Will the Assembly of Bishops Lay a Foundation for Unity? Why is our Geographic Church in America Subject to Patriarchates Abroad Whose Actions Appear to be Obstructing Unity?

Mandate
The Assembly has been established in accordance with the Decision of the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, convoked in Chambésy, Switzerland, June 6-12, 2009, at which met representatives from all the universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox churches. These representatives recognized substantial canonical “anomalies” in the organization and life of the Church in these regions, and realized that, though these anomalies had arisen from specific historical circumstances and pastoral needs, they nonetheless present a number of serious problems for the faithful; moreover, they give an appearance of disunity in the one holy Church. As such, these representatives unanimously agreed to the formation of the assemblies of bishops to heal, as quickly as possible, these anomalies. – Source

Purpose
The purpose of the Assembly of Bishops of North and Central America is to preserve and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church by helping to further her spiritual, theological, ecclesiological, canonical, educational, missionary and philanthropic aims. To accomplish this, the Assembly has as its goals: i) the promotion and accomplishment of Church unity in North and Central America; ii) the strengthening of the common pastoral ministry to all the Orthodox faithful of this region; and iii) a common witness by the Church to all those outside her. In addition, the Assembly has as an express goal iv) the organization of the Church in North and Central America in accordance with the ecclesiological and the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church.  – Source

Questions
Since 2009, what have representatives of the universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox churches done to respond to the efforts of the Assemblies of Bishops in the twelve Bishops’ Assemblies throughout the world?

During its first meeting in 2010, the Assembly of North and Central America “… requests to partition the present region of the … Assembly of North and Central America into two distinct regions of the United States and Canada, as well as to merge Mexico and Central America with the Assembly of South America. As a result, some of the Bishops of Mexico and Central America do not attend the North American Assembly, anticipating their joining with the South American Assembly” (Wikipedia). Why after 3 years is there still no response from the Old World Patriarchates?

Isn’t the reticence and unwillingness of the Old World Patriarchates to give freedom of action and negotiation to the hierarchs in North and Central America in conflict with the stated purpose of the Assembly and a clear sign that true unity on all levels (canonical, spiritual and administrative) is not what these Patriarchates desire?

How does civil government politics figure into the equation of Orthodox Church governance beyond the geographical boundaries of the Patriarchates abroad?  Are foreign government interests a major factor in preventing unity in regions like North and Central America?

Orthodox Christian Unity Prize
If an “Orthodox Christian Unity Prize” were offered for ideas and practical steps that could be taken to achieve Orthodox Christian Unity on all levels in America, what would your proposal be to the Assembly of Bishops?

 

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Comments

  1. As a convert to Orthodoxy I am a little irritated at what seems to me chauvinism of national Orthodoxy has towards each other. The Greeks it seems feel they invented Orthodoxy leaving them the right to rule over all others. Modern Greeks have not suffered under the oppression of their faith yet continue yet claim being victim of the past not even understood by most young Greeks. To be Christian is to be Greek. Russian’s do remember. Might not be gentle in their voice, but they do deserve an ear.

  2. Firstly, consider the unity of Faith among the Orthodox Bishops, i.e. Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Secondly, consider that “No two (2) bishops should preside in one City.” In a pluralistic society, one city could be expanded into one country according to prevailing political jurisdiction, i.e. Philippines, Indonesia, India, etc. Such that if there is any qualified Clergy in a given country, then a canonical rule must cover the ordination of a native bishop; for an effective pastoral care and spiritual nurture of the native flock is best ensured with the direct administration of a local bishop, not by a foreign hierarch whose political/cultural background may hamper the growth of the local Church due to political/cultural constraints, and thereby eliminate the problem of phyletism and jurisdictional differences. With the ecclesiastical authority vested upon the native bishop aided by the rapid advancement of global technology of transportation and communication, there is positive hope of a productive care and maintenance of the local flock under the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Out of the local bishops in different countries, immediate concern to consolidate their unity and co-operation can be realized by establishing THE ORTHODOX CONFERENCE OF CANONICAL ORTHODOX BISHOPS (i.e. in the region) SOUTHEAST ASIA, or FAR EAST. With this in mind, the canonical Patriarchates must then increase their canonical consolidation and co-operation giving due respect to St. Ignatius dictum: “Where the Bishop is there is the catholic Church; and the people of God around him.” (paraphrased mine). May the Life-giving Holy Spirit unite in faith and love the Orthodox Hierarchs, Clergy and Laity of the Orthodox Church of Christ Jesus for the glory of God the Father now, forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    • The Patriarchate of Constantinople and Moscow had their chance to prove their sincerity about stemming the “land grab”mentality that has seen both of them planting the flag in country after country at a record pace over the last five years. If they can locate 20 nominally Orthodox laity of Greek or Russian origin in a national capital, they rush in to raise the flag. When they established the Episcopal Assemblies, you correctly noted one key problem – they forgot to include Asia, home of two-thirds of the world’s population, and home of no more than few thousand Orthodox faithful. WHY omit such a huge part of the world? Simple. There was no outcry from faithful clergy and laity protesting the uncanonical practice of ethnophyletism, and neither side was willing to yield. These two COULD have sat down and divided up Asia between them and been done with the problem before lunchtime. Two-thirds of the world would have been canonically normalized instantly.

