Fr. Mark Arey Discusses Episcopal Assembly Updates [AUDIO]

HT: Byzantine, TX

Fr. Mark Arey discusses events related to the Assembly of Canonical Bishops in North America. He also discusses the recent pan-Orthodox Chambésy meeting and what disagreements were aired there (e.g. authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, process of gaining autocephaly, order of the diptychs, etc.).

Listen here:


  1. Dean Calvert :

    Small minds are much distressed by little things. Great minds see them all but are not upset by them.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Fr Mark’s a great guy and all but what did you (or anybody else) get out of this interview? It seems like the entire EA process is just petering out to nothingness. Or am I wrong?

  2. Dean Calvert :


    I’m not sure which astonishes me more…the arrogance exhibited (“you would never hear the diptychs in this country because there is no autocephalous church”), or the small minded bewilderment, and therefore imagined overwhelming complexity, of the task at hand (“it’s easy to talk about unity, it’s another thing to roll up your sleeves and accomplish it”).

    Where are the great minds of Orthodoxy, who will put an end to this bureaucratic babble? Where are the Photios’s, the Chrysostom’s?

    If people like this had been involved in the evangelization of the Slavs, Russia would now be Muslim.

    The complexity is overstated…only the will is lacking.

    Best Regards,

    • Scott Pennington :

      Dean’s right.

      The reason for the time between the early Synods was that the Synods were attempted resolutions to burning questions periodically arising within the Church, not because it took 50 years of preparation to hold one.

      • Geo Michalopulos :

        Scott, another example of disingenuous you brought up there. The time lapse between the Third and Fourth Council was exactly twenty years, but all they had to do was talk about piddling things like the nature of Christ and all. Nothing as earth-shattering as “who’s on first?”

        • Scott Pennington :


          I have mixed emotions about the whole thing. While I do think that the hierarchs involved are dragging their feet regarding . . . well . . . pretty much everything, and I also think that they’re not being candid about why they’re doing so, nonetheless I still have to say that I don’t think having a Great Synod at this time is necessary or wise. Constantinople is not going to recognize the autocephaly of an American church any time soon, Synod or not. They’re too financially dependent on it to risk that, for starters. Thus, I don’t think a Great Synod resolves the autocephaly question. Besides, if they wanted to recognize the autocephaly of an American church, they don’t need a Synod. All they need is a pen, paper and a map to define its jurisdiction.

          What would a Synod actually do that couldn’t be done by an agreement of the patriarchs and their synods? Are they going to address the calendar question. Are they going to address orthopraxis? I doubt it.

          There is simply no great theological controversy gripping the Church at this time. Moreover, I’m apprehensive of what a Synod might actually do. We have the example of Vatican II to warn us of what might lie ahead. This is a bad time to have a Synod if you consider that progressivism is still the dominant political force on earth. Elements of this philosophy have already made it into the Church, or at least parts of it. No reason to give it any more room to corrupt. I’ve remarked in the past that the RCC is only one bad pope away from becoming the Episcopal Church. The potential damage a Synod could do seems to me to militate against calling one lest some decision be made which marches us further along the road that Anglicans have trod (to the peril of their souls).

          • Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim :


            You stated, “There is simply no great theological controversy gripping the Church at this time.”

            Forgive my directness, but open your eyes, my brother. The controversy / heresy that has been ravaging the Church for the last century is ecclesiology itself, and it continues to grow stronger. The apostolic beliefs & practices regarding ecclesiology have been stretched so far that they would be unrecognizable to the early bishops if they were shepherding flocks here in the US today. The Holy Tradition has been trampled underfoot & as a result we are mired in the terrible consequences.

            The most vivid examples of this are on display right here in our own back yards in the US. This is exactly why the ecumenical counsels were called: to address apostolic doctrine that was being warped and having disastrous practical ramifications.

            How are you able to make such a remark?

          • Scott Pennington :


            Relax, we’re not making a Western here.

            I am reluctant to use the word heresy to describe the canonical anomalies associated with today’s overlapping mosaic of jurisdictions in America and elsewhere. It is not that I do not take the problem seriously. It’s just that I do take the term “heresy” very seriously. Using it has consequences. Specifically, a person who engages in heresy thereby separates himself from the Church. It may take a bishop or synod to recognize the activity as heresy and condemn it; however, the very word heresy means “to choose a belief at odds with Church teaching”.

            Not every uncanonical act constitutes heresy. I attend a GOA parish. Most every Sunday, except during the Paschal season, we kneel at the consecration of the Gifts. That is uncanonical. However, a prior archbishop of GOARCH issued an edict directing us to do so since so few people attended weekday services where they might otherwise kneel.

