Autocephaly (18 of 20)

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


Does the decree on autocephaly really uphold all of the principles and demands of the American Church?


Yes, it certainly does. The one firm demand of the Metropolia was that it must be free and self-governing. The decree of autocephaly has fulfilled this demand to the letter. There is no longer any bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate holding title, or claiming jurisdiction over any territory in America.

Because of the complexity of the situation, however, certain practical settlements had to be made of a temporary and non-essential nature. Thus, for example, it was agreed that certain properties of the Moscow Patriarchate would remain in its possession, such as the St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York City, as a residence of a representative of the Russian Church in the priestly rank.

Also it was agreed that parishes of the former Moscow Exarchate would not be transferred en masse to the new Orthodox Church in America, but that those which would apply for membership and would be accepted by the church would be given immediate canonical release by Moscow with no reservations and no questions asked.

This arrangement was made not only to express an understanding attitude to those parishes which were sincerely loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate over the years, but to protect the new autocephalous church from the “forced re-entry” of those parishes which had gone to Moscow for un-christian and un-orthodox reasons. Thus to date a number of parishes of the former Russian Exarchate have applied and have been accepted into the Orthodox Church in America, while other groups have not been forced upon the church in any way but remain isolated in their existing conditions until they are ready to join the American Church with good faith and good will. In such a case, of course, they will be received as brothers.

It is important here to note as well that the autocephaly agreement has stated very clearly that the parishes of the former exarchate will receive canonical releases from Moscow only for their entrance into the Orthodox Church in America. They will not be canonically released into any other ecclesiastical body operating in America. In the meantime they will be governed by one of the bishops of the Russian Church who will have no title or permanent residence in America.