September Musing: A Basic Approach to Orthodox Christian Administrative Unity

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Source: Orthodox Christian Laity

Sunday of Orthodoxy,” at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, in New York City on March 8, 2020.

“Take the best parts of everyone…and get together!”

Roula Karcazes, wife of Orthodox Christian Laity Executive Board Member and Attorney George Karcazes, made this remark to me the other night when we were casually discussing the history of the work of OCL and its primary mission and focus.

Race toward Unity

Along with the Board and membership of Orthodox Christian Laity and its membership, I look forward to continuing the race that OCL has run since 1987. This race has been toward several, high-level goals: First – the greater cooperation of the hierarchy, clergy and laity of the Church. Second – transparency and accountability in church governance and financial management. Third – continual renewal of our spiritual lives as Orthodox Christians. Fourth – working toward and supporting the administrative unity of the Orthodox Church in North America.

OCL’s Educational Ministry

To this end, I look forward to continuing and expanding OCL’s educational ministry through in-person events, publications, interviews and online presentations. Keep on the lookout for video interviews of Orthodox authors and leaders that we plan to present in the very near future.

Engage

We invite you to engage with us via our website (ocl.org), our Facebook and YouTube pages, or contact us via email by clicking on the Contact menu at ocl.org. Check out upcoming events on the right side of our home page and subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.

Create a Vision, then take Actions that move the Church toward Administrative Unity

Uniting all the Orthodox Christian jurisdictions in America has been a topic of prayer, discussion and Pan-Orthodox efforts for decades. Let each of us develop a picture, a vision, of what we want that to look like, and with God’s help, our prayers and efforts will be fulfilled. Let’s not let past, limiting paradigms create barriers. How do we do that? A good start is to follow Roula’s simple but profound advice: “Take the best parts of everyone…and get together.”

We Need Your Help

We invite and need your frank comments. Let us know your vision for the Church in America. Tell us who you’d like us to interview. What can we do to unite the best parts of all of our jurisdictions so that we may achieve the administrative unity that matches the spiritual unity we already possess?

David Oancea
Executive Director

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6 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    OCL has been at the unification effort for some thirty odd years now, and the hierarchs show no urgency at all in working towards unity. They will offer some lip service to the cause, but no real action towards resolution. It would appear each jurisdictions has its piece of the American pie and they are satisfied with that. It also seems that they are not too keen on having to compromise with each administratively to achieve unity. I think the Ethnics like things just the way they are.
    One way to put a fire under the hierarchs, would be to use the only leverage the Laity have, which is withholding some or all funds from the operation of the Church. The problem with that solution is, most of the Laity would be unwilling to participate in such an action. The only other solution would be to convince the deep pocket congregants to put pressure on the hierarchs to act on unification, and I don’t think that is likely to happen either. I wish you all the best in your new position, and I pray it works out for all of us.
    In Christ,
    Gary

  2. George Matsoukas on

    Orthodox Christianity as a missionary church, ministering to God’s people, fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ, and in canonical order, is our responsibility. This is why unity matters. We must work in unity in our communities. Our clergy associations need to model unity, and we as faithful people of God need to assist them in doing the work involved. This is God’s will for His Church in the USA. Share your good works, so we too can emulate them.

  3. I am writing this comment as “anonymous,” because I am an Orthodox priest. I have recently been told that as a priest, I cannot say “whatever I want”. I have been a part of OCL since its founding. I joined as a layman, and I continue to be a part of OCL, even though to be quite frank, I believe it is a waste of time. Over these past 33 years, OCL has “prayed. lobbied, educated, begged & cajoled” for Orthodox jurisdictional unity in the United States. Instead of moving ahead, we have regressed. Our hierarchs, except for a few exceptions, who are a small minority, truly want unity. The rest are only interested in preserving their own “fiefdoms” or the “kingdoms” of the Patriarchates overseas. The only thing that the hierarchs pay attention to is money. Money talks in the administrative offices of our hierarchs. Without money, the hierarchs cannot maintain their lifestyles. Without money, they cannot continue with their “pet” building projects. Without money, they cannot “jet-set” around the country and the world, and stay in the best hotels. Without money, they cannot live in their palatial homes and apartments. Without money, they cannot influence politicians. SO, when are the laity going to realize that the only way their voices will be HEARD is if they cut off the money to the Metropolises, Archdioceses & Dioceses? The “people of God” (laos tou Theou) have SPOKEN and WRITTEN and LOBBIED, TO ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT. It is time to do the ONLY thing that will cause the hierarchs to listen, to hear! It is time to withhold money from the hierarchs. If money is withheld from the hierarchs here in the United States, they cannot send money to the Patriarchates across the water, who only see the Orthodox Churches in America as CASH-COWS!

