Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some thoughts on Metropolitan Jonah's speech

Having listened to the speech and read it through a couple of times now I am beginning to form a few very preliminary impressions. First this guy is NOT Herman or Theodosius. And secondly while the OCA talked the talk in the past it's new leader seems to be taking the concept of a unified local American Orthodox Church far more seriously than any of his predecessors or for that matter any of the other senior hierarchs in other jurisdictions. Whether this is a good thing is something that I think will be much debated in the coming days.

I know of more than a few Orthodox (mostly cradle/ethnics but also some converts) who think America is not ready for its own local church and needs the firm guiding hand of the mother church(es). In fairness there are some weaknesses here in America. But I see that in all of the churches in the old country too. For good or ill though +Jonah clearly believes it is time to get serious about Orthodox unity, and his speech suggests that he means business.

Three dramatic points stood out in my reading of the address. First is that he made the OCA a negotiable entity. He made it clear that it is no longer about the OCA and he is not going to press the debateable claim that the OCA is the only canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in North America (a proposition he repeated at least once himself in a presentation some years ago). Now the OCA's very existence is open for discussion as long as whatever replaces it is a local North American Orthodox Church.

Secondly he pondered aloud the possibility of opening up the Holy Synod of the OCA to all the bishops of the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. Such a move would effectively undercut the newly proposed episcopal conferences that are supposed to be set up for the diaspora (a term I intensely dislike as it ignores non-ethnics and by implication downplays the obligation of evangelism). This would be a very interesting development. How would the other jurisdictions and their bishops respond?

And finally he as much as issued an invitation to the Antiochian Archdiocese to merge with the OCA (not "join") and form a new American Orthodox jurisdiction. Again how would this play out? It would create a jurisdiction that in size would rival the Greek Archdiocese which has been cool to downright hostile to the idea of Orthodox unity under anyone other than the Ecumenical Patriarch. How would the smaller jurisdictions respond? We can be fairly sure that ROCOR would remain unaffected in its ties to the Russian Church. But there are a myriad of smaller jurisdictions whose raison d' etat has been fading as each new generation becomes more American and the connections to the ethnic homeland of their ancestors weaken.

Of course these are just words so far. But they are words coming from someone who seems quite serious about his mission. That mission being Orthodox unity in North America.



David Dickens said...

Someone once told me that you shouldn't wait until you can afford kids to have kids. Because you never will.

Lately I've been admitting my ignorance alot, but maybe there is no right time for some things to happen. Only the time right now.

How's that for an exceptional level of over-simplification? Still, sounds like that's where Met Jonah is headed.

It would seem strange for someone to have told Nina that she was too young and inexperienced to go to Georgia.

Reactionary said...

My resolution for next year is to attend every pan-Orthodox Vespers during Lent. +Jonah is correct that change will only come from the ground here. The Orthodox homelands are in demographic freefall and their hierarchs know it, so they will kick the can down the road for as long as possible. But eventually there won't be enough Orthodox over THERE to bother coming over HERE, and over HERE, the emigrant communities will out-marry, acquire citizenship, forget the mother tongue, succumb to Protestantism, etc. If the Orthodox are going to keep their kids in the pews, then they will need to present them with an American Church, albeit one of Arabic/Slavic heritage.

I think the OCA and the AOCA will eventually merge. The Greeks have their heads in the sand. They've got one, maybe two generations left before out-marriage completely undercuts them. Events on the ground in America will eventually outrun the Phanar. That See may even be vacant by then.

Death Bredon said...

A unified local Orthodox Church is not inconsistent with guidance from the Old Country. For example, and American Orthodox Church could autonomous, not autocephalus, and be under the watch of one or more Old World Churches -- say a committee comprising the Patriarchate of Moscow, Athens, and Damascus.