Friday, October 2. 2009
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It is men like Judge Najjar that keep our Archdiocese from coming apart at the seams. He has made excellent points in the spirit of respect and love. I hope everyone will take heed of his advise and not run to invective. And, friends, let's not have any more 'ibn kalb' references... we are not teaching people the beauty of the Arabic language by sharing all of its insults.
#1 anonymous Antiochian priest on 2009-10-02 15:07
Judge you are the best! Your Priest should be most proud of you. To the point to PERFECTION. All I felt as I left the Convention, too.
But the entrenched and "rewarded" cronies will not listen. The upcoming Board will have NO surprises. All PREDETERMINED. No audit or discussion on Bp Demetri allowed. After all isn't that what the Convention said ??!!
Many, many years Judge and to your parish and loved ones !
#1.1 Anonymous Antiochian Priest on 2009-10-02 22:05
Who are you to call someone a crony. Go visit a parishioner. Stop calling Metropolitan PHILIPs friends cronies. You should be ashamed of yourself to cast judgement on a brother clergy behind their backs. You are not a priest in my eyes and if I kissed your hand it was because of the collar not the person. It's called respect and you should practice what you preach daily as a anonymous priest. Whatever.
#1.1.1 Crony on 2009-10-04 20:45
"Cronyism is partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications. Hence, cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy. Cronyism exists when the appointer and the beneficiary are in social contact; often, the appointer is inadequate to hold his or her own job or position of authority, and for this reason the appointer appoints individuals who will not try to weaken him or her, or express views contrary to those of the appointer."
Crony - if the stole fits, wear it.
#188.8.131.52 Heracleides on 2009-10-05 08:29
If the shoe fits....
#184.108.40.206 antionymous on 2009-10-06 06:48
Thank you David for the wisdom, truth, love and true Christian stewardship that are reflected in this open letter. The dose of reality, sober reasoning, and mature reflections brought to the current situation are immensely important and much needed. This piece stands as a testament to the truth of the current crisis and provides validation and comfort to the rest of us who see, hear and understand the problems that are endagering the faithful, the hierarchy, and the Church, and the serious consequences of failing to act.
This site and so many of the contributors and the editor and commentators are doing the heavy lifting and are carrying the torch for all of us. Thank you from the bottom of our heart. Keep up the good fight and righteous work. We are begin you all the way! We support and pray that Truth and Righteousness will shine forth and resurrect the OCA.
No doubt Magistrate Najjar is viewed as yet another so-called "dog", although this one can't be told to go back his Baptist congregation.
#3 Robert Fortuin on 2009-10-02 15:27
I have read much of the expressions of people in our Archdiocese since attending the Convention in Palm Desert. I have not had the stomach to read it all. However, if I could have written this piece myself, I'd have done so. I do not have the clout of a Magistrate, nor do I have such profound knowledge of the church since I am, alas, a convert of six plus years....but this letter reflects exactly how I felt as I drove home from the convention and began to pray for the +Philip and the Archdiocese.
"......but there can be no substitute for doing the right thing. We are all charged with tending the Lord’s vineyard, keeping it and preserving it until He comes again. That we do so transparently, that we hold ourselves accountable while doing so, and that we work together in a conciliar fashion should not be controversial topics up for debate. This is the example given to us by the Apostles, both at the feast of Pentecost, and again during the first council of the church described in the 15th chapter of the book of Acts. We should do well to emulate them."
In my opinion this final call to emulate the apostles sums up the spirit with which I believe all Godly Orthodox Christians should seek in humility and honesty not only regarding our current struggle, but for our whole lives.
Thank you and God Bless You! Judge Najjar!
#4 Adrienne on 2009-10-02 17:24
Many thanks to Judge Najjar for the EXCELLENT reflection. It simply could not have been said any better.
#5 A recent convert on 2009-10-02 17:26
I commend Judge Najjar for his courage in writing this open letter, and for the reasoned arguments he used in it. While he and I would differ on some of the specifics, I nonetheless applaud his objective and principled approach to addressing the problems within our Archdiocese.
#6 Jason Barker on 2009-10-02 17:28
JUDGE = PHARISEE.
What in God's name are you promoting?? Condemnation of a man who has repented?. This is not Christian, it is a decision based on litigious hypotheticals. As far as I know some of the greatest leaders in Church history are individuals who have gone on to be great examples of faith after overcoming their human weaknesses.
If we follow the logic of the midwest magistrate Najjar, Mary Magdelena should have been kept in the background because she broke the law and was a prostitute, St. Paul would not have been allowed to preach because of his blasphemies against Chrst, Augustine would never have the opportunity to espouse his theological theories because of his debauchery . These figures could have been a great liabilty.
I believe Bishop Demetri has repented over the last eight plus years and has been absolved of his sins, for a night he wish never happened. He is the wounded healer as opposed to the self righteous judge. His knowledge and spirituality are needed.
I would suggest Najjar stick to his practice ,in his chambers, and reread the New Testament and early Church history.
#6.1 George from Brooklyn on 2009-10-02 18:14
Unless I have seriously misunderstood the Pastoral Epistles and the Church's canonical literature, bishops and priests are held to a standard of conduct much higher and more restrictive than ordinary Christians.
This is also true of the traditional treatises on the priesthood, beginning with the 2nd Oration of St. Gregory the Theologian.
It is quite beside the point, in connection with the priesthood, to refer to the offenses of Mary Magdalene prior to her conversion.
Through repentance and the Mystery of Confession, the Church restores sinner to Holy Communion. She does NOT restore them to the episcopal ministry.
