[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] Lest we Forget: Documents & Hierarchs’ Comments from and about Ligonier 1994 - Orthodox Christian Laity

Lest we Forget: Documents & Hierarchs’ Comments from and about Ligonier 1994

Hierarchs in attendance at the meeting of Orthodox Bishops in Ligonier, Pennsylvania in 1994.

Hierarchs in attendance at the meeting of Orthodox Bishops in Ligonier, Pennsylvania in 1994.

Source: Orthodox Christian Laity

Originally posted by St. Andrew House on May 21, 2011 in Orthodox Unity Hierarchs.

This is a place where we can really be transfigured…in this place, Your Eminence, your place.  We can be transfigured from parochial to truly Orthodox Christian people. We can be transfigured from separate jurisdictions to one jurisdiction.  We can be transfigured from many ethnic groups to one group headed and dominated by Christ, our Savior and our Lord.”      Archbishop Iakovos, Ligonier 1994

 The First Ecumenical Conference of American Orthodox Bishops

 November, 1994



Antiochian Village

Ligonier, Pennsylvania

November 30 – December 2, 1994


Adopted Text

We, the Orthodox Hierarchs in the United States and Canada, assembled at the Antiochian Village, Ligonier, Pennsylvania from November 30 through December 2, 1994, do first and foremost offer most sincere gratitude to the venerable Fathers and Hierarchs of our Mother Churches beyond the seas for their love and concern exhibited by the prominence given to the `diaspora´ on the agenda for the forthcoming Great and Holy Council evidenced in the Adopted Texts of the Preparatory Commission.

We await the next meeting of the Commission referred to in the Adopted Text of November 1993. We maintain that it is critical that the Church in North America be directly and concretely represented at that and future meetings. How is it possible for there to be discussion about the nature of the Church in North America in our absence? We must be present to share the two hundred years of experience that we have had of preaching the Gospel and living the Orthodox faith outside of those territories that have historically been Orthodox. We would humbly ask His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch to seek a way, through the venerable Hierarchs of the Standing Conference to accomplish this representation. We also humbly request the Primates of the other mother Churches to support this initiative. The demands upon our Church’s life by an unbelieving society do not allow for any further delay in this process. Episcopal assembly supports the repeated requests of SCOBA for its officers to be granted an audience with His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch and the other patriarchs and Primates of the Mother Churches to discuss the North American reality.

Furthermore, we have agreed that we cannot accept the term `diaspora´ as used to describe the Church in North America. In fact the term is ecclesiastically problematic. It diminishes the fullness of the faith that we have lived and experienced here for the past two hundred years.

Moreover, as we reflect on the ways in which the Church in North America has matured, it is important to recognize that much has been done as the natural and organic response of Orthodox Christians who share the same faith while living together in one place. We celebrate and build on already existing structures. Some are formal. The first of these is SCOBA itself. There are in addition various agencies of SCOBA such as the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC), the Orthodox Theological Society in America (OTSA), the Orthodox Christian Missions Center, and other North American-wide pan-Orthodox efforts. There are also less formal structures such as the joint meetings of our theological schools and seminarians, the joint monastic assemblies, the local councils of churches and clergy brotherhoods, and sacred art and liturgical music associations. They give witness to the strong foundation upon which we continue to build.

To this end, all of our efforts should be coordinated within an overall ecclesial framework. This would provide the freedom and flexibility to allow us to organically become an administratively united Church. As in any Orthodox ecclesiological framework for a local Church there are three levels. The first is the national, or in our case continental. The second is the regional or diocesan. And the third is the local or deanery. All of these depend upon and grow out of the parish which is the primary place where Christians express and encounter their faith.

On the national or continental level the body which coordinates the life of a Church is the Synod of Bishops. We have had in SCOBA an Executive Committee that has guided Church Life in North America for over thirty years. In convening this present Conference of Bishops, we find ourselves to be an Episcopal Assembly, a precursor to a General Synod of Bishops. We express our joy that in addition to the regular meetings of SCOBA, this Episcopal Assembly will convene on a annual basis to enhance the movement toward administrative ecclesial unity in North America.

The regional level presents a special challenge because this is one area in which few models of cooperation presently exist. Bishops who live within a given region of North America should meet and concelebrate regularly. They should coordinate activities, encourage clergy, and laity to get to know one another and to work together and initiate concrete joint programs. In essence, they should duplicate regionally what SCOBA has pioneered on the continental level for the past thirty-three years.

The local level is where the greatest diversity of models presently exists. These range from very informal clergy or lay associations to highly structured clergy brotherhoods or clergy and lay councils of churches. The bishops of a given region should continue to encourage the clergy and laity of their parishes to work together with other parishes in their area. Without imposing any one model, bishops should seek to formalize and regularize those models that already exist. In areas where there are as yet no such structures, bishops should work with the clergy and laity to develop a model that is appropriate in that locality. The principle is to encourage diverse models within a canonical ecclesiological framework.

The Church in North America also benefits from our various monastic communities. Their meeting together should be encouraged by their hierarchs so monastics might share their spiritual experience and wisdom with one another and with the whole Church of a given region.

