Monday, February 15. 2010
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
I was waiting for the other shoe to drop after the Panorthodox Preconciliar Conference of Chambésy-Switzerland (June 6-13, 2009).
Moscow and Bucharest had to believe they would get something out of those rules of order. And here it comes.
My assumption is that Moscow's approval of these principles had more to do with their interest in the Ukraine than North America. But ideas have consequences.
Now, as it currently stands, this plea, citing canonical principles, still has no teeth in it. I mean, my wife is a Romanian who is a member of a parish of the Moscow Patriarchate. There's no Romanian church anywhere near us, so she's not even willfully avoiding Romanian unity.
This statement from Bucharest is fully in line with what Chambésy envisioned. But this current statement does seem to be the first example of a Church citing of those principles as if they were already in force. As such, it will be fascinating to see if this is but the first of many proclamations by patriarchs aimed at redefining the lines of jurisdiction.
You are quite right, Mark, to see through to the ultimate question at stake here. Under the system described in June, Moscow's own Tomos of Autocephaly for the OCA was not done licitly. It has seemed bizarre to me that this has gained so little attention.
Romanians in the OCA who do not want to be under BOR jurisdiction could claim that this is a matter really between Bucharest and Moscow. Unless Moscow is really willing to repudiate their past actions, then the OCA remains what Moscow has claimed--the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America. In which case, the Romanians here are not in diaspora at all.
(Editor's note: Bingo, Keith. Chambesy claims to govern the diaspora - fine. It's pretty dicey ecclesiology, defining church membership according to nationality, but hey, it's their kamalavka, not mine, and they will have to answer for it to the Lord. Fortunately, the OCA will not. The fact is that the OCA is not in diaspora, never has been, and hopefully never will be. So Chambesy's ecclesiology does not apply to us, and its diplomatically achieved pecking order for who sits where is meaningless. We, unlike the Greek, Antiochians, and everybody else (who just admitted publicly to North American they are self-consciously in diaspora) are at home here in North America. Some of us have only been here 5 years, some 50 years, some 100, some 250 years, others members of the OCA for the last 10,000 or so.
We aren't going anyplace, and don't look backwards to anywhere. So, if this means we sit at the last place in the Chambesy-inspired Episcopal Conference, fine.( I think it was the Lord who said the last shall be first...?) All in all it just means we will be doing homeland mission, while they are still doing foreign mission. Everytime that Assembly meets it meets as foreigners overseeing a diaspora, by their own defination - nothing more. )
The Romanians are only doing what the Russians & Greeks are all trying to do. They are trying to regain control on territory and churches which "canonically," DOES NOT BELONG TO THEM! I don't know how many times we have to point out that a "DIASPORA" does not exist in North America. The Orthodox people here belong to no one else only their own local churches under their own local bishops. Canonically, Romania, Greece, Istanbul, Serbia, Russia have NO canonical authority over North America. The "old country" patriarchs are trying to steal property and churches which isn't theirs. Furthermore, their actions are TOTALLY NON-CANONICAL!!!! American Orthodox of whatever national extraction should tell these foreign bishops to obey Orthodox canon law and mind their own churches!
#2 Anonymous on 2010-02-15 08:39
"Unless Moscow is really willing to repudiate their past actions..."
There's the million dollar question. Personally, I think the announcement will come this year. But we shall see.
(Editor's note: There is no indication that Moscow will " repudiate its past actions", for to do so would open pandora's box, so to speak, both now and in the future. Rather, they will continue to assert what all the old patriarchates have agreed to assert: they each have universal jurisdiction over their diaspora(s), of which the OCA is no longer a part - and less and less so with each passing year.)
#3 Anonymous on 2010-02-15 08:56
Exactly WHY do American Orthodox people want to place themselves and their churches under foreign bishops? WHY? The Orthodox Canons are clear that "local bishops rule local churches." They don't report to foreign bishops. Why are all the "old country" Patriarchs trying to re-write Orthodox canon law? At any episcopal assembly, the local bishops of North America must tell the foreign bishops to obey canon law and mind their own crumbling churches. There is NO DIASPORA; this is a misnomer and any church rule built on this FALSE concept is also FALSE!
#4 Anonymous on 2010-02-15 09:00
"Jesus wept" (John 11:35).
So now another local church claims "universalism jurisdiction" on the basis of ethnic identity, combining thus papalism and phyletism at one heretical fell swoop. And what is missing from this statement from the Church of Romania? Any mention of Jesus Christ. Not even once.
When will the bulk of contemporary Orthodox Christians acknowledge that "there is no permanent city [read: homeland] for us here on earth; we are looking for the city which is to come" (Hebrews 13:14)? And that the purpose of the Church, as the body of Christ, is not to safeguard, idolize and magnify "[insert favorite ethnic moniker] dignity," but to embody his saving presence, good news and grace actively through the medium of whatever country, society or culture in which she finds herself, embracing all in one place, regardless of racial, ethnic or linguistic roots?
Until we do so, we are not fulfilling our God-given vocation or mission, and we cannot realistically expect him to be pleased with us.
"Children, keep yourselves away from idols." (1 John 5:21).
#5 Gregory on 2010-02-15 09:04
This is an unfortunate English translation, and it confuses much of the nuance of the original.
However, the gauntlet has clearly been thrown down. If this is indeed the intention of Chambesy, to regather all the diasporas under their mother churches, then the choice seems to be clear:
those who feel they are a part of the Romanian diaspora, unite under Bucharest;
those who feel they are Americans or Canadians, merge into the mainstream of the OCA.
The first scandal and stumbling block that must be resolved is the existence of competing ethnic jurisdictions in North America. There can never be peace as long as those who identify themselves as Romanians are divided into two jurisdictions. Whatever the paradigm (united under OCA, united under Bucharest, united under the Ecumenical Patriarchate), there must be some kind of resolution to this ugly and harmful situation.
#6 Fr. David Hudson on 2010-02-15 09:21
The question of defining church membership according to nationality didn't seem to affect me. After all, I'm an American, chrismated into Orthodoxy at an OCA parish. But I just got off the phone with my MP priest who pointed out that my subsequent marriage to a Romanian Orthodox in Romania likely gives the BOR a claim over me.
So this just got much more interesting...
(Editor's note: ROTF! Apparently, you've been diasporized! Oh, what tangeled webs we weave, when Churches decide to practice "nationality"....")
Father Herbel's comments with regard to OCA conciliarity really deserve their own separate thread for comment. No topic could be own greater importance to the life of the Orthodox Church in North America!
I wholeheartedly endorse Fr. Herbel's cautions and concerns. The OCA under its new leadership seems well on the way to undermining the legacy of conciliarity it already has, as outlined so tellingly in Fr. Herbal's comments. I think this is entirely deliberate, and reflects a Synod now dominated by anti-Schmemann Luddites who hate conciliarity as an intrusion on their own little hierarchical world of privilege and non-accountability. Metropolitan Jonah, as I have repeatedly warned before, mouths the words of conciliarity, while constantly trying to strangle it in its crib, i.e. the proposed new governing structure.
Most of our bishops, and indeed most of the the world's Orthodox bishops, suffer from the heretical delusion of Gnosticism that they are special and different from everyone else, and, of course, therefore only answer to God, Himself. In part, this is a legacy of their, theoretically in many cases, monastic backgrounds, another good reason to do away with mandating only unmarried bishops. It is the height of spiritual arrogance, as all the truly holy monastics understand and warn against.
The only possible response to this retrograde movement is to "just say no." It needs to be confronted and challenged at every level, and its adherents need to be removed, or more realistically stopped, from obtaining positions of leadership in the Church. And the laity should certainly stop funding it.
Clericalism is a spiritual disease which can destroy the Church. Don't be an accessory after the fact!
