The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) is a semi-autonomous external archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since 2007, the ROCOR has been a fully integral part of the Moscow Patriarchate. Through its life and witness, ROCOR strives to stand up for the full integrity of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition, doctrinally, morally, and liturgically.
Formed by the ukaz ("canonical directive") of the then Patriarch of Moscow, St. Tikhon (Bellavin) in 1922, which instructed all the external dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church to organize their own lives autonomously until normal relations could be established with the Patriarchate. This referred to the disruptions and distortions created by heavy persecution that Church endured under the Soviets.
To carry out the ukaz, a combination of bishops representing the external dioceses, including those of North America, Western Europe and the Far East, and bishops who had fled the political chaos of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, formed into a Synod, eventually centered in Karlovtsi, Serbia, under the patronage of the Serbian Church. This Synod represented the highest Church authority outside of Russia, uniting immigrants, émigré’s, and refugees.
The American Archdiocese, of which St Tikhon has been head prior to his election to the Patriarchate, was an integral part of ROCOR, and, while parts of the American church broke off for a time, there was substantial unity until 1946.
The American part of ROCOR included the old Russian Mission to America, which gave birth to several saints in Alaska, and several dioceses, and gave birth to the founding of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, housing Holy Trinity Seminary, which offers both undergraduate and graduate level programs, as well as other educational programsD.
The core of ROCOR consisted of several waves of Russian immigration to the US, in the 1920’s, late 1940’s, and as it was to again in the 1990’s, with many Russian ethnic parishes growing up in this context.
In 1950, the headquarters of the Synod of ROCOR moved to New York, where it remains there today.
There were always American converts to Orthodoxy within ROCOR, and from the earliest layers of its history. A movement of converts in the 1960’s into ROCOR began with the development of the St Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina, California, with Fr. Seraphim (Rose).
Thus, English language services, and a full expression of Orthodoxy in English became established. About the same time, there was a movement of Old Calendar Greeks into ROCOR, which also fed into the English-speaking movement. These were tied in with the ministry of St John (Maximovitch) of San Francisco, who worked with these groups, as well as the development of Western Rite Orthodoxy in both Europe and the US.
Today, in North America ROCOR consists of three US Dioceses and a diocese of Canada, with both Russian and English language parishes, as well as some French and Spanish communities. Some parishes use all Slavonic, some all English, many are mixed language and culture. There are also several monastic communities in America, for both men and women.