Wednesday, June 16. 2010
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The comments from Fr. Lambrianidis were, I'm sure, quite painful for many people, especially those in the OCA. But however painful they may have been to hear or read, they are the truth. I confess that I am completely fed up with people, most of whom are in the OCA, who propagate the "mom and apple pie" idea of the OCA being the be-all and end-all of Orthodoxy in America.
The Orthodox church does not exist to make people happy, it exists to make people holy. There are numerous examples throughout history where groups of people, even some of the most devout, have strayed from the truth and wandered into heresy. In fact, there are moments in history when thousands of people have gone off the true path.
It is a painful reality that the metropolia did not have any real support back in 1970 for autocephaly other than from their own constituents. Yes, the name changed to the Orthodox Church in America, but it was not THE Orthodox Church in America. Yes, as a jurisdiction it has done a lot of good things over the years. But quite frankly it could have done those same things as the metropolia. And quite frankly, most of the other major jurisdictions in America have also done a great deal of good work.
In my opinion, the majority of people in the OCA have been sold a line of baloney about autocephaly for many years. Like mom, apple pie and a Chevrolet, every parish that I have ever visited in the OCA talks about the autocephaly. But what they aren't told is the cold hard truth, that many other jurisdictions never considered the autocephaly valid, that other jurisdictions use English, that other jurisdictions have ministry programs and outreach, that other jurisdictions have seminaries and theological training programs, etc. And having the autocephaly waved around the United States by its primate and some of its bishops like it is a get out of jail free card from monopoly doesn't help the situation at all.
Canonical order to things can be very difficult but it is necessary. I commend Metropolitan Jonah for having the strength to go to the recent EA and not say anything about being seated as just a bishop. This was a great first step. Now I hope that he will preach on this subject and get off the autocephaly bandwagon.
Frs. Schmemann, Meyendorff and others who were deeply involved with the attainment of autocephaly from Moscow certainly had the best of intentions, but they also clearly never seemed to want to accept the fact that the rest of their Orthodox brethren around the world did not see this as the appropriate time.
Again, I'm sure the OCA autocephalists will get on their high horses once again and the fingers will be clicking away on their little keyboards about what an awful post this is and what horrible, unkind and unfair things were said by Fr. Lambrianidis. I can only hope and pray that those who would wish to immediately send a nasty message back would spend at least a little bit of time actually reflecting on this weighty subject.
(Editor's note: If you "would have spent a little bit of time actually reflecting on this weighty topic" you would know that 5 Orthodox churches
(Russia, Poland, Czech& Slovak, Georgia and Bulgaria) recognize the autocephaly of the OCA. Five others ( all Greek) do not; and 4 have not taken an official position ( Romania, Serbia, Antioch, Albania) It is fair to say, given the numbers of believers in each Church, that the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Christians, recognize the autocephaly of the OCA. I suggest that it is you, rather than the "rest of the Orthodox brethren" that has a problem with the OCA. Get over it.)
#1 Anon. on 2010-06-16 17:07
Whether one agrees with all or only some of what Archimandrite Elpidophoros stated in his eloquent lecture, it is incredibly useful to see exactly what the perspective of Constantinople is. I truly believe that Constantinople truly believes what the Archimandrite communicated. Some of what he said is certainly open to debate and interpretation, potentially weakening some of his argument for the universal jurisdiction of the EP in lands outside the canonical territories of autocephalous churchs. Nevertheless, I am more empathetic to the position of the EP than I was before reading this piece. Admittedly, however, distrust and fear of Constantinople's long-standing proclivities partially offset my new-found empathy.
If we Orthodox Christians could erase the stifling legacy of dead empires and the Church were being administratively organized from scratch to meet present realities, I wonder what that organization would look like. In other words, what would happen if we applied the (admittedly debatable) essence of the canons rather than perpetuating their mere manifestations of centuries past? Where would the borders be drawn? I have no doubt that North America would be autocephalous, and Western Europe probably would be, too.
Continuing the theme but turning to the the liturgical realm, it would say a lot if bishops cast aside their imperial garb and--I can't believe I'm actually saying this, their eis pollas--and rediscovered priestly garb plus omophorion/pallium and traditional headdress. Wouldn't it be nice if bishops vacated and abolished the emperor's throne on the south wall? Why do we cling so tightly to the aberrations of the bitter Turkish yoke? Dhimmitude has left its most stuborn blemish on the very ones who have the authority to erase it today.
The Church needs to end both its Turkish and imperial detours from Tradition...but I guess those hats are just too fun. (Yes, the most important detours are far bigger than borders and secular vestments for bishops, but you know what I mean. And if the truth be told, I DO like the hats, but I'm seeing the inconsistency in that.)
#2 James P. on 2010-06-16 20:36
Archimandrite Elpidophoros's speech received direct criticism that was very much along the lines of your response to the anonymous comment, Mr. Stokoe. Paul Meyendorff ripped him a new one, so to speak.
I had hoped they would put up a podcast of all the speeches, but alas, it doesn't seem they will. Archbishop Demetrios's lecture was decent but clearly skirted controversy. Archimandrite Elpidophoros's, shall we say, creative interpretation of history, didn't seem to garner much sympathy, but was far more exciting than the archbishop, I have to say.
Glad to see you're updating the site more regularly, Stookey!
#3 Cordelia on 2010-06-16 21:16
Nicely put Mark. I’m not quite sure what planet “anon” has been living on. I’ve been a life long member of the OCA, lived in numerous parishes around the country and have never heard people claiming the OCA was the be-all/end-all of Orthodoxy in America. In fact, back when the OCA was given autocephaly it took special care not to instigate but rather offer up its new found freedom as a possible tool or road towards unity. It also purposely did not take the name the Orthodox Church OF America but rather IN America in deference to the other Orthodox jurisdictions in this country (Fr. Lambrianidis is mistaken).
You are correct. The Orthodox Church doesn’t exist to make us happy but to make us holy. Unfortunately too many Orthodox bishops have preferred the happiness of ethnicity, money and worldly power to the cross of Christ (and here I do not exempt the OCA from this observation but neither do I pretend other local churches don’t have a plentitude of examples in this regard because they certainly do.)
I’m so glad you commend our Metropolitan for having the strength to be seated as “just” a bishop. I only wish the EP would have the strength to understand he also is “just” a bishop. Last I checked, the Church teaches that ALL bishops (patriarchs, metropolitans, archbishops) are “just” bishops. The reason why Rome & Constantinople never got along was that they were always too much alike –sad commentary!
And yes, canonical order can be a difficult but necessary thing. But what “anon” needs to realize is that there are Orthodox who hold a very different and conflicting view of what that “canonical order” should be. Lastly, I hope and pray that “anon” might spend some time reflecting on this weighty subject instead of shooting off a glib post. Those of us who have been in the OCA for some time and have been affected by this directly have given much thought and prayer regarding it. I don’t think Fr. Lambrianidis said anything horrible or unkind. He simply stated one view that many people, myself included, disagree with. I personally would like to see less arguing back and forth over issues neither side will concede, more willingness to confront the reality of our situation, real sacrificial and selfless leadership and a unified autocephalous Orthodox Church OF America.
#4 Andrew A.Lukashonak on 2010-06-16 22:44
Concerning Canon 28 of the 4th, Archmandrite Elpidephoros (and the modern-day EP with him) misinterprets the Canon by trying to the Canon in a way the Council never intended it to be used. The canon does give the EP jurisdiction over "the barbarian lands," alright. BUT that does not mean the EP has jurisdiction over all territory outside of established Orthodox national Churches. Rather, The Rudder itself defines what those "barbarian lands" are, viz., the lands bordering the Pontic, Asian (i.e., Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, etc.) and Thracian dioceses. The last time I checked, neither New York nor Edmonton nor Buenos Aires bordered any of those ancient dioceses. Moreoever, NO Ecumenical Patriarch ever attempted to use the Canon this way or made such a claim until the patriarchate of Meletios Metexakis in the 1920s; so this is clearly an innovation, attempted without the sanction of an Ecumencial Council. Hence, it is to be rejected.
