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Writings of Newly Elected Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA (and his biography)

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  • Christopher Orr
    *Transcription of Metropolitan Jonah s Talk to the All-American Council of the OCA on Tuesday Evening, November 11, 2008 * Christ is in our midst. One of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 19, 2008
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      *Transcription of Metropolitan Jonah's Talk to the All-American Council of
      the OCA on Tuesday Evening, November 11, 2008
      Christ is in our midst.

      One of the reasons the Holy Synod wanted to postpone the answering of these
      questions was in order to give it more serious consideration and so that we
      could come up with a conciliar answer to these questions. But part of that
      discussion that we had, was that I would try and set out some theological
      principles which underlie these questions, so that we can look at them
      together and consider what we are doing together as the body of Christ in
      America according to the calling that we have been given.

      We have been given (a calling) to be the very presence of the one Holy
      Catholic Church in America --constituted by the Gospel, constituted by our
      faith, constituted by the canons, the canons of the Holy Fathers, the
      traditions of the Holy Fathers... and all of those traditions that have been
      passed down to us.

      Because, ultimately, what I see in many of these questions, and from the
      results of the Town Hall meetings, is a plea from the church for teaching --
      to be taught.

      What is the ecclesiology of the Church?
      How do we understand how the Church is supposed to operate?
      Who are we and what are we trying to do?

      And we have to be able to separate what is going on in the Orthodox Church
      in America according to the canons and the traditions of the Statute from a
      lot of the preconceptions that float around in our culture about how
      organizations operate. A lot of these very notions are distinct.

      We are a hierarchical church, but what does that mean?

      I think history has given to us an inheritance where hierarchy has been
      completely confused with imperial aristocracy and sometimes some of our
      bishops, (Bishop Benjamin in particular likes to joke about it.) you know,
      what happens to a guy if you put him on a stand in the middle of the church,
      you dress him up like the Byzantine Emperor and you tell him to live
      forever? You know? (Laughter from audience)

      I would assert first and foremost as Orthodox Christians our leadership, the
      leadership of the Church, that element that comes from above, is the divine
      element. But the leadership that is within the Church, the leadership of
      bishops and the dioceses of the Metropolitan among the Synod --because what
      it the Metropolitan? He is the chairman of the Synod. The leadership of a
      parish priest in his parish: If you sit there and you lord it over your
      parishioners that "I am the priest and I can do whatever I want and I can
      spend the money however I want without accountability and without..." you
      are not going to go very far. In fact you are likely to get thrown out
      because you will get into all sorts of problems. And I think that form of
      leadership is over. (Applause )

      That form of leadership is over, obviously, as you all know, within the
      parishes. It doesn't work. It doesn't work in a monastery where I have been
      for the past 12 years. It doesn't work, obviously, on the diocesan or on the
      national level.

      Our leadership is leadership within; and underlying this is the essential
      theological principle that is in every aspect of our theology. It underlies
      our soteriology, it underlies our Christology, it underlies our ecclesiology
      -- and that's the principle in the word of St. Paul of 'synergy', of

      And it has to be a voluntary cooperation. And obedience, within that
      context, is not some kind of, some guy, who can lord it over you and make
      you do what he wants you to and you are going to get in trouble one way or
      another. Obedience is cooperation out of love and respect. Monasticism is
      the sacrament of obedience. You see what it is, incarnate, when you
      experience that communion of a brotherhood, with its spiritual father, in a
      spirit of love and respect.

      Everything goes smoothly and boys will be boys, you know? But not everything
      goes smoothly. And what happens when that love and when that respect break
      down, when the passions enter into it, when jealousy comes in or anger or
      bitterness or resentment or revenge? It all breaks down.

      On a broader level our whole life in this Church together is a life of
      'synergy', a life of voluntary cooperation, a life of obedience to Jesus
      Christ and to the Gospel. If it is not about obedience to Jesus Christ and
      the Gospel (then) what are we doing here? What are we doing here?

      The Gospel has to be first and foremost above every other consideration. It
      is the canon by which we measure ourselves.

      So when we look at our ecclesiology, when we look to see what the Church is
      and what the Church can be -- because it is always in that process of
      becoming - it is always in that process of entering into that divine synergy
      which is nothing else than the very process of our deification together as
      one body with one spirit, with one heart, with one mind. And it's a mutual
      decision to cut off our own will, to cut off our own selfishness, to cut off
      our own ideas, to enter into that living 'synergy' which is communion;
      otherwise, our Eucharist is a sham and we are alienated from Christ.

      If we are not at peace with one another -- now that doesn�'t mean that we
      cannot, you know, work out our disagreements, God knows as Orthodox we love
      to fight, right? But we need to work it out so that we can enter into that
      living experience of communion in cooperation and mutual obedience and
      mutual submission in love and mutual respect.

      Now this, with this as our basic principle, how do we look at some of these

      There are several that I cannot address. You know, I have been consecrated
      as a bishop for what - ten days? (Laughter)

      And, so I am rather new to this august group of bishops --each one of whom I
      profoundly respect, profoundly respect -- and I see each one in their own
      uniqueness, each one with the gifts that they have to offer, and thank God
      for that.

      So, the first question, it rather follows from what is a communion in love
      and respect trying to works towards synergy. A culture of intimidation, is
      alien to Christ. Unfortunately, this has been something that has prevailed
      in certain sectors and still prevails in certain sectors of the Orthodox
      Church. This demon needs to be exorcised. Intimidation, fear, is never

      Now that doesn't mean that you are not going to get a rebuke. Because what
      father doesn't, out of love, rebuke his children? Even the scriptures say
      so: "God chastises those whom he loves", but for our life in the Church to
      be controlled by fear and intimidation -- and I had plenty of it, I had more
      than I ever want to even think about.... I resolved that never, ever would I
      allow myself to fall into such a thing, because power corrupts, and that
      power needs to be renounced, because it is only in our powerlessness, it's
      only in our weakness that we can allow ourselves to become vessels for Jesus
      Christ -- the ultimate image of whom is the ultimate in weakness surrendered
      dead upon the Cross.

      We need to be able to speak our minds, but we need to do so in a sober way.
      Sobriety is just not about the use of substances. Sobriety is in regards to
      the passions. Anger, bitterness, resentment, vengeance, it's all selfish,
      passions. And whenever we are possessed by those passions, we need to sit
      down and shut up -- because all we are doing is sinning and compounding our
      sin by the words that come out of our mouths.

      It is so important for us to keep watch over ourselves, to keep watch over
      our words and to keep watch over our thoughts. Because if we are possessed
      by anger, by judgment of someone who has sinned...

      Have they sinned? Obviously.

      Do you sin? Obviously.