#8 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2010-02-15 10:00
The entire North American church problem was solved in 1970 with the creation of the only canonical, autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America, the OCA. From day one, the Pat. of Istanbul has been fighting against this canonical entity and looking for ways to abolish it. And now, 40 years later, Istanbul feels it can establish the old world patriarchs as controlling entities over North America by using PHYLETISM. It was condemned at the Holy and Great pan-Orthodox Synod in Constantinople on the 10th of September 1872 to qualify “phyletist (religious) nationalism,” which was condemned as a modern ecclesial heresy: the Church should not be confused with the destiny of a single nation or a single race.
So, people should ask, why would Istanbul wish to travel down a road of heresy? Do they really think the people of North America will sit and watch heretical acts take place trying to steal churches and authority in North America?
#9 Anonymous on 2010-02-15 11:17
Come on, people!
In our Antiochian parish here in Chicago, the largest "ethnic group" (those born abroad) is made up of Romanian immigrants. They fit in here perfectly, and we are delighted to have them.
Thirty minutes ago I received phone call from the member of a local Romanian parish, who asked me to hear the Confessions of his children. They speak only English, and their priest speaks only Romanian.
To read this Statement from the Patriarchate of Romania, one would think Bucharest is the site of a lunar landing.
#10 Father Patrick Reardon on 2010-02-15 12:03
Ok. Mark, you may need to explain your numbers for those that did not read anything about this except scan it. O.C.A. wasn't here for the last 10,000 years. O.C.A. may have started here, but they are in diaspora. We are all. I'm not sure what you mean by doing foreign missionary rther than homeland. It is foreign regardless if O.C.A. was here or not, else how come Protestantism and the rest are way more here. They never heard of Orthodoxy here, even those here need to preach the "foreign" to them because it is technically foreign to them. See what i mean. thanks.
(Editor's note: I didn't say the OCA was here for 10,000 years, only that some people in the OCA had ancestors who had been in this country for 10,000 years or so - meaning our Alaskan brethren. And no, there are literally tens of thousands of Americans who have been Orthodox all their lives, who have been in America all their lives, who are in no way, and in no manner, in a diaspora. If you want to diasporize yourself, feel free; but it is rather like some other converts who, until recently, acted as if they were in exile from a country they had never even visited.... My point is that, with few exceptions, no one in the OCA thinks of themselves as being in a diaspora. We're here, not going anywhere, don't want to, get used to it....)
#11 William on 2010-02-15 15:59
Mark, I am unable to click on this new reflection so I can print it and read the whole article. Please let me know if I'm going nuts, finally, or if there is a glitch that can be fixed. Thank you so much. The title caught my eye, as I'm sure it did many folks, and we know there has to be more to the article.
(Editor's note: I apologize for the error. It has been corrected.)
The title to (good son) Serge's Independent piece reads like sour grapes.
Dear Serge, a reality check:
Russian Church opened 900 new parishes in 2009
Moscow, February 2, Interfax – For the recent year, the Moscow Patriarchate has opened 900 new parishes, while total number of clerics has grown for more than 1,5 thousand people.
Patriarch Kirill voiced the statistical data on the Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday at a Bishops’ Meeting in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
Today the Russian Church has 30 142 parishes (in December 2008 their number equaled to 29 263), 160 dioceses (compared to 157 last year), 207 bishops (compared to 203), total number of clerics is 32 266 people (compared to 30 670.)
When the 1000th anniversary of Russia’s Baptism was celebrated in 1988, the Moscow Patriarchate had 6893 parishes, 76 dioceses, 74 hierarchs and total number of clerics made 7397 people.
Russian Orthodox missionary work continues worldwide to both North and South Poles, Europe, Asia (China, Japan and Thailand!), the Americas, Haiti, etc.
In contrast, the "missionary" OCA has seen its membership drop from a high of "1.1 million" to less than 30,000 in less than two years!
(Editor's note: If you ever beleived the OCA had 1.1 million members, I have some Russian investment bonds I would love to sell you. If you believe the OCA has only 25,000 members you are equally impervious to facts. The OCA has some 25,000 paying members. Paying - and as we all know, lots of people for reasons good and less good are not paying members in Churches...)
#13 Anonymous on 2010-02-15 19:20
Dear Ken, Fr. Oliver, et al.,
Article VI,11,a, of The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America specifically states that "The election of the diocesan bishop SHALL proceed as follows:
a. The Diocesan Assembly SHALL nominate a candidate and submit his name to the Holy Synod;
b. If THE ASSEMBLY fails to nominate a candidate acceptable to the Holy Synod, the Synod shall elect the bishop of the diocese;
c. Upon the approval of a candidate by the Holy Synod, he shall be summoned to a session of the Holy Synod for the canonical election" (frustrated emphasis added).
Any attempt, therefore, to circumvent the statutory role and authority of the Diocesan Assembly is unlawful. And it may be helpful to re-read Robert Wachter's post on the fiduciary obligations of organisations, including their legal obligation to abide by their own governing documents.
#14 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2010-02-16 05:01
Thank you to Mark for fixing the link quickly on the article about Wolves in Sheepskins so we can read it all and post our comments.
My understanding is the the Episcopal Assembly is going to make room at the table for the OCA and allow it to be its own "caucus," just like the other jurisdictions. At least, that is what I believe they're working toward. The Episcopal Assembly may well prove to be as unsuccessful as any other pan-Orthodox unity attempt here in North America, and I agree that talking about "diaspora" is not all that helpful, but I also would hate to see us overreact. Let's see first how this all works out for the OCA and how the Episcopal Assembly seeks to integrate the OCA.
Thank you, father. The statute was quoted in the comments section over on my blog. I think it simply emphasizes the importance of following them.
Regarding conciliarity, I think the issue here is the Ignatian church model that is the purported basis for Orthodox ecclesiology. As the local church is comprised of a bishop surrounded by his priests, deacons and laity, so should any other (larger) body be constituted--whether they are parish, diocesan, metropolitan, national or ecumenical. Such bodies must not exclude any part of the laos. While they must be headed by appropriate ranks of the clergy, they must include representatives from the lower ranks and the laity. I shudder to think of a council that does not include eminent theologians who happen to be priests or laypersons. I shudder to think of a purely male assembly, as if we don't have a number of worthy female Church leaders. I shudder to think of a Council that does not include deacons and other lay servants of the Church who have distinguished themselves in education, finance, music, etc...
In the case of filling episcopal vacancies, it seems to me that it is crucial to involve all parts of the affected see in the process. We already have a very good example: the selection of a successor to Archbishop Kyrill of the Pittsburgh Diocese. We may have another such example in the selection of a successor to Archbishop Job of Chicago. (May their memory be eternal!)
#18 Carl Kraeff on 2010-02-16 12:38
I'm always a bit afraid of using numbers attempting to prove a point, but the numbers are not accurate. In the Orthodox Church, the issue has never ever been one of numbers only, it's one of faith and belief. What I liked most about Serge Schmemann's interview is that he noted, as I have had confirmed by others who have recently visited Russia, though the numbers of churches have indeed increased, it has not always been met with a substantial increase in the numbers of faithful. Churches are just that, buildings. The real essence of faith are the faithful, not the buildings.
There are two additional things I think we should question, however: First, the concept of a missionary vision. Alas, very few in Orthodox actually have it. If there have been converts, and I know many, including myself, it's not because anyone came seeking me, but rather because the converts have come seeking the Orthodox Church, and were fortunate enough to find a welcoming local church. Secondly, and I know this is close to suggest heresy, but Fr. Alexander, among a great many, still has a very mixed legacy.
