Orthodox unity in the Americas
Not so fast, says Antioch. (Via Byzantine, TX.)
This is an extremely thoughtful interview of Fr. Patrick O'Grady, tasked by Met. Joseph with explaining Antioch's Statement on the Episcopal Assembly to Ancient Faith Radio.
There is a transcript of the interview at Ancient Faith Radio but the full flavor and tone of Fr. Patrick's remarks are best appreciated via the audio version. God willing I am that assertive and quick-tongued at age 65.
The bullet points from the interview are as follows:
1) The Archdiocese will not abandon its Mother Church, and Antioch disagrees wholeheartedly with Constantinople's interpretation of Canon 28;
2) Unity is a spiritual state, and not a matter of simply drawing up jurisdictions and divvying them out among the bishops;
3) As such, Orthodox unity in the Americas must be organic, a process which will necessarily take a long time.
In other words, Met. Joseph agrees with me. Well, maybe not entirely but the Antiochian hierarchs appear keenly aware of the awkward mix between the modern propositional State and Orthodoxy. America presents a unique problem for Orthodox ecclesiology: an autocephalous Church is wedded to a people, and nobody knows what constitutes the "American people" at this point.
Mr. Allen: Let me read this to you, Father. You know the statement well. The statement presented by Antioch reads:
The holy Synod of the Patriarch[ate of Antioch] and her Patriarch John (or Youhanna) X remains committed to the unity of the patriarchate with all the Antiochian faithful, wherever they are.So with respect, the statement itself doesn’t exactly sound like a temporary position, but a new position on Orthodox ecclesiology or Church governance, one where there are no official geographical boundaries, which is not really what Orthodox canons call for. Would you like to comment?
Fr. Patrick: Sure. Of course. Okay, first of all, there is no land in the world where the relationship with the mother churches involved were not sustained after the granting of autocephaly. History is rugged. Sometimes there are partitions that are, at first, forced, and then settlements are made afterwards, and then sometimes there are settlements made up front, and then the relationship goes on from there. This is the way human beings relate to each other. Sometimes there’s a fight and then you make up and you hug; sometimes you agree ahead of time and you make progress that way. As far as we’re concerned, we have no intention ever of separating our relationship with the mother church, with Patriarch Youhanna and the holy Synod of Antioch. This is our mother church. The see of Antioch was the first of the Christian metropolitan churches, and it’s a venerable and long-standing tradition which we intend never to break.
When the day comes when Orthodox in this country are mature enough and have established the framework of relationships suitable for the gift of autocephaly, without sundering relations to our mother churches, then it’ll be an organic and obvious thing, and will not be a rupture.
Mr. Allen: So I’ve got to follow up with that. I’ve heard that argument, that we’re not ready for an American Orthodox Church. Is it the position of the patriarch of Antioch and the Antiochian Christian Archdiocese of North America that, after 200 years of the Orthodox being in America, having eight seminaries, 55 bishops, thousands of parishes and cathedrals, 71 male and female monastic communities, media of all kind, thousands of seminary-trained priests, Orthodox international and domestic philanthropic organizations, founded, formed, and funded in and by the United States, that we’re not mature enough to manage our own affairs?
Fr. Patrick: It’s not a matter of institutional maturity such as you’ve listed. These are all wonderful achievements. The problem, I think, lies in our American culture. We value, as North Americans, independence as a virtue. This is a problem…
Mr. Allen: It’s in our DNA.
Fr. Patrick: Yeah, it’s in our DNA, and it’s something that’s made us great, but it’s also cut us off from a lot, because we’ve turned ourselves away from some elements of the Old World which we really desperately need in order to be a full and complete people. So we have condemned ourselves to a kind of naïve view of self-importance with a minimal view of history and a large sense of destiny—you know, the American manifest destiny, that kind of thing—and also, we are not an ethnic-based state, like the Old World states were, so we don’t really have the sense of nationhood, that is to say, ethno-, like a mono-ethnic state, as the Old World, so we find it very difficult to grasp the very real pastoral needs which each ethnic people in the Old World had, and they brought with them to this new world. This takes time to work out. Each people have a certain language, a culture, and here in America, to become truly autocephalous, that is, in a fundamental and apostolic sense of that word as well matured…