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First Episcopal Assembly

Author: Fr. J. Jacobse
March 15, 2010
From: www.

It’s really the second. The first was Ligonier [1994].

The 65 Orthodox Bishops in the Americas received their invitations to attend the first Episcopal Assembly to be held under the new Chambesy agreement last week. Writing to all as the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Demetrios stated:”Therefore, in order to comment the process to which we have all been called within the designated region “North and Central America”, I invite you to participate at the first Episcopal Assembly of the region that will be convened in New York City on May 26 and 27, 2010. Preparations are under way in order to facilitate your participation. Ground transportation, lodging, all meals, and meeting facilities are currently being readied. It is requested that you arrive on Tuesday, May 25th in order to be present for the First Session of the Assembly the morning of Wednesday, May 26th. In order that we may two full days for the Assembly, please make your travel arrangements in order to leave on Friday, May 28th. All three nights in New York City will be provided to you…”

The new Assembly will replace SCOBA. One of the major differences between the new Episcopal Assembly and SCOBA is that all the bishops will be invited to attend, not just representatives; and that voting will be by local churches - not jurisdictions. Thus all the jurisdictions under one local Church (e.g. the Albanians, Ukrainians, Greeks and Carpatho-Russians, all under Constantinople) will cast one united ballot. For the purposes of the Assembly the OCA will be one of eight local Churches, rather than just another one of 23 jurisdictions.

16 Comments to “First Episcopal Assembly”

  1. Isa Almisry Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    Things for Chambesy just got more interesting:

    [Read excerpts from the Romanian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod Decision # 892 issued in February, 24, 2010 and posted on this website as “Canonical Releases”.]

    Looks like +Nicolae won’t be voting for autocephaly. Or the EP. Wonder if Serbia and Bulgaria will join and form a third block. Wonder if they won’t get excommunicated by the Greeks at least per the Phyletist Council of Constantinople 1871.

    Seems the Tomos of 1908 is coming back to haunt the dreams of Greece/Phanar: how can they fault the Romanians’ logic?

  2. George Michalopulos Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    Isa, because of nonsense like this, it appears that the Chambesy protocols will fail. I never much liked them because there were too many escape hatches and other loopholes. Looks like the only man who can straighten out this mess will be +Kirill.

  3. Andrew Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    What an ugly piece of correspondence! This oath aspect of this letter is troubling and the request to report on Romanians abroad almost has a big brother component to it. And now we have releases along ethnic lines. How horrible. Next up for Romania will be DNA tests to establish racial purity. How do you say omogenia in Romanian?

    Ethnic orthodoxy, whether Romanian, Greek or otherwise ultimately degenerates into this kind of secular tragedy and farce. America has no place for church leaders who behave in such a way and the people who enable them.

  4. Isa Almisry Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    “Ethnic Orthodoxy, whether Romanian, Greek or otherwise ultimately degenerates into this kind of secular tragedy and farce.”

    Not necessarily: +Nathaniel will have none of this nonsense. But then, I don’t think “ethnic Orthodox” describes him. I think that the set up of the ethnic dioceses in the OCA will show its merits.

  5. Eliot Ryan Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    While Father George Calciu was giving his famous series of seven Wednesday sermons attacking Ceausescu’s persecution of religion, the actual Romanian Patriarch was studying abroad in Protestant and Catholic universities. He had for sure Ceausescu’s approval.
    In Russia the new martyrs were glorified, it did not happen in Romania. The new generation of bishops (selected and formed under communism), led by +Daniel do not want to canonize the new saints of Romania.
    +Daniel is under heavy criticism for his ecumenist agenda… It is obvious the the Orthodox Church is under a new type of attack. The Church is undermined from within! Wolfs in Sheep’s Clothing made it to the top of the Church! They aim to destroy the monastic life and to prevent the Church from teaching the FULLNESS OF THE TRUTH which ONLY the ORTHODOX CHURCH DOES!

    This explains the arrogance and the “big brother component” of the request to report on Romanians abroad. It is not Ethnic Orthodoxy it is just ethnic manipulation. +Daniel knows very well that Romanians still fear persecution. Even Fr. Calciu did not get rid of his fear all his life. The atrocities and the manipulation went on for a long time … Some are experts in exploiting it.

  6. Johannes Jacobse Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    This emerging authoritarianism (you see it forming in the GOA as well) will drive good men away from the priesthood. What stable and independent person (necessary prerequisites for a solid priest) could put up with this nonsense?

  7. Cynthia Curran Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    Well, I came across some you tube videos of Father Calciu’s Lutheran friend Richard Wurmbrand. There is a cartoon of Richard Wurmburd speaking out against the Romanian government and an Orthodox leader in cahoots with the government.