      How can you judge? It's the same kind of hypocrisy that St. Paul condemned.
      The Elder who founded the hermitage at Point Reyes, Father Dimitri, of
      blessed memory, had a saying which I think is of the greatest value to us.
      As a fundamental spiritual principle "You must mercilessly persecute
      hypocrisy within yourself." "Mercilessly persecute hypocrisy within
      yourself." If we can do this, as a community, the Gospel of Jesus Christ
      will shine through us.

      The SIC [Special Investigations Committee] report, if you look at it in a
      certain way, basically said that the last two Metropolitans were corrupt,
      that they had abrogated their responsibility of leadership on all levels.
      So, is it a wonder why the Synod, being leaderless, would not function as
      well as it should?

      Is it a wonder? Because of the culture -- that only a few knew about - of
      fear and intimidation which operated within the walls of the Chancery in
      Syosset, a culture which was fundamentally sick, and that has been removed.
      Thank God! Thank God! (Applause)

      And so the bishops attended to their dioceses; and I think we all know how
      much in each diocese we love and care and respect our bishop. The problem is
      not in the dioceses, it is not in the parishes. The problem was in Syosset.
      The problem was in the Chancery, and because of that absolute vacuum of
      leadership in a sick, dysfunctional situation the church was looted. It was
      an expensive lesson, a very expensive lesson.

      And I don't think that in any way, shape or form that the next Metropolitan
      who will be elected from among this group of men is going to in any way,
      shape or form let down the confidence of the Church, if he knows that we are
      operating in an atmosphere of love, of respect and of hope.

      If we can build that community of love and respect, seeing how our passions
      have distracted us from that living communion with God, have turned us
      against one another, and have created all sorts of hostility between --
      well, we just saw it, between the body of the All-American Council and the
      Synod of the Bishops. I heard boos, right? Between the Synod of the Bishops
      and the Metropolitan Council -- talk about a sick dysfunctional situation!
      Why? Because, our passions have gone awry. Yes, we were betrayed. Yes, we
      were raped. It's over. It's over. Let it be in the past, so that we can

      When we maintain resentments in our souls -- and it doesn't matter whether
      it is on an interpersonal level, it doesn't matter whether it is within a
      parish, within a family, between friends or within the Church, on the
      largest level. If we maintain resentments within our soul, it's a cancer
      that will eat away our soul and destroy us as persons. And it will destroy
      that community which we have with those other persons -- and who do we
      resent the most but the people that we love the most?

      And so, what it the essence of the Gospel? It is repentance and forgiveness.
      And what is that repentance? It is to see that these things have become
      distractions for us, that they have become ends in themselves and that we
      have lost sight of God and to turn back to God.

      Repentance also means conversion; it means transformation of the mind. And
      that is a constant process for every single committed Christian. It is a
      constant process that we have to engage in both personally and corporately.
      And when we engage in that process we have to confront the anger and the
      bitterness and the hurts and the pain and the resentment that we have borne
      within us as reactions against the people who have hurt us. And by forgiving
      we are not excusing the action, we are not saying that Kondratick was right
      to loot the Church. We are not saying that Metropolitan Theodosius was right
      to advocate all of his responsibility to the bottle or whatever.

      We are not justifying anything.

      What we are saying is: "My reaction is destroying me, and I need to stop
      it." If I value Jesus Christ and the Gospel and communion with God, I need
      to stop it, and move on. (At this point many in the crowd rose in a standing

      That sounds like Chicago over there. Obamamania?

      The Holy Synod needs a chance to function normally with a leader who is
      engaged, who's not drunk, who's not preoccupied, with somebody who is
      engaged, who is engaged in building that synergy and building that communion
      and working . And it's not about just that particular Metropolitan or that
      particular leader, it's about every about one of us. And you, all of you
      here, you are the leaders of the Church. Every priest here has probably
      dozens or hundreds of people who look to you. And your authority is based,
      it's founded on that responsibility to convey the Gospel, to convey the
      message of Christ -- 95% by your actions and by your attitudes and 5% by
      your words.

      Authority is responsibility. Authority is accountability, it is not power.

      So we look at some of these questions: Was the Holy Synod leaderless?

      Yes, for 30 years, 30 years (under) Metropolitan Herman and Metropolitan

      We need to give them (the Synod) a chance, with the full complete voluntary,
      willful support of the church. Let them and help them bear their
      responsibility, so that you can bear your responsibility.

      Hierarchy is only about responsibility. It's not all this imperial nonsense.

      Thank God, we are Americans and we have cast that off. We don't need foreign
      despots. We are the only non-state Orthodox Church. In other words, we are
      the only Orthodox Church that does not exist under the thumb of a State,
      either friendly or hostile.

      So the Church is our responsibility, personally and collectively,
      individually and corporately.

      What are you going to do with it? What you are going to do with your part of
      that responsibility? Maybe you haven't been entrusted with the leadership of
      a parish. Maybe you are not a priest. Maybe you think, "Oh, I am just a
      housewife." What incredible responsibility you have to your children, to
      your friends, to your neighbors, to the parish! What incredible
      responsibility, to bear witness to Jesus Christ by how you love and respect
      one another!

      If you are a priest, think of the responsibility that you bear as the
      spiritual father for your parishioners. One of the hardest things that
      happened in my ministry was the death of a 22-year-old brother who had
      happened to decide to go out river rafting on the spring thaw thinking, of
      course, as a 22-year-old would that he is immortal. As his spiritual father
      I knew the sacrament -- this mystery of spiritual fatherhood - because,
      after his death, there were times when I knew I was standing before God with
      him at the last judgment pleading for his soul. As priests, you have the
      same responsibility: To stand at the last judgment before the throne of God
      with those whom God has entrusted to you. It is an awesome mystery. It is an
      awesome thing. And as Bishops, think of that responsibility....

      We need to come together, in love and respect -- to be willing to put aside
      the anger and the bitterness and show love for one another, show respect for
      one another, recognize, recognize the awesome responsibility of those who
      will give account for your souls. We will stand before God for you at the
      last judgment, whether it is your personal last judgment or the general one.
      This is the Scriptures, and this is the reality of this great mystery of our
      union in Christ.

      How do we re-establish trust?

      There's only one way. It's to choose to love. It is the only way. There is
      no other way. There's no organizational methods, no kinds of business
      practices we can invoke, no corporate ideologies, none of that.

      If we are Christians, we have the choice: Do we choose to enter into the
      love of Jesus Christ for one another -- including our hierarchs, including
      our priests, including those who have betrayed us, including those who have
      failed us miserably, including those whom we judge and criticize and -- all
      to own damnation?

      We have to choose to love, we have to choose to forgive; and this is the
      only way, if we are Christians.

      Now, we could have a nice organization, but who cares? Who cares? You know?
      We could have all the nice rituals, but to quote Father Alexander Schmmeman,
      of blessed memory: "Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that we could
      have nice rituals." I'�s not about religion. It's about our souls, it is
      about our salvation, it is about our life, our life as one body united by
      the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ sharing his own relationship with the
      Father. If we choose that, everything will be clear. If we choose the other,
      things may be clear too, organizationally, but our salvation is forfeit.

      So, I think I have addressed most of the questions on here. (Another
      standing ovation.)

      Please forgive me.

      This transcript was provided by Dn. Ambrose Powell and edited in this form
      by Mark Stokoe.

      Acceptance Address on Election to the Episcopacy of Ft. Worth by then Abbot
      Jonah <http://www.oca.org/jonah-acceptance.html>

      *The following is the Acceptance Address delivered by His Beatitude,
      Metropolitan Jonah, upon his election as Bishop of Fort Worth, on October
      31, 2008.*

      October 31, 2008
      Dallas, Texas

      Your Eminence, beloved Vladyka Dmitri, Vladyka Tikhon, Maestro Don Alejo,
      Vladyka Benjamin, beloved friends and brethren in Christ,

      Bless, Masters!

      I am profoundly humbled to be elected as a bishop, and by the confidence
      placed in me by you and the other holy hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in
      America. I am immensely grateful to God, and to you all, to be considered
      for such a ministry, and pray that I may faithfully fulfill the trust placed
      in me for the good of the whole Church, and that I might hope to hear the
      Lord's word on the Last Day, "well done, good and faithful servant."

      [image: Acceptance Address of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, upon his
      election as Bishop of Fort Worth]It is hard to begin to express the
      gratitude that I have for all the people who have affected my life: first
      and foremost, my parents and family, who while often not understanding the
      path to which I have been called, showed their patience, unconditional love
      and support all along my spiritual pilgrimage.

      My gratitude to God is also for the many spiritual guides, both living and
      departed, who have imparted to me their vision of Christ and the Church, of
      ministry and service. Among the those who have gone on before us are
      Protopresbyters Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff, of blessed memory,
      who shaped my intellectual formation in the Faith, and imparted their vision
      of the Church, albeit at a time when I was too immature to comprehend it;
      and the Monastic fathers, who inspired in me the desire for the "Way of
      Perfection," Bishop Mark of Ladoga, and Archimandrite Dimitry of Santa Rosa,
      of blessed memory, monks of Valaam; Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) and Fr
      Anastassy. May their memory be eternal!

      Among the living, many who have so deeply affected my life and ministry,
      gave me guidance, inspiration and encouragement, were patient and sometimes
      strict in discipline, are here today: Fr Ramon Merlos, Fr Alexander
      Federoff, Fr Basil Rhodes, Fr Ian MacKinnon, and many others with whom I
      worked in my life and service in the Diocese of the West. Especially, I am
      grateful for my spiritual father, Bishop Pankratiy, Abbot of the Valaam
      Monastery of the Transfiguration, and his spiritual father to whom he led
      me, the great Staretz Archimandrite Kyrill of the Trinity-St Sergius Lavra;
      as well as Elders Raphael, Nahum, Ephraim, Dionysios, and Dunstan, and
      others who guided me in the monastic life, and foretold to me this cross. In
      particular I give thanks to God for my brothers and co-strugglers from the
      Monastery of St John, who by their patient endurance as I grew into the
      ministry of abbot and spiritual father, supported me and our life together
      as we strove to build a monastic brotherhood for the Glory of God. Others
      who encouraged me so strongly in the monastic life are my brother in Christ
      Igumen Gerasim of St Herman Monastery, and Abbess Victoria of St Barbara's,
      Mother Barbara, and Abbess Susanna and the sisters of the Skete of Our Lady
      of Kazan. I thank God for all the multitude of friends, spiritual children,
      and brothers and sisters in Christ, and rely on their prayers, as such a
      ministry as that to which I am being called can only be founded on the
      prayers of all the faithful united together in the bond of love by the
      Spirit of Peace.

      "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the
      flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God has chosen the
      foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise and God has chosen the
      weak things of this world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and
      the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has
      chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that
      are, that no flesh might glory in his Presence" (1Cor 1:26-29).

      In the words of my spiritual father, Bishop Pankratiy of Valaam, "the
      episcopate is the ultimate fulfillment not only of the priesthood but also
      of monasticism." The episcopacy is certainly the fullness of the priesthood,
      and a bishop is a High Priest, archiereus, by definition. Thus his calling
      is to fulfill the image of the Great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, in
      his own life and ministry; to become transparent to Christ for the sake of
      the people; to actualize His Presence in the midst of the people
      sacramentally�the great mystery of God with us. Yet the episcopacy is also
      the fulfillment of monasticism, as the ultimate ascetic task of taking on
      the Cross of Christ. To be a monk means to completely cut off the thoughts
      and attachments that keep us in bondage to the world, so that we may live
      according to the will of God alone. It is the quest to acquire sobriety and
      humility, dispassion and discernment, patience and longsuffering, and most
      of all, unconditional love for our neighbor and for the whole world. As
      monasticism is the sacrament of obedience, the episcopacy is the ultimate
      obedience, which can only be accepted as an act of obedience. It demands
      complete surrender to God and the death of self-will. It demands true
      holiness, nothing other than synergy with the Divine Will�the very
      definition of obedience.

      To fulfill what it means to be a bishop means nothing other than to "attain
      to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." How far I am from
      this! And yet, it is the Holy Spirit who fulfills what is lacking, and heals
      that which is infirm.

      The episcopacy presents the ultimate ascetic and spiritual challenge: the
      challenge of complete conversion to Christ, the transformation of mind and
      heart by repentance, in order that I may say with St Paul, "I have been
      crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;
      and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live in the Son of God" (Gal
      2:20). To die to self, to empty oneself, to humble oneself even unto
      death�this is the calling of the bishop, because his calling is to manifest
      Christ wholly and completely, by identifying with Him and actualizing His
      Presence. Though there are many tasks and jobs associated with the
      episcopacy, administrative, pastoral and liturgical, it is not so much about
      the "job" as it is about the person; and that person is not me, but rather,

      [image: Acceptance Address of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, upon his
      election as Bishop of Fort Worth] If the episcopacy is about me, manifesting
      my talents, abilities, and ego, then there is nothing sacramental about it;
      or rather, that which is sacramental and holy is defiled by my ego, my
      self-opinion and self-will. The Church does not need me; the Church only
      needs Christ. If by my self-emptying I can become a vessel of Christ, of His
      Will and His Grace, His Presence and His activity, so that we together as
      Church can fulfill His Will by His Grace, and glory in His Presence, then
      His ministry will be fulfilled in me.

