October 31, 2014

Antiochian monasticism speaks to the current crisis…

From the Ochlophobist (one who has an aversion to crowds) website:

The following is very important. It was written by Archim. Touma, who is said to be the most influential monastic under Antioch. He is Athonite in spirituality, he leads the most traditional monastery under the Holy Synod of Antioch, and he does not normally comment on ecclesio-political matters.

Highlight:

And what is to be said about the canonical disorders that we’re up to our ears in over there?

The situation of all the Orthodox eparchies dependent on mother churches in North America is uncanonical. There is one Orthodox church in those lands whose situation is sound and canonical: the American Orthodox Church (OCA). This alone is independent and autocephalous and this is de-facto recognized by the other Orthodox eparchies. Its recognition, formal or implicit, by the eparchies depending on mother churches is clear and frank confirmation that the status of these eparchies is uncanonical and unsound. If these eparchies and mother churches on which they depend were to be logical with themselves and consistent with Orthodox ecclesiological and canonical thought, in the true sense of the word, then they would belong to the OCA or would at least enter into an understanding with it and the thorny crisis of the Orthodox presence there, theologically and canonically, would end. The simplest position and the most sound is for us to leave the Orthodox in North America to themselves and to encourage them to arrange their affairs themselves! We and the other mother churches are the ones who are complicating their affairs!

Ed: The analysis applies to all Orthodox jurisdictions.

+++++++++++++++++

Pastoral Care and the Crisis of Power

In the See of Antioch, at the current time, there is a confrontation, a crisis of opinion, and painful consequences may follow. Are the bishops, within an eparchy that is headed by a patriarch or a metropolitan as an ecclesial administrative unit, bishops over a territory and a faithful people, or are they auxiliary bishops (asaqifa musa’idun)?

The traditional position, within the Orthodox ecclesiological framework, makes the bishops within a single eparchy brothers and the primate (mallak) of the eparchy first of all the first among equals and secondarily the head of a local council, governed by principles and canons and made up of the bishops of that eparchy. This assumes that each of them oversees a territory and a people. In principle, bishops are not titular or auxiliaries, dependent upon the metropolitan or the patriarch.

But, historical events came about in past eras that divided some bishops from their territories and their flocks, as happened in the Byzantine Empire after the fall of some of its regions to the Ottomans. It was hoped at the time that exiled or refugee bishops would return to their regions. However, matters became more complicated and situations worsened and such bishops found themselves permanently exiled from their flocks. Or, the dioceses which they had overseen in principle were emptied of their Orthodox people.

With the passing of time, this inaugurated the custom of consecrating titular bishops who, at first, longed for military or political turnarounds that would return an Orthodox presence to their former regions. When the years went by and the winds did not blow as the boats wished, hopes changed to almost a formal etiquette, and the custom became firmly entrenched of choosing titular bishops who quickly became helpers (musa’idun) or auxiliaries (mu’awinun) to some of the actual primates of the eparchies, dependent on the patriarch. This gave birth to an unintended custom, without any ecclesiological base. However, it became accepted and enshrined in practice insofar as the ancient traditional practice among us of each bishop being the bishop of a people and a territory into decline in practice. With it, the page closed on local synods within one eparchy and it sufficed to have synods on the level of patriarchates or the equivalent.

Some circles, today, hold fast to the contingent practice over ecclesiological theology because it has become widespread and followed for many years. The temporary became permanent. Others hold to intellectual principles of ecclesiological theology and hope to rectify the current historical deviation in this situation and to return dioceses to their traditional function, especially since there exists a need, here and there, for more bishops of territory and people so that we do not go too far in making the episcopate in general only an administrative, ritual function. The bishop is the pastor par excellence and must remain so in practice.

Between those who seek this or that line of thought, today, there is confrontation and debate. It does not appear that it will result in a speedy understanding in the foreseeable future and it is to be feared that it will grow into an impasse and from there into something with an unpraiseworthy outcome.

How to get out of this dilemma?

The answer is not easy. However, if we were to put forward the reasons for this crisis, we do not find it to be simply ecclesiological or canonical in nature, but also historical, temperamental, and psychological. We have become accustomed to such with the passing of generations! It is not easy for those who have become accustomed to sole power in their eparchies and to dealing with titular bishops almost like deacons to have partners in power within the lifetime in which they work. Let us say it frankly: the problem is the problem of a power struggle! Few are prepared to let go of their prerogatives! The issue, at the base, is not ,as it is put forward, a theological issue and it is not a pastoral issue. What determines the traditional or the ecclesiological, theological or the canonical argument, at the basic level, is the holding on of each of the concerned parties to the power which they think rightly belongs to themselves and not to others. Each one brings forward this or that evidence, in reality, because it is convenient for him. If we were to hold fast to ecclesiological theology and the traditional canons, in the matter before us, then we would have to openly express only a small number of the positions we implicitly adopt or to which we consent and which are not in agreement with [Orthodox] principles.

