October 26, 2014

Group photo of EA bishops

NEW YORK – The first Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs in North and Central America was convened Wednesday May 26, 2010 by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in New York City. The 55 Orthodox Hierarchs who participated at the two day meeting were photographed after the conclusion of the meeting late Thursday afternoon.

Comments

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    Isa Almisry says:

    Can the Phanar say “Smile”?

    If Met. Jonah was moved one space to his right, he would be right in the center. (Who is there: is Bishop Ilia of the Phanar’s two Albanian parishes, or Bulgaria’s Met. Joseph? both of whose ethicities have larger amd more established Archdioceses under Met. Jonah, the one for the Albanians being in fact the Mother Church of its own Mother Church). He’s surrounded by all those primates on the executive committee.

    It seems the bishops are all mingled, and not seperated by jurisdiction.

    I don’t think Chief Secretary Hopebearer will find it suitable for framing.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Isa, also I noticed that all the primates are in the middle, +Jonah included. (Can someone identify all of the bishops?) Also, is that +Hilarion standing next to +Jonah?

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        George Michalopulos says:

        Isa, picking up on the seating arrangements, I bet the Phanar wished that +Jonah was somewhere in the upper left hand corner, probably half-hidden by some obscure bishop’s klobuk. You’re right, they can’t be too happy about this. Thus, I’m fairly certain that either they’ll get rid of +Demetrios or pull the plug on the next EA.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Hi Isa,

    Yeah…and I stand corrected..there are now 5 photos published by the GOA.

    What was I thinking?!

    LOL

    Of course, there are 19 photos from one service of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Perhaps that’s the problem…all the photographers were in Moscow!

    Best Regards,
    Dean

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    George Michalopulos says:

    I’m still waiting for the official word/press release from this. I have a feeling that it’s not going to be too easy to spin. I think the Phanar has lost control of the process.

    Taht said, since I’ve been in the habit of issuing predictions lately, I’ll make two:

    1. there probably won’t be too many more EAs in the other regions.

    2. the GOA won’t probably pony up any more money for next year’s EA. Their backers didn’t cough up $50,000+ to hear honest talk from non-GOA bishops.

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    What pool?

    To be honest, I really do not understand why there is so much cynicism about the EA, why there is this assumption that there is some grand conspiracy to kill what is good, holy and wholesome, why there is the assumption of guilt from the get-go.

    I suppose some folks have been burned, some believe they know how things “really work,” that they have the real inside scoop, etc. But their descriptions of the goings-on at the EA by no means represent the little I myself saw nor the attitudes of the bishops involved I have talked to. All of the cynicism is, quite frankly, pure speculation.

    Want the “party line”? Read the speeches and the official statement. Do I think those things represent what really happened? Yes, I do, and so do the bishops I’ve spoken with. All the actual evidence points to a pretty hum-drum, business-like, peaceful, brotherly gathering.

    I do not claim to have any insider knowledge. I was, however, actually there, and what those claiming insider knowledge are saying weren’t, and what they’re saying doesn’t square with anything I’ve seen or anything that’s been said.

    Meanwhile, the work is being done. I should think that those who hope for unity would support the work and stop trying to rip and tear at every trivial, meaningless detail. To be quite honest, I see absolutely no hope or Christianity in that. Do these cynics even believe in God any more?

    But I suppose the venom will continue nevertheless.

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      Isa Almisry says:

      One of the more disturbing images made by Fr. Arey: he asked us to image the 60+ around a pool, sticking their toes in to test the water.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Fr. Andrew, at bottom is a lack of trust. A lot of folks simply don’t trust the hierarchs to do anything but feather their own nests at the expense of everybody else. That’s about all we see happening most of the time.

      The hurt that intially engenders such mistrust is real. When people are lied to, bullied and otherwise manipulated for an agenda that seems to be simply about power, it becomes difficult to trust.

      That being said, we need to do our best to forgive or we do risk chasing faith right out of our own heart.

      There is a whole lot of self-will going on here and I’m an expert on self-will believe me. The “Everybody knows that the right way to do it would be…(fill in the blank).”

      The only reason I have any hope about the EA is because my bishop has hope. A wait-and-see, let’s-give-it-a-try hope, but hope nonetheless.

      Its easy to be friendly and brotherly when nothing is really on the line. Three questions: 1) If the GOA is in charge of the agenda, many people will be distinctly unhappy won’t they?
      2) If the GOA is not in charge, will they continue to support the EA?
      3) If other significant participants don’t get their way, will the process be supported or will they “take their crown and go home”?

      My concern is that without consistent, significant and real advances toward a genuine union, the Church will continue to fragment, evagelization will stop and souls will be lost.

      I do not believe that the moral decimation of this country can be stopped no matter what we do, but if we are united with an identity that is not founded upon ethnic and historical triumphalism, we will be able to reach more people with the balm of healing that only the Church has.

      The old games have to stop. We either get about the buiness of becoming the Church here in America, actually incarnated here, or we will wither as the other vines to which we are attached wither. (In fact, we have already done that in significant ways that seem to remain unrecognized or supported by the absentee hierachs of the old world)

      Being an American, I simply don’t see why the Patriarchal Thrones, if they are interested in allowing us to mature, just don’t say OK, get together, work out something, we’ll provide all the help, direction and support you need during the transition, but get it done.

      To me the EA seems like just another Byzantine game designed to delay, delay, delay without any real intent to produce anything meaningful or make any changes that might possibly offend anyone at some time especially the Greeks. I am undoubtly guilty of my own “Everybody knows..” to some degree. That’s why I’d like to see the bishops locked up in a monastary somewhere until they work it out with much prayer and fasting. Then they can emerge together and say, “It seems good to us and the Holy Spirit…..” implementing their vision with love and a lot of pastoral care. That would stop most of the cynicism, alleviate a great deal of the mistrust and heal the hearts of many.

      Unity will come either by humble cooperation with the Holy Spirit or by attrition. I’d rather see the first.

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      Fr. Peter says:

      Thank you Fr. Andrew for your positive comments unlike some of the nay sayers. Let’s give this a chance shall we?

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      The pool comment was meant as a light-hearted quip, calculated to get a chuckle. Wrong call obviously so I removed it (one of the benefits of being blog Czar).

      I’ll post the comments on your site in full here since you were an eyewitness to the event.

