Musings of the Executive Director: The Time for an Autocephalous USA Orthodox Christian Church is NOW!

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Source: Orthodox Christian Laity

The Synaxis of Patriarchs in 2008 decided that the Orthodox Church in the USA is uncanonical.  How many more years can this situation fester?  The Synaxis developed an Assembly of Bishops of all the canonical bishops in the USA to address the issue.  They have been meeting for ten years and have reached an impasse.  It is now up to the Patriarchs to act either in a synodical conciliar meeting with the 14 Self Ruling Patriarchs/Hierarchs, or if that cannot happen, the Ecumenical Patriarch needs to act as he did in  Ukraine.  On his visit to the USA in July 2019, he  can call the Assembly of Bishops together to establish timelines for a  canonical  Autocephalous Orthodox Christian Church in the USA.  In this way, he can surely demonstrate to the faithful that he is doing so: “…because the time has surely come for us to move beyond words to actions. We know much better than what we actually do. We are called to put our theory and theology into policy and practice. We are called to move beyond what is “mine” and what is “yours” to what is “ours.” From now on, this is how we should conceive and conduct all of our ministries and resources, all of our departments and initiatives. Otherwise, we do not practice what we preach. It is really up to us to accept the challenge or to refuse the call.” (Message of Patriarch Bartholomew to the Assembly of Bishops gathered in Dallas in 2014).  The time to move beyond words to actions in NOW!

See 40 years of calls for unity by various sources:

  1. Metropolitan Philip’s 1979 Address to Faithful on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in Los Angeles, CA.
  2. Statement on Mission and Evangelism and Statement on the Church in North America with the signatures of the bishops  from Proceedings of the 1994 Conference of Orthodox Bishops Ligonier, PA
  3. Orthodox Christian Laity: A Resolution for Autocephaly adopted on October 10, 1998 in Los Angeles, CA.

George Matsoukas, OCL Executive Director

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11 Comments

  1. John Czukkermann on

    I would like the director to specifically identify where in the proceedings of the “Synaxis of Patriarchs in 2008” that the Orthodox Church in America was declared uncanonical. I took a brief look and I could not find it. And if that is the case, why are the OCA bishops allowed in the room when the Assembly of Bishops in the USA meet? It has always been my understanding that the autocephaly of the OCA has been contested, as is just about everything else between the Church of Russia and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    It seems to me that the director harbors biases, and leading off with that volley does nothing but continue to feed into the cultural biases and differences. You declare a whole, like minded, community of Orthodox Christians to be of no consequence. You may not recognize the Tomos granted the OCA, but that certainly doesn’t make the OCA uncanonical, not unless you consider the Church of Russia, from among whose exiles it grew, to be uncanonical.

    I have to be honest. Nonsense like this makes me want to unsubscribe from the OCL; but I won’t. It is good to know what other Orthodox in America are thinking even if I vehemently disagree with them.

    • “I would like the director to specifically identify where in the proceedings of the “Synaxis of Patriarchs in 2008” that the Orthodox Church in America was declared uncanonical. ” You won’t find that. He was not speaking about the OCA, but rather the situation of multiple jurisdictions, multiple bishops in the same city, etc. That is uncanonical, and that is what he was referring to.

      • Rhonda Dodson on

        Exactly, Alec. The situation in the US ref Orthodoxy is uncanonical, not any of the specific jurisdictions. Also it needs to be said that the situation in the USA is not unique in the world…most of Western Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, Malayasia, Indonesia, Australia & etc. In many of these areas, the relations between the competing jurisdictions is very antagonistic vs the USA & most of Western Europe where we all pretty much get along.

        Thus if the situation in the USA is SO very bad that it requires the CP to intervene in another Ukraine-rerun, then he needs to be prepared to do the same in a multitude of places around the world. That being said however, I really don’t really see anyone recommending such a thing.

        If the CP thinks the Ukraine has been difficult (it has blown up in his face actually) & Constantinople is essentially isolated, attempting to repeat such uncanonical actions (& what was done in the Ukraine really was uncanonical) will only further strain already tense relations with his brother bishops to an inevitable breaking point.

