Fr. Cyril Hovorun wrote a very interesting and somewhat controversial paper on what he termed the “myth” of autocephaly through out history using two examples of the Greek Orthodox church and the Ukrainian Orthodox church.
It is interesting to note the events that are taking place in Ukraine at the present time in terms of the orthodox schism and the involvement of the government in using the church in the unification of the country as a whole. He stated that if the orthodox were to split into groups according to their beliefs either towards the Russian or Constantinople patriarchate, this would cause great conflict, even violent conflict within Ukraine and its people. Fr. Hovorun accounted that some Ukrainian Orthodox exclaim that autocephaly is the way to hell!
In Greece, autocephaly was defined much more differently than it is in the present day. During the struggle for independence, the church blessed it as holy, even creating the myth that the flag of the revolution was blessed. After Greece gained it’s independence and the church was granted autocephaly, the country’s religion and state were intertwined in the national ideology of its people. This showed that the definitions of autocephaly in the past was not just of the separation of church from the patriarchate, but also of the connection to the government, the kingdom, and the country. During monarch rule, the synod was appointed by the government, and the synod new appointees had to swear an oath to the King above all else!
The myth around American autocephaly is an entirely new animal from any past representation of the word in that it is not the identity of one ethnic culture or people, but of many orthodox from many different backgrounds. In this way, it is free from any other factors that would influence the OCA outside of the church. Without prosecution from states, governments, revolutions, war, other religions, what will the OCA become? So far it has not been able to draw other orthodox groups in America to itself, but are we in the midst of change towards that direction? Maybe my generation will find out, maybe it could happen in two or three generations. Only time will tell.