#19 Sean O'Clare on 2010-02-16 13:39
Most of us Americans tend to vote with our feet. I chose my OCA parish based on my conversations with the priests there and my experience of how the members lived the Gospel. (I also didn't want to have to learn another language in order to worship, but that was secondary.)
I'm trying to imagine how it would be for the Metropolitan of Bucharest if a group of people moved into his diocese from, say, Ploesti or Constantia. They might attend a local parish, but instead of supporting their new parish in their new diocese, they continued to give all their support--financial and otherwise--to their old parishes in their old diocese. No one would think that made any sense, and the Metropolitan would probably have plenty to say if the numbers became too many and the support started to dwindle. But the principle is exactly the same.
We are already being bled dry by this kind of stuff. We have at least four Orthodox bishops of New York, each with a diocesan synod, staff, cathedral, support structures. We have at least half a dozen parallel Orthodox churches in this country, most loyal to foreign administrations and leaders who have no real understanding of American culture. I don't have to list all the problems with that. It was a scandal 60 years ago when then Archbishop Athenagoras surveyed the scene.
I don't know anyone who has any problem with people wanting to keep in touch with their cultural roots. I just don't see what it has to do with our Orthodox faith. Maybe it did 600 years ago, but not now, in the early 21st century. Whatever benefit a national approach to our faith may once have had, it has become far more a problem than a solution.
#20 Morton on 2010-02-16 14:37
With all due respect Father, those who want to be with BOR already have an option, they should have joined churches under the already existing BOR jurisdiction. If you don't want to be a part of OCA, don't be part of ROEA. Seems simple to me.
#21 Constantin Ardeleanu on 2010-02-16 18:51
No, I never believed that the OCA had 1.1 million members even when the official mouthpieces claimed this and other absurdly high numbers.
OCA mouthpiece Serge Schmemann is likewise simply unbelievable.
If the "Restoration of Churches Still Isn’t a Revival of the Church" in Russia, then what is it?
S. Schmemann and the OCA should consult Aesop.
ONE hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. “Just the things to quench my thirst,” quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”
The moral of the story:
“IT IS EASY TO DESPISE WHAT YOU CANNOT GET.”
#22 Anonymous on 2010-02-16 21:16
The old world patriarchs are not credible in their quests to ruin the Orthodox Churches the new worlds. Mistake not. Ruination is collateral of their goals and they must know it. How could they not? It is a scorched earth strategy to glean what's left over after they create chaos. But some of the churches in America are also at fault by continuing to receive immigrant clergy as the norm rather than as the exception. Second, third and fourth generation hyphenated-Americans often readily fold to the nostalgic and often petty demands of immigrant laity, sometimes because their own houses are not in order and their mission is unclear. The hierarchs of the old world have no interest in shepherding an American flock but rather only those whom will take whatever they choose to dole out. Would they not try to morph the character of our churches into little more than filling stations where the faithful may receive only the occasional sacrament and cabbage rolls and palinka? Mistake not also that the agendas of the more seemingly benign patriarchates. They won't ever let go of their own volition. The churches in the new worlds need to decide to grow up and move away from them and not to model after them. The patriarchal structures that they maintain badly need reform. We ought not to jump to establish our own thrones on a pinnacle.
It is in the best tradition of our Christian martyrs to witness and testify to the truth and to oppose evil whatever the source and at whatever the cost to death. We need to be careful that we don't give in and that we don't participate in the chaos-making. We would do well to make the beatitudes to heart and apply them in the journeys of our lives.
#23 MWP on 2010-02-17 05:44
Sunday of Orthodoxy 2010, wherever you celebrate it, will try to be dominated by Greek clergy and Greek bishops blowing their horns of how great Chambesy is. The truth is that Chambesy is promoting HERESY. The Pat. of Istanbul is trying to have the entire Orthodox world believe that all Orthodox everywhere "BELONG" to Russia, Byzantium or other. This is pure BALONEY! The established Orthodox Churches in North America belong to no one but themselves. The Orthodox Canons do not allow foreign bishops to control territory beyond their own. Chambessy is nothing more than a "POWER GRAB." All Orthodox in North America should reject it; reject the bishops who support it and tell SCOBA to start representing the Orthodox Christians of North America not Istanbul!
#24 Anonymous on 2010-02-17 11:17
A Letter To The Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning The Situation Of The
By: Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and All Russia
In our first issue of August 1980, Sourozh published a lengthy article by
Archbishop Paul of Finland entitled 'Suggestions for Solutions to the
Problem of the Orthodox Diaspora' (reprinted in Sourozh, No. 91, February
2003, pp. 3-19). In it the primate of the Orthodox Church of Finland
reviewed the various submissions made by four regional autocephalous
Churches to the Preparatory Commission for the Holy and Great Council of the
Orthodox Church which has been in the planning stage for some forty years.
In his conclusions Archbishop Paul strongly urged the Patriarchate of
Constantinople to relinquish the theory of the supremacy of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate over the whole diaspora and to reject any talk of 'barbarian
areas' as an anachronism.
The fact that in the intervening twenty-five years nothing has changed
emerges clearly from the text we print below. On 18 March 2002 Patriarch
Alexis wrote to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople outlining the
position of the Russian Church regarding the claims to the Ecumenical
Patriarchate to jurisdiction over the worldwide Orthodox "diaspora," coming
to the same conclusions as did Archbishop Paul. More recently there has been
a further exchange of letters, but none has gone over the ground as
thoroughly as does the present text. The English version given below is
translated from a French version of the Russian original.
Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and All Russia
To His Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of
Constantinople, New Rome
Your Holiness, Beloved Brother and fellow celebrant in God,
We greet you fraternally and wish you grace and mercy from God our Saviour.
We have received the message of Your Holiness, No. 129 of 11 April 2002,
concerning the situation of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Parishes in
Western Europe. Reading this letter, we were very troubled by the great
number of bitter reproaches and unjust accusations that you formulate
therein. In any case, however, we wish to follow the precept of wise Solomon
(Proverbs 17:9): "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that
repeateth a matter separateth very friends." Not wishing to put to the test
for no good reason the feeling of brotherly love between our two Churches,
we shall not consider in detail these awkward expressions, for we think that
it is more a case of unfortunate misunderstandings deriving, in our opinion,
from an erroneous understanding of the problems that you have raised. This
is why we think that it is better to move on immediately to the
interpretation of Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council advanced by Your
Holiness, an interpretation with which we disagree completely.(1)
This canon in fact defines the area of responsibility of the Patriarchal See
of the Church of Constantinople by limiting it to the ancient provinces
[called "dioceses" by the Roman government of the time, Ed.] of
[Proconsular] Asia, Thrace and of Pontus, that is, to the provinces that
correspond to modern-day Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece. It does not at all
follow from this canon that 'every province not belonging to another
patriarchal see' should be subject to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Constantinople's Misapplication of the Term "Among the Barbarians"
It seems obvious that this inaccurate interpretation derives from an
erroneous understanding of the term "among the barbarians" (en tois
barbarikois) and of the context of this expression. It is erroneous in that
it assumes that the issue here does not concern "barbarian" peoples living
either in the Roman Empire or beyond its limits, but administrative entities
(defined by the State) and inhabited primarily by "barbarians." Yet there is
no doubt but that this expression refers not to provinces but to peoples; it
is not used in an administrative, but in an ethnic sense. This follows
clearly from the considerations that we shall develop below.
