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Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly

Author: Met. Philip
May 26, 2010
Address of Metropolitan Philip of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America to the Historic Episcopal Assembly on First Day


ART. 2
26-28 MAY 2010 NEW YORK

“Your Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Brother Bishops:

My opening remarks this morning are taken from the Vespers of Palm Sunday, “Today the Grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together.” How wonderful and pleasing to God for all of us to meet and discuss matters related to the life of our Church on this particular continent. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chairman of SCOBA for his hard work to make this gathering possible.

The literature which we received from Chambesy via the Greek Archdiocese of America, raises some important questions.

ONE, Despite the vitality and the dynamic nature of Orthodoxy in North America, no member of SCOBA, not even the chairman of SCOBA, was consulted about what was discussed in Geneva. We received rules from our brothers in Switzerland which we have nothing to do with. We have been on this continent for more than two hundred (200) years. We are no longer little children to have rules imposed on us from 5,000 miles away. Orthodoxy in America has its own ethos. We have our own theological institutions, and we have our own theologians, authors, publications and magazines. We do not intend to be disobedient to the Mother Churches; we just want to dialogue with them and give them the opportunity to know us and understand us. We have been here for a long, long time and we are very grateful to the Almighty God that in our theology and worship, we do express the fullness of the Holy Orthodox faith.

Fifty years ago our hierarchs, may their souls rest in peace, founded SCOBA which has done a splendid job despite our external limitations. We have established the Orthodox Christian Education Commission which is chaired by a Greek Orthodox gentleman. We have established the International Orthodox Christian Charities which is directed by Constantine Triantafilou, a very good Greek Orthodox. We have established the Orthodox Christian Mission Center which is doing an excellent job and we have done many other things which time does not permit me to enumerate.

My dear brothers,
We are faced now with a very serious procedural nightmare. We are, supposedly, here to discuss a new organization to replace SCOBA. The question is: Was SCOBA dissolved and if so, by whom? And when?? SCOBA has a constitution which is fifty years old. If this constitution has to be amended, let us then amend it according to correct procedures. No one can dissolve SCOBA except SCOBA itself. SCOBA has organized Bishops’ Assemblies before Chambesy told us to do so. The first Assembly was held at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania in 1994, under the chairmanship of our brother, Archbishop Iakovos, of blessed memory. The second Bishops’ Assembly was convened in Washington, D.C. and the third Bishops’ Assembly was convened in Chicago, Illinois, both under the auspices of SCOBA and the Chairmanship of His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios.

TWO - The second point which I would like to note is concerning the term “Diaspora” which was used several times in the literature which we received from Geneva. I remember, there are many of you who were at the Antiochian Village in 1994 and should remember that the term “Diaspora” was unanimously rejected by our assembly. We are not in Babylon; we are in North America, the new world. We are dealing here with second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth generations of American Orthodox and they refuse to be called “Diaspora.”

I believe that some of our churches in the Old World are in “Diaspora.” In Jerusalem, for example, we have 2,000 Orthodox Christians left. In Constantinople, the glorious capital of the Byzantine Empire, I was told that there are only 2,000 Greek Orthodox left. And the Turkish Government, until now, refuses to let us open that famous Theological School of Khalki, despite the intervention of the presidents of the United States. In Iraq, hundreds of Christians were slaughtered and thousands had to flee Iraq to the Syrian Arab Republic. We are free here in North America — free to teach, free to preach, free to worship, free to write books and sometimes criticize even the presidents of the United States. We have the full freedom of expression in accordance with the United States Constitution. It is important to note here that the Holy Synod of Antioch, to my knowledge, never discussed the Chambesy decision and the rules of operation in order to formally bless this effort.

THREE - Some of the communiqués which were issued by the fathers in Geneva were good. I don’t understand, however, why Central America was joined to North America. The Antiochian Metropolitan of Mexico and Central America informed me that he wanted to be with the Orthodox Bishops of South America. The reason is: he has nothing in common with North America because he represents a different culture all together. As a matter of fact, he traveled to Brazil to attend the Bishops’ Assembly which met at the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Sao Paulo.

I hope that, in the future, this matter could possibly be addressed. In the communiqué which was issued from Geneva dated June 6-12, 2009, I read something very interesting and very hopeful. It says and I quote: “The conference expresses the common desires of all Orthodox Churches for a solution to the problem of the canonical organization of the Orthodox “Diaspora,” in accordance with the ecclesiological and canonical tradition and practice of the Orthodox Church.” The same communiqué includes these bright words: “The mission of the Bishops’ Assemblies is the proclamation and promotion of the unity of the Orthodox Church, the common pastoral ministry of the Orthodox faithful in the region, as well as the common witness to the world.” Here we see a clear emphasis on the unity of the Orthodox Church. What is needed is the translation of these inspiring words into concrete action.

Other pleasing words appeared in Article III of the rules which state: “The Episcopal Assembly will have an executive committee composed of the Primatial Bishops of each of the canonical churches in the region.” From this text, I understand that no canonical bishop should be excluded from the assembly. If we share the same Eucharistic table which is the highest expression of Orthodox unity, can’t we work together on the Executive Committee?

