On the Selection
of a New Metropolitan
by Fr. Geoffrey Korz, Ontario
For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?1 Corinthians 3:4
Years ago, while I was still working at our Legislature, someone asked me if I ever thought of doing work in the Church.
"I can bear the evils of politics around here," I said.
"I don''t know if I could bear them in the Church."
For the last several years, the Orthodox Church in America has borne the burden of the evils of politics. Today, as the Church struggles to recover from these sins, the selection of a new Metropolitan presents the Church with an opportunity to choose its path.
There are those - both clergy and faithful - who in various was have begun to approach these spiritual sicknesses with the medicine the Church has always used and taught: repentance, prayer, the Holy Mysteries, and humility.
Yet there are some who have not learned the lesson of the last few years -indeed, the lesson of the Fall Itself. These have fallen to the factionalism of politics, and to the arm-twisting and campaigning that go with it, that take us far from the Mind of Christ. While such political manoeuvring may make great television in an electoral year, the spiritual toll it takes on the human soul, and on the love and harmony of the Body of Christ, is poisonous.
Recently, a small circle of people centred at St. Vladimir's Seminary have put forward the name of Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of the Russian Orthodox Church as a possible candidate for Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America. We hear of lobbying efforts undertaken by prominent clergy. We learn of letters circulated by this circle to members of the Holy Synod, seeking their support of their chosen candidate. A delegation even made the trip from New York (and other places) to Toronto, Canada, to hear the premiere of their candidate's musical Oratorio, and to lend their support.
Some have suggested that the Orthodox Church in America needs to look elsewhere, outside our continent, to find a suitable chief hierarch. This may be true, if it is in fact God's will. Such a move runs the risk of raising serious questions about autocephaly, the upbuilding of which many have laboured their whole lives.
Most North American faithful do not know Bishop Hilarion well enough to offer any assessment of his spiritual suitability. While this question is fundamental, it is beside the point we would make here. The candidate is not the question. Even if God sends us a saint, his path can only be tarnished by his promotion by courtiers and lobbyists. The real concern is the conduct of pastors. When pastors become political organizers, and fall to organizing their factions, it is not merely a sign of a few misguided individuals: it is evidence of a broader, spiritual sickness, that seeks to use the world's remedies ahead of those offered by Christ.
After nearly four decades of criticism of the Byzantine politics of various jurisdictions in North America, the celebrities of the OCA are charting a treacherous course, not by the suggestion of any particular candidate, but by turning what should be the work of the Holy Spirit into something base, competitive, and political.
Those who take these steps today have been among the most prominent cheerleaders of autocephaly and jurisdictional unity in North America. Yet the glue that they seem to be offering to hold together such Christian brotherhood is not the unity of the Holy Spirit - it is the same contrived, dry, academic administration that has propelled the Orthodox Church in America into its current spiritual crisis.
The methods of the fallen world will not save us. Other jurisdictions have tried and are trying this path, and it is destroying them. It will destroy us to, if we let it.
(Father Geoffrey Korz is Rector of All Saints of North America Orthodox Church, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.)