Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor)
Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor) of Washington (1933- )
Theodosius may be spelt Theodosios, Feodosiy.
Theodore may be spelt Feodor, Fedor.
Frank Theodore Lazor was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania in 1933 to immigrant parents from Galicia, in what is today the southeastern corner of Poland. It is the opinion of some that his family belongs to the Lemko people.
After having complete his primary and secondary education in Canonsburg, Theodore Lazor entered and completed a programme of undergraduate studies at the Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.
Theodore Lazor then spent the next year pursuing additional studies at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland. During the course of his studies, he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and he visited Orthodox Christian centres throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Monastic tonsure, 1961
Upon returning to the USA in 1961, he was tonsured to be a monk on 10 October, and he was given the name Theodosius.
On 14 October, 1961, the Monk Theodosius (Lazor) was ordained to the Holy Diaconate, and then on 22 October, 1961, he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood.
In 1967, he was chosen and elected by the Great Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America (also called the "Metropolia") to become a bishop.
Episcopal ordination, 1967
On 6 May, 1967, the Hieromonk Theodosius was ordained to the Holy Episcopate, and he was given the title of Vicar-Bishop of Washington, DC, and Assistant to Metropolitan Ireney (Bekish).
On 1 June, 1967, Bishop Theodosius (Lazor) was appointed to be the administrator of the Diocese of Alaska.
Soon afterwards, on 17 November, 1967, the Great Council of Bishops chose him to be the Diocesan Bishop of Sitka and Alaska. During his time of service in Alaska, he oversaw the rebuilding of the historic Cathedral of the Archangel Michael in Sitka, Alaska, which had recently been destroyed by fire (the original building had been constructed by Saint Innocent). He further was responsible for directing the renovation of the nearby Bishop’s House, which had been built by Saint Innocent (Veniaminov). The Bihop's House still stands today, thanks to this renovation, and to the agreement with the State of Alaska for its maintenance as an historic site. He initiated regional conferences throughout the diocese, and he encouraged the establishment of a variety of educational programs and conferences. It is not by any means every bishop who is adopted into an aboriginal clan, but it was the case with him.
Tomos of Autocephaly, 1970
In May, 1970, as the Bishop of Alaska, he was assigned to lead the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America, which travelled to Moscow (then in the USSR) to receive the Tomos (document of proclamation) of Autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Tomos gave the official name, “The Orthodox Church in America”, and it guaranteed the right of self-governance for The Orthodox Church in America.
Shortly thereafter, Bishop Theodosius (Lazor) hosted ceremonies in Alaska marking the canonisation of one of the original Orthodox missionaries to Alaska, the well-known and well-beloved Elder Herman. The event was significant in that it marked the first time a North American had been entered into the Orthodox calendar of saints. Participating was Archbishop Paul (Olmari) of Finland.
In 1972, Bishop Theodosius was transferred by the Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America and assigned to the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.
During his 5-year period of service there, in his “home” region, Bishop Theodosius (Lazor) was elevated to the dignity of archbishop.
There also, Archbishop Theodosius (Lazor) instituted a highly-successful programme for training “permanent” deacons. He fostered educational programs for all ages. He worked diligently to strengthen the life of the diocese on all levels.
On 25 October, 1977, during the 5th All-American Council in Montréal, Québec, Archbishop Theodosius (Lazor) was chosen to be the next primate of The Orthodox Church in America. He was immediately enthroned as the Archbishop of New York, and Metropolitan of All America and Canada. In this responsibility, Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor) took up the leadership of one of the world’s 15 autocephalous (self-governing) Orthodox Churches.
In 1981, the Holy Synod of Bishops established a new diocese of Washington, DC (it had formerly been a titular see) as the see of the primate of The Orthodox Church in America. As Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan Theodosius presided over this diocese, in addition to his duties as primate.
In that same year, with the retirement of Archbishop Sylvester of Montréal and Canada, Metropolitan Theodosius was given the responsibility of serving as the locum tenens of the Archdiocese of Canada. He held this responsibility until 1990. During this time, he was particularly attentive to the renewal of proper diocesan structures and organisation in the Canadian archdiocese so that it would be able to function more efficiently. He also helped to galvanise the leadership to increase the financial contributions from the parishes for the support of the diocesan administration.
