Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
Will Canonical Order – Orthodox Christian Unity in the USA – Emerge from the Sixth Meeting of the Assembly of Bishops?
Canonical Orthodox Churches have always been Churches in specific geographical areas. Where the Bishop is, so too is the Church. The Church is not a colonial extension of bishops ruling or directing from other geographic areas. Canonical order is bishops in a geographic area meeting as a Synod, electing their own head and working with clergy and laity to build up the body of Christ.
This is not true for the Churches outside the boundaries of the old Roman Empire. In the USA, the situation is chaotic. We have 14 parallel jurisdictions of Orthodox Bishops directed from foreign lands. In 2008, the Autocephalous Patriarchs set up a process for Assemblies of Bishops to meet and develop blueprints in the lands outside of the Roman Empire, so that the Church in these lands could be canonical. Presently, they exist in canonical disorder. Since 2009, the Assembly of Bishops of the USA and Central America has been meeting once yearly – all together some 58 bishops of 14 different jurisdictions or groupings. Their sixth meeting will be held September 15-17, 2015 in Chicago. In between sessions, they have met in various committees. The work of some of these committees, especially studies on College Students, Pastoral Practices and Regional Planning, have been noteworthy. The great accomplishment of these six years has been that the Bishops have met each other, some for the first time, and a sense of fellowship has emerged. See the Assembly website (assemblyofbishops.org) for more information.
But where is the plan for Canonical Unity? Will we see it or learn about some of its details after the September 17 Chicago meeting? Which Bishops will be absent from this meeting? Will a consensus emerge? A draft document was supposed to have been developed by June 2015, but the bishops could not agree on a document. Seventeen members of the Secretariat and committee heads, excluding Antiochian Archdiocese members, instead traveled to Istanbul to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew. There have been no reports posted on the Assembly of Bishops website about the substance of this meeting.
The clergy and laity are prayerful that the Holy Spirit will guide the Bishops to create canonical order, which is to make the Assembly a Synod and elect a head. All other details related to a unified, self-governing Church in the USA will be resolved by the Synod working with the clergy and laity. As a result, the Orthodox Christian Church in the USA will have the opportunity to be renewed and become a truly mission Church.
Orthodox Christian Laity and the Unity of the Church in the USA
It is impossible to grow into faith alone, outside of family; and if we are really a family of Orthodox people, all the participants should be there. The role of Orthodox Christian Laity in calling for that unity is really instrumental. I would say that the Russian Orthodox Church is truly appreciative of the work you do, because in your work, true enthusiasm – and I will even say romanticism, in a good sense of this word – is combined with practices and openness to ideas. And that is the image of Christian behavior in a very complex world. (Very Rev Archpriest Alexander Abramov, Secretary of Representation of Moscow Patriarchate in USA. November 3, 2007. Glenview, Illinois).
For 28 years, Orthodox Christian Laity has been an advocate of Orthodox Christian Unity in the USA. It has asked its members to pray for unity, and it has taken steps to advocate for unity. Twenty Six Annual Programs held in different locations throughout the USA had Pan Orthodox Themes. Forty percent of the 1993 publication, Project for Orthodox Renewal, was devoted to the topic of Orthodox Unity. In 1998, OCL passed a resolution for Autocephaly (https://ocl.org/a-resolution-for-autocephaly/) . Its 2009 publication, Orthodox Christianity at the Crossroad: A Great Council of the Church: When and Why, clearly outlines why our College Students demand unity in order for them to remain Orthodox Christians. Archpriest Alexander Abramson, then Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate, states that the Moscow Patriarchate supports a Holy Synod of American Bishops. Since 2008, the OCL website(ocl.org) has been the go-to place to learn about the work of the Assembly of Bishops. OCL also contributed $20,000 to support the First Meeting of the Assembly at the Helmsley Hotel in NYC. We pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the Bishops in this 6th Meeting.
George Matsoukas, Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Laity[subscribe2]
To the question, will “session six” create a proper canonical order for Orthodoxy down in America?
Well it would be nice if we were all placed under he Jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, which has the right of primogenitor in North America. Moscow could allow for bishops of different language and national groups wherever it was necessary. Or perhaps we could just give the boot to all our sinful nationalism and all be just Christian Orthodox, rather than non-Greeks being forced to call themselves “Greek” Orthodox and embrace some antique fantasy called “Hellenism” (isn’t that some form of Free Masons? And how is it higher than Holy Rus’-ism?) Why should we have to use any sort of nationalistic designation or “ism”? Why could we not resolve to abolish all of them, and just be Christian Orthodox? Greece was not crucified for our sins, Hellenism is something from a pagan era, Russia did not suffer and die for our salvation, Serbia did not deliver the Sermon on the Mount, Bulgaria did not command the wind and the wave to abate, Romania did not give us the Lord’s Prayer, Antioch is a totally unimportant Muslim town in Turkey. What is so wrong with identifying with Christ Jesus instead of with some corrupt earthly power or nationality? Perhaps if we all just belong to the Orthodox Christian Church, the matter would resolve itself with out all the political machinations and ethnic pride and arrogance? That, of course, would never happen. Unless, perhaps the younger generation just get fed up with our pettiness and self-worship and just decide that they will be Orthodox Christians with out a nationalistic brand name taken from the corrupt cultures and societies of fallen humanity.
I want you to know that I’m in support of any and all actions that you may undertake in reference to the so-called Pan-Orthodox Synod. Since I have noticed an increase in monastic activities by the “Super and Pure Orthodox” that impact on our congregations particularly with reference to confession, sex and penances and multiple prostrations and external antiquity, I invite you to check-out this phenomenon and to react according to our Orthodox faith and tradition. Additionally since many of our clergy are committed to wearing crosses, robes, hats, long beards, ponytails and other distinctions of office in public, I believe that we should ask the question of our hierarchs: “In which century of Orthodoxy do we wish to live; in the third, fourth, twelfth, fourteenth, (by maintaining an ethnic ghetto of immigrants) or the twenty-first? How about Orthodoxy in America and the so-called indigenous Assembly of Bishops and our need to have our own independent, autonomous, autocephalous Church, synod and elected patriarch? How about a position on the fact that many of the Greek parishes are sustained by Greek food festivals and specialize in teaching ethnic dances in regional costumes? Where is Christ in the contemporary ecclesiastical potpourri of ignorance?