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JamesRottnek
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« on: June 02, 2011, 01:09:14 PM »

Recently I have been thinking about why the OO are not aywhere near as well known in the US as the EO, even though the Coptic Church here has about as many people as the Greek Archdiocese (if I am remembering correctly).  I'm starting to think that perhaps it is due to it being a more insular community in general, and the relative newness of it to the United States is perhaps behind a lack of converts, which would mean that the average WASP doesn't have any immediate or extended family that has converted, which could limit its presence in the minds of many Americans.

So, anyways, my question is, do any of you happen to have statistics for conversion into any (and/or all) of the various OO churches, and more interestingly to me, do you have any statistics on convert priests?  If the statistics differentiate between converts from, say, the Coptic Catholic Church versus any other group, that would be appreciated.
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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2011, 01:50:43 PM »

Why have you assumed there is a lack of converts?

The Coptic Orthodox Church in the US has evangelism conferences, and the North American Coptic Mission Fellowship which organises missions in the US and overseas. North American Copts can speak for numbers but I'd say that based on the relatively short time that Copts have been in the US compared to Greeks and Russians they are well organised and trying to become more and more outward looking.

When I was seeking to become Orthodox it was Greeks who told me either that I couldn't because I was not ethnically Greek, or should become an Anglican. It was the Copts who welcomed me.

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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2011, 04:28:15 PM »

I didn't mean to imply that they aren't starting to look outward (I think they are in fact doing so a lot faster than the EO did when they first got here).  That is one reason I wanted statistics on the matter, because my hypotheses was that the reason they aren't as well known as the EO (though, it wouldn't say too much if they were, given that the EO Church is not that well known itself) is perhaps because they may be putting off converts because of their relative newness (because so many of the priests for instance - from what I understand - don't speak English well as one example of a put off, not that the Copts are in any way to be condemned for it, it just is what it is), which would be preventing a lot of people from having heard of it.  However, before I could attempt to look into my hypothesis more, I would need some statistics on converts.

I in no way meant to imply that the Copts don't want converts, or don't do anything at all to get them, just that they PERHAPS don't have that many, which is why I was curious as to the numbers.
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Preston Robert Kinney (September 8th, 1997-August 14, 2011
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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2011, 06:08:53 PM »

Recently I have been thinking about why the OO are not aywhere near as well known in the US as the EO, even though the Coptic Church here has about as many people as the Greek Archdiocese (if I am remembering correctly).  I'm starting to think that perhaps it is due to it being a more insular community in general, and the relative newness of it to the United States is perhaps behind a lack of converts, which would mean that the average WASP doesn't have any immediate or extended family that has converted, which could limit its presence in the minds of many Americans.

So, anyways, my question is, do any of you happen to have statistics for conversion into any (and/or all) of the various OO churches, and more interestingly to me, do you have any statistics on convert priests?  If the statistics differentiate between converts from, say, the Coptic Catholic Church versus any other group, that would be appreciated.

I am not aware of any official statistics on this.  I would say, however, that the Copts are the most outgoing, missions-minded, and convert friendly of the OO's.  The Armenians would be the most xenophobic and insular.   Smiley   

I think something that helped the EO's here in the US gain a lot of converts was the mass conversion of the Evangelical Orthodox to the Antiochian Church some years back.  I think that did a lot to get people's attention and to draw more people to Eastern Orthodoxy. 
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2011, 07:11:02 PM »

You may well be right Salpy, the conversion of the Evangelical Orthodox Church (or at least the great mass of it) may have had a lot to do with people's attention being at least moderately attuned to Orthodoxy. 

It always strikes me as ironic that the Armenians, who seem more ready than any other OO group to have union with other Churches and who seem the most ecumenist (whether or not that is a bad thing is an entirely different topic), should at the same time be the least hospitable to converts (not that I think it would turn people down, it would just seem in general that an Armenian parish would be less welcoming to non-Armenians than a Coptic parish would to non-Copts).
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2011, 07:35:59 PM »

It always strikes me as ironic that the Armenians, who seem more ready than any other OO group to have union with other Churches and who seem the most ecumenist (whether or not that is a bad thing is an entirely different topic), should at the same time be the least hospitable to converts (not that I think it would turn people down, it would just seem in general that an Armenian parish would be less welcoming to non-Armenians than a Coptic parish would to non-Copts).

