[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] A Possible Scenario – “The Celebration of the First Anniversary of the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of the United States of America” - Orthodox Christian Laity

A Possible Scenario – “The Celebration of the First Anniversary of the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of the United States of America”


[Text of a presentation delivered by His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel at the Orthodox Christian Laity Conference, October 20, 2001]

“The Celebration of the First Anniversary of the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of the United States of America & The Establishment of the Patriarchate”

It has been one year since the recognition of the autocephaly of The Orthodox Church of The United States of America. The Church now has a unified voice in the person of His Holiness, The Patriarch, and a common forum of action, The Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church of The United States of America and The National Assembly of The Orthodox Church of The United States of America.

In English, Greek, many Slavic tongues, Arabic, Albanian, Romanian, and native languages, chanting of the Service of Thanksgiving as mandated by His Holiness, the Patriarch, in conjunction with the Holy Synod of 51 archbishops and bishops, has been offered up to God without interruption since the signing of the Tomos of Autocephaly.

After two hundred and some years, the Orthodox Church in the United States of America is now united administratively. Although she was, more or less, united in a spiritual union through the decades, now there is full sacramental unity for there is no division of the sacramental life from the administrative and the administrative from the sacramental.

With the blessing of the Mother Churches, each ethnic jurisdiction became an autonomous body (“pre-autocephalic” was the name given to this unique state of existence of multi-jurisdictions in the USA) and when all had received this blessing, His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, in the name of all the Churches, recognized the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of The United States of America.

For more than two hundred years, there had been a gradual coming together of all Orthodox Christians in the United States in working together in public activities such as the CEOYLA, Conference of Eastern Orthodox Youth Leaders of America and SCOBA, Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America. Later IOCC, OCMC were formed, Orthodox Christian Fellowship OCF and more recently, the OYOUSA, Orthodox Youth of The United States of America, with its various age divisions and the OCWOUSA, Orthodox Christian Women of The United States of America, one of the most active of the groups.

After the proclamation, in each city where there was a determined number of parishes, a City Council of Orthodox Christian Clergy and Laity, CCOCCL, was established to coordinate common activities and public relations. These form a unit within each State/ Commonwealth, State Council of Orthodox Christian Clergy and Laity SCOCCL with appropriate representation. Its purpose is principally to gather information about the general activities of the City Councils and to propose actions which affect the Church in each State/Commonwealth.

Giving witness and support to the growing unity of the Church were the numerous associations: there are the Associations of Orthodox Physicians, Dentists and Psychologists, Lawyers and Politicians and Public Servants, Engineers and Architects, Physicists and Scientists.

There is the vast network of University Professors of all disciplines, Elementary, Secondary Administrators and Teachers who are taking part in the formation of our national network of Orthodox Christian Schools.

The clergy associations and the clergy wives have regional and national organizations and even their children have a network between them.

The Church has evolved her own Insurance Company, and there is also health and life insurance for all Orthodox Christians.

Today, His Holiness, has come from Washington, D.C. to dedicate the 100th Senior Citizens Facility. Apartments and Condominiums are being established across the land. Last month His Holiness and the Lesser Synod dedicated the 51st Orthodox Hospice for those who have no family support in the remaining days of their lives.

The United Orthodox University and College Students Association, have been active in our own education facilities across the nation. The National Board of Regents, whose honorary head is the Patriarch, is comprised of outstanding Orthodox Christian Laity who are prominent in the area of national education.

The inauguration of another television network, the sixth since autocephaly, will take place next month. Radio stations, which have been also been broadcasting for some time, present unbiased news covering events of importance to Orthodoxy and the world.

The Websites relating to the Church, have proliferated with links to every diocese, parish and monastery, further knitting the Orthodox community closer together. Instructional and educational programs are available on sites and thousands of “hits” have been recorded since the Tomos.

Special audio programs about the sacraments, marriage counseling, how to prepare to be a God-parent, preparing for death, and many more are available through the City Council. Of course, the chat-rooms are active. It seems that there are sites for everyone. There is a special one for “I used to be Orthodox” and for those who have left the Church because of perceived and real problems. Another is for those who are confused or doubtful about life.

