+Jonah Nominated, Elected as Metropolitan
After it happened one could hear clergy and laity repeating again and again: "I knew it would happen. I knew it last night when he spoke." Well, the truth is no one knew it would happen. There was only a widespread hope among a growing number of those present, and the realization among the Bishops that it should.
Following a Divine Liturgy the delegates gathered again the ballroom of the Pittsburgh Hilton to nominate a Metropolitan. The results of the first ballot saw 233 votes for Bishop Jonah (Paffhausen), consecrated only some 11 days earlier, 212 for Archbishop Job, 75 for Bishop Benjamin, with another 100 or so votes divided among another 15 candidates. Since no one received 2/3 of the votes, a second ballot was required. The second ballot saw Bishop Jonah's number double to 473, with Archbishop Job increasing to 364, with the rest being cast for even more "favorite son" candidates.
The Synod then retired into the altar for consideration of the two names, while the clergy and laity sang. Some 15 minutes later, Archbishop Dmitri, as locum tenens, emerged with all the other Bishops folllowing behind - save one. +Jonah was missing. Could the Synod really have chosen such a dramatic change, such a break with the past? The eldest Archbishop in the OCA then announced to the Council that " It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us ...." to elect its youngest Bishop as the Primate. There were a few gasps, but the Council's feelings were expressed more clearly in the loud shouts of "Axios" ("He is worthy") that accompanied the announcement.
(And now a personal note:
Superlatives abound: +Jonah is the youngest Bishop, the newest Bishop, the first convert Primate, etc.... All that is interesting, but not important. What is important is that the clergy and laity in their votes expressed an unmistakable choice for change, real change, at the top. They voted overwhelmingly for the Archbishop most identified with accountability and transparency, and even more for the one Bishop totally untouched by the scandal. The Synod agreed to dramatic change as well. Everybody was suddenly on the same page - and after twenty years of life in the Potemkin Village and three years of scandal, that was the hand of God moving among us.)
In his opening remarks Metropolitan Jonah stated that
"I spoke at length last night. Now, I am speechless." He then reached out to the Bishops, clergy and laity around stating that it was only through their prayers would he be able to bear his new ministry. He called for everyone to work together, to rebuild the OCA in love and honesty, and then he took his place, newly clad in his primatial mantia and white klobukh, to receive greetings from the assembled clergy and faithful.
And that the OCA has been slowly embracing change was immediately apparent. In the second session of the day, Fr. Michael Tassos delivered a financial report that could only be called masterful. Open, transparent, accountable, honest, accessible ( it will all be posted with the Council papers) Fr. Michael, ably assisted by Metropolitan Council Finance Chair Fr. Matthew Tate, offered a Treasurer's Report that stood in marked contrast to that which had been presented in the past 15 years. The latter's goal was to hide, deceive and cover-up expenses; this Report sought to enlighten and explain. It was brutally honest. But the single most important line in the Report was the line Fr. Tassos delivered explaining why he is referring some items to the IRS for potential investigation, even though it might cost the OCA down the road. "I have prayed long over this, because there may indeed be consequences for us. But it must be done, because it is the right thing to do."
Many people have come up to me today to ask my opinion of the election and whether I was excited as they about the new Primate. My tears began not with the election, but with the financial report and the obvious integrity it showed, and with which it was presented. That is one of the most important changes we have needed these past years, and the one that will greatly assist our new, young and energetic Metropolitan to lead us in the same manner - with integrity.
The OCA is clearly on its way back, friends. And the Hand of God has moved among us. Thanks be to God- and to all of you, who in your concern, prayers, righteous indignation, effort, withholding, debating, writing, posting and re-posting, praying even more, downloading and sharing, caring, crying, and when the time came, standing up and voting, that made this choice for change possible.
- Mark Stokoe