Conciliarity: Toward a Union of Freedom & Obedience

Part VI: Freedom & Obedience in the Vision of Saint Sophrony

WHAT is history but the intersection of individuals under the locomotion of varying desires and ideas. In other words, history is always personal. Christian history, though certainly framed by Providence, is consequently the history of real people, interacting in real, dynamic societies at the intersection of varying ideas and desires. That is not to deny that the Church expresses an eternal reality—a city whose “builder and maker is God.”1 But it is to deny that the Church is somehow supra-historical. Father Georges Florovsky observes, “Even in the history of the Church ‘the hand of Providence’ is emphatically hidden . . . the purpose of a historical understanding is [therefore] not so much to detect the divine action in history as to understand the human action.”2 Thus, in surveying the human history of the Church—its theological language, its liturgy, art, music, and governance—we should not be surprised to find clear precedents in the desires and ideas of the surrounding polity.

If it is therefore impossible to ignore the historical developments that led to the convocation and authority of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, it is likewise blind to ignore the whirlwind of ideas that swept across Europe in the 18th and especially the 19th century and its effect on the Church. The battle that raged during this time, pitting liberalism against absolutism, democracy against monarchy, inevitably involved the people that made up the Body of Christ. It was a conversation that should not be avoided, could not be avoided. Fundamentally, it was a question of authority. Within ecclesial institutions, the questions presented by the outside social forces took this shape: Of whom does the Church consist? By whom should the Church be governed? What are the roles of the clergy? What are the roles of the laity? Can a peaceful union be found for these varied interests?

These were not necessarily new questions. Within the Roman Catholic Church, the rigid authoritarian structure that developed during the medieval period did not go unchallenged. As early as the 12th century, the accountability of bishops to their canons (administrative priests) presented a lively discussion.3 These discussions resulted in categories of thought remarkably similar to those that were to inform the conciliar movement of the 19th century. Some even argued that bishops and the Pope were accountable to the Church assembled in council—the congregatio fidelium—which should include clergy and laity; even women should be represented.4 The current of conciliarism continued in the West at the Council of Constance (15th century), was severely repressed by the Fifth Lateran Council (16th century), and reemerged in France in the 17th century. During the 19th century, the debate between papal authority and conciliarism was particularly fierce in the United States. J.P. Dolan, in his sweeping survey, The American Catholic Experience, relates:

In the United States clergy and laity were lined up on both sides of the debate; one side supported the traditional, monarchical form of church government, in which the lay people were left to pay, pray, and obey. The other side . . . supported a more representative, republican form of church government in which cooperation, rather than domination, was the goal.5

Central was the question of the role of the laity, who had largely been considered an entirely passive body, whose task was to “pay, pray, and obey.” An appeal to the practice of the early Church questioned this assumption and called for a more conciliar ecclesiology.6

The Eastern Orthodox Church has historically, though largely unconsciously, rejected the ecclesiatical structure of Rome, preferring to rest authority in the conciliar gatherings of bishops in council and to find unity in diversity. However, to detect a defined doctrine of conciliatory is to superimpose modern concepts onto a very obscure ecclesiology. More likely, it was political circumstances—the contraction of the Byzantine empire in the advance of Islam and the resulting isolation of each of the Ancient patriarchies—that prevented a universal ecclesial centralization. The laity, though no official church canon afforded such a process, possessed a powerful voice and on occasion overturned the decision of bishops. The most dramatic of these occasions is probably the rejection of the Union of Florence, signed by all but Saint Mark of Ephesus, and yet categorically and violently repulsed by the people.7 Even so, no formal theological or canonical tradition outlined the relationship of laity to their priest, nor a priest to their bishop. As in the West, unless given a platform by a shouting mob, laity were expected to pay, pray, and obey.

In the 19th century, a more defined and uniquely Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology began to emerge. The “Encyclical of Eastern Patriarchs,” issued during the momentous year of 1848, betrayed a shifting perspective on the role of the laity. Writing in response to Pope Pius IX, thirty-three Eastern Orthodox bishops, including the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, firmly repudiated the papal claims to universal authority. They contested that no individual could alter the teachings of the Orthodox Church, writing: “neither patriarchs nor councils could then have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves.”8 Striking is the appeal to “the people,” which in the original greek is λαός or laity. In other words, the fidelity of the faith is preserved not by authority nor by law, but by people—the people of God: clergy and laity forming one conciliar body.

