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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 Orthodox jurisdictions could find unity and brotherhood. A respected Syrian bishop from the Brooklyn mission was elected as the first Primate. Aftimios Ofiesh had proven his loyalty to "Orthodoxy over ethnicity", by refusing to take part in an attempted overthrow of the legitimate Russian jurisdiction. Also, as a Syrian it was hoped that he would have a placating effect on those ethnic bodies who resented "western orthodoxy".

Unfortunately, pride and the desire to maintain a seperate ethnic identity prevented the Eastern Churches from recognizing this new American Jurisdiction. After it became obvious that the Eastern Churches would not cooperate, the Russian Metropolia was under a lot of pressure. It went through a schism and in its fractured state, withdrew its support from the American Church. A law suit enabled the eastern bodies to take posession of the young Churches Cathedrals. Left naked and standing alone, it was expected that the infant 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 bodies. We continue as a traditional Church, always holding to those ancient traditions of the early Apostolic Church.

Our ecclesiastical focus is on the Apostolic Canons. While we acknowledge the later canons as 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 false claims of a false prophet are made evident by the fruit they produce. Ask yourself if the fruit they produce is from a good tree. Is it grape or is it thistle? "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 gospel message are our brothers, and we do not use jurisdictionalism as a weapon to divide that brotherhood.

The OCCNA today exists as a unifying body, 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 bodies who hold to the uncompromised ancient and traditional Orthodox doctrine. Such bodies retain independence from our synod, yet receive our recognition and historical, canonical validity as long as they hold to traditional Orthodoxy. Having originally been created as the jurisdiction in North America, we feel it is our responsibility to offer those bodies who adhere to traditional Orthodox standards an opportunity to have a valid canonical base in which to spread Christ's gospel. But again, we do not suggest that those outside of our jurisdiction are any less Orthodox.

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