This is the 4th and final blog in this series in which I am reflecting on the Keynote Address of Metropolitan Jonah to the 2010 Canadian Archdiocesan Assembly regarding the Episcopal Assembly. The first blog is Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (1) and the previous blog: Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (3). 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}: We will have to decide some key value questions: whether participation in the movement towards Orthodox unity in North America is more important to us, or whether we simply stand fast on our autocephaly, our institutional identity, even to the point of exclusion. We need to evaluate whether unity with the other communities will foster or hinder our missionary task. We have to evaluate what kind of context and direction for the future will best foster that mission.
I would agree that these are issues WE in the OCA must discuss. The problem occurs when the Metropolitan moves unilaterally without regard for those holding positions of leadership in the conciliar structures of the OCA (the Synod of Bishops, Metropolitan Council, chancery staff, for example). Not nearly enough has been done regarding this discussion and that is why it is foolhardy to demand that the OCA follow one path. We need to engage in this discussion before we enter into discussions with the other jurisdictions. If anything that has been the failure of the OCA, we have not articulated a clear vision for ourselves. Only now are we in a position to engage in this conciliar discussion. The time for it has come; so let us not thwart that process by entering into agreements with those Orthodox outside the OCA. We need to discuss and even debate our vision, our purpose, our mission, and our direction. This whole process internally has hardly even begun and yet the Metropolitan without regard for the conciliar process engages in discussion on these issues with the greater Orthodox world.
He also posits a false opposition between autocephaly and Orthodox unity in America. Again the documents of autocephaly and the recent 2010 Statement on Autocephaly by the Synod of Bishops seems clear that autocephaly is meant to be an inclusive process – it is intended to bring about the unity of all Orthodox in American and is intended to include all the Orthodox in America of which the OCA is but a part. The Metropolitan’s own thinking on this issue seems confused and at odds with the statement of Synod, which he signed.
[MJ}: Whatever the particularities, we remain steadfast in our vision that the only acceptable solution for North America is a fully inclusive, united autocephalous Church with a single synod of bishops, electing our own bishops and primate, and controlling our own life. We will remain committed to a vision of conciliarity, of catholicity on all levels, affirming that all Orthodox Christians should have a voice in the life of the Church. We are absolutely committed to the vision that our task is missionary, to bring the gospel to Americans, and to incorporate Americans into the communion of the Orthodox Church.
I would agree that these are some of our basic principles and so we need to discuss how to embrace them and to bring them to the EA table.
But I don’t imagine that any of these ideals will be upheld by surrendering the autocephaly. These are the very ideas we need to bring to the EA. This is our task to the EA.
My concern would be that these words are not consistent with other things he has said and done regarding conciliarity, catholicity, unity and autocephaly.
[MJ}: In relation to the task of entering into a deeper unity, there are several points in which we need to repent and be transformed. First, we need to drop the triumphalism and the arrogance that isolate us from our brother Orthodox in this continent. That does not mean that we’re not thankful for the gift of autocephaly given to us. Rather we must see it and ourselves in the larger context of the whole Orthodox community, not only in relation to ourselves.
This all becomes a tricky road to negotiate. If the OCA exhibited triumphalism and arrogance (one needs only think of the Metropolitan’s own “pan Orthodox” speech), then maybe we need to back off all kinds of rhetoric suggesting we have the key or the solution to the problems of Orthodoxy in America. If the leadership now imagines that the key is not promoting autocephaly but surrendering it, the leadership still arrogantly imagines it is the key to the solution. Now suddenly the OCA can fix all the problems of Orthodoxy in America by simply dismantling its central structure, abandoning the mission entrusted to it by the autocephaly and submitting itself and all the small Orthodox jurisdictions to, what will be for them as for us, a foreign power. As if that magically fixes all of the Orthodox problems in America. It won’t. The various overseas Patriarchates still have not agreed among themselves as to what is the solution nor to what they are willing to SUBMIT themselves.
Autocephaly is not the great stumbling block to Orthodox problems in America, over which all jurisdictions have tripped. The real issue remains: what is the Orthodox mission in America? We were told to be here as part of the Great Commission of Christ to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. When we are willing to discuss, “how do we do that in America?”, then we will deal with Orthodox unity. But if we think we were sent to America to establish unity, then we will never get to our God-given mission and ministry. When we agree why we are here, then we will cooperate.