We cannot deem ourselves worthy to be the spiritual center of Orthodoxy (the Fourth Rome, as you call it) if we do not first have a thoroughly Orthodox society.
That does not describe Istanbul I visited.
I think I understand where Michal is coming from. Instead of looking outward to some romanticized or idealized version of places and times we are not a part of - we ought to work in an inward manner. The heart of our Faith should lie in our families, how we live our own lives as imitators of Christ in our relationships with our loved ones, our neighbors etc... Rather than seeking something ethereal (or even 'magical' as some seem to envision things)at an exotic place like the Holy Mountain (and I mean no disrespect there and I fully recognize the importance and significance of Athos and other great centers of the Faith) we need to strengthen our parishes and serve as living 'icons', if you will, to be a beacon to share the great gift of faith and the potential of salvation which is offered to us as believers.
Question: Who's the real Orthodox spiritual leader (besides Jesus): Moscow?
...are there any here who think Russia is the heart of Orthodoxy? That she should be looked to for tough questions of the Orthodox faith, that other Orthodox refuse to answer? Or that everything that comes out of the big 4 patriarchs must be signed off on by Russia too?
The patriarch is not a source of dogma or doctrine in Orthodoxy. The patriarch is a custodian of the Faith, just as all Orthodox Christians are custodians of the Faith, first and foremost in the manner described so well by podkarpatska. Metropolitans and patriarchs chair synods of bishops. Orthodox bishops are equal. There is no form of primacy in the Orthodox Church, doctrinal or jurisdictional, which exceeds that of primus inter pares (first among equals).
"We Orthodox bear in my view a marvelous theology, in principle, of conciliarity, of what the Russians call sobornost (unanimity in freedom would be a good translation of sobornost)." +Bishop Kallistos Ware
The following explanation might be helpful (from Bishop Alexander (Mileant), ed., Ernst Benz, The Eastern Orthodox Church: Its Thought and Life
SOBERNOST: DEMOCRATIC EQUALITY OF LAITY, PRIESTS, BISHOPS, AND PATRIARCHS
"The Orthodox Church acknowledges the monarchical principle as far as the whole Church is concerned, this concept embracing both the visible Church on earth and the invisible celestial Church. The master, lord and sole head of the Church is Christ. But the monarchical principle does not in practice rule the organization of the visible Church. Here purely democratic principles prevail. No single member of the Church is considered to have a legal position fundamentally superior to that of the other members. Even the clergy, aside from the sacramental powers accorded to them by their consecration, have no special rights that would set them above the laity. The Orthodox Church prizes this "democratic" (sobornost’) principle as one of its oldest traditions. Just as all the apostles were equal in rank and authority, so their successors, the bishops, are all equal.
It is true that the principle of the so-called monarchical episcopate became established quite early in the primitive Church. That is to say, the bishop was recognized as holding the leading position within the Church. But this did not mean that he alone represented the entire spiritual power of the Church. Not even the bishops as a body constituted the highest authority of the Church. This was vested in the ecumenical consensus or conscience of the Church, which meant the general opinion of clergy and laymen taken together. Even the decision of an ecumenical council acquires validity only if it is accepted by this general consensus of the whole Church. Although the bishop represents the unity of the Christian community and exercises full spiritual powers, he is no autocrat; he and all the clergy subordinate to him are regarded as parts of the entire ecclesia, the living organism of which Christ is the head.
At the present time the government of the Orthodox churches is markedly synodal in character. Laymen as well as priests may take part in Orthodox synods. Election to ecclesiastical offices also takes place at synods, and the laity participate. This election rule holds true for parish priests as well as for bishops and patriarchs. The constitutions of the various national Orthodox churches differ in the degree to which the state intervenes in ecclesiastical government. Thus the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, which Peter the Great set up, was less an ecclesiastical council than an organ of the state directed by an absolutistic ruler. In the constitution of the Greek Orthodox Church certain rights are accorded to the King of Greece. In general the synodal or council system has gained more importance during the past several centuries. "The tendency for the collaboration of clergy and people in the administration of the Church, which has become characteristic of the Orthodox Church during the past hundred years, cannot be regarded as a product of modern democracy; rather, it represents a revival of the primitive Christian principle that bishops, clergy and people form an indissoluble vital unit" (Heiler).
Major questions of faith, rites and canon law are theoretically put before an ecumenical council. This is an assemblage of all the Orthodox bishops who decide these questions by majority vote. There have been seven great ecumenical councils: Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus in 431, Chalcedon in 451, Constantinople II in 553, Constantinople III in 680 and Nicaea II in 787. No ecumenical councils have taken place since, though many questions of faith, dogma and ritual have arisen since the eighth century which theologians feel urgently require regulation. But the breakup of Eastern Orthodoxy into various old and new types of ecclesiastical patriarchates and independent churches, and the tragic involvement of Orthodoxy in the political disasters of past centuries, have so far diminished hopes for a new ecumenical council. Only recently, fresh efforts have been made to organize such a council.
The synodal system of the Orthodox Church has undergone many strains in the course of history. Holders of one or another prominent see have sought to dominate the Church. The rivalry among the various Orthodox patriarchates sprang partly from this struggle for hegemony within the Church. When the Orthodox Church became the official Church of the Byzantine Empire, it was only in the nature of things that the Patriarch of Constantinople should find himself in a special role. In terms of the synodal government of the Church this primacy was only an honorary one, but for centuries the patriarchs of Constantinople repeatedly tried to transform their honorary primacy into a legal one and to secure papal privileges for themselves. Their claims, however, were never generally recognized. To this day the patriarch is regarded only as primus inter pares. That is, he is first among the holders of the old and new patriarchates of the East, but he is not head of the entire Orthodox Church with any legal title to primacy. Even the honorary primacy is not uncontested; when the All-Russian Synod of Moscow was called in 1948, Russian Orthodox canonists questioned the right of the Ecumenical Patriarch to call an ecumenical council. This right, they contended, was vested in the Patriarch of Moscow."