Fr. Michael reports from the Parish Life Conference--at 35,000 feet.
The biggest news from the PLC is that there is indeed a move by the Ecumenical Patriarch and all of the Autocephalous churches to create a single Orthodox jurisdiction in each country or region of the world that has a significant Orthodox presence. It looks like it will be happening much more quickly than anyone would have imagined even one year ago. In 2013 there is a world-wide "Great Council" planned--the date has been set--at which these new Orthodox churches will recognized. At least this is the plan as I understand it at this point. For many (mostly legitimate) reasons this process is being orchestrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch and has a very "Greek" flavour to it. It could probably take place no other way. Since the Greek Church in North America makes up the largest, richest and most numerous parishes and since the “First Among Equals” is in fact the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, it makes sense that a lot of Greek is being spoken in back rooms as this process goes forward.
Please don’t construe my comments on the “Greekness” of the process as anything like cynicism. I am not at all cynical about the process. It is the incarnational reality of the Orthodox Christian world we live in. I think I and many others had the false hope just a few weeks ago that this transition to an autonomous and eventually autocephalous Canadian Orthodox Church would happen through a self-guided and self-generated process. It was as if I imagined that one day we Canadian Orthodox Christians would get together and sort of declare our unity and that the Mother Churches would reluctantly give their consent to a completed reality. As I think about it now, such a process would most likely have resulted (if it ever could have gotten any Greeks on board) in quite a bit of alienation not only among Orthodox Churches in Canada but also between the new Canadian Orthodox entity and the Orthodox Churches worldwide. Now that this process has begun, it seems almost self-evident to me that it could not have been any other way.
Even now, His Grace Bishop Basil (of the Antiochians, not the Greeks) is leading the Secretariat of the North American Episcopal Assembly to map out where the dioceses and archdioceses of these new entities (Canada and America) will be. Even now, all of the organizations that used to report to SCOBA are reporting to the new Episcopal Assembly, which has inherited and superseded SCOBA’s responsibilities and ministries. Sure toes are being stepped on. Feathers are being ruffled. Large fish in yesterday’s local pond are finding themselves treated as small fish in today’s pond of international Orthodoxy. But I think if we keep a level head and do not give ourselves permission to assume the worst in others, we may find ourselves in an autonomous (probably not autocephalous) Canadian Orthodox Church within the next several years. And this is a very good thing. It is good not merely because cooperation is good and will bring many benefits. It is good because it is the Orthodox way: One bishop in a city and one synod in a country.