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Patriarchate of Antioch: “All bishops within the Antiochian See are auxiliary bishops”

Posted to the website of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:

THE DECISION REGARDING THE AMENDING OF ARTICLES CONCERNING BISHOPS ACCORDING TO THE BY-LAWS OF HE PATRIARCHATE

CHAPTER VI, THE BISHOPS

Article 75: The Patriarch is the reference point of all bishops in Damascus, Patriarchal Monasteries and Vicariates; and they are under his authority[.]

Article 76: The Metropolitan is the point of reference of all bishops in his Archdiocese and they are under his authority.

Article 77: All bishops within the Antiochian See are auxiliary bishops and are directly under their spiritual authority.

Article 78: The Metropolitan defines the responsibilities of the bishops and the place where they should serve. The bishop does not do anything contrary to the will of the Metropolitan.

Article 79: The aforementioned articles 75, 76, 77 and 78 are applicable in all Antiochian Archdioceses and whatever contradicts these articles is null and void.

Issued by the Holy Synod of Antioch, Damascus, February 24, 2009

Signed by:

His Beatitude, IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch

His Eminence, ILYAS, Tripoli

His Eminence, ELIA, Hama

His Eminence, ELIAS, Tyre and Sidon

His Eminence, GEORGE, Homs

His Eminence, PAUL, Australia

His Eminence, DAMASKINOS, Brazil

His Eminence, ESPER, Houran

His Eminence, BASILIOS, Akkar

So, there is a great deal I could say about what this looks like to me, and there are a number of things which stick out like a sore thumb on which I could comment. Not just this text, but the language used in posting it:

Since this was a special Synod meeting with only one item on the agenda concerning the bishops, the proposed text of this decision was sent to the members of the Holy Synod, who were not present, for their approval. (emphasis in original)

However, before I shoot my mouth off, is there anybody familiar with the situation who would care to comment?

For potentially useful background reading, I suggest the interview with His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV in the December 2008 issue of The Word, pp. 5-8. I might also suggest His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP’s discussion of primacy at the American Conference of the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius last June.

I will be very curious to hear what people have to say.

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93 Responses to “Patriarchate of Antioch: “All bishops within the Antiochian See are auxiliary bishops””


  1. 1 Esteban Vázquez 28 February 2009 at 9:19 am

    You know, when first I read this disconcerting little document, the first few lines struck me as saying really nothing more than the canons already say: that the Bishops of a province are to do nothing of consequence without their Metropolitan, and the Metropolitan without the Patriarch (see a discussion by Metropolitan Jonah here) — that is, the the principle of true “conciliarity” is holy obedience of juniors to seniors (as St Nikolaj Velimirović explains). But then the document makes this bewildering and totally unwarranted jump in logic by deducing that the practical implications of this is that all Bishops are actually auxiliary Bishops! This is, of course, nonsense. The Antiochian Bishops in the US and Canada (because, really, this seems to apply to no other place in the Patriarchate of Antioch — even the Antiochian Bishops in Latin America are all Metropolitans!) have been duly enthroned as the ruling Bishops of their Dioceses. They’re no longer Metropolitan Philip’s “auxiliaries.” To make them into anything else now would be a serious canonical transgression.

  2. 2 Esteban Vázquez 28 February 2009 at 11:03 am

    As a side note, I’ve just read the interview with Patriarch Ignatius. I find some of the language very interesting:

    “You Antiochians in North America are in many ways more Antiochian than we are in the old country. Your Churches, people and clergy behave Antiochian.”

    “[Metropolitan Philip] remembers Antioch and makes Antiochians present in North America.”

    “Even if there were to be a Patriarch here, we would be sister Churches and the Antiochian connection would be just as strong.”

    “[W]hat [Metropolitan Philip] advocates is consistent with our position. It is Antiochian.”

    “You are what you are, true Antiochians living in a new context without leaving the Mother Church.”

    Imagine the outcry if the interview had been with the late Patriarch Alexy of Moscow, and instead of “Antiochian,” these quotes read “Russian” instead!

  3. 3 Richard Barrett 1 March 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Unfortunately, nobody has yet come forward to tell me, “No, this actually isn’t a big deal,” and instead various parties, clergy among them, have made it clear that it is in fact the opposite, that this is a big deal, it was out of the blue, and it’s not good.

    Hurm.

  4. 4 BJA 1 March 2009 at 5:47 pm

    My source (a retired priest who goes back as far as the days of Antony Bashir) told me, essentially, that the Metropolitan regrets the local dioceses that he himself originally asked the Synod for. He felt that the diocesan Bishops were out of control and running their dioceses like little independent jurisdictions. So the Metropolitan went back to the Synod and asked for a reversion to the previous state of the American Archdiocese. Some clergy are happy about it, others are upset about it, and I’d be willing to bet that a few of the former diocesans, now auxiliaries, are pretty incensed.

    • 5 Richard Barrett 1 March 2009 at 8:45 pm

      Bless, Father.

      Disappointing, highly so, if true. I would be curious to know what constitutes “out of control”.

  5. 6 fdr 1 March 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Word on the street is that Bp. Basil is going to retire to a monastery.

  6. 7 Geoff 1 March 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I’d say the Met. is most upset with Bishop JOSEPH out west who:
    -has a better website than the “head office”
    -is slightly more conservative and thorough (and by here I mean slight) in his liturgics and praxis (enough to please conservative converts)
    -has made great efforts in intra-orthodox relations in his region

    I’d say Bishop JOSEPH is giving him a run for his money and he doesn’t like it a bit. Met. PHILIP is acting like a Don of the Orthodox Mafia and he may have a fight on his hands. The Met is getting more and more out of touch with the grass roots of the archdiocese, which is increasingly convert and not Arab-American.

    If the OCA can clean up its mess (and it appears it may) you may see a slow emigration to the OCA, especially if the Met. cracks down on Joseph.

  7. 8 BJA 1 March 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Richard –

    I am not a priest (just a single seminary grad in limbo), but the blessings of the Lord anyhow! 🙂

    I’m not entirely sure exactly what constitutes “out of control”, but I do know that a few of the bishops were issuing liturgical guidelines at odds in many points with the guidelines issued by the Archdiocese (and which have been a part of Antiochian Archdiocese usage for decades).

    BTW, I enjoy your blog immensely.

    • 9 Richard Barrett 2 March 2009 at 7:32 am

      Apologies — I read your initials and thought you were somebody else.

      That the LA diocese would have something to do with this makes sense; I’m aware of Midwestern priests who have preferred their liturgical guide to the Archdiocesan one, and since they’re as far away from Pennsylvania and New Jersey as they are they appear to have their own events out that way rather than attend events at Antiochian Village.

      So is there a rule that says, “Thou shalt not be more liturgically conservative than the Metropolitan?” That would explain why, when I’ve asked about using the full prokeimenon or alleluia in the Divine Liturgy (sung, with verses), I’ve been told, “Actually, we’re forbidden to do so.”

  8. 10 Esteban Vázquez 1 March 2009 at 10:57 pm

    What does “out of control” mean?

    Well, let’s say, for instance, that a priest of the Western Diocese of an American jurisdiction raises some questions at the Annual Convention about some budgetary procedures in what was expected to be a rubber-stamp vote, and thereby incurs the wrath of a its Metropolitan. The Metropolitan then wants to open his enormously large can of whoopass to punish such unforgivable insubordination — but the priest’s ruling Diocesan Bishop prevents this from happening by sppealing to his canonical rights.

    Something like that.

  9. 11 BJA 2 March 2009 at 1:41 am

    Some very serious accusations, Mr Vázquez. I assume you have some first-hand knowledge or a reliable source, and that you’re not just spreading a rumor (and that at the beginning of the Great Fast)?

    • 12 Richard Barrett 2 March 2009 at 7:38 am

      Please don’t let this turn into a sniping back-and-forth, gentlemen; not here, anyway. Pretty please with sugar on top.

      I’m aware of at least one instance of a diocesan bishop being told to sit down and be quiet at a archdiocesan gathering by Met. PHILIP in attempting to discuss a financial matter. That’s not quite the same as Esteban’s “for instance,” but I’m also aware of at least one case, within the last year, of a diocesan bishop finding that his head had been gone over in relocating, and subsequently releasing, a priest.

