St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
Pastoral Musings

Here you can find a selection of Fr. Bohdan's writings.  "From Pastoral Life" includes articles written for the Visnyk/Herald, the newspaper of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, as well as other Church and secular newspapers and magazines.  "Against the Current" contains articles written especially for teens and young adults.  On this page you can find "Walking the Talk," short reflections on the various aspects of Life in Christ which are necessary if we wish to have a complete, well-rounded and healthy relationship with God, Christ, Church, and Neighbour.  Feel free to reprint any of the articles for inclusion in Church bulletins or other edifying uses with attribution.

The Election of a Metropolitan in the UOCC:

Principles and Procedures

Fr. Bohdan Hladio

(This presentation was offered at the request of Fr. Ihor Okhrimtchouk of St. Mary's Assumption
Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Ottawa on February 22nd, 2021)

Introduction

In order to discuss how a Metropolitan (or bishop) is elected in the UOCC we first need to identify what the role of a bishop or metropolitan is in the Orthodox Church; the historical development of this office; and the biblical, canonical, and practical qualifications for this office.  In addition, we also need to understand the unique aspects of the polity of the UOCC, specifically the concept of «соборноправність»[1] as commonly understood in the UOCC.  After this it will be possible to review the governing documents of the UOCC which relate to the election of hierarchs, and consider all of this information in terms of its utility, practicality, and meaning.

I          The Bishop

“Bishop” (Gr. επίσκοπος) means “overseer.”  In the early church the bishop was the president (i.e., he presided at the Eucharist) of the local Christian community, what we would now call “the parish.” Besides presiding at the eucharist he would maintain contact with the bishops of the surrounding communities, would teach, enforce Christian discipline, prepare catechumens for baptism, etc.

The biblical qualifications for the episcopate can be found in I Tim. 3:1-7:

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, [c]not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.  (see also Titus 1; I Peter 5: 1-4)

During the Post-Apostolic period the role of the bishop was more as the father of a local community, but the bishops of particular cities felt it proper and reasonable to offer counsel and advice to the clergy and faithful of other communities (see, for example, the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch or St. Clement of Rome).[2]

In the course of time, especially after the legalization of Christianity in the 4th century when diocesan boundaries were made contiguous with civil administrative boundaries, the bishops of larger cities (Metropolises) were accorded a primacy of honour, and even authority.  These “Metropolitans” went from being local pastor to the overseer of a larger territory, a “pastor of pastors” so to speak, and a liason between the Christian community and the civil authorities. 

This polity became canonically normative within Orthodoxy.  Though according to the canons each bishop is completely autonomous in his own diocese, canonically all the bishops of a particular territory must recognize the first among them (the Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Patriarch), who is enjoined to work cooperatively with all the other bishops of his territory: these other bishops should do nothing without the Metropolitan’s approval, and he should do nothing without their agreement, either.  This is the conciliar or collegial ideal of Orthodox ecclesiology.

Bishops were originally elected by the faithful of the diocese (the Archbishop of Cyprus is still elected by the populace, this practice was traditional in certain places like the Balkans in the 19th century, and was approved as normative at the Moscow Council of 1917/1918), but it is also important to note that the consecrating bishops always had the final word (the Metropolitan and neighbouring bishops could simply decide that the candidate was not worthy of consecration, in the first millennium this would usually be because of the candidates association with some type of heresy).  The point is that everyone in the Church/diocese had a voice in choosing their bishop.

As time went on, and the church became more institutionalized and bureaucratic, certain changes crept in.  While originally a married man could become a bishop, in the 6th century it was decided that the bishop should be a monastic.  Behind the practical reasons for this (issues of family, inheritance, mixing of church and personal property, etc.), is the concept that a bishop is married to his diocese.[3]  Regarding the intimate existential relationship between a bishop and his diocese Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon writes:

