Educating Narcissus

Orthodox Schools Association

By: Bryan Smith

Several poets of antiquity tell a charming but frightening tale about a young man who saw his own reflection in a pool and became so infatuated that he vowed never to marry. He even ignored the lovely nymph, Echo, who had followed him to that place, leaving her to wander off alone until she at last pined away to nothing but a faint, whispering voice. The young man’s name was Narcissus, and he has become the image of the excess of self-love. When we say that a person is narcissistic, or that we live in an age of narcissism, we are alluding to the self-absorbed young man who sat, day after day, staring at his own reflected features while ignoring the rest of the world around him.

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The story is, of course, a parable of one of the many pitfalls to which humans are susceptible—self-absorption. Though the danger is present to people of all age groups, it is no accident that the Narcissus of fable was a youth. One of the most basic sensibilities a young person forms is that of either looking outside himself for answers or remaining cloistered in the cell of his own psyche; of judging himself and the world around him by something “outside”, or of judging all things according to his own opinions, moods, and natural inclinations. This latter condition is one that, in its full flower, acknowledges no objective truth and can even come to question the validity of perception itself.

As Orthodox Christian teachers we must remember the warnings of St. John Chrysostom who began his lessons on the education of children with stern admonitions against this self-absorbed condition. Anticipating the question as to why such a young man would grow up to follow only the precepts of his appetites, St. John asked, “Did you not marvel at him? Did you not sing his praise? Did you not lead him on to his present state by applause and flattery?”

Unfortunately, we now have behind us several decades of professionally sanctioned educational practices which, in their methods as well as in their results, could be called an education to narcissism. Child-centered learning, whole-language practice, and multiple-intelligence theory have taught countless children that nothing matters which has its origin outside the self.

Though perhaps not overtly, the lesson has, nevertheless, been taught. It has been taught in stream-of-consciousness “journaling” where external forms such as spelling and grammar are of no consequence; it has been taught in anti-knowledge schools where memorization is belittled as “rote learning” and administrators declare openly their inability to predict what children will need to know in the future. It has been taught by teachers telling students there are no right answers, and by the cheap teen novels once hidden from the instructor but now assigned as classroom reading because she believes the young people can “relate” to them better. It has been taught in social studies where students learn nothing of the sacrifices of heroic men and women of the past, but everything of their own personal entitlements. In these and so many other ways, our current “progressive” schools encourage children to gaze no farther than their own adolescent images.

There are many problems with this approach. Most practically, it simply fails as a means of education—a fact by now so well documented that only those with careers rooted in the old theories still echo their empty tenets. Moreover, this approach to education assumes a Romantic optimism about human nature that is unjustified by practical experience, denies the fallen nature, and robs young people of the noblest ideas and examples of human kind while forcing them to wallow in the low, the base, and the mediocre. Furthermore, the progressive approach squanders the best opportunity—that of the early school years—to instill a body of objective factual content that can become a network of epiphanies in later years, and to inculcate habits of diligence in the attention to minute details that must always accompany successes that are not accidental. The most dangerous effect of all, however, may be that this progressive approach to education gives children the idea that the universe orbits around the parochial world of themselves and their peers—that the world will forever reconfigure itself around their desires, moods, and natural inclinations.

Many Christian schools, we must admit, are not guiltless of this pedagogical folly. Caricature Bible stories and cartoon illustrations promote a thought-world for children that is not merely immature but shallow and silly. Teen-conducted youth chapels tell young people that the world of adults is not for them and that their own inclinations to sentimentality and sensuality can be deflected into worship by merely deifying the direct object in a song lyric. Unable to encourage young people to “lay aside childish things” and “grow to full stature” in Christ, many youth pastors (find that in the Bible) create the pitiful spectacle of an older guy strumming a guitar, knitting his brow, and warbling ambiguous praises to stimulate teenagers who could not worship in the absence of electricity. The theology teacher who uses a “Skater’s Bible” has simply lost his way. So it is that many Christian schools fail most egregiously in the process of conversion—of turning children away from themselves. If teachers in Christian schools wish to encourage their students to be “like Christ” let them do so, and let the first lesson be that we know nothing of Christ as an adolescent. What would Jesus do? He would apparently be obedient to his parents as he grew in wisdom and stature—quietly, off-stage, and unknown.

The education offered by Orthodox Christian schools has as one of its intentions to lure Narcissus away from his pool. Our focus on the history of Christian Civilization is an attempt to ground young people outside themselves in a legacy of ideas, actions, and aesthetics that span continents and millennia. We want them to see society as comprising the dead, the living, and those yet unborn. Our studies of great historical personalities are intended to impress upon the students how greatly their own lives and options have been shaped by the prudent foresight of another generation. Even in our study of other cultures we are not so impressed with the insular cults of folk-ways as we are with the common nature all humans share—a nature which universally acknowledges one natural law and so points to the existence of a standard higher than the assumptions of any one self-approving group.

The literary, philosophical, and theological works of the Western canon also act as windows to a wider world, showing young people an incredible spectrum of options for thought and action, while also providing the benefit of an opportunity to reflect at a safe distance on the consequences of many of those actions. Also, as Lewis said, we read “old books” to discover that we are not alone; and it is an indisputable benefit for any student to read in the lines of an old Greek poet the very agonies that torment his young American soul.

Our focus on languages, and especially the highly inflected classical languages, works along with mathematical studies to offset the infection of subjectivity and narcissism. Apart from the practical benefits of improving facility in language, logic, and problem solving, both of these disciplines take the emphasis in education away from the self by demonstrating to students that natural canons exist which are absolute, unchanging, subject to no private interpretation, and belonging to a world not of their own making.

Finally, and most profoundly, our Orthodox Christian identity works to pull students out of themselves by the insistence that God is transcendent, that certain crucial truths and doctrinal definitions rely neither on personal discovery nor on individual inclinations, that it is we who must conform, who must sacrifice the self, and who must declare with the Forerunner: “I must decrease, that He may increase.”

Our nation is rife with schools that would let Narcissus languish by the pool while the teachers ask little more of him than a description of his feelings. We must ask more. We must ask, first of all, that he come away from the pool—that he lift his eyes to better images, and that he open his heart to eternal truths and the tongues of angels.

Byron Smith is a founding member of the Orthodox School Association.

Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies

By: George C. Mchalopulos

Several years ago when I was young and impressionable, I happened upon the Charles Laughton version of The Mutiny on the Bounty. What struck me – as near as I can recollect—was the climax of Lieutenant Bligh’s trial. Though acquitted of the charges against him, the president of the tribunal condemned Bligh’s character by saying that the Royal Navy had erred in commissioning him as he was “no Christian gentleman.” I remember how devastated I was by the indictment of Laughton/Bligh, delivered as it was in the crisp, no-nonsense, upper-class English accent. It became immediately apparent that the poor wretch would be hounded out of decent society for the rest of his life.

The reader may ask at this point: what would incite a reviewer of a book which is a vigorous apologia of the Christian religion to cite a little-remembered version of movie describing an event barely remembered today? Only this: that at one time, there was such a thing as a “Christian gentleman,” a man of culture and erudition who lived comfortably in the world but was resolute in his religious convictions. More importantly, this type of Christian gentleman lived in a society that was Christian and unapologetically so.

Now of course, the opposite is the case: obloquy is heaped upon Western Civilization and the Church. Christendom is castigated as the great engine of colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy, and the heartbreak of psoriasis. No doubt, we will soon find out that we would be much better off if our ancestors had never read McGuffy’s Reader as children or the Confessions of St Augustine as adults. Instead, we would all be better off if we read Heather has Two Mommies or I, Rigoberta Menchu. In this abyss of ignorance in which we find ourselves. It seems to be the case that we have only two choices: the tyranny of tolerance or the horrors of Christianism.

Into this vacuum come the strident New Atheists, the Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harrises of the world. Though their books are vastly more intelligent than the bovine waste that comprise the feminist, homosexualist, or secularist “canon” of the typical Western university, they are not without their logical and philosophical problems. A few enterprising souls have risen to the fore to engage them on their own terms. Dinesh D’Souza for example, has done yeoman’s work in this regard, easily besting them, often in open debate as well as in print. However, the problem is not the New Atheists but the broader society, which has internalized a very ignorant, Christophobic dynamic. It is modern society and its “smelly little orthodoxies” (in Chesterton’s apt phrase), that has made the careers of the New Atheists viable. To decimate these pretensions, one could do no better than look to David Bentley Hart’s new book Atheist Delusions.

The New Atheism has found fertile clay indeed in which to sink its growing roots. The modern world has been softened up for some time now by the plows of materialism, Darwinism, and Freudianism. It is into this arena that Hart (an Orthodox Christian), has boldly advanced to do battle. He is certainly up to the task: like a confident gladiator he knows where his enemy’s weak spots are. His weapons are impressive indeed; besides the facts, he has a keen analytical mind and is able to spot fallacies and errors in logic. He sees what is there and often what is not there, the so-called dog that didn’t bark, and for this we can be grateful. Indeed, his prose is lively and entertaining, that alone is worth the price of admission. Moreover, he does not hesitate to pore through the evidence and footnotes (a tedious process if there ever was one), and is perfectly willing to call out eminent scholars (such as Ramsay MacMullen) for purposely distorting the evidence which they themselves used, in order to propagate a deliberate anti-Christian argument.

Hart dispatches the secularist critiques of (among other things) the Inquisition, the trial of Galileo, and the Christian burning of the famous Library at Alexandria. In the interest of brevity, I will only say that the Inquisition was set up by the Roman Catholic Church to stop the promiscuous torture and execution of people condemned of heresy and witchcraft by the state. In this respect, the Church largely succeeded. As for Galileo, Hart plumbs the historical record and proves that he was a prickly character who needlessly and with malice often provoked his many academic enemies. More to the point, his own astrophysical theories were not in themselves correct as his inquest pointed out. Indeed, the Church had no problems with his theories as they were essentially the same as Copernicus’, who some eighty years earlier, had received the imprimatur of the Church. And almost always left out of the modern secularist critique of the Church was the fact that he was a devout Christian, indeed more so than his great friend, Pope Urban VIII, who lavished upon him great accolades, pensions, and awards (thus further inflaming Galileo’s many enemies). More damningly, Galileo himself was not intellectually honest. He castigated competing astronomers such as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, more out of spite than conviction. Indeed, it is Kepler’s system of celestial mechanics which we use today.

As to the famous burning of the Alexandrian Library by supposedly superstitious and bigoted Christian mobs in A.D. 390, Hart destroys this myth with an alacrity that enlightens as well as educates us about the intricacies of the early Christian age. It is little known that the Library had in fact been burned down many centuries earlier, most probably – and inadvertently—by Julius Caesar’s legions, during the dictator’s war against Pompey in the year 48 B.C. This is a stunning revelation, as Caesar died in 44 B.C., a good forty years or so before Christ had even been born (and almost a good century before the creation of the Church). So how did this myth take hold? The answer lies in the internecine conflicts that took place between Greeks and Jews, and later between pagans and Christians in Alexandria, quite possibly the most cosmopolitan and most violent city in the Roman Empire.

The facts are discernable to anyone who wishes to pore over the earliest extant documents. On the grounds of the earlier Library stood a temple dedicated to Serapis, constructed a century after the first Library. The confusion arises because the Serapeum contained many scrolls scattered about its environs. The twelfth century Byzantine historian John Tzetzes for instance “claimed that Callimachus of Cyrene (c.305-240 B.C.) catalogued forty-two thousand scrolls in the library…but whether this is to be trusted…cannot be determined.” It is important to note that Tzetzes received this information second-hand; at any rate neither historians’ sources are extant. At any rate, the destruction of the Serapeum was one incident in the long, internecine conflicts between Christians and pagans. In this particular instance, some pagan gangs had kidnapped Christians, taken them to the temple, tortured and killed them, dumping their bodies in the adjacent pits where the offal of sacrificial animals was thrown. In the ensuing melee, the enraged Christians burned the temple and all its contents. Although a regrettably violent act, it is unknown at this time if there were indeed books and scrolls there. Regardless, the myth of the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria by intolerant Christian mobs arose out of the ashes of this great catastrophe.

