Met. Jonah to Ecumenical Patriarch: Back off!!
Metropolitan Jonah: Ecumenical Patriarch back off!
Monday April 6, 2009
For Orthodox Christian readers, I have a big international news story to report from Dallas. You might have read the red-hot shots a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew took at the OCA Metropolitan Jonah recently, as part of the EP's plan for all American Orthodox Christians to submit to the headship of the EP, who is based in a compound in Istanbul.
Well. Last night at Pan-Orthodox Vespers here at St. Seraphim Cathedral here in Dallas, Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA responded. Watch his sermon here. It's a bombshell that will rock the Orthodox world. Concluding line: "We might affirm to our bishops that they might tell the churches of the Old World: 'There is an American Orthodox Church. Leave it alone.'"
Jonah said to the congregation that two things unite us: we're all Orthodox Christians, and we're all Americans, even though we're under many jurisdictions. Right now in world Orthodoxy, it is being propose (by the EP) that "we all submit to Constantinople, we all submit to a foreign patriarchate, where all decisions are made there. ... We surrender the freedom we have embraced as American Orthodox Christians to a patriarchate still under Islamic domination. I think we have a better solution."
Jonah said that this is something hugely important, and imminent. He pointed to a meeting to be held in Cyprus in June, as a possible precursor to a move to put Orthodox churches under more direct control of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Said Jonah, derisively: "I would submit that if we wanted a Pope, we would be under the real one."
He went on to say the Old World patriarchs don't understand what it means to be Orthodox and American. He said we want to be governed by the Orthodox faith, yes, but we also must appreciate our diversity.
"I don't think the Holy Fathers in the Phanar" -- the compound in Istanbul where the EP lives and works -- "understand that we're a church, albeit of separate administrations, that has a common value of determining our own destiny. A church that is dedicated to the conciliar process, which does not ignore the voice of the laity, which does not ignore the voice of the priests. A church that is united in its common commitment, because we are Orthodox not simply by birth [or] our ethnic heritage. We are Orthodox because we have chosen to be Orthodox. We are Orthodox because we have chosen to be committed to Jesus Christ and the Gospel."
We have, said Jonah, an evangelical commitment to the Gospel, "not to some nationalist or imperialist ideology from some forgotten empire. Not the imposition of foreign customs and the submission to foreign despots, but to a united church in this country, a church in which we value the diversity and we value the unity equally. A church in which we appreciate one another, and listen to the voice of one another, so that no person is devalued. So that the traditions which our fathers in the faith have brought to this country are valued."
"There are those there who say there was no canonical Orthodox Church in North America until 1924" until the Ecumenical Patriarchate established the Greek Orthodox Archidocese here, Jonah said.
"Excuse me? The Russian Orthodox Church established a missionary work here in 1794. It established English-speaking churches where priests were trained to speak, to serve the liturgy, to teach the Gospel, and to bring faithful people into the Orthodox Church. From 1857, in San Francisco, they say that our unity in America before was a myth. That the time of St. Tikhon. Well, yes, there were a few dozen churches that were not part of it. But what about the 800 that were? Churches that may have had Russian clergy, or clergy that were trained by the Russians, but were composed by Greeks and Serbs, of Arabs, Romanians and Bulgarians, and of converts who have stood for the integrity of the Orthodox faith and the integrity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the integrity of the witness, the missionary outreach, which is essential to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not to make people Greeks, not to make people Russians, not to make people Arabs, but to bring the
Gospel of Jesus Christ to this land ... in the fullness of its integrity.
There are those there in the Old World who devalue this. Who say that they are the only criterion of Orthodoxy. Who are ignorant of our saints. Who refuse to recognize the sacrifice of so many of those who have come before us in Christ to establish the Gospel here. I think we have a different solution. It's imperative for us to come together. It's imperative not for all the other churches -- the Antiochians, the Serbians, the Bulgarians, the Romanians and everyone to join the OCA -- but to come together in a new organization or Orthodoxy in North America that brings us all together in one church ... so that all the bishops sit under one synod, so that all the metropolitans get together in one synod, something like that."
Jonah said we must continue a fraternal relationship with our sister churches in the Old World, and to help protect them against any threats, "whether it be an aggressive Islam, or against communists who now call themselves democrats." But:
"It is imperative, brothers and sisters, imperative on us, that we come together, and with one voice, as the Orthodox Church in North America, to say to the holy fathers of the Old World: the Orthodox Church exists in North America. We're grateful for the support that you have given us. We love and support your work, and we rejoice in your victories, and we're sad with your tragedies. But you have to give us the freedom to take care of our own church in our own country in our own culture, and not to be controlled by people who have never heard a word of English, much less would allow a word of English to be spoken in the liturgy. We can't allow our church to be controlled by people who have no appreciation for our culture, and who have to bow to the Turkish Islamic authorities."
Jonah ended by saying God is calling all Orthodox in North America to come together as one, no matter where their ancestors came from. He said we all need to stand together, and tell the churches in the Old World: "There is an American Orthodox church. Leave it alone."
Boom! It's on. Hold on to your mitres.