First Episcopal Assembly is called

It’s really the second. The first was Ligonier.


The 65 Orthodox Bishops in the Americas received their invitations to attend the first Episcopal Assembly to be held under the new Chambesy agreement last week. Writing to all as the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Demetrios stated:

“Therefore, in order to comment the process to which we have all been called within the designated region “North and Central America”, I invite you to participate at the first Episcopal Assembly of the region that will be convened in New York City on May 26 and 27, 2010. Preparations are under way in order to facilitate your participation. Ground transportation, lodging, all meals, and meeting facilities are currently being readied. It is requested that you arrive on Tuesday, May 25th in order to be present for the First Session of the Assembly the morning of Wednesday, May 26th. In order that we may two full days for the Assembly, please make your travel arrangements in order to leave on Friday, May 28th. All three nights in New York City will be provided to you…”

The new Assembly will replace SCOBA. One of the major differences between the new Episcopal Assembly and SCOBA is that all the bishops will be invited to attend, not just representatives; and that voting will be by local churches – not jurisdictions. Thus all the jurisdictions under one local Church (e.g. the Albanians, Ukrainians, Greeks and Carpatho-Russians, all under Constantinople) will cast one united ballot. For the purposes of the Assembly the OCA will be one of eight local Churches, rather than just another one of 23 jurisdictions.


  1. George Michalopulos :

    Hmmm. I thought that there were ten jurisdictions in SCOBA, not eight. More games, or just same old disorganization? I wonder why this went out so late (last week)? Perhaps some bishops have not sent their verbal RSVPs already?

    • I believe “Local Churches” =
      Constantinople with all its groups, Greek, Palestinian, and otherwise
      Moscow: ROCOR, PPs in USA, PPs in Canada
      Georgia, new kid on the block

      • So will the Assembly’s “Executive Committee” also have only the 8 members?:
        Abp DEMETRIOS
        Metr PHILIP
        Metr HILARION (ROCOR)?
        Metr DMITRI (Georgia)
        Metr CHRISTOPHER
        Abp NICOLAE (or Metr NATHANIEL?!!)
        Metr JOSEPH
        Metr JONAH

        So, not so much a SCOBA-Plus, as a Mini-SCOBA? If so, how will non-US-based hierarchs, clergy, faithful, jurisdictions, feel or react? I acknowledge that 20-some is a biggish “Exec. Committee,” but it’s not just one continent here, it’s 3 significant, very different regions, the US, Canada, and Mesoamerica.

        • Archbisop Nathaniel is not a SCOBA member. The OCA is a member represented by Metr Jonah. Archbishop Nicolae is the Patriarch of Romania Church Archbishop and therefore is part of SCOBA

          • Thank you, Father. I was being a little “forward-looking,” what with the serious talk of forming a semi-autocephalous “Metropolitanate” uniting ROEA and the Patriarchal Archdiocese, within the Patriarchate, ie, ROEA leaving the OCA.

  2. Scott Pennington :

    Just out of curiosity, since they wern’t in SCOBA, I wonder if ROCOR is on the list.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    It’s supposed to be. And so are the patriarchal churches of Moscow.

  4. This just keeps getting stranger and stranger.

    If we assume all the jurisdictions under Constantinople comprise one local church, then of the ten jurisdictions represented in SCOBA (GOA/AOCA/Serbia/ACROD/Romanian Patriarchal/Bulgarian/OCA/Ukrainian/Russian patriarchal/and Albanian – only 6 local churches are formed (GOA/ACROD/Ukrainian/Albanian all reporting to the EP = one local church).

    So I can see 6 local churches being represented – the EP, Antioch, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moscow.

    So where do the other two come from? And what is the status of the OCA?

    Best Regards,

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      My take: The OCA is the wildcard because it holds the Tomos of Autocephaly. The Tomos won’t be rescinded because rescission would undermine Moscow’s (rightful) claim that Mother Churches can grant autocephaly and buttress Constantinople’s claim that only Constantinople can grant autocephaly.

      The Tomos stands in the way of Constantinople’s claim to supremacy (through the GOA) over the American Church. The Canon 28 apologetic is functionally dead, the Hellenism-Orthodoxy apologetic is not gaining the traction it needs (few really buy into it), so watch for pressure to get the OCA to voluntarily relinquish their autocephaly.

      If the OCA gets mistreated in this process, it will be by design and my theory will be proved true.

      • Wesley J. Smith :

        I think + Jonah has made it very clear that the OCA won’t give up its autocephaly to accept governance by the EP. It would, as I interpret what has been said, agree to disappear in a merger creating a new and independent American Orthodox Church.

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Dean, I hate to say this, but I don’t think the organizers have any idea themselves. I’m being serious here, not snarky. We were told that the EP eparchy would have one vote (GOA+UK+ACROD+Alb), the OCA would have one vote, ACONA one vote, Serbs one vote, Bulgars one vote, Romanians one vote, ROCOR one vote, UK-Can one vote, MP parishes one vote, Georgia one vote (at least I think). Note that UK-Can and Georgia are not on SCOBA.

    • Scott Pennington :


      What’s the rationale behind the MP patriarchal parishes getting one vote and ROCOR getting a vote as well? It seems that ROCOR/MP as one vote makes more sense since it’s the same jurisdiction.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Scott, beats me. It’s just what I heard. The more one contemplates the EAs, the less sense it makes. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: there’s already an autocephalous local church in North America. It’s not rocket science to get 60+ bishops together, let +Jonah chair it, and start dividing up dioceses according to geography and state/provinces or even cities. The only reason it hasn’t happened is because of $$$ for the Old World and pride for many New World bishops. I’m sorry to be so direct.

        • There’s a grand kabuki dance going on with ROCOR, the PoM, the Patriarchal Parishes and the OCA. A heavy dose of economia is being applied to get ROCOR into full canonical standing. Since everyone concerned, including the OCA, seems fine with how things are progressing, I’m fine with letting what is broke fix itself as is now happening.

          The Act of Canonical Commmunion keeps ROCOR with a special status, versus the OCA and Patriarchal parishes. Given how things are progressing, I expect ROCOR will get caught up with momentum and help with propelling us to a united local Church here.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Isa, I pray you’re right. I’ve been fascinated with ROCOR for quite a while (even though I’m not of Russian descent). I pray that their type of orthopraxis will be what predominates in North America. With +Jonah at the helm, the OCA appears to be ordering its piety in a more traditional fashion. For all the talk of the liberalism of +Philip, it appears that most of the new AOCNA parishes fall within this mode as well. For what it’s worth, it appears that the Guatemalans are more drawn to this type of “Slavic” piety as well. Otherwise, they would have gone directly to the GOCA. I have a feeling that if they did, they weren’t impressed. The Ukrainian interlocutors of the EP are indistinguishable from what I know of the Moscow patriarchate. (I put “Slavic” in quotes because what’s norm for the Slavs was par for the course for Byzantium as well. I was set right on this matter by a few monks at one of the new Athonite monasteries –but that’s a whole other can of worms.)

