Source: Union of Orthodox Journalists (UOJ)
Author: Elena Yufereva
Representatives of the Albanian Church propose to discuss the “Ukrainian issue” and ensure the unity of Orthodoxy throughout the world.
The Albanian Orthodox Church calls for an All-Orthodox Council to be convened, reports romfea.gr.
“As the unprecedented distress of Orthodoxy in Ukraine intensifies and the unspeakable suffering of the Orthodox faithful reaches a climax, an Ecumenical Orthodox Council, which is known to be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch and acts even if some Local Churches are absent, as was the case with the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete in 2016, should be convened as soon as possible,” the report says.
“The painful ecclesiastical problems that have arisen in recent years and recently in Africa, which have led to clear cracks in the relations of the Local Orthodox Churches and widespread concern among Orthodox believers, are not being addressed by chain retaliation by some churches and consensus gathering by others through the media,” the Albanian Church added.
“The responsible point of view of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania is expressed in official church correspondence, in communications from the General Secretariat and will be directly presented to the competent body, the Pan-Orthodox Council or Synaxis, which, in accordance with the principle of synodality, is the only body capable of solving the basic problems and ensuring unity and peace of the Orthodox Church worldwide,” the message resumed.
As previously reported, the Church of Albania called on the Phanar to convene a Council to resolve the OCU issue.
It is time to call a Pan-Orthodox Synodical Council of hierarchs and laypersons to discuss the uncanonical overlapping of jurisdictions in pluralistic lands like the USA, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia… wherever they exist. This situation is causing chaos in these lands where the Assemblies of Bishops find it difficult to maintain a quorum to meet to discuss the issues. We are now moving from disunity to cannibalism in these areas. Patriarchates of the Old World set up Metropolitans in the USA to compete with Dioceses of the same ethnic jurisdictions. This is the case with the Romanians. The OCA exists in the USA. Why are other jurisdictions of the Moscow Patriarchate allowed to be present? The situation is out of order. How many of the Bishops who sit in the Assembly of Bishops are American citizens? Our immigrant grandparents used the ethos and laws of the United States to set up the Church structure. The present hierarchical structure composed of foreign bishops is usurping the established structure to transfer what is here to come under the control of foreign bishops. The U.S. court system, with its unsettled understanding and legal decisions, adds to the confusion. U.S. foreign policy issues also interfere with Orthodox Christian Church organizations here in the USA. The solution is the calling of a Pan-Orthodox Synodical Council of Bishops and laypersons to sort out the issues.
+Anastasios of Albania is the most respected Orthodox Hierarch in the world.
The Ecumenical Patriarch should heed his call for a Council, and the Council should be attended by all of the other autocephalous Orthodox Churches. It should include the members of the various Assemblies of Bishops authorized by the 2009 Conference at Chambesy, as well as lay leaders.
Moscow, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Antioch boycotted the 2016 Council in Crete. Will Moscow attend a Council called by Constantinople to resolve the dispute over Ukraine? Albania seems to believe that such a Council “.. acts even if some of the local churches are absent, as was the case in 2016.” Really? Will Kirill/Putin call off their aggression if this Holy and Great Council acts to resolve the issue of whether the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine should be autocephalous or under the Moscow Patriarchate? Will Putin withdraw his troops and respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine? Will the Council have the moral authority to stop the killing?
Miracles do happen. Why not here? Why not now?
I like the suggestion of Mr. Matsoukas that the Council should also pivot and resolve the uncanonical issues of overlapping jurisdictions in the USA, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia. They punted on that in 2016. Now’s the time to put the Orthodox house in order. If there shouldn’t be two overlapping Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, why should there be fourteen in the US?
Very simple, the battle lines are drawn. Istanbul or Moscow. How about NEITHER? Follow Canon Law. In every territory, an AUTOCEPHALOUS Orthodox Church is to be established. ALL Orthodox are to be under its omophorion – simple. No Moscow & no Istanbul!
OCL has been educating and advocating for unity and autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in America for more than thirty years. OCL issued a Declaration last July calling for support from all Orthodox hierarchs, clergy and laity. The Declaration is reasonable, respectful and clear. Ultimately it is addressed to the Assembly of Bishops in America which was created for this specific purpose.