In Russia, similar developments were taking place. In 1860, Alexander Khomiakov, responding likewise to a Roman Catholic provocateur, defended the adoption of sobornyi in the Slavonic translation of “I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”9 “Catholic” in the standard Western interpretation signified geographic universality. Khomiakov argued that the uniquely Slavic understanding of catholic suggested conciliarity—sobornyi. He expands thus: “Sobor implies the idea of an assembly, not necessarily gathered in one place or other, but existing virtually without a formal gathering. It is unity in plurality.”10 Khomiakov and his fellow slavophiles—Kireyevsky, Dostoevsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, among others—viewed the social structure promoted by papal Rome as artificial and despotic; it was unity at the expense of freedom. In contrast, as Nicholas Sakharov notes: “Sobornyi secures inner organic unity through love in freedom and not through authority.”11 A few decades later, the idea of sobornyi, developed and refined under the neologism sobornost, would be pivotal in the radical transformation of the Orthodox Church, both in Russia and abroad.

Saint Sophrony12 was but nine when revolt at home and a loss to Japan abroad ended nearly two-hundred years of Imperial control in Russia.13 These were desperate times, but also one of great opportunity. Since Peter the Great—and one might argue since Constantine I in the 4th century—the Church had consistently traded freedom for protection. Now, history turned a new page, one on which the Tsar and the bureaucratic suffocation of the chief procurator would find themselves omitted. In the wake of “Bloody Sunday,” thirty-two priests produced a widely published letter that declared: “Pointless are the encyclicals, the circular letters, the edicts from the chanceries. In order to obtain a completely satisfactory solution to the vital questions preoccupying us, we must hear the voice of the Russian Church.”14 The letter went on to insist upon an all-Russian council in which both clergy and laity would be represented—not a council of bishops, but a sobor—that is, one that was fully conciliar. Such a proposal sent shockwaves around the world.

Archbishop Tikhon—later Patriarch of Moscow and canonized in 1989—was then the ruling bishop of the Orthodox Church in the United States of America. On June 2, 1905, at a clergy conference held in Cleveland, Ohio, the archbishop disclosed his desire for closer collaboration with his priests—whom he referred to as brothers—and the conciliar involvement of both clergy and laity in an all-American sobor.15 The mandate from Archbishop Tikhon found a receptive audience and plans were immediately made for the proposed council. The sobor was to include the priests of every parish along with one lay delegate. After several delays, the council took place on March 5–7, 1907 at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Mayfield, Pennsylvania. Present were Archbishop Tikhon, Saint Alexander Hotovitzky, Saint Alexis Toth, and Saint John Kochurov. The atmosphere must have been electric. Among the work of the council, a statute was approved by a vote permanently establishing the sobor as the highest governing authority of the Orthodox Church in North America,16 to which even bishops must submit. It was to prove the model for subsequent developments in both the United States and Russia when Archbishop Tikhon was recalled to his homeland, where ten years later he led the longed for all-Russian Council.

Pivotal to the application of conciliarity in the structure of the Church was the place of the bishop in relation to priests, deacons, and the laity. The Manifesto of the Thirty-Two Priests had argued:

The bishop, attested during his election by the clergy and people of the local Church, is the focus and model of pastorship within the Church entrusted to his care, the center of all life, and the focus of church love. Except for quite exceptional cases of church need, he is forever inseparable from his flock, cannot have promotions and demotions, for the episcopal dignity is unconditionally equal and identical everywhere; no bishop in any way has hierarchical superiority over another; from no one can he receive external awards and distinctions, about which the holy canons know nothing. But in order to be real, and not by name only, the shepherd of the flock performs the pastoral service entrusted to him in cooperation with the assembly of presbyters—his advisers, co-workers and co-ministers—and on behalf of the people in the communion with the whole Body of the Church.17

Radical is the contrast between this image and the “despotism” lamented earlier by Father Florovsky and Saint Sophrony. However, neither the Thirty-Two, nor Saint Tikhon, nor Saint Sophrony viewed the notion of conciliarity as being radical or novel. Instead, they perceived in the providential opportunity afforded by the emancipation of the Church from the State a chance to restore the authentic and ancient Orthodox form of governance. As witness to the antiquity of the conciliar model, the 4th century Apostolic Constitution requires the participation of the entire, local Church in the election of their bishop:

