First of all, thank you to St. Vladimir Seminary, St. Andrew House, and Orthodox Christian Laity for sponsoring the webcast. Thank you to Ancient Faith Radio, and Executive Producer Dean Calvert and crew for making the webcast possible.
I saw perhaps a quarter of it. The first seminars dealt with historical themes, important and interesting (had to concentrate though) but I won’t comment on them here. I found the lecture on the “myth of autocephaly” very interesting, particular how the narrative of how autocephaly was obtained shapes contemporary self-understanding in the autocephalous Churches. This deals more with how historical narrative functions in a community, than the veracity of the actual narrative. (Of course, veracity is contentious term since history is, at bottom, narrative. Nevertheless, some history is “truer” than others, witness the attempts by the Marxists and other culture barbarians to rewrite it.) Back to the subject…
Dr. Paul Meyendorff, professor of Liturgical Theology at St. Vladimir Seminary, clearly understands the power of the internet. It gives voice to the laity and makes it impossible to hide malfeasance are two points he brought out. It’s a qualified good of course, but the Church hierarchy must come to grips with the fact that business as usual just doesn’t work anymore. Reference was made to a previous discussion that touched on this topic but I did not see it. Dr. Meyendorff wants others to grasp this as well. (We at AOI get it.)
Mr. Charles Ajalat, Chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese was perhaps the most outspoken but voiced ideas many people say privately. It was good to hear them expressed in a public forum. Some of them include reestablishing a married episcopate because in some cases we are not drawing the level of leadership talent that we need. He was more critical of the Chambesy conference than AOI has been because it offered a structure (the Bishop assemblies) that too closely mirrored SCOBA and thus could become ineffectual, another roadblock to unity. Fr. Mark Arey from the GOA countered his assertion by listing programs under SCOBA sponsorship such as OCMC (the mission program), IOCC (world aid), OCPM (prison ministry) and so forth, but Mr. Ajalat replied that these programs arose largely through the private initiative of priests and laity, not hierarchical leadership. He is correct in this.
Fr. Mark Arey, Ecumenical Officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, mentioned the importance of unity despite the differences. This is a good caution. However, not much more was offered beyond this. I was expecting some comment on the Orthodox-Hellenism-Greek historical apologetic, especially since it appears that the Chambesy conference effectively repudiated it. Constantinople’s position is that unity in America requires that all jurisdictions come under Constantinople, so I thought at least the idea would be defended but not a word on it.
I missed Met. Jonah’s talk unfortunately. Had a hospital call in the morning and then completely forgot about it until it was over. However, Met. Jonah made a comment in the discussion portion I have never heard a hierarch make: The Antiochians and the OCA should “come together” as a first step in establishing an American Church. Bold idea, especially coming from someone in leadership.
As mentioned at the outset, I only caught bits and pieces of the three-day seminar. Still, you could sense the shift in momentum towards an American Orthodox Church that seems to be growing. The next conference on Orthodox Unity will be sponsored by Orthodox Christian Laity in October. Info posted separately.