Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Unity’

Weighty possibilities I haven’t come across before for the phenomenon — reportedly not rare — of Orthodox clergy who seem reluctant to receive a convert, especially in the Western world, are presented by a Greek priest in Australia.  (NB: I’ve never heard of a language requirement before.)

His piece reminds us that most Orthodox didn’t come to the West as missionaries.  Of course, most non-Indigenous didn’t come to North America, Australia, etc., as missionaries — their religions basically followed them here.  (Of course, conversion of the Indians was part and parcel of colonial policy in Latin America.)  We easily forget ethnic distinction in religion wasn’t brought here by the Orthodox; to this day many Protestant and Catholic congregations are still predominantly of one or another ethnicity (or two), even if they don’t include it in their buildings’ names anymore.  But active explicit or implicit competition for adherents began apace at least in the U.S. with its (eventual) very “free-market” approach to religion.  Since overall, Orthodox are more-recent arrivals than other Christians, they’re mostly still in that earlier phase so to speak.

Sometimes a little sociological understanding can go a long way….  Kind of a correlate to Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green’s 12th “…Thing I Wish I’d Known…

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.

This news release from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) announces a recent agreement between the Jerusalem and Constantinople Patriarchates ceding the JP’s claims of jurisdiction in the United States to the latter.  Its parishes here will form a vicariate directly under the jurisdiction of the Greek Archbishop of America, seemingly similar in many ways to Constantinople’s other non-Greek groups here, but without the status of a diocese or full “jurisdiction” of its own like them.  As they highlight that this will have the effect of bringing the JP’s Church here under the SCOBA umbrella (but without distinct representation on SCOBA), that will leave only the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) apart from it, among “canonical” Orthodox jurisdictions based here in the States.

Orthodoxwiki discusses the JP here, on this page, and links to a new page of theirs about the new Vicariate.*  A couple years ago I thought I read that, objecting to talk of the GOA absorbing breakaway Antiochian parishes (as discussed on Orthodoxwiki), the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America temporarily put the breaks on SCOBA Primates’ meetings.  But I lack complete information on this point.  SCOBA meetings have resumed since that time.

I have also read that the GOA does include a handful of parishes defined by Orthodox ethnicity other than Greek, including Romanian.  I don’t know the history there either.

(*–The small Belarusan “Council” of parishes that Orthodoxwiki continues to list in the present tense disappeared from GOA/EP information products – website, printed directory – some time in the last couple years.  I don’t know what happened to them, if anything.)

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.)

There are two “canonical” Romanian Orthodox jurisdictions in North America (mostly), now seemingly talking more seriously about reunion than ever before.  The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate* of America has been part of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) for a couple generations.  The smaller Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese* of the Americas is part of the Patriarchate of Romania (abbreviated English available).  They split up after World War 2, among other reasons, over allegations of Communist government control over the Patriarchate.  Now it looks like they might form a united “autonomous” jurisdiction “in canonical relationship with (not under) the Romanian Orthodox Church.** ”  I don’t know what that means exactly.  They seem to have over 100 parishes between them in the U.S., Canada, and South America (ROAA).  On the ROEA side, their clergy and diocesan congress are slated to look at the proposal next month, but apparently alot of organizational details remain to be worked out with ROAA before it’s finalized.  Also, the OCA Synod would have to approve, having jurisdiction over ROEA.

Here’s OrthodoxWiki’s ROEA piece.  And here’s their ROAA one.

This is being said to promote Orthodox Unity in America, I suppose because intra-ethnic reconciliation would have to happen sooner or later, for overall, pan-ethnic unity to happen.  ROAA’s Ruling Archbishop NICOLAE is young, relatively new on the job, and from Romania; ROEA’s Ruling Archbishop NATHANIEL – a convert (if that’s the right word) from the Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church*** – is a long-time advocate of unity among canonical Chalcedonian Orthodox here, and U.S.-born.  Let’s pray that the All-Holy Spirit of God who filled the Body of Christ at Pentecost / Trinity Sunday, lead both groups to shine forth God’s Uncreated Glory and Energies!

(*–ie, bishopric or diocese; Rom. [arhi]episcopia)

(**–By “Romanian Orthodox Church,” they mean the Patriarchate.)

(***–Officially, “the Romanian Church united with Rome, Greek-Catholic,” ie, Byzantine.)