Wednesday, November 12. 2008
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His Beatitude is going to get a lot of this, but I remember when he was choir director for the mission in which I was received into Holy Orthodoxy (Holy Saturday '87). His Beatitude's comments that he hopes never to lapse into intimidation and power-grabbing, having experienced the sharp end of those terrible demons which need to be exorcised, are most welcome.
#1 Edmund Unneland on 2008-11-12 22:19
I first meet Metropolitan Jonah some 18 years ago (before I even became Orthodox), and although many years have passed, each time I have seen him, he is MORE. He is more dynamic, stronger in his approach to others, and a more powerful personality and speaker. Yet he has retained his humility and his "salt of the earth" personality, even though he has grown, has spent time in foreign countries and met people of significance in the Orthodox world.
Who cares? Well, many under those circumstances do change, but not this man.
All those who have known him before say the same, and the people who have just met him for the first time usually have the same reaction to him and his warmth and love, both for God and fellow man, that shines forth.
Although surprised (shocked would probably be a better term) to find him elected, I am glad, for all of us in the Orthodox world. He is going to work with those in the highest authority just fine, while remembering the "little people" far removed from Syosset, those just born to the faith or just converted, as well as the parents and general parishioners, the priest and monks, and work for the benefit of ALL! In addition, I believe that he will work with other Orthodox hierarchs and churches to bring the OCA as a forerunner in the faith, and as an example of what the autocephalous Orthodox Church here in America can be, an maybe even one day soon, a single, united Orthodox Church.
God grant him many, many years.
#1.1 Virginia Harrison on 2008-11-15 11:16
Though I have reservations about making an utnested monk Metropolitan, I am reminded ...
"Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."
If God's will was present and not just emotion in this election then I have all confidence that this will work out. I can tell you as a sheep, I hear a shepherds voice when he speaks, (much more then the former Metropolitan anyways.) There is an interesting vision in the speaking which is a sharp contrast to the Orlando and Toronto dinner speeches. Glory to You oh God!
AXIOS, WORTHY, AXIOS
#2 Reader Michael on 2008-11-12 22:59
"If God's will was present"? This is something we get to determine? If we like the result, it was God's will? If we don't, if someone sins and betrays us, it wasn't? Adam and Eve sinned, betrayed us, and their creation was still God's will.
We have got to have more faith than this is we are going to support and hierarchs and new first hierarch as we ought.
No more second guessing. No more sniping.
Go back and hear His Beatitude's addresses again.
(editor's note: As 2000 years of history has taught, the Will of God is not often obvious, but recognized, understood, etc. best in hindight. Thus the conditional is appropriate at this time. That is not a lack of faith, or good will, or sniping. It is, as the new Primate pointed out, part and parcel of the spiritual sobriety to which we are all called. The election of a new Metropolitan is a major step on the path towards healing we must all travel. It is a step, an important step, it is not the end of the process.)
#2.1 Rdr. John on 2008-11-13 10:14
My answer is to you to pray! Pray that God will bless this and help us fulfill our calling. Time will be the only evidence of whether this is God's will. But I believe that it is.
#2.1.1 Reader Michael on 2008-11-13 11:32
All things are sent to us by God. Haven't you read the fathers?
#2.1.2 Priest Robert McMeekin on 2008-11-13 18:38
I am sad and glad at the same time for the choice of Bishop Jonah to be the next Metropolitan.
Why would it be that so many people would have been compelled to vote for him versus Job?
Is there malcontent for Job's efforts in bringing justice to the OCA? We can rejoice and be glad, but its a fair question and a cause for concern. Is this a rebuke to justice?
How can so many people swing so quickly in a second vote? Is this how quickly the masses move?
I don't know who Bishop, or rather Metropolitan Jonah even is... other than the brief comment from the editor earlier.
(Editor's note: Dan, let me reassure you, the happiest man in Pittsburgh today is Archbishop Job. He did not want to be Metropolitan, did not feel capable of being Metropolitan, and did everything in his power to encourage others to let that cup pass from him. And God heard his prayer, and at the last minute, or rather last week, began to raise someone else up to take his place. The vote was in no way a repudiation of the Archbishop or his efforts these past years - it was a confirmatiion of them, and because of them. )
#3 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-11-12 23:54
Dan, We should also note that on the first ballot, both Archbishop Job and, now, Metropolitan Jonah were not that far apart in the votes they received.
The second ballot basically showed which Bishop had the most first and second choices, because the second ballots each had two names on them. So it wasn't like all of a sudden a bunch of new ballots jumped out of a hat, so to speak.
Being too lazy to go look back at the detailed numbers, I got the impression that the spread between the two leading candidates was roughly the same on both ballots.
I listened to all of Metropolitan Jonah's addresses, but especially his homily on the day of the election and his address to the council regarding questions to the Bishops. Based on what we've seen reported, given the tenor of the Council prior to that first address, it truly was a breath of fresh air. Enough to make even the harshest critics take pause and say, "Hmmmmm."
Did you know that he had all of about 5 minutes preparation when he addressed the Council regarding answers to the questions to the Bishops? Knowing this and listening to what he had to say, one is left with a definite impression that he is sincere in what he sees for us and in his leadership (and servantship, if that's even a word).
#3.1 John Czukkermann on 2008-11-13 19:13
Dear Dan: Up until Tuesday evening, I was ready to cast my vote for +Job. All that changed when +Jonah talked for 45 minutes about the questions posed by the people to the bishops. Everyone literally leapt to their feet to give him a standing ovation and +Job rose to give +Jonah a hug. You could literally feel the electricty in the room.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, I talked to after the election said the same thing, that the Holy Spirit moved the people, and the Holy Synod, to a wise decision.
#3.2 Michael Strelka on 2008-11-14 15:02
I'd like to second all that Michael has said. What happened was that the vast majority of delegates (myself included) voted for either Vladyka +Job or Vladyka +Jonah on the first ballot. Then they voted for both on the second ballot. Vladyka +Job was shown a great deal of love all week by the Council, believe me. He proved his mettle once again during the canonical election when, as Mark has reported, he literally begged his brothers to support +Jonah. Such humility... how wonderful!
I've listened again to His Beatitude's talks since getting home from Pittsburgh. In my humble opinion, the Council, and the Synod, came together through the grace of the Spirit and did the right thing for our Church. There's nowhere to go but up from here, hmm?
Orthodox Christian Church of Christ the Saviour, Paramus, NJ
#3.2.1 Anonymous on 2008-11-15 10:51
Just adding to the other responses --
Not only did I plan to vote for +Job, I had actively encouraged others to do likewise. After Tuesday night, I changed my mind -- in part, knowing that it would be a tremendous relief to Abp. Job NOT to be elected. Others still voted for Job as a sign of support, but knew they would vote for Jonah on the second ballot. Many were torn between the two names on the first ballot. I heard more than one person say they knew the first two letters but would have to pray about what comes after. One priest sitting at the same table with me said as he picked up the pen to fill out the first ballot that he really didn't know what he was going to write.
Also note that the concern with uniting behind one candidate to force the Synod dissipated somewhat. And, indeed, on the second ballot, we ended up with two candidates who were broadly acceptable.
Throughout the council, there were abundant signs that there was overwhelming [not completely universal] support for the efforts of those who worked to bring matters to light. The recordings, because the mic was set up to hear the speaker and minimize the crowd, don't give an adequate sense of the thunderous applause and standing ovations that erupted over and over again.
#3.3 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-11-15 06:01
Thanks be to God for working His grace in our much-needed-healing Orthodox Church in America!!! Last night, I listened to (then) +Bishop Jonah's Tuesday night address on Ancient Faith Radio. Unlike the previous addresses, it lacked the Jay Leno / David Letterman-style joking manner that only serves as a further deflection from the seriousness of this crisis!! What it did contain was a masterful presentation of and call to follow the Gospel!!! And it did so with*out* any whitewashing of what has occurred in the past thirty years!! As with our Lord and His Apostles, it was a call to unity!
