So, I was going to post something about my bewilderment to the negative reactions I had read to the announcement of a pan-Orthodox synod. I was going to rant and rave that we’re treating bishops, particularly foreign bishops, as enemies and as antichrists, that we seem to be assuming the worst about certain figures by default, that it seems sometimes that our communion is very tenuous and fragile and can only be preserved by not talking about or trying to solve our issues. I was going to point out that it is the family that won’t discuss its problems that is dysfunctional, and that it is the fear of this synod happening that is the clearest demonstration of its necessity. I was maybe even going to let slip that I was investigating scholarly avenues to perhaps attend one of the planning sessions as a lay observer.
Then this hit. From an address given at Holy Cross Seminary by the Very Reverend Archimandrite Dr. Elpidophoros (“Hope-bearer”) Lambriniadis, Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantiople:
With regards to the United States, the submission to the First Throne of the Church, that is, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not only fitting with the American society and mentality but also it opens up the horizons of possibilities for this much-promising region, which is capable of becoming an example of Pan-Orthodox unity and witness.
The Mother Church of Constantinople safeguards for the Orthodox Church in America those provisions that are needed for further progress and maturity in Christ.
Go read the whole thing. I’ll wait.
Here’s the thing — on some very big things, he’s not wrong. Ecclesial administration problems at the local level brought on by “how Americans do things”? Check. Orthodox Christianity being brought to America by people here to make money, not serve as missionaries? Check. How monasticism tends to work in this country? Check. Imbalance, demographic and otherwise, to say nothing of other issues with respect to priestly formation, among convert seminarians? Check. Lack of a decent pool of candidates to be monk-priests? Check.
Most important — thirst for an authentic faith in the United States? Check.
If he had left it at that, and then related those points to the possible function of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the United States, that would have been fine.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he took some potshots (granted, not in a vacuum), strongly implied that the OCA is essentially a vagante group towards whom everybody else has just been magnanimous enough to not break communion, and made some assertions that it would take serious nerve on the part of anybody in any jurisdiction to make. I’ll leave it to my commenters to discuss what I might mean.
That there is disagreement over how the Church should exist in America is no surprise. The United States is a very strong center of gravity when it comes to political and economic influence, so everybody wants their own little piece of it, and nobody wants to give up the possibility of having a piece of it. The irony is, it’s everybody not wanting to give up their little piece of it that means Orthodox Christianity is unlikely to be more than a very minor blip on anybody’s radar.
I heard a story once about a Roman Catholic hierarch saying, “The trouble with the Orthodox Church is that it doesn’t exist.” Well, we exist, but sometimes it sure looks like we’re a communion of people who don’t like each other too much. We can appear as the family who keeps track of who isn’t talking to whom this week, and will only go to family reunions if we can each sit at our own table, alone.