Monday, September 13. 2010
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Something warm is streaming down the side of my leg and I've just been told it's merely a late summer rain.
The Metropolitan for God only knows what strange or worse yet diabolical reason changed his mind about the scary diocesans, who was getting way to uppity for his liking...so he needed to fix it and fix it he did.
Now can we please be spared the convoluted rationales and incomprehesible explanations?
It's one thing to be bullied by a ruthless CEO in imperial robes but must we now be BS'd straight to the loony bin?
#1 Kevin Kirwan on 2010-09-13 19:23
Fr. Aquaro, bless:
I am able to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you have good intentions because this is the first time I have com across you or anything you have written. This is much more than I can do for Metropolitan or whatever Philip is these days because I have seen him at work for several years now. I must say that you have taken on a task for which you are lacking qualifications because it is presumptuous to attempt a finely nuanced argument about the meanings of words when you state you are not an Arabist.
Let me be clear. Bishop Basil is my bishop. If he remains in what ever the current "archdiocese" is, I may or may not stay. However without question if Bishop Basil leaves for the OCA or for the creation of an American Orthodox Church, I will go with him. He is a student of scripture, he stands in a line of apostolic succession, respects the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church and his morals and ethics are not in question. He does not surround himself with bullies or thugs who threaten other bishops. Metropolitan Philip does not understand the American public and can never be effective at reaching them. He belongs to a culture that wants to see its names on every donation to the church, never mind about not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing. He is as erudite as Metropolitan Philip is wily. He is as principled as the Metropolitan is political. I will honor my financial commitments to the church until January. I will give no more money to the "Order of St. Ignatius. The henchmen and thugs who are in charge of too many aspects of the "Archdiocese" are about to find out that the American Church is not going to continue to be bled dry.
#1.1 Diogenes on 2010-09-15 17:50
With all due respect I am sorry you feel so separated from Metropolitan PHILIP. No man is perfect, he is the Archbishop of this Archdiocese, do not forget that his position still deserves respect.
I see many priests i do not care for because they are faker than the make up on Mickey Rourke in his last movie, but still i must respect their position and therefore kiss their hand...so in a way, I guess I'm fake too I guess.
No Bishop is clean from dirt, but I know Metropolitan PHILIP is filled with love and leadership, else this Archdiocese would not have been where were we were in 2003.
Fortunately the door is always open both ways, keep that and your wallet in mind. But before you venture off, every church has issues and I'm sure you will eventually find one wherever you go. I pray they hide their problems from you else I'm not sure where you would go next.
Talk about people that are power hungry, every bishop in this riff is completely trying to get to the Metropolitan's position. If Bishop BASIL was Metropolitan, I guarantee you all would agree with this ruling and not complain. I do not understand how you don't see what the "LEFT" hand is doing and you only focus on the "RIGHT" hand. Shame on you too.
Who is the Judas of this issue, my guess is you wouldn't believe it even if they told you to your face. Open your eyes for goodness sakes.
God sees all, too bad you don't.
#1.1.1 Happiogenes on 2010-09-16 10:13
Really? What if they decide to add the filioque? Or to break communion with the other patriarchates? Or to dispense w/ icons?
Obedience has nothing to do with checking your brain at the door.
And BTW, if my beloved bishop was elevated to Metropolitan, I (and he as well) would decry this decision as it is wrong no matter who is in charge. We have the canons. We have our constitution. We have our enthroned bishops. Where is the spiritual court that will demote these enthroned diocesans?
#22.214.171.124 Antionymous on 2010-09-17 03:08
Certainly, we must remember to respect the greatness of the rank of the hierarchical rank. I think that goes for those who hold that rank even when one does not perceive "love and friendship".
A little point, to help us in showing the exact and proper respect, and while we are looking for more exact (and deflated) titles, is Metropolitan Philip an "Archbishop" in Arabic? Since The Archdiocese is now a translation of "Eparchy", what is Archbishop in his title translating? I know Archbishop has a greater significance in the Greek/Antiochian usage.
Fr Yousuf Rassam
#126.96.36.199 Fr. Yousuf Rassam on 2010-09-17 11:26
If this article is correct in its translational explanation of key terms, then no one - apparently, not even the bishops themselves - have understood the singularly unique way English ecclesiastical terms as basic as "diocese" have been used in order to translate Arabic ecclesiastical terms.
If this article is correct, then "diocese" does not mean diocese, but it means a geographical region within a diocese.
Likewise, "archdiocese" does not mean archdiocese, but it simply means diocese.
Likewise, "metropolitan" simply means diocesan bishop.
In other words, the entirety of the continent of all North America is one, one and only one, diocese. The so-called "dioceses" are nothing of the kind, but are simply geographical regions within the diocese.
According to this article, using words like "archdiocese" and "metropolitan" might sound impressive, but what is meant is simply diocese and diocesan bishop. And if what this article says is correct, the use of such terms have confused everyone, including, apparently, the bishops themselves who mistakenly thought they were serving dioceses. The bishops, instead, were simply assigned to assist within certain geographical regions that comprised one and only one diocese, with one and only one diocesan bishop. That one diocese just happens to encompass all of North America. That is what this article is saying.
If this article's translational explanation is correct, it is remarkable that no one (until now) has discovered this simple explanation and published it. Clearly, most people thought that a "diocese" was, in fact, a diocese - and not merely a region within a diocese. But if this translational explanation is correct, then the implications are nothing less than profound.
