A history of the OCA Primatial Elections by OCA
Archivist, Alexis Liberovsky, Director of the
Department of History and Archives.
The process of electing the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America has evolved with the growth and development of the Church on this continent. In studying the procedure currently in place to elect the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, it is important to consider the history of previous primatial elections.
For more than a century after the first Orthodox missionaries arrived in North America from Russia in 1794 and until the Russian Revolution of 1917, bishops of the North American Orthodox mission - like all hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church - were appointed by decree of the Russian Emperor upon the recommendation of the Most Holy Governing Synod, which functioned as a state ministry. This system had been in place in the Russian Orthodox Church since the abolition of the office of Patriarch by Czar Peter the Great in 1721.
Therefore, the first primatial election of the Orthodox Church in America took place in 1919. The process of primatial elections in the Orthodox Church in America as it exists today developed gradually through the course of several elections, from tentative beginnings at the Second All-American Sobor1 to an evermore structured and refined procedure, which attempts to reflect proper ecclesiology and canonical order, for the elections of 1965, 1977, 2002 and 2008.
Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America 1919-22
The first Primate to be chosen locally in North America was Archbishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) at the Second All-American Sobor in 1919. His election was a consequence of the great crisis for Orthodoxy in North America precipitated by the Russian Revolution in 1917. Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky), ruling hierarch of the Aleutians and North America from 1914 to 1918, had departed to Moscow in 1917 to attend the All-Russian Church Council there and was unable to return. Before leaving America, he had appointed his senior auxiliary, Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) to oversee the diocese temporarily while he was away in Russia. By early 1919, it was abundantly clear that Archbishop Evdokim would not be returning to his see in North America. Moreover, regular communications with the Church administration in Russia were impossible to maintain, funding for the North American Church from Russia had been cut off, and the “Living Church” schism was beginning to wreak havoc on Church life in both Russia and North America. In order to address the unfolding crisis in the life of the North American Church, it was decided to convoke the Second All-American Sobor, composed of hierarchs, clergy and lay delegates, in Cleveland, OH on February 25-28, 1919. To regain normalcy and stability, the Church acutely needed a fully empowered diocesan hierarch and not an auxiliary bishop provisionally administering the diocese over an extended period. On its first day, the Sobor decided to proceed with the extraordinary step of electing a new Primate for the North American Church. As the North American diocese did not have a permanent governing Statute or any other regulations concerning the election of its own diocesan bishop, an election procedure had to be established by the Sobor. Initially, several delegates proposed the election of Bishop Alexander by acclamation of the Sobor. However, a small group of delegates protested and a vote by secret ballot was then held, with each delegate voting for a single candidate. The results of this voting were as follows:
Archbishop EVLOGY (Georgievsky)formerly of Kholm and later of Western Europe
|Archpriest John Krohmalny||1|
|against Bishop ALEXANDER but without designation of another candidate||8|
Thus, Bishop Alexander was elected Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America. After the announcement of the election results, the other hierarchs present and several leading clergy expressed in short statements to the Sobor their approval of the election results. Bishop Alexander, who was not present during the election, was then summoned back to the Sobor session and his election as Archbishop was announced to him. In accepting his election and elevation to the primacy, Archbishop Alexander thanked the delegates and made a full prostration before them in gratitude. All the Sobor delegates signed a special proclamation on the election of Archbishop Alexander. In August 1920, Patriarch Tikhon and the Holy Synod of the Russian Church were able, belatedly, to confirm the election of Archbishop Alexander as Primate of the North American Church and his elevation to the rank of Archbishop.