A bishop to be ordained is to be . . . a select person, chosen by the whole people, who, when he is named and approved, let the people assemble, with the presbytery and bishops that are present, on the Lord’s day, and let them give their consent.18

The presbyters and laity offered not only consent in the election, they were equally judged to be active participants in the act of consecrating their bishop. Hippolytus, in the 3rd century, writes: “While all give their consent, the bishops shall lay their hands upon him, and the presbytery shall stand by in silence. All indeed shall keep silent, praying in their heart for the descent of the Spirit.”19 A survey of the literature from the first three centuries of the Church, as these examples demonstrate, depict the conciliar nature of the Church: the bishop, elected from and by his own flock—guided by the counsel of the presbyters and aided by his deacons—gathers with his flock as one, local sobor in order to manifest the Body of Christ. Sadly, the waves of history eroded this reality, reshaping the bishop into the image of a remote administrator. It was precisely to restore the ancient icon of the bishop as father and shepherd that inspired the radical changes first enacted at the First All American Sobor and later at the All Russian Sobor of 1917.

With the distant sound of Bolshevik artillery in their ears, the Church gathered for the first time in more than two hundred years of Russian history.20 Its achievements were by no means dampened by the shouts of revolution in the streets of Moscow outside. The sobor restored the Patriarchate, enacted sweeping reforms in diocesan and parochial governance, and discussed such varied topics as women’s admittance to the altar, the Gregorian calendar, and laws governing the re-marriage of priests. It was the first council in Russia to include the representation of both priests and laity in addition to bishops. Yet, what was truly remarkable about the All Russian Sobor was that it represented a sincere effort to nurture a conversation between opposing views on the nature of conciliarity. Hyacinthe Destivelle, remarks in her study, The Moscow Council:

Those of the left understood conciliarity in terms of democracy and stressed the collective character inherent in ecclesial organization and the role of the laity in all levels of Church life. This position revealed a desire to avoid a form of episcopal despotism and a “patriarchal papacy” that could be encouraged by a collapse of the state. The conservative tendency understood the principle of conciliarity as an element that defined the differentiation of functions within the ecclesial body . . . conciliarity did not mean equality and did not exclude personal power.21

Destivelle notes in conclusion that the Council, after hearing the arguments presented from each perspective, settled on a definition of conciliarity as “a moral principle that demands the sacrifice of each for the good of all, especially through obedience.”22 All—bishops, clergy, and laity—were equally vested with authority, authority that was to be sacrificed “for the good of all” by means of mutual obedience.

It is tempting to overlook this qualification and to see in the conciliar movement simply a triumph of the lower clergy and laity over their episcipal overlords. Remarking on the Moscow Council, Father Alexander Schmemann warned of the danger of equating sobornost with representation in which “the ‘interests’ or points of view of the bishops, the clergy, and the laity are opposed to one another.”23 Conciliarity is thus reduced to temporal structures, procedures, and laws around which the assertion of opposing “interests” and powers revolve. However, authentic conciliarity as exhibited at both the First All American Sobor and the Moscow Council has little to do with “power,” and much more to do with the very nature of the Church. The Church is neither a monarchy, a republic, nor a congregational democracy. It is a body in which every member, be it the head, or the hand, or the foot, is fundamentally necessary and integral to the whole. In the event that any “interest” descends to “despotism”—and any priest knows that laity can be in every way as despotic as clergy—the delicate balance between freedom and obedience that the conciliar model makes possible is shattered.

On the most part, the conciliar councils of the early 20th century appeared as a passing ray of sunshine in an otherwise grey landscape. Having only recently shaken off the Tsarist yoke, the Russian Orthodox Church was immediately thrust under the exponentially tighter control of the Soviet regime.24 Among the Russian émigrés, the idea of sobornost continued to be nurtured.25 However, these were exceptional. In the 1950s, during Saint Sophrony’s correspondence with Father Georges Florvosky, the ecclesial world—both East and West—seemed to have wholly slipped back into the slough of “discipline” and “despotism.” Reflecting on his recent trip to Russia, Saint Sophrony wrote:

I had the impression that the Russian Church—that is, those who direct this ship—are at the current moment almost completely occupied with “restoration”: restoring that which existed in the moment before the “rupture” [i.e. 1917] with history. Everywhere they are carrying out “repairs,” in which the “old” Synodal motifs are revived.26

