Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Church in America’

New OCA Primate ex-Episcopalian; Serbia Patriarch staying on; new Mexican ruling hierarch

On the 1st of this month Abbot Jonah (Paffhausen) from California was consecrated Titular Bishop of Ft. Worth, Texas, and Auxiliary Bishop in the OCA’s Diocese of Dallas and the South — probably the newest Bishop in the entire Orthodox Church.  Yesterday (Wed.) he was elected Primate of the OCA, quite possibly the first convert Patriarch or Autocephalous Primate in Orthodoxy in over a thousand years, succeeding Metropolitan HERMAN, who retired for health reasons in September.  Some say clergy and laity taking part in the OCA’s 15th All-American* Council in Pittsburgh, PA, this week, were really impressed when Bishop JONAH presented theological as well as frank responses, at the Synod’s request, to some poignant questions raised regarding the financial scandal of the last few years – the main topic of the Council apart from the primatial election – attracting several standing ovations.  (I’ve never heard him speak before, but after listening to a couple other excerpts of him, and hearing in this brief Ancient Faith Radio interview that he got only about 5 minutes to prepare his remarks, and that things were getting a bit unruly in the hall just prior, I think it’s reasonable to think he was just nervous and/or maybe a little emotional.)  His banquet speech after being elected is moving.  (I wonder if he slept, or was up all night pondering it, and everything else!!)  If you want to hear his sermon right before the election, use this audio MP3 link (availing yourself of the opportunity to use your own, more flexible, software), and advance to about 41 minutes in; the sermon is about 11 minutes long.  (The whole Liturgy is about 2 hours [“…Blackwood!’].  NB: The Scripture Readings used, Metropolitan JONAH says, were those of the day, and not specially chosen for the occasion of the Council or the Election.  Through the Fathers of the Church who composed the Orthodox Lectionary, the Lord moves in mysterious ways!)

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the local newspaper of record, provides their version of coverage (although at 62, Archbishop JOB of Chicago is hardly “elderly”!!!  Though DMITRI of Dallas, who’s 85 and has been trying for a few years to get an Auxiliary, certainly qualifies, and not as a put-down: his place in history starts with the Warren Commission investigation, in 1964, of the JFK assassination, since he was ministering to Russians and others in Dallas and vicinity, with whom Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife might have interacted.).  This link includes details about the election procedure.  Briefly, the clergy and lay parish representatives nominate candidates, and the Synod elects them, or if one receives two-thirds support from the clergy and laity, may only reject him with stated reasons why.  A Provincial (or Patriarchal) Synod prerogative or requirement to confirm the election and translation of Bishops was established I believe around the middle of the first Christian millennium.  Later lower clergy and laity corporately – not counting Orthodox (or Muslim) Monarchs – mostly lost the right to nominate or elect Bishops, but the Moscow Council of 1917-18 attempted to re-establish it there in some form.  Although the Patriarchate was prevented from going forward with this plan by Bolshevik rule, those in North America followed through with it; also owing to their early developmental stage, and the importance lower clergy and laity had in swelling the size and structures of the North American Diocese (‘proto-OCA’) with the conversions and immigration from the late 1800s.  (It should be noted that in the final decades of the Ottoman Empire, the Patriarch of Constantinople was chosen by a “mixed council” of Bishops and laity, though this council was abolished after the fall of the empire.  Also, I believe I have read that the actual Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem includes some lower clergy, who participate in Patriarchal elections.  And in Romania, as we recently saw, lay reps also take part.)  God Grant Metropolitan JONAH Many Years!

I’ve been busy with politics the last few weeks, so I didn’t know Patriarch PAUL of Serbia (Serbian PAVLE) asked to retire on account of physical disability.  But his Assembly of Bishops has just gotten him to agree to stay on.  I believe he’s been ailing for quite some time.

At the time I did note the election of the OCA’s Bishop ALEJO (Pacheco-Vera) of Mexico City to be Ruling Hierarch there, but didn’t make it over here to post it.  Fascinating story here.  In 1972 now-Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas was instrumental in bringing into the canonical Orthodox Church (a contingent from?) the Mexican National Catholic Church — an “independent Catholic” group that IIUC has been the source of Westernly-“valid” episcopal consecrations for many independent, uncanonical, or vagante groups — and as the OCA news brief notes, adding their bishop, JOSE (Cortes y Olmos), to the Holy Synod after Orthodox consecration.  (JOSE was even a Rome-trained canon lawyer before joining the MNCC.)  In fact 2008 is the 25th anniversary of JOSE’s 1983 repose.  (Memory Eternal!)  The MNCC’s discovery of Orthodoxy foreshadowed that of the Evangelical Orthodox who in ’87 were received into the Antiochian Archdiocese en masse after study:

The new bishop and his clergy became gradually convinced, through study and reflection, that the Old Catholic ecclesiological principles did not conform to the criteria of the One, True, Catholic Church. They came to identify with Orthodox Holy Tradition, and adopted the designation “Orthodox” – Iglesia Ortodoxa Catolica en Mexicao (Orthodox {Catholic} Church in Mexico).

