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REFLECTIONS ON REUNIFICATION

Author: Valerie Yova
July 25, 2009
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- From the Outside Looking In -

Although I’ve never been to Romania, whenever someone asks me my ethnic identity, I’m always very proud to say “I’m Romanian!” And then we inevitably get into a discussion of just HOW Romanian I am. “Well, I’m full-blooded, or as full-blooded as any Romanian can be. All four of my grandparents were born in Romania.” On the other hand, my father’s skin tanned VERY darkly in the summertime, and I was way too at home singing the opera Carmen, so I suspect there might be some gypsy or Turkish blood in there somewhere. (…So much for being a purebred anything in this complicated world.)

I don’t speak the Romanian language. I understood enough of it by my teen years so that my parents couldn’t use it anymore as their secret language at the dinner table. If my life depended on it, I could make mamaliga, stuffed cabbage and scovers, but probably not my grandmother’s homemade sausage, noodles or colac. I don’t eat Romanian cuisine that often anymore, but when I do, I enjoy the taste as well as the good memories, sense of identity and warm fuzzies it brings.

While it’s true that the Orthodox parish in which I was raised was the ethnic enclave that contributed most to my sociological formation and ethnic identity, it was the character, integrity, commitment and deep spirituality of the people in that community that was responsible for much of that formation, and not the food, language or connection to the Mother Land. And I don’t mean only my grandmother, but also the many bunicas in the parish who I referred to as “Grandma so-and-so. ” I’m talking about that amazing group of people who fled Eastern Europe in the early 1900s for the promise of a better life and a democratic society; the ones who no sooner got settled here when the Great Depression hit; the ones who built hundreds of Orthodox parishes in this country; whose calling was to plant the Church here and whose ministry was to help each other survive.

My grandmother was not a formally educated woman, and yet she carried the Church within her heart. She was spiritually “educated” enough to know that every second of life was a gift, every mouthful of food a blessing, and every action a prayer. She was constantly whispering prayers under her breath: when she came into the house, when she went out of the house, when she got into a car, onto a bus, or into a train, when she started any task. Her life was one long Psalm. Her spirituality was organic, totally woven into the fabric of her life. And she loved being in church. It was the anchor for her spirituality, and it filled her with great joy all the way into her 89th year. She wouldn’t think of missing an opportunity to be there, even when that meant being there in a wheelchair after the stroke that eventually took her life.

Grandma never regretted leaving Romania and she didn’t want to go back there, especially after Communism got a strangle hold on Eastern Europe. While she may have come to America for a better life, she also sensed in her gut that the winds were changing in her country when she took that long boat ride to her new home. She had already experienced political unrest as a child when her Transylvanian border village became part of Hungary for a time and she was forced to learn Hungarian. In fact, the one condition she had for her marriage suitors when she was a teenager in Romania was that they be willing (and planning) to come to America.

Grandma was comfortable praying in Romanian, but she was MORE comfortable knowing that her grandchildren could hear the services in their own language—English—and she loved having them in church with her. She did not demand that the Church make HER feel comfortable or cater to her needs. Like St. Peter, St. Herman and St. Innocent, she got it. She understood instinctively what it would take for Orthodoxy to take root here in America, and she did not resist this.

It was not the cognoscenti and the scholars who planted Orthodoxy here in America. It was the dedicated, courageous, uneducated peasants like my grandparents who were willing to do whatever it took to have a place to worship, to learn, to gather without fear of persecution or punishment. And it was their children who did their best to take things to the next level, to build upon their parents’ vision and hard work. It was my parents’ generation that “eked” out of their already strained monthly budgets the financial contributions that paid the mortgages on the lovely suburban churches many of us are now enjoying for free.

As I have observed this debate about administrative reunification of the ROEA with the “Mother Church” of Romania, I have often wondered what my grandmother would say from her grave about this issue. I’m pretty sure she would have a few choice words. Perhaps something like: “Are they nuts? Why would they want to get back into bed with the devil?” OK, it doesn’t translate very well, but you get the idea. For grandma, the Church and the Romanian government would always be interconnected, no matter how many years had passed since the supposed collapse of Communism. Is it paranoid, or perhaps realistic to think that ideals shaped by a Communist mindset and ways of “doing business” cannot evaporate in one generation, even within the Church? Logic says that it’s unlikely.

Who am I to have the nerve to write an essay about this complicated issue? Well, for starters, I grew up in the ROEA, I went to the Vatra camps, I taught music at the Vatra camps, I was on the national board of AROY and a very active member of my own local parish and AROY chapter. I served as the Music Director at St. George ROMANIAN Cathedral in Detroit for 14 years from 1989-2003. My father, Protodeacon Paul Yova, served his entire adult life in the ROEA, first as a choir director and chanter, National President of A.R.O.Y., Parish Council president and Building Committee Chairman in his parish, and then for 25 years in an active ministry as a deacon. Although I am now serving as Music Director in an Antiochian Orthodox parish, I gave a huge amount of time, energy, sweat and heart to the Romanian Episcopate of America, as did my parents, grandparents and siblings. My mother and many of my very dear friends are still members of the Episcopate. Although I don’t have a right to vote on this issue, I certainly have a right to express my opinion about it. In fact, anyone who has an opinion about it has a right to express it, because, well—this is America. Remember? Freedom of speech and all of that?