      The bishop is not only high priest, but hierarch: the source of
      sanctification, as all ministries are established by the ordination of the
      bishop. This defines the nature of Episcopal leadership. Leadership in the
      Orthodox Church is not about organizational ability, political acumen and
      all the interpersonal tools of communication. These are important; but they
      are not of the essence. Real leadership in the Church is first and foremost
      spiritual leadership: attaining, imparting and actualizing the Vision and
      experience of the Kingdom. Only by first attaining this vision ourselves,
      the divine theoria of the Kingdom of God, can we attain the discernment
      necessary to "rightly divide the word of Truth," to rightly distribute the
      gifts of grace, and to discern those worthy to bear such ministries, and
      have the ability to fulfill them. Only by ascetic self-denial can we
      exercise true discernment�the vision of the will of God, and how to fulfill
      it�free from any selfish or self-serving agendas. Then our leadership will
      be true: we will able to lead people to Christ and the Kingdom, and to
      manifest the Kingdom in our midst, by constantly renewing that vision of the
      Kingdom, through our prayer and worship and through our works of charity and

      Real Episcopal leadership must be manifest in action: the care for the
      clergy and faithful, most especially the poor and needy, those trapped in
      the poverty of loneliness and isolation. The bishop is called to establish
      churches and monasteries, not simply as liturgical centers, but as the means
      by which the Church reaches out to the world, to spread the Gospel of
      repentance and forgiveness, and thus to heal and reconcile those broken and
      fallen, lonely and despairing, to God. The bishop is called to preach and
      teach, to evangelize and bring Christ to the world, and to bring those
      outside the Church to Christ. The bishop is called to form men and women for
      the service of the Church, as clergy, monastics, lay leaders, and all as
      disciples. He must lead them in the spiritual quest for the virtues through
      self-denial, by his life first, and then by his teaching. He must discern
      the gifts God has given each person, and equip and bless each person to
      fulfill their ministry, thereby fulfilling their personhood in the communion
      of persons, which is the Body of Christ.

      The bishop cannot do any of this in isolation; the episcopate exists only in
      relation to the whole community. The bishop's ultimate ministry is to bring
      together the whole community of the Church, so that with a common vision and
      common activity the whole body works together in synergy with the will of
      God. Thus, the bishop recapitulates the whole church entrusted to him, not
      only in a mystical sacramental sense, but in common action, held together in
      the unity of the Spirit and the bond of Peace.

      Archimandrite Jonah (Paffhausen), Bishop-Elect of Fort Worth

      Episcopacy, Primacy, and the Mother Churches: A Monastic

      By Abbot Jonah (now, Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and New
      York, OCA)

      A paper delivered at the Conference of the Fellowship of St Alban and St
      Sergius, St Vladimir's Seminary, June 4�8, 2008. A PDF version of this
      document has been posted

      A prominent orthodox theologian has remarked that he thinks bishops have
      become useless. And he is only echoing a widespread and long-standing
      sentiment in our tradition. This is clear evidence of a crisis of episcopal
      leadership and primacy in the Church, a crisis that cuts to the heart of the
      apostolic and catholic identity of the Church.

      While most of the problems I will address in this paper are specific to the
      extraordinary situation of Orthodoxy in America, they have broader
      application because they reveal the crisis of primacy on the ecumenical
      level. (And I use "ecumenical" to refer to the oikumene � the whole Orthodox
      Catholic Church). They also reveal the challenge to the Church's
      organization and ecclesiology posed by the new political and cultural
      realities of the third millennium.

      I. Vision and Mission

      The nature of Church leadership stems directly from the nature of the
      Church's vision. The only true vision of the Orthodox Catholic Church is the
      Kingdom of God revealed in Jesus Christ, in other words, the Gospel. And all
      levels of Church leadership have the task of constantly renewing this
      vision. The Liturgy is the core of this constant renewal. It provides for us
      the icon of the Kingdom and of spiritual ascent into Christ, raising us up
      into the Body of Christ and fulfilling us as the community of the Faithful.

      Leadership in the Church has a single task: constantly to call us to this
      repentance in order that we may be purified of all distractions which hold
      us back from the living vision of the Kingdom and from fulfilling the
      mission to make disciples who will share the same vision. It is a call to
      faith: to enter into the living Body of Christ which is animated by the Holy
      Spirit, and to receive the "mind of Christ," the shared faith of all the
      saints from the very beginning. This call to repentance, to membership in
      the Church, and hence to a share in the vision and mission of the Kingdom of
      God, is unequivocally addressed to all people, without any qualification by
      any human distinction: race, ethnicity, citizenship, or language. There is
      "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism," (Ephesians 4 : 5) and hence, One Church.
      There cannot be different churches for different kinds of people.

      With that shared vision and mission comes shared responsibility. Our task
      within the Church is also to call one another, including our leaders, to
      repentance. This mutual responsibility for the integrity of the Tradition
      and for one another is the core of conciliarity � sobornost: mutual
      accountability of the leaders to the faithful and of the faithful to the
      leaders. But it is the particular role of the bishops to foster this
      conciliarity. Conciliarity is a healthy interdependence and synergy, in
      which mutual responsibility and accountability function in a spirit of love
      and respect. This holds on all levels of ecclesial organization.

      II. Leadership: Responsibility, Authority, and Accountability

      Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you,
      whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Obey those who
      rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as
      those who must give account. � Hebrews 13: 7, 17

      At the heart of leadership within the church is the care of souls, making
      the leader accountable for the lives and faith of those with whom he has
      been entrusted. The greater the role of leadership, the greater the
      accountability for the model one provides by one's own life, for the
      integrity of one's own faith and conduct, and for one's oversight of others.
      This responsibility is essential to authority. Authority has two meanings,
      both referring to the source of the vision and mission of the Church. It
      consists in the constant renewal of the vision itself, its "authorship;" and
      the "one who authorizes" or gives responsibility to others to fulfill the
      mission, holding them accountable for it.

      How do the elements of responsibility, authority, and accountability
      manifest themselves in an Orthodox theology of leadership?

      The Local Church

      Let us consider some basic ecclesiological principles of the Orthodox
      Catholic Church. There are two facets of leadership in Orthodox
      ecclesiology: mysteriological and organizational.

      Mysteriological or sacramental leadership is vested in the bishop, giving
      him the responsibility to authorize and empower others, through his blessing
      or ordination, to participate in that ministry for the building up of the

      The bishop sacramentally recapitulates his community in himself by virtue of
      his ordination. He bears all the fullness of the grace of the priesthood.
      Thus, the bishop is the "hierarch," "source of sanctification" as well as "
      archiereus," high priest (citing the pun of St Dionysios the

      The focus of the life of the Church is local: a bishop surrounded by his
      clergy and people, celebrating the Eucharist, is the icon of the Kingdom in
      all its fullness. It is the actualization of the Church as the Body of
      Christ. The local church headed by its bishop is itself the fullness of the
      Church; but the communion of these churches with each other through synods
      of bishops conveys the catholic identity to each level of organization.
      These synods, national and ecumenical, also constitute Eucharistic
      communities. Each is a communion of persons with a single presidency, which
      manifests the unity of the body of Christ.

