The "Purple Demons" are out in force.
Firstly, the much-embedded video:
I was there. My little one is the one you hear at the very beginning saying things like, "Wan blow out candulsh" and, looking at a priest, "¡Es Padre!" Needless to say, this talk has made quite a splash in online Orthodox circles. Andrea Elizabeth calls the speech "Revolutionary," and Father Gregory states he is "unimaginably proud" of Metropolitan JONAH.
Truth be told, I am rather disappointed in His Beatitude.
What could have been a helpful, passionless appeal came across as something akin to an American political stump speech, something I've already heard described as similar to what you might have heard in Boston circa 1770 or Charleston or Richmond circa 1860. This, I think, is the last thing we need, as the "debate" (if we want to call it that) is already wrought with misstatements; His Beatitude did not need to make any more.
Not helping matters is Rod Dreher's "Cruchy Con" piece in the Dallas Morning News, wherein he pretty much takes the stance of the kid in the playground who, upon seeing two angry boys starting to face off, throws his hands up and yells, "Fight! FIGHT!"
Well, thanks for that, Rod.
What is evident here is that the situation with regard to how to unify the Church jurisdictionally -- something I'm convinced must be done, as arguments for keeping jurisdictions separate still seem to run only on fear and suspicion of sheep-stealing via a more attractive archdiocese or what have you for this or that niche Orthodox group...a "healthy competition" that is anything but (I'm not making any friends with this post, am I?) -- is one without canonical precedent, with multiple patriarchates "setting up shop" separately without consulting one another. Consequently, we have multiple bishops in a single city, something that is truly ridiculous and a horrid witness.
Our first option would be to "go Balkan," wherein we declare our own autocephaly and union independently of the Mother Patriarchate(s), and said autocephaly is then reluctantly approved hundreds of years down the road as a tacit, de jure nod to a living, de facto Orthodox body.
Another option would be to "take two steps back, one step forward," at least for the time being, and form a synod of bishops with a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch as the "president" of said Metropolitan synod. The former idea was put forth by Metropolitan JONAH in his speech on Sunday, the other by the Very Reverend Archimandrite Dr. Elpidophoros Lambriniadis. What is ironic is that, in this document which Metropolitan JONAH wrote while still an abbot, he himself puts the latter idea forward as "the only way an ecumenical primacy could [actually] work." Food for thought.
Metropolitan JONAH, in my opinion, is absolutely correct in saying that there is, in fact, a living, Orthodox presence on this continent, and that it was planted here over 200 years ago through the prayers, the blood, and the perseverance of saints like Ss. Herman, Juvenaly, Tikhon, Peter the Aleut, John of San Francisco, Alexis Toth, and many others. If the EP tries to make a move to incorporate the bishops of North America, these saints and their work had best be recognized if he wants the "Amen" of the laity.
Metropolitan JONAH is also absolutely correct in saying that the local bishop, in his local diocese, with his local presbyters and local faithful, constitutes the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and that allegiance or submission to this or that Patriarch is not the sine qua non of Orthdoxy. He is absolutely correct in saying that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not the "sole criterion" of Orthodoxy, and that we do not need to be directly under his omophorion in order to be legitimately Orthodox.
But, as usual, it's not what you say, it's how you say it. Check that: in this case, what my Metropolitan (and current diocesan locum tenens) said is, in some cases, incorrect, in my opinion.
One of the most inflammatory lines in His Beatitude's speech was in response to the EP's model of unity here: "I would submit that if we wanted a pope we would be under the real one." This, to me, is so unfair that I am at a loss as to where to begin. The EP is not proclaiming himself to be infallible. He is not proclaiming that all other, universally-recognized-as-autocephalous Patriarchs are merely deriving their legitimacy from him. Were the Ecumenical Patriarch to slip into preaching clear, christological heresy, he would no longer be worthy of commemoration, and all other Orthodox would have as their duty the task of rejecting him as Patriarch.
Yet, just as St. Peter was the rock due to his person and to his confession, so the EP is the "first among equals" in a college of Patriarchs so long as he is not confessing heresy. He, along with the other Patriarchs, are the ones who together will decide what happens to the Church, and it is not unreasonable to think that having the EP at the helm of all the metropolitans within this country as a quick way to unify us jurisdictionally with the end result being "turning us loose" down the road (no doubt much too slowly for most Americans), as is his custom.