Here’s my point, if it’s not clear by now: I love my Romanian heritage. I love everything about it. I’m grateful to have been born into the Orthodox Church by virtue of the fact that my grandparents were Romanian, but ultimately I had to separate my DNA from my spiritual choices. I did not choose to be Romanian. I did make a conscious choice when I was in my teen years to be Orthodox, and I feel blessed to be in a country where it has always been my choice. Like many second and third generation Orthodox and thousands of converts, I feel no connection or loyalty to any “Mother Church.” The Church in America is my Mother Church, just as it was my grandmother’s.

It’s easy for those who consider themselves scholars in Church history or ecclesiology to dismiss us “little people” who couldn’t possibly understand the intricacies of Church politics. Well, try us. The fact that most of us who grew up in the Romanian Episcopate during its golden years still do not understand the potential benefits of reuniting with the Mother Church says a great deal. I have talked to some very bright, well-educated individuals, including theologians both inside and outside the ROEA. None of them can explain or even guess what the JDC (Joint Dialogue Commission) is thinking or how they could justify reunification as something good for their flock, much less ecclesiastically sound.

The fact that anyone who asks pointed questions is considered a traitor or at least made to feel “inappropriate” also says a great deal. It sure looks like there’s a “flip-flop” in loyalties here. Isn’t the JDC supposed to be representing the best interests of the ROEA/OCA? If so, would they not welcome questions during a period of due-diligence and inquiry, and be eager to answer those questions? For someone who used to be on the inside of the ROEA/OCA but is now looking at things from the outside in, it’s difficult to determine who is on which team. And if you are naïve enough to think that there are not two teams, you must have already drunk the cool-aide. There are some who are wondering if the members of the JDC have something to gain personally from reunification with the Romanian Church. The promise of personal gain is certainly one logical explanation for clergy I thought I knew pretty well sending their hard-earned autocephaly down the river on a raft with their parishes tied to it.

While “trust us” seems to be the mantra of the JDC, I find no scriptural support for blind trust, except for trust in God, and even God allows those who love Him to question. His own mother questioned His messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, about Jesus’ conception within her. If trust between God and humans can be earned, so much more so between us as humans, and it is based on past experience and behavior. To ask an entire episcopate to trust the JDC and/or the Church of Romania blindly on such an important matter as this is unrealistic, unkind, un-pastoral, insulting and even “un-American.” That kind of clericalism is the M.O. of days gone by, of churches tied to empires and governments, of a Church in which the parish priest was the only one with a formal education.

When I observe all of the time, energy and financial resources that have been spent thus far on this dialogue, and when I read and hear about the personal attacks and division that this dialogue has inspired, I don’t see the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s not a judgment so much as an observation. It seems like some tsunami-sized distraction—the devil’s way of keeping the clergy in the center of the storm from attending to their REAL work—the salvation of their flock; not to mention evangelizing to their neighbors, and ministering to the poor, sick, orphaned and widowed.

If the idea of reunification is the first of a number of chess moves in some grand and complicated game of ecclesiastical chess with its goal being to “buy back” real autocephaly, then why not just say so? But the thing is, we don’t NEED to buy it back. We already have it. We just need to finally OWN it.

I do understand that unity in America would be much neater, cleaner and quicker if we could somehow undo the last 200 years of Church history, rewind the tape, and make the Ecumenical Patriarch and other patriarchs happy. But the life of the Church on this continent did not happen as they might wish, and we can’t rewrite history. We can and must forgive, but we should not forget. Personally, I’m in favor of trusting in God rather than “princes and sons of men,” and in going forward rather than backwards. No matter how well intentioned it might be, the JDC’s proposal is a step backwards. Instead, let us move forward with something more canonical: ask the Patriarch of Romania to release all of the parishes under his jurisdiction in the U.S. and Canada into the Romanian O.C.A. Episcopate!

Valerie Yova
San Diego, California

29 Comments to “REFLECTIONS ON REUNIFICATION”


  1. Adrian Fetea Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Yes, Valeria !
    You are entitled to vote proxy the beloved ones you left in that golden age parish of your youth.
    Think local, act global !
    Just say your prayers for an American Patriarchate as +Policarp and +Valerian and +Nathaniel have had dream of. Then your great ancestors will be proud of you !

    adrian fetea
    who doesn’t believe in votes…


  2. Kathy Erickson Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    I really appreciated these comments. The more I read, the more I have come to believe that North America is a unique situation not contemplated by prior Ecumenical Counsels, so while Canon 28 or whatever else you want to refer to may offer some guidance, they cannot be the deciding factors. Reading this in conjunction with Fr. Touma’s comments have convinced me that we as the “indigenous American church” need to solve our own problems. I have a dear friend who came to the US at the age of 11 from Syria. He is part of the Antiochian jurisdiction. He is every bit as American as I am. The idea of some kind of diaspora is an invention and not applicable to the Christian church. If you read the writings of the early fathers, there was a great deal of ethnic diversity in the early churches, but they were designated by their geographical location, not their ethnic heritage. I also am becoming convinced that change will only happen when the mind of the American Church tips to the side of Orthodox unity, meaning when enough lay persons and parish priests insist on one unified American jurisdiction. When the pastoral imperative is for one jurisdiction comprised of Americans (whatever their ethnic background or nation of birth), the hierarchs will respond and give up the notion that somehow there is a pastoral need for a divided church. Enough already!


