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OCA Pastoral Letter

Author: Met. Jonah et al
December 2, 2010


“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:19-22

“The Orthodox Church in America is autocephalous not in order to be self-sufficient and isolated, but in order to be in living communion and close contact with all Orthodox Churches… The Orthodox Church in America received autocephaly not in order to be master of Orthodox unity in America but in order to be a servant of this unity.”
Bishop DMITRI, Bishop of Dallas and the South
Address to Patriarch Pimen on the Occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Patriarchate
Holy Trinity- St. Sergius Monastery, 1978

To the Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:

Forty years ago, the Orthodox Church in America received its autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church and soon after glorified the first North American saint, our Venerable Father Herman of Alaska. The Holy Synod of Bishops gives thanks to Almighty God for the prayerful intercessions of St Herman and of all the saints who shone forth on this continent and likewise celebrates and affirms the gift of autocephaly. By the grace of God, this great gift was the result of a long process of reconciliation between the Metropolia and the Moscow Patriarchate, whose relations had tragically gone astray, a gift which still stands at the heart of our ecclesial life and serves as the basis for understanding ourselves.

At the same time, much has transpired in the past forty years within the life of the Orthodox Church in America. A most significant event took place on May 25th-27th of this year with the convening of the first Episcopal Assembly for the region of North and Central America. All of the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in America participated in this historic gathering of the canonical Orthodox Bishops of this region. Our Holy Synod is grateful to His All-Holiness,
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who wisely undertook the task of convening the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan Orthodox Conference in Chambésy, Switzerland in June of 2009. This Pre-Conciliar Conference resulted in the establishment, with the blessing of all the Orthodox Patriarchs, of an Episcopal Assembly for our region which has as its goal the “swift healing of every canonical anomaly” [Message of the Patriarchs 3.12] and the working out of a solution to Orthodox administrative unity on this continent.

This event, as well as the recent dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, has provided us with an opportunity to enter more fully into the pan-Orthodox process in North America. As such we have reflected on how we understand our life and work and how these can become a means for greater and deeper interrelationship with the other Orthodox Churches as we move towards authentic unity through the process of the Episcopal Assemblies.

As we reflect upon the past forty years, we affirm the following principles:

1. We understand ourselves to be an indigenous, multi-ethnic, missionary Church, laboring to bring Orthodox Christianity to all citizens of this continent.

2. We affirm that our historical reality derives from the Russian Orthodox Church and that we have humbly received and faithfully maintain the inheritance of the Russian Mission of 1794, the Diocese of Sitka in 1843; the Diocese of San Francisco in 1870, and its relocation to New York in 1907, and the Autocephaly of 1970.

3. As directed by the Tomos, we live as other self-governing Churches do: electing our own bishops and Primate, without confirmation by any other Synod, maintaining inter-Church relationships with all other Churches; and consecrating our own chrism.

4. As envisioned in the Tomos, we believe that the autocephaly given to us will be fully realized when the promise of Orthodox unity in North America is fulfilled, and the OCA together with all the Orthodox faithful in North America become one united Autocephalous Church of America, recognized by all other Orthodox Churches.

5. We commit ourselves to work within the Episcopal Assembly in order to realize the goal of unity.
We express our gratitude to all the Patriarchs for their care and ask all of the clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America to be of one mind and one heart to offer thanksgiving to God for the gift of the Church, whose mission in this world is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the people of North America. We ask the clergy and faithful to pray that we be worthy of the heritage of the saints who shone forth in North America in building up the Body of Christ, fulfilling these words of Scripture: “Speaking the truth in love, may [we] grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Asking God’s blessings on all the flock,


The Most Blessed JONAH,
Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Locum tenens of the Diocese of the Midwest, Locum tenens of the Diocese of the South

The Most Reverend NATHANIEL, Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate

The Right Reverend NIKON, Bishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Diocese

The Right Reverend TIKHON, Bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania

The Right Reverend BENJAMIN, Bishop of San Francisco and the West, Locum tenens of the Diocese of Alaska

The Right Reverend ALEJO, Bishop of Mexico City and the Exarchate of Mexico

The Right Reverend MELCHISEDEK, Bishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Locum tenens of the Bulgarian Diocese

The Right Reverend MICHAEL, Bishop of New York and New York and New Jersey

The Right Reverend IRENEE, Bishop of Quebec City and Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada

Archimandrite MATTHIAS (Moriak), Bishop-Elect of Chicago and the Midwest

Nativity Fast, 2010

9 Comments to “OCA Pastoral Letter”

  1. Kenneth R. Tobin Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “OCA Pastoral Letter”

    As a frequent critic of the OCA clerical leadership, I am happy to say that this statement strikes just the right note. North American Orthodox unity is the ultimate goal–unity in essentials with diversity permitted in all else–but not at the cost of independence from foreign control and domination. The OCA can not surrender its autocephaly in advance of some promised unity dictated and defined by any foreign Patriarchate. Nor should it attempt to dictate itself to other North American Orthodox Christians who belong to other jurisdictions.