What does seem to be clear is that there are not nearly enough Arabic language experts making Arabic source-texts known, readable, and correctly understood among an American English-speaking populous. The knowledge and resources are there. Why not assemble a communications consortium dedicated to simply allowing American English-speaking Antiochians and Arabic-speaking Antiochians to communicate with one another? That would move the entire relationship light years ahead.
It seems as though the language barrier might well be single greatest problem facing the Antiochian Archdiocese (or should it be, simply, Diocese) of North America.
#2 Anonymous on 2010-09-13 21:16
It was BETTER you say? ONE bishop for 250 parishes? He is supposed to know every community and pastor each? Then when were given shepherds in manageable sized flocks, they are now told that they aren't really shepherds at all? But underlings? What Church council created the office of "Sub-bishops?"
I've been around long enough to know that it was NOT better. Troy, MI is but one example of parishes gone awry because one man cannot sheperd 200+ parishes.....
#2.1 Antionymous on 2010-09-14 12:12
Especially when the 'one shepherd' is a vile and corrupt ethnarch.
#2.1.1 Palomino on 2010-09-15 07:25
1) I have not been transferred many times.
2) This is ALL about Troy.
3) Things were better 2 years ago.
4) we did not have "bishops assigned to a region" but duly enthroned diocesan bishops with praxis from the Holy Synod.
5) Prove Bp. Mark does not live in his chancery.
#2.1.2 Antionymous on 2010-09-17 03:13
Can you please delete all my posts. And post the following. The reason is, i write things that are not being helpful even though i mean them to be and truth in my eyes.
Can you please replace them with this, I know your busy but appreciate your dedication to our voices.
(editor's note: As you request.)
"Though I like this article, I asked Mark to take down my comments, though trying to be helpful it just doesn't seem to help by writing these posts. They get ugly and I know I have been too. Forgive me if I offended anyone. Do not give up on this Archdiocese no matter what your position is, it will come together stronger in the end. Thank you. Blessings, Happy"
#188.8.131.52 Happy on 2010-09-17 14:55
God bless you Happy, and please forgive me any offense.....
#184.108.40.206.1 Antionymous on 2010-09-20 07:23
Unfortunately Fr. Aquaro's defense of the indefensible would have us believe that members of the Holy Synod, several of whom, His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV included, were educated at the St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, and some of whom, again including His Beatitude, are fluent in English, somehow failed to understand that the English "diocese" has the same meaning as the French "diocèse", and would, moreover, be understood by the English-speaking faithful in North America as having that meaning.
Had the Holy Synod in the Self-Rule proclamation meant to establish additional auxiliary bishops to assist Metropolitan Philip, they could have done so, finding some long-empty bishoprics somewhere in the distant reaches of "All the East" to which to consecrate Bishops Thomas, Mark and Alexander. Rather, they explicitly authorized the drawing of diocesan boundaries, consecrated bishops to newly created sees, rather than as titular bishops of antique sees devoid of Christians, elevated other bishops from auxiliaries to diocesan bishops, and Metropolitan Philip himself conducted enthronements of the bishops in their cathedrals.
That "diocesan bishop" and "auxiliary bishop" are not equivalent notions, as Fr. Aquaro's disquisition would have us believe, was plainly understood by the Holy Synod at the time of the Self-Rule Resolution, which stated, "Upon adoption of this resolution, the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese shall become Diocesan Bishops and bear their given titles. The Diocesan Bishops will constitute under the Metropolitan the Local Synod of the Archdiocese, which will be its governing autority. [sic] The Local Synod shall determine the number of dioceses and their boundaries." And, unlike this recent decision, for which the Arabic alone is stated to be authoritative, the self-rule resolution explicitly stated, "The Arabic text of this resolution and its English translation shall have equal force and validity."
Fr. Aquaro would have us believe that the sentence from the Self-Rule Resolution first quoted above was nonsense, a rendering of some Arabic sentence meaning more-or-less "Upon adoption of this resolution, the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese shall become Auxiliary Bishops and bear their given titles."
It might be instructive to consider what Arabic phrases were rendered as "Auxiliary Bishops" and "Diocesan Bishops" back in 2003. Presumably they were not identical.
#2.2 DNY on 2010-09-14 20:10
I cannot speak for the Arabic translations, but I will say definitively that at the Pittsburg Special Convention the issue of auxiliary vs. diocesan bishops was addressed and there was very clearly stated a difference between them. The Constitution that was discussed and amended there (I was a delegate) contained provisions for the Metropolitan to have one or more auxiliary bishops serving the Archdiocese at large in addition to the diocesan bishops in their respective dioceses. In fact, the Constitution had a vague point on the issue of whether auxiliary bishops could be part of the Local Synod which I requested be clarified. Following some discussion the Constitution was amended to allow the auxiliary bishops to participate as members of the Local Synod. I had not done any prior research on the history of auxiliary bishops or dioceses within an archdiocese, but it was clear to me and anyone else paying attention that there would be differences in the responsibilities of the new diocesan bishops we were creating and any auxiliary bishops that may be needed in the future.
All of these inventions and machinations as to what word meant what in whichever translation miss the basic point that should have ended this discussion 18 months ago: We are a self-ruled Archdiocese that, with the blessing of the Holy Synod of Antioch, had set ourselves up differently than any other diocese or archdiocese within the Patriarchate of Antioch. The old definitions and applications of what may have happened in another area simply do not apply to us. This was one of the arguments put forth by our former chancellors. But by rejecting their arguments, we have doomed ourselves to this current state of uncertainty, filled with accusations, power grabs, uncivil discourse and behavior, and general spiritual unhealthiness.