  10. 13 Esteban Vázquez 2 March 2009 at 9:32 am

    One “BJA,” commenting accusatorily above, nonetheles assumes correctly.

    Richard> Those are, indeed, other recent instances of the same. Such incidents are, unfortunately, neither isolated nor infrequent.

    “fdr”> The word on the street has reached here, as well. If the report is true, contemplate how shameful and outrageous it would be for arguably one of the finest hierarchs in North America to opt for retirement at a relatively early age on account of this uncanonical power play.

  11. 14 Daniel 2 March 2009 at 2:29 pm

    So my main thought is…will anyone ever actually talk about this beside little chats online like this. The letter was said to be read and printed, as far as I can see no one saw that done. None of the “big” Antiochian sites say much of anything about it. I have never had much patience for this type of thing Protestant or now. I would rather the leadership just says what it means and we either suck it up and move forward or we protest…knowing what we are actually protesting. I do not feel ‘ignorance is bliss’ in these circumstances. 🙂 But, then again, I also know we move slowly in Orthodoxy so I suppose it could be months or longer before things manifest themselves.

    Most importantly is the state of our souls right now not this, I think, so I shall try and focus on salvation during Lent…

    Lord, have mercy on us all and especially those who have to make these huge decisions.

    • 15 Richard Barrett 2 March 2009 at 2:41 pm

      It was not read on Sunday, no, and we weren’t the only parish, I don’t think. I’m reasonably certain this was for a reason.

  12. 16 BJA 2 March 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Wise words, Daniel. The way this all looks inside the Antiochian Archdiocese, to people who’ve been members for quite some time, is very different from the way it’s being spun on the internet.

  13. 17 BJA 2 March 2009 at 3:06 pm

    It wasn’t read in my parish either. Only a letter on the seminarian fund.

  14. 18 Anonymous 2 March 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I think many of us in the Antiochian Archdiocese are puzzled by what we see, rightly or wrongly, as a reversal of an agreement for self rule that we understood was supported by both our Patriarch and Metropolitan.

    I, for one, am very concerned for what appears to be the sudden and “top down” nature of this statement and will wait and pray for further insight.

  15. 19 Irenaeus 2 March 2009 at 9:36 pm

    So far, no one has touched upon what for me is the fundamental question: Is the recent announcement that all bishops are auxiliary bishops consistent with Holy Tradition? Is it consistent with Tradition and church history for the Metropolitan to exercise such a wide scope of authority over the clergy? And, what does Tradition have to say with respect to diocesan bishops? What do writers like Irenaeus of Lyon, Ambrose of Milan, Ignatius of Antioch have to say about this recent issue?

    I for one am quite concerned about the speculations that have been posted so far on this site. Let us approach this important matter in a mature way.

  16. 20 Chris Jones 3 March 2009 at 12:03 am

    Irenaeus,

    I do not think that the Tradition is univocal on the question of “auxiliary bishops.” Someone who is an “Ignatius of Antioch/Cyprian of Carthage” purist on the role of the bishop (which, to be fair, I tend to be) would say that an auxiliary bishop is a contradiction, and there can be no such thing. But the actual tradition of the Church is not so tidy, and from the ante-Nicene “chorepiskopos” to the present day there have always been bishops who were in some sense subordinate and auxiliary to more senior bishops. (Also it must be noted that if we followed Ignatius strictly, every local parish would be presided over by a bishop who is equal to every other bishop.)

    Also, the history of the Councils of the patristic era is full of disputes (and canonical resolutions to those disputes) about jurisdiction and precedence and about who among the bishops is subordinate to whom. Those disputes could not have occurred and could have had no meaning if it were simply the case that no bishop is ever an auxiliary subject to the jurisdiction of a regional primate.

    What the Holy Synod has decided may be wise or foolish, or even illegitimate (I don’t pretend to know), but the notion that a local bishop may be an auxiliary subject to the jurisdiction of another bishop is hardly unheard of in the Church’s canonical tradition.

  17. 21 Anonymous 3 March 2009 at 8:44 am

    I understand the desire to search the Tradition for precedent but the larger question remains. Why?

    The structure in place with self rule and diocesan Bishops was agreed on by the entire Archdiocese in convention and was in fact heavily supported by Metropolitan PHILIP and approved by the Holy Synod. So why did they suddenly back out of the agreement without consultation or convention?

    Was the structure not functioning correctly? I’ve heard no evidence of this. Were the Bishops not faithful to the Church or its Faith? Again there is no evidence of this. Will this increase the ability of the Archdiocese to serve / guide the faithful? I can’t imagine sending everything to New Jersey will make the system more efficient.

    The bottom line is that there are a good number of people who are very perplexed by this decision and energy is building in an attempt to learn more of the reasons behind it and perhaps challenge it if needed. There is a possibility this Lent might be a bumpy one in the AOA.

  18. 22 AMM 3 March 2009 at 9:46 am

    Further proof in my opinion that jurisdictional unity becomes less and less likely as time goes on.

    • 23 Richard Barrett 3 March 2009 at 9:49 am

      For the time being, this is likely so. The bottom line is likely that, as long as the people who pay the bills, as well as those for whom the bills are paid, have a vested interest in it not happening, it’s not going to happen.

  19. 24 michael 3 March 2009 at 10:15 am

    little freaking kids i swear….u know its […] like this that makes me not go to church…..ave people lost their freaking minds….jesus i mean seriously…..when are people gonna stop acting idiots and stop gossiping like […] children…….first of all stop trying to guess why or who is behind this […]…..second quit gossiping about what one bishop or another is gonna do its nobodys business…..third this isnt a democracy people have no say what the people at the top have to say about church rules and if i know one thing iu know that no one here is wearing a damn crown so u guys should really shut up……i am so sick of seeing such ridiculous behavior from adults……its people like u guys who go to seminary or are really active in church who grow a certain arrogance and elitist attitude that have turned me atheist…..u have taken i church i was born into and had every intention of becoming a priest into something pretty disgusting…….U HAVE THE WRONG IDEA?…….get over your selves…..quit making it a race issue….i am tired of people in my own church attacking me for being arab……quit gossiping about the metropolitan and who he has beef with because its none of your […] business…..for gods sake focus on yourselves…….just becuase some one growsa beard or wears his hat in church or censes a few extra times etc etc. doesnt make them a better christian sorry to bust ur bubble guys…..do us all a favor….and SHUT THE […] UP!!!!!!!

    (Editor’s note: post edited for profanity, not for content.)

  20. 25 anonymous 3 March 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Actually. Michael, the Church is hierarchical but that does not imply that those in authority are free to make it up as they go or simply do as they wish because they are Bishops. I am not implying that this is the case here but I do think that more context related to this decision is needed because it appears to be sudden and arbitrary. If anything the seriousness with which we are trying to discern the context and meaning of this is not about anarchy at all but rather about the esteem in which we hold our Bishops and our Metropolitan. Asking “why” is not so much a challenge as it is a request for background, for context, and for understanding.

    That being said, in a general sense in Orthodoxy the mere suggestion that a Bishop declaring something to be so means that it is so is not our Tradition. Even the Bishop must act in a conciliar fashion and within the Tradition and there have been times when hierarchs have presented things to the people and the people have said “no”. Is this one of those times? I don’t know and without more information I can’t say but without further illumination on this statement it could be a bumpy Lent as people try to make sense of this wholesale change.

  21. 26 Richard Barrett 3 March 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Michael, I’m curious. Have we met?

    In any event, I agree with most of what you say. You’re right — none of us are bishops (that I’m aware, anyway), gossiping isn’t going to get anybody anywhere, neither will arrogance or elitism, nobody should be attacking you, or anybody else, for their heritage, and beards, hats, and incense don’t in and of themselves make anybody any holier. No question about any of that. Please forgive me if I have done any of that to you.

    There is something troubling, however, about the notion that we’d all be better off not being active in church life because it might make other people feel bad. It’s true that those who are active need to not make it look like they’re somehow better than those who aren’t, but I think it’s also true that the Church would only benefit from more people being more involved, not fewer.

    We will also have to agree to disagree that somehow this is none of our business. The Church is not the hierarchy alone (just like neither is it the people alone), and these decisions have consequences, even for people at our level. The event historians call the Council of Florence is ample evidence that if the Church were just the bishops telling everybody else what to do, the world would look like a very different place.