    • Outspoken Orthodox Christian on

      As an outspoken Orthodox Christian, I likewise must remain anonymous. Fr. Anonymous states a candid, uncompromising fact. The Lord teaches more about money in the Gospel books than any other topic since money makes love grow. Money directs loving actions.

      Emperor Constantine called the bishops together for the first Ecumenical Councils of The Church. He funded their travel and accommodations during the long council deliberations. Commitment and money made it possible to create unity in Theological Belief, the forming of Canon Law and spiritual discipline, especially denouncing heresy.

      In the USA, Church and State are separate unlike during the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Currently no central “Bank Account” exists to which those who are dedicated to Orthodox Unity can contribute. Creating such trustworthy fund would give teeth to FR. ANONYMOUS’s suggestion. Donating small and huge amounts of funds to this Church Unity honey pot, instead of to current archdioceses would open the eyes of the self-satisfied. 10% – 25% redirected annually to this central fund would force each archdiocese to be more thrifty and to balance their books far more carefully.

      Who will create this trustworthy bank account committed to uniting the Orthodox jurisdictions in the USA? Of course clear, trustworthy accounting is required for such a common purpose.

      Let the faithful speak with their wallets.

      +++

      The faithful OCL expect bishops to change. When we expect someone else to change we are not practicing or believing in Orthodoxy.

      Orthodox Christians believe in Synergy: Grace plus free will. Obviously neither you nor I can change someone else. We can ask, inform, teach and inspire. Free mind and will must respond.

      “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
      Narcotics Anonymous, 1982.

      Reality check. We won’t change the bishops.

      Let’s focus on changing ourselves by doing actions that unite the Church.
      1. Pray for unity. Pray for the bishops. “Lord have mercy on all Orthodox bishops in the USA.”
      Keep it simple. Refrain from telling God what to do.
      2. Go to other Orthodox Parishes and receive Communion there to unite with fellow Orthodox Christians.
      3. Ask your priest to do the same as No 2. Help arrange such Eucharistic Encounters.
      This above all affirms and creates more unity.
      4. Ask your bishop to commune with fellow bishops at a specific local events. The more they meet together
      at the chalice, the more actual unity occurs.
      5. Give your money to actions that unite Orthodoxy in the USA.
      6. Work on common inter-parish and inter-jurisdictional projects:
      – Feed the hungry
      – Fund Care homes for single unwed mothers to prevent the choice for abortion
      – Create housing for the Homeless
      – Help trafficked victims
      – Educate Christians together in one setting: Conferences, Seminars, etc.
      – Create other common actions.
      7. Unity requires effort. Get the blessings from all local bishops and priests to create common actions.

      What you do creates a ripple effect that impacts everyone everywhere.

  4. George D. Karcazes on

    Dear Fr. Anonymous and Outspoken Orthodox Christian,

    What a sad commentary that in the year 2020 in North America thoughtful Orthodox Christians, including Priests, cannot openly and honestly express themselves on crucial issues facing our Church.

    Imagine devoting your life to serving the faithful People of God while living in fear of intimidation and abuse from those who we all pray for in every Liturgy, asking the Lord to grant them “many years, rightly teaching the truths” of Orthodoxy.

    For more than thirty years OCL has been engaged in an educational and advocacy ministry seeking to end the uncanonical situation of fourteen overlapping “ethnic “jurisdictions” in North America. The Church canons and common sense require that there cannot be more than one Bishop in any territory. In North America there can only be one Orthodox Church under a single Synod of canonical Bishops.

    The word “Laity” in the name of OCL was debated among its founders, which included many clergy friends and advisors. From the beginning the advice of the clergy was: “This must be a lay movement because we clergy cannot speak freely.”

    Let that sink in.

    I was once approached by an elderly Priest at a GOA Clergy-Laity Congress who had tears in his eyes. He said: “I hope OCL keeps doing what it is doing. I’m retired now and they can’t do anything to me, but my son is a Priest and I’m afraid of what they would do to him.”

    Let that sink in.

    A Church that relies on fear and intimidation to govern cannot grow and fulfill the commandment of Pentecost to go forth and preach Christ crucified and resurrected to all Nations.

    A Church whose leaders are viewed by its own clergy as arbitrary, capricious and vindictive cannot survive, let alone grow.

    Outspoken is right. OCL cannot change the mindset or management practices of bishops. That is not OCL’s mission. OCL’s mission is educational and advocacy. Providing a place for Fr. Anonymous and Outspoken to have a voice is part of OCL’s mission.

    Restoring a meaningful voice to the clergy as well as the laity of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese must be a priority in any new Charter.

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