As far as I know, the treatment currently accorded to Bishop Demetri is quite exceptional. I confess I am not familiar with another example---in the entire course of Christian History---where a bishop convicted of a public sexual offense was restored to episcopal ministry.
I inquire of all of you: Can any of you cite a single example of this in the history of the Church?
I would really like to know, for this is a very serious matter. Indeed, it is currently the occasion of deep and widespread scandal.
#6.1.1 Father Patrick Reardon on 2009-10-03 09:29
Whether one can cite another similar case from Church history is quite beside the point. That a convicted sex offender is serving as a bishop anywhere in the Orthodox Church is an outrageous scandal. It is wrong. Period. But it is nothing less than what many have come to expect from MP. However, it is no more wrong simply because he was convicted. Our bishops should care enough for their flocks to protect them from such possible dangers, whether a conviction has been handed down or not. But this, unfortunately, is often not the case. There are far too many (really only one is too many) instances where both bishops and priests have simply been relocated. One might even call the practice 'Orthodox', it seems.
#220.127.116.11 michaeL craig rhodes on 2009-10-03 21:00
It is difficult to know whether it is worthwhile to respond to these same tired arguments that have been unfortunately presented time and time again. It is also difficult to know whether you present them in sincerity or cynically. The contrast between the examples you provide and the case of Bishop Dimitri are clear. St. Paul and St. Augustine are saints precisely because upon becoming Christians they repented and were no longer to be identified with their previous sins. In the case of Bishop Dimitri, no one should doubt he has been absolved and no one should doubt that he has much to offer the Church, but he committed his sin while in a position of ecclesiastical leadership. George, you are the one who needs to review your New Testament where St. Paul makes the requirements for leadership in the Church clear. To state that Bishop Dimitri should no longer function as a bishop is not the same as arguing that he is unforgiven or no longer a Christian. It is your own sloppy reasoning which is conflating the two issues. Additionally, if you take time to peruse the SCOBA website, you will be able to find a statement on sexual abuse within the Church--signed by His Eminence-- which makes it clear that clerics found guilty of sexual misconduct should not be permitted to continue in their clerical office. It's that simple. Do signed documents mean anything anymore? Does commonsense and the tragic experience of the Roman church recently have any effect on your judgment of what is prudent? Is there any sin a cleric could commit which would justify defrocking in your view? If so, what? And why? If sexual crimes don't merit this, then what might? Also, you need to familiarize yourself with Orthodox rather than Western tradition. The Orthodox do not accept that St. Mary the Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles, was a prostitute. And certainly, even you would agree, she committed no such sin after repenting and joining herself to the Church! Your accusation of "Pharisee" is ridiculous, and is actually more revealing of your own judgmentalism that the Honorable David Najjar's. He presented a well-thought out, peaceful, and sorrowful appeal for prudence and accountability. You, on the other hand, are quick to make judgments of the other's motives and are unwilling to give the Honorable David Najjar the benefit of the doubt, as would befit a Christian brother. You are the one who is unwilling to accept that prudential decisions, in concert with the New Testament, the canons of the Church, commonsense, and His Eminence's own signed document available on the SCOBA site, are indistinguishable from Pharisaical judgments. However, again I must be clear that I am not convinced that you are truly blind to the difference, as it is so obvious.
#6.1.2 Brian Jackson on 2009-10-03 09:41
All Judge Najjar said is that Bishop Demetri should not be allowed to actively serve as a bishop. He said nothing of him being unforgiven (in fact, he said the opposite).
There are certain guidelines we follow in the Church, George, and "one regrettable night" can alter someone's life and ministry forever. That's the way it works. Just like "one regrettable night" altered the life of a woman who was sexually abused by Bishop Demetri.
If Bishop Demetri is to be restored, it should only be by the Local Synod or the Antiochian Synod in Damascus. Neither the Patriarch, nor the Metropolitan of America, has the right to restore Bishop Demetri on his own.
And, for the record, Metropolitan Philip tried to have Bishop Demetri restored by the Local Synod back in 2005 or 2006 and they UNANIMOUSLY agreed not to restore him, with Metropolitan Philip abstaining from voting. So why don't you write Bishop Antoun and tell him what a hypocrite and Pharisee he is, just as you accused Judge Najjar?
One final thing: none of the examples of penitents that you used is relevant. None of them were bishops or even Christians when they committed their grave sins. It is one thing to commit "sins of youth" or to commit sins before you know Christ, another to commit them after you are consecrated as a bishop. Furthermore, in the case of Augustine and Magdalene, they did commit sexual sins, but they did not commit sexually violent sins against unwilling partners (remember, Bishop Demetri's assaulted two women that night, but only one pressed charges).
#6.1.3 An East Coast Priest on 2009-10-03 10:23
Once again, a correction: There is no indication in Orthodox Tradition that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.
This misperception probably began with a sermon by Pope Gregory the Great in A.D. 591 in which he conflated several figures into one. In 1969 the Vatican officially overruled Gregory. It is not now, nor has it ever been, part of Orthodox Tradition.
Augustine's infidelities, I believe, took place before his conversion.
#18.104.22.168 Anonymous on 2009-10-03 13:08
Go go Judge! All I've spoken to agree 100%. Your words to the point and how can the Met. and his followers deny?
Full reasoning for the continuation, growth and expansion of OCANEWS.ORG.
#22.214.171.124 Western Diocese Layman on 2009-10-05 23:42
George from Brooklyn writes, "I believe Bishop Demetri has repented over the last eight plus years and has been absolved of his sins, for a night he wish never happened."
