A Reflection on the Episcopal Assembly
by An Anonymous Priest
As of today, the final day of the Episcopal Assembly (EA) held in New York, we have only received a few official reports.* These reports have been in the form of addresses from bishops of the assembly. While it is nice to read the speeches and some of their poignant words, I am convinced that nothing dramatic will change. I am not one who is ‘connected’ and I have no sources and am not given over to conspiracy theories. I do not give thought to a take-over from Constantinople or Moscow. If this is attempted or happens, then I will give thought to such a scenario.
I was impressed by Archbishop Demetrios’ calm and reserved tone when discussing the situation we find ourselves in and some of the many abnormalities and difficulties that he laid on the table. I likewise was impressed with the fiery zeal and courage in Metropolitan Philip’s attempt to address some fundamental stumbling blocks the EA has to deal with. The other hierarch’s addresses were also well stated.
Granted, I have no idea what has gone on behind closed doors. All I know of is what has been publically and officially put forth. I put no hope in the chatter, fears, triumphs, speculation and the rest—this mostly rests in the realm of gossip. So why do I not think that much will come from the EA? Because there are fundamental issues that none of the speeches even attempt to address. Archbishop Demetrios spoke of the great building that none would go to the cellar to see its foundation. I am afraid that the bishops gathered in New York not only do not want to go in the basement but that there is an attempt to deny that a basement even exists. To take the Archbishop’s image a step further, it is as if they think the carpet that they are standing on is as far as the depth of the building goes. There is not even an attempt to look under the carpet. And what is lying under this carpet but fear, pride, self-interest, self-preservation, power, money, status, etc.
The foundation that should be built upon is not one of dialogue, organization, or even a true canonical order in America. All these things are another carpet, decorations in the magnificent building we call the Church. The Foundation to be built on is Christ, and what were Christ’s words to begin his ministry with? “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Nowhere in any of the speeches were the words, “I am sorry, please forgive me. I will do everything by God’s Great Grace to not sin against you and the Church any longer.” For the Church in America and for that manner, universal, these words need to begin every one of these EA where discord has been sown instead of love and peace. I would begin to take seriously the EA if their officially signed document was a pastoral letter by all of our collective hierarchs begging the people of North America and the world for the poor witness, un-Christian behavior, lack of charity towards all and for causing so much discord and enmity within the Church. For this I would have some hope. As it stands, this is just another document in a long list of many. And even if this EA were to bear the fruit of jurisdictional unity, its foundation would be shaky.
I have heard over and over again how difficult it would be for jurisdictional unity to occur. I refuse to see the great difficulty in this. Perhaps I am being a bit too naïve, but in order for a true unity to occur there has to be a true repentance and true humility (that includes all of us and not just those bishops and patriarchs we see as holding things up).
I pray that our gracious and merciful God Who has not abandoned us even now, give us and our bishops and patriarchs the Grace to look under the carpet—to go into the cellar and repent!
(*Editor's note: Due to circumstances largely beyond my control this reflection is published almost a month later than originally intended. I apologize to the author. However, nothing has changed from when it was penned - alas.)