This delayed confirmation of Archbishop Alexander’s election is but one example of the continued difficulties encountered by the Orthodox Church in North America after the Second All-American Sobor. The impossibility of normal contact with the Church in Russia and the loss of funding from Russia that had sustained the North American Church created a vacuum of authority and dire straits. With the support of the Soviet government, the Living Church, in an effort to undermine the legitimate Russian Church, continued to foment ecclesiastical schism in North America also, under the leadership of John Kedrovsky. Furthermore, the various Orthodox ethnic groups in North America began to subordinate themselves to their mother Churches abroad, thus creating a multiplicity of Orthodox jurisdictions in the New World. Archbishop Alexander was unable to deal with the demands of all these situations and, in 1922, decided to resign as ruling hierarch of the North American diocese and to move to Europe where he would have a fruitful archpastorate until his death as a metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church on April 11, 1960. Prior to leaving America, he asked Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky) to take over as the ruling hierarch of the North American Church. Metropolitan Platon had previously served as ruling bishop of the North American diocese from 1907 to 1914 and had recently returned to the United States as a refugee. Due to the critical situation of the North American Church, Patriarch Tikhon had appointed Metropolitan Platon as a special Patriarchal representative in America while Archbishop Alexander was still the ruling hierarch.
Metropolitan of All America and Canada 1922-34
By the time the Third All-American Sobor convened in Pittsburgh, PA on November 7-9, 1922, Metropolitan Platon had already been temporary head of the North American Church since August when Archbishop Alexander had departed to Europe. On the first day of the Sobor, Metropolitan Platon was recognized, through the adoption of a series of special resolutions, as the permanent head of the North American Church and was the first to have the title “Metropolitan of All America and Canada”.
In further actions, the Sobor took steps to stabilize the precarious situation of the North American Church by grappling with the previously cited critical problems of leadership, finances, communication and schism. Nevertheless, after the Sobor, this unrest in Church life in North America continued to intensify and, as a result, Metropolitan Platon’s authority as the rightful head of the North American Church was repeatedly questioned and challenged.
In 1923, Patriarch Tikhon and the Holy Synod of the Russian Church confirmed Metropolitan Platon’s election at the Third All-American Sobor, but sometime later, a Patriarchal decree of uncertain origin removing him as head of the North American Church was published. To deal with the confusion created by these contradictory decisions, and continued turmoil in Church life, the Fourth All-American Sobor was convened in Detroit, MI on April 2-4, 1924. The Sobor’s first task was to address the issue of hierarchal leadership. In order not to influence the Sobor’s decisions on this and other issues, Metropolitan Platon decided to absent himself from the opening Sobor session. On its first day, the Fourth Sobor, following intense debate, almost unanimously approved a series of resolutions reconfirming Metropolitan Platon’s primatial election in 1922 and, in view of continuing difficulties, particularly the impossibility of normal communication with Church authorities in Russia, declared the North American Church to be “temporarily self-governing.” Once these issues had been decided, Metropolitan Platon was asked to come to the Sobor to preside at its remaining sessions. He arrived during its second day, was welcomed warmly, and guided the Sobor’s deliberations to their conclusion the following day. Metropolitan Platon would remain the Primate of the North American Church through many difficulties over the next decade until his repose on April 20, 1934.
Metropolitan of All America and Canada 1934-1950
Immediately following Metropolitan Platon’s repose, Archbishop Theophilus (Pashkovsky) of San Francisco, as senior hierarch, was named Locum Tenens of the metropolitan’s see. On November 20-23, 1934, the Fifth All-American Sobor met in Cleveland, OH. After dealing with many weighty matters, the Sobor turned to the issue of the primatial election on the evening of its third day. As the Church still did not have a permanent Statute or any other regulations governing the procedure of the election of the Primate of the North American Church, Sobor delegates presented and debated various electoral processes, noting historic precedents going back even to apostolic times. Even prior to the Sobor, it was clear that only two hierarchs were viable candidates for the primacy of the North American Church: Archbishop Theophilus, the Church’s senior hierarch and Locum Tenens, and Bishop Leonty (Turkevich) of Chicago, who although consecrated to the episcopacy just the previous year, was a proven leader in the North American Church. During the Sobor’s deliberations regarding the proper procedure for electing the Primate, Bishop Leonty suggested that the Sobor should simply acknowledge the senior hierarch, Archbishop Theophilus, as the Primate of the North American Church. To this suggestion, the Sobor responded with a resounding cry of “Axios.” Deeply moved by this affirmation of his leadership, Archbishop Theophilus expressed a wish, in keeping with the spirit of canonical order, that a vote by the hierarchy be conducted. Immediately, all the hierarchs in attendance entered the sanctuary of St. Theodosius Cathedral. Following their ten-minute consultation, Bishop Arseny (Chahovtsev) of Canada tearfully announced the selection of Archbishop Theophilus as Metropolitan of All America and Canada. Metropolitan Theophilus led the Church for the next sixteen years, during a historical period that was unsettling and stable in various respects, until his repose on June 27, 1950.
