Lessons from the Council of 1917: A proposal from Professor Paul Meyendorff…

As a member of the last six pre-conciliar commissions, I sympathize with your current dilemma – you face the nearly impossible task of restoring peace and order within the Church. Trust on all levels has broken down, and restoring trust must be at the top of the church’s agenda at the present time.

I have been following the OCA situation for some time, keeping in touch with large numbers of concerned clergy and laity on all sides. I have up until now avoided making any public statements or internet postings. But I have come to believe strongly in the following solution which, although it may sound radical, has clear historical precedent, and may now be the only way to restore integrity and trust.

The Metropolitan and the entire Synod of Bishops need to submit their resignation, in humility acknowledging their individual and corporate responsibility and guilt for what has happened on their watch. These resignations are to be effective at the AAC, at which each bishop will stand for (re-)election by the clergy and lay representatives of his diocese. If the bishop is not re-elected in a straight up-or-down vote by secret ballot, he will immediately retire. If elected, he will immediately assume his post and a new Synod will be constituted. The senior bishop will assume the presidency of the Synod, and the election of a new Metropolitan will follow immediately. These steps will give us the opportunity to start with a clean slate.

Such was the process adopted by the 1917 Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in its effort to restore trust in the Church at a critical juncture in its history. Each diocese was given the right to elect its own bishop, and sitting bishops had to stand for re-election. A number of bishops, including, for example, Metropolitan Antonii Khrapovitskii of Petrograd (modern-day St Petersburg), were voted out.

The second task of the AAC will be to begin discussion of a new statute for the OCA, one that will contain appropriate checks and balances and restore true conciliarity to the Church. There is not sufficient time to do much before November 2008, and the atmosphere is currently too polluted for significant progress to be made. But the AAC could certainly elect a representative body of bishops, clergy, and laity to address this task over the next few years.


1 Comment

Filed under Orthodox Church in America 15th AAC, Preparing for the 15th All-American Council

One response to “Lessons from the Council of 1917: A proposal from Professor Paul Meyendorff…

  1. Mark C. Phinney

    I would modify Dr. Meyendorff’s proposal as follows:

    1. Since it is the hierarchs’ behavior as members of the Holy Synod, not their behavior while administering their dioceses, the voting to retain or dismiss each hierarch should include all of the delegates attending the All-American Council. To remain in office, each hierarch would have to receive a majority of the votes from the delegates of his diocese and two-thirds of the votes of the remaining delegates to the AAC.

    2. If not retained, the hierarch must immediately retire to a monastic community outside the diocese of his residence. This provision is meant to prevent the retired hierarch from influencing or otherwise interfering in the affairs of his old diocese, as well as giving the new hierarch a freer hand in establishing his administration.

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