  8. George Michalopulos Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    Cynthia, I remember reading wonderful things about Pastor Wurmbrand. Definitely a saint compared to these mountebanks and scoundrels. Lord have mercy.

    Still, in a perverse way, we should thank the present Romanian hierarchy, their brazen ethnocentrism is showing us the logical conclusion of homogeneia thinking. If the GOA wants to see the consequences of their thinking (and Arb Demetrius’ interview probably proves it), then all they have to do is look at the circus on the Danube.

  9. Eliot Ryan Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    George, the true representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church were the hundreds of thousands who suffered under the Communists. Some individuals (some of them were bishops and priests) made compromises, they suffered for their mistakes and did repent. Before we condemn others it would be useful to picture ourselves in their position under the Communist tyranny. Maybe we would have made even worse mistakes.

    Pastor Wurmbrand “loved Orthodoxy, but considered he was not worthy of it” (See:Pastor Richard Wurmbrand: Finishing the Race, by Hieromonk Damascene)It soon became known to us that Pastor Wurmbrand and Fr. George were friends. Fr. George told us that Pastor Wurmbrand had confessed to him many times in the United States—not as a sacrament, since Pastor Wurmbrand was a Lutheran—but as before an Orthodox priest and friend. Before these talks, in which he disclosed his struggles, Pastor Wurmbrand would always cross himself.

    Pastor Wurmbrand had also confessed to an Orthodox priest many years prior to coming to America, when he was in Communist prison. He told Fr. George about this when he met him in Pennsylvania in 1989. In a recent letter Fr. George informed us about what Pastor Wurmbrand had told him: Pastor Wurmbrand was in a prison hospital for terminal illness. The majority of the people from this prison had to die. One day, a new transport of prisoners came to the jail. Among them was a very humble Orthodox priest from a village. He seemed so simple that the guards made all kinds of jokes about him. The prisoners were in the courtyard—a special place surrounded by a fence—and the guard brought in the newcomers, all in rags. The guard said to them, “Look, guys, this is a priest. He was sent here by the prison administration to hear your last confession—all of you.” He was alluding that they all had to die, including the priest.Pastor Wurmbrand said, “He [the guard] prophesied: in less than six months, everyone came to this priest and confessed. I was among the first.”

  10. George Michalopulos Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    Eliot, you’re right, the temptation to judge is to be avoided at all costs. We’ve never suffered like these people (although it should be said that suffering wasn’t an option for some of these guys, they were just scoundrels in the first place, they recognized what the Church had become and were drawn to it, the old “birds of a feather” phenomenon).

    Having said that, what’s our excuse? We’ve never suffered, and look how far we’ve compromised the Faith here. Lord have mercy.

  11. Scott Pennington Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    For me, the thing that makes the whole ethnocentric Orthodoxy viewpoint offensive is that in the context of America, it is anti-evangelism – - at least implicitly – - and thus anti-Christian.

    I understand the desire of some ethnic Orthodox immigrants to keep their churches predominantly Greek, Romanian, Russian, Arab, etc. It’s very human. In a culture which is not Orthodox and not Greek, Romanian, Russian, etc., it seems very important to some of those, perhaps a majority, in each ethnic group to want their churches to maintain their ethnic identity. Where else can Greeks go to be openly Greek and interact with other Greeks? Or Romanians with Romanians, etc.

    The problem with this is that it acts as a silver bullet to evangelization of the country. There is only a small minority of each of the respective ethnic Orthodox groups in the U.S. To say that you want your church to remain predominantly Greek, Romanian, etc. is to say, indirectly but just as certainly as if you said it openly, that you don’t want “foreigners” in your church. You may tolerate a certain amount of intermarriage. You may tolerate a certain amount of converts coming into ethnic parishes. You may tolerate a certain amount of convert parishes in your archdiocese. But to say that your jurisdiction should remain predominantly Greek, Romanian, Arab, etc. inescapably limits your missionary activity. It also creates an internal culture which views conversion as suspicious, kind of like the old saying about pacifists: “Thank God for them and thank God there are so few of them.” This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Now, not all jurisdictions are so insistent on maintaining the dominance of an ethnic group. Some are quite open to, welcoming of and empowering of non-ethnic Orthodox. In other jurisdictions, it’s crystal clear that when a hierarch is talking about “our people” he’s not talking about all the Orthodox under his jurisdiction, but instead referring to his ethnic group.
    It takes considerable courage on the part of a hierarch in a predominantly ethnocentric jurisdiction to exorcise this demon with hard cold truth: “This is America. It is not Greece. It is not Syria. It is not Romania. Etc.

