Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
We are entering the month of May, and we are about 9 to 12 weeks away from the National Assemblies of three different Orthodox Christian Groups in the USA. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA) will hold its 44th Clergy-Laity Congress in Boston on July 1-5. The 19th All- American Council of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) will take place in St. Louis on July 23-27. The 93rd Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America (FOCA) will take place in conjunction with the All-American Council. If in fact, as Jesus Christ said, “all things are possible to the one who believes” (Mk 9:23),* these and all the other meetings that will take place this and next year by the various fragmented Orthodox jurisdictions would be taking place at the same time in the same place. They would be taking place in the National Orthodox Christian Conference Center hosted by the Assembly of Bishops. After 200 years in this geographical area, the USA, there should be a National Orthodox Christian Conference Center. Just think how much money the delegates would save by not paying exorbitant registration fees and hotel expenses. Just think of the fellowship Orthodox Christian delegates, families, young and old, would experience. Just think of the opportunities afforded to our children and grandchildren in meeting each other and sharing their diverse Orthodox Christian experiences. What a network they would develop! These meetings in our own Conference Center would enable a broader cross section of faithful people to participate and attend. Imagine the impact that truly Pan-Orthodox liturgical services, meetings and educational sessions would have on the participants. Just think how more efficiently we would be utilizing the time, talent and resources of the generous laity. I truly believe that such meetings would have a genuine and authentic impact “for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51). * These assemblies would be living proof that all things are possible. The witness for Christ would be transformative. We would be living the Great Commission that we are called upon to live, given to us by Christ at Pentecost, which precedes these meetings.
The reality is that we will continue to witness to the Lord in our fragmented ways. The GOA meeting will continue to be a charade, for it is not a deliberative body concerned with finances and accountability and transparency. If it were such a body, it would not be dealing with the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese. Very few ideas or motions will be allowed from the floor, because the rules of engagement are convoluted, and the meeting is meant to be orchestrated. If we were working together as a unified Orthodox Christian Church, we would have learned from the crisis of finances that the OCA experienced and would be working under similar management by-laws that emerged from that crisis. The OCA’s administrative rules are more conciliar, and clergy and laity have input. The OCA Charter and By-Laws are a model for the unified governance of the Orthodox Christian Church in the USA.
The continued fragmentation of Orthodox Christianity in the USA demonstrates that our commitment to Christ is limited, and our authentic witness is impossible, as long as the fragmentation continues. The result is that what we have to offer for the life of the world is limited. When will the Assembly of Bishops become the Synod of Bishops working in a conciliar way with the laity?
OCL Executive Director
*Title Theme of GOA and OCA National Assemblies