    Richard

  22. 27 Daniel 3 March 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Dear Michael,

    “its people like u guys who go to seminary or are really active in church who grow a certain arrogance and elitist attitude that have turned me atheist…..u have taken i church i was born into and had every intention of becoming a priest into something pretty disgusting…”

    I feel very sad that you have allowed others to destroy not only your relationship with the Church but even more so you now feel yourself to be an atheist and no longer even believe in God, part or apart from the Church. I would encourage you to search for God once again, even if that be outside of the Church and see where he takes you. We should never allow other’s behavior to make us turn our back on God. That would be a childish attitude and way of looking at things, which you obviously are against.

    I don’t claim to know much of anything anymore…about Orthodoxy or God, but I do know He is our creator and he loves you and I and all people. Take time to receive His love again.

    Your Brother,
    Daniel

  23. 28 Daniel 3 March 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Does this mean we don’t even pray for the Bishop now unless he is there? That does seem very sad and wrong to me.

    POSETD ON ANTIOCHIAN.oRG:

    Archpastoral Directive + March 3, 2009
    Metropolitan PHILIP writes:

    To all clergy of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:

    We greet you in the spirit of this Great Lent.

    Some of our clergy have inquired about hierarchical commemorations in the divine services. In order to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, we would like to direct your attention to the following:

    On February 24th, 2009 the Holy Synod of Antioch amended Chapter VI of the by-laws of the Patriarchate, which now reads:

    Article 76

    The Metropolitan is the point of reference of all bishops in his Archdiocese and they are under his authority.

    Article 77

    All bishops within the Antiochian See are auxiliary bishops and are directly under their spiritual authority.

    Article 78

    The Metropolitan defines the responsibilities of the bishops and the place where they should serve. The bishop does not do anything contrary to the will of the Metropolitan.

    Therefore, in accordance with the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch, the following is the proper order for the commemoration of hierarchs in the divine services:

    The clergy should commemorate the Metropolitan in all divine services.
    The clergy should commemorate the auxiliary bishop when he is present at the divine service.

    It is expected that all clergy will strictly adhere to this directive. May the journey to the Empty Tomb bring you all the joy of the Glorious Resurrection.

  24. 29 anonymous 3 March 2009 at 6:02 pm

    The directive is clear. In all liturgical services we commemorate only the Metropolitan unless a Bishop is present and then his name is added.

    Daniel, I don’t think you’re alone. I serve in the Antiochian Archdiocese and for now I choose to be anonymous but there are a number of us who are very much trying to make sense of this. We acknowledge the directives and we intend to comply but there is something behind all this that just seems “off”, something I hope gets cleared up soon.

    Right now we need to stay alert and pray for our Metropolitan, our Bishops, and the whole state of the Antiochian Archdiocese. In time God will give the insight we need.

  25. 30 anymouse 3 March 2009 at 9:13 pm

    As a ROCOR Priest, I know this is being discussed well beyond the Antiochian American Archdiocese – in fact well beyond America. It makes no canonical sense to any of us.

    My Metropolitan is the Ruling Bishop of his diocese. He has Vicar Bishops who assist in running his diocese. But outside of his diocese, he has influence, but no power. He is the President of the Holy Synod, and there, things are discussed and decided. The Holy Synod itself is however only the “Standing Committee” of the Council.

    The Church will decide, not a single Metropolitan, and the Church consists of all of us.

    So, the sooner this translation of the original document is clarified, and the sooner the normal canonical order is (re) established, the better for all of us.

  26. 31 Esteban Vázquez 3 March 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Oh, Michael. You have been “driven to atheism” by your own arrogance and foolishness. Stop blaming it on others — otherwise, you’ll never find a way to repent!

  27. 32 michael 3 March 2009 at 11:32 pm

    ya ok esteban……because u know way more than i do…..right…….u know the whole situation….u acutally worked inside the church and saw the […]…….but thats ok because i never did any of that so i dont know what i am talking about…….or wait…..maybe..i might have a little inside knowledge…..but u wouldnt know that would u……its ok because i am ignorant….judgemental ass…..people like u and some of these newly ordained priests and seminarians that turned this church into a circus…….but then again according to your expert priestly advice i am ignorant and a child….douche

    (Editor’s note: edited, again, for profanity and not content. Let’s shoot for a PG rating here, folks.)

  28. 33 Esteban Vázquez 3 March 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Oh, newsflash! I’m an ass and a douche! Tell me somthing I don’t know.

    The point, however, stands. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” The reason for this lies within, not without. Every time. Playing the blame game is useless.

  29. 34 anonymous1 4 March 2009 at 9:34 am

    Guys,
    well, first for Michael, did you ask yourself why is this happening before you blame everyone on this site? did you ask yourself why Bishop Dimitri is being enthroned as Met. of Chili? I guess not. but you are making all Arab Antiochian Orthodox look really as messed up as you are.
    well, Guys, it would be sad if we all are here for the gossip part and for seeking the truth behind this directive. it would be sad that we are going through this at this season. it would be worse to see our synod break into parts especially when the other Orthodox jurisdictions in the North America look at us as the leaders to Orthodox Unity in North America. Furthermore, I wonder if our Metr. Philip realizing that his glorious days would be ending in a bad period like this one. It is sad to see that we allow the demon to work in our church and not do anything about it.
    Moreover, the Church is Christ’s and not the Metropolitan’s. the Met. without the people can’t do anything. what is he going to excommunicate us all and who is he going to serve with? Bishop Anton?… this is sad people…

  30. 35 anonymous2 4 March 2009 at 11:49 am

    Anonymous1
    Where did you find out Bishop Dimitri is being enthroned as Met. of Chili?

  31. 36 john 4 March 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I hope that’s chili with tvp during lent

  32. 37 michael 4 March 2009 at 12:46 pm

    i forgot i was messed up according to yours and estebans priestly advice…..second of all how the […] are u to say that all arabs are crazy……hey […] ……listen…….u have no right to say anything about any race because white people do some pretty crazy […] as well……the whole point of this fellas is that its […] like this (what u guys are doing on this damn website) that pushes people away…..and all in the name of making a name for ourselves….or giving the laity a “voice” as if the orthodox church was some communist partty or something…..but then again who am i to contradict priests right?….oh wait….u guys arent priests thats right…..ur just a bunch of bored people gossiping on line..how funny would it be if the bihops were reading this and seeing all the childish gossiping going on….damn some of u converts are just nuts!

    (Editor’s note: Edited for profanity, not for content.)

    • 38 Richard Barrett 4 March 2009 at 1:40 pm

      I’m letting this exchange go as it wishes for the most part; I really don’t want to be in the business of deleting comments or banning commenters, given that for the most part what people say speaks for itself, in my view. That said, I would appreciate keeping language to a PG-13 level. These are not topics of discussion I appreciate seeing handled as though we were in a David Mamet movie.

      We will call this “fair warning,” and subsequent posts which do not abide by this request will not be edited; rather, they will be deleted. I would rather not consider the step of banning commenters at this time, and I would appreciate not being put in a position where I need to reconsider.

      Thank you for your consideration.

      Richard

  33. 39 Esteban Vázquez 4 March 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Actually, my understanding was that as of January 2009 Bishop Demetri would be going to Mexico as assistant bishop to Metropolitan Antonio (Chedraoui) of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean:

    http://www.iglesiaortodoxa.org.mx/01-espaniol/08-noticias/05-noticias2008/diciembre4-visita_arzobispo_dimitri.htm

  34. 40 Esteban Vázquez 4 March 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Nobody here has “expert priestly advice,” Michael, or an inside track to anything — though you seem to think you have something close to both. As for pointing out the reasons for your blaming your turn to atheism on everyone else, well, that’s hardly “priestly advice.” That’s common sense.

    Also, you are the only person around here who seems to have anything against any other group of people, namely, converts.

  35. 41 anonymous1 4 March 2009 at 1:12 pm

    thank you Esteban for the correction.
    Michael you are not the only Antiochian Arab on this blog. you should respect yourself and know what you are talking about. go and speak with someone who can help you get back on the right path. as a native from the middle east and who is cradle Antiochian Orthodox I would like to ask Michael what he is doing for Orthodoxy besides that he is cursing the converts that care about his church. he needs to calm down and respect these people rather than throwing around the F word while everyone else has forgotten it.