Consider further his assertion that: "The Ecumenical Patriarchate granted Autocephaly to the Churches of Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Poland, Albania, as well as the Czech Lands and Slovakia..." But the reality is that all but one of these Churches (Albania) first declared their own autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, always over the protests of the EP; it was only later, after these Churches had been running their own affairs quite nicely that Constantinople caught up with its paperwork and grudgingly granted paper autocephaly. Consider, for example, that Bulgaria declared its ecclesastical independence in 1870 or 1875 (I forget which); but the EP recognised that autocephaly only in 1945! The archimandrite has a peculiar view of history...
And a peculiar reverence for Rum Millet. The Turks did what they did for their own reasons and their own convenience, not because they particularly respected Orthodox Christian ecclesiology. It was hardly a golden age. On the contrary, the history of how all too many men became Ecumenical Patriarch under the Turkokratia is the sad tale of one after another gaining office by bribery and "employing secular rulers," both of which are clear and pathetic failures to obey Canons 29 and 30 of the Holy Apostles.
Note also his contention that "the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not ethnic in the modern sense of the term..." Really? How many EP Bishops in North America (excluding the Ukrainian, Carpatho-Russian, and Albanian dependencies) are North-American born and not of Greek descent? Answer? Zero! How many EP parishes in North America are, right this very second, engaged in internal battles over the parish's role in preserving Greek language and "Hellenism"? Answer? Lots! He may argue that Greek Orthodox is a misnomer; but the North American reality, especially in Canada, is that---other than one priest of our acquaintance, who sails blissfully along sui generis---both priests and parishes are very much Greek in language and nationality and have every intention of staying that way, regardless of the Church's missionary imperative.
Whether or not the EP recognises the OCA's autocephaly is, ultimately, irrelevant to our parish life. We, as the Metropolia, had to "go it alone" before, in the post-War years; and we can do it again, if need be. Further, for the sake of genuine Orthodox administrative unity in North America (as opposed to what amounts to surrender and submission to the EP), we might be willing to toss our current Tomos on the trash-heap of history. But I refuse to agree that in order to be Orthodox, I have to become a synthetic Greek or synthetic Slav or anything or anyone other than myself; I refuse ever to accept the Greek taxis in my parish, especially for litya at Vespers and for Matins (particularly the placement of the Gospel reading), both of which are not only rejections of the Typikon of St. Sabbas but also just daft and disorderly innovations; and I refuse to accept the damnable innovation of the clearly wrong interpretation of Canon 28 of the Fourth which the EP is circulating.
I trust I do not make myself obscure.
(Editor's note: Well, you just lost your invitation to the Canadian Episcopal Assembly, Father. But you are absolutely right. His is a peculiar and singular reading of history, which is fine, except that he would require we all join in his myopia and fantasy. One may live among the disorder of one's age, but one has no obligation to participate in it. )
#5 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2010-06-17 04:10
You see, the OCA's autocephaly was the "completion" of what SCOBA originally ironed out in 1960-61. All the churches in SCOBA called for an "autocephalous" church in America and even deemed that it should be called, "The Orthodox Church in America." (Minutes of SCOBA) Fr. Schmemann originally approached the Phanar for autocephaly for the Metropolia and was told, "Go to your mother church and get it." (Not thinking it would ever be granted) Well, it was! Under Orthodox Canon Law, when a local, indigenous, canonical Orthodox Church receives autocephaly, ALL the Orthodox are under it's authority. This is why the Phanar refused to accept the OCA's autocephaly and found every excuse in the world to poo-poo it. + Iakavos & + Philip reneged in joining the OCA, but if they did, today, 40 yrs later, a united Orthodox Church in N. Am. would have been had. The Phanar is just wrong and has been the main obstruction to unity in N. Am. & in other countries. The Phanar wants unity in N. Am., but only under himself!
#6 Anon ymos on 2010-06-17 06:49
Lambriniadis said, "The ancient Patriarchates respected the 28th Canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate over regions outside the geographical boundaries of the Orthodox Churches."
He's re-writing church history! Respecting Canon 28 had nothing to do with it. It's because all these churches fell into Muslim control that they turned to Constantinople for help, guidance, money and bishops. He is spreading a lie!
#7 Anonymous on 2010-06-17 07:46
This comment by "anon." distorts history and Orthodox ecclesiology on many levels.
The Russian Orthodox Church had established structure (diocese) in North America before the establishment of any other dioceses. Granted that it was rather thin (except for Alaska where it had originated), it nonetheless oversaw Russian as well as other ethnic parishes and even consecrated Saint Raphael of Brooklyn to oversee the Arabic speaking parishes.
It is a canonical no-no for one church to poach in the territories of other church. But, after the Bolshevik Revolution and the onset of martyrdom of the Russian Church (note that I am nor Russian), numerous old world churches established dioceses in the territory of the Russian Orthodox Church's North American Diocese. It was a very unsettled time and perhaps the uncanonical situation that developed could be blamed on the pastoral needs of the ethnic Greeks, Arabs, Bulgarians, Serbians, Romanians, etc.
Most of the jurisdictions in North America were in communion with each other and organized themselves as much as they were allowed to by their mother churches. Thus, SCOBA was formed and functioned both as a limited collaboration vehicle and as a holding place for future canonical normalization, that is unity or an autocephalous North American Church.
The Metropolia actually talked to Patriarch Athenogoras of Constantinople about an North American Church and she was advised to get things straight with the Mother Church. The Tomos of Autocephaly was then issued by the Patriarchate of Moscow.
The new Orthodox Church in America met with the other SCOBA jurisdictions in the historical Ligonier Conference. The hierarchs unanimously decided to take concrete steps to merge administratively. The Patriarch of Constantinople killed this. The kicker is that the agreed new leader of this to-be-united North American Church was not the primate of the existing autocephalous church but Archbishop Iakovos, the primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. His reward was his forced retirement by Patriarch Bartholomew--"retire or you will be deposed" was + iakopvos' choice.
So, the OCA, which is The Autocephalous Church and the only one in North America, whose canonical territory contains robber bishops, once again announced months ago that she was interested only in an administratively united North American Church, whether or not it is formed under OCA.
Some people are in awe at the humility, patience and Christian charity of the OCA (I am one of those). Others, are pushing lies and contortions in support of their puppet masters, shamefully cloaked in anonymity. Sad and so very unChristian.
#8 Carl Kraeff on 2010-06-17 07:58
Thank you for your words. I think Fr. Lambrianides was far kinder than you in your treatment of our OCA community. The problem many of those who rationally and dispassionately recognize the autocephaly of our church have with the EP position is the accusation that the OCA/MP violated the canons of the church, and that only the EP can grant autocephaly. Fr. L was innacurate for example in describing the history of the churches in Europe. The EP did not so much grant autocephaly as recognize a fait accompli in lands over which it had no real jurisdiction (eg. Czech/Slovak churches). In this sense, the EP has remained more of a roadblock to eccesiastical unity and harmony than its coordinator, historically. Sometimes a roadblock is a useful obstacle for the sake of accountability. Other times its just a roadblock.
Likewise, Fr. L's description of Greek Orthodoxy as "Rum/Roman Orthodoxy" is interesting and hopeful, but it is also somewhat disingenuous on the basis of the experience of so many Americans in the GOA who know better--it is a church dominated by an ethnic vision (hellenism), in practice if not in theory. If you cannot serve God and Mammon, neither can you serve Orthodoxy and Hellenism. I'd like to hear one GOA bishop say that unequivocally.
The presence of the "ethnic dicoeses" under the EP in the US could be said to be not so much evidence of some kind of pan-Orthodox vision as it is an example of further jockeying for power and influence and playing groups against each other (eg., Ukrainians vs Russians). Let's be honest on all sides of the issue.
Anon- Let us stop slinging stones and practicing partisanship, Anon, and work toward the goal of a unified Orthodox Church in the United States. If you are Orthodox you belong to the same church as me. You and I share the same blood and body. So stopping pinching!
A Happy Barbarian
#9 Happy Barbarian on 2010-06-17 08:03
Editor: There really is no "no official position." Those churches you have identified as "neutral" do not include the OCA in their diptychs when their primates celebrate the liturgy. That is the indicator of recognition. Either Metr. Jonah is commemorated or he isn't. Most of the post-Soviet churches commemorate him. The rest do not.
And Russia, Bulgaria and Georgia all maintain parishes in the US, which rather puts the recognition of autocephaly at least in some measure of doubt.
(editor's note: You make excellent points: but if maintaining parishes in other's territories introduces measures of doubt concerning their autocephaly, Alexandria had better watch out because there are a whole lot of Russian parishes coming; and Finland's autonomy is in doubt, because there are Russian parishes there as well springing up, and Jerusalem parishes in EP's America, and Romanian parishes in Japan, and well, the list goes on and on. Orthodoxy is not a tidy thing; and trying to make it so, or using a "rule" in the face of empirical evidence, is most probably a poor choice.)
#10 A Reader on 2010-06-17 08:08
Pontifex Maximus Elpidophorus Lambrini makes a number of very clear points in the paper he recently delivered at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. So Greeks are really Romans (tell that to the parishes of the Greek Archdiocese in North America); the Russians were just colonizers in North America and had no right to establish a jurisdiction (tell that to the Orthodox people in Alaska); the diaspora refers to a geographic location and not a people so we should not be offended by its use (tell that to the population of Jews exiled from Israel); and, the uncanonical action and development of the granting of autocephaly to the former Metropolia hinders Pan-Orthodox unity (did not seem to be an issue with SCOBA for the past 50 years).
I do find it strange that Father Lambrini wonders why “the Greek Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate cannot constitute the expression of the entire united orthodox expression in the America.” I’ll tell you why -- because Pontifex Maximus has made it very clear that a united Orthodox church will be an Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate!
Until the goal of a united autocephalous Orthodox Church in America is clearly articulated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate I have little faith in the Episcopal Assembly process to bring about an Orthodox Church in and for America.
(Editor's note: Golly, I wish I had said that. LOL. And crying because it is so true...)
#11 Deacon Eric on 2010-06-17 09:38
While I agree with some of your reply to Anon, Mark, I do feel you have overlooked the salient point. The recent remarks made at St. Valdimir's really have let the cat out of the bag and it is the same cat that has been growling and scratching in the SCOBA bag for years and that is the relative positions of the Greek and Slavic oriented local Churches. In the recent remarks being discussed, it is clear that Constantinople's position is that unity outside of the territories originally defined in the period of the Councils can only be accomplished through Constantinople. The example given is Africa and the position of the Alexandrian Church. Unfortunately, this position overlooks the inconvenient truth of the expansion of the Russian Church in particular not only to the Baltic but throughout the "barbarian" territories of Trans-Siberan Asia, China, Japan and the United States. I think it is certainly fair to say that by the time Constantinople sent bishops to handle the influx of displaced Greeks after WWI, there was already an established Russian Church on North American soil for over 150 years with a hierarchial establishment constituted and maintained by a recognized autocephalous Church, namely Russia. A cozent arguement can be made that Constantinople intruded on the canonical territory of another established Church by erecting a competing structure on American soil in the first place. However, I digress.
The crux of the challenge is that for autocephally to be recognized de facto rather than de jure, is that all of the Churches have to agree on that autocephally, not just some openly and some tacitly. The purpose of the Typtichs are simply to insure that all of the Ecumene works and operates together in unity. Regardless of the "right" of Moscow to extend autocephaly, for a Church to be de jure authcephalous everyone has to agree... not just some. This is not the case with the OCA. It isn't a Greek versus a Russian thing and it certainly isn't a 6-5 or 7-3 voting issue...it is holy concensus, the stuff of the Holy Councils of which we are so justly proud as Orthodox. To look at our situation in America and not see this unity and, perhaps, even more onimously to see unity being forced down upon us from Mother Churches in a predetermined mold cast in Constantinople, is a bold sign from the Holy Spirit that not only does the basis for unity not yet exist but the very foundational understanding of the exact mechanism for unity isn't well understood either in such a complex situation. Constantinople cannot press a 6th Century crown of thorns on the brow of the Church in North America and call it done if all of the Pre-Consilular decisions are being made in a situational vacuum. Yes, a Council may make a decision but so did the Robber Council of Ephesus!
My point is this: Constantinople has thrown down the glove in America. On that glove is embroidered "Unity under the Greek Archdiocese." Russia will never accept this as the union of the Synod and the Church in Russia can now be seen clearly for what it actually was, a pre-emptive strike knowing the direction that Chambesy was probably pre-ordained to take vis-a-vis unity under Constantinople. Russia consolidated her natural allies throughout the world into one cohesive body able to speak with a single voice for the first time since 1921. This leaves the OCA more of an "orphan" than she was.
So what is the answer? Only the Holy Spirit knows! But I think the rest of us can see that two lines of thought are logical. One, the OCA needs to see and understand what the position of the Russian Church is now regarding her position and two, what Moscow is willing to sacrifice in the US, if anything to support the OCA.
Consequently, the natural ally of the OCA is the Mother Church.
#12 George Osborne on 2010-06-17 10:47
Well said Fr. Philip.
I am encouraged by the possibility that we Orthodox Christians in the West are moving away from the status quo. However, it is clear that we need to focus on the big picture of what our Lord Jesus Christ really wants us to do with His Church.
If we need a great council of the Church to sort through the Canons that reflect the realities of the Imperial period that are no longer relavent, then let us proceed with haste. Our Lord will hold His Church, the New Israel, to the same standards of accountability as He did Old Israel, and we all know the painful history of Old Israel.
#13 Marc Trolinger on 2010-06-17 15:21
Here's something I've never got an answer to. If the Ecumenical Patriarch was given canonical authority over "the barbarian lands" then why does he not claim authority over the Russian, Georgian, Polish, and all other Orthodox communities that have come into existence since the original Pentatarchy and the canon in question? If the Americas are "barbarian lands" why not Russia too? To be consistent it would seem he should have say that it is.
(Editor's note: He did claim such jurisdiction, and excersized it - until the 16th century when he (belatedly) recognized the autocephaly of the Russian Church. As for the Georgian Church, that is a more complicated situation, since the Georgian Church existed before Constantinople did....)
#14 Stu on 2010-06-17 16:51
George: Nicely written! Let's not forget, when the people of Kiev/Rus rejected the Council of Florence and threw + Isidore out of their country, the declared themselves "autocephalous" and chose their own head of their church. The Pat. of Constantinople and ALL the other churches did not recognize the Kiev/Rus autocephaly for over 200 years! So, was their autocephaly non-canonical? Of course not! The Phanar, out of hubris, awaited a big sum of money before recognizing the Kiev/Rus autocephaly. Again, the Apostolic Tradition was to set up churches, consecrate bishops and leave them operate guided by the Holy Spirit. NONE of the Holy Apostles told "local churches" they had to be recognized by Rome or report to Rome or any other church. The Pat. of Istanbul is the head of a "dead church." The future of the Orthodox Church does not lie there!
#15 Anonymous on 2010-06-17 17:01
Unity cannot be imposed. We must love and serve one another, commune and spend time with each other. Then we will grow together and be as one, and administrative and jurisdictional unity will follow.
Do we really want that?
