There were several respondents to the Metropolitan’s speech.
The first was Mr. Charles Ajalat, Chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese, who was speaking not officially, but in his personal capacity. You can read Mr. Ajalat’s speech, which he summarized for the audience, here.
The second respondent was Fr. Mark Arey, the general secretary of SCOBA, and ecumenical officer of the GOA. Fr. Arey found the speech and milieu intellectually stimulating, but politely disagreed. He defended SCOBA’s present composition, pointing out that, for the first time, all the canonical Orthodox in America are represented by the body. After so much history, he enjoyed the Met’s speech as a refreshing view of the future . Fr. Arey expressed his hope that the Chambesy decisions, recently taken, would lead to SCOBA including all the bishops who would meet 2-3 times a year. He agreed that any decisions taken must include everyone to be accepted.
The third speaker was one of the representatives from the ROCOR-OCA commission, Archimandrite Luke, who pointed out the church has lost two generations of native born Orthodox in this country, not just converts, and that mission must be made to reach out to them.
Archbishop Nathaniel of the Romanian Episcopate then spoke, hoping that Fr. Arey was a prophet , that the work of SCOBA will move forward, include all the Bishops, and that everyone would be included in the decision-making concerning America. He reminisced about the famous 1994 meeting in Ligonier – and the last two meetings which were not as productive. He agreed with Fr. Luke that catechizing our own people is an important point, and coincidentally were all discussed at Ligonier. As an American and a convert, the Archbishop feels the Church in America is one, but we need to put our house in order, and take advantage that God has given us to serve our Lord.
Bishop Savva (of Troas) of the GOA, then rose to point that given globalization, distance is relative. These “foreign” partriarchates are only a plane ride, email away. When Bishops tolerate disrespect for other hierarchs, it just encourages bad behaviour. “I feel connected to SVS, but when I go to certain websites, overseen by a Bishop, which make rude comments, I feel this is inappropriate. Does foreign mean anything in the Church anymore?”
The Bishops remarks led to replies by Ajalat and Metropolitan Jonah. Ajalat questioned whether the EP really does know others, such at the AOCA or OCA . +Jonah said we need a healthy interdependence, not independence; or even less co-dependency. We need to respect boundaries, and then come together at the same chalice as a communion of local churches.
We want a vision of universal Orthodoxy, said Scott Kentworthy, not just Hellenism, and the world would be open to the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Many are looking for that.
The “humble priest David” from Falls Church VA, finds the use of the word “diaspora” objectionable. He and his three children are not in diaspora, although their home is in heaven. If that word could be left behind, much would improve.
Fr. Kishkovsky agreed that there is common mission to the lost generations, but it requires a clarification of identities. There is need for a common, visible, coherent Orthodox identify in America. He was in Southern CA years ago, for the funeral of his stepfather in Pomona, and as the church filled up, three men in black robes, one with a panagia, two with crosses, stood on the corner. Two women come down the street, looking at the beards said: “are you jewish?” One said “no, we are Orthodox”, immediately realizing that made things more difficult. Another said: “we are eastern orthodox christians.” To which the women asked: ” How far east do you come from ?” In short we are an exotic brand. And until we become identifiable we will remain unknown and misconstrued.
Peter Bouteneff of SVS expressed his frustration that nothing new had been said this afternoon, and that was exasperating. Are there any suggestions where this discourse could be carried further? Can the seminary be service to create safe space to discuss these things?
+Nathaniel said the problem is that we don’t talk to each other, and we need to be. Now that Chambesy seems to encourage it, lets get going. Again the issue is looking for the black box and not finding it, because the beeper has stopped.
Charles Ajalat said there are three forums in which this could be discussed: a renewed Chambesy, St. Vladimir’s itself, which has offered itself, and then getting the Bishops together. We have to deal with this sensitive issue of presidency.
The questions then turned to autocephaly again – and what does it mean in the 21st century when distance is virtually erased? For +jonah, who answered, the centrality of the eucharist remains in that the local community is the center, and is a personal act. Modern media both enables and prevents interaction – but it cannot replace the one cup or the kiss of peace, which is the core of our experience of the Church.
while the comments and questions continue, I think this will conclude this first live blog. Hope you all enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful.