The American Orthodox Institute has published a new paper on Orthodox unity by George Michalopulos that examines the historical usage of the title “metropolitan,” the role of the metropolitan in Church administration, and the “crucial” pastoral duty defined in the Divine Liturgy as “rightly dividing the Word of [God’s] Truth.”
In “E Pluribus Unum: One Church From Many?” Michalopulos takes it a step further. He offers a “sketch” of how an American Orthodox Church might be structured along traditional lines. In a unified American Orthodox Church, for example, the Archbishop of Washington would be the primate of the American Church and also carry the title of Patriarch.
Rather coincidentally, AOI published “E Pluribus Unum: One Church from Many?” just a day after the Very Reverend Archimandrite Dr. Elpidophoros Lambriniadis delivered his speech “Challenges of Orthodoxy in America And the Role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” at Holy Cross seminary. The Ecumenical Patriarchate sees unity as “submission to the First Throne of the Church, that is, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
In sharp contrast, Michalopulos offers a very particular vision:
… bishops, priests, theologians, and laymen must request an independent unity that is free of foreign constraints. This first phase of unity may proceed on several different fronts. The bishops who make up SCOBA can certainly meet more regularly and request the convocation of an all-American synod. Priests on the local level can meet with their counterparts regularly and receive from their parish councils the resources necessary to consolidate operations. Cities that have bishops can request that the resident bishop serve as the president of the local Orthodox ministerial association. Laypeople must likewise apply their talents and experience to the cause of unity. Lawyers will be needed to help draw up diocesan incorporations. Accountants and financiers will be needed to assemble strong, enduring, transparent financial structures. Medical doctors and bioethicists can be appointed as permanent advisors to and members of episcopal councils, advising bishops about the ethical implications of current and developing medical technologies. The demand must be from the “bottom up” as much as from the “top down.” The universal call for unity cannot abate.