.there is no doubt but that this expression ["among the barbarians"]refers
not to provinces but to peoples; it is not used in an administrative, but in
an ethnic sense.As you know, during the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods
the term barbaros referred to individuals belonging to peoples whose
language, culture and customs were not Greek. Thus St Gregory of Nyssa, in
the third of his works Against Eunomius, can speak of a "barbarian
philosophy" (barbariki philosophia), while Eusebius of Caesarea speaks of
"barbarisms in the Greek language" (idiomata barbarika), St Epiphanius of
Cyprus of "barbarian names" (barbarika onomata) and Libanius, the teacher of
St John Chrysostom, of "barbarian customs" (barbarika ithi). Similarly the
Apostle Paul thinks of anyone who speaks neither Greek nor Latin, the
official languages of the Empire, as a "barbarian" (barbaros): "Therefore if
I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a
barbarian (barbaros), and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian (barbaros)
unto me" (1 Cor 14:11). Such "barbarians" could equally well live outside as
within the Empire. The Apostle preached to the "barbarians" without ever
leaving the Roman Empire (cf. Rom 1:14) and the Acts of the Apostles call
the inhabitants of Malta "barbarians," even though the island was part of
the Empire, simply because the local language was Punic.
As regards the expression to barbarikon, it is certainly the case that this
expression can be used to refer to territories outside the limits of the
Empire, and it is in this sense that the term is used, for example, in the
Canon 63 (52) of the Council of Carthage. There it is said that in
Mauritania there were no councils because that country was located at the
very edge of the Empire and borders on barbarian land (to barbariko
parakeitai). Nevertheless, it can also refer to anything that is barbarian,
and therefore to territories which, while inhabited by barbarians, form part
of the Empire.
How the Term "Among the Barbarians" is Used in Canon 28
It is precisely in this sense that the term is used in Canon 28 of the
Council of Chalcedon. Reference is not being made to the barbarian peoples
in general, but to certain well-defined peoples 'belonging to the
above-mentioned provinces' (ton proeirimenon dioikeseon), i.e. the
barbarians living in the provinces of Pontus, Asia and Thrace, which were an
integral part of the Eastern Roman Empire. Thus the canon subordinates to
the see of Constantinople the bishops of the barbarians living within the
ecclesiastical boundaries of these three dioceses.
All the Byzantine commentators on the canons - Alexios Aristenus, John
Zonaras and Theodore Balsamon, as well as Matthew Blastaris, author of the
Syntagma - understand by the expression en tois barbarikois precisely and
only those barbarian peoples within those three provinces, thereby
underlining that the barbarian peoples in neighbouring provinces were not
subjected to Constantinople by this canon, but remained under the
jurisdiction of other Orthodox Churches. Thus Aristenus writes that only the
metropolitans of Pontus, Asia and Thrace are under the bishop of
Constantinople and are consecrated by him; the same applies to the bishops
of the barbarians in these provinces, since the provinces of Macedonia,
Illyria, Thessaly, the Peloponese and Epirus were at that time subject to
the authority of Rome (Syntagma 2.286; Kormchaia kniga , P. 73).
According to Zonaras, it is the bishop of Constantinople who is responsible
for the consecration of bishops for the barbarians living in the provinces
mentioned, while the remaining provinces, viz. Macedonia, Thessaly, Hellas,
the Peloponese, Epirus and Illyria were subject to Rome (Syntagma 2.283,
In the Syntagma of Blastaris we read that the bishop of Constantinople also
has the right to consecrate the bishops of barbarian peoples living on the
edges of these provinces, such as the Alans and the Rousoi, since the former
live next to the diocese of Pontus and the latter next to the diocese of
Thrace (6.257). In the latter case it is a question of a late ecclesiastical
practice (Blastaris' comments concern the fourteenth century) according to
which the barbarian lands next to the three provinces mentioned were
included in the jurisdiction of the bishop of Constantinople. Moreover, it
is stressed that the jurisdiction of the bishop of Constantinople was
extended to these territories precisely because of their nearness to the
areas assigned to him by Canon 28 of Chalcedon, though in the canons
themselves the possibility of such an enlargement is not foreseen.
Thus these ancient and authoritative commentators confirm that the Council
of Chalcedon did not give to the bishop of Constantinople rights over
"barbarian" territories except within the limits of the three provinces
mentioned, of which only the province of Thrace is situated in Europe.Thus
these ancient and authoritative commentators confirm that the Council of
Chalcedon did not give to the bishop of Constantinople rights over
"barbarian" territories except within the limits of the three provinces
mentioned, of which only the province of Thrace is situated in Europe.
Aristenus and Zonaras, for example, indicate clearly that in Europe the
right of the bishop of Constantinople to send bishops for the barbarians
extends only to Thrace, since the other provinces are subject to the bishop
of Rome. As regards the frontiers of the Church of Constantinople in Asia,
Balsamon makes this comment in his interpretation of Canon 28 of the Fourth
Note that the metropolitans along the Black Sea up to Trebizond are called
"Pontic," while the metropolitans near Ephesus, and in Lycia and Pamphylia
are called "Asiatic," though not, as some say, those in Anatolia, since in
Anatolia it is [the bishop of] Antioch who has the right to consecrate
Constantinople's Claims about "Diaspora" are not Historically Tenable
It is also appropriate to note that in this canon it is not a question of a
"diaspora," but of autochthonous "barbarians" living in their own lands.
They became Christian largely as the result of missionary activity and
Christianity did not reach them through a foreign homeland, as is the case
with a "diaspora." This is why one is distancing oneself from historical
reality and mixing up differing concepts if one extends the field of
application of a canon that concerned autochthonous peoples who became
Christian as the result of missionary activity with the phenomenon of a
diaspora made up of people who have departed for a foreign land, but who
were brought up in the Orthodox tradition in their homeland.
.the statement by Your Holiness [Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew] that as a
result of Canon 28 of Chalcedon "Western Europe and all the lands recently
discovered in America and Australia belong to the area of responsibility of
the Ecumenical Patriarch" seems completely fictitious and is without
canonical foundation.Thus the statement by Your Holiness that as a result of
Canon 28 of Chalcedon "Western Europe and all the lands recently discovered
in America and Australia belong to the area of responsibility of the
Ecumenical Patriarch" seems completely fictitious and is without canonical
foundation. These distant lands actually have no connection with the three
provinces mentioned in Canon 28 and are nowhere near them. Moreover, the
majority of the Orthodox faithful of the Churches in these territories are
not native-born; they represent peoples that are traditionally Orthodox and
have religious traditions that they wish to preserve. As regards Orthodox
jurisdiction in the canonical territories that belonged to the Church of
Rome before the schism of 1054, no authoritative pan-Orthodox decision has
ever been taken.
All of this is supported by historical facts that indicate that until the
20s of the twentieth century the Patriarch of Constantinople did not in fact
exercise authority over the whole of the Orthodox diaspora throughout the
world, and made no claim to such authority. For example, in Australia the
Orthodox diaspora was initially served by Jerusalem, and the Patriarch of
Jerusalem sent priests there. In Western Europe, from the beginning, the
parishes and Orthodox communities were dependent canonically on their Mother
Churches and not on Constantinople. Similarly, in other parts of the world,
in order to follow the commandment of Christ (Mt 28:19f.), zealous
missionaries from local Orthodox Churches, including Constantinople,
preached the Gospel and baptised the native peoples, who then became the
children of the Church that had illumined them by Baptism.
