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THE CHURCH & OUR CHILDREN

Author: Administrator
May 15, 2009
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We started this website in the Fall of 2008, but didn’t publicize it until 2 months ago. In spite of this, we have had thousands of visitors and over one hundred articles and comments in that period of time.  What is extraordinary is the fact that we have not yet received any Orthodox argument for unity under Bucharest.

Of course, we have received other arguments for this unity, but not even one is Orthodox.  The arguments can be regrouped:

  • - Phyletism, that is regrouping the church along ethnic lines and not geographic bases, is not an orthodox solution.
  • - No one questions that it would be nice if brothers here would be together. The problem occurs when we must choose between Orthodox Church jurisdictions; should we be under the Romanian one (BOR) from there, or under the American one (OCA) from here?
  • - “The regrouping of all Orthodox from across North America into a single American Patriarchate can only be achieved by having each church here submit itself to its Mother church from there. Only then will the mother churches decide, how and when, they will create this new American Church.” This is an argument which is in complete contradiction with the history of every new Autocephalous Church. Once in their hands, it is almost impossible to escape other than by the force of the laity and this after a long confrontation. The local North American Church already exists. There are local Bishops, priests and parishes. With what right do strangers interfere in matters that do not concern them? So, if this is the way it will be, staying in the independent and autocephalous OCA is the best solution.

Here are the only arguments for unity under Bucharest; three non-orthodox arguments.  These do not even consider:

  • - the fact that BOR is a sick Church, and this in the opinion of the most important spiritual fathers in Romania
  • - the fact that BOR is a state-run Church where Hierarchs and all clerics are salaried employees of the Romanian Government, and that this is in contradiction with our culture here, where State and Church have nothing to do with each other
  • - the fact that BOR personnel must listen to the Romanian Government, while we from here cannot be subject to a church that takes orders from a government that is not our own
  • - the fact that we cannot trust their word
  • - the fact that we have evolved here, in a different culture and a different religious context, and that we in ROEA are at home in the OCA, our Mother Church for 50 years
  • - that many of us with up to 100 year roots here, on this continent, have remained Orthodox, but we are citizens born and raised in the United States and Canada and want to remain loyal to them. Others among us who have come more recently from Romania also have children and then grandchildren who will become the same, but in a much shorter period of time
  • - that the only hope for our children remaining Orthodox in the future is for us to give them an American church, where their native tongue of tomorrow will be in the forefront, and where the church hierarchy is from here, overseen by people from here, in the context of here.

This discussion must be dominated by reality and facts, and not by dreams or wishes.  A little Romania cannot be recreated here.  Others have tried and failed.  Living in an ethnic ghetto is now very short-lived, not even a generation long, and this particularly when surrounded by North American culture at school, at work, everywhere, with the possible exception of an hour at night when everyone gets home tired.  English dominates all, and habits adopted here become normal reactions; and this with the first generation, let alone the second or the third!  If we do not have a church for our children who are from here, run the way they expect it to be run, by people from here, and following the local cultural norms, then our children will also lose our ancestral religion.

The real discussion should focus on this precise point.  Those who come here from Romania only to return in a few years have different needs than do we who have chosen to make our permanent home here, in North America.  We need a church not only for ourselves, but more importantly, we need one for our children.  What could that Church be except the ROEA Vatra permanently integrated in the OCA?  This should be the real debate.  What is best for our children and grandchildren here; the American ROEA in the OCA, or the Romanian ROAA under the Romanian Patriarchate led from Bucharest?

But, because those who demand that we all become subjected to Bucharest rule have no valid arguments except non-Orthodox ones, those opposed to that unity under Bucharest are accused by them of being against unity for no valid reason… Ridiculous logic!

Valid, Orthodox arguments for abandoning the OCA and having unity under the Romanian Patriarchate are accepted here.  After 6 months, not even one has been presented, here or elsewhere.  Maybe there aren’t any?

