Monday, May 11. 2009
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...and is the faculty of St Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary going to compose a response to this well-written document?
#1 anonymous on 2009-05-11 15:57
No need for SVS to respond. Much has already been written why the Orthodox don't have an "Eastern Pope." Canon 28 DOES NOT give the Bishop of Istanbul authority over the whole world.
#1.1 Anonymous on 2009-05-12 05:38
I agree that SVS, and others, should respond to this Holy Cross propaganda piece for EP hegemony. But I must say who, in the final analysis, cares?
North America needs to get about its business of unifying the disparate Orthodox jurisdictions here, and stop listening to all the noise from abroad. The last thing we need is an overseer from either Istanbul or Moscow! A united Orthodox witness in North America could not be ignored by worldwide Orthodoxy for very long, and especially from those parts of the world where there is essentially no Church or witness to speak of despite the relics and structures of a distant past.
Where branches of the Church have withered and died, it is time to do some organizational pruning and eliminate those outdated "ancient Patriarchates" which hold so many in thrall, when they have long ago ceased to be the center of anything but irrelevance. Now that's a topic that should be on the agenda for the pan Orthodox summit, but undoubtedly won't be.
In all this jockeying for power throughout the Orthodox World, it is time for the laity in North America to take the lead and demand our independence and unification. Until we do, we will only be seen as a "cash cow" to be used and victimized at the whim of foreign potentates. Even worse, we will continue to be a marginalized force for Christian and Orthodox witness here by those outside the Church (and inside too, for that matter) who see us as some kind of exotic, alien and ultimately unhealthy plant in the North American religious hothouse.
#1.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2009-05-12 06:28
Very interesting that the Brookline "diatribe" mentions that the late Archbishop Iakovos presided at a 1994 "Meeting". Ligonier? Where ALL signed for Orth. unity in America! Poor Archp Iakovos paid the price when Pat. of "Istanbul" did not allow him to serve just one more year as he requested. Oh for tyhe price paid (forever?) by allowing us to be subservient to the macinations (except for funds of course) of foreign despots.
#1.2.1 Anonymous Priest (eastern "Region" (Diocese Antiochian??) on 2009-05-12 13:33
The Faculty of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary has made a statement, part of which in its documentation questions our autocephaly and our role for Orthodoxy in America. I ask that the Faculty(or even one member) respond to this statement. I believe this should be their role.
#2 Fr. Deacon Michael Savko on 2009-05-11 18:29
I am shocked! How could you consider "Orthodox" an "archbishop" that is ONLY an internet phenomenon?
Mark, this man has a following of one – himself. This Stephen Enea has a really checkered history and you did not do due diligence and check him out. You have sullied your cause by allowing him to use your cause to promote his name and his manic Internet “fund raising” which occurs periodically according to his “mood.”
Mark, honestly, anyone can tag themselves as an "Orthodox bishop" on the Internet. Beware! Al Green, God bless him, had a wonderful site that had all the info anyone would care to know on this man and other so-called Internet "Orthodox" prelates. Spiritual delusion can be just one "Orthodox" Internet site away and this man's site and so-called “cathedral” is a prime example. Beware! He apparently runs his “archdiocese” from the basement of his mother and father’s house. Sad, indeed.
Mark, please do not perpetuate this delusion of Stephen Enea: there is NO “Italo-Greek” church! And if there was an actual Italo-Greek Orthodox Christian Church in existence it would be under an authentic Orthodox Bishop. The only Bishop that could be responsible for such a church now, if it did exist in reality, would be the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy – there is a REAL history if you would have done your research. Ask the Metropolitan, seated in Venice, if he knows of such a church headed by this man!
You did not do your necessary due diligence! Call Saint Vladimir’s Seminary -- I think they have a file on him when he was a student there for, what, one semester? Furthermore, you should contact Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Monastery in Jordanville, New York. They also know of him and his past.
Please do better next time! You are greatly appreciated and this doesn’t help the cause.
(Editor's note: Just because I publish someone does not mean I agree with their assertions, opinions, history in the church, status, lack of status, etc. I publish because they have something interesting to say. I specfically made note of his "non-canonical" status, and people can make their judgements on his
" importance" on the basis of his words, that fact, and any others they think important. It would be absurd for me to allow anonymous posters - like you - give their opinion and not allow someone who was willing to sign their name, wouldn't it? )
#3 Trying to be helpful. on 2009-05-11 18:58
Never having heard of the esteemed Archbishop [Stephen Enea] or his jurisdiction, I Googled the guy. Well, say what you like about ‘episcopi vagantes’, they sure are colorful folks who seem to have an almost irresistible magnetic attraction to the Orthodox Church. But come on, there is one exceptional feature about this guy that you just gota like. Turns out His Eminence is the Chaplain of the Red Knights Motorcycle Club, NY Chapter XIX, and that should count for something. Sure, we have a lot of bishops who could pass for bikers or ZZ Top imitators [I remember being in a restaurant with one years ago and some kid came over for his autograph thinking he was Gerry Garcia – the bishop signed it] and here’s one who really rides a hog, ‘Happy Trails Master’.
(Editor's note: For those who have not seen Archbishop Job in the flesh, he was often mistaken in public for the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.)
#3.1 Bernard in Boston on 2009-05-20 05:34
Dear Mr. Stokoe:
I would seem that Metropolitan Jonah intends to draw the OCA closer into the arms of the Moscow Patriarchate. Indeed, after the Metropolitan’s Dallas remarks, which set off the recent spate of counter-accusations, he may well feel the need for love and support from a familiar source.
No doubt, this course may appeal to some who hope for canonical validation by the Moscow Patriarchate. Perhaps, His Beatitude hopes that the Moscow Patriarchate will support and defend the OCA’s autocephaly, or at least autonomy under the MP.
Metropolitan Jonah has expressed a wish to foster monastic life based upon the Russian religious tradition.
Frankly, I am at a loss how to describe these aspirations: merely foolish, or delusional?
First, what evidence is there to assume that Patriarch Kirill will support and defend the OCA’s autocephaly and the canonical corollaries to that autocephaly? The Moscow Patriarchate violated the terms of the Tomos by establishing its own ROCOR dioceses on the OCA’s territory. Since Moscow does not honor the Tomos, it is foolish to think that Moscow would advocate for the validity of the Tomos before the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
What is more, Moscow lacks credibility to make any argument based on the Sacred Canons, having itself egregiously violated those very Canons regarding the integrity of territorial dioceses. While bitterly complaining about the Ecumenical Patriarch’s interference in Ukraine and Estonia, the Moscow Patriarchate established, staffed and funded the non-canonical “Autonomous Eparchy of Abkhazia” on the territory of the legitimate diocese of Sokhumi, whose bishop, Daniel, is still living in exile after the Russian invasion and genocide of 1993. This “Abkhazian” church is a misnomer, since it does not serve the Abkhaz minority, who are Muslims. It serves the Russian invasion forces and the Russian colonists who have occupied the homes, and churches stolen from the Orthodox Georgians, who were killed (46,000) or ethnically cleansed (246,000) by the Russian invaders. This act of ecclesiastical aggression parallels the military aggression of the Russian government and violates the very first of the Apostolic Canons. Moscow cannot argue for the OCA based on Canons which Moscow has itself violated.
The Moscow Patriarchate has further violated the Sacred Canons by “blessing” military hardware. In the fall of 2007, the Moscow Patriarchate sent priests to bless the latest production of Russian ballistic missiles – missiles armed with nuclear weapons and aimed at the United States. During the August 2008 invasion of Georgia, hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate were filmed on the grandstand reviewing the military parade in Sokhumi and “blessing” the tanks and missiles used to attack civilian targets in Georgia.
As for the usual day dreams about the sacred traditions of “Holy Russia”, I would recommend several recent published articles. First a sober reflection on the state of the Russian church by Mr. Serge Schmemman was published in the April edition of the National Geographic Magazine. For a more urgent and alarming view of the spiritual state of the Russian nation and its government, I would direct your reader’s attention to the following article from the Times of London:
What is most appalling about the Russian commandos’ personal description of their favorite acts of torture and abuse, is their absolute callous disconnect from any moral standard. After describing sickening acts of torture, murder and the desecration of the bodies of their victims, the commando leader declares: I have no regrets. My conscience is clear.” What better argument is there for the absolute depravity of the Russian government and it’s military?
A related article which can be read here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6257012.ece reports that the same terrorist militias were unleashed on the unarmed Georgian civilian population during the August war of last year. Even now the Russian government refuses to allow third party peacekeepers or even observers into the occupied territory, in order to delay the investigation of the destruction of civilian targets and the mass graves of Shida Kartli (South Ossetia). Georgian media continue even now to report weekly, if not daily, atrocities against innocent civilians in the occupied teritories. Your readers can view these reports for themselves at www.rustavi2.com (look for the ENG button at the top of the page for the English language version.
The authors of these horrors, the leaders of the Russian government, Putin and Medvedyev, are self described Orthodox Christians, whose “piety” has been publicly lauded by the former and current Patriarchs of Moscow! The Moscow Patriarchate is as much a dependency of the Russian government as it ever was. Your own article from the Kasparov group last December describes the economic dependency of the Patriarch on the Putin regime. At least during the Soviet era, the church was coerced into cooperation with the atheists. Now the Moscow Patriarchate willing supports the genocidal maniacs in the Kremlin. Could any rational Orthodox Christian here in America countenance a re-union or even a tangential relationship with this regime?
From The Sunday Times
April 26, 2009
Russian death squads ‘pulverise’ Chechens
Elite commandos have broken their silence to reveal how they torture, execute and then blow captives to atoms to obliterate the grisly evidence
Thousands of Chechens disappeared after being taken away by Russian troops. One death squad targeted 'black widow' bombers such as those who seized a Moscow theatre in 2002
Mark Franchetti in Moscow
THE hunt for a nest of female suicide bombers in Chechnya led an elite group of Russian special forces commandos to a small village deep in the countryside. There they surrounded a modest house just before dawn to be sure of catching their quarry unawares.
When the order came to storm the single-storey property, dozens of heavily armed men in masks and camouflage uniforms - unmarked to conceal their identity - had no difficulty in overwhelming the three women inside. Their captives were driven to a military base.
The soldiers were responding to a tip-off that the eldest of the three, who was in her forties, had been indoctrinating women to sacrifice themselves in Chechnya’s ferocious war between Islamic militants and the Russians. The others captured with her were her latest recruits. One was barely 15.
“At first the older one denied everything,” said a senior special forces officer last week. “Then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head.
• I'm next on Chechnya's death list
• Russia ends Chechnya war - but killings continue
• Death squad stalks exiled Chechens
“We disposed of her body in a field. We placed an artillery shell between her legs and one over her chest, added several 200-gram TNT blocks and blew her to smithereens. The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem.” The technique was known as pulverisation.
The young recruits were taken away by another unit for further interrogation before they, too, were executed.
The account is one of a series given to The Sunday Times by two special forces officers who fought the militants in Chechnya over a period of 10 years. Their testimony, the first of its kind to a foreign journalist, provides startling insights into the operation of secret Russian death squads during one of the most brutal conflicts since the second world war.
The men, decorated veterans of more than 40 tours of duty in Chechnya, said not only suspected rebels but also people close to them were systematically tracked, abducted, tortured and killed. Intelligence was often extracted by breaking their limbs with a hammer, administering electric shocks and forcing men to perform sexual acts on each other. The bodies were either buried in unmarked pits or pulverised.
Far from being the work of a few ruthless mavericks, such methods were widely used among special forces, the men said. They were backed by their superiors on the understanding that operations were to be carried out covertly and that any officers who were caught risked prosecution: the Russian government publicly condemns torture and extrajudicial killings and denies that its army committed war crimes in Chechnya.
In practice, said Andrei and Vladimir, the second officer, the Kremlin turned a blind eye. “Anyone in power who took the slightest interest in the war knows this was going on,” Andrei said. “Our only aim was to wipe out the terrorists.”
The two officers expressed pride in their contribution to the special forces’ “success” in containing the terrorist threat. But they spoke on condition they would not be named.
Andrei, who was badly wounded in the war, said he took part in the killing of at least 10 alleged female suicide bombers. In a separate incident he had a wounded female sniper tied up and ordered a tank to drive over her.
He also participated in one of the most brutal revenge sprees by Russian forces. Following the 2002 killings of two agents from the FSB security service and two soldiers from Russia’s equivalent of the SAS, the troops hunted down 200 Chechens said to be linked to the attacks.
In another operation, Andrei’s unit stumbled across dozens of wounded fighters in a cellar being used as a field hospital. Some were being tended by female relatives. “The fighters who were well enough to be interrogated were taken away. We executed the others, together with some of the women,” he recalled. “That’s the only way to deal with terrorists.”
Following an inconclusive war in Chechnya from 1994-6, Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, launched a second war in 1999 and set the tone by vowing “to wipe out militants wherever they are, even in the outhouse”. More than 100,000 Chechens are thought to have died by the time the Kremlin declared earlier this month that it was over. Grozny, the capital, was all but flattened. Putin’s toughness earned him great popularity at home.
Acts of blood-curdling brutality were committed by both sides as the rebels tried to turn Chechnya into an Islamic state, often decapitating Russian prisoners. One Russian victim was filmed being mutilated with a chainsaw.
As the war raged, Chechen terrorists launched suicide attacks against civilians in the Moscow metro and at a rock festival. In 2002 a gang including 18 female suicide bombers seized more than 800 hostages in a Moscow theatre, 129 of whom died when the Russians pumped poisonous gas into the building on day three of the siege.
In their most savage act, the rebels took hundreds of school-children and their relatives hostage in Beslan. The three-day siege in 2004 ended with the deaths of 334 hostages, more than half of them children.
It was in this highly charged climate that the death squads were operating. Andrei recalled that his men had detained a suspect who had several videos of militants torturing Russian hostages. One showed him laughing as his comrades raped a 12-year-old girl and then shot off three of her fingers.
“We all went berserk after watching this,” said Andrei, who had begun to beat the suspect. “He fell to the ground. I ordered him to get up but he couldn’t because of his handcuffs. I ordered the cuffs off but something was wrong with the lock. I became angrier and ordered one of my sergeants to get them off no matter what.
“So he took an axe and chopped his arms off. The prisoner screamed in agony. Clearly it would have been impossible to interrogate him further so I shot him in the head.”
Andrei said he thought of his opponents not as human beings but as cockroaches to be squashed. He was unapologetic about acts of cruelty but said he did not condone excessive boasting among his men.
“I had a problem with one of my guys, who liked to collect ears which had been chopped off prisoners. He’d made a necklace and was very serious about taking this home. I did not like that kind of behaviour.”
The brutality continued after Moscow began to cede more control to Chechen special forces made up of former rebels who switched sides. Militias commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin president, are also accused of abducting, torturing and executing suspects.
Vladimir said he had established a death squad that hunted down, tortured and executed more than 16 alleged militants in 2005. The squad’s commander would log a bogus mission in a faraway location in his unit’s official register to provide an alibi. “We’d break in, take the suspect and vanish. We’d duct-tape and handcuff them. If there was resistance we’d gun down the suspect. If, in the firefight, someone else got killed then we’d plant a gun on the dead person.”
Vladimir and his men referred to their prey as “zaichik” - a term of endearment used by lovers that means “little hare”.
“Only a very small circle of my men took part in this work. Some of those we abducted were tougher than others but eventually everyone talks when you give them the right treatment.
“We used several methods. We’d beat them to a pulp with our bare hands and with sticks. One very effective method is ‘the grand piano’ - when one by one we’d smash the captive’s fingers with a hammer. It’s dirty and difficult work. You would not be human if you enjoyed it but it was the only way to get this filth to talk.”
A hammer would also be used to smash a captive’s kneecaps and militants would be forced to perform sexual acts. The scenes would occasionally be filmed and circulated among enemy combatants in psychological warfare.
“You have to be a certain kind of person to do this job - very strong,” Vladimir said. “Those who carried it out always volunteered. It would not be right to order one of your men to torture someone. It can be morally and psychologically very tough.”
Andrei added: “What mattered most was to carry out this work professionally, not to leave evidence which could be traced back to us. Our bosses knew about such methods but there was a clear understanding that we should cover our tracks. We knew we'd be hung out to dry if we got caught.
“We are not murderers. We are officers engaged in a war against brutal terrorists who will stop at nothing, not even at killing children. They are animals and the only way to deal with them is to destroy them. There is no room for legal niceties in a war like this. Only those who were there can truly understand. I have no regrets. My conscience is clear.”
#4 Francis Frost on 2009-05-11 19:41
a breath of freash air! Thank you for an inteligent overview of the current state of Russian affairs.
#4.1 Paul Shirokov on 2009-05-12 07:07
Christ Is Risen!Truly He Is Risen!
The statement from the Holy Cross Seminary is absolutely right, This is The Orthodox Church and Her Canonical structure, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Whether you like it or not this is what The Orthodox Church stands for! If you don't like it, too bad, Jesus Christ was not liked by His contemporaries as well as by most of the people of today's world!
Christ Is Risen! Truly He Is Risen!
#5 Rev.Fr.Catalin O. Mot on 2009-05-11 19:59
Dear Rev. Fr: For an alternative view on Canon 28, I refer you, and others, to the page 4, January 2009 issue of The Word, available at antiochian.org, as well as comments elsewhere on this site.
btw, one can imagine a host of reasons why the EP has now twice, through surrogates, felt the need to attack the leaders of the North American churches, but at least we've moved up the ladder from non-canonical to non-autocephalus.
#5.1 Micahel Strelka on 2009-05-12 05:38
Do the faculty of Holy Cross want to explain how the Ecumenical Patriarch's actions following the Ligonier Meeting in 1994 have reflected his "consistent supported efforts aimed at increasing cooperation among the jurisdictions"?
Or did that fail to fall into his sense of "proper order in accordance with the canons", as did the autocephaly of the OCA?
I am sad to admit that I do believe the quickest route to Orthodox jurisdictional unity in N. America would be through all of us submitting to the Ecumenical Patriarch. I just happen to also believe that this will not be the route we take, and so the alternative will be long and difficult. Alas, we barbarians are as hard to rule now as we were in 451.
#6 andrew the barbarian on 2009-05-11 20:10
Strikingly absent from the Holy Cross statement is any reference to the EP's role in quashing the move toward unity in 1994 at Ligonier.
#7 Michael Bauman on 2009-05-11 20:42
For anyone believing the dribble coming out of Holy Cross...I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.
They forgot to mention that Abp Iakovos of blessed memory, was fired for having participated in the Ligonier Conference, or that the EP has been the principal opponent to Orthodox Unity on this continent ever since that time..fearing the loss of it's parochial prerequisites.
As far as the claims of canon 28, I tend to agree with the words of the Moscow patriarchate which called the claims "quite far-fetched and devoid of any canonical substantiation." (see Sept 18, 2002 letter from Moscow to Constantinople).
Nevertheless, when the ecumenical patriarchate begins to act in accordance with those fine words, it will find a willing audience and support on this continent.
Until that time, they will continue to be recognized for what they are...a moribund bishopric dying to be heard from.
Shame on the authors of that article...the depth of the intellectual dishonesty verges on bankrupcty.
Shaking my head in disbelief.
#8 Dean Calvert on 2009-05-11 20:43
It is interesting to note the "political" Holy Cross justification for the EPat. did not criticize Met. Phillip's talk at St. V. on Chalcedon 28. (not well done, either!) Could it be because he sends (politically) his seminarians to 3 different seminaries? Each vying for students. Met. Gerasimos should take note, but of course, ALL his future clergy go to Holy Cross.
#8.1 Anonymous Priest on 2009-05-13 12:28
Upon first glace, I wonderered why a site with the integrity that this one has, would publish something from a jurisdiction not affililiated with the generally recognized Holy Orthodox Churches. However, as I read through it, while I cannot accept much of the perspective put forth by the writer, he does propose a very ligitimate transitional plan for a unified Orthodox jurisdiction in North America. It is a substantial contribution to the process of administrative unification.
Christ Is Risen!
#9 Bruce W. Trakas on 2009-05-11 21:17
I think Archbishop Stephen has shown more vision, clarity, common sense, and wisdom in his article than anything the Ecumenical Patriarch has done or said in recent history. I do not say that out of disrespect but as a simple observation.
The "leadership" of the EP in recent history in my observation has been to confuse and scandalize Orthodox Christians throughout the world by unwise ecumenical and symbolic acts primarily with Rome, and to take such "bold" positions as environmentalism -- a largely "politically correct" issue that places one in the category of "well meaning" and "really concerned."