It has been a strong period of growth for lay catechists; women and men who are teaching courses in all areas of Orthodox Faith and Practice. The Church has blossomed with Orthodox who have renewed their faith, individuals coming into the faith and those who have been in confusion and have found the true faith. City-wide catechetical programs are established with various clergy and lay presenters.

Plans to found orphanages and homes for children and teens near diocesan centers have begun to bear fruit. The emergency 800 number across the country has numerous operations and with professional respondents. There is the “Unplanned Parenthood Line” which walks pregnant moms and worried fathers through a process which saves the lives of the unborn and also gives support to these parents. There is the “My Life is Precious to Me” for teens.

“Saint Basil’s Workers,” established years ago, has taken on new life. In this volunteer association, lay people are trained to visit the sick in hospital, in re-habitation homes and at home. In addition to visiting the sick and elderly, they hold vespers at least once a week wherever facilities are made available.

As part of the process of recognition and receiving the blessing from each Mother Church, the various pre-autocephalic churches pledged that they would not neglect the immigrant members of the Church in the United States. For the present, each ethnic jurisdiction has retained its administration while participating in all activities of the entire Church. Administrative unity is principally expressed through the unity of all hierarchs into one Holy Synod.

The National Conference is held each year for three years but will probably takes place once every three years. In between those three year intervals, regional conferences are being considered. All things being equal, these matters will be determined through the years to come by the entire Church meeting at different times and on various levels of participation.
All the hierarchs meet together twice a year, as the canons require. The various Metropolitanates, the name given to the previous Patriarchal jurisdictions, meet twice a year, at times different than the Holy Synod. There is also a permanent Synod which meets as required and the Patriarchal Council comprised of hierarchs, elected clergy and laity meets twice a year just before the Holy Synod. At this time, this Council is comprised of equal representation from all Metropolitanates.

Although the Metropolitan (jurisdictions) administrations are still in place, there is cooperation between every parish in towns and cities. Clergy and lay associations meet as one to supervise the schools, institutions and general activities of the Church in their area. These clergy-lay associations form regional associations which meet once a year and come together in general council once every three years.

This year, the President of our Nation will address the assembly and will participate in the closing ceremony. At the inauguration of the President last January, His Holiness, the Patriarch, offered the invocation. It was noted in the press that the presence of an Orthodox Christian Patriarchate at this ceremony was a first. What was even more significant is the fact that he is Patriarchate of The United States, the spokesman for millions of American citizens made a profound impression.

Although the metropolitan administrations continue, another administrative system was established as a normal response to the Tomos of Autocephaly. These are the territorial districts system into which all parishes, in addition to being part of their present metropolitan administrations, are included. As new English speaking missions are established and grow, hierarchs will be consecrated to pastor their needs. In this way, the immigrant is not neglected nor the American-born. The Church has wisely recognized that to be the Orthodox Church of the United States of America does not mean the suppression of existing ethnic parishes, administrations and expressions, but to sustain what is useful and to create what is essential for the good order of the Church.

The seats of these territorial districts/dioceses, will be determined by need. It was decided that the ethnic dioceses will continue with their particular seats. In time, there will be a territorial archbishop with ethnic bishops within his jurisdiction. Where, at this time, there are more than one hierarch in a city, the ethnic dioceses will continue as long as there is an active presence of that ethnic group.

Since the Tomos, there has been a noted increased in people embracing the monastic life. New sketes and monasteries are planned, each within the jurisdiction of the Territorial Districts. There are groups of laity living a form of communal life and who serve the Church in the inner cities, responding to the Beatitudes of our Lord.

The Church/Sunday School System has been revamped because of the existence and steady establishment of new elementary and secondary schools. Instead of each parish having a separate religious school program with its own expenses and duplications, city-wide programs have been established. Those who attend public schools have an opportunity to grow in their faith with centralized programs. Thus the financial and human resource burden has been lifted from each parish and is shouldered by the entire local/city church.