  3. Romanian-American Priest Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Valerie, I hear something very telling in the following sentence, quoted from your reflection: “The fact that most of us who grew up in the Romanian Episcopate during its golden years still do not understand the potential benefits of reuniting with the Mother Church says a great deal.” Is is not precisely this sense that “the golden years” are past, and the logic of the past no longer suffices, which underlies the interest in a new Romanian Metropolitanate? Is the unity really about “reuniting with the Mother Church”, or is it about finding a renewed and adequate meaning for Romanian Orthodoxy here in America? Is the political logic of the past sufficient for having two Romanian jurisdictions in North America? I hear you talking about distrust, which has its own logic, but if there is going to be Romanian Orthodoxy, and Russian Orthodoxy, and Antiochian Orthodoxy, and Greek Orthodoxy, and Serbian Orthodoxy, etc., isn’t one jurisdiction better than two–in the big picture?

    Would we really want a united Romanian Episcopate under the OCA, or do we just want to keep separate from people we don’t trust? If the JDC really wants unity, why not an alternate proposal for unity under the OCA? Then we could let all the parishes decide which unity we want—-if we want unity! Maybe we need a dialog between Metropolitan JONAH and Patriarch DANIEL.


  4. A Child of Romania, but an American Orthodox Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Whatever ethnic Orthodoxy is brought here, it needs to become part of an American Orthodoxy because that is where we are. That heritage is not lost, but finds appropriate expression as part of the church HERE.
    The “golden days” were that way because the Episcopate was growing as a church rooted in America. Those who are coming from Romania now should also be moving toward a rootedness in America, and they have the advantage of an Episcopate already built…but clinging to a Patriarchate in Romania will never let that happen. There is no good reason to re-tie the apron strings to Bucharest.


  5. cshinn Says:

    cshinn Says:
    July 30 2009 06:40
    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    I identify with much of what Valerie wrote. The bishops, regardless of jurisdiction, want to make the decisions without asking the people. The laity for the most part if not entirely want( i.e. Antiochians, Greeks, etc ) to be independent from theMother Church. However, they do not want to be apart of the OCA . There are persons who want the OCA to give up their autocephaly and join the Patricharcial and Russian Church outside of Russia under the Patric. of Moscow. Then their are the jurisdictions under EP such as the Ukrainians and the Carpatho Russian archdiocese. All of us are Americans. Many of us are married to non-ethnic (Orthodox) spouses and have children. Some of our spouses are converts and some are not. I remember the “glory” days of the Metropolia of the 50’s and 60’s when our churches were filled to capacity and having a hundred or more children in Sunday School. The Orthodox Churches in the US are further apart in unity than ever. Scandals aren’t just in the OCA and the Antiochians–ours just have been made public. We Orthodox should be working together rather than against each other — programs, clergy insurance, etc. I do not speak my grandparents tongue, nor do the ethnic dances, though I enjoy all the ethnic dances when I have the opportunity. My Orthodox faith is not reliving the “old world” but trying to be the best christian I can be. There are people in the US that need the true faith. The old world hierarchs cannot help us to reach them. Our clergy, Americn born and educated in our theological schools can and do. It is time for the hierarch to get real.


  6. Anonymous A Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    The Romanians under the OCA have done just fine. They have made their own decisions and have run their own church. Why throw this away and subject yourself to foreign bishops? WHY?


  7. Anonymous B Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Why? I’ll answer with another question:

    Who wants to be associated with the OCA?

    (OCA News Editor’s note: Me. 23,000 other paying members. The Saints and Fathers who labored for it ( Herman, Juvenaly, Toth, Tikhon, Schmemann, Meyendorff to name a few; The Angels, Christ in the sacraments, the Holy Spirit, God the Father who established it - so altogether, not a meaningless association at that. Feel free to find succor elsewhere, though, if its not working for you. It’s America, and you can have a choice here.)


  8. Cynthia - of Ukrainian Ancestry Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    All I can say is “bravo”! Valerie, I read your essay and simply put in the ethnic heritage of any and all Orthodox Christians, wherever they hail from and it fits us all! The only thing I would add is that your grandmother was a woman of faith, not of ethnicity - and that is the key for all of us, including our leaders. One need not deny one’s cultural ancestry *unless* that ancestry and its customs interfere with one’s love of Christ and His Church.

    Twenty-five years ago, our family left the ethnic Ukrainian church because it was simply and only that - ethnic. We have been to the land of our ancestry twice in the last 7 years and plan to go again. The most wonderful part of this story is that when we went there the first time, we learned from them that we were not, in fact, Ükrainian-hyphenated, but simply from the land of our birth. Of all our family members; all the faithful of the many churches we prayed in; all the conversations we held with anyone “over there”; not once were we identified as Ukrainian or hyphenated Ukrainians!! Glory to God! We were clearly seen to be what we are - pilgrims on the road to our true home, no matter what the land of our birth or our ancestry. Truly, in Christ, there is no ethnicity!

    IMHO, anything else does indeed, smell like politics. If it stands in the way of labouring for our salvation, then it is worthless. Thank you again, Valerie.


  9. Archpriest Ian in Florida Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    At one time I had a small group of Romanians regularly worshiping at the OCA parish that I had. One day I asked them to teach me some Romanian so that we could have some of their language in the Liturgy. They replied ‘ no Father, we are in America and must learn English to be able to survive here and if we keep coming back to our old language we will never make it and we enjoy the services in English as this is the language of our new home’. Even Princess Ileana aka Mother Alexandra came to America to start an English language monastery for American Orthodox.

    It has always been an Orthodox principle that when the Faith was taken to a new land the language and culture of that land was used for the transmission of the Gospel and the Orthodox Faith. The OCA, despite the problems of past years, is still the only autocephalous Orthodox Church in America and as such is able to embrace all Orthodox Christians from all ethnic backgrounds and from none! In the Diocese of the South (OCA) we have over 80% of our people from converts who have chosen Orthodoxy as their life in Christ. We also have our parishes full of people from all different backgrounds, worshipping and witnessing to Orthodox together.