The Roots of Jurisdictional Division in North America
As regards America, from 1794 Orthodoxy on that continent was represented
exclusively by the Church of Russia, which by 1918 had brought together some
300,000 Orthodox of different nationalities (Russian, Ukrainians, Serbs,
Albanians, Arabs, Aleuts, Indians, Africans, English). The Greek Orthodox
were among them, receiving antimensia for their parishes from the Russian
bishops. This situation was recognised by all the local Churches, who
released clergy for the American parishes into the jurisdiction of the
Russian Orthodox Church. The Patriarchate of Constantinople followed the
same practice. For example, when in 1912 the Greek Orthodox in America asked
His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople Joachim III to send a Greek
bishop, the Patriarch did not send a bishop himself, nor did he refer the
request to the Church of Greece, but recommended that it be referred to
Archbishop Platon of the Aleutian Islands and North America so that the
question could be settled by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Jurisdictional pluralism in North America began in 1921, when an
"Archdiocese of North and South America" was created without the agreement
of the Russian Church, which was not informed of the matter.Jurisdictional
pluralism in North America began in 1921, when an "Archdiocese of North and
South America" was created without the agreement of the Russian Church,
which was not informed of the matter. It is at this point that the situation
you describe arose, i.e. "In spite of the Holy Canons, the Orthodox, in
particular those who live in Western countries, are divided into ethnic
groups. Their Churches have at their head bishops chosen on ethnic grounds.
Often they are not the only bishops of their cities, and sometimes they are
not on good terms with one another and fight among themselves," something
that is "a source of shame for all Orthodoxy and the cause of unfavourable
reactions that have negative results for the Orthodox Church." As we have
seen, the blame for this sad situation cannot be attached to the Russian
Church. On the contrary, seeking to bring American Orthodoxy into line with
the rest of the Orthodox world, as Mother Church she granted autocephaly to
her daughter Church. In doing this the Russian Church acted only within the
limits of its own canonical jurisdiction and with a view to a future
pan-Orthodox decision concerning the establishment of a single local
Orthodox Church in America. We might note that, already in 1905, a proposal
for the creation of such a Church had been presented to the Holy Synod by
Saint Tikhon of Moscow, who was then Archbishop of the Aleutian Islands and
It is sad to observe that the Most Holy Church of Constantinople did not
support the action taken in 1970 and has not contributed to the union that
was so desired. Until now this remains a source of discord and discontent on
the part of many Orthodox in America.
Canon 28 Does Not Dimish the Rights of Autocephalous Churches
In spite of Your Holiness' affirmation that "no other Patriarchal see has
received the privilege or canonical right" to extend its jurisdiction beyond
the provinces that belong to the canonical territories of the autocephalous
Churches, history demonstrates that Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical
Council that subjected the three provinces mentioned to Constantinople did
not in any way diminish the rights of the other autocephalous Churches, in
particular as concerns ecclesiastical jurisdiction over foreign lands. Thus
the Church of Rome appointed bishops throughout most of Europe (excepting
Thrace), while the Church of Alexandria assigned bishops to the countries
south of Egypt (and subsequently throughout most of Africa), and the Church
of Antioch did so in the East, in Georgia, Persia, Armenia and Mesopotamia.
The jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople, however, for its part, for
a long time remained confined within what had been the boundaries of the
provinces of Asia, Pontus and Thrace before that Council.
We should also note that historically both the primacy of honour established
by Canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council and its jurisdiction over the
three provinces mentioned above were given to the Church of Constantinople
solely for political reasons, i.e. because the city in which the see of
Constantinople was located had acquired the status of a political capital
and had become "the city of the Emperor and the Senate." Thus Canon 28 of
the Fourth Ecumenical Council stipulates that:
In taking this decision as to the precedence of the Very Holy Church of
Constantinople, the New Rome, we note that the Fathers [of the Second
Ecumenical Council] have in fact rightly granted precedence to the see of
Old Rome because that city was the Imperial City. Moved by the same
considerations the 150 bishops beloved of God [of this Council] have granted
the same precedence to the Very Holy See of New Rome, justifiably thinking
that the city honoured by the presence of the Emperor and the Senate and
enjoying the same civil privileges as Rome, the ancient Imperial City,
should also have the same high rank as she has, in the affairs of the
Church, while still remaining second after her.
We do not intend to enter into discussion on this question now, but one
should nonetheless not forget an obvious fact: the present situation of
Constantinople after the collapse of the Byzantine Empire does not justify
constant recourse to this canon, and still less to an excessively broad
interpretation of its meaning.
Constantinople's Unilateral Policy of Expansionism
The inclusion within the jurisdiction of the Very Holy Church of
Constantinople of new provinces other than those bordering on the original
three dioceses, which has taken place in the course of history, is not, in
our opinion, linked with Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. The
reasons were entirely other. Thus the provinces mentioned by Your Holiness -
Illyria, Southern Italy and Sicily - did not belong 'always' to the
jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but were taken by force
from the Roman Church and given to the Church of Constantinople by the
iconoclast Emperor Leo the Isaurian, without reference to Canon 28. One of
the most important reasons for this action on the part of Leo the Isaurian
was that the Church of Rome was opposed to the iconoclastic policies of the
Byzantine Emperor, whose political power extended to those territories at
The inclusion within the jurisdiction of the Very Holy Church of
Constantinople of new provinces other than those bordering on the original
three dioceses, which has taken place in the course of history, is not, in
our opinion, linked with Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. The
reasons were entirely other.As regards the Russian Church, she was initially
subject to the Church of Constantinople not because of Canon 28 of the
Fourth Ecumenical Council, but because of the general principle according to
which converted peoples are subject to the Mother Church that had
Christianised them, until they have acquired the conditions necessary for
autocephaly. By becoming an autocephalous Church, the Russian Church
received the same rights of mission beyond its canonical boundaries as the
other local Orthodox Churches, since, as has been shown, the Holy Canons do
not give precedence to any particular Church in the realisation of this
Such is the authentic pan-Orthodox tradition in this matter, and the Very
Holy Church of Constantinople always respected it until the moment when
Patriarch Meletios IV developed the theory of the subordination of the whole
Orthodox diaspora to Constantinople. It is precisely this theory, which is
clearly non-canonical, that is quite obviously "hostile to the spirit of the
Orthodox Church, to Orthodoxy unity, and to canonical order." It is itself,
in fact, the expression of "an expansionist tendency that is without
canonical foundation and is unacceptable on an ecciesiological level." By
claiming a universal spiritual power, it does not correspond to the Orthodox
canonical tradition or to the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church,
and represents a direct challenge to Orthodox unity. In fact, there is no
reason to agree with Your contention that the whole of the Orthodox diaspora
does not finds itself under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Patriarchate
of Constantinople solely because Constantinople "tolerates this situation
temporarily and for reasons of 'economy'."
.Patriarch Meletios IV developed the theory of the subordination of the
whole Orthodox diaspora to Constantinople.which is clearly non-canonical,
that is quite obviously "hostile to the spirit of the Orthodox Church, to
Orthodoxy unity, and to canonical order."This last expression has
particularly roused our incomprehension and disquiet, since it seems to
point to an intention on the part of the Church of Constantinople to
continue in the future to pursue a unilateral policy of expansion that is
foreign to a spirit of brotherly love and conciliarity. In this respect, it
is worthwhile recalling a judicious remark of Patriarch Diodoros of
Jerusalem of blessed memory that is contained in his letter to Your Holiness
(No. 480, dated 25 July 1993) to the effect that only a pan-Orthodox Council
has the right to resolve the complex question of the diaspora. Neither the
Orthodox Church of Romania nor the Orthodox Church of Poland shares the view
put forward by Your Holiness of the problem of the diaspora. This is clear
from the reports submitted by these Churches in 1990 to the Preparatory
Commission for the Holy and Great Council.