14 Comments to “THE CHURCH & OUR CHILDREN”


  1. Q Says:

    It seems odd to suggest that the pro-union side is the only Phyletistic one. “We are all phyletists” I believe has been heard from the mouth of one of our hierarchs. The very existence of “ethnic” dioceses within the OCA betrays the unity of an Orthodox Church in America. The ROEA has effectively cut itself off from the rest of the OCA by its ghetto identity. Now the clergy and faithful are expected to cling to an organization with whom they’ve had little to know interaction? The drive for union feeds on the isolationism that has been forstered within the very Episcopate. The communities of newcomers have no reason to identify with the OCA, and a love-hate relationship with BOR. How will you stop it? Perhaps it is time to grant “autocephaly” to those (fewer) parishes which do identify with the OCA by letting them be integrated into the American Church as they desire, forsaking any future ties to the Old Country. Those parishes whose hearts are still abroad may have their union. Why fight?


  2. Administrator Says:

    As is known, phyletism is “…the national or ethnic principle in church organization…” (Britannica online). It is in fact, racism, as it applies to church organization. Our Orthodox Church does not permit separate church structures based on ethnic identity or language, but rather it espouses a territorial structure. Given that many Orthodox in North America descend from, or are themselves, immigrants from foreign countries where Orthodoxy was prevalent, it is not surprising that the particular ethnic language in question became the unifying force in creating their first Orthodox Churches here, in North America, i.e. Russian, Greek, Arabic, Romanian, Albanian, Bulgarian, Serbian, etc. The problem we now face is not in explaining how we have arrived at this multi-jurisdictional heresy-like overlaying and conflicting structural web of Orthodox Churches in North America - that part is easy – the real problem we face is in solving the problem.
    On the one hand, the Orthodox Church in America, autocephalous since 1970, is attempting to solve the problem by regrouping various national dioceses under its canonical coverage. The OCA is structured territorially, as well as still having ethnic dioceses, which, in time, are meant to blend into the territorial structure of the OCA. Some may say the process is taking too long, and others might feel it is progressing too quickly. But, as is normal in Orthodoxy, the transition phase does take some time, but at least we are headed in the right direction.
    On the other hand, having our Episcopate abandon the OCA and return back under the Mother Church of Romania (after 60 years of evolving apart) is definitely going backwards. The OCA is allowing ethnic dioceses the time to transition into the territorial OCA structure, while remaining ethnic OCA dioceses in the meantime. This is an Orthodox solution to a longstanding ecclesiological problem. No one in North America benefits from having our church structures here report to overseas Patriarchs who have no knowledge of our North American culture, our lives, our habits, our norms. And if we do listen to the dictates of these Old Country Patriarchs where, pray tell, do the Scottish Orthodox return to. How about the Irish and the Norwegian? This proves just how far out of touch these Patriarchs are with our Church here. If Orthodoxy is to survive and then thrive in North America it must become North American. The OCA approach is really the only way forward. Anything else will lead to the destruction of Orthodoxy in North America. That would be a pity, given the sacrifices made to keep our ancestral faith alive on this continent and make our faith known to our friends and neighbours here.
    It must be remembered that ever since 1951 and even after 1989, each parish, mission, priest or even lay person, has had the option to remain in a church here which reports to the Romanian Patriarchate (ROAA now led by Archbishop Nicolae) or to join the Vatra Episcopate in the OCA (ROEA now led by Archbishop Nathaniel). The vast majority have chosen the OCA over the Church of Romania. With what right can this choice be overturned? At this point in time, the OCA should protect its faithful from any foreign intrusion in our church, or from any attempted coup from within the ROEA Diocese that would bring us under Bucharest rule and thus nullify the vote each one of us has already made! Enough already!


  3. Q Says:

    I am sorry–but what is the mechanism by which the ethnic diocese is supposed to transition into the OCA? It is not to be found in any by-laws or charters or agreements that I know of (but I am an ignorant man). Had there been a clear means by which communities could be transitioned I don’t think there would be so much hesitation, and even fear among those parishes that do not have an identity or allegiance to BOR. At this time, the only mechanism that exists is the goodwill and authority of a bishop to release a parish from his omophor to that of another bishop and I don’t recall that happening often in the Episcopate. The Archbishop has been consistently silent on the subject. Thus the OCA model remains a nice idea but one unpracticed.