Lord have mercy!
#2.2.1 David Najjar on 2010-09-15 09:24
First, Self Rule was given as something less than full Autonomy. Self Rule is an ambiguous term, there is no definition of it in canonical literature or previous practice, so it can not mean more than what the Synod giving it meant to give. And even if it was full Autonomy, since it is clearly less than Autocephaly, once the First Hierarch of the Self Ruled body appealed back to the Mother Synod for a ruling, it is no stretch at all to imagine that they have the power to hear an appeal of that sort and decide. Then other Antiochian bishops also appealed to the Patriarch and Synod. If the hierarchs of the self ruling body themselves appeal to the Mother Church, it is hard to see how the Synod does not have the authority to answer such an appeal from within their own Patriarchate. Whether their decision was good, wise, or prudent is another question.
If self rule is diminished it is in large part because self ruling hierarchs appealed beyond their self ruled entity to their mother church.
#220.127.116.11 Fr Yousuf Rassam on 2010-09-16 01:55
I must object to your characterization that I have argued that "diocesan bishop" and "auxiliary bishop" are equivalent notions. I have very clearly not said such a thing. I have tried to explain that these are not equivalent concepts in English, though the translations have led to the misunderstanding that they somehow are. I have only tried to explain the translations rather than arguing for their validity.
#2.2.2 Fr. George Aquaro on 2010-09-15 13:40
Forgive me father, I should have been clearer both in my thought and in my expression of the thought. You do, however, seem to have argued that from the point of view of the Holy Synod, "auxiliary bishop" and "diocesan bishop" are both Englishings of some single concept in Arabic. That is why I was at pains to point out that such a view of the Holy Synod's understanding of the matter is insupportable in view of the resolution of the same Holy Synod a mere seven years ago in which the notions were plainly distinguished, when the Arabic and English versions of the text were both declared authoritative, and to point to the linguistic competence of the Synod and of His Beatitude in particular.
Perhaps comparison of this latest resolution with the Arabic version of the Self-Rule Resolution would be useful--I presume the same phrase is not Englished as "auxiliary bishops" at one place in a sentence, and "diocesan bishops" at a later place in the same sentence, which would argue that the distinction between the two can be expressed in Arabic, presumably also without the diocesan bishop being called the Arabic equivalent of "metropolitan".
This is a very confusing topic because we have spent so long with a very different understanding of the terms being used here. Please allow me a moment to reiterate:
1) the Holy Synod only understands there to be one 'diocesan bishop,' and that is Metropolitan Philip because he is the bishop of the eparchy (i.e. the Archdiocese).
2) the Holy Synod has not used the terms 'auxiliary' and 'diocesan' interchangibly in Arabic. In Arabic, they have used 'usquf' consistently either as 'usquf musa`id' (bishop who helps, hence a 'regional bishop') and 'usquf al-usqufiyyeh' ('bishop of the bishopric' which is within a diocese), versus an 'usquf mu`awin' (auxiliary bishop with no regional responsibilities). The English translations add the concept of diocese where the Holy Synod never used it. The former terms have been variously tranlated as 'diocesan' and 'auxiliary,' though in the strictest sense in Arabic 'diocesan' could not be used un;less one modifies the dictionary definition.
3) the Holy Synod has differntiated between two types of auxiliary bishops, one with considerably more rights and responsibilities than the other. The Holy Synod appears to want these rights to be exercised according to the canons of the 'chorepiscopos' so that there will be some order to all of this.
Please understand that I have only recently become acquainted with this terminology, and it has required a great deal of effort and lots of questions to experts for me to feel even the least bit comfortable with the topic. There is a great deal I still do not know, and I think this part of the continued struggle we have to define what all of this means.
I can understand everyone's frustration because I have shared in it during my own learning process. I just want everyone to know that it will take time for all of us to absorb the full implications of what I have written about. If we all can release our emotions and come to see what is going on here without anger and fear, we will see the truth behind these many years of confusion.
I am probably the last person who should have written this, but I am the only one who has tried. Perhaps someone who is better than me at Arabic, canon laws, and church history can step up and take this topic where it should go. In the meantime, I feel fairly confident that what I have written is as accurate as anything on the topic previously written. If I had not written it, then I think we would still be waiting.
#18.104.22.168.1 Fr. George Aquaro on 2010-09-15 19:01
I must confess, Father, that I still find your explanation unsatisfying because the original 2003 Self-Rule Resolution included a clause that the Arabic and English were equally authoritative, and used the phrase "diocesan bishops" in contradistinction to "auxiliary bishops". Enough members of the Holy Synod are fluent in English and French in which the words "diocesan" and "auxiliary", or their French cognates with identical meanings, make a clear distinction that if they did not mean to make that distinction, they would have known enough not to use the words the way they did in the equally authoritative English translation of the Self-Rule Resolution. I would also observe that "bishopric" as you rendered the Arabic usqufiyeh is simply an archaic English word for (drum roll please). . . DIOCESE!