      The primates of the national churches are not "super-bishops." There is no
      sacramental status above the ministry of bishop, so that, according to the
      Church's sacramental life, all bishops are equal. Thus it is a misnomer to
      refer to a national church or regional synod as a "local church."

      Each level of institutional organization expresses the Church and its
      catholicity in a particular place. The essential principle of organization,
      and hence jurisdiction, is that it is geographically and politically
      defined. This principle is expressed by one bishop in each city, and one
      Synod in each region, with the president of that synod as the primate. This
      held true for the Roman Papacy as well as all other local and regional


      The catholicity of the Church has two dimensions: the integrity of its
      orthodoxy and the universality of its mission. The local Church is the
      fundamental principle of Orthodox ecclesiology because it bears the fullness
      of sacramental life, the fullness of Apostolic faith and practice. Though
      there may be multiple ministries for diverse needs within the population �
      language, culture, or other demographic issues � all the Christians in each
      diocese are the responsibility of that one bishop. Thus the local church is
      truly Catholic, embracing all elements of human diversity within itself. Its
      catholicity, however, depends also on its communion with other churches in
      the common faith and practice. Neither sense of catholicity is possible
      without the bishop.

      This is so because the local bishop bears responsibility both for the
      internal integrity of his church as well as for its relationship with the
      other churches. It is through its bishop's presence on the synod that the
      local church relates to other local churches. The bishop is the point of
      accountability for that unity, both to his flock and to the synod in
      relation to them.

      In the apostolic vision, the essence of primacy is episcopal leadership.
      Every bishop occupies the chair of Peter that preserves the unity and
      integrity of Peter's Faith. There is only one episcopate, which each bishop
      possesses equally and completely.

      A "national church" is actually the synod of bishops, which elects a
      president from among its members. Their unity is a sign of the unity of the
      whole Body, and it is expressed in the person of the primate, who, as the
      agent of accountability, is responsible for fostering unity and communion.
      The primate, in turn, relates this synod and its local churches to the other
      national churches by maintaining doctrinal and sacramental communion with

      There can be no primacy without synodality, and no synodality without
      primacy. The primate is one among the others, first among equals; yet is
      given the responsibility of holding the others to accountability. The
      authority of the primate arises from the mutual consent of those who elect
      him, and his acceptance by the greater community of primates throughout the
      world. Real primacy is an active role of actual leadership, of
      responsibility and accountability, in the context of actual jurisdiction.

      III. Issues regarding Primacy in the Orthodox Church

      The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and
      account to him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his
      consent. But each may do those things only which concern his own parish and
      the country places which belong to it. But neither let him, who is the
      first, do anything without the consent of all, for so there will be
      unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit. �
      Apostolic Canon 34

      Autocephaly and Primacy

      Is there a primacy beyond that of the national church, and, if so, what is
      its role? The principle of the autocephaly of national synods has become the
      quintessential ecclesiological stance of the Orthodox Churches. According to
      this principle, each national synod has complete independence in governing
      its own affairs, and especially in electing its bishops and primate. The
      double office of a primate is to foster communion between the bishops and
      local communities through the regional synod, as well as to maintain
      relationships with other national churches.

      But at present, there is no effective overarching primacy in the Orthodox
      Church. Perhaps this is because there is no active "ecumenical synod" that
      embraces all Orthodox; and there has been no ecumenical council for over
      1200 years. The idea of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is based on primacy over
      an empire-wide synod, or ecumenical council. Indeed, canonically, the
      primacy of both Rome and Constantinople had one foundation: they were the
      imperial capitals. While this was feasible in the days of the Roman Empire,
      and later during the Ottoman Millet, it has long since become unrealistic.
      For the Empire effectively ceased to exist eight hundred years ago, and now
      only the Greek ethnic churches, and a few others, recognize the Ecumenical
      Patriarchate to be what it claims to be.

      While no one denies it a primacy of honor, it has no real institutional
      role, much less a role of actual leadership. This is partially due to its
      location in a hostile Islamic society; and partially due to the lack of
      cooperation and consensus as to its role among the other Orthodox Churches.
      Primacy of honor without primacy of jurisdiction is meaningless.

      Autocephaly without an overarching primacy has given rise in the national
      churches to an exaggerated self-sufficiency and to the blending of national
      or ethnic identity with that of Orthodox Christianity. Cultural and
      political agendas have become central to the missions of these churches. For
      many believers these agendas are intermingled with or even supersede the
      Gospel. Ethnos and culture � not Christ � have come to determine identity.

      As a result, worldwide there are few expressions of a unified Orthodox
      Church beyond those of Eucharistic concelebration and a few commonly
      enunciated positions. Even the Ecumenical Patriarchate is primarily a Greek
      ethnic institution, unabashedly promoting Hellenism. Ecclesiastically, this
      has come to mean that an Orthodox Christian's loyalty is to his ethnic
      homeland and to his "mother church," and that those churches maintain
      responsibility for all the people of their culture and nation, wherever they
      may be in the world.

      Mother Churches and the "Diaspora"

      The result is that almost all national churches have extended their
      jurisdictions beyond their geographic and political boundaries to the
      so-called diaspora. But Orthodox Christians who are faithful to the Gospel
      and the Fathers cannot admit of any such thing as a diaspora of Christians.
      Only ethnic groups can be dispersed among other ethnic groups. Yet the
      essential principle of geographic canonical boundaries of episcopal and
      synodal jurisdiction has been abrogated, and every patriarchate, every
      mother church, now effectively claims universal jurisdiction to serve "its"
      people in "diaspora." Given this fact, on what basis do we object to the
      Roman Papacy?

      This situation arose in reaction to the mass emigration of Orthodox from
      their home countries, and is continued as a means of serving the needs of
      these immigrant communities. It is perpetuated as a means of maintaining
      ethnic, cultural and political identity for those away from their home
      country; but also as a means of financial support for the mother churches
      from their children abroad.

      The confusion of ethnic identity and Orthodox Christian identity, expressed
      by competing ecclesiastical jurisdictions, is the incarnation of phyletism.
      Due to this confusion of the Gospel with ethnic or political identities,
      multiple parallel communities, each with its own allegiance to a foreign
      mother church, divide the Orthodox Church in North America and elsewhere
      into ethnic and political denominations. This distorts the Apostolic vision,
      and has severely compromised the catholicity of the Orthodox Churches, in
      which all Christians in a given territory are called to submit to a local
      synod of bishops.

