Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
Musing from OCL Board Member, George Karcazes
As we consider the upcoming visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the United States, we who live our faith as Americans in this multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, religiously diverse country are called to ponder the future of Orthodoxy in America.
What have we learned about the state of Orthodoxy in the World and in our own home from recent events?
- We have learned that at the highest Patriarchal levels, Orthodoxy in the world is hopelessly divided. After decades of planning for a Holy and Great Council, unanimously agreeing on a date and place, the place was changed from Turkey to Crete at the request of Moscow, allegedly because a Russian plane was shot down in Syria by a Turkish plane. Then, Moscow and those influenced by Moscow and Antioch (because of a dispute with Jerusalem) all boycotted the Council, which is now referred to as the “Council of Crete” rather than the “Holy and Great Council of 2016″.
- We have learned that Moscow continues its multi-year efforts to challenge the “Primacy of Honor” accorded to Constantinople for millennia, and that in response, Constantinople rescinded a centuries-old grant of jurisdiction over what is now known as Ukraine to Moscow and granted “Autocephaly” to the Church in Ukraine, which is further stressing the relations between and among the Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches.
- We have learned that the Assembly of Bishops in the US have been meeting for a decade and have been unable to agree on a plan to bring the 14 “ethnic jurisdictions” into canonical order under a single Synod of Bishops electing its own presiding bishop.
- We have learned from the recent appointment of a new Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America by Constantinople that the process set forth in the Charter and Regulation of the Archdiocese are meaningless; that the laity in the US are being marginalized; and that our forefathers and mothers who established the parishes are denigrated as “assimilationist”.
What can we, as Americans, offer to the Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches who are prisoners of their histories and countries in the Old World?
- We can remind them that it is better for them to work in a conciliar and synodal manner, rather than in a hierarchical, monarchical manner, putting aside concerns over who has primacy over who.
- We can remind them that the laity in America have proven that they know how to make things work. We can explain to them that process matters; that working in synergy with the laity who have the skills to help them communicate effectively, the work of the Church can proceed in a manner that is “pleasing to Christ”.
- We can propose an Orthodox Christian Secretariat to bring all 14 Old World jurisdictions together in one place, so that they can meet regularly to face the issues of the day, overcoming the fragmentation both in World Orthodoxy and in our own divided Church here at home in America.
- We can expose them to rules of engagement that ensure that decisions can be made that reflect the will of the majority, allow for the expression of and respect for the opinions of dissenters but do not permit the “tyranny of the minority” where a single dissenter can thwart every decision.
We pray that this visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch will encourage him to engage with the other 13 Old World independent hierarchs in a process of unity that will enable the unification of our own Orthodox Church in the US. Let this beginning be their legacy.