That’s the question I have as the Assembly of all the “canonical” Orthodox bishops of North America gets underway in New York. As I understand it — and I invite correction if I’m wrong — the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Greek Orthodox refused to seat bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA — my church) because they do not recognize its autocephaly. The OCA’s Metropolitan Jonah and other bishops were admitted as observers only.

I’m still relatively new to Orthodoxy, but I don’t understand this. How can they discuss a unified American Orthodox church without the OCA participating at an equal level? Can they not simply recognize the OCA’s autocephalous status, however irregular it was granted a generation ago? I hope some of you reader can disabuse me of the suspicion that this is a power play by Old World hierarchs to prevent the emergence of a true, unified American Orthodoxy. The Greek Orthodox recognize this event as the first meeting of American Orthodox bishops — completely ignoring the 1994 meeting, which the Greek Orthodox in America participated in, but the Ecumenical Patriarch opposed. What is it with the Greek hierarchy? Does this snub of the OCA have anything to do with the clash between Jonah and the EP, in which Jonah told the EP not to meddle in the affairs of American Orthodox churches? What about Antiochian Met. Philip’s audacious demotion of several of his own bishops, in what was interpreted as a blow against the Americanization of the Antiochian church in America, and the assertion of power by the Old World? Does the historic visit of the EP to Moscow have anything to do with the timing of the Assembly in America — by which I mean, did the Moscow patriarch sign off on the sidelining of the OCA as a concession to Bartholomew?
I have questions. I don’t really understand what’s going on here. If you have clarifying answers, let’s hear them.
UPDATE: Good for Metropolitan Philip! He laid it out in his speech today. Excerpt:

We have been on this continent for more than two hundred (200) years. We are no longer little children to have rules imposed on us from 5,000 miles away. Orthodoxy in America has its own ethos. We have our own theological institutions, and we have our own theologians, authors, publications and magazines. We do not intend to be disobedient to the Mother Churches; we just want to dialogue with them and give them the opportunity to know us and understand us. We have been here for a long, long time and we are very grateful to the Almighty God that in our theology and worship, we do express the fullness of the Holy Orthodox faith.


The second point which I would like to note is concerning the term “Diaspora” which was used several times in the literature which we received from
Geneva. I remember, there are many of you who were at the Antiochian Village in 1994 and should remember that the term “Diaspora” was unanimously rejected by our assembly. We are not in Babylon; we are in North America, the new world. We are dealing here with second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth generations of American Orthodox and they refuse to be called “Diaspora.”
I believe that some of our churches in the Old World are in “Diaspora.” In Jerusalem, for example, we have 2,000 Orthodox Christians left. In Constantinople, the glorious capital of the Byzantine Empire, I was told that there are only 2,000 Greek Orthodox left. And the Turkish Government, until now, refuses to let us open that famous Theological School of Khalki, despite the intervention of the presidents of the United States. In Iraq, hundreds of
Christians were slaughtered and thousands had to flee Iraq to the Syrian Arab Republic. We are free here in North America — free to teach, free to preach, free to worship, free to write books and sometimes criticize even the presidents of the United States. We have the full freedom of expression in accordance with the United States Constitution. It is important to note here that the Holy Synod of Antioch, to my knowledge, never discussed the Chambesy decision and the rules of operation in order to formally bless this effort.

Philip goes on to ask, with reference to Metropolitan Jonah being excluded from the Executive Committee, how come the OCA are good enough to share the Eucharist with, but not good enough to be part of the decision-making process. Thank you, Metropolitan Philip! Thank you for standing up for us so strongly!
And then Philip ends with this bombshell:

If I have a vision for the future, it is this: Jerusalem has less than 2,000 Orthodox left. Istanbul has 2,000 Greek Orthodox left. The future of Orthodoxy in the Middle East is uncertain. Thus, for the sake of international Orthodox unity and Orthodox unity in North America, we should with one voice, beg His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch to leave Istanbul and move to Washington, D.C. or New York City and head a united Orthodox Church in this hemisphere. All of us, I am sure, will be blessed to be under his omophorion and Orthodox unity in North America will cease to be a dream, but a reality.

UPDATE.2: A priest at the Assembly reports in the comments thread that the OCA reps have been seated and are participating fully. I hope so, but why, then, is Jonah being excluded from the executive committee, as Philip has said?
Oh, snap!

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