In addition to Orthodox teachings, the rich cultural heritage is maintained by programs established by the Metropolitanates. Wherever requested and sustained, foreign languages are taught and those activities which are not contrary to the dignity of the Church and which add to the enrichment of our American Orthodox Culture.

Continuous education programs for the clergy and laity are being established. A central publishing office with regional offices and plants prints a multitude of new works. The staff of translators is kept busy with translating from many languages into English and vice-verse.

The various musical traditions are respected and schools for directors and cantors provide appropriate training in English and other languages. The publishing of liturgical books is in a state of constant review to keep the liturgical language understandable but also literary and appropriate to praise of the Holy Trinity.

Considering the wealth of experience in business and the economic sections, a number of Committees have formed to give direction to the finances of the Church. There is a network of these committees advising all levels of the structure of the Church. Another benefit of unity is the existence of Central Purchasing Agencies from which all kinds of equipment and material needs are to be found in catalogues and made available at a better price.

An Orthodox “Think-Tank” has been existence almost since the day one of the Tomos. There is no topic which cannot be reviewed from the Orthodox Christian understanding of transfiguration.

Due to the wealth of experience of our Orthodox Community, the Church is called upon to participate in numerous dialogues, political, social as well as religious. Our presence is sought because we are experienced in the art of multi-cultural living. Our hierarchs are being called upon to be more involved in the general life of the nation. The old idea that a bishop is responsible only for his own particular ethnic groups is being replaced by a new sense of responsibility to all peoples within his diocese.

Our children, meeting together in social events, have found joy in knowing that they are not a minority nor un-appreciated. They are inviting their friends to these events which allow others to appreciate the values of Orthodox Christianity.

As part of the first year celebration, each diocese which does not already have one, will establish a food kitchen for the poor and will open places of shelter for those who are without a bed. In this area, the laity have taken the lead and are planning, organizing, staffing and supporting these hands-out from Christ projects.

Missionary efforts within and outside the country are beginning to expand. There are numerous “retirees” who have discovered within themselves a burning desire to reach out to others with the Orthodox way of life.

We have not forgotten our roots and offer to the Sister Churches numerous gifts of goods and services, but only if they have need and request. On the other hand, the tradition of the Church in America, from long before the Tomos was one of sharing the many blessings with which we have been blessed and we cannot not do the same now,…in the name of Christ.

His Holiness has expressed appreciation to those communities which have initiated “Centers for Orthodox Christian Studies”. The centers are a kind of amalgamation of ministries for charity, for religious renewal and restoration and for education. They are supported by the entire local Orthodox population and are known throughout the cities as representing the unity of the Church.

A national central library was initiated six months ago. Some talk has been mentioned of establishing one single seminary so that our clergy will be educated in the same spirit. Similar to the university style in Europe, a central school with various ethnic collegia will be established so that a universal theological training will knit the clergy together and particular needs for the ethnic immigration will be properly insured.

There is a new board reviewing the lives of American Orthodox to ascertain if we are not already venerating some whose lives are worthy to be recognized as holy.

The cornerstone for our National Cathedral will be laid during this next year. His Holiness has asked us to pray and fast for that day so that God will accept this new temple as a sign of our humility before him and not a sign of pride. It will be in the Greater Washington area. Thus, the celebration of the first anniversary of the autocephaly and the establishment of the patriarchate is being commemorated.

A note to the reader: This “Possible Scenario” does not point out the spiritual blessings which will be reaped from the establishment of the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in The United States. It was our intention to focus on the practical blessings which would result and to offer some possible ways by which the structure of the Church might be considered. This in the hope that those who say that it is not time for autocephaly or there is no structure, will consider that communication will be foremost in finding solutions to a real scenario.