    The future of Orthodoxy in the USA is for an autocephalus church with its own hierarchy and its own seminaries reaching out to all the people of this land.


  10. Romanian-American Priest Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    This is not about the Romanian Patriarchate. It is about two sociological groups of Romanian immigrants in North America: those which came primarily from the Austro-Hungarian Empire up until WWI, and their 2nd and 3rd generation descendants, versus the new wave of Romanian Orthodox immigrants. Both the Patriarchal jurisdiction and the OCA Romanians have Romanian-speaking and non-Romanian speaking members, priests, and parishes.

    The present unity proposal revolves around [at least] two ideas: (1) healing the wounds left in the Romanian-American Orthodox community by the first two generations, and (2) whether the OCA is really the key to the future of American Orthodoxy. Obviously the majority of priests in both jurisdictions do not believe it is. The majority of priests serving in the two Romanian Orthodox jurisdictions apparently believe that a united Romanian Metropolitanate is a stronger platform from which to move toward Orthodox unity in America than the OCA Romanian Episcopate. This implies a vision of a future for united American Orthodoxy which will retain the distinctions and traditions which characterize each ethnic Orthodox heritage. Not “either/or”, but “both/and.”

    There seems to be a very great danger that we are either conciously or unconciously perpetuating the idea that there should be one jurisdiction for the good guys and a different one for the bad guys. One Protestant theologian wrote a book some decades back entitled “Your God is Too Small”. May our Church is too small.


  11. Administrator Says:

    Dear Romanian-American Priest,
    You claim that the unity issue is about “two sociological groups of Romanian immigrants in North America: those which came primarily from the Austro-Hungarian Empire up until WWI, and their 2nd and 3rd generation descendants, versus the new wave of [post-1989] Romanian Orthodox immigrants.”
    Curiously, you leave out the very important post-WWII wave of anti-communist nationalist Romanians who, together with the first group and their 2&3 generation descendants, fought off the attempted communist takeover of our church which led to the 1950’s creation of the parallel church structure now known as the ROAA. Today we have the first group (mostly WWI immigrants) and their 2nd-5th generation descendants as well as the post WWII group and their 2nd and 3rd generation descendants mingling with the post-1989 group. The first two groups got along rather well and have very little interest in abandoning the OCA and becoming subservient under the Romanian Patriarchate. The third group seems to be integrating at a faster pace than either of the first two groups. At this rate, within 10 years, it will be difficult to have too many of the post 1989 group interested in going back under Romania, let alone their children. Please understand Romanian-American Priest that Romanian-Americans become American-Romanians and then simply Americans; integration and the passing of generations makes this happen and history proves this to be the case. We believe that making our Orthodoxy American helps in keeping our children Orthodox Americans. We simply do not want them to lose their Orthodoxy as their Romanianism gets assimilated into Americanism. That is the main reason for our unwillingness to go back under Bucharest. Every “Father” should understand our position.
    You claim that “the majority of priests serving in the two Romanian Orthodox jurisdictions apparently believe that a united Romanian Metropolitanate is a stronger platform from which to move toward Orthodox unity in America than the OCA Romanian Episcopate”. WOW! Wherever did you get that from! Amazingly, many post 1989 priests don’t want anything to do with the church they left behind in Romania. What seems more obvious is that Priests having “immigrated” from the mid 1950’s through the late 1980’s are the stronger proponents of this unity under Bucharest. Until an actual secret vote takes place, I guess we’ll not know for sure where the Priests come down on the Unity issue.…

    But more importantly is how the laity feels about this issue. A parish by parish, mission by mission membership vote will have to take place if ever a change in the status quo is to take place. If any attempt is made to abandon the OCA and subjugate our Episcopate under Bucharest without a true secret ballot poll of ALL members, court cases will most likely follow… So, the laity view on this proposal is probably more important than the clergy view.


  12. A Child of Romania, but an American Orthodox Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Please explain how leaving an autocephalous American Church and being reunited to a foreign Patriarchate advances unity - one real Orthodox Church in America. No one in the “Reunification” camp or the JDC has answered that question yet.

    Over 100 years ago, the priests and people in the Episcopate all spoke Romanian. And then they learned English. And got their American citizenship, and acculturated. And won’t those people coming to America now do the same thing? So how is going back under the authority of Bucharest a good thing for those people who have chosen to come and make America their home?

    As for the “2nd/3rd generations VS the new wave,” you are setting up an adversarial situation. I prefer to see it in terms of those coming now accepting to come into the home that Romanians before them established on this continent. If they prefer to build or remain in Patriarchal parishes, God bless them. That is definitely their choice to make. But to try and tear the Episcopate away from its American roots is not right on multiple levels.


  13. Romanian-American Priest Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    My Dear Brother or Sister in Christ. I am not diminishing the OCA when I suggest that it may not ultimately be the solution to Orthodox unity in North America. Even Metropolitan JONAH, with his authentic Orthodox spirituality, his deep-rooted american-ness, and his missionary zeal, has admitted that the OCA may have to give way to some other vehicle for the ultimate realization of an indigenous American Orthodox Patriarchate. Never in the history of the Church was autocephaly granted to something which, AT THE TIME OF THE GRANTING OF AUTOCEPHALY, was one jurisdiction among several, all of which were carrying on God-blessed, canonical ministry in this land. Yes, the OCA is autocephalous (self-headed), but its autocephaly is highly irregular, having been granted NOT to the only church in a territory, which would be the norm, but to ONE of the jurisdictions emanating from the Russian Orthodox.