      The problem is not so much the multiple overlapping jurisdictions, each
      ministering to diverse elements of the population. This could be adapted as
      a means of dealing with the legitimate diversity of ministries within a
      local or national church. The problem is that there is no common expression
      of unity that supersedes ethnic, linguistic and cultural divisions: there is
      no synod of bishops responsible for all the churches in America, and no
      primacy or point of accountability in the Orthodox world with the authority
      to correct such a situation.

      In the 21st century, people emigrate and move around, and Orthodox
      Christians need to be ministered to in their own language and with familiar
      traditions at least until they are acculturated. However, these should be
      particular ministries of the local or national church to particular groups �
      i.e. ministries to immigrant communities � rather than points of division.
      The cultural agendas of these external missions both distort the message of
      the Gospel and prevent people from entering into the Orthodox Church by
      forcing them to relinquish their own cultural identity in favor of someone
      else's. This also undermines any genuine missionary activity in the new

      In reality, people do assimilate to their new cultures, and join "native"
      churches. This has accounted for a massive apostasy from the Orthodox Church
      in the West, as people find their parents' ethnic cultures, and thus the
      churches that promote these cultures, to be increasingly alien. This
      apostasy begins with the second generation, and by the fourth generation
      there are few that remain practicing Orthodox Christians. They leave because
      they were unable to find Christ and salvation through the
      incomprehensibility of the now alien forms and language. No matter how
      successful they may appear, due to new waves of immigration, churches that
      superimpose a national or ethnic agenda over the Gospel will die out.

      Missionary Churches

      But in North America there is another, very different aspect to the
      ecclesiological complexity. Orthodox Christianity first came to America not
      as an ethnic diaspora but as a missionary outreach by the Russian Orthodox
      Church in 1794. While the 19th century saw great immigration of Orthodox
      people from different countries, nevertheless the normal canonical order
      embracing all Orthodox of all ethnic backgrounds was observed in America, up
      to the 1920s, under the supervision of the Russian Mission. There was a
      united Synod with a single archbishop, and several bishops with missionary
      outreach and ministries to the various ethnic communities. But for more than
      a century the overwhelming needs of the new immigrant communities did make
      the Church in America lose sight of its original missionary purpose.

      The division of the Orthodox Mission in America began in 1922 with the
      collapse of Russian Imperial support of the Mission following the Bolshevik
      coup, and the formation of parallel hierarchies, beginning with the Greek
      Archdiocese under Constantinople. They justified their action by a novel and
      idiosyncratic interpretation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon, relegating to
      Constantinople jurisdiction in all "barbarian lands." This was followed by
      the formation of several other ethnic jurisdictions, each subject to an Old
      World mother church. Further complications ensued as many of these
      communities were then divided into two or three competing segments
      corresponding to their various attitudes towards the political situation in
      their homelands, especially vis-�-vis Communism. Thus not only ethnic but
      political criteria distorted the message and mission of Orthodoxy in

      However, missionary work and conversions within the Russian Metropolia and
      throughout the Church, continued. By the 1970s the missionary expansion of
      the Orthodox Church had embraced large numbers of converts, as well as the
      children of immigrants who had only vague identification with their ethnic
      roots. Today, a great majority of the clergy and laity, including the
      bishops, are converts or children of converts. We have an American cultural
      identity and a multitude of divergent ethnic and racial roots, but our
      primary identity is as Orthodox Christians who live in America. This
      missionary expansion has taken hold in all the Orthodox jurisdictions in
      America, even the ones that assert cultural agendas. In no way are we in

      In 1970, the Russian Orthodox Church granted autocephaly to its American
      mission, forming the Orthodox Church in America. While this action remains
      controversial to this day, it recognized the existence of a local Church in
      America, with the fullness of sacramental integrity and institutional
      self-sufficiency. In other words, the gift of autocephaly established a
      hierarchy with the authority to incarnate the vision and mission of the
      Orthodox Church in North America by its own work, and to take responsibility
      for the life and growth of the Church in North America while remaining
      accountable to the other national Churches throughout the world. Finally,
      there was an effort to establish church life according to canonical norms.

      The dilemma, however, is that with autocephaly, the presence of any other
      jurisdiction on American territory becomes uncanonical, and membership in
      the Synod of the Orthodox Church in America becomes the criterion of
      canonicity for all bishops in America. This, of course, has not been pushed
      by the OCA. What is at stake, however, is the canonical order of the Church,
      its vision and mission.

      IV. Some Possible Resolutions

      Ecumenical Primacy

      The absence of a functional ecumenical primacy within the Orthodox Church
      has severe implications. There is no ministry or point of unity or
      accountability functioning beyond the level of a national church, nothing to
      point to a Christian identity aside from national, linguistic, political,
      and cultural identities. This compromises the catholicity of the Orthodox
      Church, threatening division and competition between its various churches.

      The Patriarchate of Constantinople is universally accepted as having a
      primacy of honor; but given its current situation, it is unable to lead.
      Furthermore, it promotes a cultural agenda of Hellenism that mutes its voice
      to the other churches. Its claim of jurisdiction over the so-called
      "barbarian lands," or "diaspora" falls on the deaf ears of other
      patriarchates that have established identical institutions in the same
      territories, disregarding its claims to jurisdiction outside the geographic
      boundaries of existing churches. Beyond this, having been the first to
      abrogate the unity of the Church in America, Constantinople's own political
      adventurism has divided the Church in Estonia, and threatens the unity of
      the Church in Ukraine and other places, and hence, its communion with Moscow
      and other autocephalous churches. By these actions it has broken trust in
      itself, and sacrificed its ability to lead.

      The only way an ecumenical primacy could work is if there is a functional
      and active ecumenical synod, which meets at regular intervals and is
      composed of the heads of all the autocephalous Churches. Such a permanent
      synod, provided for by the canons as a permanent synod presided over by the
      ecumenical primate, would create a context for the up-building of the sense
      of unity of the Orthodox Churches, and for the resolution of particular
      issues as they arise. Its primate would be a point of accountability,
      responsible for preserving the unity and vision of the Orthodox Church. Now
      more than at any time in history is this feasible, given available means of
      communication and transportation. This would take the full cooperation of
      all the autocephalous churches, providing an opportunity for the
      Patriarchate of Constantinople to exercise real leadership, inviting the
      rest of the Church to unity.

      Mother Churches and the "Diaspora"

      The fullness of the Church is present sacramentally in a local bishop and
      his community; but a local church's integrity is actually compromised when
      its bishop belongs not to a local synod but to one in a foreign country, a
      synod which can neither hold its bishop accountable nor be responsible for
      the life of the remote diocese. We have seen this over and over again in
      America. The territorial structure of the Orthodox Church is rooted in very
      practical issues: only through a local structure of accountability is a
      church able to maintain responsibility for its integrity. Outside that
      territorial structure, it is a disaster waiting to happen.

      Being tied to a "mother church" is not of itself a guarantee of legitimacy,
      nor even the identity of practices and customs with those of the mother
      church. The canonical tradition emphasizes the integrity of the local church
      and its communion with the mother churches; then both its legitimacy and its
      tradition remain intact. The diversity of traditions within Orthodoxy is
      completely appropriate, but the identity of the local church has to embrace
      all these traditions, and respect their integrity. The common vision of the
      Gospel, to which all these traditions bear witness, is the underlying point
      of unity, and the real source of identity. We cannot make the traditions
      something absolute: God is the only absolute. Each tradition is unique and
      valuable, but is also subject to growth and change if it is alive. Ministry
      to people who are formed in each tradition is a legitimate function of the
      local church; but it is also necessary to bring all the diverse ministries
      and expressions, the whole People of God, into unity and coordinated action,
      to conciliarity. In this consists the catholicity of the Church and the role
      of the local bishop.

      A feasible option which would both preserve the unity of the local church
      and minister to people of varying ethnicities and cultures would be for the
      "mother churches" to send clergy, even bishops, to care for the particular
      needs of those immigrant flocks, but who would sit on the synod of the local
      national church, and have their ministries coordinated through the local
      church. Such a bishop responsible for his ethnic missionary diocese could
      then be the representative of the American Church to his mother church. This
      could only promote a sense of unity both among the Churches and within the
      country, and preserve whatever flow of resources is necessary. Yet the
      overall vision and mission would remain the same, and the Apostolic
      canonical order would remain intact.

      The Episcopacy: A Monastic Perspective

      The role and nature of episcopal leadership within the Church is the core
      issue underlying all these institutional problems. All levels of episcopal
      primacy have been secularized, cast in terms of civil offices. Thus the
      patriarch is made analogous to an emperor, a bishop to a prince of the
      Church, etc. They even dress up in Church like Byzantine civil officials.
      The real nature of ministry, of arch-pastorship, and of Christian
      leadership, is lost.

      What is the structure of leadership within the Church? On all levels, it is
      a structure of obedience. The presbyters are in a relationship of obedience
      to their bishop. The bishops are in a relationship of obedience to their
      primate. The primate is in the relationship of spiritual father to his
      bishops. Jurisdiction is about a relationship of obedience, which is
      precisely responsibility and accountability.

      The crisis in the episcopacy is rooted in the breakdown of the basic
      structure of spiritual obedience, which is the essence of Orthodox
      Christianity. Spiritual obedience is not subjection and compliance. Rather,
      it is a hierarchy of love and shared responsibility, a hierarchy of
      discipleship. What is this but a structure of accountability in a spirit of
      trust and cooperation, in mutual love and respect? Moreover, it is a complex
      of very personal relationships. When these relationships become simply
      institutional, and the personal becomes relativized, the very nature of the
      Church, which in its very essence is about the actualization of authentic
      personhood, is distorted.

      This breakdown comes from the secularization of the Church's structure by
      the centuries of imperial subjugation, by the corruption of authority into
      power, by the reduction of church leadership to an institutional model, and
      the reduction of membership in the Church to civic duty. The Faith itself
      was degraded from a personal commitment to Christ to a socio-political
      ideology. Nominal church membership and nominal Orthodox identity are the
      foundations of secularization. This kind of corruption began in the fourth
      century. When the Church was subjected to the Roman, then Ottoman, and then
      Russian Empires, then to the status of state church, it was effectively
      reduced to a department of state. The bishops and administration of the
      Church assumed imperial roles, insignia, and rituals; and with them, the
      Christian vision of the leader as servant became a hypocritical parody. Of
      course, there have been notable exceptions.

      This led to the separation of charismatic and institutional authority within
      the Church. What followed was the bureaucratization of church leadership:
      the reduction of the episcopacy to institutional administration, and the
      virtual elimination of its pastoral role. Charismatic authority within the
      church was tolerated among monastic elders, but had little other influence
      in the life of the Church from the late Byzantine period through the
      Turkokratia and the suppressions of monasticism in the Russian Empire. The
      fruit of this was the suppression of creativity and initiative,
      theologically and organizationally, for fear of being disciplined and
      rejected. Instead, personal ambition and competition for position became
      dominant within the church's institution. Charismatic leadership arising
      from spiritual vision, the fruit of asceticism, found little context to
      express itself, even being regarded as dangerous, in the state-controlled
      institution of the church.

      The bishops came to wield power over the lives of their clergy, and instead
      of being chief pastors, they became distant administrators feared by their
      clergy. Obedience became confused with compliance and submission. Authority
      came to be identified with power, humility with subjection, and respect with
      adulation and sycophancy. Accountability was always referred "upwards:" the
      bishops to the patriarch and emperor or sultan; the priests to the bishops;
      while the people simply ignored the hierarchy. Even the monasteries, where
      the ancient vision of the apostolic church was most clearly maintained, were
      subjected to this secularization of power and office.

      The corrupting fruit of secularization is fear and the lack of trust, hence
      isolation, autonomy, self-will and the breakdown of the real authority of
      the episcopacy. It destroys souls and the institution of the Church.
      Secularization reduces the Body of Christ to a religious organization; it is
      the form of religion, deprived of its power.

      The original vision of the episcopacy was a model of spiritual discipleship,
      mirroring Christ and the apostles. Christ is the Master: not the master of
      slaves, but the teacher � not despota (!) but didaskalos. The apostles were
      his disciples, his students. Christ did not exercise power over his
      disciples, but his authority in their lives arose from their voluntary
      cooperation in love and respect. Thus, He no longer called them disciples,
      but friends. What made them friends is their obedience � not subjection, but
      synergy in love. Is this not the model we should be following?

      But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the
      Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over
      them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great
      among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among
      you, let him be your slave � just as the Son of Man did not come to be
      served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for man." (Matthew 20 :

      Spiritual Fatherhood

      Christ exercised the role of spiritual father to his disciples. The role of
      the bishop, as well as that of any headship in the Orthodox Church, is
      spiritual fatherhood: pastor in a parish, abbot in a monastery, bishop in a
      diocese, primate in a synod. To be a spiritual father means to be a shepherd
      and teacher, to exhort, rebuke, and encourage his disciples in their faith,
      service to one another, and especially, love for one another. It means to
      take responsibility for the salvation of these particular others, which
      presumes a relationship of obedience. True obedience is offered freely in
      love; it is in absolute opposition to the corruption of power and control.