Article XII of the rules is very promising. It states, “The Episcopal Assembly may establish its own internal regulations in order to supplement and adjust the above provisions, in accordance with the needs of the region and in respect to the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church.”

My dear brothers,
You can see that Article XII of the rules is very flexible and it gives us the freedom to “establish our own internal regulations.” Thus, no Primate of any jurisdiction should be excluded from the Executive Committee. Furthermore, the Executive Committee should be strong enough to prepare an adequate agenda for these Episcopal Assemblies. The Mother Churches must realize that Orthodoxy in America is the best gift to the world. And instead of being crushed by the burdens of the past, let us formulate a clear vision for the future. Thomas Jefferson, one of the fathers of our American revolution, once said: “I love the visions of the future rather than the dreams of the past.”

If I have a vision for the future, it is this: Jerusalem has less than 2,000 Orthodox left. Istanbul has 2,000 Greek Orthodox left. The future of Orthodoxy in the Middle East is uncertain. Thus, for the sake of international Orthodox unity and Orthodox unity in North America, we should with one voice, beg His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch to leave Istanbul and move to Washington, D.C. or New York City and head a united Orthodox Church in this hemisphere. All of us, I am sure, will be blessed to be under his omophorion and Orthodox unity in North America will cease to be a dream, but a reality.

My dear brothers,
If we do not bury the burdens of the past between certain autocephalous churches, such burdens will bury us, and Orthodoxy in this country and throughout the world will become an insignificant dot on the margin of history.”

11 Comments to “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

  1. Administrator Says:

    On the one hand Metropolitan Philip complains that Chambesy took place without any input from SCOBA, the fifty year old assembly of American Canonical Orthodox Church leaders, saying that “we have been on this continent for more than two hundred (200) years. We are no longer little children to have rules imposed on us from 5,000 miles away.” As well, he refers to the term “Diaspora” used by Chambesy as a previously rejected word by Orthodox North American Bishops. He notes that: “we are dealing here with second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth generations of American Orthodox and they refuse to be called “Diaspora.”

    On the other hand he quotes positively from Chambesy June 6-12, 2009: “The mission of the Bishops’ Assemblies is the proclamation and promotion of the unity of the Orthodox Church, the common pastoral ministry of the Orthodox faithful in the region…”

    In probable reference to the OCA he asks: “if we share the same Eucharistic table, which is the highest expression of Orthodox unity, can’t we work together on the Executive Committee?” He then quotes article XII of the rules which allows for the Assembly to “establish our own internal regulations.” Again it seems that he wants the OCA’s Metropolitan Jonah on the Execitive Committee. Aren’t we seeing a North American ‘self-ruled’ Church wanting to transform into a larger ‘autocephalous’ one?

  2. Administrator Says:

    Pe de-o parte Mitropolitul Philip se plange ca Chambesy a avut loc fara opinia lui SCOBA, adunarea veche de 50 de ani a liderilor Bisericii Ortodoxe Canonice din America, zicand ca “noi suntem pe acest continent de peste 200 de ani. Noi nu mai suntem copii mici ca sa avem reguli impuse noua la o distanta de 5,000 de mile.” In plus, el se refera la termenul “Diaspora”, folosit de Chambesy ca un cuvant déjà respins de catre Episcopii ortodocsi din America de Nord. El subliniaza ca: “avem de a aface aici cu a doua, a treia, a patra, a cincea si a sasea generatie de ortodocsi Americani, si ei refuza sa fie chemati “Diaspora”.

    Pe de alta parte el citeaza in maniera pozitiva din Chambesy 6-12 iunie, 2009: “Misiunea Adunarilor Episcopale este proclamarea si promovarea unitatii Bisericii Ortodoxe, aceasta lucrare de pastoratie comuna a credinciosilor ortodocsi din acea regiune…”

    Referindu-se probabil la OCA el intreaba: “daca impartim aceiasi masa Euharistica, ceea ce este cea mai inalta expresie de unitate ortodoxa, de ce nu putem lucra impreuna pe Comitetul Executiv?” El citeaza articolul XII din regulamentele Adunarii, care da voie Adunarii sa: stabileasca regulamente proprii”. Din nou se pare ca el vrea pe Mitropolitul Jonah al OCA-ului pe Comitetul Executiv. Oare nu vedem o Biserica Nord Americana ‘sub proprie conducere’ care vrea sa se transforme intr-una mai mare si ‘autocefala’?.

  3. Harry Coin Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    If the OCA wasn’t considered autocephalous, but they consider the OCA bishops as such, then they would have been seated with the Russian Bishops. That they were seated together is a recognition of the OCA’s status.

    If as you say the OCA was denied a seat on an executive committee, well, perhaps the others on the committee will as their first matter of business vote to correct that oversight.

  4. Isa Almisry Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    Exactly. By the way, were ROCOR and the Patriarchal administrator seated together?
    The fact that the OCA was not seated with either says something. Don’t worry, the Phanar can hear it, especially as the EP just had to hear the OCA in the diptychs, concelebrating with the PoM and the representative of the OCA on St. Cyril and Methodios’ day. And then the Russians retired to Optino without inviting the guest EP.

