Tag Archives: Diaspora

The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the “Barbarian Lands” Theory

by Matthew Namee | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Patriarch Meletios

One of the keystone prerogatives claimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate is its jurisdiction over the so-called “diaspora”—regions not included within the geographic boundaries of the other Autocephalous Churches. She insists that this exclusive extraterritorial jurisdiction is rooted in Canon 28 of Chalcedon which states:

[O]nly the metropolitans of the Pontian, Asian, and Thracian dioceses, as well as the bishops of the aforementioned dioceses among barbarians are ordained by the aforementioned most holy throne of the most Holy Church of Constantinople.

This phrase—“the bishops of the aforementioned dioceses among barbarians”—is interpreted by supporters of the EP’s claims to refer to “those territories beyond the geographical boundaries of the other Local (autocephalous) Churches.”

But that’s not what the canon explicitly says; it’s an interpretation. On its face, the canon seems to refer only to bishops who belong to the dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace, who are ministering among certain barbarians. The standard canonical commentators—Zonaras, Balsamon, Aristenos—all interpret the phrase literally, referring to specific barbarian groups who were adjacent to Pontus, Asia, and Thrace. At the turn of the 19th century, St Nikodemos repeats this interpretation in the Pedalion. The modern theory is nowhere to be found.

Continue reading

The Orthodox “Diaspora”: Mother Churches, Mission, and the Future

by Rev. Dr. Radu Bordeianu, Will Cohen, Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko, Brandon Gallaher, Rev. Dr. D. Oliver Herbel, and Kerry San Chirico

Among the issues to be heard by the Orthodox Churches at the June 2016 Great and Holy Council in Crete is the situation of the Orthodox diaspora. The Council will be working with the document on the diaspora promulgated by the fourth pre-conciliar gathering in Chambésy in June 2009. This document called for a swift canonical resolution to the current organization of the Church in the regions of the diaspora so it accords with Orthodox canon law and ecclesiological principles. The 2009 pre-conciliar gathering implemented a temporary solution by creating episcopal assemblies (2a) in regions of the diaspora to promote common action and witness to the unity of Orthodoxy without depriving the member bishops of their “administrative competencies and canonical character” (5). It is not immediately clear whether the June 2016 council will propose a permanent canonical solution or bless the continued work of the regional episcopal assemblies. In order to arrive at the canonical and ecclesiological ideal envisioned by the bishops in 2009, several issues and potential actions should be considered.   Continue Reading…

The Marks of Autocephaly

By James C. Skedros

(This essay was originally delivered as a public talk at the June 2015 Fordham/OTSA conference on the upcoming Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. It was part of a panel on Autocephaly and Diaspora.)

The canonical situation in the United States is recognized by nearly all Orthodox theologians and ecclesiastical leaders as anomalous and contrary to the organizational principle of the early church of one bishop presiding over one eucharistic community.  The canons of Nicaea I (325) and especially Canon 2 of the Council of Constantinople I (381) enshrine and expand this principle by further delineating the fundamental unit of ecclesiastical organization to be one presiding bishop within a defined geographical area.  In the context of late Roman civil administration these organizational units were either the smaller provinces or larger dioceses.  In the US and elsewhere, the existence of multiple jurisdictions with presiding bishops in the same geographical area contradicts this fundamental principle.

To complicate matters further, the historical trajectories of Orthodox Christianity in 18th and 19th century North America reflect a diverse expression of organizational realities, missionary activities, and immigration within a nexus of Mother Church relationships that were and still are connected to the politics of individual nation states.  The autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America granted by the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1970 further confuses the situation.  Thus, any solution to the question of autocephaly in the diaspora must not only consider the ecclesiastical and canonical tradition but the entrenched historical realities that are connected with corresponding jurisdictional agendas. (Continue Reading…)

Diaspora and American Orthodoxy

By Paul L. Gavrilyuk

(This essay was originally delivered as a public talk at the June 2015 Fordham/OTSA conference on the upcoming Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. It was part of a panel on Autocephaly and Diaspora.)

I would like to begin with three questions, for which I would ask for a show of hands:

  1. How many of you do NOT consider yourselves a part of any Diaspora? [About a third of all people in the audience raised their hands].
  2. How many of you consider yourselves to be primarily the members of a larger American society and only to lesser extent the members of a specific Diaspora? [The rest of the people in the audience raised their hands].
  3. How many of you consider yourselves exclusively Diaspora members and do not feel that you are a part of a larger American society? [Nobody raised a hand].

Your answers reflect an important social reality. Some of you belong to one club and it’s the American society. Others hold membership in two clubs, but the American society membership is more important to you. None of you holds an exclusive membership in a club called “Diaspora.” This is one of the reasons why Diaspora talk emanating from Moscow or Constantinople sounds so artificial to us. We are asked to hold an exclusive membership in a club, whose benefits are far from obvious to us this side of the Atlantic. There are other reasons for us to be alienated from the Diaspora language, such as Russian chauvinism, Hellenocentrism, and other utopian forms of cultural imperialism masquerading as universalism. (Continue Reading…)