Met. Jonah Keynote Address – The Episcopal Assembly

Metropolitan Jonah

From Ancient Faith Radio

Metropolitan Jonah addresses the assembly with his perspective on the Episcopal Assembly process currently underway in North America.

Listen here:


  1. Wesley J. Smith :

    I just listened to + Jonah’s speech about the recent Council. He was, as he tends to be, quite candid in stating that the OCA’s autocephaly is under vigorous attack. But he was wonderfully humble in his statement that the original granting of my church’s autocephaly was irregular, appropriate for the time, he said, but the times have changed. He appeared willing to erase the OCA as an independent church in the cause of greater Orthodox conciliar unity, which I took to be a willingness to merge into an American Orthodox Church that would be truly autocephalous with that status recognized by the entire Church. He said that the OCA may have to decide whether to be alone, or become absorbed into that something else.

    Put that way, I would not want to be apart from the Catholic and Apostolic Church. If the OCA is a thorn in the side of large segments of the Church, I am more than willing to see it go–at the proper time and in the proper fashion–in the cause of a unified American Orthodoxy. It seems to me the Holy Spirit is leading us to just such an American Church.

  2. Wesley,

    I agree, but the tenor of the recent GOA Clergy Laity was Greek, more Greek, have some more Greek by, of and for Greeks.

    Even the Met of Cyprus mentioned that, although he could speak English, and wished to address the Congress in English, he had been ordered by the Ecumenical Patriarch to do so IN GREEK. IN AMERICA.

    Truth is, the OCA’s autocephaly will indeed fold into an independent American Orthodox Church, but it is not likely to take place in the current environment – unless the Antiochians and the OCA put their heads together and get busy working for real unity between themselves, and approach the EA as a single unit.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    John, you are completely correct. In the interest of love and unity (which is a sympton of love and repentance), I would love to see the OCA lose its autocephaly, but only into a larger and more united autocephaly. Otherwise, the current uncanonical situation will be exacerbated.

    All, let’s be honest, the irregularity which His Beatitude talks about was set into motion by the extremely irregular implantation of the GOA by an “irregular” (I hesitate to use the word “heretical”) bishop and has been irregularly run (into the ground some might say) in the interim. Let those of us who are in the GOA be very careful of pots calling kettles black.

  4. You can always find unity in the see of Rome!

  5. You can also find heterodoxy in the see of Rome as well. Unity at the expense of the truth is not true

  6. George Michalopulos :

    I think that’s what I picked up by +Jonah’s statement that a broader unity will not be had if it means that the missionary ethos of the OCA towards America is going to be sacrificed. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Lambrianides’ vision of Balkanized ghetto churches submitting to the GOA while keeping their ethnic peculiarities intact is not what America is about. If we succumbed to this, then Orthodoxy in America will indeed become a withered branch.

    • I’ll say it again: Lambrianides’ vision of Balkanized ghetto churches submitting to the GOA while keeping their ethnic peculiarities intact is not what America is about. If we succumbed to this, then Orthodoxy in America will indeed become a withered branch.

      Indeed, not submitting to the GOA which is under the EP. The EP is heading toward placing himself outside the Church.

      But … do not underestimate the “ghetto churches“.

      Father George Calciu

      We (the cradle orthodox – translater note), hold a very ancient tradition. I look at the American Orthodox. They are very passionate for Orthodoxy, but they’re locking the Holy Tradition. So, in a sense, they are tributary to the Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, or Romanian… tradition, as they do not have that ancestral traditional training, as we do. We stand on a strong rock: the teachings of the Holy Fathers, the ascetic experience of the desert’ monks, the entire Orthodox tradition handed to us in patristic books or by the word of mouth (oral tradition – tr.n.); and all these, regardless of our sins, constitutes a rocky platform, that unshaken ground where our feet may pass on and do not sink, like a boat where Jesus is present. We do not sink because we hold still to tradition. Yes, we are sinners, but God keeps us when we follow Him and the teachings of the Holy Fathers, even though sometimes we fail… But is there someone without sin? Is there someone not been tempted? Who does not dirty his soul with evil thoughts, deeds or lust? But beyond all these failings, we have an unshaking ground.

      This ground is the Orthodox Church, the tradition of the Holy Fathers, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the struggle (experience) of the saints in the wilderness of Thebaida, Sinai…,in our country (Father refers here to Romania, his former country – tr.n.), and the monasteries found everywhere. Having this reaches, we do not sink.

