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Metropolitan Philip Remembered


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?

Orthodox Christian Laity Executive Board with Metropolitan Philip at the headquarters of the Antiochian Archdiocese in Englewood, New Jersey

Orthodox Christian Laity Executive Board with Metropolitan Philip at the headquarters of the Antiochian Archdiocese in Englewood, New Jersey

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! 

Second Ligonier Meeting On the Vision of Unity: Clergy and Laity Fall 2009

Second Ligonier Meeting On the Vision of Unity: Clergy and Laity Fall 2009


 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.



  1. Fr. Basil Papanikolaou on

    I had the honor of meeting this humble and wonderful man years ago, when he visited a small Parish of his Archdiocese in Spring Valley, Illinois, not very far from my own Parish in Rock Island, IL. It was a real joy doing the Liturgy with him in three languages (Arabic, Greek, English)! During the fellowship hour he autographed and gave us a little booklet he himself had authored. May his memory be eternal!

  2. Timothy Wearing on

    You have your history wrong! The REAL start for Orthodox Unity in North America started in 1961 with SCOBA. Fr. Alexander Schmemann was instrumental in bringing Met. Antony Bashir, Arbp Iakovos and Met. Ireney together with other canonical hierarchs. From the earliest minutes of SCOBA, they agreed to work toward a united “autocephalous” Orthodox Church in America under the same name. Fr. Alexander Schmemann was able to bring this about in 1970 when the ROC gave the Tome of Autocephaly to it’s daughter church, the first Orthodox Church in America. This church became known as the Orthodox Church in America. According to what SCOBA dictated, the Romanians joined the OCA; the Albanians joined; other smaller churches joined, but the Antiochians & Greeks reneged. If they would have joined in the early 70’s, all the Orthodox in North America would be united today. Only later at Ligonier did Met. Philip and Arbp Iakovos try to renew SCOBA’s vision, but to no avail. + Iakovos did not follow through nor did Met. Philip. All talk and no action!

  3. Daniel Maher on

    May Metropolitan Philip’s memory be eternal! Why is the Ecumenical Patriarch o opposed to American Orthodox unity?I really don’t get it.

    • Timothy Wearing on

      + Bart will only accept “unity” in North America UNDER HIM. No autocephaly and a fake autonomy like the Antiochians. Dan, the foreign bishops want to keep their “North American ATM’s.” Get it?

      • Wink Winkler on

        Exactly. Bart wants to be the Greek Pope equivalent to the Roman Pope. It’s a matter of power and money for them.

  4. h. keith mephodie sterzing on

    A few comments on the obit, and on the previous comments. Met. Philip’s missionary zeal will always remain an important part of his legacy. Bringing into the Orthodox Catholic Church the former Evangelical Orthodox, as mentioned in the obit above, was an important achievement for which he will be long remembered. Two other achievements which were very important, and should not be forgotten, were his crucial role in uniting what had been a divided Antiochian jurisdiction in America, and his role in strongly and consistently supporting Western Rite Orthodox Catholic parishes in his archdiocese. Timothy Wearing is correct, however, in pointing out that Met. Philip “talked the talk” about Orthodox Catholic unity in America but did not “walk the walk”. Despite numerous opportunities to do so, he took little real action to achieve unity in America! No one of us is perfect, including our clergy and hierarchs. While recognizing Met. Philip’s achievements and the good that he did, as well as his failures, another blot on his memory was the Fr. Joseph Allen affair, which most Orthodox Catholic clergy and many laity will not soon forget. Met. Philip’s actions in that case, although never repeated with any other priests in his archdiocese, has generally been viewed by both clergy and laity as uncanonical and unbecoming for any Orthodox Catholic cleric.

    Mr. Wearing mentions the Romanian and Albanian parishes joining with the former Russian Metropolia in The Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Two other ethnic groups who have also done so are the Bulgarians and the former Mexican National Catholic Church. The OCA, unfortunately in the view of many, insisted that the Mexicans give up the Western Rite, and become Eastern Rite only. The OCA has also allowed the Romanian, Bulgarian, and Albanian parishes to remain in ethnic dioceses rather than be integrated into more canonical geographical dioceses.

    The Church has always moved slowly but we can all do our part to promote and motivate faster action on Orthodox Catholic administrative unity around the world. America is not the only location where our Christian witness is damaged by the sin of disunity!