Leaving aside the question of overlapping jurisdictions in North America, the Self-Rule Resolution's authoritative English version admitted a plain interpretation in accord with the Holy Canons--that what the English text called "diocesan bishops" are indeed bishops of dioceses = bishoprics--which interpretation was confirmed by the practical fact that all of the bishops (Bp. Antoun excepted) were enthroned in their cathedrals with the rites used throughout the Orthodox Church for the enthronement of a diocesan bishop. No amount of reading of ambiguities into the equally authoritative Arabic version of the Self-Rule Resolution will undo that fact, or make this new resolution anything other than the removal of diocesan bishops from their sees without consent or trial by a spiritual court.
All these years of the synod overseas watching the development over here and we are supposed to believe they are so out of touch they had no idea the notion of 'diocese' they promoted for so long to the people here was different than the one they privately understood it to mean?
In the alternative they knew full well they were doing a deception and determined now was the moment to pop their little trick, meaning it was okay in their view to do a deception upon those theoretically in communion?
Either way, these are Christian Orthodox Bishops worthy of making decisions about growth and future and, well, anything at all here? Seriously?
That overseas doing is completely toxic to growth.
#3 Harry Coin on 2010-09-14 12:17
The fact that, with all the priests and bishops here in the AOCA who speak Arabic, not catching all of these nuances until now, is further argument for ALL Orthodox Christians in America to be in an autocephalous Church here, without any power, influence, or decrees from any Old World bishops, archbishops, or patriarchs!!! It is time to stop the mutilation of the canons for the sake of expediency, power, and money that the Old World wants to funnel from us here in America!! As we can see from the recent establishment of FOCUS America, we have more than enough for us to minister to here, while freely giving to missionary charities across the oceans!!!
#4 David Barrett on 2010-09-14 13:40
Dear Father Aquaro, I do not intend to communicate any disrespect by what I am about to write, but I feel compelled comment on your article.
As a highly educated layman with a strong command of both history & the canons I have to tell you that your article is one of the most convoluted & irrational papers that I have ever read: my head is still spinning.
While it is clear that you have done a fair amount of research your overall thesis is strikingly reductionist. Yes, there is a degree of internal rational that is consistent, but you have failed to account for the great majority of the historical facts from both ancient & modern times which make your claim impossible & illogical.
More importantly, if what you are proposing as an explanation for the current dilemma is true then it means that nearly everyone involved in the events of these recent years (hierarchs, clergy & laity on both side of the ocean) would have to have been ignorant beyond wild imagination.
Unfortunately, sometimes things really are as bad as they seem & fantastic explanations, however well intended they are, don't actually contribute to solving the problem.
Please forgive me if my directness seems unkind as this is not my disposition.
#5 Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim on 2010-09-14 19:35
God bless you!
I'm afraid you did not cite anything specific enough for me to respond to. I can assure you that this paper was reviewed by several PhDs along with laymen such as yourself who were able to grasp subject without having to resort to Dramamine®.
As for the 'ignorance' you cite, I would like to remind you that mistranslations are fairly common and often long-standing. They are less about ignorance than oversight. People 'assume' they are using the same meanings when, in fact, the meanings are different. I believe that is at the heart of what is going on here.
If you would like to charge anyone with malfeasance, I urge you to present your evidence.
#5.1 Fr. George Aquaro on 2010-09-15 11:33
As to the Charge of malfeasance, i. e. the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law (esp. of an act in violation of a public trust) ....well lets just say there are bigger fish to fry than you. Didn't you serve as Bishop Joseph's Secretary at one time?
#5.1.1 Anonymous on 2010-09-15 14:30
What a cheap shot!
(and cowardly too!)
Fr Yousuf Rassam
#22.214.171.124 Fr. Yousuf Rassam on 2010-09-17 12:53
Your article was both convoluted and fragmented. It does nothing but prove that when we want to justify something we can find creative ways to do so.
And so the spinning has begun! God help us!
#6 Delegate #1 on 2010-09-15 08:45
I found Fr. Aquaro's paper understandable.
Hinged on the meaning/application of "chorepiscopos" which I brought up months ago to no avail.
All comments thus far miss that whole layer.
But then, I have no personal stake in all this as such since I'm not AOCA.
Now, THAT's the pity -- that we are OCA, AOC, GOA, ROCOR, etc.
#7 Rdr. John on 2010-09-15 13:31
Well, that explains everything. It was a translation error, yes, certainly.
Here in America, we have a word, or rather acronym for that sort of long and winding explanation.
A prudent standard would be the comparitive sizes of all the dioceses. (Forgive me if that information was imbedded somewhere deep within the tale of translation errors.) Anything else is the former..
Its a good thing Jesus didn't need so many pages for his explanations or he'd have very few followers.
Just an outsider's perspective...
#8 Daniel E. Fall on 2010-09-15 21:41
It seems to me that most of the posters both for and against are laboring under a delusion having to do with the plain text in English before them, never mind the Arabic. Fr George has not argued for or against any arrangement, much less justified any actions taken to modify that arrangement. He has attempted to explain certain terminology. Nothing more or less.
The value of an explanation, is of course, how well it clarifies and, well, explains … Fr. George has explained certain things which have been for too long ambiguous.
I confess that I was very, very critical of the August 2010 Synodal decision. I was scandalized that the Synod in Antioch did not seem to understand the consequences of its action in forming dioceses. I assumed that self rule was erecting a metropolitan district in the sense of Apostolic Canon 34. etc. etc.
But I have accepted the explanation because it makes sense. What before seemed irrational made sense. For instance, the following, from last February, (let us recall, the decision which was falsified on the Antiochian Eparchial Website):
"The Holy Synod of Antioch affirms and reminds that all bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America are bishops who assist the Metropolitan,
And that, furthermore, any diocese of the one united Archdiocese, under any circumstances, cannot be considered independent Archdiocese. The Holy Synod of Antioch alone has the prerogative to establish Archdioceses in the See of Antioch."
