Fr. Paul Gassios Nominated

Fr. Paul Gassios
Fr. Paul Gassios

The news is that  the Special Midwest Diocesan Assembly held in Cleveland today overwhelmingly voted to nominate Fr. Paul Gassios to be our candidate to become bishop of our Diocese.  His name will be submitted to the OCA’s Synod of Bishops for their consideration to elect Fr. Paul as our Diocesan Bishop.

Let us pray that God will guide the Synod in their deliberations and that that God will guide Fr. Paul through this process.   May the Lord also give grace, peace and healing to our Diocese.

The Power of the Bishop: The Power to Serve

Fr. Paul Gassios
Fr. Paul Gassios

The Diocese of the Midwest is in the process of selecting  a new bishop.  God-willing at the Diocesan Assembly on October 7 in Cleveland it will nominate a man in order to present him to the OCA Synod of Bishops for them to elect him as the head shepherd of the Diocese.  I just ask for all the faithful of the Diocese to pray for our Assembly that they can discern the will of God in this matter.  Pray also for Fr. Paul Gassios, the current Diocesan Administrator, who is being considered for the office of bishop.  Fr. Paul in accepting consideration for this office has shown himself to be a faithful and obedient son of the Church.  He has not sought out this office, but has made a humble gesture to accept the office if it is the will of the Diocese.

Here are some thoughts from Fr. Nicholas Afanasiev on the ‘power’ of the bishop, the power to serve others so that all can do the work of salvation:

“The idea of power as diakonia, that is ministry or service, was first formulated by St. Paul, who based it upon Christ’s own teaching. Paul’s famous words addressed to Rome state that ‘those who have authority (hoi archontes) are ministers of God (leitourgoi Theou)’ (Rom 13:6), This approach was alien to the Roman mentality. In republican Rome power was honor and in imperial Rome, the power was divinity. These words of St. Paul were not heard at that time since Roman power did not wish to consider itself as a ministry. Only such an understanding of power, though, would be acceptable to Christian consciousness. The power, as divinity, was the ‘infernal beast’. Nearly two centuries later, Origen again used this Pauline approach to the subject of power with respect to the presiders of the churches. I think he ought to be called ‘guide’ (hêgoumenos), the one we call ‘bishop’ in the Church. He ought to be the servant of all in his ministry, in order to be of use to all in the work of salvation.”The Church of the Holy Spirit, p 270)

The OCA and Spiritual Maturity

The recent resignation of Metropolitan Jonah has again caused some to claim the OCA is too immature to have autocephaly.  As proof of the OCA’s immaturity they point out that once again a problem has occurred with a metropolitan that required the Synod of Bishops to take action and request the metropolitan to step down.

Yet, maturity by definition means to have attained some fully developed state, and it seems as if the Synod of Bishops is acting in a mature way by seeing a(nother) serious problem and addressing it as is in their power to do.  There is accountability in the Church, and the Synod has a responsibility to deal with problems that exist at the episcopal level in the Church.  However much the OCA may be struggling with its stability and the office of the Primate, it is dealing with its problems in a mature way.  The Synod is not being governed by fatalistic determinism which would say “there is a problem with the Primate but there is nothing that can be done about it, we will just have to suffer.”   Rather they are taking an active role in guiding the OCA through difficult times.  And they are doing it with a certain degree of transparency.   They are not pretending there are no problems.

The situation reminds me again of the experience of Moses in the Old Testament which I wrote about in a February 2008 blog, Why Do  You Cry to Me?   (the context for that blog than as now was the OCA dealing with its internal problems).  I’ll quote the blog here:

In Exodus 14:15, the fleeing Israelites find themselves in dire straits – trapped by a sea on one side and the pursuing Egyptian army on the other; they have nowhere to go and bitterly criticize their “liberator” Moses for having led them to their scandalous and inescapable situation.  Moses boldly tells the tremulous people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still”  (Exodus 14:13-14).No doubt, Moses believed every word he spoke, and he too intended to sit back and watch what God would do for them.  But the LORD, who has a habit of demanding synergy at the darndest times, “said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward’” (14:15).  The ball was in Moses’ court, not God’s.  It was Moses’ move, not God’s.  God is not going to do for His people what they have to do for themselves.