Archbishop Nathaniel
Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America



  1. George Matsoukas on

    The fullness of time is here and now. The Assemblies of Bishops have the blessings of the foreign Mother Churches, ancient and more recent, to make the church in all pluralistic societies canonical…put them in good order. Overlapping jurisdictions, fragmentation, wasting time, talent and resources of the clergy and laity is not good order. For 11 years, the Assembly Bishops in the U.S. has been working on this charge. Surveys and committee work show that the majority of bishops desire unity. The Canonical Regional Planning Committee has presented workable organizational administrative models. It is time for the bishops to proclaim the unity of the faith in the United States in America. They need to affirm that we are the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. They need to inform the mother churches that we are co- equal. Let each mother church decide who will recognize what. A unified Orthodox Christian Church in the USA strengthens each and every leader of the old-world Orthodox Churches. One year after this proclamation, we will look like the church we ought to be as Christ commanded. We may even begin to be a mission church in the US and start to grow and retain cradle Orthodox Christians.

  2. George Matsoukas on

    After further consideration concerning the work of the Assembly of Bishops in the USA, charged with developing good order in the administrative life and renewal of the Church. one concludes that the bishops need to sit down and do the work required. They are the bishops in this land, and they need to make the decisions. They have the surveys and facts in hand. Why can they not move ahead? What stymies them?

    For 11 years they have been getting to know each other. They know each other. They have had a failure communicating with each other. Why? There are internal obstacles that they themselves have created. They have lacked quorums. They meet in secret. Their minutes are not available. The positives are that they have created research studies and questionnaires. Over 80 per cent of them favor unity. Regional plans have been developed but never implemented.

    The foreign bishops, the synods of the mother churches, are the obstacle. They have not approved the work, the plans, and surveys. They gave the charge. They will not let the work proceed.

    It is the responsibility of the bishops in this geographic area to overturn the roadblocks. They need to be leaders of their flock in this land. Implement the plans. Develop the regions that the studies formed. This is the work that needs to be done. They need to be martyrs if need be. Let the foreign bishops recognize the reality created here in their own time. The Unified Church in the USA will not be given from abroad. It needs to be implemented here and now. The bishops just need to do the work they are charged to do. God is on their side.

  3. Ilya M Zhitomirskiy on

    Why now? There already exists an autocephalous church in North America- the OCA. Extend recognition to it, append other churches to it as ethnic vicariates if needed, and merge all other church bodies into it.

  4. Cato the Elder on

    “Ethnic “vicariates” of the OCA is not the answer.

    The OCA is part of the Assembly of Bishops (AOB) whose mandate is to bring the Church in America into “canonical order.” Canonical order means one autocephalous Church under a single synod in the territory of the US, with one bishop assigned to each geographic territory/diocese.

    OCL’s Declaration for Orthodox Christian Unity in America is addressed to the AOB, which is the body that is responsible for accomplishing the task assigned to it. The Declaration is the vehicle for convincing the Bishops that the laity will support them in doing their job.

    The bishops and clergy are not preaching, teaching and encouraging the laity to speak out on this issue.

    OCL has been the primary teacher and advocate for unity and proper canonical order of the Church in North America.

    Informally, we hear: “This is not an issue the laity are interested in.”

    This begs the question: How would the laity show their interest if their priests and bishops are silent? The clergy are reluctant to speak out. They say to the laity: “You do it. We cannot speak unless our bishops give us permission”.

    So, what about the bishops who are supposed to “rightly teach the word of (God’s) truth?” They know the “truth” of the matter.

    Why have they not acted? Do they need the permission of the foreign synods that appointed and might remove them? Why is that permission not forthcoming if all of the Mother Churches agreed to establish the Assembly and charge it with bringing the Church in North America into canonical order?

    The followers of this website who agree with OCL’s Declaration should consider doing two things:

    First, encourage everyone you know to sign the Declaration; and

    Second, contact your bishop and tell him you support the unification of the Church in North America as a single, united autocephalous Church.