What were they going on about, only the Synod can erect Archdioceses? Why the concern? Who was trying to make, say, Eagle River its own "Archdiocese"? I wondered at the time. Let's retranslate, and it all becomes clear:
"The Holy Synod of Antioch affirms and reminds that all bishops of the Antiochian Eparchy (Diocese) of North America are bishops who assist the Metropolitan,
And that, furthermore, any region with a bishopric of the one united Eparchy (Diocese), under any circumstances, cannot be considered independent Eparchy (Diocese). The Holy Synod of Antioch alone has the prerogative to establish Eparchies (Dioceses) in the See of Antioch."
The key thing is to realize that the Synod in Antioch never erected full dioceses (as we usually understand the term) in the first place, and once the terminology is clear, we see that they are much more consistent than first appeared. (Nor, BTW, does it seem that they ever gave the right to erect full eparchies/dioceses to the Antiochian Archdiocese as part of self rule). Thus the August 2010 decision, which reads:
“The Dioceses within the Archdiocese are not considered, by any means, independent, but rather shall always remain under the direct authority and control of the Metropolitan.”
“The Episcopal Regions within the Eparchy (Diocese) are not considered, by any means, independent, but rather shall always remain under the direct authority and control of the Metropolitan.
And the synod explicitly references its own Arabic text as the final text, as opposed to anyone's translations or impressions. Maybe the Synod should have erected full dioceses (as we in English usually understand) and a Metropolitan district, but they did not.
Fr. George Aquaro's explanation is just that, an explanation. It is not an apology either for the Synod or the Metropolitan, nor is it written as an attack against them. That is clear.
To labor the point, one evaluates explanations by their power to explain, to clarify. This is an explanation of Arabic terms and Synodal usage, and it must be evaluated on how well it explains and clarifies the Arabic of the Synod. It is not an explanation of how American perceptions came to diverge from Synodal intentions, it is not an explanation of what members of the Antiochian Archdiocese thought was happening, or what they were told even. Whether one likes the outcome, or not, it does clarify a great deal, and there is no need to shoot the messenger.
Clarity causes one to reformulate questions. And if one will but stop and think for a moment, there are many, many questions and criticisms that remain, and many of the parties may not be really “off the hook”. Of course, an obvious question is how did perceptions come to diverge so radically?
#9 Fr Yousuf Rassam on 2010-09-16 01:42
You overlook the fact that the Self-Rule Resolution included a clause stating that the Arabic version and English translation were equally authoritative, and that many members of the Holy Synod are fluent in English and French, and surely knew what the words "diocese", "diocesan", and "auxiliary" or the French cognates with identical meanings, in fact, meant.
More important, our newly created diocesan bishops were enthroned with the rites used for the enthronement of a ruling bishop of a diocese, and that by the direction and with the authorization of the Holy Synod of Antioch--indeed those bishops who had not been titular bishops of antique sees before their enthronement in their new dioceses, were consecrated by His Beatitude, specifically as bishops of their newly created dioceses. When in the history of the Church has a bishop been consecrated and enthroned as bishop of a city and surrounding lands with Orthodox Christians living in them to be an auxiliary bishop subordinate not to a synod, but to another bishop? Never. Well, maybe twice in Akkar, which only means that the anti-canonical innovation is slightly older and not newly inflicted on us in North America.
God bless you!
(or for this thread, Allah Ma'ak!)
I really understand the confusion. Point in fact, back when the bishops were enthroned, I was noticing with apprehension that they were not given basic diocesan function, right to ordain clergy, consecrate antimensia, transfer clergy, etc. As this controversy has unfolded, I wondered how the Synod in Damascus was so erratic. I found some of their terms almost gibberish - dioceses are not independent Archdioceses etc. Now I get it.
I also noted and do note, that at the time of the controversy over the Damascus vs. American constitutions, the Damascus version gave more rights to the "diocesan" bishops, a simple fact that was smothered in a lot of rhetoric about "they over there can't tell us (me) what to do". But it bears notice: the "diocesan bishops" have never actually had full ruling bishop function.
Samn! has already written on how habitual usage might color one's approach, even if you do know French and English. In America, we are inclined to hear "Metropolitan" one way, which is not how it will sound when nearly every bishop is a metropolitan, for instance.
But let us grant that the Arabic and English self rule statements are equal, something you say I overlook: in case of a discrepancy, what happens when the Metropolitan and first hierarch of the self-ruled entity asks the "mother Synod" for a clarification? Whose terminology and understanding wins then?
The path to maximizing self rule would have been for the Metropolitan to lead the Eparchial Synod in such a way that they agreed to keep appeals to Damascus to a minimum, and were all willing to compromise in the maintaining a common mind. The path to minimizing self rule is to appeal to Damascus when the Eparchial Synod does not go your way. There can be no doubt that, as self rule was not full autonomy, appeal to Damascus was always possible. But what if it remained only a theoretical possibility?
I am not certain as to the point of insisting on a perception - who is going to fulfill that perception? The Synod? Met. Philip? Constantinople?
On the other hand, I certainly could see the point in asking who gave us this perception and then took it away? Why? And what is he/ are they up to?
