Orthodox Unity ~ Part 2

Let me start by saying I am not a canonist and have not studied canon law. But then again the Orthodox Church does not have canon law in the same way the Roman Church does. We have canons but not in the same sense as the Roman Church therefore we do not have canon lawyers but people who have studied patristics and the Church Councils.

With that said in this article we will look at the concept of Autocephaly. Autocephaly is simply self ruled in the sense that the head of the Church does not report to anyone else. They elect their own bishops and deal with internal church matters. In the US the OCA is the only church that meets this definition. The question is not whether a church is or is not but how it gains this status. And who has the right to declare it.

The question has been who has the authority to declare a church autocephalous? Does the mother church have this authority or is it reserved to the Ecumenical Patriarch? Well the answer to that question depends on who you talk too. The way it was described to me was that the mother church grants it and the others have to recognize it. The Church of Russia granted the then Metropolia Autocephaly in the 70’s but it has not been recognized by the others. Yes recognized as a canonical church with valid orders and sacraments but not independent.

To get the answer we turn to Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon:

Following in every detail the decrees of the holy fathers, and taking cognizance of the canon just read of the 150 bishops dearly beloved of God who gathered under Theodosius the Great, emperor of pious memory, in the imperial city of Constantinople, New Rome, we ourselves have also decreed and voted the same things concerning the prerogatives of the most holy Church of the same Constantinople, New Rome. For the fathers rightly acknowledged [apodedōkasi] the prerogatives of the throne of the Elder Rome because it was the Imperial City, and moved by the same consideration the 150 bishops beloved of God awarded [apeneiman] the same prerogatives to the most holy throne of the New Rome, rightly judging that the city which is honored by the imperial authority and the senate and enjoys the same [civil] prerogatives as the imperial city of the Elder Rome, should also be magnified in ecclesiastical matters as she is, being second after [deuteran met’ekeinēn] her.

Consequently [kai hōste], the metropolitans – and they alone – of the dioceses of Pontus, Asia and Thrace, as well as the bishops of the aforementioned dioceses who are among the barbarians, shall be ordained by the aforementioned most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople. Each metropolitan of the aforementioned dioceses, along with his fellow-bishops of the province, ordains the bishops of the province, as has been provided for in the canons; but the metropolitans of the aforementioned dioceses, as has been stated, shall be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after proper elections have been made according to custom and have been reported to him.

Okay all clear now? I am guessing no. As I understand this Canon and the understanding of the EP is the the EP designates the Autocephaly. This is the disagreement between everyone at the moment. Very confusing I know but it all has to do with gets to do what. The EP is the first among equals but what that means no one really knows. What power does the EP actually have?

As I mentioned in the last post SCOBA has called for an Episcopal Assembly based on the statement from Chambsey. The Exarch of the EP will preside as President or Chairman of this assembly based on the Dyptics or the order of Churches. Some see this as a way for the EP to gain control of the church in the US. Leaving Oliver Stone on the sidelines for a moment, this is Church order and how it is done. I am holding out hope that great things will happen to Holy Orthodoxy in this Country but it will take time.

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