It is because of Hart’s great historical knowledge that this book is well worth a leisurely read. His historical episodes are written in a lively manner, entertaining and often with a hint of sarcasm. However, the real jewel of this book lies in its middle section, when Hart beautifully describes the rite of Christian initiation, contrasting it with the benighted, and hopeless paganism that permeated the entire non-Christian world. The remorselessness that Hart catalogues –from the pagans’ own sources at that—describe nothing less than a severe existential crisis for Hellenistic civilization. Even the vaunted erudition and science of Greek philosophy had long degenerated into superstition and magic by the time the Galilean “had cast the world gray with His breath.” The Renaissance myth, that Greek learning was snuffed bout by an intolerant Church takes a well-deserved beating in these pages. Indeed, it was Christianity, with its insistence that Reason (logos) had permeated the world –indeed created it—which gave rise to the scientific method. True science did not begin with Aristotle, who disdained the laboratory as the denizen of slaves, but with the Franciscans of the High Middle Ages, who had no compunction about getting their hands dirty. The operating principle of modern science –reductionism—was the revealed to the world by William of Ockham, a Franciscan monk.

So where are we now? Clearly not in a Christian – or even post-Christian age — but more probably an anti-Christian one. It is equally apparent to some that this age cannot last. There comes a time when old paradigms must be cast away. Sometimes a good idol-smashing does this, or better yet, a nice book-burning. Hart describes one such book-burning which gave rise to the modern age. It was on June 24, 1443, when Paracelsus took copies of all the medical books written by Galen and Avicenna in his possession, and publicly burned them, thereby destroying the stranglehold of Aristoteleian pseudo-science on the Christian and Islamic worlds. Hart makes a convincing case that it was only by such an audacious act that the modern age of scientific inquiry could begin. At any rate, it was not the Church which burned pagan texts (indeed, quite the opposite), but it was the Church which created a new paradigm that allowed such a brave soul to take such action, thereby birthing the modern age. One could only look wistfully upon such cheekiness and wonder if the modern Academy would be better off if 90 percent of its “canonical” literature received a similar fate.

Be that as it may, the Christian society of the ages past is probably extinct. However if it were to ever arise again, it would need an informed intellectual vanguard. There is no doubt in mind that Atheist Delusions would be a welcome and necessary addition to a new, more confident Christian canon, one appealing to Christians of all stripes. If nothing else, for those who desire the appellation of Christian gentleman, Atheist Delusions is a necessary addition to one’s library.

George C Michalopulos, is a layman in the Orthodox Church in America. He was born in Tulsa, OK where he resides and works. George is active in Church affairs, having served as parish council president at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and as Senior Warden at Holy Apostles Orthodox Christian Church. Together with Deacon Ezra Ham, he wrote ‘American Orthodox Church: A History of Its Beginnings” (Regina Orthodox Press: 2003). He is married to Margaret and has two sons, Constantine and Michael.

Nationalism in Greek Orthodoxy

By: Sir Steven Runciman

Excerpts from “The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Greek War of Independence.”

Sir Steven Runciman

Sir Steven Runciman

In the East money making has never, as it was in the feudally minded West, been considered to be incompatible with aristocracy. A moneyed nobility began to emerge among the Greeks, closely knit by common aim and interests and by intermarriage, but open to newcomers. These rich families were ambitious. Authority among the Greeks was in the hands of the Patriarch. It therefore became their object to control the Patriarchate. Calling themselves “Archontes” of the Greek nation, they built their houses in the Phanar quarter of Constantinople, to be close to the Patriarchal buildings. They obtained for their sons positions in the Patriarchal court; and one by one the high offices of the Great Church passed into lay hands. Their members did not enter the Church itself. That was considered to be beneath their dignity. The bishops and the Patriarch himself continued to be drawn mainly from bright boys of humbler classes who had risen through intelligence and merit. But by the end of the seventeenth century the Phanariot families, as they were usually called, dominated the central organization of the Church…. But the Patriarchate could not do without them; for they were in a position both to pay its debt and to intrigue in its favor at the Sublime Porte (pgs. 361-362).

It was good for the Church to have to meet an intellectual challenge; but the challenge was too abrupt. The strength of the Byzantine Church had been the presence of a highly educated laity that was deeply interested in religion. Now the laity began to despise the traditions of the Church; and the traditional elements in the Church began to mistrust and dislike modern education, retreating to defend themselves into a thickening obscurantism. The cleavage between the intellectuals and the traditionalists, which had begun when Neo-Aristotelianism was introduced into the curriculum of the Patriarchal Academy, grew wider. Under Phanariot influence many of the higher ecclesiastics followed the modernist trend. In the old days Orthodoxy had preferred to concentrate on eternal things and modestly to refuse to clothe the faith in trappings of modish philosophy. The Phanariots in their desire to impress the West had no use for such old-fashioned notions. Instead, seeing the high prestige of ancient Greek learning, they wished to show that they were, by culture as well as by blood, the heirs of ancient Greece. Their sons, lively laymen educated in the new style, were now filling the administrative posts at the Patriarchal court. As a result the Patriarchate began to lose touch with the great body of the faithful, to whom faith meant more than philosophy and the Christian saints more than the sophist of pagan times.

Above all, the Phanariots needed the support of the Church in the pursuits of the ultimate political aim. It was no mean aim. The Megali Idea, the Great Idea of the Greeks, can be traced back to the days before the Turkish conquest…With the spread of the Renaissance a respect for the old Greek civilization had become general. It was natural that the Greeks, in the midst of their political disasters, should wish to benefit from it. They might be slaves now to the Turks, but they were of the great race that had civilized Europe. It must be their destiny to rise again. The Phanariots tried to combine the nationalistic forces of Hellenism in a passionate if illogical alliance with the ecumenical traditions of Byzantium and the Orthodox Church. They worked for a restored Byzantium, a New Rome that should be Greek, a new center of Greek civilization that should embrace the Orthodox world. The spirit behind the Great Idea was a mixture of neo-Byzantinism and an acute sense of race. But with the trend of the modern world the nationalism began to dominate the ecumenicity. George Scholarius Gennadius had perhaps unconsciously, foreseen the danger when he answered a question about his nationality by saying that he would not call himself a Hellene though he was a Hellene by race, not a Byzantine though he had been born at Byzantium, but, rather, a Christian, that is, an Orthodox. For, if the Orthodox Church was to retain its spiritual force, it must remain ecumenical. It must not become a purely Greek Church.

The price paid by the Church for its subjection to the Phanariot benefactors was heavy. First, it meant that the Church was run more and more in the interests of the Greek people and not of Orthodoxy as a whole. The arrangement made between the Conquering Sultan and the Patriarch Gennadius had put all the Orthodox Church within the Ottoman Empire under the authority of the Patriarchate, which was inevitably controlled by Greeks (pgs. 377-379).

If any Orthodox Palestinian wished for advancement he had to learn Greek and entirely identify himself with Greek interests; and the Patriarch (of Jerusalem) himself spent much of his time at Constantinople or in the Principalities. The Greeks were not prepared to let this luscious plum fall into other hands. Yet it is doubtful whether in the long run the Greek nationalism that was being increasingly infused into the whole Orthodox organization was beneficial to Orthodoxy. It was not in the old Byzantine tradition. Though within the Empire itself a knowledge of Greek was necessary for any official position, there had been no distinction of race; and the Byzantines had encouraged vernacular liturgies and had been cautious in trying to impose a Greek hierarchy upon other peoples. But the Great Idea encouraged the Greeks to think of themselves as a Chosen People; and chosen peoples are seldom popular, nor do they fit well into Christian life.

This attempt to turn the Orthodox Church into an exclusively Greek Church was one of the outcomes of Phanariot policy. It lead also to a decline in spiritual values, by stressing Greek culture as against Orthodox traditions and seeking to turn the Church into a vehicle of nationalist feeling, genuine and democratic up to a point, but little concerned with the spiritual life. At the same time it place the Patriarchate on the horns of a moral dilemma. It involved the Church in politics, and subversive politics. Was it not the duty of the Church to render unto Caesar the things which were Caesar’s? Could a Patriarch justifiably jettison the agreement reached between the Sultan and his great predecessor Gennaidus? Could he abjure the oath that he had sworn to the Sultan when his election was confirmed? On a more practical level, had he the right to indulge in plots which if they failed would undoubtedly subject his flock to ghastly reprisals? The more thoughtful hierarchs could not lightly support revolutionary nationalism. Yet if they failed to join in the movement from a sense of honor or from prudence or from spiritually minded detachment, they would be branded as traitors to Hellenism. The Church would lose its hold over the livelier and more progressive elements of his congregation. The rebirth of Greece was to involve a gallows erected at the gate of the Patriarchate and a Patriarch’s corpse swinging thereon (pgs. 382-384).

Locality, the Episcopate, and Canonicity: Reflections on the Recent Pre-Conciliar Meeting at Chambesy

By: George Michalopulos

ABSTRACT: In previous essays posted on this forum, the present author analyzed the formation of autocephalous churches, the role of the metropolitan and its role within the episcopate, the canonical claims of existing patriarchates regarding primacy within the so-called Diaspora, and the current jurisdictional crisis within North America. As to the idea of a “diaspora,” certain issues need to be more fully developed. Specifically, which autocephalous church has the authority to evangelize within such an area? How is autocephaly to be proclaimed? Are parallel dioceses and/or multiple episcopal seats in one city evidence of schism? And can fidelity to the Gospel trump the claims of an already existing diocese? Parts 1 through 5 are primarily historical whereas the last two sections contain analysis and commentary based on recent events.

I. Introduction: The Bishop and the Church

One of the problems vexing Orthodoxy in North America has been a basic misunderstanding of the nature of the bishop. In all too many jurisdictions in North America, this ecclesial officer has been viewed as a subordinate to a national primate and/or a foreign holy synod. This same phenomenon is replicated in other lands whose Orthodox churches are the results of immigration. Rarely, if ever have episcopal appointments in these areas followed the authentic Christian practice of election or even popular acclamation. Worse, major ecclesiastical decisions involving dioceses, bishops, and even entire eparchies have been handed down by fiat, with almost no consideration for the subjects at hand or canonical protocols for that matter. Until very recently, diocesan seats themselves have been provisional in most jurisdictions.

What accounts for such arbitrary attitudes? Some would argue that such capriciousness is due to the minuscule number of Orthodox Christians in any given area; certainly financial upheaval in the Old World as well as the lack of qualified candidates play a part as well. Regardless, the net result has been that most of these bishops have been viewed as ecclesiastical bureaucrats with no fixed address and little loyalty to an admittedly fluid, diocesan structure.

Truth be told, the seeds for the bishop-as-bureaucrat were laid in the later stages of the Byzantine Empire. The authentic Christian attitude on the other hand, was the bishop as a locally elected presbyter, accountable to his flock and only his brother bishops in the regional synod. This structure began to attenuate during the so-called Pentarchy (ca. AD 500-1100), a time during which some regional churches began to lose the right of election of their metropolitans. In the West, the augmentation of the papacy of Rome was due in part to the ability of that city’s bishops to exercise the authority to consecrate the suburbicarians, bishops who presided over dioceses adjacent to Rome.