I also rejoice that the rest of the Synod cooperated with the Holy Spirit and listened to the voice of the delegation at this Council to not return to "business as usual" but to move forward by confirming +Jonah as Metropolitan! As Mark Stokoe so aptly put it, this *is*, indeed, a major step forward!
I take comfort in the assembly's warm reception of Mr. Kozey, after all the suffering he went through by remaining firmly grounded and honest during this crisis! I now appeal to everyone to do the same with another man, without whom we would still be in this mess: Protodeacon Eric Wheeler! There are many who are wounded and suffering from the effects of this crisis, but none so more than this man who, through threats, intimidations, and downright termination of the job he was doing so well, has lost what will probably be never be measurable! As our new Metropolitan says, we should not seek vengeance! However, we should be just and seek justice, and, in this case, it means doing the next right thing to this most-faithful son of the Church!
Let us pray that God will grant all of us His Holy Spirit, to heal us, guide us, and help us grow into the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ!" May God grant +Metropolitan Jonah many years!! Axios!!!
(Editor's note: A resolution of apology and gratitude to Protodeacon Wheeler and his family will be offered this afternoon. Words alone cannot express how much we all owe them for their courage and steadfastness in the face of great hardship. Their love for the Church helped us all find our way out of the darkness. If there was one thing people have said to me here, it is what a shame it is that Protodeacon Wheeler was not able to be present, for his hand would fall off from wanting to be shaken.....)
#4 David Barrett on 2008-11-13 01:43
Deacon Eric Wheeler's full rehabilitation by the new Metropolitan would be an excellent sign that times have changed.
#4.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-11-13 05:39
It would be an even better sign if the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council saw fit to restore Deacon Eric's pension. One action that would speak so much more of our gratitude I think.
(Editor's note: True, but that is not within their competence. I do not know if the rules of the Fund would allow it either.)
#4.1.1 John Czukkermann on 2008-11-14 19:03
Thanks for the update regarding the pension Mark. It is unfortunate then, that this particular penalty may not be reversible.
#126.96.36.199 John Czukkermann on 2008-11-16 06:49
I just would like to add to what Kenneth Tobin wrote on our hierarchs. And that is: they must make a unreserved and unqualified public mea culpa for two reasons. One for their own salvation, their own road to theosis and spiritual growth. None of this deterministic 'it is part of my human nature and there is nothing I can do about it.' No, no. That is not what the Gospels say on the subject of sin. Secondly, to let their flock heal by hearing these public adnissions of guilt.
May God give them that courage to do so.
And we must pray for them so that they will have that courage.
Metropolitan Jonah struck me with a statement of particular eloquence, during his post-installation remarks. Something to the effect of "This scandal has shattered the OCA into pieces, but we will build it up again into something infinitely more beautiful."
This crisis has shattered the lethargy and pomposity of the OCA. We can now shed the bloat and waste and become an icon, a vision, of what a new Orthodoxy can be for the world. We can reveal the roots of our Orthodox heritage, we can rediscover the essence of the Church, we can proclaim truth once again.
An example: the relationship of the shepherd to his flock. Met. Herman was an example of an encrusted and perverted concept of the episcopacy, based on what is found in other countries. I recently viewed a video of the ROCOR/MP reunification service, and was struck by how imperial it was. How stupid and alienating it was. It exalted a model of the Patriarch as an emperor.
The OCA can reject this. It can show the world a concept of conciliarity and episcopal accountability and tenderness and intimacy that is so bold and visionary, yet so profoundly resonant with our ancient past.
The OCA can stand as a new, pure, clarion call for the rest of the world. It can become an incubator and test bed for radical revisitation of Orthodoxy, as it was in the visionary time of Schmemann and Meyendorf.
I am so excited about Metropolitan Jonah, and his energy and vision for the OCA, and for Orthodox unity. This scandal has been a blessing because it has purged us of deadwood like the lethargic Metropolitan Herman, and renewed us, as a Church, with hope for the future. The cheering in the podcasts strikes me as a sign that Grace has returned to God's Church. After listening to the interviews and remarks with and by His Beatitude, all I can say is Axios! Eis polla, eti Dhespota! Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever! I cannot wait to meet our new bishop! Please visit our parish soon!
St. Andrew's Church, Dix Hills, NY
Student at Syracuse University
Co-president, Syracuse OCF
I have just returned from Pittsburgh early, and urge anyone who has questions about Metropolitan Jonah to go to www.oca.org and listen to his speech given on Tuesday evening. You have never have heard anyone on the Synod speak the way he did, (unless you have had the privilege of speaking with Archbishop Job) with complete honestly, forthrightness, and great Christian charity. What a great breath of fresh air!!
Also, the word "Syosset" should be changed from an epithet spoken with a growl to a word meaning "great change and reform." To understand my meaning, get hold of the packet sent to your priest and delegate before the AAC. READ the reports of those working in the office there, find their lists of reforms, look at the spread sheets. Go to www.oca.org and read reports of the AAC. Become informed before making judgments about what has happened at AAC.
I send great thanks to the new office staff at Syosset for the work they have already accomplished and for their continued hard work in making the central office a place that is run with consistency, transparency, and accountability.
Am I pleased with everything that happened at the AAC while I was there? No, I still saw members of the Holy Synod speaking down to clergy and laity, I saw valid concerns swept aside. My hope is that having a leader who isn't afraid to speak his mind, and who will challenge the bishops will change the culture of the HS, and help us to move on.
We need to move on, get to the work of Christ.
#6 Dianne Combs, St. Stephen the First Martyr, Crawfordsville, IN on 2008-11-13 04:52
Axios and Amen!
#6.1 A Matushki on 2008-11-13 20:08
There is no doubt that the OCA should be greatly indebted to Dn. Eric Wheeler and his family. His honesty, integrity and overall suffering for his convictions are truly those of a martyr of Christ.
Dn. Eric is not present at the AAC since his wife Alla, is undergoing medical treatment. All should keep him and his family in their prayers!
#7 Anonymous on 2008-11-13 06:47
As Nancy Reagan once famously asked, "a kinder and gentler version of what?" Sorry to rain on most everyone's parade, but after carefully listening to the full version of then Bishop Jonah's remarks, at the behest of the Synod (good choice btw), I must agree with Mark's initial reaction contained in his report. Not that now Metropolitan Jonah's remarks were not impressive, and in many , if not most, respects true. But to believe that Kondratick, +Herman, and +Theodosius, presumably the referenced drunk, failed in or perverted their leadership roles, misled the Synod, and everyone else is therefore off the hook is, to be kind, disingenuous. So end of discussion, move on or risk your salvation.
Well not so fast. The three mentioned individuals above are hardly the sole cause of the scandal. Nor has their warped ecclesiology been exorcised from the OCA as Metropolitan Jonah would like to believe. While I certainly hope that his Beatitude will bring a more conciliar and open leadership style to Syosset, I wonder if his monk's vision of the world will really succeed in bringing modern men and women to Christ? Time will tell.
I sincerely wish the new Metropolitan all the best. He probably is the most appropriate choice under the current circumstances (as a converted Episcopalian as well, I too take some pride in his selection), and one that I had not previously considered. For the most part, he talks the right talk--let's see if he walks it.
#8 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-11-13 08:00
I can only respond to your response to Metropolitan Jonah by inviting you at your earliest opportunity to personally meet with him get to know him.
It has been a spiritual blessing for my wounded soul to have worked with him closely since he came to the Diocese of the South. Although I knew him at SVS when we both studied there, he has grown spiritually and has taken the path of humility which has now led him, by God's Grace, to his present task.
I have seen him "in the office" day by day, facing with courage and humility difficult issues. He has done so with only one purpose - to bring the healing and saving message of Jesus Christ to those he was called to work with on behalf of His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri.
When he was consecrated a bishop less than two weeks ago here in Dallas, and the hands of the bishops were being place on him, I knew that someday he would be Metropolitan - but I did not think it would be so soon. Yet, it is God's will.
On Tuesday, when he was speaking to the Council about the last several years of pain and disappointment we have lived through, I freely admit that I sat there selfishly muttering to myself, "Be quiet. Sit down. Stop talking or you are going to let everyone else in the Church know what we already know down in the South." Alas, all of us now have an opportunity to be have as our First Hierarch a man who can lead our Church forward using the Gospel of Christ first and foremost as our guide in how we personally and as Church must act as we live together.
