“Slavophile Thought” And The Russian Mission To America

Last week I mentioned that the recent issue of the St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly published several articles relating to Orthodox Christianity in America, including one I wrote about Fr. Boris Burden’s failed efforts in attempts during the mid-twentieth century to unite the various Orthodox jurisdictions.  Here I would like to highlight the article written by Fr. John H. Erickson, emeritus professor of church history and dean emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (www.svots.edu).

Erickson noted that by 1870, when the Russian Mission moved its headquarters to San Francisco and St. Innocent (Alaskan missionary recently elevated to Metropolitan of Moscow) recommended the transfer be used to further the spread of Orthodoxy, Slavophilism (as a concept in which all nations would unite around a Russia guided by Orthodox principles) was in full swing.  Of course, Slavophilism could be little more than Great Russian nationalism as well, which also affected the Russian Mission to America.  Erickson’s focus, however, is upon the more inclusive form of Slavophilism, and he notes that it directly affected many in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (including Nicholas Bjerring, the first convert priest–and here I thank Erickson for citing my 2007 article on Bjerring in the  Zeitschrift fur Neuere Theologiegeschichte).  Those interested in theological ideas behind early Orthodox missionary work in North America would do well to read Erickson’s article.