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    Petr says:

    Should there be a “next” meeting, I believe we should consider barricading the doors after the hierarchs are seated. We could then explain that they will not be released until they derive a complete plan for our jurisdictions to unite as one American Orthodox Church.
    (I’m only slightly joking.)

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      Michael Bauman says:

      …in a monstery with much prayer and fasting AMEN!

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        Harry Coin says:

        That’s the reason for the Helmsley Hotel. Nobody could stay more than the alloted time to manage the prescripted agenda, as the rooms were only booked for so long and the expense was so much etc. etc.

        If they all got together at a monastery, they could stay as long as it took. Some could come and go and then return.

        I’m sure Dean Calvert has a monastery with lots of empty rooms they could have all fit in easily.

        Or if meeting in someone’s pre-existing space got their feathers in a twist they could have simply booked an inexpensive resort in the country.

        But, no, Helmsley Hotel.

        What has been accomplished? They agreed to create committees to create lists anyone with a computer could have created in a morning for the past two years. And legal groups to kill off SCOBA.

        So, what is left? A group that meets as SCOBA did but only by operation of rules those overseas created.

        Who knows, if they proceed at this pace soon the ‘EA’ will fit in a room smaller than those used by most parish councils. ‘Turner Classic Movies’ and ‘Retro Television Network’ will have more viewers than read their communique’s explaining their triumph of list creation.

        Please, give generously.

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          Dean Calvert says:

          Hi Harry,

          I gotta be honest, I share your cynicism completely…if I’d been +JONAH, I’d have told them to “go pound sand.”

          And, personally, I consider people like Fr. Andrew dangerous because of their inexperience. While he may have good intentions, he is new at this and has yet to discover what he is really dealing with…think “Corleone” and you are in the right pew. People like you know that…he will only know it 10 years from now, after he’s been burned severely (and probably repeatedly).

          However, I have to tell you, despite all the cynicism…this may be the way of the Holy Spirit. Look at it this way – the EP and the GOA are clearly orchestrating this for self serving and parochial purposes…no question about that. Anyone who believes that 16 years after Ligonier, there has been a sudden conversion to the cause of unity…well what can I say except, “The Brooklyn Bridge is still availble for sale…call (212) 570-3500

          But…get all those bishops in the room, once, twice, three times (and you are right…the St. Andrew House Center is AT THEIR DISPOSAL – no pool, but we’d provide them with whatever they needed, for as long as they needed!!!) – and they may begin to act LIKE BISHOPS – realizing the potential that awaits in America, and, perhaps, begin to see the chasm that exists between the way the EP sees this country, and what really exists….my “dead Sees” vs “live Sees” theory.

          Maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit has decided, “Let’s have some fun with these guys…they think they are running things; orchestrating this to the Nth degree, not showing the OCA bishops in photos and treating them miserably…We’ll show them.”

          Think about it for a minute. What’s the chance that a body, ANY body, convenes for a period of time, and then decides to GIVE THE POWER back to the Mother Country? The more I think of it…that’s just NOT the way human nature works. That body will TAKE more and more power into it’s own hands…not GIVE it back to the Old Country. And in THIS body, the EA, there is no automatic “Stopper” (ie primates only) to prevent that (as there existed in SCOBA).

          Anyway…just a few thoughts, having read, talked and listened to a few of those who participated.

          Remember – God definitely has a sense of humor…

          Best Regards,
          Dean

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            Fr. Andrew says:

            Inexperience at what? Disincarnate Internet pastoring? Smug “Christian” atheism? Ethno-loathing partisanship? Self-appointed psychoanalysis and semi-prophetic pronouncement? Information-vacuum commentatorship? Trivial, conspiracy theory manufacture? Paranoid, all-encompassing hatred?

            Okay, sure. I’ll let you know in ten years.

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          George Michalopulos says:

          Fr Andrew, if I may be so bold, this blog is a place of refuge and boisterous –one could say raucous–debate. The give-and-take can get a little irreverent at times but I think I speak for many that we love our Church (and we are not atheists) but we are not intimidated by feckless bishops.

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      Dean Calvert says:

      Dear Petr,

      I’ve used that tactic in business many times….and I’m told my namesake did the same at Nicea.

      All I can tell you is that it works!

      Best Regards,
      dean

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    Alexander says:

    Reminds me of watching the order of Kommisars on over Lenin’s tomb during the Cold War.

    What is more interesting than the seating/standing arrangements is the order of naming the participants on the Statement. They follow the diptychs and not by seniority of consecration.

    Now, I’m perpetually confused by the inter-jurisdictional nuances and differences between a “Metropolitan” versus “Archbishop.” Frankly, beyond designating a primate, I think its all ego driven stupidity because they are all simply bishops.

    A clearer sign of unity would have had the listing set forth not by jurisdiction in accordance with the diptychs, but after the Chair and Vice Chairs, all Metropolitans, then Archbishops (or vice versa), then all bishops in seniority by date of consecration, then “vicars” — whatever that may mean.

    Just a thought.

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      Isa Almisry says:

      Actually, it is better for now the way they are listed, as it underlines that the Moscow does not speak for the OCA.

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        Alexander says:

        Sorry for being slow on the uptake, but could you connect the dots with your thought.

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          George Michalopulos says:

          If I may, the Phanar didn’t want the OCA there under any circumstances. (Curious, doesn’t this recalcitrance augment the legitimacy of the OCA?) The elevation of +Justinian (33 parishes, 2 monasteries) to vice-chairman was at the insistence of +Kirill leapfrogging in the dyptichs. The hope among the diasporists was that +Kirill’s one vote would be spread among three different eparchies: MP, ROCOR, and OCA. Just the same way that the EP’s one vote is diluted among four different eparchies: GOA, Ukes, ACROD, and Albanian. By segregating the OCA outside of the ROCOR/MP axis, +Kirill’s vote is actually increased (as ROCOR will demand its own vote) and the OCA will have its own vote as well.

          Confused?