Moscow Resists Constantinople's Interference in the Russian Church
Bearing in mind what has been said, we are completely justified in
contesting the statement of Your Holiness to the effect that the Exarchate
of Russian Parishes in Western Europe is "one of the forms of pastoral care
that is incumbent" upon the Church of Constantinople. The theory that this
Exarchate is obliged to be subject to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate
of Constantinople is refuted by the very history of this ecclesiastical
entity. We must remember that in the official documents of the Church of
Constantinople concerning the status of the Russian parishes in Western
Europe it is accepted that their Mother Church is the Russian Orthodox
Church, and that the system of administration established for these parishes
has a provisional character. There is no ambiguity concerning this in the
Tomos of Patriarch Photios of 17 February 1931. Commenting on this document,
Patriarch Photios himself wrote in a letter (No. 1428, 25 June 1931) to
Metropolitan Sergii, Deputy Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, that
"the situation should remain in this provisional state until, with God's
help, unity can be re-established with our Sister Church of Russia."
Similarly, His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras, in a letter (No. 671, 22
November 1965) to Archbishop Georges of Eudokiada, mentioning the fact that
"the Church of Russia has freed itself of divisions, acquired an internal
organisation and freedom of action in its affairs outside Russia," announces
the suppression of the Exarchate of Russian Parishes in Western Europe,
"which had a provisional character," and recommends that it join itself to
the Patriarchate of Moscow, "which can and should always demonstrate and
manifest its fatherly love for these parishes." The fact that the
Patriarchate of Constantinople received back into its jurisdiction this
diocese of Russian parishes in 1971 does not change in any way the
provisional character of the current situation of the Russian Archdiocese,
since in its first paragraph the relevant Tomos refers back to the Tomos of
Patriarch Photios. Thus the Church of Constantinople, in these official
documents, has recognised unambiguously the right of the Archdiocese of
Russian Parishes in Western Europe to reunite itself with the Mother
Church - the Russian Orthodox Church - without this being the manifestation
of "an extremely secularised and erroneous spiritual state" or of "an
erroneous ethnic understanding."
As regards the proposals of His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and
Kaliningrad made during his stay in Paris from 10-12 February 2001, this
subject has already been touched upon in negotiations between delegations of
the Patriarchate of Constantinople and Moscow in Zurich on 19 April 2001 and
in a letter of Metropolitan Kirill to Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia
(No. 2062, 17 July 2001). While travelling through Paris, His Eminence
Metropolitan Kirill was invited by Archbishop Sergii of Eukarpia to a
meeting of the Council of the Archdiocese. At this meeting, the hierarch of
our Church made no specific proposals, and when he was asked how he saw the
future of the Archdiocese, he presented the position of our Church, which
has never been concealed and to which we are irrevocably attached.
This position is the following: the existence of an isolated group of
Russian parishes in Europe is the result of the tragedy of the Russian
people provoked by the Revolution. At the present, when the consequences of
the Revolution have been overcome, the return of the parishes of the
emigration to the bosom of the Patriarchate of Moscow would be completely
normal. This desire for the restoration of the spiritual unity of our people
is reflected in the declaration you have mentioned, which was made by the
Holy Synod on 8 November 2000, where it is question of those children "who
live beyond the limits of the Russian State" (not "outside the limits of the
Russian Church," as is incorrectly stated in Your letter). We continue to be
saddened to see that the legitimate and natural desire to bring together
again our own people, who live dispersed for historical and political
reasons, is the object of such harsh and unjust attacks on the part of the
primate of a Church that has experienced a similar tragedy.
Question of "Diaspora" Must be Resolved
The question of the Orthodox diaspora is one of most important problems in
inter-Orthodox relations. Given its complexity and the fact that it has not
been sufficiently regularised, it has introduced serious complications in
the relations between Churches and has without a doubt diminished the
strength of Orthodox witness throughout the contemporary world.
Nevertheless, we hope very much that the sustained efforts of the local
Orthodox Churches will enable us in the end to find a pan-Orthodox solution
to the problem at the Holy and Great Council of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The historical responsibility is all the greater for any actions directed
against the achievement of an agreement pleasing to God on this key
[W]e call upon Your Holiness to follow the precepts of the Holy Fathers,
expressed in Canon 8 of the Third Ecumenical council, to wit, "that the
canons of the Fathers not be infringed upon, and that worldly pride and
power not slip in under the pretext of holy actions.This is why, for the
true good both of Orthodoxy and the Church of Constantinople, which is dear
to us for reasons stretching back over centuries, we call upon Your Holiness
to follow the precepts of the Holy Fathers, expressed in Canon 8 of the
Third Ecumenical council, to wit, "that the canons of the Fathers not be
infringed upon, and that worldly pride and power not slip in under the
pretext of holy actions, and that we do not lose, bit by bit and without
noticing it, the freedom that Jesus Christ our Lord, the Liberator of all
men, has given us by his Blood." Faithful to the tradition of the Holy
Fathers, we ask earnestly and sincerely that Your Holiness renounce an
attitude of mind that is an obstacle to the accord so ardently desired, and
work hard for the speedy convocation of the Holy and Great Council.
We ask of God peace, health and length of life for Your Holiness, we salute
You once again in brotherly fashion, and we continue to respect You and to
love Your Holiness in Christ.
+ Alexis, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
(1) Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) is discussed at length by
Archbishop Peter L'Huillier in his book, The Church of the Ancient Councils:
The Disciplinary Work of the First Four Ecumenical Councils (Crestwood, NY:
St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1996), pp. 267-296, where he reaches the same
conclusions as the Patriarch (Ed.).
Sourozh, No. 99, February 2005, pp. 1-11
#25 Anonymous on 2010-02-17 11:19
Fr. Oliver's post provides important food for thought; as a layperson, my thoughts naturally turn especially to the role of the laity in the system proposed by His Beatitude (which, I should note, is already largely the system in the Diocese of the South).
His Beatitude has said some wonderful things about the laity (a very pleasant--and necessary--change from the almost incessant stream of hate spewed by certain bishops who retired a few years ago); I particularly agree with his statement, "Each member is important. Each member has a voice, and must be heard." At the same time, while this is a beautiful and true statement, it does not seem to reflect the revised structure he proposes for the "new and improved" OCA. If the voice of each member must be heard, why does it seem that the governmental system is deliberately constructed precisely to prevent most voices from being heard?
I believe the answer to this question can be found in the same presentation in which His Beatitude makes the above statement (http://bit.ly/aD83OV). Immediately after the above statement His Beatitude says the following:
"There are two related attitudes that constitute baggage from the past, temptations which have afflicted the Church and distorted its life and indeed, its conciliarity. Both stem from an abrogation of responsibility. Clericalism comes from an abrogation of responsibility by the laity for the affairs of the church, with the clergy taking over all functions; even the loss of the traditional ministerial role of the diaconate and pastoral role of the episcopate, with the concentration of all 'ministry' in the presbyters, is a kind of clericalism . Trusteeism comes from a refusal of the clergy to accept their responsibility for the more mundane aspects of the life of the Church, which was then seized upon by lay leaders. This resulted in the priests being responsible for what happens in the altar; the parish council for everything else in the church."
I admit that, after engaging in a simple surface-level reading of this statement, I was outraged; I felt as if I were reading the ecclesiastical equivalent of the rule regarding meeting with Major Major in "Catch-22" (you may only see Major Major when he is in his office, and Major Major will never see you when he is in his office). His Beatitude's description of clericalism appears to be precisely the system he is promoting for the OCA, and yet we laity are sinners if we go along with it, but we are also sinners if we do not.
This, however is not an entirely accurate understanding of the system His Beatitude proposes (although, as we will see, it is far more accurate than it should be). The key to the system can be found in his description of the sin of trusteeism: a bishop or priest fails to exercise his responsibility over and in every aspect of church life, and the laity therefore fill the vacuum by seizing (a particularly unfortunate description, but one I believe was deliberately chosen) this responsibility for themselves. As His Beatitude sees it, the problem in this scenario is not that the laity are engaging in activity, but that they are doing so without the direct control of the bishop or priest.