        • Scott Pennington :


          I like direct, and I agree with you. I would also add fears of ethnic dilution in certain jursidictions as a reason.

  6. Hi George,

    You just listed 10 different local churches…there are only 8 according to the invitation.

    I’d just like to know who the 8 are, because as I stand back and look at it, the EP is going to have a very difficult time creating a consensus to support it’s point of view…in just about anything.

    I’m beginning to see why the Russians were willing to put the hammer down on this…the numbers (when looked at by ‘local churches’) really seem to favor them.

    I think someone got “euchred” here…but good. This voting by churches may have originally been a good idea, but if you are talking about one vote for the GOA (including ACROD) vs one vote for the Georgians (with one parish)….then you are talking serious nonsense.

    Perhaps this makes sense in Europe or Australia, but the logic escapes me at present.

    However, I’d still like to begin with a definitive list of the local churches. I think that will reveal a lot.

    Best Regards,

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Dean, the number “ten” was given in a lecture by Fr Mark Arey in Houston recently. Personally, I agree with you. As I’ve written countless times, the idea of regional episcopal assemblies for places like Iberia, South America, Scandinavia, etc. makes sense for those “regions” but not for North America. Here there has been an indigenous church since 1794.

    I know for some people that’s a stretch since it was Alaska and it wasn’t part of the US, but so what? It’s still not a part of Canada either, and neither is Canada part of the US. They are all however part of North America (as is Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, etc.) And the point is moot as far as Alaska is concerned because it has been a territory of the United States since 1867.

    If you permit me to develop this a little further: despite the fact that the North American church was planted here first by Russia and then watered by immigrants –NOT foreign patriarchates–the idea of a purely spontaneous, local Orthodox church has now been legitimized by the EP no less. I can’t get this Guatemala mass-conversion out of my head (for good reasons), but one thing that sticks with me is that these people were not evangelized by anybody, they just were guided I believe by the Holy Spirit to set up their own parishes, clergy, hierarchy, institutions, etc. Clearly the situation was “iffy” if not uncanonical but now that they’ve been formally recognized as a vicariate of the EP, we must be open to the fact that things like this will happen again and again and we will not be able to turn our backs on these groups (unless of course they are heretical and/or not acting in good faith).

    I’m not so sure that the Phanar/GOA realizes the full implications of this. Besides the ones that I’ve posted earlier, the idea of spontaneous church coming to the fore in a traditionally non-Orthodox land undercuts the entire raison d’etre for Chambesy: that only a “synaxis” of the existing primates can “order” the “uncanonical” situation in the “so-called Diaspora.”

    True, the EP has normalized the Guatemalan situation but this was on the way to happening anyway, through the good offices of +Jonah. Have we stumbled on the ultimate internal contradiction of Chambesy? Or more interestingly, did Met. +Isaiah of Denver stumble upon the truth way back in 2001, in his brilliant essay, “The Dangers of Multiple Jurisdictions in the United States“?

    • From what I’ve heard of Met. Isaiah, my money is on him. I believe I’ve voiced my suspecions about Fr. Arey, both of SCOBA and GOA.

      As the Chinese curse goes, we live in interesting times. LOL.

  8. I can think of no canonical, moral or spiritual reason for the assembly proceedings NOT to be broadcast live via the internet. There is no reason for secrecy here. At minimum an audio stream should be made available. The resources to do this are easily available. After all the GOA folks did this for the last EP visit. Full transcripts should also be made available at the end of the assembly. I hope all jurisdictions will insist on this as the norm going forward.

    I think pressure should be applied across the board to make this assembly as transparent as possible. What better way to do this that for America’s bishops to allow the American faithful to watch or listen their Church in action in real time. With the cameras and microphones on the chances of shenanigans are lessened.

    I would also hope that any luxury component is dialed down. We do not need our bishops holed up in some hotel watching Desperate Housewives, pay per view and ordering room service at night. A little asceticism might not be such a bad thing for our more “suburban” hierarchs. Pull the plug on those essential “hierachial luxuries” and who knows what good may take place.

  9. I won’t comment on the ascetic aspect, but the gathering can do without the glitter. Ligonier did. Save the glitter when something earthshaking is going to take place.

    I’m not for broadcasting the first meeting as I think it will encourage grandstanding in some and inhibit frankness in others. I’d rather have those who are moving things in the right direction do their thing and then follow up with broadcasting what they proposed, and let the inert explain themselves: THAT should be public. It’s frustrating, but I think it worked better for the OCA shakeup and the restoration of ecclesiology in the Antiochean Archdiocese, as long as we have a critical mass of bishops to propel it.

  10. George Michalopulos :

    Interesting observation, Isa. I was with Andrew on this one, but you may have hit a nail on the head. Perhaps a compromise can be worked out thusly: that each bishop should be accompanied by a layman and all laymen should meet in a council as well.

    I take Andrew’s other point as well, in that I’m disturbed by the fact that they will be holed up in Manhattan at some luxury hotel. Sumptuous meals and cascading about in the fashion of grandees are not recipes for ecclesiastical success. I’m afraid that having reporters follow them with microphones and steno pads while walking to and fro will be too much of a temptation to grandstand. It would be far better if they met at a monastery. If they demand secrecy in order to be frank and avoid grandstanding, what better place to do it? Their meetings should take place in the Nave of the monastery church. At such a venue only the Holy Spirit will be watching.

  11. Grandstanding may be a concern but the greater concern is the potential manipulation of this meeting by GOA/Phanariot Bureaucrats. If Fr. Mark Arey cannot handle SCOBA at all what do we expect of him and other highly paid professional Churchmen at this meeting? I would not be surprised if 79th street is drafting all kind of statements for approval with little or no discussion. They will say something like “we paid for you to come here and stay in a nice place now sign” Cameras will keep people honest. Televising a frank and honest exchange among our bishops is good thing.

    This is America, not Moscow or the Phanar. We value transparency as part of doing business. Lets the the World see how American bishops deliberate. Put all the bishops on TV. It can be like C-SPAN. Every Orthodox Christian in America should have the opportunity to see how their bishops think, speak, and behave.

    Again, I see no canonical, theological or moral reason to keep this proceeding from being broadcast. Unless our bishops have something to hide the proceedings should be broadcast and accessible to all American Orthodox.

    Secrecy in the Church is the rare pastoral exception not the norm

  12. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, I know where you’re coming from. One of the backstops that might prevent the GOA/Phanar from aggrandizing the entire process is the fact that Moscow is sending its up-and-coming Renaissance man Archbishop +Hilarion Alfeyev as a delegate. I expect him to be the cool voice of reason (or a cold splash of water heaped on the Phanariotes) should things degenerate. Also, if it becomes clear that the EA is just what SCOBA degenerated to –a Phanariote tool for stoppling real unity and transparency–then it will go the way of SCOBA, and then +Jonah, ROCOR and the AOCNA can get down to the real business. Under such circumstances expect +Kirill to start riding herd.