Yes, Metropolitan Jonah will have his critics, all leaders do but what God has called him to, why he first became an Orthodox Christian, is now revealed to the Church. He will be a different leader from the last two Metropolitan's. His path to this office is radically different then the last two Metrpolitan's. He is not like them. I have know all three closely and he is not like them.
We will miss him in the DOS, we miss him already. But our loss is for the gain of the entire OCA and if I might also say, the whole of Orthodoxy in North America.
Many Years, Master and AXIOS!
Archpriest Joseph Fester
DOS Chancery Office
#8.1 Anonymous on 2008-11-14 08:12
I feel a compelling urge to echo the voice of Father Joseph. As I have told many in recent weeks - since before he came to Albuquerque to visit our parish here as bishop-elect, Metropolitan Jonah was my first mentor in the Orthodox Faith. The week before he came to Albuquerque, I kept thinking of all of the words of wisdom and advice, that he imparted to me from his powerful insights, backed by the example of his demeanour, and his grounded realism. That same example was evident still, not only to me, but to my fellow parishioners from the reactions I heard.
Two weeks ago today, I stood in St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas to witness and celebrate the consecration of my mentor to the episcopacy. The entire weekend was a blessing, and I was reminded, all the more of his mentorship 20 years ago in San Diego. I heard his acceptance address on the eve of his consecration, his sermon that day, and again the following day at his first hierarchical Divine Liturgy. I stood in the altar on Sunday and soaked in the relaxed atmosphere of joy in the celebration of the Eucharist.
There is nothing - NOTHING - that I have heard in these last few weeks that has left me saying to myself, "Huh? This doesn't sound like the person I remember." On the contrary, everything has been an deeper expression, grounded now in twenty more years of experience as a monk, and above all, a human being.
So, like Fr. Joseph Fester, I should strongly suggest that anybody who yet has doubts, who suspects Metropolitan Jonah of being simply a continuation of the same old regime of cover-up under a new guise, take the nearest opportunity to meet him and talk with him.If you have specific questions, ask him. I have no doubt that he will give you the most forthright answer that propriety and REASONABLE confidentiality allow.
Do I expect that we'll agree with every one of his decisions? No. Do I expect that every single idea of his will be inspired by the Holy Spirit? No. In short, do I see in him a new incarnation of the Word of God? Of course, not; but one of his best qualities is his realistic view of himself. As far back as twenty years ago he showed this quality in example first, but also in words.
If we are looking for the perfect metropolitan we'll be looking forever, and we will remain disappointed, bitter, resentful, and angry all the while. Why bother? Something happened, and I hear so many others reflecting the thoughts I have had that I cannot help but think that I am not deluded here. Something happened. The newly-consecrated +Jonah was the least likely, Vladyka Job was the most. My hopes were on Vladyka Benjamin for reasons I have stated before. And yet, with very little warning or preparation, the young vicar bishop spoke eloquently, succinctly, candidly, unreservedly, and very much to the point. Somehow, it did seem good to the Holy Spirit and to the 15th All American Council, to elect the least likely candidate of all. That wasn't a humanly engineered event, and for it, I thank God.
May God grant to my mentor of years past, Jim Paffhausen, whom GOD has chosen to be our primate, many years of faithful service. I say with no hesitation,
AXIOS! AXIOS! AXIOS!
#8.1.1 Mark Harrison on 2008-11-15 10:32
Once again, I remind you and Fr. Fester that only time will tell if this was the right choice and inspired by the Holy Spirit. I certainly hope it was, and your testimonials are most reassuring.
On another website, some questions have been raised concerning Metropolitan Jonah's tenure in the California monastery. As distasteful as it may be, these questions need to be answered.
The price one pays for selecting an unexpected and partially vetted candidate is that these sorts of questions will come to light. Forthright answers are the best and only antidote.
(Editor's note: And I believe you will get them. Ken, I have not fallen for "irrational exuberance", to quote our late Fed Chairman, nor would I encourage others to do so. There wll be things with which all of us will disagree over the next decades - reasonable people can reasonably disagree - but I am confident that the discussions will take place on a foundation of integrity . And that is not small thing. The forces of evil have been scattered this week; scattered, not removed, nor rendered powerless. It's time to thank God, raise a cup - or muffin - or whatever floats your boat - in good cheer, and then go back to the battlements to maintain a vigiliant watch, for our adversary, the devil, like a lion is still about, seeking whom he may devour.....)
#188.8.131.52 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-11-15 18:21
Wow. There is "hope" for "our" Church, albeit I would have wanted to see someone elected who had more experience. But, not dissimilar from the US national elections, our Church demands change; even if that change is uncertain and "unproven" at the level to which it is required. +Jonah is the only bishop absent and absolved from the current and past crisis. He is the only one who can walk into a room and literally know nothing about the lawsuits, IRS investigations, etc. that are extremely serious and in need of attention. Likewise, he is the only bishop that is believable in terms of preaching redemption, when all the current bishops at one point sat silent. I give +Dimitri credit. This of course was probably the plan from the beginning. The bishops literally put aside their egos, and without saying it, said by +Jonah's election that they were wrong and sorry for the past.
The time to heal has come. It's also a time to seriously lay everything on the table. The Treasurer is correct that there are very serious lawsuits and potential IRS infractions at the door. It's time to clean our house, and focus on the future. +Job represents the best chance for that, and, like President Obama, I support him and am routing for him. His task is daunting. However, having been one of the biggest pessimists this past year / two, I am encouraged. Perhaps the mood of Synod really is changed. Perhaps we can move forward tending simultaneous to the business of business and business of spirituality. Truthfully and honestly.
#9 Anonymous on 2008-11-13 08:13
This was not "a plan." Vladika Dmitri needs an assistant. He prayed for and sought a good choice for a very long time before asking approval for Archimandrite Jonah to become his assistant bishop in our diocese. It stands as testimony to Vladika's prayerful insight that he selected the best possible candidate for our diocese -- only to see him depart immediately for a more complex position.
If anybody persists in thinking there was "a plan", then please come to Dallas and assist Met. Jonah in selling his recently-purchased home in our currently collapsed housing market.
#9.1 Anonymous on 2008-11-13 12:56
Congratulations to all in the Orthodox Church in America and Many Years to Metropolitan Jonah, your new Primate.
#10 Anonymous on 2008-11-13 08:16
Glory be to Jesus Christ! Glory forever! Many years to +Metropolitan Jonah! And, many years to you, faithful, courageous servant, Mark Stokoe! Christ is in our midst!
#11 Rebecca on 2008-11-13 10:01
On my last pre-Conciliar post I wrote the following:
“In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that if I did have a vote at this AAC I would vote “No” on the issue of selecting our Metropolitan by lot, and I would vote for +JOB as our next Metropolitan. You are, of course, free to come to other conclusions…”
On Tuesday, I listened to the entire talk given by [then] +JONAH and took copious notes. On Wednesday at 10:20 a.m. I prayed fervently for “the smashing of all delusion” and for the intercession of the Holy Spirit as the delegates of the AAC came together to vote. I have now read the accounts of many who were present at this historic moment, and the verse that keeps running through my mind is the one in II Corinthians that says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” You delegates have used your God-inspired freedom well!
I recall a quote that I think is properly attributed to John Paul II: “Whenever the Holy Spirit is present, the results are astonishing.” I am astonished by what has transpired at this AAC. Thanks be to God! And I am quite confident that Mark Stokoe is right--+JOB was probably the happiest man of all when the choice was finally made.
May God grant +JOB many more fruitful years of ministry in the Diocese of the Midwest and in his later retirement, and may God grant Metropolitan Jonah strength, wisdom, and courage as he accepts this heavy cross. May God be with him, and may we all support him and one another with our prayers and service.
Well done, delegates—and all who have worked so hard to restore the OCA to health and holiness. That work continues, but for now it does seem appropriate to take time to rejoice.
God IS good!
