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The American Laity Special Action Committee Orthodox Church

From the American Orthodox Institute:

Once this consensus is reached, bishops, priests, theologians, and laymen must request an independent unity that is free of foreign constraints. This first phase of unity may proceed on several different fronts. The bishops who make up SCOBA can certainly meet more regularly and request the convocation of an all-American synod. Priests on the local level can meet with their counterparts regularly and receive from their parish councils the resources necessary to consolidate operations. Cities that have bishops can request that the resident bishop serve as the president of the local Orthodox ministerial association. Laypeople must likewise apply their talents and experience to the cause of unity. Lawyers will be needed to help draw up diocesan incorporations. Accountants and financiers will be needed to assemble strong, enduring, transparent financial structures. Medical doctors and bioethicists can be appointed as permanent advisors to and members of episcopal councils, advising bishops about the ethical implications of current and developing medical technologies. The demand must be from the “bottom up” as much as from the “top down.” The universal call for unity cannot abate.

The particulars of unity would have to be worked out in anticipation of an all-American convocation on unity, which might run for several months or even years. Once the new dioceses and metropolitan districts are formed, then the existing bishops, archbishops, and metropolitans could decide among themselves who would administer each see, with final decisions open to lay review and approval. The consolidation of the new jurisdictions and the new patriarchal administration could then proceed apace.

Well, that’s about as culturally American as you can get — this hypothetical American Patriarchate would be a secular non-profit agency acting as an umbrella organization for a collection of committees, nothing more, nothing less. If that’s the alternative, I guess I’ll take “phyletist” jurisdictions for the time being.

Thing is, Mr. Michalopulos is not exactly wrong in terms of this being what it would need to look like if it were to exist tomorrow — and that’s precisely why we’re nowhere near ready for it to happen, even if it feels really good right now to suggest that somehow jurisdictional unity, and its mysteriously related cousin, “empowering the laypeople”, is the solution to every problem.

Esteban, I’m understanding what you mean by “militant Americanist Orthodoxy” better by the day without you having to say a word of explanation.

(That said, I do encourage you to read the American Orthodox Institute Blog and comment copiously. They do some good, interesting stuff over there, even if I disagree with parts of this article, and it seems like they attract a far narrower readership than they should. Check them out when you have a moment.)

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4 Responses to “The American Laity Special Action Committee Orthodox Church”


  1. 1 Esteban Vázquez 19 March 2009 at 7:53 am

    I’m glad. Militant Americanism is best understood through the shock it can provoke, and for that, there’s hardly anything better than this astonishing little piece.

    Meanwhile, have you read this yet?

  2. 2 AMM 19 March 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Once the new dioceses and metropolitan districts are formed, then the existing bishops, archbishops, and metropolitans could decide among themselves who would administer each see, with final decisions open to lay review and approval.

    Open to lay approval? Wow.

  3. 3 James 19 March 2009 at 2:20 pm

    You know, the Church under the Byzantine empire was pretty damn Byzantine. The Church under the Tsar in Moscow was pretty damn tsarist. The Church under Ottoman/ Islamic rule is pretty damn dhimmi.

    For a united Church in American to be institutionally very American… I ain’t saying it’s a good thing any more than it’s good for the Church to be tsarist, Byzantine, or dhimmi. But it’s also not a shock.

    I simply can’t imagine most American laity submitting to a sudden change in episcopal oversight without their own consent. If you tell the Greek parish in Dallas that tomorrow they belong to an ethnically Texan bishop, they will simply say no. Canonically they ought to say yes sir. But culturally, they just won’t. They’re too American.

    And likewise if you tell a Cracker parish in rural Georgia that tomorrow they belong to a bishop from Athens. They just won’t accept it.

    The only way I can imagine jurisdictional unity is if parishes are transferred from bishop to bishop slowly and cautiously, one at a time, over the course of many decades. The OCA parish in Decatur needs to know that it will eventually belong to the Metropolitan of Atlanta. This bishop needs to meet with said parish multiple times over several years, and the parish needs to be in dialogue both with its Texan bishop and the local bishop about the transfer process. As the parish begins to know and trust its local bishop, in good and due time, it will move into the local diocese. I simply can’t imagine American laity agreeing to any more abrupt method.

    • 4 Richard Barrett 19 March 2009 at 8:41 pm

      As I said — I’ve no doubt that what Mr. Michalopulos describes is pretty much how it would need to be were it to be implemented right this second. As you say, “They’re too American,” which means people will just ignore what they don’t like or pretend it doesn’t apply to them. This is perhaps why now is absolutely the wrong time for it to be on anybody’s radar.


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