Monday, April 13, 2015

Metropolitan Bishop

Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti!

The Western Orthodox Christian Church has elected her first Metropolitan Bishop and his office took effect April 12, 2015 coinciding with traditional Orthodox Easter 2015, the celebration of Christ's Resurrection. We congratulate Metropolitan Victor for his service to the Church.

The role of the Metropolitan Bishop is to serve as "first among equals" in the holy Synod of the Church. He serves for the duration of his life, until he resigns or if he is canonically removed for grave matter. The Synod of Bishops of the Western Orthodox Christian Church serve their respective Provinces with deference to the Metropolitan Bishop as an elder brother. Our Church functions on a collegial model of governance and not a monarchical model. In a collegial model of governance we have matters that emerge that require elections. If a majority vote cannot be ascertained by the body of Synodal Bishops, the matter is placed before the Metropolitan Bishop who, after careful listening, discernment  and prayerful reflection, makes a decision for the good of the Church.

The obedience rendered by the bishops, clergy and laity toward the Metropolitan Bishop is deferential, out of respect toward him as first among equals. We render canonical obedience toward the Metropolitan which means our reverential deference toward the Metropolitan Bishop is expressly rendered out of faithfulness to the Church which he represents as the 'St. Peter' in our midst. He is a servant, a guardian, a protector of the holy Orthodox Christian Faith.

The phrase "First Among Equals" is generally used by the East to describe the role of St. Peter the Apostle within the Church. As an Apostle, St. Peter is first and holds primacy because of Christ's words: "You are rock (Peter) and upon this rock (Peter) I shall build my Church" (Matthew 16:18). 

The primacy of St. Peter is one of honor and administrative authority but clearly not one of power. It is important to make the distinction between power and authority. As a bishop, the Metropolitan Bishop has no more power than any other bishop since all bishops are equal in power. As "first among equals" the Metropolitan Bishop enjoys more authority than the other bishops of the Church.

The East sees Peter as the elder brother who presides in love. The Latin West tends to develop this in a way that appears to make (but really doesn't) Peter the prime bishop of the Church; reducing all other bishops in the world to mere auxiliaries. We follow the model of the East.

The Metropolitan Bishop commands more authority in the Church because of his service as "first among equals."

All bishops are of equal rank. But Peter is the eldest and the first and the one on whom Christ God built His Church.

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