#12 Cathryn M. Tatusko on 2008-11-13 10:13
I normally do not comment on this site, as I have grave reservations on its ideology. That being said, there is much to be seen in this election.
Firstly, Vladyki Jonas was the only candidate with a traditional monastic formation. This trumps all caveats against him. In short, the Synod had no choice, in point of fact. As for the clergy/laity vote, that was nothing but a "beauty contest". The bishops are to be applauded for their decision.
When one reflects that Vladyki Jonas started his monastic path in Valaam, this brings the OCA full-circle. It was from Valaam that the first missionaries set forth for Alaska. It was from Valaam that the first properly-formed First Hierarch of the OCA had his critical formation in Orthodox monasticism. This is not unimportant.
There shall be no "business as usual", to be sure. As for the realtively-unimportant financial questions, that shall be taken care of, now that a monastically-formed hierarch is at the helm. It is not an important question in the greater scheme of things.
A very good day, I say.
Sotvori gospodi na mnogaya lyeta, Vladyki Iona!
The election of Jonah does not bring any more change to the OCA than the election of Obama has brought to the country. Both have tremendous jobs before them. The hard work still lies ahead. Let's hope they remain true to their courses and they surround themselves with supportive persons whose hearts are in the right place for the good of our country and for the good of our OCA. Perhaps finally, after eight years, our country and our Church can move into the 21st century with pride, dignity and integrity...by the Grace and Will of GOD.
#14 anon on 2008-11-13 11:49
The Holy Spirit is the 'Spirit of Truth' and the 'Spirit of Light' and the 'Spirit of Refreshment'....and has the mission to make all things NEW. It seems obvious that the Holy Synod has been moved by this Holy Spirit to begin fresh and renew the face of the Orthodox Church in America. It has done something NEW and REFESHING and named the youngest bishop of the OCA with the ministry of metropolitan. Like when +Philaret was chosen to be Metropolitan of the Synod Abroad....the OCA has done the same thing---chosen the youngest (the Joseph of his brothers) to be the primate and the leader of his brothers...and I think it is filled with HOPE and filled with that same Holy Spirit! AXIOS AXIOS AXIOS!!!
Thanks be to God for the faith and vision and HOPE of the bishops of the OCA in choosing Metropolitan JONAH!
In His Holy Name,
Fr. Pius, priestmonk
#15 Fr. Pius on 2008-11-13 12:18
Mark, your assessment and reporting upon the election of our new Metropolitan, was in my humble opinion: lyrical to a fault!
God Grant His Beatitude many years in his new office as primate! My own prayer during all these many months and years, was to consign our dilemma as a church, to Almighty God and allow Him who made us all, to guide us into the future!
My fervent prayers have been answered, and it's up to us to abide by what has been a final resolution to our OCA and its' Chief Shepard!
Axios! Axios! Axios!
Nicholas Panko, Dormition of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, Binghamton, NY
#16 Nicholas Panko on 2008-11-13 17:11
Thanks be to God - We, in the west, are delighted with the elevation of our beloved Father Jonah. He has been a spiritual bedrock for the missions he helped establish and now will be a spiritual bedrock for the entire OCA.
Esther Smith Holmes, St Innocent Orthodox Church, Eureka, CA
#17 Esther Smith Holmes on 2008-11-13 19:33
I am not in the OCA but, GREAT!!! ... a great day for all of Orthodoxy. God bless all Orthodox Christians. in XC, best to all ...
#18 John Morariu on 2008-11-14 07:08
Axios to Metropolitan Jonah!
I am back from Pittsburgh - what a week!!! - and back to the forum to thank Mark publicly for introducing at the closing of the AAC yesterday a much-needed and strong-worded resolution of profound apologies on behalf of the OCA to Protodeacon Eric Wheeler & his family. For those who haven't been following the proceedings closely, note that this resolution carried unanimously and was supported by applause.
(Editor's note: One of the great joys of the Council was meeting so many of the people who write here and have offered the Church their insight, wisdom, experiences, etc. Among the first is Inga Leonova. It was great to put a face and a voice to a kind soul. I also met the wise Rebecca Matovic, Mike Strelka, Anonymous Priest, Anonymouse, Terry Peet, and so many others. I met Mike Geeza and Father Breton (and his wife), both of whom I shamelesslly used as foils, and both were gentlemen enough to seek me out. Class acts.
Sorry, Scott Walker, All Caps Guy was not there. I know I have left many out, but I thank everyone who made the effort to seek me out. )
#19 Inga Leonova on 2008-11-14 08:49
Can you explain why 837 votes were counted in the 2nd round againt only 620 in the first count?? Or was something in your explaination of the first tall missing?.
(Editor's note: The two votes tallied. I just left out the reporting of the endless number of meaningless votes cast for persons, no doubt worthy, who had no chance of becoming the next Metropolitan. My personal favorite was the lone vote for our guest, Bishop Mark of Toledo of the Antiochian Archdiocese. It was very kind - and rather amusing.)
#20 Anonymous on 2008-11-14 13:35
Actually there were 645 voting delegates, minus a few invalid votes. And on the second vote we voted for two candidates, those with the two highest votes being submitted to the HS for final consideration. So there should have been in total 1290 votes in the second round.
#20.1 Michael Strelka on 2008-11-15 09:29
Just so no one gets the wrong idea, it's worth saying that among the most amused was Sayedna Mark himself, and that he received some applause at the vote and (I'd assume) his own gracious attitude towards it.
Just FYI--from my perch up front with the tellers, I could also see +Ireneiu's amusement at the 2 votes he received--a grin and shoulder shrug. And, BTW, when I spoke to him afterwards, Fr. Basil Summer seemed very excited about his own 6.
#20.2 Fr. Dennis Buck on 2008-11-15 11:05
I praise God for the election of +Jonah; a much better choice in my opinion than +Job or any of the others. The Church is definitely heading in the right direction now!
One thing disgusts me though.
"Fr. Reeves, given the unpleasant events of the past week regarding a former member (Dr. Alice Woog), informed the Metropolitan that neither he, nor others at the table, were prepared to waste time by signing papers to which people were not going to be held accountable. The Metropolitan promised that he would hold people accountable."
What is Fr. Reeves above God or something? And calling himself a pastor too; that is a bishop's title. Seems he still has not fully gotten rid of his baggage from before he converted to Holy Orthodoxy. I used to respect him but now he has lost all of my respect. Everyone should be, and is, accountable whether they like it or not for what they do - no matter what their position is.
(Editor's note: I apologize for not making it clear in my report. You have misunderstood Fr. Reeve's bold and necessary comments. Dr. Woog was seen to have violated "Best Practices" removed by the Council for doing so, and reinstated by the Synod nonetheless. As Fr. Reeves pointed out for many, myself included, there is little point is signing documents that will not be enforced. Worse, it gives the impression they are being enforced when they are not. In other words, they decieve. Neither he, nor many of us on the Council, would participate in deception. Fortunately, the new Metropolitan will not participate in deception either, and stated clearly and firmly, he not only would sign Best Practices as the chair of the Council, but enforce them as Metropolitan of the OCA. It is a win-win for everyone, but most of all for the truth, accountability and transparency. )
#21 Anonymous on 2008-11-15 09:08
Met. Jonah's election is all the more awe inspiring when you know that on Tuesday night, the chair was ready to end the session. A delegate got up and said, wait a minute, asking when were the rest of the questions, which had been submitted the day prior and of which we received a summary that morning on our tables, were going to be answered? It was late in the day. People were tired and tense. When we heard from the Synod they needed more time to compose their answers to the questions, there were murmurings. Another delegate got up and strongly challenged the the Synod to speak and not delay. After a few moments of discussion among themselves, Bp Jonah got up to speak. As he spoke, I could feel the atmosphere in the room change. He said in an interview with Ancient Faith Radio after the election that he had not expected to speak until Thursday but that the meeting at that point was not going well and required a positive response from the Synod. After his sermon the next day at the Divine Liturgy, it reinforced the thinking among delegates regarding his consideration. Bp Job and Bp Jonah were the only two strong choices of the Council. The Holy Synod broke with the past and selected the one who did have the most votes from the Council delegates. With Met. Jonah's selection, there seemed to be a renewed sense of spirit and Christian purpose at the Council. The podcases by Ancient Faith Radio (link is on the OCA website) are worth listening to if you weren't there. Like Archbishop Dmitri, I too am pleasantly annoyed to have lost our new auxiliary bishop but I'm filled with joy that he will be serving the Church as a whole.
