Official Statement on the ‘Diaspora’ from the Chambesy Conference

The Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Chambésy, 6-13 June 2009


The Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference was convened by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with the consensus of Their Beatitudes the Primates of the Most Holy Orthodox Churches expressed during their Sacred Synaxis at the Phanar in October 2008. The Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference met at the Orthodox Center of Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, from 6 to 13 June 2009 under the chairmanship of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

This Conference, to which all of the most holy Orthodox Autocephalous Churches were invited and were represented, studied the issue of the canonical organization of the Orthodox Diaspora. Pursuant to article 16 of the Rules of Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences, this Conference discussed the relevant documents submitted in 1990 and 1993 by the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission, amending and approving them as follows:

1. a) It is affirmed that is the common will of all of the most holy Orthodox Churches that the problem of the Orthodox Diaspora be resolved as quickly as possible, and that it be organized in accordance with Orthodox ecclesiology, and the canonical tradition and practice of the Orthodox Church.

b) Likewise, it is affirmed that during the present phase it is not possible, for historical and pastoral reasons, for an immediate transition to the strictly canonical order of the Church on this issue, that is, the existence of only one bishop in the same place. For this reason, the Conference came to the decision to propose the creation of a temporary situation that will prepare the ground for a strictly canonical solution of the problem, based on the principles and guidelines set out below. Of necessity, this preparation will not extend beyond the convening of the future Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church, so that it (the Council) can proceed with a canonical solution of the problem.

2. a) This Conference proposes that, for the transitional period where the canonical solution of the issue will be prepared, “Episcopal Assemblies” of all canonically recognized bishops in each region should be created (or founded) in each of the regions defined below. The bishops will continue to be subject to the same canonical jurisdictions to which they are subject today.

b) These Assemblies will consist of all the bishops in each region who are in canonical communion with all of the most holy Orthodox Churches, and will be chaired by the first among the prelates of the Church of Constantinople and, in the absence of thereof, in accordance with the order of the Diptychs. These Assemblies will have an Executive Committee composed of the first hierarchs of the different jurisdictions that exist in the region.

c) The work and the responsibility of these Episcopal Assemblies will be the concern for manifesting the unity of Orthodoxy, the development of common action of all the Orthodox of each region to address the pastoral needs of Orthodox living in the region, a common representation of all Orthodox vis-à-vis other faiths and the wider society in the region, the cultivation of theological scholarship and ecclesiastical education, etc. Decisions on these subjects will be taken by consensus of the Churches who are represented in the particular Assembly.

3. The regions in which Episcopal Assemblies will be created in a first stage are defined as follows:

i. North America and Central America.
ii. South America.
iii. Australia, New Zealand and Oceania.
iv. Great Britain and Ireland.
v. France.
vi. Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.
vii. Austria.
viii. Italy and Malta.
ix. Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
x. Germany.
xi. Scandinavian countries (except Finland).
xii. Spain and Portugal.

The Bishops of the Diaspora, living in the Diaspora and possessing parishes in multiple regions, will be members of the Episcopal Assemblies of those regions.

4. These Assemblies, which are formed by the decision of this present Conference, have the responsibility to complete the regulation of their operation in the specifications approved by this Conference, and to apply this regulation as soon as possible, and certainly before the convening of the Great and Holy Council.

5. The Episcopal Assemblies do not deprive the Member Bishops of their administrative competencies and canonical character, nor do they restrict their rights in the Diaspora. The Episcopal Assemblies aim to form a common position of the Orthodox Church on various issues. In no way does this prevent Members Bishops from remaining responsible to their own Churches, and to express the views of their own Churches to the outside world.

6. The chairmen of the Episcopal Assemblies convene and preside at all joint meetings of the Bishops of their region (liturgical, pastoral, administrative, etc.). As for matters of a more general concern that require, by the decision of the Assembly of Bishops, a Pan-Orthodox approach, the Assembly’s chairman refers it to the Ecumenical Patriarch for further Pan-Orthodox actions.

