Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
He Found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” John 1:13
As we reflect upon the ministry of Metropolitan Philip who was the senior prelate of Orthodox Hierarchs in America, we thank God for his ministry. He changed the course of Orthodoxy in America. He brought a missionary vision to the Orthodox Church in America. His greatest service was bringing the Evangelical Christians home to Orthodoxy in 1987. He foreshadowed the present efforts to unify the 14 Orthodox groupings in America because of his missionary point of view. He wanted America to be Orthodox, and that can only happen with a unified, canonical, autocephalous Orthodox Church in the United States. Along with Archbishop Iakovos, and progressive laypersons, +Philip organized the first gathering of all the bishops in the United States at Ligonier in 1994 – the beginning of a “New Era” for Orthodoxy in America. The hopes were dashed, and the new era stalled at the time. It led to the “retirement” of Archbishop Iakovos, because the Old World Patriarchs were not ready for the possibility of change in the United States.
Let us pray that that the work of Metropolitan Philip is not undone by reactionary forces who seek to control the destiny of the American Church – here and abroad – as they did when Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese died. He was buried, and the reactionaries set about to undo his vision. Both of these hierarchs – +Philip and +Iakovos – might have made a united Church. The great mystery is: what held them back?
The Orthodox Christian Laity Executive Board met with Metropolitan Philip at the headquarters of the Church in Englewood, New Jersey on three occasions. The photograph (left) was taken in 2000 when His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius was visiting and just before the newly-appointed Metropolitan Paul was dispatched to Australia. OCL was also the guest of Antiochian Village, Ligonier, PA where it held two board meetings. Its 22nd Annual Meeting and Program at Ligonier in 2009, The Road to Unity from Vision to Action, was a great success. A group photo was taken at that meeting (see below).
Metropolitan Philip encouraged the work of OCL from the moment of its inception in 1987. He gave his blessing for distinguished clergy and laity to assist and guide us, including Charles Ajalat, Fathers Peter Gillquist of blessed memory, Gordon Walker and Michael Massouh. In 1989, The Word, the official publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Vol. 33, No.9, stated:
“A group of Greek laymen …organized the Orthodox Christian Laity, identified in its literature as a spontaneous grassroots reform movement….The significance of the movement lies in the attention it throws on incipient clergy-laity tensions and administrative responsibility. If it survives, a new dimension may be added to Orthodox church life in America.”
Orthodox Christian Laity has survived by God’s Grace and with the prayers and help of clergy and laity including Metropolitan Philip. We pray that our work and ministry has lived up to his expectations. We are grateful to God for Metropolitan Philip’s life and ministry; we mourn his passing from this earthly life and pray for his eternal repose among the saints. May his memory be eternal!
In 1991, on the occasion of his 25th Anniversary as Archbishop, Father Peter Gillquist produced a book on the ministry of the Metropolitan: Metropolitan Philip: His Life and His Dreams. We conclude this tribute to His Eminence from an interview in the last chapter of the book. “Dreaming Ahead: The Baptism of America.”
….”our unity as Orthodox into one American jurisdiction is inevitable. History is clear on that, and certainly the Scriptures are clear. Therefore we will simply continue our work for unity until our shameful division is overcome. “
“Remember, history is a dynamic process. It does not stand still. There is nothing worse than stagnation, and it is the life-giving Holy Spirit who keeps us as a Church from ever throwing up our hands in despair.”
Now that he belongs to the Ages, may the vision, energy and spirit of Metropolitan Philip re-energize us to make unity the reality for the Orthodox Christian Church in the United States.