Diocese of the West Weighs In On +Jonah
In a unanimous resolution adopted yesterday afternoon, the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the West publicly recognized "a significant disruption" in the relationship between the Synod and the Primate of the OCA, Metropolitan Jonah, and called on the Synod " to exercise its pastoral care for the entire Church by calling its Primate to accountability."
The 20 member body, composed of 13 priests (6 elected clergy, 5 District Deans, the clergy MC member, and the Chancellor) and 6 elected lay members, headed by the Ruling Bishop, +Benjamin, reaffirmed the "conciliar nature and polity" of the OCA, dismissing the idea that the Primate is " a sovereign authority who acts independently and without reference to his peers, the diocesan bishops."
The Council's resolution offered 5 recommendations to the upcoming Synod and Metropolitan Council meetings ( to encourage the Metropolitan to accountability) that if adopted by those bodies, would severely restrict the Metropolitan's public role in the OCA. These include establishing Synodal committees to "control disbursement of the Metropolitan's salary, travel budget and to oversee his "decisions and pronouncements" as they relate to the OCA's external affairs and relations with other Churches. The resolution asks that the present situation be clarified with the "understanding" that the oversight of the Chancery and its staff, as well as the departments and offices of the Church are the "joint responsibility" of the Synod and the Metropolitan Council.
Fr. Lowell's Report
The meeting also heard a first-hand account of the recent Syosset meeting between the Bishops and clergy from the OCA with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfayev and Fr.Nicholas Balashov, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the External Affairs Department of the Russian Orthodox Church from Fr. David Lowell, who participated in the meeting. Fr. David is the new clergy representative from the Diocese of the West to the Metropolitan Council.
In his personal remarks Fr. David stated (as has been previously reported) that the Moscow Patriarchate "supports the autocephaly of the OCA." +Hilarion then "made it clear that the Moscow Patriarchate will not intervene in this crisis". +Hilarion's visit was a "fact-finding mission undertaken at the request of Patriarch Kirill for the simple reason that they had no real information, except that which as available on the internet". The Patriarchate, the Metropolitan explained to the OCA, "was being asked questions that it could not answer" - an especially unfortunate position as +Jonah precipitated the crisis on the the final day of the meeting of Orthodox Churches in Chambesy, Switzerland. Following the discussions +Hilarion acknowledged, in Fr. Lowell's words, " ... that we have a real problem here, with no obvious and easy solution. "
The Metropolitan has issued no comment on the Diocesan Resolution, but his supporters at OCATruth.com were quick to denounce the resolution, and the OCA, as the "Orthodox Circus of America".
The full resolution, posted on the Diocese of the West's website (here) reads:
"Unanimous Resolution of the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the West Adopted March 29, 2011
Whereas, the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the West affirms the conciliar nature and polity of the Orthodox Church as expressed in the Holy Canons and the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America; and
Whereas, the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the West understands the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America to be bound by the Holy Canons to act in concert with his synod of bishops, rather than being a sovereign authority who acts independently and without reference to his peers, the diocesan bishops; and
Whereas, the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the West recognizes a significant disruption in this critical relationship and urges the Holy Synod to exercise its pastoral care for the entire Church by calling its Primate to accountability and compliance with decisions agreed upon by the Holy Synod; and
Whereas, the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the West recognizes the Metropolitan to be the presiding officer and chairman of both the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council;
Be it resolved: the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of the West reminds these two bodies of their fiduciary and legal responsibilities and urges the Holy Synod, with the support and consent of the Metropolitan Council, to:
• establish a committee within the Holy Synod to control disbursement of the Primate’s compensation based upon his compliance with the decisions and policies agreed upon by the Holy Synod;
• establish a committee under the authority of the Holy Synod to control the distribution of funds in the line item for the Metropolitan’s travel;
• establish a committee under the authority of the Holy Synod to screen and vet significant decisions and pronouncements that relate to external affairs and the OCA’s relations with other Churches;
• understand the oversight of the chancery, its officers and staff to be the joint responsibility of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council, and;
• understand the departments and offices of the Orthodox Church in America to be under the oversight of both the Metropolitan Council and the Holy Synod."
The next meetings of the Synod and the Metropolitan Council will both be held in Chicago, on May 2-4 and May 4-6 respectively, following the enthronement celebrations for Bishop-elect Matthias as the new Bishop of Chicago.
- Mark Stokoe