Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
It is our right and duty to communicate with each other across Orthodox Christian jurisdictional groupings.
Every month, we must celebrate and report the ministry and outreach programs and activities we do by joining together in unity. Thank you, Baltimore, for sharing your Bible Learning program. We are disappointed that the Greek Orthodox parishes did not participate. We are also disappointed to read the Greek Orthodox response to a request to inform parishioners in Naples, Florida, of the OCL Open Forum which was held on March 29 in neighboring Bonita Springs, Florida. The presenter was Dr Gayle Woloschak, and the topic was the IOTA meeting held in Romania in January 2019. The reply to a request made by a member, asking the priest to inform his parishioners of the event, states: “With regard to the Orthodox Christian Laity meeting at St. Peter Antiochian Orthodox Church, I am prohibited from attending due to its location by order of my bishop, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, whom I dearly love and respect. Furthermore, please consider me a faithful champion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and especially of His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, who I regard to be a very saintly man; so the notion that we are going to achieve canonical autocephaly in the United States without HAH’s blessing and approval, or in rebellion against HAH, is foreign and repulsive to me. Please know that St Katherine counts more than 25 Archons on our membership roster from throughout the United States, and we stand together as faithful protectors of our Holy Mother Church of Constantinople…by God’s Grace and Mercy, perhaps you will one day be counted among them.” This response is in line with the Patriarch’s admonition that it is our duty to realize the wisdom of his actions in Ukraine, and I guess in Naples, Florida.
This mindset makes it even more important for individual Orthodox Christians of all jurisdictions to reach out to each other and work together, so that the canonical disorder of Orthodoxy in the USA can be overcome. Local programs developed across jurisdictions that bring us together to do ministry and outreach are imperative for the survival of Orthodoxy in this geographical area and in all geographic areas where Orthodoxy exists in pluralistic societies. The faithful, local parishioners throughout the world are leading the way to unity. Send us information about your programs, so we can post them on our website for others to see and emulate.
It should be noted that OCL has been supportive of the creation of the Assembly of Bishops and has reported its work on our web site. OCL has contributed funds so that the bishops can meet. They had no quorum at their last meeting. After 10 years, they seem to be at an impasse. We were closer to a unified Church in 1994 than we are today. OCL has supported and reported extensively on the Holy and Great Council. We are counted as supporters of Canonical Orthodox Christian Unity which can be achieved by synodical and conciliar actions of the hierarchy of all jurisdictions working together in synergy with the Holy Spirit. They should be joyful of the work of the laity who lead the way.
OCL Executive Director
Our best bet for success is to promote brotherhood and sisterhood among all Orthodox Christians in the USA. Do not get involved in church politics including the call for autocephaly. Since the loss of Archbishop Iakovos (Coucouzis) of New York in 1996 it has been all down hill in regards to the leadership of the church. The patriarchs main goals is to protect their spheres and their niches.
Many folks are not familiar with folks from other jurisdictions. If we can get folks to know each other that would be huge. The GOA lives in the past while the OCA jumped the gun by becoming autocephalous . The OCA should have been given autonomy in 1970. Autocephaly caused the Greeks to get up tight. They can get up tight easily.
Well, good luck and remember John 13:34-35 before all else and do not sweat the small stuff.
We can be both American and ethnic at the same time. It takes just a little bit of love.
John and friends,
Autocephaly for the Church in the US is a canonical matter. Everyone agrees that 14 overlapping “ethnic jurisdictions” in a single geographic area violates the canons of our Church. Ethnic jurisdictions led by bishops selected by, and answerable to foreign synods in the territory of the United States violates the canons of our Church. All of the Autocephalous churches acknowledged these facts when they met in Chambessy more than a decade ago and approved the establishment of Assemblies of Bishops in the areas outside of the borders of the ancient Roman Empire. These assemblies were charged with developing plans to bring the Churches in those area into canonical order. This can only mean uniting into a single synod which elects its own head bishop. That is what Autocephlay means.
The American assembly is the largest of these assemblies, and after ten years has little to show for its efforts. Only a few of its committees have met with any regularity. The American bishops are not stupid. They know what needs to be done. They are prevented from doing what they know is needed by the “church politics” that divide Moscow and Constantinople.
Arguing that the OCA should have been given autonomy instead of Autocephaly. Or that the Tomos of Autocephaly given to the OCA caused the Greeks to get uptight is a fig leaf. It cannot hide the truth of what is happening to our Church in America. Each of the jurisdictions is suffering and in decline. The survival of Orthodoxy in America is not “small stuff”. Uniting the church under a single synod of canonical bishops is an existential issue. All of the Orthodox laity in the US need to wake up and call upon their bishops to unite before it is too late.