Metropolitan of All America and Canada 1950-1965
As the Eighth All-American Sobor prepared to assemble in New York on December 5-8, 1950 to elect the Church’s new Primate, the nearly unanimous consensus was that only Archbishop Leonty (Turkevich) of Chicago could be the next metropolitan. Since the death of Metropolitan Theophilus, Archbishop Leonty had been serving as Locum Tenens of the primatial see. On the opening day of the Sobor, Archbishop Leonty delivered an inspiring State of the Church address. For the first time, a Pre-Sobor Commission had formulated an election process in advance of the council. The primatial election took place in the afternoon of the Sobor’s second day, in accordance with this procedure, which stipulated that the Sobor delegates would vote by secret ballot to nominate three candidates from which the hierarchs would elect the new Metropolitan. The results of this secret ballot were:
Bishop DIMITRY(Magan) of Boston
Bishop JOHN(Shahovskoy) of Brooklyn
Bishop NIKON(de Greve) of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania
Metropolitan ANASTASY(Gribanovsky) of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia (ROCOR)
Following a brief consultation in the sanctuary of Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral by the hierarchs, Bishop Dionysius (Diachenko) of Pittsburgh announced that they had unanimously chosen Archbishop Leonty as the Church’s new Primate. Metropolitan Leonty, the saintly and sage elder, would guide the Church wisely through a remarkable period of stability, growth and change until his blessed repose on May 14, 1965.
Metropolitan of All America and Canada 1965-77
At the Ninth All-American Sobor in 1955, a governing Statute, thirty years in preparation, was adopted, thus establishing a permanent administrative structure for the North American Church. Among the provisions of this Statute, the process of electing the Church’s Primate was clearly outlined. This procedure is still in effect today, as it was carried over, largely unchanged, into the revised Statute adopted by the Second All-American Council in 1971 following the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America in 1970. Upon Metropolitan Leonty’s passing, Archbishop Ireney (Bekish) of Boston and New England, who had assisted the elderly and infirm Metropolitan Leonty in his primatial functions during the last five years of his life, was elected Locum Tenens of the primatial see by the Great Council of Bishops. The Twelfth All-American Sobor was assembled in New York on September 22-23, 1965 to elect a new Metropolitan of All America and Canada. To date, it remains the only sobor or council convened solely for the purpose of electing the Primate.
According to article I, section 20 of the 1955 Statute, there was to be no discussion of candidates at the Sobor prior to the nomination vote by secret ballot by all delegates - hierarchs, clergy and laity. The voting was preceded by prayer. In the first round of voting, each delegate was to vote for a single candidate. If any candidate received at least two-thirds of the total votes cast by all delegates, his name was to be presented to the hierarchs in attendance for their election by majority vote. If no candidate received the requisite two-thirds on the first ballot, a second round of voting was to be held immediately. The results of the first round would not affect the second round of voting in any way, except in the case where a candidate had received two-thirds in the first round and was rejected in the vote of the hierarchs, making him ineligible for consideration in the second round. In the second round, each Sobor delegate would write two names on a paper ballot. The hierarchs present at the Sobor would then elect the metropolitan from among the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes in the second ballot of the Sobor delegates.
