Fr. George Morelli is the President of the Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
Not only are the divisions among the Apostolic Churches of the East and West sinful, but the canonical irregularity of the Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora having different overlapping jurisdictions, bishops and assemblies based on the ethnicity of Orthodox immigrants (e.g. Greek, Russian, Serbian, Syrian) rather than a single Orthodox bishop in each geographical locale is also scandalous. This past May, a groundbreaking assembly of fifty-five canonical Orthodox bishops from North America took place in New York City as a step toward resolution of this gravely harmful witness of disunity. (See page three for the results of the work of this assembly.)
The goal of the assembly, presently officially named the North American Episcopal Assembly, is to set the foundation for the Orthodox in the United States, including hierarchs, priests, deacons and the laity of the royal priesthood, to function as one single canonical Church. One Orthodox bishop commented that such unity may not be unanimously desired, but this unity is certainly desired by the "vast majority" of Orthodox in our country.
Thus far three committees have been decided on, the Canonical Committee, the Legal Committee, and the Pastoral Committee. Members and duties are not yet specified. In general the committees’ goal will be to regularize the dissimilar practices among the various jurisdictions. For example, right now several different forms are used in the reception of converts: baptism of any and all, chrismation (by different forms) of those previously validly baptized, or by a profession of faith. Another example needing regularization is the manner of reception of Roman Catholic priests: for example: by re-ordination or by profession of the Orthodox Faith and concelebrating the Divine Liturgy.
A comment made by His Grace, Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Archdiocese, about the way the meeting was conducted was: “Archbishop Demetrios [the Assembly Chairman] simply asked if there was any objection to the item being discussed. If there was no objection, there was no need to even ask for a consensus. Everything was done unanimously. It was really a very God blessed assembly, a fruitful time together.” May this path be a model for all, bishops, priests, deacons and laity who function as instruments and disciples of the Holy Spirit as we work toward the full unity of all Apostolic Churches. Overcoming canonical irregularities among the Orthodox jurisdictions in the Diaspora is a step toward healing the separation between all the Apostolic Churches, and should be prayed for by all our SSJC-WR members. As we pray during Great Vespers of Pentecost: "The Holy Spirit provideth all; overfloweth with prophecy; fulfilleth the Priesthood; and hath taught wisdom to the illiterate.