We would like to emphasize again: this is presented as a broad outline or framework within which the whole Church in North America can grow to manifest the deep unity of faith that we share in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father who sent Him, and the Holy Spirit who continually makes Him known to us. The visible unity of the Church is a profound witness of our love for Him and for one another.

Finally, we would like to thank and bless our Christ-loving flocks: the pious priests, deacons, monastics, and laity — who, praying and laboring together, incarnate the oneness which our Church on this continent already enjoys. We ask for their prayers and support, as we pledge to work with them for the glory of God and His Holy Church.



Antiochian Village

Ligonier, Pennsylvania

November 30 – December 2, 1994


 Adopted Text

 The end of the second millennium after Christ coincides with a unique Missionary challenge to the Orthodox Church around the world. To mention only two dimensions of this challenge will show its scope. The fall of communist totalitarianism in Central and Eastern European countries opens the way for the re-evangelization of the peoples of these countries. In the United States and Canada millions of people are in spiritual crisis, millions of people are unchurched, the societies are afflicted with a spiritual and moral vacuum, and the Orthodox Church is therefore presented with a challenge to bear witness to the Orthodox faith and to evangelize.

We, the Orthodox bishops of North America, assembled at the Antiochian Village, Ligonier, Pennsylvania, November 30-December 2, 1994, have heard an address on Mission and Evangelism by His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, and a response by His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas, Orthodox Church in America, and have reflected together on the missionary task of the Orthodox Church in North America.

We wish to express the following convictions and commitments regarding mission and evangelism in North America:

*      It is our conviction that mission is the very nature of the Church, and is an essential expression of her apostolicity, and that the Orthodox Church is therefore commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to teach, to preach, and to make disciples of all nations;

*      It is our conviction that the Orthodox Church’s history and experience give numerous examples of commitment to mission and to the preaching of the Good News of Christ (missions to the Slavs, missions in Siberia, China Korea, and Japan, the evangelization of the Alaskan native people, and contemporary mission in Africa, Indonesia and Albania);

*      We believe that our task in North America is not limited to serving the immigrant and ethnic communities, but has at its very heart the missionary task, the task of making disciples in the nations of Canada and the United States;

*      We believe that the Orthodox of North America-bishops, clergy and laity-are called to think together, plan together, and work together in order to do mission work together;

*      We commit ourselves to show special pastoral attention to couples coming to marry in the church, especially in mixed marriages, and to their Orthodox Christian education and integration into Church life.

*      We commit ourselves to the evangelization, or re-evangelization, of those many people who call themselves Orthodox, and have indeed been baptized and chrismated in our churches, but whose lives are in fact distant from the fullness of the Orthodox Faith and the fullness of the Orthodox Church’s sacramental life;

*      We commit ourselves to avoiding the creation of parallel and competitive Orthodox parishes, missions, and mission programs;

*      We commit ourselves to common efforts and programs to do mission leaving behind piecemeal, independent, and spontaneous efforts to do mission, moving forward towards a concerted, formal, and united mission program in order to make a real impact on North America through Orthodox mission and evangelism;

*      We strongly endorse the unified Orthodox Christian Mission Center, the Mission Conferences (at present co-sponsored by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and the Orthodox Church in America), and encourage further consolidation of mission efforts and programs here and throughout the world;

*      We commit ourselves to express a common vision of mission and to work towards this end in the teaching of mission as an important part of the theological education of our future priests.

*       We respectfully petition His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch to convene a world conference of mission representatives to help coordinate Orthodox mission strategies and efforts around the world;

*        We Orthodox in North America commit ourselves to bringing our household into order for the sake of the preaching of the Good News of Jesus Christ, His Incarnation and His teaching, His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection, and His presence in the Church through the descent of the Holy Spirit.

(Signatures Follow)

+Bishop Alexios                                   +Bishop Anthimos

+Bishop Antoun                                   +Bishop Basil

+Metropolitan Christopher        +Archbishop Dmitri

+Archbishop Herman               +Archbishop Iakovos

+Bishop Iakovos                                  +Metropolitan Irinej

+Metropolitan Joseph               +Archbishop Kyrill

+Bishop Mark                                      +Bishop Maximos

+Bishop Methodios                              +Bishop Mitrophan

+Bishop Nathaniel                                +Bishop Nicholas

+Archbishop Peter                               +Metropolitan Philip

+Bishop Philip                                      +Bishop Philotheos

+Bishop Seraphim                                +Metropolitan Silas

+Metropolitan Theodosius        +Bishop Tikhon

+Archbishop Victorin               +Bishop Vsevolod

A New Era Begins

A Ligonier Springtime

“Orthodox Unity Must Start on the Grass Roots Level”

Metropolitan Philip Saliba

Departing from the1994 Conference of Orthodox Bishops in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, each bishop came away with his own impressions of the importance of the gathering. Some of these impressions were expressed, “in situ,” to the public via the media. Among these public statements were those given by heads of various Orthodox communities in North America. These can be heard on the video, “A New Era Begins.” For our readers who yet do not have the video, we offer these impressions in this printed form. The following statements were transcribed directly from the video, and if there are minor discrepancies between the statements given and the rendering printed here, attribute them to the ineptitude of the transcriber, who is also author of this editorial.