            Often you will hear those who deplore the jurisdictional situation in the US refer to a synod held in Constantinople in 1872 (this is a particularly popular synod in OCA circles). The synod condemned what it termed “phyletism”, which seems to mean establishing overlapping jurisdictions based on ethnicity. Not only did they condemn it, but they declared it a heresy.

            This, to say the least, is problematic:

            The synod was composed only of the Patriarch of Constantinople and his bishops plus the heads of several other local churches. Thus, at most, its statement would only be binding on the Church of Constantinople.

            The synod was called to address the fact that the Bulgarians had petitioned the Sultan to establish a Bulgarian eparchy on the same territory as Constantinople’s. The reason why the Bulgarians did this was because the Greeks were forcing them to use Greek (instead of Slavonic) in their services and because they were being frozen out of leadership in a supposedly “ecumenical” patriarchate.

            So, essentially, Greek bishops condemned Bulgarians because they were goring the Greek ox in response to the Greeks goring the Bulgarian ox. And they used particularly harsh terms to do so. The result, if taken seriously, would logically mean that the Church of Christ has disappeared from the earth. Which jurisdiction neither practices phyletism nor is in communion with a jurisdiction that practices phyletism? No canonical Orthodox church fits the bill. Thus, if we all practice heresy or are in communion with those who practice heresy, we are all heretics.

            Now, is phyletism a serious concern? Of course. Is the situation in the US and elsewhere uncanonical and deplorably so? Most certainly. Does this situation rise to the level of the great Christological controversies of the first millenium? Not in my opinion.

            You don’t need a Great Synod to solve the problem of contemporary phyletism. What you need is a willingness on the part of the “old world” patriarchates to recognize autocephalous churches in territories where there are overlapping jurisdictions or you need them to agree as to which one local church these territories will be allocated. This is more of a canonical question rather than a question that has direct Christological implications. In the abstract, everything has Christological implications.

          • Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim :


            I got a kick out of the Western comment : )

            I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist & I certainly don’t want get branded as a wacko, but this issue is something I have though a lot deal about & studied in great depth for several years now. I am familiar with the technical definition & origins of the term heresy & I also take it very seriously. Please see my comment (6.1) under “EP Fast Track? Homily of Met. Elpidophoros of Proussa at His Ordination” to understand just a small portion what I am referring to.

            I also attend a GOA parish & I do keel on Sundays despite the fact that there are ancient canons forbidding it. The canons did so preserve the jubilant character of Pascha because kneeling is a penitential act & Sundays are “mini-Paschas”. Of course, violating canons is not heresy. However, theological doctrines always have practical application, and the canons are the Church’s attempt to safeguard the practices which reflect the doctrines of the Church. Currently the canons related to ecclesiology are being violated to the extent that it is abundantly clear that the practices no longer reflect the Orthodox teaching of the Church. So what doctrines do they reflect? If they aren’t the apostolic doctrines then it really isn’t a stretch to call them what they are: heresy. Many today are literally choosing a very different ecclesiology than that of our Fathers.

            True, this issue is not Christology, Pneumotology or Trinitarian theology; nonetheless, when we recite the Creed, after professing our faith in each of the three persons of the Trinity, we proclaim our faith in the Church. As an object of our faith the Church also has its proper theological doctrines, i.e., ecclesiology. Thus, to say that this is primarily a canonical dilemma is a gross oversight of the doctrines that those canons reflect.

            I agree that Synod of Constantinople’s 1872 statement condemning phyletism (tribalism) as a heresy was not, as a Synod, truly representative of the whole Orthodox Church, but the concept has since been accepted by virtually all the autocephalous Churches (except the Patriarchate of Romania, see its Holy Synod’s statement from February 2010 All ecclesiastical politics of that day aside, the statement did reflect the apostolic teaching that the local Church is defined by territorial boundaries rather than ethnic ones, and who could argue with that?

            Virtually ALL the conflicts within the Orthodox Church today orbit around one or anther aspect of ecclesiology that has been distorted. While some of it is mere bad behavior on the part of some bishops stemming form pride & greed, most of it is the result of deviating, either wittingly or unwittingly – it doesn’t really matter, from the apostolic teaching of the Church in order so suit an agenda. Meanwhile, the Church’s witness & mission, Her very reason d’etre are compromised to the peril of many souls, and I that is something I take that very seriously.

            It is not my intend to be argumentative, but I do feel obligated to state my convictions. I am also more that willing to seriously consider any responses that oppose my views. That is the beauty of the AOI: civil, honest & informed discussion about relevant & contemporary issue affecting the Church.

          • Scott Pennington :


            Don’t worry, I don’t think you’re a “wacko”. Glad you enjoyed the “Western” comment. I stole that one off of Dominic Chianese from a Sopranos episode.

            The statement of the Romanian Patriarchate was lamentable except to the extent it also acted as a rejection of Constantinople’s canon 28 claims. There’s always a silver lining. They also lined up with the Slavs in the recent disintegration of the Chambesy talks. As of today, I don’t know of one local church not dominated by old world Greeks that accepts Constantinople’s position on the extent of its omophorion.

