Autocephaly (10 of 20)

The answers in this section on autocephaly were provided by a seminary faculty member in a 1970 OCA publication.


Why does the Patriarchate of Constantinople refuse to honor the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America?


There are many complex reasons for the negative reaction of Constantinople and the Greek Archdiocese in America to autocephaly. These reasons are primarily political and personal. They reveal not only a lack of interest in the essential churchly dimensions of the question, but a lack of responsibility and concern for the Orthodox faith and the Orthodox people.

In the first place, Constantinople is in the awkward and quite indefensible position of identifying Orthodoxy with Greek Orthodoxy, and itself with a role similar, if happily not identical, with that of the Vatican in the Roman Church.

In addition to this distorted self-image, the Constantinopolitan Synod of Bishops retains the same self-consciousness and the same manner of acting today, even in relation to Americans, that it projected upon its “subjects” during the Turkish occupation of the last four hundred years.

Adding to this still more the fact of the truly tragic position which this church has in modern Turkey, with the American Greek Archdiocese as its only large, free and wealthy “possession,” and one can easily see the great threat which the new Orthodox Church in America presents and the reasons why Constantinople has forgotten its traditional responsibility as the “first among equals” in world Orthodoxy and has decided to act solely according to the demands of its quite limited and temporal self interests.

Also, it has to be noted on this point that the Greek Archdiocese in America, primarily in the person of its archbishop, has the very difficult choice of choosing a policy for action. It wants to lead in America—and it really should; and yet it wants as well to leave all avenues open for power in the affairs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Thus there is a dilemma which reality presents in the harshest terms, one which time will not heal, but will certainly deepen and aggravate.

With all of this in mind, and the many more detailed problems which these general impressions merely serve to illustrate, the best and most Christian attitude which the Orthodox Church in America can have towards these brothers is to remain firm in its convictions while at the same time leaving itself open to all ways of settlement and support. Only in this way can the Orthodox Church in America help the Patriarchate of Constantinople to be the Great Church that it has been and still might be before God and men.