As OCANews.org is often criticized (unfairly, it seems to us) for "leaping" on bad news, we hope no one will take offense if we "leap" on the good news of the elections announced by the Synod yesterday, and their meaning for the Orthodox Church in America.
The Bishop-Elect of Pittsburgh
The canonical election of Fr. Melchisedek (Pleska) following his nomination by the Extraordinary Archdiocesan Assembly in November is clear and welcome evidence that the conciliar system put forth in the OCA Statute works as its framers intended. After a long and thorough search process (Read that story here), the Diocese nominated Fr. Melchisedek on the first ballot, with two-thirds of the vote (Read that story here). The Bishops, having conducted final background and pyschological tests, as well as interviews, have now confirmed the overwhelming choice of the Diocese, while adding theological and monastic depth to the Synod.
Fr. Melchisedek will return to the United States from his monastery in Greece, and after a few days in Syosset, take up his new residence in Pittsburgh during Holy Week. No word has been given as to the details of his consecration and subsequent installation.
The Bishop-Elect of Quebec City
The canonical election of Fr. Irenee (Rochon) is equally clear evidence that conciliarity works. After a long search process involving all parts of the Archdiocese some years ago, the Canadians identified three men whom they would like to see as a Vicar Bishop to help the Archbishop deal with their continent-wide See. Unfortunately, the first candidate was blocked by +Tikhon of the West and +Nikolai of Alaska for the dubious reason that this Rhodes Scholar and later Professor of Orthodox Theology had not graduated from an accredited Orthodox seminary. (Of course, neither had either of those two - but those were the bad old days, sigh, and the old Synod overlooked the irony of that objection.)
Earlier this year, +Tikhon and +Nikolai being gone, Archbishop +Seraphim asked the first candidate if he would agree to his name being forward again. The answer was a firm “no”. So +Seraphim, then went to the Archdiocesan Council with the name of the second candidate of the search process - Fr. Irenee (Rochon). A monk, Fr. Irenee is the current pastor of St. Benoit de Nursie Church, in Montreal, Quebec, and a graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville. The Diocesan Council approved his nomination. And so the Archbishop, according to Statute, presented the new candidate to the Synod - which promptly elected him. Canada has its long-delayed Vicar at last. Details of his consecration have yet to be announced as well.
The Retired Bishop of Sendai, Japan
Of all the day's news, the reception of Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist) as the “retired Bishop of Sendai” was the least expected. An American convert to Orthodoxy, Bishop Seraphim is a graduate of St. Vladimir’s who, upon completing his studies, went to Japan to teach English. He ended up becoming a monk, a priest, and then a Bishop in the Orthodox Church in Japan. Returning to the USA some twenty years later, the Bishop was eventually released by the Church of Japan, but was never accepted into the OCA. (Once again, it was the bad old days, sigh.) He has spent the last decade or more working in the library of Pace University, as a “supply priest” for the New York deanery, and as the spiritual father of the “Hosanna” community in Moscow. (As a former Bishop of the Church of Japan, +Seraphim was technically a retired hierarch of the Russian Church as well.)
Once again the Metropolitan and the Synod have acted with manifest care for the OCA. As an Orthodox reviewer wrote of one of +Seraphim’s books :
“ 'Theology of Wonder' is a collection of essays from a man who is both deeply learned and wholly free....Rabbis, Norse myths, Majorcan geniuses, Hindu Upanishads, Simone Weil, Christian apologists and modern Roman Catholics (C.S. Lewis, Chesterton), early church fathers (Basil, Irenaeus, Dionysius), Dante, Pascal, the gospels .... and all this only in the first two short chapters, a total of twelve pages .... held together in the wonder of human life as it intersects with the divine.“ The Bishop is an interesting and thoughtful man.
One doubts +Seraphim of Sendai will remain “retired” very long. Now that he is “officially” in the Church that he has considered his home for many years, should the Diocesan Council of Washington - New York agree, expect to see +Seraphim assisting the Metropolitan in his large diocese in the foreseeable future.
The Meaning for the OCA
The OCA added three Bishops to its roster today. All three have graduate degrees from Orthodox seminaries. Two are real monastics - yet have deep parish experience as well. The third has decades of experience as a Bishop, author, and missionary. They speak Russian, Greek, French and Japanese. Most importantly, they are all known quantities, with the two active candidates chosen or recommended in a conciliar fashion by their new Archdioceses or Archdiocesan Councils. They bring new life and fresh perspectives to the OCA, to their Archdioceses, and to the Synod.
This is good news for everyone.