The question of the diaspora, especially North America, is today in our opinion the foundation of the current problem and what brought to light the intellectual divide which had long remained hidden. The status of any of the Orthodox churches, the See of Antioch included, is not sound there, either from an ecclesiological or a canonical standpoint. By what right do we hold on to the dependence of the Antiochian Archdiocese in North America on us? That eparchy is no longer at the stage of just being sent out. We helped it during its beginnings, but now it is mature, and more mature than us here in its theology and its learning and its organization. By what right, then, is it assumed that it should be under our care? Is it because some of its people have left us? So what? Generations and generations have grown up there for years and the people in those lands have become American. Is it because there is a sentimental heritage which ties us to them and them to us, or because there is something like nationalist feelings which hold us to them and them to us so that they must be subject to our local ecclesial structure? This has no relation in any case to ecclesiological thought nor to the ancient ecclesiological practice which has come down to us from the Apostles and saints. Thus the practical theology which we use in this matter is faulty and unacceptable if we were to be fair and correct.

And what is to be said about the canonical disorders that we’re up to our ears in over there?

The situation of all the Orthodox eparchies dependent on mother churches in North America is uncanonical. There is one Orthodox church in those lands whose situation is sound and canonical: the American Orthodox Church (OCA). This alone is independent and autocephalous and this is de-facto recognized by the other Orthodox eparchies. Its recognition, formal or implicit, by the eparchies depending on mother churches is clear and frank confirmation that the status of these eparchies is uncanonical and unsound. If these eparchies and mother churches on which they depend were to be logical with themselves and consistent with Orthodox ecclesiological and canonical thought, in the true sense of the word, then they would belong to the OCA or would at least enter into an understanding with it and the thorny crisis of the Orthodox presence there, theologically and canonically, would end. The simplest position and the most sound is for us to leave the Orthodox in North America to themselves and to encourage them to arrange their affairs themselves! We and the other mother churches are the ones who are complicating their affairs!

Naturally, there are those who claim that the problem of the diaspora is, to a great extent, a problem of nationalist sentiment. The sentiments exist, but not to the degree that is thought. The Church in the past has dealt with nationalism– in Constantinople, in Antioch, and elsewhere– and she is able to deal with it in every time and place whenever proper ecclesial sentiment abounds. But if nationalistic notions eclipse concern of the Church, then this is a dangerous event and a serious deviation because we are no longer a church possessing one faith, but rather a group of tribes. The truth is that the mother churches hold on to their eparchies in North America because they do not want to be stripped of their prerogatives and their benefits and their power there. The issue of money plays an important role in this matter and likewise does political and ecclesial influence. None of this has any connection to the Church in the exact meaning of the word, not to her theology, nor to her canons, nor to pastoral care for her people nor to her spirituality.

I will return to the subject of the bishops and I will say that the hidden cause behind the debate going on between those who hold to the concept of titular, helper bishops and the concept of local bishops over a people and a territory is, in reality, related to the passions. There is struggle for power, in the worldly sense, going on, and the arguments put forth call for each to claim his own power and leadership. But we have no power to receive, rather service to give for the Church of Christ and the People of God. For this reason, if we were to be just, then we must, first and last, to put pastoral care for the People of God before ourselves and before any other standard. The struggle for power going on today is, unfortunately, on account of this pastoral care! The single legitimate and acceptable question in this context is: what is most appropriate for the care of the Orthodox faithful here and there?

For this reason it is to be hoped that the interaction of the metropolitan with the bishops within a single eparchy, wherever they may be and especially right now in North America, will be first of all with goodness, love, humility of heart, and magnanimity. The issue of the episcopate, which has long been outside the genuine ecclesiology, will not be solved by emptying it of its pastoral content and enshrining its titularity, and not by, in response, idolatrously harping on the application of cannons but rather by the metropolitan embracing the bishops as brothers, and the bishops the metropolitan. Calmly and deliberately we will become able to solve our issues in cooperation and simplicity and flexibility, relying on [Orthodox] principles, and we will raise up the People of God in truth so that God will be glorified in us. The way of dividing, subjugating with decisions from on high, and debasing is of no avail. It will only alienate and create factions and lead to schism! I say this and it is to be feared that we are in a delicate and dangerous situation. Orthodox America will not be treated in the ruinous way we are accustomed to in our lands here! If we do not leave our selfishness and our pride and build each other up with kindness and generosity and put the good of the Church and its unity and theological principles ahead of any personal consideration, whatever it may be, then worse is to come!

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)
Abbot of the Monastery of St. Silouan the Athonite– Douma
Sunday July 12, 2009

Comments

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    George Michalopulos says:

    A true monk. Let us hope that his words are heeded.

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    Joe says:

    Athonite monasticism speaks to the current crisis…

    Archimandrite Theophanis,[Then] abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, which was published a letter in Vol. IX, Nos. 2 & 3 of Orthodox Tradition regarding the OCA.

    Most of the letter concerns the question of recognition of the ROCOR on the Holy Mountain, which was prompted when the OCA issued a press release on October 31, 1991, proclaiming that all of Mount Athos condemned the ROCOR as “schismatic” and “deprived of divine grace.”

    The final paragraph states the following:

    “As far as the ‘autocephaly’ of the OCA is concerned, since it was not issued by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as only the Ecumenical Patriarchate possesses the right to issue a tome of autocephaly, or at least recognized officially by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it’s autocephaly is unsubstantial. The answer to your last question is no, for the aforementioned reasons the clergy of the OCA may not serve in any of the monasteries on Mount Athos, nor may any partake in Holy Communion.”

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    Chrys says:

    May God bless him! Wonderful, humble, honest, courageous and full of holy wisdom.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Joe, have a date on when the document you quoted from was issued?

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    Joe says:

    Yes, May God bless Archimandrite Theophanis, a true monk who is not afraid to speak the truth!

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Joe, so what happened? Do I need a new prescription for my regarding glasses? Unless my eyes deceived me, he wrote and enconium to the American church. Let me quote him:

    “There is one Orthodox church in those lands whose situation is sound and canonical: The American Orthodox Church (OCA).”

    Why, lookie here, he goes on to write: “This alone is independent and autocephalous and this is de-facto recognized by the Orthodox eparchies.” Be still, my faint heart! It gets worse: Its recognition, formal or implicit, by the eparchies depending on mother churches is clear and frank confirmation that the status of these eparchies is uncanonical and unsound. If these eparchies and mother churhes on which they depend were to be logical with themselves and consistent with Orthodox ecclesiological and canonical thought, in the trues sense of the word, then they would belong to the OCA…”

    Well, maybe my eyes aren’t deceiving me. Perhaps the real Archimandrite Touma was abducted by aliens and a similacrum who wrote these pro-OCA words was placed in his stead.

    My oh my.

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    Joe says:

    George, your eyes or something else is deceiving you.

    T H E O P H A N I S

    is not the same as

    T O U M A

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Yes, but Joe, when was the document published? Sounds a bit dated, like it was reacting to the polemics of, say, 20 years ago.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Whoa!!!

    Finally, some clear thinking, straight talking and leadership from the Old World!!! These are the kind of statements America has been waiting for.

    “As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught,…as the Church has received… as the teachers have dogmatized,…as the Universe has agreed,… as Grace has shown forth,…as Truth has revealed,…as falsehood has been dissolved,…as Wisdom has presented,…as Christ Awarded,…thus we declare,…thus we assert,…thus we preach Christ our true God…This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe.”

    Axios!!!

    Best Regards,
    Dean

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    Joe says:

    Father Johannes,

    Re: “Sounds a bit dated, like it was reacting to the polemics of, say, 20 years ago.”

    Actually, it’s all very contemporary.

    On the day of Halloween in 1991, the OCA issued a press proclaiming that all of Mount Athos condemned the ROCOR as “schismatic” and “deprived of divine grace.” (Trick or treat, indeed!)

    The ROCOR and the MP restored communion in May 2007. Only two years ago.

    In the recent years, months, weeks leading up to this reunion, I never stopped hearing the words “schismatic” and “deprived of grace” from both clergy and laity in my former “OCA flagship” parish whenever the subject of ROCOR came up. OCA folks got especially testy after the MP slammed the door on Fr. Leonid Kishovsky’s efforts to have the ROCOR come under the omophorion of the OCA.

    Has the OCA suddenly had a wonderful change of heart so that its antipathy towards the ROCOR suddenly feels “dated” and so “20 years ago?” If so, thank God! As good as this feeling must be for some people in the OCA, the fact remains that there is a lot of work to do before the relationship between ROCOR and the “Metropoliate” is fully redefined.

    Fr. Andrew Phillips (ROCOR-UK) said in a recent interview: “When the Church is persecuted, as ROCOR was, creating a siege mentality, there were two possible courses of action for outsiders. One was to support us, as the Serbs and others did, the other was to join in the stone-throwing. We know exactly who was who and who did what.”

