The Benefits of Unity
By Lee Kopulos
In my early morning ride on the train I often read through the General
Epistles of James, Peter, John or Jude. This Holy Scripture is to say the least warm,
thought provoking and significant to an understanding of Christ's message as given in the
synoptic Gospels. These General Epistles say a lot about faith and works, rejoicing in the
sharing of Christ and the teaching of love for your fellow man as opposed to hatred and
darkness which spells death, and finally, to watch for false teachers who jeopardize the
salvation of God's people.
In John's General Epistle, I read this week:
"Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from
death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in
death." (1John 3: 13-14)
A little later I read:
"And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ
and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (1John 3:23)
As far as I can discern, the word "love" must appear more than any
other word in the Gospel except maybe "Lord." This all stems from the new
"that you love one another; as I have loved you......by this all will
know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13: 34-36)
Much has been said about unity over the years, and very little has been
done about it in this country. In the early 1900's the Church was unified in America.
However, due to the communist revolution and the expulsion of the Greeks from Turkey, the
Church reformulated itself under ethnic jurisdictions in the 1930's. This unorthodox
chaos continues to exist in the Americas, going against what the Lord teaches about love
and the teachings of the early Church. More recently, attempts were made to come together
as one Church here in 1943 (Buffalo), 1961 (Pittsburgh) and 1994 (Ligonier). Even SCOBA,
a product of the 60's, has not proven to be a step in the right direction for we Orthodox
to come together as the one true Church. While we must give SCOBA credit for initiating
some good cooperative effort in the 90's with the establishment of the IOCC and OCMC,
these are just "band-aids" covering up the crux of the problem. How long can we Orthodox
afford to go on like this? How can the Ancient Church of Christ stay splintered into at
least 14 separate ethnic bodies claiming the "fullness of the Christian faith?" We are
the Apostolic Church of the world, but do we act like it? In America, we have been here
since 1794 (over 200 years) and yet count a total of maybe over 2,000,000 Orthodox or
about ½ of 1% of the US population. I remember the words of Fr. Gordon Walker writing me
letter after letter encouraging me to keep working for unity because in his direct field
experience of establishing mission Churches he found:
"In our Apostolic Mission of evangelizing America, Lee, I have come
across many missed opportunities for Orthodoxy as a number of groups, after study,
concluded that we could not be the Ancient Church for there are so many different
divisions among you. We didn't look any different than the mixed up Protestant world
that they came from!"
As you all know, the OCL is the only national group working towards
unity of all Orthodox on this continent. We are pulling-out all stops in order to gain
a consensus among all Orthodox Christians - hierarchs, clergy and laity- that it is
urgent to establish a self-governing united Orthodox Church in North America. This
independent Church would have the authority to elect its own Primate by a vote of the
hierarchy, clergy and laity together.
You may ask, give me some real good reasons for unity.
1) Unity means Strength. The collective effort of all Orthodox
under one umbrella means more can be accomplished by thinking together, planning together
and working together. SCOBA only blesses cooperative action it does not fund new
ministries. All ministries need financial seeding and capital support for full time
personnel to become successful. Since mission is the very nature of the Church, it
needs to be organized for success with a qualified group of specialists working full
time in the special pastoral ministries like Youth, Campus (OCF), Prison, Adult
Education, Nursing the Aged, Domestic Charity and the all important Evangelism and
Church Growth Ministry. These special ministry groups must be coupled and supported
from staff-type ministries of Communications ( Radio/Internet), Public Relations,
Government Lobby, Clergy Pension & Insurance, Sacred Music, Translations of Services
just to name a few. Can you name an Archdiocese who is effective in all these areas?
Unity means strength.
2) God does not divide He Unifies. St. Paul pleads with the
"that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions
among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and same judgment."
(1Cor. 1:10).Obviously, multiple jurisdictions goes against the Gospel and hinders the
effectiveness, productivity and progress of the Church to perform according to
Christ's Great Commission (Matt; 28:19-20). As each group duplicates the same
effort it causes confusion, wastes money and limits program success. Many Priests are
assigned special ministries while working as full time Parish Priests. Effective
performance can only be accomplished by seed money for full time professional personnel.
We know of very few jurisdictional ministries that have full time specialized
3) Unity means committing ourselves to special pastoral
attention. The American problems of drug/alcohol abuse, child abuse, marriage
counseling and divorce, pregnancy assistance, problems of the aged & assisted living,
and the so-called mixed marriages are big problems in America. These problems require
individuals with specialized education and a complete understanding of the Orthodox
Christian Faith. Our Priests can't possibly be effective in all these areas without
help from a staff of specially trained professionals.
4) Unity means keeping your children and future generations in the
Church. America has a wide variety of Christian and non-Christian beliefs and
practices. Many are inconsistent with our Ancient Church of Christ. Do our people
really understand these differences? Surely they can easily be led astray. We must
nurture, guide and re-evangelize our children and adults throughout all phases of
5) Church Growth through Evangelism requires Unity of the Church.
The Christian Church in America is splintered into many denominations. The Orthodox Church
in America is falsely perceived as being composed of many denominations.
The newcomer to Orthodoxy wants to see the oneness of the Church. They
want to see the working together (syndakonia) of the bishop, clergy and laity. Each has
its responsibility toward the building up of the body of Christ. We must offer the seeker
a clear and concise view of the Orthodox Church. Founding new Churches under a National
Strategic Plan will keep us from the creation of parallel and competitive Orthodox
parishes and new mission programs.
How can we do all this without the oneness of a unified Church? Christ
said, "you will know my disciples by the way they love one another." All the ethnic
jurisdictions in America need to shed their ethnic mindsets and understand that we are
in our 4th and even 5th generations in America which requires well planned, organized
and funded efforts to plant firmly the Orthodox Way of loving God in its people.
In his official report to the Antiochian Convention, His Eminence,
Metropolitan Philip declared that "nothing will happen unless we make it happen." At the
OCA Convention in Toronto we met hundreds of bishops, clergy and laity that agreed "the
hour has come to make unity happen between them for God's glory and the good of God's
The OCL Board Members are completely dedicated toward accomplishing
this task none too soon. Our plan centering on increased membership of all jurisdictions,
our OCL Unity Foundation for seeding cooperative local Orthodox Ministries and planning
special meetings for our hierarchs to meet and know one another will accomplish this goal
for good of Christ's Church in America.
The most important part of the puzzle is for every Orthodox parishioner
to become a member of the OCL for this movement to have success. The Bishops feel
strongly that this message must come loud and clear from the laity. The greater the OCL
membership the faster unity will happen. Please See our web-site at www.ocl.org and sign
Meanwhile, please continue to pray to the Good Lord for this to happen.
Orthodox Christian Laity