#16 Robert on 2010-06-18 00:09
About the American Autocephaly
Local Orthodox autocephalous canonical bodies start coming into existence, in what is generally recognized as "middle ages", since the Xth century. They recognized a basic Orthodox tenet, that canonical bodies have to be local, an expression of the fact that the Church is the Body of Christ, the totality of the faithful. It was also a recognition that the Body of Christ is not a "theocracy", that ignoramuses fancy about, but the totality of the faithful," the people of God", the guarantor of Faith, united by the bond of love. A bond that stay contrary to any form of "theocracy".(In fact the dictionaries defined "theocracy" as being a "form of government in which authority is exercised by clergy". Such "theocracies" are Iran and the state of Vatican and, in the past,Tibet.The Body of Christ is anything but "a form of government" and in the Church the authority was never exercised by the clergy but by the entire people of God.)
The first such body was the Bulgarian Patriarchate(the direct descendent of the autocephalous see of Illyricum,etsablished at the beginning o the VI th century with its initial see at Justiniana Prima and, later on, at Ohrid) whose autocephaly was recognized by the See of Constantinople in the X th century. This open the historical process of establishing local ,autocephalous bodies all over the world: in Russia, in Romania, in Serbia, in Poland, in the Czech lands and finally in the New World.
It is a historical fact that the movements for autocephaly, be they in Russia,Romania,Balkans or wherever, were always bitterly and fiercely opposed by the See of Constantinople, and the canonical jurisdictions under its controll.Up to a point that reactionary attitude has an explanation.
These reasons were and are essentially political and personal. The See of Constantinople, who still claim to be a sort of Orthodox "Vatican"(?!) ,can not accept the fact that it was reduced to a tiny Greek enclave in Turkey. It is a distorted self image and an almost pitiful attempt to act as the descendant of the Byzantine Empire. An Empire who ceased to exist more than five hundred years ago. In the same time we witness a typical case of "anachronism". The projection in the past of a contemporary concept and ideology,i.e Greek nationalism. In order to prove the above said the case of Romania is illustrative.
The Romanian Synod proclaimed the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1872.Only in 1885 did the See of Constantinople recognized this autocephaly(however the Romanian Patriarchate came into existence and was recognized only in 1925.So it is far from being an ancient body.). Even so, in order to continue to play a role in the fantasy game of Constantinope,the Primate of the Romanian Church, up to this day, has to carry the title of "locum tenens of the Archbishop of Caesarea in Capadocia".That title is pretty much the equivalent of being called "locum tenens of the President of Atlantis".
What is really sad is the fact that today the Romanian Patriarchate, a tool of the Romanian neo communist secular state, is promoting an aggressive policy aimed to control, for political and economical advantages, the communities of Romanian origin existing in the world. It is the nefarious policy of "Romania Mare"(Big Romania ?!) an heresy and historical aberration.
Anyhow in the second half of the XX th century it became obvious that an autocephalous Orthodox entity had to be established into the New World as well.
In wisdom and in a responsible manner in 1970 the autocephalous Orthodox Church of America came into existence. In the same year the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America,"Vatra",ireversably,joined the autocephalous body.
The Orthodox Church of America, that is its autocephaly, was and is recognized by the Orthodox Churches of :Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland and Czech Lands and Slovakia.
The autocephaly is not recognized, but it is not opposed, by the Churches of: Antioch, Serbia, Romania and Albania. The autocephaly is opposed by the See of Constantinople and by the Greek jurisdictions of Greece, Cyprus, Jerusalem.
As such the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of America is recognized by approx. 80% of the Orthodox faithful in the world and recognized or not opposed by approx. 90% of them. If this is not overwhelming majority, what is?
In such a context it is obvious that the movement toward autocephaly was natural and historic. What happened a few centuries ago in the Old World was happening in 1970 in the New World.
The arguments used against the autocephalous movements in the past are used today almost verbatim, in a rather sad and unconvincing form of ecclesiological mannerism.
It is embarrassing that those "arguments", used against autocephaly in the New World, are exclusively ethnocentric and philetistic.From those who use that ethnocentric "argument" would be not surprising to hear that they can not see the fog. because the air is not clear. Those "arguments" were unable to stop the movements for autocephaly in the Old World and they will be unable to stop the same movement in the New World. And just an addition. for the "anonymous 1".
There is no relation whatsoever between the "majority" and "the truth". Two thousand years ago a handful of basically illiterate fishermen challenged the Roman Empire and its values and "truth". The arguments , the witness and the model of the Fishermen is as true today as it was two thousand years ago.
#17 Alexandru Nemoianu on 2010-06-18 07:18
What will be very telling will be the reaction if the OCA's autocephaly has to be rescinded for full administrative unity -- that is, if administrative unity happens as a large archdiocese under the EP, and in the process what is now the OCA is absorbed into that -- thus making the OCA's autocephaly meaningless and what would be then nonexistent.
It is very silly indeed, and what is at play here more than anything is nationalism, pride, etc. The EP told the Russian Metropolia in the 1960s to seek autocephaly from their mother church and they did just that. Autocephaly was granted but then the EP fails to recognize it, etc etc. The fact of the matter is that the EP cannot recognize the OCA's autocephaly -- if it did, then it would follow that its entire Greek Archdiocese, ACROD, Ukrainian archdiocese, etc should join the local autocephalous church, which it does not want.
All that being said, and while I do feel that the OCA's autocephaly is valid and was the right thing to do at the time in the 1970s and has helped advance Orthodoxy in North America in countless ways.... what is to stop tens or hundreds of autocephalous orthodox churches from popping up all over the world, if all they need to do in order to achieve autocephaly is petition their mother church for it? What is the proper procedure for autocephaly to be recongized universally by all Orthodox churches, or is there any procedure at all?
(Editor's note: There is no universally recognized procedure - that is the problem. Trying to establish one is what the Chambesy discussions are all about. There is little chance that an administratively united Church in America under the EP will take place: what advantage is that for the Serbs, Antiochians, or Romanians, to name a few? Better to have your national compatriot rulling you than just another foreigner? Besides, those Churches need the money/influence of their american churches just as much as the EP needs the Greek Archdiocese for its political games. No, the near future will most likely look rather like the near past, methinks, and things will proceed as they have until time/events/the Spirit cause change. As such, the autocephaly of the OCA will endure, because no one has a better idea. One can think of better ideas for the benefit of individuals, or individual churches, but not for the whole of the Orthodox in America. Until that happens, the new normal replaces the old normal, with the emphasis on the word "normal".)
#18 Texan Orthodox on 2010-06-18 08:27
Granted, my experience of the GOARCH is limited. I only have experience of four of their parishes and all of those are in California. All of the people and the priests were very welcoming. But I did notice a certain feeling of "We are not really in America. We are in Greece." Here is an example of what I mean. Late last summer, when wild fires were ravaging southern California I happened to visit a GOARCH parish near where I live. I wasn't really expecting to hear any petitions about the fires in any of the litanies but I did. Unfortunately, the peitiion was not for the firefighters in California, it was for firefighters in Greece! I was astounded. It made me wonder if the local GOARCH bishop cared at all about California, the place God put him to love and evangelize and protect. After reading Archimandrite Lambriandis' speech I no longer wonder. I see that it is policy of GOARCH and the Patriarch of Constantinople to encourage attachment to the old world and its churches and ethnicities above love for America and its church.
Stu and Mark,
The Georgian autocephaly is a very interesting example for today. Missionized before the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, (by St. Nino in the 330s) and granted autocephaly by the Antiochian Church in the late 5th century, the Georgian Church is neither Greek, nor Slav nor Arab. In 1999, the EP recognized the autocephaly of the Georgian Church??!!! Hmm..........
Mark, you will remember the authority and power in the Church lectures by Fr. John Meyendorff. The EP does not have , by Holy Tradition nor the canons of the Church, the power nor authority to grant autocephaly outside of her boundaries. And her history of autocephalies, many mentioned in this comment line, three Bulgarian , two Serbian, reluctant Greece, the Romanian question, the Russian delay and so on. Isn't reading history great?