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          Isa Almisry says:

          I’ll just add: the Phanar wants deeply to have the OCA subordinated to just a part of the Russian Church, so that all jurisdictions can be equally foreign and phyletist, and the OCA’s presence as an indigenous Church highlighting the “Diaspora” of the others would be extinguished as an unfriendly reminder of the Phanar’s Ultramarist views. The OCA’s autocephaly, once elimanated, would stop all talk of growing up here and stopping being dependent on the “Mother Church” i.e. Constantinople (the Phanar doesn’t see any other Churches as Mothers). By insisting first that Met. Jonah not be invited and that Archb. Justiana represent Moscow, +Bartholomew slit his throat when Met. Jonah et alia was invited anyway, and cut deeper when the EA was forced to sit them way down at the table (whre they are in diptychs) while the Russians sat way up, as the Phanar dare not diss Moscow. Now there cannot be any talk of no need to speak to the OCA if you speak to Moscow (Chambesy has been excused from having the OCA represented on that basis). The OCA clearly speaks for itself separately from Moscow.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Dear Fr Andrew:

    Re: Inexperience at what? Disincarnate Internet pastoring? Smug “Christian” atheism? Ethno-loathing partisanship? Self-appointed psychoanalysis and semi-prophetic pronouncement? Information-vacuum commentatorship? Trivial, conspiracy theory manufacture? Paranoid, all-encompassing hatred?

    Please forgive me as I have obviously offended you. That was not my intention.

    In contrast to what you might believe, or have learned in your few years as an Orthodox cleric, we Orthodox have a 2000 year tradition of enlightened lay involvement in the Church. We have been literate for 2000 years, as opposed to those in the West, and have been reading, interpreting, questioning, and actively participating in every aspect of Church life during that same timespan, including participation in the ecumenical councils. This is an important part of the synergy between the hierarchs, clergy and the laity.

    This lay involvement is not a Protestant invention (and certainly not “atheist” as you apparently believe); it is our responsibility as Orthodox laity…we are the royal priesthood.

    At the Council of Florence, the emperor turned to the patriarch, and said something to the effect of “Why are all my smartest theologians, the lay theologians,” according to Syropoulos. At the same time, it was the LAITY – not the clergy, not the hierarchs – who turned down the results of that council. You may not have read about it….the laity avoided celebrating with any priest who supported that union…right up until the Fall of Constantinople, which ironically occurred 557 years ago today.

    I apologize that I have offended you. I do not apologize for criticizing your point of view, i.e. that a united church on this continent can be formed under the jurisdiction of a foreign patriarchate (any of them); which I consider juvenile, idealistic, hopelessly naive, amateurish, and yes, dangerous. Perhaps more importantly, I consider that opinion to contravene 2000 years of the Orthodox tradition of local church control and adaptation to the local culture. If you disagree with that opinion, you are free to show me the errors of my ways….logically, calmly, rationally and on the basis of Orthodox tradition and history.

    However, do not expect me to simply defer to you because you throw an online tantrum.

    Best Regards,
    Dean Calvert

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      Fr. Andrew says:

      …your point of view, i.e. that a united church on this continent can be formed under the jurisdiction of a foreign patriarchate (any of them)

      Where the heck did you get the idea that that was my point of view? (Is this the view you ascribe to anyone who doesn’t passionately join the EP-bash-fest?)

      However, do not expect me to simply defer to you because you throw an online tantrum.

      I don’t expect or ask for deference from anyone, tantrum or no. That you’re a layman doesn’t mean anything either way in this question. I haven’t made any appeal to clericalism at all. I really have no idea why you mention it.

      My position is nothing other than what I’ve said: The incessant cynicism and apparent assumption that the EA is somehow the work of the evil one does not in any sense square with my own experience there nor that of the many involved whom I spoke with.

      I refer to your position as essentially atheistic, because it appears to be based on the assumption that God is entirely absent from these proceedings, that all is some sort of Phanariot plot, etc. You may well be a wizened, sagacious veteran of ecclesiastical intrigue, but with even an ounce of faith, it honestly all comes off as quite silly and, frankly, ignorant. If you have actual evidence of the supposed plots (other than some speculation you read on the Internet), then out with it. If not, well, have a very nice day. That some bishops somewhere have done bad things does not constitute evidence.

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        Dean Calvert says:

        Dear Fr. Andrew,

        In Re: “Where the heck did you get the idea that that was my point of view? (Is this the view you ascribe to anyone who doesn’t passionately join the EP-bash-fest?)”

        Forgive me for reading what you write – both posts below from comments on your website. My understanding is that you were arguing against the necessity of an autocephalous church. The only other alternative is to remain under the omorphorion of a Mother Church.

        Perhaps I was completely mistaken.

        Best Regards,
        dean

        ***********************************************

        Fr. Andrew S. Damick

        5
        It’s worth noting (and noting well) that unity of administration is a theological necessity, backed by our whole dogmatic and canonical tradition. Administrative independence (whether autonomy, autocephaly, etc.) is not. It may well be the best tool for the job, but autocephaly as such has no theological significance or necessity, not for America or anywhere. It was a historical pastoral development, not a part of the deposit of faith given to the Apostles.
        May 20th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

        and

        ***********************************************

        Fr. Andrew S. Damick

        7
        Autocephaly as we now understand it—a multi-diocesan church with a single primate whose affairs are utterly free from all outside administration—has not always been a characteristic of Church life. The traditional freedom of bishops to manage their dioceses does not of itself necessitate that those dioceses have to be grouped into an independent supra-diocesan structure. It also does not necessitate that that structure be defined by political boundaries and utterly free from all other administration. (Indeed, autocephalous originally designated single archbishops with no primate, not supra-diocesan structures at all.)

        If all that were the case, then the Apostles and their successors were not Orthodox. Likewise, the five centuries of the Slavs being under distant Constantinople was not Orthodox, either.

        Aside from all that, however, you take it as a given that “an autocephalous Church already exists,” but this is precisely one of the points up for debate. You can certainly throw down your gauntlet for whichever side of the debate you like, but asserting that as if it were agreed-upon and all that need be done is follow proper canonical tradition is, to say the least, rather premature. It is one thing to be an OCA partisan, but it’s another entirely to project one view of the current state of affairs back onto all of Orthodox history and dogmatize what are essentially canonical matters.

        Autocephaly has no dogmatic status. It is part of our canonical tradition and, as such, subject to the duly appointed synodical authorities of the Church. It has been changed in the past, and it can be changed again.
        May 20th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

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          Fr. Andrew says:

          It’s important to read carefully and not assume. I did not advocate for any particular position.

          I simply observed what we see in history: that there have always been united churches, and sometimes those united churches are under foreign administrations, sometimes for centuries. As a result, there can be no dogmatic necessity for total, local self-rule, not even autocephaly as we now understand it.

