For the first three days of this week (Mon-Wed) I will be in Jacksonville, FL, along with my brother clergy from the diocese to meet with our hierarch, Archbishop Dmitri. It is always a joy to be with the Bishop.
For years as an Anglican, I almost always dreaded such occasions. I rarely got along with other clergy, and I found myself either ill-treated by bishops or simply the butt of jokes. It was not a place to be pious, or to care about theological matters. I am sure it was otherwise for other Anglican priests.
But today, I am also aware that not all Orthodox priests delight in their bishops – some of that may just be the accidence of personalities. But more seriously, you can hear some who speak as though Apostolic Succession were something that was carried by “Spirit-bearing Elders” rather than by the Bishops of the Church.
Monasticism has a very important role historically and today in Orthodoxy, but Elders do not ordain, nor govern the household of God. I have said before that Orthodoxy has an extremely weak ecclesiology and that I thought that this is a good thing. Our ecclesiology is the Cross of Christ itself. If we do not love one another and submit ourselves to one another, then there will not be much of a Church about which to speak.
Today’s crucial issues, whether calendars, jurisdictions, and many other things of importance, will only be, and can only be settled by Bishops who are at one with one another. All the Elders in the world cannot do this.
Throughout the ages, in the history of the Church, though there have been many teachers, none of been more important than teaching hierarchs. They, after all, comprise synods and ecumenical councils.
There is a reason that there is a petition specifically for Bishops in the liturgy, but little emphasis on anything that would substitute for them. When the Bishops of the Church are weak, the Church is weak. If the love between people and their bishop is weak, the Church is weak. If priests fail to show proper respect to their Bishops then they are pouring dirt on their own head.
May God keep the successors of the Apostles. May He make them to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Pray for me and my brothers (who, I will quickly add, love their Archbishop!). Pray that we be refreshed in our ministries through the prayers of our hierarch and the mercies of God!