Thank you Mark for the outstanding work and the interesting comments.
Archpriest Mark Koczak
#20 Archpriest Mark Koczak on 2010-06-18 10:54
" What is the proper procedure for autocephaly to be recongized universally by all Orthodox churches, or is there any procedure at all?"
If you look at the history of all the autocephalous churches in Europe & Russia, they declared themselves autocephalous. Then, Istanbul waited until these churches begged and gave $$$ for recognition from Istanbul. De facto, the OCA is recognized by ALL the canonical Orthodox churches throughout the world via Holy Communion & concelebration. Remember, the Church of Russia waited over 200 years for the Phanar to give it's approval and only after much $$$ was exchanged. The Phanar would like everyone believe that nothing can happen within Orthodoxy without it's approval. Well, this isn't Orthodox - this isn't Apostolic. There is no Byzantine Empire and no emperor. We are not subject to Byzantium nor any emperor. The Apostles did not set up churches throughout the known world of the time telling them they were subject to Jersusalem, Antioch, Rome, etc. They were "autocephalous" churches. Look, Istanbul is a "Dead Church" with maybe 1,000 people; why should world Orthodoxy in 2010 being held hostage by a dead, archaic church?
#21 Anonymous on 2010-06-18 11:04
I cannot help but wonder if this discussion would be different if women were involved. It is one thing for childless celibates to argue canonical and theological points, but completely another for those of us who deal directly with the future of our church - the children - to consider.
As a mom, I have to realize that my job is to raise my children with a foundation that will serve them well once they move away from home. Can not the EP recognize that the churches in American are mature enough to survive on their own, without the constant meddling of a parental figure?
For the past 25 years, I have worked alongside my husband , a military chaplain, to serve Orthodox men and women in the military - regardless of their ethnic or jurisdictional affiliation. Our ministry to the Orthodox is often hobbled by the division we experience - we know the Catholics only as the Catholics, but the Orthodox still identify themselves as "Greek" or "Russian", etc. The strength of our mission here in America will be proven only when our children identify themselves as either "Eastern Orthodox" or part of THE Orthodox Church of America.
We have many devoted lots of energy and many discussions to reunion with the Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans - how can this EVER, EVER be possible if we cannot unite amongst ourselves?
It's sad to see some grown men behaving as bullies - even if it is couched in diplomatic legalistic terms. Power plays happen all the time on the playground. What kind of example does this set for our kids? Time to consider what has happened in the past as water under the bridge and to move on, dealing with what IS. But then, I am just a mom.
#22 Wendy on 2010-06-18 11:27
Somewhere in these discussions about autocephaly we should consider honestly how the self-governance of the Orthodox Church in America has benefited Orthodox Christians on this continent: and we don't have to look back too far.
Our tragic situation in Alaska was resolved when a few clergy on the Kuskokwim River appealed to the Holy Synod of the OCA to alleviate their plight, the unkindness and insensitivity of a ruling bishop who was treating them and their culture with pronounced disrespect, imposing on them, precisely, an alien so-called "Russian" identity and trying to mold and direct them toward becoming replica parishes of his own concept of a "Russian Orthodox" ideal. The Holy Synod hesitated. Then more clergy and eventually hundreds of laity united in "one heart and one mind" emphatically expressed their desire for an appropriate investigation of the situation. There were actually two such visits, two reports, the first prepared and presented by the Chancellor of the Church, which was never received or published as the Primate refused to accept it, and the second prepared by two members of the Holy Synod, which was accepted, resulting in the "retirement" of the Alaskan hierarch.
Had we not been self-governing, had the few "dissident" clergy appealed to the Holy Synod as our Yup'ik priests did, my apprehension would have been that they would have been quietly silenced--suspended or deposed--by a foreign
synod which had no direct experience of nor sympathy for the plight of the Alaskan Native clergy or people. But because we
were self-governing, the persistence and courage--not only of the hierarchy but especially of the clergy and laity speaking with one voice, ultimately triumphed in a way that would have been inconceivable in any other Orthodox body in North
This was not a victory for any particular "party" or "faction" within the Church, but the manifestation of the Holy Spirit guiding and inspiring the entire Church across the entire continent. It is precisely this ability to deal with our own issues and problems as we ourselves know and understand them that is the gift, the blessing of Autocephaly.
And we would rejoice if all the existing jurisdictions on this continent enjoyed the same internal freedom, responsibility and authority to govern its own household, to resolve its problems and deal authentically with its challenges. We have
no confidence that there is such expertise or knowledge anywhere else, that there are omniscient and omnicompetent
hierarchs in Europe or Asia who would understand our situation and our cultural ethos sufficiently to deal effectively with our problems.
The claim that Constantiniope enjoys this status canonically and historically would only make sense to me, frankly, if the Holy Synod there were truly "ecumenical," that the Holy Synod there was not an exclusive Greek body. All of the attempts to redefine the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople will fail outside the Greek-speaking world as long as it remains an exclusively Greek Institution. Let the Ecumenical Patriarachate become truly inclusive and we might
have some confidence in their ability to guide and speak on behalf of World Orthodoxy.
Years ago, theologians at St. Vladimir's proposed that the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate be restructured along lines similar to the UN Security Council, with permanent members, like ambassadors, from the other Patriarchates sitting as members of that Synod--a "seat" for the Patriarchates of Russia, Georgia, Romanian, Greece, Cyprus,
Serbia, Bulgaria, etc. So that, acting together, each "ambassador" expressing the position of the Church he represents and arriving at a consensus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Chairman of that Synod, could, being truly
ecumenical, speak on behalf of the entire, world-wide, Orthodox Communion.
WE do not need an Orthodox Vatican, a Greek Papacy. Frankly, if that is what we want, we could much more quickly and expeditiously, simply unite with Rome: their Vatican
has 1000 years experience on running an international
institution. We have little confidence that the Phanar will ever be able to duplicate the efficiency of the Roman Papacy nor respond to the local needs in various parts of the world. Our historical Orthodox response to this issue has been to de-centralize ecclesiastical administration, and that is what all the autocephalies in our Communion MEAN.
I am eternally grateful for the autcephaly of the OCA. It has allowed us to function in a conciliar fashion, with the whole body of the Church participating that the move toward greater
centralization in a foreign Patriarchate would never have allowed.
#23 Archpriest Michael J. Oleksa on 2010-06-18 11:52
"...Church of Constantinople with regard to the ecclesiastical situation in the United States and present its vision for the future of Orthodoxy in this land."
What about OUR vision, since it is OUR land?
Mr Anon#1 you might consider re-learning history: the Church of Greece and the Church of Russia both declared their independence from the EP and it was years before they were recognized. You might also consider the fact that WE ASKED the EP what we should do back in the 60's; and he told us to work it out with Russia. So then after the TOMOS the EP all of a sudden wants a do-over. "Oh, no, that's not what we meant."
I would suggest, Mr Anon#1, that it is you that has the problem, not us poor misguided OCA'ers.
#24 Michael Strelka on 2010-06-18 12:31
An Orthodox Missouri Synod: The “Show Me” the love Orthodox
Well, I am very deeply touched by the humility and leadership of Metropolitan Jonah! I just hope that his authentic humility and patient leadership is taken in as a teaching for virtue by some of the more aggressive and haughty and arrogant members of the OCA. Virtue is not weakness; virtue is true strength in Christ. God grant Metropolitan Jonah many, many years!
I have had all too many years of hearing some vocal OCA clergy and lay persons (never corrected by OCA leadership) telling me and others that the only “REAL” Orthodox Church in the US is the OCA. I know, the OCA is not responsible for the “fringe” element and most all churches have them to some degree and, at times, they embarrass us all. Unfortunately, there is a “mind-set” that goes along with this form of “fringe” OCA thinking and it is divisive and competitive and delusional toward charity and the good Orthodox Christian internal ordering of the Household of God.