            “I agree that Synod of Constantinople’s 1872 statement condemning phyletism (tribalism) as a heresy was not, as a Synod, truly representative of the whole Orthodox Church, but the concept has since been accepted by virtually all the autocephalous Churches . . . [a]ll ecclesiastical politics of that day aside, the statement did reflect the apostolic teaching that the local Church is defined by territorial boundaries rather than ethnic ones, and who could argue with that?”

            If the concept had been accepted, as stated by that synod, by all the other Orthodox churches, they would not have overlapping jurisdictions based on ethnicity. Who willingly chooses self-admitted heresy? Yes, I agree that the synod reflected canon law and the apostolic teaching to the extent that it reaffirmed that territoriality is the criterion and ethnicity is not ( “. . . for there is neither Greek nor Jew . . . “). I do not believe, however, that a jurisdiction is heretical because it overlaps others for reasons of ethnicity. That is a step too far. It is important to be careful here. If phyletism is heresy, we are all heretics. That should disturb us because Christ Himself stated that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. If there are no Orthodox bishops left, then there is no Church. We are left to search for some schismatic quasi-Orthodox body that does not overlap with any other quasi-Orthodox body with which it is in communion. Otherwise the game’s over. How can heretics be reconciled to the Church if there is no longer an Orthodox episcopacy?

            I read your comment 6.1 under the piece about Met. Elpidophoros. I don’t dispute the basic idea you have that messing around with something as important as canonical order in the Church distorts many other aspects. However, heresy is too strong a term to use. In the informal sense, I can understand it. But in the formal sense, comparing phyletism to, say, Arianism or Iconoclasm, you ought to admit we’re talking about apples and oranges.

            I have to look at the situation as one that is truly deplorable, uncanonical, but not heretical. But look at it this way, if a patriarchate is not willing to recognize the Orthodox in a particular locality as a local autocephalous church, what will a Synod change? If they are willing to do so, why bother with a Synod? Synods debate the nature of Christ or the validity of iconodulia etc. There is no question of theology or even canon law to debate. Everyone acknowledges (with the possible exception of Romania, as you observed) that the current situation is uncanonical. The present questions are turf wars.

            Anyway, I respect your insight but must maintain that this issue of overlapping jurisdictions/autocephaly is not a “great theological controversy” which is the remark of mine to which you originally objected. The horse trading or, frankly, growing up that needs to be done by certain hierarchs would need to occur prior to a Great Synod if a resolution was to emerge. Autocephaly can be recognized by an Great Synod, and it has. However, to cut to the chase, if Pat. Bartholomew (or a subsequent Pat. of Constantinople) is willing to recognize the autocephaly of an American church, then there’s no need for a Synod. If he’s not, there’s no point. The only other possibility, besides the status quo, is autonomy under Constantinople, which is a non-starter for too many people to be a realistic resolution.

            The reason I think we should have a strong historical basis for having a Great Synod is that such a synod has great power. It can further define the faith, or it can descend into a Robber Council which could divide some from the Church. Why take that risk without a cause of appropriate gravity?

          • Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim :


            Please forgive the typos in my most last post. Yesterday evening I wrapped up a 9 day / 130 hour stretch of work, 100 of those hours being from 6PM to 8AM. Needless to say, one is not at the top of his game the day after a stint like that.

            While the word heresy literally means to choose, you certainly raise a good point about heresy being the choice to deviate from doctrine which an individual then openly promotes & defends rather than the choice to engage in deviant practices all the while claiming to adhere to the established beliefs. I suppose that if the individual or group actually does hold the apostolic doctrine that this scenario would more appropriately be called hypocrisy rather than heresy.

            There were many times in the history of the Church where deviation in practice served to alert others that their doctrine was corrupt thus revealing them to be heretics: Nestorius refusing to use the term Theotokos, which reflected his belief that Christ was not God, the iconoclasts refusing to venerated or even tolerate icons, which reflected their belief in dualism and the inferiority of matter thereby compromising the very doctrine of the Incarnation, just to offer two examples.

            Overlapping jurisdictions, while problematic, is only one of my many concerns about what is rapidly & shamelessly becoming neo-Orthodox ecclesiological practice, but still, I suppose you may be correct about it being a canonical rather than doctrinal issue (hypocrisy rather than heresy) because the people behind these schemes, often bishops, pays lip service to the Orthodox doctrine of the Church, but then turn around & act as though they did not believe a single word of what they professed because their actions undermine their claims & betray the Church’s teachings. This is unequivocal hypocrisy, and it has immensely harmful effects on the Church, both for those within as well as those without.

            I’ll think on this distinction some more. Thanks for offering your insights.

