6.24.09 Crisis in Englewood
+PHILIP REFUSES TO ACKNOWLEDGE OFFICIAL SYNODAL DECISION
Rather than calm the turbulent waters, the publication from Damascus on the patriarchal website of the official June 17th decision of the Synod of Antioch, in both Arabic and English, concerning the status of dioceses and bishops, has led to even more profound trouble in the shaken American Archdiocese. The Synod’s official re-affirmation of the diocesan status of the Antiochian Bishops in America has led the Antiochian Archbishop in America to just one step away from open rebellion.
The Current Posting on www.Antiochian.org
Late this afternoon there appeared the following statement posted on the official Archdiocesan website, www.Antiochian.org:
“Important Statement Concerning the Resolutions of the Holy Synod of Antioch
It has been the tradition of the Holy Synod of Antioch that all official resolutions that have been duly adopted at a meeting of the Holy Synod are published with the signatures of the Patriarch, as well as all of the Metropolitans who were present at the meeting. In this way, the will of the Holy Synod is expressed in a most powerful way by the presence of all of the signatures of the attending hierarchs. The most recent example of this was the communication of the decision of February 24th, 2009, which was distributed with all of the signatures of the hierarchs who were in attendance (the Arabic version may be viewed here by way of example.
The Holy Synod of Antioch met from June 16 through 18, 2009, to consider the status of bishops across the See of Antioch and other matters. However, the Archdiocese has not received any document that contains the signatures of all of the hierarchs who were in attendance at that meeting. When we do receive such a document, we will publish it as the official decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch.”
The Metropolitan has not actually refused to obey the decision - he just refuses to acknowledge the decision as authentic, that is, until his conditions for doing so are met.
Does the Metropolitan Have A Point?
It is difficult to see how Metropolitan Philip can credibly defend this position. He refuses to publish the document released by the Patriarchate bearing only the Patriarchal signature, but was more than willing to publish three documents of unknown provenance, all of which bore only the Patriarchal signature, yesterday? (In fact, all three, of the documents, two of which the Patriarch himself has ordered “not to be considered” are still available on the Archdiocesan website under the heading “Synodal Resolutions”. Absurdly, one of them is the very document +Philip now refuses to acknowledge or publish today. )
In short, +Philip recognized the decision yesterday, but not today, after the Patriarch himself publicly affirmed it.
It might be suggested the Metropolitan is now acting out of an abundance of caution, having been “duped” by a spurious decision and its translation. But if he feels he was “duped”, why then, 18 hours after being rejected by Antioch, do both falsifications still appear on the Archdiocesan website? According to sources close to Englewood, +Philip received an official hardcopy of the decision, in Arabic, on Patriarchal letterhead, signed and sealed by the Patriarch by international courier from Damascus, early this week. The decision not to acknowledge the decision, therefore, is not because he is awaiting an original copy from Damascus out of caution. He has had one for days. One can only infer that he knew, and knows, the decision posted today on the Patriarchal website is authentic - he just refuses, for his own reasons, to acknowledge it as such.
Delay, Delay, Delay
The Metropolitan, having suffered a public defeat in his attempt to reduce his fellow Bishops in America to Auxiliaries by the unexpected and singular publication of the decision on the Patriarchal website (which has lain dormant for years), appears to be playing for time.
But time is running against him. Cries for a real Local Synod, for full audits of Archdiocesan accounts and open elections for the Board of Trustees are growing louder on the internet as the July convention in Palm Desert approaches. With this afternoon’s posting +Philip has sought to buy time - claiming a standard so as to ignore this Synod decision that would give his fellow bishops a greater presence and voice in their own diocesan, and Archdiocesan affairs. +Philip is arguing that the decisions of the Synod, as opposed to the Minutes of Synod, must now be signed by all Bishops in attendance to be recognized as an “official decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch" - a standard he was willing to ignore just yesterday when the documents he published favored him.
What +Philip expects to gain from this delaying tactic, however, is unclear. Time for what? Lacking signatures, does he hope to force another Synod meeting where he can attempt once again to reverse the current unfavorable outcome? It is difficult to imagine the Patriarchate will hold another Synod meeting soon. For if it does, the Archdiocese would have to question whether any decisions of Damascus have genuine pastoral authority - or just represent Middle Eastern court politics.
Or is +Philip just seeking to buy time to maintain all authority until the Convention, so as to preclude questioning of his actions during his tenure as Archbishop? If that seemed unlikely before, it seems even less likely now given this most recent controversial posting.
Or is this just the case of a man accustomed to power, struggling to maintain it, at any cost?
Whatever Metropolitan Philip’s current goal, the hope of a resolution to the crisis that dawned this morning is gone in Antiochian America tonight. The Patriarch has spoken; the Synod has spoken; the Bishops have spoken, and now the Archbishop has spoken. In the cacophony of voices, it is now, perhaps, time for the clergy and laity of the Self-Ruled Archdiocese to speak - not as to who shall lead them, but whom they intend to follow.
- Mark Stokoe