  4. Administrator Says:

    Those of us who were around prior to 1990, before the latest huge wave of Romanian immigration to North America, remember quite well the anxiety that prevailed in many of our Diocesan parishes. With less and less Romanian being spoken, with more mixed marriages, with fewer and fewer of our children attending church, with an aging population in the pews, with the obvious need for a more North-Americanized Church to fit with the cultural norms of this society, with higher and higher bills, to be supported by fewer and fewer people; the prevailing topic of the 1970’s and 1980’s was survival. And we did survive by:
    • being part of a North American Church, the OCA, headed by North American Hierarchs, including our Diocesan Hierarch, who administered the Church in Orthodox tradition but in a way that is acceptable to North American cultural and societal norms,
    • adapting to the changing needs of the faithful,
    • decreasing our liturgical use of Romanian and increasing the use of English,
    • having our Churches modern and yet traditional, with the use of icons, candles, incense and church music balanced in such a way as to protect and present the inherent beauty and mysticism of our faith, while having an outer form that is not overpowering for North American sensibilities.
    This is a very difficult equilibrium to achieve, particularly as it changes yearly, maybe even monthly, or more likely, each and every Sunday. The ability of the priest to adjust to the changing equilibrium point in his parish is a sign of his success or failure and in the long run, the survival of the parish.
    As this was going on in our churches, so was it going on in other OCA parishes and indeed most other Orthodox communities whose immigration from the old countries had all but dried up. The phenomenon of converts also appeared. Some came with ready-made church communities, while others joined existing ones where they felt comfortable and accepted. Most importantly, many Orthodox communities survived, while others cooperated together to share expenses and in some cases even priests from different Dioceses. Unhappily, many also failed in adapting to the changing needs and were obliged to close with their faithful going to neighboring Orthodox parishes. No By-Laws, mechanisms or Hierarchal directives required here. Free choice is the reality here.
    We live in a free country and when people have to leave their church community they go where they feel a stronger affinity. By merely being in the OCA together, a bond, an affinity, is created between the faithful. Over time this bond strengthens not because the Hierarch or the priest says it should be so, but because the faithful feel the closeness, or they do not. Clearly ALL faithful and clergy in our Episcopate know that they are part of the OCA; many have sworn loyalty to the OCA including ALL Hierarchs, ALL clergy, and ALL Parish/ mission council and Episcopate council members. No one here has a loyalty oath to any other church but the OCA, so consequently, it is natural for all of these Diocese members, parishes, missions or clerics to feel part of the OCA.
    When does the OCA become an autocephalous church based strictly on territorial divisions, and where ethnic dioceses no longer exist? No one knows when the right time will arrive, or even the exact mechanism as to how it will be done. However, we do know that OCA Hierarchs who are responsible for ethnic Dioceses also have a territorial jurisdiction in North America as evidenced by their official title, e.g. “The Right Reverend Nikon, Bishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Archdiocese”. Over time the territorial responsibility will likely supersede the ethnic one. We also know the OCA vision of the Orthodox Church in America. In response to a question on http://www.oca.org, Fr. John Matusiak explains it this way:
    “Today the OCA, in addition to counting the parishes of the former “Metropolia,” includes the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate, the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese, and the Bulgarian Orthodox Archdiocese. Hence, it is inaccurate to refer to the OCA as the “Russian Church” since a good percentage of its constituency is not Russian. Further, within the past two decades the OCA has established some 125 new parishes, almost exclusively non-ethnic in origin and employing only the English language in worship. [Virtually all of the former "Metropolia" parishes now use a large percentage of English, or employ English exclusively in the services.] … The Orthodox Church in America is fully committed to the unity of Orthodoxy in North America. … {It} …¬ is an outspoken advocate of administrative unity among the Orthodox Christians in North America according to the canonical principle of a single, united Church in a given geographic territory.”
    Maybe the right time and the appropriate mechanism for territorial divisions and administrative union will be found not by the OCA alone, but together with the Antiochian Americans and the Greek Americans, major Orthodox churches here that are under foreign Patriarchal rule, and where many clergy and faithful increasingly want to rid themselves of foreign intervention because of recent actions.