          If it’s “idealistic, hopelessly naive, amateurish, and yes, dangerous” simply to read history, then we’re in big trouble.

          If you want to know what I think would be best, it would be for there to be a single, united autocephalous Orthodox Church for America. That we don’t have one now does not mean we are heretics. That many other churches have not had one did not make them heretics, either.

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            Michael Bauman says:

            Fr. Andrew…sheesh

            The only direct reference to the lack of authocephaly being heretical in nature that I’ve seen has come from Met. Philip.

            I say once again, what you call cyncism comes from the experience of being lied to, manipulated and ignored on so many levels for so long that it becomes really diffcult to trust. It is not just “That some bishops somewhere have done bad things…”, it is that most bishops everywhere seem intent on prusuing policies founded almost exclusively on power and self-aggrandizement.

            In that kind of milleau, it is just as pertinent to say to you, show us the evidence that we have reason to trust rather than calling our salvation into question.

            Folks in pursuit of power can and usually are quite charming, even defferential when nothing is really at stake,as with this EA session. No reason to bring out the knives yet.

            All would be better served if the hierachy and the priests would address the hurt and mistrust in a pastoral and healing manner. So far only Met. Jonah has made any such public attempt. If that continues he will draw more and more people to Christ through his Christ-like actions.

            Also, you are a priest, when you come across in a dissmissive and demeaning way, the ugly spector of clericalism naturally appears.

            Your word has power, power to heal and power to hurt.

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            Fr. Andrew says:

            Michael,

            The original context of the comments was important. (Sheesh!)

            :)

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            George Michalopulos says:

            Fr, if that’s so, (that there is no “dogmatic necessity” that mandates autocephaly, then why did Constantinople seek autocephaly from the archdiocese of Heracleia? Why did it demand jumping to the head of the Dyptichs (ahead of Alexandria and Antioch) in the fourth century? Why doesn’t it in fact subsume itself into the Church of Greece, especially once it had a Christian monarch (Otto)?

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            George Michalopulos says:

            Isa, I could have asked “why not George I then” since he converted to Orthodoxy. However in either case, both men were Christians. The EP then (and now) is a servitor of an Islamic potentate. Seems to me that if you can an underling of a Muslim you could just as easily be an underling of a heterodox Christian.

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          George Michalopulos says:

          Fr, it takes two to tango. If I may second Michael’s sentiments, what we are talking about here is nothing less than decades of clerical abuse. No, we’re not saying molestation (for the most part)but the psychic harm that has been done to laymen active in the field of unity and to priests is nothing less than alarming. I know of priests who have been reduced to penury and become estranged from their families because of such impoverishment. Families have been destroyed. The bishop is a man, yes, fallen and all that, but he is the face of Christ to the Church. When he acts in a petulant fashion, lies to laymen, abuses priests, misleads the people, etc., his victims unfortunately come to indentify Christ as their oppressor. This is most regrettable.

          In the matter of the American Church, it didn’t have to be this way. Think about it: Ligonier was a marvelous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it was organic, it wasn’t forced, and the Statement that came out of it was suffused with Christ. We could have had a united, autocephalous American Church going on 15 years now. Sure, we’d have problems, but it wouldn’t be the problems of which bishop was sitting where. How infantile can we possibly get? Its metropolitan/patriarch would have been on excellent terms with Istanbul. The Orthodox people of America would have seen the Phanar and the other Old World patriarchates as their friends, not their colonial overlords.

          Instead we have acrimony, mistrust, paranoia. The ethnic exarchates are dragooned into serving as PR firms for the Old World. Our bishops know when the Battle of Kosovo was fought, when C’pole fell (today BTW), etc., but don’t know where the Appalachian Trail is or what was the Trail of Tears. Our secular elitists spare no expense in funding expensive dinners at the Waldorf to show off their economic attainments but we have no hospitals, soup kitchens, or halfway houses to show for all our liturgical splendor. Yet, we in the pews are constantly told to “give sacrificially.” To what end? Our ethnic jurisdictions remind me of Dicken’s Mrs Jalaby, who made sure that the people of London knew of the starving children in Africa but neglected her own. We say we believe in God whom we cannot see but ignore our brother whom we do see. But because they’re not [fill in ethnic designation here], we don’t consider them to be our brothers do we?

          Fr, may I ask, what exactly did you see and hear while you were in NY? We read the statements, but did any of the bishops talk about anything concrete? When will the first Orthodox soup kitchens open up in the cities where there already are splendiferous food festivals? Did any of them say that they were going to set up clerical assemblies in their respective cities and invite the priests and their wives to their house? (At their expense?) Did you hear the word “servant” come from their lips? Are they going to redouble their efforts to meet with like-minded Christians who are horrified by the scandal of abortion and promise to march with them next Jan 22? Did any of them talk about going into the nearest state prison to serve Vespers for those who need it most?

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            Isa Almisry says:

            Why doesn’t it in fact subsume itself into the Church of Greece, especially once it had a Christian monarch (Otto)?

            LOL. Otto was excommuicate from the Orthodox Church: he remained a loyal son of the Vatican.

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    Andrew says:

    Dean, Harry, George are completely 100% correct. Their cynicism is well founded and completely spiritually healthy. They share the skepticism of saints like Hilary of Poitiers. I share it completely as well. Such skepticism and doubt I have found often leads one to grow in the faith in ways you would never expect.

    I would like to add my voice to the many skeptics. I am going to be blunt. The GOA bankrolled Helmsely Hotel Council is a good as we will see it. Its all downhill from here. These 55 suburban celibates got a free trip to New York. It was like a vacation to meet and chat with people who are in the same line of work you are in. Its 55 branch managers of Byzantine Inc.

    St. John Chrysostom remarks that “the desire to rule is the source of all heresies”. I see nothing… NOTHING to indicate that these 55 bishops are willing to adopt a servant model of leadership. Are any of them going to give up their large salaries, gift$ of luv and their suburban lifestyles to build the Church and serve the Orthodox in America? No they will not. Will today’s “ascetic” bishops sacrifice anything including their lifetime paychecks for their flock? Was their anything in the EA to indicate to clergy and faitful out there that the bishops are the first servants to us all?

