Metropolitan Philip addresses Episcopal Assemby

Antiochian Archdiocese


Who can dissolve SCOBA except SCOBA itself?…I believe that some of our churches in the Old World are in “Diaspora.”…(N)o Primate of any jurisdiction should be excluded from the Executive Committee…The Mother Churches must realize that Orthodoxy in America is the best gift to the world…If we do not bury the burdens of the past between certain autocephalous churches, such burdens will bury us, and Orthodoxy in this country and throughout the world will become an insignificant dot on the margin of history.”


“Your Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Brother Bishops:

Metropolitan Phillip

Metropolitan Phillip

My opening remarks this morning are taken from the Vespers of Palm Sunday, “Today the Grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together.” How wonderful and pleasing to God for all of us to meet and discuss matters related to the life of our Church on this particular continent. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chairman of SCOBA for his hard work to make this gathering possible.

The literature which we received from Chambesy via the Greek Archdiocese of America, raises some important questions.

ONE, Despite the vitality and the dynamic nature of Orthodoxy in North America, no member of SCOBA, not even the chairman of SCOBA, was consulted about what was discussed in Geneva. We received rules from our brothers in Switzerland which we have nothing to do with. We have been on this continent for more than two hundred (200) years. We are no longer little children to have rules imposed on us from 5,000 miles away. Orthodoxy in America has its own ethos. We have our own theological institutions, and we have our own theologians, authors, publications and magazines. We do not intend to be disobedient to the Mother Churches; we just want to dialogue with them and give them the opportunity to know us and understand us. We have been here for a long, long time and we are very grateful to the Almighty God that in our theology and worship, we do express the fullness of the Holy Orthodox faith.

Fifty years ago our hierarchs, may their souls rest in peace, founded SCOBA which has done a splendid job despite our external limitations. We have established the Orthodox Christian Education Commission which is chaired by a Greek Orthodox gentleman. We have established the International Orthodox Christian Charities which is directed by Constantine Triantafilou, a very good Greek Orthodox. We have established the Orthodox Christian Mission Center which is doing an excellent job and we have done many other things which time does not permit me to enumerate.

My dear brothers,

We are faced now with a very serious procedural nightmare. We are, supposedly, here to discuss a new organization to replace SCOBA. The question is: Was SCOBA dissolved and if so, by whom? And when? SCOBA has a constitution which is fifty years old. If this constitution has to be amended, let us then amend it according to correct procedures. No one can dissolve SCOBA except SCOBA itself. SCOBA has organized Bishops’ Assemblies before Chambesy told us to do so. The first Assembly was held at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania in 1994, under the chairmanship of our brother, Archbishop Iakovos, of blessed memory. The second Bishops’ Assembly was convened in Washington, D.C. and the third Bishops’ Assembly was convened in Chicago, Illinois, both under the auspices of SCOBA and the Chairmanship of His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios.

TWO – The second point which I would like to note is concerning the term “Diaspora” which was used several times in the literature which we received from Geneva. I remember, there are many of you who were at the Antiochian Village in 1994 and should remember that the term “Diaspora” was unanimously rejected by our assembly. We are not in Babylon; we are in North America, the new world. We are dealing here with second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth generations of American Orthodox and they refuse to be called “Diaspora.”

I believe that some of our churches in the Old World are in “Diaspora.” In Jerusalem, for example, we have 2,000 Orthodox Christians left. In Constantinople, the glorious capital of the Byzantine Empire, I was told that there are only 2,000 Greek Orthodox left. And the Turkish Government, until now, refuses to let us open that famous Theological School of Khalki, despite the intervention of the presidents of the United States. In Iraq, hundreds of Christians were slaughtered and thousands had to flee Iraq to the Syrian Arab Republic. We are free here in North America — free to teach, free to preach, free to worship, free to write books and sometimes criticize even the presidents of the United States. We have the full freedom of expression in accordance with the United States Constitution. It is important to note here that the Holy Synod of Antioch, to my knowledge, never discussed the Chambesy decision and the rules of operation in order to formally bless this effort.

