Autocephaly (12 of 20)

The answers in this section on autocephaly were provided by a seminary faculty member in a 1970 OCA publication.


Should not the Metropolia have waited for the other jurisdictions so that the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America could consist of all Orthodox in the country right from the very beginning?


The position of the Metropolia was obviously that it could not wait and had no justifiable or reasonable foundations for doing so.

In the first place, to wait for all of the jurisdictions to agree to be together and to expect all of the so-called “mother churches” in the old world to agree to release them is sadly a utopian expectation.

The American “jurisdictions”—how can we forget it?—are also in confilct among themselves. It is not the case that each old world church has one new world church and is in harmony with it. Everyone knows that this is not the case. Thus, if two groups of the same national origin in America are in disagreement with each other, what could be the reasonable expectation that all would be in agreement with all? We know that we would die waiting for such a happening, especially since there was a complete standstill and nothing was moving at all.

The Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America had been meeting for over a decade and was getting nowhere as far as real Orthodox church unity was concerned. In 1968 it required the Patriarchate of Constantinople to place the question of American Orthodoxy on the agenda of the Pan-Orthodox Meting in Chambesy, Switzerland, asking the gathering of the representatives of the old world churches to discuss the problem of Orthodoxy in America. The request of the Standing Conference was not received and the problem of American Orthodoxy was not place on the agenda for eventual discussion—not to say solution.

Everyone was talking, but on one was doing anything. In the meantime the patience of the Metropolia was wearing thin, not only over the general situation of Orthodoxy in America, but particularly over its own status. Upon his election, Metropolitan Ireney sent letters to the churches explaining the situation in America. He also requested an audience from the Patriarchate of Constantinople but his request met with a refusal.

The 13th All-American Church Council (Sobor) of the Metropolia in 1967 was tempted to declare itself as the Orthodox Church in America, with or without the approval of anyone. The famous “straw vote” at this council is eloquent proof of this.

Divine Providence rewarded the courage as well as the patience of the Metropolia, however, and made possible an unexpected understanding with the Mother Church of Russia.