Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky, who came to the United States as a childhood refugee from war-torn Poland and later became a leader of inter-church cooperation and the first Eastern Orthodox president of the National Council of Churches , is dead. He was 78 years old.
Kishkovsky died of a heart attack on Tuesday at Glen Cove Hospital in Glen Cove, New York, according to the Orthodox Church of America, where he was director of external affairs and inter-church relations. He has long been in the high-level administration of the Orthodox Church in the American offices from Long Island to New York, while also serving as pastor for a nearby church.
âHe was definitely a giant in the church,â said the Right Reverend Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America. “As gifted as he was as a diplomat and administrator, he was a caring and loving pastor.”
Much of Kishkovsky’s work involved dealing with people outside the denomination, from other Eastern Orthodox churches to representatives of Protestants, Catholics, and other religions.
In 1989 he was elected the first Orthodox president of the National Council of Churches after decades of Protestant leadership. The ecumenical body, while comprising both Protestant and Orthodox communions, was often seen as a project of liberal Protestantism, and Kishkovsky sought to bridge the divisions not only between denominations but between ideologies.
âThere are people of deep Christian faith who have liberal commitments and also people who have conservative commitments,â he told the New York Times at the time. âMy dream is that the different communities of religious discourse can have a fruitful conversation and debate with each other. “
Kishkovsky, who was of Russian descent, was born in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, Poland, on March 24, 1943, according to the church. His parents fled with him to Germany the following year and relocated to Los Angeles as internally displaced persons in 1951.
He studied political science and history at the University of Southern California, from which he graduated in 1964. He graduated from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, in 1967.
Kishkovsky worked in youth ministry and met his future wife, Alexandra “Mimi” Koulomzine from Montreal, Canada, during a student retreat. They married in 1969 and he was ordained a priest later that year.
After five years of ministry in San Francisco, he began working at the OCA headquarters in Syosset, New York, in 1974, and as rector of the nearby Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Sea Cliff, New York. York.
In 1982 he began editing The Orthodox Church, the leading denomination periodical.
He was honored by the board in 2020 with his President’s Award for Excellence in Loyal Leadership. The council said in a statement that Kishkovsky âremained true to orthodoxy, but he was open to the faith of others. He was their friend, and with them he enjoyed intense conversation, shared vivid observations, and gave in to warm laughter.
Kishkovsky has also held various positions with other ecumenical and interfaith groups, including the World Council of Churches, Church World Service, and Religions for Peace USA.
He was a member of the board of directors of International Orthodox Christian Charities and participated in various other cooperative efforts among Orthodox communions.
Kishkovsky is survived by his wife, daughters Sophia and Maria and five grandchildren.
The Orthodox Church in America has its roots in Russia and neighboring Slavic lands but, like other Orthodox branches in the United States, has increasingly attracted members of various ethnicities. In 2010, it had 551 parishes and nearly 85,000 members, according to âThe Atlas of American Orthodox Churchesâ.
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