I fear that those who are the “fringe” element in the OCA will prefer to remain in their delusion and condescension and hubris (as has happened with a “fringe” element in ROCOR) than embrace the NEW Orthodox Christian reality in North America by the leadership of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Love. Schism and a rupture of Christian charity and good order have not been anything new to the True Faith over the centuries.
Many of us outside of the OCA have periodically experienced these “offenses against charity” and have been marginalized as Orthodox because we do not for good reason believe the OCA is the God-ordained answer to our North American ecclesiastical problems. No offense intended by me toward you faithful and balanced OCA members, and I mean that from my heart! Please understand, I cause no OCA member that is dwelling in charity and love any harm here! I have no intention to be obnoxious or noxious to the pious! You have my respect and love in Christ! But now there is a new reality happening and the Holy Spirit is afoot! Join with us “other” Orthodox as we pilgrim together to the shrine of Church unity in our God-protected homeland!
In this respect, I believe Metropolitan Jonah is a blessing to us all in that he sees the OCA as not an end all its own in triumphalism but a stepping stone of blessedness to accomplishing ecclesiastical unity in North America. Unfortunately, I think that the “cows have come home to roost” for the “fringe” element and justice is “bringing low” this clique.
Lastly, I would not in Christian conscience talk about these things if I did not believe through prayer and a healthy and integrated reading of Orthodox Church history that schism and a rupture of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America’s relational charity could occur – it has unfortunately occurred all to often on a one-on-one basis as I have previously mentioned by mentioning the “fringe” element.
I hope and pray charity and balance and Christ’s vision of us being united under one North American Patriarch that is universally accepted by all Orthodox everywhere can reign here at OCANews and in our respective parishes and households! Let us forgive all and let unity begin with me the greatest of sinners first!
#25 An Orthodox Missouri Synod: on 2010-06-18 12:33
" ...than embrace the NEW Orthodox Christian reality in North America by the leadership of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Love."
A NEW "reality?" The "NEW" reality is that the Pat. of Istanbul is trying to turn ALL of N. Am. into one of his own diocese with himself as head. Not the leadership of the Holy Spirit nor Spirit of Love, but the Spirit of Black Bart & His Cronies. Sorry, ain't gonna happen! It's great all 55 bishops can get together, now they need to declare themselves "autocephalous" and tell the Mother Churches to tend their own flocks. If + Jonah and/or the other OCA bishops think they'll just give over our autocephalous church to foreign tyrants, many people have news for them. They too can be retired.
#26 Anonymous on 2010-06-18 14:37
Let My People Go!
I think the Wheeler thread, and this one as well, makes clear that most North American Orthodox Christians want unity and independence in North America, while preserving and allowing the diversity of witness and liturgical practice that exits in the various jurisdictions. For some, indeed maybe many, this will be seen as a threat to their narrow definition of Orthodoxy and their desire to throttle the workings of the Holy Spirit. It will be especially distressing to those who seek to preserve an ethnic understanding of what constitutes true Orthodoxy--a heresy if there ever was one and a calumny against the very words of the Gospels.
Ever effort will be made by the forces of division to set the Faithful against themselves. Certainly everything should be on the table "administratively speaking" in order to achieve an equitable unity, including who should be the Primate of a united Church. But there can be no compromise with independence from the ancient Patriarchates, or, for that matter, from a resurgent, and sometimes imperialistic, Russian Church. Nor can we allow ourselves to be caught in the crossfire from the the various camps.
It may not be in the Scriptures, but God does help those who try and help themselves, if it comports with His will. Every independent jurisdiction in the Orthodox World has had to fight for and declare its independence from those seeking to constrain and impede the Holy Spirit. With God's help, we too shall overcome!
#27 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2010-06-19 13:54
Not if we are not autocephalous or at least autonomous!
#28 Doesn't really matter on 2010-06-19 20:28
"(Russia, Poland, Czech& Slovak, Georgia and Bulgaria) recognize the autocephaly of the OCA. Five others ( all Greek) do not; and 4 have not taken an official position ( Romania, Serbia, Antioch, Albania)"
The smallest (least important) churches do not recognize the OCA; and most Ukrainians are in the ROCOR, not the Ukrainian Church.
(Editor's note: There are no unimportant churches - and that goes equally for the small Greek Churches, as well as the OCA, or for that matter, Finland and Japan...)
#29 John M on 2010-06-20 19:28
The problem with the EP is that it is the source of many of the problems in the church today, i.e. the new calendar being foisted on those under his jurisdiction such as GOARCH and the unilateral lifting of the anathemas off of Rome. Both of those choices should have required some kind of council. The next major move in the agenda after small matters are taken care of such as the unification of the American Orthodox under his rule to bring more money in, is the joining together with Rome. I have often wondered whether Bartholomew wants to be the next pope?
#30 Yanni on 2010-06-21 13:59
Understand, the "Anathema" of 1054 which caused the main rift between East & West was a "PERSONAL" anathema. This personal excommunication was lifted years ago. So, what is keeping the RC's & Orthodox separated? The theology which the West developed which was incorrect. The infallibility of the Pope; the Filioque clause; Immaculate Conception; etc., etc.
#31 Anonymous on 2010-06-22 15:43
The fact that politics enters into this is disheartening. The past offenses of the patriarchates against one another should play no part in solving or not solving the disorganized situation we have here in America today. As long as the Church is used by the laity or the bishops to advance Hellenism or Russification or any other ethnic agenda...we fail miserably to BE the Church that we claim to be...The Catholic Church! All of the ethnic traditions, styles of music, architecture, singing ect...should be fused into and with an American style that can be comprehended by the American people so they can be evangelized. And as long as some people continue to think that the services should be in an ancient foreign language, and not the language of the people, we fail in this mission. I recently spoke with a nun where all of their services are in Greek. I posed the Greek/English question to her. Her reply was that Greek was the language of the New testament and of the early church so continuing it would keep us closer to the early church. While there obviously is justification for continued theological and historical study of Greek coupled with some Greek in the liturgy, it must be realized that the tradition of the Church was in fact Greek only because it was the language of the people. The churches of the old world, and some of us here in the new, need to wake up and start doing the work of the Gospel on this continent and stop dreaming about being Russian/Greek/Serbian/ Bulgarian/Syrian/Ukrainian and on and on.... And the bishops of the respective churches that we were "dispersed" from need to be worthy of their calling and make it happen.
Convert 12 years ago
#32 Scott Yonkin on 2010-06-23 14:38
By the time "a few dissident clergy" finally grew a pair and said anything, extensive and real spiritual damage had been done (for years); I was here and most of what I saw and heard was clergy hemming and hawing and wringing thier hands while a small handful of laity screamed to the OCA for years to rid us of that arrogant, racist tyrant. What the hell were the clergy waiting for? And please, spare me the "Natives are non-confrontational" jive, I think the Athabaskans would agree that the Yupik and others were/are plenty confrontational (I've seen the pictures of skull mounds on the tundra); that is a mythical construct that many Alaska Natives have internalized, it is why we continue to suffer in silence; White Alaska LOVES that "docile Native" stuff, it makes thier lives much, much easier. Lastly, you sir, seem to to have also changed many of your opinions about the current crew that is in power in the OCA, have you not? Are you no longer concerned that "Hermans Platina Hermits" and the HOOM/CSB crew are not only coming back to Alaska (after being ejected in the 90's) but are now in the driver's seat of a very large swathe of the OCA? What changed? A seat on the MC? Inquiring minds want to know...Also many of the former Bishop's spies and assassins are still serving as clergy and on parish councils, and I, for one, would be very careful not to get too comfortable when in the same room with any of them...I honestly think that the former Bishop of Alaska got himself removed when the OCA could no longer ignore his erratic and destructive behavior, as it was finally getting to the point that there was too much to sweep under the rug, but I do admit, the "long-suffering noble Alaska Native Clergy" story does sound much more romantic and groovy, maybe SVS can write a book about it?