The Declaration was sent to the heads of each autocephalous Orthodox Church in their own languages asking for their support. These are the hierarchs who would presumably meet at a synaxis or council that +Anastasios and the Church of Albania have asked the Ecumenical Patriarch to convene.
Only one Hierarch has acknowledged receipt of OCL’s correspondence.
You are a frequent contributor to the dialogue this website seeks to encourage. What is your plan for bringing about the unity and autocephaly that you and OCL both agree is the only canonical solution to the situation in America and other pluralistic lands referred to by Mr. Matsoukas?
What do you suggest? Do you have a plan? What is it?
You don’t understand. The action must come from the hierarchs. Just as SCOBA originated the move for an autocephalous church (the hierarchs) today, we need ALL the hierarchs to move in UNISON and reject their foreign overseers. Won’t happen because these bishops have no vision and are afraid of losing their jobs. Look at what happened after Ligonier. +Iakovos was retired and all the Greek bishops were emasculated. They had to report to Istanbul. At this point, +Iakovos should have told Istanbul he wasn’t retiring, he was going into the OCA taking as many GOA parishes that would follow him. This would have been the beginning. Instead, he took their retirement, kept his house in Scarsdale along with $$$ and was glorified as a great leader of Greek-Americans. Even the recent election of +Saba for the Arabs is a disgrace. +John of Wooster wasn’t acceptable? Until all the hierarchs in America agree to leave their foreign overseers in UNISON, the current non-canonical situation will continue. Cahones anyone?
I know it is vitally important that we have one autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. We also have a vital role to play in the United States and throughout the world. One area we Orthodox Christians must speak out on is the dire situation in the Holy Land. As Orthodox Christians, we are not “Christian Zionists.” Forty percent of Palestinian Christians are Greek Orthodox. Palestinian Christians suffer under brutal, belligerent Israeli occupation. It is illegal under US law to give any money to the state of Israel because they are a nuclear power and have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Israeli settlers have just vandalized Jerusalem’s Church of Gethsemane during Sunday worship services. The Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III “laments that terrorist attacks, by radical Israeli groups, targeting churches, cemeteries, and Christian properties, in addition to physical and verbal abuse against Christian clergy, have become almost a daily occurrence. All Christians, everwhere, must denounce in the most severe terms Israel’s abuse and disrespect for Christianity. Pretty soon, there will be no Christian presence in the Holy Land. Jerusalem was consecrated through our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. America must cease all support of the racist, apartheid state of Israel. ” There is neither Jew nor Greek…”
I understand that we need the hierarchs in America to act. That is precisely why the Declaration is addressed to the Assembly of Bishops (AOB).
I also understand that many if not most of these bishops are beholden to the foreign synods that appointed them; and apparently can remove or transfer them for any or no reason. That is precisely why OCL addressed letters to the heads of all of the autocephalous churches calling upon them to allow the bishops in the AOB to do what they have been called upon to do.
Stating and repeating the obvious is not a plan.
Argument by Emphatic Reassertion is not a plan.
Lamenting missed opportunities in the past is not a plan.
Shooting arrows into the coffin of the departed is not a plan.
Lamenting the decision of Antioch to ignore the wishes of the faithful in America and appoint a foreigner to head the Archdiocese in America is not a plan.
A plan is issuing a Declaration and seeking support for what it proposes in order to convince the AOB that the clergy and laity support unity and autocephaly.
A plan is asking everyone who has supported the Declaration to enlist the support of ten of their family members, friends and fellow parishioners to add their names to the Declaration.
A plan is asking everyone who has added their name to the Declaration to contact their priest and bishop and ask them to support unity and autocephaly for the Church in America.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been quoted as saying: “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Those who have already added their names to the Declaration have spoken and acted. We need to encourage them to continue to speak and act. A recent poll of Orthodox clergy in America indicates movement in the direction called for by the Declaration. That is a positive development. Those increasing numbers of clergy must also go beyond answering a survey. They also must speak and act. They must encourage their parish councils and members of all of their ministries to speak and act.
The laity cannot do this alone. The clergy must add their voices. The hierarchs in the AOB who support unity and autocephaly must also speak and act, both privately and publicly.
