Fr. Thomas Hopko: Letter to the Metropolitan Council – April 12, 2006

Fr. Thomas Hopko: Letter to the Metropolitan Council

April 12, 2006

Your Beatitude, Reverend Fathers,

Brothers and Sisters,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

I ask Your Beatitude’s blessing.

Given the present condition in our Orthodox Church in America, the hour has clearly come for Your Beatitude and the Metropolitan Council to insist upon a carefully organized and in-depth analysis and discussion of what happened to our beloved church that has resulted in:

  • the financial scandal we are suffering
  • the financial crisis we are now facing
  • the divisions in the Holy Synod and the church we are now witnessing
  • the lack of communion and communication we are now enduring
  • the anger, frustration, depression and outright cynicism among the clergy and informed lay people we are now experiencing
  • the disagreements that exist among us about the nature of episcopacy, authority and decision-making in the church (including our disagreement about the relationship between bishops, priests and lay people, the function of Orthodoxy in a pluralistic democratic society and the significance for our church of the 1917-1918 All Russian Church Council)
  • our church’s failure to integrate our archdioceses and dioceses into one cohesive, fully cooperating, ecclesial body
  • our church’s failure to be a powerful and effective force for the administrative and structural unity of Orthodoxy in North America
  • a synod of Bishops that refuses to respond to questions and requests of the faithful, including a formal appeal of 70 highly respected senior priests
  • a synod of Bishops that appears to have no need for the counsel of others in the church, including the church’s priests, monastics, scholars and thinkers
  • the reluctance and often outright refusal of some bishops to speak face to face with their priests and people about church doctrine, liturgical practices and parochial, pastoral and personal problems
  • the failure of our bishops to meet together, and the priests to meet with each other, for the purpose of giving an account of their ministry, receiving and answering questions, and fostering unity of teaching and practice
  • the impossibility to get a serious discussion on practically any church issue among the church’s bishops and priests, and between the clergy and lay people
  • the ordination of men to the clergy and the appointment of people to church positions lacking the ability needed to conduct their ministries fruitfully
  • the absence of a system of formal performance assessment, continuing education and ‘on the job training’ of our clergy and church workers
  • our church’s failure to care for its trouble clergy and their families
  • the virtual reduction of church life among many clergy to liturgical services and ritual practices,
  • with uncritical imitations of old world practices and subjective alterations of our received rites and texts
  • the virtual reduction of supra-parochial church life to liturgical services, ecclesiastical celebrations and social events<
  • our church’s failure to attract American born Orthodox young people to our seminaries and monasteries (for if we did not have the converts, those born abroad, and the clergy children that we do in our seminaries and monasteries, we would have almost no seminarians and monastics at all!)
  • the failure of our seminaries and monasteries to interact and cooperate with each other as a matter of normal policy
  • our church’s failure to support and foster a vibrant monastic and missionary movement
  • the disagreement among us about how our church and its parishes, institutions and faithful members should relate to non-Orthodox people, especially to Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians of various kinds
  • the confusion among us about how we are to deal as a church and as individual believers with contemporary social, political, military, economic, sexual and bioethical issues
  • the misrepresentation in and outside the church of its statistical figures (such as that our church has 400,00 members when less than 30,000 identify themselves as members)
  • dioceses that have fewer members than their cathedral churches alone had 50 years ago
  • the point where a church of 200 people is considered to be large
  • the loss of the influence and respect that our church and many of its leaders once hand among Orthodox and non-Orthodox in North American and abroad.

These are just some of the most obvious issues and conditions in our church that require detailed, study, analysis and debate. Why are things the way they now are? Why do our bishops, clergy, and lay people think and act as they do? What has happened? How did it happened? Why has it happened? And what should we do about it?

An in-depth study and debate on such questions as these will hardly be pleasant or easy. But it must be done. And it must be long, serious, free, candid, patient and charitable. The life of our church, and indeed, our eternal lives with God, depend on it.

Your Beatitude and respected members of the Metropolitan Council: Please do whatever it takes to see that such a study and debate take place. Do it for the clergy and lay people who elected you. Do it for our whole church, especially our children and grand- children. Do it for the people desiring to join the Orthodox Church. And do it for all Orthodox Christians and, indeed, for all Christians and all people who are suffering in their own ways as we are now suffering in our dear Orthodox Church in America.

I ask for your forgiveness and prayers.

May the Lord’s Will be done.

Yours in Our Saviour,

Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko

cc: Holy Synod of Bishops