The primatial election took place at the first session of the second day of the Sobor. The requisite two-thirds on the first ballot was set at 200 based on the number of delegates in attendance. The results of the first ballot were as follows
Bishop VLADIMIR(Nagosky) of Tokyo and Japan
Archbishop IRENEY(Bekish) of Boston and New England
Bishop KIPRIAN(Borisevich) of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania
Archbishop JOHN(Garklavs) of Chicago and Minneapolis
Archbishop JOHN(Shahovskoy) of San Francisco and the West
Bishop SYLVESTER(Haruns) of Montreal and Canada
Archbishop NIKON(de Greve) of Brooklyn
As no candidate received two-thirds of the vote in the first round, a second ballot was immediately held. The results were:
Archbishop JOHNof Chicago
Archbishop JOHNof San Francisco
Bishop MICHAEL(Diky) of Buenos Aires
Bishop AMVROSSY(Merejko) of Sitka and Alaska
|Fr. Dmitri Royster||3|
|Fr. Andrew Fedetz||1|
|Fr. Theodosius Lazor||1|
|Fr. Seraphim Babich||1|
Immediately following the announcement of the results of the second round of the nomination vote, the hierarchs proceeded into the sanctuary of Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral for the election. Fifteen minutes later, Archbishop John of Chicago announced before the royal doors that Archbishop Ireney had been elected by the hierarchs by a vote of 7 to 2. The enthronement of the newly elected Metropolitan Ireney took place later that afternoon and was followed by adjournment of the Sobor.
During Metropolitan’s Ireney’s primatial tenure, which lasted twelve years, relations with the Church of Russia were normalized with the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1970. This gave permanency to the “temporary self-government” proclaimed by the Fourth All-American Sobor in 1924.
By the spring of 1974, physical infirmities prompted Metropolitan Ireney on May 15, 1974 to request that the Holy Synod appoint Archbishop Sylvester of Montreal and Canada as Temporary Administrator of the Orthodox Church in America in order to assist him with primatial duties. In this role, Archbishop Sylvester assumed many functions of the Primate, while Metropolitan Ireney continued to participate in major events in Church life and approved all significant decisions. Sensing the further effects of age and deterioration in his health, on March 9, 1977, Metropolitan Ireney petitioned the Holy Synod to grant him retirement. By the Synod’s decision, the Primate’s retirement was to be effective on October 25, 1977, the first day of the upcoming Fifth All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, when the election of the new Primate would take place. While residing in retirement at the newly established SS. Cosmas and Damian Adult Home on Staten Island, NY, Metropolitan Ireney would peacefully fall asleep in the Lord on March 18, 1981.
Metropolitan of All America and Canada 1977-2002
On the opening day of the Fifth All-American Council, Archbishop Sylvester officiated at the Divine Liturgy at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Montreal. This was immediately followed by the opening prayer service for the council celebrated by Metropolitan Ireney as his last primatial function. In keeping with the provisions of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, following the formal retirement announcement by Metropolitan Ireney at the council’s opening session, Archbishop Sylvester, who, as Temporary Administrator, was asked by the Holy Synod to also be Locum Tenens, read the Synod’s decision accepting the Metropolitan’s retirement and declaring the primatial see vacant. He directed the Fifth All-American Council to proceed with the election immediately. With 463 delegates accredited and in attendance, 308 votes were determined as the two-thirds required for nomination on the first ballot.
The results of the first ballot were:
Bishop DMITRI(Royster) of Hartford and New England
Archbishop KIPRIAN(Borisevich) of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania
Bishop THEODOSIUS(Lazor) of Pittsburgh and West Virginia
Archbishop SYLVESTER(Haruns) of Montreal and Canada
Bishop HERMAN(Swaiko) of Wilkes-Barre
Bishop GREGORY(Afonsky) of Sitka and Alaska
Bishop KYRILL(Yonchev) of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese
|Archpriest Boris Geeza||8|
Archbishop JOHN(Garklavs) of Chicago and Minneapolis
Archbishop JOHN(Shahovskoy) of San Francisco and the West
Archbishop VALERIAN(Trifa) of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate
As no candidate received the two-thirds required for nomination on the first vote, a second round of voting was held immediately. An additional delegate was accredited at this time.