      Spiritual obedience is precisely a structure of accountability. The
      disciples are accountable for their obedience to the father; but the
      spiritual father is responsible not only to develop each disciple to the
      fullness of his potential through that obedience, but to unify the whole
      body through his pastoral role � to keep the whole body in synergy. The
      authority of the spiritual father comes from the cooperation of his
      disciples. The spiritual father is thus accountable to his disciples. True
      obedience is thus a relationship of absolute mutuality. Thus, the ministry
      of spiritual fatherhood is a charism within the Church and for the sake of
      the Church, not over it. The bishops and presbyters are part of the People
      of God, not lords over them; as spiritual fathers, they can only function
      within this structure of mutual accountability and responsibility, upon
      which all Christian authority rests.

      Christian authority cannot be imposed from above, but has its source in the
      voluntary cooperation of love, obedience, and mutual accountability. This is
      conciliarity, sobornost, in the true sense. The bishop recapitulates his
      local church in himself: this is the charism of ordination. Yet, the bishop
      has no authority without his church. Ordination only functions within the
      body of the faithful and is meaningless outside the context of the Church.
      While grace elevates the one ordained, that grace can only function within a
      context of the synergy and consensus of the Church � ultimately manifest in
      the Liturgy. But this vision was distorted by the conflation of the clerical
      hierarchy and the imperial office, spiritual authority and political power;
      and the divorce between charismatic and institutional leadership, thus
      secularizing the clergy.

      In other words, the bishops elect the primate of their synod, the presbyters
      should elect their bishop, and monastics elect their abbot or abbess. Thus
      primacy, the authority of the spiritual father, proceeds from the consent of
      those who offer their obedience to him. And he is responsible to them and
      for them, as they are to him. Grace acts through and fulfills their synergy
      and unity of mind and heart in mutual love.

      This model works on every level of church organization, and is the core of
      the evangelical, patristic, and canonical vision. In it there is no place
      for fear, power, or control but rather, a communion in love and mutual
      respect in voluntary cooperation.

      Even presidency at the Eucharistic celebration is in function of this
      relationship. The pastor in his parish, abbot in his monastery, bishop in
      his diocese or primate in his synod, presides because of his role as
      spiritual father. He is not the spiritual father simply because he presides;
      this eliminates the personal dimension of ecclesial community leadership. He
      is the "good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep." This is the
      ultimate accountability of the spiritual father.

      The true spiritual father, like Christ, can never refer or take anything to
      himself. He always points to God the Father, "from whom every paternity is
      named." Any kind of ego gratification is spiritual death, but this is
      especially so in the case of spiritual fatherhood which demands kenotic
      humility, the death of the ego. The only way to achieve this is spiritual

      Spiritual formation has one goal: the ascent to spiritual maturity, to
      spiritual vision. S Spiritual vision, or theoria, is a gift of grace
      bestowed only after one has prepared oneself to receive it by opening
      oneself to God through purification, leading to dispassion through ascetic
      discipline and contemplative prayer. Through the experience of illumination,
      one gains perspective on all the external forms and issues which constitute
      temptations. One must first transcend the ego, one must "crucify the old man
      who is corrupt through the passions of the flesh," in order to attain to a
      clarity of vision and the gift of discernment. As long as we are controlled
      by our passions, our motives and desires will be self-serving. Only through
      attaining dispassion can we be freed from the blindness of our
      self-centeredness, in order to truly love the other unconditionally, free
      from any selfish agendas. Then a man has the ability to be a true spiritual
      father: to discern in his disciples what holds them back from attaining
      dispassion and spiritual maturity, having the vision to see what each one
      needs to grow.

      The episcopate, and all primacy, demand this kind of spiritual vision, the
      charismatic dimension, arising from ascetic self-discipline, in order for
      the bishops to discern the pastoral task for each person for whom they are
      responsible, and the clarity of mind to discern the path for the future.
      This kind of spiritual vision is necessary to discern the will of God, the
      Presence and the activity of God, in order to guide the church into active
      cooperation, synergy, with the Divine will, and to see and eliminate any
      personal agendas or passions which disrupt the communion of the Church with
      God and with one another.

      Conclusion: Spiritual Fatherhood and Primacy

      Real primacy is about leadership, and Orthodox spiritual leadership is
      inseparable from spiritual fatherhood, in which spiritual children offer
      their obedience in love to their spiritual fathers, who in turn care for
      their souls. This model holds true for a monastery with an abbot and his
      monks, a parish with a pastor and his flock, a diocese with the bishop and
      his presbyters, or a national church with the primate and his bishops. So it
      must also hold true on the ecumenical level.

      The Church is not a civil society, with its programs, political and social
      influence, and worldly goals. It is rather a community built on faith in
      Jesus Christ, united in the common mission of the Gospel. The Church is
      composed of those who share an identity that comes from faith, and
      transcends all worldly and secular, ethnic, social, economic and racial
      divisions. It is the living incarnation of the Kingdom of God on earth. It
      embraces all human diversity, bringing all to unity in Christ.

      Spiritual leadership within the Church, especially the episcopacy, has as
      its function to lead people into that Kingdom, to illumine and perfect them
      in the Faith, and thus to transform life in this world one soul at a time.
      This leadership is primarily a call to repentance, to re-focus on God, and
      to leave behind all the distractions of sin. This leadership is manifested
      in authentic spiritual guidance, which exorcises the corruption of sin and
      ego-centrism, and leads the Church in oneness of mind and heart to the
      synergetic praise of God in the glorious Liturgy of the Kingdom.

      Perspectives on Orthodoxy in America: Editorials by (then) Abbot Jonah

      This collection of editorials from Divine
      the journal of the Monastery of Saint John of San Francisco, represents over
      a decade of observations on the life of the Orthodox Church in America. The
      articles have as their primary subjects monasticism, missionary outreach,
      and the vision and future of the Orthodox Church in America.

      Some common themes are the necessity of Orthodox unity, the importance of
      monasticism to the growth of Orthodoxy in America, and the missionary
      imperative we face. Central to these, however, is the overall vision of what
      Orthodoxy can be, actualized, in this country. As the Orthodox Church in
      America, we must preserve a catholic vision, with full integrity and great
      breadth, keeping our focus on Christ and the Gospel.

      Abbot Jonah (now Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and New York)
      Friday in Thomas Week, 2008

      Editorials by Abbot Jonah

      "The Orthodox Church in America: Vision, Vocation, Mission, Identity"

      "Where do we Go from Here?"

      "A Vision of Contemporary Monasticism: Valaam and Elder Sophrony"

      "Monastic Mission and Witness in the History of American Orthodoxy"

      "Creativity and Tradition"

      "Missionary Spirituality"

      "Orthodoxy: Mere Christianity"

      "The Cross of Catholi<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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