#22 Diane Prokipchak on 2008-11-15 11:28
thanks be to God!
We have seen the power of the Holy Spirit in response to the prayers of God's people. God is good. Please, let us all keep on praying so fervently for our hierarchs, clergy and lay leaders, fellow strugglers all. The work is just beginning.
#23 Mat. Donna Farley on 2008-11-15 14:24
Axios, Axios, Axios, what a blessing for the OCA in the selection of Bishop Jonah to the office of Metropolitan.
When I first showed up at the Orthodox mission in Merced, California (January 1996) I was greeted by the young, newly ordained and newly assigned priest, Father Jonah. My wife and I became his first fruits, he catechized us and then baptized us on the following St. Lazarus Saturday.
He has remained our spiritual father through the years as he moved from the mission to the monastery at Pt Reyes, CA and then Manton, CA. As an older couple (70 and 74) we have enjoyed the energy and dedication that this wonderful man of God has displayed at the monastery under his direction and of course the various missions that he established and helped along the way.
In those early days, times were tough and the missions were struggling and I acted as an altar-server for him in Sonora and Chico, an absolute privilege for this old man. I also visited Eureka with him several times as he helped them in their early days. What a load he had, missions all over northern California and a monastery too; he was kind of a man Friday for +Bishop Tikhon and later for +Bishop Benjamin, yet never a word of protest and seldom a word regarding the exhaustion that he must have felt after his long road trips.
His main goal in ministry is always based on the primary commandment of the gospel, to love, love, love. He has always reached out, always sought what was best for other person, to lead that person to Jesus Christ. My wife and I took one of our grandsons to Pt. Reyes to expose him to the Orthodox church, he left as a catechumen. I have exposed many others to his ministry and every one of them without exception loved him and felt loved in return, he is an amazing child of God, someone whom I am very fortunate to have in my life.
Again, I say, Axios, Axios, Axios.
#24 John Reeder on 2008-11-15 21:42
If Metropolitan Jonah can indeed walk this talk, we will all be truly God-blessed and his will be a historic ministry!
Episcopacy, Primacy, and the Mother Churches:
A Monastic Perspective
A Paper delivered at the Conference of the Fellowship of St Alban and
St Vladimir's Seminary, June 4–8, 2008
A prominent orthodox theologian has remarked that he thinks bishops
have become useless. And he is only echoing a widespread and long-
standing sentiment in our tradition. This is clear evidence of a
crisis of episcopal leadership and primacy in the Church, a crisis
that cuts to the heart of the apostolic and catholic identity of the
While most of the problems Iwill address in this paper are specific
to the extraordinary situation of Orthodoxy in America, they have
broader application because they reveal the crisis of primacy on the
ecumenical level. (And Iuse "ecumenical" to refer to the oikumene –
the whole Orthodox Catholic Church). They also reveal the challenge
to the Church's organization and ecclesiology posed by the new
political and cultural realities of the third millennium.
I. Vision and Mission
The nature of Church leadership stems directly from the nature of the
Church's vision. The only true vision of the Orthodox Catholic Church
is the Kingdom of God revealed in Jesus Christ, in other words, the
Gospel. And all levels of Church leadership have the task of
constantly renewing this vision. The Liturgy is the core of this
constant renewal. It provides for us the icon of the Kingdom and of
spiritual ascent into Christ, raising us up into the Body of Christ
and fulfilling us as the community of the Faithful.
Leadership in the Church has a single task: constantly to call us to
this repentance in order that we may be purified of all distractions
which hold us back from the living vision of the Kingdom and from
fulfilling the mission to make disciples who will share the same
vision. It is a call to faith: to enter into the living Body of
Christ which is animated by the Holy Spirit, and to receive the "mind
of Christ," the shared faith of all the saints from the very
beginning. This call to repentance, to membership in the Church, and
hence to a share in the vision and mission of the Kingdom of God, is
unequivocally addressed to all people, without any qualification by
any human distinction: race, ethnicity, citizenship, or language.
There is "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism," (Ephesians 4 : 5) and
hence, One Church. There cannot be different churches for different
kinds of people.
With that shared vision and mission comes shared responsibility. Our
task within the Church is also to call one another, including our
leaders, to repentance. This mutual responsibility for the integrity
of the Tradition and for one another is the core of conciliarity –
sobornost: mutual accountability of the leaders to the faithful and
of the faithful to the leaders. But it is the particular role of the
bishops to foster this conciliarity. Conciliarity is a healthy
interdependence and synergy, in which mutual responsibility and
accountability function in a spirit of love and respect. This holds
on all levels of ecclesial organization.
II. Leadership: Responsibility, Authority, and Accountability
"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to
you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out
for your souls, as those who must give account." — Hebrews 13 : 7, 17
At the heart of leadership within the church is the care of souls,
making the leader accountable for the lives and faith of those with
whom he has been entrusted. The greater the role of leadership, the
greater the accountability for the model one provides by one's own
life, for the integrity of one's own faith and conduct, and for one's
oversight of others. This responsibility is essential to authority.
Authority has two meanings, both referring to the source of the
vision and mission of the Church. It consists in the constant renewal
of the vision itself, its "authorship;" and the "one who authorizes"
or gives responsibility to others to fulfill the mission, holding
them accountable for it.
How do the elements of responsibility, authority, and accountability
manifest themselves in an Orthodox theology of leadership?
The Local Church
Let us consider some basic ecclesiological principles of the Orthodox
Catholic Church. There are two facets of leadership in Orthodox
ecclesiology: mysteriological and organizational.
Mysteriological or sacramental leadership is vested in the bishop,
giving him the responsibility to authorize and empower others,
through his blessing or ordination, to participate in that ministry
for the building up of the Church.
The bishop sacramentally recapitulates his community in himself by
virtue of his ordination. He bears all the fullness of the grace of
the priesthood. Thus, the bishop is the "hierarch," "source of
sanctification" as well as "archiereus," high priest (citing the pun
of St Dionysios the Pseudo-Areopagite).
The focus of the life of the Church is local: a bishop surrounded by
his clergy and people, celebrating the Eucharist, is the icon of the
Kingdom in all its fullness. It is the actualization of the Church as
the Body of Christ. The local church headed by its bishop is itself
the fullness of the Church; but the communion of these churches with
each other through synods of bishops conveys the catholic identity to
each level of organization. These synods, national and ecumenical,
also constitute Eucharistic communities. Each is a communion of
persons with a single presidency, which manifests the unity of the
body of Christ.
The primates of the national churches are not "super-bishops." There
is no sacramental status above the ministry of bishop, so that,
according to the Church's sacramental life, all bishops are equal.
Thus it is a misnomer to refer to a national church or regional synod
as a "local church."
Each level of institutional organization expresses the Church and its
catholicity in a particular place. The essential principle of
organization, and hence jurisdiction, is that it is geographically
and politically defined. This principle is expressed by one bishop in
each city, and one Synod in each region, with the president of that
synod as the primate. This held true for the Roman Papacy as well as
all other local and regional churches.
The catholicity of the Church has two dimensions: the integrity of
its orthodoxy and the universality of its mission. The local Church
is the fundamental principle of Orthodox ecclesiology because it
bears the fullness of sacramental life, the fullness of Apostolic
faith and practice. Though there may be multiple ministries for
diverse needs within the population – language, culture, or other
demographic issues – all the Christians in each diocese are the
responsibility of that one bishop. Thus the local church is truly
Catholic, embracing all elements of human diversity within itself.
Its catholicity, however, depends also on its communion with other
churches in the common faith and practice. Neither sense of
catholicity is possible without the bishop.
This is so because the local bishop bears responsibility both for the
internal integrity of his church as well as for its relationship with
the other churches. It is through its bishop's presence on the synod
that the local church relates to other local churches. The bishop is
the point of accountability for that unity, both to his flock and to
the synod in relation to them.
