An Urgent Appeal to the Bishops of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Christ is Risen!
Right Reverend Masters, we ask your blessings and prayers in these radiant days.
It is now widely reported that this Friday you will be asked to support the decision of February 24th, and sign your names to a letter supporting this, or else: "Sign or resign".
The following facts are plain enough:
-The decision of Feb 24 flatly contradicts both the letter and spirit of the "Self Ruling" status of the Antiochian Archdiocese. It destroys the framework in which the "self-rule" was, by agreement of all, to be lived out; and its promulgation upon the Archdiocese without any review by our local Synod makes the "Self Rule" virtually void and meaningless. Equally meaningless then, is the rhetoric used to justify the push to "self rule".
-The decision of Feb 24 is contrary, in letter and spirit, to the canonical and ecclesiogical tradition of the Church regarding a ruling diocesan hierarch and his place in the Church. It makes the enthronement of the diocesan bishop also meaningless and void.
-The decision is a personal affront to each of you, both as men and as bishops.
It becomes clear then, among other things, that the Feb 24th decision has the effect of weakening the very office of the episcopate, and the respect due it. Of course, the diocesan structure of the Church is similarly weakened.
Another fact which may not seem as plain or clear, and which does not always receive due attention:
-This decision is not an only affront to the bishops, but also to the clergy and faithful of the God-protected and beloved dioceses which are all now effectively widowed. These clergy and faithful are denied the context in which they thought they were living out their life in Christ's Church.
It is an affront to those who thought they knew who their bishop was, thought they knew where the buck stopped in their diocese.
It is an affront to those who thought they were living in a diocese, and building up the Church on the diocesan level, supporting the growth of those structures.
It is an affront to those who thought they were building up parishes and dioceses in an Archdiocese which possessed a hard won, but meaningful self-rule.
This decision is an affront to all those many in the Archdiocese who accepted, at face value, what they were told about the need for "self- rule" and rallied to it.
It is an affront to those who believed, (as they were told), that the self rule was a meaningful step to the goal of Orthodox unity and canonical normalization.
Thus many of the Christ-loving clergy and faithful of this God-protected Archdiocese, are discouraged, disheartened, vexed, confused, frustrated, and hurt.
There are other facts or allegations which may not be as plain or clear as the above. These include:
-That His Eminence, Met. PHILIP has been seeking a decision such as this for some time, well over a year.
-That His Eminence, Met. PHILIP is motivated, at least partly. by a loyalty to certain clergy friends, (such as those in the Detroit area), and a desire to protect them from enforcement, by their diocesan bishop, of normal Archdiocesan standards, (which standards had been set by His Eminence himself).
-That His Eminence, Met. PHILIP is now unable to see any difference between his own power and ambition and the good of the Archdiocese.
-That His Eminence, Met. PHILIP acts only in his own interests.
-That His Eminence, Met. PHILIP is managing to "play" against each other for his own ends, our beloved Mother Church and Patriarchate of Antioch and the East, and our local God-protected Archdiocese.
-That there may be other back room deals across the oceans that are behind this.
We do not assert that all these allegations are true, or that they are plain and clear as other facts mentioned earlier. The evidence for them is mostly circumstantial. In some cases, it is still rather strong. But these allegations do exist, are much talked about, and often believed: they are not going away. These allegations, of course, further decrease the honor of the Church and Her bishops, further wound, discourage, and anger the clergy and faithful.
Moreover the only defense offered is the “disunity” of the diocesan structure. No one can seem to point at any specific threat of disunity. The Church has lived with dioceses and ruling bishops for two millenia, and indeed mandates this in the canonical and ecclesiological tradition. And it seems obvious to us that the Archdiocese is much less united now than it was on January of this year. In fact, the unity of our Archdiocese has not been so threatened since the Rusy-Antaky fights of almost a century ago.
We understand another plain fact: as bishops by your consecration oaths you are bound to obedience to the Holy Synod of Antioch, even if it is making a tragic mistake.
But no canon, no consecration oath binds your consciences to outright mendacity.
Therefore, we beseech our Fathers in God,
-if the facts presented here are erroneous, and the allegations specious, please candidly, openly, and fully address them.
-if the facts presented here are true, but you must still accept this decision, please do not degrade yourselves and your own honor, and more importantly the honor of the Church and Her Episcopate, by accepting any false “obedience” to defend the indefensible, to “sell” this new scheme without addressing the real questions which abound.
-If it is demanded of you to sign a letter that is false or mendacious and/or fails to address the real concerns which so many have, we beg you to decline. No Metropolitan, Patriarch, or Synod can legitimately demand your signing on to such a letter.
-If your resignation is demanded, decline that as well. Better to be fired than to quit under such circumstances.
We believe that this course of action will preserve the honor of the Church, of the episcopate, and your own personal honor as well.
with love, and assuring you of our prayers for you,
Concerned Orthodox in North America
Dear Reader, if the above strikes a chord with you please send a copy of it to your bishop, Today!
Concerned Orthdodox in North America