Friday, October 22. 2010
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Fr. Thomas Hopko's reflection on the EA is a breath of fresh air -- he neither takes an antagonistic position nor accepts the EA on the terms dictated by Chambessy. Rather, he takes a step out of the current terms of the debate and recasts the issues with clarity and perspective.
My own relative optimism vis a vis the EA comes from thinking that having all the bishops interact with one another on a regular basis will develop human relationships built around practical issues and that such relationships can't help but be constructive.
While I respect SCOBA's standing as a well-established organization for the coordination of action among the various jurisdictions, it inevitably had become a vehicle for maintaining the status quo rather than challenging it. It's conceivable (though hardly certain) that the EA can become more than SCOBA -- a forum for continuing all the good joint work initiated by SCOBA, but adding on a more direct engagement of the bishops across jurisdictional lines.
It's also certainly possible that the EA becomes less than SCOBA and a step backwards -- a tool for reasserting control by the "mother churches" over the interactions among the various jurisdictions in North America. In a sense the role of the OCA within the EA is a litmus test of which direction things are going -- if the OCA is a full participant, there's hope the EA can go the 'more than' route; if the OCA is excluded and demoted and barely tolerated, it's inevitable that things are depressingly heading in the 'less than' direction.
But while the role of the OCA may be an indicator, a symptom, the status of the OCA, as Fr. Tom compelling points out, is not the crux of the issue. Ultimately the EA will succeed or fail based on whether it can explicitly work toward a united, self-governing Church in North America, with that goal blessed by the "mother churches." Absent such an explicit direction, it's just a bunch of men in funny hats being moved around on a chess board for the amusement of their foreign masters.
#1 Rebecca Matovic on 2010-10-22 11:40
Fr. Tom is right again! If the Mother Churches gave their dioceses here in N. Am. the authority to form an autocephalous church, so be it! The problem is THEY WON'T! It is precisely + Bart and ALL the old country patriarchs who have kept the N. American Orthodox from being united. Now, all of a sudden, they are telling us that via the Ep. Assem. we can move toward autocephaly? BALONEY!
#2 Anonymous on 2010-10-22 12:03
Fr. Tom wrote clearly and suscinclty; this was a great reflection and he added:
"Since becoming self-governing, the OCA never claimed to be the sole “canonical” church in America (whatever some misguided OCA zealots may say). It rather always contended that all the North American “jurisdictions” were “uncanonical” as long as they were not united in one church that would take its place among the world’s autocephalous Orthodox churches."
Yep. Amen and Amen.
#3 Patty Schellbach on 2010-10-22 16:32
Bravo Fr. Tom!
You have been able to look beyond the red herring issues (should the OCA be recognized, should it participate?) to the real issues at hand....which have NOTHING to do with the OCA, and EVERYTHING to do with the Old World patriarchates.
Either the EA is a step toward the formation of a local, united church, or it is simply a tool to establish hegemony for one of the Old World kleptocrats.
Thank God for people of the wisdom of Fr. Tom!
#4 Dean Calvert on 2010-10-22 16:33
I have to respectfully clarify a misinterpretation here. I don't believe Fr Tom put "the ball" in "the courts" of only the Old World patriarchates, but in "the courts" of their respective "jurisdictions" here in America, also. And I totally agree with him! For example, it has been no secret for decades that +Philip likes to "talk the talk" (yammering that he, also, is in favor of jurisdictional unity in this country) with*out* "walking the walk" (he avoids all attempts at such unity the way an already-burnt child backs away from a hot stove). I also don't see the episcopal leaders of the other "jurisdictions" bending over backwards to resolve the situation. In fact, to me, the "jurisdictions" carry more of "the ball" than the Old World patriarchates. I agree with #2 Anonymous that these Old World bishops won't budge on the matter. Therefore, if unity is to really move forward, I believe it is going to take the courage, the honesty, and the forthrightness of the "jurisdictional" bishops (if they possess these qualities) to stand up to their Mother Churches and declare themselves "full grown adults" who deserve to live as full grown adults out of "the nest" of their "parents!"
#5 David Barrett on 2010-10-22 18:03
David - while not disagreeing with what you have said, it is hard to imagine a bishop who was born and educated in the "old world", who is sent over to minister to their own ethnic enclaves, and who will some day return to the old country to be buried, will have much incentive to "stand up to" the mother churches.
