Friday, November 1, 2013

Suggestions and Principles for Orthodox unity in America....

As a recent (almost 4 years ago now) convert to Orthodoxy, I am not qualified to speak to this topic, but I will do so anyway. Here are a few basic — to my mind incontrovertable — principles to work with:

First, canonically, traditionally, and liturgically, the bishopric is over a City. Any “higher levels” of honor (e.g. Archbishop, etc.) are based on any “higher levels” of government (e.g. in the USA: County, State/Possession/Territory, Nation). Any reference to ethnicity or nationality of the parishioners to decide who is in charge of whom is phyletism, a defined and anathematized heresy, plain and simple. And any bishop who remains in this condition is a heretic himself. Each of them needs to realize that.

Second, it is against the Christian ethos (if not canon law as well?) to take a brother to the secular courts. Suing each other is NEVER to be an option.

Thirdly, no plan needs approval from bishops overseas. Bishops are bishops, and each has full executive power over his diocese. Which brings me to….

Fourth, there is no such thing as an “auxiliary bishop”. A bishop without a diocese is no bishop at all.

Fifth, there is a dearth of bishops, which is to be remedied. (There are barely enough bishops in the States to cover each State at one a piece, let alone one for every City or even every metropolitan region.) The Bishops should work hard to solve this problem.  IMHO, that means re-examining the prospect of ordaining married bishops as the Scripture commands…. However, the Holy Spirit may direct them to other ideas as well.

Sixth, time is of the essence, and in person gatherings are better. In the ancient times, Synods met until their business was complete, no matter how long it took. They did not meet for three days at a hotel and then postpone everything until the next year. I understand that there is a ton of work to be done. Based on this, I propose that the Bishops and/or their representatives meet for at least a month at a time, if not longer, and that they stay not in luxurious hotels, but in the houses of the faithful who are willing to open their doors. Because of the dearth of bishops, their parishes typically go for nearly a full year or more without an episcopal visit anyway. A month or two more isn’t going to kill them.

Seventh, we need to take all of the ethnic and national identifiers off of the parish names, and off of all official letterhead.  Geographical identifiers may be added if necessary.

Working with the principles, the Assembly should immediately call for an American Council, with the express purpose of repenting and bringing forth works of repentance — in this case, the administrative unification of the American Church.

The first order of business will be the voluntary and immediate reclamation by every bishop present of the simple title “Bishop of {geographical region}”, and the mandatory and immediate denunciation of any “higher” rank.  (Any overlaps will be handled below.)

The second order of business will be the immediate election from among the now-equal bishops of a Patriarch of America from among these, preferably ordaining the “least among them”.

The third item will be the immediate re-distribution of the bishops according to geography, as led by the Holy Spirit, in unity under the new Patriarch.  Various ranks can be re-assigned here as necessary or fit.

NOTE: Each must be careful to remain in humility and love, preferring others before himself, trusting the care of his people to God, and being therefore content with whatever his lot may be in the new order. (Speaking of which: lots may just be the best way to do the redistribution….)

The fourth item on the agenda will be the immediate declaration of autocephaly, along with the reassertion by this Synod that all who remain in the old way of doing things are heretics on account of their blatant phyletism, and if that means schism then so be it.  The Holy Spirit will work it out in the long run; you’ve gotta start somewhere.  (This kind of thing is quite an American thing to do anyway.)

Only THEN, working from this new foundation, should the work of the Assembly continue as it has so far: with committees discussing details and working on the “sausage making”.

It is a uniquely American thing to “shoot first and ask questions later”.  I think it is quite apropos, therefore, and somewhat ironic, that this is exactly what is needed to fix the problems of unity in America. The problem, of course, is that we have a bunch of “bishops” who are not American, most of whom lack the grit to “git ‘er done!”

Maybe we should just throw them all in the river and elect bishops from among our own, starting with the dozen or so native bishops? (e.g. Met. Jonah, Bishop Mark, etc., whom we will kindly refrain from baptizing so ignominiously…) Or maybe just the most egregious offenders.  That would get the attention of the rest, I think. (I believe they refer to this as “shooting a hostage or two”.)