THREE – Some of the communiqués which were issued by the fathers in Geneva were good. I don’t understand, however, why Central America was joined to North America. The Antiochian Metropolitan of Mexico and Central America informed me that he wanted to be with the Orthodox Bishops of South America. The reason is: he has nothing in common with North America because he represents a different culture all together. As a matter of fact, he traveled to Brazil to attend the Bishops’ Assembly which met at the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Sao Paulo.

I hope that, in the future, this matter could possibly be addressed. In the communiqué which was issued from Geneva dated June 6-12, 2009, I read something very interesting and very hopeful. It says and I quote: “The conference expresses the common desires of all Orthodox Churches for a solution to the problem of the canonical organization of the Orthodox “Diaspora,” in accordance with the ecclesiological and canonical tradition and practice of the Orthodox Church.” The same communiqué includes these bright words: “The mission of the Bishops’ Assemblies is the proclamation and promotion of the unity of the Orthodox Church, the common pastoral ministry of the Orthodox faithful in the region, as well as the common witness to the world.” Here we see a clear emphasis on the unity of the Orthodox Church. What is needed is the translation of these inspiring words into concrete action.

Other pleasing words appeared in Article III of the rules which state: “The Episcopal Assembly will have an executive committee composed of the Primatial Bishops of each of the canonical churches in the region.” From this text, I understand that no canonical bishop should be excluded from the assembly. If we share the same Eucharistic table which is the highest expression of Orthodox unity, can’t we work together on the Executive Committee?

Article XII of the rules is very promising. It states, “The Episcopal Assembly may establish its own internal regulations in order to supplement and adjust the above provisions, in accordance with the needs of the region and in respect to the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church.”

My dear brothers,

You can see that Article XII of the rules is very flexible and it gives us the freedom to “establish our own internal regulations.” Thus, no Primate of any jurisdiction should be excluded from the Executive Committee. Furthermore, the Executive Committee should be strong enough to prepare an adequate agenda for these Episcopal Assemblies. The Mother Churches must realize that Orthodoxy in America is the best gift to the world. And instead of being crushed by the burdens of the past, let us formulate a clear vision for the future. Thomas Jefferson, one of the fathers of our American revolution, once said: “I love the visions of the future rather than the dreams of the past.”

If I have a vision for the future, it is this: Jerusalem has less than 2,000 Orthodox left. Istanbul has 2,000 Greek Orthodox left. The future of Orthodoxy in the Middle East is uncertain. Thus, for the sake of international Orthodox unity and Orthodox unity in North America, we should with one voice, beg His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch to leave Istanbul and move to Washington, D.C. or New York City and head a united Orthodox Church in this hemisphere. All of us, I am sure, will be blessed to be under his omophorion and Orthodox unity in North America will cease to be a dream, but a reality.

My dear brothers,

If we do not bury the burdens of the past between certain autocephalous churches, such burdens will bury us, and Orthodoxy in this country and throughout the world will become an insignificant dot on the margin of history.”


  1. Isa Almisry :

    I had been thinking that if the OCA didn’t get a seat on the executive committee, that I would switch from Antioch to OCA. This speech makes that unlikely.

    • Makes what unlikely, Isa?

      The OCA did NOT get a seat on the executive committee.

      I was hoping that +Dimetrious would do the right thing – I was wrong.

      According to Black Bart, we (the OCA) are a non-canonical church. That means our sacrements are not valid. I’d stay with Antioch if I were you.


      • If the OCA wasn’t considered autocephalous, but they consider the OCA bishops as such, then they would have been seated with the Russian Bishops. That they were seated together is a recognition of the OCA’s status.

        If as you say the OCA was denied a seat on an executive committee, well, perhaps the others on the committee will as their first matter of business vote to correct that oversight.

        • Isa Almisry :


          Btw, were ROCOR and the Patriarchal administrator seated together?

          The fact that the OCA was not seated with either says something. Don’t worry, the Phanar can hear it, especially as the EP just had to hear the OCA in the diptychs, concelebrating with the PoM and the representative of the OCA on St. Cyril and Methodios’ day. And then the Russians retired to Optino without inviting the guest EP.

      • Isa Almisry :

        Makes what unlikely, Isa?

