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.