There is a certain logic to that, though.
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2011, 08:00:47 PM »

Well that is certainly true.  I don't know if this is exactly where you were going with that, but I remember Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writing about how the Greeks had originally told him to just stay in the Anglican Church, since they were so certain that reunion was coming.
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« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2011, 08:23:42 PM »

Well that is certainly true.  I don't know if this is exactly where you were going with that, but I remember Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writing about how the Greeks had originally told him to just stay in the Anglican Church, since they were so certain that reunion was coming.

Yes, that sort of thing!
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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2011, 09:12:18 PM »

I do think what you are talking about is a part of why the Armenians are not so missions oriented.  

If you believe that the other Churches are perfectly Christian, you are not going to engage in missions work aimed at their flocks.  Also, if you hold that belief, you're going to be a bit baffled when someone from one of these other Churches wants to leave their Church to come to yours.
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« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2011, 09:17:24 PM »

The Copts, on the other hand, seem to have a better sense of who they are and what the differences are between themselves and other Churches.  This could be why they are more missions oriented:

http://orthodox-mission.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2011, 09:26:45 PM »

JamesRottnek,
I am not so certain of your statistics you recall in the first post. There are a lot of Greeks in the USA and Canada (I cite them as you noted the Greek Orthodox). The GOA is roughly half the Eastern Orthodox presence here. There must be over 1600 EO parishes in the US alone. I just don't think the Copts have this presence in numbers which would account for their relative visibility.
Here in Pittsburgh we must have over 30 EO local parishes and one Coptic (about 15 miles north of the city). I am sure that in time the Coptic Orthodox will become more widely known,as well as all the others in the OO communion.
Where do you get your data?
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« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2011, 10:17:11 PM »

I was way off on the Copts, but they do have about 90,000 peoplewith about half being regular attenders, which does make them larger than the OCA - the second largest EO group in the US.

These figures come from the 2010 Orthodox Census (http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/OT/view/kindratch-2010-census-of-us-orthodox-churches):

Greek Orthodox: 476,900 adherents, 107,400 regular attendees
OCA: 84,900 adherents, 33,800 regular attendees
Copts: 92,100 adherents, 46,900 regular attendees

As for parishes:

Greek Orthodox: 525 parishes, 9 men's monastic communities, 10 women's monastic communities, average parish size of 908
OCA: 551 parishes, 8 men's communities, 11 women's communities, average parish size of 154
Copts: 170 parishes, 3 men's communities, 1 women's communitiy, average parish size of 542

Total EO parishes:
1875 parishes, 33 men's communities, 32 women's communities

Total EO:
814,900 adherents, 199,000 regular attendees
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« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2011, 10:42:29 PM »


The numbers on the Armenians are way off on that page.  There are at least half a million Armenians in the US, most of them identifying as Armenian Orthodox, even if they are not regular church goers.
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« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2011, 10:49:42 PM »

Perhaps, but this looks at the people that the parishes actually know about.

So if Mr. Ar Menian move into Glendale, CA but fail to inform any parish of their existence, they would not be included here.  Do you really think that someone who NO parish even knows about is really able to be considered an Orthodox Christian?
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« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2011, 10:55:16 PM »

Yes.  Why should they inform the parish of their existence? 

The concept of "church membership" as we know it, where you sign a card and pay dues, is completely foreign to the Armenians.  Traditionally speaking, if you are baptized, you are a member of the Church.  There are literally thousands of people who consider my parish to be their parish.  It's where they come on Christmas and Easter (you should see how horrible the crowds are) and it is where they come if they need a baptism, marriage, funeral, etc.  We only have a couple hundred official dues paying members, though.
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« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2011, 10:29:48 AM »

I think you misunderstand, this is the question that was asked of parish priests: “Approximately how many individual persons in total are associated in any way with the life of your parish: counting adults and children, regular and occasional attendees, paid stewards and persons who do not contribute financially?”

If the parish priest has no knowledge that the person exists, not just they don't contribute to the parish but are not even known about, are they really a part of the life of the Church?  It would seem to me that they have fallen away from the Church.  Besides, it is the same way that they determined the figures for the other Churches on the list. 
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« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2011, 10:51:34 AM »

What is the authority of that census though?

How accurate are the figures?