        The OCA did NOT get a seat on the executive committee.

        I was hoping that +Dimetrious would do the right thing – I was wrong.

        According to Black Bart, we (the OCA) are a non-canonical church. That means our sacraments are not valid. I’d stay with Antioch if I were you.

        LOL. The fallible pronouncements of the Ultramarist Phanar doesn’t make we worry a bit. I just went to communion in an OCA Church two weeks ago.

        Focus less on the surface, and see how Arb. Demetrios, Met. Philip and Met. Jonah’s actions are complementing each other, much to the Phanar’s dismay.

        I’m waiting for the official pronouncements on the Executive Committee.

  2. Did Fr. Mark Arey’s head explode?

    How is he going to spin himself out of this one?

    I like the fact the Antiochians are publishing materials from the EA. The wonder boys at 79th street should not have sole control. Isn’t the internet wonderful?

    • I remember Fr. Arey’s press efforts well from the Spyridon days. He’s a good soldier in that he does what he’s told with such panache as he can muster with — ah, what he has been given to work with.

  3. Isa Almisry :

    The administrator of Moscow’s patriarchal parishes also had his say:

    The opening of the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America coincided with the beginning of my service as Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the United States of America. I am glad that, not long after my arrival in this country, I am bearing witness to this inspirational moment of Pan-Orthodox unity and mutual understanding. I hope that our current gathering will lay the foundation for further development of efforts to consolidate Orthodoxy on the American continent.

    From what I can tell, the Orthodox in America have reasons for similar hope, considering that in our times Orthodoxy is one of the most dynamically developing Christian confessions on the continent. An increasing number of our faithful belong to the Orthodox Church not as the result of their ethnic background, but of a conscious choice in favor of Orthodoxy’s truth.

    I think that we are all ready to freely share our experiences with our Orthodox brethren. The Russian Orthodox Church, which, as we know from history, played a fundamental role in the expansion of Orthodoxy in America, is ready for this as well. The names of such devoted missionaries as St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent of Moscow, and Patriarch Tikhon, are enormously significant to the faithful of every American jurisdiction. It bears mentioning as well, that before the 1920’s, there was only one jurisdiction in North America – that of the Russian Orthodox Church, which, as we know, was open to representatives of the widest variety of ethnic communities.

    It is no secret that the issue discussed in Chambésy invites a great deal of attention, due to the numerous problems and frictions, which, unfortunately, darken the coexistence of Church structures of varying jurisdictions in a single area. We hear of similar complications in the widest variety of other countries and regions. That said, we can take some satisfaction in the fact that the situation in America is not nearly so complex as it is elsewhere. I maintain that this is the case due in no small part to the efforts of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), which in its time was formed with the active participation of the Russian Orthodox Church. Over the course of its existence since the 1960’s, SCOBA has stepped forward as a fairly effective tool for inter-Orthodox cooperation.

  4. Pretty clear, truthful, and direct! I wonder how they will try to spin this?

  5. Probably something will be published in Greek designed to generate fear among the Greek speakers that Met. Philip insisted not even one Greek word will be permitted starting next week and they’ll never hear ‘Christos Anesti’ again in their parish unless they explode in protests, anger and three hundred telephone calls per hour, each, for a week, starting today asking the Greek government or maybe the E. Patriarch to retire the local bunch and take charge personally.

    In English, the response will be probably something along the lines of ‘a robust debate must be expected and of course there are many voices to be considered’.

    Who knows? Maybe the EP will board a plane! I like to believe three impossible things before breakfast, just to sort of warm up.

  6. Archbishop Demetrios’ address can be found here:

    Some of the things His Emminence mentioned as the EA’s immediate tasks: creating protocols for financial accountability and creating agreed-upon canonical norms for the reception of converts and ordinations– are likely to not be to Met. Phillip’s liking… at all. I expect him to continue to agitate about unity in vague terms as a way to derail concrete progress toward anything that would force him to reveal his Archdiocese’s finances or retract some of his less-canonical ordination practices….

