OCA Synod Releases Public Minutes of Their Winter Retreat

While confusion has reigned in the OCA since rumors of Metropolitan Jonah’s being put on Leave of Absence were reported by several different sources, tonight the Synod released their Public Minutes of their Winter Retreat.  The minutes show clearly that the Synod was putting the Metropolitan on Leave of Absence for unnamed health reasons, but respectfully gave him opportunity to request the leave.   The Minutes clearly show the Metropolitan agreeing to the terms of the Leave effective immediately (February 25).

The confusion grew when an OCA press release, Holy Synod Announces Changes, said the metropolitan was taking time off for a “personal retreat and time of spiritual renewal.”  This was followed by Metropolitan Jonah in a public announcement at the OCA’s St. Nicholas Cathedral claiming he was taking “an extended period of rest.”   He publicly denied that he was on Leave of Absence.   The Metropolitan then in the last few days engaged in a flurry of activities including postponing the annual Spring meeting of the Holy Synod and of the Metropolitan Council. 

The released minutes clearly contradict the Metropolitan’s announcement and denial of being on Leave of Absence.  They also would call into question all of his decisions and announcements of the past few days, since he already was to be on Leave of Absence and relieved of his duties.

The crisis provoked by the Metropolitan, will now hopefully be addressed by the Synod to whom he is mutually accountable and obedient.   The status of his recent actions require clarification, and the effects of his recent actions will certainly become the focus of discussions within the Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council, and between them.

Speaking to the Apostles and Their Successors

Reading through the four Gospels, one can see that the original twelve disciples are not sinless, perfect or infallible.  On the most basic level one of the Twelve denies Jesus and one betrays Him.   More frequently they don’t understand Him, and by the end of Mark’s Gospel they all have abandoned Him.

“Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”   (Mark 16:14)

Jesus does upbraid  and rebuke the glorious disciples for their failures.  On one occasion, quite famously, Jesus called Peter, the head of the Apostles, “Satan.”

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.’   (Matthew 16:21-23)

Jesus was not afraid to severely rebuke the Apostles when they failed, in order to teach, correct and exhort them.   Are we not to imitate Christ?  An errant Apostle is to be rebuked and straightened out by Christ, whose Body we are.  The successors to the Apostles are not greater than the Twelve.

One of the most heart-wrenching scenes concerning the Apostles, comes from the Last Supper.  

 “And when it was evening he came with the twelve.  And as they were at table eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’  They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I?’”   (Mark 14:17-19)

“Is it I, Lord?”  

None was totally sure of himself.  They were each terrified by the possibility that they would be the one who betrayed Christ.  Note:  they don’t deny the possibility.  Because they each have to ask, they each recognize they could do it, or perhaps, had already considered  it.  

Those first disciples at least had the humility and self awareness to question themselves regarding the accusation from Christ that one of them would betray Him.  As true disciples of the Master, they were humble, and had learned introspection; they each knew the value of self examination, truthfulness and repentance.  Each recognized that one of them could and would betray the Lord was realistically a possibility.   Each honestly wondered about himself.

“…and as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’”  (Matthew 26:21-22)

They were sitting with Christ, eating with Him, and yet admitting to themselves and to Christ: they could not only fail Him but even turn against Him.  What does it take for an Apostle, or their successors, to recognize that one of their own will or has turned against Christ?  

The 12 Apostles could be humble and recognize that each of them could fail Christ, betray Him,  or sin against Him.    They were not hierarchs who do not or cannot admit error, sin, failure or foible.  They did not circle the wagons around each other, self defensively and in opposition to Christ or the world. How terribly awesome that self admission, the heart of a penitent: “I can betray Him” – I, the Apostle, one of the chosen Twelve.  They were afraid, but not of what people would think of them, nor of making a mistake, or admitting they were wrong.  They were afraid because they admitted to their own self-willed sinfulness.

“’For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’  Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.    A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”  (Luke 22:22-24)

Just one second after pausing to recognize that one of them would betray Christ  – again, they don’t deny that this could happen, they are trying to figure out which one of them would do it – they begin to argue among themselves which one of them was to be regarded as greatest!   They obviously are already jockeying for power and prestige,  each already forgetting his terrifying realization of the last minute that he might betray Christ.  Jesus immediately and once again rebukes their failure and wrong attitude.

It is how the Christ speaks to one who strays from being a disciple.  It is how the Body of Christ is to imitate Him.  Rebuke the disciple who strays, and recognize that the one who betrays Christ and the Apostolic fellowship, disciple though he be, has left the fellowship, like Judas.

Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (4)

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.

Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (3)

This is the 3rd 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 (2).  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}:  Our church, in a sense, if you want to put it into the context of those protocols, is in process. It was proposed. Some of the churches have accepted it, some of the churches are thinking about it, some of the churches have not accepted it. So it’s a process. We’re in process.

The OCA was given a status – autocephaly – in a manner that was consistent with how it was granted by Orthodox Mother Churches at that time (1970).  So if 40 years later in 2010 a new process for granting and accepting autocephaly is adopted is called into existence by Orthodox churches,  does this mean these new rules are grandfathered to cover past decisions of Orthodox Patriarchs?  Just how far back are we to go with this?  Can now all past decisions granting autocephaly be revisited?  So each time one Orthodox autocephalous church doesn’t like what another is doing can it withdraw its recognition of its self-rule and ask that the whole issue of autocephaly be revisited?   Maybe Constantinople would like to revisit the autocephalous status of all the various national churches of Europe?  Is this OK with all of these autocephalous churches?   I don’t imagine it would be.  The OCA’s autocephaly was granted in a legitimate manner consistent with how it had been done in the years following the collapse of the Turkish empire.

[MJ}:  The implication of autocephaly is that the universally recognized autocephalous church in a particular region becomes the criterion of canonicity and any other bodies within that region must submit to it. This has obviously not happened, and the other churches have reacted variously to our autocephaly.

The Apostles: Who is the Greatest?

Maybe the imagery is simply wrong.  Maybe what happens (or should happen) in a region such as the United States where there are many Orthodox jurisdictions is that because of brotherly love, Orthodox local churches/parishes/diocese band together recognizing the need to cooperate, recognizing the ethics of brotherly peace in accepting authority.  The image of submitting to a power is exactly the non Christ-like problem which bedevils the Church at times.  Once you start talking about groups of Christians living in submission to power, you have lost love, fraternity and Christianity.   Matthew 23:1-12 or any of Jesus’ discussions about which disciple is greatest, tell us that brotherly love is the only way for Christians or Orthodox jurisdictions to approach one another.  If we can’t do that, then no external authority is going to make that happen either.  The OCA and each archdiocese must approach each other in brotherly concern, not expecting or fearing submission, but looking for mutual love and concern.   The issue is not who submits to whom, but how do we cooperate in brotherly love.  Autocephaly is part of the Orthodox equation in America, surely the Orthodox can figure out in fraternal love how to deal with that reality even if it takes another 40 years.

Personally I do not see the Mother Churches working any faster on Orthodox unity in America if autocephaly is off the table.

In America there is no secular power forcing us or even encouraging us to work through our issues of disunity and multi-jurisdictionalism.  This is an internal Church issue which we should resolve as Christians, not using the civil images of power, authority and submission to the powerful, but rather relying on Christian notions of fraternity, and mutual submission to one another in love.

[MJ}:  The autocephaly was right for its time, but the times have changed, and there are new demands on us.

And was the Patriarchate of Constantinople wrong for its time when the Turks conquered Byzantium?   Was the Patriarchate of Moscow wrong for its times when Peter the Great demolished it or when the communists overthrew the Russian Orthodox empire?  Times are always changing, which is why autocephaly is so important for Orthodoxy in America.   We need the autocephaly so that our hands are not tied by past problems.

Autocephaly was right when it was proposed and it is right today because it continues to challenge us as Orthodox to live up to our Orthodox ideals as Church.

Autocephaly challenges us to think as Christians about what our mission in America really is.

I think it is fair to contend that in fact even the EA process is a response to the challenge of autocephaly.  So if the EA is the new process, it means that autocephaly is as relevant as ever to the discussion.  By bringing autocephaly to the table, the OCA enriches the EA process and discussion, for autocephaly is a reality for many Orthodox in America and a potential reality for the rest.

The 2010 Statement of the Synod of Bishops on Autocephaly affirms that the bishops of OCA remain committed to an autocephalous church for America.  Presumably since Metropolitan Jonah signed that statement, he is committed to it.  Autocephaly is being affirmed as right for America at this time.  It hopefully will not be limited to the current OCA, but rather will encompass all Orthodox in America, but it is still a goal for Orthodoxy in America to which our Synod has expressed its commitment.  Any talk by the Metropolitan of autocephaly being somehow an outdated idea is inconsistent with the vision of the Synod to which he belongs.  If anything the OCA is not trying to limit autocephaly to itself but rather is saying it was given to us for all Orthodox in America.   Autocephaly as conceived by the OCA’s Synod of Bishops is inclusive not exclusive.