I know that Orthodoxy in the US, and elsewhere, has been vastly over-counted for various reasons, and statistics have been often considered here on OCnet.

In the UK there are notionally 250,000 Greek Orthodox, but my understanding is that a few % attend Church regularly. There are probably 10,000 Copts and 10,000 Indian Orthodox, and my experience is that 70%+ attend regularly.

The OO have a joint forum with the Catholic bishops, and with the Anglican bishops. I would say that in the UK the visibility of Oriental Orthodoxy is growing each year. We have many enquirers who have approached us and have either not approached the EO, or have approached the EO as well but have chosen to consider becoming Orthodox among the OO.

Many of the Ethiopian priests in the UK are not African, but are Anglo-phone converts. The new Armenian primate is entirely comfortable and perfectly fluent in English and has already established 3 new communities over the last year. He also runs a popular Bible Study in English. There is much to do, always, but in a particular town or city in the UK I would say that people are as likely to consider the OO as the EO.

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« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2011, 10:58:11 AM »

Yes.  Why should they inform the parish of their existence?  

The concept of "church membership" as we know it, where you sign a card and pay dues, is completely foreign to the Armenians.  Traditionally speaking, if you are baptized, you are a member of the Church.  There are literally thousands of people who consider my parish to be their parish.  It's where they come on Christmas and Easter (you should see how horrible the crowds are) and it is where they come if they need a baptism, marriage, funeral, etc.  We only have a couple hundred official dues paying members, though.

A good point, Salpy. The recent parish census is very useful and revealing. It does disclose the real participation in our parishes. But it also hints at a problem not directly addressed. In the GOA in the past claims of membership range from 3 to 5 times higher than the census showed. Were these claims exaggeration or just hyperbole? I don't think so. The GOA keeps exact records of baptisms and deaths. The unaddressed issue is ...where have they all gone? I have examined the records of my home parish and tend to think we've a problem.
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« Reply #18 on: June 03, 2011, 11:40:39 AM »

In terms of UK visibility of OO, here is a picture from the Catholic Papal visit. The clergy being presented to Pope Benedict are:



Bishop Angaelos (Coptic Orthodox)
Archbishop Gregorios (Greek Orthodox)
Archbishop Athanasius (Syrian Orthodox)
Bishop Antonios (Ethiopian Orthodox)
Father Habte Mariam (Ethiopian Orthodox)

A little further along the line was Metropolitan Kalliostos (Greek Orthodox), and I think Bishop Elisey (Russian Orthodox)

OO bishops and priests had been invited guests at the other events organised for the Pope's visit. Indeed I attended the prayers at Westminster Abbey myself. Bishop Angaelos had welcomed the Pope to Scotland, and then greeted him with other religious leaders at the entrance to Westminster Abbey, and was then seated as shown in the picture of Westminster Cathedral by the altar.

So I would say that our visibility continues to increase. My old Evangelical Bible College, for instance, chooses to invite an OO priest to come and speak to them about Orthodoxy.

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« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2011, 04:04:32 PM »

The Eastern Orthodox Church has been in North America since the 1700's. The Coptic Church has been here since the 1970's. St. Herman of Alaska was canonized almost a century and a half after his repose, about the same time the first 3 Coptic priests were arriving.

The Coptic Church has maybe 30-35 churches in Ontario, up from probably a dozen just a decade ago. I only know of a handful of other OO churches. There are nearly twice as many EO churches in Toronto as there are OO Churches in the whole province.

Our little church has close to 20 people who were not born Orthodox, with a priest who was ordained a decade after the first 3, i.e. right at the start of the church here. Most of the priests in the area certainly have accents, but I have yet to encounter one who cannot converse comfortably in English. A few have no accent at all.

I think that the only reason for not being as known is how new the Coptic Church is here. I don't see any evidence of being more closed, if anything the opposite is true. It is also quickly becoming common for people to have heard of us. Considering there were no Coptic churches outside of Egypt when those people were born, I think this is a very temporary situation of being unknown.
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« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2011, 12:16:10 AM »

Just a note, while there have been EO in North America since the 1700's, it wasn't until the very late 1700's that there was an Orthodox Church in North America, and that was in Alaska.  Alaska wasn't a part of the US until the second half of the nineteenth century, and Orthodoxy really wasn't in the continental United States, other than a handful of parishes, for some time after that.
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