      The second tell-tale sign they are not serious is that they did not call for an immediate moratorium on moving into territory already occupied by another canonical Orthodox Church. If you want to solve a problem you do two things: 1) stop adding to the problem (moratorium) and 2) solve the easy ones (Asia, with only two jurisdictions involved, and a mere handful of faithful.). They did neither. Episcopal Assemblies are a sop to the faithful clergy and laity who recognize ethnophyletism for the heresy that it is, and want it stopped. There is no intention for following up.

      The biggest culprit is the EP, by far. He should be exercising the spiritual authority of his office by kenosis as did Christ – giving up power and grandeur for the sake of unity. Instead, he appears obsessed with attaining a papal-like position within the Eastern Church. Moscow – to its credit – appears to be adding territory at a frantic pace in preparation for the possibility that the EP will grant itself primacy of authority in the near future, and cause a second Great Schism. At least that is how I read it. If the EP would give up territory, and renounce their ridiculous claims to the whole world under the guise of “barbarian lands,” Moscow would likewise stand down, give up territory, and negotiate a speedy end to the current scandal of worldwide ethnophyletism. As it stands today, this heresy is on the verge of surpassing iconoclasm as the longest-running heresy in the history of the Church.

      Kyrie Elaison!

      • Wasyl Sydorenko says:

        I agree with most of your arguments except want to point out that the so-called ethnophyletism heresy cannot be considered officially a heresy because in 1872 only the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria voted in favour. There was one no show and two voted against the acceptance of this as a heresy. One cannot consider 2/5 a passing vote.The other point is that Moscow will never back off, regardless of what the EP does. Moscow is even prepared to challenge Rome and the rest of the Western World as it had during the Crimean War, the Caucasus Campaign during WWI, etc. It wants the world, period!

      • ted perantinides says:

        AGAIN VERY TRUE.

  3. Barbara Colessides says:

    BECAUSE WE ALLOW A CRAPPY SET OF UPRs AND A STUPID CHARTER by a TURKISH (not Greek, barely Orthodox) Patriarch.

    My proposal? Get the “first among ‘equals’ ” (right!) Patriarchate OUT OF TURKEY – a MUSLIM country! The major problem begins THERE!

    Let’s start there, first!

    • Pauline Costianes says:

      Right on Barbara!
      It has been suggested on more than one occasion to get out of Turkey – it is just land, real estate, that
      which moth and rust consume!!! But you should hear some of the Greeks “Oh if we leave then the Turks
      will really have won”. DUH!!!!
      But if ANY patriarchate should have been first, it should have been Jerusalem – the only place Christ physically
      trod. Not Constantinople simply because it was the capital. How these boys do get “miteritis” – pretensions of
      grandeur. Get over yourselves!!!

  4. I write as author of a book titled, “The Gift of Mystical Insight.” Sadly, I find that our Greek Orthodox Faith — and all of Christendom — has misunderstood that which Jesus tried to transmit. We today know there is something called, mystical insight. This gift is the onset of the mystical state. Jesus’ term for mystical insight was, has been, and is, the Holy Spirit. His term for the mystical state was, has been and is, the kingdom of heaven. To be clear we must understand that mystical insight is also known as the experiences of illumination and enlightenment. They are the same sudden insight that Jesus expeirenced. The mystical state is also called, higher consciousness, ultimate reality, nirvana and Brahman. Keep in mind that some of these terms are used for both the Holy Spirit and the kingdom of heaven.

    We have never had a basis to reach for the higher state of mind. Now, we do! The basis is found in a number of very prominent names who stress the importance of “analyzing the obvious”. Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “It requqires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.” Hegel gave us these words: “Because it’s familiar, a thing remains unknown” Although there are some 8 others that can be quoted, I’ll provide only one more, this one by Gustav Ichheiser: Nothing evades our attention as persistently as that which is taken for granted.

    The secret to the mystical experience and the mystical state which Jesus expeirenced, is in recognizing that though we may know something on the surface, we do not know it intuitively — innatelyt! This is precisely the case with consciousness. We know full well that we have consciousness, but we do not know higher consciousness. Mystics however, have reached that state and I am blessed to have experienced it, thus I can write about it. (I know and can explain why a mystical expeirence occurs).

    Given all the above was never clear and was without basis, religions fragmented. Indeed, they continue to fragment. Our Greek Orthodox faith can perhaps consider the great significance here and can undertake a study. I would certainly help. Once it is understood WHY and HOW a mystical experience is attained and we see there is an unshakeable foundation, we will all turn and choose to “analyze the obvious.” We will know WHY this must be learned individually by each human being on planet Earth.

    I should mention that at age 81 my motive is not money or fame. It is to see a better world for all of us. Yes, we now know how a mystical experience occurs and how it can be gained.

    Respectfullly submitted,
    Emmanuel Karavousanos
    EKaravousa@aol.com

  5. I think that “unity” is less important than the sort of problems that can be a reason to run from one jurisdiction to another.

