September 1, 2014

The Sounds of Silence?

A contributor who asked to remain anonymous sent me this piece earlier. It asks why we have not heard more about the Episcopal Assemblies being held next week.

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Around six months ago, SCOBA issued a press release indicating that the first ever Episcopal Assembly for North America would take place during the Pentecostal season of 2010. Much was made of the fact that this would be the first assembly of all canonical Orthodox bishops presently serving in North America. Although this was not in reality the first such gathering of all Orthodox bishops, it was the first that would transpire under the procedures that were settled on last year by the primates of the old world patriarchates as finalized by their representatives in Chambesy, Switzerland in June of 2009.

We have found out in the interim that all sixty-five North American bishops received invitations early in the Lenten season. Their travel expenses and room and board were to be covered so that even bishops from the poorer jurisdictions could make this historic trip. In the meantime, most of the websites of the various Orthodox jurisdictions have mentioned the meeting although some more than others: the OCA numerous times, the AOA at least twice, the GOA never. The ostensible host of this event–-SCOBA—likewise has not put out any press releases or made mention of it on its own website. Given the historic importance of such a meeting, the silence emanating from the various jurisdictions (and SCOBA) is stunning. Indeed, given the fact that SCOBA, which in itself was a historic milestone in American Orthodoxy, would cease operations lends even more urgency to this question. It’s as if the US Congress announced that it was being replaced by a parliament but failed to mention it in the Congressional Record.

Why the reticence? Are our hierarchs serious about the importance of the Episcopal Assemblies? Or is it possible that the foreign patriarchates are having second thoughts? Perhaps our bishops are having cold feet. Truth be told, we don’t know what the full implications of these regional assemblies portends for the future. Other than their stated purpose, which is to identify and gather together all canonical bishops within various geographic regions (ostensibly to promote more cohesion), the fact remains that the protocols worked out at Chambesy are full of loopholes. Is it possible that as the date for this meeting approaches that second thoughts are entering into the heads of all concerned?

The hope of many laymen and clergy was that these assemblies would eventually coalesce into fully function holy synods. However, the silence emanating from the various eparchies, as well as the details, would indicate that there is no real desire among the various bishops to do so. For one thing, we are told that each jurisdiction is to maintain its respective integrity, both among its local flock and with its mother church. Nor can one jurisdiction impose its will on a weaker jurisdiction. Therefore we are told that this is not to be a holy synod but merely an “Episcopal Assembly.” To what end? Likewise, there is no mention of how redundant dioceses are to be resolved. Certainly there are more questions that one could raise. Instead, the internet buzzes with rumors that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has demanded properties from each of its dioceses in North America and Australia, or that bishops from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese are told to acquire Turkish citizenship, or that each Greek-American parish is going to be forced to plant a flagpole and fly the flag of the Byzantine Empire. Likewise the Romanian Patriarchate is demanding that all Romanians throughout the world submit to Bucharest. Clearly mixed messages are coming out from all over, messages which are having a subverting the morale of those who expect some type of unity.

To make this assembly possible, many among the laity have given significant amounts of money in the hope that no bishop would be left out. Some of the laity has expressed concern that they would be left out of the proceedings. We are told that the secrecy of the meeting is necessary so that the bishops may be able to speak freely and vigorously. That point is arguable at best but even if we concede its validity, why is no mention made of the fact that they are even gathering in the first place? What possible purpose does secrecy serve at this point? Especially if this assembly does in fact result in tangible results. Do not the Orthodox people deserve to know ahead of time that this is at least a possibility? When we consider that perhaps the vast majority of the laity are not even aware of this historic meeting, how will they take the outcome?

Most laymen are probably content with the way things are going now. They are comfortable in the way their parishes are being run. Some are more ethnocentric than others. All have a settled way of doing things, whether it be the level of orthopraxy, the way their parish councils are run, the hymnody and liturgics used, and so on. Think of how jarring it may appear to some parishioners to be told that their next bishop may not be of the same ethnic background as they. Will women be forced to wear headscarves? Will more regular confession be required in order to take communion? Will organs have to be removed? These are not idle questions but of great import to individual parishioners who have lived in multi-generational parishes, many of them built by their ancestors and sustained by their own sacrifices. At the very least, the people in the pews need to be made aware that these assemblies have been mandated by their respective mother churches. In light of such ignorance, how can anything of substance be conducted during this first-ever meeting?

It is certainly possible that the level of administrative sophistication in many jurisdictional headquarters leaves a lot to be desired. If so, this still raises many unsettling questions. The fact remains however, that the silence in regards to this assembly will only exacerbate rumor-mongering and possibly poison any positive outcomes that may arise from these assemblies. Is it too much to ask of our bishops that they take this historic meeting more seriously?

Comments

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    Alexander says:

    Many of your regular erudite commentators will undoubtedly proffer considered speculation about the “backstories.”

    In the end, these putative princes of the church are beholden to their narrowly understood and idiosyncratically defined self interest. With tragically few exceptions, this is little more than a game to be played by them, jointly and severally.

    It’s not that complicated.

    So call them out. Shame them. Not by keyboard. But by deed.

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    Andrew says:

    Again, there is no canonical, moral, or spiritual need for secrecy at the assembly. The proceedings should be broadcast on the web for all to see. Let the world see America’s bishops at work. What is there to hide?

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    The piece above is well written and hits the salient points. The second to the last paragraph is especially insightful. What the silence about the upcoming Episcopal Assembly exposes I think (unwittingly and with some discomfort) is that for a long time our jurisdictional divisions provided convenient cover for our lethargy; the unwillingness to confront with any sobriety the problems that Orthodox Christians face in secular America and replace them instead with endless debates about matters that have no real consequence in the end.

    My hunch is that the hierarchs simply don’t know what to do. Moving towards a unified Orthodox Church means they (and we) will need to do some heavy lifting. We don’t want to do the heavy lifting, not really, but nobody does at first. Sobriety is usually a hard won virtue.

    Still, taking a broad view, something is changing in American Orthodoxy. You see it on all levels from cleaning house in the OCA to the exposure of the dhimmitude afflicting the GOA to the necessary conflicts between ethnic and American identity in the AOA, to name some. Then there is the impressive work that seems to have spontaneously generated among the laity*, such as Ancient Faith Radio, monachos.net, and other efforts. These portend a bright future.

    *(A still unexamined idea is how the communications revolution has affected the Church in America.)

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    Scott Pennington says:

    I’m not sure why anyone is paying attention to this stuff yet, if ever. We had SCOBA. It never really blossomed into relevancy. If the primates, hierarchs, etc. were serious about uniting the various jurisdictions here into one Church in America, the natural next step, instead of calling another, more expansive SCOBA, would be to start negotiating territory among the American hierarchs. Obviously that would not be a public negotiation.

