Thursday, May 23, 2013

Orthodoxy: church canonicity and non-canonicity, and American jurisdictionalism and congregationalism

I thought if one official Orthodox church recognizes you, you’re Orthodox.

During ROCOR’s fanatical phase, from the ’60s through the ’00s, when it took in a bunch of anti-ecumenical Greeks, ROCOR remained in Orthodoxy by a thread, being recognized by the Serbs. Otherwise it would have been the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Orthodoxy. But all those years, their priests couldn’t concelebrate with other American Orthodox so it was as if they weren’t Orthodox.

I’d forgotten how bitter the jurisdictional wars in American Orthodoxy have been, namely the factions of Russian Orthodox in America during Soviet times. When ROCOR first had a real presence here, right after the war (displaced persons), the Metropolia parishes were told the newcomers were schismatics outside Orthodoxy so have nothing to do with them. (Then in the ’70s some ROCOR parishes picked up old Metropolia parishioners when the Metropolia-turned-OCA dioceses dumped Slavonic and the Julian calendar.*) There was the Soviet church, the MP at the time, which a few Metropolia parishes joined, causing more acrimony and court cases. Parishes were congregationalist, unknown in European Orthodoxy or in Catholicism, jurisdiction-shopping and hopping. (Effectively, fire your bishop and hire another one; some places treated priests like that as they jumped ships.) There’s a Metropolia/OCA parish here, rare as it was founded by actual Russians (not Ruthenian ex-Catholics), that’s legally still ‘St Nicholas Independent Russian Orthodox Church’.

But unlike in the Ukraine, American messy Orthodoxy isn’t a theological problem and not a big deal to American Orthodox because almost all of the players are in communion with at least one canonical Orthodox church so they’re in communion with each other. That’s why only the MP recognizing OCA autocephaly isn’t a problem. (Exceptions: outliers such as the Old Calendarist Greek jurisdictions and the Byelorussian Orthodox Church in America; not in the club but in the family.)

American immigrant Orthodoxy has always imported bishops and priests from its home countries so it’s always been an ethnic jurisdictional patchwork and probably always will be. Makes sense since the groups speak unrelated languages and have different musical traditions. The same reason the worldwide Orthodox communion is a group of churches that have surprisingly little to do with each other.

*That’s as close as Orthodoxy gets to the Novus Ordo. No farther. Слава Богу.

1 comment:

  1. "The same reason the worldwide Orthodox communion is a group of churches that have surprisingly little to do with each other."

    As an RC Troglodyte who admires Orthodoxy and the Byzantine Rite (liturgy and spiritual practices/teachings), this is a facet of the OC that I find simultaneously amazing, funny, and exasperating. LOL

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