Today marks a milestone in the life of the Orthodox Christina faith here in America and around the world. After 80 years of schism the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia based mainly in the United States, sign a reunion document restoring eucharistic communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church Abroad.
Some see this as the last healing of the Russian Civil War that occurred after the Communist Revolution in Russian at the beginning of the 20th Century.
In any event, all authentic Orthodox Christians have to rejoice at the healing of this schism in the Russian Church. The sad and lasting effects of the terrible times of persecution of the Church under communist oppression can still be seen in the jurisdictional chaos here in America as well as the perpetuation of ethnic Orthodox ghettos that seemed to have thrived since the revolution in Russia.
The truth is that before the Russian revolution, the Russian Church was moving her American mission toward unity and mature ecclesial and pastoral service for the Orthodox faith here in America. Under the leadership of St. Tikhon, before he was chosen as the Patriarch of Moscow, this wise and loving pastoral hierarch was putting into place an ecclesial structure that would allow for the pastoral needs of all the ethnic Orthodox immigrants under a common and united ecclesial structure here in America.
But all of that was short circuited by the communist revolution and the following civil war between the White and Red Russians.
In its wake we find the weakened Orthodox witness of today's jurisdictional chaos.
Now, in light of the reunion of ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, ROCOR parishes all over the world (most of which are in America, but a few in other countries) return to full canonical communion with world Orthodoxy. Thanks be to God!
However, this reunion raises as many questions as it answers.
First and foremost is the status and meaning of the granting of autocephelous status of the Orthodox Church in America. In 1971 the Moscow Patriarch granted autocephelousy to the (then known as) Metropolia which became the Orthodox Church in America. If Moscow has granted this status to the OCA and now will have parishes here in America who are in full communion with Herself as the highest ecclesial covering, then how does that affect the Patriarch's understanding of the Tomos of autocephelousy of 1971?
It seems that this increases the chaotic nature of the jurisdictional problem in America.
But this may not be a bad thing.
In fact, this may be just what we need to throw into stark relief the administrative poverty of our current Orthodox witness in America. This additional "complication" just may allow the faithful in America to say "ENOUGH." The waste of duplicated agencies and commissions each trying to "serve" their respective "jurisdictions" continue to impoverish the limited resources of our Orthodox jurisdictions in the country. Imagine if we were able to pool our resources and administrative functions. We might actually see our faith begin to show up on the religious radar of America.
I, as a convert to Orthodoxy, am absolutely thrilled at the events in Moscow today. While I don't have the history of the communist revolution or the nationalistic pride of a Russian seeing compatriots reunited, I do have a love of the Orthodox faith and seeing this sad division healed is another witness of the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
I am also thrilled at ANOTHER Spirit-led opportunity to deal with our own situation here in America.
So, to ROCOR: Thank God that your gifts and abilities are now added to our own. To Moscow: As you welcome these separated brethren back into your communion, please don't forget the brethren that stood with you during those years under communist oppression. If you are the leaders in the footsteps of blessed St. Tikhon, then renew his efforts to strengthen the witness of Orthodoxy in America.
May God add His blessings to our work toward unity and faithfulness to the One, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church!
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