It should be noted that most of these statements express urgency, dedication and willingness to bring about the administrative unity of the Churches of the United States and Canada. Reflecting on these impressions, stated in the ecstasy of the moment, we now must acknowledge that six years have fled across the pages of the ecclesiastical calendar, and the exuberance of prophecy of the moment has diminished to a whisper.


Metropolitan Theodosius
Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America & Canada
Orthodox Church in America

“We achieve unity by first of all … surrendering ourselves to our Lord. We need to say: ‘I am here … show me the way I should go.’ If we can come together in love … united in Jesus Christ, then we can achieve something.”

“The Holy Spirit has brought us here … together … we’ve met for meetings … to be able to get to know one another as brothers … in mutual love …. And from there we hope the Spirit will move us. Administrative unity is essential. We’re fragmented. When God will bless it, it will come. Let’s work toward this.” 

Archbishop Dmitri
Diocese of the South
Orthodox Church in America

“Our perception is that administrative unity is an immediate need. Some of the Churches, in particular, Constantinople and Antioch, are very conscious of our concerns here. They need to heed this cry from America to unify us, somehow.”

Archbishop Iakovos
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America
Patriarchate of Constantinople

“The words of Peter come to my mind with a special resonance: ‘How good it is for us to be here; to have three tents, so that we may be in your company, the company of Christ, Moses and Elias.’ This is a place where we can really be transfigured. We can be transfigured from parochial to truly Orthodox Christian People. We can be transfigured from separate jurisdictions to one jurisdiction. We can be transfigured from many ethnic groups to one group headed and dominated by Christ, our Savior and our Lord.

Metropolitan Tikhon (of North America), Metropolitan Anthony Bashir, Archbishop Athenagoras, conceived a most ambitious plan for their time … to unite all Orthodox. I tried to resurrect the idea and the effort to unite all the Orthodox into one Orthodox Church of the United States. This (the Ligonier meeting) is the fruits of … our labors and the answer of God’s will that we are united. It was an act of Divine Providence that we came here.

I pray with all my heart that the unity of Orthodox may be possible and may be manifested between all Orthodox so that we can be an element which can really change and transform the social and intellectual status of the people living here.

We are not a diaspora. We have become an indigenous Church.

Our hope and prayer is that we be recognized as one Orthodox Church in the United States, in North America.”

Bishop Maximos
Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh
Patriarchate of Constantinople

“It is a dream come true. The dream was to see our Orthodox hierarchy united as one body, with one mind, with one heart. We have decided that the event is going to be an annual event from now on.”

Bishop Methodios
Greek Orthodox Diocese of Boston
Patriarchate of Constantinople

“This is a blessed opportunity … if we are working toward unity of all Orthodox in this country. There is no question that we all want to be one administratively. I like to think it can be done soon. I hope that it doesn’t take 50 years to accomplish.”

Metropolitan Archbishop Philip
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Patriarchate of Antioch

“The importance of this meeting is that this is the first time in our lives, as Christians in North America, that we gather to discuss common problems. [Unity is an idea whose time has arrived and the faithful deserve it greatly.

Ninety five per cent of my priests are born in this country. Therefore, this is their burning desire, this is their constant dream … to see Orthodoxy united in this country.

That does not mean that we sever relations with the Mother Churches. On the contrary, what we would like to do, we want to help the Mother Churches more. We want to be more effective in our helping the Mother Churches.

I am sure that the Mother Churches would benefit from a strong united Orthodox Church more than they can benefit from a fragmented Orthodox Church in North America. We share the same Eucharistic Table; we have the same faith; the traditions are the same but, unfortunately, we are divided by ethnicity. The SCOBA could be elevated to a synod of Orthodox bishops in this country.

The Mother Churches will get to realize, more and more, that it is sinful to let this Orthodox situation in America remain fragmented this way.

It is going to happen some day. We pray that the Mother Churches really see that we are not little children. It is going to happen some day and that’s why we are trying to intensify the dialogue with the Mother Churches, to make them understand our reality, right here on this continent.

Orthodox unity must start on the grass roots level.

The power of the Holy Spirit! We felt, … all of us …, all the bishops who were here, that indeed the grace of the Holy Spirit gathered us to express our oneness which already exists.”

Metropolitan Archbishop Christopher
Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada
Patriarchate of Serbia

[Question: Do you foresee a time when there will be a patriarchate here in North America?]

“That would be the logical conclusion of administrative unity. There would be no purpose to administrative unity if that were not part of the program. If it were tied to any of the patriarchates abroad, then we have accomplished nothing, then we have missed the mark.”

Archbishop Joseph
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
Patriarchate of Bulgaria

“These are historical days for holy Orthodoxy in North America. The year 2000 is promising.”

Archbishop Victorin
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
Patriarchate of Romania

“It is a great hope, because it is the first meeting of all the bishops together in America. So, we hope that some new, let’s say, idea will come … how to be closer in faith and presenting the Word of God and to bring, let’s say, the unity of our Orthodoxy in America.”