Father Georges, responding a few months later, noted that in the United States, “Orthodoxy here is on the wane precisely because the official leaders hold on to the old ways. Orthodox parishes become foreign colonies and lose the character of the Church.”27

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a renewed effort to recover a conciliar model of the Church. The formation of the Orthodox Church in America in 1970 was accompanied by a heightened interest in the participation of the laity and the reaffirmation of a conciliar method of self-governance.28 In the Roman Catholic Church, after condemning conciliarism at the First Vatican Council of 1869–70, the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) appeared to warm up to the idea of conciliarity. Lumen gentium, issued in 1964, underlined the “royal priesthood” of all believers and the role of the lay apostolate; it even admitted that historically “councils assembled together, in which more profound issues were settled in common.”29 However, at the same time, the hierarchical structure of the Roman Church was reinforced and the supreme and infallible authority of the papal office was reaffirmed. Thus, on the surface Rome seemed to capitulate, but underneath it appeared that little had changed. If conciliarity were to be reduced to the measure of whether or not a council could elect or hold a bishop accountable, then for all the verbosity concerning greater clergy and lay participation, we may assume that “despotism” continues to be the default position in both East and West.30

Saint Sophrony was convinced that despite two millennia of Christendom’s presence in the world the majority had yet to be witness to a truly Christian society.31 Far from being a cause for despair, this observation should give us hope; the world has not rejected Christ’s Gospel, it has yet to encounter it. Saint Sophrony also believed that the Orthodox Church, in her unique vision of personhood, alone possessed the capacity to resurrect the distorted image of the human self; a trait that if recognized would convince the world of her authenticity.32 Likewise, if the Church were to incarnate those principles of conciliarity which received such an august beginning at the dawn of the previous century, the world would be presented with a vision of freedom in union with obedience that would be difficult to ignore. A tremendous opportunity still awaits the Church: to present the world with the answer to the terrible dilemma in which it finds itself.

Everywhere, the same quandaries that have plagued modern society for centuries still persist. The interests of predictability and security continue to vie with the interests of freedom and self-determination and the masters—governments, institutions, technologies, and media platforms—viciously compete with one another for control of the weak under the banner of helping us “make better choices.”33 The Church has been in no way isolated from this struggle and it is necessary for her hierarchy to both acknowledge this struggle and their own tendency to act the part of the master. 

At the same time, the Church should recognize that within the walls of her sacred city—her polis, from which we derive the word politics—she nurtures the tree of life whose leaves are for the “healing of the nations.”34 In other words, within the “political” structure of the Church, which is one of conciliarity, the age-old tug-a-war between master and servant, between obedience and freedom is brought into a happy equilibrium. The Church has simply to manifest who she is—a bride and groom, a body fitly joined together, a city set on a hill. This is her telos, but between her present state and the heavenly city is a cross. True conciliarity cannot be achieved by simply holding a council and producing a series of bi-laws. To join in perfect union the antimony of freedom and obedience necessitates a crucifixion: a voluntary, self-emptying, love. This crucifixion can take an infinite variety of forms: such as when we approach our spouse or our children with respect as an other—an irreducible, unique person, or when we sacrifice our own will and listen with rapt attention to the will of God in the sacrament of confession, or when we who are spiritual fathers crush every desire to exert our own will or to control our spiritual children when they come to us for spiritual direction. Conciliarity between bishop, clergy, and laity begins when there is a genuine love and respect between all and a willingness to sacrifice one’s authority for the sake of the other. It is a recognition that any authority that is imposed, no matter how well-meaning, can expect discipline but never obedience. Obedience is only possible when offered voluntarily: freedom ensures that obedience is offered in love.