  36. 42 Joe 4 March 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Not so weird, just some of the unintended consequences (fruits) the of the rebellion of the “American Orthodox Church” zealots in the OCA. They have spooked both the Patriarchate of Antioch and their own Self-Ruling Metropolitan. They saw all of the former-Protestants in the ranks of their clergy and feared their renascent Protestantism that ironically is a result of the the very Eastern Rite protestant ethos that they themselves help to perpetuate in North America!

  37. 43 Esteban Vázquez 4 March 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Joe> Hear, hear! Down with militant Americanism and its enablers!

  38. 46 Anonymous 6 March 2009 at 3:50 pm

    This decision is very disappointing and saddening to many people in the Antiochian Archdiocese, myself included. I would like to add some comments to this discussion.

    First, it should be noted that dioceses were not part of Metropolitan PHILIP’s plan. +PHILIP wanted self-rule. ANTIOCH forced the diocesan system on him. This was not his idea.

    Moving on from that, I think the reasons for this decision are obvious for anyone who knows anything about the situation in the Antiochian Archdiocese since self-rule. From talking with others in the Antiochian Archdiocese (yes, I am Antiochian), even those who are generally supportive of Met PHILIP, the reasons for this decision are clear.

    Met PHILIP has for some time resented having diocesan bishops. Before the dioceses, he single-handedly ran the Archdiocese and did whatever he wanted to do. With diocesan bishops, that was no longer the case.

    As can be seen from Met PHILIP’s letter–if one knows the inner workings of the Archdiocese–one of the main reasons for this decision is so that +PHILIP can move Bishop MARK to a different diocese or region, whatever it now is. As you saw in his letter, “Most of the bishops will remain where they currently reside.” In other words, “some” bishops will be moved. +PHILIP tried to do this already, but the diocesan bishops would not allow it to happen, arguing that they were bishops of specific cities and regions.

    In addition, +PHILIP is concerned about the ‘unity’ of the Archdiocese because he equates ‘unity’ with ‘uniformity.’ Specifically, he does not like it that certain bishops allow–some even encourage–priests to dress in their cassocks outside the church; he does not like that some priests wear ‘hats’ and ‘sandals’–God forbid!!! He has a specific way that he wants priests to dress, and anything else is unacceptable to him. He sees this as ‘Orthodox fundamentalism,’ which he condemns. He thinks that this ‘fundamentalism’ is dividing the Archdiocese.

    Furthermore, +PHILIP does not like that Bishop JOSEPH has started his own website with liturgical texts and services that have different (read, corrected) rubrics from the Archdiocese website, and that +JOSEPH has said these are the only texts approved for use in his diocese.

    In short, this is simply a power play and has nothing to do with Antioch’s view or understanding of ecclesiology. +PHILIP is trying to take back his Archdiocese because he’s scared it has become divided (again, in his mind, ‘unity’ means ‘uniformity,’ and specifically, uniformity with his opinions or outlook). In reality, no one was talking about splitting the Archdiocese; no one desired, at this time, to leave Antiochian jurisdiction. Unfortunately, now that +PHILIP has done this, many people, including clergy, are talking about jumping ship. Unfortunately, this could undo everything that +PHILIP has done and accomplished over the past 30-40 years. Without question, it will ruin his ‘legacy’ in the mind of most Antiochian Americans. The only people who support this are those who were opposed to having ‘white’ or ‘convert’ bishops in the first place, or who are so biased towards Met PHILIP that they will agree with whatever he does. I’m sorry to bring in the ‘race’ card, Michael, but the reality is that there are some in Antiochian circles who do not like converts, and sometimes for good reason, I might add. Nevertheless, that does not excuse the exclusion of a bishop simply because he is not Arab, as happened in the Midwest from day one.

    In my opinion, this is a very sad decision and I personally hope there is huge backlash over this at the summer convention. The implications of this decision, as you all have pointed out, are enormous, even if Antioch wants to ignore or overlook that. It is most sad if we let Antioch come in, after granting us self-rule, and make null and void our Constitution, or the parts that relate to diocesan bishops. As Met PHILIP said in 2005 (see the link below), only a General Assembly of the Archdiocese can legally amend the Constitution. I hope that the delegates at the Convention refuse to amend the Constitution.

    http://www.antiochian.org/newsjan272005

  39. 47 anonymous 6 March 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I have the same concerns as just expressed by anonymous and find the decision unwise, imprudent and disheartening. It seems to be a step back from wider Orthodox unity in America and has little to do with spreading the Gospel of Christ and growing His Church.

    Some, for example (many?), will almost certainly seek more fertile soil in the OCA under its new shepherdship.

    May God bless their endeavours and have mercy on us.

    lerosymel

  40. 48 Richard Barrett 6 March 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Anonymous, 3:50pm:

    Thank you for your post. That wasn’t anything I hadn’t already guessed, but it’s very saddening to hear somebody come out and say it. Bp. MARK is my bishop, and I think he’s wonderful; as I said, it pains me deeply to see him demoted and possibly penalized for doing what he’s supposed to do.

    My only comment is this. In the spirit of compassion and trying to not rush to judgment, I find it not entirely unreasonable, even if I don’t ultimately agree, that a convert bishop who implements “no bingo” and “pay your priest according to guideline” rules and who teams up with a couple of relatively hardline convert priests to start up mandatory workshops to tell parish councils how they are to operate and interact with their priest, as well as stands firm on clergy assignments that some donors don’t like, might run afoul of certain segments of his flock. Some of those things were simply not going to be implementable in a way that would be interpreted positively, not when they are contrary to ways some parishes have been run for decades. It makes these rules and practices no less necessary and him no less right to implement them, but there we are. People don’t want to be told they’re wrong, particularly when they believe they have a legacy on their side.

    God forgive and save us all.

    Richard

  41. 49 Greg 6 March 2009 at 9:41 pm

    RE anonymous1, 4 March 2009 at 9:34 am, “… the other Orthodox jurisdictions in the North America look at us as the leaders to Orthodox Unity in North America.

    The above comment caught my attention. Do others on this blog agree with this assessment?

    If yes, what evidence is there that the OCA, the Greek Orthodox, and the other American jurisdictions look to the Antiochian Orthodox as the “leaders to Orthodox Unity?”

    Thanks.

    Greg

  42. 50 Anonymous 6 March 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I’m also anonymous 3:50 pm.

    Bishop Mark is not perfect. I know that. However, when you are rejected by significant clergy of your flock/diocese from day one because you are white and a convert; when your Metropolitan does not support you and makes no attempt to hide his disdain for your lack of pastoral skills; when your Metropolitan issues edicts and then gets mad at you because you try to enforce them on his buddies, the priests of your diocese; how would you react?

    Bishop Mark is not perfect, but he has received little support from Metropolitan PHILIP. Unfortunately (and I love Metropolitan PHILIP), he has become so concerned about cassocks and hair and sandals, ignoring these priests communing Muslims and so forth, that he has helped foster these problems.

    My hope is that the clergy and bishops step up and try to force the canonical rights of the bishops. I hope it does not come to this, but if necessary, hope that at least one of the bishops will appeal their case up to Constantinople, which is their canonical right, if Antioch will not budge.

    • 51 Richard Barrett 7 March 2009 at 2:34 am

      My comment wasn’t intended to be critical of Bp. MARK; apologies if it came across that way. He is my bishop and I have never been anything less than impressed by him. Every time he has ever visited our parish I have felt very blessed that we have him. I only mean to suggest that pastorally, he has a tough job on his hands, and there was never going to be a way for him to do it in a way that would be pastorally sensitive, shall we say, to the satisfaction of certain people. That’s not his fault, it’s just reality.

      Appealing their case to Constantinople… I really hope it doesn’t come to that. If it does, Met. PHILIP, I suppose, could wind up with a very unified and very isolated Antiochian Archdiocese on his hands, where “Self-Rule” means “By Myself”.

  43. 52 Robert Badger 7 March 2009 at 3:18 am

    I am curious as to how the Metropolises that make up the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America function. They are dioceses in their own right, correct? Are the Metropolitans thus auxiliaries to the Archbishop? Or are they accountable to the Ecumenical Patriarchate alone?