    Question: How does the following statement sound “20 years ago?”

    “As far as the ‘autocephaly’ of the OCA is concerned, since it was not issued by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as only the Ecumenical Patriarchate possesses the right to issue a tome of autocephaly, or at least recognized officially by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it’s autocephaly is unsubstantial.”

    Has the Ecumenical Patriarch suddenly recognized the autocephaly of the OCA?

    As to the date of the letter from Fr. Theophanis, I only have the fragment I posted (forwarded to me from a friend). Earliest date would have to be 1991. I would like to have it for my files which means I must contact the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies to see if I can get the issue that contains the letter ( “Vol. IX, Nos. 2 & 3 of Orthodox Tradition“).

    BTW, another oldie but contemporary that I’d like to get is The Autocephaly of the Metropolia in America by Prof. Panagiotis N. Trempelas, a former member of the faculty at the School of Theology at the University of Athens. This book lays out the historical and canonical arguments against the OCA’s autocephaly. Anyone know where I can get a copy?

    About the OCA and Mount Athos: I’d like to hear about any OCA clergy/hierarch experience on the Holy Mountain. Did they/you concelebrate? Did/Does Archimandrite Theophanis speak for the Holy Mountain?

    I’ve had the opportunity to interact with two OCA clergy who went to the Holy Mountain but I never thought to ask.

    One OCA priest became an ex-OCA priest (now ROCOR) after his pilgrimage to Mount Athos. The other priest gave a presentation about his “trip” to the Holy Mountain but did not mention one word about concelebration, or holiness, Elders or even prayer for that matter. He did show us lots of pretty pictures and and told “funny” patronizing, anecdotes about those crazy Greeks.

    Let’s hear what it’s really like for OCA clergy on the Holy Mountain!

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    Ilya Kharin says:

    The Autocephaly of the Metropolia in America by Prof. Panagiotis N. Trempelas

    I scanned through the book a year or two ago at the library of the Princeton Theological Seminary. If a visit should be possible, there is a decent collection of Orthodox materials at that place.

    I’d like to hear about any OCA clergy/hierarch experience on the Holy Mountain.

    Perhaps the newly ordained Bishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh, with Greek and Athonite links, would be a good man to ask (see his biography at http://www.oca.org/HSbiomelchisedek.asp?SID=7).

    Has the OCA suddenly had a wonderful change of heart so that its antipathy towards the ROCOR suddenly feels “dated” and so “20 years ago?” If so, thank God!

    I’ve had the pleasure to know a few OCA clergy and laymen who heartily welcomed the reconciliation, as well as participate in the first (in a long while) service of a ROCOR bishop (Peter of Cleveland) at an OCA church, complete with an ordination by Bishop Peter of an OCA cleric. That was two years ago. Reconciliation takes time, but it seems that by no means all of OCA has ever been represented by its highly-visible anti-ROCOR minority.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note 10. The editorializing is yours, not mine. My only point was that the post (#2) in which you presented a document as contemporaneous sounded to me like it was written within the polemics popular around 20 years ago. Since you subsequently revealed that the document was published in 1991, I’d hold off using it to draw conclusions if I were you. Feelings ran hot then. Now circumstances have changed. Everyone is going to have to adjust.

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    Christopher says:

    I’d like to hear about any OCA clergy/hierarch experience on the Holy Mountain.

    The canonicity of the OCA and its clergy is not in question, only its autocephaly and the right of a local Orthodox church such as Russia to unilaterally grant autocephaly to a portion of its own jurisdiction.

    I have never heard of OCA clergy having problems except as would be related to being on the New Calendar, if a Protestant or Catholic convert was received by chrismation rather than baptism, or if a Catholic priest was recieved in his orders by vesting rather than ordination. These happen in other local churches, too, so it is not limited to the OCA.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Dear Christopher,

    RE: The canonicity of the OCA and its clergy is not in question, only its autocephaly and the right of a local Orthodox church such as Russia to unilaterally grant autocephaly to a portion of its own jurisdiction.

    The Georgian Orthodox Church was originally under the jurisdiction of Antioch. It was granted autocephaly by that patriarchate in 466. I’m not sure what Constantinople was considered at that point.

    In any case, it’s certainly another example of a local church being granted autocephaly.

    So what’s the problem?

    Best Regards,
    Dean

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Christopher, Steven, Dean, no problem. In my latest essay on Orthodoxy Today, I mentioned the Georgian church being granted autocephaly unilaterally by Antioch. All of the earliest dioceses and eparchies were created by excision from existing dioceses in the 1st 500 years of Christianity. And all were autocephalous.