To be sure, there are situations in which what His Beatitude terms trusteeism is a serious problem. Bishops and priests are generally more than happy to regale listeners with stories of parishes in which the system became unbalanced and tilted toward excessive lay power. Situations with which I'm familiar will sound familiar to many of you: a friend who is a priest had to deal with a parish council which wanted to close the church--except for, as they saw it, such "family celebrations" as weddings and baptisms--but keep the fellowship hall open to serve as a social club/bar; another had to deal with intense pressure from a powerful lay faction in his parish wanting to allow Muslims to receive the Mysteries. Such situations demonstrate the spiritual problems that can occur when too much power is vested in the laity (please note that, as an active layperson, I'm certainly not saying this is the norm for lay leadership, but rather that there is the potential for this type of problem).
In contrast to such a situation, the system Metropolitan JONAH proposes is essentially appointment-based (for the sake of moving the discussion along I'll somewhat oversimplify): all power (or, as His Beatitude terms it, "responsibility") resides in the bishop, who hand-picks and appoints some of his priests (and perhaps a layperson or two) to serve as a diocesan council; the council exists to facilitate and enact the agenda set by the bishop. The personally chosen and appointed diocesan council also serves as the diocese's representatives--with the bishop, of course--at the All-American Council (which, despite this system, will nonetheless apparently not have its name changed to the "All-American Council of Diocesan Councils").
This system is replicated on a smaller scale in the local parish: all power (or "responsibility") resides in the priest (who is appointed to the parish by the bishop), who in turn appoints hand-picked laypersons to serve on the parish council; the council exists to facilitate and enact the agenda set by the priest. The primary difference between this and diocesan councils is that, since the parish council consists entirely of laity and minor clergy, parish councils will not represent their parishes at larger gatherings in which decisions are made.
This system is not entirely without merit: when you have a godly bishop, humbly working to achieve God's purposes and assist His people in their salvation, appointing godly, humble priests to serve in his parishes and on his diocesan council, then you will have a righteous structure that avoids some of the problems that can occur when you have lay leadership that is rich in money and power, but poor in faith. The same holds true when a godly, humble priest appoints godly, humble people to serve on parish councils.
The problem, of course--as history both recent and ancient demonstrates--is that ungodly men can fill such offices as bishop, chancellor and priest, and even otherwise good men can make egregiously bad and damaging decisions for a variety of reasons. This fact presents two serious problems.
The first problem, which crippled--and, to far too great an extent, continues to damage--the functioning of the OCA is this: what can be done with a bad leader (or leaders), or when an otherwise good leader makes an egregiously bad decision? In his presentation His Beatitude himself acknowledges the existence of these questions, noting that people have asked, "What happens when the Metropolitan abrogates his responsibility;" significantly, he does not answer the question. He later adds regarding diocesan councils, "When it works, there is wonderful synergy, and the Church's needs are fulfilled; when it doesn't, the whole diocese grinds to a halt;" again, however, after making this important observation, he says nothing further about it. So, what can be done when the system fails in this way?
The answer, in short, is: very little. If a diocese has a bad bishop, there are only two possibilities for the situation to be rectified: either his brother bishops prevail upon the bad bishop to either pursue godliness or retire, or the clergy and laity of the diocese engage in the spiritual equivalent of civil disobedience until the situation becomes untenable for the diocesan bishop. Both are very poor options; furthermore, as we saw in the cases of +HERMAN and +NIKOLAI, the Synod of Bishops will usually only prevail upon a bad bishop when the unrest generated by his actions creates significant difficulty for themselves. Things such as this website provide a desperately needed service; this service is desperately needed, however, precisely because the system as it currently exists (and the revised one that has been proposed) provide absolutely no other realistic possibility for the rectification of wrongs committed or tolerated by the leadership.
At anything below the episcopal level, the solution to a failure within the system depends almost entirely upon the diocesan bishop. A godly bishop will ensure that the priests on his diocesan council and in his parishes will be godly men who humbly serve God and His Church; a bad bishop will permit any number and variety of atrocities so long as these priests satisfy the personal agenda of the bishop. The same holds true on the parish level, where the work of the parish council--and the quality of its members--is dependent entirely upon the character and motivations of the priest.
This is a system that has become fatally flawed: when every position within the diocese is filled through an appointment by the bishop or a priest, and the primary requirement of that position is not the person's piety but rather his or her willingness to unquestioningly approve and enact every desire--whether licit or illicit--of the man in the rank above, then you have a system that has not merely become unbalanced…it's a system whose focus has, at the very least, become dangerously corrupted.
So where does all this leave the laity? The system proposed by the Metropolitan almost entirely excludes the laity from participation of any kind beyond the parish level, and even there it is entirely dependent upon the agenda of the priest. Furthermore, this is not accidental: the system +JONAH and the other bishops advocate is deliberately constructed to in part to relegate the laity to this role. What does this system enable laity to do when burdened with a bad leader, or with a damaging decree from a rank above? Nothing more than endure…well, endure and write checks. Such a system is egregiously unbalanced, and spiritually damaging to both the laity and the people who lead them.
Closely related to this--and, I believe, even more significant for the life of the Church--is that this system largely prevents the Church from benefitting from the gifts given to the laity. With all due respect to His Beatitude, his description of the cause of clericalism is generally both inaccurate and unfair. While there are certainly parishes in which the priest would love to have the assistance of an otherwise apathetic and uninvolved laity, the situation--as we have seen in the above point--is frequently the opposite: the laity have been institutionally restricted from almost all but the most rudimentary levels of local service; positions at the diocesan or national levels are therefore almost exclusively filled by clergy (and matushki, who are generally considered, to put it rather inelegantly, a "higher class of laity"). There are, of course, a handful of laypersons in higher positions--for example, the treasurer of the DOS is a layman who has my respect and admiration--but these individuals are decidedly the exceptions that prove the rule (the Metropolitan Council has significant lay involvement but, as has been noted elsewhere, part of His Beatitude's system involves reconfiguring the Metropolitan Council and redistributing its areas of responsibility).
This is where Fr. Oliver's concerns about the All-American Council and the selection of bishops comes in. The OCA has many laypersons who are gifted with discernment, with leadership abilities, with training in psychology and sociology…they could contribute so much to the processes of selecting leaders and determining policies, but in a system such as this, however, their gifts are not only largely unwanted, but are frequently actively opposed (I speak from sad personal experience on this point).
This problem extends far beyond governance itself. We have wonderful lay teachers in the OCA; where are their materials? We have talented lay writers; where are they published? We have superb lay artists; where can their works be seen or heard? We have gifted lay evangelists and social workers; where can they fulfill their callings? Far too often, the answer to these questions is: if anywhere, in departments and ministries outside the control of the OCA. Needless to say, I am certainly not in any way belittling or criticizing non-OCA ministries; rather, I am saying that the laity in the OCA do not merely want to be more than yes-men and spear carriers…we are, in fact, called and gifted for more than this. Everyone loses when a governing principle in our jurisdiction is, "It's better to not have a ministry at all than to have it performed by a layperson."
Fortunately, all is not lost. His Beatitude's vision for diocesan activity foresees ministries that "involve more clergy and laity on an ever increasing scale." There is in this vision the potential for full lay involvement in the life of the Church. This involvement, however, must be more than saying "yes," "amen," "axios," "eis polla eti despota," and "how many zeroes would you like on this check?" This means, for the health of the Church, that the laity must be involved in both church governance and ministry. If this is to be a truly Christian system, it must involve the laity--and the priests outside the bishops' inner circles--using all our gifts to the fullness of our gifting.
#26 Jason Barker on 2010-02-17 12:58
St. John Chrysostom said, "Let our enemy too understand that we have taken much pains, in order to do what is well-pleasing unto God."