The Synod may have been looking for a clear sign from God, but they had to do what Moses had to do:  move ahead as the leaders of God’s people.  We have to act in concert with God.  From the same 2008 blog, the Noah story is edifying as well:

God warned Noah of the impending flood with which He was going to destroy the earth.  God informs Noah of this cataclysm, but does the LORD build Noah an ark?   NO.  God tells Noah to build the ark.   Salvation is not a spectator sport – you either participate or you lose.

So the OCA Synod of Bishops did what it had to do and what it is supposed to do when there are problems at the episcopal level of the Church.  That is maturity, for indeed it was a difficult decision to make considering our recent history.  No one, especially not the bishops, wanted to have to ask another metropolitan to step down.

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.”  (Hebrews 5:14)

The bishops were called upon to discern, to distinguish between good and evil, which is a sign of maturation according to the Epistle to the Hebrews.  I do see the decision made as being quite mature for the OCA, and it does for me call to mind two other passages from St. Paul that mention maturity.

St. Paul

“And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.   Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16)

There was a need to speak “the truth in love” so that we can continue to grow into Christ.  The bishops exercised their gifts and their office to build up the Body of Christ and bring us to that mature manhood.

 “Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.   Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you.   Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”  (Philippians 3:13-16)

The OCA was gifted with autocephaly and the bishops have demonstrated that they are holding onto that autocephaly which we have attained.  Like St. Paul the OCA continues to strain forward to what lies ahead.

See Archbishop Nathaniel’s Letter and the Future of the OCA

An Explanation for Metropolitan Jonah’s Resignation

His Grace, Bishop Matthias has sent out a letter (the OCA Synod Statement on the resignation as adopted by the Synod of Bishops) offering an explanation about the events surrounding the recent resignation of Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of the OCA.  Bishop Matthias’ letter is also available on the Diocesan Webpage at Archpastoral Letter.

July 16, 2012
Hieromartyr Athenogenes

Archpastoral Letter
No. 149

Beloved Clery, Monastics, and Faithful of the Diocese of the Midwest:

Christ is in our midst!

We, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, have
hesitated to release further details surrounding the resignation of
Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of our Church, this in a desire to
preserve his dignity and to prevent further harm to an innocent party.
We did this knowing there would be appeals for additional information
regarding our decision. We also harbored some hope that Metropolitan
Jonah would show a willingness to accept responsibility for his
actions and failures to act. However, things said and written by
Metropolitan Jonah since his resignation have demonstrated that he is
not accepting that responsibility.

Why did we ask Metropolitan Jonah to resign?

In slightly less than four years as our leader, Metropolitan Jonah has
repeatedly refused to act with prudence, in concert with his fellow
bishops, in accordance with the Holy Synod’s Policies, Standards and
Procedures on Sexual Misconduct (PSPs), and in compliance with advice
of the Church’s lawyers and professionals in expertise in dealing with
cases of sexual misconduct.

The most disturbing and serious matter, indeed the final matter that
caused us to ask the Metropolitan to resign or take a leave of absence
and enter a treatment program, involves the Metropolitan’s poor
judgment in critical matters of Church governance, lack of adherence
to the PSPs, and the risk of serious harm to at least one other
person. While the names, dates and other details must be held in
confidence to minimize the risk of further harm, we can say the
following.

At some point after his enthronement as our Primate, Metropolitan
Jonah unilaterally accepted into the OCA a priest known to him and to
others to be actively and severely abusing alcohol, which more than
once was coupled with episodes of violence and threats toward women.
One of these episodes involved the brandishing of a knife, and the
other the discharge of a firearm, the former resulting in the man’s
arrest. The man was also incarcerated for three days in yet another
incident, shortly after he was accepted into the OCA by Metropolitan
Jonah. While under Metropolitan Jonah’s omophorion, this priest is
alleged to have committed a rape against a woman in 2010.

Metropolitan Jonah was later told of this allegation in February 2012,
yet he neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops, nor
notified the Church’s lawyers, nor reported the matter to the police,
nor in any other way followed the mandatory, non-discretionary PSPs of
the OCA. The alleged victim, however, did report the rape to the
police. We know, too, that the alleged victim and a relative were
encouraged by certain others not to mention the incident, and were
told by them that their salvation depended on their silence. As
recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating
with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime
by the alleged victim and her relative. In addition, the Metropolitan
counseled the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, without
informing the military recruiter of any of the priest’s problems.
Finally, the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other
Orthodox jurisdictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to
another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there
were no canonical impediments to a transfer.

We have started an investigation into the rape allegation, and cannot
assume whether the allegation is true or not. We only know that
earlier allegations of misconduct by this priest were handled by
Metropolitan Jonah in a manner at a complete variance with the
required standards of our Church.