  13. “I would not be surprised if 79th street is drafting all kind of statements for approval with little or no discussion. They will say something like “we paid for you to come here and stay in a nice place now sign”

    I do not doubt that the Phanar has not learned from Met. Philip’s little exercise in this, but the critical episcopal mass has: Statements with blank spaces or better yet a bishop or two pulling a Bishop Alexander jotting down a comment….” if it becomes clear that the EA is just what SCOBA degenerated to –a Phanariote tool for stoppling real unity and transparency–then it will go the way of SCOBA, and then +Jonah, ROCOR and the AOCNA can get down to the real business. Under such circumstances expect +Kirill to start riding herd.”

    I have seen it that the idea of each local Church voting as a block was “presented to the hiearchy of American [i.e. the GOA?] by the Met. of Paris [note: another trouble maker, who has tried to enact Chief Secretary’s ideas about the magic element of canoncity to SCOBA like organizations-submission to the Phanar] when the EP was here in the Fall” Translation: imposed? It went on: “it handicaps the hiearchy…but in turn will handicap Russia at the Great Council….the Greek hiearchy will dominate the continent and give Constantinople an extra vote at the Council.”

    As I’ve said, it seems everyone is already reading into Chambesy what they want, and that will come to the fore. And when everyone is exposed for what they are, we can get down to the real business at hand.

  14. Things for Chambesy just got more interesting:

    ROMANIAN Patriarchate
    Chancery Of The Holy Synod
    Decision # 892 – February. 24, 2010.

    Unofficial translation of excerpts from the Romanian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod Decision # 892 issued in February. 24, 2010.

    Your Eminence,

    With Brotherly Love, we announce that the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church [ROC], in its February. 11, 2010 working session, examined the necessity of updating … [its] Decision # 2844/2008 … regarding the movement of the eparchy of Orthodox clergy into another, or into the canonical jurisdiction of another Orthodox Church, this also applying to Monks and Nuns , those completing theological training in Romania, and also in regards to the organization of Pilgrimages …

    … As a consequence of the unanimous vote taken, the Holy Synod has decided:

    Taking into account the proposals formulated by the Holy Synod Chancery, the text of the Holy Synod’s Decision # 2844/2008 is to be completed and reformulated as follows:

    1) In the spirit of what is seen in Article 10 point 6 of the ROC Constitution … that: “the decisions of the central deliberative and executive organisms is obligatory for the whole of boron then, all local Orthodox Bishops will apply the Holy Synod’s Decision # 2891/2007, in letter and spirit, completed and reformulated as follows:

    a)The Canonical Release Letter of the clergy (either a monastic or not) from the Romanian Patriarchate will be issued by the Romanian local Bishop, at the request of a foreign Hierarch, belonging to the canonical Orthodox jurisdiction, but only with the agreement of the Romanian Patriarch;

    b)The cleric (either a monk or not) who receives the Canonical Letter to join an eparchy belonging to another canonical Orthodox Church can serve only in the communities of said foreign jurisdiction and not in the Romanian Orthodox communities which may be in those respective eparchies Orthodox.

    c-i)Monks who wish to leave various Romanian Orthodox eparchies from within and outside Romania to go to Mount Athos or in monasteries of eparchies belonging to other canonical Orthodox Churches, have the canonical requirement of obtaining, in advance, written approval from the Romanian local Bishop, at the request of a foreign Hierarch belonging to the canonical Orthodox jurisdiction, but only with the agreement of the Patriarch of Romania;

    c-ii)Hierarchs from eparchies belonging to BOR from outside the Romanian borders will inform the Romanian Patriarchate about the change in status of any clergy or students studying in foreign lands, and this for informational purposes and to avoid situations of tension between sister Orthodox Churches.

    d-i)Graduates of Orthodox theological learning institutions from Romania may request ordination for the Romanian Orthodox community in the Romanian Orthodox eparchies outside the borders of Romania only if they have written approval from the Romanian local Bishop, who granted his blessing for their studies, and with the agreement of the Romanian Patriarch;

    d-ii)In the “Oath”Taken by graduates of the faculties of Orthodox Theology at the completion of their studies, it will be foreseen that these individuals will be able to go into the jurisdiction of another canonical Orthodox Church, only given the recommendation of their local [Romanian] Bishop, and with the agreement of the Romanian Patriarch.

    2) Delegates of the Romanian Orthodox Church will discuss with sister Orthodox Churches in order to come to an agreement on the missionary-pastoral level, regarding the offering of adequate Pastoral Care for Romanian Orthodox in those respective countries and Churches.

    3) The theological-educational section of the Romanian Patriarchate is obliged to request from each eparchy of ROC from within and outside Romania, The list of all students and graduates from institutions of theological learning in Romania who have gone to study in foreign lands, with or without the blessing of their local [Romanian] Bishop, and inasmuch as it is possible to do so, report on the current status of such individuals. As well, they [each ROC eparchy] must inform the faculties of theology of the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate regarding their decision on the completion / of the above-mentioned “Oath”As prescribed by the present decision of the Holy Synod.

    4) Hierarchs who wish to go on Pilgrimages to holy places outside the boundaries of Orthodox Romania, must have a letter of recommendation from the Romanian Patriarch In order to avoid unhappy situations in relations with [other] canonical Orthodox Churches.

    5) Clerics, Monks and Nuns, who wish to go on Pilgrimages to holy places outside the boundaries of Orthodox Romania, must have a letter of recommendation from their Dean (or Abbot / Abbess) and the approval of their local Bishop. The pilgrimage is to be organized mainly only through the pilgrimage office of the Romanian Patriarchate or of the eparchy in question.

    6) Clerics (either monks or not) who leave eparchies of the Romanian Patriarchate without the approval of their local Bishop and without the agreement of the Romanian Patriarch will be defrocked by the eparchy they leave.

    7) Inasmuch as the Metropolitan Nicolae of Banat issued the Canonical letter in conditions that contravene the Holy Synods Decision # 2844/2008 regarding the passing of Romanian Orthodox clerics into other Orthodox jurisdictions without the agreement of the Romanian Patriarch, he is requested to withdraw the Canonical Release Letters , and this within one month, granting Fr. Aurel Popescu and Deacon Cristian Popescu to pass into another Orthodox jurisdiction without the agreement of the Romanian Patriarch, underlining the fact that in the future, Hierarchs who do not respect the present Holy Synod decision will have to answer to the Holy Synod.

