My notes that I took to the OCA Indianapolis Townhall meeting were published on ocanew.org. And I wrote a blog on my immediate reaction to the Townhall meeting. I would like to expand a little on the notes I took to read at the meeting.
1] Fr. Paul Tarazi comments on John 12:42-43 (“Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” )
Tarazi wrote, “They value their own self-interest more than the truth.”
For my eyes, this seems to be exactly how our metropolitan and the chancery staff reacted to when Dn. Wheeler made is allegations public. The scramble to hire Proskauer-Rose and the reluctance to release any details or comments on what happened, makes me think it is in the self-interest of those who were involved to assure that the facts of the scandal not be made public.
But in John 12:42-43, their self-interest is expressed in terms of fear – they weren’t willing to speak the truth for fear of how others would judge them, and fear that they would be kicked out if the truth were known. They are far more concerned with how others judge them (“the praise of men”) than they are about how God will judge them. They want to be thought well of by others, and fear less how God might judge them. All of this in my eyes seems true of how the current metropolitan and others have reacted. They are afraid of how they will be judged (never mind that the judgment might be just and deserved) by other people, they are not much concerned that God would not bless approve of their actions.
2] The reality of our situation is this: Orthodoxy can exist (and has) in America without autocephaly, and if the OCA were to cease to exist, Orthodoxy would continue to exist in America. So what is the justification for the existence of the autocephalous OCA? Why autocephaly? What does it matter for the mission of Orthodoxy to bring the Gospel to America? Is the OCA simply another jurisdiction (one among many)? If so then we serve no purpose and only contribute to the jurisdictional chaos of Orthodoxy in America. If the OCA does nothing more than add one more jurisdiction to America, it hardly can be seen as providing a way to Orthodox unity, or of being the means for furthering Orthodox unity.
But if there is reason for our existence, then we need to state that case and bring it to bear on every parish and offer it as a light to all other jurisdictions in America. If autocephaly is a gift to help us proclaim the Gospel in 21st Century America, then we should be working to use it in every parish and diocese in the OCA. Autocephaly was in the past used mostly to define our relationship to other Orthodox jurisdictions. What we have not done with it is to use to plant Orthodoxy in America, to create the indigenous Church for the new world. Autocephaly may originally have been an idea to define our relationship to the old world and to the past, but its gift is to allow us to be THE Church in America (not THE jurisdiction!). Autocephaly if it is worth anything should be having an impact on our parishes – how they function, what their goals are, what they do, what they strive to achieve and be. Autocephaly should both yield and equal indigenous. Of course in America, immigrants are a normal part of our nation, and so “ethnic” parishes too can be natural and normal to Orthodoxy in America. But if we are going to be more than preservers of the past and carriers of old cultures, then we have to have the power and ingenuity to create parishes that speak to and attract indigenous Americans. Just like the Greeks did not have to become Jews in order to become Christians (Acts 15), and Russians do not have to become Greek in order to be Orthodox, so too Americans do not have to become purveyors of “traditionally Orthodox cultures” in order to follow Christ in an Orthodox manner.
But I don’t think that any of this will happen with Herman as Metropolitan. He doesn’t have the vision to help us realize our mission. And he certainly has not given us the direction to realize the vision. Or rather it seems his only vision is to keep himself in office regardless of the impact on the OCA or on all of Orthodoxy in America. Whatever his culpability in the OCA’s scandal, he has proven himself an ineffective leader for the needs of Orthodoxy in America, and so should step down from office. He has had his chance to lead us in a good direction, but the mess we are in is the direct result of his vision and his leadership – we are where he has led us.
3] St. John Chrysostom in speaking about the problems local congregations suffer as a result of poor leadership wrote: “When you hear that a church is plunged into destruction, shaken by temptations, struck by waves of trouble on in a state of unbearable sorrow, know that it is because she has a wolf instead of a shepherd, a pirate instead of a helmsman, a murderer instead of a physician” as a bishop (taken from his comments on the priesthood). This statement sadly reflects the OCA today. We have been hijacked by leadership that failed us, and by a synod of bishops who have worked to keep in place ineffective leadership, mismanagement and incompetence.