In the East, the metropolitans of three regions adjacent to Constantinople (Pontus, Thrace, and Asia) became subject to Constantinopolitan consecration thanks to the 28th canon of Chalcedon (AD 451). In neither case however, was the right of election taken from the people for their bishops. Still, this was a gradual process, so gradual in fact that during the latter part of the Middle Ages, Russian bishops could demand greater autonomy for their eparchy from Constantinople by hearkening back to the primitive practice of popular election and episcopal consecration of the metropolitans,2 which were still “on the books” canonically speaking. Indeed, the Russian bishops successfully petitioned the ecumenical patriarchate for greater autonomy in the selection of the Kievan metropolitans.

When all was said and done, the popular election of the bishop, the regional election of the metropolitan, and the institution of new dioceses and independent churches was clearly the ideal. That these processes exist today only in attenuated circumstances, does not mitigate against their authenticity but instead points to practices that the Orthodox Church today should willingly embrace. Moreover, in doing so, the Church would avoid needless controversies and more effectively spread the Gospel.

II. Eucharist and Catholicity: The Bishop and His Role Within the Church

The present scenario (that of bishop as assigned bureaucrat or administrator) was not envisioned when this office was created in the sub-apostolic age. In The Didache, an ancient Christian manual of discipline from the first century, we are told that one of the functions of the office of bishop is to manifest unity within a particular locality, unity of course being a hallmark of love (John 15:9).3 This is epitomized in its essence by the consecration of the gifts of the people into the Eucharist by the bishop of the locality.

This understanding of the episcopal office has been termed (understandably) “eucharistic ecclesiology.” The revival of this concept has been widespread. In addition to Orthodox eminences such as Georges Florovsky, Alexander Schmemann and John Zizioulis, who championed this concept in the latter half of the twentieth century, Roman Catholic and Evangelical theologians of great repute have come to similar conclusions as well.4 Indeed, in the Roman church, one of its prime advocates is Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, presently Pope Benedict XVI.5 Benedict in fact has made it a prime focus of his pontificate, especially in his dialogues with the Orthodox Church. He has chosen to view the papal office as the primary teaching office of the Christian Church, one that presides in love as opposed to that of a supreme hierarch who enjoys a special archiepiscopal charism that allows him to serve as the administrative head of a vast bureaucracy. (This in fact can be considered to be the Orthodox view of the papacy as described by Bishop Kallistos Ware in his book, The Orthodox Church.6) As to the equality of the episcopate, this is in fact the normative view of the Orthodox Church. That it has been largely forgotten by many of the laity does it not negate its reality.

The eucharistic understanding of the role of the bishop has tremendous implications for the Church today, up-ending centuries of a strict top-down hierarchy, not only in the West, but in the East as well.7 The emphasis on the Eucharist has even more bearing on the present reality. Among other things, it solidifies the liturgical participation of the laity in the life of the Church. It is no coincidence that laymen who partake frequently of the mysteries of the Church tend also to be involved in the life of the parish. This includes not only frequent confession, but in leadership roles as well. It is not too much to say that such laymen feel an organic connection to the universal Church as well as their own particular congregation.

But what does it mean to say, that the bishop’s primary role is “eucharistic”? Does this imply merely a liturgical role? What about his evangelistic mission? Is that secondary? The peremptory answer would be an emphatic negative. The ritual acts of the bishop and his deputies (the presbyters) were in fact kerygmatic. The kerygma was in its essence, the proclamation of the Gospel, which was not only a recitation of historical events or merely a code of ethics, but the proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven was “at hand” (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). Part of this proclamation was that the Church’s worship was eschatological, and in the Eucharist, we find that the eschatological notions of the Church were already realized to a very great extent. When Christians gather together to worship, they are entering into a mode of existence that is beyond time and space; indeed, partaking of a heavenly worship that is ongoing within the heavenly realm (Rev 14).8 In other words, the corporate worship of the Church in its locality, under the presidency of its bishop, “is the Church in all its fullness, not just a part of the Church…it is the basic unit on which all subsequent speculation must be based, the primary experience underlying all effort at definition.”9

When we consider the sub-apostolic age, we see that none of the above is controversial. According to Ignatius, we find that the bishop personified the unity of the local church.10 To stress this point, Ignatius said that the bishop “stood in the place of God.”11 According to modern commentators such as Zizioulis, this is to be understood to mean that the catholicity of the Church is manifested in its entirety within the diocese. This phenomenon is best explained in this way:

One church may be established by Peter, another by Paul, another by a missionary hundreds of years later. Yet all are equally and fully apostolic, just as they are one, holy and catholic. For the structure of the local church –the bishop surrounded by the college of presbyters, the deacons, and all the faithful—has a direct iconic relationship to the kingdom of where Christ stands surrounded by the apostles.12

This icon of the local Church as the “Catholic Church” leads inexorably to the conclusion that all bishops are equal. According to another Church Father, St Cyprian of Carthage, each bishop occupies the cathedra Petri or the seat of Peter, not just those bishops whose specific churches (such as Rome or Antioch) that were founded by this Apostle. Though Cyprian’s view of the episcopate was less theocentric than Ignatius’, the essential equality of all bishops was upheld. It was for this reason that a plurality of bishops was required to consecrate a new bishop. This was historically manifested in the concatenation of dioceses into a local, or regional synod, which operated under the principle of collegiality as explicated in the 34th Apostolic canon.13

Having said that, how did these bishops differentiate themselves? Was there a hierarchy among them? How could there be if all the bishops were equal? After all, we do know that there existed the office of metropolitan, usually the bishop of the largest or most important of the diocese within a regional church. Again, we need to turn to Ignatius who wrote in the “Prologue” to his Epistle to the Romans, that some bishops may “preside in love.” Erickson, takes this to mean that the presidency of the regional church was predicated on the belief that these bishops “more completely and perfectly share all that they are with the others.”14 The charisms were the same in each diocese, but the ability and willingness to share the Gospel were the deciding factor as to which bishop would preside within a given episcopal college. And quite apropos of the present discussion, these regional councils were autocephalous churches.15 The metropolitan was the president of the diocesan bishops when it met in council, nothing more. As stated in canon 34, he was to be informed of all major decisions by the bishops, and he in turn was required to inform all the bishops of any significant actions on his part.

The concept of episcopal independence transferred rather easily to the patriarchal level as well. As late as the ninth century, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople reacted vehemently to the activities of German missionaries in Bulgaria. Although his concern was specifically related to their insertion of the Filioque clause into the Nicene Creed (which at this time was still rejected by Rome itself), we can tell that Photius considered Bulgaria to be within the ecclesiastical purview of Constantinople.16 What gives this opposition special urgency was that Photius himself recognized the primacy of Rome within the Church and in other contexts submitted to Roman approval. Nor was this a prerogative of venerable patriarchates alone: the first patriarch of Bulgaria, Theophylact, prevented incursion from the Church of Constantinople into the new Bulgarian church, even though he himself was a Byzantine and owed his elevation to the Bulgarian throne because of the Byzantine mother church. The principle of diocesan autonomy legitimized Theophylact’s abruptness.

III. The Bishop and His Missionary Role: How Did He Go About It?

In reading the writings of several Church Fathers, one gets the decided impression that teaching was paramount. The vast canon from the ante-Nicene Fathers overwhelmingly concerns doctrine, not liturgy or even the Church calendar for that matter. Why is this so? After all, the written Gospels certainly existed by this time and the New Testament was well on its way to being closed. But what did the Gospel mean? What does it mean (for example) when Jesus says that the eucharistic elements were really His “body and blood,” or that the Kingdom of Heaven “suffereth violence”? Could any man exposit on it?

This is reflected in the many doctrinal controversies that rocked the Church from its inception. For example, in Acts 15, we find that an apostolic council was convened in order to resolve the issue of gentiles within the Church and to what degree they had to accept the Mosaic Law. Also in Acts, we find the curious career of Simon Magus, a sorcerer who sought to purchase the gifts of the Holy Spirit from the Apostles (Acts 8:18-24). These were profound doctrinal controversies, of the kind that would later consume the careers of Ss Irenaeus, Ignatius, Cyprian, Polycarp, and a host of others.

The celebration of the Eucharist is merely accepted as a given in comparison. Even the great gnostic heresiarchs such as Marcion and Basilides celebrated this central rite of the Church, the only difference being the principle underlying the meaning of the rite, whether it was really the body and blood of Christ or merely a “remembrance” In other words, the great polemicists of the Church were dealing with doctrinal differences rather than liturgical ones. We can see therefore the paramount importance of doctrine; adjustments to it could lead to liturgical differences (or at least differences in interpretation of liturgical practices), but it was the teaching behind any given liturgical rite that concerned the Apostles and their successors. It is for this reason that throughout the history of the Church, there existed a very real fear that even subtle differences in doctrine can result in dire implications, including the breaking of Communion –that is to say, schism.

How then does a bishop fulfill his role as a teacher? Is he the sole preacher within his church as well as the sole celebrant of the divine mysteries? The answer is an emphatic negative. Again, in turning to the Acts of the Apostles, we find how the Apostles were already stretched thin when the problem of almsgiving reached a breaking point. For this reason, they decided to delegate this authority to a new class of ordinands, men whom they called diakonoi (“servers,” also “ministers”). These men were charged with serving the needs of the impoverished Hellenistic Jews living in Jerusalem. In Timothy, we find another class of ordinands, men called presbyteroi or “elders,” who were tasked with authority over individual congregations. It is unclear whether these men constituted a separate class from the episkopoi (“overseers”) but we can surmise that as heads of congregations, it was they who presided over the Eucharist.

By the end of the first century, it is clear that there are men called “overseers” (such as Ignatius) who was most definitely a special kind of elder. What made men like Ignatius stand out? No doubt their evangelistic fervor and theological acumen played a significant role. At any rate, sometime in the later second century, the final cleavage between the office of presbyter and bishop seems to have occurred, no doubt probably because of the proliferation of house-churches within a given city. Therefore the concept of one bishop per church had to be relaxed. In time, other orders came into being, including lectors (readers) and deaconesses.

There was precedence for this. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he describes several of the offices then in existence. Among them are “prophets, evangelists, exorcists, those who speak in tongues,” etc. All of these existed within the first generation of the Church. Careful boundaries existed between them as we can tell by Paul’s exhortation that not “all were called” to be such. Perhaps it would be too hasty to say that a type of licensure existed in order to proclaim to the Church their respective competence, but the implication that they were ordained by the Apostles based on spiritual discernment cannot be denied. For our purposes, it is clear that boundaries existed between these offices.

The above foray into the inner life of the early Church is based on the consideration at hand; that is whether the bishop is the lone initiate into the mysteries of the Church. Clearly he is not. The above-mentioned charisms of the Holy Spirit were open to all believers but Paul’s emphasis was on “order” and how it proceeded within strictly defined parameters. Their existence leads us to more questions: who possessed these gifts and how were they transmitted? Could there be more than one evangelist within a congregation? Could one be both a prophet and a healer? These questions vexed the early Church as we can tell by Paul’s admonitory words. At present, answers to these questions remain unknown (at least to this writer). For our purposes it is merely enough to know that the ultimate enforcer of order within the local congregation was clearly the bishop. It was he who was its presiding officer and he alone who could ordain other officers within it. As for his own office, as already noted above, he received it from a multiplicity of other bishops, who in turn received it from earlier bishops in a chain going back all the way to the Apostles. (It goes without saying that all charisms come from the Holy Spirit.)

Therefore, in order to go about his duties, no bishop was handicapped. The concept of delegation of authority was well established. No doubt, the environs of his church kept him busy. In addition to presiding over the Eucharist, he was responsible for adjudicating torts, disbursing alms, maintaining order, and of course preaching the Gospel. (In some cities, the rectitude of Christian bishops was so pronounced that they were often called to act as judges in civil actions between non-Christian parties!) This presents us with a dilemma: if the bishop was responsible only for his locality, then how was the Gospel spread? For clearly the Church did not remain confined to its birthplace in Jerusalem. Even during the time of the persecutions of the Church, it is clear that it grew exponentially throughout the Greco-Roman world.

For the Christian, the growth of the Church is nothing less than a miracle. The number of the original Apostles was relatively small –Scripture tells us of the original eleven disciples and another seventy, men who are also confusingly called disciples and apostles. The names are familiar to even the most casual observers –Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, Luke, and Mark, for example. Most of these men (and a few women such as Thekla) traveled in small groups for mutual support and protection. In some cities, they found that the message of Jesus had already preceded them. In others, they founded local churches where there was already a sizable Jewish population; in fact, it was often from factions within these local synagogues that they drew their first converts. This of course explains the foundation of churches such as those in Rome, Corinth, Antioch and Ephesus, and appears to have been the template while the Apostles were still alive. Even Paul, a notorious “Hellenizer,” made much of the fact that he “went to the Jews first, then the Greeks” (Acts 14:1). After the death of the last Apostle (John ca AD 105), church planting did not stop. Thanks to the Council of Javneh (ca AD 85), which legitimized anti-Hellenistic attitudes among the Rabbinate, dialogue between Church and Synagogue came to an abrupt halt. It would be hard therefore to imagine that Christian evangelists could rely on the continued hospitality of the local Jewish congregations for either material support or converts.

And yet, the Church grew. This time, its acceleration within the non-Jewish world became more apparent, to the point where it became almost completely a non-Jewish phenomenon with only a few Jewish remnants. The fact that the Roman government recognized the claims of Judaism over and above those of Christianity certainly did not help matters any. Despite the destruction of the Second Temple, Judaism was allowed to spread and receive converts. This was denied to the Church, which remained a superstitio illicito; where it was allowed to exist, it remained largely conditionally and underground. Yet evangelism was taking place. The question is how? How were bishops who were consigned to one city able to take the message of the Gospel to a neighboring city? After all, there were perhaps less than a dozen cities whose churches could reasonably point to an apostolic founder, yet there were thousands of cities throughout the Roman –and even outside it—that had vibrant local churches.

Because of the scarcity of documents from this period, the question must remain rhetorical. What we do know is that it became a given that bishops of towns that were adjacent to unevangelized areas were responsible for all missionary activity throughout the immediate area. Such missionary activity took place even during the period of persecutions. It seems to have accelerated after the Edict of Toleration in AD 313. Once Christianity became a licit religion, the question of diocesan formation became acute. By the time of the Council of Carthage (AD 419), a canon was promulgated which stated that it was the duty of the nearest bishop to spread the Gospel to that area nearest him.17 From what we can tell, this was consistent with the prevailing attitude of episcopal autonomy. This was also in keeping with the Council of Sardica (AD 341), which circumscribed the Roman pope’s universal appellate authority to the calling of ad hoc regional councils for purposes of final adjudication. This cannot be stressed enough: within the local church, one bishop presided. He was responsible to only those bishops who were adjacent to him and the regional metropolitan. Within his diocese, he had a college of ecclesiastics over which he presided and who assisted him with his tasks, but ultimately it was his diocese and no other bishop, including the regional metropolitan, could exercise authority over it.

IV. The Gospel and Its Relationship to Episcopal Canonicity

In a previous essay, this writer explicated on the present supremacist claims of the ecumenical patriarchate regarding its supposed jurisdiction over lands not presently belonging to any of the Orthodox churches.18 This claim is supposedly mandated by canon 28 of Chalcedon, which surreptitiously gave the archbishops of Constantinople the right to consecrate the metropolitans of Thrace, Pontus, and Asia. This fabulous claim has been dealt with elsewhere and shown to be utterly without merit.19

As such, some in Constantinople’s camp have brought forth another, equally fantastic claim to buttress its supremacist claims, namely, that the Byzantine church’s founder was none other than St Andrew, the elder brother of Peter. This legendary founding has no historical foundation and was first promulgated centuries after Byzantium’s founding.20 Ironically, no recourse is made to the actual legitimate claims of Constantinople which were propagated by that church’s proponents during its heyday. In their eyes, a church’s legitimacy did not rest on its apostolic foundation (or lack thereof) but on its fidelity to the Gospel.21

That Andrew engaged in an evangelistic mission is not in dispute. His execution in Patras ca. AD 65 is based on a firm oral tradition. His legend and cultus among the Scythians in and around the Black Sea region is also well attested. It was so pronounced and ancient in fact, that the Scottish nobility –- who fancied themselves as descendents of these same Scythians — made an unambiguous appeal to his authority as the founder of their nation’s church to the pope in Rome. In their Declaration of Arbroath, Andrew is stated to be the preeminent member of the Apostolic college,22 second only to Peter. They also made the claim that the Scots were among the first nations to be evangelized; hence, their demand for independence from England was for them a matter of theological necessity.

In any event, the bishops of Constantinople never claimed him as that city’s first bishop or founder even during Byzantium’s agogee. Indeed, there was no need for such a special pleading. Constantinople’s preeminence was political and statutory. This was not controversial. Because of its cultural importance, it became the hub of Christianity and an intellectual beacon for Christians everywhere. Although its elevation to patriarchal status was not met with Alexandria’s approval, the statutory principle was well ingrained by then. After all, Alexandria’s precedence over Antioch was based on its own cultural superiority, not because of the merits of their respective apostolic founders –- after all, Antioch was founded by St Peter, whereas Alexandria’s first bishop was St Mark, a disciple of Peter. And of course Jerusalem’s elevation to patriarchal status came centuries after its own founding. (In fact previous to the Second Ecumenical Council, Jerusalem’s bishops were suffragans of the metropolitan of Caeserea.)

It is here that we get to the crux of the argument: Despite its past flirtation with Arianism (of which more below), Constantinople’s partisans claimed that its prominence now rested upon its doctrinal orthodoxy. One Byzantine proponent disdained the very idea of apostolic foundation as the sole, or best criterion for a church’s primacy. In this, he was correct. As already noted, it was the Gospel which trumped foundational claims of antiquity.23 After all, all bishops were equal, the charisms were the same in each diocese, but the ability and willingness to share the Gospel was the deciding factor as to which bishop would preside within a given episcopal college. In this respect, material resources and location certainly played a role, in addition to a church’s apostolic foundation, martyriology, and antiquity. Yet all of the above were secondary considerations. Of utmost importance was whether its presiding bishop “more fully” shared the Gospel; it was this characteristic which allowed him to “preside in love” over other bishops as Ignatius stated in his Epistle to the Romans. Kerygma and the willingness to uphold it was the trump, not the number of relics.

To be sure, such a strict adherence to doctrinal principles as opposed to apostolic foundation was a two-edged sword. One of Alexandria’s briefs against the elevation of Constantinople’s archbishop to patriarchal status was that for the better part of a century, that city’s bishops remained firm in their adherence to the doctrines of Arius. In this, the bishops of Constantinople were unfortunately following the lead of the Flavian descendants of Constantine, who were likewise committed to Arianism, this despite the fact that the First Ecumenical Council had anathematized Arius and his teachings. No matter, for the partisans of Alexandria, the line of Arian bishops of Constantinople had cast a decided pall over that see and no matter how prominent that city had become, it was not enough to purge it of its Arian past.24 Constantinople of course saw things differently. It could not reasonably be held to account for past transgressions; after all, Alexandria’s hands were not exactly clean either in this matter: Arius was a bishop from that city and St Athanasius, who was the champion of Nicaea, suffered exile at the hands of the Alexandrians on several occasions.

V. Territory and Ethnicity: The Historical Reality and Its Resolution in Canon Law

The Church of course grew in spite of the various heresies that roiled it. Its diocesan structure came to be ordered within the confines of the so-called Pentarchy, an arrangement of five venerable patriarchal sees that took on the presidencies of some of the independent metropolitan regions by consecrating their metropolitans. It should be remembered however that this phenomenon occurred within the boundaries of one nation –- the Roman Empire. The Orthodox concept of the national church was not yet in evidence. The first such church was that of Bulgaria which in a relatively short time, acquired autocephaly and its own patriarchate in AD 918. Serbia would follow this pattern some three centuries later. In both cases however, the idea that membership in the local church was only open to the members of a certain ethnicity was not in evidence. Both of the Bulgarian empires and the Serbian kingdom were multi-ethnic states and its patriarchs were the spiritual overlords of all Christian peoples residing within them.

Nevertheless, as the Middle Ages waned, the rise of the nation-state began to subvert the concept of Christian unity. Even in the West, where by this time the universal jurisdiction of the popes was a given and the concept of autonomous patriarchates was unknown, the French kingdom began to view its church as a semi-autonomous “Gallican” church sometime in the fourteenth century. The concept of the national church came to its full fruition in England during the reign of Henry VIII (d. 1547), who fancied himself the “supreme governor” of the “Anglican” church, that is to say, the Roman Catholic Church in England. When the full effects of the Protestant Reformation had subsided, all of the German and Scandinavian states had state churches whose territories were rigidly defined by the borders of their respective nations. Unfortunately, their independence was lost and their churches became wholly dependent bureaucracies. It was this regrettable model that Peter the Great of Russia found so appealing in his travels to the West and which he mandated for the Russian Empire. In Obolensky’s opinion, the subjugation of the Church to the state –wherever this occurred (in the West as well as in the East)—planted the seeds of totalitarianism in most all modern state, not merely in the former Soviet Union.25

With the ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire, both the Bulgarian and Serbian churches lost their autocephaly to Constantinople (1763). Regrettably, this was done by the armies of the Turkish sultan acting at the behest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It was thus understandable that with the decay of Turkey and the subsequent independence of their Christian subjects in the Balkans, the newly independent Christian kingdoms would look to the past as one of comparative glory. This made inevitable the quest of these nations for autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople, which was increasingly controlled by a chauvinistic faction of wealthy Greeks called Phanariotes. Ironically enough, it was the newly liberated Greeks who first demanded emancipation from the ecumenical patriarchate in 1830. In short order the Serbs and Bulgars would reclaim their autocephaly.

These new Balkan states however were not multi-ethnic empires but decidedly mono-cultural states with miniscule populations of Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. For all intents and purposes, they came to identify membership in the national church as the sole criterion for citizenship. The Church became the guarantor of the nation’s boundaries so to speak. Or put another way, it was membership in the local church that decided whether one was a “true” Greek (or Serb, or Bulgar). The Church and state became one and the former became decidedly dependent upon the latter for material support, not unlike the Lutheran churches of the Germanic lands.

As regrettable as this came to be, the idea of the local church being defined by the boundaries of the polity is not a novel one. Indeed, it was the accepted practice in the first millennium as Apostolic canon 34 makes this clear. The difference of course is that in the Roman Empire, the various political regions were not mono-cultural (for the most part). Rome as noted many before, was a multi-ethnic, multi-racial empire. Even in its diocesan subdivisions, the menagerie of races and ethnicities was apparent. That the Church understood this can be gleaned from Canon 28 of Chalcedon, which makes mention on several occasions of “barbarians” living in and near the three provinces in question. Thus, it would be wrong to view the modern Orthodox phenomenon of intensely nationalistic churches as inevitable.

