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Metropolitan Jonah

The Orthodox world can only rejoice at the election of Bishop Jonah as the new Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

As we suggested he would be on 31 October, the new Metropolitan is both American-born and also a true monk with a sense of the Orthodox Tradition. The election of this 49-year old hierarch is the sign that the time of the generation that has been blocked for so long by the elderly immigrant generation has now arrived. Coming the year after the election of Archbishop Hilarion as Metropolitan of ROCOR, also North American born and also a true monk, the situation in North America has been transformed within less than two years.

The old generation was marked by two tendencies. It was either to hark back to the old country and not take into account very much of the Non-Russian and Non-Slavonic. At the same time they often mixed in ideologies, full of political and cultural (but not spiritual) nostalgia. Or else it was to go to the opposite extreme, following the inferiority complex psychology of immigrants who wanted to become more American than the Americans. They often fell into an American phyletism, worse than Russian phyletism, because it has no spiritual or cultural substance. The days of singing Blessed is the Man to the tune of the cowboy film Shenandoah – ‘because we are all Americans now’ - are over.

The challenges facing the new Metropolitan are many. There are the scandals involving the previous Metropolitans (both still alive), there are the recent troubles in Alaska and dissension among some in Canada, there is the Romanian Diocese which wishes to return to its Mother-Church and perhaps Bulgarian and Albanian parishes which may wish to do the same. Above all, the new Metropolitan is faced with the struggle of restoring Orthodoxy in those parishes which are ex-Uniat or ex-Protestant. Among the latter there is often a modernist, renovationist spirit, which is justified by recent converts and a half-educated elite as being ‘American’ and ‘modern’ and therefore acceptable.

However, the new Metropolitan will enjoy much support in striving to restore the Orthodox Christian Tradition within his jurisdiction This will come from well-wishers outside the OCA as well as from the many solid clergy and laity of the OCA and from the spiritual base at St Tikhon’s. This in all ways, except for the calendar, resembles any traditional Orthodox monastery. It may be that some of the extreme modernists, seeing this restoration, will leave the OCA and head for the Antiochian Archdiocese. In this way they would resemble those renovationists who in England two years ago left the Russian Church for the Paris Jurisdiction, refusing to face the disciplines of authentic, and not imaginary, Russian Orthodoxy on ethnic pretexts.

In any case, Metropolitan Jonah’s great task of reconfiguring the post-Cold War OCA and probably seeing its name disappear, making it canonically acceptable to all Orthodox, Greek, Russian, American and others alike, will not be easy. For this reason alone he deserves our support. And we believe that he will receive much support, for he is issued from a monastery which he founded and dedicated to St John of Shanghai and San Francisco. For it is St John’s living presence and example which is now spreading through North America and Western Europe and also to Russia and back to China.

May God’s Will be done.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

1/14 November
Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian

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