    Now, is that on the agenda of the EA? Until that discussion commences in earnest, it’s all smoke and mirrors. Wake me when the game starts.

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Scott, nothing to my knowledge is on the table for “negotiation” at the EA. At a public forum sponsored by the OCL, we were told by Fr Mark Arey in Houston to envision our bishops as standing at the edge of a pool in their swimming trunks; nobody had ever dived into this pool before and they were unsure of what they were doing.

    Leaving aside the ghastly visual image that this conjures up in the mind of normal people, my respect for the episcopate en masse plummeted through the basement. How can bishops who have received Holy Chrism, who consecrate the elements into the very Body and Blood of our Savior, who received their ordination from a line of bishops who suffered horribly for the Faith, be so cowardly? Many of these bishops hop on the first jet at the drop of a hat to take them to some ecumenical service hosted by heresiarchs, where they’ll be feted and wined and dined with first-class accommodations. But they have to “scared” and “fearful” and we must be “sensitive” to their needs? What rot!

    The writer of this article said that the idea of secrecy needed in order to make this happen was “arguable.” That’s being very charitable. What are they ashamed of? These proceedings should be broadcast live on AFR or C-SPAN for that matter. They are not engaging in any criminal enterprise. My guess is that they have been marinated for too long in the sauce of dhimmitude and have become protocol-maniacs. Men who cherish the process and ritual but not the spirit of the episcopate.

    Perhaps the silence is due to the fact that some in the GOA have a residual sense of shame in that they know that the Phanar is not serious about the EA, that the whole Chambesy protocols were forced down their throats by events (including the resurgence of the Russian patriarchate). Any ideas?

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      Scott Pennington says:

      George,

      I could see the need for closed discussion regarding the negotiations as to who gets what territory. I could see them being rancorous and ugly. But I see no reason not to put that on an agenda. They might defer final decisions on it but, at the least, a framework should be set up to begin to address the issue. They could discuss how the decisionmaking process would proceed, how communications and negotiations would proceed between jurisdictions and hierarchs, when the next meeting or final meeting on the subject might occur.

      “The purpose of the Episcopal Assembly is to manifest the unity of the Orthodox Church, to promote collaboration between the churches in all areas of pastoral ministry, and to maintain, preserve and develop the interests of the communities that belong to the canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Region.”

      There’s not a word there that indicates the purpose of the EA is to be a proto-Synod.

      “Likewise, it is affirmed that during the present phase it is not possible, for historical and pastoral reasons, for an immediate transition to the strictly canonical order of the Church on this issue, that is, the existence of only one bishop in the same place. For this reason, the Conference came to the decision to propose the creation of a temporary situation that will prepare the ground for a strictly canonical solution of
      the problem, based on the principles and guidelines set out below. Of necessity, this preparation will not extend beyond the convening of the future Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church, so that it (the Council) can proceed with a canonical solution of the problem.”

      I may be wrong, but what this says to me is that a united church cannot be formed except by the decision of the always soon to come Great and Holy Synod.

      So let’s recap: There’s nothing on anyones agenda indicating that discussion on territorality will commence any time soon. The EA does not have the power to declare itself a local synod and local church.

      That indicates to me that there is no serious intention behind the EA’s whatsoever. SCOBA II. Moving sideways instead of forward.

      But I’m not at all surprised. Money. Status. Ethnocentrism. These are each tall idols that stand in the way.

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        Geo Michalopulos says:

        Scott, you hit the nail on the head (I really need to come up with another metaphor). My question is thus intensified by your observation, that secrecy needs to be maintained in order to “see who gets what territory.” This secrecy is self-defeating: can you imagine the howls of outrage coming from the pews when the Serbians in Illinois (for example) are told that their bishop is now a Romanian living in Chicago? Or ROCOR parishes in Massachusetts being told that their bishop is the “liberal” GOA bishop in Boston? This is not far-fetched: we could see schisms popping out all over. In the end we’ll have less unity than we do now.

        The idea that we better click our heels and salute because Chambesy issued these mandates is a red herring. So is the idea that a structure will be imposed on North America if the EAs don’t come up with a workable solution. Indeed, that’s probably even a bigger red herring as nobody really believes that there’s going to be a Great and Holy Council. (I for one have stated my own reasons for not wanting one.)

        Our time for unity was Ligonier 1994 and it’s passed. It wasn’t only the EP who deserves the title of “butcher of Ligonier,” the others do as well. He was left holding the bag though. Too bad. The only hope now is for the MP, ROCOR, and AOA to unite with the OCA and come up with viable diocesan boundaries. The other ethnic jurisdictions can join when then want or run out of money, whichever comes first.

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          Scott Pennington says:

          George,

          This is why I’ve never really gotten goosebumps regarding the “push for unity”. First, I don’t think the synods or patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, Romania, etc. have any intention of letting their vassal churches go. Second, there is a wide discrepancy in practice between the different jurisdictions here. Thirdly, ethnicity itself is still a big issue. No ethnocentric clergy or laity want to be smaller fish in a bigger pond.

          As to your comment about the merger of the OCA, ROCOR, the MP parishes and AOCNA: I think probably OCA and ROCOR will merge at some point, especially if Met. Jonah were to adopt a policy of moving new and existing parishes toward traditional practice. I don’t think that Moscow would object to that. In fact, Moscow might have preferred ROCOR to merge with OCA instead of first reuniting with the MP. However, the history between the two jurisdictions would not allow for that. There is a ROCOR committee working now to identify any obstacles that may exist to further unity between the OCA and ROCOR. It will be interesting to see what this committee says.

          I doubt the AOCNA would be allowed to merge. If anything, I think the distance between the Antiochians and the OCA is increasing, not decreasing. Pulling Antiochian seminarians out of St Vlad’s and the new movement to phase out the remaining Slavic music in favor of Byzantine attest to this.

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            Isa Almisry says:

            al-masiiHu qaam!
            “I doubt the AOCNA would be allowed to merge. If anything, I think the distance between the Antiochians and the OCA is increasing, not decreasing. Pulling Antiochian seminarians out of St Vlad’s and the new movement to phase out the remaining Slavic music in favor of Byzantine attest to this.’

            Don’t confuse the present administration with the Antiochean Church here. Met. Jonah enjoys a lot of support from the Antiochean faithful, Arab and non-Arab, convert and cradle.

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            George Michalopulos says:

            Haqqan qam, Isa! Although I don’t pretend to be an expert on AOCNA parishes, word on the street is that most of the vibrant ones and the growth that is occuring are in those AOCNA parishes that are showing increasing traditionalism. The problems last year in Palm Desert were the result of a few ethnocentric parishes in Michigan and Ohio. Personally, I think that for all the ruckus they raised, it was probably the last stand of the ethnic renegades.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            Christ is risen!, Isa and George

            It depends on what the synod of Antioch wants, on whom the present Metropolitan is, on whom his bishops are, and on whom the next Metropolitan is. Do not fool yourselves in this regard. The Church is not a democracy. The rank and file can believe anything they want about the need for, or danger of, an autocephalous American church. Most of the rank and file will follow along with what the hierarchs decide.