Moral, canonical and inter-Orthodox relations issues aside, in light
of the recent widely-publicized criminal cases involving sexual abuse
at Penn State and in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Kansas City
Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, the extent of the risk of
liability to which the Metropolitan has exposed the Church cannot be
overstated. We knew already from past experience with Metropolitan
Jonah that something had to change; we had hoped that change would
come about as the result of Metropolitan Jonah fulfilling his promise
to comply with the recommendation given him by the medical facility to
which he was admitted for evaluation and treatment last November, as
he assured us he would do at our last All-American Council in Seattle.
That promise having gone unfulfilled, when this latest problem came
to our attention at the end of June, we felt that we had no choice but
to ask him to take a leave of absence or to submit his resignation.
The moral, human, canonical and legal stakes were simply too high.

Leading up to this most recent problem, there has existed for several
years now a repeated pattern by Metropolitan Jonah of taking other
unilateral actions that were contrary to the advice of the Holy Synod
and/or the Church’s lawyers, which prolonged or caused litigation
involving the OCA, which substantially increased legal fees, which
created confusion in negotiations, and which exposed the OCA to
otherwise avoidable additional financial and legal liability.

He withheld information from his brother bishops and from the Church’s
lawyers concerning litigation matters, and matters which might have
resulted, and still might result, in litigation.

He has spoken unilaterally with and provided sensitive information to
opposing counsel and opposing parties concerning pending and
threatened litigation, although he had specifically been warned many
times of the perils in doing so.

He gave to unauthorized persons a highly sensitive, painstakingly
detailed internal Synodal report concerning numerous investigations
into sexual misconduct, risking leaks of names of alleged victims and
alleged perpetrators. While those who now possess the report are
wrongfully in possession of OCA property, they have not yet returned
their copies of these highly confidential and sensitive documents,
further exposing our Church to potential legal liabilities.

What we have said here is based on the Metropolitan’s own words, both
during numerous Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council meetings, and
established in documentary evidence. We cannot release that publicly,
and the Metropolitan Council members have legal and moral obligations
to maintain in confidence information pertaining to threats to
individuals and alleged crimes. We have however been communicating
with and will continue to communicate with law enforcement
authorities.

Our request for Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation, or that he take a
leave of absence for treatment, came at the end of a rather long list
of questionable, unilateral decisions and actions, demonstrating the
inability of the Metropolitan to always be truthful and accountable to
his peers. The Metropolitan’s freely-chosen resignation has been
characterized by him and others as the result of politics and internal
discord among the members of the Holy Synod. Quite to the contrary,
the other members of the Holy Synod stand firmly together in our
unanimous astonishment at the Metropolitan’s actions. We cannot
stress enough that while the most recent events are likely the most
dangerous for the Church, these represent only the latest in a long
series of poor choices that have caused harm to our Church. We
understand and agree that an ability to work or not work well with
others, or a challenged administrative skill set, or Metropolitan
Jonah’s refusal to comply with the recommendations of the treatment
facility, while not the reasons for his requested resignation, were
fundamentally related to the consequences of his actions.

Each bishop of the Orthodox Church in America has a duty to Jesus
Christ to shepherd his respective diocesan flock, and to be a good
steward and trustee of the temporal properties of the Church entrusted
to his care. After the developments of the past few weeks, we knew,
individually and together acting in one accord as the Synod, that we
could no longer exercise our duties as shepherds or as trustees and
stewards without asking for the Metropolitan’s resignation.

There are some who are seeking to promote a variety of rumors or other
reasons for the Metropolitan’s resignation, in their conversations or
on the Internet. Some argue that the resignation had to do with moral
or political views publicly expressed by Metropolitan Jonah that
conflicted with the views of others in the Church, the so-called
“culture wars.” Such views have never been a point of contention in
Holy Synod or Metropolitan Council meetings. These issues were
discussed, and statements and actions of the Holy Synod have
demonstrated their unchanging position on traditional Orthodox views
of morality. This speculation as to other motives behind the
resignation is simply not true; the reasons for the resignation are
detailed in this message.

We continue to pray for Metropolitan Jonah’s spiritual needs even as
his brother bishops have provided for his immediate material needs.
He has no Church assignment obligations, allowing him to focus on
himself and his family. Meanwhile, he is drawing full salary and
benefits until at least October, when the Holy Synod next meets.

