Archive for the ‘John Meyendorff’ Tag

Feast of John Meyendorff (February 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of The Orthodox Church in America

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Russian-French-American Orthodox Priest, Scholar, and Ecumenist


In America, both of their numbers and the quality of many among its clergy and laity, the Greek Orthodox community deserves a position of leadership….The mission of all Americans regardless of ethnic background (as required by the Gospel itself) cannot wait for changes occurring in Istanbul, Turkey.

–John Meyendorff; quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 66


A theme common to Old World immigrant Christian denominations in the United States of America is metaphorically redrawing the map of the Old World in the new country.  Therefore, one can read of long-lasting ethnic divisions that continue (or have continued) to define otherwise similar denominations after language has ceased to function as a barrier.  Cultural attachments, comforting to many, impede the Great Commission, though.

John Meyendorff understood this.

Ivan Feofilovich, Baron von Meyendorff came from a Russian family living in France.  He, born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on February 17, 1926, remained in France until 1959.  He studied at the Sorbonne in the late 1940s and at the École Pratique des Hautes Études from 1948 to 1954.  Our saint earned his doctorate in Letters in Theology from the Sorbonne in 1958.  His dissertation became his first book, A Study of Gregory Palamas (French, 1959; English, 1964).  Meyendorff also taught at St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Seminary, Paris, and became a Fellow of the Centre National de la Rechereche Scientifique.

Meyendorff, ordained to the priesthood, moved with his family to the United States in 1959.  His primary academic home from 1959 to 1992 was St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, Yonkers, New York.  Our saint was the Librarian, a professor, the Director of Studies, and the Dean (from March 19784 to June 1992), as well as the Editor of St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly.  Furthermore, Meyendorff held joint academic appointments to Harvard University, Fordham University, Union Theological Seminary (New York City), and Dumbarton Oaks.

Meyendorff’s books included the following:

  1. The Orthodox Church (1963),
  2. Orthodoxy and Catholicity (1966),
  3. Christ in Eastern Orthodox Thought (1969),
  4. Byzantine Theology (1973),
  5. Marriage, an Orthodox Perspective (1975),
  6. Living Tradition (1978),
  7. Byzantium and the Rise of Russia (1980),
  8. The Byzantine Legacy in the Orthodox Church (1981),
  9. Catholicity and the Church (1983), and
  10. Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions:  The Church, 450-680 A.D. (1989).

Meyendorff was an Eastern Orthodox ecumenist.  He represented his tradition in the World Council of Churches.  Our saint also encouraged Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions within the United States to merge across ethnic lines.  The Russian Orthodox groups that broke with the Moscow Patriarchate after 1917 did not heed our saint’s advice to lay aside their differences, but Meyendorff did play a role in the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America becoming independent of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1970 and becoming The Orthodox Church in America (OCA).  The OCA has expanded beyond its Russian roots to include Albanian, Bulgarian, and Romanian dioceses.

Meyendorff, Rector of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, New York, New York, from 1977 to 1984, was also active on the denominational level.  He advised the OCA’s Holy Synod and edited The Orthodox Church, a monthly newspaper.

Meyendorff, recipient of the Order of St. Vladimir, Second Class, from Patriarch Alexei II in 1991, retired from St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary in June 1992.  His retirement was brief; pancreatic cancer claimed our saint’s life on July 22, 1992.  He was 66 years old.

The cause of transethnic unity of Eastern Orthodoxy in the United States remains unfinished work.

I compiled a list of the twenty-eight Eastern Orthodox congregations and chapels, as well as the one monastery, in Georgia, where I live.  I counted eight jurisdictions, with the following counts:

  1. Greek Orthodox–10,
  2. Orthodox Church in America–8,
  3. Antiochian Orthodox Christian–4,
  4. Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia–3,
  5. American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox–1,
  6. Serbian Orthodox–1,
  7. Romanian Orthodox–1, and.
  8. Ukrainian Orthodox–1

Not surprisingly, most of these are in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where the majority of Georgians reside.

Denominational inertia persists.





Almighty God, we praise your name for your servant John Meyendorff,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through whom Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60