Metropolitan JONAH speaks much about self-determination and how we must be allowed to do this. I would question how Orthodox the idea of a Metropolitan (or Metropolitans) telling their Patriarchs what we must do is realistic. Metropolitan JONAH puts our being Orthodox and our being American on equal footing, and thus speaks in very similar terms to American talk of separation from the British throne and Confederate separation from Washington D.C. To talk of self-determiation via an enlightenment-era document written by deists is one thing, and a natural one, at that. To talk of self-determination as if it were a "right" within the Orthodox Church is quite another, and a dangerous one, at that. Talk of the "right" to govern ourselves turns Fr. Alexander Schmemman's talk against "having rights" around against us; I am not sure how someone who, for all his God-given, wonderful insight as a monastic and pastor, would only attend a pan-Orthodox great Synod as the leader of a metropolia of the Russian Orthodox Church (as many still see Metr. JONAH) could actually hope to effect said self-determination short of schism...something I'm not sure I'd follow him into and which I'm VERY sure he would not, in fact, go through with if push came to shove. Nevertheless, are we justified in extending the language of the myth of American exceptionalism even to the Church?
If our bishops would still be here locally, if they would still be the local bishops of thus and such a city, if they would still be (by and large) "homegrown," and if the situation of the EP's involvement is primarily that of administrative unity (as opposed to some dream of automatically bestowing legitimacy via his very presence in said synod), then local churches would still be preserved. When Archbishop DMITRI was my local diocesan bishop, having a Metropolitan over the synod of OCA bishops in no way diminished Vladyka's role as my local bishop. I fail to see how a synodal president from the Phanar must needs be a "foreign despot" as Metr. JONAH claims unnecessarily.
Indeed, people in this country from ACROD, from the GOA, from the Ukrainians under the EP, with whom I have spoken have all told me that their being under the omophorion of the EP has not resulted in their losing their ethnic customs in the slightest. They have not been thoroughly hellenized, they have not been made to speak Greek (the secretary of the EP stated in his talk that he himself did not consider this necessary, though the option should be open, he thought). Local languages -- Arabic, Ukrainian, Russain, etc -- have been preserved under the EP, not obliterated. Do we really believe Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW so obtuse as to automatically assume that he will do this with English, especially given his track record elsewhere? Does the fact that Holy Cross Seminary -- the very place the EP's archdiocese trains its clergy -- conducts services in at least 50% English (according to my contacts there) serve to show us that he is not obsessed with "All Greek, all the time"?
Given what I've written so far, it does seem as though I'm thoroughly on the side of the EP here. I'm not, though I wanted to lead off with the above due to all of the unadulterated praise heaped on our Metropolitan by my fellow members of the OCA (and others). As it stands, given the secretary's speech, it is obvious to many that the EP's take on Orthodoxy in America is unacceptable to many Americans. While an EP head to a US Metropolitan synod is indeed a feasible, non-lethal model for Orthodox jurisdictional unity and not to be dismissed out of hand, it needs to be said that this must not be the only model allowed for, as such comes dangerously close to the papal model wherein the EP is, in effect, the only one allowed to engage in planting foreign mission churches, or else, at a minimum, must give his blessings for other, apostolic sees to do so.
The Ochlophobist makes some good points (about half way down, in a bulleted list) regarding captiulation to western dress and liturgical style, moral ideals and church praxis as seen in many jurisdictions in the USA. It is interesting that the Secretary of the EP makes so much of the Greek Archdiocese when so many of the western innovations (pews, choir robes, horrible iconongraphy, shaved and collared priests, truncated liturgy and distrust of Ephramite monasteries in particular and monasticism in general) has not been avoided by being under the EP and would probably not be solved by a synod's being under the EP. Some would question at this point, "Well, what's wrong with SCOBA"? As an idea, nothing that I can see. But who to chair it, and why...I defer to the Ochlophobist's thoughts on this, linked to above.
As Andrea Elizabeth has said, "I also think it boils down to how autocephalous are the Churches that Moscow, and Antioch for that matter, granted that title to?...I do not know why Moscow would hand us over, if that is the case. To me it undermines their own authority." This is the main reason why I do not believe that such a reactionary speech was called for or even justifiable. To further Andrea's thoughts re:Patriarch KYRILL, do we really think for one moment that, come this June, Patriarch IGNATIUS IV of Antioch is just going to hand over an archdiocese that is every bit as profitable for him (God, it hurts to talk about the Church like this!) as the GOA is for the EP? That the Serbian patriarch will just acquiesce to giving up direct oversight of his flock? The Romanian his Romanians? The Bulgarian his Bulgarians? There is more than enough suspicion on the part of several of these Patriarchs who will be meeting -- some of whom, like the Georgian Patriarch, do commemorate Metr. JONAH -- that the EP comes close to a papal role at times. I personally think there's enough of a safeguard there to keep unwarranted and unjustified fears at bay, at least for now.
Regardless, whether we are jurisdictionally united under the EP or persist in our present jurisdictional madness, neither outcome makes us any less Christ's Church, and I, for one, intend to look forward to the soon-coming bells of Pascha, wherein the "purple demons" are sent back where they came from.
Just in time for them to come back for the Apostle's Fast in June. Lord, have mercy.