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    Fr. John says:

    George’s last paragraph above (in 5.1.1) sums it up: our best hope is that the most reasonable and already multi-ethnic jurisdictions will lead the way to unity by first establishing it among themselves. The MP is the only relatively unencumbered foreign church involved here; every other church has too much to lose (or thinks it does) by the forging of an unified American Orthodox jurisdiction. I suspect that its establishment will come incrementally beginning with heads of the above-mentioned churches trusting each other enough to work out common language. If the sounds being made by C’ple and Bucuresti are heeded, it would take secessionist bishops willing to oppose their patriarchates to move forward. I don’t see that happening amongst Greek hierarchs here in the US.

    As for ROCOR, it seems that if they don’t do something of this kind, the future of the whole jurisdiction is moot; thus union with the OCA (at least) makes a lot of sense. I can imagine the look on faces in SF when that happens though! And we will probably see another rump jurisdiction, maybe joining ROCA out of distaste for the new-calendar-friendly OCA…

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    Isa Almisry says:

    …Scott Pennington says:
    April 11, 2010 at 10:39 AM
    Christ is risen!, Isa and George

    It depends on what the synod of Antioch wants, on whom the present Metropolitan is, on whom his bishops are, and on whom the next Metropolitan is. Do not fool yourselves in this regard. The Church is not a democracy. The rank and file can believe anything they want about the need for, or danger of, an autocephalous American church. Most of the rank and file will follow along with what the hierarchs decide.

    ==Fortunately, it doesn’t depend on the Church being a democracy,as the recent incident over bishops in the AOCNA showed.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Isa,

      I don’t mean to be picky, but the recent situation concerning auxiliary vs. diocesan bishops did reveal a lot. But I’m not sure that it’s the kind of “a lot” that would aid in moving the AOCNA toward union with the OCA.

      Tell me, Isa, is “assistant to the Metropolitan” (or, in the Greek jurisdiction, “assistant to the Archbishop”) part of the normal title of a diocesan bishop? What exactly does this mean?

      Bottom line is that were it not for all the fur that flew, the Antiochian bishops today would be (contrary to the nature of the office of bishop) auxiliaries. Now, if the “powers that be” almost succeeded in doing what they wanted to do over the objections of many, what does that say about the likelihood of their doing something they don’t want to do and have no obligation to do?

      I mean, no one seriously believes that chancellors are going to resign and legal challenges might arise in order to force the removal of the AOCNA from Antioch and merge it with the OCA, do they?

      Nonetheless, Isa, you are much more well read in these matters than I and if you see this from a different angle, I’m always interested in hearing your opinion (from which I have learned so much).

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        Isa Almisry says:

        A chancellor did resign: but Ajalat isn’t going away.

        The recent seminary tiff isn’t the first. Pray God, though, that it is our last.

        If this was the government, I’d fear the powers that be. Since it is the Church, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail, I fear the Power Who is Who He is. Met. Philip and/or others may think that they are immortal, but the day will come when they will be answering to Someone Other than their Faithful. This isn’t Syria, and seeing the OCA get its house in order is mighty attractive to many in the AOCNA. There is just so tight a reign you can have here on shananigans. In the recent battle the non-signing bishops were vigorously pursuing legal as well as canonical options. We have reached a critical mass, though the chain reaction may be delayed.

        The momentum was on display at Dormition Monastery last August: Bishops Mark and Nathaniel with Met. Jonah: the speeches were telling. It is a question of when, not if, Ligonier II happens.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          We have reached a critical mass, though the chain reaction may be delayed.

          Yes. Let dismay be short-lived.

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          Geo Michalopulos says:

          Isa, I think you’re on to something. What’s more, I believe that +Philip realized that the retrogrades overplayed their hand. Too clever by half often winds you in prison. The situation in Troy, MI is certainly one that the IRS would be keenly interested in. I think both Bob Koory and Charles Ajalat (attorneys both) saw the handwriting on the wall. Certainly Bishop +Mark shined a spotlight on the situation and how to get out of it. By doing his fiduciary duty, he save himself from criminal proceedings.

          It may be that cooler heads are prevailing in the AOCNA. The recent appointment of Fr Alexander Atty as Dean of St Tikhon’s was a giant step in the right direction of inter-Orthodox cooperation. We’ll see. In the meantime, the Phanar continues to overplay its hand with tremendous blunders (Turkish citizenship, attempted siezure of property, Operation Flag-pole). They truly don’t get it.

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            Isa Almisry says:

            al-masiiH qaam!

            From what I’ve seen +Mark didn’t save himself from criminal proceedings because he’s not be doing anything wrong. His opponents are a different story.

            Too clever by half. That’s about the size of the whole matter.

            On Operation Flag pole, can we get confirmation that Met. Methodios actually issued such a directive, and has his diocese bloomed in yellow?

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    There is a similar assembly occurring in São Paulo, Brazil, this week. In theory, all the bishops and archbishops in Latin-America are to attend.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Fabio, are they Orthodox bishops?

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      Yes, Father, sorry. I meant an assembly of the Orthodox Bishops of Latin-America. The event will be concluded with the Divine Liturgy of April, 18th, with all the participating bishops.

      From what “the word on the streets” says, for this assembly is also involved in discretion, the ones confirmed would be the own bishops of the Antiochians – which is the largest jurisdiction in Brazil, and the only one that I know of that has more than one bishop in South-America – and the Ukrainian and Greek Archbishops. I haven’t heard anything about the Russian, ROCOR and Polish archbishops, and even less from the Serbian bishop, who lives in the US.

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        Isa Almisry says:

        Christ is risen!

        Any links or news articles?

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          There is a small note on the Sunday Bulletin of the Antiochian Cathedral in Brazil, here:

          http://www.catedralortodoxa.com.br/Frame.asp?Mn=4&Sm=8 (Click on the latest date and you will be directed here: http://www.catedralortodoxa.com.br/Cattexto.asp?Codigo=207 )

          At the bottom, you will find this text:

          CONVITE

          No próximo domingo, 18/04, às 10:15h, a Santa Missa será celebrada por nosso Arcebispo, Dom Damaskinos, juntamente com outros Arcebispos Ortodoxos da América Latina, da nossa Igreja e de Igrejas irmãs, encerrando o primeiro Congresso Pan-Ortodoxo Latino – Americano (realizado no Brasil).

          Será ocasião em que também a Liga das Senhoras Ortodoxas comemorará suas padroeiras, as “Portadoras de Aromas”. Após a Liturgia será oferecido um coquetel no salão do Arcebispado, quando os Arcebispos e as senhoras da Liga receberão os cumprimentos. Contamos com a presença de todos.

