STAGE SET FOR ELECTION
- OR MAYBE NOT ...
The OCA announced late yesterday afternoon that “on September 4, 2008, the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, 'upon granting retirement to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman', declared the Metropolitan See of the Orthodox Church in America vacant.” That decision and yesterday’s announcement sets the stage for the election of a new Metropolitan according to the provisions of the OCA Statute.
According to Article IV, Section 3 of the Statute:
“The office of Metropolitan shall be declared vacant by a vote of the Holy Synod in the event of death, voluntary retirement, medically certified incapacity, or deposition by due canonical process.”
Section 4 then explains what is to follow:
“When a vacancy has occurred in the office of Metropolitan, the bishop senior by rank and date of consecration shall convene the Holy Synod. After the formal vote declaring the vacancy, the Holy Synod will proceed with the election of a locum tenens. Within a period not exceeding three months (unless some unavoidable necessity forces a prolongment of this period), the locum tenens will convene an All-American Council at which a successor shall be elected.”
Following Metropolitan Herman's retirement, Archbishop Dmitri convened the Synod on September 4th and was himself elected locum tenens, with Archbishop Seraphim as “Administrator of the Metropolitan See”, given +Dmitri’s age and health.
Today’s OCA announcement continued the process by stating that:
“On Thursday, September 11, 2008, the Holy Synod will meet via teleconference to discuss the election of a new Metropolitan. In determining a date for the election, the hierarchs will take into consideration canonical and statutory requiements (sic) as well as pastoral and logistical considerations.”
The canonical and statutory requirements are clear. It is the final phrase “as well as pastoral and logistical considerations” that the Synod may claim as “unavoidable necessities” requiring the election to be postponed. So even though the 15th All American Council is already scheduled within 3 months from the date the office of Metropolitan has been declared “vacant”, questions abound.
• Will the Council be held as scheduled, or postponed?
• If it is postponed, will it be held next Spring, when the Pittsburgh Hilton's renovations are complete, or moved even later, say Fall 2009, or as late as 2011?
• If postponed, will it be moved to another location? Will it be extended in length, given an election?
(Ironically, if the Council is postponed to 2011 as some have suggested, this Council, which was the subject of intense debate in 2006 when the former Chancellor attempted to postpone it until 2010, would actually be held a year later than originally proposed by the Kondratick regime!)
• On the other hand, if the Council is held as scheduled, will an election be on the agenda or not?
• And if not, what is the purpose of this Council, given that another may be looming a year from now? Will priests and delegates elect to skip this Council and wait until 2009, 2010 or 2011 to attend so as to help elect a new Metropolitan?
• And if the Council is postponed, is the OCA willing to pay heavy financial penalties to the Hilton for canceling the AAC just two months away? And what of already booked airline seats that delegates will be required to forfeit, cancel, or change?
Clearly such questions are among the “pastoral and logistical considerations” the Bishops must take into consideration, not to mention the less obvious ones. According to sources the Bishops were stunned at the SIC Report. Archbishop Seraphim and Bishop Nikon were distraught at being cited in the Report (along with Archbishop Nathaniel) for having known about allegations against Kondratick but failing to act on them. Bishop Nikon was especially upset that he was not interviewed, and therefore not allowed to relate his version of events.
Having been dominated by Metropolitan Herman, the Bishops are now required to work out new ways of cooperating, and given the events of last week, this may take some time. Having to choose a Metropolitan from among themselves, given the unlikelihood that any one of them would receive 2/3 of the delegates' votes on the first ballot at a Council, may be a challenge they would rather not face right now.
Meanwhile, the Pre-Conciliar Commission meets this week in Syosset, trying to draft an agenda for a Council whose very purpose is now called into question.
Plan C, anyone?