      “If I keep silent, I’ll be no different from unbelievers”

      The following beautiful story is found in the Paterikon (collection of the old sayings of the Desert Fathers – tr.n.): the devil – taking the appearance of a man – came to a very holy monk and asked him: “Are you that monk…I heard off?” “This is him.” “That monk, the liar?” . ” Yes, that’s me.” ” That wicked monk?” “Yes.” “The greedy monk?”. “Yes, indeed.” “The liar who teaches the word of God, but does not live it? ” “Yes , I am one.” “That monk, the heretic?” “No. Such, I am not!”

      So here is how far he would go! He accepted everything that demeaned him, but when he was tempted on heresy, he stood fast and said no. This is where the limit of tolerance is. When that tolerance goes beyond God and the Truth of our Christian faith, it becomes a blasphemy to our Lord and our soul.

      • Wow! Bravo, Fr. George! That is precisely the spirit of an Orthodox Church which is strong in its foundations, though it may be weak in its vessel. And I believe that is the Orthodox Church that Metr.Jonah heads: conscious of all that is earthly and therefore accidental, with eyes on all that is heavenly and therefore essential, substantial and BEYOND NEGOTIATION. Yes, the current autocephaly much derided and controverted as it is (in some quarters) is certainly a bargaining chip to be played to win the prize: participation in a truly viable Autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America. To accept anything less than this certitude as a goal would be a betrayal of our trust in His Beatitude. I wish that the clergy and laity of other jurisdictions would hold their heads to such a high standard.

        • Fr. John,

          You said it very well:

          That is precisely the spirit of an Orthodox Church which is strong in its foundations, though it may be weak in its vessel.

          I do not know if you are aware of the fact that Fr. George Calciu is now with the Lord and with his beloved ‘spiritual father’, the Holy Martyr Constantin Oprisan.

          When I took care of Constantine Oprisan in the cell, I was very happy. I way very happy because I felt his spirituality penetrating my soul. I learned from him to be good, to forgive, not to curse your torturer, not to consider anything of this world to be a treasure for you. In fact, he was living on another level. Only his body was with us – and his love. Can you imagine? We were in a cell without windows, without air, humid, filthy – yet we had moments of happiness that we never reached in freedom. I cannot explain it.

          The contemporary martyrs suffered at about the same time when America began to get caught up in the whole sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle.

          The new generation receiving an education on how to treat animals properly, on how to avoid animal violence from happening, as well as humane treatment of farm animals might prove to be sensitive to the suffering of these martyrs.

          Many of them were very young, university students, with a solid Christian education received in their families. They were protesting against the introduction of materialism into the schools and the forbidding of the students to go to Church. I believe that it was God’s plan to allow this to happen and to have more and more of their stories translated into English.

          What we should learn when reading the lives of these new martyrs is that the political fight is just the surface, the real fight going on is “the fight between good and evil; between God and the devil”.

          Much of this political fight is going on here in America. It is very important to be aware of the dimensions of this fight.

          Only later did we understand that there were mystical implications. All these people were just instruments of the devil. After the actions had stopped, some of us understood. But, we were too involved with the political fight before we were in prison. Even if I and others protested against the introduction of materialism into the schools and the forbidding of the students to go to Church, I think the majority of our effort was being involved in the political fight. However, little by little, under the terror, the torture, and suffering, we understood that this political implication was just the surface. In fact, it was a fight between good and evil; between God and the devil. When we understood that, we started praying even more than before. God sent us illumination. We understood it and we were aware of the nature of this fight. We understood that it was not [a name] who was our enemy—it was the devil. He tried to destroy our soul.

          The new martyrs experienced that the worst thing was to be tortured in order to blaspheme God.

          Father George: One cannot pray during those moments. But during the night, when everyone goes to bed, you gain your strength and find your repentance. You pray for this. It is not complicated. You say, “God forgive me!” It is enough for your soul to regain its strength and resist one more day… and one day more… and one day more. Not to die. Not to go crazy. Many of us went mad. But just to say, “Forgive me, God.” You knew very well that the next day you would again say something against God. But a few moments in the night, when you started to cry and to pray to God to forgive you and help you was very good. Many times we were quite angry with God—if you exist why did you allow this? But there was one moment when the mercy of God would come upon you and you could say, “God forgive me; God help me.” It was enough to help you. For another day, another day, another day.
          We were freed and we were very happy to be free, but we had a kind of nostalgia about the prison. And we could not explain it to others. They said we were crazy. How could you miss prison? Because in prison, we had the most spiritual life. We reached levels that we are not about to reach in this world. Isolated, anchored in Jesus Christ, we had joys and illuminations that this world cannot offer us. There are not words to express exactly the feeling we had there. Many times we were not happy at all, but there were moments of happiness there.

