Reflections by Mr. Serge Schmemann, Chairman, OCA Communications Office

Though I live in France, I have been following with growing dismay the dispute tearing our Church apart. Like many of you, I have not joined in the debate up until now, but have been praying that our bishops, priests and faithful find a wise and equitable resolution to the serious problems that have been revealed in our Church. I am writing now to appeal to you all, Vladyki, Fathers, brothers and sisters, to pause for a prayerful, Lenten reflection on what is at stake.

There is no question that serious allegations have been made of highly troubling failings in the organization of the Orthodox Church in America. There are members of the Church who believe that it would have been better not to tarnish the image of the OCA by making these problems public; there are others who believe full disclosure is essential if our Church is to be cleansed and set aright. I believe that all those who have spoken on both sides of the debate, on the Web and in private meetings, acted out of honest and profound concern for our Church. But it is imperative now to declare that this stage is finished: The issues have been made public, and our Metropolitan has ordered an investigation. We can question whether it was right to dismiss our Chancellor, we can question whether the process that has begun is necessary, proper or sufficient. But there is nothing more to be gained from arguments and reproaches: for better or for worse, we have embarked on a delicate, critical and perilous journey of self-examination.

At this stage, I earnestly believe that to continue to argue is to place the Church in far greater danger than it is in already. Internally, we risk creating permanent divisions and enmities; externally, we risk more damaging scrutiny and publicity. I know what I’m talking about: I have been a reporter all my life. The only question we must all address now, together, is how we can pull back, how we can restore unity, trust and faith in our dear OCA.

I am writing with three more weeks to go in Great Lent. This is a time of humility, of reflection, of silence. It is a time to set aside passions and bitterness. Think of all that our Orthodox Church has achieved in America. We took the deep faith that our forebears brought from captive and impoverished lands and gave it new life in a great new land, so that we could all “breathe free.” We have parishes in every major city of North America; we have opened seminaries, published books, produced new generations of priests and theologians, assigned chaplains to our soldiers. Our parishes are filled with children and light. We have truly created an Orthodox Church in America. Do we really want to jeopardize all this? Of course we have also stumbled and sinned, and this is the time of year when we confront that. But the confrontation must be a process of renewal and resurrection, not destruction.

So let us pause. Let the Web sites and exchanges fall silent for a while. If we are approached by reporters, let’s tell them there’s an investigation under way, and we have nothing more to say for now. Let’s resist angry thoughts and recriminations and think instead about how best we can heal ourselves and our Church. Our Metropolitan has taken a resolute and fateful step. Let’s pray for him and for our entire Church, that we may all emerge from this ordeal stronger and purer.

Serge Schmemann


Office of Communications

Orthodox Church in America