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    Joe says:

    Re: “I have never heard of OCA clergy having problems except as would be related to being on the New Calendar, if a Protestant or Catholic convert was received by chrismation rather than baptism, or if a Catholic priest was recieved in his orders by vesting rather than ordination. These happen in other local churches, too, so it is not limited to the OCA.”

    Did you hear about the OCA priest (received into the OCA by chrismation) who went to Mount Athos and got his problem fixed by getting baptized? On his return he got suspended by his Archbishop Demetri. This priest was then received by the ROCOR.

    Here is Archbishop Demetri’s take on what happened:

    http://www.oca.org/Docs.asp?ID=85&SID=12

    “I am writing to you so that you may understand my attitude towards your re-baptism and why I concluded that it was necessary to suspend you. When I first learned from you what you had done, I was perplexed, surprised, and shocked. Yet, because you accepted this baptism at one of the monasteries of Mount Athos, the spiritual center of Orthodoxy, and not from some cleric or monastery of one of the super Orthodox fringe cults, I held back my reaction…”

    The rest of the letter is not so restrained with words like:

    “It is, therefore, a sad occasion indeed when a brother priest chooses to leave this glorious company for any reason. This is especially true when he leaves us in an uncanonical fashion, that is, without release, and joins himself to another jurisdiction. The severity of such an act is aggravated when that jurisdiction is an uncanonical one, at odds with the Orthodox Churches and, at the same time, making extravagant claims for itself, that is, that it is the only ‘church’ which is faithful to the Tradition…The possibility for committing this unwarranted act will exist as long as there are robber bishops, who are eager to extend their jurisdictions and enjoy the sense of conquest. They are truly those who climb up over the walls to steal sheep and do not enter by the door.”

    But the story has a happy ending though:

    “On April 9, 2009, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, visited the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at his residence in New York. After praying before the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God in the Synodal Cathedral, His Beatitude gave His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion a letter on the decision of the Holy Synod of the OCA regarding their former clergymen who had gone under the ROCOR while under suspension. At a recent meeting, the Holy Synod decided to recognize them as clergymen of the Russian Church Abroad, removing their suspensions.”

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Joe, Archbishop Dmitri is an example of the Orthodox evangelist par excellence. His criticism of this action was withering: “You see, in the Orthodox Church we baptize men before we ordain them.” The laughter lasted for several minutes. On Judgment Day I pray God that I stand in his shadow. You should be so lucky.

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    Joe says:

    George,

    Whither “withering?”

    1) OCA priest heeds the counsel of Mount Athos.
    2) OCA priest recieves the mystery of Holy Baptism at (in Archbishop Dmitri’s words) the “spiritual center of Orthodoxy.”
    3) Priest gets suspended by Archbishop Dmitri and turned out of the jurisdiction that denied him the blessing in the first place, which turns out to be a blessing, because he finds a true home in the ROCOR.
    4) Metropolitan Jonah and the Holy Synod of the OCA comes around and recognizes his priesthood (a little over a week after Archbishop Dmitri’s retirement) and suspends their suspension of him which was a genuinely nice gesture though it had no bearing on his priesthood within the ROCOR and the Church outside of the OCA jurisdiction.

    So who got withered? The “spiritual center of Orthodoxy,” Mount Athos? The ROCOR? The OCA? I’ll just let the events speak for themselves.

    As to whether I will stand in the Archbishop Dmitri’s shadow or yours, I’m pretty sure that the Church teaches that “luck don’t enter into it” and also that the Lord Jesus Christ will be the Judge.

    I guess I’m lucky it won’t be you who will be judging me.

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    Mark AC says:

    Out of curiosity, did ROCOR (re?)ordain the priest in question?

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Joe, I have no intention of judging you. I do have two questions however: (1) I echo Mark AC’s question: did ROCOR reordain the priest in question? And 2) How do you feel about Freemasonry?

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    Joe says:

    1)I don’t the circumstances of his reception into the ROCOR, other than he was received as a priest and was later acknowledged as a priest by Met. Jonah and the Holy Synod of the OCA.

    2) About freemasonry, I feel like this:

    http://www.orthodoxfaith.com/ecumenism_masonry_councils.html

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    George Michalopulos says:

    well, if that’s how you feel about Freemasonry Joe, then please address these concerns to the “Chief Archpastor of America.” You see, in his jurisdiction, Freemasonry is A-OK. (Heck it was founded by two[2] Freemasons.)

    I’m just sayin’…

Care to comment?

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