    8 ) It is agreed that at the beginning of 2010, which the Holy Synod has proclaimed as “The Year of Homage to the Credo and Romanian Orthodox Autocephaly in the Romanian Patriarchate”, And this in the context of the 125th anniversary of becoming autocephalous Orthodox Church and the 85th anniversary of becoming the Patriarchate Orthodox, the Hierarchs of the Holy Synod is addressing a heartfelt appeal to all Romanian Orthodox clerics and faithful abroad, Who has, without blessing, in other sister Orthodox Churches or in non-canonical church structures, to restore direct their Communion with the Mother Church, that is in the canonical jurisdiction of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This appeal was published with the title: “Romanian Appeal to unity and dignity”(On the Patriarchal website —

    Bringing you up to date with this Holy Synod decision, we ask that you take the necessary measures to Put in application and to publish in your Eparchial press the above, ensuring that Clergy, Monks and Nuns, and institutions of learning from within your eparchies respect these decisions.

    With an embrace Brotherly in Christ,

    President of the Holy Synod

    + DANIEL

    Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church

    Secretary of the Holy Synod

    + Ciprian Campineanu

    Hierarchal Vicar of the Patriarchate

    Looks like +Nicolae won’t be voting for autocephaly. Or the EP. Wonder if Serbia and Bulgaria will join and form a third block. Wonder if they won’t get excommunicated by the Greeks at least per the Phyletist Council of Constantinople 1871.

    Seems the Tomos of 1908 is coming back to haunt the dreams of Greece/Phanar: how can they fault the Romanians’ logic?

  15. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, because of nonsense like this, it appears that the Chambesy protocols will fail. I never much liked them because there were too many escape hatches and other loopholes. Looks like the only man who can straighten out this mess will be +Kirill.

  16. What an ugly piece of correspondence! This oath aspect of this letter is troubling and the request to report on Romanians abroad almost has a big brother component to it. And now we have releases along ethnic lines. How horrible. Next up for Romania will be DNA tests to establish racial purity.
    How do you say omogenia in Romanian?

    Ethnic Orthodoxy, whether Romanian, Greek or otherwise ultimately degenerates into this kind of secular tragedy and farce. America has no place for Church leaders who behave in such a way and the people who enable them.

    • “Ethnic Orthodoxy, whether Romanian, Greek or otherwise ultimately degenerates into this kind of secular tragedy and farce”

      Not necessarily:+Nathaniel will have none of this nonsense. But then, I don’t think “ethnic Orthodox” describes him. I think that the set up of the ethnic dioceses in the OCA will show its merits.

    • While Father George Calciu was giving his famous series of seven Wednesday sermons attacking Ceausescu’s persecution of religion, the actual Romanian Patriarch was studying abroad in Protestant and Catholic universities. He had for sure Ceausescu’s approval.

      In Russia the new martyrs were glorified, it did not happen in Romania. The new generation of bishops (selected and formed under communism), led by +Daniel do not want to canonize the new saints of Romania.

      +Daniel is under heavy criticism for his ecumenist agenda. See: ECUMENIST DICTATORSHIP OF PATRIARCH DANIEL CIOBOTEA GRINS: PERSECUTION OF PRIEST EFTIMIE

      It is obvious the the Orthodox Church is under a new type of attack. The Church is undermined from within!

      Wolfs in Sheep’s Clothing made it to the top of the Church! They aim to destroy the monastic life and to prevent the Church from teaching the FULLNESS OF THE TRUTH which ONLY the ORTHODOX CHURCH DOES!

      This explains the arrogance and the “big brother component” of the request to report on Romanians abroad. It is not Ethnic Orthodoxy it is just ethnic manipulation. +Daniel knows very well that Romanians still fear persecution. Even Fr. Calciu did not get rid of his fear all his life. The atrocities and the manipulation went on for a long time … Some are experts in exploiting it.

  17. cynthia curran :

    Well, I came across some you tube videos of Father Calciu’s Lutheran friend Richard Wurmbrand. There is a cartoon of Richard Wurmburd speaking out against the Romanian government and an Orthodox leader in cahoots with the government.

  18. Geo Michalopulos :

    Cynthia, I remember reading wonderful things about Pastor Wurmbrand. Definately a saint compared to these mountebanks and scoundrels. Lord have mercy.

    Still, in a perverse way, we should thank the present Romanian hierarchy, their brazen ethnocentrism is showing us the logical conclusion of homogeneia thinking. If the GOA wants to see the consequences of their thinking (and Arb Demetrius’ interview probably proves it), then all they have to do is look at the circus on the Danube.

    • George …,
      The true representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church were the hundreds of thousands who suffered under the Communists. Some individuals (some of them were bishops and priests) made compromises, they suffered for their mistakes and did repent. Before we condemn others it would be useful to picture ourselves in their position under the Communist tyranny. Maybe we would have made even worse mistakes.

      Pastor Wurmbrand “loved Orthodoxy, but considered he was not worthy of it” (See:Pastor Richard Wurmbrand: Finishing the Race by Hieromonk Damascene)

      It soon became known to us that Pastor Wurmbrand and Fr. George were friends. Fr. George told us that Pastor Wurmbrand had confessed to him many times in the United States—not as a sacrament, since Pastor Wurmbrand was a Lutheran—but as before an Orthodox priest and friend. Before these talks, in which he disclosed his struggles, Pastor Wurmbrand would always cross himself.
      Pastor Wurmbrand had also confessed to an Orthodox priest many years prior to coming to America, when he was in Communist prison. He told Fr. George about this when he met him in Pennsylvania in 1989. In a recent letter Fr. George informed us about what Pastor Wurmbrand had told him:

      Pastor Wurmbrand was in a prison hospital for terminal illness. The majority of the people from this prison had to die.
      One day, a new transport of prisoners came to the jail. Among them was a very humble Orthodox priest from a village. He seemed so simple that the guards made all kinds of jokes about him. The prisoners were in the courtyard—a special place surrounded by a fence—and the guard brought in the newcomers, all in rags.
      The guard said to them, “Look, guys, this is a priest. He was sent here by the prison administration to hear your last confession—all of you.” He was alluding that they all had to die, including the priest.
      Pastor Wurmbrand said, “He [the guard] prophesied: in less than six months, everyone came to this priest and confessed. I was among the first.”

      • George Michalopulos :

        Eliot, you’re right, the temptation to judge is to be avoided at all costs. We’ve never suffered like these people (although it should be said that suffering wasn’t an option for some of these guys, they were just scoundrels in the first place, they recognized what the Church had become and were drawn to it, the old “birds of a feather” phenomenon).

        Having said that, what’s our excues? We’ve never suffered, and look how far we’ve compromised the Faith here. Lord have mercy.

  19. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    This emerging authoritarianism (you see it forming in the GOA as well) will drive good men away from the priesthood. What stable and independent person (necessary prerequisites for a solid priest) could put up with this nonsense?

  20. Michael Bauman :

    Have you seen Fr. Michael Oleska’s piece over on about the role of the laity in our time? Speaks to the way in which the authoritarianism can be countered and balance restored. Let’s face it, we are all struggling with it. It is always a temptation within an hierarchical body.