    Also some seem to preserve ancient traditions small t but still important better than others. Some seem to be more out
    of step with canons than others.

    I do not think we should have unity except in the faith which we already have.

    Unity would likely result in a uniformity or a drive to it as either the next step, or as part of creating it in the first place, which might lose some good things.

    And what if “unity” resulted in a Holy Synod like the one the OCA has had?

    Let’s NOT have “unity.”

    Besides, it is inappropriate. The canonical pattern was one bishop per major city and a metropolitan or patriarch over a larger region, and the corresponding effect here would be a metropolitan per state.

  6. Daniel Maher says:

    Who has the authority to convoke a council?The emperor is no longer around,so nobody will step up to the plate.It is the perfect situation to show you the weakness of the Orthodox church model of organization.
    Right now.I am very disillusioned with the church leadership.I converted from Roman Catholicism ten years ago and have been regretting my decision when I see how mired church leaders are in petty political disputes.Thinking about the state of the church makes me depressed.To outsiders,we appear as a collection of ethnic clubs.
    Yet,the solution is pretty simple-treat each other as brothers,not competitors,and grant the OCA autocephaly on the universal level.
    My late father was a devout Roman Catholic who respected the Orthodox Church greatly.When I started showing an interest in the Eastern Church,he said only ONE critical thing:”they have a weak clergy”.He was SO right!The very definition of weakness in many cases is being intrusted with leading one’s people and being inept at it. On the parish level,Orthodoxy has many strengths,and of course each parish will have it’s own weaknesses.But on a universal,governmental level,the model simply doesn’t work efficiently.

    • Harry Coin says:

      Daniel, Orthodox clergy who serve in parishes do not deserve to be included in the description of those your father termed ‘weak’. Most of them are fathers in fact as well as title. At one time bishops who oversaw diocese (not monasteries) were mostly widowers, men whose wives had died in childbirth or by mishap while the priest (later bishop) was still in his working years.

      Now, owing to advances in medicine these last 100 years, there are almost zero working age pastors who have lost their wives. As you know from the sad events in the Roman Catholic church were also the parish priests are such men, this has led to severe problems. The problem is not with the spirit of the church, as for 400 years the church followed the guidance in the gospel specifying the married to be bishops. Then the leadership changed it thinking the widowers would be excellent leading clergy. Never did they dream such improvements in health would occur.

      So, now, we uphold the letter of the law and are being killed because those in leadership can’t see, for reasons of their own history, we ignore the spirit as to why the rule was adopted. Most who leave the RCC leave for the reason of balance in parish leadership while retaining the greatness of the inheritance. They find in Orthodoxy mostly healthy parish life, except in those places where dubios or inattentive or detached leadership has taken on more of an administrative characater rather than one who models and leads and is the pastor of the pastors, father to the fathers.

      • Daniel Mahet says:

        I want to apologize for the way I presented my views in my previous post.I am sorry if I have offended anyone by saying that my father told me that the Orthodox have a weak clergy.He also said,right afterwards,”but I will tell you one thing,the Orthodox priest knows his parishioners”,meaning that the priest was closer to his flock.
        I get frustrated sometimes with the internal problems in the Orthodox Church,but I am sorry I ever gave the impression that I regret joining it ten years ago.I love the Church and am blessed to have been able to experience the beauty of the liturgy and the grace and truth of her sacramental life.

    • Roy Snyder says:

      I have the same question as Daniel Mahar. Who can call for a Great Council? I also agree with his comments. I am a convert from an evangelical background. Converts are the future of the American Church, not reinforcing Old World cultures.

      • WHO can call an ecumenical council? Answer: the emperor. WHO is emperor today? Answer: we (the laity) collectively are the emperor. The emperor paid all the bills. Who pays the bills now? The laity.

        But we don’t really need a Council to resolve this. We are only responsible for OUR Church, the one in North America. If we DEMANDED that our Bishops do the right thing by beginning immediately to operate as an Autocephalous Church – and cut off their funds until they complied – it would be over by Christmas. It would take some organization, but most of all, it would take Orthodox laity who recognize what is, and what is not, authentic to our Tradition. The current scandalous mess is not authentic to our Orthodox Tradition, and we need to use the power of the checkbook to get it straightened out.

