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Arranged Marriage, Shotgun Wedding or Love Match?

by Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, NY

I have often seen the relationship between the diocese and the bishop compared to a marriage – the bishop being wedded to the diocese.  So why is the Diocese of New York and New Jersey planning a shotgun wedding when the bride does not appear to be pregnant?
In my humble opinion, based upon at least 1/3 of the recommendations of the Search Committee the process was flawed.  In an effort to follow the rules, the Search Committee, while diligent in their efforts, followed the same old process and expected different and new results.  Their apologia memo was an effort to try and say “we did the best job we could with the old system - so don’t pick on us.”
Quite frankly, our church today, with all is faults and problems has an educated and well informed laity.  It certainly is not my mother’s church where the president of the parish – a man with less than a vague understanding of the church and even less formal education - dictated to the parish priest and bishop.  And given all that the Diocese of New York and New Jersey has been through over the past 20 years, it would not be a bad idea to plan a little “meet and greet” with the potential bride instead of following the route of an arranged marriage. It certainly worked for the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania! There, after months of effort, 2/3rds of the delegates voted for one candidate on the first ballot. That's as close to a love match as it gets in the Orthodox world.
It seems to me, that in an effort to jettison everything related to the past administrations, Metropolitan Jonah announces that he’s selling Syosset, combining and moving the seminaries, severing the relationship with the Diocese of New York and New Jersey from Washington and claiming that the Orthodox Church in America is an experiment (see the ancient faith radio podcast of August 10th) - after telling Patriarch Bartholomew that we do not want the old country telling us what to do.  I don’t remember seeing any of this in the yet to be distributed strategic plan that will be the centerpiece of the future All-American Council. 

Is the effort to “get rid of Diocese of NY and NJ” and “retain” a new bishop also part of the personal plan of our Metropolitan to be rid of the past?
I entered seminary at age 17, and one of the constant tidbits of wisdom that was imbedded in my mind and heart over the 16 years that I spent at St. Vladimir’s Seminary was that as a priest, do not attempt to change anything for the first six months of your tenure.  My advice to the delegates of the upcoming Diocesan Assembly is to put a hold on any election until the dust settles - and take a good look at the selection process used by the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania.  The process of inclusion is certainly not intended to make our church "congregational", as some would claim - but is does go a long way towards building consensus. In other words; being conciliar.
Deacon Eric



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