Fr Yousuf Rassam
#9.1.1 Anonymous on 2010-09-17 12:46
The accuracy of Fr. George's explanation becomes crystal clear if we go back and look at the Arabic text of the 2003 resolution. There is no Arabic equivalent for the phrase "diocesan bishop" to be found in the text! For example, in paragraph 3 where the English says "recognition of auxiliary bishops as diocesan bishops and eparchial synod" the Arabic simply says "The establishment (iqama) of the auxiliary bishops over bishoprics (usqufiyyat) and the local synod." This does not even necessarily imply a change in status of the bishops from auxiliary to diocesan! In paragraph 4, the phrase "procedure of the election of diocesan bishops" is not an exact translation either: the Arabic reads "procedure for the election of the bishops of the Archdiocese (asaqifa al-abrashiyya)".
The fact that there were discrepancies between the Arabic and English texts has long been known. Likewise, the Patriarchate's concern that no one think of the Archdiocese as being autonomous makes sense in this context.
What is also clear is that there are too few channels of communication between the Patriarchate and the people of the Archdiocese, and that they are too easily monopolized and manipulated.
Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!
May God be merciful to me, the sinner.
In 1989 a book entitled “The Closed Circle: an interpretation of the Arabs,” by David Pryce-Jones was published (ISBN: 978-1-56663-826-5). I find its insights into the manner in which decisions are made and the characteristics of political power in Arabic culture to be quite appropriate in the current discussion.
Here is what some reviewers (on the Amazon.com website) have to say in summary of Mr. Pryce-Jones’ observations of Arabic culture (http://www.amazon.com/Closed-Circle-Interpretation-Edward-Burlingame/dp/1566638267/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284639462&sr=1-1):
1. TRIBALISM. Pryce-Jones argues that Arab culture doesn't encourage Arabs to identify themselves as members of a state, but as members of a family or tribe. Arab political life therefore consists of a multitude of warring factions, none of whom seeks the good of the nation as a whole. As Karl Popper might describe it, they ask only the personal question "Who should rule?" (and answer: "I should!") and never ask the more fundamental institutional question "How should power be organized?"
2. THE SHAME / HONOR SYSTEM. Arabs place great weight on perceptions of their honor. This consideration therefore often trumps all others and results in behavior that looks, to western eyes, like insanity.
3. THE POWER-CHALLENGE DIALECTIC. You're either in power in the Arab world, in which case you're paranoid and watching your subordinates and allies as closely as your enemies, or you're not, in which case you lurk in the shadows, plot and scheme until your hand is ready and you make your move to challenge the power holder. There is no notion of shared power, no notion of purely institutional power.
“For the first time I have read an author that tells me something I suspected from my admittedly limited dealings with Arabs in 12 years: they understand power, but democracy escapes them as an absurdity. Any sort of sexual liberation that goes beyond the cosmetic (and even that is pushing it) is not bound to happen any time soon in the Arab world. Without it, any sort of "democracy" they may have will never be more than a mirage, a photocopy of the original. Their family lives are deeply dictatorial, and so is their social life. They will abase themselves in front of those seen as superiors, and they will humiliate those seen as inferiors. Any other treatment is alien. This is what makes this book disturbing: I have read other books on the subject and I see the coverage of news from that area of the world, and now I realize how deeply wrong those assessments are. Pryce-Jones understands politics in the Arab world as power-plays and power-grabs. He is right. The sooner we realize that, the easier it will be to deal with this reality.”
I believe, that given the centuries of subjugation of Middle Eastern Christians under the Dhimi, whatever elements of Greco-Roman/Byzantine democracy/republicanism that may have previously existed in the cultures of the Orthodox Christians of the Antiochian Patriarchate was transformed to reflect the sensibilities of the conquering Islamic Arabs. Given the fact that some historical studies reveal that not a few of the Middle Eastern Christian communities (some Orthodox and some heterodox/heretic), which were conquered by Islam, actually welcomed the invading Arab Muslims. This may also indicate that there existed a more fundamental harmony of cultural values among the non-Jewish peoples of the Middle East with their Arabic-Muslim invaders from the very outset (in addition to their antipathy toward the Byzantine throne).
In any event, an appreciation of the cultural and political norms as described by Pryce-Jones can help those of non-Arabic heritage to understand the unwritten “rules” that are at play in our Antiochian Archdiocese. I believe this cultural dynamic certainly exists in the Antiochian parishes of which I have been a member -- and contributes to the misunderstandings (and fights) between convert clergy and old-line Arabic parish councils. I think that a wise assessment of the current debate about what the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Philip really have in mind must take these cultural and political values into account. Direct confrontation (even honest questioning -- viz. Fr. Oliver Herbel at the clergy meeting in Palm Desert) provokes a response that is deeply-rooted in these non-rational, Arabic-cultural sensibilities. It is important that one appreciates the cultural tradition from which this political turmoil springs, examining it without prejudice based on Western preconceptions of democratic ideals and chivalric values. Open debate among “equals” does not seem to exist in the Arabic mind. Questions from “subordinates” are understood as being a challenge to personal honor. In the Arabic mind, the closed circle of trusted family members is the only council that is trusted by the Sheikh (who is manifested in our experience as the parish council president, or the priest/bishop/metropolitan/patriarch -- according to their particular sphere of influence). This certainly explains why Bishop Mark has received no respect from the senior Arabic clergy in his diocese, and why Metropolitan Philip would support these clergymen (who are viewed by him as members of his clan) above the bishop who seemingly (from a western perspective) has spiritual authority over them (and it explains the maledictions against him, when he merely acted to enforce seemingly logical/legal requirements).