Regardless, the question of nationalism came to a head in the city of Constantinople when Bulgarians living there demanded a bishop of their ethnicity in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The ecumenical patriarchate convened a council in 1872 which ruled against the concept of “phyletism,” calling it an abject heresy.26 Some of course would state that the Phanar was being self-serving, that by doing so, it was solidifying its power over Orthodox immigrants. Appearances to the contrary, this was not the case as Patriarch Joachim III readily granted a tomos of autocephaly to the church of the newly independent Serbian kingdom in 1873. Indeed, Joachim’s own words to this effect bear scrutiny. In an earlier essay, this writer quoted Alexander Bogolepov, one of the first proponents of American autocephaly. This particular passage bears repeating. According to Bogolopev, Joachim III granted autocephaly to Serbia when he came to the realization that local churches may be established:

…not in conformity with the historical importance of the cities and countries in Christianity, but also according to political conditions of the life of the people and nations.” Referring then to Canon 28 of Chalcedon and other canons…he reaffirmed: “The ecclesiastical rights, especially those of parishes, usually conform to the structure of the state authority and its provinces.27

Clearly, the idea of territoriality was not lost. Nations could order their churches according to “political conditions,” a principle which reinforces ancient canons, especially those canons which mandated that diocesan boundaries should follow “the municipal model.” Does Joachim’s assessment however leave open the possibilities of migratory incursions of different ethnic groups being granted a special waver? For example, a displaced population of refugees, should its needs not be met vis-à-vis a bishop of their own nation? After all, these things happen in the ordinary course of the lives of nations. Even in a situation such as this, where pastoral concerns must be taken into consideration, the danger of phyletism is so pronounced that an exception would ultimately be hurtful. Regardless, Joachim’s tomos was granted just one year after this particular issue came to a head in the city of Constantinople itself, when Bulgarian émigrés demanded a bishop of their own nation. What Constantinople found objectionable was the concept of tribal churches that catered to ethnic dispersions; not to churches of nations.

VI. Chambesy: Blueprint for the Future or More of the Same?

The present dilemma of course has to do with the lands of the “diaspora.” To their credit, the primates of the autocephalous churches which met in Istanbul in October, 2008, qualified this term by calling it the “so-called Diaspora.”28 Perhaps they realized how theologically untenable such a term is for a universal religion like Christianity, or at the very least how abrasive this term sounds to those Orthodox who are natives of the lands in question.

The primates at Constantinople appeared to understand the tenuousness of Orthodoxy in traditionally non-Orthodox lands; the issue of the creation of new autocephalous churches was to be the primary agenda items of the much anticipated “Great and Holy Council.” Nevertheless, they told the various bishops from these lands that they would not be welcomed during the pre-conciliar deliberations to be held the following June in Cyprus. The irony was astonishing: even though it was agreed that the issue of the normalization of the churches of the “diaspora” was going to be settled once and for all at this upcoming council, the concerns of native bishops could not be vocalized by the very bishops in question. Rumors abounded that the patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow were engaging in behind-the-scenes gamesmanship related to autonomous churches that the primates of these churches found problematic.29

Be that as it may, the conference was relocated to Chambesy, Switzerland and was presided over by Metropolitan John Zizioulis of Pergamum. Interestingly enough, this is the same Zizioulis — who as a recognized theologian of the first order — had a profound appreciation for the eucharistic role of the bishop and his equality among his brother bishops. Further ironies abounded: Zizioulis was now the titular bishop of a defunct diocese himself, despite the fact that he had earlier written about the absurdity of such a concept.30 As noted, none of the bishops from the so-called diaspora were invited to this conference, thereby casting a cloud over its very legitimacy in the eyes of many. Bickering in fact preceded it and in its aftermath, the Russian church threw cold water over some of it findings,31 thus raising the question as to whether anything of substance transpired.

This of course is unfortunate, because even with the above disqualifiers, the signatories at Chambesy stressed the correct nature of the episcopal office as it was understood in ancient times. Zizioulis for his part remained true to his earlier principles of episcopal equality and autonomy. Given its moribund nature in many non-Orthodox lands, some could reasonably say that the original meaning of the episcopate had in fact been revived. Moreover, the previous fantastic claims of the canon 28 enthusiasts were not even entertained. Instead, a process for convening episcopal assemblies in the disputed lands was formulated which objectively speaking, was non-controversial. It was decided that in any given area where there were bishops representing different ethnic migrations, the presidency of such a council was to follow a precedence based on the diptychs. In other words, the representative of the patriarchate of Constantinople was to preside as its interim chairman. Should no Constantinopolitan exarch exist, then a bishop from the see of Antioch would preside. Absent an Antiochian bishop, then chairmanship would devolve to a bishop from the Russian Orthodox Church, and so on (at present, there are no exarchates of the sees of Alexandria or Jerusalem in the lands in question, hence, no provision is made for any émigré bishops from these churches).

Equally important, it was decided that these erstwhile episcopal councils were to meet regularly and “normalize” church life within these lands as expeditiously as possible. The purpose (and hope) of such councils was to create a framework from which an autocephalous church could be created. This hoped for result seemingly put to rest claims of critics of Istanbul, most of whom castigated that see as wanting to aggrandize its own power over these lands in perpetuity.32 As such, Chambesy was viewed as a remarkable come-down from the supremacist claims of the Phanar that had been propagated some three months earlier by its Chief Secretary in a ill-received speech delivered at Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts.33 Despite the fact that no local churches of the “Diaspora” were invited, the framework of Chambesy could be viewed as providing something for everybody; after all, although it was agreed that the chairmanship of these councils were dependent upon the order of the diptychs, there was no guarantee that once a local church achieved autocephaly, that this same bishop would necessarily be its metropolitan.

Others however, were not as sanguine about the workability of the Chambesy formula. For one thing, the Orthodox Church had been down this road before. In a recently republished essay on the subject of Orthodox unity, it was pointed out that our collective memory was very short indeed. According to the author, the recent meeting in Chambesy — in almost all its particulars — was a mere repetition of earlier meetings that had transpired there almost twenty years ago. Then, as now, the ecumenical patriarchate had been the driving force in another pre-conciliar conference. Just as in 2009,

…as part of the preparation for the great and holy synod, convened an inter-Orthodox preparatory commission to take up the last and most difficult question on the synod’s agenda: the “diaspora.” Two meetings were held at the ecumenical patriarchate’s center at Chambesy, Switzerland, in 1990 and then in 1993. At those meeting, a plan was developed for organizing the “diaspora” very much like the present SCOBA, with the addition of an assembly of bishops that would meet regularly and for practical purposes function like a single holy synod. There was a timeline intimated for establishes the “diaspora” churches as first autonomous and then autocephalous.34

To quote Yogi Berra, the recently concluded pre-conciliar meeting at Chambesy was “déjà vu all over again.” This of courses raises several questions, the most significant of which is, why should this most recent meeting be taken any more seriously than the two previous “inter-Orthodox preparatory commissions”? Nor should it be forgotten that the Ligonier confreres took their cues for setting up such an American episcopal assembly not only from these two meetings in Chambesy, but from Patriarch Bartholomew himself, who was “the architect of these commission meetings.” Bartholomew’s intentions in this regard require special attention:

…the real reason for optimism was…Metropolitan Bartholomew of Chalcedon, now the newly elected Patriarch of Constantinople. Metropolitan Bartholomew was largely responsible for the very successful visit of Patriarch Demetrios to the United States in 1990, including the visit to the Washington Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America, where [Demetrios] spoke of the scandal of Orthodox disunity in the “diaspora.” In July 1994, just months before the Ligonier meeting, Patriarch Bartholomew sent Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy as his personal representative to the clergy-laity congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese [Chicago]. In his address to the Congress, he spoke to the “diaspora” question by saying that the Patriarch has focused his attention on bringing some resolution to the problem.”35

In fact, Spyridon received thunderous applause from the assembled delegates (most of whom were Greek-American) when he condemned the existence of “ethnic ghettos” in the United States. It was in this context of optimism that the overwhelming majority of American bishops convened in Ligonier, just three months after Spyridon’s speech in Chicago. Unfortunately — and inexplicably — Bartholomew vehemently rescinded his earlier sentiments. The new patriarch condemned the meeting in no uncertain terms and summoned the GOA bishops to Istanbul, where in a “rather medieval fashion” they were “forced to ‘repudiate’ their signatures to the Ligonier documents.”36 In light of the above, honest critics cannot be faulted for looking askance at the protocols derived in Switzerland earlier this year; whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in fact serious about the problem of church formation and autocephaly in the first place.

Other problems loomed over the horizon: the present Chambesy protocols allowed the various ethnic jurisdictions to continue in existence and to “rely” upon their mother churches. It was feared that the various eparchies could continue to vote en bloc. Russia for its part made explicit claims regarding existing jurisdictions (presumably its own) not becoming subject to Istanbul. North America presented its own unique set of problems. For example, no mention was made as to how to eradicate parallel dioceses or the scandalous multiplicity of episcopal seats in certain American cities (such as in Chicago, Detroit, New York City, or Los Angeles). More importantly, North America presented another problem which none of the other regions have; namely that it already possesses a local church, whose independence is recognized by five other autocephalous churches (including the largest Orthodox church in the world.) The encroachment of yet another layer of bishops onto its territory is thus problematic to say the least. Indeed, according to one well-respected monastic in the Patriarchate of Antioch, Fr Touma Bitar, the OCA is “the only canonical church in North America.”37

In any event, it is not at all clear that any of the ethnic jurisdictions presently want to meet in a continental assembly — the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese included. According to Fr Mark Arey, the general secretary of the Standing Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA), there are roughly “55 to 60 bishops in North America,” a relatively large number, that would make such a continental assembly one that is fraught with peril — at least for those exarchates who have no intention of breaking with their mother churches. More to the point, though Chambesy created a formula which ratified the primacy of the Greek archbishop in America (at least as its interim chairman), there is no guarantee that once situated, the overwhelming numbers of other bishops would accede to this jurisdiction’s perpetual presidency. The reason is because unlike other areas of the world, the bishops of the Greek-American jurisdiction would be outnumbered by at least five-to-one.

Moreover, this fear is justified in North America because of the experience of SCOBA. This organization, which began in the mid-1960s, was intended to draw together the primates of the existing ethnic jurisdictions, with the goal of eventual administrative unity. Instead, SCOBA has proven to be an inept organization with no canonical standing and precious little moral authority. Its fecklessness became apparent soon after its founding. According to one critic within the GOA, “frustrations with SCOBA [were] legendary,” the fault lying in the primates themselves, who “have consistently refused to take those decisions that would the church here closer, making themselves accountable to one another and to the whole.”38 Part of this problem was structural: its chairmen were to serve on a rotating basis based on jurisdiction. Although this rotating chairmanship mitigated against Greek triumphalism, it anticipated Chambesy (even going back to the first meeting in 1991) in many particulars. Especially in the insistence that the respective jurisdictions could still operate independently of one another and that the broader episcopal body could not impose its authority over them.

In any event, SCOBA’s official structure became ossified with the GOA archbishop serving as its de facto permanent chairman. As long as Archbishop Iakovos Coucouzis was alive, there was no problem with this as he had generated much goodwill towards him personally. Things started to deteriorate however with his forced resignation. At present, there is talk behind the scenes of SCOBA disbanding as its meetings are often desultory in nature. Though its ministries continue to gain in number and scope, the fact remains that they are by and large the ideas of laymen from the various jurisdictions. It is they who staff them, finance them, and provide most of the manpower needed for their operation.

