Two weeks ago Fr. Jonah was terrified at the thought of being consecrated bishop. Yesterday he was elected Metropolitan – the most important and honorable position in the OCA – by the same group of men that less than a fortnight ago laid their hands upon him and by the Holy Spirit raised him up as bishop. The election of this Metropolitan was not just historic, but monumental. Mark Stokoe called this “the most important choice the OCA will make, since receiving the Tomos of Autocephaly in 1970.” Fr. Thomas Hopko said this election is a singular one in American history.
Personally, I share Dreher’s bittersweet reaction. This is what the OCA needs, and bespeaks of a distinct new direction of the hierarchy, but I am horrified by the prospect of my new bishop leaving.
Dreher and I are not the only people with this reaction: I’ve received several texts and emails asking me if this means the end of our proximity with the bishop of Fort Worth. One of the priests here said in an email to the parish “I am in shock. Ever since Bishop Jonah’s name was announced as Metropolitan I have been repeating the words of Holy Scripture ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.’ God’s will be done.”
I too believe that this is God’s will and that it is what this country needs: but I don’t like it.
I know some are anxious that having been newly consecrated as bishop, he was not ready to be Metropolitan. I very much disagree, and I think that his address to the assembly before the election can quell these doubts. In this speech (which many believe is the reason that he was elected) the damage done by the complete and utter failure of the past two primates of the OCA is exposed for what it is: as is the way that ecclesiological hierarchy is supposed to be. It seems apparent that God has raised up this man for this exact time.
I want to talk about what it means that the OCA has elected their first convert Metropolitan, I want to gush about how fantastic it is to have a young, new bishop elected, and I want to talk about the glorious new direction the winds of change are taking us, but I just don’t have the heart. I’ve had just a few short weeks with this man, and I regard him as massively influential in my spiritual life. I look at the picture of him as our new Metropolitan and I can’t help but remember him, standing in a kitchen exhorting a couple young men to to serve the Kingdom. What kindness in his tone, what dreadful stillness in his voice, what fire in his eyes! I remember him, on a couple of Sunday mornings before liturgy, in front of the altar of the Church confessing to Christ, Vladyka DMITRI by his side. How child-like, how unashamed, how delightfully ignorant of the men around him, preparing for the services. I remember him, not even two weeks ago, walking into the altar for his consecration and looking completely terrified and utterly in awe – something he was not ashamed to admit. I remember him one Saturday night after a long vigil, when everyone else had left or was leaving, calling me over to the altar just to give me fatherly hug: it was less than a month ago.
This the right man for the job, but I really wish it didn’t have to be this way. Theoretically I am stoked, but inside I’m a whimpering, whining, self-pitying man. I guess there’s just one thing left to say: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”