In conclusion, I believe all of this means the following for us in our present situation:
(1) while understanding the proper definition of terms is important for those of us who are not native Arabic-speakers, this knowledge will not reveal the more elusive nature of how these terms may be manipulated by those in power in order to keep themselves in power (according to the Arabic mind, this use of deception is moral and praiseworthy)
(2) a lively debate about the traditions and canons helps all of us to have a clearer understanding of proper church order, but it does very little to advance an understanding of the Realpolitik of the Holy Synod of Antioch (or of the intentions of Metropolitan Philip)
(3) questionings, threats, withholding of monies, petitions, etc., none of these traditional “Western” means of registering discontent with the manner or course of events in the Antiochian Archdiocese will have the intended effect; instead, it will be perceived as impertinent and will be met with unyielding disciplinary force
(4) the blending of converts into the life of the Archdiocese (and in parishes) and with the native Arabic population (even after 3 or 4 generations of living in America) will not happen by persuasion, and will not happily occur through force, but will only come by a true conversion of hearts (on both sides); this must be accomplished by the Holy Spirit so that humility, mutual respect, and patience are valued along with genuine and pious love for one another in Christ Jesus (patronizing attitudes and judgmentalism by converts must cease while clan-mentality and authoritarianism by ethnic Arabs must disappear)
(5) autocephaly will never be granted by the Patriarchate, but will have to be declared (by the Holy Spirit and the domestic synod); concomitantly, self-rule will not be worthily held by an American bishop of any ethnic background unless he is a devout, pious monastic who has learned true humility and obedience through genuine ascetic discipline, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and under the tutelage of a holy spiritual father
(6) the chaos we are experiencing in our Patriarchate and our Archdiocese is a Cross which our Lord has allowed to be laid upon our shoulders in order to build up patience and love and humility among our members; we must bear it with love and patience, trusting that the Holy Spirit will not abandon us who humbly pray for our Archdiocese and our hierarchs.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
#11 Anonymous Priest (who values the Narrow Way of Jesus Christ's Holy Orthodox Chur on 2010-09-16 07:43
" . . .the chaos we are experiencing in our Patriarchate and our Archdiocese is a Cross which our Lord has allowed to be laid upon our shoulders in order to build up patience and love and humility among our members; we must bear it with love and patience, trusting that the Holy Spirit will not abandon us who humbly pray for our Archdiocese and our hierarchs. "
Wow. I think you are absolutely right on. May God enable us to bear our cross well!
#11.1 Antionymous on 2010-09-17 03:20
Your post was very helpful in understanding the "Arab mind" as opposed to the "American mind." Of course, our dear Lord understands but also transcends all earthly cultures. Since nothing happens without the express will or permission of our Triune God, what you stated about this controversy being a cross for us to bear "in order to build up patience and love and humility" in our Archdiocese is prophetic. This controversy is due to my sins, and if anyone else is a sinner, perhaps, to their sins too.
Fr. Michael Molloy
#11.2 Fr. Michael Molloy on 2010-09-17 16:30
There is nothing so offensive as a revisionist approach to history.
MP knew exactly what the term diocese meant to people in North America. He has lived here for 50 years.
Let us admit that he got what he asked for, changed his mind and paid to change it back.
Unfortunately, in his attempts to change it back he had to let the Holy Synod take the hit as he still wants to spin the idea of self-rule.
A large number of the so-called Holy Synod have always been willing to sell their votes.
That is simply the way things are done over there.
In Fr Peter Gillquists book they talk about money changing hands to buy votes to have Philip elected.
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
We are not dealing with men of the Gospel, but merchants, who peddle their power for masadi.
#12 anonymous on 2010-09-16 08:56
Missionaries always strove to learn the language of the people they missionize.
If the Holy Synod cannot or will not communicate in a language we can understand, including all seven of our Bishops, then we need to govern ourselves here according to the canons.
What mother speaks to her child in an unknown tongue?
The Holy Synod should always provide an authoritative English translation so we know no private interpretations have been inserted into the text.
As for Fr Aquaro's article translation is always a metter of context and interpretation.
I for one believe MP, Patiarch Ignatius and the Holy Synod knew exactly what the words meant in 2003 according to OUR UNDERSTANDING HERE IN NORTH AMERCIA ---- AND THEY ALL AGREED TO IT.
Patriarch Ignatius was gaiunst self-rule as he did nopt think MP would allow the Bishops to have the real authority of Diocesan Bishops.
They all knew we were returning to the true and authentic model of ecclesiology as we were a growing church.
Certain terminology had simply fallen into disuse within the Patriarchate since the fall of Constantinople and Christianity was in decline in the middle east. They are a dying church.
How can a church which has slowly been dying for the last 14 centuries truly care for and oversee a growing church.
May God have mercy on their souls for their deceit and corruption.
I truly grieve for the many people who are leaving the Orthodox church or never will come because of all the corruption within the ancient see of antioch.
Perhaps, we should look forward to the day when we can sing memory eternal over this entire patriarchate, at least it will have ceased from sinning and driving people away from the Church.
