I very much appreciate the comments of AP Cromidas. He has raised some basic issues. However, in some ways, this author has only scratched the surface. As always, and has been mentioned by this writer as well as others, the inherent problem is that we elect bishops from a pool of candidates, all of whom are ill-equiped for their jobs as bishops. We elect monks or celebate clergy from a very small pool, many of them have had little pastoral experience, and virtually all of them have little or no organizational or management skills. Then we expect them to be arch-pastors, organizers, fund-raisers and managers. Yet, they can do none of these. Plus, when it is pointed out to them that they lack the requisite skills, they fly off the handle and begin to fire people, rather than learn from their mistakes.
For too long our Church, Orthodoxy, has been governed by a set of rules rather than common sense and a vision for nurturing The Flock of Christ. We "have" to choose bishops from the ranks of monks, because the rules say so. We "have" to do this or that, because the rules say so.
It is time we put the Church of Christ above earthly rules. It is time we put Christ and His Body, the people, above thousand-year-old rules. But, alas, we won't because too many small-minded people live by rules, rather than faith and love and commitment.
People of the OCA:
You must understand who the people are you are electing as bishops! Most of the time, the people of the OCA have no real clue who these candidates are. Sure, a sanitized resume may be distributed, but how are these people educated & influenced? + Jonah was a convert who really had issues growing up. Studied at SVS, but was more intrigued by his stay in Russia and heavily "influenced" by the Russians. Therefore, he has the Russian attitude of the "Unilateral Bishop" ignoring conciliarity. The two former bishops of Alaska were influenced by Johnstown & Christ the Savior Seminary. They were disasters. Bishop Matthias & the Bishop of NY/NJ also come from the "Johnstown Indoctrination." They, like + Jonah, believe in the rule of a "Unilateral Bishop" ignoring conciliarity. So, it is no wonder Mark Stokoe was suppressed by the new bishop of the Midwest. The Synod seems to be taking on an aura of conservatism and the type of superior notion of old country bishops from the 1930's. Most, hindered Orthodox growth and stagnated the Church.
Conciliarity, properly speaking, pertains only to bishops and local churches. Conciliarity is not, again properly speaking, the way bishops interact with their clergy, monastics and laity.
Now, separate from that point, it is no doubt wise and expedient for a bishop to work cooperatively with his clergy, monastics and laity - especially in a far-flung, minority Church with limited resources, relatively new roots in North America, and sometimes competing (and antagonistic) corporate, ecclesial and ethnic cultures internally, not to mention generational differences and a wide spectrum of education, experience, understanding, skill and holiness. In this sense, bishops are leaning on others in the way the Church has always leaned on benefactors and protectors, as well as non-episcopal, influential leaders in the Church (e.g., St. John of Kronstadt, St. Anthony the Great, various Emperors and Empresses). This sort of 'secular' check on the otherwise expansive powers of bishops is part and parcel with Orthodoxy - as are the expansive powers of bishops. There's a tension there that is integral to the Orthodox tradition, but too many seem to think Orthodoxy is to be found in the annihilation of the other side, i.e., 'hierarchists' want congregationalists driven out, 'conciliarists' want more control over bishops, etc.
(Editor's note: Properly speaking, conciliarity does belong to the Church as a whole, not just the bishops among themselves. Pace, the 1917 Russian Council, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Finland, the OCA, and several other examples. This is not "congregationalism" or any other reductionist attempt to usurp "power", but a recognition that attempts to discuss "conciliarity" in terms of power is in itself reductionist, for conciliarity is a seeking after the authentic voice of the Spirit, not the excersize of power- be it episcopal, lay, clerical, imperial, social, generational, ethnic, financial, or whatever. As you point out the Spirit can, and has, spoken through holiness, emperors, fools, laymen, laywomen, priest, monks - and through bishops. But not just through the Bishops. It is their vocation to discern the Spirit and the Word of Truth; not to pretend a monopoly on it. )
One of Fr. Hopko's recent podcasts on Ancient Faith, dealing with bishops & canons (Speaking the Truth in Love) speaks about the importance of the orginizational-clerical arm of the Church together, and as you say "in tension with" the charismatic-lay arm. (I said "arm"; he didn't.)
Yes, since the late Synodal period of the Russian Church, conciliarity has been broadened to include official involvement by the lower clergy and laity. In fact, this started in the Metropolia at the Mayfield Sobor, which was then followed by the 1917-18 Sobor and the Russian influenced Churches of Finland and America, as well as the Sourouzh Diocese under Met. Anthony.
That's a pretty recent genesis, and the conciliarity in all these examples is highly compartmentalized so as to remain 'canonical'. That is, the bishops retain most of the power, even under the 1917-18 Sobor rules.
Not sure what the Cypriot example is, you mentioned. "The Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus is the highest church authority in Cyprus", and its membership is solely composed of bishops. "Its task is to examine and provide solutions on all issues concerning the Church of Cyprus."
In the Church of Alexandria, in fact, it is only the Patriarch who has official power, with all other bishops being essentially his auxiliaries. This is an ancient, ecumenically sanctioned local tradition.
Such 'power', though, is normally checked by any number of unofficial yet locally tradition-al factors, e.g., the power and money of patrons, governments, land holders, business partners, news media, monks, the threat of schism or Unia, babushki, honor codes, family ties, etc.