The belief that the best days of SCOBA are behind it was on full display recently in Crestwood, where a historic symposium on American autocephaly took place. Two of the major speakers there — one an archbishop, the other a layman— were quite dismissive about its continued relevance, and said so on more than one occasion to Fr. Arey, who gamely tried to put the best face forward. What made such criticism stand out is that the layman in question (Charles Ajalat) has been one of the stalwarts of SCOBA for at least twenty years and is in fact the driving force behind the most recent SCOBA ministry (FOCUS).39

Other considerations mitigate against the longevity of SCOBA or the inception of a true continental episcopal assembly. For one, the widespread belief that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has absolutely no intention of emancipating its American exarchate (whether true or not) has deflated the hopes of many who seek administrative unity. To prevent the occurrence of such an event, Metropolitan Jonah welcomed the selection of Archbishop Demetrios of the GOA as its interim chairman — provided of course that once the episcopal assembly was convened, the election of a president should proceed forthwith.40 The implication is that should a free and open election not be held, then the worst fears of many will have been realized: the new episcopal council for North America would be nothing more than an expanded SCOBA, and like it would be nothing more than another bureaucracy created for the express purpose of permanently frustrating American autocephaly, appearances to the contrary. It would in fact be a continuous repeat of the previous episcopal assembly which convened in 2006 in which any talk of administrative unity was blocked by SCOBA itself. (Among other things, the purpose of the earlier assembly was to “coordinate” the creation of new missions so that they would not be placed near existing ethnic parishes.)

Be that as it may, even propagandists for SCOBA cannot gainsay when the first such episcopal assembly will take place or more importantly, when the putative Great and Holy Council which will supposedly recognize the autocephaly of the various episcopal councils throughout the “Diaspora” will transpire.41 In a recent interview, Arey himself admitted that he did not even know if “assistant” or auxiliary bishops will be invited to participate in such an assembly. The best he could say was that he was led to understand that only bishops with “pastoral authority” would be invited to join. Thus to put the eggs of administrative unity and American autocephaly in the basket of an “interim” episcopal council would be foolhardy indeed.

Perhaps this assessment is unfair, especially since Jonah spoke glowingly about Demetrios and his apparent goodwill, yet such a perception among almost everybody else has resulted in the retrenchment into the ethnic cores of many of the jurisdictions. Examples include the healing of the schism between the two Serbian jurisdictions and talk of union between the two Romanian exarchates into a “maximally autonomous” Romanian metropolitanate. Another indicator of growing ethnic chauvinism was the recent debacle in the Antiochian jurisdiction, a series of missteps and scandals that culminated in a contentious national church convention where the fissures between the native and convert contingents became exposed. At this event, Metropolitan Philip made it plain that he would come down on the side of unity at all costs rather than entertain a union with the OCA, which many in the Arab contingent refused to countenance. And rounding out this picture is the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, which exacerbated this entire morass when it sent a high-level functionary to pour salt into the open wounds of American Orthodoxy in the aforementioned speech at Holy Cross.42

VII. Conclusion: Is a Great and Holy Council Necessary?

The question therefore remains. Despite the absence of bishops from the “diaspora,” the ability of foreign patriarchates to order church life in traditionally non-Orthodox lands remains an open question. Some hold out hope that the upcoming “Great and Holy Council” will resolve this issue once and for all, especially since that is its stated agenda. A few of these critics have even gone so far as to say that the bishops of North America should make all haste to accept the Chambesy formula for unity lest a more onerous one be imposed on this continent by this council whenever it meets.43

However, this strategy quite possibly presupposes more than is warranted. For one thing, the Christian Church has had in place a method of evangelizing non-Christian lands from its inception. This method became codified in the Council of Carthage, when it was decided that this by rights belonged to the bishop nearest the city or region in question. In no way can it be understood that Canon 28 — which was confined to three metropolitan sees contiguous to Byzantium — trumped this protocol. At any rate, there is no yet firm date for a meeting for this council. Nor for that matter has a venue has been chosen. This is not an idle point: the pre-conciliar meeting that took place at Chambesy was originally scheduled for the island of Cyprus. No reason was given as to why it was changed almost at the last minute. Some may ask what guarantees are there that such a sudden shift will not happen again? Left unsaid is whether it can be considered Christian to “impose” a settlement in the first place.

Equally as important, the question of who can convene this council has not been resolved. In previous ages, it was the secular power which called the ecumenical councils. With the loss of the Roman imperium, all subsequent councils have been local ones; though guided by the Holy Spirit, they do not have universal application. Other churches may cite their proceedings for consideration but they are not beholden to them, unlike the seven ecumenical councils. Finally, it cannot be forgotten that in the ancient Church, all metropolitan regions were autocephalous and that it was the right of the constituent dioceses to elect and consecrate their metropolitan (and it was the right of the people to elect their local bishops). It was only through a gradual piecemeal process that this procedure fell into abeyance. In retrospect, it is hard to vouchsafe the present system of rigidly centralized national churches that incessantly interfere into the territories of other churches. Or churches that consider the Gospel secondary to national identity for that matter.

Most problematic of all is the concept of national churches. This phenomenon did not exist during the time of the ancient councils. This presents another unanticipated problem: during the first Christian millennium, there was only one nation whose churches for all intents and purposes were represented — Rome. The bishops who attended these conclaves were citizens of that nation and they represented the hundreds of dioceses throughout this vast unified state. Though it was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic empire, the concept of the emperor as the vice-regent of God and the only legitimate secular authority was fully ingrained in the consciousness of the people.

Indeed, as late as the fourteenth century, Patriarch Antony IV of Constantinople admonished Grand Duke Basil I of Moscow for removing the name of the Byzantine emperor from the litanies of the Russian church. “My son,” Antony gently rebuked him, “it is not possible for Christians to have the Church and not to have the Empire. For Church and Empire have a great unity and community; nor is it possible to be separated one from the another.” Although Antony did not believe that Byzantium enjoyed political sovereignty over the Russian lands, he justified this fantastic claim in theological terms: “The holy emperor is not as other rulers and governors of other regions are…he is anointed with the great chrism, and is elected baslieus and autokrator of the Romans — to wit, of all Christians.”44 With the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, such lofty sentiments were transferred to the Grand Duke of Moscow by Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople, who lauded this potentate with these words: “thou alone under heaven art now called Christian Emperor for all Christians in the whole world.”45

Admittedly, Byzantine bureaucrats were known for their excessive flattery. Yet even so, the sentiments behind these excessive words betrayed a theological reality in the collective mind of the Orthodox Church. Specifically, that only Orthodox emperors could “rule” over the Oecumene, that is, the Christian world. As such, only these emperors had the legitimate authority to convene ecumenical councils. It stands to reason that the 1200-year absence of an ecumenical council is therefore not as deleterious as some would have us believe. (In fact, given the monarchical mindset of the Orthodox Church, it may not even be possible to convoke such an assembly.) At any rate, no burning doctrinal heresies loom on the horizon either. This is no small consolation as there is a great dread among some Orthodox pietists that the erstwhile “Great and Holy Council” runs the very real risk descending into apostasy.46

Be that as it may, the new “local churches” are now national churches, each embodying the hopes and dreams of their respective nations (one could almost say races). Some of these nations — such as Serbia — are in peril. Like most Western European nations, the traditionally Orthodox nations are themselves in demographic collapse. Any recourse by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to mitigate this reality by invoking the 1872 council of Constantinople’s declaration against the heresy of tribalism could very possibly be met with skepticism if not outright scorn. After all, Constantinople ignored its own protocols when it set up Greek jurisdictions in the various lands of the “diaspora,” most famously in North America, which already possessed a local church. Such an action, coming as it did on the heels of the grant of Serbian autonomy, raised more than a few eyebrows. Perhaps the Ecumenical Patriarchate when faced with a fait accompli vis-à-vis the Serbs decided to put the best face on the situation, but when it came to émigré communities it decided to dig in its heels? This admittedly is speculative but it does comport with the reality at least on a superficial basis. Moreover, the Ecumenical Patriarchate continues to segregate Greeks, Ukrainians, Carpatho-Russians, and now Palestinian Arabs into separate ethnic eparchies on this continent.

Old habits indeed die hard: In Great Britain, Istanbul has set up another ethnic eparchy among Russian immigrants who are in schism from Moscow and even welcomed Bishop Basil Osborne (who was previously under Moscow) into its fold. Both actions were vehemently protested by Alexeii II, the previous Russian patriarch.47 In both England and Hungary, fights over church property between Constantinople and Moscow have been turned over to secular courts and in both instances, the Constantinopolitan exarchate lost.

Indeed, in his controversial speech at Holy Cross, Istanbul’s Chief Secretary continued to promulgate the view that the ethnic eparchies could continue to exist in North America provided that they “first submit to the first throne of Orthodoxy.” This was taken to mean that only a Greek metropolitan who was subordinate to the ecumenical patriarchate would be allowed as the national primate. Furthermore, any talk of granting this erstwhile “united” American church independence was quashed by this same speaker. This stunning declaration of bad faith only roiled the waters further and marshaled the forces of those already hostile to Istanbul in preparation of Chambesy. As already noted, it only added to the suspicion that whatever else it may do in Western Europe or Oceania, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had no intention of giving up its eparchies in the Western Hemisphere but instead was actively seeking to aggrandize its power even more. To be fair, Istanbul is not the only transgressor in this regard as most of the other Old World patriarchates have absolutely no intention of giving up their North American eparchies. Be that as it may, it is in fact most ironic that all of the Old World patriarchates now exercise a near-papalist “universal authority,” in that they feel it is their right to set up dioceses and exarchates wherever their émigrés choose to settle.

The future of course is unknowable. The Great and Holy Council may in fact take place. It may operate unimpeded and its deliberations may be robust, open, and in good faith. It may invite all canonical bishops to its assemblies and deliberations, including those from the lands of the so-called diaspora. Therefore any fears of a Chambesy-like embargo of these same bishops may be overblown. If on the other hand Chambesy proves to be the model, or — worse yet — only certain national primates are invited, then it will be difficult to see how it can be termed a “Great and Holy Council” let alone an “ecumenical” one. More importantly, it will be impossible to see how any such council would have the statutory authority to order the lives of local churches without their representation. In the final analysis, the temptation to adhere to a slightly augmented Chambesy model may prove to be too strong, since some of the patriarchates have problems with certain autonomous churches (as already mentioned).

What then is to be done? Given all of the above, the need to order the life of the North American church should proceed on its own merits and in conjunction with the direction of the already established Orthodox Church in America (albeit without its present ethnic exarchates which present the same canonical problems that the major ethnic exarchates represent). To give heed to those who counsel caution, that acceptance of the protocols established at Chambesy as the lesser of two evils, would therefore be unwise. In this writer’s opinion, such timorousness would only continue the present problems, one of which is an adherence to the heresy of phyletism; the other being the creation of episcopal assemblies which will never be allowed to congeal into true holy synods –all protestations to the contrary.