The incident for which +DEMETRI was convicted occurred in 2003. What incident occurred "eight plus years" ago, and how does George from Brooklyn know about it?
#6.1.4 Jason Barker on 2009-10-03 11:19
Bp. Demetri may very well repent to the point that he becomes a Saint. People in future generations may venerate his icon and ask for his intercession. Proof that he is headed that way would be his acknowledgment that he can no longer be an active bishop.
#126.96.36.199 antionymous on 2009-10-03 13:57
8 years ago - perhaps there was another incident back then, and the situation in the casino in 2003 was not the first time Bishop Demetri crossed the line. If that is the case, then he has a long way to go before he can ever be trusted again, and we can't take that chance with our parishioners of all ages. Let's also remember a certain priest in Southern California who was abusing children for 20 years, and MP knew about it, but since he was his friend, he did nothing. Not until the parents of the victims finally threatened to have this priest arrested and prosecuted. Then a "deal" was made where he was suddenly retired due to illness - it appeared in the church bulletins, but nothing was ever announced in the WORD Magazine. Shortly after that, a manual from the Archdiocese was written regarding Sexual Misconduct with Clergy and Laity, including full procedures on what is acceptable and not acceptable and what is to be done when this happens. Did MP forget about that manual that he ordered to be distributed to every clergy and any other adult working with children under 18? I guess it depends on the circumstances and what day of the week it is as to which rules MP follows - his old ones or his made up ones. According to that manual, Bishop DEMETRI cannot serve as an active Bishop with a ministry that makes him responsible for clergy and laity. MP - make up your mind and stop confusing us. We try to follow the rules you set up, and then you change everything to suit the individual situation and your moods. It doesn't fly, and it's very ineffective.
"If we follow the logic of the midwest magistrate Najjar, Mary Magdelena should have been kept in the background because she broke the law and was a prostitute, St. Paul would not have been allowed to preach because of his blasphemies against Chrst, Augustine would never have the opportunity to espouse his theological theories because of his debauchery . These figures could have been a great liabilty.
I believe Bishop Demetri has repented over the last eight plus years and has been absolved of his sins, for a night he wish never happened. He is the wounded healer as opposed to the self righteous judge. His knowledge and spirituality are needed.
I would suggest Najjar stick to his practice ,in his chambers, and reread the New Testament and early Church history."
Dear George from Brooklyn:
Mary Magdalene was never a prostitute. she was afflicted with seven demons, and was eventually the first witness of the Resurrection of Christ. St. Paul repented and had a vision of the Lord who pardoned him (and he went and sinned no more, and built up the church throughout the Mediterranian world). St. Augustine was hardly 'debauched'. He had a mistress, was faithful to her, and had a son by her who died in his teens. He only put her away because his mother kept telling him to.
As to 'wounded healers' you better re-read Henri Nouwen's book of that title. I think there is more to that concept than current events would indicate.
#6.1.5 anonynony on 2009-10-04 14:43
Thank you, Judge, for presenting a clear, unemotional, charitable, and well reasoned case.
I especially appreciate your stress on the great risk to our Archdiocese in its (indirectly) supporting the continued active ministry of Bishop Demetri.
This is a matter of considerable anxiety. I have a distinct memory of Metropolitan PHILIP's declaration---at a clergy symposium some years ago---that a single law suit about sexual abuse would be sufficient to bankrupt the Archdiocese.
I believed the Metropolitan then, and I believe him now.
#7 Father Patrick Reardon on 2009-10-02 17:42
God grant you many years, David Najjar.
#8 Gabriel on 2009-10-02 17:51
Thank you, David, for you well-measured, timely words in advance of some very important meetings this month. May "the Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth" guide our bishops and trustees through stormy waters.
#9 Mickey Hodges on 2009-10-02 18:27
Sincere thanks to the Hon. Judge Najjar. This was beautifully put, incredibly well thought out, and most importantly done with a tone of humility, patience, respect and love for those with whom he disagrees. May each one of us work to first adopt this attitude before moving forward in these troubling times.
#10 anonymous Antiochian seminarian on 2009-10-02 18:37
Thank you Judge David.
#11 Kevin Klein on 2009-10-02 20:09
Wonderful and articulate!
Unfortunately, your words will fall on deaf ears in Englewood or encite him to further vindictiveness!
When MP met with our beloved clergy, priests and deacons, His Grace Bishop Basil explained quite clearly that our Diocesan Bishops ARE NOT ASSISTANTS.
MP is very schooled in twisting words to his own advantage. He has clearly rejected the Authority of the Holy Synod, which he clearly asserted to be the HIGHEST AUTHORITY in the CHURCH!
The Board of Trustees WILL NOT CONFRONT him as their titles are more important to them than their CHRISTIAN and LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES!
Judge Najjar you have wonderful recommendations. Too bad they are not court orders.
This may only end with lawsuits against the Board of Trustees themselves. Sadly, that may be the only way to address the issues.
Damascus will not step in as it would not be understood or received well. This would only lead to schism in north america.
The local synod is paralyzed and divided by false loyalty and posturing by one bishop.
The local synod is further undermined by the insecurity and endless paranoia of another bishop.
And finally, the synod is undercut by Bp Antoun who would see being a diocesan bishop as too restrictive to his own authority and misguided loyalties.
Perhaps, when the time comes we should elect at least three new diocesan bishops as well. We need Godly Bishops who ACTUALLY BELIEVE and know they will have to give an accounting for how they have exercised their stewardship.
Lord, have mercy!
Thank you again for an excellent, excellent article.
They are each Fully Diocesan Bishops who ALSO ASSIST MP in representing our church in north america.