  5. Church Member Says:

    How then are we to explain that Metropolitan Jonah has been quoted as saying, directly and without misunderstanding, that the way to Orthodox unity in America is NOT under the OCA? Is he leading to the destruction of the OCA?


  6. Administrator Says:

    It seems that our Metropolitan Jonah is more of a pragmatist than former OCA Metropolitans. He surely realizes that the majority of Orthodox Christians in North America are not in the OCA, but are found in the Greek American and Antiochian American Orthodox Churches. He also probably sees, as do we, that clergy and faithful of these Churches are increasingly disappointed with their foreign Patriarchates. It seems that His statements are a means of extending open arms to both American Orthodox groups, and that He is attempting to show that this American unity is so important that He is even willing to forego His own leadership role, if another American Orthodox autocephalous church structure could be adapted or created here, to the satisfaction of all North American Orthodox concerned. Now, that is Orthodox leadership!


  7. popa John Says:

    “the only arguments for unity under Bucharest; three non-orthodox arguments”

    I fully agree with it. But please tell me which is the orthodox argument for the existence of a Romanian “Episcopate” within OCA.


  8. Q Says:

    I’m sorry, but my question has not been answered, though it has been danced around. What is the solution for those parishes in the Episcopate who no longer have enough of a tie to their Romanian heritage and therefore wish to be part of a territorial American diocese/jurisdiction rather than an ethnic one (foreign or otherwise)? Even though the purpose of the Episcopate calls for the realization of a unified Orthodox jurisdiction in North America its Constitution gives no directive or mechanism as to how that might be accomplished on a parish or diocesan level. Again, those parishes who do not wish to go along with the as of yet “unproposed proposal” have no means of appeal or escape but the mercy of the bishop, should the proposal succeed. What will he do?


  9. Hope Says:

    I wish to respond to some of the remarks by “Q”.

    First, unless you are philosopher or a politician…not everyone is a phyletist.

    On the contrary, the existence of “ethnic” dioceses 40 years ago with the emergence of the ROEA and shortly thereafter the Albanians and Bulgarians is a realistic approach to Orthodox diversity and underscores where real unity lies; in Jesus Christ and the Paschal message that “Christ is Risen!” and not our ethnic “isms”.

    The ROEA is not cut off from the rest of the OCA. If there is a “ghetto identity” one needs to look no further than ghetto parishes or ghetto priests who foster a self absorbed way of thinking and doing. The faithful, clergy and laity alike, can choose to interact on various levels of Church life throughout the OCA, officially or unofficially. In a lot of cities the ROEA, OCA parishes interact with other OCA parishes. If individual people or parishes choose to cocoon themselves that is their sin. Don’t lay it on all of those in the ROEA, OCA.

    If the drive for union (ROEA, OCA & ROAA, BOR) is the fuel for isolationism than perhaps there ought to be less drive for union so isolationism can give way to interaction and true unity can occur.

    The newcomers have every reason to identify with a greater OCA community. It is rather narrow minded and self defeating to see the “Church” only from the four walls of one’s parish. Interaction with faithful Orthodox Christians of various backgrounds does two things: 1) it strengthens the spirit when like-minded Christians share their joy and love with one another in fellowship and 2) it opens the eyes and mind to the fact that we are not alone. Together we face the challenges before us, “With God with us who can be against us?”

    Currently all the parishes in the ROEA, OCA enjoy the fruits of autocephaly and its freedom. Those who wish to choose a European orientation under an autonomous state run church can join ROAA, BOR.

    Agreed “Why fight?” each should simply go their own way in love and goodwill.


  10. Church Member Says:

    Q-
    No person in America is bound to a church. We are not captives. There is no need for “escape”. We are certainly free to vote with our feet and attend another local Orthodox church where we will be happy and be able to focus on our personal salvation, rather than church politics. Peace be with you!


