Portal-Credo.Ru: Apparently, the election of the new Metropolitan of the OCA was not a surprise to the majority; this scenario was spoken of by most -- a vote in two phases and the subsequent decision by members of the Holy Synod. But of the two final nominees, Bishop Michael of New York and New Jersey and Archbishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, the Synod chose who had the lesser number of votes, Bishop Tikhon...
Mark Stokoe: Given the tumult of the last 6 years, I think the OCA decided to surprise everyone by having no surprises!
But seriously, by all accounts the Council was calm, prayerful, positive and deliberate. It is what one would hope, and expect, in a Church Council. And I think the outcome reflected that same "spirit".
There are many, here and abroad, who have criticized the OCA for its troubles these past six years. But the health of an organization is not that it has no troubles, but how it deals with them. We were administratively corrupt, growing only in debt, saddled with leaders who had made poor choices, increasingly divided amongst ourselves. Many thought we could not change. Yet, we exposed the corruption, retired some leaders, restored financial health, and old divisions are now fading away. It’s been a bad patch -- but as this Council showed, the OCA is both truly Orthodox and American. We are not interested in restoring what we once were -- but, rather, in the manner of the New World, we look forward, so that, in the words of St. Paul, we may seek ever more to live ".. in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ...standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel." (Phil.1:27)
And so there were no surprises in Parma. It was clear from the beginning to most observers that no potential candidate would receive 2/3 of the votes on the first ballot. Thus the most important question for the delegates was not which of the two nominees would get the most votes on the second ballot -- but which two names would go on to the Synod for election. The fact that +Tikhon and +Michael were put forth tells you more about the OCA today than the small margin of votes between them. Historically speaking, the second vote-getter is often selected as Metropolitan, so that too was no surprise, in and of itself.
- Mark, which qualities of Vladyka Tikon played a role in his selection: his personal character, his work as Secretary of the Synod and administrative ability, or level of theological education? Or, perhaps, that he is much younger than the other bishops?
- I’ll take e) None of the Above. The new Metropolitan is educated, but he has no pretensions of being an academic. He is the Secretary of the Synod, but of course, in America, that means little more in our system than he is the one who takes the notes at Synod meetings. Really.
In terms of personality, +Tikhon is not "the life of the party". He is a true monk, and like most real monks he is quiet, albeit with a sly sense of humour. He is younger than all the other bishops -- but that is not why they choose him. In fact, I would suggest that worked against him, because, demographically speaking, he will most likely be our Metropolitan for the next 35 years. That’s a very long time.
What is interesting with +Tikhon is that the whole OCA has been watching the new Metropolitan gradually emerge from the shadow of the Metropolitan Herman over the past four years -- like Greenland rising, as the ice cap melts away, and previously hidden features are revealed. (He did not speak at all during his first Metropolitan Council meetings - and when he finally did, and spoke well, one famous priest leaned over to me and said; "Garbo talks!") My experience, however, is that more than a few people will be surprised at the strength of character in our new Metropolitan. Outside observers may have mistaken his quiet meticulousness and refusal to take half-baked decisions as a sign of weakness or indecisiveness. I think the Synod knows otherwise, and thus chose him to be their steady and steadfast leader -- one in whom they know will do the right thing, at the right time, the first time.
- If you know anything about him, whom do you think the new Metropolitan Tikhon resembles most: an active administrator or one that avoids conflicts? After all, it was a conflict in the OCA’s leadership that necessitated the election of a new Metropolitan; now all hope for mutual cooperation.
- I do not think this Metropolitan will seek out conflicts - alas, enough will find him! I think he will be collegial and counciliar, however, in his dealings, which is our system after all, and one that is working well. +Tikhon believes in the OCA, and in its mission, but most importantly, he is a Orthodox Christian who, like St. Paul, wishes only to preach Christ and Him crucified. What was the first thing of which he spoke after his election? Not the OCA, or being elected, but of Christ. Perfect! What was the last thing he mentioned? "No more elections!" (I told you he had a sly sense of humour!) It was also the perfect thing to say, for our Church needs tranquility - and with Tikhon there should be no unpleasant surprises. So, I am hopeful at this election, and await pleasant surprises as he grows in office over the years. Nor do I think such confidence is misplaced: after all, the last primate named Tikhon we had here in America worked out pretty well, didn’t he?
- With your permission, Mark, a more vexing question: Would you comment on the greeting of Patriarch Kirill of the ROC MP in which he, along with the official words to the OCA’s new Metropolitan suggested taking care of the material welfare of the former primate and improving relations with other churches?
- The Patriarch’s greeting was hardly "vexing". The bond of love and affection between the OCA and the Russian Church were maternal for more than 150 years, and now have been sisterly for more than 40, through good times and bad. Vexing would have been not to have offered a greeting at all!
As for his specific mention of "improving relations" with other churches in his greeting -- this has been an issue for the OCA for the past 40 years, an issue with which the Russian Orthodox Church has been well aware. And within the parameters of our understanding of the Orthodox teaching on autocephaly -- an understanding shared not only by the OCA, but the Russian, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, and other local Churches for example -- the OCA has reached out to cooperate with the Greek Churches who do not share that same understanding. OCA bishops actively participate in the North American Assembly of Orthodox Bishops both liturgically and administratively; our parishes and priests offer a common witness to society in many places; and together we all join in support of the IOCC as well as OCMC, the OCF, and so many other organizations. Canonical issues take time --- I would ask those in Russia to look to Estonia or Ukraine closer to home as evidence of that. Christ has overcome the world; so certainly we who claim to be his followers and disciples can overcome our mere human divisions given time. It is something we have been, and will continue to work one -- as the Patriarch rightly pointed out.
As for mention of the "the material welfare" of the former Metropolitan it was kind of the Patriarch to express his brotherly concern. These are not Soviet times, when someone just "disappears"! Although the OCA is not a large Church like the Russian Church, with its hundreds of dioceses and thousands of parishes, monasteries and ministries, I have heard that the former Metropolitan has been offered several options for service, none of which he felt was a good fit. +Jonah himself knows these things take time -- just recently it took +Jonah himself over a year to find a suitable position for his former Chancellor. But one was found, as one will be for +Jonah, no doubt. So that is not really an issue beyond a welcome expression of a pastor’s concern for another pastor.
We have an expression in America: the bottom line. The bottom line -- for me -- is that our Time of Troubles has now come to an end. Problems still remain to be resolved, new problems will emerge . Such is life. But we have been put to the test, and we have emerged on the other side, with our Faith, and unity, and mission, intact. Thanks be to God.
Svetlana Vais, New York.