To reiterate, the issue isn't whether lower clergy and laity should be involved in the governance, administration and guidance of the Church. This has always been the case, e.g., Emperors, Tsars, patrons, though this was usually more unofficial and practical (tradition-al) rather than canonical The point I was making is that the more universal aspect of conciliarity is strictly speaking the episcopal ecclesiology of the Church, between bishops in Synod, between Synods, in 'Great' and Ecumenical Councils, and similar. There are local exceptions in Church history, but they are just that, they are not the norm, they are not the consensus patrum.
The traditional interaction between a bishop and his college of priests is more properly termed 'collegial'. In more modern terms, it's an advisory council to the bishop.
Any powers given to non-episcopal bodies are (or were!) delegated from the bishop or Synod. The EP's views on such things can be seen in its treatment of the 1977 Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, its Special Regulations or Uniform Regulations. An updated Charter and Regulations were given from the top down earlier in the last decade.
(Editor's note: Conciliarity, as you point out, is our Tradition in the OCA for more than 100 years, since St. Tikhon began it in its first form in Mayfield in 1907. It, alas, is not the tradition of the Greek Archdiocese, as their unfortunate experience with the Charter shows. That being said, in our place and time, with our traditions, conciliarity, not monarchism, seems to be the way forward if we are to expand beyond ethnicism. )
"Conciliarity" is the OCA tradition, but in a highly delineated form. That is, the bishops have always maintained their full canonical rights while allowing for the active support and involvement of the lower clergy and laity. That is, lower clergy and laity are involved in advising on church administration, but not for the final say in church administration. Involvement is different than responsibility.
And again, I'm not arguing that the bishops should somehow do it all themselves (they cannot) or refuse the advise, guidance and assistance of lower clergy and laity. It's simply important to remember where the buck stops and who has the rule - especially when trying to influence those with the power. A bishop - and the bishops - do not 'have' to listen to anyone's advice apart from that of the Synod, at least as far as canonical rights and responsibilities are concerned. That's simply a reality that must be taken into account. The lower clergy and laity retain a great deal of 'soft power' however (e.g., money, volunteering, membership) and the bishops do well to remember that when defending their (only seemingly unlimited) autocracy.
(Editor's note: I don't think we have a disagreement here, only where to place the emphasis ....)
I note these canonical and terminological issues simply to point out the fact that arguments for greater lay and lower clergy involvement founded on arguments for the necessity of 'conciliarity' will likely be dismissed by the bishops in the OCA, in other jurisdictions and other local churches. We must beware the bumper sticker version of argumentation whereby we assume that what we think and like is right mainly because we (and those we agree with) think it and like it. Moscow 1917-18/OCA-style conciliarity is not the Tradition in most of Orthodoxy, and OCA-style 'conciliarity' itself is understood quite differently within the OCA - not to mention the fact that 'Moscow 1917-18-style conciliarity' is non-existent in Russia and never took root (for obvious practical reasons).
Agitating as if 'conciliarity (according to my own understanding)' is necessary and obvious and unquestionable is counterproductive.
OK, let's have it your way. Was Christ conciliar or did He impose His will and way on others? I rest my case! The Holy Spirit is not arrogant or imposing itself on others. Conciliarity is "SYNERGIA." This is where the clergy & laos "WORK TOGETHER." The clergy & laos were NEVER to oppose or fight against each other. The clergy were elected by the laos and when they cease serving the laos, they are to be returned to the laos. The clergy are not some protected, super-class elected to rule and be DESPOTS. It's time for Orthodox to learn what Orthodoxy is; not some aberration!
You can't learn of Orthodoxy apart from its historical reality, and you can't jump back to some arbitrary point in the past you feel has 'real' Orthodoxy down pat - that is, unless you are implying that the Holy Spirit has not been guiding the Church. On matters that are common to the entire Church, there is really no question as to whether it is Orthodox or not - if one is to be Orthodox. The rights and prerogatives are bishops fall into this category, as does episcopal celibacy (whether unmarried or widowed), not allowing priestly/diaconal marriage after ordination, only male clergy, not accepting gay marriage or the rightness of SSA, among others.
(Editor's note: While I will not disagree in general, some of the specific things you list as under "no question" indeed have exceptions. For example, the Antiochians do allow marriage after ordination (apart from the well-known cause celebre..)on ocassion for men tonsured at a young age and quickly ordained deacons. We have Churches that celebrate Pascha with the West. We have divorced Primates, let alone priests, etc. Likewise, while I agree there is no "golden age" that defines Orthodoxy forever, as the Spirit moves, so too, not everything in Church history, nor every practice, nor every development, is of the Holy Spirit. It is as misleading to assert the former as the latter. )
"Johnstown Indoctrination"??!?! I don't know where you are coming from, or what your 'beef' is with ACROD, but, having experienced mean-spirited treatment from several bishops and priests of the OCA, at least most of us have experienced a kind of culture shock by the tremendously kind, warm treatment we have received under ACROD. If that is "Johnstown Indoctrination", may all be so indoctrinated!
The late Metropolitan Nicholas was truly a saintly man, a model bishop. At least the priests I have met who have graduated from Christ the Saviour Seminary have also been kind, pastoral men.
But there are always "bad apples" in every barrel: if you in the OCA have chosen as bishops what you find now to be "bad apples", don't blame ACROD or Christ the Saviour Seminary. As someone pointed out a few weeks ago, +Metropolitan Nicholas likely knew full well what he was doing when he did NOT select any of those men to be his potential successor.