We ask your prayers for the Church, for Her clergy and faithful and
for Her mission in the world.

Your shepherd in Christ,
+MATTHIAS
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest

 

See also my blog The OCA and Spiritual Maturity

OCA Synod Appoints Locum Tenens & Temporary Administrator

The Orthodox Church in America has announced on its web page  that the Synod today appointed His Eminence, the Most Reverend Nathaniel, Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, as the Locum Tenens of the Orthodox Church in America.  The Synod appointed His Grace, the Right Reverend Michael, Bishop of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, as the Administrator of the Orthodox Church in America.  The Synod also said that in due time they would make other decisions appropriate to dealing with the change in leadership in the OCA.   They asked for everyone’s prayers.

You can read the full text of the Synod’s letter at Locum Tenens Appointed.

Also available is the Holy Synod’s Statement Regarding the Resignation.

The Resignation of Metropolitan Jonah

Our Midwest Diocesan Bishop, Matthias, has sent a letter to the priests of the Diocese confirming the resignation of Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America which was accepted on July 7th by the OCA’s Synod of Bishops and is considered effective as of today, July 9th.   His Grace asked that we priests “extend to the faithful calm assurances of faith in the Church and Her Helmsman, our Lord and Savior.

According to Bishop Matthias the Synod will have a teleconference meeting today to continue discussion on the resignation.   There is also planned at some point a teleconference call between the Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan council to discuss the current situation.   Bishop Matthias directs us to the OCA’s webpage to watch for further information as it becomes available.  He also asks for our prayers.

See also my blog Metropolitan Jonah Offers His Resignation and OCA Appoints Archbishop Nathaniel as Locum Tenens.

See also The OCA’s Synod Statement on the Resignation.

Metropolitan Jonah Offers His Resignation

According to the Orthodox Church in America’s web page, Metropolitan Jonah tendered his resignation as Metropolitan on Saturday, July 7.  According to the letter published on the web page, Metropolitan Jonah asked to be reassigned as bishop citing his need to financially support his sister and parents.  The Metropolitan admitted that he had “neither the personality nor the temperament for the position of Primate.”

Metropolitan Jonah was elected as the Primate of the OCA in 2008 at the All American Council in Pittsburgh with a tremendous amount of hope and good will in what was hailed in the press as the “Miracle in Pittsburgh.”  It was thought his election signaled a new page in the OCA’s history – leaving behind a financial scandal that had rocked the church, and the election of the first convert to the office of Primate of the OCA.

According to the OCA webpage, the Synod of Bishops will meet in a teleconference on Monday, July 9, to discuss the tendered resignation.  The web page says a further announcement will follow that meeting.

As with any unusual change in leadership, there will be talk and discussion about the “why?s” of this situation.  Why is he resigning?  Why now?  etc.

Prior to the OCA’s own official statement, Rod Dreher had already posted on his blog an announcement that Metropolitan Jonah had been “ousted.”  Dreher calls the Synod of Bishops “ravenous wolves” and “wild dogs” but offers no explanation for his derogatory comments.  That the Metropolitan and Synod had been in contention over issues has been well known.  The Synod itself is not known for making rapid decisions.  And since there were well known disputes between the Synod and the Metropolitan, and between the staff and the Metropolitan, and between the Metropolitan Council and the Metropolitan, none of this occurs without context.  What the Synod will choose to reveal about its decision making remains to be seen.  But Dreher’s characterization of the on-going events seem pretty one-sided, and seem to lack that context which has been an on-going tussle within the OCA’s administration.  The OCA’s Synod has in fact demonstrated a rather patient attitude with the administrative problems and seemed to have been trying to help him with his office recognizing the truthfulness of the Metropolitan’s own statement that he was personality-wise ill suited for the position of Primate.

My prayers go out to all the Members of the OCA’s Synod (of which Metropolitan Jonah is one member) who again have to wrestle with such tumultuous events.

See also a few comments by Bishop Matthias of the Diocese of the Midwest  on this news at The Resignation of Metropolitan Jonah and OCA Appoints Archbishop Nathaniel as Locum Tenens.

See also the OCA Synod’s Statement on the Resignation.

Archbishop Seraphim Pleads Not Guilty

My blog is not a news blog but my sharing things which I think about as an Orthodox priest. I also serve on an OCA Committee which deals with issues related to clergy sexual misconduct, and so this news story is something which I have thought about over the past couple of years.

