Remembering Protopresbyter John Meyendorff (February 17, 1926 – July 22, 1992)
The Very Rev. John Meyendorff (February 17, 1926 – July 22, 1992) served as the Dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary from March 1984 until June 30, 1992. He died that following July 22 in Montreal, Canada, due to pancreatic cancer.
A leading theologian of the Orthodox Church in the 20th century, Fr. John completed his secondary education in France and his theological education at the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris in 1949. In 1948, he also received a Licentiate at the Sorbonne, and later earned a Diplôme d'études supérieures (1949), and a Diplôme de l'école pratique des Hautes Etudes (1954). He earned the degree of Doctor of Theology in 1958 with a groundbreaking doctoral thesis on the teachings of St.Gregory Palamas.
In France, Fr. John was an Assistant Professor of Church History at the St. Sergius Institute and a Fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. After his ordination to the priesthood in the Orthodox Church in 1959, he and his family moved to the United States. There he joined the faculty of St. Vladimir's Seminary as Professor of Church History and Patristics. Additionally, he held successive joint appointments as a lecturer in Byzantine theology at Harvard University, Dumbarton Oaks (to which he returned for a semester as Acting Director of Studies in 1977), and as Professor of Byzantine History at Fordham University (from 1967). He also was Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary, both in New York City, and lectured widely on university campuses and at church events.
Father John was a major voice in the Orthodox community and worked for the reunion of the three splinter groups into which the Russian Orthodox Church broke after the Russian Revolution. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Orthodox Church in America in 1970, and urged the various Orthodox Churches in the United States, which were ethnically based, to grow closer together in their shared faith. He frequently represented the Orthodox tradition in ecumenical gatherings, such as the Uppsala Assembly held in 1968 by the World Council of Churches, during his tenure as Chairman of its Commission on Faith and Order (1967-1975).
Father John's publications include the critical text and translation of Byzantine theologian Gregory Palamas (1959), as well as a number of books in the fields of theology and history, such as A Study of Gregory Palamas (French ed., 1959; Engl. 1964); The Orthodox Church (1963); Orthodoxy and Catholicity (1966); Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (1969); Byzantine Theology (1973); Marriage, an Orthodox Perspective (1975); Living Tradition (1978); Byzantium and the Rise of Russia (1980); The Byzantine Legacy in the Orthodox Church (1981); Catholicity and the Church (1983); and Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions: The Church 450-680 AD (1989). His books have been published in a number of languages, including French, German, Italian, Russian, Greek, Finnish, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Serbian, and Polish.
The seminary community honors his memory every September at the annual Father John Meyendorff Memorial Lecture and especially remember him today, the day of his passing from death to life eternal.