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Bad news indeed.

Nothing good can comes of this...

Seems like a power grab almost.

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Subdeacon Borislav,

I wouldn't go so far as to call anything the Holy Synod of Antioch decides upon a "power grab." So far I have been critical of this decision, but it is also possible that in the long run it is the realistic thing to do.

According to the membership figures for 2007 available here [orthodoxwiki.org] the whole Archdiocese has 54,667 members. Bearing this in mind it seems that a structure that calls for an "Archdiocesan District" and eight other dioceses (two of which were already vacant before February 24, 2009) is simply too ambitious and may not be sustainable in the long run. Therefore, it is quite possible that a more unified structure with a Metropolitan Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishops is more realistic as well as more flexible. (However, it is also true that the Archdiocesan Synod could have decided, if necessary, to reduce the number of dioceses and reassign some or even all of the bishops.)

Anyway, Article 79 of the Decision [antiochian.org] of the Holy Synod of Antioch appears to be crucial in canonical terms:

Quote
The aforementioned articles 75, 76, 77 and 78 are applicable in all Antiochian Archdioceses and whatever contradicts these articles is null and void.
Thus, whatever the Constitution of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America says about diocesan bishops is now null and void, including of course the articles I have highlighted in my previous posts (here and here).

The consequence is that despite having been enthroned as diocesan bishops by Metropolitan Philip himself, these same bishops have now been dethroned and made into auxiliary bishops.

As for the "dioceses" themselves, they seem to exist now in a sort of limbo, doomed to remain perpetually vacant, unless of course the Metropolitan is personally to be considered diocesan bishop of each and every one of the dioceses in the Archdiocese (an ecclesiological absurdity).

This leads me to the following questions:

Is there anyone on the forum who is knowledgeable about the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church? Is this decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch in accordance with the Holy Canons? Is there a possibility of appeal against the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch? Or is it best for the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese to simply accept this decision in filial obedience to the Patriarch and Holy Synod of Antioch?

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Originally Posted by Latin Catholic
This leads me to the following questions:

Is there anyone on the forum who is knowledgeable about the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church? Is this decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch in accordance with the Holy Canons? Is there a possibility of appeal against the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch? Or is it best for the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese to simply accept this decision in filial obedience to the Patriarch and Holy Synod of Antioch?
Canonically, I am pretty certain that in the Orthodox Church, the governing synod of an autocephalous church may “reassign” a bishop, and is empowered to do so if it wishes. In this case, they have by the stroke of a pen have reassigned from a diocese to a titular see each of these bishops. There are a variety of reasons this can be done.

As far as Metropolitan Philip and his standing with the different dioceses, he in essence of this act has become the locum tenens of each of these dioceses until a decision is made by the Holy Synod of Antioch. He may or may not delegate any administrative duties to these bishops. What the fate of these dioceses will be, whether they will continue as such or be made into districts of the one Antiochian Archdiocese is yet to be seen.

My personal opinion, is that the Holy Synod of Antioch will take no further action until its fall session in order to allow the Antiochian Archdiocese to meet for their biennial convention in July, and see what backlash will be from it.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+


Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ's own life, for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and learn how to accomplish such progression. - Saint Gregory of Sinai
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This decision is very disappointing and saddening to many people in the Antiochian Archdiocese, myself included. However, I must say that the direction this discussion has taken is, in my opinion, mistaken.

This decision has nothing to do with the 'ecclesiology' of Antioch. Antioch is not making an 'ecclesiological' statement, nor are they worred about the 'ecclesiological' theory behind this decision. Antiochian Christians--and Arabs in general--are practical people, and this decision was practical.

For anyone who knows anything about the situation in the Antiochian Archdiocese since self-rule, the reasons for this decision are obvious. From talking with others in the Antiochian Archdiocese (yes, I am Antiochian), even those who are generally supportive of Met PHILIP, the reasons for this decision are clear.

Met PHILIP has for some time resented having diocesan bishops. Before the dioceses, he single-handedly ran the Archdiocese and did whatever he wanted to do. With diocesan bishops, that was no longer the case.

As can be seen from Met PHILIP's letter--if one knows the inner workings of the Archdiocese--one of the main reasons for this decision is so that +PHILIP can move Bishop MARK to a different diocese or region, whatever it now is. As you saw in his letter, "Most of the bishops will remain where they currently reside." In other words, "some" bishops will be moved. +PHILIP tried to do this already, but the diocesan bishops would not allow it to happen, arguing that they were bishops of specific cities and regions.