          “Invitation

          Next sunday, 18/04 at 10:15am, the Holy Mass will be celebrated by our Archbishop, Don Damaskinos, together with other Orthodox Archbishops of Latin America, from our Church and sister Churches, finalizing the first Latin-American Pan-Orthodox Congress (realized in Brazil).

          It will be an event in which the League of Orthodox Ladies will celebrate their patrons, the “Myrrh-bearing Women”. After the Liturgy, a cocktail party will be offered at the Archepiscopal hall, where the Archbishops and the ladies from the League will receive the greetings. We count on the presence of everybody.”

          Anyway, it means that basically only the people who go to the Cathedral in São Paulo knew about it. I learned about it myself because I happen to have friends in that city through the internet. As I said, it was not secret, but indeed it was discrete and, it seems to me, not as well reported as the importance of the event suggests.

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    Oso says:

    Christ is Risen!

    It would be most helpful for me to hear from some of you who are “in the know” as to what (if any) kind of pressure or guidance the Phanar might be receiving from the Turkish government? Or is this just about possible loss of influence in the Americas?

    Thank you!

    Oso

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    Greg says:

    Interesting discussion.

    Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

    John 17

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      Some often forgotten and equally evangelical words of that passage are:

      “And for their (In the context it is the Apostles) sake I consecrate myself, that they (the Apostles) also may be consecrated in truth. I do not pray for these only (the ApostleS), but also for those who believe in me through their word (the words of the Apostles), that they may all be one.”

      Meaning that the ones who are prayed for to be one are the Apostles *AND* those who believe in Jesus through the words of the Apostles, that is, the heirs of the Apostolic Tradition. Not the Samaritans, not the Pharisees or Saducees who did not accept Jesus, not the pagans, not those who “cast out demons” in the name of Jesus but do not follow Him with the Apostles (Lk.9:49, Mk 9:38).

      So, the Jews who did not accept the Messiah, the pagans, the schismatic heretics (represented in the Gospel by the schismastics of the Jews such as the Samaritans), and not even those who receive gifts of Grace in the name of Jesus but are not full members of the Apostolic Tradition (and that, unfortunately, includes even the heterodox liturgical traditions) are all outside the scope of Jesus prayer for unity.

      The prayer for them comes *after*. After the unity of the Church members with Christ, the effects of such union will be a testimony for the conversion of all the groups mentioned above.

      In fact, I think that the heterodox are treated in a very clearly way in the passages Lk:9:49 and Mk 9:38 mentioned above. Here they are:

      St. Luke 09
      49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
      50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid {him} not: for he that is not against us is for us.
      51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
      52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
      53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
      54 And when his disciples James and John saw {this}, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
      55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
      56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save {them}. And they went to another village.

      St. Mark 09
      38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
      39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
      40 For he that is not against us is on our part.
      41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.
      42 And whosoever shall offend one of {these} little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

      These passages, read together to the “privileges” given to the Apostles and those who believe in Jesus *through* the Apostles, clarify much of the current debate about ecumenism.

      Those who are outside the apostolic tradition are *not* in the Church, and do *not* have the grace of Church. They may and do have other gifts because the “Spirit blows where it wants” and the Love of God is infinite. But one gift they do not have is being members of the body of Christ.

      Jesus tells us to simply live them alone (at this moment. Later he prays that the witness of the Church united in Him will bring them to Him as well). So believing in Christ through the words of the Apostles is a “conditio sine qua non” to belong to the Church and to have the possibility of being united in Him. Of course this “belief through the Apostles” is not just any interpretation of the words of the Apostles, much less mere imposing of hands and even less through the “only successor of the leader of the Apostles”. It is apostolicity in that much fuller sense that so many Orthodox theologians have spoken of, specialy, in my opinion, Met. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos.

      Thus, the heterodox (those who call Jesus name but not “with the Apostles”) and the outright schismatics (represented by the Samaritans), are not devoid of virtue (as seen in the Parable of the Samaritan) and will not be without their reward. But, right now, they are not in the Church and are in need of the witness of the Orthodox to join them in the True Undivided Unbroken Body of Christ.

      Truly, St. Paul has written:

      Romans 02
      13 (For not the hearers of the law {are} just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
      14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
      15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and {their} thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) {their conscience…: or, the conscience witnessing with them} {the mean…: or, between themselves}
      16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

      If even the Lawless Gentiles, who in this case were Pagans, having the law in their hearts and acting accordingly may receive a positive judgement on that awesome day, can we not expect that those who do their best to follow Jesus, even being outside the Church, will have a proportionate measure of Justice and Mercy? In fact, it will the Orthodox who will be judged by their lackings for the absence of the proper witness we should have given them by affirming that the Church is *here* and not there. That the fullfilment of their love could occur only in the Orthodox Church, the only state of being where we can all truly be one in Christ.

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    Isa Almisry says:

    Christ is risen!
    OUTRAGE!

    Polish Orthodox bishops excluded from the Episcopal Assembly
    Joint Liturgy in Poland
    According to the report published on the official website of the Patriarchate of Antioch, archbishop Chrisostomos and bishop Ambrose of the Brazilian diocese of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church were not invited to the Episcopal Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of Latin America which will take place next Sunday in an Antiochian cathedral in São Paulo. Archbishop Chrisostomos and bishop Ambrose are the only Orthodox bishops in the region, who won’t be present at the meeting.

    The Episcopal Assemblies of Orthodox Bishops are supposed to coordinate the activities of all Orthodox jurisdictions in respective regions, and they are organized by the senior hierarch of the Church of Constantinople in the region, in this case, metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico.

    Fr. Andrzej Kuzma, who was one of the representatives of the PAOC at the conference in Chambesy in June 2009, which aimed to increase the number of Episcopal congregations in the world, said that “the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its own way in interpreting the 28th canon of the Council of Chalcedon have difficulty in recognizing the canonicity of our diocese in Brazil.” Fr. Kuzma added that PAOC will seek to regulate this issue.
    http://www.cerkiew.pl/index.php?id=968&tx_ttnewstt_news=12992&tx_ttnewsbackPid=968&cHash=303cb2b7c5

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      I can add some information concerning the Brazilian Polish mission.

      Orthodox history in Brazil is yet to be written or systematically studied. Most of it is still in hearsay mode. Fr. Pedro Siqueira, from the Serbian Church has made a study about it, but it is still to be published.

      What we can know so far is that probably the Antiochian Church is the oldest jurisdiction in the country. I am working without sources here, but I would estimate it has been in Brazil since the 19th century. The only one, I think, that could, maybe, challenge that would be the Greek Church. Anyway, the Antiochian Church is far better organized and has more financial resources than any other. That is due, probably, to the sheer fact that Arab imigration in Brazil is much larger than from any other of the Orthodox nations. In fact, Lebanese/Syrian is the only ethnicity with “cradle” Orthodox that is big enough to appear in significant numbers of the population (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Brazil#Consequences ).

