Message of Metropolitan Theodosius to the Newly-Consecrated Bishop Tikhon

By the grace of the Holy Spirit you have been consecrated today to serve as bishop of the Church of God sojourning in San Francisco and the other cities and towns of the Orthodox Church in America's Diocese of the West. We, the bishops who have ordained you, being of one mind and one heart and one hope with the presbyters, deacons, and laity here assembled, have prayed for the descent of the Holy Spirit, whose abiding presence in the Church unites us all with Christ and one another, making us the Body of Christ and individually members of it.

The task which has been entrusted to your hands today, and the burden which has been laid on your shoulders, are so great and holy that no man with his own strength and wisdom can fulfill these responsibilities worthily. Only the grace of God which heals the infirm and provides for the impoverished has the power to make you a worthy bishop.

In your episcopal ministry your greatest need will be to remember at all times that the gift of pastoral leadership and discernment is given to you within the Body of Christ, in the midst of the priests, deacons, and lay people, and not above the Church, or in isolation within it.

The charism of episcopal ministry is expressed not in the quenching or absorption of the other ministries, services, and talents which God so generously distributes among all His people. It is expressed and fulfilled, rather, in guiding all the ministries, services, and talents In the Church towards unity of purpose and unity of witness.

You will hear, without any doubt, that in matters great and small the efforts and resources of others -- of the clergy and the lay people of your diocese -- have been stretched to the utmost, and that the solutions to parochial problems and diocesan difficulties will be yours to find and formulate, to bring into action and practice. Priests and lay people will soon tell you that your decision alone is needed, and all will be well, all will be solved, all will be brought to order. Do not believe these words, as well-intentioned as they may be. If you act alone, in isolation from the clergy and laity and from your brother bishops, you will not be truly building up the Body of Christ. If, on the other hand, you live and decide and act in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, calling upon all the wisdom and discernment, all the talents and energies, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit so abundantly poured out on the clergy and laity -- then the episcopal ministry will be fully manifested in you, because you will be a living reminder that the Body of Christ is made up of many members, and that not one of these members of the Body of Christ may say to the others that he has no need of them.

The name of Tikhon which you have been given was the name of the bishop who inaugurated the building of this cathedral. You could have no better image and example of pastoral wisdom, vision, and practice than Bishop Tikhon -- who for us in America remains our own father in God and bishop, although he ended his life as Patriarch of Moscow and confessor of the faith under persecution.

Why is the spiritual and pastoral legacy of Bishop Tikhon so relevant to us today, nearly ninety years after he first came to San Francisco?

We know that Bishop Tikhon considered it essential to involve both clergy and laity in discussion and conciliar resolution of questions affecting church life and church order. To this end, he was committed to regular meetings with clergy and laity. The Councils of the Orthodox Church in America, bringing together the bishops, clergy, and lay delegates for conciliar discussion and conciliar decisions, are a direct inheritance passed on to us by Bishop Tikhon. The fact that the diocesan assemblies and parish councils in our Church in America continue to bring together the clergy and laity for the work and mission of the Church is also part of the legacy Bishop Tikhon left to us. At their best and most inspiring, and also in their regularity and routine, these expressions of conciliar life in our Church are a precious means for the expression of common witness and mutual accountability in the work of Christ that is entrusted to the entire body of the Church.

We know that Bishop Tikhon served a North American diocese encompassing diverse nationalities speaking many languages and bearing in their experience different histories and cultures. In his flock were Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Serbs, Galicians, and other Slavs; Greeks and Arabs; Creoles, Indians, Aleuts, Eskimos, and other Americans. When he made his first visit to the cathedral parish in San Francisco on December 23, 1898, he found here a parish membership of Russians, Serbs, and Arabs. During his episcopal ministry in America, in this cathedral parish and throughout the Church, English was used as the language of worship and preaching, alongside Slavonic, Greek, Arabic, and other languages. This diversity clearly required Bishop Tikhon to be a flexible, tolerant, and discerning pastor of his flock, concerned above all with the unity of the Orthodox faith and striving to maintain this unity in the midst of diversity.

We know that Bishop Tikhon carefully tried to discern the difference between the essential and the secondary. Thus, when priests of the American diocese expressed a strong desire for uniformity in the performance of rites and services, Bishop Tikhon understood that variety in the liturgical life of the Church is entirely natural, especially since the Orthodox in America have different histories and cultures. Insofar as differences do not harm the essence and unity of the faith, he said, they are to be treated with pastoral tolerance and patience.

We know that Bishop Tikhon had a clear vision of the Orthodox mission in America. His farewell sermon, given in New York City on March 17, 1907, constitutes for us his spiritual and pastoral testament.

These are his words:

"...Orthodox people must care for the dissemination of the Orthodox faith. ....The light of Orthodoxy is not lit for a small circle of people. No, the Orthodox faith is catholic; it remembers the commandment of its Founder: ĆGo into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Make disciples of all nations' (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19). It is our obligation to share our spiritual treasures, our truth, our light and our joy with those who do not have these gifts. And this duty lies not only on pastors and missionaries, but also on lay people, for the Church of Christ, in the wise comparison of St. Paul, is a body, and in the life of the body every member takes part.

"For each of us the dissemination of the Christian faith must be a favorite task, close to our hearts and precious to us; in this task each member of the Church must take an active part -- some by personal missionary effort, some by monetary support and service to the Ćneeds of the saints,' and some by prayer to the Lord that He might Ćestablish and increase His Church' and that He might Ćteach the word of truth' to those who do not know Christ...."

Thus, the pastoral vision of Bishop Tikhon included in a totally harmonious way the pastoral needs of existing native communities in Alaska and immigrant communities across the continent, and looked forward faithfully and boldly to the dissemination of the Orthodox faith in the American society and culture.

The pastoral ministry of Bishop Tikhon, the spirit in which he worked to build up the Orthodox Church in America, is an example and parable for all of us. For you, dear brother in Christ's service, Bishop Tikhon's vision and ministry today acquire a personal and unique significance. You have been given the name which he also bore. You have been ordained in the cathedral whose construction he inaugurated. You are one of those in America who have received the Holy Orthodox Faith which he desired to share with all. Now, go and serve God and God's people as he did.

Take this staff symbolizing the pastoral ministry which is entrusted to you. Ascending the episcopal throne, give the apostolic blessing to San Francisco and all the cities and towns in the Diocese of the West, to your spiritual flock, and to all the people of God taking part in your consecration.

The Orthodox Church, July 1987, page 7.

Back to The Consecration of Bishop Tikhon on the Holy Trinity Cathedral home page.

If you have any questions or comments please contact us.

Modified 5/28/97 -