Metropolitan Archbishop Philip
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Patriarchate of Antioch

“For the past twenty-eight years, I have been watching..in joy … in frustration. An old era has passed and a new era has dawned on us in our inter-Orthodox relations. The future is ours! The future belongs to our children, to our clergy and our faithful.”

+ Nathaniel, Archbishop of Detroit
Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America
Orthodox Church in America

Perhaps the beginning of a new millennium will motivate the prophets toward fulfilling their delightful utterances?!


 “…and tell our faithful what we have discovered on this mountain during the past few days.”

                                                                                            Metropolitan Philip

An Eyewitness to Orthodox History

By Bishop Methodios of Boston

(as originally published in The Hellenic Chronicle, 12-15-94)

            I pen these thoughts on the airline flight returning to Boston from the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA, where I attended the first assembly of Orthodox hierarchs from throughout North America

It was the very first time that I visited the Antiochian Village.  His Eminence Metropolitan Philip and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese are to be congratulated for offering to Orthodoxy this magnificent complex, which includes a state of the art conference center, comfortable hotel-style guest rooms, a beautiful chapel and museum, as well as a camp facility which is home to hundreds of youngsters during the summer months.  The hospitality extended to the hierarchs was most gracious.  The entire staff of the Antiochian Village provided their services in a most professional manner.

My trip to the Antiochian Village afforded me the opportunity to meet for the first time Orthodox hierarchs form other jurisdictions whom I have not previously met. We prayed together, shared fellowship with one another and studied together the state of Orthodoxy in North America.  Every hierarch called to mind and reflected with great respect upon their mother churches and ecclesiastical superiors.  Together we prayed for our venerable Patriarchs and Primates and discussed with much concern the problems our mother churches face with courage and conviction.  Each of us reflected how blessed we are to have such men of faith leading their churches at such critical times.

Each of us also thanked God for the spiritual children entrusted to our care in America, i.e., our dedicated priests and deacons and the laity that faithfully live their Orthodox faith, providing sterling missionary witness of the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” in cities and towns throughout the United States and Canada.  These Orthodox Christians are not “Diaspora” Christians seeking to return “home”, but men and women born here who have raised families in lands that thirst for Orthodox witness and presence.

We began our Episcopal Conference on the Feast of Saint Andrew, the first called Disciple of Christ who was the first “missionary” of the Truth of the Gospel, who first shared his great discovery that he had found “the Messiah” with his brother, Peter and then throughout the world – Cyprus, Greece and in Constantinople, where he established the Church which today continues to be blessed by a Patriarch imbued by his exemplary visionary faith.

We Orthodox in the Americas, whether we are of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Alexandria, Antioch, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia or under the spiritual jurisdiction of primates of autocephalous churches, have a sacred responsibility to emulate the example of Saint Andrew.  He was the Protokletos, first to be called to discipleship.  We too are called to discipleship, to an American missionary effort to share our faith, our discovery of the “Messiah” in the land where we live, with our brethren who live in our midst, who seek to drink from a modern day Jacob’s well the refreshing drink of Orthodox Theological Truth.

During our three-day conference, we had the opportunity to hear well prepared presentations and agreed upon two thought provoking statements, one on Mission and Evangelism, and the other on the Church in North America, both of which should be carefully studied by all Orthodox Christians.

The Statement on Mission and Evangelism stresses the need for us as Orthodox to re-evangelize our own communities with the truth of Orthodoxy.  This is very important if we are to be effective missionaries of the Faith.  It is sad to admit that many of our priests are anything but “Orthodox” in their polity.  We all agreed that we need to combine our missionary programs to avoid duplication of effort and train tomorrow’s priests and laity in the vital importance of mission.

The Statement on the Church in North America should also be studied by all clergy and laity with prayerful reflections.  Orthodoxy has matured and come of age.  The hierarchs gathered in Ligonier seek from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other heads of Orthodoxy their guidance and blessing to continue the process of working effectively towards administrative unity of Orthodoxy in the United States and Canada, which has already begun by the International Orthodoxy Preparatory Commissions on the Diaspora. Our venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the ranking Church in the Orthodox world, has a critically important guiding role to play in the life of the Church.

Throughout history, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has always exercised a primatial role amongst the other Orthodox churches.  It is, therefore, ecclesiologically her right to exercise leadership in guiding and inspiring the Orthodox churches in North America to future administrative unity.  We anxiously await the directives of our beloved Patriarchate, so that we may progress in canonical order to the administrative unity we all seek.


Published by The WORD, November 2004

 Ligonier revisited


SCOBA Bishops 1994

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the historic meeting of Orthodox hierarchs in Ligonier, PA. During this meeting, the members of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America changed the course of history for Orthodoxy in America by articulating their commitment to cooperation, mission and an acceptable canonical structure. This meeting produced papers and statements that are certainly worthy of our attention and review today. In this issue of The WORD, we present the original documents, as well as some brief reflections from our Church leaders ten years after the meeting. . . .