#5.1 Michael Strelka on 2010-10-24 06:10
I totally agree with you! That's why we need bishops here in America who are not "step-fathers" from the old countries who are administering with old-country perspectives. Of course, now, as of today in the Antiochian Archdiocese, that is no longer a problem, since +Pope Philip has silenced all of his "auxiliary" bishops to the point where they have to check in with him even for approval of fund-raising activities! Fr Georges Florovsky must be spinning in his grave, seeing how far the "Western captivity of the Orthodox Church" that he so accurately spoke about has mushroomed to the extent that is so prevalent today! A sad situation, indeed!
#5.1.1 David Barrett on 2010-10-25 10:06
I feel part of the problem is our perception and even our experiences of bishops. A diocese receives a bishop much like a corporation receives an executive - he is interviewed from a field of candidates, often from outside the diocese. Rarely in this country does a bishop come from within the diocese he is elected or appointed. We cherish education and experience over commitment to a specific region. In this way, Orthodoxy reflects not only a Roman Catholic, Vatican II view of the episcopate, but like the world we place value on outside talent. We seek individuals who have been to the best theological schools and perhaps having some experience of Orthodoxy that is valued because it is from an old world, local Church.
This is not necessarily bad, but if we are to embrace a more Orthodox definition of a diocesan bishop, we need to strengthen out dioceses.
#6 Tim on 2010-10-23 01:41
While it is true that we borrow administrative and structural parameters from the world we live in, we need to be cautious and not push that too far. We need to be, as our Lord and others (Fr Schmemann comes to mind) have said, "*in* the world" but not "*of* the world!" One example of this, which Fr Tom illustrated in his discernment of our borrowing the ecclesiology of the episcopacy from Vatican II when he discussed our present practice of transferring bishops between dioceses. It is one thing to bring in a bishop from "outside" the diocese, as you mentioned, but it is another matter entirely if a bishop, already "wedded" to his diocese as a bridegroom is to a bride (a classic Orthodox imagery of the episcopacy, by the way), is then "traded off" to another diocese, like baseball players between teams or, to use your analogy, corporate administrators and CEO's between companies. This is the line we must not cross in attempting to "relate to" or "fit in" with the present, fallen world.
#6.1 David Barrett on 2010-10-23 13:03
To start with about bishops, are all the ones who live here citizens? I can't think of any reason not to be if their laity are.
#7 bob koch on 2010-10-23 12:24
all are CITIZENS OF THE CHURCH, the ONLY THING that TRULY matters.
#7.1 Anonymous on 2010-10-23 15:43
If we have to wait for the various Patriarchates enumerated by Fr. Hopko to "bless," out of the goodness of their hearts, an autocephalous American Church, we might as well wait for Hell to freeze over.
He, of course, is absolutely right that they, and their minions here, are the primary stumbling blocks to a unified American Orthodoxy. But their minions here include not only self-interested clerics, but members of the laity who identify more with their ethnic origins than they do with the country and culture they have chosen to live in. They (the minions) are inevitably a dying and declining breed, but they may succeed in killing any meaningful North American expression of Orthodoxy if they manage to hang on to power and enable their foreign overseers much longer.
This is precisely why a change in the status quo must come from the laity and sympathetic and courageous clergy--not from an intransigent hierarchy. No doubt, this was precisely the manner of change in the past when various national or ethnic groups freed themselves from outdated foreign control. Otherwise we would be a carbon copy of our Roman brethren.
To effectuate change we merely, in sufficient numbers, need to just say "no." No to any kind of material or logistical support that enables and funds the foreign satraps. Perhaps we should even advise our government that foreign entities, that they may be supporting on the diplomatic level, are reeking havoc on their colonists here, who no longer desire their services?
#8 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2010-10-24 15:51
Thank you, Fr. Hopko! I am surprised, however, that in all the discussions about autocephaly, canons and so forth - no reference has been made to an article by Fr. Schmemann: "A Meaningful Storm," found in Church,World Mission (SVS Press, 1979). Even in death, Fr. Alexander is still the master. In that article, he points out that there are different layers of the canonical tradition - the earliest layer, the Byzantine layer and the more modern national-church layer. He offers that one of the main sources of confusion is that these layers are all mixed together: "It is difficult to determine if we are reading different canons, or reading the same canons differently," he writes. Furthermore, he suggests that Byzantine universalism has been metamporphized into Greek nationalism. He is of the opinion that the refusal of the "Greeks" to recognize our autocephaly is not due to lust for power or money, but is rooted in a view of church history that is logical and consistent for them, but not shared by other parts of the Orthodox world. The response of our Greek brethren to the article would be interesting.