Or put more chronologically, the EOs’ conversion echoed the Mexicans’.  Now, ALEJO was considered ‘only’ Titular Bishop of Mexico City before last month, serving as Auxiliary Bishop and Administrator for the Exarchate of Mexico under Abp DMITRI and/or Metropolitan HERMAN.  As Ruling Hierarch he now becomes actual Bishop of Mexico City.  And why “Exarchate”?: I believe the OCA doesn’t consider Mexico part of its ‘proper’ canonical territory … only the U.S. and Canada, as reflected in its Autocephaly documents.  IIUC they call Mexico an exarchate in the sense that it is a ‘jurisdiction-outside,’ the literal meaning of exarchate from the Greek, and akin to what they often call the exarchates of other Patriarchates here in the Western world outside their canonical territories as commonly understood.  I know of Greek, Antiochian, Moscow Patriarchal, and Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) institutions also in Mexico; I’m not sure if there are others there.  And while Orthodoxy doesn’t encourage us non-Bishops to play Canon Lawyer at home, ISTM functioning outside your canonical territory is considered OK if it isn’t anybody else’s canonical territory, “according to the ancient Fathers” as I believe it says somewhere, probably in the spirit of evangelizing new lands sooner or later — think of it as ecclesiastical Common Law perhaps … though preferably there’d only be one jurisdiction in each place embracing all Orthodox of all languages and cultures and identities, etc….  Anyway, Many Years to Bishop ALEJO of Mexico City!

(*–The expression “All-American” here isn’t necessarily meant to evoke patriotism or non-ethnicity, simply that it covers all of “America” in the East European [not Latin American] sense of all North America, including Canada.  [So technically it wasn’t ironic to have the previous All-American Council in Toronto.]  The precedent comes from the OCA’s mother Church of Russia, which has “All-Russian” councils; in fact, there are many “all-Russian” things, even non-religious, and this habit even survived during Communism, when instead they were “all-Union” as in Soviet Union-wide.  Similarly, the biggest gatherings of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia [ROCOR] are “All-Diaspora” Councils.  ISTM possible this usage came from the Greeks, who even today have numerous “Pan-Hellenic” entities and organizations, pan being Greek for all.  The same for the OCA Primate’s title, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, parallelled by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus … which is similar but not the same as “Tsar of All the Russias,” where historically you had Great Russia, Little Russia, White Russia, etc., hence, “All the Russias.”  Unless this is simply a translation issue, where I’m sure I’ll welcome correction!)

This weekend 9 Primates and 5 other Bishop-representatives of Orthodoxy’s 14 universally-recognized Autocephalous Churches convened a “synaxis” in Istanbul chaired by the First Among Equals, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople BARTHOLOMEW.  Their end-of-summit communique, released just today, is worth reading in its entirety.  In particular, Section 13(ii) declares

our desire for the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements, such as in the so-called Orthodox Diaspora, with a view to overcoming every possible influence that is foreign to Orthodox ecclesiology. In this respect we welcome the proposal by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to convene Panorthodox Consultations within the coming year 2009 on this subject, as well as for the continuation of preparations for the Holy and Great Council. In accordance with the standing order and practice of the Panorthodox Consultations in Rhodes, it will invite all Autocephalous Churches.

It’s signed

+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
+ Theodore of Alexandria
+ Ignatius of Antioch
+ Theophilos of Jerusalem
+ Alexey of Moscow
+ Amphilochios of Montenegro
(representing the Church of Serbia)
+ Laurentiu of Transylvania
(representing the Church of Romania)
+ Dometiyan of Vidin
(representing the Church of Bulgaria)
+ Gerasime of Zugdidi
(representing the Church of Georgia)
+ Chrysostomos of Cyprus
+ Ieronymos of Athens
+ Jeremiasz of Wrocław
(representing of the Church of Poland)
+ Anastasios of Tirana {Albania}
+ Christopher of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

Although if the Rhodes meetings are the exemplar for the Unity meetings, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA) won’t be invited, since a number of the other Churches don’t consider them autocephalous, but still part of the Patriarchate of Moscow, their Mother Church — a position the OCA has officially seemed to take in stride since Moscow recognized it as autocephalous in 1970.

