Reflections On The Scandal
Why Is The OCA Important To Us?
By Fr. Rauno Pietarinen, Joensuu, Finland
When the Orthodox Church in America received its autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate in 1970 a lively discussion among Orthodox Churches around the world was opened. In this discussion, the attitude of the Finnish Orthodox Church caused a small sensation. Our small autonomous Church belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate gave its support to the new American Church. The late Archbishop Paul even invited the Primate of the OCA to Finland in 1978 - but under pressure was forced to cancel the invitation "..in order to keep the Finnish Church functioning” he said. Otherwise, he would have been defrocked.
The autocephaly of the American Church was like a breath of fresh air, at a time its sister Churches throughout the world were stuck in the structures of the ancient world. They refused to recognize the changes that had taken place during the past centuries. Several great theologians in the OCA had already gained world-wide respect, and the new Church soon provided an example of meaningful liturgical life for other Orthodox churches.
Being independent of the ”powers of this world”, the OCA was able – on the example of the Russian Sobor of 1917/1918 – to offer a theologically, liturgically and spiritually credible witness in ecumenical, inter-Orthodox and even non-religious contexts. Orthodox in many countries admired this little Church that was trying to be like a real Church; not a museum, ethnic club or an extension of a governmental agency. Not only in our Finnish Church, but in many other Churches as well, the young OCA appeared to function the way they felt the Body of Christ is supposed to function. Many of us were convinced that the primary vocation of the OCA was the salvation of as many people as possible not just in America, but in witness around the world. Hierarchs and priests from the OCA visited Finland often and taught our clergy and the people. The visitors were received with joy, not the least because their ecclesial background reflected a healthy and sober Orthodoxy.
Over the past two years we have, with sorrow, followed the difficulties that have made the whole OCA shake. It is not our task here in Finland to offer any advice on these difficulties. Instead, we like all Orthodox, have the right to say aloud that we truly expected, and still expect much, from the youngest of the autocephalous Churches.
We pray that the disease will be cured. We pray that the patient be well again so that the OCA could again give its special kind of witness of faith; a witness that is convincing to the 21st century. Only one witness is needed to keep truth alive. The OCA is important for us, and all Orthodox, because it is the only concrete case in which a local Church has received the structure that really belongs to a local Church.
Without the Orthodox Church of America, Orthodoxy would go 100 years back in time.
Fr Rauno Pietarinen, a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary (’80), is the Rector of the Orthodox Seminary in Joensuu, Finland.
This text was orginally published on his blog
( http://www.theol.net) on June 7, 2007. English translation is published by the OCANews.org with the author’s permission.