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Reflections On The Scandal

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2.11.08


Open Letter to the Pre-Conciliar Commission

Dear Members of the Pre-Conciliar Commission,


As a member of the last six pre-conciliar commissions,

I sympathize with your current dilemma – you face the nearly impossible task of restoring peace and order within the Church. Trust on all levels has broken down, and restoring trust must be at the top of the church's agenda at the present time.

I have been following the OCA situation for some time, keeping in touch with large numbers of concerned clergy and laity on all sides. I have up until now avoided making any public statements or internet postings. But I have come to believe strongly in the following solution which, although it may sound radical, has clear historical precedent, and may now be the only way to restore integrity and trust.

The Metropolitan and the entire Synod of Bishops need to submit their resignation, in humility acknowledging their individual and corporate responsibility and guilt for what has happened on their watch. These resignations are to be effective at the AAC, at which each bishop will stand for (re-)election by the clergy and lay representatives of his diocese. If the bishop is not re-elected in a straight up-or-down vote by secret ballot, he will immediately retire. If elected, he will immediately assume his post and a new Synod will be constituted. The senior bishop will assume the presidency of the Synod, and the election of a new Metropolitan will follow immediately. These steps will give us the opportunity to start with a clean slate.

Such was the process adopted by the 1917 Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in its effort to restore trust in the Church at a critical juncture in its history. Each diocese was given the right to elect its own bishop, and sitting bishops had to stand for re-election. A number of bishops, including, for example, Metropolitan Pitirim of Petrograd, were voted out.

The second task of the AAC will be to begin discussion of a new statute for the OCA, one that will contain appropriate checks and balances and restore true conciliarity to the Church. There is not sufficient time to do much before November 2008, and the atmosphere is currently too polluted for significant progress to be made. But the AAC could certainly elect a representative body of bishops, clergy, and laity to address this task over the next few years.

I would, of course, be ready and willing to discuss it further with you, if you desire.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Dr Paul Meyendorff
Fr Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology
St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary