Greek Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Church in the USA

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Greek Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Church in the USA1

V. Rev. Archimandrite Elpidophoros Lambriniadis
Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Venerable Hierarchs, Rev. Dr. John Behr, Dean, Reverend Clergy, Brothers and Sisters,

It is a particular privilege and pleasure to be among you today, in the academic halls of St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, this nursery of theological letters and priestly vocation, which has been grounded in the Russian spirituality and intellectual thought of such great theologians and ministers of the church as the fathers George Florovsky, Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff.

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the successors of these extraordinary theologians for the invitation extended to me to participate in this distinguished scholarly Symposium in order to enjoy the opportunity to convey to all of you the paternal greetings and Patriarchal blessings of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Primate of the Great Church of Christ, the Mother Church of Constantinople.

[I regret that, owing to the last session of the Holy and Sacred Synod, my arrival was delayed and consequently did not permit me to attend the two extremely interesting presentations by Dr. Timothy Clark and Dr. George Lewis Parsenios.]

The topic that I have been asked to address today: “Greek Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Church in the USA.” Beginning with the content and historical development of the phrase “Greek Orthodoxy,” I will endeavor to explore its relationship to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in order, finally, on this basis, to interpret the perception of the Church of Constantinople with regard to the ecclesiastical situation in the United States and present its vision for the future of Orthodoxy in this land.

From its very foundation on this earth by our Lord Jesus Christ, but especially from the outset of its organization by the local Bishops, the Church of Christ was profoundly – and quite naturally – influenced by the political, administrative and cultural context of the Roman Empire, which was in turn characterized as an empire by syncretism, multiethnicism and multiculturism as well as uniformity of law, government, language, currency, and so forth. From the moment that Christianity was first registered as recognized and tolerated after the period of persecution and thereafter as formal religion of the empire, the very identity of the Church was directly affected, while in turn affecting the identity of the Roman citizen. I will discuss neither the degree to which Divine Providence in this way prepared the political and cultural historical context for the extension and establishment of the Church of Christ, nor the scope to which the multiethnic and multicultural identity of the empire facilitated a Christianity that was based on the same external elements.

Nevertheless, I would like to draw your attention to the concept and content of the Roman citizen (or inhabitant of the Roman Empire), especially from the time that he or she began to sense the Christian faith as a characteristic feature of identity.

The Roman Christian could – at least ethnically – belong to any race and have any native language. Yet, in spite of this, the Roman Christian would be a faithful under the one Bishop of a particular city that served as either temporary or permanent residence, just as he or she would be subjected to the Roman administrator or governor of the region. The identity of the Roman Christian as citizen of the Kingdom of God bore – analogically speaking – the same characteristics of identity enjoyed by every citizen of the Roman Empire, irrespective of race, language or origin.

The same applied to one’s identity within the Church of the Roman Empire: namely, the basis and criterion of organization was always geographical, with one bishop elected for every city, to whom all inhabitants of the region were submitted without any discrimination (linguistic or other), in accordance with the Apostolic instruction: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3.28)

On the basis of the same principle, the Orthodox Churches today are called “Church of Alexandria,” “Church of Antioch,” “Church of Jerusalem,” “Church of Russia,” and so on – that is to say, they are defined geographically. In this respect, it is both untraditional and uncanonical from an ecclesiastical perspective for the Patriarchates to be named “Russian,” “Serbian,” “Romanian,” “Bulgarian,” or “Georgian,” or for their Patriarchs to be addressed as “Patriarch of the Russians,” “of the Serbs,” “of the Romanians,” “of the Bulgarians,” or “of the Georgians.” For these characterizations introduce – not only in the Diaspora, but also in the local Orthodox Churches – a criterion of ethnophyletism, thereby dividing the flock of the local Bishop on the basis of ethnic origin and allowing the possibility of infringement into another eparchy or jurisdiction. This applies to both realities, in local Churches and in Diaspora, since the sacred Canons cannot have selective or circumstantial but universal application.

This experience and teaching of the Church was also confirmed by the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, which codified and recorded in a binding manner for all of Christianity not only the “faith once delivered” together with its doctrine, but also the principles of administration and organization. I would remind you that the Ecumenical Councils did not dogmatize ex nihilo; nor did they impose definitions and conditions of ecclesiastical organization that hitherto did not exist. Both in matters of faith and in matters of administration, they codified the Apostolic teaching, the Church experience and the Patristic tradition. There is no reason here to expand on the well-substantiated refutation of the erroneous distinction of sacred Canons into doctrinal (and therefore not conducive to revision) and administrative (and hence susceptible to modification).

Resuming the analysis of the terminology, I would call to mind the fact that the Church within the Roman Empire – that which Western historians in the 18th century labeled as Byzantine – was in fact originally called Roman, particularly when schismatic and heretical ecclesiastical structures appeared and required some form of distinction from a terminological perspective. This was especially evident and instituted in the Orthodox east after the Schism of 1054 and, in particular, with the prevalence of the Ottoman over the Eastern Roman Empire.

Henceforth, the non-Christian Sultan ratified and formally instituted the phrase “Roman Nation” (Rum Milleti), which included all Christian Orthodox inhabitants of the occupied empire. For the Sultan, just as for his predecessor the Roman Empire, there were no distinctions according to race, but only according to religion and confession. This is precisely why the populations that embraced Islam were not called “Roman Muslims” but Turks. Those who converted to Islam became Turkish – that is to say, they changed identity.

Therefore, the Ottoman Empire adopted and respected the existing ecclesiastical terminology, according to which the conquered Roman Christian was not distinguished on the basis of linguistic or ethnic origin, but on the basis of his or her identity as a member of the Church.

In this respect, in the eastern languages (namely, Greek, Turkish, and Arabic), the Patriarchates (the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well as those of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) were characterized as “Rum (or Roman) Orthodox” in contradistinction to “Rum (or Roman) Catholic” or the Armenian and Syrian Churches.

Problems arose when, with the rise of nationalism in the Balkans (19th century), the term “Rum” was translated as “Greek” in order also to determine the principle of reorganization and independence of the various Orthodox peoples from an ecclesiastical viewpoint. Meanwhile, of course, the Greek Nation had been established and every concept of Hellenism was understood in nationalistic terms, thereby attributing an entirely different content to the original term “Rum.”

Without further expanding, I would summarize as follows: The source of the phrase “Greek Orthodoxy” has in our day assumed an ethnic sense, which however distorts reality. The phrase “Greek Orthodoxy” or “Rum Orthodox” is more accurately rendered in English as “Roman Orthodox.” Just as the phrase “Roman Catholic” cannot be translated as “Italian Catholic,” so too the term “Rum” or “Roman” when referring to Orthodox Christians should not be translated as “Greek Orthodox” in a way that conveys an ethnic content to a purely ecclesiastical terminology.

The original sense of the term is even preserved in the Uniate Churches, which unfortunately bear the inappropriate title “Greek Catholic.” For their members are certainly not Greeks, but Uniates subjected to the Pope and adhering to the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) rite.

Another characteristic fact is that all the Slavic peoples – at least in the period preceding the rise of nationalism – had no problem whatsoever in being called “Rum Orthodox” and being under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which – we should not forget – never endeavored to Hellenize them, since this was contrary to its principles and very identity as Ecumenical. Indeed, there was no attempt to Hellenize the Slavs even during the period of their Christianization. On the contrary, their language was enhanced – essentially engendered – with the creation of a specific alphabet and the consolidation of a cultural identity.

It is not by chance that the Church of Russia from the 18th century until the October Revolution had no difficulty being called “Greek-Russian,”2 while even your own Church here in the United States was, until 1971, called “Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America.”3

Thus, since I believe that we have together established sufficient evidence that the phrase “Greek Orthodox” – at least in reference to the Patriarchates of the East – is not an accurate rendering of their actual reality, we may better interpret contemporary developments in Diaspora as well as within the Patriarchates themselves.

Ever since the creation of the independent Greek State, which terminologically was also identified with the Patriarchates of the East, all of these Churches underwent a period of crisis of identity.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate granted Autocephaly to the Churches of Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Poland, Albania, as well as the Czech Lands and Slovakia (19th-20th centuries); moreover, following the destruction of Asia Minor, with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne and the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, it lost almost all of its flock remaining within Turkey.

The Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem also underwent a period of crisis of identity inasmuch as their Greekness risked being identified with the fate of the Greek Nation and the politics of the Republic of Greece. Moreover, having been reduced to a state organ following the dissolution of the Patriarchate by Peter the Great, the Church of Russia was compromised with the Pan-Slavist direction of the Russian State’s foreign policy after the 19th century because the latter provided the possibility of promoting its own interests with the full support of the State. Thus, with the formation of the Palestinian Society on May 28, 1882, which intended to offer assistance for Russian pilgrims, it also became an instrument of Czarist interests in the Middle East, while at the same time advocating its interests in this sensitive region.

The Patriarchate of Alexandria directed its attention to missionary activity among the peoples of Africa. After evolving and establishing an organized mission, in 2001, it officially sought from the Ecumenical Patriarchate the concession of jurisdiction over the entire continent. From that time, the phrase “And of All Africa” was added to the title of the Patriarch of Alexandria, whereas hitherto he was only known as “And of All Egypt.”

Nationalism encroached upon the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose Palestinian faithful could not readily understand why their Church bore the title “Rum (improperly rendered as ‘Greek’) Orthodox”, while they communicated in Arabic and enjoyed an Arabic conscience. Nevertheless, through prudent and pastoral sensitivity to the needs of its Palestinian flock, it managed to confront the various nationalistic predicaments that appeared from time to time.

I feel that this outline was necessary in order to appreciate the contemporary situation of the Orthodox Church in the United States as well as the approach of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

For the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not ethnic in the modern sense of the term. It is the continuation of the traditional and patristic expression of Christianity, as this was organically shaped in the historical context of a non-ethnic, ecumenical Empire and as this was recorded and codified in the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils.

The Ecumenical Councils recorded the original Christian and Apostolic understanding regarding the organization of Church life purely on the basis of geographical criteria and not any linguistic or ethnic origin. The jurisdiction of each Church was accurately described and defined in their decisions, while the holy and inspired Fathers knew very well that certain regions existed outside the boundaries of the Roman world and outside the then-known “oecumene,” which they labeled with the term “barbarian.” The pastoral responsibility for these regions was assigned to the Ecumenical Patriarch.