7. The Orthodox churches are bound not to advance actions that could hinder the above process for a canonical resolution of the issue of the Diaspora, and to do their utmost to facilitate the work of the Episcopal Assemblies and the restoration of normal canonical order in the Diaspora.

† John of Pergamon, Chairman
† Sergios of Good Hope
† John in Western and Central Europe
† Hesychios of Capitolia
† Hilarion of Volokolamsk
† Irenaeus of Batschka
† Irenaeus of Oltenia
† Neophytos of Roussis
† Gerasimos of Zoukdidi and Tsaisi
† George of Paphos
† Chrysostom of Peristerion
† George of Siemiatise
† John of Korytsa
† Tikhon of Komarno
† Jeremias of Switzerland, Secretary

The Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Chambésy, 6-13 June 2009


Article 1.

1. 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.

2. Those Orthodox Bishops who do not reside in the region, but who have pastoral ministry in parishes in the Region, are also members of the Episcopal Assembly.

3. Retired Bishops and Bishops visiting the Region, inasmuch as they meet the requirements of paragraph (1), may be invited to participate in the Assembly, but without voting rights.
Article 2.

The purpose of the Episcopal Assembly is to manifest the unity of the Orthodox Church, to promote collaboration between the churches in all areas of pastoral ministry, and to maintain, preserve and develop the interests of the communities that belong to the canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Region.
Article 3.

The Episcopal Assembly will have an Executive Committee composed of the Primatial Bishops of each of the canonical Churches in the Region.
Article 4.

1. The Episcopal Assembly and its Executive Committee will have a Chairman, one or two Vice-Chairmen, a Secretary and a Treasurer, and any other positions of responsibility that the Assembly may designate.

2. The Chairman is ex officio the first among the Bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and, in the absence thereof, in the order of Diptychs. The Chairman of the Episcopal Assembly convenes the meetings thereof, directs its work and presides over its colleagues. Regarding issues that were discussed during the meeting of the Episcopal Assembly, and on which aunanimous decision was reached, the President (or another member of the Episcopal Assembly charged by him), presents the common position of the Orthodox Church in the Region to government, society and to other religious organizations.

3. The Vice-Chairmen are appointed ex officio from the Member Bishops of the Assemblies, from the next ranking Churches, in accordance with the order of the Diptychs of the Orthodox Churches. The Secretary, Treasurer and other positions of responsibility are chosen by the Assembly, and have the possibility not to originate from the ranks of the bishops.
Article 5.

1. The competencies of the Episcopal Assembly are:

a. to safeguard and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church of the Region in its theological, ecclesiological, canonical, spiritual, philanthropic, educational and missionary obligations.

b. The coordination and leadership of activities of common interest in areas of pastoral care, catechesis, liturgical life, religious publishing, mass media, religious education, etc.

c. Relations with other Christian Churches and other religions.

d. Anything that entails obligations of the Orthodox Church in Her relations with society and government.

e. The preparation of a plan to organize the Orthodox of the Region on a canonical basis.

2. The definition of the scope of these competencies should in no way interfere with the responsibility of each Bishop for his eparchial jurisdiction, or restrict the rights of his Church, including its relations with international agencies, governments, civil society, mass media, other legal undertakings, national and treaty organizations, as well as other religions.

For specific linguistic, educational and pastoral issues of a particular Church, the Episcopal Assembly may also collaborate with the ecclesiastical authority of the Church in question, so that the diversity of national traditions may secure the unity of Orthodoxy in the communion of faith and in the bond of love.
Article 6.

1. The Episcopal Assembly receives and records the election of Bishops of the Region, and their reference to the most holy autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

2. It examines and determines the canonical status of local communities in the Region that have no reference to the most holy autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

3. It must record every decision relating to clerics promulgated by their bishops, in order that this decision is applied among all the Orthodox Churches in the Region.
Article 7.