Just as the Church becomes through the ministry a relational entity both in itself and in its relationship to the world, so also the ordained man becomes, through his ordination, a relational entity.  In this context, looking at the ordained person as an individual defeats the very end of ordination.  For ordination. . . aims precisely at making man not an individual but a person, i.e. an ek-static being, that can be looked upon not from the angle of his “limits” but of his overcoming his “selfhood” and becoming a related being. . . In the light of the koinonia [communion] of the Holy Spirit, ordination relates the ordained man so profoundly and so existentially to the community that in his new state after ordination he cannot be any longer, as a minister, conceived in himself. . . Only in terms of love can one understand the mystery of charismatic life and therefore of ministry.[4]

To those interested in this topic I would highly recommend reading the article “The Bishop, His Status and Authority,” by Metropolitan Ilarion (Ohienko).  It is a thorough and well-written study of the role and responsibilities of an Orthodox bishop.  It can be accessed at:

https://uocc.ca/articles/the-bishop-his-status-and-authority-slovo-istyny-no-12-1948/

II         Соборноправність (Sobornopravnist’)

“Соборноправність” is a word bandied about and used almost in an incantational sense by many people within the UOCC.  What makes this very odd and confusing is that the word is only used once, and never defined, in any of the governing documents (the Charter, By-laws, and Articles of Agreement) of the UOCC.[5]  So what is «соборноправність» (“soborocracy”)?  

To “set the edges” of the various construals of “Sobornopravnist” we can start with the article “Conciliarity (“Sobornopravnist’) is not Rule-by-Laity (“Myrianopravstvo”)” by Metropolitan Ilarion (Ohienko), who wrote:

The Ukrainian Church, in the course of time, produced conciliarity (sobornopravnist’).  The means that the Church is governed through councils (sobors), Eparchial and National (particular).  What the Sobors decide the bishops implement.  This conciliarity (sobornopravnist’) has become a characteristic of church life, it has entered into our church tradition.

This type of conciliarity is mandated by the holy canons, - they direct that a council (sobor) be called once or twice per year (Apostolic Canons 37, I.5, IV.19, VI.8, VII.6).  The canons do not make mention regarding the participation of laity in Church Councils – in ancient times they did not take part, or else there were very few, and their presence was not mandatory.  But the Ukrainian church tradition determined that there were often a small number of the better representatives of the people. . .

. . . conciliarity (sobornopravnist’) has been known in our Church for a long time, but this should not become “caeseropopulism”(narodotsezaryzm).   Secular people or the laity have their own limited activity in the outward life of the Church, but not in any case the direction of the Church.  And the work of the Lord must be done conscientiously only with pure hands, for “damned is everyone, who does the work of the Lord carelessly”. (Jer. 48:10).

All authority in the Church, in accordance with the Holy Canons and Apostolic Regulations, is entrusted only to the Bishops. . . [6]

As can be seen, this is an extremely episcopocentric understanding of Church polity.  At the other end of the spectrum is the idea that the Church is in its essence simply one more democratic institution, no different than the parliament of Canada or the local school board.

To get to the heart of the matter it’s important to understand the difference between and among Соборноправність, Соборність, Синодальність, Autocracy, Monarchy, and Democracy.

  • Соборноправність - A simple definition might be “combined clerical/lay governance, with the Church Sobor as the highest organ of power or authority.”[7]
  • Соборність – conciliarity or collegiality. This is a theological term (it is one of the “marks of the Church” listed in the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed) which indicates the fact that the Church is universal in scope, and that every baptized person by virtue of their baptism  is a full member of the Church, and therefore should take full responsibility for the Church, whether they are ordained or not.
  • Синодальність – this indicates that the bishops of a local church or metropolitanate are to gather together in synod to discuss and decide matters which relate to the life of their church. All Orthodox Churches are synodal in this manner.  It also refers to the fact that we follow the teachings of the ecumenical and local councils (synods).
  • Autocracy – Rule by one person (could be an emperor or a king)
  • Monarchy – this indicates that one person is the “head” (of a country, or a church).
  • Democracy – “rule by the people,” which in its most basic form would simply mean rule by majority.

The important thing to note is that all of the above terms are involved in some way with a decision-making process. The first three are traditionally consensus based (the foundational example would be the apostolic council related in Acts 15), and the last three are power-based (one person in the case of autocracy and monarchy, a majority of people in simple democracy).