  5. Please understand, back in the 1960’s some 60+ years ago, ALL the canonical bishops created SCOBA to work together and to bring about canonical order for all the churches in North America. Fr. Alexander Schmemann was asked to help in this endeavor and sdvise them. The vision was to form an AUTOCEPHALOUS Orthodox Church in America where all the canonical bishops would sit in synod with an elected bishop to lead. ALL THE SCOBA BISHOPS AGREED TO THIS. The Metropolia (daughter of the Russian Orthodox Church) had been operating independently (autonomously) since the Russian Revolution per directive of Pat. Tikhon. So, Fr. Schmemann wanted to also solidify the Metropolia’s situation. He went first to Constantinople to try and find support and he was rejected and told to go to Moscow. Fr. Schmemann did go to Moscow and was able to obtain a Tomos of AUTOCEPHALY for the Metropolia. The OCA came into existence in 1970. Now, the Canons of the Orthodox Church clearly state, that when an AUTOCEPHALOUS Orthodox Church is formed in a territory, ALL churches are to unify under it. Fr. Schmemann reported his good news to SCOBA. The Romanians joined the OCA, the Bulgarians, the Albanians, etc. Archbishop Iakovos was offered to be the head of the OCA. After severe opposition from Istanbul, + Iakovos refused and from overseas, many things were written saying the new OCA was non-canonical. Therefore, both + Iakovos & + Philip reneged on joining the OCA. + Iakovos was forcefully retired and all the Greek bishops were stripped of their independence and forced to report directly to Istanbul. Istanbul then insisted that SCOBA be dissolved and replaced by the Assembly of Bishops where foreign bishops maintained control over their churches in America. THE FOREIGN BISHOPS DESTROYED SCOBA’S ORIGINAL INTENTION FOR A UNITED ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA!

  6. Cato the Elder on

    Ok, Nikolai,

    For the sake of moving forward I accept everything you say to be true. What then?

    Re-litigating what happened before and after SCOBA is not forward-looking.

    All the Mother Churches agreed in Chambesy to the creation of the Assemblies of Bishops. Their mandate is to bring the Church in this territory into canonical order. That means one, united, autocephalous Church in this territory.

    The OCA bishops are a part of the Assembly. They appear to be willing to join with the others in the Assembly as part of an Autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America. Clearly they will not, and should not, surrender their own autocephaly to be part of an “autonomous” Church under the EP.

    The OCA is not the problem. Its participation in the Assembly signals its willingness to be part of the solution.

    Do you have a viable alternative to lobbying the Assembly to act? OCL’s Declaration is the only organized effort to convince the Assembly to unite and move forward. Three Hierarchs of the OCA were among the first signers of the Declaration. I would hope that every priest and lay person in the OCA would add their names as well. I would also hope that every member of the Antiochian Archdiocese, clergy and laity alike, who share the vision of the late Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory will also add their names.

    It is a new year. Time to kick-start the Declaration and convince the AOB that the time has come for them to act.

  7. What happened at Chambesy was a total Greek thing and FOREIGN BISHOP thing. It wasn’t rooted in SELF-DETERMINATION of the Orthodox Churches in America. The Assembly is a huge step backward from autocephaly – foreign bishops controlling America’s Orthodox – NON-CANONICAL! The Assembly can’t guide American Orthodoxy into anything. Those really wanting unity and autocephaly must TAKE it. Foreign bishops won’t release their “cash cows.” Since 1970, chaos created by foreign bishops!

  8. Cato the Elder on

    “The Assembly can’t guide American Orthodoxy into anything. Those really wanting unity and autocephaly must TAKE it.”

    Ok, Nikolai, a few questions:

    1. If the Assembly can’t guide American Orthodoxy, who can?

    2. What is your plan for uniting and TAKING autocephaly?

    3. Didn’t all of the autocephalous Churches, not only the “Greek,” agree to the Chambesy documents?

  9. 1) ALL the bishops need to sign a document of intent to either join the OCA or formulate an autocephalous church where the OCA will also join. Set up with a council of bishops and one ELECTED by the bishops to lead.

    2) As said above, ALL THE BISHOPS must sign and move forward. THIS IS CANONICAL!

    3) Chambesy was organized and led by the Greeks. Even the Russians weren’t totally on board. The OCA had a representative, but only observed.

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