    America can be an Orthodox country but it cannot be Greek, Arab, Romanian. To wish your churches to remain bastions of ethnicity here is unreasonable and unrealistic. The two things, ethnicity and religion, are not inseparable. There are many Greek Catholics, Romanian Catholics, Arab Muslims, etc. The predominant ethnicity and civilization here in America is North Western European. It makes no more sense to hear services largely in Greek here than it does to hear them in Greek in Russia. Or in Arabic in Romania. And if we are successful at one of our primary callings – evangelism – we Greeks, Romanians, Arabs, etc. will most certainly become a small minority in the Orthodox Church in this country. In short, to remain an ethnic ghetto contradicts the Great Commission and is unchristian.”

    I personally avoid saying this openly at my parish for the simple reason that I’m not Greek and I’m not interested in throwing fuel on what at present is only a lump of smoldering embers. But it seems clear to me that more Greeks, Romanians, Arabs, Russians, etc. should be saying this to their own people with greater frequency and volume. None of this is to say that there’s not room for pastoral leeway. For example, there are some churches where a sizeable percentage of the people don’t understand English. Not to take this into account would be harsh and unreasonable. Fortunately, the problem is its own cure. Ethnocentric parishes; i.e, ones who perpetuate the ghetto mentality, will dwindle due to that mentality.

  12. Dean Calvert Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    Scott, you are right on all points. I’ve often wondered what would happen if you simply took all the membership data from the various jurisdictions, and synchronized them – superimposed them using the date of largest immigration as the zero point. I’ll bet you would find that ALL of the jurisdictions have been on exactly the same (declining) path. And the experience of the Russians in the lower 48, who were here first after all (they are in the 4th and 5th generations) should make your point to the rest of us.

    I’ll tell you a funny story about “it seems clear to me that more Greeks, Romanians, Arabs, Russians, etc. should be saying this to their own people with greater frequency and volume” – I was at a local Greek church for a memorial a few years ago. I hadn’t been to that parish for a while, and was actually looking forward to it…thinking that the service would be mainly in English since the parish was 90% 2nd and 3rd generation. To my surprise, the service was at least 50% Greek, with the Gospel reading, Epistle reading, the Lord’s prayer and Creed all done in both languages. This really surprised me, since there were virtually no immigrants attendance. After the service, in the hall, I saw a particularly xenophobic member that I knew, and decided to have some fun. “Gus” I said, “you know…since it seems to be so important to use Greek in the service, I think you should ask Father to do the sermon half in Greek as well.” “Oh, we couldn’t do that,” he responded. “Why not?” I asked. “No one would understand it,” he said, with a straight face.
    “Can you even hear the words coming out of your mouth,” I said, shaking my head, walking away.

    Finally, don’t ever forget what our Church said about all this ethnocentrism…something I will remain forever grateful to Archbishop Peter (of blessed memory) for calling my attention to:

    “We have concluded that when the principle of phyletism (i.e. ecclesiastical nationalism) is juxtaposed with the teaching of the Gospel and the constant practice of the Church, it is not only foreign to it, but also completely opposed, to it. We decree the following in the Holy Spirit: 1. We reject and condemn racial division, that is, racial differences, national quarrels and disagreements in the Church of Christ, as being contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers, on which the holy Church is established and which adorn human society and lead it to Divine piety. 2. In accordance with the holy canons, we proclaim that those who accept such division according to races and who dare to base on it hitherto unheard-of racial assemblies are foreign to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are real schismatics.”

    Talk about not mincing words…look at that language…“we proclaim that those who accept such division according to races and who dare to base on it hitherto unheard-of racial assemblies are…are real schismatics”.
    That’s bomb-thrower language…What they meant to say (to the Bulgarians…setting up dioceses in Constantinople) was, “Are you guys NUTS?”
    The Church has already spoken on this issue…in a very clear, and unmistakable voice.

  13. Scott Pennington Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    Dean, that is a funny story. There is a parish not far from mine where you could have the exact same experience.

    As to the council convened by Anthimus VI, while I agree with its spirit, it is not an ecumenical council and has not been adopted by an ecumenical council. Bear in mind that the ox being gored belonged to the Patriarch who convened the council. Also bear in mind that today’s situation in the “diaspora” might render almost all jurisdictions as schismatics under the definition of that council. I don’t mean to be picky about the amount of authority due this council but I am suspicious of the idea that local councils can speak for the Church, at least reliably, unless confirmed by a Great Synod. I don’t really have a bone to pick with the substance of Anthimus VI’s council, it’s just that as far as I can tell, it was composed of the Patriarch and synod of Constantinople plus the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, both Greeks.