In the apostolic vision, the essence of primacy is episcopal
leadership. Every bishop occupies the chair of Peter that preserves
the unity and integrity of Peter's Faith. There is only one
episcopate, which each bishop possesses equally and completely.
A "national church" is actually the synod of bishops, which elects a
president from among its members. Their unity is a sign of the unity
of the whole Body, and it is expressed in the person of the primate,
who, as the agent of accountability, is responsible for fostering
unity and communion. The primate, in turn, relates this synod and its
local churches to the other national churches by maintaining
doctrinal and sacramental communion with them.
There can be no primacy without synodality, and no synodality without
primacy. The primate is one among the others, first among equals; yet
is given the responsibility of holding the others to accountability.
The authority of the primate arises from the mutual consent of those
who elect him, and his acceptance by the greater community of
primates throughout the world. Real primacy is an active role of
actual leadership, of responsibility and accountability, in the
context of actual jurisdiction.
III. Issues regarding Primacy in the Orthodox Church
"The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among
them and account to him as their head, and do nothing of consequence
without his consent. But each may do those things only which concern
his own parish and the country places which belong to it. But neither
let him, who is the first, do anything without the consent of all,
for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the
Lord in the Holy Spirit." — Apostolic Canon 34
Autocephaly and Primacy
Is there a primacy beyond that of the national church, and, if so,
what is its role? The principle of the autocephaly of national synods
has become the quintessential ecclesiological stance of the Orthodox
Churches. According to this principle, each national synod has
complete independence in governing its own affairs, and especially in
electing its bishops and primate. The double office of a primate is
to foster communion between the bishops and local communities through
the regional synod, as well as to maintain relationships with other
But at present, there is no effective overarching primacy in the
Orthodox Church. Perhaps this is because there is no
active "ecumenical synod" that embraces all Orthodox; and there has
been no ecumenical council for over 1200 years. The idea of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate is based on primacy over an empire-wide
synod, or ecumenical council. Indeed, canonically, the primacy of
both Rome and Constantinople had one foundation: they were the
imperial capitals. While this was feasible in the days of the Roman
Empire, and later during the Ottoman Millet, it has long since become
unrealistic. For the Empire effectively ceased to exist eight hundred
years ago, and now only the Greek ethnic churches, and a few others,
recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be what it claims to be.
While no one denies it a primacy of honor, it has no real
institutional role, much less a role of actual leadership. This is
partially due to its location in a hostile Islamic society; and
partially due to the lack of cooperation and consensus as to its role
among the other Orthodox Churches. Primacy of honor without primacy
of jurisdiction is meaningless.
Autocephaly without an overarching primacy has given rise in the
national churches to an exaggerated self-sufficiency and to the
blending of national or ethnic identity with that of Orthodox
Christianity. Cultural and political agendas have become central to
the missions of these churches. For many believers these agendas are
intermingled with or even supersede the Gospel. Ethnos and culture –
not Christ – have come to determine identity.
As a result, worldwide there are few expressions of a unified
Orthodox Church beyond those of Eucharistic concelebration and a few
commonly enunciated positions. Even the Ecumenical Patriarchate is
primarily a Greek ethnic institution, unabashedly promoting
Hellenism. Ecclesiastically, this has come to mean that an Orthodox
Christian's loyalty is to his ethnic homeland and to his "mother
church," and that those churches maintain responsibility for all the
people of their culture and nation, wherever they may be in the world.
Mother Churches and the "Diaspora"
The result is that almost all national churches have extended their
jurisdictions beyond their geographic and political boundaries to the
so-called diaspora. But Orthodox Christians who are faithful to the
Gospel and the Fathers cannot admit of any such thing as a diaspora
of Christians. Only ethnic groups can be dispersed among other ethnic
groups. Yet the essential principle of geographic canonical
boundaries of episcopal and synodal jurisdiction has been abrogated,
and every patriarchate, every mother church, now effectively claims
universal jurisdiction to serve "its" people in "diaspora." Given
this fact, on what basis do we object to the Roman Papacy?
This situation arose in reaction to the mass emigration of Orthodox
from their home countries, and is continued as a means of serving the
needs of these immigrant communities. It is perpetuated as a means of
maintaining ethnic, cultural and political identity for those away
from their home country; but also as a means of financial support for
the mother churches from their children abroad.
The confusion of ethnic identity and Orthodox Christian identity,
expressed by competing ecclesiastical jurisdictions, is the
incarnation of phyletism. Due to this confusion of the Gospel with
ethnic or political identities, multiple parallel communities, each
with its own allegiance to a foreign mother church, divide the
Orthodox Church in North America and elsewhere into ethnic and
political denominations. This distorts the Apostolic vision, and has
severely compromised the catholicity of the Orthodox Churches, in
which all Christians in a given territory are called to submit to a
local synod of bishops.
The problem is not so much the multiple overlapping jurisdictions,
each ministering to diverse elements of the population. This could be
adapted as a means of dealing with the legitimate diversity of
ministries within a local or national church. The problem is that
there is no common expression of unity that supersedes ethnic,
linguistic and cultural divisions: there is no synod of bishops
responsible for all the churches in America, and no primacy or point
of accountability in the Orthodox world with the authority to correct
such a situation.
In the 21st century, people emigrate and move around, and Orthodox
Christians need to be ministered to in their own language and with
familiar traditions at least until they are acculturated. However,
these should be particular ministries of the local or national church
to particular groups – i.e. ministries to immigrant communities –
rather than points of division. The cultural agendas of these
external missions both distort the message of the Gospel and prevent
people from entering into the Orthodox Church by forcing them to
relinquish their own cultural identity in favor of someone else's.
This also undermines any genuine missionary activity in the new land.
In reality, people do assimilate to their new cultures, and
join "native" churches. This has accounted for a massive apostasy
from the Orthodox Church in the West, as people find their parents'
ethnic cultures, and thus the churches that promote these cultures,
to be increasingly alien. This apostasy begins with the second
generation, and by the fourth generation there are few that remain
practicing Orthodox Christians. They leave because they were unable
to find Christ and salvation through the incomprehensibility of the
now alien forms and language. No matter how successful they may
appear, due to new waves of immigration, churches that superimpose a
national or ethnic agenda over the Gospel will die out.
But in North America there is another, very different aspect to the
ecclesiological complexity. Orthodox Christianity first came to
America not as an ethnic diaspora but as a missionary outreach by the
Russian Orthodox Church in 1794. While the 19th century saw great
immigration of Orthodox people from different countries, nevertheless
the normal canonical order embracing all Orthodox of all ethnic
backgrounds was observed in America, up to the 1920s, under the
supervision of the Russian Mission. There was a united Synod with a
single archbishop, and several bishops with missionary outreach and
ministries to the various ethnic communities. But for more than a
century the overwhelming needs of the new immigrant communities did
make the Church in America lose sight of its original missionary
The division of the Orthodox Mission in America began in 1922 with
the collapse of Russian Imperial support of the Mission following the
Bolshevik coup, and the formation of parallel hierarchies, beginning
with the Greek Archdiocese under Constantinople. They justified their
action by a novel and idiosyncratic interpretation of Canon 28 of
Chalcedon, relegating to Constantinople jurisdiction in
all "barbarian lands." This was followed by the formation of several
other ethnic jurisdictions, each subject to an Old World mother
church. Further complications ensued as many of these communities
were then divided into two or three competing segments corresponding
to their various attitudes towards the political situation in their
homelands, especially vis-à-vis Communism. Thus not only ethnic but
political criteria distorted the message and mission of Orthodoxy in
However, missionary work and conversions within the Russian
Metropolia and throughout the Church, continued. By the 1970s the
missionary expansion of the Orthodox Church had embraced large
numbers of converts, as well as the children of immigrants who had
only vague identification with their ethnic roots. Today, a great
majority of the clergy and laity, including the bishops, are converts
or children of converts. We have an American cultural identity and a
multitude of divergent ethnic and racial roots, but our primary
identity is as Orthodox Christians who live in America. This
missionary expansion has taken hold in all the Orthodox jurisdictions
in America, even the ones that assert cultural agendas. In no way are
we in diaspora.