  7. Thomas Jones says:

    No one seems to get it. Orthodox Canon Law is quite clear on this; every Orthodox Church organizes itself in a “territory” unto itself WITHOUT foreign bishop interference. Simple. According to Orthodox Canon Law, + Bart, the Moscow Pat. nor any other “FOREIGN BISHOP” has any authority in North America. Bishops, even Patriarchs, ONLY have authority over their own local territory. Therefore, the answer to unity in N. America has already been given to the American Church. In 1961, SCOBA decided that they would work toward an “AUTOCEPHALOUS” Orthodox Church in N. America and, according to SCOBA minutes, the name of that church would be called, “The Orthodox Church in America.” Fr. Alexander Schmemann made this a reality in 1970; ha was a consultant with all the SCOBA bishops. The Moscow Pat. granted “autocephaly” to the ORIGINAL Orthodox Church in America, the Metropolia, who’s name became, “The Orthodox Church in America.” The Romanians joined the OCA; the Bulgarians joined the OCA; the Albanians joined the OCA, but the Greeks and Antiochians reneged. Fast forward to 1997, the gathering in Ligonier again tried to restart serious unity efforts. + Bart was “incensed” by the effort and forcefully retired Archp. Iakavos and emasculated all the Greek bishops in America. End of any unity efforts. Fast forward again to 2009, + Bart. puts forward HIS OWN solution for unity around the world via Episcopal Assemblies. The problem with this: any and all DECISIONS made by any Episcopal Assembly in any country were up for “review or veto” by + Bart’s council of bishops – in reality, + Bart himself. This is nothing more than the creation of an Eastern Pope. So, one can easily see that the efforts put forward by the Episcopal Assemblies is bogus. How should we in America proceed? Either go back to SCOBA in 1961 and the OCA where ALL the bishops in N. America join it or, create a NEW “autocephalous” Orthodox Church in North America where ALL the bishops join, severing administrative ties with any and all “foreign” bishops as Orthodox Canon Law dictates. Simple! You say, “SCHISM.” No, if all the bishops decide to follow Orthodox Can Law, how can they be wrong?

    • Susan Shelton says:

      What did the Serbian Orthodox Church do re the OCA?

      • Thomas Jones says:

        The Serbs were always forward looking in this country, but their ethnic ties to overseas was stronger. At one point they were ready to join the OCA, but were afraid of even more law suits than they were already dealing with. Even today, the Serbs tend to be unto themselves, but even their Libertyville seminary is empty. They bring more & more from overseas and never progress from their ethnic ghetto. Now, the Antiochians will have a massive immigration to deal with and they’ll probably revert to 1940 needing more Arabic speaking priests.

  8. ted perantinides says:

    to begin ,i would have to say that we greeks are wrong in many ways.greeks gave light to the world but forget to keep some for themselves.just the term” greek orthodox”when used by people is wrong.they are orthodox of greek descent.BIG DIFFERENCE.do you hear Italians say”im italian catholic” in their conversations with non -catholics?Greeks are bringing down the Orthodox church because of their egos and hardheadedness.God help all Orthodox to become stronger in the faith and to get rid of all egomanics that are a hinderence to Orthodox unity.

  9. Steven P. Stamatis says:

    I hate to be a wet blanket about Orthodox unity, but I’ve been observing 14 different jurisdictions trying to find common ground to just begin talking about unity for decades. Every initiative stalls and triggers innumerable obstacles that continue to keep them apart–especially when the Greek Orthodox leadership continues to abstain. One wonders what happened to the trust, the sense of brotherhood among hierarchs of the same faith. The fact is this is not about theology, it’s about TURF; it’s about giving things up; it’s about accommodation; it’s about POLITICS! Orthodox leaders protect their territory and tread gently through the minefield of UNITY. In all fairness to the GOA, perhaps the reason other jurisdictions are passionate for unity is because they know the Greeks don’t want it, and without the Greeks, it WON’T HAPPEN! So, for now, it’s a win-win commitment to display an ecumenical spirit without risk. At the same time let the Greeks take the blame for standing in the way of progress and allow OCL to hold a candle for an Orthodox summit that may never take place.

    Bla, bla, bla! We’re just not noticing the big ELEPHANT in the room. If we look closely we can see two major predators in the water that renders all this talk a moot point. The first Great White is the Catholic Church with its own territorial concerns circling around a wounded and fragmented Orthodox church. Not far in darker waters, lurks a bigger Great White called Islam. And as Will Rogers used to say, “If one doesn’t get you, the other one will.” So, necessity oftentimes makes strange bedfellows. The way i see it, Christian unity stands a better chance of coming to pass than Orthodox unity. In 2007 Roman Catholic and Orthodx hierarchs met in Revenna, Italy and drafted the “Revenna Document” in hopes of ending a 1,000-year separation between East and West. You can’t help but wonder how two faiths officially separated since 1054, can come together and move toward unity quicker than the Orthodox. Pope Benedict envisioned a unified Christian church where the Pope would be the most senior Patriarch among them. Historically, the Bishop of Rome has always considered the first among hierarchs. Scholars agree this is reasonable since Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire. And when Constantinople became the Second Rome, its Bishop enjoyed the second spot in rank. For those ready to protest on theological grounds, this command structure can be found in the third canon of the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. Perhaps the monastics of Greece, whose sentiments about Catholics are less than Christian, should read it!

    For the Patriarch of Constantinople, this union can provide the necessary support for survival around a Muslim world that is poised to destroy the Orthodox faith. It may also use its influence to restore religious freedom in Istanbul, perhaps even restore the Theological school in Halki and even reclaim Hagia Sophia!

    As history shows us time and time again, extraordinary conditions call for extraordinary alliances. The Orthodox faith is almost extinct in the Middle East while the Catholics are taking a beating in Europe. Orthodox unity should have happened 50 years ago with an independent Orthodox church in America. But it didn’t! And now we’re trying to lock to barn door after the horse is gone.

