REPORT TO THE 2012 CONGRESS
ROMANIAN ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE IN THE AMERICAS
ON THE STATUS OF THE DIALOGUE WITH THE
ROMANIAN ORTHODOX EPISCOPATE IN AMERICA
This year marks the Twentieth anniversary of the dialogue between our Archdiocese and the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate aimed at healing the long-standing division of the Romanian Orthodox community here. At their respective two Congresses held in July of 1992 each decided to create a Joint Dialogue Commission. An agenda was prepared for the first meeting held on June 15, 1993, in preparation for our respective July 1993 Congresses. A great deal of hope and expectation was invested in that meeting. Over these last twenty years tens of thousands of dollars have been expended, and scores of thousands of hours have been spent on meetings, travel, telephone and e-mail communications. Unfortunately, we look in vain for the results. While a certain degree of progress has been made, especially with regard to basic relationships between parishes, clergy and faithful, the ultimate goal of reuniting the two dioceses into a single entity has eluded us.
To state the obvious, the dialogue has not been without its difficulties. Yet, our Archdiocese has been committed to patiently seeking a resolution to the division that is both canonically sound and sensitive to the history of our Romanian Orthodox community in North America. Because the dialogue itself has had such a long history, and memories are often short, we would like to gently remind the delegates that we have persisted with the dialogue in spite of the fact that the leadership of the Episcopate has acted unilaterally to disrupt and condition the dialogue on many occasions. For example in both 1995 and 2006, without warning, the Episcopate suspended the dialogue; the Episcopate subsequently reversed its position in both instances. In 2008 the Episcopate unilaterally introduced a “due diligence” regime into the unity negotiations as a precondition to the face-to-face meetings our Archdiocese had insisted upon in the very first dialogue agreement. As a point of information, the Archdiocese has never placed any preconditions on the dialogue and has never asked to change the dialogue’s original conditions or parameters.
The dialogue is currently at an impasse, in spite of the fact that under the leadership of our Hierarchs, the Joint Dialogue Commission in 2008 crafted a detailed twenty-point plan for the establishment of a Metropolitanate to present to our respective Congresses, and then to the Patriachate for approval and implementation. The Episcopate never presented this proposal for adoption.
We believe that at the heart of the impasse is a fundamentally different understanding of dialogue, dispute resolution, and processes equipped to heal division. In the Communiqué issued by the first Dialogue meeting, it was proposed that joint meetings of clergy and laity be held regularly, chaired by our respective Hierarchs. The representatives of the Archdiocese have continually insisted that this method of increased contact and discussion on multiple levels by our clergy and laity is the most effective way to heal our troubled history. To date, only one such meeting has been held: a 2009 joint meeting of both of our diocesan councils in Cleveland. Every other similar overture in this regard has been either rejected or ignored by the Episcopate.
The dialogue principles insisted upon by the representatives of the Episcopate differ sharply from those we have proposed. These have involved: (i) extreme confidentiality concerning the content and shape of the dialogue; (ii) a legalistic methodology—hence the form of all the agreements made public so far, as well as the nature of the due diligence process itself; (iii) limiting the number of persons involved in the dialogue; (iv) minimal reporting to and discussion with the council and congress; and finally, (v) no representatives from the dialogue partner at our respective official meetings.
From our perspective the methodology of the Episcopate has been spectacularly and intentionally unproductive. Despite our deep reservations as to the efficacy of this process, we have tried to demonstrate our good faith by acquiescing to the process dictated to us by the leadership of the Episcopate. An example of this is the due diligence process mandated by the Episcopate’s Congress without consultation or negotiation with the Archdiocese.
Due diligence is a concept borrowed from the world of corporate mergers and acquisitions. In the corporate world, a deal is negotiated and struck; documents are signed; and, as a condition for the implementation of the merger, the parties then proceed with due diligence to confirm the veracity of financial and legal representations each made in the negotiations leading up to the agreement. In our context this would mean that the 2008 plan to establish a Metropolitanate would have been presented to and approved by both our Congresses, then also approved by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, before the mutually agreed upon due diligence questions were addressed as a final step in the process of our unity. The scope and timing for due diligence would itself be one of the conditions agreed to by the parties rather than be dictated to by one or the other.
It is clear that in some quarters of the Episcopate there is a deep distrust of our Archdiocese. This distrust persists despite the multiple accommodations we have made to demonstrate our good faith. Rather than employing a process that would identify these concerns and address them in ways that would build trust, the Episcopate has misappropriated a due diligence process, foreign both to the Church, and even the world of corporate mergers and acquisitions, in a manner that appears designed to impede and prevent meaningful and productive efforts towards unification. We know of no other process aimed at healing ecclesiastical divisions in the North American context that has adopted this process.
After twenty years our patience has run thin. During these years, our Archdiocese has internally applied an open process with frequent formal and informal updates and discussion with our clergy and laity on the progress of the dialogue, and toleration of dissent toward the building of a consensus. Now we insist upon these and other principles of openness and mutuality for the entire dialogue in all of its aspects, if we are to proceed.
We want to be very clear. We acknowledge the importance of clearly worded agreements outlining the principles for unity, as well as a clear understanding of the legal and financial situation of the respective dialogue partner as a critical step in any unity process. These agreements and documents, however, must be the result of confidence-building measures, for written agreements alone will certainly not produce the confidence and love we seek. As St. Paul says, we are of a “new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Co 3:6). We have had twenty years of the letter. We now need to make room for the Spirit.
In March of this year, His Eminence Archbishop Nicolae sent a letter to His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel in which he proposed that the Dialogue and Due Diligence Commissions be convened after Pascha, joined by the four Hierarchs. He further called for the chairs of these Commissions to prepare an agenda for the meeting, identifying the outstanding issues that still need to be resolved and the other persons and resources necessary for resolving these issues who should be present at that meeting. Additionally, he called for the preparation of a report for our respective Congresses as to the status of our dialogue. This is our final attempt to accommodate ourselves to the Episcopate’s process. His Eminence has not yet received a response.
The steps forward remain unclear. We have been patient, but in the end patience based on hope and faith must give way to reality. This is our recommendation to the Congress: without immediate and demonstrable evidence to the contrary, we should acknowledge the unwillingness of our Romanian Orthodox brothers and sisters to work out a common future in a mutually agreed upon way. If this, then, is the case, we should proceed to plan for our own future accordingly.
V. Rev. Fr. Nicholas Apostola
Chair of the Dialogue Commission