Chambesy: Ready for the New World?

Fr. Ted Bobosh, an OCA priest and author, offers an analysis of the Rules of Operation for the forthcoming episcopal assembly scheduled for May 2010 in the United States.

Fr. Ted Bobosh

Fr. Ted Bobosh

The chairmanship of the Episcopal Assemblies is key because it is the chairman who basically set the agenda for the work of the Assemblies. In other words the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be deciding what can and cannot be discussed and what direction discussions may take.

The bishops of Chambesy while allowing the bishops in a region to discuss Orthodox unity, are not leaving it solely to the discretion of the local bishops how to inact or implement that unity. Here the Ecumenical Patriarch has reserved the right of final say for himself and apparently he will have veto power over the decisions of the Episcopal Assemblies.

In his analysis, Fr. Ted also points out that there is a fundamental understanding about church and state relations in the United States that may not be fully comprehended by Old World bishops:

Orthodox bishops wear the garb of imperial Byzantium obvious in the miter they wear. Yet in America bishops do not represent the interest of the state, the state is forbidden from influencing the election of bishops or the policies of a religion. Orthodox bishops however have often acted like national ambassadors to the American government, and seem to love having photo opportunities with American presidents as if they as bishops were in fact government representatives rather than Christian bishops.

Orthodoxy must embrace a totally new attitude toward the new world. Of course one would think at this point in its own history the Ecumenical Patriarch might be willing to consider giving up any imperial pretentions as well as imperial dress and insignias considering their own existence in an officially secular, but de facto Muslim state, in favor of other dress that might be more appropriate to our being disciples of Christ in the non-Byzantine world. Perhaps the Turkish state would not allow such a change in the Orthodox leadership in Turkey and prefers to remind the Orthodox bishops through their dress that they in fact are the last representatives of a defeated empire.

The real question for all Orthodox is whether we will work through the Episcopal Assemblies to assure that Christ is the head of our Church and not just limit headship to men even if canonically correct.


  1. While I agree with the sentiment, I wouldn’t put reform of the episcopacy on the Chambesy EA agenda. We can fight that battle once we get a North American Synod. Right now taking that headon is just going to hit the nail on the head, driving it deeper.

    They understand the difference in America: they don’t care for it. They like titles, fancy clothes, and rubbing elbows.

  2. In all due respect to Fr. Bobosh, for whom I have a lot of respect, he is off point regarding the issue of the presidency of the episcopal assemby, whether the EP can dictate the adgenda and what is to be discussed and whether the EP has retained veto power.

    Until we a unified, the episcopal assembly is a “pan-orthodox” assembly. No one would deny the EP the right to preside at a “pan-orthodox” assembly. Once we are united, the assembly becomes a synod and the first hierarch, whoever that may be, would preside.

    Preparing agendas is no big deal. Someone has to prepare a proposed agenda. There is no precedent that the presiding officer can cram an agenda down anyone’s throat. It will be up to the assembly as a whole to approve and/or amend an agenda. I am reminded of the fourth council (Chalcedon). Leo’s legate presided. Leo’s “Tome” was read. End of discussion per the legate. Not so said the council who then proceeded to examine meticulously Leo’s “Tome” and to debate it before approving it. That is precedent for the assembly deciding on the final agenda and not the chairman.

    I don’t know where Fr. Ted gets the idea of the EP’s veto power. It is not in the doucment. In fact Chambesy agreed that all decisions would be made jointly by the mother churches.

    • “I don’t know where Fr. Ted gets the idea of the EP’s veto power.”

      From the EP. Recall who we are dealing with, the Butcher of Ligonier stills reigns. So far the documents are words on paper. When it is made more, we can breath easier.

      • Isa: I was not refering to what might be in the EP’s heart but rather what is definitely not in the document which Fr. Ted seems to suggest is in the document. What actually is in the document might be more appropriately labeled as “each of the mother churches are reserving unto themselves a veto power”. Although individual motives (desires) of individual mother churches (so-called by them) and their individual hierarchs’ motives (desires) might be viewed with warranted historically grounded suspicions, Chambesy itself cannot be viewed as anything other than all alleged parents are exercising temporary joint custody over all alleged offsprings.

