God bless Archbishop Dmitri and grant him many years! He gave yesterday’s opening address at the All American Council that will be, I believe, a singular turning point in the present direction of the Orthodox Church in America, in its recovery from our present distress and a clear vision for the future of American Orthodoxy. It was for want of another phrase, a ‘come to Jesus moment’, literally and figuratively, for everyone sitting in that hall and for all listening to the Ancient Faith Radio podcast. If you didn’t immediately want to act on his pastoral call for repentance and reconciliation, your heart must be spiritually frozen.
Archbishop Dmitri talked plainly and openly about the recent difficulties, including the “local, isolated dishonesty’ of some Church officials. He called it the ‘first major internal challenge’ confronting a young and growing church, which had exposed a bit of our immaturity, weakness and neglect. He honestly expounded on the negative impact this has had on the Church and its ministries, and the resulting schism, judgmentalism, fear, anger and coffee-talk gossip and sermonizing this has caused among the laity and clergy. He again and again urged reconciliation and a remembrance of our unity, and the primary importance of the Gospel message.
We became slaves to the letters of the law and we forget Christian compassion and love and forgiveness…I think probably we were very close to it….It would appear that the current financial scandal commends more attention than the scandal of the Cross…[and] provokes a more ready response from us than Christ’s words to go forth and teach.
Some policy changes were included in his speech – most importantly in where he believes the strength of the OCA is to be found: at the parish and mission level and within sovereign dioceses. He stressed the primary importance of the fundamentals of the faith, the “basic disciplines of Orthodox Christianity”, and the need for people to get back to the Gospel message and its “business” of proclaiming the Christian message, not an obsession with church politics (my interpretation) and “the letter of the law”.
Archbishop Dmitri’s greatest accomplishment has been his leadership of the Diocese of the South and his almost single handed creation of the Diocese as it is today – a growing, mission-minded, conservative witness for Orthodoxy in the southern United States. He knows what a strong diocese can do to preach and spread the faith, and brings this vision to the All American Council. I believe a proposed resolution on the Council’s agenda, reducing the national church tithe to $50, would allow this money to be tithed more directly to the local diocese. Archbishop Dmitri stressed that a sovereign diocese would allow dioceses to use their abilities at a local level rather than be subject to direction from a central church government a thousand miles away. His other, as yet unrealized, goal is for the establishment of diocesan pastoral schools to provide regional educational opportunities in areas of concern that are specific to a particular diocese. Not as a way to undermine the schools of theology, but to augment them.
Throughout the entire address you can hear the pastoral love, the humility, wisdom and sound judgment of a life lived in serving the Church. Vladyka’s ability to speak with charity and patience while at the same time calling everyone to try harder, to break out of their spititual limitations and sins is what the Christian life is about. I find it ironic that we just elected a president whose message of hope and change motivated an entire country. Our beloved Archbishop Dmitri nailed it here with the true meaning of hope and change. Eis Polla Eti Despota!