    A fundamental regard for the free will ascent of others should be at the heart of our Faith–not, as has so often happened in the past, some imperial and compulsive directive from on high. And the Faithful themselves must be willing and active champions of unity, as described above, or the whole quest for a unified witness, as our Lord and Holy Tradition command, will come to naught.

  2. Alexandru Nemoianu Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “OCA Pastoral Letter”

    The declaration of the OCA Holy Synod, affirming again and unequivocally its autocephaly, is a historic moment and a salutary moment. This declaration is crystal clear: the New World has a place in Orthodoxy and a role to fulfill in the two thousand years history of Orthodoxy. There is no way back. The American Orthodoxy is in its own rights, an equal between equals and there is no place for chip talks about “Diaspora”, subordination toward foreign entity and such hogwash.

    What will be the administrative future of the American Orthodox Church is an open question to be solved by the American Orthodox Hierarchs and American Orthodox faithful. Personally I think it will be a mixture of complete integration and canonical association. And in this regard the case of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America and its irreversible agreement of association with the OCA is a very good example to follow. But one thing, in my opinion, is for sure. Any debate, any “dialogue” aiming to subordinate part of the American Orthodoxy to foreign canonical bodies, some of them of really dubious repute, will be an exercise in futility and an exclusively political action without any Christian merit.

  3. Any Moose Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “OCA Pastoral Letter”

    Good to see some sanity here! If the foreign Patriarches really want unity, let them give autocephaly to all of their churches in the U.S.

    When this happens and they unite into one autocephalous church, then and ONLY then will the OCA merge with them. Will we see the foreign Patriarchs take this action soon or will the Parousia happen first? My bet, the Parousia!

  4. Daniel E. Fall Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “OCA Pastoral Letter”

    This was a great, reassuring letter and that’s all I can say.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “OCA Pastoral Letter”

    With All Respect, the Autochephaly of the OCA is not conical and is not recognized by the any of the five ancient Patriarchs. The Arrogarence of member of the OCA that implies we should all join the OCA to for an Autochephaly jurisdiction is mis-guided. The OCA is disunited between diocese and lack administrative qualities. I am skeptical of the EA but having us join the OCA which is not recognized and in fact the EA didn’t give the OCA seating in the Exec. Committee.

    IF this is not proof the OCA have no creditability, the only solution is the Russian Patriachate to denounce the Autochephaly and have the OCA join the Russian PAtriarchal Church in NA.

  6. Any moose Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “OCA Pastoral Letter”

    Well, you’re WRONG! First, there are NO canons that state who can or cannot grant autocephaly. When churches were organized in a “territory,” as they grew with their own bishops & priests, they announced that they were an autocephalous church. As long as they were practicing the Orthodox faith, they were recognized via inter-communion and concelebration.

    The OCA was granted it’s autocephaly by it’s mother church, the ROC. AND, the OCA concelebrates and is in Holy Communion with ALL canonical Orthodox Churches around the world. De facto, the OCA is fully recognized!

    So why does the Pat. of Istanbul and his Greek crony bishops refuse to “FORMALLY” recognize the OCA’s autocephaly? Because according to Orthodox Canon Law, ALL the Orthodox in the “territory” of the United States would have to come under the OCA’s umbrella. The Pat. of Istanbul wants to maintain control over it’s Greek contingent in the USA. It’s political. In reality, it is ONLY the OCA that is following Orthodox Canon Law according to ecclesiastical organization!

  7. Alexandru Nemoianu Says:

    As posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “OCA Pastoral Letter”

    The five ancient churches, the “pentarchy”, was an idea in the early Christian history. The idea was to have the five major Episcopal sees rule over the Christians. The five sees were: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. In fact the rivalry between the sees and as result of the Muslim conquest, the idea of the “pentarchy” never became a reality. Any how to talk about the “pentarchy” in AD 2010 is, in my opinion, proof of gross historical and theological illiteracy. (According to this brave anonymous the OCA’ autocephaly should wait for recognition from…Rome.)…

  8. thomas Says:

    …Tu unde ai facut teologia mai? Din ceea ce scrii…

  9. Administrator Says:

    Thomas, opreste insultele si vino cu argumente, te rog frumos!

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