The geographical jurisdictions of the Churches and Patriarchates that were created later – that is to say, after the Ecumenical Councils – were also accurately described and defined by the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos’ issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, assuring and expressing the Pan-Orthodox conscience and consent.

It has been sufficiently proven by scholarship that the Church of Russia developed missionary activity in Alaska from the 18th century, when this region comprised a Russian territory, just as other imperial Churches of the time pursued in their colonies.

The canonical question that arises is the following: Does the territorial expansion of a state comprise a self-evident extension of the jurisdiction of that Church in that particular region? And by analogy: Does the development of missionary activity in a geographical region outside a particular jurisdiction at the same time imply a claim by that jurisdiction?

The preaching of God’s word and the spread of Christ’s Gospel are clearly praiseworthy, while the saintly and sacrificial ministry of the early missionaries is universally admired and respected, however, the geographical jurisdiction of the Church of Russia is plainly defined in its Tomos of Autocephaly received from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The argument that it was first to evangelize a portion of the American continent is neither ecclesiological nor canonical, expressing instead a mentality of colonialism. At this point, we could also cite the examples of Russian missionary activity in China and Japan, lands where the Church of Russia claims as its canonical territory. The proper response to similar circumstances, as we have already observed, is that of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which requested and officially received jurisdiction over the entire African continent.

The later development of Orthodox Christianity in the United States around the end of the 19th and during the 20th centuries bears all the characteristics of the Orthodox Diaspora throughout the world: Accordingly, Orthodox Christians organized themselves ecclesiastically on the basis primarily of ethnicity and their Churches of origin.

Consequently, it is not fair to claim that “this unity was broken and then arbitrarily replaced with the unheard-of principle of ‘jurisdictional multiplicity.’”4

The ancient Patriarchates respected the 28th Canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate over regions outside the geographical boundaries of the Orthodox Churches. The only exception, unfortunately, was the Patriarchate of Antioch, which, in the confusion created toward the end of the 19th century with the otherwise correct rendering and accurate content of the phrase “Rum Orthodox Patriarchate,” was misled by the rise of Arab nationalism, making unconventional ecclesiological choices in order to survive at the time in an environment recognized for its dangerously intensifying anti-Western mentality, at least from a geo-political perspective.

The ongoing presence of the Church of Russia in the United States was deeply influenced by the ramifications of the October Revolution of 1917 and the establishment in Russia of an atheist state. Communication with the troubled Patriarchate of Moscow became ever difficult, while dependence on it was regarded with suspicion and increasing reservation, criticized for cooperation with the atheistic state. The Cold War between the two superpowers later contributed to this attitude, rendering any ecclesiastical subjection to Moscow inconceivable for American citizens.5 Already in 1924, as you well know, the decision was made for the “temporarily self-governing” of the presence of the Church of Russia in the United States.6 Moscow questioned its canonicity,7 while here the Patriarch of Moscow was commemorated as its ecclesiastical head by way of formality.8 We cannot overlook the fact that, in 1946, there was an attempt – albeit in vain – to subject the Church here to the then Patriarch of Moscow Alexei I.9 A similar effort again occurred in 1966, when Metropolitan Irinei communicated with all the Orthodox Primates.10

The events that led to granting of “autocephaly” to the Metropolia, which the Patriarchate of Moscow had renamed only in 1970 from “Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America” to “Orthodox Church of America,” are well known.11

Beyond the issue concerning the canonicity of this “autocephaly” (which it is not by chance that only the Churches of Soviet influence recognized),12 the following questions arise:

  • Was the pursuit of regional independence by the Metropolia from the Church of Moscow exclusively and solely dictated by ideological reasons as well as by ecclesiological principles regarding the local nature of the Church? Or was it an inevitable choice and need to divest itself of any suspicion that it is spiritually subjected to and directed by a State Church, which was considered the primary threat against the United States?13
  • Are the words of Fr. John Meyendorff verified today, forty years later, that: “the criticisms which [autocephaly] encountered were provoked not by any canonical or ecclesiological considerations, but by the fear that the ‘phyletistic’ (or ethnocentric) structure of the existing ‘jurisdictions’ would henceforth be decisively challenged by a canonical and healthy American Church, which, at the same time, would be fully open to the preservation of all valid national customs and traditions of the various Orthodox immigrant groups”?14

The efforts by the OCA to establish in the United States a concept and reality of the local Church are welcome and admirable. As we noted earlier, this is also the vision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Yet, I wonder whether a jurisdiction can claim locality, when in fact it comprises a minority, when it overlooks all the other Churches.

In reading the Encyclical of the OCA Hierarchy, whereby in 1970 the granting of “autocephaly” was officially proclaimed, I discerned a threefold goal at the time:

  • “The task of uniting all the Orthodox Christians of America into one Church.”
  • “The task of witnessing freely to the true Christian faith in the whole world.” And:
  • “The task of growing spiritually from strength to strength, through the prayers of the holy Father Herman of Alaska.”

Once again, I wonder whether, today, after forty years, we could readily admit success in any of these three goals. The first goal has clearly not been achieved. With regard to the other two goals, I would simply pose the following two questions:

  • Was the granting of an autocephaly necessary to meet these two goals? Did not precisely the same possibilities exist prior to the granting of this “autocephaly”? And, related to this:
  • Were the other Orthodox Churches in the United States in any way deprived in these areas of “witnessing freely” and “growing spiritually from strength to strength” by not having the status of autocephaly?

Summarizing my humble reflections on the granting of “autocephaly,” permit me to say that it appears that, no matter how good intentions may be in the Church, the violation of the sacred Canons never produce positive results. The consequences of uncanonical actions must be addressed sooner or later, as we recently (2009) witnessed in the decisions of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held in Chambésy (Geneva). That is to say, while the OCA commenced with all the praiseworthy optimism of uniting all the Orthodox in the USA and establishing a conscience regarding the geographical nature of the Church, today it comprises a hindrance and problem to be resolved inasmuch as it is not a Church recognized by all Orthodox. This is because, in accordance with Article 1 of the “Rules of Operation for Episcopal Assemblies in the Orthodox Diaspora,” approved by the Pan-Orthodox Conference, states: “All Orthodox Bishops of each region, from those regions defined by the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, who are in canonical communion with all the local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, form each Episcopal Assembly.” Moreover, in its Decision 2c) regarding “The Orthodox Diaspora,” the same Conference declared that “Decisions on these subjects will be taken by consensus of the Churches who are represented in the particular Assembly.”

The Ecumenical Patriarchate organized its own jurisdictional presence in the United States following the migration there of faithful from the regions of Thrace, Pontus and Asia Minor after the great destruction. This was a natural historical development with a specific historical significance. Therefore, it founded the “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America”, without implying that this was created solely for Greeks. Proof of this lies in the fact that the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate includes Albanians, Ukrainians, Carpatho-Russians and Palestinians, without any of these ever feeling that they have as a result been either Hellenized or in any way slighted. The very founder of the Holy Archdiocese, Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios (Metaxakis) spoke in his enthronement address about the pastoral concern for all Orthodox Christians in the Diaspora, making particular reference to the faithful in the United States.15 The same Patriarch not only resists any distinction between faithful according to ethnic origin, but also refers to the decisions of the Great Council of Constantinople in 1872, which condemned ethnophyletism. It is important to recall that this Council proclaimed as heretics all those who established “separate altar” and created “their own ethnic faction” – namely, on the basis of exclusively ethnic criteria, which were deemed “contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the sacred Canons of our blessed Fathers.”16

This jurisdictional dependence of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese thus constituted no impediment for its spiritual and administrative progress. Or, at the very least, one cannot claim that the Archdiocese is in any way lacking in anything or in any field by comparison with the “autocephalous” OCA. On the contrary, without ceasing to be direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its experience and development have materialized the vision of the late Prof. Anton Vladimirovich Kartashoff concerning the restoration “of sobornost (i.e., the responsible participation of the entire people of God, clergy as well as laity, in the life of the Church) from the top to the bottom…”17

The Ecumenical Patriarchate has always responded with prudence and understanding to the various historical challenges presented by the OCA. When the latter was confronted with controversy regarding its canonicity in relation to the Church of Russia during the Soviet era, the Ecumenical Patriarchate maintained constructive cooperation and communion. Even when, despite every concept of canonical order, it was granted “autocephaly,” the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarded this more as a settlement of a pendency with the Patriarchate of Moscow and manifested sensitivity by practicing canonical economia and not rupturing communion with it, continuing to concelebrate with its Hierarchs. I do not wish here to expound upon the arguments of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the subject; after all, these are well known and documented. However, I consider it my obligation to underline our common visions and common principles, which are often undermined and overlooked in jurisdictional juxtaposition, which usually monopolizes our relations. In this respect, I would like to remind you of the words of the late Metropolitan Irinei, who in his Christmas Encyclical to the Orthodox Patriarchs in 1966, stated that: “… unity can be reached only through an agreement between all the national churches,”18 and consequently not by means of unilateral actions of dubious canonicity.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate did not come to this land as an ethnic Church in order to establish an ethnic jurisdiction. This would have been incompatible with both its ecclesiological principles and its very identity, but also with its long history. The Archdiocese is “Greek” in the sense analyzed at the outset of my address, without this signifying the abolition or oppression of the ethnic origin, language and culture of the faithful that comprise its jurisdiction, whether these are Greeks or not. And I believe that we are all in agreement on this.19

When speaking about the Greek Archdiocese in America, it should be underlined that one encounters parishes where Greek is the liturgical language primarily used and others where there is an equal emphasis on Greek and English, while still others that adopt either mostly or only English. In other words, therefore, while one may have an initial impression of the heavy Greek influence in the Church, the truth is that this is simply not the case.

Nevertheless, I would dare to advance the following argument as well: The Greek language itself became a “victim” of the prevailing nationalism, serving even in the United States as an instrument of the notion of independence from the “Mother Churches.” This, too, is surely regretful inasmuch as Greek is not merely an ethnic language, but the language of the Gospel, of the definitions and decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, of exceptional and influential representatives of the Patristic tradition, as well as of the original texts of liturgical sources in the Orthodox Church.

Finally, I wonder why it is that the Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate cannot constitute the expression of the entire, united Orthodox presence in the USA simply because it bears the title “Greek”, while the same claim is made by the OCA despite officially bearing until 1970 the title “Russian” (and “Greek”) and being administered until recently by Hierarchs of Russian descent.20

In this regard, then, “Greekness” did not constitute any impediment for our faithful becoming genuine Americans, devoted citizens of the United States and willing supporters of its interests.

Moreover, the hesitation of some to accept the term “Diaspora,” which by definition includes an element of temporariness, is comprehensible and perhaps justifiable. Of course, for the greater majority of Orthodox faithful in the United States – and beyond – the element of temporariness with regard to their existence in these regions constitutes an anachronism. Nevertheless, we are obliged to realize that, in speaking of “Diaspora,” we are not referring simply to people that have been “dispersed” but, above all today, to the geographical region where the “Diaspora” has occurred. In this sense, then, it is neither a pejorative nor anachronistic to make reference to the particularity of a geographical region with a specific terminology from an ecclesiastical perspective. I do not believe that anyone would refuse to accept that the pastoral concern of regions outside the geographical boundaries of the local Churches is a matter that today preoccupies the entire Orthodox Church and must at the very least be claimed and named in order to be evaluated and resolved. Those formerly dispersed are today native, established Christians, who have spread roots and borne fruits in this land.

In and of itself, the American dream which you rightly invoke does not presuppose the erasure of historical memory and culture of the people that comprise it, but promotes their creative synthesis in the remarkable mosaic called the United States of America. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” says the American Declaration of Independence. And former US President Jimmy Carter adds: “We become not a melting pot, but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”21 President Carter’s words echo Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey: “Fortunately, the time has long passed when people liked to regard the United States as some kind of melting pot, taking men and women from every part of the world and converting them into standardized, homogenized Americans. We are, I think, much more mature and wise today. Just as we welcome a world of diversity, so we glory in an America of diversity – an America all the richer for the many different and distinctive strands of which it is woven.”22

In concluding my presentation to you, I would like to state that uncanonical actions and developments – even when dictated by historical necessity – do not constitute correct choices because they will always return to haunt and hinder our journey for Pan-Orthodox unity and witness. Thus, the decisions of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference provide an historical opportunity for Orthodoxy and for America to transcend the competitive mentality of the past and see that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is governed by the same trans-ethnic principles as the OCA and the USA. Respect for the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, as well as for the nurturing Orthodox tradition and faith, and relating this faith to our contemporary life constitutes the only sure way toward unity and progress in Christ.

In his address to the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, who convened at the Phanar in October 2008, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew boldly declared:

We have been deigned by our Lord to belong to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose faithful continuation and expression in History is our Holy Orthodox Church. We have received and preserved the true faith, as the holy Fathers have transmitted it to us through the Ecumenical Councils of the one undivided Church. We commune of the same Body and Blood of our Lord in the Divine Eucharist, and we participate in the same Sacred Mysteries. We basically keep the same liturgical typikon and are governed by the same Sacred Canons. All these safeguard our unity, granting us fundamental presuppositions for witness in the modern world.

Despite this, we must admit in all honesty that sometimes we present an image of incomplete unity, as if we were not one Church, but rather a confederation or a federation of churches. … Of course, the response commonly proffered to this question is that, despite administrational division Orthodoxy remains united in faith, the Sacraments, etc. But is this sufficient? When before non-Orthodox we sometimes appear divided in theological dialogues and elsewhere; when we are unable to proceed to the realization of the long-heralded Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church; when we lack a unified voice on contemporary issues and, instead, convoke bilateral dialogues with non-Orthodox on these issues; when we fail to constitute a single Orthodox Church in the so-called Diaspora in accordance with the ecclesiological and canonical principles of our Church; how can we avoid the image of division in Orthodoxy, especially on the basis of non-theological, secular criteria?

We need, then, greater unity in order to appear to those outside not as a federation of Churches but as one unified Church. Through the centuries, and especially after the Schism, when the Church of Rome ceased to be in communion with the Orthodox, this Throne was called – according to canonical order – to serve the unity of the Orthodox Church as its first Throne. And it fulfilled this responsibility through the ages by convoking an entire series of Panorthodox Councils on crucial ecclesiastical matters, always prepared, whenever duly approached, to render its assistance and support to troubled Orthodox Churches. In this way, a canonical order was created and, accordingly, the coordinating role of this Patriarchate guaranteed the unity of the Orthodox Church, without in the least damaging or diminishing the independence of the local autocephalous Churches by any interference in their internal affairs. This, in any case, is the healthy significance of the institution of autocephaly: while it assures the self-governance of each Church with regard to its internal life and organization, on matters affecting the entire Orthodox Church and its relations with those outside, each autocephalous Church does not act alone but in coordination with the rest of the Orthodox Churches. If this coordination either disappears or diminishes, then autocephaly becomes “autocephalism” (or radical independence), namely a factor of division rather than unity for the Orthodox Church.

Therefore, dearly beloved brothers in the Lord, we are called to contribute in every possible way to the unity of the Orthodox Church, transcending every temptation of regionalism or nationalism so that we may act as a unified Church, as one canonically structured body. We do not, as during Byzantine times, have at our disposal a state factor that guaranteed – and sometimes even imposed – our unity. Nor does our ecclesiology permit any centralized authority that is able to impose unity from above. Our unity depends on our conscience. The sense of need and duty that we constitute a single canonical structure and body, one Church, is sufficient to guarantee our unity, without any external intervention.

Thank you for your attention.


1 Lecture during the Summer Seminar at St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, New York, June 12, 2010.

3 Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 259.
4 Alexander Schmemann, “To love is to remember,” in: Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 12. See also p. 188.
5 See the Christmas Encyclical of Metropolitan Irinei to the Orthodox Patriarchs (1966): “Even when the political relations between the two states are normal and friendly, the Church which is under the authority of a foreign leadership is suspected of being ‘alien’. What can be said then about our situation, when the relations between the two political giants of our era, the Soviet Union and the United States of America, continue to be grounded in mutual distrust and competition?” in: Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 269.
6 During the 4th All American Church Sobor held in Detroit (March 20-April 2, 1924). See Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 184.
7 “… the Metropolia not only had no support from its Mother Church but was denounced by the latter as “schismatic” and deprived of canonical basis,” in: Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 184.
8 Op. cit., p. 185.
9 Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 201.
10 Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, pp. 267-69.
11 This is mentioned in the same telegram dated April 13, 1970, from Patriarch Alexei to Metropolitan Irinei, where the granting of “autocephaly” is announced. See Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 264.
12 Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 201.
13 See the opinion: “The Metropolia always experienced its separation from the Mother Church as forced upon it by events beyond its control, always looked forward with hope to the day of reunion and restoration of normal relations,” in: Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 261.
14 The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America, in: America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 244.
15 “We should also make explicit reference to the administration of the Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora … where the Great Church of Christ is canonically obliged to take swift precautions for the appearance of the Orthodox Church even in the Diaspora, maintaining inviolable the canonical order, which the great Council that convened in Constantinople 50 years ago proclaimed to be essential for the preservation of spiritual unity in the bond of peace. I have, in any case, personally witnessed the far greater majority of the Orthodox Church in the Diaspora, and I have personally experienced the degree to which the name of Orthodoxy will be elevated, especially the great United States of America, if the over two million Orthodox faithful are organized into one, united Church administration as an American Orthodox Church,” In: Ekklisiastiki Alitheia Konstantinoupoleos, XL, 4, January 29, 1922, p. 30.
16 See A. Nanakis (Metropolitan of Arkalochorion), “The Ecumenical Patriarchate: From the Condemnation of Ethnophyletism (1872) to the Macedonian Struggle,” [In Greek] in Apostolos Titos, III, 3, December 2005, pp. 91-2.
17 Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 261.
18 Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 268.
19 See Message to All Orthodox Christians in America, 1970: “We firmly believe that this variety constitutes the richness of American Orthodoxy and that whatever is true, noble, inspiring and Christian in our various customs and practices ought to be fully preserved and, if possible, shared. Therefore, although we insist that the One Orthodox Church here must be the home of all, we equally stress that there must be no loss of our respective national and cultural heritages and certainly no domination of any group by any other but full equality, total trust and truly Christian brotherhood.” Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 277.
20 See expressions such as “… Russian leadership of the North American Church…” In: Orthodox America, 1794-1976, Development of the Orthodox Church in America, New York 1976, p. 191. Archbishop Eftym expressed the same in 1927: See The Orthodox Catholic Review, I, 4-5, April-May, 1927: “For a hundred years the Russian leadership and control over Orthodoxy in America was unquestioned….” Such expressions are in agreement with the viewpoint of Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow (1905): “In North America a whole Exarchate can easily be established, uniting all Orthodox national churches, which would have their own bishops under one Exarch, the Russian Archbishop». In: Orthodox America, p. 268. Of course, in an Encyclical dated September 1969 on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of Orthodox presence in America, Metropolitan Irinei states that the Metropolia “was never Russian in the narrow meaning of the word: everyone who confessed Holy Orthodoxy … was received with love in its boundaries.” In: Orthodox America, p. 297. These words reflect the genuine Orthodox conscience of an Orthodox Hierarch, who maintains a geographical principle and not an ethnic criterion. The question that arises, however, is: Why is this possibility not recognized for the Hierarch representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who is in any case granted this right by the Ecumenical Councils?
21 39th President of the United States of America (1977-1981)
22 38th Vice President of the United States of America (1965-1969) and US Senator of Minnesota (1949-1964 and 1971-1978).


  1. If the GOA is not a reference to a nationality or ethnicity – then why is the Greek National Anthem played BEFORE the American National Anthem at the Clergy Laity Congress IN AMERICA? Why is it played at all?

    I applaud Fr. E’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, but if what he claims about the GOA were really true, we would never, EVER have the situation we have today.

    The proof?

    The CLC is coming up next month. What National Anthem will play first?

    If it’s the Greek one (if they play it at all, actually), then Fr. Elpidophoros is, sadly, proven by the GOA itself, to be a liar.

    Time will tell in less than a month.

    Your witness.

    • OH, it is worse than that: notice that the GOA has Greek Flags. Greece has its own Church, the Church of Greece. Supposedly Meletios transfered authority “back” to the Phamar from there.

      Why don’t they have the Turkish flag? with all this scrabmle of late to get Turkish citizenship? Why don’t they play the Turkish national anthem?

  2. Fr. Peter Dubinin :

    So, we are not to focus on the “Greek” but rather understand “hellenism.” Revisited what I think is a pretty good piece by Constantelos reference hellenism and Christianity –; and if those who claim to be guardians of the hellenic tradition actually lived by it, perhaps some of us wouldn’t have such heartburn with the EP exercising a more direct leadership on the ecclesial situation in America. As it is right now, enough torchbearers of hellensim at present detract from the beauty that is hellenism and the light it has been and could continue to be in this present darkness in which we live by continually reminding us it was a tradtion into which they were born but a tradition into which the rest of us were grafted. Sounds very much like the Jews confronting our Lord with, we have Moses for our father, but as for this Jesus we do not know where he is from. A more fitting posture for the “champions” of hellensim would be to come alongside in humility to work together to a just resolution of the present confusion rather than to call down thunderbolts upon us mere mortals as if they were the ancient gods of old gathered on mount olympus; by not even allowing any representation at Chambessy from the North American Church and then treating those who have taken the lead in bringing the light of Christ to North America as red-headed stepchildren, the EP will reap the fruit of discord, murmurring and at best, begrudging compliance.

  3. Fr. David Hudson :

    As a convert and former missionary, I am comfortable with the concept of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Orthodox unity, under whatever canonical aegis.

    However, in the emerging unity, there needs to be a strong, clear place for Americans to become/to be Orthodox without adopting a foreign culture and identity, or worse, feeling like stepchildren.

    I was converted in Romania and am comfortable in the Romanian milieu. Where I get alienated is where I am expected as an Orthodox priest to represent Romanianness or Romanianism. Romania had a mission to me in offering me the chance to become Orthodox; my mission is to offer others not Romania, but Orthodoxy. While still endeavoring to be all things to all men, for the sake of the Gospel. And still holding a special place in my heart for all things Romanian. But I am not the average or typical American in that sense.

    When I step into the average Greek Orthodox Church, I still feel alienated culturally, even though I totally respect that such a parish may be a legitimate spiritual/cultural/social home for most of its members–thus, it also has the right to exist. But it is not what I need, and not what most of my neighbors, relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintences need.

    May the Ecumenical Patriarchate indeed bring us back to a multi-cultural church, where language and ethnicity don’t distinguish or divide us!

  4. I see little new here, sadly, except the following:

    –Alexandria in 2001 submitted to Constantinople with regard to Africa, about which I thought agreement had somehow been reached in 1926 under the aegis of Alex.’s then Patriarch MELETIOS (Metaxakis)? Cf. Wikepedia and other sources.

    –”[Constantinople’s] vision for the future of Orthodoxy in this land” is “that the [Greek] Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate … constitute the expression of the entire, united Orthodox presence in the USA”?

    –Father Elpidophoros claims C’ople didn’t break Communion with the OCA, while I’m pretty sure it did from 1970-90, which IIUC was basically what brought SCOBA grinding to a halt for that generation?

    He also continues the denial of the attempted Hellenization of Balkan non-Hellenes post-conversion (and their exclusion from the ranks of senior clergy/hierarchy), the denial apparently common in some quarters that the OCA is in Communion today with the entire known Orthodox Church (even the GOA’s Q&A personnel affirm Communion with the OCA), the denial of the EP’s and GOA’s fundamental, intentional Hellenicness (sic); the confusion that the Ukrainian, Carpatho-Russian, and Albanian Churches of the EP here are part of the GOA (perhaps trying to play off the OCA’s actual 3 “ethnic dioceses”?); the assertion that Canon 28 of the IV Ecumenical Synod trumps all outward-looking Evangelization not “under” C’ople (Who’s “colonialist”?!); denial of the resurrection of, or the increase of, “Hellenism” even within Byzantium from the High Middle Ages and not just “the Kingdom of the Hellenes” from the 1800s; and conflation of the Metropolia’s assertion of temporary self-governance in the 1920s, with Autocephaly. And with all his research, he missed the two different Russian-language words, both translated into English as the word “Russian,” one denoting the ethnics, the other, the state or pan-ethnic society therein (and only thus The Church there also)?

    His argument about “Greek” vs. “Rum/Roman/Roum” is certainly correct as far as it goes. But still, “if it looks like a duck, walks (or dances) like a duck, and talks like a duck,” and furthermore rarely tells anyone why it’s not a duck, can’t everyone — including the duck’s children and grandchildren — be forgiven for thinking it’s a duck?! (I’m not Greek-bashing here; it’s my jurisdiction at present. But I for one favor the Pan-Ethnic multiethnic “Roman” ideal for us all.)

    If “the EP is not ethnic,” does it evangelize non-Hellenes in Turkey? I understand bitterness toward the oppressor: My Celtic ancestors wanted to withhold the Gospel from the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, hoping they’d go to hell; St. Gregory the Great, the Dialogist, thought differently. But there are non-Turks in Turkey they could evangelize at least….

    ISTM C’ople will continue to be a source of mischief and divisiveness like this until an Orthodox Ecumenical Synod rules whether C’ople evangelized and issued tomoi (sp?) regarding Russia and the Balkan Churches as their neighboring and mission-sending Church, or as “in the East what the Pope [of Old Rome] is [ie, became] universally” (to quote recent “ecumenical” language), ie, apparently, an Archpatriarch or something. Or more to the point of the current discussion, when an Ecu. Synod rules what Canon 28 meant, and what if anything it means today; C’ople knows that’s a Conciliar argument it won’t win without Divine intervention (I mean that most literally). Africa? I know of no precedent for Constantinopolitan involvement in Africa; Russian neither; I’ve never heard that either has sent or governed missionaries there. In fact, weren’t the African Orthodox evangelized from New York City by an African-American group of the same name?! 😉

    It’s true what Father says, how “it is not fair to claim that ‘this unity was broken and then arbitrarily replaced with the unheard-of principle of “jurisdictional multiplicity,”‘” but only in a blanket, or more than de facto, sense. IIUC as the MP’s Archdiocese in North America started on the West Coast and moved East, its ‘recognizing’ adherents thinned, and “independent” parishes and their adherents increased. But it’s also true to say that Orthodox laity and priests here were allowed and encouraged by Hierarchs abroad to ignore a “canonical” Orthodox Episcopate — Ruling Hierarch and Auxiliaries — resident and active here, in favor of homeland (or Constantinopolitan) Hierarchs across one or more oceans and several seas. The traditional Metropolia position of de jure unity cannot reasonably be said to be totally lacking in merit, with respect to the Church’s entire Canonical and Scriptural Tradition, and even simple reasonableness and practicality: Is a Bishop in the Balkans giving a priest an antimins and shipping him to America or Australia with a “Good bye and good luck, keep warm and well fed,” real o/Orthodox archpastoral oversight? If anyone was in a position potentially to restrain schisms, heresies, charlatans, splits, scandals, and organizational chaos, it was the resident Episcopate, certainly not the absentee ones effectively suborning them. (The divisions in “the diaspora” are not all the fault of those who moved here … and neither are the hundreds of “uncanonical” groups that have spun off or started up on their own.) And at least at one point a Patriarch of C’ople wrote in thanks to a Russian priest here for the good care he was taking of Greeks (sic) in his parish!

    BTW, can someone who reads Greek inform me whether the GOA calls itself “Hellenic” or not, in Greek? Versus “Rum” or “Romaikos” or whatever.

    “Greek is not merely an ethnic language, but the language of the Gospel, of the definitions and decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, of exceptional and influential representatives of the Patristic tradition, as well as of the original texts of liturgical sources in the Orthodox Church.” Unfortunately, we’re often forced to rely on translations of these by Protestants and Latins, who often lack o/Orthodox comprehension or savor! Sts. Cyril and Methodius didn’t tell the Slavs, “Learn Koine!” And they didn’t make them rely on translations by heterodox either….

    Anyway, I never realized Fr. E. was so young. So, what’s his qualification to lecture canonical Orthodox Primates and everybody else, besides being invited, I mean? I ask sincerely.


    • Alexandria in 2001 submitted to Constantinople with regard to Africa, about which I thought agreement had somehow been reached in 1926 under the aegis of Alex.’s then Patriarch MELETIOS (Metaxakis)? Cf. Wikepedia and other sources

      No, ShepherdHopeBearer brought that up last time around in Boston, in passing. Consult my post above. He has to claim credit for Africa: the image of an entire continent free of jurisdictional problems, without the Phanar, represents a model too dangerous to let hang out there.

      Do you have more info. on the 1926 meeting? Links?

      • Isa,

        All I know is that I read a few years ago, in one or more ‘real’ sources (ie, beyond Wiki), that in ’26 some agreement was reached to let Alex. have jurisdiction over the ethnic-Greek and Arab diasporas in Africa … maybe as a compromise candidate theoretically trusted by both sides, since Alex., although ethnic-Greek-ruled, continued to have Arab Orthodox parishioners there in Egypt from long before, so I guess maybe it wasn’t a case of total neglect of Arabs as claimed regarding, say, Jerusalem with the Palestinian Orthodox.

        Exceedingly curious, since I wondered at that time if it could offer some ideas for the rest of the diaspora, I emailed Alex. asking if they could share with me or point me to details around ’26. They never wrote back. But I remember, now, having read some of this on their own website back then, ie, regarding Metaxakis etc. (I submitted my post above before yours appeared; otherwise I could’ve gone to bed earlier! 😉 )

        But in the materials I read, it wasn’t even said exactly who “agreed,” beyond Metaxakis himself there in Alex.; presumably Antioch (though maybe Jerusalem), but which Greek Church(es), it didn’t say. And I saw no text of agreement either.

        If Fr. E. publicly and quite famously mentioned 1926 at Brookline, and now 2001 or 2002 in Crestwood … neither speech of his “was done in a corner” … well, even he can make mistakes I guess, but you’d think he’d be more careful about intellectual/academic lectures in prominent public fora. A slip-up like this could impugn (further) his analysis! 😉

        • Ilya Kharin :

          There are a few mostly-Russian parishes in Africa, organized and supported primarily by the Moscow Patriarchate, but I believe they are formally under the omphorion of the Alexandrian Patriarchate.

          However, I have a 2008 list of ROCOR parishes which includes two in Africa (in Morocco and Uganda) – listed as being directly under the head of the ROCOR Hierarchal Synod. This is a legacy from the times when there were lots of Russian refugees, a number of parishes, even a ROCOR bishop (in 1950’s) in Africa. However, now it is likely a dwindling presence which, after the reunion of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate, is probably destined to merge into the Alexandrian jurisdiction (maybe already has?).

          I am not sure when and how did the Russian Church recognize Alexandrian jurisdiction over Africa, but I think the Moscow Patriarchate has done so much earlier than 2001/2002, since in official sources (like, for example, “The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate”) the title “of Alexandria and all Africa” has been used for decades now.

          • Ilya Kharin :

            Here is also a bit from the official website of the Constantinopolitan Church, from the biography of Patriarch Meletius (Metaxakis):

            Ὁ Μελέτιος ἤρχισε νὰ αὐτοτιτλοφορῆται ἀντὶ «πάσης Αἰγύπτου» «πάσης Ἀφρικῆς».


            I don’t speak Greek, but from what I can understand, this means that Meletius started calling himself Patriarch “of all Africa”. This emphasis would be in line with the presumed Constantinopolitan non-recognition of this title.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Peter, much of what Lambrianides said was refuted in the Q&A. I intend to offer my own comments later on down the line. In the meantime, I’m glad that you and others (Scott, Isa, etc.) are able to expose the logical and historical fallacies. It’s gonna make my job easier.

      • George, I have been looking all over the net for the Q&A from SHB’s speech. Do you know where it can be found?

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Peter, regarding your very cogent point vis-a-vis evangelizing non-Greeks in Turkey, it’s not as strange as it sounds. I believe that Islam is at the breaking point. It has two strikes going against it: it simply can’t accommodate itself to the modern world and more importantly, it is devoid of a love-filled God. Don’t get me wrong: it’s resurgent and dangerous because its violence is anarchic, but it can’t withstand Christianity. That is why I get so down when I see Christian prelates preach immorality (like the Episcopalians) or pre-emptively surrender to it (as our own dhimmi bishops have).

      • Antioch is in the control of the Turkish Republic, physically that is. As such they speak Turkish, as well as Arabic. Since Ankara is so focused on Constantinople, it ignores Antioch, which maintains several websites etc. in Turkish. I’ve come into contact with two Turkish converts. The owner of an Orthodox website (I don’t recall if he told me this in confidence, so I refrain from naming names) says that the number of hits in rural Turkey is up.

    • Ilya Kharin :

      Africa? I know of no precedent for Constantinopolitan involvement in Africa; Russian neither; I’ve never heard that either has sent or governed missionaries there.

      There hasn’t been much missionaries, but quite a bit of Russians in Africa, – ever since the 1917 Russian revolution and the ensuing global dispersal of refugees/emigres from the former Russian Empire. A few Russian parishes in Africa were founded already before Patriarch Meletius (Metaxakis) laid claim to all of Africa. From the history of the Bizerta parish in Tunisia (here and below translation from Russian is mine):

      “History of the Russian Orthodox community in Tunis begins with the year 1920, when ships of the Russian Squadron, the erstwhile Black Sea Fleet, found their last resting place in the port city of Bizerta. Some six thousand Russian officers and their family-members, as well as 13 priests, arrived with them.

      “Divine services on one of the ships of the Russian Squadron may be considered a start of the parish life of the Orthodox community in Tunisia. With the passage of time the ship’s church was transferred into a private apartment in Bizerta, and since 1922 Divine services in the capital of Tunisia were conducted in a space specially furnished for Church services” (

      Most of these Russian parishes in Africa, it appears, chose to be under ROCOR when the split with the Patriarchate, and then the Russian European Mertopolia under Met. Eulogius, took place. Between 1952 and 1954 they even had their own bishop – “administrator of Russian parishes in North Africa” bishop Nathaniel (L’vov) ( Bishop Nathniel operated as a vicar under the then-Western-European archbishop of ROCOR, St. John (Maximovich, later of San-Francisco). Thus, the new holy temple of the Bizerta parish, which was completed in 1956, was consecrated by St. John (

      How did the relations with the Alexandrian Patriarchate and ROCOR develop? When archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov) of ROCOR met the Alexandrian Patriarch Christopher in 1952, the meeting seems to have gone favorably, and the latter:

      “only asked to transmit to metropolitan Anastasius [i.e. the then-first hierarch of ROCOR – my note] his wish, that, when our [i.e. ROCOR – my note] hierarchs are appointed to Africa, we would contact him on this count, and that his name be commemorated in Russian churches in Africa” (

      As Russian parishioners migrated and passed away, ROCOR presence in Africa lessened and priests stopped being provided for the scattered parishes: “Only from time to time priests of the Alexandrian Patriarchate would visit the orphaned Russian community” ( Presumably, this points to ROCOR hierarchs’ acceptance of Alexandrian jurisdiction over the Black continent.

      In the case of Bizerta, the parish, which considered itself to have become abandoned by the hierarchy, appealed to the Moscow Patriarchate in 1990 and was accepted in 1992. The Moscow Patriarchate has established an accord whereby Russian priests are provided for predominantly Russian communities in Africa, – under the omophorion of the Patriarch of Alexandria, – and the Bizerta parish became one of such parishes. In the early 1990’s the church was pastored by priest Demetrius Netsvetaev, transferred from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Alexandrian, while on major holidays the local hierarch – metropolitan Irenaeus (Talambekos) of Carthage, – celebrated here (

      The way I read it: the Russian parishes in Africa were clearly oriented toward Russian Orthdox hierarchs – Moscow or ROCOR – but the latter did, it seems, come recognize Alexandrian jurisdiction over Africa quite early on. No hint of Constantinopolitan involvement in any of this. What is clear, is that while emigre parishioners are likely to tend toward ecclesiastical nationalism, it is the position of their hierarchs which is crucial for the proper canonical ordering of a given territory.

  5. Btw, hopefully we can get a transcript of the presentation of His Emeninence Arch. Demetrios.
    All the pride of the Greeks, but none of the arrogance.

  6. Joseph Hostetler :

    Archimandrite Elpidophoros, who in this article calls us to submission to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the basis of obedience to decisions of Ecumenical Councils (*as the Phanar interprets them*), is the same man not too long ago in Boston who presented us with an undisguised, shameless papalizing ecclesiology as if it were Orthodox. Indeed, he even calls all those who do not agree heretics!

    Behold what he wrote then:

    “Let me add that the refusal to recognize primacy within the Orthodox Church, a primacy that necessarily cannot but be embodied by a primus (that is by a bishop who has the prerogative of being the first among his fellow bishops) constitutes nothing less than heresy. It cannot be accepted, as often it is said, that the unity among the Orthodox Churches is safeguarded by either a common norm of faith and worship or by the Ecumenical Council as an institution.”

    What is this, but the delusion of primacy as it is presented by the papacy? What serious theologian ever presented this as Orthodox teaching? Fr. Elpidophoros may be a faithful student of Met. John Zizoulis on this point, but he is not expressing the Consensus Patrum nor the common understanding of Orthodox Christians today.

    And the fact that he has become confused on this foundational point of ecclesiology should raise red flags for his ability to properly apply Orthodox ecclesiology in terms of the situation in America. “Raising red flags” is probably an understatement. It should exclude him from an serious discussion of the matter!

    We agree, Fr. Elpidophoros: nothing good can come – no matter how sincere the motivations – from attempts at bringing about Orthodox unity by means and methods and principles that are borrowed from the delusions of the papacy! Your objections to “uncanonical actions” are seen as slight infractions in comparison!

    • Scott Pennington :

      “Let me add that the refusal to recognize primacy within the Orthodox Church, a primacy that necessarily cannot but be embodied by a primus (that is by a bishop who has the prerogative of being the first among his fellow bishops) constitutes nothing less than heresy. It cannot be accepted, as often it is said, that the unity among the Orthodox Churches is safeguarded by either a common norm of faith and worship or by the Ecumenical Council as an institution.”

      Let us not forget that Pat. Bartholomew has a doctorate from the Pontifical Oriental Institute. This, and statements like those above, are why he is often accused of wishing to be an Eastern Pope and cozying up too much with the Vatican. Primacy in the Orthodox Church is a status of “first among equals”. Pat. Bartholomew, and his representatives, tend to forget the “among equals” part of that. They desperately want to revise Orthodox primacy to be a foundational, doctrinal concept in the Church. In reality, it is simply an administrative necessity. Rejection of the primacy of Constantinople would not be heresy. It would be disobedience to canonical authority and one could be excommunicated for it given a situation where deferrence were called for; however, it is not a doctrinal matter (as it is in Roman Catholicism, from which this line of thinking originates).

  7. I am pressed for time, but I want to post one thing right now, near and dear to my heart.

    The Patriarchate of Alexandria directed its attention to missionary activity among the peoples of Africa. After evolving and establishing an organized mission, in 2001, it officially sought from the Ecumenical Patriarchate the concession of jurisdiction over the entire continent. From that time, the phrase “And of All Africa” was added to the title of the Patriarch of Alexandria, whereas hitherto he was only known as “And of All Egypt.”

    The preaching of God’s word and the spread of Christ’s Gospel are clearly praiseworthy, while the saintly and sacrificial ministry of the early missionaries is universally admired and respected, however, the geographical jurisdiction of the Church of Russia is plainly defined in its Tomos of Autocephaly received from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The argument that it was first to evangelize a portion of the American continent is neither ecclesiological nor canonical, expressing instead a mentality of colonialism. At this point, we could also cite the examples of Russian missionary activity in China and Japan, lands where the Church of Russia claims as its canonical territory. The proper response to similar circumstances, as we have already observed, is that of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which requested and officially received jurisdiction over the entire African continent.

    Alas, some of know history. So no one forgets, this story is a favorite of Shepheard Hopebearer, he mentioned it at his last well publicized speach as well, lest we forget:

    Under the provision of which canon did Constantinople give the right of jurisdiction over the remaining of Africa to the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 2002?

    I’d love to know that too (anyone have a copy of the Tomos, or where we can find it)? ‘cuz it don’t match with reality (not to mention the 2001 date he gives now).

    I’ve already posted this, but I will so again: my own prayer book from Cairo has this on the title page:

    Lamp of the Believer
    containing the service of the Liturgy
    and the most necessary prayers and explanations

    primarily entrusted with its compilation, arrangement and attention to its publication
    Archmandirite Meletios Suwayti
    President of the Church of the Archangels formerly
    Presently Metropolitan of Argentina and Chile

    Published by special permission of his Beatitude
    Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All
    Lord Christopher II
    All Blessed and All Honorable

    then reprinted
    in the reign of his Beatitude
    Nicholas VI
    Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria
    And All Africa

    I haven’t been in Egypt since 1992, but I have been blessed to personally know the deacon of HAH, the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa in happier times. Doesn’t 2002 come after 1992.

    On the old website of the Patriarchate, we had this:

    Meletios was the first Patriarch to be recognized by royal decree, as Egypt, by then was not part of the Ottoman Empire. His constructive work was completed with the establishment of the hieratical school “Saint Athanasios”. He also rebuilt the holy church of Saint Nikolaos in Cairo with funds donated by Theodoros Kotsikas and transferred the Patriarchical library to Alexandria.
    He systematized the Ecclesiastical Courts, and established the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate on all of Africa, and instituted the title “All Africa” instead of “All Egypt”. By the year 1935, our Patriarchate was ready to claim a leadership position among all the other sister Orthodox Churches.

    On the new one, we have this:

    An eminent and highly experienced man of the church. He served as Metropolitan of Kition in Cyprus (1910-1918), Metropolitan of Athens (1918-1921) and Ecumenical Patriarch (1921-1923). In 1926 he was elected as Patriarch of Alexandria. He compiled the “Standing Law of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria”, the “Organization of the Courts of the Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria and its existing Legal Procedures” and the “Order for Marriage and Divorce”. During his tenure as Patriarchate, by special Order “of the Formulae for Metropolises”, the nine Ecclesiastical Provinces of the Throne were determined. He was the first to be given the title of Patriarch of All Africa.

    It would, to judge by SHB’s assertions, that Pope Meletios didn’t bother to clear this with his successor in the Phanar. On the same, official, website, if you look at the hiearchy, all over Africa, some have the date of the Dioceses establishment: they all predate 2001-2, and identify the establish by Patriarchal/Synodal Tomos. Nothing on the Phanar.

    On ORI, Met. Makarios of Zimbabwe (enthroned Feb. 28, 2001, isn’t that before SHB’s magic date of 2002?), has this:

    With faith and with the salvation of souls always as his criterion, Mark entered Alexandria by the Moon Gate next to the customs house, precisely at the spot where the first church – the first place of worship of the Holy Trinity – was later built. Mark’s purpose on his first visit, which was made difficult by the various foreign trends then predominant among the population – of Alexandria, was to establish and inaugurate the new religion of Jesus of Nazareth. Here, on his first visit, he met the shoemaker Animus, who enthusiastically received Mark’s message and followed him, later becoming his successor. ‘That is’ why St. Mark is seen today as the Apostle not only of Egypt, but of all Africa

    There is no evidence as to whether Egyptians occupied an important position in the first Christian community of Alexandria, given that Egyptian names do not begin to appear in the lists of bishops until the late second century. The fact of the matter is, however, that even in its very first years the Church of Alexandria expanded its activities to cover not only Egypt, Libya and the cities of the Cyrenaic Pentapolis but also the sub-Saharan countries of Africa. (It should be noted at this point that the most senior Metropolitan Bishop of the Church of Alexandria was the Bishop of Libya, who was styled ‘Most Honorable Exarch of All Africa’.) Nor should we omit to mention that even in the very early days Christianity spread to Yemen, Ethiopia and Nubia thanks to the missionary activities of the Church of Alexandria. Of particular importance was the work done by St. Pantaenus in Ethiopia, of whom Eusebius tells us: “they say that with the most fervent disposition he showed readiness as to the divine word, and proved himself a herald of the Gospel according to Christ to the nations to the east, being sent as far as the land of India, for there were moreover at that time many preachers of the word, ready to add their divine zeal in imitating the Apostles for the increase and building up of the divine word… “.

    In 1926, Meletios Metaxakis, a memorable figure ;), was elected Patriarch of Alexandria. A man of a practical turn of mind, he decided to establish the organization of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on new foundations and to resolve the numerous problems that had been building up since the previous century. One of his first achievements was the publication of the Regulations of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, on 15 May 1930. At last, due attention was paid to the life of the metropolitan bishoprics and the parishes in its entirety, including ritual, the sacraments and even the judicial aspects of life. Meletios also founded the Seminary of St Athanasios. In his time, the Patriarchate supervised ten metropolitan provinces, 90 churches 5 monasteries and 107 parish priests. On his initiative, an Organic Law of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria was drawn up and passed, laying down the manner in which the Patriarch was to be elected and the rights, which he would exercise. In his consultations with the Anglicans, Meletios did much to usher in a new era. The term of se6rvice of Patriarch Christophoros (1939-1967) would best be described as one of large-scale projects and renovation. New metropolitan bishoprics were set -up throughout the Dark Continent, and official recognition was granted to the African Orthodox communities. This move did much to consolidate the Patriarchate’s missionary activities abroad.

    Btw, his grace does suffer from the same grecocentrism that SHB has a termninal case of.

    and his grace’s “Chronology (of Christianity in Africa)” at ORI:

    Year 330 – Ordination of the first Bishop in Ethiopia, Frumentios, by Athanasios the Great.

    Year 369 –A synod was convened by Athanasios together with 90 other Bishops of the Church in Africa during which a Synodical letter was written against the Arians to all the Bishops in Africa.

    Year 1647 – The first Orthodox Church is erected in Tunisia.

    Year 1715 – Metropolitan Arsenios of Thebaid arrived in England on behalf of Patriarch Samuel Kapasoulis and began negotiations with the Non-Juring Bishops.

    Year 1750 – A missionary monk Stephanos, was sent by Patriarch Matthew to Ethiopia, to evangelize the people there.

    Year 1925 – The first Orthodox Africans were baptised by Nicodemos Sarikas, a Greek Archimandrite resident in Moshi Tanzania.

    Year 1927 – The date of the Patriarchal and Synodical Tomes approving the establishment of the Holy Archbishopric of Johannesburg.

    Year 1931 – The date of the Patriarchal and Synodical Tomes approving the establishment of the Holy Archbishopric of Carthage.

    Year 1942 – Visit of Archbishop Nicholas Abdallah of Axum to East Africa as an envoy of the Patriarchate.

    Year 1943 – 15th of November the first Constitution of the African Orthodox Church signed by Reuben Mukasa Spartas and Arthur Gathuma.

    Year 1945 – Four Orthodox Ugandans were sent to Alexandria to study there.

    Year 1946 – The first visit of M Spartas to Alexandria. The recognition of the constitution and acceptance of the name, the African Greek Orthodox Church, by the Holy Synod.

    Year 1946 – Official recognition of the Orthodox Africans by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.

    Year 1953 – The African Greek Orthodox Church was officially recognised in Uganda.

    Year 1956 – Official recognition of the African Greek Orthodox Church in Kenya on the 13th of December 1956.

    Year 1958 – By Patriarchal and Synodical decree three new Archbishoprics were established in Africa, ie Central Africa, East Africa and West Africa.

    Year 1961 – The consecration of the first Orthodox Church in Uganda by the Archbishop of East Africa, Nicholas, on the 12th March 1961.

    Year 1963 -The foundation of the first Orthodox parish by an African in Tanzania. (4/28/1963).

    Year 1963 – On the Sunday of Orthodoxy March 3rd 1963 an assembly of priests and laypeople from Kenya and Uganda was held in Kampala; they reaffirmed their full support and attachment to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.

    Year 1966 – The Orthodox youth Movement was founded in Kenya (Waithaka) on the 6th August 1966. Year 1968 – The establishment of two new Archbishoprics of the Patriarchate, that of Rhodesia and of Cape Town.

    Year 1970 – The first Edition of Abba Salama’s Helleno-Ethiopian Studies under the Directorship of Methodios of Axum was published.

    Year 1997 – The Establishment by Synodical decree of new Dioceses of the Patriarchate, ie those of Bukoba, Madagascar, Ghana and Nigeria. (23 September).

    Year 1998 – On the 29th March 1998 Fr Chariton Pneuatikakis, died in Kananga, having served the Orthodox mission there for 25 years.

    His Grace ends with the last entry: maybe he hadn’t heard of the largesse of the Phanar in 2002.

    To be honest, I don’t know what Shepheard Hopebearer is refering to in 2001. It is possible that the Phanar was looking to do to Africa what it was doing to the Soviet Union, as it had done in the Americas:remember, the mythology of canon 28 says that the “Diaspora” was only on loan to the CoG 1908-1922, to be revoked at any time. Perhaps Alexandria (drifting perhaps now more into the Phanariot camp, I haven’t been there in 18 years), cut some deal. That may be when the Alexandria jurisdiction disappeard in North America (it was here in the 1980’s when I met visiting clergy in Cairo).

    • Isa,

      If you can do so well when posting under time pressure, you’ve set some high expectations for when you have time!

      • Geo Michalopulos :

        Isa, your research could take the wind out of anybody’s sails. Keep this up and the Phanar will eventually pull up stakes and wither into oblivion. Or better yet, preach the Gospel! Like I’ve said a dozen times before: I’m glad you’re on our side!

        • Scott Pennington :


          From a guy who is seldom impressed, I have to agree with George and Harry, you are quite impressive.

    • Oh dear. I happened to stumple upon something else: from the Phanar’s offical organ, “Ecceliastical Truth” (see the Chief Secretary’s footnote 15) XXXI, p. 88. I can’t totally make it out (the print taxes my Greek), but the bottom left of the page has “…the othwerwise agreed with divine and sacred canons, that the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the patriarchal throne of Alexandria may be extended to any of Africa…”

      • Geo Michalopulos :

        Keep up the good work. Although at the end of the day, we must come to the inexorable conclusion that the Phanar makes things up as it goes along. And has been doing so for centuries.

  8. Scott Pennington :

    The inaccurate and pseudo-historical rantings of this insufferably arrogant representative of the Phanar do not really deserve to be taken seriously. Starve these children of attention and perhaps they’ll go away.

  9. Do the V. Rev. Archimandrite Elpidophoros Lambriniadis and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America share the same perspective?

    If not as extreme, is the 440,000 strong GOAA at least sympathetic to the Archimandrite’s position?

    If the answer to either of the above is yes, this would not seem to bode well for a single united American Orthodox Church devoid of foreign influence.

    • Hi All,

      Would someone care to take a stab at my questions?


      • Michael Bauman :

        Some yes, some no– but ultimately it dosen’t really matter. What is not of God will wither away even if it is not in human time as quickly as we would like.

        The realy question is, what is in our own heart that is not in acord with the Holy Spirit and the direction of the Church He has in mind?

    • Hi Eliot,

      RE Why do you care? Really, you said you are not Orthodox?

      I’m just trying to understand the various forces at play in the Orthodox Church in the Americas. I have found this site to be a wealth of information about Orthodoxy. I usually can read along and find that someone will have touched on the answer to a question that I have. Occasionally though, I don’t see a particular thing addressed – thus, my question.

      Up to now I assumed it was OK for me to ask questions.

      RE What do you do about your eternal salvation?

      Thank you for your concern about the “bigger picture.” I don’t, however, think this is the proper place to discuss issues specific to individual posters (myself included).

      • Greg; Sadly, the “bigger picture” is too often neglected.
        “Orthodoxy is not a great organization, a mighty force. You will hear many people ask: ‘What is the Church doing?’ I say: ‘It is doing nothing, it is serving the Divine Liturgy’. This was also said by a Russian priest at a meeting in Europe, when Russians were first allowed to leave their country, after Stalin’s horrific persecutions. He and others were met by Protestants and Catholics, the organizers of the meeting, and they asked him: ‘What is the Russian Church doing? What mission does it have in Russia today?’ And the priest said: ‘We serve the Liturgy’. The others laughed, not understanding that this is the greatest work that can be accomplished in this world and in this history, beyond which is God’s Eternity.

        This is why Orthodoxy is that which holds on to the One Thing Needful, as the Lord said: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful (Lk. 10, 41-42). The rest is needful also, Martha’s job was needful, to be the host, to serve – but Mary had chosen the better part… “

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Question #1: Some do, some don’t. There is an internal debate about it.

      Question #2. Most people in the GOA are probably only vaguely aware of the debate in the GOA, only those who take in interest in such things are informed.

  10. Scott Pennington :

    Actually, Fr. Elpidophoros starts out well and makes a good point regarding the whole “Rum millet” issue and the geographical rather than ethnic basis of the diocese.

    His problem is that he tries to weave Phanar propaganda into all this by mischaracterizing Orthodox history, canon law and Constantinople’s actual role as an ethnocentric perpetrator.

    First, and it should go without saying at this point, there is no basis for the Phanar’s assertions regarding canon 28. The plain wording of the canon itself, the commentary on it in the Rudder, historical experience and the bizzare results that would follow from Constantinople’s claim make it a non-starter. It doesn’t pass the “laugh test”. It is actually breathtakingly foolish for them to assert universal jurisdiction over the “barbarians” at this point because the claim is so easily proved not only false, but disingenuous. Even they can’t really believe it to be true. Nonetheless, they will hold on to the claim for its political value to them. This is selfish, narcissistic arrogance at its worst.

    Second, Constantinople has acted in quite the ethnocentric manner for centuries. It is not too much to say that this is the norm, not the exception. The very council which Fr. Elpidophoros mentions in support of anti-phyletism was itself caused in no small measure by the ethnocentrism of the Greek clergy under Constantinople’s jurisdiction in the Ottoman Empire. They drove the Bulgarians to request a parallel ethnarch because they froze the Bulgarians out of clerical office and suppressed Slavonic in Bulgarian services. Or has Fr. Elpidophoros forgotten the more recent conduct of the Phanar when a group of non-Orthodox wished to petition it to be received into the Church? The Patriarch refused even to meet with them because the Greek government opposed the idea of watering down the “Greek church” in America with non-Greeks (I assume for fear of potential watering down of financial and political support for Greece from GOARCH).

    Third, and correct me if I’m wrong on this, but I don’t believe there is any canon that fixes the authority to grant autocephaly in Constantinople. Absent such a canon, the fact that Constantinople has frequently presumed to do so does not mean that it has the exclusive right to do so. Constantinople has no power not given to it by canon law. It should be elementary that if a church is granted autocephaly by its mother church, it is at that moment no longer under another “head” regardless of what the rest of the Orthodox world accepts or doesn’t. Now, in the interest of good order, some arrangement agreeable to all the churches for recognizing autocephaly might be prudent. But in the absence of such (and the absence of a coordinated plan for spreading the faith into places like North America), then things will be done in a piecemeal manner. Constantinople can’t invent rights for itself in order to solve the problem and thereby arrogate power to itself. The other Patriarchates will simply disregard their fussing and go on about business.

    What I wish would happen is that some of the other patriarchates whose oxes have been gored by the Phanar would throw down the gauntlet and simply state the truth about Constantinople’s assertions in very direct terms:

    Constantinople’s interpretation of canon 28 is simply a willful lie. It is so lacking in factual support that no reasonable person who investigates it could believe it. It is nothing more than a dishonest and dishonorable grab for power.

    Of course, it is a good thing I’m not a bishop or patriarch. The wiser course, perhaps, is to let the Phanar and its representatives fuss and fume about this stuff and . . . ignore them and proceed regardless. That puts the onus on Constantinople to try to force the issue if they dare. Otherwise their assertions amount to no more than “Greek mythology”, taken seriously only within their own little world.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Scott, very well said. Both the canon 28 mythology and overall Constantinopolitan supremacy over the past millennium have not covered the Church in glory. In fact, a case could be made that because of its antics, it truly was the “withered branch” of Christendom, if not in actuality, then in perception.

  11. American Housewife :

    Will any of the Q & A be posted for people to see/read?

  12. George Michalopulos :

    One of the things that jumped out at me in this speech, was Lambrianides’ invoking the spirits of two Americans to justify his thesis, these being Hubert Humphrey and Jimmy Carter. This shows me that Lambrianides and the Phanariotes have only a dim understanding of America and probably receive their talking points from liberals at Holy Cross and/or George Soros-funded think tanks.

    Permit me to explain: while personally I think that HHH was an admirable man, it is clear that he knows nothing about Carter. Carter began his career in Georgia as a segregationist and ran on race-baiting themes during his primary run for president in 1976. As president, a case could be made that he was the godfather of Islamofascism (think Iran). Since his disastrous run in office (probably giving Millard Fillmore a run for his money as worst president ever), he has consistently taken the anti-American line in foreign policy and done a very passable imitation of an anti-Semite.

    Why instead did Lambrianides not quote Barry Goldwater, who captured the essence of American individualism? Why not Ronald Reagan, who with one speech brought down the Evil Empire? I would have been gratified had he invoked Martin Luther King, Jr, but I realize he couldn’t do that. Why? Because MLK was not a Balkanist. He reached deep into the well-spring of Americanism and more importantly, the Judaeo-Christian tradition and asked for America to be true to its founding principles. Unlike black leaders today (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan) who openly preach a divided America, one based on a racial spoils-system, King wanted nothing more than for his children to be “judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.” Those were powerful words.

    Why then do I make the charge that the Phanar can’t invoke King? Because what they envision for America is a divided, ghettoized, Balkan church, one devoide of the territorial principle. It is for this reason that I think such a church structure will fail. Not only does it go against the grain of the American spirit, but it is heretical on its own merits.

    • Yeah, I thought the American references were odd. It’s the first time I’ve heard Humphrey invoked in years. Invoking King may bring up that picture of him and Iakovos, maybe something they don’t want to do that. I do not think the Archbishop of blessed memory forgot Cyprus, Halki etc., but he engaged with what was going on in lands of his own jurisdiction. But that culminated in Ligonier….

  13. Fr. Vassilios Bebis :

    I would like to make four brief comments:
    1. GOA started as an ethnic Church in USA, until Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis received her under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It still has some ethnic elements in her life (and why not?) but it is not an ethnic church. Actually, GOA is the main sponsor of the panorthodox ministries in America.

    2.Fr. Elpidoforos (professor of theology at the University of Thessaloniki) offered a wonderful interpretation of the term “Greek Orthodox” comparing it to the term “Roman Catholic”: A Greek Orthodox is not necessarily Greek and a Roman Catholic is not necessarily Italian.

    3. Fr. Elpidoforos emphasized in his speeches (at Holy Cross and at St. Vladimir)the value of biblical Greek. Every theologian who respects himself (Orthodox or heterodox) must have a good knowledge of hellenistic Greek.

    4. The Ecumenical Patriarchate makes us all proud with its efforts for Orthodox unity in the world.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Fr, I will give you my impressions on points #1 thru #3 in a scattershot fashion: there is nothing wrong with ethnic parishes. It is just when it is the deciding factor in a jurisdiction that it is troublesome. And as much as I appreciated Lambrianides’ distinctions, his Platonic understanding of Hellenism is not squared with the Aristoteleian reality on the ground (theoria versus noumena?) There was push-back on his many misstatements of fact at SVS as well as the reality of non-Greek eparchies that are subjugated within the EP. Also, the value of Biblical Greek is inestimable. It can’t ever be lost. Nor will it.

      As for #4, I will leave out the recent missteps in the secular sphere taken which have been less than successful and ask instead that you consider the inter-Orthodox contretemps that have transpired during the recent past.

    • Father,

      Thank you from your words. Can you explain the meaning behind the consistent usage of the term omogenia in the life of the GOA? What does the word omogenia mean? What constitutes the omogenia and who is a member of the omogenia?

    • I would like to make four brief comments:
      1. GOA started as an ethnic Church in USA, until Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis received her under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It still has some ethnic elements in her life (and why not?) but it is not an ethnic church. Actually, GOA is the main sponsor of the panorthodox ministries in America.

      Pat. Meletios transfered the GOA from himself as Met. of Athens to himself as EP. The problem was that the entire episcopate of the Church of Greece had deposed him and held his acts (which would include starting the GOA) as “void,” and his election was held as uncanonical by not only the Turks, but also by the other branches of the Greek Church (Alexandria, Jerusaalem and CoG). Ironically, he only ones who recognized him as EP were those very Russian bishops in North America that he (and the CS) said were there uncanonically.

      I have no problem with ethnicity per se: I’d like the Greeks to have a ethnic diocese of New Orleans, like the Albanians have Boston and the Romanians Detroit. Holy Trinity NYC can be Constantinople’s metiochian to the Orthodox Church in North America.

      2.Fr. Elpidoforos (professor of theology at the University of Thessaloniki) offered a wonderful interpretation of the term “Greek Orthodox” comparing it to the term “Roman Catholic”: A Greek Orthodox is not necessarily Greek and a Roman Catholic is not necessarily Italian.

      The present head of the Vatican is a German, and his predecessor a Pole. Yes, a lot of Italians filled the post, but a lot of others, even Greeks, have too. When was the last non-Hellen EP? Roman in RC means “Ultramontanist.” The question has been does the Greek in GO mean “phyletist?” Not to mention these universal jurisdiction claims of late.

      3. Fr. Elpidoforos emphasized in his speeches (at Holy Cross and at St. Vladimir)the value of biblical Greek. Every theologian who respects himself (Orthodox or heterodox) must have a good knowledge of hellenistic Greek.

      The services and the Fathers are not in Koine, i.e. biblical Greek. They are in Classical Greek. And both of these are different from what the Greeks are speaking today. Btw, a knowledge of Armaic/Syriac, the language of the Lord, His Apostles, and the earliest Church doesn’t hurt.

      4. The Ecumenical Patriarchate makes us all proud with its efforts for Orthodox unity in the world.

      I am afraid, Father, that I cannot agree. Ligonier, Estonia, Sorouzh, Nice, etc. this EP has much to explain for slamming altar next to altar and sowing dissention and division.

      • Geo Michalopulos :

        Isa, this fact opens up a can of worms that nobody in the GOA should want to investigate. We’ve always known that Metaxakis was darn-near close to being a heretic, but even more so, a grifter of the first order. Based on your research, I wonder how others now feel about the legitimacy of the ethnic jurisdictions, that they were founded as “mission fields” and under no obligation to the local diocese?

      • Tamara Northway :

        Yes, the services in the Greek Orthodox Church are in Classical Greek as are the patristics and other writings. The New Testament readings are in Koine. The Old Testament readings are in a strange Greek literal translation of Hebrew. One would need to know all three of these languages to understand the services in the average Greek Orthodox Church.

        But strangely enough, the Greek schools in these parishes teach modern Greek.
        I don’t think that will help most of the young ones to participate much more in the Divine Liturgy than their counterparts in Greece.

  14. Geo Michalopulos :

    Ilya, you astound me, your Greek is very good. As near as I can translate it, it is: “Meletius started self-titling himself instead of ‘All-Africa’, ‘All-Africa’.”

  15. The Decline of the Patriarchate of Constantinople
    by St. John Maximovitch, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco
    From a report on all the Autocephalous Churches made by Archbishop John of Shanghai to the Second All-Diaspora Sobor of the Russian Church Abroad held in Yugoslavia in 1938.

    In sum, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in theory embracing almost the whole universe and in fact extending its authority only over several dioceses, and in other places having only a higher superficial supervision and receiving certain revenues for this, persecuted by the government at home and not supported by any governmental authority abroad: having lost its significance as a pillar of truth and having itself become a source of division, and at the same time being possessed by an exorbitant love of power—represents a pitiful spectacle which recalls the worst periods in the history of the See of Constantinople.

    • Eliot,

      Here we are talking all about leadership choices as if.

      Is it time to notice that Islam seems more able to near totally replace Christianity only when the Christian leadership is mostly ‘ordained young and never married’? And that Christianity, while under pressure, has done better in places with large Protestant populations– the ones the ‘ordained young never married’ set tisk-tisk’s about?

      That were it not for the mostly Protestant USA and Western Europe the church in Russia that’s suddenly all about fixing everybody’s wagon would still be un-heard from?

      It’s the ‘everyman’ with average education and literacy who decides whether to join all this or not. Everyman receives the invitation and sooner or later learns the high leadership has never been married and wears heavy gold dresses on big days and drab dresses the rest of the time. And that, for most of them, is that. Leave Islam to be dhimmified by such people? Well, you know, if you think that’s likely you might also think all the folks waiting in an hour long queue-line for bread in the USSR did it to enjoy the social experience as they were looking forward to returning to work the next day.

      And for those who still might be able to overlook it, they pick up on the fact that the leadership is all from a different monolithic ethnic group from countries with difficult histories.

      We so, so terribly need to get over confusing church leadership with aspirations to leech off of or approximate civil goverment.

      • Harry:
        St Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) of Simferopol was writing one of his books on regional anesthesia and surgery. At that time he was a physician, married, and having four children. No intention to become clergy. A thought arises in his mind:”the author of this book will be a bishop”. The book was finished and published 10 years later and signed Bishop Luke. Meanwhile his wife died.
        The Lord called His servant …

        Forgive my ignorance … when was the Protestant world under pressure? Atmospheric pressure?

        • Michael Bauman :

          There are Protestants now who are being courageous under persectuion as well as during thne time of the Soviet states. Richard Wurmbrand is one notable example of such courage during the Soviet era. He started Voice of the Marytrs once he was freed.

          Governments that persecute Chrisitians don’t usually make disctinctions as to what adjective is in front of the word.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Michael, you’re correct. Many Protestants in the Soviet bloc put us to shame. And then let’s not forget their massive missionary presence in Africa when it truly was the Dark Continent. How many were martyred for the Faith there? It was because of them that slavery was ended in Africa in the 19th century (only to be resurrected by the Religion of Peace in the 21st century).

  16. All things/problems are much more deeply rooted than we notice. Our judgments tend to be highly superficial.
    St. Nikolas the Serb
    “Europe would have remained Christian, if it had boasted not of its culture, but of Christ. And the peoples of Asia and Africa, remaining unbaptized, would spiritually have understood this and valued it. For each of these peoples boasts of its own faith, its own deities, its own spiritual books: some of the Koran, others of the Vedas or other books. They do not boast of the work of their hands, of their own culture, but what they consider to be higher than themselves, of what is highest in the world. Only European peoples boast not of Christ and His Gospel, but of dangerous machines and cheap factory-made products, that is culture (2). As a result of the self-exaltation of Europeans through their culture, which they impose on others, Non-Christian peoples have come to hate Christ and Christianity. Having come to hate lesser things, they have come to hate greater things. Having come to hate Europeans and their culture, they have come to hate the European God. But, alas, Europe has nothing to do with this. Europeans have been put into such an unenviable situation by erroneous development, a damaged Church, under whose influence they have spent 900 years. It is not European peoples who are guilty of this, but their spiritual leaders; the fault”

    • George Michalopulos :

      Eliot, there is much wisdom that you impart to us in this passage. I wonder though, we in the Eastern Church, what are we imparting to the non-Christian races? Seating arrangments? Is Christ concerned with such frivolities? What would entice these people to the Christ of present-day Orthodoxy if that is all they see (which is all we are consumeed with at present)?

      • There is great wisdom in what the Saints said. They (St. Justin Popovich, St John Maximovich and many others) did criticize and/or foretold about the exorbitant love of power of some hierarchs, sometimes calling them wolves in sheepskin.

        Christ is not “of present-day Orthodoxy”. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The non-Christian races should know about the Martyrs and Confessors, who laid down their lives for the Truth. Through their sacrifice the True faith was preserved to this day.

        The Holy Spirit illumines our minds when we read the writings and the Lives of the Saints. The protestant leaders, while rightly upset by the abuses of the popes, went further into error. They embraced the devil’s suggestion and rejected the veneration of the Mother of God and the Saints. Thus, they deprived their flocks of valuable grace. More reasonable would have been a return to the origins, to the Orthodox roots.

  17. cynthia curran :

    I haver forgotten what type of message that Jimmy Carter use when he ran for president in 1976 anyway, I didn’t even voted for him but Gerald Ford. Carter disappointed a lot of conservtive Evangelicals that voted for Reagan the next time in 1980. Jimmy Carter is a left-wing evangelical similar to Tony Campolo or Jim Wallis which isn’t as bad as the black theology of Rev Wright of Barrack Obama. I think that the church fathers still used Koine Greek instead of Classical Attic Greek since in the Roman Empire period Attic Greek was not use as much. I could be wrong here. Plutarch Lives and Morals written in the second century was in Koine. But alas, I have no formal education in anicent classical or Koine but read this somewhere about the church fathers since Koine was more common in the Roman Empire during the 1st century to the 5th century than attic classical greek.

  18. Note this from the OCA website:

    At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the hierarchs exchanged gifts, while Archbishop Justinian offered greetings from His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus, expressing the Patriarch’s brotherly support for Metropolitan Jonah’s position as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. He also congratulated Metropolitan Jonah on the feast of Saint Jonah of Moscow, the Metropolitan’s patron.

    (emphasis mine)

    So much for the conspiricy theory that the ROC was going to trade the OCA for the Ukraine.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Steve, the whole idea of “giving” South America to Antioch, North America to Istanbul, Europe to Moscow sounded like so much Dan Brown/DaVinci Code boilerplate nonsense in the first place.

      If there had been a deal, then the OCA wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of electing bishops for Chicago and NYC (where there already exist at least 5 bishops). That also goes for the South and Alaska as well, who should have bishops within a year. (Also the Bulgarian diocese, it would be a great idea to merge the Bulgarian patriarchal parishes into these, of course this would deprive the Bulgarian patriarchate of one vote in the American episcopal assembly).

      One way to decrease parallel dioceses is to simply not replace an ethnic bishop when he dies.