    Unfortunately, the OCA still bears a distinctly Russian character, with the exception of its ethnic dioceses like the ROEA, and the OCA has not attempted to be a melting pot for American Orthodoxy, but has clearly chosen to be a Russian-American Orthodoxy. We may each and all pontificate to our sinful hearts’ desires (and I am the chief of sinners in this regard), but when the Holy Spirit accomplishes the unification of Orthodoxy in America, it will be something beyond our ability to conceptualize and produce.

    If Romanians of various generations and backgrounds cannot arrive at an understanding, then how will all the rest of us, with our baggage, our expectations and demands about what American Orthodoxy must be like, etc., ever melt together into a single body, where we will ALL have to surrender some of our dearest pre-conditions. I think I learned the most about Orthodox unity when a convert told me that she was against it. Her convert experience of Orthodoxy, lived in an enclave of other converts, would seem to be in jeopardy if the wrong people ended up in control of the united Church. The Church has weathered lots of storms, bad leadership, and dark, dark days, and the Holy Spirit keeps on working with those who seek to work out their salvation in fear and trembling.

    In my personal experience of a national Church within the borders of Romania, there was room for all kinds of spirituality and non-spirituality, all kinds of points of view, and practices from minimalist to maximalist. Niches and affinities don’t need small jurisdictions to sustain them. And I guess that may be my point about the ROEA. It is small and isolated, and some want to keep it that way. But that is not the way of the Church, if I have understood anything about it. If the present unity proposal is inadequate, then may God give us His Spirit to seek His Unity, and not be stuck with the Babel of our own willfulness.


  14. Francis Frost Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    As one who grew up in the OCA and witnessed the transformation of the church from a primarily ethnic community to a multi-ethnic community open to all, I can appreciate Ms. Yova’s sentiments. The problem is that the leadership of the OCA, has once again, shot itself in the foot.

    What has gone unreported on this web-site; was the outcome of the Cyprus Conference of the Patriarchal sees. (granted the firewoorks in Psalm Desert were more entertaining). The outcome of that conference was, as I believe Mr Stokoe, had predicted; was a trade off. In return for an agreement by th Ecumenical Patriarchate to not intervene in the Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate has agreed to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarch’s ultiamte authority over the Diaspora, including North America. Thus, the MP has ceded its claims on behalf of the OCA.

    If the OCA wants to be recognized as an authentic Orthodox polity, then Metroplitan Jonah will have to negotiate with the other members of SCOBA on a unification into a united Orthodox community *under the Ecumenical Patriarchate*. Given the recent acrimony between Metropolitan Jonah and the representative of the EP; and the Metropolitan’s admitted uncharitable remarks in Dallas; that will be a tall order.

    It should also be noticed that recent historical analysis (check out the orthodox history web-site), calls into doubt the oft repeated historical arguments for the “Russians were here first” basis of the OCA’s claims. It’s time to stop crowing and start talking turkey !


  15. Anonymous C Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Dear Frosty,
    The OCA is an established, canonical autocephalous Orthodox Church since 1970. The Pat. of Istanbul can do whatever he wants and have as many “stacked phony councils” as he wants. The canons are clear regarding autocephalous churches in a territory. History can’t be erased nor the Truth changed. Byzantium is dead; there is no emperor and there is no Constantinople. Sorry, the Pat. of Istanbul can indulge in whatever intrigue it wants; the OCA is going no where. As for the MP, he has much more to worry about than the little OCA.


  16. Archpriest Ian Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    If in fact the MP have done a deal with EP then I am very saddened. I was ordained in the MP and came to USA to serve in OCA Diocese of the South because I believed(and still believe)that the OCA is the way forward for Orthodoxy in this country. I had no wish to be part of a church which was ethnically orientated or attaeched to a Patriarchate somewhere in the middle east of in eastern europe. If,however, it is a done deal then we must live with it and hope that God gives Metropolitan Jonah the wisdom to deal with SCOBA in a way which will keep OCA alive and perhaps get others to join together and resist the inroads of the EP into American church life. Jerusalem is the Mother church of Christendon not Constantinople. Byzantine Empire is, thankfully, long gone!


  17. Benjamin Ignatius Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Francis, can you point us to the source of your information on the deal between the Russian Orthodox Church and the EP? I cannot find anything confirming the deal that you mention.


  18. A Child of Romania, but an American Orthodox Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    With all due respect Fr. [Romanian-American Priest], you still have not answered the question [asked on August 2, 2009]: how does going back under Bucharest advance unity on THIS continent?

    That we have a unique situation here is not disputed. That we have many “traditions” now on one continent is not disputed, nor is it a bad thing (unless it’s something in conflict with Tradition, and real teachings of the Church). But no one I know is suggesting we have to give those up. What would be helpful is looking up and out from our own enclaves, not further entrenching a “ghetto” (meaning: isolationist) mentality of “We’re Romanians, we need our own church;” “we’re converts, we need our own church;” “we’re whatever; we need our own church.”

    Apparently you somehow agree with me, since you go on to say: “And I guess that may be my point about the ROEA. It is small and isolated, and some want to keep it that way. But that is not the way of the Church, if I have understood anything about it.” So since that is not the way of the Church, why is “reunification” being pushed on the Episcopate by those who are supposed to understand our ecclesiology?