    If politics still rules the day, it seems there’s more hope for a potential East-West alliance. Yes, there’s more light there than wasting time trying to unite Orthodox whose common faith isn’t strong enough to transcend ethnic differences–even for survival. In a sea of almost seven billion people, almost a third are Muslims. And if only 1% follow a RADICAL agenda, that’s over ten million Jihadists hell-bent on destroying Christianity. In the years ahead it’s going to take a great deal more that the Orthodox to preserve Christianity.

    Steven P. Stamatis
    spstamatis&aol.com

    • Roy Snyder says:

      Since the 600s, the East has waited for the church of Rome to save it from Islam and the church of Rome has always stood back and waited fro Islam to finish off the Empire so that Rome could proclaim its preeminence (with the exception of 1204 when the Latin West tried to do it themselves). Let’s not forget, there are many theological differences between Rome and the Orthodox Church.

  10. The issue is pride. “I’m not going to be under those ******** Greeks/Russians/Serbs/Arabs/OCAites/….” Thus, a “solution” is to insist upon a single “local” jurisdiction, but then we have the matter of who gets to be the de facto dominant faction, and that most of the participants in such a formation are beholden to different parental hierarchies.

    • Thomas Jones says:

      Bryan:
      When the OCA formulated, every ethnic bishop was in charge of their own churches, as it is today. All these ethnic bishops sit at a Council (Synod) where they elect their own head. Originally in 1970, + Iakavos was offered to be the Metropolitan of the OCA (Head of the Synod) and bring his churches into the OCA. He didn’t. Met. Philip gave lots of lip service and played Byzantine politics. As long as people continue to send their money overseas to foreign patriarchs, these guys will never let go. Why can’t American Orthodox get it? Similar to what the Founding Fathers of the U.S. had to do with the Declaration of Independence, AND, Orthodox Canon Law is on the side of an independent Orthodox Church in every territory! Really, what could these foreign bishops do if ALL the American bishops united and said, “After Jan. 1st, we are establishing our NEW ‘AUTOCEPHALOUS’ Orthodox Church and severing all administrative ties overseas?” It’s just silly; very, very silly to have foreign bishops telling American churches what they can and can’t do while taking everyones’ money!

  11. And how many parishioners does Bart have in Istanbul? 100?? Say no more. The bishop is where the people are, and if there aren’t people there, then he’s no bishop.

  12. Steve Allen says:

    As a recent (almost 4 years ago now) convert to Orthodoxy, I am not qualified to speak to the topic, but I will do so anyway. Here are a few basic — to my mind incontrovertable — principles to work with:

    First, canonically, traditionally, and liturgically, the bishopric is over a City. Any “higher levels” of honor (e.g. Archbishop, etc.) are based on any “higher levels” of government (e.g. in the USA: County, State/Possession/Territory, Nation). Any reference to ethnicity or nationality of the parishioners to decide who is in charge of whom is phyletism, a defined and anathematized heresy, plain and simple. And any bishop who remains in this condition is a heretic himself. Each of them needs to realize that.

    Second, it is against the Christian ethos (if not canon law as well?) to take a brother to the secular courts. Suing each other is NEVER to be an option.

    Thirdly, no plan needs approval from bishops overseas. Bishops are bishops, and have full power over their diocese’s. Which brings me to….

    Fourth, there is no such thing as an “auxiliary bishop”. A bishop without a diocese is no bishop at all.

    Fifth, there is a dearth of bishops, which is to be remedied. (There are barely enough bishops in the States to cover each state at one a piece, let alone one for every City or even every metropolitan region.) The Bishops should work hard to solve this problem. IMHO, that means re-examining the prospect of having married bishops as the Scripture commands…. However, the Holy Spirit may direct them to other ideas as well.

    Sixth, time is of the essence, and in person gatherings are better. In the ancient times, Synods met until their business was complete, no matter how long it took. They did not meet for three days at a hotel and then postpone everything until the next year. I understand that there is a ton of work to be done. Based on this, I propose that the Bishops and/or their representatives meet for at least a month at a time, if not longer, and that they stay not in luxurious hotels, but in the houses of the faithful who are willing to open their doors. Because of the dearth of bishops, their parishes typically go for nearly a full year without an episcopal visit anyway. One more month isn’t going to kill them.

    Seventh, we need to take all of the ethnic and national identifiers (except one…see the next sentence) off of the parish names, and off of all official letterhead.

    Working with the principles, the Assembly should immediately call for an American Council, with the express purpose of repenting and bringing forth works of repentance — in this case, the unification of the American Church. The first order f business will be the voluntary and immediate reclamation by every bishop present of the simple title “Bishop of {geographical region}”, and the mandatory and immediate denunciation of any “higher” rank.

    The second order of business will be the immediate election from among the now-equal bishops of a Patriarch of America from among these, preferably ordaining the “least among them”.

    The third item will be the immediate re-distribution of the bishops according to geography, as led by the Holy Spirit in unity under the new Patriarch. Various ranks can be re-assigned here. NOTE: Each must be careful to act in humility and love, preferring others before himself, trusting God and being therefore content with whatever his lot may be. (Speaking of which: lots may just be the best way to do this….)

