Recently I have listened to some interviews of the Hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches in North America. As part of the work of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, these interviews are being conducted and published on Ancient Faith Radio as podcasts.
The Assembly of Bishops in America has the same mandate as all the assemblies that have been convened since the discussions in Chambesy. From their about page – “The Assembly has been established in accordance with the Decision of the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, convoked in Chambésy, Switzerland, June 6-12, 2009, at which met representatives from all the universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox churches. These representatives recognized substantial canonical ‘anomalies’ in the organization and life of the Church in these regions, and realized that, though these anomalies had arisen from specific historical circumstances and pastoral needs, they nonetheless present a number of serious problems for the faithful; moreover, they give an appearance of disunity in the one holy Church. As such, these representatives unanimously agreed to the formation of the assemblies of bishops to heal, as quickly as possible, these anomalies.”
It is very interesting to listen to these Bishop’s discuss what is one of the most difficult of these anomalies. The North American continent has been once of the largest landing points for emigre Orthodox and given it’s large population and world status is further down the road of dealing with the growth of the Orthodox Faith outside what would be known as “Traditional” Orthodox countries. They already have significant usage of the English language in the majority of parishes and there are many adherents of the desire for a unified American Orthodox church, with a single governing body.
From the perspective of an Orthodox Christian in Australia I find it very relevant to be listening to the challenges being had in the US. Depending on who you talk to, people believe that the American Orthodox challenge is around 20 years ahead of us, based on the emigration times and the challenges being faced. A greater convert population has thrown a spanner in the works to. An interesting point listening to many of these podcasts and other speeches by Bishops in the US is the challenge at both ends of the scale: many parishes have convert priests and do not speak the tongue of the “motherland” and cannot cope with a mission to the new arrivals from that country and at the same time are being dragged further towards an Americanized church.
Irrespective of whether the assembly in the Americas (or anywhere for that matter) eventuates in the forming of new patriarchates out of what was the diaspora, or even self-governing synods apart from the mother churches, the greater collaboration and brotherhood between the Hierarchs is a glorious journey. Many of the discussions have spoken already about reducing the duplication of efforts between the various jurisdictions and sharing of effort towards common mission and pastoral work.
I was very much inspired by the words of our own Metropolitan Hilarion in his interview, in that movement towards single city / single bishop, single governing synod for the continent will happen when the people of America are spiritually mature enough for it. But irrespective of this much good comes out of the Hierarch’s working together. Glory to God.
I wonder when we will hear much out of the similar sessions in Australia 😉