A Letter Regarding the Antiochian Archdiocese
by the Very Reverend Michael Keiser
I have been a priest of the Antiochian Archdiocese for 32 years, serving God under the authority of Metropolitan Philip. During that time we have agreed and disagreed on various issues; at no time have I ever been afraid of him. I am obedient to him because I must be, but neither am I a trained seal. Let us speak as the mature adults God wants us to be. Whatever the canonical and legal issues are I will leave to others, but of the effect I will speak. The decision from the Holy Synod, coming without warning, and its acceptance by the Metropolitan, has damaged our unity--it has led to confusion, bewilderment and frustration. Exhortations to unity will not produce unity, unless we understand what has led to this situation.
It may be true that Patriarchal authority trumps our Archdiocese Constitution, but that doesn't mean that the Constitution is a meaningless piece of paper. The Constitution as it stands reads as it does because we were asked to make it so. I did not wake up one morning as say "I think I will l try to get the Constitution rewritten, or have diocesan bishops." We were led to that by the vision of Metropolitan Philip, who told us this was essential to our future life as a church, it was a part of our maturing. That is why we are confused and bewildered; none of this was our idea, but a response to our leadership. So what has happened? Why has this suddenly changed? We have been told something about the danger of division. I have worked in every part of this Archdiocese except the West and Canada, so I cannot speak to anything there. But in the rest of the Archdiocese I have seen differences in style between various bishops, perhaps slightly different liturgical practices. Surely this cannot be the problem because we would be elevating such issues to an importance they do not deserve. I have heard no one speak disloyally regarding the Archdiocese, although again, people do not always agree on priorities and practice--no bulletin there. Certainly we cannot count disagreement as disloyalty, because that would take us down a very dark path.
So the question we are left with is, "Why, Sayidna?" If there are problems/concerns, tell us about them like parents do to adult sons and daughters, because this is what you have called us to be. Help us to understand the problems/concern, so that we can be a part of the solution.