Autocephaly (11 of 20)

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


Can there be an autocephalous Orthodox Church in America which does not encompass all Orthodox Christians living in this territory? What about the continued existence of the Orthodox “jurisdictions” in America?


Since it is the Orthodox dogmatic and canonical rule that all Orthodox Christians living within the same territory, regardless of their race, national origins or political convictions, must be united into one church body, it is indeed highly irregular to have an autocephalous church in a territory where other ecclesiastical jurisdictions continue to operate.

The new Orthodox Church in America considers it as its Christian duty, nevertheless, not to insist that all of the “jurisdictions” cease to exist and submit themselves to its sole jurisdiction. Such a position would be as presumptuous and unrealistic as it would be uncharitable and unpastoral because of the confusion which has existed for fifty years in Orthodoxy in America.

Thus at its first All-American Council the Orthodox Church in America addressed the other jurisdictions with the formal proclamation of its two main principles of action. The first principle was that its status as autocephalous is firm and unyielding; proper from every dogmatic, canonical, spiritual, pastoral and missionary point of view. Secondly, it stressed the fact that it fully understood the complexity and uniqueness of the American situation and offered its total willingness to work with all jurisdictions for the common good of all, with the ultimate goal being the unity of all, with the ultimate goal being the unity of all into the one American Church.

On this second principle, the Council stressed that it had no idea of the “submission” of others to itself, but called for the voluntary union of all; and it underlined its approval of the preservation and sharing of all ethnic and cultural values which are edifying and enriching to Orthodox Christian faith, life and mission in America.

Thus, the Orthodox Church in America realizes the irregularity of its position in relation to the others. It considers its new status, however, as a positive step to the settlement of this irregularity. And it would insist that the situation now with its new position renders the situation in America as at least “less irregular” than it was previously when no “jurisdiction” could claim legitimate freedom from a non-American national description.