-American Council, comprised of all of the metropolitans, bishop and priests, as well as lay delegates, who discuss and vote on Church matters.

 

 

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