  5. Chris Banescu Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    Pretty clear, truthful, and direct! I wonder how they will try to spin this?

  6. Isa Almisry Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    Like a wheel off its axle.

  7. Harry Coin Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    Probably something will be published in Greek designed to generate fear among the Greek speakers that Met. Philip insisted not even one Greek word will be permitted starting next week and they’ll never hear ‘Christos Anesti’ again in their parish unless they explode in protests, anger and three hundred telephone calls per hour, each, for a week, starting today asking the Greek government or maybe the E. Patriarch to retire the local bunch and take charge personally. In English, the response will be probably something along the lines of ‘a robust debate must be expected and of course there are many voices to be considered’. Who knows? Maybe the EP will board a plane! I like to believe three impossible things before breakfast, just to sort of warm up.

    The ‘Vaticanistic peril’ of the ‘Episcopal Assembly’ turns on whether they accept and abide by rules created without their participation from overseas if it is their judgement here that doing differently in this or that case would be better for the people here.
    Are they Orthodox bishops lacking no competence Orthodox bishops of yesteryear possessed? Or are they lesser creatures not living the historical titles they carry — while creating Vaticanistic tendencies giving those overseas ‘remote control’ not found in Orthodox history.

  8. Alexander Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    First, a rather pedestrian question: Is there a list of those bishops who actually showed up? Despite the fairly high resolution of the four pictures posted on the GOA site, with their kamilafke, some bishops are hard to distinguish.

    Second, I’d note that a few commentators here have made passing reference to the “Serbian” bishops, and even expressed some hope in them. I respectfully suggest, that those wishing for a unified church, forget about “the Serbs.” Any speculation that they would support severing the umbilical cord to Belgrade should be quashed — with a pile driver. Metropolitan Christopher is largely considered a grossly ineffectual nuisance — in Belgrade and in the USA. And, he speaks out of the both sides of his mouth. For every word he utters that would hint to one person that he is for a no strings attached autocephalous American church, there are just as many comments in other contexts that point in the completely opposite direction. Within the last year, he has a newly created diocese, “the Metropolitanate of Chicago-Libertyville.” It consists of the Monastery of St. Sava in Libertyville, Illinois, and a single parish in Chicago. Though he is among the most senior bishops in the SOC by ordination, he is a complete non-factor.

    Bishop Longin of Midwestern America contemplated not attending the EA, thinking that little would take place. As an “administrator,” he’s completely clueless.

    As to scandal plagued, morally impaired, imperious Bishop George of Canada, he demands complete subservience to Belgrade. Canada is just another diocese in the SOC, albeit a little farther away from his favorite village. Frankly, I would be surprised if he is at the EA. He hardly even attends meetings of the Episcopal Council of the SOC in the USA.
    As to “Don” Mitrophan of Eastern America — the SOC bishop who did not attend the South American EA — he is generally disengaged.

    Bishop Maxim of Western America, he “gets it,” but is much more concerned about raging liturgical controversies in the SOC about the epiklisis and other practices. His theological — but not necessarily ecclesiological — inclinations are with the Phanar rather than Moscow.

    In short, the SOC bishops will do whatever is politically expedient for that nanosecond. Their attention has been on Kosovo for the past couple of years. The power struggles in the Synod and Holy Assembly created during the protracted illness and recent death of the Saintly Patriarch Paul rage on.

    Earlier this year, Bartholemew served at Paul’s funeral; Kyrill did not attend. Key members of the SOC Synod have spent considerable time at the Phanar over the last two years or so; far more time than in Moscow — even though Belgrade maintains an episcopal, “representational” presence in Moscow.

    These days, the SOC — whether expressed by individual bishops or in some quasi coordinated cacophany — will sell out to anyone who offers them something they believe will “help” Kosovo, that geopolitically long lost cause. Today, they will flirt with Rome so long as some Vatican bureaucrat says something nice to the EU Minister for Underwater Basketweaving. Tomorrow, they will exhort their Slavic heroes in Moscow, so long as the Duma condemns the West’s diplomacy on some subject. And, the day after, well, Istanbul has a reasonable read of the 28th Canon of Chalcedon afterall … because, of course, momentarily, they have a common dislike of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Certainly, you see, the newly created “Autonomous Archbishopic of Ohrid” is the only game in town.

    Nevermind the fact that in 1958 the SOC “created” what is now considered the “schismatic” MOC. Forget the Serbs. God help us all.

  9. Isa Almisry Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    The Ecumenical Patriarch himself concelebrated with the representative of the OCA in Moscow, Archm. Zacchaeus, and had to hear Met. Jonah as primate of the OCA commemorated in the diptychs this week.

  10. George Michalopulos Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    Also Rev Fr Dr Archimandrite Hopebearer was forced to concelebrate as well. Who says the Lord doesn’t have a sense of humor?

  11. Kevin Allen Says:

    as posted on ‘Comments’ regarding “Met. Philip at Episcopal Assembly”

    Metropolitan Philip at his best! When he’s good, he’s good!

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