In 1970, the Russian Orthodox Church granted autocephaly to its
American mission, forming the Orthodox Church in America. While this
action remains controversial to this day, it recognized the existence
of a local Church in America, with the fullness of sacramental
integrity and institutional self-sufficiency. In other words, the
gift of autocephaly established a hierarchy with the authority to
incarnate the vision and mission of the Orthodox Church in North
America by its own work, and to take responsibility for the life and
growth of the Church in North America while remaining accountable to
the other national Churches throughout the world. Finally, there was
an effort to establish church life according to canonical norms.
The dilemma, however, is that with autocephaly, the presence of any
other jurisdiction on American territory becomes uncanonical, and
membership in the Synod of the Orthodox Church in America becomes the
criterion of canonicity for all bishops in America. This, of course,
has not been pushed by the OCA. What is at stake, however, is the
canonical order of the Church, its vision and mission.
IV. Some Possible Resolutions
The absence of a functional ecumenical primacy within the Orthodox
Church has severe implications. There is no ministry or point of
unity or accountability functioning beyond the level of a national
church, nothing to point to a Christian identity aside from national,
linguistic, political, and cultural identities. This compromises the
catholicity of the Orthodox Church, threatening division and
competition between its various churches.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople is universally accepted as having
a primacy of honor; but given its current situation, it is unable to
lead. Furthermore, it promotes a cultural agenda of Hellenism that
mutes its voice to the other churches. Its claim of jurisdiction over
the so-called "barbarian lands," or "diaspora" falls on the deaf ears
of other patriarchates that have established identical institutions
in the same territories, disregarding its claims to jurisdiction
outside the geographic boundaries of existing churches. Beyond this,
having been the first to abrogate the unity of the Church in America,
Constantinople's own political adventurism has divided the Church in
Estonia, and threatens the unity of the Church in Ukraine and other
places, and hence, its communion with Moscow and other autocephalous
churches. By these actions it has broken trust in itself, and
sacrificed its ability to lead.
The only way an ecumenical primacy could work is if there is a
functional and active ecumenical synod, which meets at regular
intervals and is composed of the heads of all the autocephalous
Churches. Such a permanent synod, provided for by the canons as a
permanent synod presided over by the ecumenical primate, would create
a context for the up-building of the sense of unity of the Orthodox
Churches, and for the resolution of particular issues as they arise.
Its primate would be a point of accountability, responsible for
preserving the unity and vision of the Orthodox Church. Now more than
at any time in history is this feasible, given available means of
communication and transportation. This would take the full
cooperation of all the autocephalous churches, providing an
opportunity for the Patriarchate of Constantinople to exercise real
leadership, inviting the rest of the Church to unity.
Mother Churches and the "Diaspora"
The fullness of the Church is present sacramentally in a local bishop
and his community; but a local church's integrity is actually
compromised when its bishop belongs not to a local synod but to one
in a foreign country, a synod which can neither hold its bishop
accountable nor be responsible for the life of the remote diocese. We
have seen this over and over again in America. The territorial
structure of the Orthodox Church is rooted in very practical issues:
only through a local structure of accountability is a church able to
maintain responsibility for its integrity. Outside that territorial
structure, it is a disaster waiting to happen.
Being tied to a "mother church" is not of itself a guarantee of
legitimacy, nor even the identity of practices and customs with those
of the mother church. The canonical tradition emphasizes the
integrity of the local church and its communion with the mother
churches; then both its legitimacy and its tradition remain intact.
The diversity of traditions within Orthodoxy is completely
appropriate, but the identity of the local church has to embrace all
these traditions, and respect their integrity. The common vision of
the Gospel, to which all these traditions bear witness, is the
underlying point of unity, and the real source of identity. We cannot
make the traditions something absolute: God is the only absolute.
Each tradition is unique and valuable, but is also subject to growth
and change if it is alive. Ministry to people who are formed in each
tradition is a legitimate function of the local church; but it is
also necessary to bring all the diverse ministries and expressions,
the whole People of God, into unity and coordinated action, to
conciliarity. In this consists the catholicity of the Church and the
role of the local bishop.
Afeasible option which would both preserve the unity of the local
church and minister to people of varying ethnicities and cultures
would be for the "mother churches" to send clergy, even bishops, to
care for the particular needs of those immigrant flocks, but who
would sit on the synod of the local national church, and have their
ministries coordinated through the local church. Such a bishop
responsible for his ethnic missionary diocese could then be the
representative of the American Church to his mother church. This
could only promote a sense of unity both among the Churches and
within the country, and preserve whatever flow of resources is
necessary. Yet the overall vision and mission would remain the same,
and the Apostolic canonical order would remain intact.
The Episcopacy: A Monastic Perspective
The role and nature of episcopal leadership within the Church is the
core issue underlying all these institutional problems. All levels of
episcopal primacy have been secularized, cast in terms of civil
offices. Thus the patriarch is made analogous to an emperor, a bishop
to a prince of the Church, etc. They even dress up in Church like
Byzantine civil officials. The real nature of ministry, of arch-
pastorship, and of Christian leadership, is lost.
What is the structure of leadership within the Church? On all levels,
it is a structure of obedience. The presbyters are in a relationship
of obedience to their bishop. The bishops are in a relationship of
obedience to their primate. The primate is in the relationship of
spiritual father to his bishops. Jurisdiction is about a relationship
of obedience, which is precisely responsibility and accountability.
The crisis in the episcopacy is rooted in the breakdown of the basic
structure of spiritual obedience, which is the essence of Orthodox
Christianity. Spiritual obedience is not subjection and compliance.
Rather, it is a hierarchy of love and shared responsibility, a
hierarchy of discipleship. What is this but a structure of
accountability in a spirit of trust and cooperation, in mutual love
and respect? Moreover, it is a complex of very personal
relationships. When these relationships become simply institutional,
and the personal becomes relativized, the very nature of the Church,
which in its very essence is about the actualization of authentic
personhood, is distorted.
This breakdown comes from the secularization of the Church's
structure by the centuries of imperial subjugation, by the corruption
of authority into power, by the reduction of church leadership to an
institutional model, and the reduction of membership in the Church to
civic duty. The Faith itself was degraded from a personal commitment
to Christ to a socio-political ideology. Nominal church membership
and nominal Orthodox identity are the foundations of secularization.
This kind of corruption began in the fourth century. When the Church
was subjected to the Roman, then Ottoman, and then Russian Empires,
then to the status of state church, it was effectively reduced to a
department of state. The bishops and administration of the Church
assumed imperial roles, insignia, and rituals; and with them, the
Christian vision of the leader as servant became a hypocritical
parody. Of course, there have been notable exceptions.
This led to the separation of charismatic and institutional authority
within the Church. What followed was the bureaucratization of church
leadership: the reduction of the episcopacy to institutional
administration, and the virtual elimination of its pastoral role.
Charismatic authority within the church was tolerated among monastic
elders, but had little other influence in the life of the Church from
the late Byzantine period through the Turkokratia and the
suppressions of monasticism in the Russian Empire. The fruit of this
was the suppression of creativity and initiative, theologically and
organizationally, for fear of being disciplined and rejected.
Instead, personal ambition and competition for position became
dominant within the church's institution. Charismatic leadership
arising from spiritual vision, the fruit of asceticism, found little
context to express itself, even being regarded as dangerous, in the
state-controlled institution of the church.
The bishops came to wield power over the lives of their clergy, and
instead of being chief pastors, they became distant administrators
feared by their clergy. Obedience became confused with compliance and
submission. Authority came to be identified with power, humility with
subjection, and respect with adulation and sycophancy. Accountability
was always referred "upwards:" the bishops to the patriarch and
emperor or sultan; the priests to the bishops; while the people
simply ignored the hierarchy. Even the monasteries, where the ancient
vision of the apostolic church was most clearly maintained, were
subjected to this secularization of power and office.