      Truth be said, most ethnic parishes in big cities are welcoming to Brazilians. I, particularly, have never been mistreated in any of them. Nevertheless, considering the number of Orthodox in Brazil in the beginning of the 20th century was around 40 thousand when the population was around 20 million, and that according to the last census in 2001, the number of Orthodox in Brazil (including all jurisdictions and possibly the fake Orthodox churches) is a mere 50 thousand, whilst the population is around 190 million. Actually, if analysing the numbers in terms of proportions (40K/20M in early 20th century and 50K/190M in early 21st century) we can see that the representation of the Orthodox in Brazilian society has shrinked incredibly. We were 0,002% of the population a hundred years ago and today we are 0,00026% of the populatin. We are almost one hundred times smaller today. One can easily see that “mission” has never been in the agenda. Some few Brazilians would go to the churches, but just out of curiosity or because it was the local parish (“and it’s a kind of Catholic church isn’t it?”) or because they had studied about Orthodoxy.

      In the 80s a group of searchers in Rio de Janeiro – RJ and Recife – PB, who had started in Perennialism, found out about the Orthodox Church and joined an Old Calendarist bishop from Portugal. They did start by what it seems to me as a step far larger than they could, because they styled themselves as the Orthodox Church of Brazil, Portugal and Spain. In time, the whole group, including the Portuguese bishop and their Iberic faithful sought canonicity in the Polish Orthodox Church and, thanks to God, were granted it. Unfortunately, after the death of the original bishop who had accepted them, the group elected a person to substitute him who was later found guilt of financial and ecclesiastical misconduct. This traumatizing event led to the split of the group. Some of the ones who were in Recife moved to the Serbian church, under Don Mitrophan of the Eastern Diocese of the Serbian Church in the US and the rest of the group remained in the Polish church. From both groups the grandioloquent self-style of being *the* Brazilian Orthodox Church was dropped understanding that this takes a very long time to occur. Now and then the idea is heard, but overral, from what I’ve seen personally in both groups, there is a humble acceptance that the current work is much more of seed planting than of boasting of already being a full new church.

      Now, in this scenario, one can see that the Orthodox Church in Brazil is under great pressures and challenges. The traditional jurisdictions, although truly welcoming, are clearly not interested in missionary work besides the “fruits” that happen to fall on their yard. Actual farming is out of question for them, at least for now.

      On the other hand, we have a group of convert natives who at fist hugely overstepped their strength, got a tough lesson in terms of ecclesiastical politics and decided to play very low profile since then. At the same time, their hearts and souls are devotely on the missionary side and aware of the urgent need of bringing the True Church to the native Brazilians, but, do not count with any support from the other jurisdictions which were already here. In fact, most of the faithful of the other jurisdictions don’t even dream that there is a group of Brazilians interested in missionary work and I suspect they would be quite flabbergasted at the very idea.

      Unfortunately, due to the lack of Orthodox education, a great number are led to believe that Orthodoxy and the Romans are more or less the same thing and differences are only political. There is the church of the Greeks, the church of the Arabs, and, of course, the church of the Brazilians, which is the Roman church. What would be the point of trying to “convert” them if it is all the same just directed at differen societies? Double baptisms, double marriages, ecumenism that sometimes border cocelebration, the Holy Gifts given to anyone who enters the church, free-mason and/or rosicrucian priests and influent faithful, not to mention the all too well-known cases of misconduct, don’t help to educate the faithful on the identity of Orthodoxy and create an Orthodox phleroma that witness to the world the Truth of Christ.

      So, it is of no surprise to me, that those who feel unconfortable with the possibility of union in American Orthodoxy would feel the same elsewhere . With an OCA in North-America, why risk having an OCB to the South of the Equator? In the long term, Brazil *could* come to where the US is now, and hopefuly beyond, if the Brazilians in the Serbian and Polish church had full legitimacy and support and the traditional jurisdictions threw at least some of their weight on missionary work. I don’t think this is a game of good and bad guys. All sides had their good things and mistakes.I am very grateful to the Antiochian Church, where I was chrismated and consider to be my “mother church”, to the Greek Church where I was so well received when I moved town and to the Russians and Ukrainians who have always treated me well when I visited them.

      With just 50k Orthodox in Brazil, most of whom are so because of their ethnicity, and a population of 190 million, there is plenty of room for growth of the faith here and that without even threatening the status quo of the other religions. I am convinced that we could be at least 1% of the Brazilian population (bordering the 2 million faithful)in one generation if only, for example, the congress happening now conceded in those two things: traditional jurisdictions taking a more active role in missionary work, and full legitimacy and recognition were given to the Brazilians in the Serbian and Polish church.

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        Isa Almisry says:

        Cristo ressuscitou!
        The problem is, this is not just a Brazil issue.

        The right that the Phnanar arrogated to itself to decide the status of bishops not in its jurisdiction not only contradicts the canons, but also the Chambesy accords that its mouthpieces keep on harping are “unanimous,” although one autocephalous Church was totally excluded (OCA). Such stacking the deck shows that the Phanar’s signature and word is more worthless than first thought: it signed an accord with the Orthodox Church of Poland, a Church it recognizes as autocephalous and canonical. As such, its representative is without authority to remove any bishop that the Polish Church has in Latin America or anywhere from the Episcopal Assembly.

        An utter disgrace!

        Btw, I’d like your permission to repost your account on oc.net, where this is also being discussed, with insight from a knowledgable Pole in Poland.

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        Verdadeiramente ressuscitou! :)

        No problem you can repost it. I just couldn’t find where that discussion is occurring. Could you post the link?

        In this case, I think Constantinople’s claim are part of the issue and not all of it. As I said, they are a very recent group, who joined Orthodoxy in the 80s. It is a very different case from the OCA and American Orthodoxy as a whole. For a group of recent converts to make a claim to initiate an entirely new jurisdiction is, in my opinion, a bit exagerated and overconfident. It was far too early for that.

        But of course, I would like to see an active missionary work in Brazil with reverent respect both to the cultures and people who brought us Orthodoxy *and* to the positive aspects of Brazilian culture.

        Not inviting the Polish and Serbian representatives seems to me as a loss of a rich contribution they could give in terms of experience, action and vision. Inviting them would be the same as officially engaging Brazlian society.

