In a recent video, Father Josiah Trenham offered his remarks about what he believes is the greatest challenge for Orthodoxy in America.
Father Josiah said, “Bishops are meant to be symbols of unity of the Orthodox faith. And today, our bishops have becomes symbols of disunity.”
Father Joshiah also stated, “These divisions are harming our missionary witness in keeping people from becoming Orthodox Christians. It is a great grief and in my opinion there is nothing as important as solving this.” …
Take a few minutes and listen to the Father Josiah’s video….
Fr. Trenham has succinctly stated the case for Orthodox Unity that OCL has been advocating since 1987. That was six years before Fr. Trenham was received into the Orthodox Church and ordained as a Priest by Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.
Metropolitan Philip, of blessed memory, was an outspoken advocate for the unification of the Orthodox Church in America. His successor, Metropolitan Joseph, named by the Patriarchate of Antioch, does not appear to share the same zeal. The Antiochian Archdiocese includes nine dioceses and eight bishops in addition to Metropolitan Joseph. What is their position on uniting all of the Orthodox Jurisdictions in America? What is the position of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch, on uniting the Church in America? How active have the Antiochian Bishops in America been in the Assembly of Bishops that has been meeting for more than ten years to come up with a plan to unite the Church in America?
How widely is Fr. Trenham’s view on the issue of unity shared by his brother clergy and the laity of the Antiochian Archdiocese? Have they made their views known to their Hierarchs?
How many will join their voices to OCL’s voice? Or Fr. Trenham’s voice?
While I fully support real Orthodox jurisdictional unity in the United States I do not understand why your search for it does not seem to include the Orthodox Church in America. It’s the 500 lb. gorilla in the room none of you here, or Fr. Trenham et. al. will discuss. Could you favor my sincere perplexity with a reply? I won’t polemicize or stand in principle here, just ask why can’t we enlarge the existing structure of the Local Autocephalous Church? It is a manifest fact that the OCA remains willing to undergo significant changes short of giving up its Autocephaly. So why not start there?
Let me begin by saying I do not consider the OCA to be the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. [more about that later].
First, I agree that the OCA is willing to undergo significant changes short of giving up its Autocephaly in order to advance the jurisdictional unity of the Church in America. The OCA should never give up its Autocephaly. The OCA is not the problem. It is also not the solution, although it must be a part of any solution.
Second, the OCA received its Tomos of Autocephaly from Moscow a half century ago. Moscow and Constantinople do not agree on how Autocephaly is achieved. The OCA’s Autocephaly is not universally recognized by all of the other Autocephalous Churches.
Third, I believe that all of the Old World Patriarchates that have parishes in the US bear some responsibility for the failure of the Assembly of Bishops to agree on a plan for real Orthodox jurisdictional unity in the US. I also believe that the dispute between Moscow and Constantinople is a big reason for the lack of progress by the Assembly of Bishops in America.
Third, my questions about the Antiochian Hierarchy in my comments concerning the talk by Fr. Trenham were made because Fr. Trenham in a priest in that Archdiocese. You ask: “…why can’t we enlarge the existing structure of the Local Autocephalous Church?” [meaning the OCA]. A step in that direction would be a merger of the OCA with the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Until recently, I thought that the OCA and the Antiochian Archdiocese were the most “American” of the jurisdictions. They both embrace English in the Liturgy, and they both are missionary in outlook. Barring a breakthrough at the Assembly of Bishops, a merger of the OCA with the AOCA would seem to make sense. Sometimes, you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time.
Finally, who is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room? The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is the largest jurisdiction in America. Constantinople has methodically increased its influence (some would say control) over the GOA. An understanding of the GOA is required in any discussion of Orthodox jurisdictional unity in the US.
If you want to understand the GOA, the recently published book by Professor Alexander Kitroeff, “The Greek Orthodox Church in America: A Modern History” is an excellent place to start. I got my copy on Amazon Prime. I urge anyone interested in Orthodoxy in America to read it.
Thanks for the considered reply. It is clear that the direction of changes in governance of the GOA have been in the direction of deepening subordination to the Phanar; from the removal of Abp. Iakovos’ signature from the Ligonier document to the removal of his person from NY to reorganization of Eparchial Synod with Metropolitans directly answerable to the EP, to the abrogation of GOARCH bylaws in the rapid appointment of the current Archbishop. My interpretation of this history is that the Phanar wants to eliminate any tendency towards autonomy on any level and to reify dependence symbolically so as to prevent a grassroots movement towards a Local Autocephalous Church that Greek Orthodox would embrace. In my opinion, this is expressed in things like the Synaxarion, which is careful never to include North American saints.
If we rely on the present system of satrapies governed by foreign-appointed heads, there will never be an ένοσις of jurisdictions. Historically, most autocephaly was taken unilaterally and grudgingly acknowledged and made legal long afterwards. I think the OCA Tomos which is valid will be foundational to a single cohesive jurisdiction. But that unity will not be granted readily the way Moscow granted the Tomos.