A united, strong and growing Orthodox Church in America can support their suffering mother churches who are under siege in Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and elsewhere both politically and financially more than 14 divided, overlapping and declining jurisdictions.
The disputes between Moscow and Constantinople are the “church politics”. This is the “small stuff” that is killing our Church here in America. Our bishops need to hear from us. They are not acting because they think we don’t care. If you care, write a letter, send an email, make a phone call.
Yours in Christ,
George D. Karcazes
With all due respect, dear Brothers in Christ, autocephaly is a mute point! The Orthodox Church(es) in America will never be “ready” for autocephaly until they actually start practicing Orthodoxy. By that I mean actually live the Orthodox Faith. The Orthodox Church in the United States is beset by ethno-phyletism which has led to many parishes being ethnic clubs and not “outposts” of the Kingdom of God in this world. True and genuine Orthodox unity will ONLY come if there is a groundswell of spiritual renewal among our bishops, our clergy and laity. Our leaders need to know Jesus Christ in a personal, experiential way that can only be given if they desire it and they humble themselves and present themselves as vessels of the Holy Spirit, and then declare that forcefully to the Laity from the amvon. When Jesus Christ truly is allowed to reign again as the Resurrected Lord over His Church and the bishops see themselves as his icons in the Church, then, and only then, will the Church in America be ready for autocephaly. Otherwise, any changes would simply be rearranging of furniture and no lasting change with any real spiritual benefit.
You are “voice crying in the wilderness.” By the way, I purchased and really enjoyed your book, Marginalized Voices. Your videos are also excellent. You have to be the one of the best Orthodox priests in the world.
Fr. Timothy: The OCA’s existence since 1970 has proven that autocephaly has worked quite successfully. To recap, in 1961 the minutes of SCOBA show that ALL the canonical Orthodox bishops agreed to work toward and JOIN an autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. The minutes even state that the name should be, “The Orthodox Church in America.” Fr. Alexander Schmemann was chosen as SCOBA’s guide to help achieve this goal. ALL the bishops agreed that Fr. Alexander would be their best advisor to achieve this. In 1970, the former Metropolia, the original Orthodox Mission to America and later diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, was given autocephaly by the Patriarch of Moscow. (The Metropolia operated as an independent church from Moscow since the Russian Revolution.) This action was EXACTLY what SCOBA wanted; engineered by Fr. Alexander Schmemann. Consequently, the Albanians joined the OCA, the Romanians joined the OCA, the Bulgarians joined the OCA and others. Archbishop Iakovos of the Greeks and Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochians reneged and decided to wait. Constantinople came up with every argument they could muster for reasons why the OCA was non-canonical; all ridiculous, including Canon 28 of Chalcedon. Fast forward to 2019, these ethnic churches that joined the OCA have maintained their own identities and ecclesiastical direction. All the OCA bishops sit on a synod of bishops with a chosen head who guide the OCA. All have a say-so in the operation of the church. So you see, both the Antiochians & Greeks who remain under their foreign country Patriarchs, continue to be in a non-canonical state when a CANONICAL ORTHODOX CHURCH IS ESTABLISHED IN A LOCAL TERRITORY. WHY? It’s all about where their money goes; Istanbul & Damascus with foreign bishops telling the American Greeks & Arabs what they can and can’t do. Since 1970, 49 years, it’s about time to cut the cord to foreign bishops who only have their interests in play when dealing with America.
Something needs to be said about the Assembly of Bishops. After Archbishop Iakovos was forcefully retired in 1995, the Bishop of Istanbul emasculated all the Greek bishops in America making them responsible directly to himself. He then put a lackey in charge of the GOA to do exactly what Istanbul wanted. In dealing with SCOBA, he refused to attend meetings and called for it to be dissolved. He did what Istanbul wanted and told the SCOBA bishops that an Assembly of Bishops will be established with its head being the Representative of Istanbul (1st among equals) with Antioch and Moscow sitting at the lead table. The OCA was completely dismissed! What Istanbul did was hi-jack SCOBA and turned it into its own arm, rather than respecting the SCOBA guidelines of unity, conciliarity and co-operation among all the canonical Orthodox Bishops in America. Without the proper respect for the OCA and what it is, the Assembly of Bishops is nothing but a sham and “Bishop’s Tea Party.”