        Again, in my opinion, from Brazil’s side, the assembly should count with the Bishops of canonical jurisdictions, with the clergy of the Serbian mission as legates of Don Mitrophan who is probably attending the American Assembly, and the clergy of Rio’s Antiochian Patriarchal Vicariate. Besides the many serious issues I am sure they are going to discuss, I think it could be in their agenda with profit:

        Brazil’s culture, history and society are very different from the other countries in Latin-America. While they are Hispanic countries, Brazilian culture was born out of a Portuguese matrix. Historical developments were as different as those of England and France or any other two countries in the same continent of Europe for example. There are of course, some similitudes, since we are all New World countries, just like the US and Canada and still, that wouldn’t justify assuming these cultures and Latin-American countries could follow the same policies of an Ecclesiastical governing body. Brazil needs its own Synod (or council, whatever the authorities find appropriate).

        Related to the above, various jurisdictions present in Brazil do not have local bishops. It is urgent to have Bishops living in Brazil for the Brazilian parishes. Even that would be just a temporary arrangement since Brazil alone is almost half the area of South-America. With most bishops in Argentina or in the US it is really difficult, if not impossible, to attend to the needs of the local faithful.

        The creation of a Seminary with all the proper infrastructure for all Latin-America. The best place, in my opinion, would be Foz do Iguaçu, a city in the “Triple Border” of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, making it a central, accessible point to all South-America. This would require a massive effort of translations along the next ten years, but meanwhile, material in English could be used.

        Monasteries. There are a few seeds of monasteries in Brazil, with no more than two monks in each. Real spiritual fathers and some monks have to be brought to serve as models and inspiration. Then local vocations will appear.

        Relations with the Roman Catholics. For most people, Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are too similar externally. There is no effort to clarify the differences and both Romans and Orthodox are left to believe they are the same thing or that differences are irrelevances cultivated by fanatics. This has to end. It does not mean attacking Roman Catholics, but simply speaking in love and truth.

        Related to the above topic, syncretism, a spiritual vice in this culture, has to be therapeutically dealt with, be it syncretism with Roman Catholicism, with Esoteric sects, with Spiritism or with folk animist superstitions.

        The fake orthodoxies. In the void of missionary work, various fake orthodox churches have appeared claiming subordination to real and fictitious jurisdictions. The spiritual and psychological harm they spread must be stopepd.

        These are just some of the issues I think are important and could be discussed in an assembly.

        —————————————–

        And just to add some more bits to the information, here is a table I created with all the canonical jurisdictions currently present in Brazil:

        Canonical Jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church in Brazil

        **Patriarchate of Constantinople**

        The Greek and Ukrainian churches, in Brazil, are under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Greek Church directly and the Ukrainian church through the Ukrainian Church in the US.

        * South-American Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese of South-America
        Metropolitan Don Tarásios
        Located in Buenos Aires, Argentina

        * Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of South-America
        Archbishop Don Jeremiah
        Located in Curitiba, PR – Brazil

        **Patriarchate of Antioch**

        *Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of São Paulo and all Brazil
        Metropolitan Don Damaskinos
        Located in São Paulo, SP – Brazil

        *Anthiochian Patriarchal Vicariate of Rio de Janeiro
        Responsible: Archimandrite Ignatius
        Located in Rio de Janeiro, RJ – Brazil

        The Patriarchal Vicariate is a cathedral independent from the Metropolitan Throne in São Paulo and directly subordinate to the Patriarch.

        **Patriarchate of Moscow **

        * Russian Orthodox Diocese of South-America
        Bishop Don Platão
        Located in Buenos Aires – Argentina

        **ROCOR**

        * ROCOR Diocese of South-America
        Bishop Don João
        Located in Buenos Aires – Argentina

        Unfortunately, the ROCOR parishes in Brazil entered into schism in 2007 not accepting the communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. They joined a schismatic bishop and have consacrated “bishops” of their own, supported by the faithful who have outdated information concerning Russia and the MP and are sorrowfully kept that way. The MP has made moves to inform the local Russian immigrants and descedents but it will probably be a slow change of culture. Until then or until opening new (missionary?) parishes, ROCOR is without any representation in Brazil.

        **Serbian Patriarchate**

        * Serbian Orthodox Diocese of the East of the USA
        Bishop Don Mitrophan
        Located in Pensilvania, USA

        Serbian Orthodox Mission in Brazil
        Responsible: Archpriest Alexis
        Located in Recife, PB – Brazil
        http://www.igrejaservia.org/

        **Polish Orthodox Church**

        * Polish Orthodox Archdiocese of Brazil

        Polish Orthodox Mission in Brazil
        Archbishop Don Chrysostomos
        Located in Rio de Janeiro, RJ – Brazil
        http://ortodoxia-brasil.blogspot.com/

        Again, the Serbian and Polish missions are the only ones who have taken an active missionary role and that have locals as the majority of their members.

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          Isa Almisry says:

          Cristo ressuscitou! Em verdade ressuscitou!

          I posted your insights at:
          http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,26977.new.html#new

          Brazil’s situation down south may be much like Canada up north, and afterthought to the other dominant force (in Brazil’s case, Spanish America, in Canada’s, the US). Canada has improved, but not yet where it should rightfully be. I’m hopeful though.

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          Geo Michalopulos says:

          Fabio, if I may make a suggestion? You seem very knowledgable about the Church in South America. Would you consider writing a book about it? Or at least the Church in Brazil?

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Will this madness never end?

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      Michael Bauman says:

      No, it will not. The same madness was present in Apostolic times. Only the imposition of imperial power under Constantine, et. al. allowed it to subside for awhile.

      I am surprise that there has been zero discussion of Fr. Michael Oleska’s essay on the role of the emperor being filled in todays world by the polis, the people. That would be a fruitful discussion I think.

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        The emperors were themselves source of many disturbances and even spreaders of heresies.

        As a priest once told me, wherever there are humans, human misery will follow. We could add that human virtue as well.

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        Geo Michalopulos says:

        Michael, agreed. Fr Oleksa’s speech needs to be fully aired. Espeically in light of the upcoming Episcopal Assembly non-event.

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Any idea where I can find the essay?

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        Scott Pennington says:

        “Some observers have noted that there is very little in the canonical tradition of the Church to justify the participation of laity or even parish clergy in the administrative governance of the Church.”

        So far, so good.

        “I would note however, that the Church historically and even canonically, recognized a role for the Emperor, precisely in the administrative life of the Church and even accorded him certain liturgical prerogatives.”

        True, but not related to the above.

        “Part of the process of adaptation to the new circumstances of life without an empire, without an emperor requires the Church to find another benefactor, a replacement for the role fulfilled by the Imperial government in its affairs.”

        Why is that? What “requires” this? Who else has the power and unified will of an emperor?

        “And who serves that function in a democracy? If in an autocracy
        an autocrat did, then in a democracy, the demos must. The place of the Emperor has been taken by O Laos tou Theou, the People of God.”

        This is not true. No one serves the function of emperor in democracies such as we have in the US and Europe. What has happened, rather, is that the idea of autocracy has passed into disfavor. The people do not want to be the emperor. They do not want empire at all. We, in this country, wished to have limited government. Not a system whereby the will of the people at any given moment was tantamount to the imperial will.