        • LOL. The problem is that all pendente lite custody decisions are temporary, like the dampness of wet cement.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    Somewhat tangential to this discussion is the recent events in Fargo, ND, where Fr Oliver Herbel was thrown out of his parish and the parish itself disbanded by thuggish tactics. I won’t go into the details as you can read them for yourself on This brings to mind two immediate points regarding the AOCNA:

    1. it’s not “self-ruled” in any meaningful sense, and
    2. the bishops are not ordinaries but auxiliaries in fact if not in law, otherwise -Philip could not have gotten away with this action.

    What does this have to do with Chambesy and the upcoming Episcopal Assembly? Mainly that my initial fears are being confirmed daily by events. As long as there exist jurisdictions which are nationalistic (that is, colonies of the Old World) they will continue to hold to their security blankets, then injustices like what happened to Fr Oliver will continue.

    This is not to say that in an autonomous diocese of an autocephalous church (i.e. the Diocese of the West of the OCA) injustices like this can’t happen, it’s just that there are mechanisms within independent Holy Synods that can deal with things like this. Presently, there is no one mechanism of final authority within North America for priests to file grievances. It’s all kicked back overseas whose functionaries are dependent upon their American cash-cows.

    I fear (and i REALLY want to be wrong on this) that after 5 or 10 or 15 years, we will all regret not accepting Metropolitan +Jonah’s offer graciously extended time and time again since his election last year (to the AOCNA twice in fact). That is, that all bishops in North America were invited to come and “assemble” with the Holy Synod of the OCA, under his presidency, but each maintaining their unique independence, all as an interim measure. After all, +Jonah did say that the “duty of the OCA was to disappear, to be replaced by a much larger, and much more unified North American church.” (paraphrase)

    In the meantime, we must do all we can to help Fr Oliver and his newly-reconstituted mission. Please get the word out. If 1000 Orthodox Christians sent $10 that would be $10,000, enough to help him and his family get by for 2 or 3 months. If 10,000 sent $10, that would be $100,000, and if 10,000 sent $100, that would be $1,000,000. Please consider helping him.

  4. George Michalopulos :

    P.S. Regarding my request re Fr Oliver Herbel and the plight of his mission, the address of his church is:

    Holy Resurrection Church
    1845 16th St South
    Fargo, ND

  5. George Michalopulos :

    OK, back to Chambesy:

    in re-listening to Fr Mark Arey’s interview, I was struck by two things that called to mind the unseriousness and insincerity of the idea of an episcopal assembly, at least for North America. One of his comments was illogical, the other was disingenuous; if I didn’t know any better, almost deceitful. Here they are (what follows are paraphrases of his words):

    1. Here’s the illogical one: We Americans should not say that “foreigners only met at Chambesy, there are no foreigners in Orthodoxy.” True enough. I have no complaint with that statement, we are all children of God. However, since there are “no” foreigners in Orthodoxy, how come American bishops weren’t invited? That’s like considering your paternal first cousins your “real” cousins but not your maternal ones. Cousins are cousins. If nothing else, this shows a lack of consideration, that the North American bishops are “real” bishops.

    2. Here’s the ahistorical/disengineous one: He said that we shouldn’t be too “hung up on autocephaly,” after all, “the Ukrainians haven’t had an autocephalous church in 1000 years.” He was either misinformed or being deceitful. That statement is simply not true, the Ukrainians had an autocephalous church for 400 years, from 1449 AD, when +Jonah was proclaimed Metropolitan of Kiev and the Church of the Rus’ obtained autocephaly. Although the Russian principalities were not politically united, their church was. About 100 years later, these lands became united under Tsar Ivan IV. It was only after the horror of 1918, when Ukraine was made a semi-autonomous province of the USSR, that it could be rightly said that it did not possess an autocephalous church.

    This reminds me of an article which Fr Arey wrote for The Orthodox Observer about a year ago regarding the acquisition of the Palestinian parishes in the US. He wrote, that they were to be incorporated into the GOA which was “the canonical jurisdiction of the EP in the US.” This of course leaves out all other jurisdictions under the EP, the UOC, ACROD, and the two Albanian parishes. Either a stunning lack of discernment on his part or just sloppy logic.

Care to Comment?