Thank God someone mentioned the Old Calendar issue! Talk about your non-Conciliar. The EP and all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches should come together to roundly condemn Patriarch Meletios as having ravaged the Holy Church through his personal agenda of self-promotion and unilateral actions to dismantle what was handed down by the Holy Fathers. He was the father of secularism in the Orthodox Church. What a clarifying and healing impact such a condemnation could have.
I got the feeling from the Holy Cross Faculty that no one (no other Patriarchate) should do missionary work. Was that really the intention of Canon 28? What a stifling of the Holy Spirit. Ease up guys, we accept the primacy of the EP.
#10 A Priest on 2009-05-11 22:01
Canon 28 and Eastern Papalism: Cause or Effect?
George C. Michalopulos
ABSTRACT: Orthodoxy today is at a crossroads in America and
throughout the world. One of the great challenges facing us has to do
with inter-Orthodox cooperation. Specifically, how are new mission
fields identified? Which of the established churches evangelizes them?
And how are they granted autocephaly? What is the purpose of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate and by what authority does it claim primatial
honors? More importantly, is there a difference between primacy and
supremacy? The purpose of this essay is to evaluate the primatial
claims of the Church of Constantinople and specifically, Canon 28 of
the Council of Chalcedon, which has become the proof-text as it were
of recent Constantinopolitan claims which have startled many in the
I. The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Its Claims
Recent events have forced the issue of Constantinopolitan supremacy to
the fore. Previously, this topic was dealt with (if at all) in essays
found in theological journals and speeches delivered at symposia, but
because of the feebleness of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (and
Orthodoxy in general) the controversy surrounding it quickly
Unfortunately, matters came to a head in America due to long-simmering
disputes that have existed in American Orthodoxy in part because of
the existence of multiple jurisdictions. The spark that lit the fuse
was an address given at Holy Cross School of Theology on March 16,
2009 by the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of Constantinople, the
Very Rev Dr Elpidophorus Lambriniades.1 This speech may have been
partly in response to an article written by Metropolitan Philip
Saliba, the primate of the Antiochian archdiocese in North America.
Saliba's essay questioned the validity of Canon 28 of the Council of
Chalcedon.2 Although Saliba was singled out for criticism by
Lambriniades, his speech immediately galvanized opposition to him (and
the Phanar) from almost all quarters. The firestorm was based in part
on its many criticisms of American Orthodoxy, including its unsettling
briefs regarding the speaker's perceptions of parish life, monastic
communities, and the primates of other jurisdictions. Likewise, his
vituperative comments against the OCA, and even the faculty and
graduates of Holy Cross itself were risible to the extreme.
Of course, not all of his arguments were invalid. Salient points were
made (as pointed out in this writer's own response)3 accompanied with
incendiary assertions. Many American readers saw the speech as not
only a broadside at American Orthodox ecclesiology, but also a bill of
particulars that the ecumenical patriarchate will use to make its
claims for global supremacy in the Orthodox world. If true, it is to
be viewed as a trial balloon floated in anticipation of the upcoming
pan-Orthodox synod that is tentatively scheduled for June on the
island of Cyprus.
How did we get here? The Church of Constantinople, and its patriarch
have long enjoyed primacy of honor within the Orthodox Church. This
primacy is known by the Latin formula primus inter pares, literally
"first among equals." This honorific was first attached to the Bishop
of Rome by custom and later ratified by canon.4 With the rupture
between East and West in 1054, it devolved by default to the
Archbishop of Constantinople who thanks to various canons arising from
the Second Ecumenical Council, was placed second in line in the
primatial sequence (to the detriment of the Patriarch of Alexandria).
Before the twentieth century, this insistence on primacy was viewed in
its correct light, that is primacy, not supremacy. To be sure, some
patriarchs had a rather exalted view of their office but the popes in
Rome or the Christian emperors of Byzantium usually put them in their
Since the time of Patriarch Meletius IV Metaxakis (d. 1935) however,
the ecumenical patriarchate has formulated a more robust view of its
place in Orthodoxy. These new ideas, together with the high-handed
antics and startling reforms of Meletius set alarm bells off
throughout Orthodoxy. So stunning and novel were Meletius' claims to
universal jurisdiction, that St John Maximovitch, the then-Archbishop
of Shanghai, felt compelled to immediately criticize them in no
uncertain terms. 5 Nor was he alone horrified by these scandalous
claims. Indeed, criticism of Metaxakis has not dissipated over time;
they continue to this day. 6
Although Metaxakis' tumultuous career and controversial reforms have
been studiously ignored by his successors, his novel theories of
Constantinopolitan supremacy have become enshrined as the official
doctrine of the ecumenical patriarchate (as shall be examined more
fully in section 5). The basis of Metaxakis' claims rests with one
long-forgotten canon (28) that was formulated at the Fourth Ecumenical
Council held in Chalcedon, in AD 451. We must therefore look at this
canon in its entirety, that is to say its origins, context, and
validity. For purposes of brevity, it will henceforth be known as
"Canon 28," and the Fourth Ecumenical Council will be known as "the
fourth council," or simply, "Chalcedon."
II. The Fourth Ecumenical Council
Before we can actually examine the historicity and context of Canon
28, a brief word must be said about the council from which it arose.
This council was called by the Emperor Marcian to resolve a long-
festering christological dispute regarding the nature of Christ which
had been precipitated by the claims of an archimandrite named Eutychus
who taught that Jesus the man had only one nature (physis). So
powerful was Jesus' divine nature that it had totally overwhelmed His
human nature, hence this doctrine was labeled as monophysite. Its
popularity became a destabilizing factor in Byzantium within the city
of Constantinople itself as well as in the non-Greek areas of the
The monophysite teaching was a response to an earlier one labeled
Nestorianism (named after Archbishop Nestorius of Constantinople, d.
431), which held that Jesus had two distinct natures. Nestorius taught
that these natures were so different that the Virgin Mary could only
rightly be called Christotokos —the bearer of Christ, rather than
Theotokos, that is to say, the Mother of God. The Nestorian heresy had
been dealt with at the Third Ecumenical Council which was held at
Ephesus in 431. It was revived shortly thereafter in the infamous
"Robber Council" of 449. This latter council was called by Patriarch
Dioscorus of Alexandria and was held in Ephesus. Dioscorus made it a
point to not invite bishops from the West; Pope Leo I however was able
to formulate a treatise detailing the orthodox views involving all
christological matters. Unfortunately the bishops who attended
suppressed his "Tome".
This second Ephesian council did not resolve anything however.
Eutychus promoted his counter-heresy and in short order was degraded
and condemned as a heretic by Anatolius, the Archbishop of
Constantinople. Assured of the rightness of his cause, he appealed to
Pope Leo I the Great, the emperor, and his wife Pulcheria. Another
council was called, this time in the city of Chalcedon. Leo took no
chances this time and sent three papal legates to preside. The council
began with the reading of Leo's tome that had been suppressed at
Ephesus. The overwhelming majority of the bishops agreed with Leo and
upheld Eutychus' condemnation. For good measure, Nestorianism was
likewise repudiated and a new statement of faith was drawn up, one
which confirmed that the man known as Jesus had but one person with
two natures: he was both perfect God and perfect man, with the latter
not being subsumed into the former.
Unfortunately, this did not end the controversy. Bishops in Egypt and
Syria remained defiant and the first schism in Christianity occurred,
resulting in the installation of two rival popes in Alexandria, one
clinging to the monophysite doctrine, the other upholding the
Chalcedonian view. (The schism, along with the dual papacy of
Alexandria survives to this day). In addition, one of the council's
canons (28), likewise had a lingering effect, some of which we are
dealing with at present. According to the official acta of the
council, twenty-seven canons were officially recognized. Sometime
later, three additional canons were furtively inserted but one of
these, Canon 28, was hastily removed on order from Pope Leo upon the
recommendations of his legates, who coincidentally were not present
when this particular canon was drafted. For several centuries
thereafter, no more mention was made of Canon 28 and the following
ones, 29 and 30 respectively, were viewed as commentary upon other
canons and not as canons in and of themselves.
As for the offending canon, its verbiage was certainly troubling in
that it elevated Archbishop Anatolius of Constantinople to patriarchal
status and confusingly, made him overlord of three autocephahlous
metropolitan sees (Asia, Thrace, and Pontus). Both actions were
unsettling to say the least. Previous to this time, the Christian
world had only three commonly recognized patriarchates—Rome,
Alexandria, and Antioch. These had been identified as such because of
their firm apostolic foundation as well as their antiquity. Now it
seemed as if by mere statute that patriarchal dignity could be
bestowed. The legality of such an action was troubling to say the
least; if nothing else, custom alone dictated against such a precedent
as far as the other patriarchs were concerned. 7 A careful reading of
this canon in its entirety indicates that its authors were quite aware
of the implications of what they were doing and went out of their way
to insert verbiage which would provide a rationalization for their
Following in all things the decisions of the holy fathers, and
acknowledging the canon which has been just read, the one hundred and
fifty bishops beloved of God (who assembled in the imperial city of
Constantinople, which is the New Rome, in the time of the Emperor
Theodosius of happy memory [AD 180]), we also do enact and decree the
same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of
Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted
privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city.
And the one hundred and fifty most religious bishops, actuated by the
same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of
New Rome, justly judging that city which is honored with the
sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old
imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as
she is, and rank next after her; so that in the Pontic, the Asian, and
the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of
the dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained
by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of
Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together
with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial
bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that as has
been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid dioceses should be
ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper
elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to
him (emphasis added).
To effect the exaltation of the Byzantine archbishop, the authors of
this canon waited for a day in which the papal legates were not in
attendance (as mentioned). Even so, they had to make their case by
special pleading and excessive redundancy. Once the legates who had
actually presided over the council got wind of it, they rejected it
out-of-hand, as did Leo. It was not hard to see why; after all,
dioceses with ruling bishops were independent churches in and of
themselves. They had not heretofore looked upon the other three
patriarchs as their suzerains. In fact, Canon 2 of the Second
Ecumenical Council—the same council which elevated Constantinople to
secondary status after Rome-specifically stated that the bishops of
Alexandria, Antioch, Asia, Thrace and Pontus "alone [could] administer
their affairs." Canon 28 therefore single-handedly (and rather
suspiciously) abrogated this earlier canon to its own benefit. This of
course is curious, why for example did it not demote Alexandria or
Antioch? (Is it possible that Constantinople dared not degrade Antioch
or Alexandria because of their apostolicity?)
This warrants further investigation. In the first millennium
autocephaly was rarely given because most regional churches headed by
metropolitans were considered to already be autocephalous. Theodore
Balsamon (d. 1195), Patriarch of Antioch and one of Byzantium's
greatest canonists, wrote that "…formerly all the heads of the
provinces were autocephalous and were elected by their respective
synods." 8 The Archbishop of Constantinople himself was a suffragan
bishop of the Church of Heraklea, and he received his own honors from
the metropolitan of that city. Thus the elevation of the
Constantinopolitan archbishop to actual supremacy over and above the
three metropolitans in question was highly irregular in its own
context as can be gathered from the firestorm that erupted. The
Archbishop of Constantinople was by a furtive statute now a
"Metropolitan of Metropolitans," an ecclesiological oxymoron.
In addition, Leo objected to the fact that this canon ran counter of
both the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople (AD 381), as well as
the already established prerogatives of the various churches. Leo
grudgingly conceded that because of Canon 10 of the second council,
Constantinople had the right to claim second place in the primatial
sequence. On the other hand this new canon, with its expanded powers
over other dioceses, was an obvious violation to Canon 8 of the Third
None of the bishops who are most beloved by God should extend
their authority to another diocese, which had not previously and from
the beginning been under them or their predecessors.
Leo's championship of the canonical precedents of the first three
councils stood him on solid ground. He certainly could not be accused
of inconsistency nor was he being self-serving: he himself respected
the prerogatives independent sees, as can be evidenced by the letter
that he wrote (the "Tome of Leo") and submitted for the approval of
The invalidity of Canon 28 was therefore obvious. In a letter to
Marcian, Leo stated in no uncertain terms that Constantinople was not
an apostolic see. 9 Writing in a separate letter to the Empress
Pulcheria, he used even more forceful language: "As for the resolution
of the bishops which is contrary to the Nicene decree, in union with
your faithful piety, I declare it to be invalid and annul it by the
authority of the holy Apostle Peter." 10 Faced with this opposition
Anatolius quietly withdrew it, never openly bringing it up again.
Time however, was on Anatolius' side. Leo had more serious problems to
contend with, particularly trying to dissuade Attila from attacking
Rome. As far as Leo and his successors were concerned, the illegality
of the canon remained in force (at least in theory) but given the dire
straights of the see of Rome, there was little that they could do as
Constantinople quietly enhanced its grip over the three archdioceses
Further investigation of the geopolitical landscape of fifth century
Christendom would undoubtedly shed more light on this subject. For our
purposes however, it is vital to note the irregularity of Canon 28 and
how unsettling it was in its own time. Although its territorial
ambitions were strictly limited, it was obvious that an unfortunate
precedent had been set. In addition, the acquisition of the
patriarchal dignity by the Byzantines only roiled the waters further.
Not only was such an honor now bestowed by statute, thus diminishing
the luster of the three apostolic sees, but the bearers of this new
title viewed it as a first step to explore even greater avenues of
III. The Evolution of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to Ecumenical
An additional black mark against Byzantium (besides its lack of
apostolic foundation) was that it could not claim that it had always
upheld orthodox doctrine. After the first council condemned Arianism,
the Flavian successors of Constantine remained resolutely Arian, as
did the bishops of that city. Indeed Arianism remained in place in
that city and its church for several decades thereafter. Thus the
bypassing of Alexandria by Constantinople did not set well with the
Orthodox parties for doctrinal reasons as well. This was no small
matter. None of the other patriarchs had heretofore promoted heresy,
whereas Byzantium provided a never-ending stream of novel teachings —
Nestorianism had been taught from the patriarchal throne of
Constantinople itself, for example. It was left to another patriarch,
John IV Neustetes ("the Faster," d. 595), to further upset the
equilibrium with his assumption of the title "ecumenical patriarch," a
term which was abrasive to its non-Greek hearers and was handily
swatted down by Pope Pelagius II and his more illustrious successor,
Gregory I (the Great).
To be sure, prerogatives and protocols have always been deemed
necessary for the good order of the Church. The canons of the first
three councils clearly reflected a profound respect for diocesan
boundaries. As well, they reinforced Christian humility in that they
did not allow bishops to usurp authority that did not belong to them.
By simple logic alone, this precluded any concept of universal
That being said, the patriarchal status of Constantinople remained in
place. However, the appropriation of the title "ecumenical" by John IV
("the Faster") another matter entirely. In Gregory's eyes, any such
talk of a patriarcha universalis was more reminiscent of the
antichrist than of a Christian pastor. In addition, it implied
universal supremacy, a role which even he, as the successor of Peter,
did not possess. John for his part apologetically replied that
ecumenical meant something different than its plain meaning; in other
words, the idiomatic understanding of the word had changed from that
of "universal" to "imperial," at least in the living Greek language of
the East. The Greek adjective (oikoumenekos) had nuances that were
untranslatable in Latin (which even certain Catholic critics today
All this special pleading fell on Gregory's deaf ears. Gregory told
John in no uncertain terms to not call himself "universal," saying
that reference to such a title was "ill-advised." Simple logic
dictated to Gregory that if one patriarch was universal, it would deny
the very "office of bishop to all their brethren." 12 For good
measure, he wrote both the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch
regarding his concerns as well, informing them "Not one of my
predecessors ever consented to the use of this profane title, for to
be sure, if one patriarch is called 'universal,' the name of patriarch
is denied to the others." 13 Nor did he stop there: in a letter to the
emperor, Leo flatly stated that such a title amounted to "blasphemy."
14 In any event, John, like Anatolius before him, decided that
discretion was the better part of valor, and refrained from using that
title again, at least in correspondence with the West. This was true
of most of his successors as well.15
The controversy surrounding the very title itself merits some mention
at this point. There is sufficient contemporaneous evidence that it
was hardly ever used even in Constantinople. As shocking as this
sounds, evidence for this assertion is not lacking. As noted above,
John IV himself never used it again in public, nor did the majority of
his successors. Even Photius the Great (d. 867), whose irregular
elevation to the patriarchal throne of Constantinople precipitated a
schism with Rome and who enjoyed the full support of the emperor in
his rivalry with the pope dared not use it in his correspondence with
Surprisingly, this appears to have been the case even after the Great
Schism. After the Fourth Crusade (1204) for example, the Byzantine
Empire split into three successor-states: Nicaea, Epirus, and the
Trebizond, each with their own imperial court and hierarchy. The
Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople relocated to Nicaea and one of
its incumbents, Patriarch Germanus II, sent a letter to the John
Apocaucus, the Metropolitan of Epirus, which he signed as "ecumenical
patriarch." This provoked the recipient to remark that he had never
heard of such a thing, even though he had served for years in the
offices of the patriarchate of Constantinople itself.16 To be sure,
real tension existed between the rival empires of Epirus and Nicaea, a
fact that certainly exacerbated tensions between these two churches.
Yet Apocaucus' rebuke is unequivocal and his knowledge of the inner
workings of the patriarchate must be accepted as valid. Certainly the
fact that he was not rebuked for this retort to the patriarch in
Nicaea is probative as well.
At any rate, by the late thirteenth century, no such reticence
existed. Patriarchs used this term in profligate fashion and with the
crumbling of the Byzantine Empire, no one called them to task for it.
What accounted for this change in attitude? The answer lies in the
changing dynamic between Byzantine church and state. It is a paradox,
but the See of Constantinople maintained its dioceses while the empire
was losing land to the Seljuk Turks. In addition, the newly
established churches of Serbia and Russia looked to the ecumenical
patriarch for support. Their history and interaction with the
ecumenical patriarchate has implications for us today, specifically in
the matter of evangelism and autocephaly.
IV. Evangelism and Autocephaly
One of the glories of the Roman Empire was its ability to promote the
Christian faith among its many peoples. Even the barbarian tribes that
struck fear in the hearts of Romans were eagerly converting to
Christianity, usually to Arianism. With the quashing of Arianism, many
of these nations just as eagerly accepted Orthodoxy. Once such nation
was the Khanate of Bulgaria, and in the ninth century, its church
received autocephaly and a concomitant patriarchal status. The shoe
was now on the other foot and the Patriarch of Constantinople found
himself to be objecting to the granting of patriarchal honors to a see
that was neither ancient nor apostolic. Although there would be
jostling between these two patriarchates for the remainder of the time
of the First Bulgarian Empire and the suppression of its patriarchal
dignity for a time, the autocephaly of that church was never revoked.
Byzantium's most successful evangelistic mission began somewhat later,
during the reign of St Photius the Great. It was because of this
brilliant man (who began his career as a bureaucrat in the civil
service) that the two Thessalonican brothers Cyril and Methodius were
able to establish the first mission in Moravia. Though modest in
scope, it planted the seeds of Christianity among the Slavs and within
two centuries it would bear much fruit.
Unlike the experience with Bulgaria, relations with Serbia were not as
contentious. St Sava, the founder of that church was on excellent
terms with Byzantium and the other patriarchates as well, having
traveled extensively to Jerusalem and Mt Athos for many years. He
received his consecration as archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian
church in 1219 from the aforementioned Patriarch Germanus II at Nicaea
(where the patriarchs of Constantinople were still in exile). When the
Latin Empire of Byzantium was overthrown and Orthodoxy restored in
that city, the title of ecumenical patriarch came to be openly used
and its bearers started looking at their role in a more robust
fashion. One such patriarch, Philotheus Coccinus (d. 1376) wrote a
letter to the princes and dukes of Russia, describing his office
Since God has appointed Our Humility as leader of all Christians
found anywhere in the oikoumene, as protector and guardian of their
souls, all of them depend on me, the father and teacher of them all.
