Very little has been done so far to study systematically broad patterns and trends in the American Orthodox priesthood. Various "case studies" and church expert opinions in different aspects of priestly work in American Orthodox parishes provide some valuable insights, but they do not allow for definite and data-backed conclusions on what is persistent, typical and long-lasting or what is simply a local or short-lived phenomenom. This research project is the first step in overcoming the lack of reliable and comprehensive information on what does it mean to be an Orthodox Christian priest in America in the beginning of the third millennium. The study is unique in several ways.
First it is based on a nationally representative data on the priests in two largest American Orthodox jurisdictions: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America (GOA) and the Orthodox Christian Church in America (OCA). The questionnaires were sent to all
parish clergy in the Greek Orthodox Metropolises of Chicago and San Francisco and in the OCA Dioceses of the West and Midwest. Out of 258 mailed questionnaires, 226 were completed and returned - a response rate of 88%.
Second, rather than gathering formal statistical parish data (size, demographic composition of the parishes, variety of parish based programs, etc.), our survey examined clergy opinions, attitudes and approaches to the various Church related and social issues which are commonly debated in American Orthodox communities. In particular, this study focused on four aspects of priesthood:
- the sources of joy and satisfaction in the work of an Orthodox priest in America;
- the challenges and problems that the Orthodox clergy are facing;
- the sources of support and help that the Orthodox priests can rely upon;
- the various matters and issues in the life of the Church that the Orthodox priests believe should be urgently and openly discussed.
Third, the survey data allow not only for the comparisons of the Greek Orthodox and OCA priests, but also for the analysis of the differences among priests in various age groups and between cradle Orthodox and convert clergy. The study reports shows in many cases the approaches to and the notions of the priestly vocation of the "fathers" and "sons" and of those who were born into the Orthodox Church and those who were raised in the other Christian traditions are very distinct.
Fourth, our survey was developed in co-operation with scholars studying American Roman Catholic priests. Therefore, the obtained comparable data allow a look at American Orthodox priesthood in the context of the broader picture and to discern trends that are unique for the Orthodox community and those which are similar with the Roman Catholic Church in this country.Evolving Visions of the Orthodox Priesthood in America
Part 1Evolving Visions Highlights Brochure