1. The Episcopal Assembly meets once a year, at the invitation of the Chairman. It may meet as often as it is deemed necessary by the Executive Committee, or at the written request that shows cause of one third of the members of the Assembly.

2. The Executive Committee meets once every three months and whenever necessary at the invitation of the Chairman or at the written request that shows cause of one third of its members.

3. The invitations to the Assembly, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, are to be sent two months in advance; and for the Executive Committee, one week in advance. They are to be accompanied by the agenda items and related documents.

4. The agenda must be approved at the first session of the Assembly, and should only be amended by a decision of the members present, be means of an absolute majority of the votes.
Article 8.

The quorum for the Executive Committee is two thirds of its members and for the Assembly, an absolute majority of members, including the Chairman.
Article 9.

The work of the Episcopal Assembly is conducted in accordance with the principles of the Orthodox conciliar tradition and is directed by its Chairman, who has the responsibility for supervising the implementation of its decisions.
Article 10.

1. The decisions of the Episcopal Assembly are taken by consensus.

2. In matters of more general concern which require, by the decision of the Assembly of Bishops, a Pan-Orthodox approach, the Assembly’s chairman refers it to the Ecumenical Patriarch for further Pan-Orthodox actions.
Article 11.

1. Upon the decision of the Episcopal Assembly, it is possible to form from its members Committees for Liturgical, Pastoral, Financial, Educational, Ecumenical and other issues, chaired by one of the Bishop-Members of the Assembly.

2. The members of these Committees, clergy or laity, are appointed by the Executive Committee. In addition, advisers and experts may be invited to participate in the Assembly or in the Executive Committee, without voting rights.
Article 12.

1. 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.

2. All legal and financial issues relating to the functioning of the Assembly are to be decided in the light of the civil laws of the countries of the Region, in which members of the Assembly exercise their jurisdiction.
Article 13.

The formation of a new Episcopal Assembly, the partition or abolition of an existing Episcopal Assembly, or the merger of two or more of these Assemblies, occurs following the decision of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, at the request of a particular Church, or the request of the Chairman of a particular Episcopal Assembly to the Ecumenical Patriarch.

† John of Pergamon, Chairman
† Sergios of Good Hope
† John in Western and Central Europe
† Hesychios of Capitolia
† Hilarion of Volokolamsk
† Irenaeus of Batschka
† Irenaeus of Oltenia
† Neophytos of Roussis
† Gerasimos of Zoukdidi and Tsaisi
† George of Paphos
† Chrysostom of Peristerion
† George of Siemiatise
† John of Korytsa
† Tikhon of Komarno
† Jeremias of Switzerland, Secretary

Source: Ecclesia News (Orthodox Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and South America — Ecumenical Patriarchate)


  1. This is the plan? A new SCOBA?

    I think these guys need a history lesson, and a vocabulary lesson, about what a diaspora is. We are being co-opted out of our own faith.

    Why do they continue to use this term? The very use of this term does violence to the Great Commission, the history of the Christian Church, and to our identity as members of the Church of Christ. Christians do not ‘belong’ to any particular territory. Christians can not be in diaspora. Period.

    This is a dangerous precedent, to be using this word ‘diaspora’ for missionary territories. It is not historically accurate, nor has it ever been used by Christians before. It betrays the ethno-centric identity of Orthodoxy in the vision of these hierarchs.

    This means it is not Christo-centric. It does promulgate ‘ethnic identity,’ keeping the Church bound to a culture club vision and mission, and making sure their ecclesiastical identity is never, ever indigenous.

    Now we see that the EP’s chosen representatives will be supervising the Episcopal Assemblies designed to promote and guard Orthodox unity?

    Well, SCOBA has failed miserably in promoting and guarding Orthodox unity. We can thank the EP’s designated supervisors for that too. Is there some reason we should expect something more or better from a new SCOBA-type assembly?

    My friends have a poignant way to describe this kind of accomplishment – epic failure.