    There are at least two sides to every story:
    “The reestablishment of the Church of Bulgaria eventually was secured, but not without tragedy and even a schism; this happened mainly because the issue of reestablishing the autocephalous church arose at a time when both Greek and Bulgarian populations lived side by side in Macedonia, Thrace, and Constantinople itself, though still within the framework of the Ottoman imperial system. After the Turkish conquest, and especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Bulgarians were governed by Greek bishops and were often prevented from worshipping in Slavonic. This enforced policy of Hellenization was rejected in the 19th century when Bulgarians began to claim not only a native clergy but also equal representation on the higher echelons of the Christian millet—i.e., the offices of the patriarchate. These claims were met with firm resistance by the Greeks. The alternative was a national Bulgarian Church, which was created by a sultan’s firman (decree) in 1870. The new church was to be governed by its own Bulgarian exarch, who resided in Constantinople itself and governed all the Bulgarians who recognized him. The new situation was uncanonical, because it sanctioned the existence of two separate ecclesiastical structures on the same territory. Ecumenical Patriarch Anthimus VI convened a synod in Constantinople, which also included the Greek patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem (1872).” – orthodoxinfo

    The danger of recognizing such a council as speaking for the Church is that one is either validating other such councils (such as a later “council” called at Constantinople to change the calendar or the council of the OCA which condemned the death penalty) or you end up picking and choosing which local councils you claim as authoritative. Besides, do you really believe that three Greek patriarchs would have condemed a Greek exarchate in Russia or on the canonical territory of some other non-Greek Church?

  14. Dean Calvert Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ section regarding “First Episcopal Assembly”

    Scott, while I agree with you that this was not an ecumenical council, I consistently use this quote, and the authority of that council, because (like it or not) these types of local councils are the highest source of authority in the church, absent an ecumenical council (which we have obviously not had in a very long time). And the mere fact that 3 of the four Eastern patriarchates were represented at this council, gives it’s proclamation greater authority than a simple local council (which I agree, we could get carried away with).

    Further, I have no issue with your “two sides of the story” and have told that part of the story many many times. Personally, I believe the rise of national churches, first during the middle ages (in both Serbia and Bulgaria), and then the subsequent subsuming of those churches (both forcibly re-integrated back into the Ecumenical Patriarchate during the Ottoman years) is an excellent example showing us that the church was ALWAYS meant to be dynamic… and that the ecclesial borders have ALWAYS followed the secular ones. Think about it, when Byzantium was shrinking, leaving Orthodox outside the empire’s borders (in the Balkans) new independent churches were formed. Then, as the Ottomans reconquered all of those areas, those churches were re-integrated back into the EP. And the attempt to Hellenize those areas is a fact. Then, as those (Balkan) countries threw off the Turkish rule, one by one, the churches reformed and did likewise (Greece included).

    And is this really so different than what we are witnessing in the Soviet Union (Estonian Church, Georgian Church, soon the Ukrainian Church). I think an understanding of this whole issue surrounding the 1872 synod is instructive to us on many fronts. First, it proves that ours is a dynamic system, and it was ALWAYS meant to be that way. Which, by the way, makes the situation in the US even more laughable – particularly when we hear about things like the proteia and presvia of the ancient patriarchates….(give me a break!). Second, I think it is particularly instructive to us because it was held in response to one of the few times (that I know of anyway) where a situation of overlapping jurisdictions occurred within the realm of the ancient patriarchates. So we see that the temptation to do this (create overlapping jurisdictions) has ALWAYS been present. And we see, of course, how the ancient patriarchates viewed and dealt with the situation. To be honest, I think this is why Archbishop Peter brought this to my attention. He wanted me to know…this has happened before…and the same church which stands in the way of resolving the situation in North America called overlapping jurisdictions preposterous! I think there is particular irony in that…and so did His Eminence.

    So, would they have condemned a Greek exarchate in Russia? Probably not. Nevertheless, they did give us a response to the situation…one which is every bit as correct in the USA in 2010 as it was in Constantinople in 1872.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    I’m a little confused. So are you saying that +JONAH will have one (1) vote to use on behalf of all OCA?

    Archbsihop NATHANIEL said in his recent appeal for the meeting something about the OCA being down 4-5 votes because of the vacancies.

    So which is it? One vote or all bishops voting?

  16. Admininsrator Says:

    Anonymous, our understanding is that the May 26, 27, 2010 New York meeting is an EPISCOPAL ASSEMBLY OF ALL 65 BISHOPS IN THE AMERICAS. Since the OCA has some vacancies, this number could have been higher had those Bishop positions been filled ahead of time.

    In addition to the Episcopal Assembly, and based on the Chambesy discussions, there will be an Executive Committee made up of the senior representatives of the Orthodox Churches having church structures in the Americas (possibly 8, including the OCA’s Metropolitan +Jonah), and this under the Chairmanship of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s representative, Archbishop Demetrios, who called the meeting.

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