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Making Good on Warnings, +Philip Pulls Incoming Antiochian 
Students from OCA’s Seminaries

Just three weeks before the 2009-2010 term begins, Metropolitan Philip has informed first-year Antiochian students scheduled to begin St. Tikhon’s Seminary in South Canaan PA,  and St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood NY,  that they are to not to attend the OCA schools - but move to Boston and enroll at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary instead.  The Metropolitan’s decision, conveyed in a letter to each student,  affects one new student at St. Vladimir’s (who just moved into a new apartment near the Seminary with his pregnant wife in her ninth month)  and two seminarians at St. Tikhon’s. The move follows warnings made by Metropolitan Philip to the administrations of both schools, and to the OCA  Administration last spring, that such action would be taken unless editor Mark Stokoe was “disciplined” and his website ceased publication. 

Threats Made and Delivered

Towards the end of the 2008-2009 academic year, senior Antiochian faculty at both St. Tikhon’s and St. Vladimir’s were reported to have met with school administrators with a message from Metropolitan Philip: unless, ceased reporting on the Archdiocese there would be “consequences” for the two OCA schools.  This same message was relayed to the Administration of the OCA in April 2009. In each instance it was pointed out to Metropolitan Philip that is not affiliated in any way with the Orthodox Church in America, nor is Mark Stokoe a “spokesperson” for the OCA, or either seminary. (The site has actually carried a disclaimer to that effect on its homepage since it began publication in 2006.) Neither the OCA Administration, nor the seminaries, have ever had influence on the site’s policies or content, although Stokoe is a member of the OCA, and more recently, a member of its 25-member Metropolitan Council.  

The connection between Stokoe and the OCA seminaries is even more tenuous:  Stokoe graduated from St. Vladimir’s more than 25 years ago but has no official ties to the school.  He has only visited St. Tikhon’s Seminary once in his life.  Angry at Stokoe’s reporting of troubles in the Antiochian Archdiocese in the wake of the +Philip’s attempted demotion of his diocesan bishops to auxiliary status, +Philip was not to be assuaged by the realities of the situation.  The OCA was warned that the schools - and the OCA itself - would face repercussions if Stokoe was not silenced.  

In May 2009 OCA Chancellor, Fr. Alexander Garklavs, External Affairs Chair, Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky, and Metropolitan Jonah conveyed Metropolitan Philip’s displeasure to Stokoe in a conference phone call. Out of concern for the two schools - of which Metropolitan Jonah is the President - they asked for Stokoe’s voluntary cooperation to resolve the problem. Stokoe, on principle, declined to cease publication, likening +Philip’s threatened action against the helpless schools to little more than “blackmail”. “As recent OCA history has pointed out,” he told his callers, “once you give in to the fear of blackmail, the blackmailer controls you. Such threats are unbecoming a Christian Bishop.”

Students Pulled

And so, three weeks before the beginning of the new term, Metropolitan Philip has apparently made good on his threatened action of last Spring. According to sources close to Englewood, the Metropolitan’s original plan was to pull all Antiochian students from the two schools, to put even more strain on the OCA seminaries as they, like all schools, are undergoing financial difficulties as a result of the current economy. But for now the schools will lose only their incoming  Antiochian M.DIV candidates, rather than all their Antiochian students. 


And loss it will be, for all involved. In a posting on his Facebook page, Seminarian Steve Mathewes (the son of noted Antiochian columnist and radio personality Frederica Mathewes-Green) noted the change as well:

“At the request of Met. PHILIP (the head of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in America), I am being sent to Holy Cross Seminary in Boston instead of St. Vladimir’s in NY where we have already moved. And Jo is still ready to give birth any day. It’s crazy and stressful, but we are making it work with the help of friends and family. Lord, grant me the patience, love and humility to get through this.”

An email from an SVS student to fellow SVS students went out last night relaying the bad news, and asking the Crestwood community for assistance:  

“Many of you know that (the) Mathewes moved in a couple of weeks ago and are expecting a second child any day now. They have returned to Baltimore to have the baby, but just a couple of days ago, their Archbishop informed them that they cannot come to St. Vladimir’s, and they have to go to Holy Cross instead. Now they have to repack all of their things, load them into a moving truck, and move them to Brookline, MA.

Because (she) is going to have a baby any day, neither will be able to come here to pack their things, so Steve’s father, Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green, is going to come here and take care of all the packing. He needs A LOT of help. He will be coming on Monday, August 17 in the afternoon, and he will be packing all afternoon/evening on Monday, as well as all day on Tuesday, with hopes of driving to Brookline on Wednesday.

So, (they) need a lot of our prayers, and Fr. Gregory needs our help packing on Monday afternoon/evening and Tuesday. He would love to accept voluntary help, but at this point he is also willing to discuss compensation if necessary.

Please let me know if you will be able to help and approximately what times you will be available along with a phone number where you can be reached. I will then take everyone’s information together and pass it along to Fr. Gregory. Thank you everyone for your help and your prayers.”

Not The First Time

Metropolitan Philip has played “hardball” with St. Vladimir’s before - most notably during the “Joe Allen Affair” in the 1990’s, when  he pulled AOCA students from the Crestwood campus and placed them at St. Tikhon’s and Holy Cross.  During the earlier instance he was upset at the position of several of St. Vladimir’s faculty towards his good friend, Fr. Joseph Allen, a widowed AOCA priest and  SVS faculty member, who was allowed by +Philip to marry a second time under  circumstances that raised both pastoral and canonical questions. After a period of time the issue became moot, and things returned to normal.

What makes this affair so different though, is that in the former instance +Philip punished the SVS faculty and several Antiochian students for their principled stand. In this instance he is punishing his own seminarians, both OCA schools and the OCA itself, for someone else’s principles, for which they are in no way responsible. 

-Mark Stokoe




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