Church congregationalism is a process only in relation to the rest of the Orthodox Church, not with the state. This is why the use of this phrase, lasting for decades, is deceitful and it may lead to mistakes, all of them favoring the Church, which thus becomes overcredible as institution. In fact, the Church does many a time depend on the state and is subordinate to it. It can be manipulated and turn into a target, as well as into an instrument of political fights. Now that the Patriarch with the longest career in Romania passed away and a decision on his successor is to follow, it is time for reasonable debate. It is both the right and duty of the Christian faithful to leave prejudices aside and participate in a mature and responsible dialogue on congregationalism.
Even before they were invented, opinion polls have always been of high importance to Romanians in terms of credibility, whereas the political parties and the Parliament have played with a significant handicap. In the collective mind, politics, especially in its modern meaning, is an initiative of the new kind. On the other hand the Church as institution has got a history of almost 2,000 years behind. But it is this huge dowry and citizens' trust in the Church that often turned it into a prey very tempting for politicians, in all epochs and everywhere. The possibility to manipulate this institution identified with the House of God is growing because the Church can't work autonomously and it has often got to beg the transient representatives of governments and of the political class for alms so that it would survive institutionally and financially, so that it can develop, adapt, modernize and promote the protection of the relation between man and God more efficiently.
Furthermore, when the state can interfere on the choice for a head to lead the Church, the prey grows even more tempting and certain. This is the very reason why the Catholics decided to drop congregationalism and be subject to one single religious center: the Vatican. By dropping the congregationalism and getting unified in one single, large Catholic Church, the world's Christian cult institutions can protect their integrity against one government or the other better. But even so there is no such thing as absolute autonomy. Everywhere in the world, sheltered under the powerful Vatican's umbrella, states try and often manage to influence the Church.
The congregational Romanian Orthodox Church is all the more vulnerable, as it has to gain all by itself an acceptable level of independence and oppose manipulations of all kinds. And there were also the long years of dictatorship, which are not to be blamed on the Communist state only. The National Redemption Cathedral is a relevant example. Romanian Patriarchy is unable to build it all by itself, but only if getting favors from the President, the general mayor of Bucharest, the government and more lay institutions, in exchange to favors.
As a new Patriarch is to be elected soon, if we reach the backstage of it, we have the occasion to watch a terrible war of political interests, which will come to oppose the legitimate interests of the Orthodox Church. Civil society representatives, too many of them politicians and too few disinterested churchgoers, will matter a lot in the choice for the successor of the Patriarch Teoctist. I strongly fear we will watch a disgusting game that has already started with crocodile tears, propaganda statements by the coffin of the deceased, promises that won't be kept, post-mortem awards. It is to be seen to what extent our congregational Orthodox Church will resist pressure and temptations.