  2. George Michalopulos :


    Although this looks to be a giant step in the right direction, two caveats spring instantly to mind: 1. It’s SCOBA enlarged (thereby ineffectual), and 2. It’s unworkable, at least here in the US. The American bishops are going to want to meet more than once a year, there’s way too many problems in our society and they aren’t gonna want to subcontract them out to the old SCOBA. (I do like the idea of a bicameral synod though.)

    Just as SCOBA has devolved into a massive waste of time, I don’t think there’s gonna be any takers for this in North America. In the other regions, yeah, but they’re working from the ground up and need all the help that they can get. These episcopal assemblies would work fine in Oceania or S America, but there’s too much history here in N America. Plus, the Russians have a special history in North America and they ain’t conceding that (nor should they).

    There are other reasons that come to mind: 1. I don’t think the GOA bishops will go for it because their numbers would be overwhelmed. 2. The non-GOA/OCA bishops are waiting to see which way the wind blows. If they think that the American episcopal assembly is just another stop-gap to frustrate unity and ensure GOA hegemony then they’ll do one of two things: a. stay where they are, or b. start joining the OCA.

    Of course, there’s the problem of Orthopraxy. The more conservative jurisdictions (Serbs, ROCOR) aren’t necessarily looking to hitch their wagon to an executive committee that’s dominated by liberals. And let’s be honest, although the Ukies and ACROD can’t be considered liberal, they know their place in the pecking order and have never challenged the EP/GOA as it continues its trek towards a more relaxed Orthopraxy. One can counter this by saying that they’ve kept their own rubrics intact but I’ve never heard them complain about the general worldly and liberal drift of the other SCOBA jurisdictions (including the AOCA).

    Anyway, that’s my take. Chambesy is still a huge comedown for the EP and for that he deserves credit. If this was done in good faith and was guided by the Holy Spirit, then it will profit God’s Church. If it was simply another ingenious way to prevent the formation of new autocephalous churches, then it will fail.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    John Panos (The John I wrote to was Mr Couretas), I think you are probably right. Notice all the caveats I put in my assessment. I chose not to discuss the term “diaspora” out of charity to the bishops who crafted this statement. Nor did I choose to point out that no American bishop was invited. I’m really trying to view this statement as the glass being “half full.” I’m afraid you’re right however. If this is just window-dressing for a “SCOBA second generation” at least here in America, it’s doomed to fail.

    I honestly don’t think that the majority of American bishops are going to show up for any more than one meeting. They’ll probably attend the first, but if they get a whiff of more of the same, I think it’ll just go away. As it is right now, I think SCOBA is pretty much dead in the water as well. and for much the same reasons.

  4. Speaking as a member of the ROCOR, I can say that George is absolute right about this: “The more conservative jurisdictions (Serbs, ROCOR) aren’t necessarily looking to hitch their wagon to an executive committee that’s dominated by liberals.”

    Whatever happens in America, ROCOR and the MP parishes will always remain tied to the Moscow Patriarchate, probably in the form of a Moscow Exarchate. The Russian Churches will never agree to be “adminstered” by outside parties.

    SCOBA-like bodies are apparently a new thing in places outside of America, so the Orthodox in other countries are going to give it a shot. Here in America, we can redouble our efforts on the the things that the jurisdictions agree on: IOCC, OCMC, OCF, etc.

    Given George’s insight into liberal versus conservative, It seems likely that SCOBA-like bodies will develop along those lines in the future in this country. Who would be included the Conservative SCOBA? The Liberal SCOBA?

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Joe, I dunno, you tell me. Personally I see two Orthodox presences: A conservative body centered around +Jonah and a rump SCOBA centered around the EP.

  6. There are some nice thoughts here but lets consider what the SCOBA constitution says and what we have in reality.

    The SCOBA Constitution reads

    (b) Structure.

    1.Presiding Hierarch. The Office of Presiding Hierarch shall pass in turn annually to the presiding hierarchs of the member jurisdictions in order of their precedence in the Church.
    2.The Presiding Hierarch shall preside at all meetings.
    3.The conference shall elect a Vice-Chairman, who in the absence of the Presiding Hierarch, shall preside at meetings.

