Here’s the Tribune’s “story”–and some of it is truly make believe–about Metropolitan Jonah and his resignation as primate of the Orthodox Church in America. He was elected to head a church troubled by severe financial scandals. But, says the Tribune:
Metropolitan Jonah didn’t just try to correct the course. He also tried to shift the direction of the Orthodox Church in America….. [How?]
He insisted on amplifying the church’s voice in the public square, moving the church’s headquarters from Syosset, N.Y., to Washington and speaking up against abortion rights. In 2009 he led a handful of Orthodox clergy to sign the Manhattan Declaration, a pledge to disobey laws that could force religious institutions to participate in abortions or bless same-sex couples.
The Rev. Mark Arey, director of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, said Metropolitan Jonah’s approach was not typical of Orthodox Christianity. “Orthodoxy is not in favor of abortion, but we don’t campaign in the same way you see evangelical groups,” Arey said.
So the accused Jonah:
1) Shifted course by moving the national headquarters of The Orthodox Church in American to the nation’s capital instead of, umm, Syosset, NY. As if being in Washington, thick with politicians, think tanks, all clamoring for attention, shines a more public light on anyone, just by moving there. Previous Primates had been called Archbishop of Washington (and sometimes New York also). Maybe he thought he should live in the nation’s capital.
2) Insisted on a amplified public voice by speaking up against “abortion rights.” His predecessors in office had marched prominently in the Annual March for Life in Washington, as did other Orthodox clergy. Even so, if the Orthodox have any voice in public, why should it be assumed that the voice is always the same volume? Are there no times to increase the volume? (Catholic bishops never speak up, either, right?) Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church marched publicly with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and I have seen that photo countless times paraded about by Orthodox as prime evidence of their social witness. Rev. Arey of the Greek Orthodox Church has forgotten about this. There are no social concerns today calling for a public witness? Give me a break.
3) “Led” a handful of Orthodox clergy to sign the [horrible!] Manhattan Declaration. Another piece of straw. Jonah was invited to the Manhattan Declaration meeting in 2009 at the last minute. The other two Orthodox Bishops who signed the Declaration did not even come from the Orthodox Church in America. They were Antiochian, and signed independently of Jonah. And so what if he had arranged for 100 OCA clergy to sign with him? The merits of that action would have to be weighed on the moral advisability of the statement. Jonah’s critics, at least those cited in the article, hate the Manhattan Declaration and any Orthodox involvement with it.
4) This was a “foray into politics”. Really? If Jonah’s involvement in the Manhattan Declaration was a foray into politics, then so is the involvement of a block of Roman Catholic bishops in the same statement: Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, for starters, and at least a dozen other bishops. These Orthodox critics assume churchmen must shut up in public and that anything said in public is simply politics. Maybe they haven’t heard that churchmen have free speech rights here in the U.S., unlike in the Ottoman Empire.
5) His approach was not “typical of the Orthodox” says Rev. Arey. No bishops are quoted in this article. Who is Rev. Arey to say what’s “typical”? (Again, what about Abp. Iakovos and Martin Luther King, Jr.?) So, typical, status quo, is the measure of man’s Christian leadership? He brushes aside Jonah by comparing his opposition to abortion to the “campaigning” of Evangelicals, but Catholic Bishops signed as well. And what campaigns? The Catholic bishops are also publicly pushing back against the latest health-care mandate from the Federal Government. Orthodox Bishops also signed a protest against the HHS mandate. Aren’t they all playing politics too, including the Greeks? Arey seems to suggest that Orthodox just stand around and do nothing in the public sphere when it comes to killing innocent human beings, redefining marriage, and taking away religious liberties.
As to this foray into politics I will say that at the Manhattan Declaration meeting I heard no mention of politics, candidates or voting from anyone, except from for one angry Orthodox clergyman, who complained that the meeting was all about politics and told me, when I indicated disbelief in his accusation, that he had voted for Obama. Who asked? I was stunned he was talking so politically and no one else was. No one else there spoke about politics, at least not from the podium, nor in my hearing. But we did have in mind standing together in public, as Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians. Oh, that’s right, Orthodox don’t stand up in public. They sit down. And Jonah wouldn’t. Surely there is more to the story.
And perhaps Fr. Hans Jacobse, who is also quoted in the Tribune story, has touched on it with his post here at the AOI Observer.