    The fourth item on the agenda will be the immediate declaration of autocephaly (this kind of thing is quite an American thing to do anyway, and will be nicely ironic, I think…..), along with the reassertion by this synod that all who remain in the old way of doing things are heretics on account of their blatant phyletism, and if that means schism then so be it. The Holy Spirit will work it out in the long run; you’ve gotta start somewhere.

    Only THEN, working from this new foundation, should the work of the Assembly continue as it has so far: with committees discussing details and working on the “sausage making”.

    It is a uniquely American thing to “shoot first and ask questions later”, or “get forgiveness rather than permission”. I think it is quite apropos, therefore, and somewhat ironic, that this is exactly what is needed to fix the problems of unity in America. The problem, of course, is that we have a bunch of “bishops” who are not American, and so lack the grit to “git ‘er done!”

    • Roy Snyder says:

      Wow. I find that I agree with most of what you said.

    • Steve Allen’s diagnosis and cure are probably the best of the bunch here. We need one bishop per major city or smaller state. So let’s declare our ourselves autonomous, reassign the bishops and select a patriarch: “Just Do It!” We possess the fullness of the faith, Original Christianity, so let’s show it to the world.
      http://www.Discover-Original-Christianity.info

    • Pauline Costianes says:

      Excellent Steve! Your comment are spot-on! That’s what the Russians did – took autocephaly and told Constantinople to deal with it. But that was one entity and was easier to do than to try the “cat-herding” we’d have to do here with all the jurisdictions,
      and in some cases, multiple jurisdictions among nationalities. We already tried it with the OCA, and the Greeks and Arabs opted out. Withholding the cash from overseas is the way to go! Money talks and kaka walks!!!!

  13. John Cusie says:

    It is time to settle the Julian/Gregorian Calendar dispute. Since 2013 was the year that “New” calendarist had no Apostle Fast, and the Church is not part of this world, it is time to return to the Julian Calendar for all Orthodox dates. All Orthodoxy should be united under the Julian Calendar.

    • Pauline Costianes says:

      That is RIDICULOUS!!! Calendars have nothing to do with theology! God lives outside of time. The Church lives in the world.
      Julius Caesar’s astronomers did the best they could (even the Mayans had a more accurate calendar at the time) and mankind
      has since continued to discover the facts about the earth, which we call science. One of those facts is the discovery as to how
      to calculate the time the earth circles the sun. The “new” (real-world) calendar is what should guide the church as it guides
      the world. The “Flat-Earth” inaccurate Julian calenderist types just make us look like Luddite Orthodox Amish idiots. Get over it!

  14. Joann Sandeen says:

    I was a convert to the Orthodox Church from Protestantism and remained Orthodox for 10 years. After becoming a widow I spent a year in an Orthodox Monastery, thinking I would become an Orthodox Nun.

    I am now a Roman Catholic and have been for 6 years. I am sad at the disunity within the Orthodox Church in America and now, it seems, in the world. I love having a Pope and a Catechism that clearly tells me what the Church universal believes, even if some who call themselves Catholic do not believe everything that the Church holds to be true.

    Some of what I was told ,while Orthodox, concerning what the Catholic Church believes are not correct, although I believe those who taught me were sincere in what they were teaching about the Catholic Church…..just wrong.

    The Catholic Church so respects the Orthodox Church and speaks positively about you whenever the Orthodox Church is brought up, unlike how the Orthodox puts down the Catholic Church when they bring them up. But the Orthodox Church can’t seem to get along with each other, either. All of this makes me very sad.

    The Church (Orthodox & Catholic) is made up of imperfect people, who hopefuly, love God and His Church. I love the Church. I pray for the Church……and myself, a sinner.

  15. John Granger says:

    Revoke the 20th Century Synod that gave us the “new” calendar and a divided Orthodox World, Unify around the traditional calendar of the Church.

    Follow this step with outreach to the various heterodox denominations, i.e., an invitation to return to Orthodox faith in its fullness, not with ecumenical compromise but loving testimony to the Life in Christ.

  16. h, keith mephodie sterzing says:

    Beloved of The Lord,

    The first order of business of the next Assembly of Bishops of North and Central America should be to approve the bishops from Central America joining the Assembly of Bishops of South America. The second order of business should be agreeing on a united church administration in the US and Canada, declaring that Church’s autocephally, and agreeing on a schedule for implementation of this unified administrative structure. These steps are eminently doable. If our bishops remain unified, the old world patriarchates will not be able to block the actions of our Church in the US and Canada! Let’s proceed with due but deliberate speed!

  17. Roy Snyder says:

    The future of the American Church is in their converts. Has the Assembly of Bishops even asked or addressed the needs & desires of the American Converts?

    I think that one of two things need to happen (1) Merge the OCA with the Antioch ArchDse of N.A.. & self declare. or (2) Create a new jurisdiction for American Converts. Let the other Cultural Jurisdictions continue & do their own thing.