    Now this is a nice idea, taking turns and being conciliar but in reality we have something different. We have a SCOBA dominated by the EP that is not following its own constitution.

    If this is how the EP functions now with a blatant disregard for the order of SCOBA how can we trust any new iniative in the USA.

    We have seen how SCOBA works under the GOA primate has head all these years.

    How about a change?

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, I forgot about SCOBA’s rotating presidency. Since the ouster of +Iakovos, the Phanar has exposed its bad-faith efforts in this regard. Your analysis is pushing me along the path of why it appears likely that the new episcopal assembly won’t take off. Because the GOA succumbed to the Phanar in this regard, I don’t believe anybody else will believe them this time. It’s kind of like the boy who cried wolf.

  8. Dare I say SCOBA is a episcopal assembly in captivity. We should have one of those tickers on AOI that shows the years, months, days, minutes etc than the constitution of SCOBA has been violated by the EP and demand the rotating presidency be restored.

    Is is too much to ask to follow the constitution?

    Has the rotating presidency ever been used?

    And who appoints the General Secretary of SCOBA anyway?

    Liberate SCOBA, restore law and order and save American Orthodoxy I say!

  9. George Michalopulos :

    I think the final straw for the “episcopal assembly” that was last chaired by SCOBA was the last one in which no bishop was allowed to talk about American unity. It had been ruled out of order ahead of time by +Demetrius. A damn shame. How anybody could presume to tell bishops what they can and can’t talk about is beyond me.

  10. George you know this all kind of sounds like The Council of Elrond in the the movie version of Fellowship of the Ring. Boromir gets up and gives an impassioned speech about his Father the Steward of Gondor and then ends with the boast “Gondor has no king, Gondor needs no king”

    The GOA is alot like Boromir and SCOBA has a steward but no lawful chairman.

    Search “Council of Elrond Extended Edition” on youtube if you want to check out the clip.

  11. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, the wisdom of Tolkien’s fantasy is profound on so many levels. We could spend decades its ramifications for almost any human endeavor.

  12. jamey w. bennett :

    We should take a lesson from the Anglicans. Foreign Anglican bishops got too involved in US affairs as an emergency situation. But even then, men like Archbishop Orombi (Uganda) would say things all the time like, “You Americans need to solve your jurisdiction problems. We don’t like creating jurisdiction in your land. You need to get together and AGREE. Laymen need to FORCE your bishops to agree with each other and solve this mess.” (That’s a paraphrase, but accurately represents things I heard him say in person about 1-1/2 ago.)

    Now the conservative Anglicans in North America have not created an Anglican version of SCOBA, but they’ve actually re-constituted themselves into a single province. Now, they still have a jurisdictional mess to sort out over time. BUT – they are constitutionally and doctrinally united, and in addition, have a single archbishop – which is a huge step toward jurisdictional coherence.

    The Orthodox in America need to solve this problem. Not a council of men thousands of miles away. Lord have mercy.

  13. Interesting things can be learnt from looking at the SCOBA-equivalents from other places around the world. I’ve heard that France has it’s own version.

    However, what I’d prefer to address is the Oceania episcopal assembly – a concept that, based on previous experience, could perhaps best be described as ‘humourous’.

    The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Churches ( was formed in 1979, and the rules were written so that the EP bishop would be the permanent president. I’m not sure what the real story is behind SCCOCA is… of course, neither is anyone else. Currently, the sum total activities are a SCCOCA-sponsored Divine Liturgy in Sydney in Bright Week, with one auxiliary GOA-Aus bishop and the ruling Serbian Orthodox bishop.

    These two jurisdictions (GOA-Aus and Serbian Orthodox Dioceses) are also the sum total of SCCOCA members – there are currently three other jurisdictions with bishops, and four that do not…

    Seriously, check out the SCCOCA article on OWiki.

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