Tuesday, May 12, 2009

David's Comments "On Some Go Postal..."

Dear David,

Christ is Risen!

Thank you for your thoughtful comments ( here). I appreciate why you think I have been unfair to the EP and the GOA—a my comments where rather pointed. Let me see if I can explain my position with a bit more clarity (and charity).

As Chrys mentioned in his own comment ( here), I think the existence of the ACROD and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (and the Albanian diocese) rather makes my point. My objection is not to the existence of so-called ethnic jurisdictions under the Ecumenical Throne (or in the OCA dioceses). It is rather that these communities (under the EP) exist as parallel communities. It strikes a bit too much like “separate but equal,” rather than as a model of an administratively unified Church.

Now if, and here I'm thinking of Metropolitan Jonah's proposal that you referenced, the primates of these communities met as a Synod to oversee the life of the American Churches under the Ecumenical Throne (as happens in the OCA) that would be, in my view, a healthier situation. But these bishops of these Churches do not meet as a local synod and so all I see (and I'm open to being corrected) from the EP is more of the same ethnic based jurisdictionalism.

To this I would add that I have not seen any evidence that the GOA has invested any of its considerable resources in growing the smaller communities under the EP. What I have seen is that thanks to the existence of these independent communities under the EP results in the EP getting four seats on SCOBA with relatively little investment on the part of the Ecumenical Throne. Forgive me, but I am always a bit skeptical about any exercise of power that is not matched a comparable investment of resources. (Or as a friend of my puts it, don't trust people who don't have “skin in the game.)

All of this is an application of what Jesus says that those in authority must lord it over others. Rather they must serve the least. What I haven't seen is any evidence from the EP or the GOA of willingness to be of service to even to its own smaller communities.

I would very much in favor of Metropolitan Jonah's plan of all the bishops in America meeting as a local synod while maintaining their associations with the various Mother Churches. I also would support that synod being under the presidency of the Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne (currently Archbishop Demetrios).

Regarding the canonical status of the other jurisdictions relative to the OCA, my point was not that these communities are uncanonical but that they have a vested interest in not acknowledging the autocephaly of the OCA. To repeat what I said in my post, acknowledging the OCA's autocephaly means that the Churches of the Old World would be encroaching on the canonical territory of a sister Church.

As I said in a recent email to a friend, I don't disagree that there are substantive arguments to be made against the claims of the OCA. The essay by Fr Oliver Herbel, “ Jurisdictional Disunity and the Russian Mission,” on OCANEWS has done that in fact quite well.

My concern in all of this two-fold.

First, I think the argument made by Holy Cross faculty regarding the primacy of the EP is flawed not only historically but also (and in a way more importantly) practically. As I said, I simply have not seen a commitment to lead from either the EP or the GOA. Giving orders? Yes, certainly. But leadership seems rather lacking. While I I don't fault the HC faculty for coming to the defense of the EP, I think their unwillingness to acknowledge the shortcomings of the EP and his lack of leadership in the States only furthers the estrangement that afflicts the Church.

Second, this is not to say that leadership is an abundant supply in the other jurisdictions. Far from it in fact. In the main we seem more willing to tend to our own patches and ignore each other rather than cooperate with one another.

This I think is why Metropolitan Jonah has provoked such a reaction, he's willing to lead when others are not. His suggestion that ALL the bishops meet as American Synod while maintaining their relationship with the "Old County" may or may not be a viable way forward. It is however an idea worth debating.

The Orthodox Church in this country has tremendous spiritual and material wealth. Unfortunately, our internal divisions cause us to waste that wealth. Yes, we do well enough when the concern is our own parishes--but beyond that we seem rather lacking in our moral, philanthropic and evangelical witness.

Again, thank you for your comments.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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