"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Orthodox Ecclesiastical Structures

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America just sent me a press release about the latest session of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, photos of whose meeting in Chicago you may view here. I am encouraged (though very cautious in any expectations) by these new assemblies and wish them every success. Eastern Christians in North America--Orthodox as well as Catholic--waste an absurd amount of time and money duplicating efforts because of the silly idea that every (or nearly every) "jurisdiction" must have, inter alia, something that is nash. Thus each must have its own seminary, publishing house, publications, bishop, and all manner of diocesan office (etc.), and all this for tiny populations without financial resources to spare. 

What is this assembly moving towards? Ultimately the goal is one united jurisdiction for the whole continent, but that, I think, is some ways off. What will that jurisdiction look like? Here we see the marvelous diversity of Orthodox polity, a diversity I display and discuss in detail in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.

As I show in the book, the structures of each Orthodox Church in the world--especially the Churches headed by a patriarch--have certain things in common, but there is also such wide diversity among them that it is impossible to speak of "the" Orthodox model for how patriarchs operate or how a synod functions. The Armenian Church, for example, has a wholly sui generis structure, which is very different from the Russian. The Copts differ greatly from the Syrians, who are in turn different than the Romanians--and so on. There is great flexibility in Orthodox ecclesial practice, and for those interested in such things, you will find no more detailed or comprehensive survey of structures than what I do in the book.


  1. Within the OCA, I have been arguing for a "shared services" model of administration as found in the corporate world, i.e., a centralized office that could be "hired" by the different jurisdictions, metropolises, dioceses and even seminaries. Thus, each bishop would retain authority over the function, but he can essentially "outsource" the function itself to a centralized office that can likely do it better, cheaper and faster than the ad hoc functionalities we have in each little ecclesial fiefdom today. This could be a centralized office under the national church, under the Episcopal Assembly, or even just between dioceses (e.g., between all Orthodox jurisdictions out West, between the Eastern and Western PA dioceses of the OCA, etc.) This could also very easily be expanded to cover parishes.

    Such a "shared service" model would work most easily with regular administrative functions such as accounting, human resources and benefits, web design, member and inquirer contact info, etc., but it could just as easily work for bulletins and newsletters with the parishes supplying the variable information, parishes, etc. and the shared service providing choices of standard content and format.

  2. Hi Adam. Had to come over to your site this morning from the NLM blog.
    They have added a new writer, Henri Adam de Villiers, Just had to make sure you weren't the same man! He's in Paris, you're in Indiana; name slightly different. He is a choirmaster at 2 churches in Paris, 1 Roman Rite and 1 Russian Catholic parish.The Roman one is very 'traditional' from what I gather.
    The both of you must be distantly related with names this similar. Do you think?
    Anyway, head over to New Liturgical Movement blog and check out your long lost cousin. Just thought you should know.


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