The polity of the Church, if it is authentic, is neither autocratic, nor monarchical, nor democratic.  It is conciliar, collegial, and in regard to bishops, synodal.

In regard to the polity of the UOCC in particular, it can be said that in one sense the Metropolitan of the UOCC is more autonomous in his power than the Patriarch of Constantinople, for decisions of the Patriarchate can only be made by the full Patriarchal Synod: in the UOCC,  in the absence of a duly constituted Council of Bishops[8] the Metropolitan has complete unilateral decision making power on behalf of the entire episcopate and, in his role as president of the consistory, consequently over the entire Church.  I am not insinuating anything by this, nor accusing anyone of anything, simply pointing out that such a thing is possible given the system of governance enshrined in our governing documents.

III       Election

Regarding the actual election of a metropolitan, the easiest way to present the process is by answering the following questions: who can be elected; who does the electing; when must he be elected; and how he is elected.  

Who can be elected Metropolitan? To be elected Metropolitan, a man must first be a Bishop.  In addition to the biblical and canonical qualifications for the episcopate, the by-laws of the UOCC[9] state the following (par. 6.03) regarding minimum qualifications for candidature to the rank of Bishop:

(a)  male person who is celibate or a widower;
(b)  eligibility for membership in the priesthood;
(c)  attainment of the age of thirty-five years;
(d)  pronouncement of the second monastic vows (little schema);
(e)  completion of required academic and theological studies;
(f)  steadfastness of faith, piety and moral values;
(g)  demonstrated leadership qualities in pastoral or monastic service.

The responsibilities of the Metropolitan are listed in chapter 5, paragraphs 06 - 11 of the by-laws and state that among others, the

Metropolitan, by virtue of his office and as teacher and defender of the faith, shall have the following authority and duties in addition to those hereinbefore provided or accorded by the Canonical Tradition of the Orthodox Church: …

(o)  to visit all missions and parishes of the Church on a regular basis and to attend eparchial retreats, conferences and assemblies;

(p)  to present to the General Council through the Consistory Board, the names of suitable candidates for election to the office of Bishop, with the names of the candidate(s) so elected to be submitted to the Patriarchal Synod for canonical election and ratification for the purpose of consecration;

(t)  to carry out the duties of a Eparchial Bishop in such eparchy where there is no Eparchial Bishop for whatever reason;

(u)  to act in the place and stead of the Council of Bishops in the event same shall not exist;[10]

In addition, policy 23 (on language fluency) in the UOCC Policy and Procedure Manual[11] states:

The demographics and current composition of the community of faithful served by the UOCC reflects a broad spectrum of Ukrainian and English language utilization within the Church. Based on this reality, the UOCC reaffirms the continued relevance of bilingualism as a fundamental character of the Church and calls on its Hierarchs and Clergy to develop and maintain a working ability to communicate and serve in both Ukrainian and English languages. It is also understood that for those Clergy serving parishes in those regions where French is an Official or working language, it would be desirable that they have the capacity to provide service in French when possible.

From the above it can easily be understood that a candidate for the position of metropolitan in the UOCC should, in addition to the other biblical and canonical requirements, be fluent in both spoken and written English and Ukrainian (a working knowledge of French would be beneficial as well); that he should have the physical stamina to be able to maintain a fairly rigorous travel schedule; that he should have good organizational skills; that he should be concerned with succession planning; that he should have good leadership skills and have demonstrated success in his previous obediences as parish priest, monastery abbot, eparchial bishop, etc.  

Who does the electing?

Here there is a measure of murkiness.  Paragraph 9 of the Charter of the UOCC states that:

The Corporation may from time to time at its General Council, make by-laws not contrary to law for: … c) The appointment or deposition of the Consistory, bishops, administrators, special committees of boards from time to time for the purposes of the Corporation;”[12]

The UOCC by-laws state that:

4.01  Subject to the Act, the General Council is vested with the supreme power in all temporal matters of the Church and constitutes its highest legislative and administrative authority.