#33 Moses on 2010-06-23 19:36
As I sit here in my hotel room with my wife and precious 3 year old daughter next to the Phanar in Constantinople, I can't seem to forget my first impression when entering The City yesterday: all the minarets. And tucked away in an impoverished section of The City a small compound containing the Church of St. George and the offices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. A light in the middle of such sad darkness. A light that has burned for centuries, and I couldn't help but remember "My strength is made perfect in weakness."
Perhaps there is an advantage in being weak and powerless, except for the trail of martyrs and heritage of holiness that are the only remnants of power left to the Ecumenical Throne. Perhaps that is more than enough to at least earn a hearing, and allow some notion that the Church did not start with any of us.
As I sit here in Constantinople with my wife and daughter in a city dominated by Islam, I am wondering if "weakness" is not the best guarantee of authentic unity. Actually being here tends to invite a rethinking of notions once held.
#34 Barnabas on 2010-06-26 20:42
"As I sit here in Constantinople with my wife and daughter ..."
Except of course you are not sitting in Constantinople, but rather Istanbul. Reality is no doubt less comforting than nostalgia for a city-state half a millennia dead amidst the dust and ashes of its conquest. I myself recall something about letting "the dead bury the dead."
#35 Heracleides on 2010-06-28 00:18
And yet, God is the God of the living. There are saints here, relics, churches, and the living presence of those in Christ that sanctified this place with their lives. Surely this matters.
#36 Barnabas on 2010-06-28 13:52
Thank you, Mr. Tobin, for your lucid articulation of what should be (and hopefully is) the stance of the OCA. Rumor has it that the All American Councils are to be based on diocesan, rather than parish, levels. But it seems to me that now, more than ever, the AAC should be the vehicle through which we can affirm our unity and our position with reference to Orthodoxy in America. Compromise where possible and necessary for the good of the Church, but never by denying our history and the vision of the earliest missionaries. It is interesting that no Patriarchate seriously challenged the existence of a structured archdiocese in America before sometime in the 20th century.
Fr. Michael Koblosh
#37 Anonymous on 2010-06-29 11:10
Dear Barnabas...Sir Steven Runciman was right...perhaps now that there are no more Greeks in C'nople, the patriarch will go back to being an "ecumenical" patriarch, rather than a "patriarch of the Greeks." See The Great Church in Captivity.
Until he does, his path to extinction will continue...because he has elevated ethnicity to a position of worship...replacing Christ as the center of the Church.
Nostalgia aside (my ancestors were from The City), the EP has had every opportunity to change directions - and to become once again an "ecumenical" patriarch. It has chosen not to do so - instead sowing discord throughout the Orthodox oecumene...Georgia, Estonia, New Territories in Greece, Ukraine, and now North America. Isn't it remarkable that the EP is FOR self governance everywhere but in it's own jurisdiction?
So although my roots go back to the very place you are sitting, and having grown up in the GOA, place me in Mark's camp...."leave the dead to bury their own."
The sad fact is that the EP was seduced by the Turkish offers of secular powers...and willingly cooperated with the Ottomans - sacrificing Orthodox Christians in the process.
They are paying the price now for those errors.
#38 Anonymous on 2010-06-30 15:21
Thanks for the reply. Your criticism of the EP is both understandable and justified at least in how practically the policies of the EP have played out and how others have followed what they believed to be the policies of Constantinople.
However, there is a shift occurring. I was with Patriarch Bartholomew and I listened to him and those around him constantly emphasize the ecumenical nature of the patriarchate while I was at the Phanar. Over and over again I was reminded that the Patriarchate was not a nationalistic institution but a pan-ethnic institution uniquely positioned to work for the local Churches in being a promoter of unity.
Now, to be sure, all of this rhetoric is justifiably open to verification. The proof is in the actions of the EP. As Reagan said of Gorbachev, trust but verify.
I appreciate the suspicion many may have concerning the EP and his role, and I appreciate that there are real problems with past behavior, both real and imagined, that have to be overcome. But, I have not one drop of Greek blood in me and after my visit with his all-holiness and his staff, I am more convinced than ever that the EP is exactly the one we need to help us navigate the minefields of organizational unity for the Orthodox in traditionally non-Orthodox lands.
Others may disagree, and I appreciate their opinions. It is up to the EP and his office and staff to work to overcome the suspicion they have all too often earned. Having said that, when I consider the other centers of Orthodoxy, I cannot imagine how the Church in America would turn out without the central leadership of the EP.
I, for one as a "mutt" American, am willing and encouraged that the current situation may just be what the Holy Spirit will use to assist the EP in being what he has always been called to be and is, and to create the atmosphere for authentic and healthy unity in America for our Orthodox faithful.
In any event, these bishops based on bloodline have to end. They are not only unOrthodox, they hinder my mother becoming Orthodox, and, for me, that is the litmus test of the sincerity of every Orthodox hierarch in America. This is the strongest reason I have found to not only support the EP's efforts but to serve the Church as a priest.
Dean, I have deep respect for you, dear brother, and your opinion carries great weight for me. Thank you for your love and support of the Church.
#39 Barnabas on 2010-07-01 09:55
It's ironic...i just posted the comment below on the AOI blog. Having read your sober and practical minded response...it seems these comments were really "meant" for you - not Fr. Hans:
Re: Bat Ye’or wrote:
Dhimmitude derives from the surrender of the Christian clergy and political leaders to the Muslim jihad armies, and their submission to Islamic domination of both their lands and peoples.
I’ve always been fascinated by the period just prior to the Muslim conquest…I think it’s a particularly misunderstood period of history. There was unrest in the empire, the emperor Phocas had just viciously usurped the throne (first time something like that had happened since Constantine), there were climate changes occurring (this was the time that Egypt ceased being the grain supplier to the entire Mediterranean), as well as tremendous religious antagonisms (Monophysite vs Orthodox throughout the Middle East).
As you read the history of that period, you are struck by the fact that this is the last time all four Eastern patriarchates will be in Christian hands…forever. Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem….all still important Christian metropolises…until the Persian and then Muslim conquest.
While it is not stated explicitly – you get the sense, reading the history of that time, that it was really the first time that “ethnic” rivalries began to surface…”ethnic” at that time being defined as “imperial” vs local…nothing more than that. But this was an enormous change from the previous monolithic “Roman” state…nothing like this had occurred in the East since the Hellenistic period….600 years earlier.
As the Persians advanced, attacking and conquering Antioch, the empire was cleaved in two…with the southern provinces, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt…all left to their own. Can you imagine the impact on the US if Canada suddenly invaded and took Chicago? That’s the kind of “shock” to the system we are talking about.
It may sound irrelevant – but this was THE thing, THE single event, that lead to the increased “Greekness” of the Church. After this event, and the subsequent loss of the Middle East to Islam, the empire would never again be truly ethnically “diverse”…it would become a “Greek focused” church – in language at first, and in ethnicity later during the Turks.
To think that the remnant of this system, the ecumenical patriarchate, is ever going to be able to relate to “ecumenical” concerns again….that is really pushing the limits of the possible.
Just a thought…
Barnabas...I honestly respect your sincerity and search for reason. One of the reasons people like myself are so harshly critical of the EP is the tremendous sense of disappointment with the actions of that See. While you describe yourself as an American "mutt" - I take it very personally - being of 100% Greek blood (50% of which is from Asia Minor) the embarrassment to think that the See of St. Photios makes decisions in such a parochial and self centered manner - which has unfortunately become the norm.