    The Helmsley Assembly is just another example of bureaucracy replacing ministry. Look at how shabbily the GOA has treated FOCUS. Is our common Orthodox future one in which a ministry that serves the poor is black-balled by hierarhcs who feel threatened by such work? Who wants to bet the EA will not approve FOCUS?

    We desperately to return to a servant model of Orthodox episcopal leadership. Bishops rule nothing they serve Christ and his people. We do not need branch managers but Apostolic witnesses. Many of the great Orthodox witnesses in history were at odds with ecclesial authorities of their time. Consider the witness of St. Cyril and Methodios or St. Mark of Ephesus. Both rowed upstream and changed the world. Orthodox laypeople should be no different today.

    It will taking nothing less than to build an American Church.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Andrew, well said. If I may offer just a slight disagreement. There was one bishop there who has called himself a servant and emptied himself, giving up in fact his rightful place, in order to ensure an irenic outcome. Perhaps some of the others there will have their consciences pricked by this display of kenosis. We can always hope.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Dear Fr. Andrew,

    I could not agree more that the context of the remarks are important, and will leave it up to the readers to go back and check out the entire series of comments at http://orthodoxhistory.org/2010/05/our-best-chance-yet-an-historical-reflection-on-administrative-unity/#comments to judge for themselves.

    However, at the risk of repeating the argument which occurred on your blog, it is precisely statements like these that I take issue with:

    “I simply observed what we see in history: that there have always been united churches, and sometimes those united churches are under foreign administrations, sometimes for centuries. As a result, there can be no dogmatic necessity for total, local self-rule, not even autocephaly as we now understand it.”

    My point stated on your blog and repeated now, is that it is NOT the Orthodox tradition to have “united churches under foreign administrations…sometimes for centuries”. My contention is that the Orthodox tradition is for ecclesial boundaries to follow the secular ones. As such, the Byzantines regularly “redistricted” the dioceses of the empire to reflect the secular realities (as the boundaries fluctuated), in the process ROUTINELY recognizing archbishops, metropolitanates or catolocoi (the original term for units outside the empire as with Georgia) as autocephalous. I think it’s important for Orthodox Americans, most of whom have been brought up in the ethnic churches, to realize that the system was always intended to be dynamic…not “fossilized in the 10th century” as Metropolitan Philip has accurately observed. Further, this stands in stark contrast to current practices of some of the Ancient Sees, C’nople for one, which continues to have bishops and metropolitans of now defunct sees (Pergamom? Troy? Myra? Philadelphia? [in Turkey, not PA]).

    Examples of this dynamism abound, as I mentioned on your blog: the recognition of the Empire of Trebizond as autonomous after the Fourth Crusade, the recognition of both Bulgarian kingdoms (924 and then 1235 – Trnovo), both later subsumed into the Byzantine and then Ottoman Empires, Serbia in 1219, and then again in 1766 (Pec).

    Modern examples of this include 1) Estonia declaring autonomy (assisted by the EP) following secular independence from Moscow, 2.) Georgia declaring eccesial independence following the revolt from Russia in 1917, followed by the Russian takeover shortly thereafter, and the revival of an independent Georgian Church in 1990 (granted by the EP incidentally) which occurred more or less co-terminously with Georgian political independence in 1991 and 3.) Macedonian autocephaly declared in 1967, rejected by the Serbian synod, but taken much more seriously (pursued more aggressively) since the breakup of Yugoslavia.

    I contend that this is the Orthodox norm, and is much more prevalent in history than lengthy periods of “foreign administrations”, the only one of which I can think of is the case of Russia. In that case, according to Fr. Meyendorff, there was a period of approximately 150 years, where the metropolitans were alternatively selected by Byzantines and then Russians, as an accommodation to the local populace and government. We also know, thanks to Dmitri Obolensky’s work “The Byzantine Commonwealth” that the Russians routinely bribed the officials in Byzantium to get what they wanted, the most famous case being in th 14th century (the False Anthony) which is truly an amazing and comical story – outrageous even for Byzantines!.

    The point is very simple – if you are for “united churches are under foreign administrations, sometimes for centuries” there is already a model…it’s called the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not saying it’s definitively wrong – just not Orthodox.

    The model which has succeeded in the Orthodox world, and has resulted in the vast majority of Eastern Europe becoming Orthodox, is the local control model, i.e. evangelizing in a certain area, and adapting to the local culture, and allowing ecclesial boundaries to follow the secular ones.

    That appears to be the substance of our dispute, and I am yet to be convinced that your position is valid. Furthermore, I consider it “dangerous” when people make statements such as you have made, have the title “Fr” before their name, and therefore have the potential of influencing unknowing fellow Orthodox Christians – particularly during this time of transition in America.

    Best Regards,
    Dean Calvert

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      Fr. Andrew says:

      I did not say that I was for united churches under foreign patriarchs. I simply said that is enough of a regular occurrence in Church history that it cannot be a dogmatic matter. If it were, that that makes everyone who’s ever practiced it a heretic.

      I am personally for a local, united church, headed locally without reference to administration outside our own boundaries. I am convinced that the EA is part of making that happen, and I have faith and hope that it will be the case.

      I am at a loss as to how one achieves such goals without faith, hope and love, which is not at all what I see evidenced in the approach of the cynics. I don’t seem able to convince you, however. I do suggest you consider the words of 1 Cor. 13:4-7: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Dean, I’m astounded at your knowledge. I also am not impressed by the argument that it sometimes “takes centuries” for autocpehaly to come to pass. The example of Russia is not a particularly good one in this case. Besides the venality of the Byzantines during this period, that is their simple greed in wanting to keep Russia an eparchy, there was little cry for Russian autocephaly by the Russian people for independence. Mainly because the Metropolitan of Kiev was for all intents and purposes, the only focal point of unity within the Russian lands. Russia was not a polity at this time but a series of feudal duchies and principalities, all of them ruled by great hereditary lords. According to Obolensky, the desire of many of these princes was that the Metropolitan be a foreigner because a Russian would find it difficult to be impartial. Some of these metropolitans for instance were Bulgarians. This worked as long as Russia was not united and probably would have continued that way except for the treason of Isidore of Kiev who signed the Council of Florence in 1441. Autocephaly was demanded and in 1449 Jonah was elected as Metropolitan.

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    You know, I’m a pretty hopeful guy, but I’ve lost hope for those who refuse to believe that God may even be slightly involved in the workings of the Church. I hope that you have or may find hope for yourselves sometime before you bite and tear the rest of us to pieces.