#12 Anonymous aoca clergyman on 2009-10-02 21:18
Fr John Chagnon
St. Elias Orthodox Church
Judge Najjar, Thank you for your wise words. Unfortunately, the issue is not getting +Philip to see the wisdom of an audit. The issue is the fact that +Philip fears an audit because of what it will reveal. Therefore he will never be persuaded to allow it and will stonewall to his retirement or death. It is the responsibility of the entire church to hold this errant man accountable, now, by force of law if necessarily. This is not about the positioning of personalities, it is about the life and future of the Church on this continent. The Church is the Lord's not +Philip's. Perhaps we could find a Judge to show us how to go beyond the diatribe and put some legal meat to our words? Do you know one?
Well, ANOTHER Holy Synod meeting in Damascus WITHOUT Metropolitan Philip. Even poor Mexico & australia present! What must they all think of Met. P. ?
What they have ALW#AYS known - an independent spirit bordering on detachment when the spotlight is not on him. Who believed illness, lack of time, etc. Very spoiled Prelate who needs retirement! But the cronies will keep him and detach our Archdiocese from being properly represented.
On the left top of my desk the article by venerable Abbot Touma on "Power". On the right the article by Judge Najjar. Articles of truth in midst of the nonsense of the last 6 months.
#14.1 Anonymous Clergy on 2009-10-06 10:53
Judge Najjar, I join the writers above in thanking you for writing such a thoughtful, loving and reasoned piece. This is something around which all Orthodox Christians should be able to coalesce. I am a retired judge but I am a convert. Even St. Paul was more effective when he recited his pedigree. You give voice and heart to the pain of those who want the Orthodox Church to be the church of Christ. May God bless you and your family.
#15 Max Higgs on 2009-10-03 03:13
Regarding the Hierarchial Manual: A Draft text has already been distributed to the local Bishops. There is much unhappiness. A copy has been secretly sent to the Patriarch, who was 'surprised' at the contents.
#16 Anonymous on 2009-10-03 04:23
If the Hierarchs are unhappy with the draft of the new manual, then they better communicate with each other before they meet in two weeks in Texas. They need to list what they don't agree with, they need to insist on plenty of time to discuss each point, and they need to be in agreement - the 5 Diocesan Bishops - with one another and get rid of the division amongst them.
God bless the person who already secretly sent a copy to the Patriarch. You are to be commended. Now if the Patriarch is truly surprised by what he sees, it's time for him and the Holy Synod of Antioch to act to remove MP before more damage is done. Enough silence from all of the Hierarchs and from Damascus - silence is not getting the job done.
This Reflection and the comments it has generated are further proof against those who say your website exists only to bash, smash, slice, and dice others, and that it contributes to division within the Church! This is testimony that it does precisely the opposite, don't you think?
#17 David Barrett on 2009-10-03 07:04
Well put and correct! Metr P. will not allow an audit. Sources in "Englewood" state the recently widowed Fr Abdallah (WORD Editor) will be new MidWest Bishop. Bp Mark to Eagle River. Yes, good way to get a replacement for Canada is to encourage Bp Alexander for Tripoli. That is the way he got the late Archp Gibran (Rimlaoui) to Australia. And Bp Saliba to Australia (now his advocate and subsidized "friend") ... Metr P. knows well how to "make helpful friends" and to pleasantly eliminate those who are a threat to him. The above "fact" not supposition fromthe "inside" ! Too long in power and the whole HOUSE needs a sweep for the better!
#17.1 Anonymous Priest on 2009-10-03 09:25
Judge Najjar, thank you.
I stand with your words 100% and fear that reason will yet be ignored because our top leaders have been blinded. I have personally observed the siege mentality dominating Englewood. I saw the same spirit 45 years ago as a child subjected to a power-abusing priest (it was another, Western, jurisdiction). How bold and silly our hierarchs must be to think that they can intimidate grown men and women by audacious displaying power and threats. God clear this evil fog and help them.
It is time for all the faithful in every parish to demand precisely the things you have called for. What other response is there for witnesses of such manifest travesties against the holy church and the gospel? Lord have mercy and help us.
#18 MichaelPatrick on 2009-10-03 09:19
AXIOS! to such an Orthodox layman, chanter, faithful member of Indiannapolis, and Judge. Oh that you were on ourArch'd Board or would you be intimidated by the Metropolitan? We wonder. Better you be a CONTINOUS voice keeping all INVOLVED " on their feet! What will the Metropolitan do - order your Priest to stop chanting and giving ?
Two others having read the Judge's "Epistle" pray he will keep abreast of continuing debacles of our Church.
ANYONE LEFT who WONDERS why OCANEWS.ORG is needed!!
Think about it ?
#18.1 Anonymous Priest & Council Parish Chairman on 2009-10-03 18:03
Here's how it works in the AOCA. It doesn't matter who you are nor what you may have done; what matters is if + Philip likes you - PERIOD! It's a matter of BEING IN PHILIP'S GRACE OR OUT OF HIS GRACE. His view of himself is "ABSOLUTE RULER." This is why there is no real guaranteed retirement plan for clergy. HE decides who gets what and when. As for + Dimitri, +Philip has already decided to return him to GRACE. Joe Allen was returned to GRACE. How many, without real cause, have fallen from PHILIP'S GRACE and who's lives he has ruined? Tyrants should be dismissed, imprisoned or other!
#19 Anonymous on 2009-10-03 13:48
And this is the Truth ! The blessings of God on the good Judge. I agree, you are needed to be a watchman on the con-tinuing evasions and misdeeds of Englewood.