Endnotes

1 Heb. 11:10.
2 Archpriest George Florovsky, Christianity and Culture (Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1974) 64–65.
3 The appearance of Gratian’s Decretum—an exhaustive collection of Church laws—in c. 1140 greatly aided subsequent discussions of various questions of Church law and order. See Brian Tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory (Washington D.C.: Catholic Univ., 1955) 127–31, for a thorough examination of the influence of Gratian and subsequent canonists on conciliar thought in the West.
4 Among these can be found John of Paris, Joannes Teutonicus, and Guilielmus Durantis. Most conciliarist of this period endeavored to maintain a balance between hierarchical and corporate interests. Among the more progressive thinkers was William of Ockham (1285–1347) who wrote in his Dialogues: “Dicitur quod hoc est propter unitatem fidei virorum et mulierum, que omnes tangit et in qua non est masculus et femina, sicut, secundum apostolum, in novo homine non est masculus et femina. Et ideo, ubi sapientia, bonitas, vel potentia mulieris esset tractatui fidei, de qua potissime tractandum est in concilio generali, necessaria, non esset mulier a generali concilio excludenda [It is said that this is because of the oneness of the faith of men and women, which affects all, and in which there is neither male nor female, according to the apostle: In the new man there is “neither male nor female.” And therefore, where the wisdom, goodness or power of a woman is necessary to the discussion of the faith (which is to be discussed especially in a general council), the woman is not to be excluded from the general council.”] 1 Dialogue 6.85.140 in William of Ockham: Dialogus, eds. John Kilcullen, et al, (London: Medieval Texts Editorial Committee of the British Academy, 2015) 12.
5 Dolan, The American Catholic Experience, (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1985) 167.
6 Note: We cannot discount the influence of various Protestant forms of governance on the persistence of the question in the Roman Catholic Church.
7 See The Orthodox Church, Adrian Fortescue (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1907), 217.
8 The text reads in Greek: Πατριάρχες ούτε Σύνοδοι μπόρεσαν ποτέ να εισαγάγουν καινοτομίες, γιατί ο υπερασπιστής της θρησκείας είναι το ίδιο το σώμα της Εκκλησίας, δηλαδή ο ίδιος ο λαός.”
9 The original Greek of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed reads: Εἰς μίαν, Ἁγίαν, Καθολικὴν καὶ Ἀποστολικὴν Ἐκκλησίαν. The Slavonic translation, dating from roughly the 10th century reads (in modern Cyrillic): Во едину Святую, Соборную и Апостольскую Церковь.
10 Alexander Khomiakov, “Lettre au rédacteur de l’Union Chrétienne, à l’occasion d’un discours du Père Gagarine, jésuite,” l’Union Chrétienne, 1860, No. 45. qtd. in On Spiritual Unity: A Slavophile Reader, trans. Boris Jakim and Robert Bird (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Books, 1998) 139.
11 Nicholas Sakharov, I Love Therefore I Am (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2002) 131.
12 Born Sergei Sakharov on Sept. 22, 1896 in Moscow, Russia.
13 The massacre on peaceful demonstrators on “Bloody Sunday,” on Jan. 9th, 1905 led to widespread strikes and violent protests across the Russian Empire. A U.S. negotiated peace treaty between Japan and Russia on Sept. 5th, 1905 ended with heavy losses in global position and morale for Russia. Tsar Nicholas II, facing overwhelming political upheaval, reluctantly signed the October Manifesto on the 30th of October, 1905, thus ceding control of the state to an elected parliament. The Manifesto also declared the freedom of religion, affectively ending the monopoly of the Orthodox Church, but also providing for her freedom from government control.
14 Слово, 116, April 5, 1905, 3, in Preobrazhensky, Церковно реформа, 281 qtd. in Destivelle, The Moscow Council, (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015) 23.
15 See Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky “Archbishop Tikhon &  the North American Diocese” in Constantine Tarasar and John Erikson, The Orthodox Church in America (Syosset, NY: The Orthodox Church in America, 1975) 98.
16 The All-American Sobor of 1907 incorporated under the official title: The Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church.” The OCA—that is, the Orthodox Church in America as an institution—was not formed until 1970.
17 О необходимости перемен в русском церковном управлении [On the necessity of change in Russian Church Government] Церковный вестник. March, 1905. – № 11. Author’s translation. The original reads: “Епископ, засвидетельствованный при избрании от клира и народа местной Церкви, есть средоточие и образец пастырства в пределах Церкви, вверенной его попечению, центр всей жизнедеятельности и средоточие любви церковной. Кроме вполне исключительных случаев нужды церковной, он навсегда неотделим от своей паствы, не может иметь повышений и понижений, ибо сан епископский безусловно равен и тождествен повсюду; ни один епископ ни в чем не имеет иерархического превосходства пред другим; ни от кого не может получать он внешних наград и отличий, о которых ничего не ведают святые каноны. Но для того чтобы быть действительным, а не по имени лишь, пастырем вверенного ему стада, он совершает пастырское служение свое, — во-первых, совместно с сонмом пресвитеров, как своих советников, сотрудников и сослужителей, и пред лицем народа, в общении всего тела Церкви.”