    At the same time we must be careful not to institutionalize a solution. At least so it seems to me.

  21. Scott Pennington :

    For me, the thing that makes the whole ethnocentric Orthodoxy viewpoint offensive is that in the context of America, it is anti-evangelism – – at least implicitly – – and thus anti-Christian.

    I understand the desire of some ethnic Orthodox immigrants to keep their churches predominantly Greek, Romanian, Russian, Arab, etc. It’s very human. In a culture which is not Orthodox and not Greek, Romanian, Russian, etc., it seems very important to some of those, perhaps a majority, in each ethnic group to want their churches to maintain their ethnic identity. Where else can Greeks go to be openly Greek and interact with other Greeks? Or Romanians with Romanians, etc.

    The problem with this is that it acts as a silver bullet to evangelization of the country. There is only a small minority of each of the respective ethnic Orthodox groups in the U.S. To say that you want your church to remain predominantly Greek, Romanian, etc. is to say, indirectly but just as certainly as if you said it openly, that you don’t want “foreigners” in your church. You may tolerate a certain amount of intermarriage. You may tolerate a certain amount of converts coming into ethnic parishes. You may tolerate a certain amount of convert parishes in your archdiocese. But to say that your jurisdiction should remain predominantly Greek, Romanian, Arab, etc. inescapably limits your missionary activity. It also creates an internal culture which views conversion as suspicious, kind of like the old saying about pacifists: “Thank God for them and thank God there are so few of them.” This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Now, not all jurisdictions are so insistent on maintaining the dominance of an ethnic group. Some are quite open to, welcoming of and empowering of non-ethnic Orthodox. In other jurisdictions, it’s crystal clear that when a hierarch is talking about “our people” he’s not talking about all the Orthodox under his jurisdiction, but instead referring to his ethnic group.

    It takes considerable courage on the part of a hierarch in a predominantly ethnocentric jurisdiction to exorcise this demon with hard cold truth: “This is America. It is not Greece. It is not Syria. It is not Romania. Etc. America can be an Orthodox country but it cannot be Greek, Arab, Romanian. To wish your churches to remain bastions of ethnicity here is unreasonable and unrealistic. The two things, ethnicity and religion, are not inseparable. There are many Greek Catholics, Romanian Catholics, Arab Muslims, etc. The predominant ethnicity and civilization here in America is North Western European. It makes no more sense to hear services largely in Greek here than it does to hear them in Greek in Russia. Or in Arabic in Romania. And if we are successful at one of our primary callings – evangelism – we Greeks, Romanians, Arabs, etc. will most certainly become a small minority in the Orthodox Church in this country. In short, to remain an ethnic ghetto contradicts the Great Commission and is unchristian.”

    I personally avoid saying this openly at my parish for the simple reason that I’m not Greek and I’m not interested in throwing fuel on what at present is only a lump of smoldering embers. But it seems clear to me that more Greeks, Romanians, Arabs, Russians, etc. should be saying this to their own people with greater frequency and volume.

    None of this is to say that there’s not room for pastoral leeway. For example, there are some churches where a sizeable percentage of the people don’t understand English. Not to take this into account would be harsh and unreasonable.

    Fortunately, the problem is its own cure. Ethnocentric parishes; i.e, ones who perpetuate the ghetto mentality, will dwindle due to that mentality.

    • Michael Bauman :

      Of course, we have to avoid the same trap by trying to create an “American” ethno-centrism which is not welcome to the Greek, Arab and Slavic flavors.

      We have to find out what Holy Tradition actually is before we can begin to understand how it looks in our culture and context. ANY ethnocentrism handicaps that journey.

      We also have to avoid the peculiar American trap of reductionism. As much as I admire and like Fr. Thomas Hoppko, his statements that it all boils down to Jesus, while true, are the fruit of a lifetime of spiritual endevor. Such statements can sound to evangelical Protestant ears much like: “Its just me and Jesus in prettier clothes”.

      We can push, prod, bloviate and be frustrated all we want, but the bishops have to lead, teach and sacrifice for anything to happen–don’t you think?

      • Scott Pennington :


        Certainly, on all counts. My point regarding the dominant culture – – I can see how it might suggest to someone yet another form of ethnocentricity – – was actually meant to contrast reality and wishful thinking. Or to put it another way, ethnically a healthy, growing local Orthodox church in the United States is going to look increasingly like the ethnic mix of America itself. I don’t mean to suggest in any way that an local Orthodox church here should be anything less than enthusiastically welcoming to any and all ethnic groups whether they are “ethnic-Orthodox”, Anglos, African Americans, Latinos, etc.

        • Back in the day of the Latin mass, you could go into any Church and tell it was Spanish, German, Polish, Italian, Irish. As long as you were in submission to the pope, you were welcome there though.

          There shouldn’t be any problem with an American (Canadian/Mexican) Church where everyone can go, and yet still know that the background of the parish is Greek, Arab, Russian-or Amerindian.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Scott, your assessment is correct. My dissapointment is ultimately that we are talking about grown men here. St Paul said “when I was a child I spake and acted as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” For too long the leading men and women of our parishes (usually 3rd generation Americans who could not speak Greek/Arabic/Bulgarian/etc.) and our bishops (both foreign and domestic) continue to act like a bunch of crybabies. Shame on them.

    • Dean Calvert :


      You are right on all points. I’ve often wondered what would happen if you simply took all the membership data from the various jurisdictions, and synchronized them – superimposed them using the date of largest immigration as the zero point. I’ll bet you would find that ALL of the jurisdictions have been on exactly the same (declining) path. And the experience of the Russians in the lower 48, who were here first after all (they are in the 4th and 5th generations) should make your point to the rest of us.

      I’ll tell you a funny story about “it seems clear to me that more Greeks, Romanians, Arabs, Russians, etc. should be saying this to their own people with greater frequency and volume” – I was at a local Greek church for a memorial a few years ago. I hadn’t been to that parish for a while, and was actually looking forward to it…thinking that the service would be mainly in English since the parish was 90% 2nd and 3rd generation. To my surprise, the service was at least 50% Greek, with the Gospel reading, Epistle reading, the Lord’s prayer and Creed all done in both languages. This really surprised me, since there were virtually no immigrants attendance.

      After the service, in the hall, I saw a particularly xenophobic member that I knew, and decided to have some fun. “Gus” I said, “you know…since it seems to be so important to use Greek in the service, I think you should ask Father to do the sermon half in Greek as well.”

      “Oh, we couldn’t do that,” he responded.

      “Why not?” I asked.

      “No one would understand it,” he said, with a straight face.

      “Can you even hear the words coming out of your mouth,” I said, shaking my head, walking away.