Go to it Judge! And yes, any more reasoning as to the future of OCANews.Org ? We all think not!
#19.1 Anonymous Layman(MidWest) on 2009-10-04 16:26
Thank you David Najjar!
And Thank you Father Patrick Reardon for posting here openly and without anonymity. Father Bless!
George, perhaps the words of St. John Chrysostom will allow you to consider the high standard expected of Orthodox bishops: "For that it is not likely that he, whose life is blameless, should be ill-reported of, we may infer from the words of Christ: 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' (Mt. 5:16) But what if one be falsely accuse, and from peculiar circumstances be slandered? Well, this is a possible case; but even such an one ought not to be promoted. For the result is much to be feared. Therefore it is said he should have a good report, for your good works are to shine. As therefore no one will say that the sun is dark, not even the blind, (for he will be ashamed to opposed the opinion of all), so him that is of remarkable goodness no one will blame. And though, on account of his doctrines, the Heathen will often slander him, yet they will not attack his virtuous life, but will join with others in admiring and revering it." (Homily 10 on 1 Timothy)
#21 Michael Bauman on 2009-10-03 18:14
Why should Bishop +ALEXANDER of Montreal fill the vacancy in Tripoli (Lebanon)? Bishop +DEMETRI may be a better choice.
#22 Please do NOT use my name. on 2009-10-03 19:06
Good point! His Grace, Bp. Demetri for Metropolitan of Tripoli! Then everyone is happy. (Well, except for maybe the people of Tripoli....)
#22.1 Antionymous on 2009-10-04 13:12
Yes, let's elect Bishop Demetri to go to Lebanon and live in a monastery, where he can live out his life in repentance and not be a danger to anyone. He will no longer be in our Archdiocese, and he will be under the supervision of the Patriarch, who wants him to work. This way we no longer have that responsibility to deal with. And keep Bishop ALEXANDER here, in our Archdiocese, where he is doing a wonderful job and cares for his flock.
Better yet - send Philip packing to Tripoli.
#22.3 Heracleides on 2009-10-04 14:53
It appears that Judge Najjar's comments need to be repeated over and over and over again. They may have been made in the past few months, but they have totally been ignored by +MP. But that is a misstatement. It is quite clear that the Metropolitan is aware of the criticism of his RULE, but chooses to ignore that criticism. His only response is like that printed in the latest issue of The WORD, criticizing Mark Stokoe and the others who dare to question his leadership. The latest and blatant efforts on his part to silence dissent, I think will backfire. The irony of this entire controversy is that the Metropolitan precipitated it by attempting to reduce the Bishops to lackey status, and I'm not sure that he has abandoned his efforts in this regard. We shall see how the new rules and regulations book (undoubtedly written by one of his lackeys) will come out.
I realize that my language in this post is cynical, but after all that the Church has been through, I cannot restrain myself. +MP must think that Church members are stupid because he has gotten away with so much over the years without much questioning (and those who dared question were ostracized). I wish he could show a little humility before he destroys the archdiocese.
#23 anon on 2009-10-04 12:58
I wish he could show a little humility before he destroys the archdiocese.
#23 anon on 2009-10-04 12:58 (Reply)
His destruction is self and unfortunately he has no friends willing to tell him this..well if he does and I think he does he can't recognize them.
#24 Kevin kirwan on 2009-10-04 17:16
I really must object to the sentiments of the posters who propose inflicting one or another of our misbehaving North American hierarchs on the Diocese of Tripoli. What have the clergy or faithful of that diocese done to any of you?
I suspect Tripoli will get an archimandrite from the Old Country to be its new bishop, possibly Archimandrite Touma, much though I'd rather see him transplanted to our shores.
#25 Subdeacon David [Yetter] on 2009-10-04 18:38
As a recent (2 years ago) convert to Orthodoxy through the Antiochian Orthodox Church, I can not help but feel fooled and betrayed at this point. There is an ultimate sense of disappointment, frustration, and sadness which I fight daily in my mind and heart to stay with the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
How long can one expect to wait for some resolution that will foster trust of the highest levels of our Church in this country? Is there any possibilty that the current state of affairs that have been so ghastly in its nature, can ever be healed?
Where do we go from here? What do we do?
#26 Anonymous on 2009-10-04 18:39
Dear #26 Anonymous,
My heart goes out to you. I share your sense of frustration, as many others do.
I'd like to be able to offer words of encouragement about this, but I'm afraid that would be inauthentic. I have done so in the midst of previous crises, but it has always been with a sense that I'm speaking the truth piecemeal.
I have been Orthodox far longer than you have, and the impression that I have been sold a bill of goods has only grown with time. Moreover, it seems to me that the single most important element in shipwrecking one's faith in Orthodoxy, unfortunately, is Orthodoxy itself.
In answer to your 'how long' and 'healing' questions: you'd likely be waiting for the rest of your life, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, apart from major reform, I don't think true healing will come. I'm sorry, brother/sister, perhaps I'm wrong in both instances, but this seems to be the truth to me.
As for 'where to go' and 'what to do': these are truly difficult questions. Here's what I think you should not do. First, don't practice ignorance. Second, don't submit to error.
And the best I can say about 'where' is that I'll pray for you about what you should do.
Of far greater importance to me presently, though, is your own hope in Jesus Christ. About that I'd like to remind you of what Paul says in Rom 8.38 - 39.
Mourning with you,
#26.1 michael craig rhodes on 2009-10-05 10:45
You ask "Where do we go from here?" and "What do we do?" In light of what I think I read between the lines of your post I would recommend the following. "Go away from the computer, to church and your home altar to pray, busy yourself with what the Lord really has gifted and called you to do, and read some church history."