Ex-archbishop pleads not guilty in sex case

WINNIPEG SUN    November 17, 2011

Former archbishop Kenneth William (Seraphim) Storheim has pleaded not guilty to molesting two 10-year-old boys.

A former archbishop with the Canadian arm of the Orthodox Church in America has pleaded not guilty to charges he sexually assaulted two boys during the time he worked in Winnipeg.

Kenneth William (Seraphim) Storheim, 65, appeared Thursday for a preliminary hearing into allegations he abused two 10-year-old boys between December 1984 and June 1987.

At the time, Storheim was a rector at Holy Trinity Sobor, located at the corner of Manitoba Avenue and McKenzie Street in the North End.

A publication ban prevents the printing or broadcasting of any evidence presented by the Crown at Thursday’s hearing.

Storheim flew to the city last November to turn himself into police, who were holding a warrant for his arrest. He was quickly released on a promise to appear in court.

He had stepped aside from his high-level position in the church months earlier.

The church said Storheim had been granted a leave of absence while police investigated the accusations; Storheim suggested he stepped aside for health reasons.

As a point of clarification, Archbishop Seraphim is, I believe, considered under suspension by the OCA’s Synod of Bishops, so he has not been defrocked nor has his title or episcopal rank been taken away from him by the OCA.

Sadly, as the news story relates, Archbishop Seraphim’s accounts of why he was originally put on leave of absence do not match other facts known from statements from the OCA which was clear that he was first put on Leave of Absence because allegations of sexual misconduct had surfaced.   He had also on another occasion denied knowing what the allegations were about but certainly others knew and some discussed it with him.

The court is supposed to make a determination today as to how to proceed with the case.

Parting Thoughts from the 16th AAC

As I mentioned before you can find links to Podcasts and some reports from the OCA’s  16th All American Council  now available online.  So I don’t intend to report what you can read for yourself.

I will comment on two aspects of this year’s AAC.  First just a thought about the big picture:   trying to avoid listing what was or was not accomplished in our days assembled together (since that can be found on the official OCA.org webpage) but rather offering a few thoughts on what could have tied things together.  Second just a few notes on the very short demographic presentation by Alex Krindatch on Thursday.

I think the bishops set a very interesting tone to the AAC in the responses they offered after the Metropolitan’s opening remarks.  fascinatingly there was even a question by one woman about why the bishops had scheduled in the agenda a time of response to the metropolitan: a question born no doubt in the paranoia of those who cannot understand the frustrations of those who have had to work with the Metropolitan.   The Metropolitan made his own public admission that there has been a complete breakdown in trust or an ability to work with him.  So the bishops exercising their own fraternal concern for him stood with him in an effort to show they have a oneness of mind.

On some level there has been an amazing degree of cooperation and unity between the Synod, chancery staff and the Metropolitan Council in recognizing a problem.  Even if we haven’t all been at the same point at the same time in what to do, that there is a problem has been clear, and the Metropolitan has acknowledged this.  This recognition by all is not some plot as some falsely accuse, but a sad recognition f the reality before us all.   That recognition is the only way to healing and/or change, and/or a way forward.  Some  few don’t want the church leadership to deal with truth.  Ideology does cause institutional blindness and dysfunctional enabling.  It is neither easy or pleasant for the rest of us to have to wrestle with what we face, but it is the way in which we follow Christ who claimed to be the Truth.  We cannot pretend what we want to be true, we each have to bear our cross as well as one another’s burdens.   This is the way to the Kingdom in which the truth sets us free.

The bishops in their responses did not attack or blame or accuse, but rather offered some interesting anecdotal accounts of their own experience in Orthodoxy.   It was to me a rare moment of the bishops showing a glimpse into their personal lives as members in and bishops of the Body of Christ.  Some felt the comments were enigmatic, I thought they helped put “flesh” on men we often experience only as caricatures in Byzantine imperial vestments.  They really did seem at peace with each other as if they had reached a common mind on where they were and where they were going even if that goal is not yet clear to the rest of us.

What we lacked though throughout the AAC was an articulated vision of what the OCA is or should be.   What does the autocephaly mean to Orthodoxy in the 21st Century with the realities we face in our civil culture as well as with the episcopal assemblies and the condition of world Orthodoxy?   What special and unique gift has God bestowed upon us that we bring to American Orthodoxy?  How can we contribute this gift to the condition of Orthodoxy in America?    At the moment we seem to lack the person, persons or leaders who can articulate this in a way to inspire us.  So we struggle along, sometimes only muddling along, and occasionally doing something well.  Autocephaly means something, and for many of us it means something essential.  We at this moment however lack the person or persons who can embody that vision and lead us to it.  Perhaps the reason is present realities won’t allow it.