If that were possible, therefore, it would have been my duty to walk
throughout the cities and countries everywhere on earth and teach in
the Word of God, doing so unfailingly, since such is our duty. But
since it is beyond the capacity of one weak and helpless man to walk
around the entire oikoumene, Our Humility chooses the best among men,
the most eminent in virtue, and sends them to the ends of the
universe. One of them goes to your country, to the multitudes which
inhabit it, another reaches other areas of the earth, and still
another goes elsewhere, so that each, in the country and place
appointed to him, enjoys territorial rights and episcopal see, and all
the rights of Our Humility.17
In contrast to the startled reaction of the Metropolitan of Epirus in
the prior century, such a high-handed view did not appear arrogant to
the various daughter churches. Indeed, it was welcomed: in his
biography of St Sava written a century later, the Serbian writer
Domentijan uses the title "ecumenical patriarch" liberally and calls
this ecclesiarch "the father of the fathers of the whole oikoumene."18
The Russian princes likewise accepted the ecclesiastical sovereignty
of the Byzantine patriarch-albeit through the mediation of the
Metropolitan of Kiev-with scarcely a thought. There were practical
reasons for this, in the case of the Serbs, the Byzantine hierarchy
respected the ethnicity of the Serbian nation and after a few
altercations involving the forcible removal of Greek bishops from
Serbia, accepted as a fait accompli the creation of sovereign Serbian
dioceses. As for the Russians, the Metropolitan of Kiev was viewed as
the focal point of Russian unity and an honest broker, beholden to
none of the princes in particular. Even if a metropolitan were
Russian, just the fact that he had been chosen by Constantinople made
him appear unbiased.
More to the point, the above self-description of the Byzantine
patriarch was not viewed in its own time as supremacist. As Aristeides
Papadakis points out in his monumental study of the Eastern church in
the post-schism period, "…[a]lthough these forceful affirmations are
reminiscent of western papism [sic], the resemblance is unintentional.
The patriarchs were by no means attempting to redefine or change their
ecclesiological position…For the Orthodox Church the nature of
episcopal power was vastly different, as its repeated condemnation of
the papacy's extreme claims to universal dominion indicate."19
Moreover, there were practical considerations that mitigated against
the rise of an Eastern papalism besides the plain and universally
accepted theological ones. If nothing else, the catastrophic events of
the Fourth Crusade must have opened their eyes to the dangers of
assigning supreme ecclesial authority to one man.
Evangelism is one thing, however the maintenance and growth of a
native church is necessary if it is to prosper. Autocephaly therefore
is to be desired, not suppressed. Though Photius and his successors
reacted tactlessly to Bulgaria's independence, in the grand sweep of
the history of Orthodoxy this was anomalous, at least previous to the
twentieth century. Byzantium could not have been known for its
greatest legacy had it not been willing to grant independence to its
missionary endeavors that it carefully nurtured time and time again.
One of the hallmarks of Orthodox Christianity is the tenacity with
which it is maintained by the various native cultures that have
embraced it. Often this can erupt in a xenophobia and tribalism, but
that is the dark side of an otherwise glittering coin.
Given Orthodox resilience, it is impossible to believe that
autocephaly is not only desired, but enduring. It is not in fact a new
phenomenon but as already mentioned above, the normal state of affairs
in almost every local church of the first Christian millennium.
Certainly this was true of the regional metropolitan archdioceses,
whose prerogatives were respected by the patriarchal sees. Given that
during this same time period Christendom was defined by the borders of
the Roman Empire, this was to be expected. The special place of the
pope was accommodated within this scheme as well: that of first among
equals, primatial within the Church but not supreme over it. With the
creation of the Bulgarian and Serbian churches however, a new element
arose in the definition of autocephaly, that of the church as the
defining characteristic of the nation-state itself. With the creation
of the Bulgarian, Serbian, and later Russian patriarchates,
ecclesiastical independence came to mean political independence, but
more importantly, it defined the political identity of the inhabitants
of these lands as well.20 Nation and state, throne and altar, came to
be viewed as two sides of the same coin. An entirely new paradigm that
was unknown in early Byzantium but which prevails today.
The Slavic experience of a national church was not lost on the Greek
successor state of Epirus, whose emperor likewise demanded that his
autocephalous metropolitan be given patriarchal dignity as well. If
the Bulgars and Serbs could (because of this new theory) enjoy the
privileges of a church that defined their nation, so should the Greeks
of the West to his mind.21 Their request was rejected out-of-hand by
the patriarch-in-exile in Nicaea who reasoned otherwise: just as these
other nations should have a patriarchate that defined their polity
(thereby ratifying their nationality), it made no sense for Greeks to
be represented by two different patriarchates since they were one
nation (albeit one that was unfortunately divided into two different
states). Notice for our purposes that the idea of autocephaly based on
culture was upheld here by the very ecumenical patriarchate that seems
at present to deny the legitimacy of churches based on culture. Irony
abounds: both the Bulgarian and Serbian churches continued in their
autocephaly until 1767, when they were suppressed by the Ottoman
Empire, much to the sorrow of those two nations.
V. Present Claims for Canon 28
The crux of the problem today however, is that claims of primacy that
are virtually indistinguishable from supremacy; hence the very real
fear of papalism. Clearly, the archbishops of Constantinople had
always had a rather exalted view of their archdiocese that was
perfectly understandable given the glory of that city in late
antiquity. Beginning with Anatolius, the patriarchal claim was first
promoted and in the following century, the unfortunate adjective
"universal" was appended to it. On the other hand, it was just as
clear that neither of these claims were wholeheartedly accepted. Even
after the Schism of 1054, it was only the slow decline of the office
of emperor that made the title "ecumenical patriarch" normative in the
Orthodox East. And even then, the exact meaning of the term
"ecumenical" was very much open to debate, as even the Byzantines
themselves admitted in their hasty explanations to Gregory I.
To its credit, the website of the ecumenical patriarchate begins an
exposition of the role of bishop in a non-controversial fashion,
rightly stating that bishops are supreme within their dioceses. It
also rightly quotes the relevant passages in Canon 28 (although never
once mentioning its less-than-glittering conception). Nor for that
matter does it explain how one archbishop can now possess sovereignty
over independent archdioceses (the aforementioned Asia, Pontus, and
Thrace). More to the point, it does not explain how the plain text of
Canon 28 which mentions these same provinces and their respective
bishops who are "situated in barbarian lands" means all barbarians,
that is to say throughout the whole world. The text is specific in
this regard: it plainly states that only those bishops who reside
within these provinces—albeit among "barbarians"-likewise owe their
ultimate sovereignty to Constantinople.
Interestingly enough this is not lost on the partisans of the Phanar.
They hastily add that the "…adjective 'barbarian' modifies the noun
'nations,' which is omitted from the text of the canon, but which is
inferred." But is this interpretation correct? The writer of this
essay attempts to prove this point by mentioning the fact that in
another time, the respected Byzantine canonist Zonaras equated
"barbarians" with "nations."22 We are not told however what
specifically Zonaras was referring to, was this his understanding of
the term barbarian or was it the accepted understanding of this term
among the Greek-speaking population? This raises other questions since
languages change over time: did barbarian mean at the time of
Chalcedon or the time of Zonaras? The website does not answer this
Such sleight-of-hand gives away the game: by means of a clever but
false syllogism, the case of Phanariote supremacy is propagated. First
the canon is accepted as non-controversial (it wasn't). Then by a
careful bit of legerdemain, when it mentions the "bishops of these
aforesaid provinces" who are "situated in barbarian lands," we are to
take it to mean that these bishops are somehow adjacent to barbarian
lands. And finally, by an equally clever stroke, barbarians in general
are made to be synonymous with nations since a much later canonist
stated that this was so (even though we are not sure if he was
referring to this canon). Since there were no doubt barbarians
adjacent to the aforesaid Thracian, Pontic, and Asiatic barbarians we
must therefore believe that all barbarians equal all nations, hence,
those areas that have not been evangelized by already established
churches belong to the ecumenical patriarchate.
What is surprising is that even with the grandiose claims of
Philotheus Coccinus who saw himself as a universal pastor, the idea
that the ecumenical patriarchate could evangelize in areas where there
were already established churches strains credulity. A careful reading
of Philotheus' self-understanding of his office shows that his role as
universal teacher was to send bishops to the "ends of the earth" and
that they were to be accorded the same honors and dignity that he
himself enjoyed. This bears repeating: they were not to be his
auxiliaries but rulings bishops in their own right, enjoying
"territorial rights and episcopal see, and all [the] rights of Our
Humility." If this insistence upon full episcopal prerogatives is
plain (and it is), then can autocephaly be far behind? Coccinus'
comments lead inexorably to this conclusion. After all, had he wanted
to do so, he could have revoked the autocephaly of Serbia and Bulgaria
if he were truly a patriarcha universalis rather than merely a
Be that as it may, none of the patriarchs before the twentieth century
ventured into the areas of other churches. Coccinus himself was
writing to the Russian princes who belonged to an ecclesiastic
province of the See of Constantinople. On the other hand,
circumstances under the Turkish occupation precluded any evangelistic
activity at all. Yet even within the primatial mindset of
Constantinople during this time, the prerogatives of the other
churches were upheld. Although the autocephalous patriarchates of
Serbia and Bulgaria were unfortunately quashed, those of Antioch,
Jerusalem, and Alexandria were resolutely—and with great difficulty-
maintained (albeit as dependencies of Constantinople).
Even outside of the boundaries of the four ancient patriarchates
scrupulous attention was paid to ecclesiastic protocols. For example,
as far as Constantinople was concerned, the vast Siberian expanse was
the evangelistic responsibility of Moscow, even though it had yet to
be annexed politically to the Russian state. According to the modern
interpretation of Canon 28, the ecumenical patriarchate should have
been able to evangelize that area since it was essentially a no-man's
land. Likewise it could have established missions in Japan and the Far
East, where Russia had influence but no political control whatsoever.
It did not. Later, Russian prerogatives in North America were accepted
as well even when Greek Christians came under its fold, as the letter
of Patriarch Joachim III of Constantinople to the Holy Synod of Moscow
What then accounts for the lack of seriousness of the present claims?
The answer lies with the remarkable career of Patriarch Meletius IV
Metaxakis, a brilliant reformer whose own allegiance to the canonical
order and conciliar norms of the Orthodox Church was shaky at best. It
was during his reign that the term ecumenical was given its present
hyperbolic meaning. Part of the answer lies in the tumultuous times in
which Meletius lived. Because of his familial relationship with
Eleutherios Venizelos, the equally brilliant reformist prime minister
of Greece, Metaxakis was elected as Archbishop of Athens by usurping
the throne. Like his relative, he was enamored of the West and tried
to push through audacious reforms.24 Like Venizelos he was a member of
a Masonic lodge, a startling and embarrassing revelation to say the
least.25 (Venizelos had been excommunicated because of his membership
in this fraternity.) Upon the restoration of the previous archbishop
whom he had earlier displaced, Metaxakis went into exile in America,
where he had an enthusiastic following among that portion of the Greek-
American community that despised the monarchy and viewed Venizelos as
their champion. While in America, he established a separate
jurisdiction called the "Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South
America" to the extreme displeasure of the Metropolia, the successor
of the Russian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Archdiocese of North America.
The new archdiocese was to be an eparchy of the Church of Greece, to
which he anticipated returning to someday. However by some twist of
fate, Metaxakis was instead proclaimed Patriarch of Constantinople
(even though he was in the United States). In a move that can only be
seen as extremely expedient, he rescinded the Church of Greece's claim
on the new archdiocese and made it an eparchy of the Patriarchate of
Constantinople, whose head he now was.
Meletius, who actively sought allies in Western religious circles, saw
himself as the focal point of unity in the non-Catholic Christian
world by dint of his new title. Whereas "ecumenical" in previous ages
had meant "imperial," and then later universal pastor of he Orthodox
oikoumene, in Metaxakis' eyes it now truly did mean "universal." He
could not be universal however while Moscow's patriarchate was being
reestablished in 1918 by Tikhon Bellavin (who had earlier been
archbishop in America). Metaxakis therefore began negotiations in with
the so-called Renovationist Church, a Soviet puppet that was
established as a counter-church to the Patriarchate of Moscow. Like
Metaxakis, the Renovationists believed in many of the same reforms.
Their activities of course were to the detriment of Patriarch Tikhon
who was bravely trying to maintain the Russian church in the face of
overwhelming odds and unspeakable terror. If the Russian patriarchate
could be quashed, then Metaxakis' overlordship of the Orthodox world
would have been complete. (The Renovationists for their part were also
at odds with the Metropolia, bringing lawsuits against them in the
American court system for the express purpose of seizing their
In the end, the aftermath of the First World War ended Metaxakis'
career on the patriarchal throne. The "Catastrophe" (as it is called
by the Greeks) was the result of the rout of the Greek armies by
Mustapha Kemal. It led to the massive exchange of populations between
Greece and Turkey. The Turks forced Metaxakis, who was an enthusiastic
supporter of Prime Minister Venizelos, into exile. Following his
tumultuous tenure, the Turks degraded the patriarchate considerably.
To this day, it does not accept the ecumenical title for the Patriarch
of Constantinople. Unfortunately, even in spite of his disastrous
tenure, his successors accepted his grandiose claims and acted upon
them, thus further alienating the other Orthodox Churches, primarily
those of Serbia and Russia.
VI. More on Autocephaly
The problem of autocephaly was dealt with in the previous "Response"
by this author, however impending events gives this issue new urgency.
In the opinion of the Phanar, absent an ecumenical council, only the
ecumenical patriarchate has the right to bestow eccelesiastical
independence. In the opinion of Moscow and its daughter church in
America, this is true as far as it goes. Moscow maintains however,
that in addition to these methods, a mother church can bestow
autocephaly as well.
Contrary to the claims of some Phanariote apologists, this is not a
self-serving claim by Moscow. In the first millennium the Church of
Georgia according was granted autocephaly by Antioch, its mother
church. Although the actual history of the inception of this church is
vague, that it was a province of Antioch is undisputed. Balsamon of
Antioch clearly stated that one of his predecessors had earlier
granted autocephaly to Georgia merely through a "local" council.26 As
far as he was concerned there was nothing controversial about this. In
his opinion, autocephaly was statutory, that is to say it could be
granted by councils, imperial decree, or grants by mother churches.27
(Coincidentally, the position of the Moscow patriarchate its partisans.
28) His commentary in this regard shows that the bestowal of
autocephaly was itself an unremarkable event. Thus it is incumbent
upon Constantinople to prove its allegations in this regard; that is
to say that only two methods exist for granting ecclesiastical
independence (rather than three). If this is true, then the Church of
Georgia is by definition uncanonical.
Interestingly enough, even the views of the Patriarchate of
Constantinople have not been as rigid as they seem to indicate at
present. That is to say, that only it or an ecumenical council can
bestow autocephaly on a local church. In 1879 the Serbian royal house
and the Metropolitan of Belgrade approached Patriarch Joachim III of
Constantinople, asking for the reinstatement of Belgrade's
autocephalous status. Belgrade did so because Constantinople was its
mother church. Joachim for his part assented, using the various canons
at his disposal, including Canon 28. Be that as it may, Joachim's
statements regarding the recognition of Serbian autocephaly indicated
that there were many models that governed the birth and maturity of a
local church, not just ecumenical councils. In particular, the life
and well being of the nation—that is socio-political considerations-
could be taken into account. For his part, Joachim:
…recognized that Local Churches may be established "not only in
conformity with the historical importance of the cities and countries
in Christianity, but also according to political conditions of the
life of the people and nations." Referring then to Canon 28 of
Chalcedon and other canons, as well as the opinion of Patriarch
Photius…he reaffirmed: "The ecclesiastical rights, especially those of
parishes, usually conform to the structure of the state authority and
These words clearly recognized that the history of late antiquity was
one of dynamic church formation. The canons of the first councils
(local as well as ecumenical) clearly took into account the hustle and
bustle that was apparent in these times. As was well known, many of
these canons antedated the See of Constantinople's elevation to
patriarchal status. Perhaps the most important canon for recognition
of a local church's independence was Apostolic Canon 1 which mandates
that at least two bishops be present for the consecration of a new
bishop, and canon 4 of the First Ecumenical Council which states that
the appointment of a new bishop can only be made by election of at
least three bishops sitting in a local council.
These canons reflected the fact that the independent status of the
many local ecclesiastical regions found in antiquity. The existence of
these canons therefore begs an important question: by what sanction
were bishops granted the right to administer their own affairs (as
stated for instance in canon 8 of Ephesus) and to consecrate other
bishops (Apostolic canon 1)? As stated earlier, these churches were
"already autocephalous." That is all well and good, but how did they
receive their independence? No doubt some were of apostolic origin—
Alexandria, Ephesus, Antioch, Rome, Corinth-spring instantly to mind.
But not all were. The proliferation of new ecclesiastical regions
(such as Hippo, Ancyra, Lyons,) throughout the first half-millennium
precludes this possibility. It stands to reason therefore that
autocephalous churches themselves founded many of these regional
synods.30 Some may have started out as missions; others were formed
because of political exigencies (i.e. the redrawing of imperial
diocesan boundaries, the loss of a region to war, etc.). Yet all of
them possessed the canonical prerogatives that inured to all churches,
despite their relative youth.
Therefore Joachim's general statements about "political
considerations" must be viewed in this light. Yes, Constantinople may
be a grantor of independence, but many of the canons that governed the
life of the Church were anterior to Constantinople's own foundation.
To put not too fine a point on it, historical and political
considerations very often do play a significant role in the
establishment of an independent church. As such, churches can bestow
autocephaly on regions adjacent to them. The only consideration was
that the new ecclesiastical regions have at least three contiguous
More to the point, Constantinople had been Serbia's mother church. It
was Patriarch Germans II who consecrated St Sava as Archbishop of Pec,
the then-capital city of Serbia. It stood to reason therefore that
Serbia's elite should beseech Joachim for reestablishing this honor.
Indeed, the Serbs took a real risk in going to the Phanar since it was
a subject of the Ottoman Empire (as had been Serbia). There was no
guarantee that Turkey would allow the Phanar to bestow a tome of
autocephaly on Serbia. It was not in Turkey's interests to see its
breakaway provinces become independent nation-states with vigorous
churches. One of the methods the Turks had used in subjugating their
Christian subjects was the threat of excommunication that the
Patriarch of Constantinople could level on any incipient rebellion.
This threat would be removed if the Serbian patriarchate was
reestablished. It would have been far more expedient for the Serbs to
approach the Holy Synod of Moscow which was free of foreign domination
and with whom the Serbs had excellent relations.
This validity—indeed, legality-of Canon 28 is therefore troubling to
say the least. The fact that it was excised from the official drafts
of the Council of Chalcedon should tell us something. It was conceived
during a time of great turmoil in the West, and its unsettling nature
was apparent to many in its own day and context. It was never accepted
by Rome and only surreptitiously in the East. Thus it is impossible to
take it seriously given its origins; one can only do so by means of
tortuous logic (as was demonstrated by the language used by Phanar's
own apologist—see section 5 above).
Likewise, the evolution of the Archbishop of Constantinople to
patriarch, and then to ecumenical patriarch, was done in fits and
starts and only when popes or emperors were unable to contain the
ambitions of these bishops. This should tell us something about its
provenance and those who stake ecclesiastic claims on it would do well
to reconsider their position. If this title had little legitimacy when
it was first proposed, then it strains logic to believe the passage of
time has made it more so.
In the final analysis, such posturing stands in stark contrast to the
Gospel. The legitimacy of any bishop is his fidelity to the Gospel of
Jesus and not to grandiose titles that were arrogated during a time
that no longer exists and by legalisms that are only tenuously related
to the spirit of the Gospel. As Pope Gregory the Great said in
reaction to John IV, the only title he wanted for himself was servus
servorum Dei ("servant of the servants of God.")
2. Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Canon 28 of the 4th Ecumenical
Council—Relevant or Irrelevant Today? (The Word, Feb 2009).
3. The address was given by the Rev Elpidophorus Lambriniades on
March 16, 2009. The reply was written by this author and published on
March 25. Both can be accessed on www.aoiusa.org and www.ocl.org.
4. Canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, AD 325).
5. St. John Maximovitch, The Decline of the Patriarchate of
Constantinople delivered at the Second All-Diaspora Sobor of the
Russian Church, Srmski Karlovtsy, Yugoslavia, 1938.
6. See for example Archbishop Gregory Afonsky, The Canonical Status
of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Orthodox Church (Mar 24,
2009); Patiarch Alexii II of Moscow and All Russia, A Letter to the
Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning the Situation of the Diaspora (Feb 2,
1005). For a contemporaneous Greek response to the idea of
Constantinopolitan overlordship, see footnote no. 16 below.
7. John J. Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium (London: Penguin,
1997 ed.), p 48.
8. John H. Erickson, The Challenge of Our Past: Studies in Orthodox
Canon Law and Church History, (Crestwood, SVS Press, 1991), p 92.