Statements from bishops on Diaspora

I think of Ligonier as a moment in the history of Orthodoxy in North America when a love for the missionary mandate of the Gospel transcended ethnic and cultural barriers and concerns. Ligonier provided a venue where Orthodox bishops offered words and visions of ecclesial unity. Ten years ago, the prophetic spirit of Ligonier stood opposed to jurisdictional pluralism even when other hierarchs, here and abroad, sought to justify the  uncanonical  status quo. Ten years ago, the bishops of Ligonier expressed a oneness of mind which exposed the false- hood that jurisdictional pluralism does not impede Eucharistic unity when, in fact, the presence of two or more bishops in one city undermines the very reality of ecclesial and, therefore, Eucharistic unity.

Over the last ten years, the national and international stages have drastically changed. People across North America and the world are divided by religion, race, politics and economics. A divided world needs the unifying voice of Christ. But the voice of Christ, if it is to properly convey its healing power, demands the unity of His Church here and across the globe. The work begun ten years ago must continue and be brought to fruition. As long as there are those who hear and do the word of the Lord in North America, the message of Ligonier will not be silenced.

Metropolitan Herman
Primate, Orthodox Church in America

November 30 to December 2, 1994 was the brightest   moment   in   the   history   of Orthodoxy in North America. For the first time, twenty-nine Orthodox bishops from the United States and Canada gathered at the Antiochian Village to pray together, discuss Orthodox problems together and formulate a common vision for the future. This brotherly and well-meaning meeting caused an unexpected earthquake in some of the ancient  Orthodox  Patriarchates.  Let  us hope that the spirit of Ligonier will be born again and our dream for a united Orthodoxy in America will never fade away.

Metropolitan Philip, Primate
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

America needs Orthodoxy, without Orthodoxy becoming Americanized. Orthodoxy must continue to develop in spirituality and maturity, growing gradually and appropriately toward a developed polity. I am  concerned  that  aggressive  attempts toward  premature  separation  from  the mother churches of the old lands will result in  disarray  and  schism.  Instead,  we  are called by the Lord to continue in humble growth and obedience to our organic link with the Patriarchates. We hope and pray for the direction of the Holy Spirit in the future life of our church.

Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, Ruling Hierarch
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

What we — the canonical Orthodox bishops — had done 10 years ago was good. But there are no results so far. It is only a good desire. That means — such is God’s will. Without Him we can do nothing.

Therefore, I beseeched the Lord to teach me His statutes. After my prayer as usual I opened my Bible with closed eyes and put my finger on the right place. For the first time I opened Revelation 1:3 — “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” I asked the Lord: “O Lord! What about until then?” And again I opened the Bible, that time on 1 Timothy 1:15 — “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” And for the third time I tempted the Lord, saying: “O Lord! I am not an Abraham nor a Jew, I’m a sinner, but involve me to understand Your Will.” And then I opened the Book of Sirah — Joshua — 24:29-30, where I read in the new American Translation: “Said to myself, I will water my plants, my flower bed I will drench; and suddenly this rivulet of mine became a river, then this stream of mine, a sea. Thus do I send my teaching forth shining like a dawn, to become known afar off. Thus do I pour out instruction like prophecy and bestow it on generations to come.”

And now it is clear for me, that this prophecy should be fulfilled, but not during my life. I think that all of us, Orthodox bishops, who were born and came to America from the old countries, like me, and now control the jurisdictional eparchies, must die. The Holy Orthodox Church needs new generations of Americans to come after us, who shall fulfill the Lord’s instructions  and  prophecy.  Because  now,  as  Fr.  Vladimir  Berzonsky writes: “Spiritually we are still drinking mother’s milk, not yet ready for loftier and deeper experiences of the life reaching out to us from Christ and present through the Holy Spirit within our hearts.”

Metropolitan Joseph
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia

Statements from the bishops

The meeting in Ligonier of Orthodox hierarchs in North America in November, 1994 was extremely encouraging and positive in its decision-making. It concluded that there was need for canonical unity in America among the Orthodox jurisdictions. The gathering offered great hope for the unity of Orthodoxy in America. My vision for the future remains the same  — One United Canonical Church in the Americas.

Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
Orthodox Church in America

 Congratulations on the November, 2004 The WORD issue, commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Ligonier meeting of our Orthodox North American Bishops. Unfortunately, things have not drastically changed since that time. We still hope and pray for complete and visible unity in the Orthodox Diaspora of North America. Let us hope that, as promised to us in Washington, D.C.,  fourteen  years  ago,  the  ranking Orthodox  jurisdiction,  the  Ecumenical Patriarchate, will assume a leadership role in order for this to happen, hopefully during our lifetime.

Metropolitan Maximos
Metropolis of Pittsburgh
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The   Ligonier   meeting   of   the Orthodox  bishops  in  North  America was  a  milestone  in  the  history  of Orthodoxy in America. The vision of Orthodoxy that was seen at that meeting is still relevant today, but has yet to be  realized.  Orthodox  jurisdictional unity in North America must be our continued vision; any deviation from this is a contradiction to the order and canons of the Orthodox Church. Let us fervently pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us in making this vision a reality.

