Friday, May 4, 2012
Orthodox Unity... and the issues preventing it
As Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter today [the article was dated April 15], they have resurrected a movement toward unity in America, where they are divided into a hodgepodge of overlapping ethnic jurisdictions. On orders from patriarchs in Constantinople, Russia, Serbia and elsewhere, all Orthodox bishops in this country are working on a plan for one American Church.
The patriarchs say they want to approve such a plan at a yet-unscheduled Great and Holy Council of global Orthodoxy. The last such council was in A.D. 787. In 2010, 66 American bishops formed the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, to devise the plan.
"This has great potential," said Bishop Melchisedek of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania in the Orthodox Church in America. "The canon law of the church allows for only one bishop of a city, but here in Pittsburgh we have four. It's a situation that can create unnecessary conflict. Now we have the potential for the church to speak with one voice."
The issues have created difficulty after difficulty in a church that loves jurisdictional order. The Orthodox have had an anomaly here for some time -- both with formal divisions of structure and episcopal jurisdiction and the informal divisions created by overly robust ethnic and linguistic identities. Not in the least of the problems is the different ways that different jurisdictions have treated the many converts (especially to the priesthood) that have characterized Orthodoxy in the last generation or so.
There are tensions between converts -- who have entered the priesthood in large numbers -- and ethnic Orthodox. There has been conflict in and between jurisdictions here. In 2010, the Antiochian diocesan bishops were demoted to auxiliaries stripped of most of their power. Thirty years after declaring the Orthodox Church in America self-governing, the Russian Orthodox Church began planting parishes in the United States and reunited with the formerly schismatic Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
Some believe that this is merely jurisdictional but there are differences that go beyond merely structural issues or the way the different groups related to one another.
"Right now people see all of these jurisdictional divisions and they get confused. They think that all of them are separate churches, like Protestant denominations, but they're not," he said. "The Orthodox see themselves as one church. They are one church in doctrine and worship and episcopacy. It's this administrative problem that needs to be solved."
You can read all of Ann Rodgers fine article here.... I post it so that those who look longingly to the East may see some of the very real problems that underscore the fact that no Christian body is without its own issues... It is always a trade off when you leave behind one to pursue another...