9. Leo the Great, Epistolarum 104
10. Ibid., Leo the Great, Epistolarum 104.
11. John the Faster, www.newadvent.org.
12. Gregory I, Epistle 18.
13. Ibid., Epistle 43.
14. Ibid. Epistle 20.
15. John the Faster, www.newadvent.org.
16. Erickson, Op cit., p 108.
17. Aristeides Papadakis, The Christian East and the Rise of the
Papacy: The Church 1071-1453 A.D (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1994), p 309.
18. Erickson, Op cit., p 108.
19. Aristeides Papadakis, The Christian East and the Rise of the
Papacy: The Church 1071-1453 A.D (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1994), p 309.
20. Erickson, Op cit, p 107. (See also W Bruce Lincoln's The
Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russians [New York: Dial Press, 1981],
23. Mark Stokoe, Orthodox Christians in North America 1794-1994 (in
collaboration with Leonid Kishkvosky, OCPC: 1995), p 32.
24. He believed priests should be clean-shaven and wear Western
garb, that bishops should be allowed to marry, and that fasting rules
should be relaxed. As patriarch, he instituted the adoption of the
25. Although there are no canons which expressly condemn membership
in the Lodge, this is because Freemasonry is a relatively recent
development. In 1933 however, Archbishop Damascene of Athens
commissioned a study of this fraternity and subsequently the Church of
Greece issued a strong statement which reiterated the long-held views
of the Orthodox Church regarding this organization. (Cf
27. Erickson, Op cit., p 102.
28. Alexander Bogolepov, Toward an American Orthodox Church: The
Establishment of an Autocephalous Church (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1963,
[2001 ed.]), pp xvi-xix, 10-11.
29. Ibid., pp 14-15.
30. Ibis., pp 9-10.
George Michalopulos is a layman in the Orthodox Church in America. He
is married to the former Margaret Verges of Houston, Texas, and the
father of two boys, Constantine and Michael. Together with Deacon Ezra
Ham, he is the author of The American Orthodox Church: A History of
Its Beginnings (Salisbury: Regina Orthodox Press, 2003), as well as
several articles and essays published on the Orthodox Christian Laity
website. He has served as parish council president of Holy Trinity
Greek Orthodox Church in Tulsa, OK, and twice was a lay delegate to
the Clergy-Laity Congress of 1998 and 2002. He helped found Holy
Apostles Orthodox Christian Mission, a parish of the OCA in 2003 and
continues to be active in pan-Orthodox events in the greater Tulsa
#11 Anonymous on 2009-05-12 05:25
My comments here come after reading the letter from Holy Cross and are not biased by anything already written (I'll go back and read them in a minute). I wanted my comments to reflect my thoughts solely on the pre-mentioned letter. I also haven't read "Bishop" Enea's comments yet (I remember him as Archbishop Peter's chauffeur).
My thoughts on the article: rubbish! The OCA is a very imperfect institution, still an infant by world Orthodoxy standards. That being said, I thank God that we had visionaries like Fr. Alexander and Fr, John Meyendorff who realized Orthodoxy will succeed in this country best AS an American Church!
I am Russian by ethnic heritage. I respect those who hold to their Russian, or Greek, or Syrian, etc. customs and languages. I love my Slavonic; I do my best to mispronounce as few words as possible when proclaiming the Paschal Gospel in Greek while my Protodeacon reads the Slavonic, carrying on the tradition of proclaiming the Gospel in as many languages as possible. One of my favorite Mission Service moments is singing "Fos Ilaron" at the Greek Orthodox Church on Orthodoxy Sunday.
I will always love my Russian heritage. I will always love and respect my brothers of other ethnic backgrounds. But, at some point, we have to realize that the best thing for America is an independent Orthodox Church embracing all ethnic peoples. If the Patriarch refuses to recognize the OCA (gee, how nice that he hasn't excommunicated us, as the letter so glaringly emphasizes!). I think back to Pentecost and the miracle of all languages hearing the Word of God, worshipping together, and I think of the words of St. Peter from Acts 2:32 "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses".
(Editor's note: He was indeed the late Archbishop's driver for many years.)
#12 Fr. Stephen Mack on 2009-05-12 05:50
All ethnic people? What about the non-ethnic people? Now that i think of it, i've never met a non-ethnic person. Doesn't the word "ethni" mean people? So, basically you mean all people people. Good, i'm glad we cleared that up.
(editor's note: LOL.)
#12.1 Anonymous on 2009-05-12 07:53
It is curious to me that by fiat of neither Moscow or the Phanar, the Church in North America can somehow be irregular or non-canonical.
In 1867, some seventy years after the founding of the Russian Missions to the Alleutians, the Alaskan territory was purchased by the United States from Russia.
How is it that by a land transaction a Church is somehow abandoned by its prelate and moves to the "barbarian lands"?
I'm not an historian, but I don't think the Canons, even Canon 28, envisioned such a scenario.
At the end of the day, there are many issues in North and South America that are without precedent. The issue of the granting of Autocephalacy, the issue of how to extricate the Church from an imperial setting to a democratic setting, and the machinations of a Constantinopolitan primate who is losing what little allegiance accorded him.
This argument is nothing about spiritual growth and Christian order. It is about power, plain and simple. Imperial power at that. The democratic societies in the west will not tolerate power that is not offered by the people - that is, the Body of Christ.
When Bishops and Hierarchs begin acting like Christians, the Christians will follow. I would ask our Bishops to pay attention to the admonition in Acts, and to not concern themselves with administration but rather find people of good character to administer the Church for them, so that they might devote themselves to prayer and the teaching of the Gospel.
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#13 Dn. Marty Watt on 2009-05-12 07:35
Mark, credibility check. THis cleric is as phoney as a 3.00 bill. Delete! Delete!!! You have never, ever had a flake like this on your website.
(Editor's note: The issue is not who says it, but what is said. Does posting on OCANews.org give one instant "credibility"? Thanks - but that is a responsibility I decline. If only those with the right "credentials" are allowed to speak, it is perhaps a price too high for me. Isn't that just what the OCA is complaining about at not being invited to the Cyprus meeting?
I make no claims or warrants about what the writer claims about his "jurisisdiction"; I specifically added the caveat at the end that the writer was not in an canonical relationship with mainstream Orthodoxy. There has never been a restriction on this site as to who can participate if they have something interesting to contribute: Orthodox, non-Orthodox, less than Orthodox, more than any other Orthodox ever, etc. If the Church claims to be for all people at all time, don't we need to allow all those people affected at least the option to participate in the conversation; i.e. everybody who is interested? Trust me, its not that slippery a slope in reality. Most of the world could care less what is discussed here - which is perhaps a wake up call for those who are seriously interested in evangelism. So the question for me is not who he claims he is, what he claims to be, or what he claims to represent - there is a man in Istanbul who some would claim has hardly more reality behind his fanciful claims nowadays - but what he says. I realize this is a very American attitude; but then, I am an American. Guilty.
Finally, let me ask you this, Bob: Would it have been better not to have identified the writer - leave him anonymous - and then post it? I think not. Critics to the site constantly bitch that anonymity is allowed - and precisely, when someone tries to say something openly, they are criticized not for what they said, but for who they are. I mean that as no personal criticism, just as recognition of where we are today. Can we develop an open, honest, transparent, safe means of discussing ideas, events and actions that does not always degenerate into personalities? I think we can, and that is what I am trying to do here. We clearly have a long ways to go.
So, take it for what it is worth. If it adds to the discussion is was helpful; if not, it was a waste of electrons. Fortunately, electrons are free at the moment. But thanks for the concern and warning.)
#14 ba"ab on 2009-05-12 07:55
Mark, let me be even more scandalously American than you. To be clear, I'm not criticizing what Stephen Enea said because of who he is, I'm criticizing you for putting him on the front-page. Now, I could complain that you're enabling his spiritual delusion or giving him google-juice. But let's talk brass tacks: branding.
OCA News is a brand, and being a serious publication is a part of it. Plenty of serious news sites let anyone post in the comments, named or not, but articles are something else. When you let some random joker who dresses up like an archbishop in his mom's basement appear alongside the faculty of Holy Cross, you are diluting the OCA News brand and damaging its effectiveness. Spend your capital on the good kind of foolishness.
Sure, meritocracy is a part of the brand too (my favorite part, personally). But, if he were a cab-driver, I'd be asking for more. The problem isn't the "credentials" Stephen doesn't have: it's the credentials he pretends to have. And thanks to that, his presence on your front-page makes OCA News look not so much open-minded as silly.
- A Fellow Orthodox Christian
P.S. I bitch because I care.
(Editor's note: Thanks for caring. Points noted. Concern registered. Still one little, nagging problem in falling on my sword on this one: what does it say about us that only someone who dresses up in archbishop's clothes - according to your description - is willing to make the points he does, and say what he as to say, and deal with the concerns he has? Where are all the "real" Archbishops? And why are they all silent ? We need to have discussion on these issues - and how sad is it that the only person willing to do it is a man in "his mother's basement" , but not one of them in their estates, residences and townhouses? )
#14.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-05-12 19:35
Well, when you have an internet church, it's not like you have anything to lose. Saying controversial things is actually a good bet, because it might raise your profile. For a vagante bishop, any publicity that doesn't involve young boys is good publicity.
Actual bishops, on the other hand, have a lot to lose. The mansions, etc, I'm sure, concern some more than others. But even a virtuous bishop might worry: about his flock and about retribution exacted on his supporters.
The worst part of this Antiochian mess is the blunt message it sends to every bishop whose synod is overseas. Iakovos' sad end already announced that, if you rock the boat, they can do anything they like to you. There will be no respect no matter who you are, and certainly no justice; and nothing will come of what you bravely said.
Now as if that wasn't bad enough, we can add: "and no matter what you've been promised." Hopefully, this will teach future negotiators to develop and insist on airtight legal protections — and then maybe bishops will say what needs to be said.
(Editor's note: A sad commentary, indeed. But true love casts aside fear, and that is what we all must work towards.)
#14.1.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-05-13 10:47
Posting any thing, anything whatsoever, by Mr. Stephen Enea on your web site detracts significantly from any discussion at hand and the credibility of OCANews. You have, in my opinion, sullied the reputation of OCANews significantly. Mark, however, if you would have done due diligence you would have revealed his ecclesiastical delusion about “being” a legitimate Orthodox Christian leader. Mr. Enea heads his own denomination and it is not in any way shape or form a legitimate Orthodox Christian church.
Mark, no matter how you try to defend your decision (and get nasty or snide) simply putting anything by that fellow on OCANews is to revert to irrelevancy in discussion on OCANews. Mr. Enea REALLY does have a checkered past with fund raising and you fell into his trap – for him all publicity is good publicity for his fund raising schemes. Case in point, he tried to raise something like $250,000,000.00 to build an "Orthodox" hospital in Herkimer County, New York, where the 100 or so Orthodox living there obviously did not needed one! Not to mention his "leadership" in Legacy Airlines, or any other subsequent name for this so-called "airline," or his strenuous fund raising for HIS dilapidated and crumbling “cathedral of great grace,” and so on. It must be noted that he has NO REAL followers – anywhere. If Mr. Enea has 1 follower then the OCA has 60 million communicants!
I don’t think Mr. Enea ever tires of trying to run the world from his “patriarchal compound” in his parent’s basement. Mr. Enea is known in Utica, New York by the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and so on. And, now, Mr. Enea is also known by you and your readers. He wins. How terribly sad that you, Mark, gave Mr. Enea greater exposure to a new source for fund raising – the readers of OCANews who go to his web site.
Mark! People like Mr. Pangratios Vrionis (a.k.a., “Metropolitan” Pangratios), according to your published statements recently in this thread, should also have “standing” as “front page” commentators! Maybe you should solicit commentaries from those listed on Pokrova.org also. I am sure they are chomping-at-the-bit to get on the front page of OCANews!
This situation with Mr. Enea being placed on the front page of OCANews is just so clear – it is not a matter of malice but it is a matter of not doing due diligence in reporting. However, by the look of Mr. Enea’s web site, in contrast to the reality ON THE GROUND, he looks like someone of importance and I can see how you could be duped. In my opinion, being “important” is the crux of Mr. Enea’s religious delusion – he couldn’t just be a lay man, monk, priest but he had to jump past “bishop” to “archbishop!” Mr. Enea is all “puff” and “fluff” and decidedly separated from ecclesiastical reality – not to mention Orthodox Christian Communion. In my opinion, a Buddhist or a Muslim should be commenting on the front page of OCANews before Mr. Enea. These Buddhist or Moslem commentators would at least have something “fresh” to add to the discussion from their points-of-view. However, this cobbled-together unoriginal miss-mash of Mr. Enea is just much too much for a run-of–the-mill Orthodox Christian like me to take!
Mark, Mr. Enea has made the big time! For your and your readers information the work has already been done on Al Green’s (http://aggreen.net/orth_links/orthlink.html) venerable Orthodox Christian web site. Al Green can tell you about that torture technique known as litigation from the “pseudo-Orthodox!” Actually, Mark, your site is about accountability and accountability is a good thing to pursue – it is related to the virtue of love. Furthermore, all REAL Orthodox Christians are accountable by necessity to the Holy Church and Mr. Enea is in reality accountable to NO ONE! You have slipped (i.e., by including Mr. Enea in any relevant discussion) and you need to get back on track so as to do the good you are called to do.
Oh, one more thing, making parallels between Mr. Enea and the Ecumenical Patriarch are shameful and over the top! The Patriarch is in a REAL Church and His All Holiness has a REAL history and a REAL authority and a REAL continuous and long-term persecution coupled with ethnic cleansing – Mr. Enea has only that credibility we give him. I prefer to give Mr. Enea, from my experience with him, a call to repentance and conversion and also the address of a good therapist.
(Editor's note: I do not want to quibble, Father, with your points - only to point out that a) OCANews.org does not solicit reflections from anybody - they are all offered; and b) if one letter from a "vagrante" sullies the reputation of this site after 4 years, 20,000 comments, and hundreds of articles and reflections, I would suggest that it didn't have much credibility to begin with, or to lose. That not being the case, as your concern demonstrates, I suggest we all move on, and back to the topics at hand.)
#14.1.2 Hieromonk Joshua on 2009-05-13 11:04
A Fellow Orthodox Christian wrote:
Hopefully, this will teach future negotiators to develop and insist on airtight legal protections...
Sorry, my dear Fellow Orthodox Christian, but as long as there are hierarchs on the other side of the ocean to whom a diocese or exarchy/ethnarchy here is under authority, there will be NO possible "airtight" civil legal agreement that will save them from actions like Antioch has taken. And to fight such actions, we will have to resort to civil courts. Time. Money. Really bad public image.
Anyone in the "Romanian Reunion" movement in the Romanian Episcopate (OCA diocese) listening and learning from this catastrophe???
#14.1.3 Anonymous for a reason on 2009-05-13 13:11
After reading both the statement from our Holy Cross faculty and the extensive article by George Michalopulos, I have to conclude this is an exciting time to be Orthodox and in America. Throughout history it is controversies like the issues raised here that precipitate a council of the Church to iron out these differences.
May God grant that such a council convene and that we, the people of God, convinced that the Holy Spirit still guides and guards His Church, pray for the holy hierarchs and other participants who gather to deliberate, and then humbly rejoice when the Holy Spirit speaks through the work of the council.
And, may the outcome allow us the freedom to cry, rejoicing, AXIOS!
By way of full disclosure, I am an American convert to Orthodoxy, studying for the priesthood at Holy Cross, to serve the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta, God willing.
#15 Barnabas Powell on 2009-05-12 08:28
The Holy Cross statement is the largest pile of ..... so far found on this site. The Truth is, the Bishop of Istanbul has "NO" authority over North America. And how grateful the OCA should be that the Phanar hasn't broken communion with the OCA - ridiculous. Foreign bishops cannot control local churches - Orthodox Canon Law.
And, according to the statutes of SCOBA, the leader of SCOBA is a ROTATING role between all the hierarchs of SCOBA - not just the GOA leader. After + Bartholomew threw + Iakovos out, he demanded that only the head of the GOA be chairman of SCOBA. To keep the peace, the other hierarchs agreed, but this is contrary to the statutes of SCOBA.
#16 Anonymous on 2009-05-12 09:45
Absolutely correct! I (and my Uncle) witnessed this from the mouth of the late Thrice Blessed Metropolitan Antony (Bashir) who earlier founded the Orth. Federation with then Archbishop Athenagoras. In the presence of the late Gov. Thomas Dewey of NY, so that legitimacy by laws would allow equal funds for prison chaplaincy, etc. My Priest Uncle passed away thinking Orthodox Unity in N. America was just around the "corner". How far have we come? There was more respect and unity then?!
#16.1 Anonymous Priest (Ant.) on 2009-05-12 13:22
I think Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky's old article is worth re-reading as part of this conversation...
...as well as another one by Fr. Robert Arida:
#17 Inga Leonova on 2009-05-12 11:48
"Archbishop Stephen" is a concelebrant with no one. Reading the website, you would think that he heads a vast institution, but it's actually just one church sporting the label of "cathedral." Before he hands out advice on weighty matters of exarchs and reorganization of the Continent, perhaps he should take off the mantia, and become a layman in a local Orthodox parish, and trim candle wicks for a while. Mow the lawn, sing in the choir, etc.
Thanks for the disclaimer on his canonical rootlessness.
#18 Steve Knowlton on 2009-05-12 11:57
May Our Triune God have mercy on us! There is an EP under the thumb of a secular Islamic Government who has appropriated unto himself the right to broker rapprochement between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Curia - And there is no one to restrain him. Since he obviously favors the Holy See should he not then be defrocked and afforded transferral to the Roman Church?
Nay!!! The true defender of the Faith once given is His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill. Worthy is he to represent the voice of the Orthodox everywhere.
(editor's note: If the standard for ignoring the historical rights of the EP is the claim that he is " under the thumb" of an secular government, and one suggest Patriarch Kyrill assume the mantle, one can only warn that those in glass houses should not throw rocks. To the extent the EP has an ability to speak for "Orthodox everywhere" it is an historical claim, not one based on present demographics or politics.)
#19 Vladimir Bogoljubov on 2009-05-12 12:03
Furthermore, it is not a question about an overseer from Moscow. The OCA is ably served by His Beatitude Met. Jonah. He understands that the EP is doing his own agenda with the Roman Church and therefore the EP's efforts can be dismissed.
The OCA does well to strengthen the bonds of rapprochement and conciliarity with the Moscow Patriarchate - The OCA I believe, God willing, will retain its autocephalus organization - This is a gift from God.
1872 parallel ethnic jurisdictions where condemned by a council in Constantinople. Today the Ecumenical Patriarch has three if not four parallel ethnic jurisdictions in North America. 1. GOA, 2. Ukrainians, 3. Carpatho-Russian, and 4. the Jerusalem parishes not specifically under the GOA Metropolitans (if I understand their administration correctly). This is the fruit of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s efforts towards unity in North America thus far in area’s of direct control. Their own structure contradicts the council of 1872. Why should I believe that anything would improve if all Orthodox came under the Ecumenical Patriarch when the current structure of EP jurisdictions in North America are characterized by non-canonical division? Invoking ones right should be preceded by actions that legitimize that right.
#21 Anonymous on 2009-05-12 12:41
Perhpas I missed this comment earlier when I asked my question (#38). This is just the impression I had.
#21.1 Brian on 2009-05-15 15:11
To be perfectly blunt, Pope Benedict XVI has a far better historical claim to universal jurisdiction than does the Ecumenical Patriarch. If we're going to go the route suggested by the good people at Holy Cross, doesn't it make more sense to just bite the bullet and become a Catholic? Why have a fake Pope in Istanbul when there's already a real one in Rome, who is also a world-class scholar and a bulldog defender of orthodox Christian faith?
These worldly power games among Orthodox bishops are a sin and a scandal and a disgrace.
#22 Scott Walker on 2009-05-12 13:10
Pope Benedict XVI may be a bulldog defender of Roman Catholic faith, but he is not a defender of orthodox Christian faith. If his faith were orthodox, the Orthodox Church would be in communion with Rome.
#22.1 Gregory on 2009-05-13 06:33
My sentiments exactly--thank you for expressing them.
At this point in time, I must confess that I pray much more fervently for the protection and long life of Benedict than for any of the warring factions among the current contenders for world domination of Orthodoxy. This is a disgusting spectacle. Above all, I cling to CHRIST—but I would sooner go under the first and real Rome (with no army, and no agenda other than the furtherance of the Kingdom of God on earth) than under Istanbul, Moscow, or Damascus. If Orthodoxy is to thrive in America, it will need to do so free of foreign interference. Most of us are very tired of the whole Diaspora argument, as we see it for what it is—a mere ploy for power in our country. This is America—we will not go down the road of foreign control.