    I’m done.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Fr., to be blunt, you ought to heed your own words. In your posts here you have shown no understanding,love or long suffering and, in fact, prove the point of those whom you call cynics and without God.

      God bless you, but I will pray earnestly for any parish you serve–they will need even my unworthy prayers.

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    Chris says:

    You know. This may be an off the wall comment, and I apologize if it rubs some the wrong way since it’s only an observation. But, I have noticed that the logic for some who promote “outside” primacy of Orthodoxy in North America is entirely based on anti-Americanism or some form of it.

    As a cradle Orthodox Christian with a background from Southeastern Europe, I wonder: Do some of my other “cradle brothers and sisters” expect my American brothers and sisters to express gratitude for us “letting them in the Orthodox Church” and then expect them to jump through hoops and be more Balkan or Eastern (and less American) so that the “true Orthodox” can feel comfortable with them running their own national church? Just a question…

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Chris, I also pick up this nascent quasi-anti-Americanism from some who expect and glory in foreign subjugation. Some of these guys are converts themselves. I don’t get it. Especially now when we are watching before our very eyes the demgraphic collapse of several Balkan countries and the Islamification of Western Europe.

      Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to disdain about American expressions of Christianity, but at least here we have a fighting chance. At the very least, even a president of Muslim background has to pay lip-service to the form of Christianity (that’s why he spent 20 years in the pews of a UCC church, to get street-cred from the African-American community where previously, as the son of two atheists, he had none).

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    Chris says:

    Anti-Americanism aside. Another aspect that has become evident to me is the true witness that God made us privy too through photographs. His Beatitude Met. Jonah+ showed himself the true Primate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America by his humilty and meekness by putting himself last. By showing up as a humble monk. In doing so, he has placed himself as my Orthodox primate as unofficial, broken, and fallen as my opinions are.

    As an unworthy member of Orthodoxy, a schismatic in heart, and an utter, failure in the royal priesthood of Christ’s Church, I want Metropolitan Jonah+ as the true Icon of Christ and primate for North America for I see that he already is.

    For me, no longer can the heresy “there are no saints or elders in the Orthodox Church. That the OCA is not mature enough to lead” be spoken, no longer can we blastpheme the Holy Spirit with such foolish utterances. For the Holy Spirit works in His Church in America.

    Glory to God in the highest. And God grant Metropolitan Jonah+ many years.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, George, I saw this on a blog, not certain if the person was Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, he was very critcal of John Welsey, not so much because of theology but because he opposed the colonists from breaking away from England and Wesley was a conserative in his day, a tory, granted he did mention that he opposed the slave trade. Anyway he blamed protestant indivdualism for Wesley’s shortcomings. One could point out shortcomings of figures in history that are Roman Catholic or Orthodox too. I think converts to Orthodoxy more so from a protestant background are more likely to be critical of west, and the ironic thing is that they tend to have the same view of the west as leftest in the west who don’t like their own civilzations.

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      Dean Calvert says:

      Dear Cynthia,

      I know this was not your point, but wanted to underline something that seemed woven into your comments…just to make sure. And at the risk of engaging in “Disincarnate internet pastoring, Self-appointed psychoanalysis, Information-vacuum commentatorship, and/or Trivial, conspiracy theory manufacture” [LOL] I’d just like to point out a couple of things.

      Most of us, both cradle Orthodox and converts, have grown up in a Western environment. In that environment, there is a seeming “aversion” to “protestant invididualism” that you noted above. Add to this the fact that the Orthodox Church is only now BEGINNING to emerge from a century of communist occupation, which followed five centuries of Ottoman occupation, with it’s accompanying distortions of Orthodoxy (principally the introduction of many of the monarchical innovations) and you have the makings of some serious misunderstandings about the role of the laity in the Church.

      To be honest, this is one of the reasons I might have appeared to be so relentless in my criticism of Fr. Andrew’s position.

      At the risk of repeating myself – it is important to recognize the difference in the role of the laity in what I call “The Church of the first 15 centuries” and the attitudes prevalent (particularly in many of the Old World Churches) today. When this is mixed together with the criticisms of the Protestants (innovations, legalistic interpretations, denominationalism etc) there is a serious potential to misunderstand exactly what our role in the Church is, and has been.

      Personally, I think it all boils down to literacy. In the East, the level of literacy NEVER fell to the same poor level as occurred in the West following the Fall of Rome. Contrary to what many might beleive, literacy in the East was not a big deal during the first 15 centuries. Literacy was widespread in the cities, and even in many of the villages. This is obvious in that written military orders were issued, to low level officers (in the Strategikon of Maurice) – which would have been pointless had they not been able to read.

      As a result of generally higher levels of literacy in the East (for the first 1500 years of the Church), you had a much higher level of lay involvement in the Church at all levels. I always like to consider the rioting in the streets during the Monophysite heresies throughout the Middle East…does that sound like “uninvolved, passive laity” to you? The laity in the East were informed and engaged…from the beginning.

      Meanwhile, after the Fall of Rome, the West entered a period of 800 years worth of Dark Ages, when monks in monasteries were many times the only literate people for miles around. This led to a very different attitude of the laity, and TOWARD laity, in the West than in the East. When bishops are the only ones who can read, they are the only ones making the decisions….which is essentially what arose in the West…in turn causing the later rebellions of the various Protestants.

      There is a great article written about the traditional role of the laity in the East, ironically authored by the present Ecumenical Patriarch (then Metropolitan) Bartholomew…entitled “THE PARTICIPATION OF THE LAITY IN THE SYNODS OF THE GREEK-BYZANTINE CHURCHES” which very accurately describes the role of the laity in the various synods and ecumenical councils. If you can’t find it online, I’d be happy to email you a copy. In that article, the EP points out that “Church history, dating back to its beginnings, offers several examples of laymen’s participation in Church councils.” He later goes on to describe, as have many others, the participation of laity in even the ECUMENICAL Councils of the Church (the only debate seems to center on whether they actually voted).

      There are other examples, the Council of Florence being great one, where the laity rose up, protested and eventually REVERSED the position of the hierarchs in order to preserve the ancient traditions….they preserved the faith.