      Finally, don’t ever forget what our Church said about all this ethnocentrism…something I will remain forever grateful to Archbishop Peter (of blessed memory) for calling my attention to:

      “We have concluded that when the principle of phyletism (i.e. ecclesiastical nationalism) 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 and are real schismatics.” Constantinople…1872

      Talk about not mincing words…look at that language…“we proclaim that those who accept such division according to races and who dare to base on it hitherto unheard-of racial assemblies are…are real schismatics”

      That’s bomb-thrower language…What they meant to say (to the Bulgarians…setting up dioceses in Constantinople) was, “Are you guys NUTS?”

      The Church has already spoken on this issue…in a very clear, and unmistakable voice.

      Best Regards,

      • Scott Pennington :


        That is a funny story. There is a parish not far from mine where you could have the exact same experience.

        As to the council convened by Anthimus VI, while I agree with its spirit, it is not an ecumenical council and has not been adopted by an ecumenical council. Bear in mind that the ox being gored belonged to the Patriarch who convened the council. Also bear in mind that today’s situation in the “diaspora” might render almost all jurisdictions as schismatics under the definition of that council.

        I don’t mean to be picky about the amount of authority due this council but I am suspicious of the idea that local councils can speak for the Church, at least reliably, unless confirmed by a Great Synod. I don’t really have a bone to pick with the substance of Anthimus VI’s council, it’s just that as far as I can tell, it was composed of the Patriarch and synod of Constantinople plus the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, both Greeks.

        There are at least two sides to every story:

        “The reestablishment of the Church of Bulgaria eventually was secured, but not without tragedy and even a schism; this happened mainly because the issue of reestablishing the autocephalous church arose at a time when both Greek and Bulgarian populations lived side by side in Macedonia, Thrace, and Constantinople itself, though still within the framework of the Ottoman imperial system. After the Turkish conquest, and especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Bulgarians were governed by Greek bishops and were often prevented from worshipping in Slavonic. This enforced policy of Hellenization was rejected in the 19th century when Bulgarians began to claim not only a native clergy but also equal representation on the higher echelons of the Christian millet—i.e., the offices of the patriarchate. These claims were met with firm resistance by the Greeks. The alternative was a national Bulgarian Church, which was created by a sultan’s firman (decree) in 1870. The new church was to be governed by its own Bulgarian exarch, who resided in Constantinople itself and governed all the Bulgarians who recognized him. The new situation was uncanonical, because it sanctioned the existence of two separate ecclesiastical structures on the same territory. Ecumenical Patriarch Anthimus VI convened a synod in Constantinople, which also included the Greek patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem (1872).” – orthodoxinfo

        The danger of recognizing such a council as speaking for the Church is that one is either validating other such councils (such as a later “council” called at Constantinople to change the calendar or the council of the OCA which condemned the death penalty) or you end up picking and choosing which local councils you claim as authoritative.

        Besides, do you really believe that three Greek patriarchs would have condemed a Greek exarchate in Russia or on the canonical territory of some other non-Greek Church?

        • George Michalopulos :

          Scott, of course, you are right. There are always hidden agendas and imputations of bad faith almost behind every action, even within the Church. I for one agree with you, had there been an extracanonical Greek jurisdiction in Bulgaria, then Anthimos would probably have done backflips to justify it. Having said that, we can’t assume that the Holy Spirit was not acting through the findings of this (admittedly) local council.

          One analogy might be the Southern insistence on “states rights” during the civil rights struggle. The plain words are of course true, states do have rights as recognized by the ninth and tenth amendments. Having said that, many (not all) who used this argument did so because they wanted to restrict black people’s access to unfettered voting. (Many blacks actually voted but it was heavily restricted via grandfather clauses or literacy tests, etc.)

          • Scott Pennington :


            Your states rights analogy is not a bad reflection of the situation.

            It just seems comical to me in a way. I didn’t put too fine a point on it in my post above but to demonstrate how much it looks like a Cohen brothers film, allow me to hyperbolize a tad:

            Bulgarians, fellow Orthodox, were being frozen out of any positions of authority in the Roman millet (aka the “Ecumenical” Patriarchate) due to race. They were being prevented from worshiping in a language that is a direct ancestor of their own (much like church Greek is a predecessor of modern Greek). So in the name of condemning racism (they actually didn’t use the term racism, they used a term coined from the Greek work for tribe – phyletism), a council of three Greek Patriarchs (two of whom were Patriarchs over Churches which were perdominantly non-Greek, by the way) condemns the actions of the Bulgarians not only as uncanonical but as schismatic.

            Or, to be even more blunt, a phyletist council condemns phyletism.

            You can’t make stuff like this up, it’s just too precious.

          • Scott Pennington :

            Two more things though:

            1) I believe Dean, you and I are in agreement regarding the substance of this stuff and I didn’t mean to needlessly poo-poo a council whose conclusions support American Orthodox autocephaly (which would be a good thing).

            2) When I try to edit comments these days, the edit box constantly moves the text so I can’t do so. I wonder if anyone else is having this problem?

          • Michael Bauman :

            How do we know any statement by any council is true? In fact, we don’t. We accept such statements because they accord with the rule of faith, the historical understanding of the Church as traditioned to us and the our own commitment to truth.

            The traditional prohibition against more than three marriages was made a cannon by a local council of Constantinople (in actuality many early fathers thought more than one was sacriledge). I don’t know the composition of the council, but it supported the Patriarch of Constantiople against the bishop of Rome. It followed long statnding Roman legal precedent, but was still part of the battle between east and west for supremacy within the Church. Is it true? Does it have anything to say about the modern condition and our pastoral response to same to those outside the Church?

            I can’t find a full statement of the conciliar decrees anywhere in English. How do we know?

            How do we know that any bishop interprets any cannon righteously since the Rudder is out of print in English?

            It just points up to me that we have little real understanding of what Holy Tradition is here in the new world. Little has actually been handed down to us in a living, breathing form–just rules and those subject to wide-ranging intrepretations depending which bishop you get on what day.

            What we have is the sacramental reality,i.e., the real and living presence of Jesus Christ, the Creed, the Holy Scriptures and writings of the Holy Fathers on same. The rest, it seems to me we tend to make up as we go along to be in harmony with our own bias.

            We have yet to respond to the challenge to be the Church. When and if we do, great things could happen.

          • Scott Pennington :

            Michael wrote:
            “How do we know any statement by any council is true? In fact, we don’t. We accept such statements because they accord with the rule of faith, the historical understanding of the Church as traditioned to us and the our own commitment to truth.”

            Actually, you could ask, “How do we know that such statements accord with the rule of faith?” and “How do we know such statements are in accord with the historical understanding of the Church?” I suppose the answer to that is that if we are to embrace the Orthodox faith, part of that faith is that a great and holy synod, if received by the faithful over time, is the highest earthly authority on disputed questions. The rest of it is uncertain until the Church adopts a relatively undisputed opinion. Otherwise we’re left with a [not so] Orthodox version of “soul competency”. I do not dispute that the council of 1872 was more or less correct in what it said since there is, “. . . neither Jew nor Greek . . .” and since dueling overlapping jurisdictions are uncanonical.