        Orthodoxy threw off one pope; we can & will throw off a neo-pope…

  2. Kathy Erickson on

    What happened in Ukraine was itself uncanonical. The EP has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of another patriarch’s domain, nor to recognize schismatics who separated themselves from the Church years ago. I was shocked to read your statement that he should do the same here. In my opinion the number one block to a unified Orthodox presence in the US is the EP’s “papal” aspirations, i.e. , his desire to rule the world from the phanar. And yes there currently is an already existing indigenous, autocephalous Orthodox Christian body in the US, the OCA.

  3. Yes, I agree with John Czukkermann. I feel for the passion behind George M’s message and believe at heart there are good things George and the OCL and his leadership have accomplished. To infer in any way the current Orthodox Christians NOT associated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate are somehow “Uncanonical” would be very very very wrong.

    Myself and many like me, have suffered and continue to suffer the insults of the Greek Orthodox Church in America aligned with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey. I could fill a whole book and 3 or more film productions of the again and again flip flop of relationships that for me ended most recently this past February 2019 when one of the retired G.O.A. bishops stated to me, “you are not one of us,” On the same day I was publically insulted by the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Alexios adding to my already emotional retraumatization of his saying one thing 3 hours before and then insulting me, deriding me, negating his very words a few hours before to deal with a problem.

    I certainly agree with George M. We “need to put our theology into practice. It begins with the basic commandment of Christ of loving each other. It does take suffering, as our Lord suffered, and does mean forgiveness as our Lord also demonstrated to the thief on the cross at the last minute. What I cannot agree with is if the OCL recognizes Barthlomew, as a legitimate leader given his current and past acts to refuse to recognize the autocephaly of the OCA, Orthodox Church in America, and then gives support to irregular leaders in Ukraine.

    At best, this fight hurts many many people in many ways, and cannot be resolved by asking “the wolf” to have concern for the sheep.

    There are other avenues to travel to unity but NOT this one.

  4. Patriarch Bartholomew acted in an aggressive and uncanonical manner in the Ukraine (which is outside his jurisdiction) – and he formally RECOGNIZED AND ENTERED INTO COMMUNION WITH DEFROCKED AND EXCOMMUNICATED SCHISMATICS. The suggestion that he come to the US to meddle in affairs here is ridiculous and offensive to me. Good thing I am in ROCOR – who already pulled out of the SCOBA group and will have nothing to do with this nonsense from the Masonic Archons in the GOARCH and elsewhere. If Bartholomew comes here to meddle it will cause a split right down the middle of American Orthodoxy, just like it is doing in the Ukraine. I wonder what this George Matsoukas thinks about Met. Onuphry and the canonical Orthodox Church of the Ukraine (which is supported by the entire Orthodox world except for Constantinople), that is now being openly persecuted by the government?

  5. Let’s put some sanity to this. 1st, the Canons are clear, one local church (autocephalic) per territory. Russia is a territory and Ukraine is another territory. A Ukrainian Autocephalic Church is way overdue. Russians & Ukrainians are COUSINS and there should be no reason for this animosity, but cooperation between the two churches. 2nd, Istanbul did go about this in the wrong way. There are NO canons that stipulate that the Pat. of Constantinople (Istanbul) has the authority to UNILATERALLY grant authocephaly to anyone. He can, like all autocephalic churches, RECOGNIZE another church’s autocephaly or not, but not GRANT it. 3rd, Ukrainian oligarchs paid + Bart $25 MM up front for his action and later, another $75 MM. He’d do cartwheels down the aisle in St. George’s for that money. 3rd, regarding those clerics formerly called “non-canonical,” their labeling was POLITICAL and not based on any deviancy from the Orthodox faith. A lifting of this labeling had nothing to do with any heretical behavior. So, what should happen now? A Synod of all the Orthodox Bishops should be held in a neutral place to discuss this action and approve or disapprove what has happened. Also, discuss, way overdue, the ACTUAL authority of the Pat. of Istanbul and what he has usurped.

    • Rhonda Dodson on

      It is more than just about territory which is being used above as if it is the equivalent to nation. Throughout Church history we have seen empires come & go; the same with regions, territories, nations, states & etc. Shoot…for the first few hundred years of Church history there was not even a Constantinople much less an Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople. At one time even, Constantinople was a small, minor league city, led by a priest or bishop who was ecclesiastically under another bishop. So the claims that Constantinople is the source of Orthodoxy & this resulting superior attitude really needs to stop. Really…neither the world nor the Church revolve around Constantinople.