#13 anonymous on 2010-09-16 09:10
One thing this article does not seem to address is the fact that the american bishops were Enthroned. A big deal was made of this at the time; it was seen as a momentous, defining step in self-rule. Whatever the definition of bishop/archbishop/metropolitan, it seems to me that what happened *here*, the understandings of the bishops themselves, is what is binding, in a moral, if not a canonical sense. It's incredible to me that a Fr. George, see above, would use this opportunity to question OUR maturity, but for the bishops themselves to go through with enthronements and give those speeches about the importance of a dioceses and so on, and to now be told now that THEY (mature old world churchmen) were similarly immature in their understanding, the victims of inexact translation... it beggars belief.
This would be roughly similar to two people getting married by an ordained minister, only to find out 10 years later that there was some problem with the ordaining, or the minister's credentials. In this case you wouldn't question the maturity of the married couple, no?
#14 Steve Knowlton on 2010-09-16 09:14
I have found Fr. George's essay to be both enlightening and thought-provoking, and I wish to express my sincere gratitude to him for proffering it. I have one question, which I think goes to the heart of whether this explanation holds water or, in the alternative, whether the Holy Synod really has changed its mind about how its North American eparchy is to be governed and organized: Has it been customary, elsewhere in the Patriarchate, for an usquf usqufiyeh who is an usquf musa' id to be enthroned over his usqufiyeh? If so, then, then Fr. Yousuf would appear to be entirely correct. If, on the other hand, it has been the practice of the Patriarchate to enthrone only matarina, then further elucidation would seem to be required, given that the North American asaqifa usqufiyyat were enthroned. Does anyone know what the practice has been in this regard--for example, in the Eparchy of Akkar?
#15 Formerly Diogenes on 2010-09-16 10:26
From an inside source in Englewood, a PRAXIS was issued by the Patriarchate for the 3 bishops consecrated to serve respective diocese. The 3 PRAXIS were sent to Englewood and mysteriously were never forwarded to the bishops. Fr. Aquaro’s spin does not negate the fact that deception, double talking and a total lack of veracity permeate Damascus, Englewood, LA, Troy, etc.....
(editor's note: For those unfamiliar with ecclesiastical terminology - which I guess is about everybody it seems if the present controversy is to be believed - the term "Praxis" refers to "...a letter from one’s spiritual leader in which the assignee’s title is stated as are the responsibilities granted to the assignee. So, a priest will receive a praxis/letter that states his title and his responsibilities to his assignment. A bishop may receive such a thing from a synod.")
#16 sick of double talk on 2010-09-16 16:10
So much about NOTHING! Who in their right mind ever thought that Met. Philip wasn't completely in charge? This current episode may be his last hurrah and basically to keep "the Archdiocese toadies" in power. Think about this, + Philip is the only elder bishop in America who wields influence. After him, there is complete chaos. + Joseph really can't lead. + Basil can, but the "old country squad" will poo-poo him. American Orthodoxy is already trying to be taken over by the Greeks and the Russians want their cut. Will America just allow the Greeks to Hell-enize everyone? Will we all paint icons and make statues of "Black Bart?" WHERE ARE THE REAL LEADERS OF AMERICAN ORTHODOXY?
AND, all of this could have been avoided if + Philip would have joined the OCA in the 1970's. Now, we have a mess! Are we ready to succumb to FOREIGN BISHOPS? Not this American born Orthodox Christian and many more of us!
THE SOLUTION: + Philip to merge the AOCA with the OCA NOW and + Basil elected as the new Metropolitan of the AOCA/OCA. And just what could Damascus do? Nothing! "BEWARE THE GREEKS BEARING UNITY" and "BEWARE THE RUSSIANS - PERIOD!"
#17 Anonymous on 2010-09-17 05:50
Firstly, we in the OCA do not currently have a vacancy in the Metropolitan see.
"And just what could Damascus do?"
1. Bring the bishops who leave without a release to spiritual court and defrock them for violating their Consecration oath of obedience.
2. Install other hierarchs in their place.
3. Claim all property, including parish property of the Antiochian Eparchy.
Then they can help Constantinople to isolate the OCA.
Just pointing out things that seem obvious to me, not saying that I like or dislike the reality.
Fr Yousuf Rassam
#17.1 Fr. Yousuf Rassam on 2010-09-17 10:54
Fr. Rassam: You had better read the legal print of the AOCA. Damascus has no control over the properties in the AOCA - gotta read the fine print. Besides this, any challenge would tie the Pat. of Damascus in U.S. courts for years. What U.S. judge would rule in favor of hierarchs of a country supporting terrorism? The bishops would tell Damascus, sorry, according to Orthodox Canon Law, you have no authority in N. Am. And, Damascus would NEVER work with Istanbul. These foreign patriarchates are dying!
The AOCA bishops would be entering the ONLY canonical Orthodox Church in N. Am. - technically!
#18 Anonymous on 2010-09-17 15:31
Apparently the Arabic language, unlike any other human language, is so subtle, complex, nuanced and obtuse that translating it is like trying to translate the songs of humpback whales. If this is so, then the Antiochian Church should issue its communications in Ancient Greek: the language of the New Testament, the Canons and the Church Fathers. Then we might all understand what's being said.
(editor's note: continuing the tongue in cheek, the author of this post obviouslyl has not perused the 18,000 scriptural papers published last year. "Understanding what is being said" is only possible if we are clear exactly what was said. )
#19 Stu on 2010-09-20 21:20
FOR GODS SAKE , PLEASE STOP POISONING OUR ANTIOCHIAN ARCHDIOCESE, JUST LEAVE...
#20 NJS on 2010-09-22 18:29
I did. I encourage others to leave too.
#20.1 Stu on 2010-09-24 08:49
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