  19. Romanian-American Priest Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Dear Child of Romania, I see that hand–not to worry. I think that the answer to one point of your argument is that unification is not being pushed on the Episcopate. It has been proposed by the Episcopate, and if and when it is adopted, it will have been adopted by the Episcopate, through whatever voting mechanism is finally deemed appropriate by the Episcopate. It seems clear enough that the majority in the Episcopate do desire Romanian unity in North America–and certainly all the good people in the ROAA long for it. As for those who don’t want Romanian unity in North America, why not just give up the “Romanian” and simply join the mainstream OCA? If we’re really “post-ethnic”, let’s put our money where our mouth is.

    Personally, I find it hard to believe that a foreign Patriarch can do as much damage in North America as some of our own North American hierarchs have done. Need I say more…? The Romanian Patriarchate CERTAINLY has no need of American money. I will admit that the unification means something to the Patriarchate (and most Romanians) that money cannot buy: pride. Or self-respect, if you wish. Doamne miluieste!

    (OCANews.com Editor’s note: Reading your last sentence, Father, all I could think of was 1 Samuel 8:5:
    “…now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
    Didn’t work out so well for Israel did it?)


  20. Romanian-American Priest Says:

    as posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Reunification’:

    Mark (you are the editor, right?), I identify with the maxim that leading the Orthodox is like herding cats. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a Pope to unify our “local” liturgical variations into one standard Orthodox Rite? Then if we could de-nationalize all the Orthodox Churches back in the Old World, so that the cultural baggage being brought to America with immigrants could be just that: transitory language & culture issues, and not deified traditions? Then we could have one American Orthodox Church, where parishes use the majority language of their members at any given time (like the Catholics), and all these issues would just go away. Just think: the word “Pan-Orthodox” would cease to be used on a local level!

    North America was colonized and settled by people from homelands not marked by religious tolerance. Every ethnic group brought its official church as well as its sects, all of which became more or less equal in this country, becoming known as “denominations”. By the time Orthodoxy began to make its presence known in its own ethnic ghettos, Americans had gotten over the idea that any religious group could make the “ridiculous” claim to having a corner on the Truth. Orthodoxy, inextricably intertwined with ethnic origins, took on the appearance, and often the character, of Protestant-type denominationalism. Many of its members absorbed the relativism of the American mainstream as they grew up, going through the identity crises of all second- and third-generation immigrants. And even though the OCA would like to see itself as a universal and purely American Orthodoxy, it too has carved out a niche among competing forms of Orthodoxy. In fact, it has created itself a unique identity among the three Russian-based jurisdictions in America. It is a “brand”. We have all kinds of options in American Orthodoxy, but we are not disposed to give up our independence, our options, our divergences, and merge into one American Orthodoxy–any more than we are likely to accept government-run health care.

    The Romanians who wish to unite under the Patriarchate are not all Romanian-speakers, but they all agree that the Romanian way of living and expressing Orthodoxy is the best. They sincerely believe that the Romanian Patriarchate will not interfere in Romanian-American affairs and that they will continue to enjoy the AUTONOMY that currently characterizes both Romanian-American jurisdictions.

    None of us is free from ethnocentrism. American-born cradle Orthodox and converts are often quite unwilling to understand and tolerate the real need of first-generation immigrants to pray in their mother tongue. They often seem to demand that the new immigrants just skip learning the lessons of enculturation; they’ve already learned them for them, so just “get with the program and follow our example”. And so to return to one of my original assertions: this Romanian unity controversy appears to me to have more of a sociological character than a canonical one. Herding cats. Are we having fun yet?

    I sympathize with your frustration about our Hierarch-Kings (e.g., 1 Samuel 8:5). Nothing tests a man’s character like having authority (I won’t say power), and if our hierarches disappoint us in this respect, then we must recognize that they come from among us, and thus we all need serious repentance and soul-searching. Whatever the particular packaging of any local Orthodoxy, leaders stumble and fall, leaders sometimes abuse, and thank God, sometimes leaders inspire and save us. One very beloved Romanian Spiritual Father says that good disciples create good Spiritual Fathers. So let’s keep up the good work.


  21. Preot Trist Says:

    Parinte Romanian American Priest, nu ne mai face de ras. Opreste-te! Tu si cu Pr. Adrian Balescu ne faceti un renume atat de prost in misiunile/ parohiile unde muncim cu greu, sa ne integram si sa facem ceva pozitiv si de lunga durata.


  22. Johnny Says:

    “Child of Romania, but an American Orthodox” has twice asked “Romanian-American Priest” to answer the following question: “HOW DOES GOING BACK UNDER BUCHAREST ADVANCE UNITY ON THIS CONTINENT?” It seems by the convoluted deflections given as answers by the proponents of Unity under Bucharest that no real answer or convincing argument actually exists. Give it up. That idea is going nowhere. Now, how about unity under the OCA?


  23. Anonymous D Says:

    “Romanian-American Priest” has a lot of gall trashing the American church Hierarchs and claiming that foreign Patriarchs wouldn’t do as much damage. Instead of spreading insinuations about the poor state of our church in North America, he should be complimenting the OCA for its being the only Orthodox jurisdiction capable of ousting its corrupt leaders. Can anyone imagine trying to get rid of a corrupt Romanian or Russian Patriarch? Good luck! OCA weaknesses are visible because our Church is open. We must fight to keep it that way and not let Byzantine trickery, middle eastern double-talk or Slavic intimidation cheat us out of the Church we should all be proud of, here in North America. As OCA Metropolitan Jonah has said: “Let us affirm to our bishops that they will tell bishops of the Old World: There is an American Orthodox Church. Leave it alone.”


  24. Anonymous E Says:

    The only Dialogue OCA Metropolitan Jonah should have with BOR’s Patriarch Daniel is regarding ROAA’s union with ROEA under the OCA. We do not need foreign Hierarchs who do not understand us to lead us in this country.