#22.2 Cathryn M. Tatusko on 2009-05-13 07:26
Are you entirely serious? We are supposed to prefer, not just foreign domination, but death to confessing theological error. During Ottoman times, St. Cosmas Aitolos taught the Greeks that, all things considered, they should be thankful for the Turks. (The Turks — talk about foreign control!) The reason is that the other option had been submission to the Papacy. "Better the Turkish fez than a Cardinal's hat," the faithful said, as they patiently maintained Orthodoxy for four hundred years , until the time was ripe for freedom.
Whatever else we are called to do as the history of the Church is written, we are certainly called to keep our confession of faith rigorously pure and to transmit it, no matter the cost, and in even the darkest hours.
Hang in there!
#22.2.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-05-14 19:34
I completely agree with you! If we're going to be under a Pope, lets have the "real" one. (and I mean that in all seriousness) I'm so disturbed by this letter because what the EP is claiming is for all practical circumstances universal jurisdiction in the world, with but a few exceptions of ancient Patriarchates that have shrunk to thousands, not millions of Orthodox Christians. I'm a member of the GOA, and have been a firm supporter of it, and all things Byzantine, including the Greek language (and I'm a convert who cannot speak at all (but the whole thing with the Antiochians, and now all this controversy with the GOA and the EP, this is nonsense. Rome have a much stronger claim to being "the first throne of the Church" than the EP ever will. As I read elsewhere, it's funny that Holy Cross ORTHODOX seminary gave a fine apology for the Roman Papacy! Unbelievable!
#22.3 Chuck Shingledecker on 2009-05-13 08:28
Sophistry and Balderdash!
Someone call social services--there are canons being abused!
Request to editor and commentors--if you want to post a large article as a comment, try posting it as a link instead. it makes it hard to follow the discussion when one or two people take up pages and pages unnecessarily.--Thanks!
As for my comments, having looked over all the canons cited (and some conveniently left off), I cannot see how they honestly establish the claims that the EP is making. For instance, it would be extraordinary to think that these canons would provide churches in the west an appeal above Rome during that period. The canon is best understood as providing an appeal system for those within the east under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but not to other Patriarchies. Not surpringly, Rome (from St. Leo on) disputed canon 28 and did not recognize it until it was politically advantageous centuries later. The fact that the EP has accepted such appeals is not proof of the canon's meaning, only that the EP is willing to expand its influence regardless of the traditional and canonical limits on its jurisdiction.
A second major point is this issue of barbaric lands. I am, neither in a diaspora (I live in my native land) nor am I a barbarian in the classical sense (though perhaps my wife might disagree). The Holy Cross scholars made an outlandish claim that the EP has historically had juridisdiction over evangelical efforts outside the borders of other local churches. A few examples were given. This is at best terrific helleno-centrism and at worst blind ignorance. Clearly, this does not match the history of the church in either the west (cf. the mission of Ss. Patrick, Columba, and the Irish missionaries to mainland Europe) or Africa (the mission to the Abyssians/Ethiopians) nor the Far East (Russian missions to Siberia, Japan, Alaska) none of which required or requested the involvement of the EP. It is also a ridiculous stretch to think that the canons were referring to heretofore undiscovered continents as well, and that the rest of the galaxy would forever be under the prerogatives of New Rome.
Lastly, we must remember that Constantinople only received its priveleges due to its being the Imperial City. Neither Rome nor New Rome have that honor, nor even possibly the third Rome of Moscow any longer. Thus the spirit of the canon is based on the reality of the local church as it exists in itw own time. There no longer exists a Roman Empire, no global center of civilization to dictate to the rest of the world (regardless of how much we nationalists from our various countries might hope). Thankfully, the Church does not rely on there being a Rome anywhere. The canon is obsolete.
"There is an American Church. Leave it alone!"
(Editor's note: Common sense is so refreshing.)
#23 the unworthy priest David on 2009-05-12 14:40
As a complete idiot when it comes to Orthodox history, I think I can actually be very objective. My bias would be towards the OCA because I'm a member, but I am not really sure the OCA ought to be the top [dog] in America. In fact, I don't really like the idea of any top [dog], unless we all go back to the Pope, ugh.
What I do know is that everything I've read about the Canons suggest the Canons, when written, didn't anticipate a country like America where immigrants from many Bishops would settle in a foreign land. And this is critical. Laws are designed to avoid future fighting/problems, and now we have a disagreement the law can't manage. I think this was well understood in 1970 and earlier by many revered Orthodox leaders. But truly what is the nature of the disagreement?
When the EP suggests the current state in America is 'a scandal for the unity of the church' or 'a thorny problem', I'd have to say he is more concerned about old rules that weren't designed well than the positive result of providing Orthodoxy to the people of many languages here in America these past 200 or so years. In fact, if they are truly worried about Orthodox unity, they can start with stopping fist fights at the Holy Sepulchre. I don't recall any of that in the history of the US.
What is unity? Does unity mean there can't be a GOA bishop and an OCA bishop covering the Eastern part of the USA? I don't really understand how this hurts unity.
Sounds to me like the EP needs a lesson from a dumb guy and so do the scholars that wrote the letter.
The disparity HELPED for God's sake. Is it now so painful?
The EP and Holy Cross need to be grateful for the gifts of Orthodoxy to the citizenry of the US and the chances taken by the bishops in the past.
Recognize the Canon missed the mark and still misses the mark.
Decide first what unity means. I think it means we follow the same Teachings and not a bit more.
Jesus disciples weren't established to argue about who was in charge of them, they were established to spread the Word to all people and the only unity was to follow Him.
I'd have to say I'm a little disappointed in the scholars and the EP because they see a problem where one isn't and they have forgotten why Christ established his Disciples and a dumb guy like me can see it pretty clearly.
#24 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-05-12 21:06
Concerning Canon 28 of Chalcedon and the specific content of the letter from the Holy Cross faculty, I am not fit to weigh in. Let me say only that I believe there is a hermeneutical problem here which has yet to be resolved. None of the arguments which I have heard, from any of the parties in dispute, seem to me to address all the relevant questions with the adequacy necessary - meeting the theological demands of the Gospel and the ecclesiology of the Church, the actual historical record, and contemporary pastoral and missionary need. Obviously, this is an issue which has yet to find its proper resolution - a resolution which will take not only sound historical scholarship, but morever, real theological vision, not to mention a serious increase of humility and charity on the part of all concerned.
My concern rather is with the sour - and alas, by now, all too typical - response which this letter has occasioned. It seems it is now de rigeur for those who style themselves as evangelical-minded and pro-"unity" simply to dismiss Constantinople and "the Greeks." One gets the impression that the crowd which always shouts most loudly regarding "Orthodox Unity in America" has fixed itself in set of definite, but for the most part unexamined, prejudices.
Chief among these prejudices seems to be the idea that there CAN BE in fact no really effective primacy in the Church -and indeed that there SHOULD NOT be. Certain loud voices have chosen to push the very 19th c. Slavophile notion of "sobornost" to the point of practically denying any place for primacies or historical taxis within the Church. Moreover, this perspective is simply equated with "Orthodoxy." And then a constant, very Protestant-sounding - and rather historically and theologically ignorant - anti-Romanism is brought in to support this perspective.
Take a second look: when has Orthodoxy ever been without primacy? The loud crowd of Americanists appeal to "conciliarity": councils as a kind of "Eastern" alternative to the "Western" idea of primacy (not realizing how rooted this notion is precisely in Western conciliarism of the 15th c. and of the later Gallicanism). Explain, then, exactly how it is that conciliarity can function without primacies. Who calls a regional council? Who is to preside over a universal council?
Fact is, there can be NO conciliarity without the exercise of primacy. Historically speaking, since the schism between East and West, there has been only one Church to which the primacy amongst the autocephalous Churches was always accorded, and that Church is the Church of Constantinople.
Canon 28 and its interpretation aside, this is a fact which was also recognized by the Church of Russia for centuries. The tomos which was issued by the 1593 Council of Constantinople to the Church of Russia - the very tomos which recognized the autocephaly of Moscow and finally confirmed its status as a patriarchate - a tomos whose terms were accepted by the Church of Russia - reads thus:
“The bishop of Moscow is to commemorate the patriarch of Constantinople with the other patriarchs and to hold him as his primus and head, as do the other patriarchs."
And as Fr. John Erickson has shown very compellingly in one article, "times" and "presveia" - the honor and priviledge associated with both regional and universal primacies - NEVER meant simply a purely "honorific" role as is currently understood. It always entailed a real agency, a power to act
on behalf of other Churches. Not, of course, as an autocrat, but as exercising "phrontis" or "sollicitudo," oversight and solicitude, in the service of all.
The Russian Church also recognized this as well. In the patriarchal and synodal encyclical accepted and promulgated by the Church of Russia in 1663, the question is raised:
"Can the judgment of other Churches be brought to appeal to throne of Constantinople and can this throne resolve all ecclesiastical issues?"
Answer: "This priviledge was that of the pope of Rome before the tearing asunder of the Church by presumption and wickedness. But since the Catholic Church is now torn, all the cases of other Churches are brought to the throne of Constantinople, which will pronounce the sentence, inasmuch as according to the canons, this see has the same primacy as ancient Rome."
This is essentially to recognize in the Patriarch of Constantinople the same privileges as recognized in the Pope of Rome by the Council of Sardica (343 AD). Such a transfer of privileges was not only a de facto historical reality, but was widely accepted by Byzantine canonists, such as Theodore Balsamon, who writes as follows: "the privileges subscribed to the pope are not exclusively his, but refer also to the patriarch of Constantinople." (Mind you, the privileges spoken of here are those of the Eastern canonical tradition, not those claimed by Pope Pius IX - or even Pope St. Leo the Great, for that matter).
Granted, such privileges fall short of the kind of oversight over missionary lands which seems to be projected by Canon 28 of Chalcedon. Yet the the witness of the 1663 tomos - along with countless other examples - does demonstrate that historically, canonically, there IS a Church which serves as the highest court of appeals within the universal Church, and that Church is the patriarchate of Constantinople.
I believe Pope Leo XIII was right to condemn "Americanism" as a heresy some hundred and ten years ago. Perhaps we Orthodox need to consider a similar condemnation. With all the loose talk about ethno-centrism and phyletism, perhaps we need to be reminded that the American mindset - which at this point in our nation's history is nearly becoming a kind of imperial culture unto itself - also contains the risk of becoming equally dangerous as the nationalism which has plagued old world Churches, if not much more so.
All the language we keep hearing about throwing off the "foreign despots," the arrogance of Constantinople and the Greeks, establishing "unity" without them, etc., is simply short-sighted, reckless and irresponsible. Does it ever occur to us how we might sound like just a bunch of stupid Americans - Americans afflicted with that (sadly) more and more typically "American" historical amnesia? One is almost waiting for the bale of hay to fall out of our mouths.
Those in the OCA very understandably and justifiably would like to have a share in deciding the future arrangement of Orthodoxy North America. But don't hang all the blame for the present state of affairs on the Ecumenical Patriarch. Fact is, most of the Orthodox world still at present does not recognize the canonicity of the OCA's autocephaly. This fact is well known, but it seems its potential significance has not been seriously considered by the people doing most of the talking.
Practically speaking, in relation to the Church as a whole, the claim of autocephaly for the OCA rests almost entirely upon the good faith of the Moscow Patriarchate. But does Moscow take it seriously? There are still MP parishes in America, and now there are MP-ROCOR dioceses as well. Most recently, Metropolitan Hilarion of the ROCOR greeted Archbishop Demetrios as the “Chief Orthodox Archpastor of America and the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” Does this perhaps suggest a recognition of what the real state of affairs is?
Those in the OCA who talk most aggressively about "unity" often act as though all the other "ethnic" and Old World Orthodox are living in their own worlds. They fail to recognize, however, that in many ways they also are living in their own world as well - and that this world is on the whole much smaller, both geographically and in terms of historical memory.
Simply speaking, it is time to consider in humility the naked fact that - like it or not, for better or worse, and legitimate differences of culture and opinion notwithstanding - for historical, canonical and practical reasons, there is simply not going to be any canonical Orthodox unity within the US without some recognition of, and cooperation with, the primacy of the patriarchate of Constantinople.
(editor's note: Thanks for your comments.Whether of not I agree, you made my day. I just love it when people begin "I am not fit to weigh in" - and then do. It's so, well, totally American - and why the Old World will never understand our culture or ways. )
#25 Matthew, grateful student of the Holy Cross faculty on 2009-05-12 23:00
Funny, Mark, but actually, no - I meant that I'm not fit to weigh in regarding the correct interpretation of Canon 28 within its original historical context, its later use throughout history, or its contemporary applicability, as this is a big question which no one seems to have made a completely convincing case for. I said I wasn't capable of any worthy comment on these particular issues, and I didn't comment on them - my concern was rather with matters of attitude towards Constantinople, "the Greeks, "hierarchy, etc. So much for your joke.
(Editor's note: C'mon people. Lighten up just a bit. But, as serious as these issues are, I really do not think our Lord is going to ask us on the Last Day what our interpretation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon was. If he does, well, there are a whole lot of us in real trouble... I apologize for offending though.)
#25.1 Matthew on 2009-05-13 08:26
All in agreement also w/ you regarding Canon 28 Chalcedon & the Last Judgment! But, unfortunately, eschatology does absolve us of the need to deal responsibly with history. I think all sides are in agreement that church order, however sometimes differently understood, matters. My only point, beyond the issue of attitudes, was this: the historical sense of the canon question may be up for debate, and its historical applicability for today even more so - yet nevertheless there can be no question that there is a universal primacy of oversight within the Church, that this primacy historically and canonically does belong to Constantinople, and that this primacy is one which does indeed encompass certain definite primatial powers.
#25.1.1 Anonymous on 2009-05-13 11:53
Sorry - the above comment should read: "eschatology does NOT absolve us from the need to deal responsibly with history."
#184.108.40.206 Matthew on 2009-05-13 20:13
As others on this thread have noted, you and the Holy Cross faculty have made a "terrific" case for submitting to Rome with your arguments favoring primacy over conciliarity. Perhaps this is the end game of the EP, who seems to spend more time these days cosying up to Rome than ministering to his dwindling flock in Istanbul. A pity, since he had, and has, a historic opportunity to foster Orthodox unity and witness in a rapidly changing world, if only he could lay aside the temptation to power and status offered to our Lord in the desert by the master deceiver himself.
As for the Americans you so disdain for "dismissing Constantinople and the Greeks," you have rather missed the the obvious point that it is actually the Greeks who have dismissed the Patriarchate for good and sufficient reasons. Most American Orthodox Christians had a benign, if not favorable, opinion of the Patriarchate prior to the reign of the current incumbent. It is his condescending and arrogant attitude towards the "barbarian lands" (a subject he should be expert on since he lives in them) that has won him the contempt in which he is now so widely held.
You, and the Holy Cross crowd, can continue to spin specious reasons, that evaporated with the Roman and Byzantine Empires, for some kind of Orthodox primacy that apes Rome with its claims of universal jurisdiction, rather than the more modest claim of "honor" that used to apply in Orthodox ecclesiology. But count me out.
#25.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2009-05-13 12:17
I fail to see anywhere where I have made argument for favoring "primacy over conciliarity." On the contrary, I meant simply to point out what very few who talk most about "sobornost" have acknowledged: namely that there can be no working conciliarity without a working primacy. The model of this would be Apostolic Canon 34: let the bishops of each region do nothing without the consent of him who is first among them; but neiter let him who is first among them do anything without the consent of all.
As far as Pat. Bartholomew spending more time "cosying up to Rome" than in ministering to his "dwindling flock," that's a pretty serious criticism. How do you know this? Perhaps you should speak to some of the old ladies at the Greek hospital in Istanbul and ask them? This is what I mean by arrogance and dismissal. In the just the last ten years, the Greek population in that city has been severed in half - from 10,000 to 5,000 people. I don't hear much sympathy or understanding from you on this point.
As far as disdain for Americans, I am American, not Greek - Anglo-American, mind you, not Greek-American. I just think that we could afford to exercise a bit more corporate humilty, and a more long-view historical outlook. In spite of all the accusations regarding ethnic ghettos, ethno-centricism, etc., I believe there is a cosmopolitanism to the EP's vision, as well as a depth of tradition in Greek Orthodox culture, of which most Americans have only the faintest idea. (Which isn't to suggest that we don't have own unique gift to offer).
I don't see anyone making an argument for the papacy. Effective primacy does not equal papacy. Universal sollicitude, acting as a center of communion, etc., does not equal universal jurisdiction in the sense claimed by Vatican I and inscribed in Roman Catholic canon law. There are a number of good, serious reasons for not "submitting" to Rome - something which not even Rome any longer expects or asks for from the East anyway; I would suggest that Vatican I would be high on the list of these reasons. But I also don't see Orthodoxy as somehow defined by anti-Romanism (or, for that matter, Romanism in some Constantinopolitan or Muscovite ersatz variety) - as some here seem to. Further, if you want to see a church run really on the centralized model similar to the modern papacy, quit pointing the finger at the Phanar and take a look at Russia. If you're looking for authoritarianism in the Church, well, there it is.
Where has EP claimed such papalizing universal jurisdiction, as they are so often accused of? On the contrary, they have repeatedly denied such a claim - even as recently as the synaxis of primates held in Phanar this past fall.
I won't be so foolish or servile as to defend every decision the EP makes - far from it. But also don't think it would be correct to take the present state of the GOA as a prototype of what future unity might look like under the guidance of the EP. Obviously they are afraid of losing the reins. And agreed, there have been some big disappointments here. But take a look at the situtation in France - it is quite different. The main point: hostility, dismissal, arrogance towards the EP is not going to get us anywhere. There needs to be a willingness for cooperation and a effort to see beyond our own narrow corner, as well as a certain humilty in our approach.
You seem to suggest that the very notion of primacy is now a specious one, tied to a dead empire, at least on the universal level. If this is so, how do you see leadership within the Church on the universal level? How is this to be coordinated? As Fr Erickson and Fr Schmemann have both shown, primacy of honor does not mean merely "honorific" - rather it entails precisely this power of co-ordination.
#25.2.1 Anonymous on 2009-05-13 21:10
France hasn't got any money, not in comparison to the Greeks in America. How can I consider such a cynical analysis? I saw what the Phanar did to +Iakovos, I read the horrifying words with which +Bartholomew enthroned +Spyridon (at end), and I've seen his non-existent pastoral care for the American people — including Greek Americans. (He does, however, take good care of his politically powerful and wealthy Archons, such as Paul Sarbanes.)
On the other hand, I am not sure the EP can be actually blamed for a lack of pastorship. Indeed, if I had doubts that the inhabitants of the Phanar could really care for America even if they wanted to, reading Fr. Lambriniadis' Holy Cross speech turned them into certainties. He sounded like an alien anthropologist whose field-research was limited to garbled television broadcasts. The accurate aspects of his address, meanwhile, raise a different problem: What should we make of people who claim authority over the whole Church in America, and yet fail to take any responsibility for the ills of the Greek Archdiocese — the one part of it that they've controlled from the beginning?
The vision for the "diaspora" that +Bartholomew laid out at the recent Synaxis is compelling, and I think it a good image of the proper exercise of an ecumenical coordinating function. But (as any review of the EP's participation in the WCC and related organizations will show) the Phanar is expert at equivocation and even simple self-contradiction for the sake of political expediency. I am open to the possibility that +Bartholomew is being sincere in this case. However, it is also possible that this latest round of consultations — at which he hopes to see "activated" the conclusions of a previous consultation from around fifteen years ago! — is no more than a maneuver to stall the increasingly strong, and now-united, Russian Church.
Further, even if what +Bartholomew proposes is carried out, the recent experience of the Antiochians should teach us that one cannot take even churchmen at their word. Unless we have ironclad legal guarantees of internal self-governance — if such a thing is even possible in American law — there's little point in having the discussion. That is a sad thing to say, but it's just the truth.
You write that dismissing the EP won't get us anywhere. I'm not so sure. No, the final goal can't be achieved without him, if only because he controls the GOA; but we don't need him to move closer to it. First, I think we are perfectly justified in ignoring his coordinating ministry if he does not actually carry it out — as he has not for many years now. And, if it so happens that he now does intend to carry it out, greater unity and maturity in self-governance among the non-EP jurisdictions can only help — not only during negotiations, but also as a unity plan is actually implemented. After all, it isn't as though the GOA has much meaningful experience of self-governance, especially where the election of bishops is concerned.