  7. I like the fact that His Emminence’s words

    “Other pleasing words appeared in Article III of the rules which state: “The Episcopal Assembly will have an executive committee composed of the Primatial Bishops of each of the canonical churches in the region.” From this text, I understand that no canonical bishop should be excluded from the assembly. If we share the same Eucharistic table which is the highest expression of Orthodox unity, can’t we work together on the Executive Committee?”

    apply equally for OCA and for the Brazilian bishops of the missionary Polish church. Also, the missionary Serbian church had no representatives in São Paulo, and although Don Mitrophan could not go because he had to attend the Serbian Synod, at least the Archpriest could have been invited as a hearer to report later about the proceedings. Coincidence or not, the people in these churches are mainly Brazilians, with a focus on doing mission with the natives and seeding for a future Orthodox Church of Brazil.

  8. Michael Bauman :

    Fr. Stephen Freeman this morning has, among other comments, this to say regarding the episcopal assembly:

    The Orthodox Church has perhaps the weakest ecclesiology of all, because it depends, moment by moment, on the love and forgiveness of each by all and of all by each. Either the Bishops of the Church love and forgive each other or the whole thing falls apart. “Brethren, let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” These are the words that introduce the Creed each Sunday, and they are the words that are the bedrock of our ecclesiology

    Do the comments of Fr. Arey and Met. Phillip reflect the mystery of the Church or the desire to achieve a specific agenda in a poltical manner?

    Even more important to me: What is my own approach?

    I pray that there are bishops for whom a pre-programed agenda is not what they are seeking but rather the one mind in submission to the Holy Spirit, just as I pray for myself.

    Lord have mercy

  9. The ‘Vaticanistic peril’ of the ‘episcopal assembly’ turns on whether they accept and abide by rules created without their participation from overseas if it is their judgement here that doing differently in this or that case would be better for the people here.

    Are they Orthodox bishops lacking no competence Orthodox bishops of yesteryear possessed? Or are they lesser creatures not living the historical titles they carry — while creating Vaticanistic tendencies giving those overseas ‘remote control’ not found in Orthodox history.

  10. First, a rather pedestrian question:

    Is there a list of those bishops who actually showed up?

    Despite the fairly high resolution of the four pictures posted on the GOA site, with their kamilafke, some bishops are hard to distinguish.

    Second, I’d note that a few commentators here have made passing reference to the “Serbian” bishops, and even expressed some hope in them.

    I respectfully suggest, that those wishing for a unified church, forget about “the Serbs.” Any speculation that they would support severing the umbilical cord to Belgrade should be quashed — with a pile driver.

    Metropolitan Christopher is largely considered a grossly ineffectual nuisance — in Belgrade and in the USA. And, he speaks out of the both sides of his mouth. For every word he utters that would hint to one person that he is for a no strings attached autocephalous American church, there are just as many comments in other contexts that point in the completely opposite direction. Within the last year, he has a newly created diocese, “the Metropolitanate of Chicago-Libertyville.” It consists of the Monastery of St. Sava in Libertyville, Illinois, and a single parish in Chicago. Though he is among the most senior bishops in the SOC by ordination, he is a complete non-factor.

    Bishop Longin of Midwestern America contemplated not attending the EA, thinking that little would take place. As an “administrator,” he’s completely clueless.

    As to scandal plagued, morally impaired, imperious Bishop George of Canada, he demands complete subservience to Belgrade. Canada is just another diocese in the SOC, albeit a little farther away from his favorite village. Frankly, I would be surprised if he is at the EA. He hardly even attends meetings of the Episcopal Council of the SOC in the USA.

    As to “Don” Mitrophan of Eastern America — the SOC bishop who did not attend the South American EA — he is generally disengaged.

    Bishop Maxim of Western America, he “gets it,” but is much more concerned about raging liturgical controversies in the SOC about the epiklisis and other practices. His theological — but not necessarily ecclesiological — inclinations are with the Phanar rather than Moscow.

    In short, the SOC bishops will do whatever is politically expedient for that nanosecond. Their attention has been on Kosovo for the past couple of years. The power struggles in the Synod and Holy Assembly created during the protracted illness and recent death of the Saintly Patriarch Paul rage on.