Archbishop Peter, Archbishop of New York and New Jersey
Orthodox Church in America


The Conference at Ligonier was an exciting moment for many of us who were priests serving the faithful at that time. All who read of the meeting and of its call to unity were inspired with high hopes.

Ten  years  later,  we  still  note  that there is no place in Holy Orthodoxy for the present case of multi-jurisdictional- ism in North America and across the globe,   as   this   only   impedes   the Church’s evangelizing efforts. This was reflected in the Mission and Evangelism Statement   issued at Ligonier:  “We  commit  ourselves  to avoiding the creation of parallel and competitive  Orthodox  parishes,  missions, and mission programs … and to move forward towards a concerted, formal, and united  mission  program in order to make a real impact on North America through Orthodox mission and evangelism.”

Our prayer and efforts should be for one  Holy  Orthodox  Church  in  North America, a goal that can only be accomplished in the spirit of cooperation and not division.

Bishop Nikolai Bishop of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska
Orthodox Church in America

Orthodox  Christians  working  out their  salvation  in  Canada  and  the United States of America must separately be united into two local Autocephalous Churches, each pastored by hierarchs synergetically working in two unique Holy Synods, each one headed by its own Patriarch. The long-term goal of one hierarch shepherding one metropolis will, in time, manifest itself through the will of the Holy Spirit inspiring the entire Church. Inasmuch as each “jurisdiction” serves both an ethnic and indigenous flock, it should continue its ministry uninterrupted. Present imperfect “Eucharistic unity”  will  be  perfected  because  of administrative unity.  Temporarily, administrative unity means each jurisdiction will keep its own administrative structures which, nonetheless, are brought into a national unity through representation by each hierarch in his national, Canadian or American, Holy Synod.  Each  Autocephalous Church must create a single Constitution and By-laws/Statutes to best serve the needs of the native-born and the immigrant. The unity of the hierarchs, in Synodia, would manifest itself in unity of purpose of internal and external evangelization as outlined ten years ago in the two documents born of the Ligonier meeting. This to be achieved through  the  movement of the Holy Spirit empowering these Orthodox Christians through fasting, prayer and almsgiving to act creatively.

Nathaniel, Archbishop of Detroit, Orthodox Church in America
Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America

The time has come for Orthodoxy in America to move beyond simple affirmation of historical, canonical order. It is time to encourage and develop cooperation among churches, which will prove to be a genuine blueprint for greater unity on all fronts. Specific principles need to be articulated and accepted by all jurisdictions in a common commitment  to  work  in  consort.  Programs  of  pan-Orthodox endeavor, at the grass roots, should be initiated and supported so that the faithful experience a oneness in purpose and action. Everything is achievable through mutual respect and sensitivity flowing from faith and love in Christ.

Bishop Ilia of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

I honestly thought after Ligonier that we were beginning a new era of cooperation and Orthodox unity on this continent. For the first time since the early years of our presence in the Americas, it seemed there was a common vision, or at least a common goal of working together, not just for the sake of working together, but toward a canonically proper end of a unified Church. For me, the chance to sit down with brother bishops, many of whom I had never met, was a great and awesome experience. What made this experience great and awesome, besides just getting  together,  was  that  there  was  a  purpose. Oftentimes we had gotten together in the past, but just for social purposes or anniversaries, celebrations, etc. This  time  it  was  for  the  good  of  the  Church. Unfortunately,  what  happened  in  the  aftermath  of Ligonier left us further apart and more disunited that we were in the years that led up to that historic gathering.

Bishop Antoun
Bishop of Miami and the Southeast
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

In 1994 I was a relatively new and young bishop when the now famous Conference of Bishops was convened at the Antiochian Village, and so together with another young bishop, His Grace Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada, I was appointed to the Conference’s secretariat. Ligonier ’94 was without doubt one of the brightest moments — if not THE brightest moment  — in the history of Holy Orthodoxy in the New World. Dozens of bishops met and prayed and deliberated on that Pennsylvania mountain-top, while hundreds of thousands of our young people across the continent prayed and fasted that we might accomplish a good for Holy Orthodoxy. And, by God’s grace, a great good was indeed accomplished! The common hope and vision expressed by my brother bishops during those several days and reflected in the two historic documents produced by the Conference caused a refreshing and invigorating breeze to blow across this continent, opening the doors of our Orthodox congregations with hope and joyful anticipation. But sadly and all too quickly, dark storm clouds blew in from the East, causing those doors to be slammed shut once more. Some of those doors were and remained locked to this very day, while others stand ajar, awaiting another refreshing and invigorating breeze to open them once again. May that breeze come quickly!

Bishop Basil
Bishop of Wichita and Mid-America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

 The Orthodox Church offers the spiritual healing so many need as they realize the emptiness of secularism and materialism. The task for us in the Church is to offer true spirituality rather than the empty entertainment that passes for Christianity in the West. We must get beyond duels over the Scripture with fundamentalists and revisionists, and instead challenge people with the evidence we have for the true healing and theosis found only in the Orthodox Church.