4.02  Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the authority of the General Council shall include the following:

(h)  appointment of Bishops and election of candidates to the Episcopacy, subject to canonical ratification by the Patriarchal Synod;

(k)  setting the standards and terms of service, including retirement, of all Clergy;

And further:

5.02  The candidate or candidates for the office of Metropolitan shall be elected by the General Council and shall be presented to the Patriarchal Synod for approval. The individual so elected to the office of Metropolitan shall serve as such until:

  1. (a)  he dies, or
  2. (b)  he resigns or retires or
  3. (c)  he is deposed by due canonical process, or
  4. (d)  he is medically certified to be incapacitated.

While it is very clear that from the standpoint of the charter and by-laws that the metropolitan is elected at a duly constituted Sobor of the UOCC, paragraph six of the articles of agreement with the Patriarchate of Constantinople states that

The Primate or acting Primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada, after consultation with the Exarch of the Americas, shall submit a slate of candidates for the office of the Metropolitan and Bishops to the General Council (“Sobor”) of the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada for approval in the first instance.  The names of those candidates so approved shall then be submitted to the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for approval for consecration.[13]

While chapter five, paragraph twelve of the UOCC church by-laws state that:

In the event of a vacancy in the office of the Metropolitan, names of candidates for that office shall be presented to the Consistory Board by the Council of Bishops for election at a General Council to be convened not later than one year after such vacancy occurs and the name of the candidate so elected shall thereafter immediately be submitted to the Patriarchal Synod for canonical ratification for the purpose of consecration or elevation.

In accordance with apostolic practice (Acts 1:26) it is common within the Orthodox Church to “cast lots” to determine the choice of a bishop.  We witnessed this last week in the election of the new Patriarch of Serbia (the bishops elected three candidates whose names were placed in separate envelopes, then inserted into the Gospel book in various places, following which a monk choose one of them randomly), it was the method used to choose the Patriarch in Moscow in 1917 (the names of the three candidates were placed in the chalice and Patriarch Tikhon’s name was chosen) and is practiced as well among the Copts of Egypt (where the names are placed in a chalice and a young child makes the selection). If you remember back in 2005, after Metropolitan John was elected at the Sobor in Winnipeg, there were some rumblings when the announcement came from Constantinople, because this is the practice that they follow there, and in the press release it stated that Metropolitan John was elected from among three candidates, which was a surprise to anyone who had attended our Sobor!

So who elects the Metropolitan?  Candidates are first chosen by the Council of Bishops (or the Metropolitan in the absence of such council), then, if elected by a General Council of the Church (Sobor), the name(s) of the candidate(s) are forwarded to the Synod of Bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for election in the final instance.

When must he be elected?

Chapter 5 paragraph 12 of our UOCC by-laws states that “In the event of a vacancy in the office of the Metropolitan, names of candidates for that office shall be presented to the Consistory Board by the Council of Bishops for election at a General Council to be convened not later than one year after such vacancy occurs,” and so in the given instance we must elect a new metropolitan no later than July 9th 2022.

How is a Metropolitan/Bishop elected?

In preparation for the Church Sobor in 2008, a policy and procedure document was prepared by the episcopal search and development committee (of which I was a member) which outlined the exact procedure of how bishops should/would/could be elected in the UOCC.  It is my understanding that the guidelines of this document were followed in 2008 when Bishops Ilarion and Andriy were elected, but was not followed in 2010 (I was not present at either of those Sobors, and so am relying on eyewitness accounts of those who were).  I am not able to find this policy and procedure document on the web-site of the UOCC, and so am not sure of its status.  I can only say that according to my memory it was a well-thought out and well-crafted document, and would respectfully suggest that it or something like it might be approved and circulated by the leadership of the UOCC to all our parishes well in advance of the Sobor so as to help guide those who will be taking part in the election of our new metropolitan.

Conclusion

So - what can we agree on?

I’m sure no one would disagree with the thought that it is important to elect a man who is caring, hard-working, competent, a bridge-builder, a person with vision, an example of servant leadership.