Yes, some posters here have little care for the reception of holy tradition from abroad, and some write without any compassion about the condition of the Patriarchate, and that's wrong. On the other hand, the EP has its own track-record, and people can't be blamed for taking account of it.
- A Fellow Orthodox Christian
* The address included, for example, this statement: "For even if one of [the Patriarchate's] hierarchs has every talent, every qualification, and all the other virtues, but does not have unlimited devotion and blind loyalty and lifelong gratitude, he is nothing, nothing is gained, he is but a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" .
#220.127.116.11 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-05-15 08:52
Dear Fellow Orthodox Christian -
Thanks for your very thoughtful and well-reasoned comments. Though I might still place the emphasis elsewhere, I want to say that I basically agree with you. As you've written, it is impossible to pastor the flock of an archdiocese thousands of miles away - pastor, at least, in the sense which sometimes seems to be claimed or demanded. And in fact the canons give no such privilege - at most the right of overseeing ordinations in three neighboring regions (Thrace, Pontus, Asia).
Modern Roman Catholic social teaching has articulated a wise notion which is know as the principle of subsidiarity: governmental decisions should be made, and resources allocated, by those responsible persons or bodies closest to the persons whom such decisions impact. I think a similar principle inheres in Orthodox ecclesiology and canonical tradition. Even in meeting on a universal level and promulgating some decree, the bishops can only speak with authority in as much as they represent the local churches which they head. (Which is why retired bishops can have no sitting in a synod. This, however, should not be understood in a modern parliamentarian sense: representation here is not that of democratic opinion, but rather of the catholicity of local churches, their unique participation in the truth Christ and his Church, etc).
True authority in the Church extends only as far as actual teaching, guidance and pastoral care. As in a family, one can only ask as much in obedience as one gives in care. Although we must admit that there IS clearly a legal dimension to the canons and the ecclesiology they express - if only for the sake that "all things be done decently and in order" - in actual reality the good working of this taxis depends almost entirely upon the presence of such care - such "presiding in love," to use the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch. We might say that ALL authority in the Church is in some very literal sense "stavropegial" - "rooted in the cross": established upon a participation in the self-renouncing ministry and care embodied in the chief Pastor, Jesus Christ. Apart from this, it is hard to speak of real authority. (Archbishop Demetrios' book on the Gospel of Mark, Authority and Passion, demonstrates by way of exegesis precisely this point: authority, exousia according the Gospel, demands that the one exercising it share in the Cross; authority is built upon service and the co-suffering love of the Cross).
One can forget about canon 28 of Chalcedon. One can throw that canon out completely and the primatial role of Constantinople will still stand. In the canons and in the earlier history of the Church, such primacy does not seem ever to have meant the unilateral power to appoint and remove bishops in foreign countries. (Believe it or not, although the right was claimed as early on as the "Dictatus Papae" of Gregory VII, even Rome didn't do this in most parts of Europe until the late 19th/20th c.; the practice was only made canon law for Rome in 1917.) But, as I said earlier, take away this modern development such as we still see presently in the GOA, and the primacy of Constantinople still stands: a primacy of co-ordination and of a final court of appeals in the Church. THAT at least must be recognized and respected - something which I don't hear too much of in all the reactivity of this site or from the OCA in general (with all the negative comments made about plans for a council).
It is one thing to say that the patriarchate has the right to appoint all bishops in N. America and in all the so-called "barbarian" lands (a term which I don't believe we should take as an insult, BTW - do we not live in a barbaric land?). It is quite another to say that, in the work of creating order and canonical integrity here, the first See of Constantinople should have a co-ordinating rule and act as the final court of appeals. Has Constantinople claimed anything like the first statement? Where? Did the HC faculty statement interpret Canon 28 Chalcedon as supporting such a claim? Where? I don't see it.
I do think we may be able to agree, against the current order of things, that such primacy could only be strengthened were the EP to loosen its grip on such things as appointment of bishops - then the patriarchate's true vocation as a center of communion amongst the churches might only be made more clear.
On this, I am glad you mention the very compelling and hopeful vision set forth by Patriarch Bartholomew at the synaxis held last fall. I think it deserves to be quoted, and so I will end with that. Thanks again for your reflection.
"We need, then, greater unity in order to appear to those outside not as a federation of Churches but as one unified Church. Through the centuries, and especially after the Schism, when the Church of Rome ceased to be in communion with the Orthodox, this Throne was called -- according to canonical order -- to serve the unity of the Orthodox Church as its first Throne. And it fulfilled this responsibility through the ages by convoking an entire series of Panorthodox Councils on crucial ecclesiastical matters, always prepared, whenever duly approached, to render its assistance and support to troubled Orthodox Churches. In this way, a canonical order was created and, accordingly, the coordinating role of this Patriarchate guaranteed the unity of the Orthodox Church, without in the least damaging or diminishing the independence of the local autocephalous Churches by any interference in their internal affairs. This, in any case, is the healthy significance of the institution of autocephaly: while it assures the self-governance of each Church with regard to its internal life and organization, on matters affecting the entire Orthodox Church and its relations with those outside, each autocephalous Church does not act alone but in coordination with the rest of the Orthodox Churches. If this coordination either disappears or diminishes, then autocephaly becomes "autocephalism" (or radical independence), namely a factor of division rather than unity for the Orthodox Church.
Therefore, dearly beloved brothers in the Lord, we are called to contribute in every possible way to the unity of the Orthodox Church, transcending every temptation of regionalism or nationalism so that we may act as a unified Church, as one canonically structured body."
#18.104.22.168.1 Matthew on 2009-05-15 21:14
Thanks for your reply. We do, I think, basically agree. But I wonder if you are not reading too little into the statements of the various organs of the EP. You write: "It is one thing to say that the patriarchate has the right to appoint all bishops in N. America and in all the so-called "barbarian" lands .... Has Constantinople claimed anything like [this] first statement? Where? Did the HC faculty statement interpret Canon 28 Chalcedon as supporting such a claim?"
I have trouble not reading the sentence, "The Church invested only the bishop of Constantinople with the responsibility to organize ecclesial life in the places not under the care of other Local (autocephalous) Churches" to mean just this. Why should he not organize these lands in any way he sees fit, at any time — as when he yanked out +Iakovos and gave the GOA a new charter? Or this: "Canon 28 of Chalcedon explicitly granted to the bishop of Constantinople the pastoral care for those territories beyond the geographical boundaries of the other Local (autocephalous) Churches." What else is the "pastoral care" of a bishop than (to borrow a term) "ordinary jurisdiction"?
Fr. Lambriniadis, in his address, writes of "the submission of the diaspora to the Ecumenical Patriarchate," but notes that "the Mother Church knows, however, that such a submission is difficult to be accomplished under the present historical conditions." It is only, then, "for this reason, and by employing the principle of economy" that the EP has proposed the "Pan-Orthodox Episcopal Assemblies." It seems that the "diaspora" is his world, and we just live in it. That he condescends to let others' bishops into the picture is simply an example of his munificence.
(As to the accusation that the EP makes Papal claims — if meant literally, I would call it hysterical. I do hear, though, something of it in the Phanar's endlessly repeated phrase, "the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians." I can't help but notice, too, that — considering his situation — it would certainly be in his interest to present himself as a sort of Orthodox Pope. He may, at least in his public relations, be overcompensating for the position of the Turks that his office is nothing special at all.
For whatever reason (and though I've taken no polls), I have certainly noticed a disturbing tone on-the-ground in the GOA when it comes to the EP. In fact, I once spoke with a newly graduated student of Holy Cross, who, when the question was raised as to whether a bioethical statement the EP had made was correct, simply stated: "Well, he's the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians!" New Rome has spoken ....)
#22.214.171.124.1.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-05-18 13:17
This is a very compelling comment. Maybe we in the OCA should reevaluate our fears of despots and foreign domination. Does any body care to hypothesize what would happen to our OCA parishes if we did go under the EP?
(Editor's note: I imagine the experience of the GOA offers some insight: we would become a church with "no (legal) members", our Statute would be revised to conform with the EP's wishes (as was the GOA), our Bishops would be chosen and appointed by them, and some of our assessments would go to them as well. Beyond that, probably not too terribly much else. Oh, and some people would leave preferring Russian oversight to Greek. Alaska might not take to kindly to the New Calendar.... So I imagine that if it were not free, voluntary, and agreeable to all, it would become a little ilke the old ecumenical joke: "We used to have two churches in town, then we united, and now we have three.")
#25.3 Anonymous on 2009-05-13 12:50
I liked this article, the Holy Cross Faculty make an important point, that having a bishop overseeing missionary activity is extremely important and would of avoided many of the divisions that have happened. Mother churches could still might send bishops to regions but only under the blessing of the said bishop. Also, hey the Ecumenical Patriarch only has a 40000 person flock, who better to administrate all diasporas?
However, North America has somewhere around 2500 (400 OCA, 800 GONA, 200 AOC, 100 ROCOR ...) canonical priests,not to mention 30-40 bishops. This is larger than many autocephelas churches, (though there are much larger ones such as Romania, Greece, Russia and Ukraine). Obviously we meet the criteria and need for the local attention and mission that a local autocephelas church, with largely local bishops, can provide.
I am starting to wonder, if the Council does lump us together, doesn't this bring about the unity we wanted? Can't we allow the Holy Spirit to bring about the local mission that we ask for? Perhaps instead of fighting this, we should be doing everything in our power to present a SCOBA like (or some other model) to the churches so that a NA church could become a reality.
If a model similar to Greek Archdiocese does form, I will be happy to start the change from the bottom up. At least the top-down change will have started. Unity removes some of the biggest hurdles for mission in NA.
Note: I chose priest numbers as many Orthodox churches report membership by ethnic or country population. It seems that priests is a good measure of active congregations.
(editor's note: I am not sure that is a good assumption - I know lots of priests with inactive congregations, and even some congregations with inactive priests...)
#26 Reader Michael on 2009-05-12 23:05
Good point, however when I see an orthodox church claiming 20-30m members with only 4-6000 priests, I start wondering, I have seen large churches in these countries but they usually aren't all that large to have around 4000 members. And I think that church/priest largely balances out, with exception of Alaska.
As far as the EP, it actually has shown some restraint in governing other jurisdictions under it. I know that the Carpatho-Rus Diocese along with the Ukrainian do have a large amount of autonomy. However, I don't know what a forced unity situation would be like. Most jurisdiction's laity don't even realize they are under the EP.
I would love a call by the North American world to gather and hammer out a document on an autocephelas NA Church. Lets have canon laws specialists, etc. from all NA seminaries meet along with representative bishops and hammer a document out. Perhaps they could use the original SCOBA documents. Then a quick meeting of most willing NA bishops to accept the "road map" to unity. We need to get on this quickly though!
My point is this, if unity is going to be forced on us. Lets attempt to present an alternative vision, lets go to unity on our terms. Instead of letting the terms be dictated to us. The only way we will be represented is by a document that one of the churches could hold up. ... and if it has the support of the majority of jurisdictions ... it will be pretty hard to not recognize (at the very least). I would like to call on Met. Jonah to be one of the organizers of this. But it will need representatives for the Antiochians, Russians ... etc.
We can use this council to do what we could never do for the last 100 yrs, bring the unity, and be ready with a map to fill in the uncertainty that it will create.
#26.1 Reader Michael on 2009-05-13 22:34
Here's where the rub gets me... If "barbarian lands" include all lands not typically associated with any of the ancient patriarchates, then what happens if the Orthodox Churches and Rome reunite? Surely, this would be great and wonderful, but then would all "barbarian lands" be under the guidance of Istanbul? Would the Church of Rome in America or Canada or Argentina, or Japan, or wherever, suddenly have, as their "mother church" the Church of Istanbul?
Do I not understand or would this not be the position of the EP and those at Holy Cross? Can you imagine, walking into St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and hearing "Again we pray for His Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch?" To me, that is one of the "logical ends" but in practice, seems, well... silly.
ps - Mark, you've got a great site for the reasonable sharing of ideas; please, change your "purpose" because I think you're on to something greater than financial accountability in the OCA - hopefully these discussions have revealed that!
#27 Methodios on 2009-05-13 02:29
Actually, you wouldn't be commemorating the patriarch at all, at least not during an ordinary presbyteral liturgy. The Greek practice in the US is not even to commemorate the Archbishop, but only the local bishop. This, it appears, was also the ancient practice.
#27.1 Matthew on 2009-05-13 22:44
I just want to point out that we should consider the source of this statement. The Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology has a highly problematic history when it comes to Orthodox belief.
Just look them up on the Internet and read their thoughts in their own words.
I would take anything they say with a huge grain of salt.
#28 Anonymous Antionchian on 2009-05-13 08:02
I have to just make one more comment after reading the rest of the posts here. For all those who support Holy Cross's and the EP's position, that the EP should be the world wide center of Orthodox mission my question then is the following: WHERE IS THE MISSION? I was chrismated in the GOA, and I sure as heck don't see any sort of mission within the "barbarian lands".
When priests are elevated to Bishop in major American cities, and Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants and even a few non Christians, along the local press attends, and not a single word of English is spoken, how is that a mission? How is it a mission that the only time outsiders even see the inside of one of our Churches is during the ethnic festival? That's mission? How about when people feel so unwelcomed by the Orthodox community that they never return? That's mission?
Sorry but if the EP is going to talk the talk, it should have been walking the walk for the last 50 years. Granted some of the examples I give are worst case scenarios and not all parishes under the EP are like that, (and other jurisdictions have similar issues) but I don't see the leadership the Patriarchate claims it has and desires by some sort of divine right of being successor of the first called. I don't see it in a practical sense. There is NO mission in the country within the EP jurisdictions. Yes, a few really good priests take it upon themselves to go and and follow Christ's mission, but there is nothing officially done. I bet that 98% of converts, particularly in the EP jurisdictions come to Orthodox on their own. they read about it, hear about, and discover the Church on their own. (again, there are exceptions to that rule) But where is the logger? Where is the guy with grease under his finger nails? Where is the stealworker? Where are the poor and down trodden? Where are the millions and millions of people who are not Christian (or even part of any historical religion), but are seeking "something", even they do not know what that something is? Is the OCA perfect. NO it's far from it. But the Russian Mission, which became the OCA has done more missionary work in the last 200 years in North America than the EP has done in centuries throughout the "barbarian lands" of the whole world. In Alaska there are Churches in the OCA that are primarily Native American in descent. Well there are plenty of Native Americans in other parts of the country as well, some places where the EP has parishes, yet I do not see even ICONS of American saints, let alone a Church full of Native Americans, or even "white converts"!
I understand that converts have their problems, and all convert Churches can be problematic too, I agree with "some" of the arguments made by the EP over the last 2 or 3 months, but not the arguments being made now. The EP wants to be the center of missionary activity in the world, ok..then BE the center of missionary activity in practice first!
A disgruntled GOA loyalist.....
#29 Chuck Shingledecker on 2009-05-13 08:57
Dear Chuck: There is an interesting letter on ocl.org from a parishoner who tries to get his Greek church to evangelize.
#29.1 Michael Strelka on 2009-05-15 07:11
There is no more Empire. Therefore, discussing Canon 28 is absurd.
Autocephalous or not, autonomous or not, self-ruling or not, how can the old-world bishops possibly discuss what will happen to the Church in America without inviting the American bishops to the discussion?!?
It's patently absurd!
#31 Priest Christopher Wojcik on 2009-05-13 11:31
I know that many who have expressed themselves on this website, including the editor of this website, do not take seriously the imminence of the Second Coming, just as the leaders of Israel did not understand the First Coming. However, if our Lord was to return in the next few months, weeks, or days how would He deal with all of this?
Although our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ has saved us all, how many of us are willing, even within the full revelation of the Church, to actualize this basic reality in our own lives?
Does anyone seriously think that those who are supportive of these evil corruptions of Church leadership, instead of seeking the Kingdom of God, will be favourably judged if our Lord returns soon?
Do not be deceived, be counted among the wise virgins and not among the foolish ones. "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36)."
(Editor's note: I take the Second Coming seriously, friend. Otherwise I would be wasting my time with this site....)
#32 Marc Trolinger on 2009-05-13 15:03
I applaud +Archbishop Stephen's remarks in his statement, essentially pushing the issue to the "bottom line": if the Ecumenical Patriarchate wishes to be recognized as the mother Church, it is high time it started acting like a loving mother!!
Concerning the statement from Holy Cross, I again reiterate that that is no longer any such city as Constantinople, nor has there been for a long time!! It is now Istanbul, under the oppressive thumbnail of the Turks, as is the Ecumenical Patriarch!! I also laugh at the frivolous claims about +Bartholomew in this statement, such as +Bartholomew's principle of "non-intervention in the affairs of other churches". Really?? Well, just ask all of those clergy who met a few years ago in Ligonier, PA, about +Bartholomew's "non-interference" and see what you get for an answer!!! This statement from Brookline began on an insulting note when it spoke of the "communion of the fourteen Autocephalous Churches." Excuse me, but, contrary to this ludicrous article, the granting to the OCA from Russia as the 15th Autocephalous Church was not done uncanonically!! This article also states regarding +Bartholomew that "he does not wield unrestricted administrative power. He is not an infallible judge of matters of faith." He actions, as well as this article, state otherwise. This entire article from Brookline is an apologetic for +Bartholomew's "unrestricted administrative power" and a defense of his "infallibility" as Ecumenical Patriarch. It quotes +Dimitrios, from his visit to Washington, DC, in 1990, as stating that our situation is "a scandal that is exacerbated whenever phyletistic motives play a part". That is precisely what is occurring here, an apologetic for the Hellenization of the Church in America. Even our mother Church, the Orthodox Church in Russia, does not require a "russifying" of the OCA!!! The defending of the interference from Istanbul by references to canon 28 of Chalcedon is parallel to trying to operate a modern, hybrid car with a computerized engine by installing the transmission from a Model T Ford!! In other words, it's antiquated and it doesn't fit!!! It is true that our present multi-jurisdictional situation of America is a scandal. In fact, according to Fr Meyendorff (of blest memory!) and Fr Thomas Hopko, it's a heretical situation!! Unfortunately, the Ecumenical Patriarch, if he were honest enough about his own behavior in the current situation, would have to admit that he is not part of the solution, but part of the problem!!!
Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!!
#33 David Barrett on 2009-05-13 15:26
No doubt all the "foreign bishops" who wish to maintain their control over North American Orthodox has been increasing, not diminishing. The Phanar; the Antiochians; the Russians; the Romanians; etc. WHY? Economic pressures must surely be one reason. The worldwide recession/depression puts pressure on "old country" patriarchs to look for more & more $$$. Rich Americans, of course. Besides this, the prestige of being and remaining an "international" entity proclaiming the fallacy of the "Orthodox Diaspora." Anyone reading here planning to go back and live in the land of their ancestors? Want to be a goat herder? How about a serf?
The absolute stupidity of the claims of foreign bishops should incite North American Orthodox to UNITE and tell them all to stick it. Yet, we have many who want to keep the foreign bishops ruling over them.
#34 Anonymous on 2009-05-14 07:03
The foreign bishops are dealing with large muslim communities which are much larger than their own orthodox communitieis in the so-called non-barbaric lands. Seems to me the EP has it backwards, America (US is a world power and nonbarbaric). Turkey is a muslim country with a tiny Orthodox community. Lebanon, Palestine, Kuwait, Syria, etc. are heavily muslim with a tiny Orthodox community. The EP wants to be seen as the "Pope" of Orthodoxy and continually talks with the Western Pope Benedict. My husband's family is Roman Catholic and they are always anxious to tell us what talks the EP has with the Pope inferring that the EP is our bishop. We have to say the EP is just another Orthodox bishop, who can't make these decisions unilaterlally like the Pope of Rome does with the worldwide Roman Catholic community. We are in the OCA, I grew up in the Metropolia. I will not submit to the EP. Whatever the outcome is next month is not final until the laity approves it. The EP is in no position to dictate to the Orthodox Church in America on how to administer the OCA. Unity will occur in the United States without the interference of foreign bishops. The bishops in the US, regardless of jurisdiction, and the laity will make the decisions regarding their Orthodox Churches. I'm not saying that it will occur in 2009 nor in my lifetime. The EP and Antioch want the US because it would give them power and authority and with that American dollars. If the US was not a world power, they wouldn't care about our churches.