The results of the second vote were:
|Fr. Boris Geeza||36|
Archbishop JOHNof Chicago
Archbishop JOHNof San Francisco
Bishop JOASAPH(Antoniuk) of Edmonton
Bishop JOSE(Cortez y Olmos) of Mexico
|Fr. Mark Forsberg||3|
|Fr. Damian Hart||1|
|Fr. Gabriel Barrow||1|
|Fr. Thomas Green||1|
|Invalid ballots (9 x 2)||18|
With the nomination of Bishops Dmitri and Theodosius, the hierarchs in attendance immediately proceeded to the sanctuary for the election. In the development of clearer ecclesial structures after autocephaly, it was determined that only diocesan hierarchs are members of the Holy Synod and only they could participate in the election. Auxiliary, titular and retired hierarchs are not members of the Holy Synod and do not vote. Likewise, the two nominated candidates, Bishops Dmitri and Theodosius, did not participate in the election. A short time later, Bishop Gregory announced to the council, on behalf of the Holy Synod, that Bishop Theodosius had been elected the new Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. A short prayer service was immediately celebrated and the newly elected metropolitan was officially installed in office. Later that afternoon at the Sheraton Mount Royal Hotel in downtown Montreal, where the rest of the Fifth All-American Council would take place, a press conference was held with the new metropolitan. This was followed by a Service of Thanksgiving after which Metropolitan Theodosius delivered his inaugural statement to all council participants and all in attendance were able to receive individually his primatial blessing. That evening, a Grand Banquet was held in honor of retiring Metropolitan Ireney and newly elected Metropolitan Theodosius. Uplifted by the election of the first American-born Primate, the Fifth All-American Council joyfully continued its sessions for the next three days under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Theodosius, who was to be the leader of the Orthodox Church in America for the next quarter of a century.
Metropolitan of All America and Canada 2002-08
On April 2, 2002, after nearly twenty-five years of primatial service, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius unexpectedly submitted a petition to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America requesting retirement. While surprised by this unanticipated request, the Holy Synod thanked His Beatitude for his years of service and announced that the election of the new Primate of the Orthodox Church in America would take place on July 22, 2002, the first day of the Thirteenth All-American Council in Orlando, FL. Due to the fact that arrangements for this council were already firmly in place in a city where there is no sizeable Orthodox church building to accommodate the assembly gathered for a primatial election, the election would take place in the Thirteenth All-American Council temporary chapel set up at the Renaissance Hotel. Prior to the election, the chapel was the site of two hierarchal Divine Liturgies, presided by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, on Sunday, July 21 and Monday, July 22, 2002. With the presence of hallowed relics of the Orthodox Saints of North America, this chapel indeed became sacred space sanctified by the celebration of divine services in preparation for the election of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. When the election of the Primate was incorporated into the planning for the Thirteenth All-American Council, it was decided that all plenary sessions at this council would take place in the council chapel, unlike recent All-American councils. This was reminiscent of the early sobors before the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America that always took place in church buildings, which created a more prayerful setting for this council’s deliberations.
On May 24, 2002, the Holy Synod had held an extraordinary session to approve specially drafted “GUIDELINES FOR THE ELECTION OF THE METROPOLITAN OF ALL AMERICA AND CANADA.” These guidelines served to clarify the provisions of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America concerning the election and to provide greater detail concerning the election procedure. The guidelines prepared for the election in 2002 were based on a similar document issued in 1977 with revisions to clarify certain aspects and to address the particular circumstances for this election. An important difference between this election and the previous one is that in 1977 Archbishop Sylvester had been Temporary Administrator of the Orthodox Church in America for almost three years when Metropolitan Ireney petitioned the Holy Synod for retirement. It was thus reasonable for the Holy Synod to request Archbishop Sylvester to be Locum Tenens once Metropolitan Ireney’s retirement became effective on the first day of the Fifth All-American Council. In his capacity as Locum Tenens, Archbishop Sylvester presided over the primatial election in 1977. However in the 2002 election, as there was no Temporary Administrator in place, once Metropolitan Theodosius made his formal retirement statement to the Thirteenth All-American Council, the Holy Synod, in accordance with the provisions of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America (Article IV, Section 4), voted to declare the see of the metropolitan vacant and elected a Locum Tenens whose sole function will be to preside at the election of the new metropolitan. Archbishop Kyrill (Yonchev) of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, the senior hierarch by consecration date, was elected Locum Tenens.
