Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (1)

Ancient Faith Radio has made available for us all to contemplate, the Keynote Address of Metropolitan Jonah to the 2010 Canadian Archdiocesan Assembly regarding the Episcopal Assembly.  It is the beauty of the Internet that it can make available for all, speeches and documents which we then can engage in terms of our blogs and web pages as we continue to take an interest in the well being of the churches of God and the unity of all.  Public discourse on issues of significance in the Church is a healthy thing for the Church, and thankfully their is now a forum – the internet – through which even more members can participate in the decision making process.

Reflecting on the words of Metropolitan Jonah (MJ in the text below), brought to mind some thoughts, questions and comments, which I’ll offer up in this blog series.  I’m not going to repeat the Metropolitan’s entire address, but I will quote the specific portions of his speech which on which I’m offering my own reflections.  You can read the entire speech at the above mentioned link. 

[MJ}:  “….the tradition and the particular contributions that the OCA has for the whole American, North American, experience. Particularly, this has to do with a vision of conciliarity on a broad level that is an essential element of our experience of the Church. Conciliarity refers to the Church meeting in Council, initially with the Synods of Bishops. It has come to mean a broader participation by clergy and laity in the decision-making processes of the Church and their inclusion in various levels of councils.”

I  agree with the Metropolitan that  the OCA has consciously in its STATUTES and in its practice worked to be a conciliar church, and this has become part of the very way we in the OCA see ourselves.  We have and continue to wrestle with what conciliarity means in the Church.   What is less clear to me is what this conciliar element means to him in practice.      

I am not clear what he imagines by “broader participation by the clergy and laity in the decision-making processes of the church.”    What exactly does that look like to him?  I would like to see him spell out the details of  how this practically works.    How is he actively promoting this?  What specific actions is he taking to make it happen? 

I ask those questions because I’ve heard him say publicly (but also been attributed to him privately)  pointed criticisms of the Metropolitan Council and the All American Council, including ideas to do away with both as they are currently constituted.    If he were to enact his vision, there certainly would be less participation by the church as a whole in the leadership of the church – parishes and parish members would have far less role in decision making processes on the level of the OCA.  Though he seems to advocate an ideal of working at the level of the local church – whether diocese or parish – I’ve not heard him spell out in any great detail what all he sees the laity doing in the church.     He has also criticized the chancery staff and expressed ideas of favoring a monastic control of the administration of the church which would in fact further exclude married clergy and laity  (and thus the majority of church members) from decision making processes.    If these changes were enacted, the laity and the parish clergy would have far less role in participating in the administration of the church, and their input would be further distanced from the decision makers.

So though I hear our Metropolitan speak in some glowing idealistic terms about conciliarity, on the other hand, I’ve not really seen in his words any practical detail of what his vision would look like for the OCA in the end.   I would like to see him give a better explanation of how he envisions the Church functioning administratively and  to provide some clear ideas as to how the lay membership of the church and the parish clergy are to actively function in the decision-making processes of the church.  In actual practice what does conciliarity look like?

Does “conciliarity” mean that the bishop’s vision is to be realized by the membership who are to be passive when it comes to ideas but active only in actualizing what the bishop wants, or does it mean an actual discourse, dialogue and even debate about vision, goals, policy and procedure?   What happens when the membership of the church has a direction or vision for the Church which is in conflict with the bishop’s (I’m not speaking about a conflict in doctrine, but more of what we commonly think of as ‘vision’)?   What happens when the membership does not share the bishop’s vision or lacks confidence in the bishop’s plans?  What happens if the membership is more inspired or energized than the bishop?   What does conciliarity look like in these circumstances?

These are aspects of conciliarity that have not yet been fully articulated.  Even what does conciliarity imply about the Synod of Bishops’ own decision making?  How do they as synod (a body within the Church) model conciliarity in their own deliberations for the rest of the church?

Next:  Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (2)

5 thoughts on “Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (1)

  1. Nicole

    Consistency of word and action would be most reassuring from the Metropolitan. His appreciation for and respectful public and private response to those with opposing viewpoints would build trust. His encouragement of others who disagree with him to speak the truth in love rather than to feel pressure from him to be silent would inspire confidence.

  2. Pingback: Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (4) | Fr. Ted's Blog

  3. Pingback: Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (3) | Fr. Ted's Blog

  4. Inga Leonova

    Thank you for an insightful and courageous analysis, Father. I think there were other points in the Canadian address which are cause for alarm – the whole “selling” of the idea of our autocephaly as being an impediment to Orthodox unity in America.

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