Bishop Joseph
Diocese of Los Angeles and the West
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America


Other Resources

Orthodox Episcopal Assembly on Facebook
Ligonier Meeting – Wikipedia

Orthodox Administrative Unity – What Is Holding Us Back? (Podcast on Ancient Faith Radio)

In this special 1 hour edition of The Illumined Heart, Kevin talks with Charles Ajalat. Mr. Ajalat is a powerful voice for Orthodox unity with a great deal of pan-Orthodox leadership experience. Currently chancellor and board member of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, he was also the architect of the historic Ligonier Meeting of Orthodox bishops in 1994—the first meeting of all twenty-nine bishops in North America. He is the founder of a Los Angeles law firm specializing in tax and litigation matters, and a graduate of Harvard University and the Law School at the University of California at Berkeley. He is a member of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles.

More resources on this topic:

Again Magazine (Winter 2003)
Kevin’s interview with Fr. Josiah Trenham
Metropolitan PHILIP’s keynote address at Antiochian Convention in Montreal (2007)



  1. Timothy Darkopolous on

    We all know what happened after Ligonier. + Iakavos was forcefully retired by Istanbul; all the Greek bishops were emasculated having to report directly to Istanbul and a crazed crony of + Bart was appointed to keep Orthodoxy divided in America. WHY? Because + Bart ONLY wanted unity in America under himself. No autocephaly; no real independence and appointing himself as an “Eastern Pope.” Fast forward to 2016 and we await the coronation of “Pope Bart of Istanbul” on Pentecost 2016 at Crete. Unity of the Orthodox in North America has become a sham and a bad, poor joke!

  2. Timothy Darkopolous on

    Here’s the Truth: Since SCOBA was organized, the American hierarchs have pushed toward an American Autocephalous Orthodox Church. In the early minutes of SCOBA, the hierarchs even signed documents confirming this was their desire and would join this church (the minutes of SCOBA were taken & kept by Fr. Schnierla, Sec. of SCOBA). + Iakavos, Met. Philip & Met. Ireney appointed Fr. Alexander Schmemann to help them with the ecclesiastical aspects to make this a reality. In 1970, Fr. Alexander Schmemann was able to secure AUTOCEPHALY for the Metropolia (daughter church of the ROC0. In the early minutes of SCOBA, they said this NEW autocephalous church should be named, The Orthodox Church in America. The Albanians joined, the Romanians joined, the Bulgarians joined, but both + Iakavos (Greek) and Met. Philip (Antiochian) RENEGED when they were the originators of this. They probably never really believed this could occur. Istanbul immediately tried to find every and any reason why this new autocephalous church was NON-CANONICAL – it couldn’t REALLY find a good reason. The best Istanbul could do is envoke Canon 28 of Chalcedon. This canon ONLY gave Constantinople authority around the Black Sea in barbarian lands. Istanbul tried to use this to say, that only THEY could grant autocephaly, like an “Eastern Pope.” Anyway, the push for a unified church subsided primarily due to ISTANBUL. Fast forward to Ligonier in 1994, + Iakavos & Met. Philip again tried to push a unified American Church that failed. Istanbul forced + Iakavos’ retirement, emasculated all the Greek bishops in America and put in a + Bart crony to run the GOA. Met. Philip just retreated into running his own show. Fast forward to today. + Bart is trying to organize a unified American Church, BUT ONLY UNDER HIMSELF. So, since the beginning of SCOBA in 1961, the REAL enemy of unity of the Orthodox Churches in America has been + Bart. HE is the enemy of the Orthodox in America, not the great unifier. “+ BART’S GREAT CRETAN (CRETIN) ADVENTURE” will clearly show how he wants to carve up the Orthodox Churches worldwide only UNDER HIS INFLUENCE AND RULES. I can only see a prime reason for division and schisms!

  3. So, fast forward to the Fall of 2021, where are we? NO WHERE! + Bart is visiting the U.S. and pushing his ethnocentric view of Greek domination for Orthodoxy in America. How very, very sad. Greek millionaires speaking at welcoming dinners praising this foreigner and giving him $100 mm to prop up the Phanar. Dedicating St. Nicholas Shrine as the “Greek light of Salvation” at the WTC. Where were all the bishops of the Assembly? Where was the call for ALL the Orthodox to partake? Sad, very, very sad. Not Orthodox unity, but AGAIN, Orthodox ethnocentrism and division.

  4. Peter: It’s ridiculous! This site & the Assembly of Bishops is dedicated to ORTHODOX UNITY IN AMERICA. How does + Bart’s visit show and proclaim this? IT DOESN’T! We need to move back to SCOBA where the “tone” of Orthodox Unity REALLY existed. The current Assembly puts foreign bishops in control of America. +Bart’s money raising visit of $100mm+ is outrageous. Yet, the rich American Greeks gladly give up their millions to support a long-lost and dead Byzantium. ORTHODOXY DOES NOT HAVE AN EASTERN POPE! +Bart IS NOT his “ALL HOLINESS,” this title is heresy. He does not speak for ALL the Orthodox around the world, but the Greeks. How will the Assembly correct these issues? There is no unity, only division & Greek hubris.

  5. George D. Karcazes on


    Securing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople against the attacks of the Moscow Patriarchate and the pressures of Erdogan’s Islamist State is not support for “long-lost and dead Byzantium”.

