Some broad reflections on the SVS seminar

First of all, thank you to St. Vladimir Seminary, St. Andrew House, and Orthodox Christian Laity for sponsoring the webcast. Thank you to Ancient Faith Radio, and Executive Producer Dean Calvert and crew for making the webcast possible.

I saw perhaps a quarter of it. The first seminars dealt with historical themes, important and interesting (had to concentrate though) but I won’t comment on them here. I found the lecture on the “myth of autocephaly” very interesting, particular how the narrative of how autocephaly was obtained shapes contemporary self-understanding in the autocephalous Churches. This deals more with how historical narrative functions in a community, than the veracity of the actual narrative. (Of course, veracity is contentious term since history is, at bottom, narrative. Nevertheless, some history is “truer” than others, witness the attempts by the Marxists and other culture barbarians to rewrite it.) Back to the subject…

Dr. Paul Meyendorff, professor of Liturgical Theology at St. Vladimir Seminary, clearly understands the power of the internet. It gives voice to the laity and makes it impossible to hide malfeasance are two points he brought out. It’s a qualified good of course, but the Church hierarchy must come to grips with the fact that business as usual just doesn’t work anymore. Reference was made to a previous discussion that touched on this topic but I did not see it. Dr. Meyendorff wants others to grasp this as well. (We at AOI get it.)

Mr. Charles Ajalat, Chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese was perhaps the most outspoken but voiced ideas many people say privately. It was good to hear them expressed in a public forum. Some of them include reestablishing a married episcopate because in some cases we are not drawing the level of leadership talent that we need. He was more critical of the Chambesy conference than AOI has been because it offered a structure (the Bishop assemblies) that too closely mirrored SCOBA and thus could become ineffectual, another roadblock to unity. Fr. Mark Arey from the GOA countered his assertion by listing programs under SCOBA sponsorship such as OCMC (the mission program), IOCC (world aid), OCPM (prison ministry) and so forth, but Mr. Ajalat replied that these programs arose largely through the private initiative of priests and laity, not hierarchical leadership. He is correct in this.

Fr. Mark Arey, Ecumenical Officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, mentioned the importance of unity despite the differences. This is a good caution. However, not much more was offered beyond this. I was expecting some comment on the Orthodox-Hellenism-Greek historical apologetic, especially since it appears that the Chambesy conference effectively repudiated it. Constantinople’s position is that unity in America requires that all jurisdictions come under Constantinople, so I thought at least the idea would be defended but not a word on it.

I missed Met. Jonah’s talk unfortunately. Had a hospital call in the morning and then completely forgot about it until it was over. However, Met. Jonah made a comment in the discussion portion I have never heard a hierarch make: The Antiochians and the OCA should “come together” as a first step in establishing an American Church. Bold idea, especially coming from someone in leadership.

As mentioned at the outset, I only caught bits and pieces of the three-day seminar. Still, you could sense the shift in momentum towards an American Orthodox Church that seems to be growing. The next conference on Orthodox Unity will be sponsored by Orthodox Christian Laity in October. Info posted separately.


  1. Is there any chance that the talks were recorded so we could listen to them online?

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I don’t know. I’ll find out.

  3. Tamara Northway :

    By Tuesday the complete video will be available on and Ancient Faith Radio will have the audio recordings available this evening (6/19).

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :
  5. Thank you!

  6. Dean Calvert :

    Dear Fr. Hans,

    The “executive producer” was a bit of a spoof, played on me by my fellow St. Andrew House board member in the credits. It was a group effort, directed from above, as is usually the case at St. Andrew House. We have a small but creative board, one that doesn’t back away from anything in the pursuit of unity (including our president, Abp Nathaniel).

    We thought the timing of the conference would be propitious, given the Pan Orthodox conference in Switzerland (originally planned for Cyprus) and the upcoming AOCA clergy laity meeting. In the meantime, a meeting of the Holy Synod in Damascus just happened to occur.

    The metropolitan’s comments certainly did not disappoint – particularly the comment about moving forward with the AOCA. To be honest, I think he is sincere about this, and I think we all need to help him. As Charles said, “this needs to happen both from above and below.” I think the metropolitan was absolutely correct…we need to move forward with a coalition of the willing. Time’s a wastin.

    The significant OCL presence at the meeting should also be noted. Deacon John Zarras, without whom this would not have happened, Charles Ajalat, and Archbishop Nathaniel are all current or past OCL board members. Our sincere thanks go also to the fine St. Vladimir’s staff who greeted our offer with enthusiasm, and patiently accommodated us as we bumbled our way thru it. I’m sure they wondered on more than one occassion, “What did we get ourselves into with these folks?” Particular thanks to Fr. Chad Hatfield and Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov. Great people to work with all. I’ll tell you this – the seminary is in GOOD hands!!! These are good people.

    The internet data was interesting. We had visitors from 25 countries around the world including Russia, Greece, Finland, Syria, Egypt, Macedonia, Serbia, and Romania. In total almost 3000 visitors viewed the conference. At any one time, there were normally 140+ viewing the webcast. This does not include the AFR audience. If our past experience is any guide, the downloads of the program during the upcoming weeks will be many multiples of that.

    Finally, I think it was interesting (and no coincidence) that on the same weekend, the first webcast was occurring at St Vlad’s, while in Oklahoma City John Maddex of Ancient Faith Radio and the AOCA was conducting the first media “immersion” of a city into Orthodoxy. For details, people should go to

    I think St. John Chrysostom (coincidentally the patron saint of John Maddex) was probably looking down on us, and saying, “Well done guys.” Or perhaps, “It’s about time!!!” LOL

    In any case, I think the American saints were certainly smiling.

    Thanks for your continued encouragement and support.

    Dean Calvert
    St Andrew House
    visit us online at

  7. George Michalopulos :


    I wish I could have been there. Keep up the good work.


  8. Dean Calvert :

    While everyone else is paying attention to the metropolitan’s speech, I’d like to make sure everyone heard this response, which occurred just at the end of the Q&A period…it can be heard on the AFR recordings:

    “To respond especially to Fr. Deacon John. I think one of the most important things that could happen as a step toward the unity for the entire Orthodox community in America would be for the OCA and the self ruled Antiochian Archdiocese to come together into a single synod of bishops, a single church so that we can pursue together that common mission which is, for most of our churches, is basically indistinguishable…we have a common mission, our churches are virtually indistinguishable from one another…neither one of us…is focused on the particular ministry…and these ministries to ethnic communities are very important and we’ll not minimize the importance of those ministries…but the kind of missionary outreach ministry which is done by the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Archdiocese is virtually identical in its scope and it’s form and we need to completely unify our efforts.”

    Personally, I thought these were the boldest comments of the entire conference.

    Best Regards

  9. George Michalopulos :

    absolutely. let’s get cracking.

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