    There are certain dangers to having a decentralized administration. You could end up with a bishop with truly insane ideas ruining a diocese, but at least his perfidy would be confined to a single diocese. If you get a metropolitan with insane ideas and questionable theology (may God forbid it), he could do some really horrible things over a much wider area. Neither approach is free of pitfalls.

  44. 53 AMM 7 March 2009 at 9:36 am

    Do others on this blog agree with this assessment?

    I think among many in the AOA and OCA there is an interest in unity centered around their vision of the church. This vision would attract some, and repel others (in particular as regards to the OCL). However, for whatever reason the AOA and the OCA have never acted on or talked seriously about (to my knowledge) merging themselves first to show they were ultimately truly serious about unity.

    I do believe that the creation of real territorial bishops in the AOA was seen as a step towards real autonomy, and therefore to a step towards jurisdictional unity. The action of reducing the status of these bishops through a stroke of centralizing power in the Patriarchate of Antioch I think is a real step backwards. The danger is that there will be a schism, and schism is truly disastrous for unity in the long term and difficult to heal.

    I personally believe jurisdictional unity is a dead letter in North America, and that we are actually moving away from it.

  45. 54 AMM 7 March 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Two more things I think are related. The letter of Metropolitan Philip in which he states the other models of Orthodox governance in this country “don’t work”, sort of leads you to try and understand what he thinks would work.

    Secondly, in the letter of the Detroit area priests, it seems there is a definite internal fissure in the AOA; with those priests preferring strong Patriarchal control.

  46. 55 Joe 7 March 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Re:“… the other Orthodox jurisdictions in the North America look at us as the leaders to Orthodox Unity in North America.”

    Jurisdiction rather, than “jurisdictions.” As another poster pointed, the other is the OCA. Sadly, these two jurisdictions seem to share a delusion that all of the other jurisdictions in America…as well as the whole Orthodox world are looking to them for leadership, because they are, after all, AMERICAN (cf. “Manfiest Destiny”)! It’s not because of America’s shining Orthodoxy (the U.S. hasn’t exactly been cranking out native-born Saints) but just because they are, well, AMERICAN!

    Face it Antiochians and OCA, outside of your mutual admiration society, NO ONE is looking to you guys for leadership.

  47. 56 Anonymous 7 March 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Joe, I can sympathize with your position, but I think you are mistaken.

    To begin with, I will simply note that I personally have gone thru a phase of being somewhat anti-American, thinking that other, more ancient countries and civilizations were better. It is a temptation that every Orthodox convert has, especially when converting to a church related to an ancient Patriarchate (i.e. Antioch).

    The reality is, despite its many flaws, America exists because other places in the world suck even more (the US just sucks less, but still sucks sometimes). I’m sick of Arabs, Greeks, Russians, etc complaining about how bad the US is (ironically, you never hear this from Asian immigrants and their descendants). If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. At least we let you complain here! Americans have a lot about which they should be proud, just like any other culture, including Arabic, Greek, Russian.

    No matter how hesitant Orthodox are to admit this, the so-called “mother” churches are generally pathetic. Come on, how many Christians are left in Constantinople? How many people in the world are eligible to be its next Patriarch? Seriously, this is pathetic. Orthodox people need to wake up and realize that Constantinople is a figment of their imagination.

    How about Antioch? It’s great isn’t it? Then why do they have no Christians left? Why are they all leaving to come here? How about Alexandria? Jerusalem? Seriously, this is pathetic. Too many Orthodox people–and converts only help this in many cases–are stuck in the past. These ancient patriarchates are a joke these days. Of these, Antioch is the only one who actually has anything going on in their home territory. Otherwise, the other ones are holding on to America or are simply barely functioning.

    America is a great place to live. It’s a great place to be Orthodox. I don’t give a crap whether anyone in the old country looks to America as an example or to lead the way. By the way, they aren’t producing many saints these days either–they barely have any Christians, let alone saints. If you want to continue down that road, I would be happy to discuss the whole notion of saints and why we have so few canonized/glorified now (one reason is disunity, another is no emperor or political pressure to do so).

    As far as the AOA and the OCA, these are the only two jurisdictions that seem to give a hoot about Orthodox unity in America. People in these jurisdictions speak the way they do because they are the only ones talking about it. The Greeks don’t care and many other ethnic groups don’t even know they are the same church as other Orthodox. They think being Orthodox is equivalent to being Serbian, or whatever they are.

    • 57 Richard Barrett 7 March 2009 at 3:19 pm

      One observation I might make is that, in traveling abroad a bit, by and large there is no awareness that there even is such a beast as an American convert. I attended a Greek parish in Germany where the priest seemed to have some idea, and had no problem receiving us at the chalice once we gave him letters our own priest had written for us, but we returned from the chalice to a lot of facial expressions which clearly said, “What just happened here? Who are you and why did you think you could do that?” There is a possibility I might spend a bit of time in Greece this summer, and I will be very curious to see what that is like.

      The truth is that most of the national churches of historically Orthodox countries are in survival mode, and have been for centuries, or are just now emerging from survival mode. God must love the Orthodox Church very much to have chastised it as much as He has for the last several centuries, given the various kinds of captivity in which it has had to live. Christians in general are fleeing the Middle East right now. The Slavic countries are trying to figure out what it means to be Orthodox in a post-Communist, post-Imperial world. Greece seems to have managed to figure out how to be Greek but perhaps has forgotten how to be Christian.

      Then you have the American disease of impatience. It is extraordinarily tempting to want to think we’re entitled to jurisdictional unity and that it’s just the cradles who don’t like us converts who are keeping that from happening, but the reality is more complicated than that. It’s more that, to be honest, we converts are barely a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of Orthodox Christianity worldwide.

      Unity may very well be a dead letter for the time being, and that’s perhaps not how it should be. That said, I truly believe humility and compassion will achieve more in the long run than insisting that things go “our” way.

      Richard

  48. 58 AMM 7 March 2009 at 3:34 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how little appreciation there can be for the people and cultures that brought Orthodoxy to this country. Especially coming from the mouths of those who “give a hoot” about unity. Hopefully the irony of chastising and belittling people while carrying the banner of unity is not lost on people. It certainly is not going to be lost on those in the AOA now.

  49. 59 Anonymous 7 March 2009 at 4:18 pm

    My apologies, AMM, if my post came across that way to you. I have a great deal of respect for the people and cultures that brought Orthodoxy to this country. What I don’t have respect for is looking back at these cultures as if there were no problems with them or as if they offer a more ‘pure’ Orthodoxy.

    In fact, my comments come from a great love for the Church. I am certainly not trying to belittle or chastise anyone. I do have strong opinions and if those come across or came across as belittling or chastising, my sincere apologies. I hope that you can forgive me.

    What I am tired of, as an American, is this anti-American sentiment, whether it be political or, in this case, related to the Orthodox Church. Whether or not anyone is looking to us as an example or as leaders is irrelevant to me. What is relevant is that American Orthodoxy has contributed greatly to worldwide Orthodoxy in a short time. Moreover, Orthodox here are free to practice their religion without government interference (even when such interference is by a supposed ‘Orthodox’ country or gov’t).

    Again, my sincere apologies if I was interpreted as belittling. I am simply pointing out that we have SERIOUS problems in our ancient patriarchates and few are willing to stand up and say this because it offends people–just like I did–and makes many think the outspoken person has no respect for the ancient cultures or churches. Again, I speak only because I have a concern and acting like the situation doesn’t exist does nothing to solve, but rather promotes, the problem.

  50. 60 AMM 7 March 2009 at 5:30 pm

    What I am tired of, as an American, is this anti-American sentiment, whether it be political or, in this case, related to the Orthodox Church.

    Anonymous, in my opinion, you’re conflating two issues. I am personally not Anti-American or Pro-Russian, etc. I am pro Orthodox. Many people who are not strident advocates of jurisdictional unity are in fact patriotic Americans.

    If the AOA or OCA are upset about the lack of unity, then I would suggest they first look at themselves to see what they’ve done to contribute to the climate where it is extremely unlikely to happen, which is the current situation.

    Robert Badger had said

    I am curious as to how the Metropolises that make up the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America function. They are dioceses in their own right, correct? Are the Metropolitans thus auxiliaries to the Archbishop? Or are they accountable to the Ecumenical Patriarchate alone?

