Communiqué from Chambésy

Figuring out the "diaspora" in Switzerland

Orthodox Report, a UK site, has a translation of the official French-language communiqué issued by the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference that met June 6-12 in Chambesy, Switzerland, to discuss the problem of the Orthodox “diaspora.” [Orthodox hierarchs pictured above at the meeting] The news release is available in Greek and Russian, for those who can read these languages. But Orthodox Report says it cannot find an English version. Nor can we.

This is one of those High Bureaucratic messages, the sort of thing that diplomats issue, that requires the reader to parse the phrases carefully for hidden meanings. Or maybe it’s written this way because nothing immediately actionable came out of the meeting. Who’s to say?

The official site for the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Center for Orthodoxy in Chambesy is all in French, which doesn’t help us rustics in the “diaspora.” Orthodoxie, a French site, has more, in French.

The text talks about the creation of “new episcopal assemblies” headed by bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that would “order” the Diaspora. But what, exactly, is a “new” assembly of bishops?

Full text of the Chambesy communiqué follows:

IV Pre-Conciliar Pan-orthodox Conference
Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Chambésy, 6th – 12th June 2009

At the invitation of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, following the consensus of their Beatitudes the Primates of the most holy local Orthodox Churches, as expressed during their meeting held in the Phanar from 10th to 12th October 2008, the Fourth Pre-conciliar Pan-orthodox Conference met at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva, from 6th to 12th June 2009.

The work of the Conference began with the pan-orthodox con-celebration of the Divine Liturgy, on the day of Pentecost. They were held under the chairmanship of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon, delegate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the contribution of the secretary for preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Jeremias of Switzerland. The Conference was attended by delegates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, at the invitation of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

The Primates of Local Orthodox Churches greeted the participants at the Conference by messages sent or forwarded by their delegates. The members of the Conference have sent letters to all the Primates of the local Churches, asking their prayers and their blessings for the accomplishment of their task.

In accordance with the wishes of the Primates and representatives of the local Orthodox Churches expressed in the message published at the end of their meeting at the Phanar (October 2008), the Fourth Pre-conciliar Pan-orthodox Conference was charged to examine the question of the canonical organization of the Diaspora Orthodox. The Conference decided its agenda at the opening meeting of its work.

The Conference reviewed the documents prepared by the preparatory inter-orthodox commission at its two meetings in Chambésy, i.e. that of 10th to 17th November 1990 and 7th to 13th November 1993 and the document prepared by the Canonists’ Congress meeting at Chambésy from 9th to 14th April 1995. These documents, specified, corrected and supplemented, have been approved unanimously.

The Conference expressed the willingness of Orthodox Churches to solve the problem of the canonical organisation of the Orthodox Diaspora, conforming to ecclesiology, tradition and canonical practice of the Orthodox Church. The Conference decided to create new episcopal assemblies in some regions of the world to order the question of the Diaspora, i.e. the Orthodox faithful installed in areas beyond the traditional boundaries of the local Orthodox Churches. The presidents of the Assemblies are bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the given region, and in their absence, the bishops in accordance with the order of the Diptichs of the Churches. All the bishops of the Orthodox Churches who exercise their pastoral ministry in the communities existing in each of these regions are members of these Assemblies. The Episcopal Assemblies are for the mission to manifest and promote the unity of the Orthodox Church, to exercise pastoral diakonia to the faithful of the region and to render to the world their common witness. The decisions of the Episcopal Assemblies are taken in accordance with the principle of unanimity of the Churches represented within these Assemblies by bishops.

After amended and supplemented, the Conference also approved the Proposed Regulations of Episcopal Assemblies by defining the fundamental principles of organization and operation thereof.

The remaining topics of the holy and great Council, i.e. the method of proclaiming of autocephaly and autonomy, and the order of Diptichs, will be discussed in future meetings of the preparatory inter-orthodox commission and will be submitted for approval to the following Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences.

Chambésy on 12th June 2009.

The President of the Conference
†John of Pergamon


  1. George Michalopulos :

    John, looks like more of the same to me. Bureaucratic gobbledygook. If I had to guess, words like “…create new episcopal assemblies in some regions of the world” indicate that North America is left out of this mix. Otherwise all of the existing bishops in North America would be replaced with “new” bishops. Or perhaps SCOBA would be replaced.

    As such, this would be a face-saving way for the EP to have his bishops be the primate in all other regions of the world but not America where there is already an autocephalous church.

    This is all just a guess however. I’m not even sure if these rulings are binding. I guess not because these were recommendations to the upcoming (but probably never to be held) Great Council.

  2. Tamara Northway :


    I agree with your assessment. Did these hierarchs get scared and back down when Metropolitan Jonah took a hard stance in Texas? I wonder?

