Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
For thirty-one years, Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) has been the voice crying in the wilderness. The cry has been for renewal of our ancient, apostolic faith within our pluralistic, American, cultural context. The hallmarks of this renewal are characterized by the de-tribalization of the separate Orthodox Christian jurisdictions that evolved here, so that they could work in canonical unity; administer the Church in ways that are accountable and transparent; and respect and include the input of the laity in matters of administration, governance and our journey together as a community of faithful. OCL has not wavered from its mission and has presented programs, written books and published pamphlets, passed resolutions and developed a web site (ocl.org) to present its mission and to report on and highlight events and movements within American Orthodoxy as they relate to its mission.
It was our hope that as we embarked upon the 21st Century and with over 200 years of history in the Americas with a well-established infrastructure of churches and properties, seminaries, publishing capabilities and technology, theologians, teachers, priests and saints, that we would be a more unified, open, multicultural-universal Church bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters around us. Within the last 30 years, we have observed that inconsistent efforts have been made to move forward, but that we cannot shake the immigrant, insular, fragmented ways that keep us divided. Therefore, instead of experiencing growth, we remain static, and collectively as Orthodox Christians, we are not growing.
The hierarchy of the Church is in a time warp. The Assembly of Bishops, which is an effort to bring about unity, is at a standstill. The Orthodox Church in the United Sates, except for the Orthodox Church in America, is a colonial Church administered from abroad by Patriarchs and hierarchs who see the faithful here as extensions of their immigrant homelands. Foreign governments see the Church here as an extension of their foreign policy. The response here is that assimilated folks leave the Church, or they remain as nominal, occasional members who are apathetic about their faith commitment. Others are overwhelmed by the secular environment of the day and leave. Presently, we also see the development of Orthodox Christian fundamentalism, which presents new obstacles. Those who choose to be an Orthodox Christian face many hurdles. Despite these hurdles, seekers looking for the apostolic Church do become Orthodox and are a breath of fresh air.
The largest jurisdiction, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the United States, is presently experiencing many administrative difficulties from finance to governance, because it has not embraced the values of working in the “sunshine” of accountability and transparency. It is in crisis. Within the next week, we will see how the crisis plays out with the election of a Metropolitan for Chicago. Will the election here bring forth the best candidate that understands the need for renewal and will be able to energize the faithful and contribute to the Assembly of Bishops? Will the Synod of the Patriarchate in Istanbul respect the decision and process which it has already rejected once, forcing the resubmission of the list of candidates? The election process is “byzantine.” Will the needs of the faithful in Chicago prevail or will it be business as usual?
OCL Executive Director