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Before the 20th century there was very little contact between the Orthodox Church and the Churches which developed in the West.

In the early 20th century, however, things began to change. As a result of geo-political shifts and improvements in transport and communications the East and West began to interact with one another in a way unprecedented in Church history. It was clear to the Orthodox Church that it could no longer live in splendid isolation, but the question of how to engage with the Western world led to two divergent schools of thought.

Tradition or Reform? - Two Schools of Thought


The first of these was spearheaded by a Patriarchal Encyclical of 1920, which foresaw a series of steps toward greater union. Inspired by the League of Nations, Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis’ vision was of a universal league encompassing all of the major Christian Confessions. To this end, the Patriarch convened a Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1923 which sought to change some of the traditions of the Orthodox Church to fit more in line with the more universal Western customs.

The second school of thought was led by Hierarchs in Greece and the Balkans, who sought to affirm the traditions of the Church, which they considered to be sacred and immutable, and which could only evolve through the guidance of an Ecumenical Council.

The Question of the Calendar

The point of real contention between these two schools of thought became focused on the reform of the Calendar.

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The issue was that the movement to change the Calendar was used as a banner for those advocating modernism and ecumenism, heresies which challenged fundamental and foundational beliefs of Orthodox Christianity, sometimes with the goal of union with Roman Catholics and others, without a return of those bodies to their Pre-Schism Orthodox origins.


Wounds and Healing

The controversy unfortunately spiraled out of control, leading to violent unrest. By 1951 Old Calendarist churches were being demolished by the Greek state, priests arrested, stripped of their clerical robes and beaten and forcibly shaved by police officers. Many monasteries and churches were placed directly under the jurisdiction of monasteries on Mouth Athos in order to try to protect their parishes and clergy.

Although some dialogue has been achieved to try and heal the effects of these terrible events, there is still much to do, necessitating the continued witness and resistance of the True Orthodox as the upholders of Orthodoxy. It is now estimated that there are somewhere in the region of one million Old Calendarist faithful in and around Greece, and the Balkans, split between several jurisdictional synaxis of which I.S.T.O.C. is one of the largest.

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A Rift in the Orthodox Church?

Some Archbishops of Athens in the State Church of Greece, among others, have expressed regret for the terrible events of the 20th century and described the unfortunate divisions which still exist as a disagreement within the Church, which is one under Christ. I.S.T.O.C. affirms the oneness of the Church of Christ, and we look forward to a time when these divisions separating groups from the pleroma of the Orthodox Church can be healed, and those that have fallen away from her can return.

Our Synaxis affirms the oneness of the Church of Christ, and its stand against the pan-heresy of ecumenism and modernism; we pray that a time will come in which the heresies prevaling in the world today can be once again re-united with the Orthodox Church of their ancestors.

We pray and hope that the terrible apostasy of the 20th century can be overcome through some dogmatically and canonically acceptable means (such as a Council), which,

we hope, will re-united those lost to modernism and ecumenism to the Orthodox Church, which must be done in the spirit of Orthodox Christian love and charity.

I.S.T.O.C. Today

Today I.S.T.O.C. has grown far beyond its origins in Greece into a multi-national group of synods, with parishes spanning the globe from USA and the UK to the Philippines, to Latin America and West Africa.


Alongside the spiritual nourishing of our existing churches in traditionally Orthodox lands we have a growing parochial mission, and we are very excited about our growing presence in lands where Orthodoxy has never before flourished. Our commitment is to serve God, and to spread the Gospel, in accordance with his commandment, to the ends of the earth, and we look forward to a bright future.

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