    It is consistent with American values of support for religious freedom and Orthodox Ecclesiology that recognizes Constantinople’s position as the First Among Equals among the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

    This does not mean that claims by some supporters of Constantinople that the Patriarch is the First WITHOUT Equal are valid, or that supporters of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America who place Hellenism above Orthodoxy are not misguided.

    A balanced discussion of how to achieve Orthodox Unity under a single, administratively united, Autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America is not advanced by attacks against the person of Patriarch Bartholomew or “rich American Greeks”.

    The more nuanced, but far more productive and difficult approach is to convince the Patriarchate and its supporters in North America and around the world that a united, growing, missionary, inclusive Orthodox Church in North America would provide the Patriarchate and other Orthodox Churches in lands where they are under pressure or outright persecution with more financial and political support than a divided, dwindling Church can offer.

  6. Dear Nikolai,

    Please–just give it up. Life’s too short to fret over things that are not going to change, and that we’re unable to change. It’s all in God’s hands. So far, it seems that He’s satisfied with the status quo.

  7. What we are talking about here is UNITY of all the Orthodox in America. This cannot be achieved with FOREIGN BISHOPS interfering with the American Church where canonically, they have no REAL authority. Giving $100mm to + Bart to shore up a dead church is silly. Much of this money will be used for bribes – WHY? In America, it’s way past time to move to a unified, autocephalous church WITHOUT any foreign bishops’ claims of a diocese here; as Canon Law insists. Why can’t we bury ethnocentrism? Why can’t we bury ethno hubris? Oh, and the term “first among equals” only means that the bishop with this title only runs the meetings when all the bishops meet and keeps the records. Also, is a mediary between bishop’s disputes. That’s all! He is NOT “ALL HOLY” and does not have world-wide authority over all Orthodox. Until all the Orthodox have an understanding of who the Bishop of Istanbul is along with his real canonical authority, we will continue to believe + Bart is our Eastern, Greek Pope usurping authority he doesn’t have.

    • Michael Koulos on

      “To whom much is given, much will be required”. (Luke 12:48)

      Jesus’ statement here underscores an important principle: God holds people accountable for what they know. I shudder to think of that day when people must explain the choices they made or didn’t make to our Lord.

      Leadership 100’s Executive Director once stated: “There is no better way to advance Orthodoxy and Hellenism than by endeavoring to secure the financial stability of the Ecumenical Patriarchate”.

      That statement would lead many to believe the EP and GOA are in cahoots because of financial incentives. + Bart may be 83 years old, but he is not stupid.

      I don’t believe + Bart is enticed by money. I believe he is getting very bad advice from highly influential people and has been instilled with a sense of historic loyalty. I also believe he lives in fear.

      Constantinople is ancient history. Türkiye doesn’t understand religious freedom and anyone who’s visited the Phanar will see that its location is off an alley. It is an embarrassment.

      A step in the right direction is to move the EP out of Türkiye and bring it to Washington DC. In the US, the EP will receive tons of support and + Bart will have a stronger image. It takes strength and conviction to do this.

  8. Michael,

    The statement you quote from the director of Leadership is theologically incorrect. Our Lord stated that “you cannot love 2 masters because you will love one and hate the other”. We cannot have 2 masters in the church – Christ (orthodoxy) and Hellenism. Divided loyalties are not acceptable from our Lord’s perspective. Our Lord never commissioned the Church to preserve any culture, but rather He commissioned the church to go forth and preach the Gospel to all nations.

    When you begin with a faulty assumptio,n you reach faulty conclusions.

    • Michael Koulos on


      Amen…and that is precisely my point. It grieves any believer when words like that are spoken.

      I’m certain there are higher ups within the EP that don’t want a single, unified, autocephalous church in America. + Bart may be the Ecumenical Patriarch, but he is not a strong leader and the people who selected him know this. If the ruling body has its way, his replacement will be the same.

  9. George D. Karcazes on

    Words of wisdom from the late Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory, spoken at Ligonier, PA at the SCOBA meeting of Hierarchs [Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 1994]:

    “This is a place where we can be transfigured. We can be transfigured from parochial to truly Orthodox Christian people. We can be transfigured from separate jurisdictions to one jurisdiction. We can be transfigured from many ethnic groups to one group headed and dominated by Christ our Savior and our Lord.”

    “We are not a diaspora. We have become an indigenous Church.”

    “Our hope and prayer is that we be recognized as one Orthodox Church in the United States, in North America.”

    The conventional wisdom is that Archbishop Iakovos was forced to “retire” by Patriarch Bartholomew because of his participation and comments at Ligonier.

    That is not the focus of this post. The focus is on the truth and wisdom of what Iakovos said.

    “We are not a diaspora.”

    [we should be] “recognized as one Orthodox Church in the United States..”

    There are still some bishops who attended the Ligonier meetings, whose signatures appear on the Statements issued there, who are members of the Assembly of Bishops. Hopefully they can reignite the Spirit of Ligonier among their brother Hierarchs, convince them that we are not a diaspora and encourage them to come together and unite the Church in America.

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