In addition, +PHILIP is concerned about the 'unity' of the Archdiocese because he equates 'unity' with 'uniformity.' Specifically, he does not like it that certain bishops allow--some even encourage--priests to dress in their cassocks outside the church; he does not like that some priests wear 'hats' and 'sandals'--God forbid!!! He has a specific way that he wants priests to dress, and anything else is unacceptable to him. He sees this as 'Orthodox fundamentalism,' which he condemns. He thinks that this 'fundamentalism' is dividing the Archdiocese.

Furthermore, +PHILIP does not like that Bishop JOSEPH has started his own website with liturgical texts and services that have different (read, corrected) rubrics from the Archdiocese website, and that +JOSEPH has said these are the only texts approved for use in his diocese.

In short, this is simply a power play and has nothing to do with Antioch's view or understanding of ecclesiology. +PHILIP is trying to take back his Archdiocese because he's scared it has become divided (again, in his mind, 'unity' means 'uniformity,' and specifically, uniformity with his opinions or outlook). In reality, no one was talking about splitting the Archdiocese; no one desired, at this time, to leave Antiochian jurisdiction. Unfortunately, now that +PHILIP has done this, many people, including clergy, are talking about jumping ship. Unfortunately, this could undo everything that +PHILIP has done and accomplished over the past 30-40 years. Without question, it will ruin his 'legacy' in the mind of most Antiochian Americans. The only people who support this are those who were opposed to having 'white' or 'convert' bishops in the first place, or who are so biased towards Met PHILIP that they will agree with whatever he does.

In my opinion, this is a very sad decision and I personally hope there is huge backlash over this at the summer convention. The implications of this decision, as you all have pointed out, are enormous, even if Antioch wants to ignore or overlook that. It is most sad if we let Antioch come in, after granting us self-rule, and make null and void our Constitution, or the parts that relate to diocesan bishops. As Met PHILIP said in 2005 (see the link below), only a General Assembly of the Archdiocese can legally amend the Constitution. I hope that the delegates at the Convention refuse to amend the Constitution.

http://www.antiochian.org/newsjan272005

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Dear Dn PL,

As you can see from my previous posts, I have taken some interest in this topic, not, I hope, out of morbid curiosity, but because, in the words of the Apostle, "whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."

I think the reason why the question of ecclesiology has been brought into the discussion is that it seems incredible that the Holy Synod of Antioch has decided to dethrone all the diocesan bishops just like that ("with the stroke of a pen," as Father Anthony said). I know that it may sometimes, due to sin and human frailty, be necessary to do a thing like this, but not on such a scale and not without a grave and just reason. And this is where ecclesiology comes in, because the diocese is the Church of Christ in a particular place, and the diocesan bishop is the Father of that Church, as your St. Ignatius of Antioch tells the Church of Smyrna: "See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father." Therefore, one really cannot treat a diocesan bishop in this cavalier fashion, and I'm very surprised that the Holy Synod of Antioch (of all places!) should do such a thing.

Oremus pro invicem!

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I believe that as unfortunate as all of this is, the worst thing that could happen would be schism, or a mass exodus from AOA. I will pray that all of us (including myself) handle this situation with care and humility. As a leader of Adult Religious Ed in my parish and as someone studying to be a Deacon, I need to be able to explain what is going on to some of our members and do so in a way that is helpful. So I pray for discernment.

Joe

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Dear Joe,

I think you are right. Schism or a mass exodus, as you say, would also be completely against the spirit of your St. Ignatius of Antioch. Patience and obedience to elders is the Christian spirit in the face of adversity or injustice (easier said than done I know). We know from the lives of the saints what they sometimes had to suffer, even from their own lawful superiors, and they bore it patiently and with humility. The best thing you can do, if I may offer my suggestion, is to show your love for Metropolitan Philip and be obedient to him in all things (such as commemorating him in the liturgy and not the auxiliary bishop except when present). If you do so, you may help disprove and put to rest all his fears and suspicions.

Oremus pro invicem!


