As many of you know by now, this year is the 50th Anniversary of the Orthodox Church in America receiving its Autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church. The word autocephalous literally means “self-headed.” The Orthodox Church in America is no longer overseen by another autocephalous church overseas. We elect and ordain our own Primate and bishops, and we have our own seminaries to prepare candidates for ordained ministry.
But what has this got to do with family life? Imagine an intact family in which the two parents discuss an issue with their children and make a decision about how to handle it. But then they are told they have to get permission from another parent outside the household before they do. Parents would not allow their family life to be hampered by others outside the family who have no understanding of what life in their family is like.
The fact that we are self-governing and not under a Patriarch or Archbishop overseas gives us the ability to decide on matters of church life (which may impact on family life) based on life in this country. Too many times events overseas have dictated the decisions made by mother churches in other countries on behalf of their churches here in America. Is this for the well being of the churches in America? How can unity in America ever become a reality when the dictates of other churches become a hindrance to this?
I would encourage our families in the next year to become more familiar with this gift of Autocephaly that has been given to the Orthodox Church in America. We will be honoring our autocephaly with Deanery celebrations throughout the Diocese this year. This began with our first celebration in the Chicago Deanery on February 7th and 8th. Monthly reflections on Autocephaly starting in January have been posted on the DOM website. This will continue throughout the year. Clergy and lay people will be offering them. Download them to see if any of them can be used as talking points with your kids. You can also go to the OCA web page to learn more about the history of our autocephaly. Click on this link to do so:
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
The unworthy +Paul