    They are not auxiliary bishops, when they were raised to metropolitan status they were given a seat on the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

  51. 61 Anonymous 7 March 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Well, AMM, I think we can actually agree on a lot. I am not actually conflating the two issues, though I can see why it appears as such to you. I, too, am speaking of two different issues and the way I wrote it could easily appear that I have conflated the two.

    I was simply saying that there is a strong anti-American political sentiment across the world today. This has gone on for some time, especially at the universitys–at least since Vietnam. This sentiment has, of course, been worsened by the tragic war in Iraq. I was simply stating that I was tired of this sentiment.

    There is also a separate sentiment of being anti-American Orthodox; in other words, trashing American Orthodox because they haven’t produced a certain number of canonized saints or because Orthodoxy is not ancient in America. You are right that these two do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, but they do both exist side-by-side (and, again, I’m not arguing that the former has led to the latter).

    I also agree that the AOA and OCA have done many negative things that have helped foster the current climate that appears to be not conducive to Orthodoxy administrative unity here in America. Nevertheless, these two jurisdictions–and especially the AOA–have been outspoken about a desire for unity in this country and have also done more in a positive sense to foster unity (which is also why they have done more negative–the two often go hand-in-hand–they have at least been doing something).

    In the end, if we really want unity, we are going to have to accept each other, faults and shortcomings included.

  52. 62 AMM 8 March 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I can only tell you the reality is that a number of jurisdictions in this country do not want or are not interested jurisdictional unity. That’s not really the issue though.

  53. 63 Kevin 9 March 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Having Enthroned these once Auxilaries to Diocesan Bishops creates a real sticky situation for Philip and the rest of the Antiochain Synod. That is if these “Enthroned” Bishops want to resist.

    If they were canonically enthroned they must need be canonically deposed unless they decide to resign. Deposing a Diocesan Bishop will take much more than a Metropolitan having grown weary of the experiment. Even for someone who once proclaimed himself to be the canons.

    Good luck putting this toothpaste back in the tube.

  54. 64 Daniel 9 March 2009 at 10:00 pm

    http://ocanews.org/news/TroubleinAntioch3.9.09.html

    Includes the letter which the posted apology is concerning on Antiochian.org. My heart breaks for these Bishops who are enduring this on a VERY personal level. May God give them the strength to press ahead.

  55. 65 anonymous midwest 10 March 2009 at 12:57 pm

    The horrible prejudice that Bp. MARK has endured from some of the clergy in his diocese is simply reprehensible. And yes, it is largely because he is not from the Middle East. The Priests who circulated the “Detroit” letter and the subsequent “non apology” apology are among those who have worked hard to make his life difficult. This is one of the great unspoken undercurrents in all of this and we’re going to have to face it.

  56. 66 Kevin 10 March 2009 at 9:42 pm

    I am amazed that Metropolitan Philip in probably one of his last ecclessiastical battles exercises or whatever he chooses to call it may leave his Fold in genuine dissension and turmoil.

    I have heard the arguments for the why’s ect. They are void of substance and seem to only reveal the machinations of a man not as given to Christ’s service as he and his apologists would have us believe.

    It’s all a familiar story. Machivellian heirarchs afraid of losing their fleeting authority and using imagined threats to Christ’s Church and it’s unity as a pretext for their power lust. Sounds a little like certain Bishops in old Rome?

    Heads will roll. The brave will stand and pay the price. The weak will cower. Saints will be made. Villians eventually brought low or become Memory Eternals and then it will start all over again.

    God help us all. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

  57. 67 Chris Jones 10 March 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Kevin,

    a man not as given to Christ’s service as he and his apologists would have us believe

    I do not believe that this is fair to Metr Philip.

    Even if this decision to “demote” the Archdiocese’s diocesan bishops to auxiliaries is a huge mistake (and I am inclined to believe that it is), that does not take away the tremendous good that Metr Philip has done during his long service to the Church. Let us not allow one mistake (even though it be a grievous one) distort our assessment of the character of the man.

    • 68 Richard Barrett 10 March 2009 at 11:54 pm

      If I may…

      I once asked a priest who had been ordained by Met. PHILIP if he thought there was any possibility of sainthood for His Eminence.

      This priest thought about it for a moment, and finally replied, “I don’t think he is one, but he might very well be remembered as one.”

      My sense is that Met. PHILIP has done a lot of good and wants to do even more good. My sense is also that he has paid a price for the good he has done. When I heard him in person last summer at the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius conference, he made the comment, “My generation is slowly but surely fading away. It is up to you.” I’ve always wondered if on some level he wasn’t acknowledging that in many ways he was not free to make the choices he wished he could make, and that the next couple of generations would have to do it…

      …much as how the priest originally referenced in this comment used to say, “The person for whom I feel the worst is the priest who will have to take over for me at my parish, because he will have to fix all my mistakes.” When asked what his biggest mistake was, he said without a moment’s hesitation, “I’ve loved my people too much.” Draw your own conclusions about what connection I’m making there.

      Anyway — point being, Met. PHILIP struggles just as the rest of us do. His status as a primate does not exempt him from that. I agree with Chris — I’m certainly in no position to judge him for his mistakes. We can acknowledge what’s happening without His Eminence suddenly becoming a wolf in shepherd’s clothing. The Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian is worth keeping firmly in mind here, particularly since it is Lent.

      O Master of my life, take from the the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust for power and idle talk.
      But grant unto me, thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love.
      Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

  58. 69 Greg 10 March 2009 at 11:59 pm

    I guess administrative differences really do matter.

    I am not Orthodox, but I have been exploring Orthodoxy over the past six months or so. I have heard many Orthodox downplay the lack of administrative unity in the Americas. “We are united in the faith,” they say, “Lack of administrative unity is not good – but ‘what can we do?’ – what is important is that we are united in the faith.” The tone seems to be that the structure of Orthodoxy is unrelated to the beliefs of the Orthodox. Thus, contrary to the ancient aphorism lex orandi is NOT related to lex credendi. Who knew!

    Now comes Patriarch Ignatius’ administrative action. According to many Orthodox blogs, these recent administrative actions of the Patriarch and Met. Philip will wreak havoc on Antiochian Orthodoxy. Can the discussion that Antioch’s actions will have repercussions for other Orthodox Churches be far behind? Might the other jurisdictions be wondering what their Patriarch’s will do?

    It seems to be the case that as long as an issue can be ignored the Orthodox will ignore it. Not necessarily that the laity are unconcerned, but the hierarchy seems unresponsive. (How many years before there will be a Great and Holy Council?)

    At least that’s how it appears from the outside looking in.

    • 70 Richard Barrett 11 March 2009 at 12:25 am

      Wwwwwweeeeelllllllll……

      Here’s the thing. The structure of Orthodoxy is definitely related to the beliefs of Orthodoxy. Go back and read the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch — it’s all there.

      The trouble in this country is multifaceted, however, and the result of several historical accidents. The bottom line is that except for some Russians in Alaska, Orthodox Christians who came to this country weren’t missionaries trying to spread the faith, they were laypeople trying to make money and fit in. What nominal unity there was under the Russians (and it seems to have been exactly that, nominal) all was blown to pieces with the Bolshevik Revolution and effectively everybody in the diaspora being told, “Every man for himself. Do what you have to do to survive.” Thus, the situation we have today. I seriously doubt there even would be a conversation about unity over which to despair were it not for the converts who saw that somehow Orthodoxy in America had wound up in a very strange situation.

      Historically, though, these things always take a few generations to work out, at least. It took three generations for post-Chalcedonian Alexandria to realize once and for all they didn’t want unity, not if it had to be with those rehabilitated Nestorians (Chalcedonians).

      As the joke goes, the “fast track” in Orthodoxy means we think we can get it done in 500 years. This doesn’t play well with what we might call the American tendency towards impatience, but there we are. The hierarchy actually isn’t unresponsive; many hierarchs are actively working on and thinking about this stuff (Met. Jonah, for example, and yes, Met. PHILIP, I think). it’s just that there are actual practical and pastoral issues that will take a lot of effort and time to work through. This is how Met. PHILIP is choosing to deal with some of those issues now. Is it two steps backward after a step forward? Probably. In the grand scheme of things, however, that’s likely to happen another half-dozen or so times before we really get anywhere.