    Earlier this year, Bartholemew served at Paul’s funeral; Kyrill did not attend. Key members of the SOC Synod have spent considerable time at the Phanar over the last two years or so; far more time than in Moscow — even though Belgrade maintains an episcopal, “representational” presence in Moscow.

    These days, the SOC — whether expressed by individual bishops or in some quasi coordinated cacophany — will sell out to anyone who offers them something they believe will “help” Kosovo, that geopolitically long lost cause. Today, they will flirt with Rome so long as some Vatican bureaucrat says something nice to the EU Minister for Underwater Basketweaving. Tomorrow, they will exhort their Slavic heroes in Moscow, so long as the Duma condemns the West’s diplomacy on some subject. And, the day after, well, Istanbul has a reasonable read of the 28th Canon of Chalcedon afterall … because, of course, momentarily, they have a common dislike of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Certainly, you see, the newly created “Autonomous Archbishopic of Ohrid” is the only game in town. Nevermind the fact that in 1958 the SOC “created” what is now considered the “schismatic” MOC.

    Forget the Serbs.

    God help us all.

  11. Mighty in Meekness – St. John the Russian – May 27

    Those who are familiar with the Gospel should not be astonished at what happened next, for did the Lord not say that faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move mountains? Strong in his faith, the blessed one returned with the plate of pilaff to the stable and, as he was petitioning the Lord, in answer to his firm entreaty, the plate disappeared. What was the amazement of the entire household when the Agha finally returned from Mecca bringing with him the copper plate which had held the food. He had been equally astonished to discover the steaming plate of pilaff upon his return from the Mosque to the locked room where he was staying. Still greater was his confusion when he realized that the copper plate was engraved with his initials–just as all the vessels in his house. “For the sake of Allah, I cannot understand how it came even unto Mecca and who brought it!” When his wife told him of John’s request, they recognized the strange occurrence to be a miracle of God, and henceforth all considered John as a righteous man who had found favor with God.

  12. I would also like to see a list of bishops who attended. Has anyone seen such a list? Is Bishop Demetri (a registered sex offender, but not defrocked) attending for example?

  13. Steve,

    If the Ecumenical Patriarchate speaks of the OCA as “uncanonical” it does not mean that it thinks OCA sacraments are “invalid” or any such thing.
    “Uncanonical” is a mere reference to not recognizing OCA Autocephaly, which means the EP would look at us more like a Metropolia under Moscow (which the OCA once was).
    In nearly every major city you can find GOA clergy and OCA clergy (and even bishops) concelebrating the holy mysteries, and the EP knows this and obviously doesn’t speak against it.
    Throwing around words like “valid” and “invalid” when in an inter-Orthodox discussion is really not necessary and can be dangerously confusing.
    Actually, even if there is open schism in the Church, or if a small schismatic group breaks away, the Church is reluctant to immediately speak in terms of “valid” and “invalid” sacraments (historically, there has always been a distinction between schism and heresy -the latter being when issues of “validity” come up).
    In inter-Orthodox discussions we should all refrain from terms like “valid” and “invalid”.

    • Isa Almisry :

      The EP himself concelebrated with the representative of the OCA in Moscow, Archm. Zacchaeus, and had to hear Met. Jonah as primate of the OCA commemorated in the diptychs this week.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Also Rev Fr Dr Archimandrite Hopebearer was forced to concelebrate as well. Who says the Lord doesn’t have a sense of humor?

  14. Kevin Allen :

    Metropolitan Philip at his best! When he’s good, he’s good!

    • Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim :

      True, but as the saying goes, “…and when he’s bad, he’s a terror!” : )

  15. I have read all the above and am encouraged even through the darker comments expressed by some above, that the hierarchs are moving in the right direction. Orthodox unity in America is possible, probably not in my lifetime, but maybe in the lifetime of those following us, but, eventually, surely, it will happen! As a first generation American Antiochian, I have been engrained to take Orthodoxy to America, that its truth is meant for all of us, not just to the cultures of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia but to all God’s children. I am pleased that Metropolitan Philip has made a most profound, practical suggestion that the EP simply move his office to the U.S. and lead the free Western world in a unified Orthodoxy!
    Lord have mercy on them that they have long lives and achieve that objective.

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