    I also have the same question as I read above. Who can call a Great Council? Surely if 7 or 8 leaders would man-up & do the right thing, the other would follow or get out of the way. The Old World needs to look after themselves and let the New World in America, Asia, the Pacific, and even Europe rule themselves.

    The position of the E.P. needs to be settled – is there still one presently (no Empire since the 1200s & no Constantinople since the 1920s). Who holds the position of EP & what are the duties needs to be settled.

  18. Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko says:

    Dear friends,

    Thank you for all of your good work.

    My opinion is that the six Old World patriarchates with ecclesiastical “jurisdictions” in North and Central America do not really want a new fully united, completely self-governing Orthodox Church in North (and/or Central) America for all Orthodox Christians. Neither do the overwhelming majority of Orthodox bishops now serving in these jurisdictions want it. With extremely few exceptions, they all want nothing new or different from SCOBA with one exception: the Old World patriarchates will now be completely in charge of everything that really matters in church life, beginning (and ending) with the selection and appointment of bishops. and their relationship with each other.

    May the Merciful Lord be with us all.

    Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko
    Dean Emeritus
    St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
    Crestwood, NY

    • Wham! That was the sound of Fr. Tom hitting the nail on the head. Except his math is a little off. In addition to Moscow, Istanbul, Romania, Serbia, Antioch, and Bulgaria, we have just this year welcomed yet another old-world jurisdiction to the table – the Patriarchate of Georgia.

      Fr. Tom’s main point is so critical that it outranks all other issues related to American Orthodox Reunification. If he is right, what else is there to talk about? We have a group who has no interest in forging a unified Church, told by their old-world superiors that they need to meet for three days once a year and go through the motions of working towards unity, to keep the theologians, seminarians, clergy and laity, who recognize the current mess as the scandal that it is, at bay. And what do they do for those three days? Issue a bunch of joint statements on all sorts of topics EXCEPT the one they are supposed to be discussing! Four years into this, and we are witnessing the creation of a permanent false front, so that when someone points out how we have capitulated wholesale to the heresy of ethno-phyletism, they can point to this phony construct.

      If they were standing in court and charged with working towards Orthodox jurisdictional unity in North America, would there be enough evidence to convict them? Fr. Tom says “no,” in nearly all cases.

      Fr. Tom, we don’t have the contacts and inside knowledge that you have, but I am sure under the right circumstances you would “turn states evidence” and give up the goods, right? We need to put them “on trial” , and gather and analyze their words and actions so that we can see which of them are honest, and which are faking it. And when a fraud is exposed, the faithful of that diocese need to shut down all funding that keeps him in office. That is the ONLY power the laity have, and if you will recall the recent past history of the GOA Archbishop of New York, it worked so quickly and so totally that it was breathtaking.

      In fact, if we started somewhere and forced just ONE Bishop in ONE jurisdiction out of office because we found him guilty of promoting the heresy of ethnophyletism, it would (God willing) set off an avalanche. And even if it didn’t, we would have done the right thing by getting rid of one bad apple, and we could start to work on the next one.

      • Pauline Costianes says:

        Oh and one more – there is a church in California under the Jerusalem Patriarch – the fallout of a former AEOM parish that was “too Orthodox” and ticked off Saliba.

  19. “Unity” under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constanitnople-becuase that is definitely the “direction” that will be imposed-will render Orthodoxy into a semi-Protestant Eastern Rite “denomination” in the United States. The thought that “foreign Patriarchates” are “obstructing unity: is merely only one more “justification” for the Phanar to step in and ecumenize the few left in the US who have not been, amd impose its will. Of course, the OCL, who wants to “change” the structure of the Orthodox Church into some kind of corporate body, with Bishops “accountable” to some lay “board of directors,” won’t like ANY “unity” that’s imposed if they are not the “movers and shakers.” Which they will not be. The OCL’s only “road to satrisdfaction” here is to form the “First Reformed Orthodox Church,” install its Board of Directors, and ask the WCC for “religious insturction;” or perhjpas one of the Lutheran or Methodixt bodies ….

  20. The EP created these “Assemblies of BIshops” all over the non-Orthodox world (the “diaspora,” the “barbarian lands.” The EP has cleraly and vociferously stated on many occasions that it alone has sole jurisdiction over the “diaspora.” Anyone who thinks the Assembly of Bishops meetings will lead to a “United Self Governing Orthodox Church of America” is suffering delusions.

  21. Diomedes Damianos says:

    You err to desire separation from the Ancient Patriarchates — it doesn’t occur to you that now you are creating just one more ethnicity. So now you prefer an American ethnicity to the exclusion of your ancient heritage, and are in reality practitioners of a new ethnocentrism — and you have become proud American ethno-centrists! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me and us, the sinners.

    • Roy Snyder says:

      My “Ancient Heritage” is America. I’m not Greek, I’m not Russian, I’m not Middle Eastern. I’m German, Irish, Cherokee, & who knows what else. European side has been here since the late 1600s. Convert to Orthodox Christianity. And, yes, I desire to be separated from the Old World Patriarchs — nice people, stay on speaking terms, help them out from time to time, have them for a visit. They don’t want Americans to make them a colony & we don’t want to be theirs.

