Few meetings of the Holy Synod have been fraught with import as the one that takes place tomorrow. For the first time in the history of our small Church, the world is actually watching what we will do, or choose not to do.
In the past three months a senior hierarch has asked a simple question: Are the allegations true or false? Almost sixty of his priests suggested a way forward: create an investigative commission, composed of bishops, priests and laity with the full power and resources to answer that question. This was followed by a similar request from seventy of the most senior clergy in the OCA, that the above commission institute a fair and transparent process to investigate the allegations, and at the conclusion of that investigation, those findings be communicated to the whole Church.
None of the above should be seen as striking, revolutionary or even very controversial. And yet some have offered every excuse in the book as to why it should not be done: "God alone can judge", "It's old news", "Don't open a can of worms", "It's democracy invading the Church", "Nothing will ever change", "It's too embarrassing", "It's only the concern of the Bishops", "You have no right to ask questions", and so on and so forth.
What a sad commentary on our current church life that some have come to fear the truth more than living in untruth.
That could all change tomorrow.
The choices the Bishops face are clear:
• To choose to continue the silence of the past seven years can only lead to growing unrest in the Church, and unwelcome publicity from outside it. This way surely results in disaster: personal and corporate.
• To choose to break the silence only to demand that all questioning stop, as was done in 1999, 2000, and most recently in January 2006, is to pursue a path to failure. Threats, intimidation, slander, half-truths, cover-ups – these only bear witness to the lack of integrity that has so sadly characterized this sorry chapter in our Church's history. The demands for silence have not worked so far, and they will work even less as the scandal grows.
• The only real option is to break the silence with the truth. Only the truth can stop the questions. Only a commission, free of cronyism, free of prejudice, free of ethical conflicts of interest, as so many priests have encouraged be called, can lead us to the truth.
In empanelling such a commission, the Bishops can choose, in front of God, the Church and the world, to show that love does cast out all fear; that repentance and confession, while they entail consequences, also lead to forgiveness; and that the truth, indeed, sets us free.
We could ask for no better witness to America than that. We should expect no less.