Posts Tagged ‘church jurisdictions’

As commonly used in reference to Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism — broadly considered (I can’t speak about other Churches) — in the Western world, the informal noun jurisdiction seems to indicate a particular ethnic, national, and/or patriarchate’s Church in a given country, region, or continent(s) … considered a part of The One Single Orthodox Church [or “The Catholic Church,” in ECs’ case], completely sharing the same doctrine and Faith, “In Full Communion” and not separate “denominations.”  (However, the term may also be used, less commonly, in connection with “non-canonical” groups.)  I believe the term in this usage is so prominent in the West because, due to “overlapping” (or disagreement regarding … jurisdiction), there are so many here, more per square mile than in ‘the Eastern world’ where Orthodox Church structures are mostly integrated in one way or another.

I’m describing this very carefully.  Technically, any Ruling Hierarch’s area or class of responsibility might be (and sometimes IS) called his jurisdiction, or for Greek words, his eparchy (“to rule over”) or omophorion (his liturgical-vestment stole, essentially, symbolic of his shepherding [like a Latin metropolitan-archbishop’s pallium]).  However, I believe in common, colloquial discussion, the term is rather used as I stated above.  This may be because any local bishoprics within “a jurisdiction” are perceived as being able to “come and go” over time, as with their boundaries, while “the jurisdiction” itself — in this case a parent body if you will — has had a longer existence, and often a more stable or knowable one, especially in the eyes of people less familiar with the jurisdiction under discussion at this or that moment.

I said “a particular ethnic, national, or patriarchate’s Church” generically, too.  A “jurisdiction” in fact may be a Bishopric, a cluster of Bishoprics, or one or more parishes overseen in some other way.  To flesh this out, in the United States and Canada, the following are currently clusters of Bishoprics commonly described as (“canonical”) jurisdictions:

  • The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA), consisting of 11 “territorial” dioceses (one called an Exarchate), 3 additional “ethnic” dioceses (these latter may also sometimes be referred to as “jurisdictions,” even though they are parts of The OCA), and 3 parishes in Australia;
  • the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, structured as 9 territorial dioceses, as well as the overlapping Western Rite Vicariate;
  • the Greek Archdiocese of America, consisting of 8 metropolises (local/regional bishoprics), a Direct Archdiocesan District, the overlapping “Vicariate for Palestinian/Jordanian Communities in the USA” (which may also be referred to as “a jurisdiction”); and a Patriarchal monastery with its dependent monasteries, parishes, and missions in the U.S. and Belize, Central America;
  • the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, with 3 eparchies;
  • the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, also with 3 eparchies;
  • The Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, with 4 dioceses in the U.S. and one in Canada; and
  • the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), with 3 dioceses in the U.S., one in Canada, 2 in Western Europe, one each in Australasia and Russia, along with an “ecclesiastical mission” in Jerusalem, a cluster of parishes in South America, and an Old Rite (Old Believer) parish administered by a vicar-bishop (auxiliary) of the First Hierarch (primate) of ROCOR.

The following are currently single Bishoprics commonly described as (“canonical”) jurisdictions:

The following are currently other parish structures commonly described as (“canonical”) jurisdictions:

  • The Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA, administered by a vicar-bishop (auxiliary) of the Patriarch of Moscow, and
  • the Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada, also administered by a vicar-bishop (auxiliary) of the Patriarch of Moscow.

How are they (within “canonical” Orthodoxy) different from denominations?  Due in part to unfamiliarity, rough analogies, and/or misinformation, Orthodoxy is widely considered “a family of churches,” compared to the Oriental Churches or the historic Anglican Communion, contrasted with the Papacy of Rome, etc.  But I believe Holy Tradition from within Orthodoxy views it as a single Church, subdivided into Patriarchates and other Autocephalous Churches, just as these are further comprised of Autonomous, Semi-Autonomous, and other local Churches — ecclesiastical provinces and bishoprics, generically speaking.  We Westerners aren’t used to thinking of a single Church including more than one ‘effective’ Patriarch, who “does not submit to another patriarch,” since the Patriarch of Rome is effectively “more equal” than his Eastern Catholic and other Latin Patriarchs … with whom most Westerners are unfamiliar anyway!  (This isn’t a put-down of Catholicism in this case, merely an observation.)  Orthodoxy has no human ‘top dog’ able to force other Bishops to his will “under pain of excommunication” the same way Rome has, “merely” a First Among Equals — the same for over 1,600 years.

