Monday, October 26, 2009

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Hopes rising for unifying Orthodoxy's U.S. churches

America's Orthodox Christians, divided for decades among about 10 churches based on Greek or Serb or other ancestry, soon may be moving toward the formation of a united American Orthodox church.

Many of them have dreamed of that for decades, especially as conversions to Orthodoxy have skyrocketed. But most church patriarchs have squelched such talk.

Now it appears that the patriarchs are not only supporting but demanding some sort of unity. To explore what this may mean for believers in the United States, the independent, pan-Orthodox group Orthodox Christian Laity will gather for three days, starting Thursday, at Antiochian Village in Ligonier.

In 1994 that retreat center hosted the first and only gathering of all Orthodox bishops in North America. Believing they had approval from church patriarchs overseas, those bishops called for a united church in which the faithful would not be treated as "scattered children" of ancestral homelands.

But the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople -- the spiritual head of global Orthodoxy -- denounced it as a rebellion against the ancient church and replaced the Greek archbishop who had led it. The unity movement lay dormant for 15 years.

Then, in June, the 14 Old World patriarchs gathered in Chambesy, Switzerland, and declared that all Orthodox bishops outside of traditional Orthodox lands -- including North America -- will begin meeting to address their own issues in their own lands.
Read the rest here.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a blueprint for anarchy


Rob said...

-But the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople -- the spiritual head of global Orthodoxy -- denounced it as a rebellion against the ancient church and replaced the Greek archbishop who had led it.-

Really? I didn't think that the EP (or any of your patriarchs) had such authority. I always thought that was an Orthodox criticism of us papists. Is this true, or was the writer misinformed?

John (Ad Orientem) said...

As is usually the case when the topic is Orthodoxy, the press made a lot of errors. The EP did in fact condemn the process but his wrath was directed mainly at the hierarchs of the Greek Archdiocese who are under his omophorion. The Holy Synod of Constantinople came down pretty hard on the GOA. The other synods of the various old world churches also made known their general displeasure of any activity which might interfere with revenues.

And in fairness some of the more ethnic parishes and jurisdictions got very nervous about the possibility that they would cease to be Greek, Ukrainian, Serbian etc. or worse that they might have to start holding liturgy in English. Long story short the old world was not ready to let go and the new world was not ready to tell them where to get off.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Each patriarch has authority over the bishops under him. In this case, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of North America is under the EP. Archbishop Iakovos was more or less forced into retirement.

But he WAS in rebellion; he was advocating that the Ecumenical Patriarchate be removed from Constantinople and brought to the U.S. (e was, of course, hoping to fill that position himself one day.) He was also in rebellion over several other matters, such as who should be allowed to be married.

Rob said...

OK, but just to be clear (I have to have it all pinned down, I am a legalistic Roman after all, LOL) the EP does, indeed, have such authority over ALL bishops in his "territory"? I guess I thought it was more of a power to call a synod, make motion for a vote, etc. Can he just up and depose a bishop or archbishop? I don't have any problem with the concept. I was just under a different impression.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Generally a bishop can only be deposed by the Holy Synod. In some (very extreme) circumstances Synods have chosen to vest the Primate with some limited disciplinary powers. I think there are some historical instances where the EP may have suspended a bishop pending action from the Holy Synod but I can't swear to it.

But yea a bishop is a bishop is a bishop. The Holy Synod is the disciplinary review board. That said, the primate is the primate for a reason. Which is to say he has the backing of the Holy Synod. If he says "knock it off" and you ignore him then hold onto your miter, it might not be there much longer.


orrologion said...

There is also an issue over what is "his 'territory'" right now. The EP claims all areas outside of the current boundaries of the established autocephalous churches as his canonical territory. Most of the other churches disagree. This is most strikingly the case in North America where Moscow claims jurisdiction through its Mission to Alaska in the 18th Century, which spread to the lower 48 and included the conversion of large numbers of Uniates to Orthodoxy. At one time most Russians, Arabs and Serbs in North America were under Moscow; most Greeks were under either Athens or Constantinople. Other local churches have claimed jurisdiction over their people and nothing more.