          • Geo Michalopulos :

            Scott, I agree. I was being sarcastic. I’ve been on record for quite some time now saying that I think a Council like this would end in apostasy and schism. There’s no need for one as there are no heresies roiling the church. The calendar dispute will be resolved internally by each church.

            Instead, I’ve also gone on record stating that instead of councils from now on, instead every autocephalous church can send an auxiliary bishop to attend a Chambesy conference every year just to see how each church is doing.

  3. I remember him as then Archbishop Spyridon’s spokesman.

  4. Fr. Mark, Can you help readers here answer the following questions?

    1)How is the Episcopal Assembly of the USA funded? How are expenses being paid for the next meeting and the ongoing operations of various committees?

    2)Are there any plans to broadcast the proceedings of the next Episcopal Assembly to the faithful much like the most recent visit of the Patriarch to the USA?

    3) If the majority of members of the Assembly vote in a manner that Archbishop Demterios disagrees with can he overrule the vote or issue the equivalent of a veto?

    4)How are issues voted on and accepted by the assembly? Simple majority? 2/3 majority? or something else?

    5)Does every hierarch who participates in the assembly receive one vote? What constitutes a quorum for the assembly conducting official business?

    6)Is the assembly prepared to support FOCUS North America as an EA approved organization? If no, why?

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      excellent questions Andrew. I have a feeling listening to Fr Mark’s speech that this thing is in the process of going out with a whimper.

  5. No one can serve two masters. The Assembly of Bishops is going to have to get someone not beholden to GOARCH (in itself at present a question of two masters, Abp. Demetrios and EP Bartholomew, as the vision of the two for North America are not the same: one has a vision and the other doesn’t).

  6. I would also like to point out another interesting question. With the sad passing of Metropolitan Nicholas and the naming of Archbishop Demetrios as locum tenens of the ACROD, the question arises as to whether or not the ACROD is disenfranchised from voting in the upcoming assembly as they technically have no bishop of their own at present who can participate as the newly departed Metropolitan was the only bishop. Archbishop Demetrios of course cannot vote twice -once for the GOA and once for the ACROD- as this would raise all types of questions and conflicts.

    The ACROD is part of the EP but it is not part of the GOA. Given the situation at hand, I hope the assembly will recognize the unique situation at hand and consider admitting a senior clergyman of the ACROD to the assembly with voting privileges until such time as a new ruling bishop is elected. I believe this would be a welcome precedent for the assembly to set as well as an action that would demonstrate good faith that the assembly recognizes the unique social and cultural needs of each of its member jurisdictions.

    • Was Met. Nicholas on the Executive Commitee of the Assembly of Bishops?

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Andrew, as I understand, all of the eparchies of Constantinople (GOA/ACROD/UKE) were accorded one vote total, not one vote each.

      • George, are their published guidelines for voting at the EA? If so where can I find them?

        • Geo Michalopulos :

          yeah, you can go to its website or GOARCH’s but I warn you, have some No-Doz on hand. Basically, we in the OCL got this last year in Feb from Fr Mark himself in which he stated that every eparchial church gets “one vote.” He fleshed this out further by saying that Istanbul which has most of the bishops (and he went on to state: GOA, ACROD, UKE, Albanian) gets only “one vote.” He contrasted this with the Bulgarian patriarchate, which has only one bishop, likewise gets “one vote.” That’s the understanding that I’m operating on.

          Of course, I’m sure that some flunky at the Phanar will dust off some obscure canon from the thirteenth century which will shed new “light” on this subject and then the Chambesy protocols will “have to be reconsidered in this new light,” or some such nonsense. In other words, whatever the Phanar wants tomorrow will be operative. “We are at war with EastAsia and have always been at war with EastAsia.”

    • Dean Calvert :

      Personally, I’ve always observed the similarity of the ACROD within the GOA and the ROEA within the OCA. Both are ethnic jurisdictions with an ethnicity different from the archdiocese which contains them; both operate as autonomous dioceses within a larger whole; both were left pretty much to “run their own show” from what i can see.

      I’ve always wondered what would happen once Metropolitan Nicholas passed from the scene, may his memory be eternal. It certainly raises at least the questions of voting at the EA. Of much more concern to me, if I were an ACROD member, would be, “Exactly who is selecting my new bishop?” and “do i have any input to this decision, or is it going to be done Greek-style (a la the GOA, where no election takes place in this country).

      I guess we are about to get the answers to these questions.

      best regards,

  7. Dean, you have some very good questions. Lets let this one unfold. However, I would like to point out that the entire Western PA culture of slavic Orthodoxy that grew so much in the early part of the 20th century is on life support. Demographics are destiny and the economy and culture that built many of these Western PA, Ohio, and NJ parishes is gone. The ACROD has to face this question as do the UOC and the OCA. You can’t run parishes on nostalgia.

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