Diocesan Clergy Convocation and The Election of a Bishop

The OCA’s Diocese of the Midwest is in a year long process of nominating a man to become bishop of the Diocese to replace Archbishop Job of blessed memory who passed away in December of 2009.

This week, August 23-25, was the annual Clergy Convocation in Chicago.  This year the convocation focused on introducing to the clergy of the Diocese the three men who are being considered for the episcopal office:  Frs. Paul Gassios, David Mahaffey and Matthais Moriak.    These three men are the final candidates from a list of names submitted to a Search Committee, which then following its own process and procedures worked together with the Diocesan Council and Bishop’s Council to submit the names to the OCA’s Synod of Bishops.  The three priests are thus considered vetted and approved by the Synod of Bishops. 

Currently, the process of electing a bishop is in the stage where the members of the Diocese are getting to know the three nominees.  This is a long process both for the diocese and for the three men who in accepting nomination have agreed to put themselves through a long vetting process.  Orthodoxy is a hierarchical church, and so men are needed who are willing to put themselves through this process to become the diocesan bishop.   It is a very particular calling by the church.

At the convocation each of the priests made a presentation to the gathered diocesan clergy and then answered questions in what was a two hour session.  Additionally, each of the three priests was  interviewed in a tape recorded session which will be made available to the parishes of the diocese, thus giving a chance for all diocesan members to become at least a little familiar with the nominees.   All of this is being done to help the parish clergy and lay delegates to the Diocesan Assembly in Minneapolis, October 4-6, decide for whom they want to vote in the special episcopal election.  Whichever candidate receives the most votes in the election will be considered the nominee from the diocese for the office of bishop; his name will then be submitted to the Synod of Bishops for formal election as bishop of the diocese.  The actual consecration of the nominee as bishop will occur sometime later.

In general in the Orthodox tradition, there is no campaigning for a candidate, and the process is not simply a democratic vote with majority rule.  It is a consensus building process, with the Synod of Bishops having the final say in confirming the Diocesan Assembly’s nominee.

In our parish, we hope to be able to view the recorded interview of the three nominees, and have a parish community discussion on the role of the bishop and on how each of the three nominees might fulfill that role for the good of the diocese and the parish.   The parish delegate to the Diocesan Assembly will certainly consider the comments of the parishioners in our decision of how we vote at the Diocesan Assembly.

I have not yet seen the written answers which the three nominees submitted in response to written questions given them, nor have I seen the taped interviews of the three priests.  Based solely on the live presentations at the Clergy Convocation, I will tell my parishioners that Fr. Paul Gassios impressed me the most.  I am deeply appreciative of the willingness of all three of these men to serve the Church, our diocese and my parish.  May God bless all of them, and guide each of us in this nominating process.

For my parishioners, we will take time to discuss the candidates, and view the recorded interviews when they become available.

Orthodoxy in the World: The Roman Empire

This is the 2nd blog in this introductory series to the Orthodox Faith.  The First blog is Orthodoxy in the World & Light to the World.  The previous blog is Orthodoxy in the World:  Beginnings.

Hades

            The Christians were also much more active proselytizers than most other Jews who often saw their inclusion in the people of God as a birthright.  But the Christian penchant for converting others to the faith soon brought them into conflict with the religious mores of the polytheistic and pagan Roman Empire.  The Empire with its diverse religions and philosophies needed tolerance among religions for there to be peace within the Empire.  But the Christians were fiercely  monotheistic as the Jews had been, but unlike the Jews were also aggressive proselytizers.   As Christian populations grew they began to draw the attention of others because they had an economic impact on localities, refusing to participate in local religious festivals.  The Roman government attempted to  force the Christians to be more like all of the other religions of the Empire, and tried both persuasion and persecution to stop the growing movement or to get it to recognize the equality of all gods and religions. But the Christians proved to be recalcitrant and steadfastly held to their beliefs.   Despite official imperial persecution of the religion, Christianity continued to grow and spread.

            It was at this time that another historical development would take place which would change Christianity for ever.   The Roman Empire at the beginning of the 4th Century BCE was governed by four co-reigning emperors.   One of those Emperors, Constantine, who came from the far Western regions of the Empire, had a vision of an Empire united under one Emperor.   And he began through force to impose his will on the Empire and he proved himself to be a successful politician and general.  He also knew he needed something more than military force to unite the Empire.    He saw in Christianity such a force – a religious force to help him bring unity to the Roman world.   Christianity offered one God for all people, and was accepting of all people of any race or nationality or language.   Constantine brought an end to the persecution of Christianity and in the 4th Century helped turn Christianity from a persecuted religion of a sizeable minority into the official religion of the Roman Empire.

            He also did one other thing to shape the world and Christianity.  He moved the capital city of the Empire from Rome to a location which was much more central to the heart of Christianity.   He founded the imperial capital in what eventually would be known as Constantinople.   He picked a location that put him at the heart of the Greek speaking world.   And from that time on, officially the Roman Empire, the Empire of the Caesars, would be Greek in language and in culture.   Not until Charlemagne around 800 attempted to found a Roman Empire of the West would Christianity as a Greek religion be challenged by another Christian Empire.   The Greek Roman world centered in Constantinople was homeland to that form of Christianity known as Eastern Orthodoxy.   It is a world outside of the developments that occurred in Rome where the Papacy grew in power in the absence of imperial influence.  It is a Christianity that remained outside of the major split which would occur in Western Christendom – the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation of the Latin Church.

Next:  History – The Byzantine Period