It seems many of our Orthodox jurisdictions, both here and abroad, have suffered pain for many years by being persecuted and having their faith torn apart with people who don't care for others. St. John is validating our pain and suffering, which means so much to us, and he is also emphasizing that we will only follow GOD and HIS WILL and do that which we know will please HIM. We will not break down and follow the heretical teachings of others who lead us astray.
May this quote give you all strength to continue fighting for truth and honesty in Orthodoxy, no matter where you live or where you came from. We are, in God's eyes, one Orthodox Church, and we must keep the faith going and not give up.
This should be republished as a reflection, as soon as possible.
#28 Nilus on 2010-02-18 09:52
a cleaner version of this text may be found at
#29 Anonymous on 2010-02-18 14:06
Back home only our "protopopiat" (deanery) has about 25.000 members. And a longer history than OCA, of course.
#30 C. Ilea on 2010-02-19 00:01
It's not only our Alaskan brethren whose ancestors have been here for 10,000+ years. There are plenty of Native Americans, Canadian First Nations, and indigenous Mexicans in the OCA.
#31 Anonymous on 2010-02-19 15:16
Which comments are you referring to that should be republicized into a reflection? There are so many on this one particular page.
The “Appeal for Unity and Dignity” is an insult to our intelligence. As many have commented, jurisdictions only overlap in the big cities. America is huge and there will only always be someone in Diaspora that will be searching for a church because of demographics. What would Romania say if Moscow, or Antioch, wanted to move in and claim their Diasporas in Romania and want to build churches? They would be singing a whole different tune, wouldn’t they?
The veracity of their statement is truly in question. They have a long history of double- dealing, two-faced deception. Has there been any official statement from Chambesy other than the Romanian version?
Pride and arrogance is what caused humanity to fall. It is completely and utterly sinful that it has come to a point that Romanian clergy and hierarch here and abroad put political ethnic correctness before Orthodoxy itself. Liberality is a virtue and a gift from God. It should not be taken away from the ecclesia.
It appears to me, (my opinion only) that some clergy in our episcopate are conspiring with ROAA to drive a wedge between the Romanian Orthodox Laity; creating issues that have nothing to do with loving and embracing one another but rather trying to create 2 groups – those who are Romanian and those who are Anti-Romanian. There are some that are quite verbal, some who are deceivingly manipulative and other who are completely silent. Those who take a stand are not the ones we need to worry about. We know where they stand. God would rather us be hot or cold. He has no use for those who are lukewarm. Are the quiet ones afraid of the inevitable and protecting themselves, there families, the lives they’ve come accustom to in America? Many clergy who are against unity have been threatened by their own brothers. The cold war days are back again. You cannot trust anyone anymore. This, in my opinion, is what ROAA wants.
Orthodoxy is a way of life, practicing love, charity, humility and all the other virtues. It is also about discernment and standing up for those who are not able to defend themselves. I continue to ask the question, “How will Romanian Unity promote any kind of North American Unity?” No one; I repeat, No One has answered that question.
With all due respect to THE PRESIDENT OF THE HOLY SYNOD OF THE ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH,† D A N I E L, since 1929 the ROAA-BOR has been tying to get it’s hands on the Vatra. This unity thing is not about unity, but rather greed and coveting.
Only God knows if Romanian Unity will be achieved. What the Holy Synod of Romanian doesn’t understand is that the “Vatra” is on American soil and the last time I looked, that still means something. Don’t be surprised if a grass roots class action suit is filed with the Supreme Court of the United States of America that the Hierarchs of ROAA are in collusion to control the Vatra and the same points that won the decision for the ROEA at the Supreme Court in May of 1950 are argued and will win for the grass roots Orthodox again, for a second time; that being: “…the Romanian Orthodox Missionary Episcopate (AKA ROEA) had achieved a degree of autonomy sufficient to permit it to elect its own bishop.” And the Supreme Court upheld the district court’s decision, “…that such autonomy did exist under the by-laws of 1932 and was recreated by action of the proper officials in 1947 and 1948.” Therefore the injunctive relief sought by the ROAA and its representative was denied, permanently enjoining them from representing themselves as of the ROEA, from using the name Solia for any publications, and FROM OCCUPYING OR USING THE LAND, BUILDINGS AND PERSONAL PROPERTY LOCATED ON THE VATRA, GRASS LAKE MICHIGAN. That being said, the only proper choice would be to turn over the Vatra to the OCA, the ecclesia of the ROEA and their properties that wish to go to ROAA go and those that don’t answer to OCA.
Let me go on record by saying, “Enough is Enough. OCA All The Way!”
#33 Cornelia Merchant on 2010-02-23 18:32
Today is Monday, March 1, 2010. Do you all remember where you were a year ago today when our Orthodox Church was turned upside down? It's hard to believe it's been one year already, and we are still upside down. This date was on my mind all day today at work, and I just don't know where we go from here.
As we journey thru Lent, let us continue to strive for honesty, peace and order so that we can behold the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, with great joy, greater than last year.
Maybe this is too simplistic but my wife is of Greek descent and I Russian. By the standards of this letter from the Orthodox Church in Romanian, where are we supposed to attend the liturgy. Do we have to split ourselves and attend church out of town in loyalty to our ethnic heritage, or do we attend the only Orthdox Church in town which happens to be Orthodox Church in America? Please Orthodox bishops in America, what should I do?
#35 the two shall be one on 2010-03-02 07:01
Every Orthodox Christian ought to lay claim two parishes: the one we go to and the one that we *don'*t go to. This is well established in our tradition.
#36 MWP on 2010-03-02 13:05
After reading Ms Merchant's thoughts, I would be very concerned if such a unity between any Christians could ever be possible given such anger (to put it mildly) and lack of love. Exactly who is creating these feelings? Some blame the "money-hungry, drunk-with-power, land-stealing foreign hierarchs" (how dare they even be foreign!)....but we have nobody to blame for our feelings except for ourselves. I have no theological training, but I at least always learned to love others as we love oursleves. Am I mistaken? Is this not Christ's Church? Or has it truly been degraded into a social club, only using "churchy" words to throw mud at one another? I think everyone needs, especially now during the Great Lent, to take a deep breath and act in a more Christian manner.
My reading of the letter from +Daniel is that they are inviting estranged Romanian parish communities around the world (indeed North America is NOT the only place on this Earth), who were separated for whatever reasons, to come back to their Mother Church. I didn't see America mentioned in the letter. I prefer not to assume the worst....we all knows what happens when one assumes! Is a clarification in order? Yes, of course. I would think it would be the duty of Archbishop Nathaniel, brother hierarch to brother hierarch, to ask Romania "What was meant by this? What are you saying about our unique situation here?" How much better it would be to clear up misunderstanding before assumptions turn into pure venom over the internet. The silence coming from the Episcopate office is deafening .
As for Vatra, there is now a website proclaiming to be its "guardians"...and yet the buildings are falling apart. I know, I have been there this past year and have seen it. As an example, the national women's organization had a fund drive to fix-up the building bearing their name out there (ARFORA House) and seems to have raised only a few hundred dollars for what looks like could be easily over a $20k project, just to get the building in "decent" shape. Where are the "guardians" to pay for repairs? Where are the "guardians" to add to the beauty of the grounds? Where are the "guardians" to roll up their sleeves and actually do something? Where are the "guardians" to speak up now that the administration has taken the annual congress away from the Vatra? Again, an interesting silence.
We need to DEFEND IT BY SHOWING LOVE FOR IT!, not just using it as some battle-cry. And we need to defend our Christian principles and identity by showing love for one another. It is okay to debate and disagree -- but it needs to be in a Christian manner.
#37 Anonymous on 2010-03-02 14:03
The author does not allow comments to this entry