There’s a new mission (OCA) in Dagsboro, Sussex County, Delaware, originally located in Fenwick Island, DE.  Another recent mission (Antiochian) is in nearby Lewes,* Delaware [known somewhat for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry across the mouth of Delaware Bay, a neat boat ride in nice weather, by foot or by motor vehicle].

These drew my attention because my great-grandmother, Lula Fisher (sometimes recorded as Lulu Fisher), came from Dagsboro.  Although I grew up urban Irish Catholic and currently look something like a leprechaun(!), through her I’m also related to the Nanticoke Indians based in that neighborhood.  I’ve visited their September powwow a couple times in recent years as I’ve learned about them.  Many of them belong to a historic Methodist congregation (text at link quotes from its State historical marker).  This newspaper article provides a quick sketch and information about the Nanticokes.

Speaking of Indigenous peoples, one reason for the huge spread of Orthodoxy among Sub-Saharan Africans in the last 70 years or so — over 100,000 today — is said to be Orthodoxy’s lack of association with Western European colonialism there.  I know that some Native Americans rebel against (Western) Christianity for similar reasons.  OTOH, Orthodoxy has helped Indigenous Siberians and Alaskans preserve their cultures and identities — everything not deemed in direct conflict with Orthodox theology, generously construed — translated Orthodox texts into their languages, and defended their rights, especially in Alaska against Russian commercial and general U.S. violation.  In the Middle Ages, when the Western Church was imposing the by-then-dead Latin language on all liturgical and religious usage, the Eastern Church was translating the Faith into Georgian, Armenian, and Slavonic.  Also of interest in this respect would be the account of St. Innocent of Alaska and the Aleut Orthodox “Shaman” Ivan Smirennikov, in the last three paragraphs here.  (My source was a book of research papers in a college library near me that I no longer recall.)

(*–Pronounced like Lewis.)

What follows is an extended quote (from pp. 9-10) from Women and Men in the Church, a 1980 work/study by a committee of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). I’m still wrestling with all its implications, myself, but thought I’d offer it here as an example of an Orthodox approach to questions and issues:

Sacraments and Saints, Councils and Canons

The Holy Tradition of the Church is rooted and grounded in the Holy Scriptures and is thoroughly shaped by biblical words and images. It is expressed in the Church’s liturgical worship and sacramental rites, as well as in her ecumenical councils and canons, the writings of her fathers and the lives of her saints. It is expressed also in her sacred art, particularly the holy icons.

Of particular relevance to the issue of women and men in the Church are the following specific sources:

  1. The sacramental rituals, particularly those dealing with baptism, churching and marriage.
  2. The more than one hundred canons of the ecumenical councils which deal specifically with men and women in the Church.
  3. The writings of the Church fathers, particularly Clement of Alexandria, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and most especially Saint John Chrysostom.
  4. The liturgical services, particularly of the conception and nativity of John [t]he Baptist and the Virgin Mary; the Annunciation; the Nativity of Christ, the Presentation of Christ to the Temple; the Entrance of Mary to the Temple; the Dormition of Mary and many services to the saints, especially saintly women.
  5. The lives of the saints, particularly the women saints. The lives and acts of women martyrs and missionaries, as well as the women ascetics and married saints, especially those who bear the title “equal to the apostles.”
  6. The holy icons, particularly the icons of the Virgin Mary, [of] the liturgical festivals mentioned above, and [of] the women saints.

In these sources, and in these sources alone, are to be found the basic, essential and final revelation of the truth of God about women and men in the Church [emphasis in original]. All other sources are additional, and are to be judged and interpreted in the light of these sources, which means in the light of Christ and the Holy Spirit, as this light shines forth from God in the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church. This does not mean that the findings of “modern science” — biological, sociological, psychological, medical, political, economic [–] are unimportant and valueless. It means rather that they are subject to examination in the light of God’s revelation in Christ, the Spirit and the Church. It means that they are always limited and partial, and that they may sometimes simply be wrong; not “science” at all, but merely the opinions of persons who voluntarily or involuntarily are blinded by ignorance or evil. (See Romans 1:18ff). The final word in every instance belongs to the Word Himself, Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God who remains the Lord and Master of all creation in the Church which is his body, “the pillar and the bulwark of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15).