In Support of 'A Declaration for Orthodox Christian Unity in America,' No. 3
NEWS PROVIDED BY
Orthodox Christian Laity
Oct. 14, 2022
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Oct. 14, 2022 /Christian Newswire/ -- The following is submitted by Peter Zarras, President, and George D. Karcazes, Secretary, Orthodox Christian Laity:
To the Orthodox Christian Faithful in America:
On July 5, 2022, A Declaration for Orthodox Christian Unity in America was published and widely distributed. It addresses the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America (ACOB) and solicits the signatures and support of all Orthodox Christians to reassure the Hierarchy of the rectitude of the call for a united, autocephalous American Orthodox Church.
Concern: I am uncomfortable signing my name on a Declaration addressed to Hierarchs, who might view this as disrespectful.
In America, the opportunity to inform and petition is part of our national character and identity. A close reading of the Declaration reveals that it is respectful in tone and content. The call for its endorsement by the entire body of the most informed and engaged clergy and laity is intended to assure the Hierarchs that the faithful in America support unity and autocephaly.
Concern: I am afraid that an autocephalous American Orthodox Church could fall under the influence of Putin/Russia.
The Declaration addresses the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the U.S., which is composed of 55 bishops from twelve jurisdictions:
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
- Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
- Orthodox Church in America (OCA)
- Moscow Patriarchal Parishes in the USA
- Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central, and South America
- Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas
- Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia
- Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church in North America
- Albanian Orthodox Diocese
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
- American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese
- Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
As of September 14, 2018, the Moscow Patriarchate and the churches under its jurisdiction interrupted their participation in the Assembly due to the 2018 Moscow-Constantinople schism. While the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Moscow Patriarchate have some bishops and parishes in America, their ability to influence the direction of Orthodoxy in America, represented by the twelve jurisdictions that comprise the Assembly, is minimal. Moreover, because the Moscow Patriarchate supports the Russian Army's invasion of brother Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and due to other actions in Europe and America, Russian influence in American Orthodoxy is steadily diminishing.
Concern: An autocephalous American Orthodox Church uniting the currently divided jurisdictions would be susceptible to becoming either more fundamentalist or more liberal, affecting its response to present-day social and cultural issues that the Church must address.
The Orthodox Church is Synodal and Conciliar. Through its Synods and Councils, it seeks not only to preserve the doctrines and teachings of the Church but also to discern the mind (phronema) of the whole Church regarding issues that require attention, discussion and response. Unifying the jurisdictions represented in the Assembly into a single Synod is the proper canonical response to the present situation in America. It is the only way to prevent the ongoing decline and possible defection of some segments into the Fundamentalist or Liberal extremes that will further fracture the American Orthodox Church. We must trust that the 55 canonical bishops in the Assembly, together with theologians, scholars, and informed and engaged laity guided by the Holy Spirit, will have the collective wisdom to navigate the issues confronting the Church in America.
Concern: A united, autocephalous Orthodox Church in America must include, at the very least, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA), the Antiochian Archdiocese, and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). The Antiochian Archdiocese claims that it is autonomous. The OCA is already de facto autocephalous. Therefore, doesn't it make sense for the GOA to seek to become autonomous as a first step to autocephaly?
The history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church in America, through the succession of charters from 1932 to date and more recent events, renders any autonomy in a new charter from the Ecumenical Patriarchate meaningless. Examples of those actions include the unilateral imposition, amendment, suspension, and reinstatement of charters and the forced retirement and removal of hierarchs.
A universally-recognized self-governance is necessary for the proper organization, administration, and functioning of the Church in America. The leadership of the Mother Churches often argues that the Church in America is not mature enough to be self-governing. However, it is the refusal of the Mother Churches to allow their offspring in America to cooperate freely and work together that prevents the local Church from displaying this maturity and fulfilling the mandates of the Gospel. Without autocephaly, the bishops cannot act freely within their local Church. Instead, they remain subject to the foreign Synods that appoint and can remove them for any or no reason.
By endorsing the Declaration, the faithful in America declare that they accept the call and responsibility to be the local Church and will continue to honor and support the ancient Patriarchates and the Mother Churches. The Mother Churches, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate that created the Assembly and exhorted it to do its work, must accept that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving the Church in America the blessing to self-govern and join the ranks of autocephalous Orthodox Churches.
OCL is a 35-year-old 501(c)(3) educational ministry advocating for the administrative unity, accountability, transparency and conciliar governance of all Orthodox Christian jurisdictions in America as one local, autocephalous Church.
SOURCE Orthodox Christian Laity
CONTACT: David Oancea, Executive Director, 517-795-7784