The Myth Ends
By An Anonymous Priest
In a recent interview with a reporter from the Toledo Blade, Metropolitan Philip stated-
“I am the only Orthodox bishop in America that has welcomed converts with open arms. You know that,” he said. “And converts have contributed so much spirituality to our church in this country, and so much discipline. I love converts because they are so pious. And they never gave me any problems.”
This after releasing his one and only convert bishop to the Orthodox Church in America, where a majority of the bishops are converts, as are its members.
In all honesty, Metropolitan Philip has had nothing but problems with his convert community. They have consistently challenged him and his decisions. He may ‘love’ their piety, but he certainly does not tolerate it when it impinges on the reality of the Archdiocese.
Here is an example of Metropolitan Philip’s tense relationship with his convert clergy-
“February 7, 1992
“Greetings in the Name of the Lord,
“It is with great sorrow that we have heard of the potential reinstatement of the V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Allen as an active priest following his marriage to a divorced woman.
“If this report is true, we beg your Eminence not to permit this violation of the Scriptural and Canonical tradition of the Church and to uphold the sanctity of marriage and the integrity of the priesthood. Furthermore, should reinstatement occur, we believe it would seriously hamper the fulfillment of your desire for Orthodox unity in America and the bringing in of new churches.
“It was your Eminence’s vision and generosity that made our entrance into the Orthodox Church possible. A major reason we and our faithful carne to Orthodoxy was the refuge it provided against the doctrinal and moral relativism of our times. Because of our love for you, Fr. Joseph, and the Church, we fervently ask that this step not be taken.
“Your Sons in Christ, (signed by the pastors of the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission)”
The pious clergy stood up to Metropolitan Philip’s questionable decision in allowing a man to remain in the priesthood after marrying a woman he counseled to have a divorce. Here is the response of the Metropolitan-
“February 24, 1992
“Upon my return to my office from the Miami Heart Institute, I found your letter of February 7, 1992, on my desk. The depth of my disappointment in your letter exceeds the joy which I experienced when I received you into the Holy Orthodox faith. You have aligned yourselves with some of the very same scribes and pharisees who condemned me and continue to condemn me, whether you know it or not, because I had the courage and compassion to receive you into the Orthodox Church.
“I want to bring to your attention certain important facts and ask you to answer some very important questions expecting from you specific answers.
“1. You must know that my point of reference vis- a-vis the situation of Father Joseph Allen is neither your Council of Pastors nor St. Vladimir’s Seminary. It is the Scripture, the Holy Synod of Antioch and my authority as the Metropolitan Archbishop of this Archdiocese.
“2. When I presented the issue of Father Joseph Allen to the Synod of Antioch for advice, I discovered that it was a non-issue. Two years ago, Metropolitan George Khodre, one of the leading Orthodox theologians, per mitted the marriage of a widowed priest who is now serving in the Archdio cese of Zahleh. Antioch, therefore, and some other autocephalous Orthodox Churches permit the marriage of widowed priests without being accused of heresy.
“3. You imply in your letter that I have violated the scripture, the dogmas, the doctrine and the Holy Tradition of the Church. I reject this generali zation. Thus, I demand that, by return mail, you state clearly and specifically the texts of the scripture, which dogmas and which doctrines I have violated.
“4. It is very easy to hide behind “the canons of the Church.” Our code of canon law has not been revised since 787 A.D., the last Ecumenical Council. Thus, if we apply all the canons of the church indiscriminately and strictly to our conditions today, I assure you that ninety- nine per cent of our patriarchs, bishops, priests and deacons will be deposed and one hundred per cent of the Orthodox laity will be excommunicated.
“5. I did break the law of the sabbath in order to save a human soul. Some one [sic] else whom we all worship and adore, did break the law “of-the-sabbath” despite the indignation of the scribes and pharisees.
“6. I am happy to inform you that I have received many letters from distinguished Orthodox theologians congratulating me on the courageous step which I have taken. You must discern between dogma and doctrines and theological opinions (theologomena).
“7. When I received you, joyfully, into the Orthodox faith, I thought you were going to missionize America. Except for Peter Gillquist, unfortunately, you have not done much. You have become like our traditional Orthodox parishes, comfortable and satisfied within your own parochial boundaries.
“Finally, when you embraced Orthodoxy in 1987, we shared a dream. Is that dream still alive? I do not know. Only God knows.
“Sincerely yours in Christ,
The pious converts had suddenly switched to being ‘pharisees’ in Philip’s eyes. To him, they were utter failures. Soon after the metropolitan dissolved the AEOM and integrated its parishes into the regional system in place at that time.
Prior to the reception of the Evangelical Orthodox Church in 1987, Metropolitan Philip had no real accomplishments in regards to converts. The Antiochian Archdiocese had always attract occasional converts, but nothing of the scale of the EOC until the EOC had been refused admittance by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the OCA. Metropolitan Philip was second runner-up.
Nor was it really his own doing, since he still needed guidance from Patriarch Ignatius on how to proceed when he was approached by them. One may congratulate Philip for reacting appropriately in accepting the EOC, but it was hardly his own doing. Other than for the numbers and bragging rights, Metropolitan Philip has hardly been welcoming of converts. Barely tolerant, yes. But his statement to the Toledo Blade is positively ludicrous. He is not the ‘only’ bishop who welcomes converts, when the OCA has a virtual lock on converts in the episcopacy. Philip sold his only one, and there was no profit in it.
Metropolitan Philip may continue to repeat this myth about his appeal to converts, but we know the truth. When Philip speaks of converts to the Toledo Blade, he is lying. They have caused him problems and they have contributed little to the spirituality of the Archdiocese, since so much of the rest of the community remains stuck in its past - a past with no fasting, no confession, little morality and less prayer. Clergy who insult bishops and threaten them with violence.
No, the converts have not contributed to the Archdiocese other than form a few refuges for people who want to escape the church environment Philip finds so comforting.
What ‘discipline’ have converts brought into the Archdiocese, when so many parishes refuse to do anything but Sunday services and major feasts? Why are they still not fasting or coming to confession? Those established communities that fast and pray and confess did not need converts to tell them to do these things. The Tradition was not utterly unknown in the Antiochian Archdiocese before 1987. It was merely suppressed by those who knew that writing a check means never having to say you’re sorry.
And so now, the check-writers have succeeded in bolstering an aged hierarch for a few more years, but to what end? So that they can continue to be miserable as the converts continue to raise a ruckus over Philip’s immorality, all so that he can brag about how wonderful he is to them?
The conundrum for Philip and his followers is to how to retain the converts he has while all the while despising them. He may bully clergy and laity into following his demands, but this is hardly in keeping with his myth. He is no longer the visionary leader and inspirer of converts. He is merely a taskmaster who will make demands and punish those who disobey. Yes, this is certainly the kind of leadership converts flock to!
As Philip slowly dies, so does the fable he has created for himself. He is not the ‘visionary leader’ but a respondent to the initiative of converts he has largely ignored - except when they made demands of him. The parishes of the Archdiocese that were dysfunctional and out of the mainstream of American life before 1987 have remained so with Philip’s blessing, and the latest fiasco with Bishop Mark proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt.
We are seeing the end of a myth that Antioch is open to converts. The reality is converts are tolerated so long as they pay, obey and keep to themselves. Other than that, there is nothing for them. Philip has proven he listens to no one and will not step down. He is more than happy to have you leave. Bishop Mark and Fr. David Moretti are two examples of this. As the myth ends, the truth become obvious.