The Wrong Question
by Dean Calvert, Detroit MI
I have only the greatest respect for courage of the Wichita presbyters who have come out publicly in support of their bishop.
We are witnessing a 'sea change' of the same magnitude as the priests who challenged Abp. Spyridon, or the OCA archpriests who challenged their Metropolitan. AXIOS...!!!
Last night the Metropolitan responded to their questions - with both their original letter and that response being posted below on the Archdiocesean website. Having read both, and then perusing the AOCA and Patriarchal constitutions and bylaws, and with nothing but the greatest respect for the Wichita Presbyters - I am left wondering if we have not all missed the much bigger point in the recent changes.
Let me explain: If you review the Antiochian constitution, you will find the following with respect to the election of Diocesan bishops:
"A Diocesan Bishop shall be nominated and elected in the following manner:
A. The Metropolitan Archbishop, in agreement with the Archdiocesan Synod and the Archdiocese Board of Trustees, shall prepare a list containing the names of the worthy clergymen from this Archdiocese who are qualified for nomination as described in Section 4B of this Article.
A copy of the list of qualified names for episcopacy kept in the records of the Patriarchate and the Holy Synod, comprising the names of nominees who meet the requirements described in Section 4 of this Article shall also be included.
B. A General Convention, or a Special Convention called for that purpose by the Metropolitan Archbishop, shall, from a list provided for in accordance with Section 6A above, nominate, by secret ballot, three (3) candidates for the office of Diocesan bishop. Each delegate shall be entitled to one vote times the number of offices to be filled and each of such votes must be for a different candidate. The entire list of candidates shall be submitted to the Archdiocesan Synod with the candidate' s respective number of votes received. When Diocesan Assemblies shall be constituted the nominations shall then be made, by the said assemblies.
C. The body electing bishops consists of the Metropolitan, Archbishop, the Bishops of the Archdiocese, and the Auxiliary bishop.
D. Where one Diocesan bishop is to be elected, the Archdiocesan Synod and the electing body shall elect, by a majority vote, from the three candidates receiving the highest number of votes of the Convention. With respect to the election of additional Diocesan bishops at the same time, the Archdiocesan Synod, and the electing body, may elect, by a majority vote, from the entire list of nominees. Such election(s) shall occur within 40 days thereafter. The Metropolitan Archbishop of this Archdiocese shall set the time and place for the electoral assembly and shall preside over it."
This provision defines an autonomous church - i.e. where the bishops are elected locally, and distinguishes it from other, non-autonomous dioceses of the Antiochian See.
We can contrast those provisions in the AOCA Constitution from those contained in the By-Laws (not the Constitution, interestingly) of the Antiochian Patriarchate which describe the following procedure for election of bishops:
75. The Patriarch is the sole reference for all Bishops, and they are at his disposal.
76..All candidates for the office of Bishop must meet the eligibility requirement outlined in Article 6 of these By-Laws.
77.The Holy Synod elects the Bishop from among three (3) candidates whose names are submitted by the Patriarch. The election is conducted according to Articles 60, 68, 69, and 70 of these By-Laws.
78.The Bishop may be appointed to the directorship of the Patriarchal Offices, to the abbacy of a Patriarchal Monastery, to a Vicariate, or to any of the Church's other institutions; however, the position of Patriarchal Vicar is an elected (not appointed) position.
79.The Patriarchal Vicar participates in the nomination and election of the Patriarch, the Metropolitan, and the Bishop.
80.The Bishop shepherds the Vicariate under the direction of the Patriarch.
81.The Bishop is subject to those By-Laws concerning the resignation, deposition, and permanent disability of a Metropolitan."
The episcopal election process of the AOCA also contrasts with that of the GOA, a similarly non-autonomous body, which follows the following process (as described in the GOA charter):
Election of a Metropolitan
a.- In every regular meeting and in consultation with the Archdiocesan Council, the Eparchial Synod reviews and modifies, through additions and deletions, the list of those eligible for the office of Metropolitan. The Auxiliary Bishops are automatically included in this list by virtue of their office. The Eparchial Synod submits the list so completed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for its approval. The list becomes definitive after its ratification by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is then officially published by the Archdiocese.
b.- Immediately following a vacancy in the See of a Metropolis, but no later than forty (40) days thereafter, the Archbishop convenes the Eparchial Synod in a timely fashion, for the purpose of nominating, after soliciting the opinion of the members of the Archdiocesan Council, three persons, out of whom one shall be elected to fill the vacancy of the Metropolis. The nominees are taken from the above mentioned list of those eligible, pursuant to the procedure provided for by the Regulations of the Eparchial Synod.
c.- The list of three nominees thus established is submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. According to the existing practice, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elects one of the three as the new Metropolitan.
d. A nominee for the office of Metropolitan shall be a person of deep faith and ethos, a Greek Orthodox Christian, a graduate of an academically recognized and accredited Orthodox school of theology of the highest level, have a fluent knowledge of spoken and written English and Greek, and have a proven ability in administration and pastoral work. In addition, the nominee must have all the pertinent qualifications defined by the Holy Canons, shall not be less than thirty-five (35) years of age, and shall have had a period of sufficient service in the Archdiocese.
e. Those fulfilling the above conditions are candidates and are included in the list of eligible candidates regardless of the place of residence during the time of the election.
Article 15 Elections of Auxiliary Bishops
a. For the election of Auxiliary Bishops the same procedure shall be followed as for the election of Metropolitans (see Article 14).
So we see that the AOCA, whether or not it is called "self ruling', actually elects it's own bishops locally, which stands in stark contrast to both a) other dioceses of the Antiochian patriarchate or b) other non-autonomous bodies (eg the GOA).
Since that is the case, I would suggest that the REAL question we should be asking Metropolitan Philip is this: Will the local election of bishops in the AOCA continue to follow the AOCA constitution? If not, then has the "Self Ruling" status of the AOCA been effectively renounced?