Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Glory to God! We have a leader!

As was said by one member of the All-American Council here: "God has not abandoned His people!" Or as another put it, enthusiastic and repeatedly, "We have a leader!"

The election of the newly-minted Bishop Jonah of Ft. Worth to become our new metropolitan is nothing less than a miracle - and at the same time it reveals just how radically the Holy Synod of Bishops and the central administration of the OCA has changed in the last little while. In the process of nominating a metropolitan for the OCA, if no nominee receives more than 2/3rds of the ballots cast in the first round of voting, the Holy Synod of Bishops elects as metropolitan one of the two men who receive the most nominations in the second round of voting. In both of the last two elections since the OCA received its autocephalus ("self-heading") status from our mother-church in Russia in 1970, the synod has chosen the more experienced second-place nominee over the less-experienced "people's choice": first Metropolitan Theodosius was chosen over Archbishop Dimitri, then Metropolitan Herman was chosen over then-front-runner Archbishop Seraphim.

This is the first time that the Holy Synod of Bishops has chosen the "people's choice" to be the new metropolitan of the OCA, and the first time that someone who converted to Orthodox Christianity in adulthood has been chosen - a choice made all the more dramatic by Bishop Jonah's radical inexperience: he had been a bishop for less than two weeks before being made metropolitan! The bishops' choice shows that the Holy Synod is listening carefully to its flock - and reminds me of how the catechumen Ambrose was elected bishop of Milan in AD 374.

The turning point came when Fr. John Jillions, speaking for the pre-conciliar commission, pressed the Holy Synod to respond to the questions they had asked us to ask them at the beginning of the council. The bishops were at first reluctant to respond, as (through a typically Orthodox oversight) they had not received a copy of the compiled questions beforehand to consider. At last, as it was obvious to all that all the delegates present earnestly desired to hear the bishops' response to the questions, the Holy Synod sent Bishop Jonah up to answer some of the questions after first putting them in their proper theological context. Bishop Jonah's response, available to listen to here in its entirety (and well worth a listen - do check it out!) revealed to all present exactly what a thoughtful, articulate, wise and loving individual he is - and his response made it clear that he understood the hurt and betrayal that many have felt, and at the same time made it clear that forgiveness of the hurt does not justify what was done, but absolutely must be extended as it is essential for our own salvation and healing.

The feeling of joy and gratitude to God that can be felt here is overwhelming, and may be glimpsed in the response to Metropolitan Jonah's speech at the banquet here tonight - a speech which also revealed him to be a man of vision, and a man whose vision is firmly rooted in the resurrectional reality of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. With Metropolitan Jonah we all cry "Glory to Jesus Christ!" and with all those present at the council we all cry "Axios!" and "Many years!" to our newly-elected leader.

Looking forward to coming home and rejoicing with you all, I remain,

your servant in Christ,

Fr. Justin.

1 comment:

kimberley francis said...

Hi Father, Thanks so much for being there and for being with us, when you get back. It's been cool to listen to some of the podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio and to see some of the videos especially the coronation one. Also really cool to see Fr. Michael and Fr. John and Kurt in the sea of black cassocks.

The words of Met. Jonah were so stirring... he sounds alot like AB Seraphim in content, and I understand that they were classmates way back in the day which is cool. Acts of service and humility seem to be the hallmarks of the faith that he is challenging us to live by. I liked that he brought it all back to daily prayers and what we do when no one is looking, extending kindness to strangers--

I was wondering if upon your return, we could set aside some time as a parish to listen to the Podcast of the speech that you have linked here? (Maybe on a Thursday?) And then to have some time to reflect and maybe right down some ideas to be considered by parish council-- some long term ones, some short term, big and small steps?

ie: a parish pilgramage to SF to venerate the relics of St. John, installing a chapter of OCF not only at UBC but also SFU and Emily Carr, and wherever there are already students in the midst, as seedlings to grow over the years...(not necessarily for you to even need to make the rounds but just for students to be able to connect with those looking and invite them to vespers etc; outreach to some of the oldies in the neighbourhood who are no doubt pretty lonely, maybe to befriend the orthodox seniors residence down on Franklin-- and some of the other things that Met Jonah outlined in his talk.

It seems an incredible season of opportunity and newness and I think it could be really encouraging for us here off Commercial Drive to connect with the vision there where you are.

I felt really proud to get to be a part of something so special while I was listening... Thanks for being our leader in humble service and inspiring us to follow your lead. We're lucky ducks to have you.