The corrupting fruit of secularization is fear and the lack of trust,
hence isolation, autonomy, self-will and the breakdown of the real
authority of the episcopacy. It destroys souls and the institution of
the Church. Secularization reduces the Body of Christ to a religious
organization; it is the form of religion, deprived of its power.
The original vision of the episcopacy was a model of spiritual
discipleship, mirroring Christ and the apostles. Christ is the
Master: not the master of slaves, but the teacher – not despota (!)
but didaskalos. The apostles were his disciples, his students. Christ
did not exercise power over his disciples, but his authority in their
lives arose from their voluntary cooperation in love and respect.
Thus, He no longer called them disciples, but friends. What made them
friends is their obedience – not subjection, but synergy in love. Is
this not the model we should be following?
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers
of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise
authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever
desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And
whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just
as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to
give His life a ransom for man." (Matthew 20 : 25–28)
Christ exercised the role of spiritual father to his disciples. The
role of the bishop, as well as that of any headship in the Orthodox
Church, is spiritual fatherhood: pastor in a parish, abbot in a
monastery, bishop in a diocese, primate in a synod. To be a spiritual
father means to be a shepherd and teacher, to exhort, rebuke, and
encourage his disciples in their faith, service to one another, and
especially, love for one another. It means to take responsibility for
the salvation of these particular others, which presumes a
relationship of obedience. True obedience is offered freely in love;
it is in absolute opposition to the corruption of power and control.
Spiritual obedience is precisely a structure of accountability. The
disciples are accountable for their obedience to the father; but the
spiritual father is responsible not only to develop each disciple to
the fullness of his potential through that obedience, but to unify
the whole body through his pastoral role – to keep the whole body in
synergy. The authority of the spiritual father comes from the
cooperation of his disciples. The spiritual father is thus
accountable to his disciples. True obedience is thus a relationship
of absolute mutuality. Thus, the ministry of spiritual fatherhood is
a charism within the Church and for the sake of the Church, not over
it. The bishops and presbyters are part of the People of God, not
lords over them; as spiritual fathers, they can only function within
this structure of mutual accountability and responsibility, upon
which all Christian authority rests.
Christian authority cannot be imposed from above, but has its source
in the voluntary cooperation of love, obedience, and mutual
accountability. This is conciliarity, sobornost, in the true sense.
The bishop recapitulates his local church in himself: this is the
charism of ordination. Yet, the bishop has no authority without his
church. Ordination only functions within the body of the faithful and
is meaningless outside the context of the Church. While grace
elevates the one ordained, that grace can only function within a
context of the synergy and consensus of the Church – ultimately
manifest in the Liturgy. But this vision was distorted by the
conflation of the clerical hierarchy and the imperial office,
spiritual authority and political power; and the divorce between
charismatic and institutional leadership, thus secularizing the
In other words, the bishops elect the primate of their synod, the
presbyters should elect their bishop, and monastics elect their abbot
or abbess. Thus primacy, the authority of the spiritual father,
proceeds from the consent of those who offer their obedience to him.
And he is responsible to them and for them, as they are to him. Grace
acts through and fulfills their synergy and unity of mind and heart
in mutual love.
This model works on every level of church organization, and is the
core of the evangelical, patristic, and canonical vision. In it there
is no place for fear, power, or control but rather, a communion in
love and mutual respect in voluntary cooperation.
Even presidency at the Eucharistic celebration is in function of this
relationship. The pastor in his parish, abbot in his monastery,
bishop in his diocese or primate in his synod, presides because of
his role as spiritual father. He is not the spiritual father simply
because he presides; this eliminates the personal dimension of
ecclesial community leadership. He is the "good shepherd who gives
his life for his sheep." This is the ultimate accountability of the
The true spiritual father, like Christ, can never refer or take
anything to himself. He always points to God the Father, "from whom
every paternity is named." Any kind of ego gratification is spiritual
death, but this is especially so in the case of spiritual fatherhood
which demands kenotic humility, the death of the ego. The only way to
achieve this is spiritual formation.
Spiritual formation has one goal: the ascent to spiritual maturity,
to spiritual vision. Spiritual vision, or theoria, is a gift of grace
bestowed only after one has prepared oneself to receive it by opening
oneself to God through purification, leading to dispassion through
ascetic discipline and contemplative prayer. Through the experience
of illumination, one gains perspective on all the external forms and
issues which constitute temptations. One must first transcend the
ego, one must "crucify the old man who is corrupt through the
passions of the flesh," in order to attain to a clarity of vision and
the gift of discernment. As long as we are controlled by our
passions, our motives and desires will be self-serving. Only through
attaining dispassion can we be freed from the blindness of our self-
centeredness, in order to truly love the other unconditionally, free
from any selfish agendas. Then a man has the ability to be a true
spiritual father: to discern in his disciples what holds them back
from attaining dispassion and spiritual maturity, having the vision
to see what each one needs to grow.
The episcopate, and all primacy, demand this kind of spiritual
vision, the charismatic dimension, arising from ascetic self-
discipline, in order for the bishops to discern the pastoral task for
each person for whom they are responsible, and the clarity of mind to
discern the path for the future. This kind of spiritual vision is
necessary to discern the will of God, the Presence and the activity
of God, in order to guide the church into active cooperation,
synergy, with the Divine will, and to see and eliminate any personal
agendas or passions which disrupt the communion of the Church with
God and with one another.
Conclusion: Spiritual Fatherhood and Primacy
Real primacy is about leadership, and Orthodox spiritual leadership
is inseparable from spiritual fatherhood, in which spiritual children
offer their obedience in love to their spiritual fathers, who in turn
care for their souls. This model holds true for a monastery with an
abbot and his monks, a parish with a pastor and his flock, a diocese
with the bishop and his presbyters, or a national church with the
primate and his bishops. So it must also hold true on the ecumenical
The Church is not a civil society, with its programs, political and
social influence, and worldly goals. It is rather a community built
on faith in Jesus Christ, united in the common mission of the Gospel.
The Church is composed of those who share an identity that comes from
faith, and transcends all worldly and secular, ethnic, social,
economic and racial divisions. It is the living incarnation of the
Kingdom of God on earth. It embraces all human diversity, bringing
all to unity in Christ.
Spiritual leadership within the Church, especially the episcopacy,
has as its function to lead people into that Kingdom, to illumine and
perfect them in the Faith, and thus to transform life in this world
one soul at a time. This leadership is primarily a call to
repentance, to re-focus on God, and to leave behind all the
distractions of sin. This leadership is manifested in authentic
spiritual guidance, which exorcises the corruption of sin and ego-
centrism, and leads the Church in oneness of mind and heart to the
synergetic praise of God in the glorious Liturgy of the Kingdom.
#25 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-11-17 13:49
A pdf of the address, as well as the audio, can be found on the OCA web site.
#25.1 Michael Strelka on 2008-11-18 08:13
I have known Metropolitan Jonah when he was simply Jim Paffhausen when he was a student at St. Vladimir's. Our student years at St. Vladimir's intersected a couple of years andI got to know him mainly through serving us all breakfast as he was captain, I believe, of the breakfast crew.
Breakfast was always a treat for me at SVS and on the non-fasting days we could have eggs and bacon or sausage. Left-overs would disappear throughout the morning between classes.
I will always remember him greeting all of us when we would be in line to get our breakfast. Many a time he would cook up eggs or recepis with a southwestern theme.
I also got to meet Fr. Jonah when he was helping out with the lay ministry program there in Berkely, CA back in the early 90s. I was helping out at Holy Cross OCA church as choir director and a few of us from the church there, with one parishoner interested in the lay ministries program, would drive the 90 miles or so to listen to him teach that Monday evening. It was an evening of extended Orthodox fellowship, too.
Some years later, Father Paul and I visited him at Point Reyes at the monaster there after he was abbot and we got to see the monastery and the candle-making areas.
I have found Bishop Jonah's personality to be calm and low key. I am sure both are assets in his continued ministry. Father Paul and I both believe the AAC has picked the right person to lead us in this 21st Century!
Patty and Fr. Paul Schellbach
#26 Patty Schellbach on 2008-11-17 18:11
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