The sole purpose for the convocation of the Twelfth Sobor meeting on September 22-23, 1965 was the election of a successor to Metropolitan LEONTY who had fallen asleep in the Lord on May 14, 1965. A mood of tension was evident among the delegates as they assembled to participate in the voting procedure for the election of the new Primate as established by the Statute. In the first round of voting, Bishop VLADIMIR (Nagosky) of Japan, a young American-born hierarch, narrowly edged Archbishop IRENEY (Bekish) of New England, an immigrant who had arrived in the US only a dozen years earlier. However, as no one had received the requisite two-thirds of the total ballots cast, a second round of voting took place during which each delegate was required to write two names on a paper ballot. The Council of Bishops was to choose the new Primate from the top two vote getters in the second round: Bishop VLADIMIR with 203 votes and Archbishop IRENEY with 131. The Council of Bishops chose Archbishop IRENEY to be the new Metropolitan. Sensing that in their vote the council delegates had expressed the desire to have a younger American-born hierarch leading the Metropolia and thus affirming the Church’s rootedness in North America, the newly elected Primate sought, in his enthronement address and subsequent activities, to reach out to the younger generations and to hear their concerns.
It is quite paradoxical that during the primatial tenure of this old-world, elderly hierarch, the most radical change in the history of the North American Church would occur as is evidenced in subsequent councils.
As demonstrated by the polarization during the historic primatial election, the Twelfth Sobor was another turning point in the Metropolia’s efforts to firmly establish herself in North America as the local territorial Church.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.