Source: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Statement of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States Regarding the Draft Proposal of the Committee on Canonical Regional Planning
Presented at the Meeting of the Assembly of Bishops Convened in Chicago, IL
September 15-17, 2015
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has always prayed for and been committed to unity and cooperation of all of the Orthodox Christians in North America. The unity that we seek is true Orthodox unity based on mutual respect, love and cooperation with all of the Orthodox in America without subjugation or domination of any. Unity must allow for the continued work and support of each of the jurisdictions for their people and continued unity with the respective mother churches.
There is no doubt that the Christian Fellowship and work of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America as well as that of the Assembly of Bishops has been very valuable. We have come to know each other and have discovered how we can even better cooperate and support each other. We can enhance the ministries of each other as well as promulgate corporate ministries. Our relationships provide even more effective ministries. We are grateful for the candid and honest exchanges of the bishops at the meetings. We are committed to continuing this process of building up our relationships and working together in every area possible.
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America continues to be committed to the unity of the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Antiochian Patriarchate. The Church of Antioch, even while under persecution, stands firm as a witness to the incarnation of Christ and the history of the Savior in this world. By maintaining our unity with Antioch we provide a subtle witness to the world that Jesus Christ is the incarnate God who lived in the Holy Lands among us and is one with us.
Each of our bishops at our first confession of faith committed “myself to the preservation of the peace of the Church and …(to) obey and follow the directives of His Beatitude, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; and (to) uphold and protect the honor of the Patriarch of Antioch all the days of my life.” The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch and her Patriarch JOHN X remains committed to the unity of the Patriarchate with all of Antiochian faithful wherever they are. The Antiochian Metropolitan and bishops of North America remain committed to our consecration pledge.
We suggest that the Assembly of Bishops in the United States work as a voluntary Assembly of all the Canonical Bishops in the United States to accomplish the mission of the Assembly as articulated in the founding documents: “The mission of the Bishops’ Assemblies is the proclamation and promotion of the unity of the Orthodox Church, the common pastoral ministry of the Orthodox faithful of the region, as well as their common witness to the world.” We also agree that decisions should be made on the basis of the principle of unanimity of the Orthodox which are represented therein by bishops. In order to show filial love and respect, we would like all of the officers to be elected by the local assembly and to sit by order of the diptychs. We encourage the bishops in each geographical area to meet regularly and cooperate in ministry. We also support the continued work with inter-jurisdictional agencies and Orthodox theological groups. In this day of easy travel and communication, bishops can effectively serve their parishes in America without restructuring present geographical boundaries. Our churches are not yet homogeneous and there are jurisdictional needs within our parishes.
A statement from the Antiochian Archdiocese which keeps the Orthodox Church in the USA in an uncanonical state. Why did Metropolitan Joseph not go to the meeting to present this statement in person? Is it time to consider becoming members of the Orthodox Church in America which is the autocephalous Orthodox Church in the USA?
It really is time to cut through the bull. The DIPTYCHS were never meant to be a rule for Church Organization. When the Ancient Patriarchs (Bishops) of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch and Rome met, the “Diptychs” only meant that the Bishop of Constantinople ran the meetings of ALL THE EQUALS. If he wasn’t available, then the second on the list would run the meetings. The diptychs have nothing to do with global church organization. Organization of Orthodox Churches was ALWAYS done on a LOCAL CHURCH basis. A local church was organized, they appointed their own bishops and ran their own LOCAL CHURCH. What went wrong in America and elsewhere is that overseas churches started missionary activities in foreign countries and then annexed/colonialized these missionary churches as THEIR OWN as dioceses. The Holy Apostles never did this and Orthodox Canon Law rejects this. LOCAL BISHOPS RULE LOCAL CHURCHES without any foreign interference. So, to say the diptychs are the model for church organization in every country is wrong according to Orthodox Canon Law. Surprisingly enough, many of the Orthodox bishops in the US don’t know their own Orthodox Canon Law and even reject following it. FOREIGN BISHOPS HAVE NO AUTHORITY OUTSIDE THEIR OWN LOCAL TERRITORY.
I absolutely agree. These bishops need to follow the instructions issued by the Autocephalous Churches and bring the Church in America into canonical order. That simply means that all canonical bishops in the territory of the United States must declare themselves to be a Synod (rather than “Assembly of Bishops”); elect from among themselves a presiding hierarch and announce that the Church in America is an autocephalous local church. This is the only way that the church in America can cease being a collection of un-canonical, overlapping colonies of “Mother Churches” across the ocean. This simple action will bring the church into canonical order. It will establish the Church in America as a “sister” Church, rather than preserving the un-canonical status quo of fourteen “daughter” churches. This does not mean that the Church in the US will abandon it sister churches now headquartered in Istanbul; Alexandria; Damascus; Jerusalem; Moscow; Belgrade; Bucharest; Sofia; Tiflis; Nicosia; Athens;. Warsaw, Tirana; and Prague. In fact, a united autocephalous Orthodox Church
in the US will be much more able to marshal the resources and influence of its people and assist its sister churches throughout the world than it can as presently fragmented and unable to speak and act as a united, growing Church. Continuing to use the Church as the primary conservator of Greek, Russian, Lebanese, Bulgarian , Romanian, etc. ethnic identities in America is “ethno-pyletism” which has been condemned by the Church. It detracts from its fundamental mission of preaching Christ, crucified and resurrected and bringing the Good News of Orthodoxy to America. It is time for our bishops to serve the people entrusted to their care here and now.
George D. Karcazes:
You are correct! This is the ONLY way forward for Orthodox Church unity in North America. Not some “Great Council” where + Bart will try to impose himself on all Orthodox Churches around the world. Permission from overseas is not necessary; foreign bishops have no authority here.
Ecumenical Council of Constantinople – 381
The bishops are not to go beyond their dioceses to churches lying outside of their bounds, nor bring confusion on the churches; but let the Bishop of Alexandria, according to the canons, alone administer the affairs of Egypt; and let the bishops of the East manage the East alone, the privileges of the Church in Antioch, which are mentioned in the canons of Nice, being preserved; and let the bishops of the Asian Diocese administer the Asian affairs only; and the Pontic bishops only Pontic matters; and the Thracian bishops only Thracian affairs. And let not bishops go beyond their dioceses for ordination or any other ecclesiastical ministrations, unless they be invited. And the aforesaid canon concerning dioceses being observed, it is evident that the synod of every province will administer the affairs of that particular province as was decreed at Nice.