18 “The Apostolic Constitutions,” Book II.2 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7. ed. by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) A thorough study of the office of bishop can be found in The Apostolic Ministry, ed. by Kenneth Kirk with contributions by Gregory Dix (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957).
19 Attributed to St. Hippolytus of Rome (+235), The Apostolic Tradition, trans. Burton Easton (Cambridge, 1934).
20 For an eyewitness account of the extreme circumstances under which the sobor transacted see The Life & Work of Metropolitan Leonty (South Canaan, PA: STM Press, 2019) 55–58.
21 Hyacinthe Destivelle, The Moscow Council (1917–1918) (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University, 2015) 79.
22 Ibid.
23 Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “La notion de primauté dans l’ecclésiologie orthodoxe,” SVTQ, 1960 and re-published in The Primacy of Peter, ed. J. Meyendorff (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1992) 170.
24 The Russian Orthodox Church was permitted to hold a local council only in 1945 and 1971. After Perestroika, councils were held in 1988, 1990, and 2009. Though it is assumed that state control has lessened since the collapse of the USSR, its current relationship to the state and the degree of freedom with which it is allowed to govern its internal affairs is a matter of continuing debate. The recent covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated tensions between members of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government. See “A ‘Breakdown of Trust’: Pandemic Corrodes Church-State Ties in Russia,” Andrew Higgins, The New York Times, May 5, 2020. See also, Basil, John D. “Problems of State and Church in the Russian Federation: Three Points of View.” Journal of Church and State 51, no. 2 (2009): 211–35.
25 St. Sophrony, The Cross of Loneliness, 101. Note: St. Sophrony traveled to Russia July 16–Aug. 5, 1958.
26 The eucharistic ecclesiology of Fr. Alexander Schmemann and the relational ontology of Christos Yannaras and Met. John Zizoulas display a pronounced doubt to the  sobornost movement.
27 Fr. Georges Florovsky, Letter on Feb. 7 1959 in The Cross of Loneliness, 113.
28 The 14th All American Sobor, descendant of the First All American Sobor, accepted the granting of autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church and re-organized itself as a self-governing body within the conciliar framework established by the sobor of 1907.
29 Lumen gentium, III.22.
30 Within the Eastern Orthodox Churches in America, the following observations can be made concerning the present situation of the three largest jurisdictions—the OCA, the GOA, and the Antiochian Archdiocese:
(A) The Statute of the OCA ostensibly makes provision for the nomination of a diocesan bishop at a local assembly, composed of the clergy and lay delegates of all diocesan parishes (See Section VIII.7.a). However, the rejection of the 2015 Special Assembly of the Diocese of the South’s nomination of Archimandrite Gerasim to the vacant see of Dallas and the South and the later Synodal appointment of Bishop Alexander to this see, calls into question the seriousness with which the Holy Synod views the right for a diocesian assembly to nominate their own bishop.
(B) The Constitution of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America proscribes a bi-annual clergy and lay assembly, which is tasked with approving operational matters, such as the financial budget. However, the role of nominating and appointing all hierarchs of the eparchy is reserved for the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
(C) The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America in its 2003 announcement on its reception of self-rule by the Holy Synod of Antioch provided the following instructions for the election of a bishop:
(1) The General Assembly of the Archdiocese will nominate three candidates for a Diocesan Bishop. When Diocesan Assemblies shall be constituted the nominations shall then be made, by the said assemblies.
(2) The Patriarch of Antioch shall delegate two or three Metropolitans to participate on behalf of the Holy Synod together with the Local Synod in the election of the Diocesan Bishops. The Metropolitan shall preside over the electoral assembly.
However, in a communication from the archdiocese issued on October 22, 2010 the title “diocesan bishop” was strictly forbidden, “auxiliary bishops” were warned that they could be transferred to another diocese by the Metropolitan, and all “presbyters councils” were instructed to disband. The procedure for the election of a bishop was not discussed, but effectively the diocesan assembly—now termed “parish life conference”—does not have any governing authority whatsoever.
31 St. Sophrony, St. Silouan, 2, 220.
32 St. Sophrony, as qtd. In Arch. Zacharias, Christ, Our Way and Our Life (South Canaan, PA: STS Press, 2003) 17.
33 Qtd. above: Jamieson, “Google Will Carry On with Camera Cars” Telegraph, April 9, 2009.
34 Rev. 22:2.

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