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Where are we? Where are we going?

We have just begun the long, hard work of coming to terms with what has happened in the OCA, cleaning up the mess, and setting course for the future. When I read the comments section of OCA News or listen to discussions elsewhere, it seems that there are almost as many potential directions as we have members . Twenty-four thousand (24,000) may be a pathetically low number of official members, but it’s an overwhelming number of alternatives.

Among things being bandied about:

+Seraphim of Ottawa is a sure thing because he was nearly elected last time,

+ Seraphim of Ottawa is unthinkable because of Appendix F of the SIC report,

+Job is a sure thing because of his role in pressing for confrontation with the mess,

People feel rushed into support for +Job and want to look at alternatives,

+Benjamin is a sure thing because of his role leading the SIC,

+Benjamin shouldn’t be elected now because he is young and needs to prove his stability over a longer time,

Everyone connected in any way with the past is unacceptable,

The very idea of a robust central administration for the OCA is a proven failure, and the assessment should be reduced to $50  ("To starve the beast", Grover Norquist style),

The very idea of the OCA itself is a proven failure and we should make a bold gesture that clearly rejects the past,

Elect +Philip Metropolitan as a gesture towards unity with the Antiochians,

Elect +Basil [Essey] Metropolitan for similar reasons,

Elect the Russian Orthodox bishop of Vienna, +Hilarion, as a break from the past,

Elect a priest who is not yet a bishop,

Elect a divorced priest,

Consider married priests ....

The range is dizzying. But most striking is that the impetus and energy behind the options seems to come almost exclusively from a focus on the past -- reject the past, correct the past, boldly break with the past. Lost in the mix is the reality that, whatever we do, it is also a commitment to a particular future. Such commitments must be weighed and fully understood. We must not act precipitously from emotional hunger for closure, from our impatience to move on. We must not embrace bold gestures without fully considering where they lead.

Take for example the idea of electing +Hilarion as Metropolitan.

Is this the right man?

Is this the right time for what his election would represent?

On the man question, I don’t know.

Some know him well and admire him greatly. I have heard some speak warmly of his pastoral manner in Moscow. I have heard others worry that in Vienna he has been effective in ministering to new Russians, but may have alienated the older Russian community there. I would like to hear much more about his role during the controversy in England. As a delegate trying to decide how to vote, I am left with an impression of a very talented man, a powerful intellect, an accomplished academic, but with little indication of whether or not he would be right for America.

We want to make a clean break with the past, and this makes an outside candidate such as +Hilarion attractive.  But who +Hilarion is and his worthiness as an individual hardly seem the main point. The question is:  What would his election represent for the OCA?

Bishop Hilarion, by virtue his position and history, represents a refutation of autocephaly and the founding vision of the OCA. There is simply no other way to interpret the election of an ROC bishop as Metropolitan than as a move toward being re-united with Moscow.

Are we really ready to make that decision now?

Are we in agreement that this crisis doesn’t simply represent a failure on the part of the OCA, but rather represents the complete failure of the OCA as a concept? Have we witnessed the failure of some people acting in a bad way or have we witnessed the fundamental failure of the institution itself? Certainly the failure has been systemic, but is that really the same as declaring the experiment of an autocephalous Orthodox Church rooted in a not traditionally Orthodox country dead?

Truthfully, the answers aren’t self-evident at this time. Maybe what we have experienced is indeed the failure of the concept and founding vision of the OCA. There’s debate and discussion to be had on this, but we are far from ready to answer the question.

In the future, the time may be right for the bold move of selecting a Metropolitan who moves us towards re-uniting with the ROC or, alternatively, uniting with the Antiochians, or some other direction that we can’t foresee right now.  But we need agreement on the direction, we need to have debated and thought about the alternatives and their implications, we need to have reached out to the other jurisdiction to discuss our intentions … such a move needs to be the culmination of a process.

Only now as the cobwebs of the past get shaken off can we explore our vision, our mission and our reality. Only now can we begin to discuss and debate our future direction.  We may all agree that a radical shift in direction is essential. We may all hunger to reject the past. But we are nowhere near ready to commit to a specific new direction that represents the abandonment of our founding vision.

At least, I’m not.

- Rebecca Matovic, NY




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