  25. Anonymous F Says:

    In reply to Anonymous D:

    Jerusalem ousted a corrupt patriarch just a few years ago, with support from other patriarchates.

    Remember, the OCA hierarchs put +Herman as metropolitan KNOWING FULL WELL his misdoings prior to taking office, and then covering things up until +Job finally spoke out.

    Also, remember +Jonah’s words, something to the effect that everyone joining the OCA is NOT the way to Orthodox unity in this country and that the OCA must conform to a new way.


  26. Administrator Says:

    Dear Anonymous F,
    Here we go again having to correct obvious misinterpretations of facts. Your short note has managed to make 3 incorrect points.

    1) It is well known that in more recent times any new Patriarch of Jerusalem is confirmed by the Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian governments before being named by the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is also well known that the Jordanian Government demanded the ouster of Patriarch Irenaios for having sold church property to Israelis in contravention of specific agreements. In this context, the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate dismissed Patriarch Ireneus and named Patriarch Theophilos III in 2005. After some dispute, all three governments now approve of him as Patriarch of Jerusalem. Thus, government intervention forced the ouster of Patriarch Irenaios and not the inner workings of the Patriarchate correcting a wrong in its own house.

    2) It would indeed be very surprising and without any logical reason for the OCA Holy Synod to choose as its Metropolitan someone known for his “misdoings”. Why would they ever do that? Come on; get real.

    3) Jonah’s words you are referring to just show how humble our Metropolitan is. He is willing to give up his leadership position in American Orthodoxy if it means that the Greeks, Antiochians and other, more minor Orthodox churches in North America, would join together and create a true, American Orthodox Patriarchate. In that context, our OCA Metropolitan Jonah says he will not stand in the way, but rather he wants to act as an instigator of such a move. Wow! What a humble man we have as our Metropolitan. Surely, this is a sign of strength, not weakness.

    So much for misinformation. It would be appreciated if pro-unity proponents would use logical and truthful arguments to forward their position.


  27. Anonymous F Says:

    There was an entire mess in Jerusalem, but the fact remains that it was ultimately the church in Jerusalem who accepted the facts and made the correct decision to remove +Irenaios.

    Yes, a metropolitan can be put in place for two simple reasons — cover up and clean up. If even people among the laity spoke of the things +Herman and +Theodosius were doing, how in the world could the Synod have been blind to it? We can be neither naive nor turn a blind eye when it doesn’t suit us.

    And finally, no matter what kind of spin you want to put on +Jonah’s words, the fact is he sincerely admits that the OCA as it exists may NOT be the way for the church to go forward in America. It is not an “obvious misinterpretation of facts”. It is a humble position, and I commend him for it if it is truly sincere. But the fact is that even he sees that today’s OCA and the chaos in America must cease to exist in order for there to be progress. So those advocating to keep the status quo are the ones who are building their palaces on quicksand.


  28. American Orthodox Member Says:

    Dear Administrator,
    in your response to AnonymousF you label him or her as a pro-unity proponent but in reading their comment, I did not see how they were specifically pushing a unity position as much as commenting on specific facts. I think you owe that person an apology and should stay away from assuming things. Let’s stick with commenting on facts and not get into personal attacks. I see too many attacks on this site already and it makes me sad as an Orthodox church member that our own people would attack one another and clergy, assuming that people who write on here actually are members of our Romanian Orthodox churches.


  29. admin Says:

    The last few comments here (from Comment 23 on) require further explanation on 3 specific points.

    1. Anonymous D originally said on August 5, 2009: “Can anyone imagine trying to get rid of a corrupt Romanian or Russian Patriarch? Good luck!” Anonymous F commented that: “Jerusalem ousted a corrupt patriarch just a few years ago, with support from other patriarchates.” Our response was that: “It is also well known that the Jordanian Government demanded the ouster of Patriarch Irenaios for having sold church property to Israelis in contravention of specific agreements. For this reason, the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate dismissed Patriarch Ireneus and named Patriarch Theophilos III in 2005.” Anonymous F then states that nonetheless, it was “…the church in Jerusalem who accepted the facts and made the correct decision to remove +Irenaios”. The point being made by us was that without the Jordanian government’s demand to oust Patriarch Irenaios, he would still be on the Jerusalem throne. But Anonymous D wasn’t even referring so much to other Churches. The emphasis was on Romania and Russia. Patriarch Daniel or Patriarch Kyril being ousted for wrongdoing by the Romanian or Russian Orthodox Synod would be unheard of, without this being initiated by the Romanian or Russian government respectively. A corrupt and self-policing state-run church structure led by a Patriarch whose authority is only surpassed by the national head of state is very strange indeed to North American ears. That remains the point. It seems that Anonymous F brought this point up in order to argue against the OCA uniqueness by showing that other Patriarchates can oust their leaders as did the OCA. However, this argument that serves pro-unity proponents wanting us under Bucharest, has yet to be made.