    • Timothy Wearing on


      All the talks the Evangelicals had were with Frs. Schmemann & Meyendorff. They never gave any thought to go anywhere except to the OCA. When push came to shove, the Evangelicals wanted all of their clergy to accepted en masse as Orthodox clerics. Well, some of these fellows were questionable and the OCA insisted that their clerics be accepted individually after examination. The Evangelicals didn’t like this and sought out Met. Philip. He would accept them en masse. Later, the questionable ones were weeded out; esp. when + Philip insisted they all turn to the Eastern Rite (1-2 years in).

      Joe Allen was the son + Philip never had. + Philip stood behind him and gave him power & authority no other priest had. Yet, Joe Allen not only counselled his second wife in confession to leave her husband to marry him (his 1st wife Joan, was dying of cancer). This woman also became Joan’s nurse while dying – how convenient!

  5. Fr. Basil Papanikolaou on

    On Fr. Joseph Allen affair, Arch. Philip did a brave thing that should have been followed by all Orthodox hierarchs. The canons prohibiting second marriage for widowed priests are called apostolic, but they ARE NOT, they are pure forgery. composed toward the end of the 4th century. It is unfortunate that other clergy violate Canons which make sense because they pertain to serious moral issues, yet we penalize widowed priests with anachronistic, indeed criminal rules and regulations!

  6. I have to add a few more comments about this Metopolitan and what he has done for Orthodoxy in America. Not only was he to be commended and loved for initiating reconciliation of his own Antiochian brothers/sisters who were split in America and opening up Orthodoxy to all by accepting the Evangelical Orthodox, he furthered the faith if we consider these important functions of the church to name a few:
    1) St. Stephen’s Courses in Orthodox Studies. You could become a Deacon, Priest,and get a Masters or PHD.
    2) Prison Ministry – Fr Duane Pedersen (Blessed Memory) developed an outstanding program for anyone to follow and many did.
    3) Conciliar Media, including the Orthodox Study Bible and Ancient Faith Internet Radio!!!
    4) Making America Orthodox by the Evangelism programs of Frs. Peter Gillquist, Jon Braun, Gordon Walker and many others.
    5) National and later Regional meetings for all Orthodox on Orthodox Evangelism.
    6) Antiochian Village – what a grand retreat center for getting together, no matter the function.

    We were all blessed by have a leader with true vision of what it takes to be an Orthodox in America!Who will now step forward and move us to greater heights?

    Lee Kopulos
    St. Luke Orthodox Church, OCA
    Palos Hills, IL

    • Timothy Wearing on


      1) St. Stephen’s Courses were the idea of Joe Allen. Once he could no longer teach at SVS as a priest, Joe started his own teaching via St. Stephen’s and his assoc with the Pittsburgh Theological School (Protestant) to offer a theological degree.
      2) Yes, a program also developed by someone else.
      3) Conciliar the brain child of the Evangelicals.
      4) Evangelicals did not meet up to expectation with + Philip in Evangelism.
      5) Evangelism was really led by the OCA.

      6) The Antiochian Village was the brain-child of Fr. John Namie who was a classmate of + Philip at SVS and originally from PA. Fr. John knew of the property to become The Antiochian Village and had to sell his idea to + Philip and the Antiochian Board of Trustees. It was hard and slow going, but Fr. John was able to get the project off the ground. Fr. John came down with a neurological disease and could not follow through. Once + Philip saw what a great resource the Village was, he gave it his full support.

  7. In my 10 years of working with OCL. I met with Metropolitan Philip 4 times. The photo above is the earliest one. I always found him cheerful and very hospitable. For sure a strong believer in the Faith and the most vocal for Orthodox unity in America. Under his administration with the excellent theme of ” Making America Orthodox” his churches experience top level growth. He further enhanced the theme and church growth with ministerial programs for the priesthood and lay participation in chanting, music to name a few. As OCL President in ’05 and ’06, I met with him 3 times on Orthodox Unity and viewed him as the key player in unity here in America. One private meeting in ’06 I had with him, Bishop Antoun and Anthony Carris, we talked seriously on unity. He wanted to see more progress. We talked as frustrated Orthodox for the “ground swell” of the laity was just not in the cards as a major catalyst for unity. In this conversation he asked, ” What is going on in the Greek Churches? Where do you think they are on unity? Are they advancing at all in the use of English in Liturgy? He was not happy with the response from us which was confirmed by Bishop Antoun, too. While we later had a chance for unity by initiating a first step by a merger letter for the OCA and Antiochian Archdioces, He would not sign. He wanted the GOA to be a part of it before he signed.
    No matter, we are so thankful to the Good Lord for this great hierarch, Philip, here in America and pray the Good Lord keep a place for him among the righteous!!!
    Lee Kopulos
    St. Luke Church, OCA
    Palos Hills, IL.

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