Nikolai, you are 100% correct! The action must come from the hierarchs, not the laity. The laity doesn’t count as we have been relegated to spectator status. The hierarchs know what they need to do. The ball is in THEIR court, not ours.
Orthodox Christianity in America needs a strong leader (with cojones) who’s willing to put canon law first and not fear backlash. If Christ went behind enemy lines, His followers should do the same. A backlash is to be expected.
The candid interview of +Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver (posted Jan. 2020) [https://ocl.org/video-metropolitan-isaiah-speaks-candidly-about-orthodox-christian-unity/] is a real eye-opener. Every OCL member should watch/read it. His perspective in the hearts of his fellow hierarchs is telling. +Metropolitan Isaiah is one of the very few GOA clergymen (and American born) actually to sign the Declaration. I’m sure the EP has placed him on their red flag list.
I wish to point out a mistake I made where I stated that +Met. Isaiah signed the Declaration. I meant to state that he serves on the Board of Advisors to OCL.
Michael and Nikolai,
This discussion reminds me of the difficulty of cognitive dissonance, the idea of holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time.
We know that the Church teaches: “Let nothing be done without the Bishop” [St. Ignatius]. That is precisely why the Declaration is addressed to the Assembly of Bishops.
We also know that without the laity the hierarchs/clergy cannot even celebrate a Divine Liturgy let alone establish parishes, and support and grow the ministries of the Church.
So while it is true that the role of the Hierarchs is essential, it is not true that “the laity doesn’t count as (they) have been relegated to spectator status.”
The Church in America is a State-Separated Church. It is not the established Church of the State, like the Church of Greece and other Old World National Churches. Church leaders in America must heed the voices and wishes of the laity whom they are entrusted to serve. The laity must never accept being relegated to the status of spectators. Neither in the Liturgy, nor in the governance of the Church.
The call for support of the Declaration by adding names is giving the laity the voice it rightfully has to inform the Assembly of Bishops that it must act.
The AOB must speak and act, but the laity must also speak and act.
Thank you for that excellent explanation. Yes, it’s true that the hierarchs/clergy cannot celebrate the Divine Liturgy without the laity. It’s also true the laity have an obligation to speak and act. It does take two to tango.
The forces of evil are clearly at work in the GOA, from Ligonier all the way to getting people to sign the Declaration. Gathering signatures on the Declaration is often met with resistance, especially from cradle Orthodox. The stranglehold is visible.
My best experiences have come from non-cradle Orthodox. Second generation, spouses and children of mixed marriages and converts seem open to change. They have the “Ligonier spirit”.
I’m not clear on how the Declaration is supposed to work. Is there a minimum number of signatures needed before action is taken? Is it then presented to the Assembly of Bishops or to each Metropolis separately? Your explanation would be appreciated.
Clearly, thousands of signatures would speak louder than hundreds, but there is no magic number. Would a majority of the Assembly act if there were 1,000 or 10,000 or 1,000,000? Have they failed to act out of fear of the synods that appointed them? Or, have they failed to act because of the indifference of the laity.. which they have encouraged?
The Declaration was published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times during the GOA Clergy-Laity Congress in New York last year. The initial signatories included OCA Hierarchs, a former chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese, a former Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and other well-known clergy and laypersons. The total now approaches 400. It should be many more.
How is the Declaration supposed to work? It works the way OCL has always worked. OCL is both an educational and advocacy ministry. The Declaration is both a recitation of the reasons for unity and autocephaly and a cri de coeur from the signers to the Assembly of Bishops.
It is both an appeal for support from Orthodox faithful, lay as well as ordained, across America and around the world, as well as an appeal to the Assembly to do what it was established to do: bring the Church in America into canonical order.
There is no need to present the Declaration to the Assembly. They all know about it. They and all the synods that appointed them have received copies. The Assembly has been meeting for more than a decade.
Why haven’t they acted? Are they waiting for the foreign synods that appointed them to give them permission? Or, are they hesitating because they aren’t sure their clergy and laity will support them?
Ultimately, the Declaration is intended not only to educate and advocate on behalf of unity and autocephaly but to assure the Bishops that the people they have been entrusted to serve will support them when they act.