#34.1 anonymous on 2009-05-19 07:13
After re-reading the interview and all the comments, I heartiiy agree with His Beatitude Met. Jonah. There really is an American Orthodox Church - For all its perceived weaknesses, the OCA was given a gift by God - That of Autocephaly. Of course, I was saddened when His Beatitude recalled an unfortunate incident at a Greek Church when he was told: *What are you doing here if you are not Greek*. I too have experienced such and it leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth.
The Missive from Brookline is, quite frankly, a shillpiece written by the gang at Holy Cross in support of the *wanna-be pope of Istanbul*.
Memo to Brookline: *Leave It Alone*!!!!!!! Give it up, guys! We can ill afford to be at each others throats over Canon 28.
This discussion has turned ridiculous and reminds me of a certain U.S. Secretary of Defense that started this "Old World" & "New World" drivel while trying to create a "New World." The parsing and interpretations as justification to create an "American Church" are disingenuous. If you want to be part of an "American Church" than become a Baptist or Methodist, Unitarian or whatever your heart and mind tell you.
When I'm in Church on Sunday there's a certain part of the Liturgy where all the congregants arise and recite the "Old World" Creed--it's really quite an incredible document that has resolved all conflicts about doctrines, dogmas as distilled into this extraordinarily terse, concise and comprehensive recitation that comprises our entire Orthodoxy--every word and punctuation mark is important. I draw your attention to the following affirmation of our Orthodox faith:
"[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."
The modern day "New World" apologists in essence are espousing something very alien in my thinking and belief that directly contravenes the very meaning of an "apostolic Church" into the Church of Jonah or whatever you want to call it and I don't buy it--I don't want it--and talk of this kind from my own Orthodox brothers and sisters does indeed make me think the end of times isn't that far off. The "disobedience" that hierarchs, clergy and laity are now undertaking with habitual regularity in the guise of searching for "truth" is also nonsense and an Americanized "Larry King" styled aberration of our faith.
The Church is NOT A DEMOCRACY and our Lord never intended it to be--I don't know what kind of monastery setting His Beatitude thinks he came from but if it is Varlaam style then it is Athonite--and if its Athonite "obiedence," "watchfullness," "stillness," "humility," "SILENCE," are certainly "Old World" values he has largely ignored. The OCA is mired in problems and this bait and switch of attention will not only have negative repercussions for the OCA but also scandalizes the Church and causes us all to sin--even this post in my gut tells me that I'm meddling and prattling and thus doing nothing profitable for my soul.
With all respect to Mr. Stokoe, I think this website is an abomination in many ways--rather than bring us closer to God, to His Image & Likeness and brings us farther apart in many ways--I'm sure that's not what he intends, but that's the result.
The "Old World" is as timeless as mathematics and a lot deeper and more complex than we can ever imagine. The "Old World" could see the atom and the quasar without the electron microscope and Hubble telescope--the "Old World" saw, learned and comprehended through spiritual eyes and ears not "online" and theirs is the timeless way and not an amalgamation and dilution of what many here advocate for--an aberration of that "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."
#36 E. Nuff-Allreddy on 2009-05-14 15:33
It should be noted that many of the critiques of the EP's position are both common 'New World' positions, as well as the position of many an Old World patriarchate not closely bound to the control or influence of the Phanar (i.e., Jerusalem, Alexandria, Cyprus, Greece). Athos is a prime example of rather stolid resistance to many of the EP's positions, and they are under the EP's omophorion.
This is not an ecclesiastical Rumsfeld Doctrine of Old vs. New World; there is broad resistance to many of the claims and positions of the 20th-century-forward EP throughout Orthodoxy. (That doesn't make the dissenters right, of course, but neither can it be waved off as simply an 'immature', 'New World' position.)
Sin is what separates us, not exposure of sin
#36.2 Michael Bauman on 2009-05-15 16:22
This is absurd! The Creed is not "old world" or "new world", it is Christian, period! There is nothing "old world" about it, other than it was composed there.
Secondly, according to saint Paul there is neither Jew nor Greek, nor for that matter, Greek nor American, or Italian or any other "ethnic club" that takes prescedence over everyone else. Paul's argument is that one does not have to become Jewish to become a Christian, so then, why is it Americans have to become "Greek" or "Russian" or whatever else to become Orthodox?
The Church does and has ALWAYS adapted to local cultures, languages, lines of thought, etc... the tradition is known as "baptizing" cultures, customs and even religious practices in line with Orthodoxy. That's why those in a Greek Church are aloud to do "Greek things", and Russian Churches are aloud to do "Russian things" and Romanian Churches are aloud to do "Romanian things". That's why we have Liturgical variations, like the very Greek custom of having red easter eggs, or using philosophy to explain the faith, (which Russians almost never do, which is why I can understand Russian monastic writings, but never understand Greek monastic writings) or using the Greek language at all for that matter.
It's why we have icons of Jesus where he looks like a Greek man, instead of a 1st century Jew.
It's why the Church could use Byzantine Chant, and Gregorian (in the pre-Schism West), and we're not all chanting in Hebrew and Aramaic to this day.
The Church was allowed, no encouraged, to adapt in Greece and becoming a unique Greek rite within the Church so that people of that culture and thought process could adapt to and understand the faith better.
What?! America doesn't get it's own Church but Greece does!?! This is absurd. It's the opposite of the other side of the argument some Americans give that "America is different, so we must do away with all these weird practices like too many icons, and begin to use organs, and pews, and use less incense, and have our priests dress like "everyone else" because we're just too different..." (BTW quite ironically those arguments were made by the ETHNIC parishes under the jurisdiction of the EP and NOT by the OCA)
There is nothing uniquely bizarre or unusual about America per se. It's like any other country, or people in the history of the Church. We get to be American, AND Orthodox, it's not one or the other.
Greece and the Greek world was at one time in the position that America is now, "do we have to become Jews, or think like the people of Palestine to join this new religion??", and Paul, and eventually the rest of the Church (albeit begrudgingly at first) said NO. You get to remain Greek. So now jump forward 2000 years, and the same argument is rising up again....do Americans get to remain Americans, or do they have to join another culture in order to become Christian? The Scriptures and Holy Tradition is pretty clear on this.
Your answer that, "if you want to be American become a baptist" is uncalled for, not to mention illogical. (as well as historically inaccurate since baptists exist in other parts of the world too)
If we take this argument to it's logical conclusion, and everyone has to change to a totally different culture in order to become Christian, then logically we all better go join the Syriac Orthodox Church, (the non-Chalcedonian Church I'm speaking of) because at least they have preserved the actual and literal culture that Jesus of Nazareth and the Apostles were a part of, still using Aramaic, the very language Jesus himself spoke. The very culture and world view of Jesus and the Apostles, is the "oldest" of the "old world" Churches. That's right, the path back to "original" Christianity does not end in Greece, (or Russia or anywhere else), but it ends in Palestine, and the Syriac Church has preserved that culture to this day. (strangely enough Ethiopia is a close finisher) Of course I bet the Phanar isn't willing to start using Aramaic instead of koine Greek, and I bet Greeks aren't willing to let their Churches look a whole lot more like a Synagogue, and I'm sure the first argument they'd use is St. Paul's "you don't have to be a Jew to be a Christian" and so the argument comes full circle.
Why is Paul's writing valid for one part of the world, (the old world) but not the other? (the new world)
It's totally silly to even be talking about this. Look, I love all things Byzantine, and am the first to stand up and say that the American Church is young, and needs "some support", what it doesn't need is to be told that you have to stop being American to be Orthodox. If nationhood were truly what it meant to be a a Godly person, then perhaps Judaism is the right path at least it's been consistent for 3000 years!
If nations that were totally pagan (like Greece and Russia) can become Christian, then certainly America, which at least has some semblance of what it means to be a Christian (albeit a radically incomplete view) can.
No one in the OCA is looking to "un-Orthodox" the Orthodox Church. As I said, the Churches that have done the most to look and appear less Orthodox are in fact those under the EP, not the OCA. The OCA isn't perfect, full of problems like every other Church, but they were here a century before the EP was, and so have a a better understanding of what mission in North America truly is.
All this coming from a proud member of the GOA......
#36.3 Chuck Shingledecker on 2009-05-16 09:19
While the various historical and canonical arguments presented are interesting; they simply continue a circular argument that neither side can win! Nothing will be gained by rehashing arguments from canons written to address situations that occurred centuries ago, before any Christian was aware that the New World even existed! We need to acknowledge that the situation in North America is unprecedented, and needs a practical and pastoral solution. What is truly needed is a dose of reality and common sense!
With the best of wishes, and hopes for his success, I would like to offer His Beatitude some common sense advice from the heartland:
First, if you are going to pick a fight, don’t do it with someone three times your size.
The simple fact is that he Greek Archdiocese is the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in North America, with more parishioners than all the other communities combined. The Greek Archdiocese has the largest fund raising base, the largest budget and the largest fund of assets. The Greek Archdiocese is the most widely recognized Orthodox jurisdiction. (How many “My Big Fat OCA Wedding” movies have any of you seen?) The Greek Archdiocese has universal recognition (accurately or inaccurately, fairly or unfairly, canonically or non-canonically – decide for yourself) as a legitimate, canonical Orthodox establishment.
The OCA is nearly, if not actually, bankrupted. It lacks recognition by most of the Orthodox Patriarchates. The OCA has a population a fraction of size of the GOA, a population that has shrunk by half over the past 3 decades!
The OCA’s status is disputed, or at least unrecognized by a majority of the ancient and modern sees. Even the Moscow Patriarchate manages to act as if the Tomos of Autocephaly never existed. The MP-ROCOR reunion flagrantly and specifically violated the written terms of the Tomos. ROCOR clergy, including Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, still deny the legitimacy of the OCA, and do so with implicit permission from Moscow.
Given the reality on the ground, what one earth possessed the Metroplitan to throw down the gauntlet before the Ecumenical Patriarch? His Beatitude’s comments weren’t just ‘uncharitable’, they were (speaking frankly) stupid! Why pick a fight with the EC and the GOA, especially now?
The results have been predictable and potentially disastrous. Metropolitan Jonah has been disinvited to the Phanar. Thus, his best chance to make the case for the OCA has been lost. The clerics and theologians of the GOA have circled the wagons in support of their senior, and beloved, First Hierarch! What else would you expect? Instead of confrontation, try making nice with the other jurisdictions. We came close to finding unity in 1994. There are clergy and hierarchs in every jurisdiction who long for unity. Witness the continued Orthodox Sunday Liturgies concelebrated by Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and our Bishop Basil of Wichita. Remember, the ultimate goal of the OCA’s leaders in he 60’s and 70’s was UNITY; not necessarily autocephaly. You’ll catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar. Write a heartfelt letter of apology to His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and re-emphasize the importance of unity, however it is achieved.
Second, be careful about looking for love in all the wrong places.
The Moscow Patriarchate may seem like a safe harbor; but Moscow is neither in a position to advocate for the OCA, nor is it necessarily committed to the OCA. Have you forgotten that just one year ago, senior clerics of the Moscow Patriarchate were gleefully predicting the imminent demise of the OCA? The Moscow Patriarchate is hopelessly compromised by its relationship to the Putin dictatorship, which has committed horrific crimes against Orthodox Christians in Georgia and elsewhere. The Russian government is determined to follow a belligerent, anti-American course. Re-binding the church to the MP and the Putin regime will doom any hope for Fr. Schmemann’s dream of a church that is “fully Orthodox and fully American.”
Third, building monasteries is no panacea, nor is monastic tradition defined by nationalistic or phyletistic categories. The Valaam monastery was founded by Greek monks trained in the Athonite tradition. Fr. Ephraim has founded three dozen monasteries here in North America, which following that tradition. Why is a competing, and (different?) tradition required? Practically, getting immigrant visas for monks would be problematic, at best. You can’t call them students, nor essential employees. There really is no basis to get them a visa. What is more, it is no secret that the overseas posting of Russian clergy is a primary cover for Russian security agents. Even if you trust the Russian clergy you import, the U.S. government will assume they are agents. Does the OCA really need such attention at this time? Why not try to support and strengthen the monastic communities you already have?
Your Beatitude, speaking frankly, (and you yourself called for frank dialog); you need to Get Real! High minded theoretical discourses on canons, history and ecclesiology may be fun in seminary, or the monastery. But you are in an important and public role in the real world. Its time to wise up: and to look at your situation with honesty, humility and practicality.
Best wishes to you and your flock.
Christ Is Risen ! Truly Risen !
Francis (speaking Frankly) Frost
#37 Francis Frost on 2009-05-14 18:02
I like your opening, but I'll take the Holy Spirit any day over money, leverage, power, size and buildings. Remeber Gideon? The question should be 'where is the Holy Spirit is leading us'?
Everything else is irrelevant.
It is no accident that we are having to fight through a lot of division to even begin to ask the right question, let alone discern the answer.
The Holy Spirit defines the cannons, the cannons do not define the Holy Spirit.
I also think you have the instigator of this particular conflict backwards. The EP threw down the gauntlet through his Archmandrite's confusing, insulting comments at Holy Cross.
The GOA's size does not offer an effective balance to its failure of moral leadership, especially on abortion, and its continuing effort to unite with Rome.
The hierarchs who start acting like shepards instead of wolves are the ones we should follow. Right now we seem to have a dearth of them no matter where we look. Right now there are only three in the U.S. that seem to be shepards (based on my personal knowledge (+Basil, +Job, Met. Joseph--Met Jonah has possibilities)), I pray there are more, I'm sure there are. I also pray that God strengthens them and reveals them to us.
If it turns out there is only one righteous bishop, I'd rather follow him that all the rest together regardless of the 'jurisdiction', or the numbers or any of the rest. The Church is not utilitarian or practical. She is profoundly personal and radically impractical.
#37.1 Michael Bauman on 2009-05-15 16:43
I think that Met. Jonah's priorities are different than yours. St. Ambrose stood up to a man "three times his size.". Fact is, making nice isn't the point. The immediate-- comes to a head in June -- moral condition is, as is the salvation of souls.
I'm also befuddled by your cynicism and comprehensive conclusiveness. But so many here are so sure about so much, not least is the inner motivations of the hierarchs.
#37.2 Rdr. Tracey on 2009-05-15 19:46
Now somebody here is talking reality. With all the snottiness so often vented towards the GOA by many of those who most zealously about unity and evangelization, it is good to be reminded that not only is the GOA the largest, most universally respected, and most stable Orthodox church in this country - it is also the church whose leaders were responsible for spearheading SCOBA, IOCC, and the OCMC; it is also the church with the largest educational ministry on the ground level, the most visible public face, the strongest ties with Orthodoxy throughout the world, the most monasteries, the most opportunities for scholars and youth leaders and others who want to serve the Church as their full-time vocation...
It is also a multi-generational church. Granted that "custom" does not equal "tradition," in a church which so prizes tradition and experience, this is important. Outside of the traditional rust-belt, where the OCA is really only the slightly larger
(and faux Russified) Carpatho-Russian jurisdiction (although even there the bishops are converts), the OCA is run almost entirely by converts. Where are the families? The GOA has actually made ministry to families (ie not just intellectuals or protestants who read Church history) a priority - just take a look at the very fine magazine "Praxis" published by the GOA department of education. (Compare this with the OCA magazine The Orthodox Church, which is mostly a museum of episcopal vestments).
Without such sensitivity to the multi-generational family dynamic - something which, BTW, playing the ANTI-ETHNIC card has only been proven to KILL - Church life in our cultural context all too easily takes on an individualistic conformity to the "conversionist" paradigm of American protestantism. Or a false intellectualism takes over. One thinks of Cardinal Newman's words regarding Anglo-Catholicism (also a religious phenomenon which lacked a multi-generational continuity): "Anglo-Catholicism has slept on bookshelves."
"Remember, the ultimate goal of the OCA’s leaders in he 60’s and 70’s was UNITY; not necessarily autocephaly."
How many times have we heard people on this website invoke the "vision" of Frs. Florovsky, Schmemman and Meyendorff when speaking of autocephaly, yet with no recognition of this fact. In actual fact, Fr Florovsky himself envisioned an American church united under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and with the Greeks taking the leadership (for those who doubt this, see George H. Williams 1965 article in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review: "Georges Florovsky: His American Career.") Although he was dean of St Vladimir's for a short time and served at the OCA parish in Trenton during the last years of his life, he had nothing to do with the autocephaly of the OCA. He spent most of his life as a priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and he died as such.
Schmemman and Meyendorff also initially sought to place the Metropolia under the care of the EP (as was the situation with the Russians in France) before eventually receiving the Tomos from Moscow. (Too bad Athenagoras blew that one). Schmemann clearly rejected the view that the EP's primacy was merely honorific (see the essay, "The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology"). Read Meyendorff's volumes of collected essays and one will also find that he envisioned a stronger primatial role for the EP - not a weaker one.
At the risk of generalizing too much, it was a theologically and canonically unified public Orthodox witness that was the crucial concern of these men - not autocephaly. The autocephaly tomos - negotiated at Vatican II with meetings between Schmemann and Met. Nikodim of Leningrad - was in fact a way of receiving "legitimation" from Moscow for a jurisdiction which had been viewed by many in America as semi-canonical (rather as ROCOR also was viewed before the reunion with Moscow), and during a time when few were trustful of being under the direct influence of Moscow.
Unity, not autocephaly. How unfortunate that Patriach Athenagoras did not take the Metropolia in when they were asking for it in the '60's. Athenagoras told them to deal with their "Mother Church" - which they did. An fact which Archimandrite Elpidophoros conveniently failed to note in his criticisms of the OCA this spring.
#37.3 Anonymous on 2009-05-15 22:20
I actually do not agree with much of what you said...lol! However I'd rather focus on where I do agree because that is ultimately more productive for those who are willing to learn from each other.
I completely and utterly agree that the OCA should NOT see Moscow as a safe harbor. My fear is that the OCA is going to end up losing it's self rule status, and become a diocese of Moscow, and that would be a disaster. I don't know what the answer is, but Moscow definitely isn't the answer. (just as the EP hasn't been the answer for us in the GOA) And neither is buddying up to the EP just because the GOA has all the money. If the OCA is doing the right thing, regardless of their financial status, God will provide.
But indeed, Moscow, especially going back under Moscow as basically a puppet diocese would be the death blow to the OCA, and IMO Orthodoxy in the country for at least a century, maybe even longer.
I also agree that building monasteries is not the answer to the Church's problems either. I'm not sure what he was thinking by saying that.....
#37.4 Chuck Shingledecker on 2009-05-16 09:30
I have a question that someone else will hopefully be able to answer. At times I have wondered, despite how uninspired I feel when I hear His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew speak, whether it might not simply be at least a step toward true unity if the jurisdictions were united under him. Ultimately, I do believe that unity is the more important issue. On the other hand, it has occurred to me that the Greeks, some of the Ukrainians, and (I think) others are currently under his authority. Is anyone aware of any united efforts between these jurisdictions beyond what all jurisdictions experience through SCOBA? Has the EP actually fostered true "unity" of mission and fellowship amongst those jurisdictions already under his authority? My impression, though I may well be wrong, is that he has been unsuccessful in promoting anything more than the "parallel" existence we all experience. This indicates, to me, that perhaps he would be unsuccessful as well in uniting our varied jurisdictions even were we all to be nominally under his authority.
#38 Brian on 2009-05-14 19:29
Surely you've heard the term "divide and concor"? Well, the EP has a slightly different take: "keep divided and keep concored". Under the EP, there will never be unity. BTW, great post!
#38.1 Steve on 2009-05-17 10:40
Dear Mr. Stokoe:
You may find the following newsworthy:
This past week the official website of the Georgian Patriarchate announced that the Georgian parishes in North America will henceforth be administered by Metropolitan Dmitri of Batumi. While this appears on the surface to be a purely administrative move, this action does have some significant consequence for the OCA, and the entire Orthodox community in North America. Read the statement of the Georgian Patriarchate here:
Until now, the few Georgian communities in New York and Washington DC. have been under the omophorion of the OCA metropolitan. A new Georgian parish with approximately 3,000 members was recently formed in the Philadelphia area. The parish has plans to construct a church edifice and has been sent a priest from Georgia. This community, which would potentially have been one of the largest in the OCA, will now be administered directly by the Georgian Patriarchate. Presumably, the other Georgian parishes in North America will also now be administered by the Patriarchate, rather than by the OCA.
The Georgian American community is growing as a result of immigration fueled by the large number of refugees from the three Russian invasions of Georgia, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of over 400,000 Georgian Orthodox Christians (a full 10% of the total population) from their homes and livelihoods. Furthermore, the continued threats by the Russian regime and constant attempts to undermine the Georgian government and economy have kept the Georgian people in poverty. Large numbers of young people have emigrated to Greece, Western Europe, and the U.S in order to earn some money and support their families back home.
