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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Orthodox Structures

I must admit to have found this the most confusing of my questions. At least with the others, I had some idea of the answer, and although I thought I had with this, I find myself a little baffled again. Maybe I'm not quite as far out as I currently think, but we'll see.

Here is my perception of the hierarchical structures within Orthodoxy as it stood up until about half an hour ago:

There is* a number of patriarchates, each headed by a Patriarch.
Under each patriarch is a number of provinces, heach headed by a metropolitan.
Under each metropolitan is a number of dioceses, each headed by a bishop.
Under each bishop is a number of parishes and monasteries.

This was all very clear to me until reading about the autocephaly of the OCA a little while ago. I had thought that one of the main problems that the Moscow Patriarchate had with ROCOR was that they prefer not to submit to this patriarchate, and that is why there is a state of impaired communion. Now I realise that the selfsame patriarchate has granted autocephaly to the OCA. Does a church not have to fall within the jurisdiction of a Patriarch? I'm all very confused.

If this is all right, then why all the trouble with ROCOR? Is it because they were not granted autocephaly, but just, sort of, claimed it? Is my understanding of this history, even right.

I'm confuddled.

(I really do feel that I owe you all a bottle of wine or gin or something for your patient and very helpful responses).

*unsure whether "number" used as a collective is singular or plural.

9 comments:

The young fogey said...

Dear Michael,

You can read a lot of the history of this in the archives of my blog.

Long story short, the reason the OCA is autocephalous is because, during Soviet times, albeit during political detente in 1970, it submitted to the Moscow Patriarchate first.

ROCOR has never claimed to be autocephalous, just functionally independent as long as the Soviets controlled Russia and the patriarchate.

(What's now the OCA had a similar de facto independence for similar reasons until it reconciled with the MP.)

The MP and the Orthodox in former Communist countries see the OCA as equivalent to a patriarchate in its own right.

Those Orthodox who don't accept the autocephaly still see the OCA as the American metropolia of the MP.

Part of being Orthodox is being in communion with at least one of the recognized patriarchates, which the OCA is.

Anonymous said...

Over here in the U.S. (east coast) Michael, the Moscow Patriarchate priests, the Synodal priests and the OCA priests are all buddies, and they tell me that everybody's talking about how to get back together. That makes me very happy. I personally don't worry about "jurisdictions", just so my priest has a bishop who is in either the OCA, the Moscow Patriarchate, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia, the "Antiochian" Church (it's autonomous now, rather than autocephalous, but I don't understand or care about the distinction) or the Greek Orthodox Church. Infrequently, I get to go to the "Albanian" church which is OCA, or the Romanian church which is also OCA. Not being much of a city-driver, I often depend on friends for a ride to church, or else I just go to the one that's nearest.

Leetle M.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this will make you smile, too. Some years ago I was in hospital having a very serious operation. Every single Orthodox priest in our city arrived in my room, all of them at the same time, Russians, Greeks and a Romanian, one afternoon before the operation, and they all sang together a paraklesis to St. Panteleimon for my recovery. One of them was a great tall priest who had a thundering bass voice--it was said that when Fr. Matthew sang, trees fell in the forests of Siberia. Anyhow, they sang thunderously, scaring the woman in the bed next to me (who was not of our faith) so much that she had to be moved to another room in the hospital as she kept shouting "Get these Russians outa my room! They killed my granma!!". She did not understand they were praying for me. I apologised to her later and said I hoped she would forgive my friends who were just praying for me. We both got well, the lady and me--I found out later that she was suffering from, would you believe it, =scurvy=; because she had been on "crash diets" for many years to stay thin!

Leetle M.

Aristibule said...

No reason to worry about OCA anyways - its purely an American phenomenon. More pertinent would be the 'third party' in Europe, the Russian Exarchate under Constantinople (ie, the Parisians). I wouldn't worry about the OCA autocephaly anyways - it isn't recognized by most Orthodox churches: something similar to the EP's claims to universal jurisdiction: only those doing it 'de facto' care or worry about it. (Of course, I'm often reminded that the 'autocephaly' was accomplished by some bribes to the KGB - so, whatever.)

Part of the confusion may be this - there is basically a system of 'maturity' for a local Church in Orthodoxy. One begins as a Mission, then becomes a Diocese, then Archdiocese/Metropolitanate, then an Autonomous Church, then Autocephalous.

Some Autocephalous churches are headed by Patriarchs (8 - the ancients, national churches, and Moscow), one is headed by a Catholicos-Patriarch (Georgia, Catholicos is an old Oriental name for the head of an Autonomous Church - it being originally part of Antioch), many others are headed by Archbishops and Metropolitans (ie, the OCA, ROCOR, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Czech/Slovakia) - as all the Autonomous churches are (Sinai, Finland, Japan, Ukraine, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, and the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada.)

Also - in whether Archbishop or Metropolitan is 'higher' depends on whether one is Byzantine or Slavic tradition: the titles are reversed depending on the tradition.

Michael said...

Wow!

What a response!

Thank you to Serge for en extremely helpful repsonse and pointer to your blog, where I found a link to a post of yours on OrthodoxChristianity.net, which has more or less completely clarified where ROCOR is currently up to. I know that talks continue next year.

Thanks as well to Leetle M for putting ahuman side to this. I was in stitches for a good five minutes after reading your story, thinking about the poor, bewildered woman in the bed next to you, and the human spirit that can overcome these divisions.

Aristibule, thank you for putting this into context, and giving me a sense of perspective. I suppose, overall, it doesn't really metter too very much, so long as the Faith is the same. I'm coming to this very much from the perpective of someone in the Anglican Communion where the top priority at the moment is making sure that we all try to please each other as best as we can, and so it is something of a culture shock to see the focus lie elsewhere in Orthodoxy, although I see this as a good thing.

In a recent General Synod discussion, one bishop said that not all Anglican churches are walking together, then went on to say that, as Anglicans, we do not actually walk, but stop along the way to discuss what it is to walk.

This made me chuckle, but is, in fact, too true for jest.

Anonymous said...

When I was first Orthodox, Michael, I gave thanks many a time that most of the arguments about Church teachings that happened in my presence were in some language I did not understand....

Enjoy!

Leetle M.

Merseymike said...

And you thought Anglicanism was complicated??

Mind you, the aim of trying not to upset each other is getting us precisely nowhere.

Aristibule said...

Ah, but Orthodoxy *is* far more simple than either Anglicanism or Roman Catholicism. :)

I discussed that here: http://p202.ezboard.com/ftheyorkforumfrm2.showMessage?topicID=1620.topic

There are far less local churches amongst the Orthodox than with Rome or Canterbury. The way things operate is far simpler ... the issue for many in the West is simply familiarity (or ignorance of the complications of doing business within the Anglican Communion or the Vatican.)

Anonymous said...

You may find this article of use:

ROCOR and OCA