      • Geo Michalopulos :

        Eliot, your point is very well-taken. As I’ve gotten older I have indeed softened my attitudes towards the ethnic churches and their American eparchies. At least I can see that however irregularly, however uncanonically, however haphazardly, they did succeed in implanting Orthodoxy in a new world in which there was no patronage or direction for doing so (at least from within their own communities –the Metropolia was already here, but that’s another story). They did it even though they were strangers in every way to this land. And desperately poor to boot. That’s not chump change, that’s more than I could have done given the circumstances.

        So yes, their experience needs to be honored. My critique however was not with their efforts but with their foreign overlords who should –and do–know better. Who, let’s be honest, use their American eparchies as cash cows.

  7. Dean Calvert :

    Hi Everyone,

    Y’know..I’ve been thinking about something.

    It’s interesting to observe how everyone’s positions on a “united American Church” have changed with the advent of an Episcopal Assembly.

    Think about it…the GOA, despite comments voiced thru Fr. Mark Arey & Co, have gone from absolute opposition to any unification of an American Church, to grudging acknowledgement that the situation needs addressing. It’s also interesting that their “solution” to the situation includes ANYTHING but an autocephalous church (Semi autonomous and autonomous churches have been suggested).

    The OCA, on the other hand, in the person of Met. Jonah, has essentially said (as someone stated above) “Yes…perhaps the situation was not handled the correct way” has humbly acknowledged errors and has stated that they would gladly set aside the autocephaly of the OCA if it was an impediment to the establishment of a new, autocephalous American Church.

    I’m suggesting this approach – I’m for a united, autocephalous American Church..period. That, to me, is defined as “locally elected bishops, sitting in synod”.

    If the Episcopal Assembly wants to pursue that – then I’m all for it. Until then, I’m not falling in love with, or opposing the Episcopal Assembly process – I’m for reserving judgment (and support) for such an Assembly. And in the meantime, I’m for moving full speed ahead toward the goal-line.

    Does that make sense to anyone else?

    It seems to me that this is as simple as “Keep the main thing, the main thing.”

    Best Regards

  8. If the comments here are right, what will probably happen is either the U.S. become united as one large diocese (less likely) of Constantinople or, more probably, as an autonomous church under Constantinople, with one synod but committees for the strongly ethnic groups, mostly the newly-arrived legal immigrants and their first and second generation descedents. Also, probably there will be agreements concerning support of the respective ethnic patriarchates, so no one will see their cultural and financial ties severed.

    • George Michalopulos :

      If this is so Fabio (for the sake of argument), then what is the difference between what we have now? Either scenario would spell disaster for the American Church as it bespeaks a complete unseriousness.

      • Well, it would be different in that it would be one institution instead of many and at least in the middle-to-long term would solve the current episcopal redudancy that exists in many areas.

        There are only three models of unity:

        1) To become one big diocese;

        2) To become an autonomous church;

        3) To become an autocephalous church;

        I agree that (3) is the most desirable option. I suppose, though, that not few abroad have a very strong desire for (1). I’m just guessing that the middle-ground decision will be (2).

        Concerning option (3) which I, too, favor. I think that not only financial, but also cultural and political reasons drive people to not want to see an autocephalous church in America. They probably fear that current support would finish and also that American culture could choke their respective cultures. Also many of the mother-churches are in less than desirable political conditions. It is not at all surprising that the only Patriarchate which is willing to accept autocephaly and in fact already did was the MP, the one with (today) less political problems at home. These political hardships play an important part, since the “American branch” is like having a straw above the water so you don’t drawn. When people suggest autocephaly, it sounds like taking that away for them, I suppose.

        Maybe those who support the autocephaly should come up with a clear proposal guaranteeing that the current cultural, political and financial ties will not be severed, that English will be suggested but not imposed, that “motherland” traditions will be kept and respected. Of course a clause like “we will keep supporting the mother-churches as long as it does not harm interal finances” should be added, but the fact is that the concerns of this brethen has to be addressed and not shunned. After all, they *will* be part of the American flock.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Fabio, the original Ligonier Statement (1994) said all that you propose and more. It was the gold standard of American autocephaly.