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I think an appeal can go to Constantinople as the New Rome and 1st amongst equals, his all holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
I think that Dn PL above probably hit it on the nose. Met. Philip also doesn't like monasteries because monks tend to speak out about problems in the church. A holy synod of bishops also can keep a Metropolitan in check. The move on +Philip's part appears indeed to be a consolidation or recovery of power.
A final thought that just popped in. Perhaps his beatitude Philip was making a pre-emptive move not out of desire for personal power but because of what is perceived as an imminent threat to diocesan solidarity. The Antiochians have done much to bring in many of an evangelical leaning into the Orthodox fold. These people, even with the best of intents, are products of their own spiritual journey and thus tend to see Orthodoxy through different lenses than one raised up Orthodox. This can lead to innovations and actions that, although done with the most earnest of intentions, can cause scandal or disharmony or worse, disunity. Perhaps, his beatitude knows more than others and is doing what a primate must do to protect and shelter his flock. This is a thought based in charity, for which we are all called to witness.

Sbdn Jon

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Quote
final thought that just popped in. Perhaps his beatitude Philip was making a pre-emptive move not out of desire for personal power but because of what is perceived as an imminent threat to diocesan solidarity. The Antiochians have done much to bring in many of an evangelical leaning into the Orthodox fold. These people, even with the best of intents, are products of their own spiritual journey and thus tend to see Orthodoxy through different lenses than one raised up Orthodox. This can lead to innovations and actions that, although done with the most earnest of intentions, can cause scandal or disharmony or worse, disunity. Perhaps, his beatitude knows more than others and is doing what a primate must do to protect and shelter his flock. This is a thought based in charity, for which we are all called to witness.

I think this may very well be the cause behind the changes.
Maybe Metropolitan Phillip and also the Holy Synod feel that there could be a schism in the church here. Especially with all the financial and moral problems in the OCA. Maybe rightly or wrongly, they see a possibility of some or a large part of the OCA converts joinging the Antiochian jurisdiction and outnumbering the cradle Arab Orthodox.
Just speculation on my part. But it is being discussed as a reason on Orthodox discussion groups.

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Originally Posted by Halia12
Quote
final thought that just popped in. Perhaps his beatitude Philip was making a pre-emptive move not out of desire for personal power but because of what is perceived as an imminent threat to diocesan solidarity. The Antiochians have done much to bring in many of an evangelical leaning into the Orthodox fold. These people, even with the best of intents, are products of their own spiritual journey and thus tend to see Orthodoxy through different lenses than one raised up Orthodox. This can lead to innovations and actions that, although done with the most earnest of intentions, can cause scandal or disharmony or worse, disunity. Perhaps, his beatitude knows more than others and is doing what a primate must do to protect and shelter his flock. This is a thought based in charity, for which we are all called to witness.

I think this may very well be the cause behind the changes.
Maybe Metropolitan Phillip and also the Holy Synod feel that there could be a schism in the church here. Especially with all the financial and moral problems in the OCA. Maybe rightly or wrongly, they see a possibility of some or a large part of the OCA converts joinging the Antiochian jurisdiction and outnumbering the cradle Arab Orthodox.
Just speculation on my part. But it is being discussed as a reason on Orthodox discussion groups.
Perhaps. But beware of ethnic divisions among Christians: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." The Evil One does not miss an opportunity to sow strife and discord among Christians.

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Quote
In my opinion, this is a very sad decision and I personally hope there is huge backlash over this at the summer convention. The implications of this decision, as you all have pointed out, are enormous, even if Antioch wants to ignore or overlook that. It is most sad if we let Antioch come in, after granting us self-rule, and make null and void our Constitution, or the parts that relate to diocesan bishops. As Met PHILIP said in 2005 (see the link below), only a General Assembly of the Archdiocese can legally amend the Constitution. I hope that the delegates at the Convention refuse to amend the Constitution.

Are you saying then that that your Sobor or General Assembly has the abilty to overturn this new policy? Is Sobornost alive and well in the Patriarch of Antioch?