        “But if we are committed to conciliarity, the Rules will need to be adjusted first to insist, not just permit, that everyone be given an opportunity to contribute to the discussion. This requires the Chair to call upon all those who have not spoken to speak before any vote has been taken.”

        Not exactly. If we are committed to conciliarity, then this requires that we leave the workings of councils to bishops. That is what conciliarity means and what the role and power of a bishop mean. If they wish to hear from the priesthood or the laity, that’s fine. If and when they’ve heard enough, that’s fine too.

        Hopefully, Met. Jonah will think very carefully before endorsing this view of the “new Emperor”. You could, however, make a strong case for the idea that autocratic rule is indispensible to Orthodoxy. It would sound much more solid than the idea of the people as Emperor. The emperor was a powerful head of state. Not just any state, but the Roman Empire. His function in the system of Orthodox conciliarity was based upon that power and status. No such thing exists in Orthodox countries anymore. The closest thing might be Putin in Russia.

        I don’t wish to be too hard on Fr. Oleska, but his speech/talk/letter reminds me of some of the stuff I heard as a religion minor in a liberal arts university in the Upper South. “God as Parent – Lover – Friend, “God as President of the faithful”, etc. This is the greatest danger of organizations like OCL. They may serve a good purpose by shining sunlight on things intentionally obscured. However, power to the people is a dangerous concept. The people are fickle, thoughtless, often badly informed and slaves to their passions. This is true to some extent of the episcopacy as well. But at least they have been formally trained in theology, morality and ecclesiology. Besides, governance of the church has been entrusted to them, in conciliarity.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          The question with which I am faced when I consider the hierarchy of the Church is this: If it is absolute, why is the laity even needed? Just because a shepherd needs sheep?

          To me that posits an ontological difference between the shepherd and the sheep that does not exist when we are all sinful human beings.

          If the bishop stands in the place of Christ, liturgically and pastorally, does that not require a deep and abiding connetion of love that demands they consider our spiritual needs before all else?

          If the shepherd leaves the sheep and does not care for them and feed them and take care of them, do they not bleat? Would not a good and faithful shepherd attend to their bleating to determine if the bleating indicated the presence of a wolf or some other danger?

          Should not a good shepherd see further than the sheep to help the flock avoid danger rather than leading them into it?

          If the shepherds are holed up in a cabin alone while a storm rages outside don’t they cease to be good shepherds?

          Is there no other recourse than to wait for the owner of the flock alone to hold the shepherds accountable?

          We are after all reason endowed sheep, are we not?

          I am not comfortable with the populist note that Fr. Michael seems to sound, however, it is worth considering that he is immersed in a traditional culture that has proven to be a fruitful ground for the faith. The culture recogizes the ruling authority of the elders, does not dispute it except in the most egregious of circumstances. At the same time, the culture recognizes that the integrity, even the life of the community is dependent upon each member of the community being aware and responsible for that life and its integrity.

          Hierarchy does not necessarily require autocracy, only obedience. Obedience means to hear the word. If the shepherds are deaf to the sheep how can they speak the proper word? Obedience in the Church is focused on one’s unity with and communion with Christ, not on the power of position. I am reminded of a scene in the movie Ostrov in which the main character, a lowly, seemingly crazy lay monk is sitting with the Abbot of the monastery, a hieromonk. The crazy one asks the Abbot if it is not strange that he, the crazy one, has been entrusted with the leadership of the monastery?

          I would argue that the concept of autocracy is one mistakenly borrowed from worldly rulers and is foreign to the spirit of the Church, just as democracy and congregationalism are foreign. All three concepts introduce elements of rigidity and an attitude of “us against them” mentality that effectively denies the incarnational reality of the Church.

          There are levels of concilarity which can and should be interrelated in a healthy community. That in no way denies the authority of the bishops but insures their authority is founded upon love rather than power, service rather than being served, connectedness rather than separation.

          What we have now has not worked, is not working and will not magically work in the future.

          In this light, Met. Jonah’s proposal of moving the participation of the laity downstream to the diocesan level makes a lot of sense to me. That still requires that the shepherds actually listen to and attend to their sheep while not elevating the sheep to the status of uber-shepherd and replacing Christ Himself.

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            Geo Michalopulos says:

            Michael, I completely agree with you. The “shepherds” must give their lives for the “sheep.” Being holed up in the Ritz-Carlton eating a 5-course meal attended by the glitterati is not the mark of a true shepherd.

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            Scott Pennington says:

            Michael,

            The autocracy I was speaking about was political autocracy, not ecclesiastical autocracy. There was a time when bishops were elected. I have nothing against reviving that so long as they are elected from monastics. There is a laity approval mechanism in the Church, poorly defined, but nonetheless there. That is reception. However, even in reception the bishops have the last word. It is up to the people to move the bishops to change erroneous proclamations.

            Christ Himself instituted the hierarchy in the Church. We should not make the presumption present throughout your comment and George’s that the bishops are wolves and the sheep need to protect themselves. Sometimes this is true. Sometimes the hierarchy needs protection from the laity. The sheep are just as capable (maybe moreso) of being wolves as the hierarchs.

            For instance, you recall the survey that was done of Orthodox laity where their attitudes were divided up into four or five categories of varying stringency (albiet totally subjectively self-assessed)? Later in the article describing the attitudes of the laity it became clear that a considerable majority were open and partial to quite a few heterodox ideas that they would introduce into the Church (if they had the power to do so). It’s not that I trust the bishops (at least in local synods). I don’t. It’s that the laity are less trustworthy.

            As to Fr. Oleska, I’m suspicious of his attitude toward Orthodoxy anyway. I recall reading an article by him in the Antiochian magazine where he concluded something like, “Western Christians tend to conquer for their faith and Eastern Christians tend to suffer and be martyred for theirs”. That is utterly simplistic. But it is understandible if you know that he is sympathetic to the OPF and signed their neo-Stalinist statement against the Iraq War (as well as another such statement against the possibility of a war with Iran, under the Bush presidency). If you have pacifistic left wing tendencies, saying that our soldiers are murderers and the war was a terrorist action makes perfect sense. It also makes sense that you would want to water down the power of the hierarchy. That’s what such people seek to do.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    It is on ocanews.org.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    George, it would seem prudent to hold the shepard’s conclaves in a simpler environment but in and of itself, that does not invalidate their work.

    It is the lack of openness, the lack of communication, the lack of anything approaching a solution that is the problem.

    The one mind being manifested seems to be the mind of the status-quo rather than the mind of Christ.

    You realize, of course, that the vast majority of the laity prefers the defacto Protestantism we have now rather than what history and Tradition shows the Church to be. That way, we aren’t ever asked to be obedient, not really. As long as they are wealthy, disconnected CEO’s nothing is required of us, even when they are right. The price for us having real shepards is much higher than we often imagine.