    2. Anonymous D originally said on August 5, 2009: “OCA weaknesses are visible because our Church is open.” Anonymous F then said: “Remember, the OCA hierarchs put +Herman as metropolitan KNOWING FULL WELL his misdoings prior to taking office, and then covering things up until +Job finally spoke out.” Our response was that “It would indeed be very surprising and without any logical reason for the OCA Holy Synod to choose as its Metropolitan someone known for his “misdoings”. Anonymous F then states that the reason the OCA Holy Synod named these metropolitans was: “…for two simple reasons – cover up and clean up.” First, let us not forget that the candidates for OCA Metropolitan are voted upon by the OCA All American Council and that the Holy Synod names the Metropolitan from an approved short list. This limits the Holy Synod in its choices. However, even if Anonymous F would be correct and the OCA Holy Synod did indeed name its last two Metropolitans in order to “cover up and clean up”, they did a horrible job. The very issues these Metropolitans were supposed to “cover up and clean up” are the ones which disgraced them both individually. If the OCA Holy Synod would have been party to this, don’t you think either Metropolitan Theodosius or Metropolitan Herman would have brought an Archbishop/Bishop or two down with them on their inglorious fall to shame? Also, it should not be forgotten that the OCA laity was unhappy with what was going on in Syosset long before Bishop Job spoke out in 2005. It is thanks to people like Eric Wheeler, John Kozey, Greg Nescott, and Mark Stokoe who started the ball rolling in the late 1990’s. More importantly, it is thanks to our OCA rules, North American culture and Orthodox nature that allowed the laity to unearth the OCA scams and clean out the leadership, not to mention the Orthodox independent mindset and courage of Hierarchs like Bishop Job that showed the full cooperation of our church in action - hierarchs, clergy and laity - together forming Christ’s Church. There certainly is more to do, and as Anonymous F says, we should not be naïve nor turn a blind eye, but rest assured, our Church is open and we have the people to take on these unpleasant tasks; and most importantly we now have the history to prove our successes in this area. In this, we Orthodox in North America are unique, and we should be proud of our OCA Church. Here again Anonymous F reveals his leanings. Maliciously claiming that Metropolitan Herman was chosen by the OCA Holy Synod even though they knew of his “misdoings” is quite an unsubstantiated accusation made against the OCA, and again supports the pro-unity position advocating our abandoning the OCA and subjugating ourselves under Romanian Patriarchal rule. This group must unearth every reason possible to show the evils of the OCA and thus make the case for Bucharest.

    3. There is no question that, as Anonymous F said on August 21, 2009, +Jonah: “… sincerely admits that the OCA as it exists may not be the way for the church to go forward in America.” At the same time, as Metropolitan Jonah is quoted as saying in the Detroit Free Press on August 15, 2009: “Orthodox Christians must reach out across ethnic and social lines in order for their churches to survive.” Thus, the Orthodox Church in North America should transcend ethnic boundaries, otherwise it will die out. What is required is a local “church that embraces all people”. Given that all other Churches in North America report to foreign Mother Churches, the only Church we have here that transcends the ethnic model is the OCA, and for this reason the ROEA should remain with it until a new structure is forged with all North American Orthodox Christians in one North American Patriarchate. This is what we advocate. This is what Metropolitan Jonah advocates. It is also perfectly clear that this goes against the thinking in many Mother Churches, including the Romanian Patriarchate, which continues to promote its presence in the diaspora at large, claiming that its presence is needed even there where there are other church structures like the ROEA- OCA already present. These Mother churches demand that we abandon the OCA and subjugate ourselves under them. How backward thinking. The better solution still seems to be to stay in the OCA and see how our humble Metropolitan Jonah will help in building the true Orthodox Patriarchate in North America that will encompass all ethnicities. If getting the Greeks, Antiochians and other more minor Orthodox churches to join in forming this new Patriarchate means giving up his lead position in North American Orthodoxy, he is willing to make the sacrifice. Indeed this is his goal. But, this does not mean that we should now all leave the OCA to reunite with foreign mother churches! Now that would be stretching logic beyond the breaking point. By the way, where do the native North American Orthodox go, or for that matter where do those of Norwegian ancestry go? How about our English, Irish or French Orthodox? The OCA should only disappear if and when it is replaced by a North American Patriarchate that transcends all ethnicities. Anything else is “palace building on quicksand”. Also, why would Anonymous F say that “those advocating to keep the status quo are the ones building their palaces on quicksand” when the only alternative seems to be to reunite under Mother Churches – a move many are opposed to? Or, how can Anonymous F say that the OCA must “conform to a new way” when it is the OCA leadership that is proposing the new way forward. This type of play on words only confirms the above conclusions regarding the position of Anonymous F.

    In any event, it is clear that the leanings of Anonymous F are not as important as the issues being discussed, even though they do colour the arguments made. We thank Anonymous F for bringing up these points as they contribute to the larger debate.

    What remains most clear is that we all must discuss these differences of viewpoint if we are to have a more complete perspective when asked our opinion on the unity issue at some future point in time. This is the purpose of the website. Having all sides of the issue on the table is the best way forward for all concerned. As well, diverging viewpoints are not necessarily a bad thing – even if some are more vociferous ones. In the end, each side learns from the other and common understandings get forged over time. This is what debating about important issues is all about. Having differing views is acceptable. Talking about them is also acceptable. Doing so without insults and name-calling is the Christian way. Respecting each other shows that we indeed have freedoms here that are used in a Christian manner. As far as we are concerned, this website does highlight differences of opinion but does not promote or condone personal attacks, and if anyone believes they exist here, they should specifically be highlighted to the Administrator. Generalities do not count. Our intention is to inform, discuss and debate, and nothing else.


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PRAYER OF ST. EPHREM

O Lord and Master of my life,
leave me not with the spirit of laziness,
of despair, of domination, or idle words.

Rather, give me, your servant, the spirit of integrity,
of humility, of patience, and of love.

Thus, Lord, grant me the wisdom to see my own faults,
and not condemn my brother;

for You are blessed, now and forever. Amen.



OUR FATHER

Our Father, who are in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day
our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.