            By the way, you can find an online copy of the Rudder here:


            And the decrees of Councils, although I don’t know if it’s complete, here:


        • Jerusalem’s Patiarch Cyril II refused to go along with the pot and kettle synod, and so the Brotherhood of the Tomb worshippers conspired with the Phanar to depose him. The non-Greek (i.e. majority) Faithful in Jerusalem and Syria refused to recognize his deposition and his successor, the latter the Russians took care of while the Faithful continued to commemorate Cyril II. Once +Cyril fell asleep his successor tried to restore omogeneia. Russia responded by taking control of Jerusalem’s source of income in Moldavia (the Phanariots had seized about a third of the land in Romania to fund themselves).

          • George Michalopulos :

            Truly, you can’t make this stuff up. What a disgrace. “Brotherhood of the Tomb-worshippers”! I love it!

          • Scott Pennington :


            The work you reference was published by the Catholic Truth Society. Take a look at later pages. It is relentlessly anti-Orthodox. My impression is that nothing good or true could come out of it. Nonetheless, the history regarding the Patriarch of Jerusalem’s refusal to go along may be true. I haven’t looked into it that far.

          • LOL. Fortescue was bitterly opposed to the Orthodox. In the “Catholic Encyclopedia” he chorttles on how the Orthodox have “forgotten” the institution of the Patriarch, and all of the Churches will be run by “Holy Governing Synods.” Less than a decade after he wrote that, all HGS except for Greece’s (for obvious reasons) was replaced by a Patriarch.

            But on Jerusalem, his facts are accurate, despite the haughty icing he puts on them. I’ve seen the decrees in Greek (and French: the EP published in both).

        • Dean Calvert :

          Hi Scott,

          While I agree with you that this was not an ecumenical council, I consistently use this quote, and the authority of that council, because (like it or not) these types of local councils are the highest source of authority in the church, absent an ecumenical council (which we have obviously not had in a very long time). And the mere fact that 3 of the four Eastern patriarchates were represented at this council, gives it’s proclamation greater authority than a simple local council (which I agree, we could get carried away with).

          Further, I have no issue with your “two sides of the story” and have told that part of the story many many times. Personally, I believe the rise of national churches, first during the middle ages (in both Serbia and Bulgaria), and then the subsequent subsuming of those churches (both forcibly re-integrated back into the Ecumenical Patriarchate during the Ottoman years) is an excellent example showing us that the church was ALWAYS meant to be dynamic…and that the ecclesial borders have ALWAYS followed the secular ones. Think about it, when Byzantium was shrinking, leaving Orthodox outside the empire’s borders (in the Balkans) new independent churches were formed. Then, as the Ottomans reconquered all of those areas, those churches were re-integrated back into the EP. And the attempt to Hellenize those areas is a fact. Then, as those (Balkan) countries threw off the Turkish rule, one by one, the churches reformed and did likewise (Greece included).

          And is this really so different than what we are witnessing in the Soviet Union (Estonian Church, Georgian Church, soon the Ukrainian Church).

          I think an understanding of this whole issue surrounding the 1872 synod is instructive to us on many fronts.

          First, it proves that ours is a dynamic system, and it was ALWAYS meant to be that way. Which, by the way, makes the situation in the US even more laughable – particularly when we hear about things like the proteia and presvia of the ancient patriarchates….(give me a break!).

          Second, I think it is particularly instructive to us because it was held in response to one of the few times (that I know of anyway) where a situation of overlapping jurisdictions occurred within the realm of the ancient patriarchates. So we see that the temptation to do this (create overlapping jurisdictions) has ALWAYS been present. And we see, of course, how the ancient patriarchates viewed and dealt with the situation. To be honest, I think this is why Archbishop Peter brought this to my attention. He wanted me to know…this has happened before…and the same church which stands in the way of resolving the situation in North America called overlapping jurisdictions preposterous! I think there is particular irony in that…and so did His Eminence.

          So, would they have condemned a Greek exarchate in Russia? Probably not. Nevertheless, they did give us a response to the situation…one which is every bit as correct in the USA in 2010 as it was in Constantinople in 1872.

          Just my humble opinion.

          Best Regards,

          • Scott Pennington :

            ” . . . I consistently use this quote, and the authority of that council, because (like it or not) these types of local councils are the highest source of authority in the church, absent an ecumenical council (which we have obviously not had in a very long time).”


            I agree with the council insofar as it condemned overlapping jurisdictions and, in its own peculiar way, jurisdiction by race. Whether that automatically makes those who violate these rules “schismatics” is a different matter. As I stated above, most of the Church would be schismatic if we took this literally.

            However, when you suggest, as you did above, that “the Church has spoken on the subject”, I have to disagree. I suppose the phrase is ambiguous to some extent. To the extent overlapping jurisdictions are uncanonical, we already knew this. As far as dividing up the Church by race, I think that also is clearly out of bounds. I just don’t want to rely on the council of 1872 as the authority for those propositions since local councils can and do err and their authority over the universal Church is very limited, if at all. Also, when you look at the facts of what and why surrounding the council, it is difficult to say that the decision itself was motivated by anything other than phyletism.

            Actually, given the representatives at the council, it may be that the only place that the decision “has teeth” is under Constantinople. It was only their synod which participated. Unless the Patriarch of Alexandria has the authority from his synod to decree such things for his Church (which he may have, from what little I know, it has been run top down for a long time), then it would not apply to them. The question is, “Who was bound to declare the Bulgarians schismatics?” I know the decision of the council now is only being used for rhetorical purposes. No one’s canonicity is on the line. But these things do matter.

            Conciliarity means representative councils. If a local council does reflect the mind of the Church, then it is authoritative. Of course, we don’t really know until it is confirmed more widely. So really, unless I’m missing something, a local council is not really the highest authority in the Church absent an ecumenical council. They are apples and oranges.

            I know that the decision supports the position of the OCA and, in general, of those who want to see a united autocephalous church in North America. Perhaps it is my lawyerly cautious side, but I see the weakness of using this as authority as the danger that you’re actually raising all local councils as authority and thus saying the Church is accountable for all the errors of local councils. Now, against the Phanar, I don’t see a weakness. Whatever else may be true, Constantinople clearly endorsed the views of the council and can be held responsible. Perhaps that is all that is necessary since they are the largest single obstacle to North American Church unity.

            Of course, I could be totally mistaken about it all and so I’ll leave others to decide that.

          • Orthodox Conciliarity means synods/councils in the Holy Spirit. In extremis (not as a habit, as with Old Rome), a council of one, such as the High Priest (Patriarch?!) at the time of the Lord’s Crucifixion, could prophesy unwittingly in echoes down the ages, even saying the right words but for the wrong reasons!