    If that is the case, I would encourage Metropolitan Jonah to keep moving in the same direction. People will recognize his spiritually courageous and manly leadership and will follow.

  3. George Michalopulos :


    I don’t know but my guess is that you’ve got it pegged. There’s something about feminine intuition that I defer to when all else fails. BTW, I’m being serious here. Nothing else makes sense so in such a situation, I’ll defer to your judgment.

  4. Yes the statement is so vague.

    “The Conference decided to create new episcopal assemblies in some regions of the world to order the question of the Diaspora, i.e. the Orthodox faithful installed in areas beyond the traditional boundaries of the local Orthodox Churches.”

    Will details be released?

  5. George Michalopulos :

    I doubt it. I’d like to see an episcopal assembly created in North America, that’s what +Jonah wanted. However it’d be too close to a real synod and the EP would be overwhelmed in numbers. Right now, the EP has four eparchies in SCOBA. That’s 4 out of ten.

  6. George Michalopulos :

    btw, I’d love to be proven wrong on this one (as in so many other things). Nothing good will happen in North America until there’s a spirit of repentance among out hierarchy. I just worry that the GOA hierarchy is still too beholden to the worldly elements who pay the bills.

  7. Just try rehearsing how you’d set about explaining this ‘episcopal assembly’ official overseas resolution, as if visiting with someone thinking of joining — someone who is not ignorant of Christianity to begin with. Someone whom you would not want to think of you as having mislead them three years after joining — when they see what happens over against what the books say. For example your spouse-to-be or their family. It would have to go something like this:

    ‘Yes, well our bishop is in a synod along ethnic lines and he’s appointed by or has his choices handed down to him from a foreign center that either recently was under communist influence or a center that is presently part of remnant community in Turkey or Syria smaller than a large US parish. But after 150 or so years here in the USA they overseas have announced a new initiative! Besides reporting abroad and keeping those money and decision making channels inviolate, the various local bishops also go, as conferees, to a new local ‘conference’ of other bishops who all cover the same towns and who are part of the other various overseas groups.

    Now we’ve been in the USA between 100 to 150 years and we really would like to reach out to our neighbors to show how our faith really takes a wholistic, organic approach, de-emphasizing petty legalisms and ethnic/ancestral divisions as our faith history teaches us properly to live in national entirely locally self-governing sister churches.

    Also none of our bishops has ever been married, many of them are caught up or covering gay scandals, and though at one time it was otherwise presently no married priest can be a bishop. Please join and please give generously.’

    Could the response to such an invitation be anything except : ‘You must be completely mental’ ?

    Do these overseas bishops cooking up their idea of our future show even the barest sign of thinking about how their choices affect our possibility to retain our people and attract the next generation here? Accepting this means accepting to dwindle. Is the Great Commission nothing to them? Are we okay with that, with them? Seriously.

  8. George Michalopulos :


    I think you’ve hit the problem square on the head. That’s why I don’t think nothing much is going to come out of this. What I liked about it was that it demolished the absolutist claims that were stated at HC on Mar 16. Again, this is a recommendation only and without any North American bishops there, I just don’t know how it’s ever going to be accepted. at least in N America. I could be wrong.

  9. Elizabeth Riggs :

    I’m more sanguine than y’all are. This thing is GOING to happen – all over the world. I refer you to Bishop Basil’s (Antiochian) talk in Oklahoma City in June, 2010.

    With Love in Christ
    Elizabeth Riggs, PhD, the sinner
    and Perennial Student
    Lawrenceville GA

    • George Michalopulos :

      Elizabeth, I heard Bishop Basil’s comments in OKC. They were accurate as far as they went, but I’m afraid I detected a little too much “gee whizz” type of adolescent optimism. Even giving this wonderful man’s speech the benefit of the doubt, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of foreboding, that there was going to be something negative come down the pike to puncture this optimism. I personally thought it would be something ridiculous from some titular “metropolitan” in the Phanar or perhaps from the GOA. Instead, it was within Bishop Basil’s own jurisdiction that the other shoe dropped.

      Quite simply, the demotion of the AOCNA bishops to auxiliary status (“chorespiscopoi” is the locution of the moment) vindicated my suspicions, that the Old World patriarchates have absolutely no intention of giving up their American colonies. As disappointing as the OCA can be at times (and certainly was under the two previous metropolitans) I think we have to come to the conclusion that among the “big three,” it’s the only canonical game in town. At least our bishops can never be anything but what they are: diocesan ordinaries presiding over real and autonomous dioceses.

  10. Elizabeth you will have to make a case for your optimism. Which “diaspora” hierarchs were present at Chambesy?

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