Romanian Orthodox for Enquiry in America

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December 1, 2008
– St. Mary’s Cathedral Cleveland, OhioOn October 17-19, the 2008 Orthodox Brotherhood Conference was held in Cleveland, Ohio. Attendance was up a bit from last year, with new members participating.

The delegates were hosted by St. Mary’s parish priest Fr. Remus Grama.  Spiritual Advisor Fr. Dimitrie Vincent and Episcopate Chancellor Archdeacon David Oancea were also present. As well, Fr. Ian Pac-Urar from Holy Presentation, Akron (Joint Dialogue Commission member) and Fr. Anton Frunza from Holy Annunciation, Grand Rapids, Mich. (SOLIA Romanian editor) participated.

President Dan Miclau opened the Conference session on Friday evening. Fr. Grama and Conference chairman Dave Salanty welcomed everyone. The executive board covered the delegates’ work, reports, finances and membership.  Along with its sister auxiliary in Canada, the “Fratia” or “Brotherhood” is the layperson SERVICE auxiliary of our Episcopate, and has “been there” when extra eyes, hands and pockets have been needed to make important projects “happen”.

On Friday and again Saturday morning’s sessions, the delegates reviewed and approved program and financial reports, which include:

  • Supporting our church’s programs, e.g., the pocket calendar that is passed out free throughout the Episcopate.
  • To come up with Brotherhood programs which are attractive for our members old and new.
  • Finding ways and means of bringing new membership into the Brotherhood from our newer parishes and missions, particularly those organized over the past 15-20 years.

At President Miclau’s request, on Saturday afternoon Fr. Vincent set out a really involving presentation, packed with facts and wide-open discussion, to help in the analysis of the Unity project now being contemplated by our Romanian Orthodox Episcopate (ROEA) which is under the canonical coverage of the Orthodox Church in America, and the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas (ROAA) which is under the Orthodox Church of Romania.

St. Mary’s parish priest Fr. Grama had both a baptism and wedding scheduled, so Fr. Pac-Urar, participated in the discussions, as he, along with Fr. Grama is on our Episcopate’s 5-member Dialogue Commission. The afternoon was divided between Frs. Vincent, Frunza and Oancea leading the discussions.

First came Fr. Dimitrie’s interactive workshop, where everyone got familiar with the Unity Dialogue’s 16-year history, by answering a questionnaire with the aid of our official Annual Church Congress Reports over the years. Many eyes were opened by its start-and-stop history especially when Fr. Pac-Urar confirmed that the Romanian ROAA has always been firm that “the day will never come that they would ever leave the Romanian Patriarchate”. This is why the talks were stalled for a number of years.

Next came Fr. Frunza’s PowerPoint presentation, with his detailed outline of how our JDC needs to be more careful in negotiating about possible Unification. He showed that the 20 point “Proposal to Establish a Romanian Orthodox Metropolitanate of North America” contravenes the newly passed Romanian Orthodox Church Constitution and by-laws that were ratified in late 2007.  He also showed how much more work needs to be finished if the 2 dioceses can even begin to contemplate any kind of union given the outstanding legal and financial issues.  Most importantly he underlined the very different cultures that have grown over 60 years of separation. He showed how the Romanian ROAA has maintained a post 1945 Romanian autocratic culture in its structures and organization compared to a much more American style adopted in the American ROEA. He pointed out that in 2008, the Church of Romania abolished the laypeople’s traditional right to be 2/3’s of the vote in all elections of Romania’s bishops. Obviously, clear-headed negotiation has got to protect the church life we’ve set up in Canada and America.  The Romanian Patriarchate’s new Constitution and by-laws contravenes our own traditions, culture and understanding of what Orthodoxy truly is; Hierarchal AND Conciliar, together, Bishops, Priests, Deacons and laity forming the body of Christ, i.e. the Church. When Hierarchal is taken to mean non-conciliar we no longer have Orthodoxy but Roman Catholicism.  Imperial autocracy is not Orthodoxy.  This is not even the culture of pre 1945 Romanian Orthodoxy, let alone post 1945 American ROEA religious culture.  The incompatibility of the American ROEA and the Romanian ROAA was thus highlighted as a major obstacle to any Unity, even under the OCA.

