The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is that part of the Russian Church which is outside the boundaries of the Russian state, existing as an autonomous local Church with its own synod of bishops.
The Russian Orthodox Church has had missions outside of Russia for over two centuries. The mission to the tribal peoples of Asia included dioceses in China and Japan. The spreading of Orthodoxy among the native population of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, and the establishment of dioceses for North America, were a continuation of the preaching in Asia.
After the collapse of the monarchy in the early twentieth century, the atheist regime began closing churches, persecuting and murdering clergy, and systematically attempting to exterminate the Church.
Foreseeing the possibility that the Higher Authority of the Russian Church would be deprived of freedom, and that it would become impossible for separate parts of the Russian Church to have contact with it, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Tikhon issued an instruction that, in those regions which were separated from the Church Administration, a temporary church administration should be established under the leadership of the senior hierarchs in that region.
Guided by the Patriarch’s decree of November 7, 1920, the hierarchs abroad assembled and established a Synod of Bishops for the Church outside the borders of Russia. Since 1950 the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has been headquartered in Manhattan, New York.
Beginning with the fall of Communist authority at the end of 1991, the question began to arise as to when conditions would allow the Church Outside Russia to reunite with the mother Church. Finally in 2007, on May 17, the feast of the Ascension of Christ, the Act of Canonical Communion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia with the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate reunited the two branches of the Church of Russia.
Over the decades, the “Church Abroad” has become home not only to Russian and Ukrainian faithful, but to people of many nationalities in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and around the world. At the time of this writing, ROCOR currently consists of 349 parishes and 21 monasteries for men and women in 32 countries throughout the world, served by 462 clergy. The distribution of parishes is as follows: 152 parishes and 8 monasteries in the United States; 42 parishes in Germany; 31 parishes and 4 monasteries in Australia; 21 parishes and 3 monasteries in Canada; 22 parishes in Indonesia; and a handful of institutions in France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, South America, and New Zealand.
There are twelve ROCOR monasteries for men and women in North America. In concert with the Church of Jerusalem, ROCOR also oversees the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, which acts as caretaker to a number of monasteries and holy sites in Palestine.