  11. Q Says:

    Dear Hope,

    I would say we agree indeed on most of things. My quote of “We are all phyletists” was not my own words, but a reflection of a cynical mentality found among the hierarchs and faithful alike. What I have been trying to get at is this: If we look at how the ROEA has conducted itself as a diocese, it has tended towards isolationism. While relationships with the OCA have been fostered on the local level in some parishes and certainly between the hierarchs themselves there has not been a concerted effort on the part of the diocese en masse to integrate itself into the OCA. There has always been a bit of pride perhaps that the Episcopate “does not have to do what Syosset says.” I am not advocating a centrist approach (I agree with Met. Jonah’s approach of fostering local solutions in the local dioceses).

    What I would advocate is that if the Episcopate really had wanted to have a diocesan relationship to the rest of the OCA there could have been a whole lot of different actions taken. For example, genuine representation at the AAC’s and a willingness to adopt OCA initiatives; integration and/or shared activities of auxiliaries (ARFORA, AROY) with FOCA; etc. This goes both ways. His Eminence stated that the OCA events tended to represent only the slavic styles of music and liturgics. Why couldn’t we (and he) have pushed harder to have been heard and seen, to have our Romanian traditions represented and highlighted? We have a lot to offer–why hide the lamp under a bushel?

    We have heard a long time about Orthodox Unity, but have seen few examples of how Orthodox communities on a diocesan/jurisdictional level can achieve it. We do see it happening in some parishes. However, it may not be enough to stem the tide. Doamne ajuta-ne!


  12. Administrator Says:

    Ethnic Dioceses of all kinds exist today in North America as they did in 1900 (the first massive wave of Eastern European Orthodox immigrants to North America), in 1945 (the second massive wave, after WWII), in 1970 (when the OCA was founded), and after 1989(the third massive wave, after the ‘fall’ of Communism). Most immigrants know mainly their native language, at least for their first years in North America, and they feel more comfortable meeting people like themselves, and Church has been at the centre of this activity. The challenge for the Church is to remain relevant after the language tie disappears, or is not as strong. The Church must find this happy medium, becoming the transition platform, from an immigrant - ethnic Church in North America, to a truly indigenous North American Orthodox Church, where English is the liturgical language. Recent immigration and the required transition phase are the reasons we still need a Romanian Episcopate within the OCA. It is also the reason why the Romanian Episcopate should not be under the Romanian Patriarchate. Having the Romanian Episcopate as part of the OCA and having it eventually transition into the American Orthodox Church is forward- thinking, while taking the Romanian Episcopate out of the OCA and placing it under the Romanian Patriarchate is backward- thinking, a sure way to destroy the Church in North America as immigration eventually dries up and as children grow up here, in their homeland.

    Clearly, some ethnic Church communities evolve or transition quicker than others. We see this not only amongst Romanians, but in every major immigration group from an Orthodox country. Some Orthodox communities are made up mostly of converts, and they should be housed directly in the OCA – no need for an ethnic transition veil here. Other Orthodox communities start out as ethnic churches but transition quicker than others in their group. It is clear that a transition policy into the territorial OCA is required for the Romanian, Albanian and Bulgarian groups within the OCA (and others), particularly those transitioning more quickly than the others. This should be presented by several parishes from various OCA ethnic Dioceses to the OCA Holy Synod and Diocesan Councils for the development of such a policy. Until such a policy is agreed upon, it is probably best to stay within the originating OCA Diocese which is already part of the Autocephalous Orthodox family in North America, unless of course the canonical coverage of the ethnic Diocese risks changing and going under a foreign jurisdiction. In that specific possibility of the Romanian Episcopate wanting to leave the OCA and go under the Romanian Patriarchate, the suggestion would be, as a parish, to stay in the OCA and not go under any foreign jurisdiction. If the Romanian Episcopate does not create a “Dissenter’s Clause” in the event that it goes under the Romanian Patriarchate, which would allow parishes to freely stay in the OCA, then why not approach the territorial OCA Bishop in your area and ask His advice? Why not try to keep your OCA affiliation going if this is what your parish chooses? After all, isn’t this why we became a founding Diocese of the OCA in 1970, and isn’t a true North American Church the unifying force of this autocephalous Orthodox Church of ours?