        • I can’t imagine how anyone would imagine, based on OCA historical example, that anything like an “English Only” rule would apply to any future American Autocephalous Church to which we were party. To posit such betrays an ignorance of the latitude always expressed in OCA liturgical life. Even the Calendar Issue is not a credible concern, outside of minority cases of contention e.g. EPA). The Western Diocese, from whence our Metr. comes, offers old and new calendars, English, Romanian, Bulgarian, Slavonic and other languages. This language issue is a straw man.

  9. It doesn’t seem likely to me that ROCOR will have anything to do with a jurisdiction created by the EC, even if the creation of such a diocese was aided by many of the jurisdictions presently in this country. I can see a situation where, in the event that an EC jurisdiction is created, many traditionally minded parishes will seek to be apart of ROCOR. In the best circumstance ROCOR becomes an umbrella for all traditional parishes. I really don’t think the split in this country is between jurisdictions as much as it is between traditionally minded and the modernist.

    First post. I am not a part of ROCOR by the way.

    • THe way I see it, coming from the West, is that ROCOR and the OCA have more in common than any other two jurisdictions. Maybe it doesn’t look that way in Jersey City. But Western Diocese OCA life will eventually come to be seen as the norm because of its fidelity to the best of our Tradition. Hewing close to the center of tradition helps make a better case for merger by allowing trust to develop.
      Look how the suggestion of renovationism and ecumenism associated with SVS, no matter how spurious the charges may be, prevents trust from forming. But all these issues can be resolved by a Church in prayer.

      • Good point, Father. I agree, the OCA and ROCOR have the most in common, and I think the best thing that could happen to speed Orthodox unity in this country is the OCA and ROCOR at least moving toward reconciliation. I do buy into the “unity myth” of the Church in this country under Saint Tikhon. An OCA/ROCOR renconciliation would, in my mind, erase the fog which prohibits the Russian missionary roots of this country from being seen clearly. I think it would also point the way to eventual unity among all the Orthodox. My two cents anyway.

        • Scott Pennington :

          The OCA and ROCOR have much in common with respect to the origins of their respective practices (both from the Slavic tradition). However, with respect to their actual average level of orthopraxis, the OCA is closer to the AOCNA. ROCOR is more like the Serbian Orthodox or even the Old Calendar Greeks (except that ROCOR does not see it as an issue warranting schism).

          The unity I would most like to see is OCA/ROCOR (with ROCOR practices increasing in prevalence). However, the one that seems less of a stretch given current practice is OCA/AOCNA.

          • Private orthopraxis does determine religious identity as does liturgical praxis. The two are closely intertwined and inextricable. Weak liturgical piety (effectively griped about on our OCA clergy list recently by Fr Andrew) minimizes the special character of Orthodoxy and diminishes our witness. But then the almost mechanistic legalism of some pieties is repugnant (to me, an SVS grad). But then I have been in OCA parishes as just as ‘old world’ as any Serb or ROCOR parish.

            WHat is the ‘average’OCA or AOCNA or ROCOR parish like? I think there is so much variety of praxis out there that it’s hard to generalize. We have to also admit that along with what appears to be very strict enforcement of canonical rules in some quarters comes a high degree of nominal Orthopraxis. What we want to promot is a maximal, humane expression of the faith in a joyful resurrectional key which is neither a ‘dry biscuit’ not a gloomy penance.

          • Scott Pennington :

            “I think there is so much variety of praxis out there that it’s hard to generalize.”

            Yes, that’s a problem. From what I understand and have observed, usually ROCOR parishes have no pews, most all the women cover and the genders are separated. Except for no pews, I have not been in an OCA parish that has these characteristics. However, I’m sure they exist. I just think ROCOR parishes are much more likely to operate that way. That’s what I mean by “average”.

            “What we want to promote is a maximal, humane expression of the faith in a joyful resurrectional key which is neither a ‘dry biscuit’ not a gloomy penance.”

            I agree with you. We need both orthopraxis and “maximal, humane expression of the faith in a joyful resurrectional key”, not one or the other. Otherwise we are saying that traditionally Orthodoxy has always been a “dry biscuit” and/or “gloomy penance”.

            I’m glad we’re on the same page, Fr. John

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