I believe we agree that the Orthodox Church in the US will not grow until the multiple ethnic “jurisdictions” are united under a single synod of all canonical Bishops, as an Autocephalous local Church in this territory.
How Autocephaly is attained is an issue on which Constantinople and Moscow do not agree. The issue was on the agenda for the Holy and Great Council that all of the Autocephalous Churches had agreed to convene in 2016, after decades of planning. The issue was removed from the agenda at the last minute, because it threatened to prevent the Council from meeting. As it happened, Moscow and a couple of others boycotted the meeting anyway. So, how do we in America move forward?
I was interested by your statement that: “Historically, most autocephaly was taken unilaterally and grudgingly made legal long afterwards.” Are you referring to the Church of Greece, the Church of Serbia and the Church of Romania, whose autocephalies were recognized in 1850, 1879 and 1885, respectively? These were territories that broke away from the Ottoman Empire as it was crumbling in the early and mid-nineteenth century and attained their independence as homogeneous ethnic “nations” within more or less defined borders. Are you suggesting that these examples can be followed in the US?
A Boston Tea Party followed by a Declaration of Independence? How many of the Bishops meeting as an Assembly of Bishops are willing to sign onto Ligonier II? How many will risk being defrocked by the foreign synods that appointed them and wait until the Autocephaly of the Church in America is grudgingly acknowledged and made legal long afterwards? How many of them are prepared to pledge their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to do what they know is right in the eyes of God.. that they “should be One” as Christ and His Father are one?
I’d be interested in your thoughts, but I’d also be interested in hearing from members of Antiochian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Carpatho-Russian, GOA and ROCOR clergymen or lay persons. Comments from Hierarchs would also be appreciated.
E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, how do we become one?
i write anonymously as a lay employee of the diocesan administration of one of the slavic in america. forgive my vagueness, bur i do not have a blessing to comment in the name of my church.
in response to your inquiry about what members of other churches think, we will never merge. never. we are united on that issue in our jurisdiction, clergy and laity together, and those that support the ocl’s mission are shunned.
it will never happen. you are fighting a loosing battle. we will never break away from our homeland
Thank you for your response. I understand the honesty of your deeply held position as a lay employee of your diocesan administration.
I regret, but relate to the fact that those in your church who support OCL’s mission are shunned.
Assimilation used to be expected and common among earlier immigrants who came to America for a better life and for a better future for their progeny. In recent years, the idea that America is a “mosaic” rather than a “melting pot” has gained traction. The ease of travel back to their homeland and modern communications have allowed immigrants to maintain connections and, for many, the attitude of living in a diaspora.
This has slowed assimilation, but it has not stopped it. In spite of rearguard actions of diasporists, descendants of immigrants do assimilate. Even in an age of globalization, at some point, America will become the homeland of those who live and put down roots here. I don’t know if Anonymous is a US citizen, or how many of his fellow clergy and laity in his jurisdiction are US citizens or remain citizens of their “homeland”. Americans, especially those of us who were born here and never had to take the oath, should know the oath our parents or grandparents took in order to become citizens:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all alliance and fidelity
to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a
subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of
America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the
same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform
noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will
perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I
take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Americanization may be delayed, but intermarriage eventually becomes the rule rather than the exception; and what some believe will “never happen,” actually does happen. The issue for Orthodox faithful living their lives and their faith in America is whether the Church’s mission of teaching Christ crucified and resurrected is sacrificed on the altar of maintaining a foreign language and culture in America.
Without a constant flow of new immigrants from the “homeland” to replace those who drift away from Churches that do not speak to them in a language they understand and that violates its own canons of catholicity and unity, ethnic-ghetto jurisdictions will not grow.
It is said that any organism that is not growing, is dying. A church that is inward-looking rather than missionary, especially in America, where the Church is not established and supported by the State, will not survive for long.
The question Orthodox Christians in America must address is this: Is the ethnic jurisdiction you belong to growing, or is it dying?
Unfortunately, this person doesn’t understand that the church is not an ethnic club, but rather it is the Body of Christ.
It no longer matters whether the American Church remains connected to the motherland or not. If the motherland espouses laws that run counter to the faith, we are strangers in a strange land whether here or there. I could never swear allegiance to any nation that codifies homosexual marriage and legalizes abortion/infanticide. I mean FGS even the GOC is swerving to paganism with its insistence on supporting orgs like Public Orthodoxy and turning “nature” into a religious issue and whose hierarch uses his symbolic authority to interfere in splitting up Churches. It’s gotten to the point where “render unto Caesar” means render unto a patriarch. Many faithful will continue to trudge along by visiting monasteries and participating in online liturgies and Bible sessions, quietly and prayerfully awaiting His coming.
For 2000 years, the Orthodox Church never heard of getting a disease through holy Communion. Now, just because of mass false media, we think we can catch
a disease from the body and blood of Christ when he is the healer? That is ridiculous!!! Are we going to allow the global controllers to take away our faith, our freedom and our health? No, no way!!!