      Unfortunately, as the Church slipped under Turkish occupation, at which point it DID enter a Dark Ages, this critical role of the laity changed. It was during this period that many of the monarchical tendencies of the hierarchy arose. As Fr. Hopko has noted this is also when the traditional role of the Bishop as chief servant changed, along with the introduction of the imperial trappings of power, was transferred over to the hierarchs.

      We need to understand where this came from, and how. The bottom line is that when the Ottomans took over the Empire, having executed the emperor, THEY elevated the patriarchs to the position formerly occupied by the emperors – brought the bishops out from behind the iconostasis (where the Russian bishops still sit by the way…the much more ancient tradition), put the bishop’s “throne” on the right side of the nave at the front (the position of the emperor’s throne), and invested the bishops with the imperial regalia (crown, vestments etc).

      It was also at this time that the literacy levels in the East DID fall…(we are talking 16th/17th centuries now). English visitors to monasteries during the 1700’s and 1800’s commented on the pitiful education levels of the monks, some of whom they observed “reading” books which were upside down, obviously from memory.

      It was at this time, when the Church was invested with secular power from the Ottoman state, that many of the attitudes that we still see in operation today originated.

      My point is simply this – we must not fall prey to this simple criticism of activist or “individualist” tendencies, which seem part of the Roman Catholic vs Protestant debate in the West. That debate really has no place in our tradition. We are the heirs to 2000 years of Lay involvement in the East – our tradition is to work WITH the clergy and hierarchs in synergy with them…supportive when we can be, but also in a corrective mode when the need arises – just as they (the clergy and hierarchs) must correct us when we err.

      At all times, the informed and engaged Laity is the last bastion, the safekeepers of the faith at times…The Church Fathers recognized this – which was why they considered it SO important that they laity be immersed in the theology (much of which can be gleaned thru the hymns of the church).

      BTW – Looked at in this light, it also makes preposterous the “language” issues in the Church, i.e. whether to keep the language of the liturgy in languages that are not understood by the people…this question was decided definitively in the 9th century when Sts Cyril and Methodios were sent to the Slavs.

      More importantly, it illustrates the tremendous responsibility which has always fallen on the shoulders of the laity…the royal priesthood. It is our responsibility to be informed. It is our duty to support the clergy and the hierarchs. It is also our duty to correct them when we seem them err. This seeming “rebellious” behavior is NOT something we were introduced to in the West…it’s the ancient Orthodox practice.

      Failure to understand this, or a simple acquiescence to the Western model – means that we surrender an enormous source of strength of the Orthodox Church, and places us (back) on a very dangerous path to ignorance and monarchicalism which is simply not the Orthodox tradition.

      Furthermore, I’ve always believed that an accurate explanation of this “role of the laity,” which has been the ancient tradition in the East, will be extraordinarily attractive to most Western Christians, Protestant and Catholic alike. After all, it was actually the original practice in the West as well…just forgotten.

      Sorry to ramble….I know this was a little incoherent.

      Best Regards,
      Dean

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        Fr. Andrew says:

        The irony, Dean, is that I think you really don’t know what my position is, since I agree with most of what you say and write that you want. The two places where I differ with you are these:

        1. National autocephaly is not a dogmatic necessity, else the many historical occasions when it did not occur would mean that those involved were heretics. And since it happened so frequently in history, one would think that the Ecumenical Councils would have anathematized any church which had parishes beyond their national borders. They didn’t, else Ss. Cyril and Methodius would be heretics when they looked to both Rome and Constantinople while far away from either.

        This does not mean that national autocephaly is not a very good idea, the eventual norm, a proper expression of our ecclesiology, etc. It just means that it is not a sudden violation of our ecclesiology if we do not immediately set up autocephalous churches every time we walk past a political boundary. I have never said that I think churches should perpetually be under “foreigners,” that it’s proper and necessary for the U.S. church to be so, etc.

        2. I believe that God is at work in the Episcopal Assembly (and in our episcopacy generally), i.e., that it is not actually being run by the mafia. You and George seem to believe that you know better, no matter what anyone might say in positive terms (including the blog owner here). That you believe you know better and I believe you are wrong has nothing to do with clericalism or laicism, etc. I simply believe you’re wrong, and it’s not because I happen to be ordained. I was of essentially these same beliefs before I was ordained. I know clergy with your opinions, and I know laity with mine.

        Anyway, I am sure that you will continue to “relentlessly criticize” my “position,” even though it’s not my position. My position is that it’s about dang time we had an autocephalous Orthodox Church for America which includes all the Orthodox Christians in America. I also believe that the EA is beginning that work. We have a choice either to support and help shape that work in faith and love or to try to kill it in its infancy. I choose the first.

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          George Michalopulos says:

          Fr Andrew, since I was mentioned, I will come to my defence. I for one never believed that the episcopate in general funcion as a “mafia,” any more than I believe that the Church as a whole is a gathering of [fill in the blank]. This does not mean that individual bishops or even councils of bishops were always saints. Yes, I’ll say it, even thugs. (I’m thinking here of the Robber Council of Ephesus.) Let us also not forget what Chrysostom said about his colleagues: “That the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” Why did he say that? Because he was being acerbic? Let us not forget what our Lord told John in his vision of the end-times: that some of the seven churches were “dead” because they had lost thir “first love.” He told another church (Laodicea) that because it was lukewarm in its faith that He would “spit it out.” This is strong stuff, far worse than anything that appears on this blog.

          All too often, we (myself included) fall perilously close at times to judging what is in the hearts of men. This is wrong and approaches blasphemy. Having said that, it is not judgmental to make moral distinctions or to discern intentions based on actions. This is what common sense tells us to do. Please forgive the following example: when we see a man depart from a brothel, this tells us something. We could be wrong however, this could have been a fellow who was new to town, lost his way, went inside for directions, etc. He may have been a doctor who was called to care for one of the girls. Whatever. However, when you see this same man time and time again depart from said brothel, well…I think you know what I’m saying.

          Why is our assessment of some (note, I said “some”) of our bishops and clergy as jaded as it is? Probably because we’ve seen time and time again scandalous behavior. Let me just name a few: the firing of +Iakovos, the hasty disposal of his replacement once he outlived his usefulness, the criminality of the previous metropolitans of the OCA, etc. This is a pattern Fr. Reasonable men can make common-sense inferences based on these actions. The treatment of +Demetrios by the Phanar because he stood up for a guiltless bishop (+Jonah) is another such cause for scandal (to say nothing about the execrable treatment shown to His Beatitude himself). And for what? How can someone spin the hatred shown to the OCA by foreign patriarchs? Is this Christian? I rather doubt it.