My last three years on the Metropolitan Council left me with a rather positive view of the men and women serving us on this Council.  Same is true of my impressions of the chancery staff.   All of these folk are working with the hard issues that easily can grind a person down, and yet the work is done.  And there is no doubt that lines of communication between the members of the synod, staff and committees are often there and better than have existed in the past.  And to be honest there still are frustrations.  The bishops want our trust, but that is an earned commodity and it still is slow to materialize.

I also will positively comment on those plenary sessions which dealt with the very emotionally charged issues of budget and funding.  For despite the energy, the disagreements and probably personal animosities, I thought people presented themselves very well.  The arguments were not ad hominem attacks as so often happens on the Internet, but rather people made their points on all sides of the issues and spoke passionately but well.

Finally, just a few words on the Krindatch statistics which represent the most comprehensive statistical study of the Orthodox in America to date.      You can read more details about Krindatch’s  work on line.   His studies do show that we Orthodox are a tiny minority in America (and in world Orthodoxy for that matter).  Krindatch says there are about 1,043,800 Orthodox in America which includes all jurisdictions as well as the Oriental Orthodox.  Of that total only about 294,300 participate in the Church on a frequent basis.  Of the total of Orthodox, only about 84,200 belong to the OCA, with about 33,300 of those being regular participants in their parishes.  So on the whole members of the OCA show a higher rate of regular participation in their parishes than do the Orthodox as a whole.   So while we are small, we have about 40% of our members who regularly participate in their parishes.  This shows at least some positive interest of the OCA faithful in their parishes and in the Church.   It may be a small amount of good news but it is a zeal which can lead to more vibrant parish life and further mission and outreach in America.

See also my blog  Viewing the AAC from Where I Sit

Metropolitan Council Meeting Postponed

As the OCA continues to work through its current situation with the Metropolitan on Leave of Absence, the Synod of Bishops has decided reluctantly to postpone the March meeting of the Metropolitan Council.  No date was set for rescheduling the meeting.  The Synod of Bishops apparently feels the canonically correct path is to postpone the meeting as the Metropolitan decided. 

What are we to make of these recent events?   Bishop Benjamin  wrote in a pastoral letter to his Diocese of the West:  “Our polity that rests upon the critical relationship between the primate and his synod is, I believe, what is being challenged but remains unchanged.”

Conciliarity, is part of the spiritual warfare and is a contact sport; passive spectators get in the way of the goal – the upward call of Jesus Christ. 

My reading of his words is that the real struggle which is taking place is between the metropolitan and the Synod of Bishops of which he is one member.    It is on the level of the hierarchs that the battle is to be engaged.   Since Bishop Benjamin especially, but the Synod in general, likes to keep their discussions and disagreements and debates among themselves and away from the ears of the faithful, we may never know exactly what gargantuan struggle, or passive agreement,  takes place.  We may eventually see some results announced to us, but the Synod is often silent not only about their discussions but also about their decisions.   While the Synod did release the Public Minutes of their recent Winter Retreat – and for good reason – I don’t think they ever released any minutes or decisions from their Fall meeting back in September.

Bishop Benjamin did offer a Lenten mea culpa for the goings on in the Synod:  “I ask your prayers for both the Metropolitan and the Holy Synod and I ask your forgiveness for the disturbance that has occurred in the peace of the Church.”

So we are left to consider whether our exclusion as members of the Body of Christ from the deliberations of the Synod is for our benefit or theirs, for our salvation and so they can do the work entrusted to them and which only they as bishops can do or because we are not worthy of engaging in serious discussion about the life and vitality of the Church.  It is of course sometimes difficult to pray for the bishops when we don’t know exactly what we are praying for or how we can be of help to them.  We also have our work to do as members of the Body of Christ, upon whom God has distributed His many gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We can tend to those tasks which only we can do in our parishes and localities.   We do incarnate the Body of Christ wherever we assemble for the Eucharist, and whenever we do the work of Christ in the world.  We must not neglect our responsibilities and ministries because the bishops are wrestling with theirs.

One unintended side effect of postponing the Metropolitan Council Meeting is that Bishop-elect Matthias has announced he will be visiting our parish of St. Paul the Apostle in Dayton, OH, for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on Wednesday evening, March 16, 6:30pm.