The Eastern Christian Churches by Ronald Roberson

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA

Beginning in the 19th century, large numbers of Ukrainian Orthodox immigrants arrived in the United States. There were also several waves of conversions of Ukrainian Greek Catholics to Orthodoxy. In 1919, with nationalist feelings intensified by events in Ukraine, some of these groups in the United States organized an autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Initially it was headed by Metropolitan Germanos of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. Then in December 1923 the recently established Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church sent Metropolitan John Theodorovich to assume leadership of the American diocese. He arrived in the United States in 1924, and in the same year the Ukrainian Orthodox in Canada asked him to lead their diocese as well. Metropolitan John was a good administrator who had much success in consolidating Ukrainian Orthodox parishes into the new jurisdictions in the two countries. But there were serious concerns about the validity of his consecration as a bishop, given the questionable method by which the bishops of his mother church had been ordained.

Meanwhile, another Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdiction was emerging, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America. It was formed as a result of the concerns of some Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the 1920s over the ownership of parish property and the Vatican’s imposition of clerical celibacy among Eastern Catholic clergy in North America. These Ukrainian Catholics wanted to become Orthodox, but shared the reservations of many other Orthodox about the validity of Metropolitan John Theodorovich’s consecration. Therefore, on April 9, 1929, a meeting of 15 clergy and 24 laymen took place at St Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania. They decided in principle to form a new Ukrainian Orthodox diocese. A second meeting took place in New York in July 1931, where the group nominated Fr. Joseph Zuk as its bishop. He was ordained as the first head of the new diocese in September 1932, but died soon thereafter, in 1934. In 1937 the diocese was received into the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople when Zuk’s successor, Fr. Bohdan Shpylka, was ordained a bishop in New York City by Archbishop Athenagoras of America, the future Ecumenical Patriarch. At one point during his tenure, there were 45 missions and parishes within the diocese.

In 1949, Metropolitan Theodorovich was re-consecrated by canonical Orthodox bishops, which ended questions about the validity of his consecration. At this point a number of parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America joined his jurisdiction, which then became the largest Ukrainian Orthodox church in the United States. But the church was still not recognized as canonical by the other Orthodox churches.

Metropolitan Theodorovich died in 1971 and was succeeded by Metropolitan Mstyslav, who in 1990 was elected Patriarch of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Kiev. His death in 1993 was followed by serious divisions among the Orthodox in Ukraine, but the Ukrainian Orthodox in the United States avoided taking sides in the dispute.

On March 12, 1995, the entire Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchy outside Ukraine that had not already done so was received into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States. It was estimated that in total this group had as many as 150,000 faithful and 200 parishes. The Ukrainian Orthodox in Canada had been received under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1990.

The reception of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate removed the remaining obstacles to full unity with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America. This was accomplished in November 1996. Bishop Vsevolod, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America, became bishop of the Western Eparchy based in Chicago, Illinois.

Sadly, however, this unity was threatened almost as soon as it was achieved. In 1998 six of the church’s parishes were received into the jurisdiction of the The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate in Ukraine. The priests of these parishes had been suspended and wished to establish links with the Ukrainian Patriarchate in spite of its non-canonical character. The bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora vigorously protested these actions by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate when they met together in Winnipeg in June 1998.

In the United States, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church now has about 85 parishes and missions, served by 106 priests and 15 deacons. The church administers Saint Sophia seminary in South Bound Brook, New Jersey. Since 2016, Archbishop Daniel of the Western Diocese in the USA has also been serving as bishop of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in Britain. His offices are at 1A Newton Avenue, Acton, London W3 8AJ. The ten parishes and two missions in Australia are under the spiritual care of Metropolitan Anthony in the USA. The President of the Ukrainian Orthodox Consistory of Australia and New Zealand is Very Rev. Michael Solomko, 6 McKay Gardens, Turner Australian Capital Territory 2601.

Following the death of Metropolitan Constantine of Irinopolis (born 1936, elected 1995) on May 21, 2012, Archbishop Antony of the Eastern Eparchy was named Locum Tenens of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA pending the election of a new primate. An Extraordinary Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA was held on October 6, 2012, and chose Archbishop Antony as Metropolitan-Elect. This decision was confirmed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on October 31, and the new Metropolitan’s enthronement took place on January 25, 2013.

Location: The United States, Great Britain, Brazil, Western Europe and Australia
Head: Metropolitan Antony of Hierapolis (born 1947, elected 2012)
Title: Metropolitan and Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA
Residence: South Bound Brook, New Jersey, USA

Last Modified: 25 July 2021

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