Should the EP ever decide to restore it's "ecumenical" nature (but your Reagan comment is appropriate - let's see actions, not just words)...it will undoubtedly find the willing support of millions of Orthodox throughout America and the world...and I will gladly be one of them.
But, for many of us, the EP has a legacy of decisions which has led to division and destruction of Orthodoxy here in America. GOA membership is down probably 45% since the early 1970s (I have data showing 25% decline as of the mid 90's...the last time they published comparable data). This is a direct result of the decision to remain a colonial eparchy with it's concomitant emphasis on ethnicity and Hellenic culture, rather than acclimate to America...supporting the formation of a local church.
I personally have had the representative of the EP, Metropolitan Panteleimon of Tyroloi, tell me that Protestant converts to the Church are not real Orthodox ("...do you want to includes all these Protestants that are not correct that they let into the church, that they have to defrock later?") and that none of the other Orthodox Churches are real churches ("All of these Balkan churches, they are not truly ecclessiological churches, they are political churches...they were formed after the war (WWI!!) so that the (Byzantine) empire would not come back together."). These comments were stated in front of a half dozen shocked Greek-Americans, including (then Bishop) Gerasimos of SF.
The point is - we are dealing with an institution that has a 5 centuries old penchant for doing and saying ANYTHING to survive. These habits will not change easily, or quickly.
So I would suggest that your policy of "Trust but Verify" is the right one.
Please keep in mind that part of my family originates from that City...and it gives me no pleasure and in fact a good deal of pain, to admit any of this.
My best to you and your family...if you are still there...be sure to visit Chora and Blachernae..and i'm told part of the original chain, the "boom" with which the harbor was closed, is in the Turkish naval museum.
"Fr." Barnabas..I would honestly love to believe that your vision of the EP might come to pass. I clearly carry scars of having those ideals demolished by their past actions over many many years.
Along with our undisputed faith in Christ and His Church...."Trust but verify" seems to be something was can certainly both agree upon.
In any case, thank you for your very kind comments. I hope I have not been too incoherent.
#40 Dean Calvert on 2010-07-03 12:24
"From the moment that Christianity was first registered as recognized and tolerated after the period of persecution and thereafter as formal religion of the empire, the very identity of the Church was directly affected"
This sums it all up, these clerics from the Phanar are worshippers of "Rome" they think of the church's identity as being given after the toleration of Christianity by the pagans...nothing here about trhe foundation of the church by Christ..this is all ethnocentric puff that is thoroughly discredited and is typical of the phanar..I have very little interest in church history lessons, I am interested in my life situation and trying to bring the Gospel to pagans who would not know wher the PHanar was let alone the Patriarch of New Rome!!!!
#41 Archpriest Patrick Curley on 2010-07-04 02:43
You have not been incoherent at all. In fact, reading your note and the scars you carry from the sad comments and actions of those connected to the Phanar puts me in mind of a story C.S. Lewis told about his struggle with some of the Psalms as they asked God to "destroy" enemies by "bashing" their children's heads against the stones, and other imprecatory words.
He struggled that such language would be in Holy Scripture and that such language would come from the lips of a follower of God. Finally, he came to the conclusion that these psalms were included in Scripture to show us just what we do to a man that we mistreat. We cause that man to wish the death of our children in as violent a manner as possible.
No wonder so many feel the way they do about the Phanar. As a convert, I am always amazed at the ignorant rejection of us by those who can ill afford to make more enemies! It seems that it is the height of arrogance to shun those of us who really want to be on their side. As I asked a congregation several months ago "Would Halki still be closed if 20% of Americans were Orthodox?" A group that so desperately needs friends comes across as unworthy of existence when they throw rocks at people who would be their allies if only they were open to the possibility.
Of course if traditional Orthodox countries were deeply Orthodox in truth as well as because of the happy accident of their births, these traditional centers of Orthodoxy would also benefit. But that reality will only occur when the Faith is believed deeply rather than seen as merely some cultural decoration.
Dean, I see this happening. I have spoken in several so-called "ethnic" parishes here in America and I am never disappointed by these dear faithful. Invariably someone comes up to me after my talk and says that they hunger for a more vibrant expression of their faith. I am convinced the rank and file Orthodox in this country and abroad are waiting for the leadership to call them to an actualized faith. I believe the leadership is preparing to do just that.
Chalk up my optimism to my naive convert status. Perhaps that is true. I do confess to a weariness of soul over the sick system of indirect communication and "byzantine" intrigue that all too often plagues some aspects of leadership in our Church. This legacy of the slave mentality is debilitating and weak and it is quite off-putting to those of us who prize strong and honest leaders who lead by example rather than intrigue and manipulation. I have seen enough of the latter to last a lifetime already.
Still, I have hope. I have hope and confidence that even if motivated by self-preservation, the Ecumenical Patriarch is not motivated "just" by this. To be sure, he, as all great leaders have, may have those around him who have agendas that are petty and small-minded, but I simply do not believe this is the case for the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Maybe this is because I watched him play with my little daughter and shower love and attention on her while all the "adults" discussed "weightier" issues. Perhaps it is because I want to believe that a man who lives under such persecution and strain cannot help but see that "fire" burn away those shallow and shortsighted motivations and agendas of the past failed policies. Perhaps I am too naive.
At the same time, I have no illusions that we are simply to cede all actions on behalf of the faithful here to those over there. I have come to gauge all actions and motivations from those in leadership with the simple litmus test of my mother: Will this or that action help my mom see the beauty and wisdom of Orthodoxy and convert or will these actions perpetuate the "wall" that keeps her convinced that Orthodoxy is simply an exotic religion that has no room for her.
I am counting on the "weakness" of the Patriarchate to protect him and us from the time-bound temptations of temporary power, and to call the world of Orthodoxy to that missionary genesis that saw this faith "turn the world upside down." This faith that created such beauty and the legacy of eternity I saw, albeit in "ruined" form, in city after city in Greece and Turkey and even in Rome.
Finally, Dean, please forgive the diatribe. I want so desperately to believe this obvious decline in Orthodoxy in this country is a necessary "pruning" ahead of resurgent growth and vitality. I believe this so strongly I have committed myself and my family to service as a Greek Orthodox priest in this country fully committed to the Hellenism that made Orthodoxy universal and equally committed to leaving behind the short-sighted nationalism that has kept Her imprisoned in a slave mentality that will be Her tomb if allowed to continue to dominate Her life.
Dean, I am an Orthodox Christian. My conversion, which may be discounted and derided by some, is lifelong. I am committed to the Church and to Christ, the Head of the Church, for the rest of my life. I choose to commit myself to the ecclesiology, the hierarchy, and the theology of the Church that calls on bishops to be authentic icons of Jesus Christ, not petty "princes" of ecclesial provinces where they rule as despots, but Chief Servants of the Chief Servant Who "made Himself nothing, and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross." I believe these men exist in our Church. I have met them. I am honored to serve such a bishop. This gives me hope.
In the end, we will see. Are there men among us? Are there men of courage that will lead or will our weak faith be judged by having weak men who are no more than "hirelings" to "lead" us; men who expend all their energies maintaining the "status quo" to protect privileges and perquisites. I believe we have true leaders among us and these men are now at work to bring our house in order.
We will "trust but verify," but we will go one step further: we will pray and honor those authentic leaders among us and we will support them with our love and prayers and our gifts and encouragements. They will know from our actions that there is a flock ready to be more than the circled wagons of fear-motivated persons only bent on "preserving" the last vestiges of an imagined past. We are a flock ready to be the Church here, in this place and at this time. We must be this Dean! My mother's salvation is depending on it. I love my mother, Dean, and so does Christ. This will be the motivation that moves the Church toward the authentic Orthodox ecclesiology we need to witness the faith to the whole world: we love our neighbor more than ourselves.
Please forgive the sermonizing, and my apologies to our patient and gracious host here on this site.
#42 Barnabas on 2010-07-07 13:47
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