I’ve been meaning to post Part 2 of Kevin Allen’s Illumined Heart interview for days now, but getting slammed at work wasn’t part of my post-New Year’s plan. I wanted to ease into the routine after a pretty slow Christmas work schedule, not spend the last few days running like a hamster on a wheel. Now that I’ve been back at work I have just today replayed this interview at least 6 times, and each time I hear something new and exciting.
In particular, it’s so encouraging to hear Metropolitan Jonah talk about the important position the OCA’s Metropolitan holds as the head of the autocephalous American Orthodox church. For so long it seems the OCA has been insular and suffering from a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. The Church of Serbia, the Church of Finland, the Church of Poland, for example, are autocephalous or self-governing churches. How are we any different? Yet, I just don’t see the OCA confidently embracing itself as The Orthodox Church in or ‘of’ America. If the OCA wants to see the growth of American Orthodoxy and unification of Orthodox jurisdictions in this country we need to act like leaders.
It’s a given that unification wasn’t going to happen under the last two Metropolitans. The will, the desire just wasn’t there, and now that we know about the financial mess, the credibility certainly wasn’t there either. We were in “the desert…” as Metropolitan Jonah calls it. I was shocked when Metropolitan Jonah said unification would be easy. He jokingly states that with enough funds American Orthodox could achieve unity in one week if we just let loose the attorneys on the administrative details. Seriously, he has no doubts about the feasibility of unity; it is just a matter of stoking the desire while setting aside pride and self-interest.
I say GIVE HIM A WEEK! Give him all the time and whatever it takes to achieve this. I want to be part of a united, strong witness for Orthodoxy in America. It’s time we suck up our pride, our petty jurisdictionalism, the provincialism and culture club mentality and really be “The Orthodox Church of America”. I am tired of explaining to my friends, family and acquaintances why there is no difference between Greek, Serbian, Syrian, Russian, ad nauseum, Orthodox Churches, much less how we are similar or different from Roman Catholics.
This is the clear and strong vision of Metropolitan Jonah. This is what we all have to work towards – laity and clergy. Who can’t be standing 100% behind him when he says
“I believe that our church is set at a crossroads…we have definitively left behind the old way of doing things.. and have embarked upon a very new road, of really taking up the challenge of being the fullness of the presence of the Orthodox Catholic Church in this country and the ministry at the cross that that entails. The challenge to bring together, to come together with all the other Orthodox communities in this country, so that together we can create a new incarnation, as it were, of the Orthodox church in America, which embraces all Orthodox Christians in this country, so that we can reach out to and evangelize this country in new and creative ways which we may not have even thought of yet, so that we can challenge our society to live a life in accordance with the will of God, in accordance with the scriptures, in accordance with Christian ethics. Not by being judgmental and critical of individuals, but rather of showing them in compassion that there’s a better way to live. Orthodoxy is not just about what you believe, and it’s certainly not just about what you do in church. Orthodoxy is about how we live. It’s about how we treat one another. How we forgive one another, how we’re transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit, how we let go of resentment, and bitterness, and anger, and vengeance, and desire for retribution and all of these things which defile our souls so that we can grow into the fullness of personhood that God intended for us. This is my vision.”
I want this too and God-willing, with Metropolitan Jonah’s leadership, his devotion to the Gospel and God’s Holy Church, we are past the days when the Orthodox Church in America could do nothing more than shoot itself in the foot.