          Nor does it stop there. The culture of secrecy that exists in all too many jurisdictions raises eyebrows. (Such secrecy is a hallmark of mafia-like activity.) Again, I reiterate Andrew’s pointed question: why weren’t the proceedings of te EA videotaped? Were they not doing the work of the people? What did our Lord say when He was pushed against the wall by the pharisees? (Did I not speak openly in the synagogue?”) Regardless the appearance of impropriety is real and scandalous. That’s probably the main reason that giving is so paltry in the Orthodox Church.

          I mean no offense, but words mean things, and actions speak louder than words. Honest, good people are interested in the Orthodox faith. These actions however drive them away faster than Bull Connor with a firehose. The absence of love is apparent to a blind man. No, I wasn’t at the EA. I’m sure your assessment is correct (I certainly hope it is). Time will tell.

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          George Michalopulos says:

          Fr, sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. This thought just occurred to me: since in your opinion there is no “dogmatic” reason for autocephaly to occur, then why don’t all of the presently autocephalous churches dispense with their autocephaly?

          I don’t mean to be snarky, but I have a strong feeling that if this question were to be addressed, the mandarin-theologians of the Phanar would come up with intereting and convoluted treatises on why autocephaly is all of a sudden, a “dogmatic” necessity.

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            Fr. Andrew says:

            My opinion is not “there is no ‘dogmatic’ reason for autocephaly to occur.” It is simply an observable historic pattern that autocephaly for every state did not always develop, nor, when it did, was it always instituted immediately. Thus, it is not a question of dogma. It is a question of our canonical tradition, which, while changeable, is ultimately an expression of how our dogma manifests itself in the life of the Church.

            Not everything prudent or even necessary for Church life is a matter for dogmatic definition. One thinks, for instance, of the many beautiful feasts of the Theotokos—totally standard, appropriate and traditional, but not a question for dogmatic definition.

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    Andrew says:

    I look at this photo of America’s Bishops holed up in the Helmsley Hotel congratulating themselves and I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King and his Letter from A Birmingham Jail. Somehow I do not think Dr. King would be consider a good leader or role model by the Helmsley Assembly. Heck, I do not think St. John Chrysosom would be considered a good bishop by the Helmsely Assembly. And by the way lets ask ourselves how many of the 55 Helmsely bishops would be willing to lose their suburban lifestyle and get tossed in jail for the Faith?

    Here are Dr. King’s Words:

    There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

    But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century(From Letter from A Birmingham Jail)</blockquote>

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      Michael Bauman says:

      If, by the grace of God, persecution descends upon our Church, I am sure we will be surprised at the response of many. Rather than speculate on what others might do, we are called to be prepared for what God calls us to do.

      Personally, I think being a bishop these days is a form of persecution in and of itself. These men are but into an isolated hothouse of temptations to abuse of power, to the of love money and comfort, etc. In human terms they are without a chance at success. Without a functioning local synod they are without accountability, community and brotherhood. They are in the place of Peter when Jesus called him out of the boat and onto the stormy waves. Frankly, I am amazed that more of them don’t sink like a stone. I know I would.

      We can be petulent children when we perceive injustice and malfesance, or we can respond in prayer and love.

      They of all people ought to long for a local synod and a chance to pastor their parishes without looking over their shoulders.

      The more often they meet as brother bishops, the more likely that the Holy Spirit will fan the flames of that longing despite any concrete evidence of any changes.

      Being human, many will resist any concrete change, but if this work is of God, it will endure and bear fruit. If it is not, it will die unfruitful.

      May God grant us the mercy of his presence in the gatherings, deliberations and subsequent activities no matter how inconsequential they may seem.

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        If, by the grace of God, persecution descends upon our Church, I am sure we will be surprised at the response of many. Rather than speculate on what others might do, we are called to be prepared for what God calls us to do.

        Worldly vs. spiritual strategic approach problem-solving.
        Saint Euphemia’s Conversation with Elder Paisios.

        One day Father Paisios was going through a very difficult phase. A problem was created in the Church at that time and many bishops had gone to him to ask for his help. However, it was a very complicated problem and even if he wanted to, he was unable to assist; as he said, no matter from which side you look at the problem, you come face to face with a spiritual impasse. So, he decided to turn his efforts to solve the problem with prayer. During that time, Father Paisios constantly prayed for God to give solution to the Church’s problem; he prayed especially to St. Ephemia:

        “St. Euphemia, you who miraculously solved the serious problem the Church was facing then, take the Church out of the present impasse!”

        One morning, at nine o’ clock, when Father Paisios was reading the service of the third hour, he suddenly heard someone discreetly knocking on his door. The Elder asked from inside:

        “Who is it?” Then, he heard a woman’s voice answering:

        “It is me, Euphemia, Father.”

        “Which Euphemia?” He asked again. There was no answer. There was another knock on the door and he asked again. “Who is it?” The same voice was heard saying:

        “It is Euphemia, Father.”

        There was a third knock and the Elder felt someone coming inside his cell and walking through the corridor. He went to the door and there he saw St. Euphemia, who had miraculously entered his cell through the locked door and was venerating the icon of the Holy Trinity, which the Elder had placed on the wall of his corridor, on the right hand side of the church’s door. Then the Elder told the Saint: “Say: Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” St. Euphemia clearly repeated those words and immediately Father Paisios knelt and venerated the Saint. Afterwards, they sat and talked for quite a while; he could not specify for how long, as he had lost all sense of time while being with St. Euphemia. She gave the solution for all three matters he had been praying for and in the end he said to her: “I would like you to tell me how you endured your martyrdom.”

        The Saint replied: “Father, if I knew back then how eternal life would be and the heavenly beauty the souls enjoy by being next to God, I honestly would have asked for my martyrdom to last for ever, as it was absolutely nothing compared to the gifts of grace of God!”

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    Greg says:

    The Episcopal Assembly effort reminds me of an old William Hamilton Keeping Up cartoon.

    A group of middle-aged men are sitting around a boardroom table. The man at the head of the table says, ”I think it’s high time we quit shilly-shallying and put a couple of committees together to take a look at some of the contingencies of toughening our rhetoric!”

Care to comment?

*