Why do we no longer use the word "Eastern" in our name?


Dear Fr. Chris, why do we no longer use the word “Eastern” in our name, like “Eastern Orthodox”?

The qualifier of “Eastern” was an American innovation that had been chosen to differentiate between different jurisdictions.  The Greeks never used the distinction, simply holding to Greek Orthodox. 

However, the Slavic Churches (who at one time historically were all under one ’Metropolia’ of the Russian Church), used this qualifier to distinguish themselves from the Greeks and Byzantine Catholics for tax purposes.  It was a legal title, which enabled the Slavic Churches to have definitive standing as an identity in the American Court system, and with the Internal Revenue Service.  One can still see this differentiation when the government conducts census every 10 years.

Once the Serbian Orthodox Church was organized into its own dioceses here in this country and Canada (1952), the title was no longer needed.  In 2009, with the re-organization of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North America and the realization of administrative unity with the former New Gracanica Diocese, an official “name change” was also identified.  Our church is the Serbian Orthodox Church of North and South America.  This continues with all of the rights of autonomy (not autocephaly or self-heading) afforded by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Thus, the official title of the Church is now the St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Oberlin—Steelton, PA.  This title affords us all of the governmental implications previously realized, and conforms to the ruling of the Sabor in 2009.