Orthodoxy’s internal squabbles, turf battles, boundary disputes, and apparent “ethnic” divisiveness, further remind Westerners more of Protestant denominations than of a single Body.  But the institution of the o/Orthodox Ecumenical Synod (Council) makes Orthodoxy’s unity, oneness, most visible.  Before the 20th century it was not unheard of in Orthodoxy to say we had had 9 of these: the 7 commonly-considered during the first Christian millennium, an 8th in there, and the 9th during the 1300s.  It’s been a while, but the next has been in the works for most of the last century (the first that won’t be “strongly encouraged” together by an Orthodox Emperor!).  o/Orthodox Ecumenical Synods have refuted errors and the erroneous, sacked Patriarchs, even examined Popes of Rome for heresy, as well as brought greater order to disorder in the Church … all under the heard/felt, experienced, confirmed leadership of the All-Holy Spirit of God, One of the Trinity, in the meetings and among the holy ones outside the meetings — the true “guardians of the Faith” — who received their Teaching (and rejected “robbers’ synods” lacking the Spirit and misleading the Flock).  Today’s autocephalous Orthodox Churches are the true successors of the 1st millennium’s autocephalous ecclesiastical provinces, and the ante-Nicene “autocephalous” bishoprics, maintaining The Church’s conciliarity, Truth, and reasonableness for nearly 2,000 years.

So internal — if you will, inter-jurisdictional — disagreements are temporary … even if it takes a while to work them out … this seems to be God’s Most Holy Will.

This is good news, because it represents closer cooperation of another “canonical” jurisdiction with the main grouping of other canonical jurisdictions.  Bishop MERCURIUS of Zaraisk, who administers around three dozen parishes in the U.S. – referred to sometimes as “the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA” – on behalf of the Patriarch of Moscow personally, has attended some SCOBA meetings in recent years as an observer.  AFAIK there has never been any question about the “canonicity” of the Patriarchal Parishes of the ROC in the USA (as they are also called) as such, ie, their Communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church, at least since Moscow and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) reconciled in 1970.  (Don’t ask me about before 1970 though; my history’s rusty.)

The PPs aren’t officially a diocese, but are under the personal jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, though as far as I can gather, they function almost like a diocese.  (There’s a similar cluster of parishes in Canada with its own administrator-bishop under the Patriarch.)  They were part of a rival diocese Moscow launched here, also called The Exarchate, after the OCA, then referred to as the Metropolia, declared temporary autonomy as a result of the Russian Revolution and Civil War through the 1920s and the disruptions it inflicted on the Patriarchate.  IOW, Moscow officially didn’t always recognize the Metropolia between the ’20s and ’70, although OCA histories point out that at least a couple times they continued to submit their newly-elected Primates to the Patriarchate for confirmation, and it confirmed them, sometimes years later.  After 1970, these were parishes that didn’t wish to be merged into the OCA right away, when Moscow assigned its canonical territory here to the OCA, and so it was agreed they wouldn’t have to, and that Moscow would only facilitate their integration into the OCA when each parish desires it.

To my knowledge, essentially only two other local canonical “jurisdictions” are not in SCOBA now, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR, aka ROC Abroad / ROCA) and that of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.  AFAIK there is no question about their Communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church, it’s just that SCOBA membership isn’t mandatory.

A word about SCOBA itself is in order.  The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas* actually is comprised ‘only’ of the 9 member-primates of certain jurisdictions headquartered in the U.S., and now also the PP administrator vicar-bishop, Mercurius (at this writing SCOBA hasn’t updated this page yet).  Jurisdictions themselves technically aren’t part of SCOBA, and neither are the other Bishops of jurisdictions with Primates in SCOBA, although SCOBA has organized so far three meetings of many of their other Bishops here, in Ligonier, Penna., in 1994; in Washington in 2001; and in Chicago two years ago.  SCOBA also sponsors several officially interjurisdictional ministries or organizations.  SCOBA is not a synod or jurisdiction, but a voluntary working-group for greater collaboration among Orthodox here, with an ultimate goal of jurisdictional unity of the Orthodox here.  There are (or perhaps have been) similar organizations in Australia, Germany, and France.  SCOBA has its critics: some say they’re going too slow towards Orthodox unity, others say they’re too involved with the Ecumenical Movement.  The Primates convene twice a year; this is interesting because according to ancient Orthodox Church Canons (rules), a local (provincial) synod of bishops is supposed to meet twice a year.

(*–“Americas,” I believe, because at the time the Greek Archdiocese of America was “of North and South America,” although today a couple other groups have some parishes in South America also.  But most Orthodox there are not part of SCOBA.)