  1. John Meyendorff, Rome, Constantinople, Moscow: Historical and Theological Studies (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1996), p 16. These ten bishops coincided with the civil prefecture of the city of Rome itself. It was only these ten bishops that the popes had specific authority to consecrate as metropolitans. This right was granted by imperial authority as was the papal right to appoint special vicars to dioceses in Gaul and Thessalonica. Incidentally, the bishops in question were not appointed by the pope but could only be elected locally.
  2. Dmitri Obolensky, “Byzantium, Kiev, and Moscow: A Study in Ecclesiastical Relations,” Byzantium & the Slavs (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1994), pp 109-55; see especially p 133: “Canon law stipulated that a metropolitan was normally to be ‘appointed’ (i.e. both elected and consecrated) by the bishops of his ecclesiastical province, with the assistance of bishops from neighboring districts.” Even though this right was gradually lost in the East to the resident synod of Constantinople, “…the old canonical prescriptions, which gainsaid the current policy of ecclesiastical centralization, were never abrogated.”
  3. John Erickson, “Collegiality and Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology, The Challenge of Our Past: Studies in Orthodox Canon Law and Church History (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1991), p 75.
  4. Ibid., pp 73-89. See especially, pp 76-77.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church (London: Penguin Books, 1993 ed.), p 28. “…on the whole, during the first eight centuries…the Roman see was noted for the purity of its faith: other Patriarchates wavered during the great doctrinal disputes, but Rome for the most part stood firm. When hard-pressed in the struggle against heretics, people felt that they could turn with confidence to the Pope.”
  7. Metropolitan Maximus of Sardis, The Oecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church (Thessalonica, 1976),.
  8. Erickson, Op cit., p 78.
  9. Ibid., p 75.
  10. St Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians 1.
  11. Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians 6.
  12. Erickson, Op cit., p 78
  13. Apostolic canon 34: “The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and count him as their head and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish and the country places which belong to it. but neither let him who is first do anything without the consent of all…”
  14. Erickson, Op cit., p 75
  15. Erickson, “Autocephaly and How It is Proclaimed,” The Challenge of Our Past: Studies in Orthodox Canon Law and Church History, (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1991), pp 91-113; see especially pp 93-94.
  16. St Photius the Great, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit (Brookline, Mass: Holy Cross Press, 1987, Transl. by Joseph Farrell).
  17. Council of Carthage, canon 13: “If a bishop takes no pains to win over to Catholic unity those places which belong to his jurisdiction, he shall be exhorted to do so by the neighboring bishops. If he does not do so within six months from this warning, they shall belong to the bishop who wins them to the Church…”
  18. George C Michalopulos, “Canon 28 and Eastern Papalism: Cause or Effect?”
  19. St John Maximovitch, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, “The Decline of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,” delivered at the Second All-Diaspora Sobor of the Russian Church Abroad, Yugoslavia, 1938.
  20. Milton V Anastos, Speros Vryonis Jr, Nicholas Goodhue, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium: Political Theory, Theology and Ecclesiastical Relations With the See of Rome (Variorum Collected Studies Series, 717m 2001). “Byzantium itself at first seemed not to be interested in the full exploitation of the traditions about Andrew. But by the seventh century, Constantinople was frequently described in Byzantine texts as an ‘apostolic city,’ without specific reference to Andrew, who was not named as the founder of the Church of Constantinople until the latter part of the seventh century, or the beginning of the eighth…”
  21. John Erickson, “Collegiality and Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology”, The Challenge of Our Past: Studies in Orthodox Canon Law and Church History (Crestwood, SVS Press, 1991), p 80-81: “Yet it was not completely forgotten that precedence and honor in the Church exist only in view of ministry and service.”
  22. Declaration of Arboath (1320). “They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian ea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage trives, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous…The high qualities of these people were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith. Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles — by calling, though second or third in rank — the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.”
  23. Erickson, Op cit., pp 75-80.
  24. Gregory Afonsky, “The Canonical Status of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Orthodox Church, March 24, 2009,
  25. Obolensky, “Russia’s Byzantine Heritage” Byzantium & the Slavs (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1994), pp 75-103, see especially, pp 97-100.
  26. Council of Constantinople (1872): “We have concluded that when the principle of phyletism is juxtaposed with the teaching of the Gospel and the constant practice of the Church, it is not only foreign to it, but also completely opposed, to it. We decree the following in the Holy Spirit: 1. We reject and condemn racial division, that is, racial differences, national quarrels and disagreements in the Church of Christ, as being contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers, on which the holy Church is established and which adorn human society and lead it to Divine piety. 2. In accordance with the holy canons, we proclaim that those who accept such division according to races and who dare to base on it hitherto unheard-of racial assemblies are foreign to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church are real schismatics.” (Emphasis added.)
  27. Alexander Bogolepov, Toward an American Orthodox Church: The Establishment of an Autocephalous Church (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1963), pp 14-15.
  28. “Statement of the primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches,” Istanbul, Oct. 2008.
  29. The ecumenical patriarchate has yet to recognize the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America while the Russian Orthodox Church refuses to countenance the claims of the Estonian and Ukrainian churches.
  30. John D Zizioulis, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Contemporary Greek Theologians Series, No 4) (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1991 ed), p 153, footnote no. 52.
  31. John Couretas, “Moscow Patriarchate Report of Chambesy Meeting,” June 30, 2009,
  32. To be sure, these criticisms have never gone away. Many critics still feel that Istanbul is acting in bad faith, that is that while it may allow autocephalous churches to form in Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and France, it will never relinquish its hold over the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
  33. Elpidophorous Lambrianides, “Challenges of Orthodoxy in America and the Role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” (an address given at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, March 16, 2009).
  34. Nicholas K Apostola, “How Much Unity? How Much Diversity,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review Vol 50:1-4, 2005 (Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 2005), pp 119-140.
  35. Ibid. p 123.
  36. Ibid. p 124.
  38. Apostola, Op cit., p 133.
  39. Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen, Archbishop Nathanial Popp, Charles Ajalat, et. Al., The Tomos and the Council: 20th Century Landmarks Towards a 21st Century Church, Jun 18-20 (St Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY.)
  40. “Interview with Metropolitan Jonah,” (Ancient Faith Radio), Aug 16, 2009.
  41. “SCOBA’s Fr Arey on Chambesy,” Aug 28, 2009.
  42. In The Orthodox Observer for example, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was stated to be “the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America.” (Feb xx, 2008). Such a clumsy locution implies that neither the Ukrainian nor Carpatho-Russian eparchies of this see are canonical.
  43. Nick Katich, “A Call to Gather Together as a Church: Reflections on IV Chambesy,”
  44. Obolensky, Op cit., pp 175-76.
  45. Sir Stephen Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 2004 ed.), p 331.
  46. Daniel Rogich, “The Life of our Father Justin, Abbott of Chelije,” St Pachomius Library (may be accessed at
  47. The Declaration of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church relating to the decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople concerning the reception into its jurisdiction of Bishop Basil (Osborne),” (

Unraveling Chambesy — Administrative Unity In Our Time

Presented by Ancient Faith Radio

Presented by Ancient Faith Radio

Our canons call for there to be one bishop in one place but here in America as well as other countries of the so called “diaspora” immigration and pastoral concerns have served to violate those canons. To address this issue, the leaders and representatives of all of the autocephalous Mother Churches were convened by HIs All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew first in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) and later in Chambesy, Geneva, Switzerland to commission certain Episcopal Assemblies who will in turn develop regional plans to correct this anomaly.

To help you sort through this complicated process, Ancient Faith Radio has produced a 2-part documentary featuring Fr. Mark Arey, General Secretary of SCOBA (The Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America), Charles Ajalat, former chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese and long time champion of Administrative Unity, Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and Nick Katich, an attorney who helped orchestrate the healing of the Serbian schism in the United States several years ago. We would encourage you to read the documents referenced on the SCOBA website.


In this first installment, John Maddex talks with Fr. Mark Arey, General Secretary of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) about past efforts at bringing about Administrative Unity, including the so called Ligonier conference in 1994. We will also hear from Charles Ajalat, Metropolitan Jonah, and Nick Katich.

Listen to Part 1:

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In this second part, we learn more about the actual process and related complications of unifying all of the Orthodox churches administratively. In this episode we hear from all of our guests in the first part plus Matthew Namee of the American Orthodox History podcast.

Listen to Part 2:

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Interview with Bobby Maddex, Editor of "Salvo" magazine

By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

Salvo Magazine

Salvo Magazine

"Salvo" describes itself as a magazine committed to "deconstructing the damaging cultural myths that have undercut human dignity, all but destroyed the notions of virtue and morality, and slowly eroded the appetite for transcendence." Editor Bobby Maddex says "Salvo" aims for the type of reader that is "open-minded enough to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and invariably, it leads to Christ and his teachings." Maddex spoke recently with Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse, president of the American Orthodox Institute.

AOI: Welcome, Bobby. Good to have you especially as we inaugurate our interview series on Orthodox leaders who make a difference.

Maddex: Thank you. Good to be here.

AOI: The magazine has a youthful vibe. Describe the typical Salvo reader.

Maddex: Our typical reader is between the ages of 21 and 40, college educated, and at least somewhat religious. I would venture to say that our subscription base is split pretty evenly between Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians, though we also have a number of secular subscribers due to the fact that we are not an overtly religious publication.

Bobby Maddex, Editor of Salvo

Bobby Maddex, Editor of Salvo

We believe that changes of mind will result in changes of heart further on down the road. In other words, we attempt to cultivate clear thinking about some of the more controversial cultural topics of the day in order to pave the way for the evangelical efforts of others. In terms of our Christian readers, this means that we are trying to prevent them from acceding to the false ideologies and cultural myths circulating throughout society, while we offer our secular readers perspectives on topics that they are not getting from the mainstream media.

Our "vibe," as you call it, was selected to counter the lies emanating from some of the hipper, youth-oriented, and hugely popular newsstand magazines-such as Rolling Stone and Wired. We were tired of the monopoly that these publications had on slick, edgy, and highly ironic content, especially since the worldviews that inhere in such content are so nihilistic, materialistic, and immoral. We are trying to fight fire with fire, using the rhetorical and design tactics of our competition, but in the service of Truth and right living rather than narcissism and a do-what-feels-good behavioral ethic.

AOI: Clearly, you draw from the received moral tradition, particularly when you challenge the secular trends. We don’t see enough of this responsibly done. Why take this approach?

Maddex: Here’s the thing-and it’s something that both our Christian and secular readers are coming to recognize: The Christian worldview, objectively speaking, leads to the healthiest, most satisfying, and most rewarding way of life. Even if one never buys into the underlying theology of Christianity, he will still find that the moral precepts that result from it are entirely practical and psychologically beneficial. Countless scientific studies have show this to be true, and we at Salvo surmise that the reason this is so is because Christianity represents total truth about all of reality. Our readers are young adults who are open-minded enough to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and invariably, it leads to Christ and his teachings.

The problem today is that some Christians, in an effort to engage the culture (which St. Paul definitely encourages us to do), have instead allowed the culture to engage them. Longstanding moral principles-and in some cases, orthodox (small "o") Christian theology-are being abandoned in the name of attracting converts, especially in the areas of sexuality and bioethics. But what such Christians are really doing is depleting the fullness of the faith, which includes bold moral lines that simply should not be crossed. The fear, I think, especially in American culture, is that by calling attention to such lines, we will offend the sensibilities of the secular world. But the cross has already done that; it is an offense in and of itself.

Some Christians, in an effort to engage the culture (which St. Paul definitely encourages us to do), have instead allowed the culture to engage them.

Christianity is antithetical to the culture. Our devotion to it makes us offensive from the get-go. In other words, you know something is wrong when your values no longer offend; it most likely means that you are becoming a part of-and not merely engaging-secular society. And as I said earlier, we have a moral obligation to help keep others from caving in to the culture’s value system, because it will likewise prevent them from making choices that have the propensity to deteriorate their mental, physical, and spiritual health.

AOI: What kind of response are you getting from readers?

Maddex: Most of the responses have been very encouraging. Sure, there are a few who have objected to the in-your-face style of Salvo, as well as to our unyielding opposition to such things as abortion and homosexuality. The charge is that we are not following Christ’s example of love and acceptance when we reject such lifestyle decisions out of hand-that these issues are fraught with complexities that demand a softer touch. But how loving is it, really, to allow sinful behaviors to become culturally destigmatized? We’re talking human souls here; to not call a spade a spade is to make sin a more attractive and enticing option that could obstruct one’s path to salvation. Besides, the Christ of the bible is no hippie-dippy love child. He turned the tables in the temple, responded to some of the disciples’ dumber questions with irony and sarcasm, and suffered death for his commitment to Truth. Yes, I definitely believe that we are called to love the sinner, but sometimes the most loving thing to do for a person is to slap him in the face. I know it has helped me on countless occasions.