It is difficult for me to imagine that any constructive discussion about canons and autocephaly could be had without first reading what Fr. Schmemann wrote.
An OCA priest
#8.1 Anonymous on 2010-10-25 13:41
Kenneth: Actually, I think Hell, (Michigan ), freezes over at least once each winter.
Seriously, one example of what Fr. Tom suggests, and almost everyone agrees with should be the union of the O.C.A. Bulgarian Diocese, and the Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese Of North America, Canada and Australia.
His Eminence Archbishop Kyril was received by His Holiness Maxim in late 1992, and "Forgiven" for initiating the schism which ended in the coexistence of two Bulgarian Diocese in North America.
If His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Church truly believes that unity is necessary, he have initiated bi-lateral negotiations with the O.C.A. to unite His Diocese to our Bulgarian Diocese shortly after Archbishop Kyril reposed.
Then, perhaps the faithful of both Bulgarian Diocese could have met in council to elect candidates who would succeed both Archbishop Kyril and Metropolitan Joseph as the Bishop of the Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese of The Orthodox Church In America.
Since that hasn't happened, it's obvious that His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph is treading very lightly (if at all) on this issue.
Incidentally, since most of the Bulgarian Parishes are within the Midwestern States, It might be interesting to propose that if and when such a union occurs, the Diocese be chartered as the Bulgarian Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest: With it's Bishop being the auxiliary to the (hopefully) future Bishop Matthias.
And to further show that true unity is the goal, the Bulgarian Parishes outside of the Midwest could be formed into Deaneries of other geographic areas, such as the Western United States.
But that is only as likely as the people make it. in other words, the Faithful of Our Bulgarian parishes, and those under Metropolitan Joseph must request of their ruling bishops cause this to happen.
Of course, this wouldn't effect the G.O.Y.A.A. at all, since +Bartholomew the 1st still won't recognize it.
Suppose this occurs. It would signal that one more Patriarch, (H.H. Maxim) now Recognizes the O.C.A., since His North American protectorate would cease to exist.
This is but one example of how the hierarchy in north America could "pick up the ball", and bring about the unity that they've all been "yammering" about for so many decades.
#8.2 Mark Sudia on 2010-11-02 07:17
I agree with Fr. Hopko. The OCA was given canonical autocephaly, by it's canonical mother church. That should be good enough for any canonical church! We need to get rid of our ethnic slant as well! Of course for pastoral purposes, we must keep up with old world languages for those who did not want to learn English or found it difficult to learn. A small town in central PA, Johnstown, has 5 ethnic Orthodox churches, that's ridiculous! Everyone's numbers are dwindling! There is a sitting canonical bishop there, Carpatho-Rus under the EP. He should take things in hand and combine parishes. I understood that the local bishop would have authority over parishes in the area regardless of ethnicity. His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas would have an area perhaps reaching to Pittsburgh. Wouldn't bode well for the Antiochians though, as he would inherit Antiochian Village which of course would have to be renamed Orthodox Village!
#9 Mark Braun on 2010-10-25 21:12
Well, Mark, I suppose it could be renamed Carpatho-Russian, Antiochian Orthodox Village, just to please all parties involved.
#9.1 Mark Sudia on 2010-11-02 07:22
It is clear to me that the Orthodox patriarchies outside of the United States regard the US the same way that the mafia regarded New York City in times past: We are a place to plunder and send the money home. They divide the country up in a way so they don't fight among each other; fighting interferes with the plunder.
Could 100 OCA Americans emigrate to Greece, start their own church, send for an American priest and insist on being governed by the OCA? Why not? Sauce for the goose and alll that. Would the Greeks then ethnically cleanse the nascent church and insist that they must be Greek and speak Greek and ban the use of English? (Ask the Macedonians).
While American could not emigrate to the Old World and start their own church, the Old World immigrates to the US and and keeps their own churches with no fear of suppression. In return for the hospitality they receive here those in the OCA are told that they are not a "real" Orthodox church and deserve no consideration. Is this behavior Christian? It seems to be Orthodox.
#10 Jim Scisson on 2010-10-26 07:34
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