The issues that are being grappled with are hugely difficult ones, and painful too. It isn't for everyone, and to tell the truth not even for most, to get truly involved. Since it seems to distress you this much - and I am speaking with complete love and sincerity - and there is no indication that you are in a position that requires or suggests that you remain involved, I recommend that you consider leaving active reading and posting here for now.
By its very nature the internet levels us all and implies that because information and opportunities of various kinds are readily and constantly available, Everyman and every man ought to readily and constantly wade right in - at least to the extent of reading. Not so. Some are called to wrestle with such matters, and many are not.
When I read the spiritual writers - the sayings of the Desert Fathers or St. Ignatius Brianchaninov come to mind - I see a lot of advice about how easy it is to be distracted from one's cell, one's prayers and one's true calling. Doesn't one of them compare the human mind to a dog in a meat market, rushing from stall to stall for new scents and tidbits?
Now I realize that you are not a monk, but I think there is still some wisdom in the advice because it is a human, not just monastic, tendency to get involved in and worked up by things that are not really our business (or to the extent that they are our or everyone's business, are better the objects of our prayers than constant participation) ... and have negative effects on us. I recommend the reading of church history because it is a good antidote for the kind of idealism that gets greatly wounded and discouraged by the airing of these matters. You could also read Old Testament history and find a lot of evidence for the view that God's work doesn't go forward easily or smoothly or in a straight line.
We fast-food, instant-gratification Americans come from generations of people who quit and left one disappointing church to start another (that would soon enough be disappointing too in its own way - or perhaps just the same old way!!) are sometimes not well-equipped for the patient faith and churchmanship required in an historic and hierarchical body. I think it was the general tendency of many Americans to this kind of idealism and reformism that Fr. Patrick O'Grady was mentioning a few weeks ago when he quoted the Patriarch. It is tough to be patient without falling asleep on the one hand, to discern and take action (if any) suited to who one is and what one's gifts and calling truly are, without making things worse on the other.
May you have peace and find the right formula for you. And the rest of us too.
#26.2 Fr. George Washburn on 2009-10-05 11:15
Thank you, Judge Najjar , for the wonderful and credible article. I believe the only way anything will improve is if you initiate a movement among the Order of Saint Ignatius members demanding change - with the members withholding their annual contribution to the Order until those changes are made. Without this type of financial "revolution" nothing will change. The members of the Archdiocese Board with whom I have spoken have indicated this to be the case. As long as the money keeps flowing in, nothing that is said by you or anyone else will be taken seriously by the "powers that be" in our Archdiocese.
#27 Disgusted Life-long Antiochian Christian on 2009-10-04 20:41
Yesterday, Oct. 3, the Orthodox Church remembered The Holy Martyr Dionysius the Aeropagite. The Troparion to him is found in the Daily Vitamins for Spiritual Growth, Vol. 1 (green) written by Fr. Anthony Coniaris on page 286.
"O Holy Hieromartyr Dionysius, master of unction, measured in all things, clothed with a straight conscience as befits a priest: you drew ineffable truths from the Vessel of Election. You have kept the faith and completed a course equal to his. Intercede with Christ God that He may save our souls."
Thank God we have many wonderful clergymen in our Archdiocese who have that straight conscience befitting priests, men who tell the truth and honor the truth and keep the faith when life is hard. It's sad to also know that we have too many clergymen, Bishops and Priests, who have no conscience, who do not act like holy men, are far away from the truth and do not honor it, and keep themselves and others away from the true faith. Let us pray that times will change, and our clergy, present and future, will all remember this Troparion as we strive to heal our Archdiocese.
Yes, this is William again. I liked this article a lot due to the way it was written with compassion and honesty. I will say that in regards to Bishop DEMETRI, he has much to offer if you have ever met this man. If you have ever known him as an active bishop in the Archdiocese, you will understand.
I understand he is considered an offender because of the legal stature of his actions which were offensive but to be fair and honest, why are we hypocritical in not casting judgment on others in this archdiocese that have been convicted in the same sense of these and worse crimes, i.e. other bishops (NOT PHILIP). Yes one can say that they were proven false, but if OCAnews gave as much attention on those issues then I'm pretty sure other information can be dug up. Think about it, it's hypocritical. If you keep knit picking Metropolitan PHILIP with only accusations and seeking justice and truth, then do the same for the other Bishop that was accused of wrong doing and do not ignore it, seek the truth etc... Fairness. We shouldn't even be doing this, but as Christians try your best to at least be fair.
Why do you torture Metropolitan PHILIP in his golden years. He made this archdiocese what it is today and you must admit that. Those of you who are commenting and don't even know the man and recently joined the church in the last 10 years or so, i do not blame you for your opinions but you have to understand you came into the church during a time when the hammer was starting to come down on him so please open your eyes and research further before casting judgment.
One can say, I'm a lay crony because I love and support him, I'm sure he has done things that I do not agree with, but I still love him because I know his heart is good and pure with only love for his people.
However, I also love and support every hierarch out there in this beloved archdiocese.
I'm just saying be fair. This is a tireless argument i keep trying hard to state but i will not stop if Mark allows my comments to be posted. Thanks Mark.
Also, please realize I understand and respect Judge Najjar's letter because it was honest and compassionate and humble.
But at the same time, have compassion and reasoning why things are done the way they are. Just because you personally do not understand does not mean it is unjust.