Fr. Archdeacon Oancea followed with a short talk. He likewise stressed that our American ROEA Vatra Episcopate is far different in style than the Romanian ROAA. He pointed out that if any Unity talks were to be successful, a consensus blueprint would first have to be drawn up and then respected. Essential would be keeping a solid front among the reverend clergy and the laypeople. If our Episcopate’s history has proven one thing, it is that our laypeople’s central role in our Church life has been pivotal to our proven track record of growth that has made our Episcopate admired for its staying-power and energy. It has faithfully combined the best of Romanian and American Orthodoxy. It has stood the test of time in the face of adversity.

A wide-open Q&A discussion followed, with many airing their opinions, and getting out in the open a lot of questions and points that had been murky.  Fr. Pac-Urar tried to field the many questions which put in doubt the need for unity under Bucharest.  It was clear from the questions that most people wanted unity but that this unity should be under the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and not be under Bucharest Patriarchal rule.  The fact that the ROEA Dialogue Commission overstepped its mandate and negotiated unity without the authority to do so and in complete violation of our ROEA Vatra Constitution and by-laws was also tabled, but remained unanswered.  The session then drew to an end…

The new 2008-09 executive board was elected and installed, with the new President being Nick Avramaut of St. Mary’s in Cleveland.


Dec. 1, 2008

3 Comments to “2008 Orthodox Brotherhood Conf.”

  1. Administrator Says:

    The Brotherhood meeting of Oct. 17-19, 2008 was the first time that the Unity under Bucharest proposal has been openly debated within our Vatra Episcopate. The outcome is clear. American ROEA and Romanian ROAA Unity is desired but it must be under the independent and autocephalous OCA, and not under the foreign state-controlled church which is the Romanian Patriarchate.

    All concerned should take note that when people are not manipulated and when they are given the complete facts rather than misinformation, they generally choose to protect their Church heritage and are not willingly to give it up to a foreign church and/or government. This is the problem with open debate where full information is made available. It is very difficult to manipulate the result, and logic usually prevails. For this very reason, future open debate on this issue will unhappily, most probably be limited.

  2. Pomutz Says:

    I find your last line to be prophetic in nature. As you predicted, the ROEA has elected to adopt the tactics of the Romanian Patriarchate its Joint Dialogue Commission so seeks to unite with. By this I mean its administrators have made a deliberate decision to not publish in Solia an otherwise balanced and objective article on the Unity workshop that took place at October’s Orthodox Brotherhood Conference in Cleveland, Ohio.

    The article that did appear in the December Solia newspaper was a “sanitized” version of events related to the Unity discussion. Missing were the highlights of comments by Frs. Vincent and Frunza and Deacon Oancea that attempted to add depth and balance to an issue that has more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie thriller.

    The more comprehensive article that was proposed by a participant was rejected no doubt because it deviated from the ROEA’s official but unspoken position that it and it alone knows what’s best for the faithful. Anyone who dares to “rock the boat” by interjecting an opposing viewpoint will be looked upon as a heretic unworthy of acknowledgment. In their minds, its Unity above all else. The faithful can either hop aboard the quickly departing “Unity Express” or risk being crushed as it leaves the train station.

  3. william clark Says:

    I know all three men,close enough to call them friends,I am also a late comer to all this. One does not have to take sides here, but from what I have read, I agree with Frs. Vincent, Frunza and David Oancea to really take this very slowly. Unity can ONLY be accomplished through the Holy Spirit. We love Romania,I hope to visit one day, its a holy country or it was… We must proceed very slow and Pray for Gods Will to be done. Wait it out don’t jump. Follow ABN. Don’t rush him he has a lot on his plate and it is too soon to predict what may happen.When in doubt follow the Bishop he has taken us a long way I try to put myself in his shoes to no avail Love in Christ FR BILL.

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