  22. Iyad Jabbour says:

    It will always be the biggest shame in history if the Orthodox Church in the USA doesn’t become one. Q: Those who consider themselves bishop and represents the Master in the Liturgy, why are they attending meetings if the problem is in them?

    I am an Antochian. i am very proud of it. But I live in the USA and want to see an American Patriarchate. Enough stupidity and enough making fun of us. Those ho think themselves better than us and live in their fortresses better look what the people want.

    Also I don’t care for a Greek coming from Greece who wants a Greek church. The same for an Antiochian, Russian or so on. They can’t decide our life. The problem with Americans is that they have no patriotism. People who come from the outside should respect our land. To tell you the truth I will never be able to understand praying in English as I do in Arabic. But that will never be an excuse.

    The problem is with the Americans themselves. It’s the same problem we have with Spanish.

    And also I want to add something. We should use the Byzantine hymns and not that western thing. It’s even so bad. Why do we have it? We have the best hymns in history and then we go down using some bad music? the Russian didn’t have that before peter the Great.

    • Pauline Costianes says:

      Your last paragraph is merely your subjective taste in music. Mark Bailey, a fantastic OCA musician, never tires of telling how in one parish he did a Byzantine piece during Pascha. The more western types asked why he did such a sad dirge-like piece, and the Eastern types thanked him because it was so beautiful. There are many musical styles in the church, all of them relevant and historical and worthy.

      • Pauline -.perhaps it actually shows a lack of understanding and education of what has evolved within our Church over the centuries by those western types?

  23. Kitty Matchica says:

    My comment would be concerning Orthodox Unity is that our leaders should encourage the reading of the bible on a daily basis to their congregations, and that they should do the same by requesting their priests to form active and spirit-filled Bible Study classes. If they did they would understand Christ’s teaching concerning the unity of the Church.

  24. profdemetri says:

    Whoever you are in your desire for separation from the Ancient Patriarchates, you appear rather defiant in your railings against our Mother Churches. And some of you are quite vehement in your protests, so much so that you are now following in lockstep according to the pattern of Protestants. For in essence you are partitioning yourselves into a new denomination of your own unOrthodox creation, which you have denominated “Unity.”

    Moreover, you err in your self-deception — for it does not occur to you that you are now creating just one more ethnicity. So now you prefer an American ethnicity to the exclusion of your ancient heritage, and are in reality practitioners of a new ethnocentrism — and you have become proud American ethno-centrists!

    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me and us, the sinners.

  25. Rev. Chris Margaritis says:

    Be careful what you ask for. I can’t speak for all the ancient Patriarchates, or the divisions and pride that so many cite here. Clearly the Church from its onset copied and followed the divisions and offices of the Roman empire, perhaps wrongly but so. But by the grace of God, that very empire become Christian, and its emperor built the city of Constantinople on the concept of that new faith. There is no other city founded in the name of our faith, no parallel in Christian history of this magnitude. The word “Christendom” has no real meaning outside of the context of Constantinople. For a millennium, Constantinople was considered the “new Jerusalem”. In all that time it was believed to be protected by the Theotokos herself. These are not attempts at ethnic bragging, this is historically how the Christians that fathered us actually thought. Those now under the Patriarch of Constantinople enjoy (prideful or not) primacy in the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church. To abandon this ancient Patriarchate for a new autocephaly would put us at the very bottom of the hierarchical list. I doubt our American pride would take well to that.

    But all that is academic. To put it in real terms, after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden sent an ultimatum to the USA. Surrender to Allah. Of course we never took that seriously, but our response was hard and violent. Had his attacks continued, we would have responded even more heavy handed. Regardless, lives were lost and considered a worthwhile sacrifice. We would NEVER surrender NYC or the smallest plot of land to such demands. Well, neither will those who remain in Constantinople surrender the last inch of that venerable and historic city and what it represents to Orthodox Christianity without first surrendering their lives. That is a fact.

    So those of you wanting, praying for and even demanding autocephaly, right or wrong, for better or for worse, should we ever do so we’d soon discover that not only would our voice severely diminish in worldwide Orthodoxy, but we would in effect pass a death sentence on our ancient Patriarchal see, and the man who holds that office…or does anyone really think the Turks or other Muslims of the middle-east would spare them once their American support was gone? Our conscience would forever pang in regret.

    I understand the needs we face, and the desire to better ourselves, but would we? And at what price? Have we really thought this through? Is the Lord really concerned that we aren’t governed by the likes and power of the papacy…seriously? Those who crave that are in the wrong denomination. It’s not that our pastors are weak, but that our people are strong; hardened by centuries of martyrdom, to this point in millions upon millions. In the wake of that, we are casually debating who is rightfully in charge? [2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9] The answer is clear to any believer. No man. Only the Lord Himself. And while Satan has us bickering and dying from top to bottom, why add to the fray? Must we too now unravel our history any more than the world has already done? None of this debate is even remotely significant by comparison. We point to the pride we perceive in the Patriarchates, but do we see the log in our own eye?

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