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...
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I would gladly take the fullness of the faith, churches where the liturgy is always served, where the church calendar is observed, the saints are venerated and worship is not an entertainment venue any day if the trade off was merely a lack of administrative bureaucracy.
No one who goes East claims that there is perfection, but in the faith and its practice, the lack of jurisdictional unity (in this country) is fine with me
"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."
Which EO jurisdictions are willing to surrender power for the sake of administrative restructuring? Will the Russians lead the charge? They certainly have the numbers and the money to influence a positive outcome in the USA and elsewhere.
The LCMS is NOT one church in doctrine and worship and episcopacy. Refer to worship wars, Confessional Lutherans versus Willow Creek Lutherans, St. Louis versus Ft. Wayne seminaries versus district-sponsored SMP programs, and district offices versus campus Lutheran centers.
The Roman Catholic church is a transnational church. The EO church remains an ethnic church. As an LCMSer with German roots, I would be compelled to join the Greek or Russian ethnic groups in addition to converting to the EO church. As I have zero interest in Greek or Russian languages and culture, joining the EO would be problematic for me.
When will the LCMS districts reorganize. It does not make sense for the Slovak district to exist if no one in that district uses Slovakian hymns, language, or culture anymore. It also does not make sense for the LCMS to have congregations in Canada. All of those congregations should leave the LCMS and join the Lutheran Church of Canada. English District? Doesn't everyone worship in the English language? What prevents any given LCMS district from planting a church in the territory of another district?
The "sleeping giant", the LCMS, will never wake up until the districts are completely reorganized. LCMS districts have too much power. Hopefully, if the ULC wins in court against the MNS district, the LCMS would be forced to restructure all of the districts.
NALC pastors claim that the LCMS is dysfunctional. I wonder why.
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...
Excellent point, Father Peters. Leaving the LCMS for anything thinking the problems will go away would be misguided. There are problems everywhere. Same with people. Some have left congregations because of people...only to find similar people at the new congregations! One should only come to Orthodoxy when one is convinced herein lies the Truth.
I have to make a comment however about the ethnicity of Orthodoxy. Yes...some parishes are very ethnic and if you are not from that ethnic group you may feel out of place. But there are many other parishes that are not so ethnic at all. To be honest I don't think this is so different from Lutherans! I once went to a convocation in the Florida - Georgia district. Everything was flavored in German. Even the entertainment was peppered with German jokes. A guy next to me was from Laos. I asked him how he felt in the midst of such German expression and he agreed he didn't quite fit in but he was OK with that. In my estimation, having experienced both...I don't think the Orthodox are that much more "ethnic" than the Lutherans.
Or the Roman Catholics. New Orleans once had a St. Mary's Italian; a St. Mary's French; and a St. Mary's German. And do you really want to know how the catholics handled the era of "Separate but equal?"
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