In preparation for the election, special prayers to be added to every divine service throughout the Orthodox Church in America had been distributed. As with the election of each Primate, the Church begins a new historical era, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful fervently prayed that the Holy Spirit would inspire the Thirteenth All-American Council to choose a worthy Primate so that God’s will may be accomplished in the election and in Church life in the years ahead.
In the afternoon of the first day of the Thirteenth All-American Council, the second plenary session was convened. That morning, at the council’s first session, Metropolitan Theodosius delivered his final address and read his formal retirement statement. Presided by Archbishop Kyrill, the second plenary session, after a final review of the voting process, proceeded with the first ballot. With 639 voting delegates in attendance, 426 votes were the 2/3 necessary for nomination of a candidate on the first ballot. With no clearly apparent consensus, voting was inconclusive on the first ballot and unlike delegate nomination votes in previous elections, there was a greater diversity of nominees, including some from other Orthodox jurisdictions. The results of the first ballot were as follows:
|Bishop SERAPHIM (Storheim) of Ottawa and Canada||267|
|Archbishop HERMAN (Swaiko) of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania||141|
|Bishop JOB (Osacky) of Chicago and the Midwest||52|
|Archbishop NATHANIEL (Popp) of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate||47|
|Bishop NIKOLAI (Soraich) of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska||47|
|Archbishop DMITRI (Royster) of Dallas and the South||45|
|Bishop BASIL (Essey) of Enfeh al-Koura, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America||12|
|Bishop TIKHON (Fitzgerald) of San Francisco and the West||3|
|Fr. Michael Dahulich||3|
|Archbishop KYRILL (Yonchev) of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and the Bulgarian Diocese||2|
|Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba) of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America||2|
|Archbishop DEMETRIOS (Trakatellis) of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America||2|
|Fr. Eugene Tarris||2|
|Fr. Irinej (Dobrijevich) of the Serbian Orthodox Church||2|
|Bishop NIKON (Liolin) of Baltimore||1|
|Bishop NICHOLAS (Pissare) of Detroit, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (presumably?)||1|
|Archimandrite Tikhon (Mollard)||1|
|Fr. Christopher (Calin)||1|
|Fr. Alexander (Golitzin)||1|
|Fr. Vladimir (Wendling)||1|
|Hierodeacon Yakov (Nicolai)||1|
As no candidate received the required 2/3 of the vote for nomination on the first ballot, a second round of balloting by the council delegates immediately took place.
Following the celebration of vespers, the results of the second ballot were announced:
|Bishop BASIL (Essey)||32|
|Fr. Alexander (Golitzin)||19|
|Fr. Michael Dahulich||15|
|Archbishop PETER (L’Huillier) of New York and New Jersey||5|
|Archimandrite Tikhon (Mollard)||5|
|Fr. Irinej (Dobrijevich)||5|
|Fr. Basil Carpenter||3|
|Fr. Vladimir (Wendling)||3|
|Bishop DIMITRIOS (Couchell) of Xanthos, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America||2|
|Fr. David Brum||2|
|Fr. Basil Summer||2|
|Fr. Eugene Tarris||2|
|Bishop NICHOLAS (Pissare) (presumably?)||1|
|Fr. Christopher (Calin)||1|
|Fr. Jonah (Paffhausen)||1|
|Fr. Dennis Pihach||1|
|Fr. Ireney (Rochon)||1|
|Hierodeacon Yakov (Nicolai)||1|
|Dr. Albert Rossi||1|
As prescribed in the election procedure, the names of the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes were then submitted to the Holy Synod as the nominees. While the assembled delegates and other council participants sang hymns, the Holy Synod retired to the sanctuary to deliberate the selection of a Primate. After lengthy deliberation, the hierarchs emerged from the sanctuary and Archbishop Kyrill, as Locum Tenens, made the official announcement on behalf of the Holy Synod, that Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania had been elected OCA Primate.
