With the whole buzz about His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah resigning, I was wondering if you folks think that there is a chance that maybe the Ecumenical Patriarch will finally recognize us as autocephelous and then maybe we can focus on establishing an OCA Patriarch. Far fetched? Maybe. But the OCA has been a rollercoaster and you do not know what could happen. Deep down I kind of have that hope that maybe we will finally be recognized as autocephelous by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The existing entity of the "Orthodox Church in America," will not be recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the autocephalos Eastern Orthodox Church of North America as the EP is not going to sacrifice its eparchies in the U.S. and Canada, in favor of the OCA, primarily due to the manner in which it was granted its Tomos of Autocephaly by the Church of Russia, which was controlled at the time by the Communist Soviet government, a government which soon after the issuance of the Tomos, entered into negotiations with the American government to initiate "detente." This was the same Soviet government which 46 years earlier had prohibited the Holy Orthodox Churches from maintaining communion with the OCA's predecessor, the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Metropolia, by issuing an "anathema," excommunicating all those associated with the Metropolia, one primary reason for the anathema was the Metropolia's refusal to sign a loyalty oath to the Soviet Union, though the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and several other jurisdictions in America, ignored the anathema as having been issued under the influence of a Communist government of which the church was subject. Finally, the negotiations between the Metropolia and the Church of Russia, were held in secret and did not include any of the churches who maintained jurisdictions in America, some for over 50 years at that time, in a church which employs a conciliar form of decision making.
This discussion reminds me of what the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) stated in its challenge to the Tomos of Autocephaly when it was issued," The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese [of America] is larger and better organized." It should be noted that ROCOR was not in communion with the GOAA at the time. Even though the multiple church jurisdictions in the Western Hemisphere were canonically organized anomalously, yet they were canonical churches, one church could not impose an autocephalos church upon a territory which includes numerous canonical jurisdictions upon it. An example of how superfluous the Tomos was, the Church of Russia could not even facilitate or force its own parishes which were under its direct jurisdiction to join the OCA, a situation which exists today, 42 years later. In fact, although the Patriarchate of Moscow technically dissolved its eparchy in America, it maintains jurisdiction over these parishes with an axillary bishop to the Patriarch, in New York. The number of parishes under the Russian Patriarch's authority in America has increased, slightly, since issuance of the Tomos.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate maintains communion with the OCA and recognizes its self-governance, but it does not recognize it as a sister church, along side the Holy Orthodox Churches. The commentary in this post is not intended to condemn the OCA by any means, a church which has a most venerable history tracing back to the Russian Church's mission to Alaska, while it was a territory of the Russian Empire. The OCA's priests, monastics, and faithful comprise communities of spirituality throughout North America. The OCA seminaries of St. Vladimir and St. Tikhon are bastions of exemplary Orthodox schools of theology. And the OCA has produced nearly all of our venerable saints of North America. But the entity of the national church has been in decline for the past 30 years or so, a matter that cannot be ignored in the context of the inquiry of the original post.
Per its own Special Investigation Committee (SIC) Report, the OCA was subject to financial malfeasance for a recent 19 year period, facilitated by its chancellor, who was thankfully unfrocked for his misdeeds. Yes, Orthodox Churches have unfortunately been subject to such abuse, but never-the-less, that abuse has damaged the institution of the OCA. And frankly, were it not for an independent news source sponsored by Orthodox Christians for Accountability, "OCANews.org", the abuse could be continuing today. It has also experienced problems beyond those that other churches experience with regard to ethical and behavioral deviations among it hierarchy, including two of its former primates.
Over the past more than 35 years, I have been involved in various multi-parish, pan-Orthodox activities and have found that the institution of the OCA is not esteemed, even by priests and laity in the OCA. Often, mention of the OCA will bring smiles upon the faces of clergy of other jurisdictions. One nationally known OCA priest, when I met him---didn't even know him previously, when I asked him, "You're in the OCA?" he responded, rolling his eyes, "If I weren't in it [the OCA] for so long, I would transfer out." A senior GOAA priest said to me, just a few years ago, "Who would have imagined the OCA would have deteriorated the extent to which it has." And two years ago, an OCA deacon substituting in my GOAA parish, when I introduced myself to him and mentioned that I was familiar with his neighboring parish, replied, "They call us the American Church, but were really Russians." I responded, "Well, you're really Carpatho-Russians, primarily," but that's a discussion for another time.
Never-the-less, the clergy are respected in the pan-Orthodox community, with many exemplary priests serving in the OCA. But, when a unified administrative structure is eventually established, it will be planned by leadership of the GOAA, the OCA, and the AOCANA, together, along with the fine membership of all the jurisdictions. An entity such as the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North America is currently poised to execute the challenge presented to it by the 4th Chambessay Pre-Conciliar Commission, of planning for such a church. May God inspire all our Holy Hierarchs to meet this challenge.
The GOAA's national mailing list is 165,000, while the OCA's is 33,000. Two weeks ago, the GOAA's 41st Clergy-Laity Congress approved a National Ministries budget of more than $25 million; the OCA's annual budget is around $2.5 million. Recall back to ROCOR's comments in 1970, "The [GOAA] is larger and better organized."