#29 William on 2009-10-05 08:00
William, What does any of this have to do with doing a thorough audit of the finances of the Antiochian Church central administration? You are dancing around the issues and presenting arguments that do not address any of the key issues of transparency, accountability, checks and balances on power, and independent audits that are currently missing in many areas that Met. Phillip controls without any real oversight from any of the other bishops or the Board of Trustees.
Instead of muddying up the waters why don't you help the Church by insuring that GOD's house and God's Talents are properly being administered and unchecked power (spiritual and financial) does not corrupt the hierarchy, which seems to have already happened (see +Phillip's comments about priests and seminarians who "he" has "paid for" and should be blindly obedient to him). Are you not bothered that Met. Philip has refused to institute and independent audit already? If he has nothing to hide and everything is in good order, why is he afraid of the truth? Innocent people with a clean conscience are not afraid to be open and honest about all their dealings, especially when they are supposed to be a mirror of Christ and responsible for GOD's house and Talents. This remains and will continue to be the question: "Why is Met. Phillip afraid of an independent audit?"
Thank you William. Well written and logical. Finally, a voice of reason. You are not writing to feed the ego of the "pious magistrate" but rather praising the present system and leadership warts and all. There is no perfect bishop or Metropolitan. It is a diocese that has come a long way and still needs room for improvement.
Many advocates of this blog favor the "scorched diocese" policy but you have put a human face on this situation. Instead of division and derision you choose to work on the good stuff; healing and unity.
#29.2 George from Brooklyn on 2009-10-06 18:10
MP will never never backdown.
He willnever want the truth to come out while he is alive.
He does not appear to fear God as much as he fears death.
The only way to correct our Church will be through legal action against the Board of Trustees and / or IRS involement.
We cannot reason with MP and hiscronies from a Christian vantage point such as Scripture, the fathers or the Holy Canons, as these things do NOT matter to them!!!!!!
They only strive to maintain control and continue with their smoke screens.
#30 Anonymous on 2009-10-05 09:07
Elder Ephraim is the new Metropolitan of Tripoli.Looks like Met.Phillip cannot exile Bishop Alexander or Bishop Joseph..could the Patriarch of Antioch be on to Met.Phillip?
Editor's note: A brief bio of the Metropolitan elect follows:
Father Ephraim Kyriakos is from Rashaya, Lebanon, he was a graduated engineer in the late 60's from the Jesuit University of Beirut and worked for a few years before leaving his family's house to study Orthodox Theology at Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology at Balamand University (Al-Koura, North Lebanon). He completed his studies there and continued at the Theological Academy of Thessaloniki, Greece.
While in Greece, he also decided to fulfill his calling to monasticism and become a monk. He made a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain of Athos (Greece) and stayed a few years there in Saint Paul's Monastery. He was under the direction of his spiritual father there, Elder Parthenios, who is the Abbot of that monastery until this day, and is a well-known and respected Holy Father of the Orthodox Church. Father Ephraim was tonsured a monk by the hand and blessing of Father Parthenios and he was given the name "Ephraim" after the widely revered Saint Ephraim the Syrian. This was an honor for Father Ephraim, since both he and the Saint he was named after are from the Middle East.
Father Ephraim was asked by the Antiochian Patriarch, His Beautitude ELIAS IV (Mouawad), to return to Lebanon and reopen Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology, as it was closed during the Lebanese civil war, and work as Dean. He did so from 1979-1981, where he surrendered his position to Archpriest Michel Najm.
Father Ephraim then founded his own monastery in Nahr Baskinta, under the jurisdiction of His Eminence Georges Khodre, Metropolitan of Mount Lebanon. The monastery is located nearly 1200 meters above sea level and is called “Holy Archangel Michael Monastery”, and Father Ephraim is still presently the Abbot there and now has several monks under his spiritual direction.
Fr. Ephraim has also published and translated many theological and spiritual books into Arabic over the years; books including the Patristic Commentaries for the Gospel & Epistle Readings for Sundays and Feast Days, the Teachings of St. Ephraim the Syrian and the Letters of Elder Paisios the Athonite, enriching Orthodoxy for the faithful Arabic readers. He also continues to write articles for Orthodox periodicals and magazines, as well as providing an annual publication by his monastery containing many spiritual topics in both Arabic and English.
#30.1 Stephen on 2009-10-06 07:51
Axios! Axios! Axios!
If the reports I have read of Metropolitan-Elect Ephrem are even close to true, the Holy Synod has blessed the Diocese of Tripoli.
Pray that we will be blessed with such men to fill our vacant dioceses here in North America.
#30.1.1 Subdeacon David [Yetter] on 2009-10-06 17:55
"MP will never never backdown.
"He will never want the truth to come out while he is alive.
"He does not appear to fear God as much as he fears death.
"The only way to correct our Church will be through legal action against the Board of Trustees and / or IRS involvement"
Let me tell you frankly, I don't believe any of this. Furthermore, I don't see adequate evidence for these drastic conclusions.
Indeed, I wonder on what basis this anonymous person presumes to pass such a damning judgment on the state of the Metropolitan's soul. It would take more than the clairvoyance to speak with such assurance, and the saints warn us against such judgments.
Legal action against the Board of Trustees? Calling in the IRS?
At best, this is just fantasy, but I fear it is something worse.
#30.2 Father Patrick Reardon on 2009-10-06 11:46
Dear Father Pat,
Re: "Let me tell you frankly, I don't believe any of this. Furthermore, I don't see adequate evidence for these drastic conclusions."
Do you see evidence that Metropolitan Philip is willing to back down? Has he taken steps to reveal the truth? Does he behave in a manner that suggests he fears God?
