Ownership by All, Control by None

by Charles Ajalat

The Orthodox Church, the second largest Christian tradition, if it is not to remain a footnote in the annals of modern history, needs a governance system where there is ownership by all and control by none. Further the Church needs an effective dispute resolution mechanism and to solve the North America so-called Diaspora situation with a similar system. An example follows:

I.     Legislative Branch

A.  Legislation would have to be passed by 80% of the Senatorial Synod and the Faithful Synod and agreed to by 80% of the Executive Branch.

B.  Subject to B. 1 and B. 2, the Senatorial Synod (2 representatives from each jurisdiction) and the Faithful Synod (jurisdictional representatives determined by population, history, etc.), whose President shall be elected by each of the relevant bodies, shall each be composed of 30 representatives, from the following jurisdictions (“jurisdictions”)

1. Constantinople           9. Georgia
2. Alexandria                   10. Cyprus
3. Antioch                         11. Greece
4. Jerusalem                     12. Poland
5. Russia                            13. Albania
6. Serbia                            14. Czech Lands & Slovakia
7. Romania                       15. America
8. Bulgaria

1.  Neither the representatives of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Greece and Albania together, nor the representatives of Russia, Georgia, Poland, and the Czech Lands and Slovakia together shall have more than 30% of the total representatives of either the Senatorial or Faithful Synod, the other 40% of voting representatives being allocated between Antioch (3, 10%), Romania (3, 10%), Serbia (2, 6.66%), Bulgaria (2, 6.67%), and America (2 voting representatives, 6.67%).

2.  The representatives from America for each of the two Synods shall be one from each of the following jurisdictions in the United States: Constantinople, Antioch, Russia, Romania & the Orthodox Church in America but together these 5 will only have 2 votes, which can be split upon the agreement of 4 of the 5 jurisdictions.

C.  Excluded only from the binding legislative decisions shall be internal or other negotiated excluded matters. A quorum shall be 90% of the voting members of each Synod, and the 80% passage shall be applied to those present.

D.  Legislative Sessions of both the Senatorial Synod and the Faithful Synod must be held no less than four times a year for 7 days each time initially.

II.     Executive and Judicial Branches

A. The Executive Branch shall be composed of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarchs of Antioch, Russia, Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria, each of which shall have one vote and each of whom are equal except as specifically provided otherwise in this document.

B.  Legislation, to be effective, must be passed by 80% of the Executive Branch (5 members). Meetings of the Executive Branch must be held no less than twice a year, and may be called by any the Chair or any two of its members.

C.  The role and governance of the Executive Branch are as follows:

1.  to provide guidance and make those decisions provided for in the Rules, during the periods between Legislative Sessions.

2.  The Executive Committee is presided over jointly, according to the rules to be drafted, by the following three of the Executive Committee’s equal members, namely the Ecumenical Patriarch, Chair as a matter of history (Alternative: Chair elected), the Patriarch of Russia (as a matter of population), and the Patriarch of Antioch (the only non-Greek head of the four ancient sees).  Those three also are the spokesmen as a group for the Church, acting unanimously and if one is physically present, all must be.

3. The Executive Branch shall also act as the Judicial Branch of the Orthodox Church. It shall have the final authority to adjudicate disputes between jurisdictions, which arose or arise in the past, present, or future. Rules shall be developed where the dispute involves a matter involving the sphere of influence of one of the Executive Committee members.

III.     For purposes of internal governance of America, America will be deemed to have 7 jurisdictions: (1) those of, or related to as above, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, (2) the Antiochian Patriarchate, (3) those of, or related to as above, the Russian Patriarchate, (4) Serbia, (5) Romania, (6) Bulgaria and (7) the Orthodox Church in America.

A.  Internally America shall have its own Senatorial and Faithful Synod similar to the worldwide synods of the Church, and its Executive-Judicial Branch shall be composed of the Primates/Exarchs of the 7 jurisdictions above. The Executive Committee and spokesmen, acting by unanimous decision and physically together, shall be the Primates/Exarchs of (1) the Ecumenical Patriarchate, (2) Antioch, and (3) the Orthodox Church in America. The other provisions of governance shall be similar to that of the worldwide Church. There shall be a right of judicial appeal from the American Judicial Branch to the worldwide Judicial Branch.

IV.     This document shall be effective upon the adoption of it and implementing Rules by 90% of the jurisdictions listed.

Charles Ajalat is the former Chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

This post is excerpted from a speech given at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary on January 31, 2016. A recording of the speech can be found at Ancient Faith Radio.