    Please accept that this is all personal opinion and conjecture. We are not Bishops, Canon Law or legal experts. Unhappily, these questions require real legal counsel, particularly if Bucharest gets involved, even remotely. However, couldn’t it be argued that if the OCA Romanian Diocese itself breaks its own Constitution (Article 3b) by leaving the OCA, then the rest of that Constitution itself becomes null and void, particularly as it applies to specific parishes/ missions? What of members’ and parishes’ rights? As well, in that scenario of the Vatra going under Bucharest, who should get the Vatra property and other assets which we’ve all contributed in amassing? Opinions, lawyers, canonical and juridical debate, etc. … just what our poor Church needs!

    Our Bishops, both within our OCA Romanian Diocese and at the OCA Holy Synod, as well as the Councils at both levels, should be made aware of these concerns, and develop their answers to us prior to any further movement from the Unity under Bucharest steamroller. Many of us feel betrayed by the deafening silence from Grass Lake, but we are owed at least this for all those years …


  13. Q Says:

    “It is clear that a transition policy into the territorial OCA is required for the Romanian, Albanian and Bulgarian groups within the OCA (and others), particularly those transitioning more quickly than the others. This should be presented by several parishes from various OCA ethnic Dioceses to the OCA Holy Synod and Diocesan Councils for the development of such a policy. Until such a policy is agreed upon, it is probably best to stay within the originating OCA Diocese ”

    Now we’re talking!


  14. Administrator Says:

    Q. Since a transition policy has not yet been put in place in the OCA (from ethnic origin Dioceses to the OCA territorial structure) it is worthwhile to examine some of the possible reasons.

    On the one hand, the ethnic origin Dioceses each have a mix of faithful, “immigrant” family descendants with up to 5 generation roots here and others that arrived here only after 1989. Some parishes –missions have more of one group than the other, but the Diocese is made up of all, and it is important that a balance be maintained at the Diocese level until the post 1989 group also gets more along its inevitable transition path into North American Orthodox culture, as all generations before them have, being led by their own children and grand-children. If for example, the Iron Curtain had not fallen in 1989-1990, the OCA Romanian Diocese would have less parishes – missions today, but the majority of them would have been well along their own transition path towards a North American Orthodox environment and they would have been more vociferous in requiring a territorial definition in the OCA rather than an ethnic origin one. The massive 1989-90 immigration has only postponed this inevitable trend that our history has proved many times over in North America. But if those parishes-missions already well along the transition path now leave the OCA, this will over emphasize the post-1989 group in the Episcopate, and our OCA Romanian Diocese could land up under Bucharest control. Bucharest and Chicago know that their only opportunity to gain the ROEA is now, while the new immigrants still have a very strong longing for all things Romanian. If this occurs, it will then be almost impossible to return to an OCA jurisdiction in a generation or two, i.e. when the immigrant’s children will require such a Church as the OCA.

    On the other hand, the territorial OCA must become a true territorial multi- ethnic OCA with a North American liturgical diversity that is a blend of Greek, Antiochian and Russian. Why not something more liturgically Romanian, which is such a mix? All ethnic groups should be at home in this OCA church. The OCA must begin outgrowing its Russian roots more quickly and become that which it proclaims to be; the Autocephalous American Orthodox Church. This type of OCA has the opportunity to show the world what an Orthodox Church really is; free from government intervention and control. The OCA must assume its multi-ethnic role, leave behind its daughter church (not to sat Russian) psychosis and become the model Orthodox MOTHER CHURCH. By being multi-ethnic by its very composition, it can be the beacon Orthodox Church of the 22nd and 23rd centuries, a true Orthodox Church, Apostolic and Catholic. It can become the only Orthodox Church that becomes the figurative Mother to all ethnic origin churches, including the Russian and the Greek.

    There is still work to be done, but at least there seems to be light at the end of this tunnel. Now, in the immediate future, the OCA Romanian Diocese must be careful not to make an about-face in the dark tunnel and land up at the opposite end, back under the control of the Bucharest Patriarchate. Hopefully, you’ll be at the Congress to make your views of keeping our Romanian Episcopate in the OCA known to all present.


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