    • First and foremost, Russians and Ukrainians are not cousins but exactly the same people. You should know that the word/name “Ukraine” means nothing more translated than “THE OUTSKIRTS or literally “In the corners””, outskirts of Russia. The country of Serbia and Serbs have had themselves a number of ukraines or Kraina.

      The second part to the story is that it was the dictatorial communists that ripped away that part of Russia and forced in a fake nation without the people of Russia’s consent. Are we supposed to accept anti-democratic dictatorial behavior? So no, Russia does have a right to have its own original Ukrainian church there!

  6. Respectfully, there are things that need to be addressed.

    First, the administrative canons are not written for us, neither for laity nor priests. They are written for bishops and abbots, as guides for them in their various capacities. They are written specifically to be used in conjunction with economoea, which translates, “management.” There are dogmatic canons, but the administrative canons are not dogmatic but a matter of implementation by consensus.

    The local bishops in the United States have reached a consensus on Orthopraxis in this most complex of nations, and that is that they will work together as a synod within ACOB (formerly SCOBA). So there’s nothing “uncanonical” about it, unless one divorces the administrative canons from the economoea of bishops–and that is not how they are intended to be used.

    Second, Bartholomew has openly advocated heresy. This is a simple, not a shocking, statement.:

    He has openly embraced the heresy of papalism, that is to say, subordinationism. In his writings, in his letter to the Albanian Church and elsewhere, he has stated that all Orthodox orders depend on Constantinople. He has said that without the “Ecumenical Throne,” Orthodox would be “no better than Protestants.” And he has claimed the right to intervene in the affairs of all the other Churches, where he deems necessary.

    Papalism and subordinationism are declared heresies.

    Third, Bartholomew is a schismatic. He has entered into communion with schismatics and has “recognized” their orders without first ordaining them. His puppet “metropolitan” in Ukraine is in fact still a layman, never having been canonically ordained, much less consecrated. He has not been excommunicated by more than one Local Church, out of the charitable desire to restore him. Russia has hopes that their suspension of Communion will serve as a wake-up call. No-one will concelebrate with his schismatic Ukrainian group.

    Fourth, Bartholomew is a de facto Uniate. His newly-created organization in Ukraine has already intercommunicated with the Greek Catholics. This is simply part of his plan to incorporate the UGCC into his paper church, thus creating a body mutually recognized by the Phanar and the Vatican. This will put Constantinople formally in communion with Rome. At that point, he will become an actual Uniate.

    Fifth, he shows every evidence of being in prelest. His invasion of Ukraine has not produced the “unity” he trumpeted. Rather, it has bought about thuggery and bloodshed, the desecration of churches, the smashing of Altars and the violation of tabernacles. It has brought about the persecution of canonical Orthodox and the elevation of non-canonical schismatics. His Ukrainian operation is recognized by no other Church, and he has turned a deaf ear to all advice from his peers concerning his conduct. But he is convinced he has no peers, permitting himself to be styled, “first without equal.” His reaction to it all: “Sooner or later, they must obey the Ecumenical Throne.

    So, who is to lead such an autocephalous American Church? Constantinople, with its ruthless and implacable lust for power? The Liberals, who increasingly cry out for homosexual recognition, female “clergy” and the “right” to murder their children? The Protestantizers, whose parishes are ruled by their church councils and for whom the priest is an employee, answerable to them in all things, to be hired and fired at their pleasure?

    The American Church is in enough trouble as it is. Look at us! Davis Bentley Hart, a man who denies the validity of the Fifth Ecumenical Council and insists that the self-mutilating Origen is a Saint, is our most popular theological writer!

    At least the way we are, we present the devil a moving target. When he starts winning in one place, he gets pushed back by another. Voices that have no grounds to be job-scared can be raised against abuses. Wise voices can counsel each other in private.

    ACOB unites the jurisdictions, and produces synodical consensus. Thus, the intent of the canons is followed. Smashing it all into one jurisdiction would leave us much too vulnerable to our own individualistic vanities, and we’d be Rome in five years and Canterbury in ten. If it even took that long.

    The Holy Spirit is operating through the Church right now. I am terrified at the thought that we migbnt decide to “help” Him.

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