      With respect to your questions and how you are asking them, I have to imagine Met. Jonah of the OCA will likely be a compelling figure for you. They’re good questions. Antioch has tabled them for the time being for reasons that are arguably not terribly compelling from an ecclesiological point of view, but perhaps understandable from certain practical and pastoral points of view. Perhaps. In any event, Met. Jonah, I guarantee you, is looking at this and thinking to himself, “How can I turn this Antiochian crisis into an opportunity for the OCA?” His words indicate that he is committed to the OCA acting like the local church of the United States, not just being so in name only, and this may be just the chance he’s looking for to demonstrate that.

      Time will tell.

      Richard

  59. 71 Just a Thought 11 March 2009 at 8:12 am

    It may be that all of this is part of a larger plan, God shaking His Church to expose its hidden faults, the unspoken secrets that keep it from being what it should, so that it is clean and pure to stand in the days ahead. It may be no coincidence that this is all happening during Lent.

  60. 72 Kevin 11 March 2009 at 9:57 am

    Richard,

    If Constantine “Equal to the Apostles” can be a recognized Orthodox saint why not Philip? If even a fraction of the surviving historical records concerning his conduct is true..well let’s just say one could almost embrace Universalism.

    This whole thing is what it is. It is Philip regretting the establishment of Diocesan Bishops, something he once supported, then based on his imperial whim, manipulated or bribed Antioch to undo, because he felt his authority was being challenged and diminished.

    What do you think Constantine the Great would do in such a situation? Like I said, saints will be made, though I hope martyrdom will not be the means by which it is reached for those who may resist.

  61. 73 anon 11 March 2009 at 12:58 pm

    “The last temptation is the greatest treason,//
    to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”

    It appears as if Metropolitan Philip’s behavior in recent years has been that: the temptation of doing the right thing, but for the reason of his “legacy.” Now, when it is clear that an actual, conciliar synod of bishops can curtail their primate if they feel he is acting in a way inconsistent with the good of the Church, he appears not to like it.

    For years, I attributed the mess in Ben Lommond to over zealous converts, etc. But now, the charges that a select group of cradles who “had the ear” of the Metropolitan seem much more believable, which is sad. I don’t want to believe it, and I’m not saying that I fully do, but the things being brought to light here make it at least seem possible.

    It seems to me that Metropolitan Philip saw a way to, overnight (by Orthodox standards), increase the size of his jurisdiction/archdiocese, and he took it. And, for as long as the people he brought in en masse were willing to generate money and do what they were told, things were great. When they started having a say in how things were done…well, then it has become a problem.

    You’re darn right, Richard, that this is an opportunity for the OCA’s Metropolitan Jonah, who seems by all accounts to be the kind of leader that most Orthodox people that I know want (as well as being what Metropolitan Philip has been supposed to be). If Jonah+ can turn this into a case for jurisdictional unity, while at the same time showing that a group of local Orthodox Chruches can still be The Church without resort to mini-papism in the person of the primate, then I think we will see in the next few decades a remarkable shift toward defacto jurisdictional unity.

    I wonder if anyone in the OCA realizes they might have an opportunity to fill one of their vacant dioceses with a man who is as respected as Bishop Basil? If not, someone needs to let them know.

    • 74 Richard Barrett 11 March 2009 at 1:50 pm

      Anon (would somebody like to go by “Ever” at some point?) —

      Quoting T. S. Eliot will get you everywhere around here.

      From all I’ve heard, the Ben Lomond problem was a “both/and” rather than “either/or”. I will say that somebody close to the Ben Lomond situation told me, “Imagine you get invited into somebody’s house for a dinner party. You’ve been hoping for this invitation for a long time. Once you’re there, however, you start telling your host how his house needs to be redecorated, that it would be better if he served this kind of food rather than that kind of food, and really these kinds of appetizers are more appropriate for this kind of gathering, and so on. Eventually, what do you think the host is going to tell you?”

      Somebody else told me that the Ben Lomond crew approached ROCOR, who told them point blank, “You won’t obey your current bishop and yet you insist you’ll obey us? Nope, sorry.”

      My hope is that, if Met. Jonah were to want to seize this opportunity, he might do something to make people who do Byzantine chant feel welcome. OCA folks often act like Byzantine chant is a crazy uncle locked up in the attic who isn’t to be mentioned. At the very least, I would like to see some acknowledgment that the Orthodox musical inheritance is far richer than the utility music many OCA parishes (and, granted, Antiochian parishes, and let’s not even talk about Greek parishes) seem to do.

  62. 75 Greg 11 March 2009 at 2:36 pm

    RE Richard Barrett, 11 March 2009 at 12:25 am, Wwwwwweeeeelllllllll…… Here’s the thing. The structure of Orthodoxy is definitely related to the beliefs of Orthodoxy…

    Richard,

    Thanks for the reply. I am still intrigued by Orthodoxy. Although the lack of visible Orthodox unity is very troubling.

    Greg

  63. 76 Greg 11 March 2009 at 2:40 pm

    RE Richard Barrett, 11 March 2009 at 1:50 pm, … Somebody else told me that the Ben Lomond crew approached ROCOR, who told them point blank, “You won’t obey your current bishop and yet you insist you’ll obey us? Nope, sorry.”

    If some Antiochian priests and bishops think about moving to the OCA, might not Met. Jonah have the same reply?

    Greg

    • 77 Richard Barrett 11 March 2009 at 2:55 pm

      Greg: That is entirely possible; it’s also possible that the situations could be seen as being rather different. Hard to say.

      In terms of administrative unity — for the visible unity is in Christ and in the Eucharist — you are neither the first nor the last to be troubled by its absence. I suppose my question is — to you and to others — given the other historical realities, what should have happened?

  64. 78 Kevin 11 March 2009 at 9:17 pm

    In the conservative or better yet “Traditional” Orthodox world which includes the dreaded but often correct Old Calendarists Philip has always been suspect.

    It is no secret that this is a Bishop who not only disregards canonical norms but one who would even dismiss Ecumenical Conciliar decisions. What good reason do the Antiochians give for their communing the non-Chalcedonians and accepting them as fully Orthodox? I know for a fact that their temples have been used in this country to conduct services and their clergy directed to assist them in certain situations. I also know for a fact that those coming into Antiochian parishes from non-Chalcedonian sects are received without renouncing their error, confession, or Chrismation.

    It is one thing to allow a widowed priest to marry a woman he was counseling through a divorce, wrong and as scandelous as it may be and another, to disregard holy Ecumenical Councils.

    I am awaiting the next prounouncement which no doubt will echo Pope Pius IX who declared his Roman See and it’s authority above that of the Ecumenical Councils. Afterall it is a prerogative already being exercised by the now Bishop of bishops Philip.

    While I sympathize with the slapped down Antiochian used to be diocesan bishops. I would have far more respect for them if they withstood Philip’s ecumenist and heretical digressions instead of their now sudden canonical concerns about their being denied episcopal authority.

    Who knows maybe the really important things will now be a consideration for some?

  65. 79 Greg 11 March 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Richard Barrett, 11 March 2009 at 2:55 pm, … unity… I suppose my question is — to you and to others — given the other historical realities, what should have happened?

    The Ecumenical Patriarch should be in charge. Not in a Catholic way, but perhaps in a committee sort of way. In concert with the other Patriarchs he takes the lead in setting the agenda, planning and scheduling meetings. He coordinates mission and humanitarian efforts. He distributes findings. He supervises discipline. Also, when the Patriarch’s can’t make a decision the EP breaks the tie.

    Way oversimplified, I’m sure. But… could it not be said that, at it’s core, the religious idea of “the first among equals” is reasonably similar to the secular idea of a committee chairman?

    Would that work?

    Greg

    • 80 Richard Barrett 12 March 2009 at 8:44 am

      Greg: That could possibly work, but again, historical realities have interfered with such a model over the last several centuries.

      There’s one other factor at play as well. From Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon (full text here):

      The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of older Rome, since that is an imperial city; and moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome, reasonably judging that the city which is honoured by the imperial power and senate and enjoying privileges equalling older imperial Rome, should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her.

      In other words, ecclesiastical status was largely based on political status, and this was subject to change. That said, I don’t have a clear idea of how ecclesiastical structure might best reflect contemporary political reality. I think it was Meyendorff who advocated solving all of these problems in one fell swoop by moving the EP to an exarchate in New York. Some see this as an elegant solution to many issues; others, however, have thoroughly ridiculed such an idea.