Next:  Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (4)

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

This is the 2nd 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).  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. 

In the previous blog I puzzled over what conciliarity means in the church today.  The Metropolitan has pointed it out as a special trait of the OCA’s tradition, and yet his recent announcement of his intent to move the OCA headquarters to Washington, DC, seems to have been a unilarteral decision on his part, with no consultation with the Metropolitan Council, the Chancery Staff, the Diocese of Washington, or perhaps even with his fellow bishops on the Synod.  If conciliarity implies some type of open discussion, discernment and then decision, it is hard to see this happening in these recent events.

I’ll turn to some other comments Metropolitan Jonah made in his Canadian speech.

[MJ}:  However, the autocephaly itself causes many problems as it saw in the reactions of the other churches.

These words make me ask:   Was the church in America without problems before the OCA was created?  The autocephaly was NEEDED at the time it was given.  It has in fact stood as a challenge to all Orthodox jurisdictions in America to think about Orthodoxy, unity, and the Church as Church and not simply as an extension of foreign ethnic interests in America.  The OCA has led all Orthodox to have to think about what being ORTHODOX in America means.  These are good problems and good questions which we need to answer.  

Even if there were no autocephalous Church in America, would the other dioceses be any closer to unity or even discussing unity?   I venture the opinion that it is the existence of the OCA which has kept unity a topic of discussion among the Orthodox jurisdictions in Amnerica.  No jurisdiction has made Orthodox unity a priority as the OCA has.

Autocephaly may have caused problems, but not all of them were bad, and some of them were needed for Orthodoxy in America to embrace its own mission to this continent and in the present time.

As the Synod of Bishops in its recent,    Pastoral Letter to the Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America on Autocephaly (Nativity Fast, 2010):

“As envisioned in the Tomos, we believe that the autocephaly given to us will be fully realized when the promise of Orthodox unity in North America is fulfilled, and the OCA together with all the Orthodox faithful in North America become one united Autocephalous Church of America, recognized by all other Orthodox Churches.”

Autocephaly has not just caused problems, it has also opened hearts and minds to the real mission of Orthodoxy in America.

[MJ}:  Autocephaly is a status within this system that prescribes a set of relationships with the other churches that, of necessity, must be entirely mutual. By unilaterally granting autocephaly to the OCA in 1970, those relationships were only partially established.

In the recent histories of granting autocephalous status to the various churches of Europe, each autocephaly caused and problem and was not immediately accepted by all the other Orthodox churches (just read Bogolepov’s TOWARD AN AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH).  The OCA’s experience is not even unique in this.  And certainly, once we get beyond the “foreign” interests of the Mother Churches, we have to begin to ask ourselves about having an indigenous church.  There are a sizable number of converts who are interested in learning how to be Orthodox in America, not how to become ethnically reoriented.   They are most interested in knowing how to be Christian in an Orthodox manner; it is our task to discern how to live this out in America as Americans.

[MJ}:  By some in the Greek world, they were categorically rejected and some of the churches are ambivalent. This played itself out in the exclusion of the OCA from the Executive Committee of the Episcopal Assembly in its non-recognition by Constantinople of having the right to vote as an Autocephalous Church.

The exclusion of the OCA from the Executive Committee of the EA is not the OCA’s biggest problem.  The EA is an attempt to deal with the non-canonical situation in America, it is an attempt by the Mother Churches to deal with each other and with their dioceses in America.   The OCA is not in the same category as these other churches.  We are an autocephalous church, not some diocesan extension of a  Mother Church.   So we are not hurt at the moment by being excluded from the EA’s Executive Committee.   They have to work out their problems with each other and then they can look at us.  We ought to sit there as a reminder that we exist, but we don’t face the same problems as all of the other jurisdictions who are tied to Mother Churches.    We should actively cooperate with the EA process, even if only to the level that they will allow us.  We still exist, we are not going away and they will still have to figure out their relationship to us, once they figure out their relationships to each other.

Next:  Reflections on the OCA, Autocephaly & the Future (3)

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)

Synod Suspends Archbishop Seraphim

As reported on the OCA’s webpage, the Synod of Bishops of the OCA has suspended Archbishop Seraphim of Canada.  

The Synod has also released the mandate for the Synodal Commission for the Investigation of Allegations against Archbishop Seraphim.   This is the document outlining the purpose and scope of this investigative committee.