            I’ve always understood, from Metr. KALLISTOS in The Orthodox Church, and other things I’ve read, that there can be said to be a list of writings never formally vetted by an Ecumenical Synod (yet), but fairly commonly considered as representing Orthodoxy, such as an 867 encyclical of St. Photius the Great, a 1054 letter of Michael Cerularius to Peter of Antioch, a 1440-41 letter of St. Mark of Ephesus, a 1455-56 confession of faith of Patriarch Gennadius of C’ople, a 1672 confession of faith of Dositheus, the 1848 Reply of the Orthodox Patriarchs to Pope Pius IX of Old Rome, etc. (see p. 203 of Kallistos’ 1993 Penguin edition). Some Canons of the Church were issued not even by synods but single Hierarchs, such as St. Basil the Great IIRC: I’m not sure what weight Orthodox canonists give such, but they’re discussed at least.

            Could a gathering in C’ople in 1872 have said the right thing for the wrong reasons? They clearly expressed their opinion in neutral, universal terms, rather than just blasting the Bulgarians by name (at least in the quoted portion??). One doesn’t have to cite it, just go back to One-Bishop-One-City at Nicea. But it’s useful to see the matter more recently than AD 325, addressing more or less the exact situation we have here, explicitly, and calling it a non-starter in the strongest possible way.

            It’s not my impression that accepting any of these “commonly accepted” sources is considered to ipso facto elevate that particular source for all times, in all circumstances, to absolute rule. IIUC the approach by persons far wiser and holier than I, would be, Is it correct, Is it applicable, Is it a good idea, Does it fit perfectly the current circumstance, and If not, can it be tweaked to fit in a helpful manner? It’s said that these are canonoi, not nomoi — guidelines, not laws per se. Helps for Hierarchs and Synods — who have ultimate responsibility to interpret them — to stay with the Holy Spirit or the Patristic mind. Not exactly stare decisis! 😉

          • Scott Pennington :


            As I wrote above:

            “If a local council does reflect the mind of the Church, then it is authoritative. Of course, we don’t really know until it is confirmed more widely.”

            I don’t think I disagree with you. The list of authorities you quote from Bp. Kallistos’ book is certainly widely respected within the Church and, to varying extents in different quarters, is accorded the status of Tradition. But I think that is because these sources have been so widely recognized over time throughout the Church.

            Take, for example, the council in the 14th century that approved hesychastic practices and formalized the distinction between God’s essence and energies. This is considered almost foundational in understanding Orthodox theology and so widely accepted as not to be seriously questioned. Some accord this council the status of an 8th ecumenical council.

            The thing to keep in mind is that ecumenical councils are really called to address controversy. When a proposition is recognized by a local council or a particular hierarch as being a part of Holy Tradition, the test if this is a correct pronouncement is whether said proposition has been widely accepted without controversy. Not every proposition needs the authority of an ecumenical council to be validly said to be included in Holy Tradition.

            The reason I myself would be reluctant to quote the council of 1872 in support of anti-tribalism and against overlapping jurisdictions is not that the resolutions of the council were necessarily incorrect, but that we already know that racism and overlapping jurisdictions are no-no’s and quoting a highly questionable local council to support this proposition may actually detract from persuasion. Moreover, the council condemned the Bulgarians as “real schismatics”. As has been observed above, much of the Church did not consider the Bulgarians as having broken communion with the rest of the Church and still maintained intercommunion with them. So that part of the decree, in my humble opinion, is highly questionable. Were those local churches who did not break communion with Bulgaria also schismatic? Are most of the local churches today schismatic because we have overlapping ethnic based jurisdictions here in the Western World. What does this say about our mysteries? Etc.

  22. George Michalopulos :

    Michael, your point about trading one ethnocentrism for another is right on the money. However I feel you give the bishops way too much credit. Except for the majority of the OCA bishops (i.e. +Nathaniel, +Dmitri, +Benjamin, +Job from the old regime) and standouts like the late +Iakovos, +Isaiah, +Basil, and +Mark, the lethargy of the GOA and the other ethnic jurisdictions and their foreign overlords dragged down Orthodox evangelism in the US.

    If +Demetrios wants to open a new leaf as chairman of the episcopal assembly, he needs to make direct statements proclaiming the good faith of the GOA. This would include (1) announcing ahead of time the mistakes of the past, (2) announcing that this would result in nothing less than full unity and autocephaly, and (3) stating that once the first assembly meets, all subsequent assemblies would have as their first order of business the election of a chairman.

    Although I believe that the united and autocephalous American Orthodox Church should have as its patriarch the Archbishop of Washington, DC, wouldn’t it be a wonderful statement of humility and transparency if the entire assembly of bishops elected from among their own an annual chairman?

    Otherwise, unless the GOA primate takes concrete steps like this, then we can be sure we’re back to the old, dysfunctional games that have all-too-often been the hallmark of Orthodoxy. The cult of secrecy has to stop.

    Having said that, I have cause to worry. Listening to +Demetrius’ speech posted on this blog, I can see that this saintly and pious man still doesn’t “get it.” His explanation about “complexity” betrays an elitism of which he is unaware. To say nothing about the idea that his #1 job is to carry water for foreign governments.

    • Michael Bauman :

      George, you seem to be making my point for me when you say: “…the lethargy of the GOA and the other ethnic jurisdictions and their foreign overlords dragged down Orthodox evangelism in the US.”

      Unity is not a problem theologically or sacramentally. The problem is in praxis and in a roughly unified approach to pastoral issues especially with regard to the receipt of non-Orthodox into the Church. Such issues would demand a level of humility and dedication to overcoming them from all of us as well as patience with the inevitable disagreements and set-backs. The effort would be well worth it, but not easy.

      As the anathemas agains phyletism demonstrate, right now we can do no evagelism because we are, practically speaking, in schism.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Michael, am it total agreement with you. I’ve been worried for quite while that we are in effective schism. I probably will regret saying this, but it’s because of this feeling I have (delusion perhaps?) that I’ve not been able to commune in churches of jurisdictions. (Except for ROCOR, I’m OCA.)

  23. I have no real knowledge of +Demetrius at all, which by itself might say something (the same cannot be said for their metropolitan in Toronto). One thing is interesting, he made those statements in English for a Greek audience.

    I try not to pay too much attention when he pandering to that audience. I have heard Met. Jonah speak of him, publicly and privately, as someone he can work with.

    Given the lastest antics of the Holy Synod of Romania, I expect that the fireworks aren’t going to be very secret.

  24. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, time will tell. (BTW, I meant +Dmitr Royster of Dallas in my catalogue of the above bishops.)

  25. Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    Many of the problems addressed here can be overcome through the united action and witness of United European Christendom. Alternatively, our divisions can continue to paralyze us and weaken the resonance of the Gospel message. So you decide. How are we doing? David Owen

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