  66. 81 anon 12 March 2009 at 8:33 am

    The problem with that, Greg, is that the EP is compromised worse than, probably, any other ancient patriarchate, by secular laws which strangle the home diocese, and being overly friendly with the Roman heresiarch, which makes many, many in the Orthodox world distrust him.

    I think think this is a case of receiving disobedient parishioners from one jurisdiction to another; it would be a case of receiving an uncanonically deposed bishop (or a few) into a new jurisdiction–so the comparison with Ben Lommond (which, admittedly, I invited) might be unfair.

    I know of at least one OCA parish which uses a mixture of Byzantine and Russian chant. I wish we all had a better handle on our various musical traditions; but, what we aren’t realizing is that only in the last century has there been prolonged contact between the various traditions. If we’re still figuring out how to live without an Emperor after 556 years, surely we can have a few decades to sort that out.

  67. 82 AMM 12 March 2009 at 10:24 am

    Can the discussion that Antioch’s actions will have repercussions for other Orthodox Churches be far behind? Might the other jurisdictions be wondering what their Patriarch’s will do?

    I doubt it. I think it will be looked at as something to do with the Antiochians.

  68. 83 Antonymous 12 March 2009 at 11:49 am

    Please keep the EP out of this. We have enough problems w/ heavy handed over seas control, without bringing HIM into it…..

  69. 84 Greg 12 March 2009 at 2:44 pm

    RE Richard Barrett, 12 March 2009 at 8:44 am. “Greg: That could possibly work, but again, historical realities have interfered with such a model over the last several centuries… ecclesiastical status was largely based on political status, and this was subject to change… ecclesiastical structure… reflect contemporary political reality… moving the EP to an exarchate in New York… elegant solution… (or)… thoroughly ridiculed…”

    Richard,

    My preliminary conclusion is that Orthodox polity is an anachronism.

    My conclusion, in some very small way, does seem to find support in your “I don’t have a clear idea” opine, but I don’t want to presume to tell you what you meant. My C/P above was to highlight what jumped out at me in your rejoinder. If I misrepresented, or misunderstood what you were saying please correct me.

    I believe that the Orthodox are trying to do the best they can to know, love, and serve God; but the organizational structure does seem to be at cross purposes with the goal.

    Greg

    • 85 Richard Barrett 12 March 2009 at 2:56 pm

      And there are Orthodox who would agree with you that it is an anachronism. I would again refer you to Met. Jonah, particularly this talk of his. Some of these issues I touch upon, however lightly, in this post.

      I’m curious — why does this trouble you as much as it does? There seems to be something very specific to which you are reacting, and for a specific reason.

  70. 86 JL 12 March 2009 at 8:39 pm

    After reading this I am sad. In a time when our Country is hurting and people are crying out and inquirers are looking in at The Church we are giving them no reason to knock on our door. The timing of this could not be worse. We are at the breaking pointing in many ways in America The True Church needs to be a refuge from the storms we face.

    I pray the Lord will have Mercy on us all.

  71. 87 Greg 12 March 2009 at 9:50 pm

    RE Richard Barrett, 12 March 2009 at 2:56 pm, “… I’m curious — why does this trouble you as much as it does? There seems to be something very specific to which you are reacting, and for a specific reason”

    Richard,

    I was a Protestant for over two decades. The myriad opinions about what the Bible means began to concern me. I found a better answer in Catholicism.

    The Catholic answer worked until I realized that the Orthodox also have apostolic succession. So, I am taking some time to explore Orthodoxy.

    The lack of unity among Orthodox jurisdiction in the Americas (bordering on phyletism), the long standing disagreements between New Rome and Third Rome, and an anachronistic Orthodox polity tend to leave me unconvinced that Orthodoxy is a viable alternative for me.

    I am, nevertheless, interested in how things work in Orthodoxy (my statements above could, after all, be ill-informed) so I hope it is still OK to continue to ask questions and make observations.

    I mean no disrespect in stating my reasons for being incredulous about Orthodoxy.

    Yours,

    Greg

    • 88 Richard Barrett 12 March 2009 at 10:39 pm

      Fair enough. You are more than welcome, absolutely, to ask whatever questions you like — I certainly don’t mean to suggest otherwise, and no disrespect taken.

      What I would say is that, one way or the other, the question of whether or not Orthodoxy is a “viable alternative” based on how one evaluates particular historical circumstances is a red herring. The question is whether or not Orthodoxy is the truth; if it is, the other issues get put into a different perspective.

      A few years ago I had a brief correspondence with somebody interested in Orthodoxy because he was reasonably certain they were correct theologically, but he wanted to know if there were any “expressions” of Orthodoxy that were non-liturgical, since, truth or not, liturgy led to nominalism in his experience. Well, no, I explained; the theology and the liturgy are flip sides of the same coin. Lex orandi, lex credendi. Yes, he said, I get that, and if some people are able to make that work, fine, but I’m not convinced nonetheless. I guess Orthodoxy just isn’t for me.

      I also corresponded with a Southern Baptist who had a deep-seated distrust of anything which he deemed looked, sounded, or smelled Catholic, and was particularly bitter about ignorantly visiting a Catholic church in his teens and not being communed (after, he admitted, growing up in an environment where he and others “sincerely wondered” whether or not Catholics were Christians). He wanted me to walk him through the various historical/scriptural arguments and sources for Orthodoxy, and I did so. His response at the end was to say, I can’t disagree with any of this, but at the end of the day it still doesn’t square with my assumptions, and I just don’t have the time or the energy to revisit those at this point in my life.

      All of this is to suggest that if Orthodoxy is the truth, then there is the possibility that the postulates one brings to the table will be challenged. I can certainly attest to that. On the other hand, if that’s not an acceptable possibility, then no answer to any question will ever be satisfactory.

      As you say, I mean no disrespect.

  72. 89 Greg 13 March 2009 at 11:27 pm

    RE “The question is whether or not Orthodoxy is the truth; if it is, the other issues get put into a different perspective.”

    You are, of course, correct (and a Catholic would say the same thing). I found this article and will take some time to ponder it:

    http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/ecclesiology.pdf

    (BTW, I have my postulates challenged all the time.)

    Greg

  73. 90 Monologistos 16 March 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Regardless of the political wrangling and probable mutual accusations of power grabs, the upshot is this action on the part of Metropolitan Philip and the Holy Synod of Antioch is a blow against the conciliar nature of the church. Diocesan bishops cannot be “undone” unless deposed according to the canons. Regardless of why Metropolitan Philip led this action, by attacking the episcopal nature of Orthodox ecclesiology, this is an attack on the catholicity of Antiochian Orthodoxy. As such, I do not receive this teaching … for it is in effect a teaching on the nature of the episcopate and on sacrament contrary to Holy Tradition.

    Secondarily, while it is a shame that faithful and holy bishops such as these are treated this way, it is the Orthodox Faith that is challenged here by the Holy Synod of Antioch and risks squandering the past years of mission here in America. The undoing of churches is the work of a wicked spirit … let us be clear on what spirit pulls such strings. If that truth cuts both ways, so be it … BUT to my eyes, having seen this all before, Metropolitan Philip cannot legitimately blame others who respond faithfully to his own transgression.

    The Christian Faith has been under vigorous attack for two millennia and new scandal is poor witness to our thankfulness to our Lord for preserving us, however well intentioned or not actions and counter-actions may be. In saying that, I do not mean to scold even the Metropolitan but to remind us and especially myself here and now of the real enemy, that hideous strength which is the enemy of the Church. Let us not allow our Lenten worship to be pulled off track by this scandal.

  74. 91 Monologistos 16 March 2009 at 2:51 pm

    As the Holy Synod is not competent to annul the marriages of Antiochian priests, so it is not competent to annul consecration and enthronement of diocesan bishops.

    Patriarch Photius writes this to the Metropolitan of Heraklia: “It seems to me, indeed, that Christ, who is also our God, the Sovereign and Lord of the universe, for reasons that are not only beyond understanding but many other inexplicable ones as well, fully effected salvation for the whole world rather through His willing passion and not by despotic and absolute power.”


  1. 1 A visit from His Grace Bishop MARK « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 8 June 2010 at 3:02 pm

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