Historically, the hierarchs of the Georgian Patriarchate have had cordial relationships with those of the Moscow Patriarchate. Many of them studied together before Georgia had its own seminaries. Until last December, Patriarch Aleksei continued to recognize and support the territorial integrity of the Georgian Patriarchate (at least publicly). In December, the Moscow Patriarchate suffered severe financial losses due to the collapse of the Moscow real estate market. Patriarch Aleksei requested a financial bail out from the Putin government. Since that time, a number of senior Russian clergymen including the new Patriarch Kyrill have made anti-Georgian statements, declaring that Georgia "deserved" to be invaded, and declaring intent to organize church life in the occupied territories.
In reality, this has already occurred for many years. The Moscow Patriarchate established, staffed and funded a non-canonical "Autonomous Abkhaz Eparchy" on the territory of, and within the seized churches and monasteries of the legitimate Georgian Orthodox Diocese of Sokhumi, whose bishop Daniel still presides over his diocese in exile. Just his past March, the clergy of the St George Monastery in the Kodori region were expelled from their monastery at gunpoint by the occupation forces.
This issue may be addressed during the upcoming Pan Orthodox meeting. His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew has expressed unswerving commitment to the territorial integrity of the Georgian Patriarchate and its dioceses. There is a clear case to be made against the MP and its proxies in Abkhazia, that could conceivably result in their deposition from the episcopacy! if nothing else, it will certainly counter the Muscovite's claim to uphold the purity of the canonical tradition and their accusations against the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
What complicates the situation in America, is a growing attachment of some in the OCA for the Russian "mother church". In recent interviews, Metropolitan Jonah suggested giving a bishop of the Russian Synod a seat on the OCA's governing Synod He also declared an interest to establish a Russian monastery of the "Valaam tradition" in the Eastern United States. Given the abominable treatment of innocent Orthodox Christians in Georgia by the Russian government, the cozy relationship between the MP and the Putin dictatorship, and the growing attachment of Metropolitan Jonah and the MP; it may simply be too uncomfortable for Georgian Christians to remain under the umbrella of the OCA. Hence, the move to establish a direct link to the Patriarchate back home. Given the fact that the OCA's Romanian Archdiocese has moved to reunite with its Mother Church, there is little reason to deny the Georgian parishes the same option.
This action may have wider consequences for the OCA. The Georgian Patriarchate was the first of the ancient sees to recognize the OCA’s autocephaly. Until this time the Georgian Patriarchate has scrupulously honored the prerogatives of the OCA’s hierarchy in America. This decision of the Georgian Patriarchate is an apparent retreat from that commitment. It would seem that the OCA’s growing ties to Moscow, may alienate other potential supporters of the OCA’s position vis-à-vis the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
An additional concern for Georgian Americans, is that without a bishop or administration to speak out on their behalf, they have been neglected by the existing Orthodox leadership in America. In the past, the Orthodox bishops have spoken out individuall, and corporately through SCOBA, on issues of concern to Orthodox Christians. They denounced the bombing of Serbia, and the invasion of Iraq. Yet last summer, when military forces of the Russian government illegally invaded the sovereign territory of the Republic of Georgia, and deliberately targeted civilian populations (a fact verified by published reports of the UN and OSCE observers, as well as Human Right Watch), the Orthodox leadership in America remained silent. What is more, a para-church organization, listed on the OCA’s official website, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, published a “Timeline”, which the OPF claimed justified the invasion of Georgia. This “Timeline” was both inaccurate, and defamatory against he innocent victims of aggression.
Below is my response to the OPF Timeline. Given this history, it should be clear why the Georgian-American community might seek to distance itself from the OCA.
Orthodox Peace Fellowship
Dear Brother James:
I have considered your request that I compose an “Appeal for Peace in Georgia. Thank you for your concern for the many victims of this war. I am sure such an appeal would be much appreciated, even at this late date. First, I would ask that you and your fellowship consider sending financial help to the 130,000 displaced persons through the IOCC, which has set up a fund for that purpose. As your own namesake, James the Brother of the Lord, taught us, it is not enough to bless the destitute. We must help them!
Donations may be sent to IOCC at:
International Orthodox Chrisitan Charities
P.O. Box 630225
Baltimore, MD 21298-8503
While an “An Appeal for Peace in Georgia” would be a comforting balm to the wounded; I must decline your kind invitation to participate. I have good reason to doubt the motives and sincerity of your organization. The actions of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship during the invasion of last August demonstrate a clear bias against the victims of the Russian military invasion. Given OPF’s immediate publication of a statement, justifying the invasion, with the attendant atrocities, I find it hard to rely on OPF to issue and honest appeal on behalf of those victims.
While the fighting was still raging and while innocent civilians were being bombed and burnt to death in their own homes, your organization published a “Timeline of Events”, and claimed that his timeline proved that the Georgian military had initiated the conflict.
This timeline was factually inaccurate and incomplete. The conclusion of the article, which blamed the Georgians for the invasion of their own country, was untrue and clearly biased.
This “timeline” omitted critical facts and ignored the relevant history. The OPF timeline failed to report that:
1. Samechablo (South Ossetia) was and is, undisputedly an inherent, and universally recognized part of the Georgian national territory, despite 16 years of armed occupation by Russian military forces.
2. The military forces of the Russian federation, along with Ossetian militias first invaded Samechablo in 1990, killing hundreds, and displacing 46,000 ethnic Georgians in an attempt to create an Ossetian “majority” in the region.
3. Despite written guarantees in the OSCE sponsored 1990 cease fire agreement, Russian “peacekeepers” acted as an armed occupation force. The Russian military routinely interfered with the ability of Georgian peacekeepers to supply needed aid to the Georgian villages in the region. The Russian “peacekeepers” provided arms to Eduard Kokoity’s armed militia, and stood aside while the Ossetians carried out armed attacks on unarmed Georgian villagers.
4. In 1993, the military of the Russian federation accompanied by Shamil Basayev’s North Caucasus militia, invaded the territory of Abkhazia, killing tens of thousands of Georgians, and ethnically cleansing 300,000 Georgians, who comprised 46 % of the pre-invasion population. (The Apsni, or so-called Abkhazians, never comprised more than 18 % of Abkhazia’s population) Not content with ethnic cleansing, the Russian air-force strafed the fleeing refugees with gunfire, killing thousands more. (This terror tactic was used again in the August 2008 invasions).
5. For three weeks prior to the invasion of August 7th, Kokoity’s militia carried out daily mortar and missile attacks on the villages of Tamarsheni and Egnati, using military hardware supplied by the Russian “peacekeepers” , while those “peacekeepers” looked on and took no action to stop the attacks.
6. Vladimir Putin’s regime delivered Russian passports to the Ossetians living in Samechablo, declaring them ‘Russian citizens’ .He used this as a pretext for the invasion, saying that he was obligated to “defend” Russian citizens anywhere, even outside Russian territory. At the same time, Putin denied the Georgian government the right to defend its citizens INSIDE Georgian territory. These positions violate the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
7. The Russian government routinely flaunted the rule of law, by ignoring multiple injunctions issued by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which ordered the Russian military to allow Georgian refugees the right to return to their homes. The Russian government refused to comply with the OSCE cease-fire agreements that gave the Georgian government the right to assist its citizens in the occupied territories. To this day, the Russian government has failed to live up to the terms of the Sarkozy agreement. The Russian government has not withdrawn its combat forces; but rather has increased them, and increased the area of occupation. The Russian government has refused to allow UN and OSCE observers into the occupied territories, preventing the investigation of the mass murders and other atrocities committed against the Georgian population. The Russian military deliberately targeted civilians in an attempt to terrorize the Georgian population, in violation of international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Having omitted these critical facts, the OPF declared that the Georgians were guilty of initiating the conflict. This conclusion is now refuted, by Dmitri Medvedyev, himself!
In a televised interview on December 24th, Medvedyev declared three times that the success of the invasion of Georgian and the low number of Russian casualties, were due to the careful advance planning of the invasion. Medvedyev admitted that during the weeks of attacks on Georgian villages, “Saakashvili was calling every day” in an attempt to defuse the situation. When Saakashvili realized that the Russian government was merely increasing its demands, he cut off the talks. Medvedyev admits that it was then, in early July that the Russian military began preparations for the invasion. Medvedyev now admits that the purpose of the invasion was to topple the Georgian government and kill President Saakashvili. Vladimir Putin had previously admitted to French Presdient Sarkozy, in subsequently published rmarks, that his intent was to conquer Georgia and “hang Saakashvili by his balls”. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, publicly threatened to “annihilate the Georgian nation” in a televised interview.
Given the public statements and the continuing threats made by the leaders of the Russian government, it is perfectly clear that it was the Russian government and military, who carried out an illegal invasion of the Republic of Georgia – an invasion in which civilian targets in five cities outside the so-called “zone of conflict” were bombed, killing thousands. Even today, 130,000 Georgians remain homeless and destitute, their farms and livelihoods destroyed by the occupation forces. The total number of Georgian citizens, who have been ethnically cleansed from their homes after three invasions, is over 400,000, a full 10% of the Georgian population. Not content with stealing livestock, produce and property, the Russian soldiers fired thousands of homes, orchards and dozens of villages.
Given the clear and well documented evidence of atrocities committed by the invaders, those who declare the Russian actions “justified” are either dishonest, or merely delusional.
The Georgian people do not need some pathetic “appeal” issued by feckless, intellectual chatterers. The Georgian people know that this is a spiritual struggle, for the demons “can only be cast out by prayer and fasting” as Our Lord Jesus taught. The Georgian faithful will continue this spiritual warfare against the “strongholds in high places” under the direction of His Holiness, Patriarch Ilya, who has assured the people that Georgia will be whole. The Georgian people have suffered such invasions and devastations throughout history, and have survived by faith, under the protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, and the prayers of the hundreds of thousands of Georgian martyrs. In the year 1227, the Turkoman Sultan Jalal-al-Din martyred 100,000 in Tbilisi, because they refused to desecrate the Holy Icons. In the 16h century, Shah Abbas captured 300,000 Georgians from Kakhetia, and deported them to Iran, where most of them died as martyrs. In the 18th century thousands were martyred in Lazeti by the Turks. The land of Georgia is the sacred inheritance of the Most Holy Theotokos, where her Holy Robe is kept. The land of Georgia has been sanctified by the blood of the countless martyrs. Georgia has been invaded and devastated scores of times, yet every ruler that has invaded Georgia, has been destroyed. Every kingdom that attacked or plundered Georgia has disappeared from the earth. This is now the third invasion and devastation of Georgia by the forces of the new Russian imperialists. They too, will suffer the very fate that Lavrov wished for Georgia. “He loved cursing. Let the curses fall on his own head.” Psalm 108:17
If you care about the Russian nation, then pray for Russia’s leaders to repent, for without repentence, the “cataclysm” is imminent, according to the Russian, Archimandrite Raphael.
Putin, and his cronies have driven Russia to the brink of a cataclysm. The Russian economy is now collapsing for the third time in two decades. Twice, in 1992 and 1993, the US and its allies saved the Russian government from economic collapse; but who will help them now? Despite a 200 Billion USD cash infusion by the Putin government, the Russian stock markets have lost over 80% over their value since the August invasion. The Russian oligarchs have already gone broke, and the Putin government no longer has the cash to bail them out. Due to the drop in oil prices, the Russian government is running a 20 Billion UDS deficit every month. Within a year, the cash reserves will be gone and Russia will be broke once again. Credit has dried up. Construction project have halted. Unemployment is rising. Food stuffs are disappearing from stores. (Russia still imports most of its food). Putin’s response to the crisis has been to order the military to use force to quash any protests or demonstrations.
The Russian population is shrinking by 800,000 persons per year due to the low birth rate and excess mortality. Despite ten years of plenty, the average Russian man dies by the age of 61, a full two decades earlier than men in Europe, Japan or North America. Russia has the highest rate of alcoholism and drug abuse (predominantly IV heroin) in the world. Russia has the highest rate of HIV /AIDS outside of Africa. If the current trends continue, the Russian population will be reduced by half within 50 years, and the Muslim ethnic minorities will be an outright majority of Russia’s population. Given the Putin regime’s blatantly racist rhetoric, the rampant hate crimes against minorities, and the massacres in Chechnya, what do you think will happen when Muslims become the majority? Despite the accolades of pseudo-Russophile dupes in the West, the Russian people have been the ultimate victims of Putin’s madness.
Dear Brother James, you have accused me of “sounding” anti-Russian. That is absurd. You know my family’s history and my many years of service in the church. Who is a better friend to Russia and the Russian people; The one who warns them of the coming catastrophe, or those who cheer on this suicidal behavior? Judge justly and tell the truth!
If I have spoken sharply, it is because the situation is dire. Tens of thousands have already died. Hundreds of thousands have been left destitute. What is more, without a change in course, Russia itself, will suffer a far greater catastrophe than Georgia has.
The Georgian nation, the Georgian church and the Georgian people will survive by God’s own will. Those who have attacked our brethren will forever bear the mark of shame, as did Cain, that murderer of old. While Putin dares to wear the Cross of Christ, he plotted and carried out the murder of innocent, unarmed Orthodox Christians. If he and his minions do not repent, their punishment will be swift and just. The prophets and the Apostles teaching clearly shows us that those who commit such horrific crimes, will in the end suffer more than their victims. If you want peace, then work for justice, for without justice, there can be no peace.
As Christians, we are called to bear witness to the truth. Our loyalty must be first to the Kingdom of Heaven, before any allegiance to an earthly ruler. “Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, who cannot save. Blessed is he who puts his trust in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Sadly, there are many Orthodox Christians who place their loyalty to a foreign despot above their hope in Christ. This too, is a tragedy. I am very sorry to burst some people’s fantasies about “Holy Russia”; but it is time to face reality. The scriptures are clear that God will judge for the poor and oppressed. He will requite those who commit crimes against humanity.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you too may be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory rests upon you. On their part, He is blasphemed; but on your part He is glorified… For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him, in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you abounds towards each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer, since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the lord, and from the glory of His power, when He comes in that day, to be glorified in His saints.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.
Woe to those who write evil things, for when they write such things, they turn aside judgment from the poor, and rob judgment from the needy of My people, that the widow may be their prey, and the orphan a spoil. What will they do on the day of visitation? For affliction will come to you from afar, and to whom will you flee for help? Where will you leave your glory, so as not to fall into captivity? For all this, His anger is not turned away, and His hand is uplifted still.
See how the righteous man perishes, and no one takes it to heart. Righteous men are taken away, and no one notices it: and the righteous man is taken away from the presence of wrongdoing. His burial shall be in peace, for he was taken from the midst of it. But come here, you sons of lawlessness, a seed of adulterers and of a prostitute. In whom did you delight? And against whom did you open your mouth? Against whom did you loosen your tongue? Are you not children of destruction, a lawless seed?
Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word, Speak, our brethren to those who hate us and detest us, that the Lord’s name may be glorified, and seen in their gladness, so that they may be ashamed. A voice of crying from the city, a voice from the temple, the voice of the Lord is fully repaying His enemies…They shall go forth and see the bodies of the men who transgressed against Me, for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be a vision for all flesh.
Isaiah 66:5-6, 24.
Arise, O God and judge the earth.
Best wishes to you for a blessed, and hopefully, peaceful New Year.
#39 Francis Frost on 2009-05-16 08:09
One thing is crystal clear from all the comments on this thread--long term foreign control and administration (be it from Istanbul, Moscow, Damascus or wherever) will be the death of Orthodoxy in North America. How so many can prattle on about the merits of this or that foreign jurisdiction controlling our affairs is beyond me. There is an underlying anti-Americanism that attaches to most this commentary, whether explicit or implicit, which I find most objectionable.
Independence and unity--one and inseparable!
#40 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2009-05-17 14:36
Dear Mr. Bauman and Rdr Tracey:
I apologize fro the appearance of cynicism; which I would describe as a dose of realism.
I grew up in the OCA, although I now belong to an Antiochain mission (the only in our area). I wish the OCA and Metropolitan Jonah only the best.
But the reality is, that the OCA has barely recovered from disasterous scandals. I need not tell you, that the OCA has lost both confidence and credibility. Metroplitan Jonah's statements and publications, which vigorously advocate for a sole OCA stakehold in North America, some of which precede the speech by Archimandrite Elpiphodoros in Boston, were bound to provoke an equally vigorous response. Indeed, His Beatitude all but invited it. Why ? and above all, why now ?
There is that old Russian saying "tyshe edesh, dalshe bud'esh", (the quieter you go, the farther you get). My point was: Is now the time to be picking turf battles with the EP ?
What is more, the OCA is likely to be a political football in the on-going rivalry between Moscow and Constantinople. My second point, it is will be foolish to rely solely on Moscow as a defender of the OCA- Moscow's own behavior has been inconsistent, and self-serving. Mosocw's credibility is dubious (see my last post).
The Moscow Patriarchate's devotion to the Putin dictatorship damages the MP's credibility, and its relationships with its neighbor churches. Not only did Russia invade Georgia, with deliberate attacks on innocent civilians; but the Russians shut off the gas supply to Bulgaria, Romania and the Slovak Republic during January, casuing dozens of deaths in those countries. Frankly, with friends like the MP, who needs enemies?
The OCA cannot afford to lose the few supporters it had, as it now seems to be the case. The Georgian Patriarchate appears to be retreating from its prior support for the OCA, with good reason (see the previous post above).
Best wishes to all.
Christ Is Risen.
#41 Francis Frost on 2009-05-17 16:48
Okay, I know I'm going to come across as too isolationist and American, but the war between Russia and Georgia is truly none of my business. From here it looks as if the Russians are the aggressors, but I truly don't know, and, honestly, don't much care. It's not my war, and as an American, I have no dog in that fight. I'm sorry that war is continuing; we have it on Christ's authority that such will be the case until the End. Horrible things happen all the time that I can do nothing to affect. Sort it out among yourselves. Leave us out of it. It is not an American concern, and it most certainly should have nothing to do with how Americans organize their Church. This long post about Georgian/Russian politics is a better argument than any I could possibly make for an American Orthodox Church free from domination by foreign hierarchs. The best thing to do with the MP is to keep it a polite distance, as is the same for the EP. To the extent that Met. Jonah does that, he will have my support. Should we end up somehow getting entangled in either Russian or Byzantine power struggles, it would be a grievous setback to the Orthodox witness in this land. And on another point, it is truly a reach of monumental proportions to conflate Met. Jonah's desire to establish a Valaam-style monastery with political or ecclesial support for Putin's ambitions.
#42 Scott Walker on 2009-05-17 18:14
Dear Mr. Walker:
You are categorically wrong on two fronts !
First, the attack on Georgia was a proxy attack on the United States. Go and read the statments, threats and demands of the Russian leaders. They attacked the Georgians precisley becasue Georgia decided to ally itself with the United States and western democracy.
Secondly, have you never heard the Gospel ? ! ?
I was hungry, and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink ? Matthew 25.
The innocent victims of the Russian invasion are Orthodox Christians, and their suffering is NOT your concern ?
If so sir, then I say you are NO Christian !
Perhaps, like the Levite and the Priest, you want to ingnore the suffering of the innocent! So be it; but what will you say to Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgement ? ? ?
Perhaps the OCA isn't worth saving, after all. Shame on you ! ! !
#43 Francis Frost on 2009-05-18 16:55
Gee, Francis, millions are starving in Darfur. Are you planning to fix that? If not, then you, sir, are no Christian. How about the entire nation of Haiti, which is one hell of a lot closer to us than Georgia? Care to share your plans for those suffering millions? What?! You don't have any? Then you, sir, are no Christian. Bangladesh is a perpetual running sore. Your plans? None? then you, sir, are no Christian. Somalia has sunk into utter anarchy, and desperate, hungry men are taking to piracy. And let me guess... You, sir, are no Christian. "Ignore the suffering of the innocent?" Georgia lost a little territory and a few thousand citizens, while an entire continent is starving, dying in tribal wars or ravished by HIV. Isn't that a better place for the OCA to get involved, if we somehow could make the smallest dent in all of that agony? And you want to talk about ignoring suffering? Unless you, personally, can tackle the misery of Africa, then you, sir, are no Christian.
See how easy this is? Knock it off and come up with a real argument for the OCA fixing the entire bleeding world, not just your pet project of Georgia, and then we can talk. Until then, keep your shame-calling to yourself.
#43.1 Scott Walker on 2009-05-19 07:46
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