Monday, October 11, 2010

More on the Orthodox synod

The following is a comment left at TitusOneNine in reply to a query left by me for more information, as I know that the commenter, John-Ad Orientem is well informed on Orthodox matters:

Re #5
Vatican Watcher
We are (finally) taking steps to resolve the jurisdictional chaos within the Orthodox Church here in N. America. I expect that the forthcoming Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Synod (which some are suggesting could be received as an OEcumenical Council) will take steps to end the scandalous situation here. That said I do not see autocephaly in the cards.

Too many of the old country churches have too much at stake here (money), especially the Ecumenical Patriarchate which presides over a church of no more than a few thousand believers in Turkey thanks to the aggressive ethnic cleaning by that country over the last century. At a recent meeting to prepare the agenda of the Great Synod, guidelines were agreed to for the granting of autocephaly to new churches, which require the EP’s blessing. This was likely in part a response to the situation with the Orthodox Church in America (the former Metropolia of the Russian Orthodox Church), which was granted autocephaly by Moscow in 1970. At present the Russian Church is really the only one who has recognized that claim. Most of the other Orthodox churches view the OCA as an essentially ultra-autonomous church but maintain communion with her.

For the EP the churches in the “diaspora” (a term I really dislike) also represent a cash cow and a means to claim some relevance beyond the canonical primacy of honor which the First Throne holds in the Orthodox Church. He has been vigorously pressing claims to canonical jurisdiction over all of the churches in the “barbarian” lands (canon 28 of the Fourth OEcumenical Council).

If I had to take a guess at what the future holds, it would be a somewhat more unified American Orthodox church that would maintain its current quasi ethnic jurisdictional arrangements within the broader framework of the newly established Episcopal Assembly, chaired by a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that would function as a sort of super synod.

All of this however is purely speculative and at most an educated guess.

Beyond that; the forthcoming council will be tackling a number of issues that have been a bit thorny over the last century or so. Among those would be the calendar, the fasting rules in the modern world (they haven’t changed in about 1500 years and are often fudged or simply ignored by the laity), the manner of receiving converts and relations with the non-Orthodox in general. It is possible the Synod may also issue some decrees dealing with contemporary issues of a moral nature such as birth control (there is some diversity of opinion on that subject), the sanctity of marriage and reaffirming the Church’s stand that abortion is murder. Given the EP’s personal attachment to environmental issues I would be mildly surprised if some sort of general “take care of the Earth” statement was not also issued.

The EP and some of the other churches have made strenuous efforts to keep this thing tightly scripted. However there are no guarantees as to what will happen once you get all of the world’s Orthodox bishops (or at least most of them) gathered in the same place for the first time in probably a thousand years or more. We don’t have a Pope (the EP’s occasional pretensions notwithstanding) to impose an agenda so things could get very interesting.

The one thing I do NOT expect are any major doctrinal pronouncements. There are at present no serious theological or doctrinally based issues dividing The Church. Church doctrine is largely settled and any attempt to add to or meddle with it would be foolish and almost certainly end badly.