For the first time, a special enthronement celebration was held. It took place on September 7-8, 2002 in Washington, DC, the Primate’s see since 1981. Significantly, hierarchs and clergy representing almost all of the world’s Orthodox Churches participated, thus demonstrating Orthodox unity on a grand scale in the concelebration of 25 Orthodox hierarchs. This was the largest number of hierarchs celebrating a liturgy together in the history of Orthodoxy in North America.
The primatial election of 2002 provided the Orthodox Church in America with her second American-born leader, thus confirming the Church’s rootedness in North America.
After just six years as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Herman suddenly petitioned the Holy Synod for retirement on September 4, 2008. His request was granted effective immediately.
THE 2008 PRIMATIAL ELECTION AT THE FIFTEENTH ALL-AMERICAN COUNCIL
Immediately after granting retirement to Metropolitan Herman, the Holy Synod elected Archbishop Dmitri (Royster) of Dallas and the South, the most senior hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, as Locum Tenens of the Metropolitan See. In this capacity, he will preside at the election of the new Primate of the Orthodox Church in America on Wednesday, November 12, 2008, at the fifth plenary session of the Fifteenth All-American Council. In preparation for this council, an amendment to the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America completely revamping the election procedure has been proposed. If adopted by the Council, the nomination of candidates by the entire council would remain, but the final selection of the Primate would be by lot from among the three candidates receiving the most nomination votes. This proposal is a simplified adaptation of the electoral process utilized for the election of Saint Tikhon (Belavin) as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia at the All-Russian Church Council in 1917-18.
Since the first primatial election of the Orthodox Church in America, there has been a gradual refinement of the electoral process. In the earliest elections, there was some uncertainty in the search for the right procedure for electing a Primate, which would conform to the universal Tradition of the Church. Those early elections were by vote of clergy and lay delegates alike. As there was not yet a Synod of Bishops in North America, the first two elections had to be confirmed by the Holy Synod in Russia. Until the clear definition, which has since remained essentially unchanged, of the election procedure in the Statutes of 1955 and 1971, electoral processes utilized in previous elections were generally ad hoc - worked out just prior to being implemented. The current process in place since 1955 allows for the voice of the entire Church to be heard in the nomination of candidates by vote of the entire All-American Council, which provides guidance for the election by the Holy Synod of Bishops. The entire assembled Church invokes the Holy Spirit in prayer as the council prepares to vote. If there is a consensus on who the Church’s Primate should be as expressed by a two-thirds majority vote on the first ballot by the council, only that candidate’s name is submitted to the Holy Synod. If the bishops vote to reject this candidate, they must give a reason for so doing. If no candidate receives two-thirds of the total votes on the first ballot by the council, each council delegate is required to write the names of two candidates on the ballot during the second round of voting, thus leaving the final decision between the two top candidates entirely up to the hierarchy as the highest authority in the Church. In this two-step nomination and election process, it is hoped that the selection of the Primate can be truly guided by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, it was intended to reflect the dual nature of Orthodox ecclesial structure, which is both hierarchal and conciliar.
In order to differentiate between the councils before and after the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America in 1970, when the Church entered a new historical era, it was decided at the time that the councils from 1907 to 1970 would be designated by Russian term “sobor,” and that the conciliar gatherings after autocephaly in 1970 would be called by the equivalent English term “council.” Therefore, the 14th All-American Sobor in 1970 became the 1st All-American Council. This remains the generally accepted practice, though “sobor” and “council” are sometimes used interchangeably. In Russian, there is no terminology to differentiate the name for the councils before and after autocephaly - both are called “sobor.”