    There has to be a living connection between leaders and their people. Af Fr. Gregory pointed out, for two long it has been a worldly connection-ethnicity. That is clearly no longer viable. We need to work on allowing the connection to be our common love and committment to the Creed, the Holy Mysteries and the kneotic life. We cannot demand or expect that our shepards do what we refuse to do. If we put ourselves in that position, clearly we are not their sheep. We belong to a different flock.

    We have to work to allow the connection to be Jesus Christ.

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      Michael, I agree with you completely. My concerns regarding the parameters of a meeting are to ensure oversight and transparancy. I can do nothing to ensure that their hearts are in the right place. (Or the laity for that matter.)

  16. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Michael Bauman says:

    Scott, I do not believe that bishops are wolves just because they are bishops, far from it. We require them and the authority they carry in order to be the Church. As you say, the laity as a group is even less trustworthy in most cases. In fact, as I mentioned, if we are to have the bishops we desire that means real obeience for the laity that we avoid at the moment.

    I have no desire to see any matters of doctrine subject to majority rule.

    What we need to develop is a better functioning understanding AND deployment of a hierarchical principal of responsiveness and accountablity than we have now. Power and authority without a clear, enforceable method of accountablity that actually works is an on-going temptation to sin that few can resist. It is an invitation to wolfhood. We need to rectify the current situation in which spiritual discipline or lack thereof is a function of money and friendship rather than of genuine pastoral need. (The bishops cronies get the goodies and the exemptions while the rest of us have to ‘toe the line’).

    If the bishops are unwilling and unable to adhere to any normative means of accountablity(which they clearly are not), what do we do?

    If bishops abandon the faith in the face of poltical demands by the God-haters on marriage, abortion, etc. How do we “hold their feet to the fire” as Fr. Hans suggests, especially when so many of us have already abadoned the faith on these matters anyway.

    Of the two models that have been voiced in the OCA (Fr. Michael’s and Met. Jonah’s) I prefer Met. Jonah’s. Nevertheless, Fr. Michael’s statement needs to be openingly discussed.

    BTW of the 65 canonical bishops in North America, I personally know three. Two of those I have no problem with at all, but their voices seem to be drowned out in their own synods while attaining to a high level of respect amongst the faithful. They are both pastoral bishops with genuine monastic foundations, not CEO’s or pope-lites.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      I’m glad you do not want doctrinal matters decided by the laity. What about matters of practice? If all we’re talking about is the demand for financial transparency, accountability regarding clergy abuse, pushing for more austerity among hierarchs etc., then that’s peachy keen.

      However, I do not think, as Fr. Oleska seems to, that it’s a good idea for the laity to have an open mike at synods. There are tactics which could be used to really screw things up. Revolution vs. uprising, it just depends on where you stand.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        Scott, in addition to the normal administrative stuff you mention, how are the bishops held accountable for ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’? In otherwords for upholding the doctrine and practice revealed to the Church as enunciated in the Councils and the canons?

        Open mike for the laity–no likely to be productive but something….?

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          Scott Pennington says:

          Michael,

          Well, in several ways. Firstly, hopefully the Holy Spirit protects them. Secondly, their brother bishops beyond the local synod have a responsibility not to let any local church deviate substantially. This was on display recently when a Romanian bishop received communion at a Romanian Catholic event from a Romanian Catholic bishop. The Church of Russia made an inquiry to the Church of Romania if it was now in communion with Rome. The Romanian synod called the bishop in, accepted his apology and promise not to repeat his error.

          Thirdly, the laity can influence through letters, withholding stewardship, migration, etc. Even taking advantage of whatever room they have at synods to speak (but not as a matter of right). Lastly, the laity can, over time, move the Church to correct the errors of a Robber Council by rejecting the teaching, persuading or replacing the bishops, etc.

          American is nothing new in this regard. I don’t think, “power to the people” tactics are appropriate though since the lust-for-power has a mind of its own and when people get organized, tactically wise and form a plan to arrogate power, the people and plan tend to drift into unpleasant territory due to the human passion for self-will.

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    Some news on the South-American Assembly. Here is a translation.

    http://www.iglesiaortodoxa.org.mx/informacion/?p=2955

    The 16th and 18th of April marked the history of the Orthodox Church in South America, due to the realization of the “First Episcopal Assembly of the Orthodox Churches of South-America”, in the headquarters of the Antiochian Archepiscopal Diocese of São Paulo (Brazil), having as the host H.E. Monsenor Damaskinos. The bishops of the Orthodox Churches (Patriarchate of Constantinople, Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarchate of Moscow and Patriarchate of Romenia) took part in the assembly,which counted with the presence of 10 hierarchs. The only one missing was the Bishop of the Patriarchate of Serbia, who as participating in the Serbian Holy Synod.

    The objective of the Assembly was to implement the results of the 4th Episcopal Conference of Chambésy (Switzerland) in 2009, in which the Orthodox Churches gathered to create all over the world assemblies of bishops for a greater testimony of Orthodoxy and to coordinate group work in different areas (education, catechesis, translations of liturgical texts, relations with public authorities, etc.). In this meeting, it was discussed the adoption of a new version in Spanish of the documents approved in Chambésy, and the situation in each Orthodox Church in South-America was presented. The Assembly established an Executive Committee, whose members are Their Emminences Mosenores: Athenagoras of Mexico (President, Patriarchate of Mexico), Anthony of Mexico (1st Vice-President, Patriarchate of Antioch), Plato of Buenos Aires (2nd Vice-President, Patriarchate of Moscow), Siluan of Buenos Aires (Secretary, Patriarchate of Antioch), and Tarasios of Buenos Aires (Member, Patriarchate of Constantinople). At the end of the deliberations, the Assembly brought up a number of recomendations to be dealt with in a inter-Orthodox level.

    With no doubts, the meeting was crowned with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the Antiochian Cathedral of São Paulo, which counted with the participation of the orthodox communities of the city and dignataries representing different public, religious and social authorities.

    The Assembly greeted in particular the President of Brazil, Luís Ignácio Lula da Silva, for his dilligence and defference shown in expressing through a letter to the Assembly, words for the success of this first meeting and his good wishes for all the communities in South America. Also, the Assembly thanked H.E. Monsenor Damaskinos for his fraternal reception, his hospitality and dilligence in the organization of the event, and also for all the entities of the sirian-lebanese community of São Paulo for the warmth and attention for all the participants of the Assembly.

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    Isa Almisry says:

    “The only one missing was the Bishop of the Patriarchate of Serbia, who as participating in the Serbian Holy Synod.”

    Giving the cry about the non-invitation of the Polish bishops, this statement is inexcusable.

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    I think that the assembled bishops are not yet convinced that the Polish Bishops are canonical. If that is the case, the answer would be a phone call away, even if more formal procedures were needed to officialize the recognition.

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