This last Sunday — the Sunday of Orthodoxy — His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah celebrated Vespers of the Triumph of Orthodoxy at Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, MD. Thanks to the good offices of Ancient Faith Radio, we are now able to hear to his sermon.
As you may know, I have been highly critical of the Assembly of Bishops, both on procedural issues as well a evangelistic ones. To be blunt, many (myself included) have felt that the AB was not set up in good faith and that where it really matters, it has dropped the ball more often than not. His Beatitude however paints a different picture of the processes behind the scenes, one far more optimistic than I have been able to discern.
A few of the take-aways from his fine homily:
1. Patriarch Bartholomew really wants to convene a Great and Holy Council sometime next year,
2. This Council will deal with substantive issues and formally end the chaotic situation here in America,
3. The resulting American Orthodox Church will have non-overlapping dioceses, and
4. These dioceses will be gathered into regional archdioceses.
His Beatitude is privy to these plans because he serves on the committee which is specifically tasked with settling all canonical irregularities so he’s definitely “in the know.” More importantly, it’s not a Pollyannish, pie-in-the-sky speech. He makes mention of the difficulties and challenges that the bishops will face. OCA bishops will have to learn Greek rites, Arab bishops will have to learn Slavonic chant, the seminaries will have to teach different liturgics in addition to what they already teach, and so on. All in all, it’s a realistic assessment of the future.
No mention was made whether the Council will allow the OCA’s present autocephaly to expire or conversely, augment itself to encompass the other jurisdictions. Two years ago, I couldn’t envision an American Church which was autocephalous but the last year has been chastening. Had the MC/Syosset axis prevailed and removed Jonah from the Metropolitan throne, the OCA would have withered away in due course. Under such a scenario, the autocephaly would have been a moot point. Fortunately, the situation is markedly more stable presently because His Beatitude was able to ride out the storm. As such, the Holy Synod will have no choice but to rally around the Metropolitan in order to maintain their autocephaly.
Time will tell.
Please take the time to watch the video or listen to the podcast. It’s worth it. (The meaty part starts around 8:00.)