Throughout his time of service as the primate, Metropolitan Theodosius met with numerous world religious leaders, including the primates of the various Autocephalous Churches.
In 1990, he was the first Orthodox primate to be officially invited to visit the Patriarchate of Moscow for greeting the newly-enthroned Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow. In 1992, he was also invited to participate in the 600th anniversary celebrations of the repose of Saint Sergius of Radonezh.
In 1991 and 1993, Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor) hosted the North American visits of Patriarch Aleksy II. He hosted the primate of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, Patriarch-Catholicos Ilia II in 1998, and Metropolitan Sawa (Hrycuniak) of Warsaw and All Poland in 2000.
As a guest of many national and foreign religious leaders, Metropolitan Theodosius travelled to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere. He took part in official dialogues with His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, at the Patriarchal headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey.
Metropolitan Theodosius played an active role in inter-Orthodox gatherings, consultations and associations. One such body was the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), of which the OCA was a member. The OCA remains a member of the successor entity, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America. He was a strong supporter of various inter-Orthodox ministries, including the International Orthodox Christian Charities, the Orthodox Christian Education Commission, and the Orthodox Christian Mission Centre. He was always a vocal advocate for Orthodox unity in North America. Together with the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America, he participated in the SCOBA-sponsored gathering of North American hierarchs in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, in December, 1994.
Metropolitan Theodosius was a frequent guest at the White House in Washington, DC. He was called upon by Presidents Bush and Clinton for advice on religious and political affairs in various parts of the world, especially after the fall of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
During the crisis in Kosovo, he boldly defended the rights of all peoples in the region, and he called upon President Clinton to end the NATO air campaign.
On 28 September, 1994, Metropolitan Theodosius was the guest of Dr. James Billington at the Library of Congress for the opening of an historical display highlighting the contribution of the Orthodox Church and native Alaskan cultures to North America. During the ceremony, Metropolitan Theodosius was greeted by US President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
It was during Metropolitan Theodosius’ period of service that the OCA’s recent “ministry units” were established, and commissioned to make an impact on Church life at the “grass roots” level.
In 2001, Metropolitan Theodosius, requested that he be granted a 4-month medical leave of absence from his arch-pastoral and primatial duties by the Holy Synod of Bishops, a request which they granted. He had first had a major surgery, and he had then continued to suffer the residual effects of small strokes which were occurring in late 2000 and early 2001. Despite the four-month medical leave of absence, which he took at the recommendation of his physicians, he found the ever-increasing burdens of his office to be too demanding for him to manage.
On 2 April, 2002, Metropolitan Theodosius submitted to the Holy Synod of Bishops his request that he be blessed to retire from the responsibility of being the Metropolitan of All America and Canada. The members of the Holy Synod of Bishops granted Metropolitan Theodosius’ request, which would become effective at the soon-to-be-convened next Council.
On 21 July, 2002, Metropolitan Theodosius opened the 13th All-American Council, and he presented his address about the life of the Church during the previous triennium. At the conclusion of his address, he retired from being the Metropolitan of All America and Canada.
From that time, Metropolitan Theodosius lived near his niece in Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania. In 2016, he entered a retirement residence in Washington, Pennsylvania.
As is usualy the case with patriarchs and other heads of local Churches, there is criticism (often politicised) of their behaviours and decisions by those within the Church who disagree with them about one or another matter, and by those outside the Church who have a different perception of the world and of situations. An assessment of such a person cannot be limited to one or even several matters. Rather, it must consider the whole of the person's life and service. For an Orthodox Christian, a main criterion in discernment (or “litmus test”) is the Dominical saying : “By their fruits you will know them”.
‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them’ (Matthew 7:15-20).
Wyrwoll, Nikolaus ed., “Orthodoxia 2014-2015" (Regensburg : Ostkirchliches Institut, 2015). ISBN 978-7245-1959-1 Satz und Druck: gaina GmbH Tübingen.