Salvo attempts to cultivate clear thinking about some of the more controversial cultural topics of the day in order to pave the way for the evangelical efforts of others.

But again, most of what we hear is that Salvo has helped readers change and improve their lives. Those who are Christian typically tell us that, before reading the magazine, they didn’t know why they held the beliefs that they did. I mean, they knew that they were following the teachings of scripture and church tradition, but they didn’t know that these beliefs had a practical dimension as well-that their beliefs were rooted in logic and common sense, as well as the bible and the church fathers. Secular readers, on the other hand, usually say that Salvo has provided them with food for thought on topics that they had never before considered. For example, I can recall one reader who told us that he came to terms with his pornography addiction as the result of an article we ran on the subject in Salvo 2. Such responses keep me energized and focused.

AOI: What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the culture?

Maddex: I would have to say those issues that revolve around human dignity. You know, even the very notion of human dignity has fallen under attack in recent years. Scientists such as Patricia Churchland, Ruth Macklin, and Steven Pinker have argued that it is a useless concept in light of evolutionary findings. According to them, humans have no more value or worth than any other creature on earth. Spain has granted personhood to apes under the same logic, and the Swiss now have laws that protect the "dignity" of plants. We are no longer viewed as having a privileged place in the world; nor are we treating human beings as if they were made in the image of God.

This loss of human dignity is what fuels our culture of death.

This loss of human dignity is what fuels our culture of death. At the same time that the lives of an increasing number of non-human organisms are being protected, laws that protect human life are on the decline. Abortion has become a common component of our culture, the death-tourism trade (in which people travel to foreign countries in order to undergo assisted suicide) is on the rise, and scientific procedures such as cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and in vitro fertilization are part of a booming business that takes life to make life. Regardless of whether you believe that the Genesis story is actual history or mere metaphor, its point-that we are special to God-remains. God took on the flesh of man so that man might be saved. To reject human dignity is thus to reject God’s salvific plan.

AOI: Coming up with new material for a quarterly means you have to stay up on cultural trends and the latest ideas. What are some of your favorite online and print influences? Television and film?

Maddex: Just in terms of overall style and structure, Wired magazine has influenced me tremendously. It’s so well done-so appealing and fascinating and easy to read. Everything from the paper quality to the images to the names of the departments is incredibly well-conceived and well-suited to the magazine’s mission and content. Of course, the naturalistic worldview of Wired leaves much to be desired, but as far as the magazine genre goes, I think it most perfectly utilizes the form.

I’m also a big fan of The New Atlantis, a science and technology journal that is always extremely insightful and well-written, particularly those articles composed by Senior Editor Christine Rosen. I learn a ton every time I pick it up.

In terms of online resources, you can’t beat I believe it’s run by Canadian Catholics, but it is global in content and includes links to any news story even marginally related to the family. I also love MercatorNet, the Australian equivalent of Salvo, which is hip, witty, and excellently edited, and the website for Stand To Reason, Greg Koukl’s Christian apologetics organization.

And then there’s the journalist Dinesh D’Souza, who just recently joined our editorial advisory board. In a lot of ways, he functions as a sort of patron saint of Salvo, providing razor-sharp insights into American culture. His two most recent books, The Enemy at Home and What’s So Great About Christianity, perfectly model what Salvo is trying to do, as does Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth.

For entertainment reviews and news, I go directly to Barbara Nicolosi, the Hollywood screenwriter and executive director of Act One, Inc. Her blogsite, Church of the Masses, contains some of the most erudite and morally solid assessments of film and television available. And I also love Ben Stein and Evan Coyne Maloney. These guys made two of the most thought-provoking documentaries of the past year. Stein’s film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, exposes the manner in which the scientific community blackballs anyone who dares question even a mere aspect of evolutionary theory, and Maloney’s film, Indoctrinate U, examines the socially liberal bias on American college campuses.

AOI: Your Christian background is Orthodox but Salvo has an appeal that reaches far beyond Orthodox walls. How do you see the other Christian communions contributing to Salvo?

Maddex: I think my list of influences definitely speaks to this question. There’s a culture war going on right now between naturalists and supernaturalists-between those who believe that the material universe is all that there is and those who believe that there is a transcendent reality to which we are subject. If the naturalists win, then our culture will finally and fully become nihilistic, permeated with moral relativism and a complete lack of meaning. All Christians, regardless of denomination, must be involved in this particular battle. It’s one in which we all have a vested interest, and-thankfully-one in which many Christians have already put aside their differences to fight side by side.

I completely understand that there are huge theological issues separating each of the three great traditions of Christendom-Catholics, Protestants, and the Orthodox-and having converted to Orthodoxy, I definitely took a side here as well. But the culture war is a battle that we can all fight together without compromising on any of our differences. The worst thing we could do is refuse to work together on matters upon which we all agree because of those issues upon which we don’t. That’s the surest path to defeat. Fortunately, Salvo has been blessed with individuals who understand what’s at stake and have formed provisional alliances as a result.

AOI: Your subheading for the journal is "Science, Sex, and Society." Why did you pick these three themes?

Maddex: Well, that pretty much covers everything that we mean by the word "culture," right? Under the category of "sex," for example, Salvo looks at such things as in vitro fertilization, alternative sexualities, gender theory, contraception, and pornography. In science, we are looking at the theory of Intelligent Design, Darwinism, the origins of life, and bioethics. And under society, we are looking at the influence of the media and the academy, at consumerism and family makeup, at art, music, film, literature, and anything else that might impact the worldview of young adults. There is not an aspect of culture that Salvo does not address, and we felt that the tagline "science, sex, and society" encompasses them all.

What many Christians lack these days is the ability to think critically about highly persuasive messages and ways of being that have the potential to negatively impact their lives.

AOI: Where is Salvo heading?

Maddex: That’s a really good question. I’ve never thought of Salvo as merely a magazine; rather, I’ve always viewed it as a movement-as the beginning of a mass resistance to dominant cultural myths that is not dependent on any one medium. I would love to see us grow and thrive to the point where we host film screenings, discussion groups, and media-literacy conferences-where we organize protests, create home-school curricula, and bring speakers to college campuses. I want Salvo to become a multi-media assault on all of the destructive lies emanating from Hollywood, the academy, legacy news outlets, and the Darwinist science community.

In the meantime, we’ll keep pumping out magazines. We just went to print with an issue on what Dr. Allan Carlson calls "the natural family," and our next issue tackles the New Atheists. Beyond that, I would love to do an issue on "environmentalism versus stewardship," or one on "psychology as religion," though we will most likely stop doing thematic issues after Salvo 7. The problem has been that each reader has his own pet topics that he wants to read about, and when an issue focuses on a single topic, we lose the interest of readers who are geared toward something else. Thus, beginning with Salvo 8, we will probably fill each quarterly issue with a full range of articles that fall within our mission. We’ll still have a cover story, obviously, but the rest of the magazine will concentrate on other things. I think it’s a smart move that will make Salvo more appealing to a wider group of readers. I’m excited about it.

AOI: You mention that Salvo seeks the "systematic deconstruction of false ideologies, philosophies, and worldviews." What do you mean by this? Why is it important?

Maddex: What many Christians lack these days is the ability to think critically about highly persuasive messages and ways of being that have the potential to negatively impact their lives. To some degree, Salvo is trying to teach our readers to think-to provide examples of clear thinking about the pressing issues of the day in an intellectual, though very readable, format.

Let me give you an example. Slated for Salvo 7 is an article by Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University, that counters the accusations of such New Atheists as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris. In it, she describes a private meeting that she had with two students who had begun to question their Christian faith. The reason? For the first time in their lives, they had been confronted-via the bestselling books of these New Atheist authors-with serious (in their minds at least) arguments against the existence of God. What Prior goes on to point out is that these students simply weren’t trained by their Christian parents, churches, and schools to understand that such arguments exist. They were thus unaware that there is likewise a whole host of solid counter-arguments that sufficiently answer the New Atheist claims. As a result, these kids were severing their relationship with Christ.

Salvo was created to prevent this sort of thing from happening. We are trying to reach young adults before their worldviews have solidified-while they are still searching for answers to the significant questions of life. It is so important that they have access to all of the information before settling into their habits of mind. Again, we are talking about the salvation of souls here, and a false assumption formed early in life is all that it might take to send someone careening into an eternity of meaninglessness and despair.

AOI: Where can we find Salvo?

Maddex: The magazine is becoming available at an increasing number of Barnes & Noble booksellers. We have a list of the stores that currently carry Salvo at

But you can also, of course, order a subscription to our magazine on our website at We also sell back issues here, and there is a ton of free content as well, including a daily blog, daily news items, podcasts, a suggested reading list, and Ism Central, our guide to every ideology under the sun. Please feel free to drop by.

Bobby Maddex graduated from Wheaton College in 1994 with a degree in Political Science. After spending five years as senior editor of "Gadfly," a national arts and culture publication out of Charlottesville, Virginia, and serving a one-year stint as the marketing director of "Touchstone" magazine in Chicago, he earned a Masters Degree in British Literature from DePaul University in 2002. Bobby is now the editor of "Salvo," a magazine committed to deconstructing the damaging cultural myths that have undercut human dignity, all but destroyed the notions of virtue and morality, and slowly eroded the appetite for transcendence.

Announcing a new website for the Clarion Review!

The Clarion Review, a journal examining contemporary culture through prose and poetry, and published by AOI, just launched their new website. Now you can enjoy Clarion in print and on the web. Clarion offers lively content, incisive commentary, and features essays by established and new authors, including:

Roger Scruton, philosopher & farmer, tells us in Turning Cows into Ideas how to make farms profitable even if no one buys a thing.

Peter Augustine Lawler, ethicist and critic, writes about how caring for the old competes with our work-a-day society’s love of freedom and laboring in Aging, Individualism, and Our Middle-Class Dreams.

Nota Bene — Other articles of interest:

Vigen Guroian on Flannery O’Connor’s Iconographic Fiction and Christian humanism.
Stephen Gatlin deciphers Francis Collins’ chatter about God.
T.L. Reed’s short story "Weight on Lilies" depicts aging and things left undone.
Bart Fleuren finds the endangered species Homo Economus Christianus in some Third Ways.
Adrienne Su’s poem "Fear of Flying" reminds us of what we know we know.
Read the announcement of Clarion’s Web launch on Christian Newswire.

A New Voice for Orthodox Christianity in America

The mission of the American Orthodox Institute is to bring the witness of the Orthodox Christian moral tradition into greater prominence in the American “public square.”

Founded in 2005, AOI is the first independent civil society institution or “think tank” to promote the views, achievements and aspirations of Orthodox Christians in the United States. AOI believes that Orthodox Christianity, and the sorely needed moral witness it provides to a pluralistic and secular society, can no longer be content with its “best kept secret” status.

AOI works in these ways to accomplish its mission:

  • Raise the voices of Orthodox Christians to greater prominence on important political, social and cultural issues.
  • Deepen the appreciation among American public for the contribution that the Orthodox Christian moral tradition makes to society.
  • Create a bridge between Orthodox Christians in America and the institutions and individuals in traditionally Orthodox cultures around the world who share AOI’s mission.
  • Reach out to Christians of other traditions, and those people of non-Christian faiths, on social and moral issues where common cause may be made.

AOI is non-profit and non-partisan, and supported by those who share the AOI mission and the ancient Christian faith that has spread, by the providence of God, from the Aleutian Islands to the Florida Keys.

In places where the Church has taken root, it has incorporated the best characteristics of the local culture. Orthodox teaching holds that what ever good exists in a local culture must be nurtured and strengthened.

Orthodox Christianity is a living and active faith. It is a unity of faith and works, which is true evangelism. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14).


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