Because what I see is a man who is comfortable using threats and intimidation to accomplish his objectives .... Those who fear God don't use these tactics.
I see a man who throws out the rules when it suits him, as he did at the convention when he ignored a motion that had been seconded.
I see a man who deceived his flock by publishing documents on our website, knowing they did not reflect the intent of the Patriarche.
I see a man who feels he has the authority to do what he wants, when he wants, the way he wants, as evidenced by the way he dismisses all of our concerns.
I see a man who has shaken my faith in the Church to such a degree that I don't want to be associated with it anymore.
If you see something different, please tell me, because there was never a time I wanted to be more wrong. My heart is truly breaking over all of this. - But if I'm right, only the authorities will be able to address these concerns, because Metropolitan Philip has shown no inclination to change.
#30.2.1 Gail Sheppard on 2009-10-08 18:59
As a man of integrity, a man of courage and one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated priests I have been blessed to know, it pains me to ask: How can anyone excuse the manner that MP treats those who ask reasonable questions. How can anyone excuse how he treats some of his brother bishops as subordinates and undermines their apostolic ministry. Does not St. Paul warn us (Colossians 2:8), "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the principles of the world, and not according to Christ."
No reasonable person questions that the Holy Spirit has done some marvelous works through MP, but likewise, no reasonable person cannot help but question the double-talking, double-standards, sometimes brutal treatment that MP employs not for the good of the church but for the good of the few. As we tell children, the same applies to all in God's household, "truth is the best policy." Indeed it is not always easy but it is the only way to walk in the Lord.
Our Metropolitan needs to serve the truth even if it is painful. If he truly loves the Lord, the Church and the people of God, then nothing less will suffice.
Your painfully anonymous brother.
#31 Disgusted Antiochian Priest on 2009-10-07 06:58
Striking any sort of question regarding the state of Met. Philip's soul, the conclusions reached by Anonymous do not seem far fetched given what we are seeing.
Who thinks the MP will back down from those who have dared questioned his tactics either dealing with his demoted assistants or handling of the financial affiars of our Archdiocese? The landscape of our Diocese is littered with the bones of those who have asked far less.
I have now become convinced given the proximity of dubious characters surrounding The Metropolitan and their documented history of criminal and finacially realted problems an almost palpable smell of corruption is permeating our Archdiocese.
The longer the resitance to finacial accountability vis a vis an audit the worse the stench. I do not think given these things that there will ever be a willing capitulation by Englewood. When you have something to hide..you hide it.
It may in fact take legal action to right this ship or His Eminence telling God that he is willing to give up the ghost as he instructed us at the Convention.
#32 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-10-07 07:52
Now that Mr Najjar, acknowledge that there is no crimial charges against Mr. El-Khoury, I would hope EVERY on this website who was quite to judge would publicily ask for his forgivenesss for pre-judging him. You are no different that the Pharisees.
#33 Anonymous on 2009-10-07 09:21
This is a point of information and request for clarification. On the Archdiocese website, scrolling down and to the right, are listed the Dioceses of our Archdiocese. I don't know if this was an oversight or perhaps someone making a statement. There are 2 Dioceses on the West Coast - Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, and Diocese of Eagle River and the Pacific Northwest. The Diocese of Los Angeles is not listed - all the other Dioceses are listed. Can someone from the website dept. explain this? Or did the west coast do something wrong to be overlooked????
Dear Archdiocese Website Editor,
I noticed yesterday that the listing of the Dioceses now includes L.A. and the West. Thank you for adding this in in such a timely manner. I thought maybe we did something wrong and were no longer a Diocese. Now the listing is complete.
I guess we should indeed be shamed by the anonoymous poster who has reminded us that Mr. Khoury is not a convicted felon. When one has a checkered past and a whole bunch of legal troubles regarding the misuse of charitable funds to be able to say he is "not a felon" is quite a tribute to him and powerful put down to those asking questions regarding his intimate involvement in our Diocesan affairs.
To my knowledge no one has judged Fawaz or even called him a dog. The favored putdown of this God Protected Archdiocese. I guess some folks merely wonder about the appropiatenes of the gentleman being appointed by the Metropolitan to be on the nominating committee for our Board of Trustee's and to screen candiadtes for those positions?
Fawaz El Khoury, a resident of the Westborough, Massachusetts area, is variously described as a real estate investor and a textiles recycler and exporter.  Fawaz is the President, Secretary, and Treasurer of CMRK, Inc., a company involved in textile recycling and export, having its address at 16 Railroad Dr., Northborough, MA 01532.  In 2005, CMRK, Inc. joined a $120,000 settlement of an action brought by the Connecticut Attorney General’s office  arising out of its contract with Holy Trinity Community Centers LLC, a purported charity which had claimed that clothing and shoes donated in drop boxes  would be given to people in third world countries. In reality, Holy Trinity sold the donated goods to CMRK which then exported them at a profit. The charity claimed that the proceeds from sales would go to drunk driving reduction and breast cancer research charities, but the Attorney General’s office found that the bulk of the funds was consumed by the individuals involved in the “charity.” Holy Trinity Community Centers LLC closed its doors because of the investigation, but CMRK, Inc. continues to operate. The settlement proceeds were distributed to real charities. 
Fawaz El Khoury is an active member of the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees and is the parish council president of St. George Cathedral in Worcester, Massachusetts. Metropolitan Philip has also appointed him to serve on the nominating committee for the 2009 Archdiocesan Board of Trustees, which is charged with screening candidates for the Board of Trustees. 
#36 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-10-09 13:18
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