Englewood Reveals Text
of “Obedience” Resolution
Four days after a meeting of the Local Synod of the Antiochian Archdiocese, Englewood has released a photocopy of the “Resolution” which Metropolitan Philip expected the Bishops sign. (Read it here.) In so doing Englewood resolved the question of what Bishop Alexander, who had refused to sign, had noted on the document. The Bishop wrote: “ This decision is already in effect and does not need my signature” - an action Philips did not want him to take.
Cumbersomely entitled: “Resolution Affirming Obedience to the Decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch on February 24, 2009, Which Normalized the Status of Bishops Across the See of Antioch”, the document has three points:
1) That the Holy Synod of Antioch is “the highest authority” for all of its Archdioceses;
2) That this authority is affirmed by “Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph B of the Archdiocesan Constitution”;
3) By signing the document, the hierarchs of the “Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America” affirm their “obedience to the decision of the Synod of February 24, 2009” which purported to make all bishops across the entire See of Antioch auxiliary bishops.
What stands out in the “Resolution” - apart from the lack of some signatures - is that for the second time in four days the Archdiocese is no longer referred to as “Self-Ruled” in official releases. Apparently “Self-Rule” is no longer in effect. The “Resolution” reflects the pre-2004 usage of simply “ The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America”, as did the first notice of the meeting issued on Friday, April 24th. (Read that here.)
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Even more interesting is that the Archdiocesan Constitution cited in the Resolution is the Pittsburgh version of the Constitution, not the Damascus Constitution which was approved by the Holy Synod in 2004. This opens up a long-standing feud between Metropolitan Philip and Patriarch IGNATIUS IV about which Constitution is official. That feud, and Metropolitan Philip’s continual failure to obey the Holy Synod and Patriarch, is meticulously documented in the Timeline posted on the Association of Orthodox Attorneys website. (Read the Timeline here.) Things got so heated that the Patriarch finally resorted to sending a letter (which can be read here) to Metropolitan Philip. He even prepared an official copy of the Damascus Constitution, which he signed and sealed on every single page (read that here (Exhibit 69) marking it as the only true and correct Constitution. Metropolitan Philip may say that he is obedient, but his actions don’t match his words.
Not only that, but the Metropolitan conveniently overlooks Article IV, Section 2 of the Pittsburgh version of the Constitution which clearly states: “The Local Synod, comprised of the Metropolitan and the Diocesan Bishops shall be [the] governing ecclesiastical authority of the Archdiocese….” So, not only does Metropolitan Philip not obey the Holy Synod and Patriarch, he doesn’t even obey Constitution that he so vociferously claims the legal Constitution.
The Englewood Spin
Englewood, however, mentions none of this, attempting instead a positive spin on +Philip’s failure to bend all the Bishops to his will. Englewood stated: “In summary, of the seven hierarchs in attendance, four signed the resolution, two did not sign the resolution, and one wrote a note in place of his signature”, giving +Philip a 4-3 victory in a Synod which, by its own resolution, effectively declared itself to have no authority. On the other hand, given that the Metropolitan’s status is not affected by the decision he is so eager to convince the other Bishops to accept, the outcome can more accurately be described as a 3-3 tie. For an Archbishop who has never tolerated dissent, let alone opposition, a tie in something he has made so important, can only be qualified as a defeat.
The three bishops who signed may now have consented to being demoted to auxiliaries by their own hand, and have only added to the confusion of the Archdiocese by so doing. For example: how can Bishop Joseph, who was a diocesan bishop, but now understands himself as an auxiliary, remain the “locum tenens” of the Diocese of Eagle River and the Northwest? One diocesan bishop can be “In The Place Of” of another - but how can an auxiliary? Shouldn’t he resign as locum tenens? Or, rather - was he ever, if he never was a diocesan bishop, was his position as locum tenens a fiction? One can see what canonical confusion +Philip’s decisions are now causing, as the effects accumulate in the Archdiocese he labored so long to build.
But what of the three bishops, +Alexander, +Basil and +Mark who did not sign? Their status remains open. Does Orthodox Tradition allow diocesan bishops - and all three of these men were consecrated as diocesan bishops - to be reduced to auxiliary status without cause, and against their will? Can one be “obedient” to an uncanonical decision? Must one be obedient to a decision that was made without a quorum? The The terse posting from Englewood last Friday gave a clear indication this was the source of the problem: “A significant discussion was held regarding obedience to this decision.” In other words, the diocesan bishops did not deny their loyalty to the See of Antioch, or their continuing obedience to Antioch. All affirmed they were “currently in obedience.” Obedience to Antioch is not the issue: rather, obedience to an exotic, canonically questionable decision is. In this context Bishop Alexander’s cryptic response to +Philip’s demand to sign makes more sense: “This decision is already in effect and does not need my signature”. In other words, “You have done what you have done but I need not condone it.” Sometimes silence speaks volumes. Sometimes a few words speak even more.
Last Friday’s posting concluded with the concerns of +Alexander, +Basil and +Mark: “In conjunction with this, the hierarchs acknowledged that the decision had caused concern among the clergy and people, and there must be steps taken to begin to heal these misunderstandings.” Seeking “clarification” from Antioch is one way this “ misunderstanding” may begin to be healed, which may be why one of the diocesan bishops, as yet unidentified, has written to Antioch. (Read that story here.)
But the bottom line is that the crisis in the Antiochian Archdiocese continues. What can +Philip do to force the diocesan bishops to accept the unacceptable? His major weapon - an accusation of disobedience - has been successfully rendered ineffective. The Bishops who refused to sign are equally stuck - unable to persuade +Philip to alter his course, which seems to be the undoing of all that has been done in the last thirty years. With the Archdiocesan Convention only 3 months away, once can only ask: What will the faithful say?
- Mark Stokoe