Before all the gossips read too much into these two actions, keep in mind that none of this necessarily means there is new information which has prompted these actions.   Some things were already in progress and just take time to enact following now established procedures before being announced.   Some had to be worked through the procedures of the system.    For the system to work, it has to take time to work.   Announcements don’t always mean something new has occurred, they sometimes only mean that things were at a point that the announcements could be made.

The Canadian authorities have put a publication ban in effect for this case as has been widely reported in all of the Canadian news outlets.  This would seem to mean don’t expect an endless series of official news flashes and breaking news bulletins for the time being.   As with the OCA, the Canadian system must work through this case according to its procedures.

The doors were closed in fear…

In the days after the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles went into hiding, according to John’s Gospel (20:19).   They were afraid of the Jews.  Behind closed doors, Jesus met with those to whom He had entrusted His mission and ministry.  He wished them His peace and then showed them his wounds (20:20).

This cheered the fearful apostles a little (20:20).

But Jesus gave them little time for comfort, for his next words were these: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (20:21).

In other words, he expected His disciples to overcome their fears and secrecy and to leave their hiding place and go into the world as apostles – carry God’s Good News to all humanity – just as He had done through His life, death and resurrection. 

He had just showed them His wounds, His message was clear:  Go into the world, in love as I have done, and love the world.  Suffer and die for the salvation of the world.  Don’t be afraid, this is the way of glory for God’s people.  He wished them peace as He told them to go into the world to suffer as He had suffered for the sins of the world and for its salvation.

Last week, the OCA’s synod of bishops also met behind closed doors, in closed session.  It is possible like the apostles in whose succession they are, they too have fears which is why they close the doors.  They have much to discuss, as they have many problems and issues to deal with.  They seem to have much to fear as well – lawyers, allegations, lawsuits, scandal, the Internet, their flock, declining membership, clergy sexual misconduct, clergy abuse, financial mismanagement, the press, public opinion, secularism, democracy, crises, inadequacies, transparency, the past, the present and the future.  These are “the Jews” whom the successors to the apostles fear today and so stay behind closed doors.  A week after they meet, their deliberations remain locked behind those doors, for fear of their “Jews.”

We can pray that Christ will appear to them the next time they assemble behind closed doors, in closed session.  Perhaps He will give them peace, certainly He will tell them to leave the confines of their hiding place, to open the doors and go into the world to teach all that He commanded.  This time around though I think he needs to show not just the mark of the nails and the place where the spear pierced his side – still open and yet transfigured wounds.  He needs to show that He is still bleeding from these wounds, He needs to show the tears on His cheeks as He weeps for His Church, for its wounded members, for the leadership which imagines it can lead from behind doors which are closed in fear of the …

The only things we really need to fear is God and His judgment, and that we can fail as disciples to be His Church.

Fr. Matthias made Bishop-elect of the Midwest

Syosset, NY –  The Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America in its fall session canonically elected Fr. Matthias Moriak to become the bishop of Chicago and the Diocese of the Midwest.    Fr. Matthias had previously been nominated by the clergy and lay delegates to the special assembly of the Midwest Diocese held in October in Minneapolis.  His consecration as bishop is being planned for May of  2011.

A biography of the 61 year old Fr. Matthias is now available on the OCA’s webpage.

May God grant him many years!

Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa on Leave of Absence

There is no joy in reading news like this, but in as much as I serve on the  OCA’s Metropolitan Council and also do work with a committee forming the sexual misconduct policies for the OCA, I think it important that we all see a certain maturity happening in the OCA in grappling with these issues, in forming policies to deal with such allegations, and in enforcing those policies.  It has been a slow growth and learning process for the OCA in dealing with these issues.  We can hope that this public admission of allegations and an investigation is a sign that there has been a real change in the corporate culture of the OCA.

Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa on Leave of Absence

Posted 10/03

SYOSSET, NY [OCA] — The Lesser Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, NY, September 21 – 24, 2010, heard an official report that police in Canada have received a complaint alleging misconduct committed by His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada some 30 years ago.

An investigation is now is progress.

In response to this, Archbishop Seraphim requested a leave of absence.

On behalf of the Holy Synod of Bishops, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, made the following statement: “I have blessed the Church’s Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations to work in conjunction with the Canadian police authorities and to comply with the Orthodox Church in America’s policies and procedures in order to obtain the necessary information needed to bring about a proper resolution. We offer our heartfelt prayers to the Great Shepherd and Healer, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that all parties involved in this will be blessed with God’s peace, love and healing. During Archbishop Seraphim’s leave of absence, His Grace, Bishop Irénée of Quebec City will function as the Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada.”