AOI has published an article by George C Michalopulos titled “The Role of Metropolitan and Its Relationship within the Episcopate: A Reappraisal.” This original work looks at the historical antecedents of the office of the Metropolitan from early Christianity to today. Along the way, we discover that although the office arose out of the episkopos (overseer) in the first centuries and lasted a millennium, the fall of Constantinople and the Ottoman oppression changed that early practice.
The Patriarch and his bishops, while still holding some authority over the Orthodox Christians under the Ottomans, lost their episcopal sees and the office took on bureaucratic functions along with the petty intrigues, corruptions, and loss of prestige that followed the historic catastrophe. We’ve inherited that model today, Michalopulos argues, and it explains in some measure why the American Orthodox are afflicted with jurisdictional confusion.
He also suggests how the episcopal hierarchy might be organized under a unified American Orthodox Church:
One idea is that the eight metropolitan districts set up by the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1998 could serve as ecclesiastical provinces of the American Orthodox Church (the archdiocese of Washington, DC could be a ninth ecclesiastical province). The districts could be subdivided into dioceses, where an existing bishop elected by diocesan clergy and laity heads each diocese. An archdiocesan council of clergy and laity would elect the metropolitans. We already have enough active bishops in the United States to make this happen.
For example the southern United States has three bishops: the Archbishop of Dallas, the Metropolitan of Atlanta, and the Bishop of Miami (OCA, GOAA, and AOAA respectively). Between them distinct geopolitical boundaries can be drawn …