Likewise, remembering that whoever we elect holds the position till death, debility, or resignation, I’m sure we all agree upon the importance of taking as much time as necessary to find the best possible candidate for this position.  If this person can be identified by July, very good, if not, we should not feel pressured to make a premature selection.

Clarity in regard to the practical aspects of identifying and electing a metropolitan or bishop cannot but be helpful. If the current consistory is not able to draft (or adapt) and approve a policy and procedure document which outlines and presents a clear process for the election of bishops prior to this July it should be a priority for the incoming consistory to do so. It will give needed clarity to a necessary and unavoidable aspect of Church life which at the present time seems very arcane and esoteric to the average member of the Church.

Finally, I think we can all agree that congruence between and among our governing documents would be helpful as well.  A healthy balance must be struck between the hierarchial and the conciliar dimensions of Church life.  Church polity is a “both – and” reality, i.e., the Church requires lay as well as hierarchical leadership; bishops, priests, and laypeople all need to feel that their needs and concerns are being met, that they are being respected, that their voices are being heard, etc.  This will require both attitudinal and constitutional adjustments, and specifically in regard to the selection and election of bishops the verbiage of the Charter, the By-laws, and the Articles of Agreement should ideally be harmonized.

There is no doubt that the UOCC, like any ecclesiastical or human organization, will only go as far as her leaders take her.  Most importantly we must pray that God will send us a faithful, dedicated, hard-working, caring, committed, wise and holy man who will be able to work cooperatively with clergy and faithful for the spiritual and communal renewal and growth of the UOCC.

I would like to thank Fr. Ihor for the opportunity of offering this presentation, and to say that if and where I am incorrect in my facts, or if it can be shown that any of my interpretations and conclusions cannot be supported by the facts and documents cited, I welcome correction.

Thank you.

[1] Usually rendered in English by the word “conciliarity,” but I believe that a much better translation is “soborocracy,” a word coined by Odarka Trosky in her book The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Canada (Winnipeg, MB: Bulman Brothers, 1968)

[2] For a comprehensive study of the role of the bishop in the early Church see Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries by Metropolitan John Zizioulas (Trans. Elizabeth Theokritoff. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001)

[3] A diocese where the bishop has died is referred to as a “widowed” diocese.

[4] Zizioulas, John D. Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993.

[5] Par. 2.06 of the by-laws states that “the Church directs and conducts its temporal life in accordance with conciliar process ("sobornopravnist" in the Ukrainian language)”

[6] «Соборноправність — це не миряноправство» in Українська культура і наша церква; Ідеологія української православної церкви; Митрополит Іларіон. – Вінніпег : Волинь, 1991.

[7] Par. 4.01 of the UOCC by-laws states that “Subject to the Act, the General Council is vested with the supreme power in all temporal matters of the Church and constitutes its highest legislative and administrative authority.”

[8] Chapter nine, paragraph two of our by-laws states that “The Council of Bishops shall be composed of the Metropolitan and at least two other Eparchial Bishops of the Church. The Metropolitan shall preside over meetings of the Council of Bishops and the secretary shall be elected from among the Bishops,” and chapter nine paragraph ten states that “In the event there shall be an insufficient number of Bishops to constitute a Council of Bishops, the Metropolitan shall act in its place and stead.” The Council of Bishops of the UOCC has not existed between 2005 and 2008 and again since 2010 until today)

[9] Accessible at https://uocc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/UOCC-Bylaws.Amended.July-15.2010.pdf)

[10] UOCC by-laws, 5.08.

[11] Accessible at https://uocc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Policies-and-Procedures-UOCC.pdf

[12] https://uocc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/UOCC-Charter.pdf

[13] https://uocc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Articles-of-Agreement-WEB.pdf.  Please note that the articles of agreement were approved by the Sobor of the UOCC in 1990, and that in the interim the name of the Church was officially changed from “The Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada” to “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada,” and that in 1996 a separate exarchate was created for Canada and so reference to the Exarch of the Americas refers to the Patriarchal Exarch for Canada.

 

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