I find the link you gave very confusing. Maybe you can explain further. Does any recommendation have to be approved first by the legal department of Holy Synod before it can be brought forward at your Sobor?
Quote
The legal department in reviewing the suggestions of the legal advisor to the Patriarch in the proposed Constitution has noted that:
1. The proposed October 15, 2004 constitution violates the spirit and letter of the irrevocable Synodal self-rule resolution of October 9, 2003, which was itself immediately effective. Moreover it is not appropriate for any person to attempt to rewrite the Constitution of this self-ruling Archdiocese and to attempt to negate self-rule and give less authority to the Archdiocese than it had prior to the Synodal Resolution of October 9, 2003.
2. Under Section 8 of the October 9, 2003 self-rule resolution, the Holy Synod of Antioch was required to approve the Pittsburgh Constitution insofar as it was consistent with that resolution. Since the Pittsburgh Constitution is entirely consistent with the Synodal Resolution none of the suggested changes apply and any required approval has been given.
3. The proposed October 15, 2004 constitution did not receive enough scrutiny by the Holy Synod, nor was it discussed in detail in the Holy Synod meeting.
We will, at all times in this Archdiocese, be bound by our legally adopted constitution and the civil laws of this land in which we reside. Article VII of our constitution allows timely proposed amendments to be submitted for consideration only by any of the following procedures:
1. by a majority vote of the General Assembly of a Regular or Special Convention
2. by a recommendation from the Archdiocese Department of Legal Affairs
3. by a recommendation from the Archdiocese Board of Trustees
4. by a recommendation from any parish of this Archdiocese in good standing
Under all of the above procedures, any proposed amendments are “to be certified by the sponsor and submitted to the Metropolitan Archbishop and the Department of Legal Affairs for the purpose of studying and determining the legality of such proposed change.” As a courtesy, the proposed October 15, 2004 constitution was submitted to the Department of Legal Affairs for review.

Thanks.

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I would like to respond to a couple of comments made thus far.

First, I understand--and, in fact, agree with--the concern over the ecclesiological implications of this decision. That's one reason why so many people are upset. This is not in-line with the regular/canonical functioning of Orthodox churches. My only point about this is that Antioch is not doing this because they have changed their ecclesiological outlook or because they are making an ecclesiological statement. This decision was made for very specific reasons. To re-iterate what Met PHILIP said in his letter, this was a very "narrow" decision.

Second, I have no doubt that Met PHILIP is making this decision with the best of intentions. I would never question Met PHILIP's intentions. He is a good man and has done many good things for the Antiochian Archdiocese and Orthodoxy in America--I don't think this will go down in history as one of them. He is undoubtedly concerned about the fundamentalism/sectarianism of certain converts and/or convert groups. I, too, am concerned about this. However, he had only one convert bishop on the entire local synod. All other bishops are both Arabic and cradle. To my knowledge, there has been no problem with so-called 'fundamentalism' in that bishops diocese either (here I am speaking of the diocese of the midwest).

With that in mind, it seems impossible that +PHILIP made this decision for the charitable reasons mentioned above. Again, I want to stress that does not mean he did not have good intentions, but simply that I disagree with this decision.

By the way, the whole issue about Antioch being concerned about the number of converts increasing due to the mess in the OCA is off-base, in my opinion. The reality is that the majority of Antiochian clergy are already overwhelmingly convert. I'm not sure about the laity, but it's got to be close. Also, from what I hear, most of our seminarians are convert as well, so I don't think that pattern is going to change anytime soon.

Finally, the question was asked if the General Assembly has the ability to overturn this new policy. I am not saying the General Assembly has that ability. What I am saying is that Met PHILIP himself, in the letter to which I linked, argues that the Holy Synod of Antioch cannot legally make null and void our Constitution. In fact, he calls the agreement in 2003 about self-rule "irrevocable."

Consequently, my hope is that delegates at the convention in 2009 will refuse to amend our Constitution. In other words, this would show a rejection of Antioch's decision. In that case, there would be a dispute in the Archdiocese over differing Constitutions and/or Constitutions not in-line with synodal decisions. The question then would be, who backs down first.

P.S. What are some other forums talking about this subject. I would be interested in reading what others are saying, but I'm really unfamiliar with internet chat boards. Thanks.

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I think all their 'ruling' bishops are Archbishops. What is, or has been the problem with those who are simply 'bishops'?

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Dn_PL,

Thank you for your contributions and analysis.

I believe we are in agreement and understand each other with regard to the ecclesiological implications.

Do you think that all the members of the Holy Synod understood the full implications of their decision, or do you think they simply deferred to the authority and seniority of Metropolitan Philip in this matter?

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Apparently someone worded something a little too quickly or brashly, that require these four priests to make this public clarification/apology.

http://antiochian.org/node/18915

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