July 18, 2012

Assembly in the Diocese of the South

I’m pressed for time this morning so please forgive me if this sounds rushed. It is. His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon is celebrating a hierarchical liturgy at 9:00 am and then there is a day of meetings that will spill into the evening.  But I do want to give you some sense of what is happening here, even if I can’t also do a scriptural reflection.

Diocesan Assembly

Yesterday Archbishop Nikon met with the clergy of the Diocese of the South and spoke candidly about all the recent developments in the life of the Diocese and the OCA: the delay in electing a new bishop, and the resignation of Metropolitan Jonah. He underlined that these events, however difficult, do demonstrate that the OCA is both hierarchical and conciliar. The bishops, clergy and lay leaders are working together in a way that is perhaps unique in the Orthodox world. And whatever turmoil is going on at levels of higher church administration, the parish clergy have the key role of reassuring their parishioners that the life of the Church will continue. He asked for their help in this and in reducing divisiveness.

He also spent an hour taking lots of questions. Will there be a new assignment for Metropolitan Jonah? What can you say about the cancellation of the assembly to nominate a new bishop? What is the Synod doing to be more proactive to search for and approve episcopal candidates for the OCA? When will there be an All-American Council to elect a new Metropolitan? What about “the culture wars”?  All of this was addressed openly, without dissembling or pretense, and respectfully on all sides. Later in the afternoon Archbishop Nikon met with the Diocesan Council and answered many similar questions.

After Vespers it was my turn to say what I could about the events of the last two weeks and what might be learned from them. I’ll say more about that tomorrow perhaps, but I closed with Fr Thomas Hopko’s advice to the clergy at the Diocese of the South clergy conference earlier this year in Charleston, South Carolina. He gave it as part of a workshop for church leaders on cultivating the inner life. This is taken from a “Personal Examination of Church Leader’s Life and Work.”

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Do I gossip, quarrel, shame or embarrass others? Do I lie or deceive? Do I show off in conversations? Do I insist in making my point in discussions? Is what I say always true, kind and necessary? Do I listen when others speak? Do I give them the benefit of the doubt? Do I build on their good points? What do I need to change and correct in regards to my speaking and listening?

Christ himself teaches us that we will answer for every vain and careless word that we say: not just every untrue, judgmental, mean, cruel, shaming and embarrassing word, but every empty, unnecessary, barren and unfruitful word. For by our words we will be justified and by our words we will be condemned (Matt 12:33-36.).