The Bishops Are Coming To New York, As Complex Diaspora Question Looms

Read closely. What are the greatest fears? The autocephaly of the OCA (wild card) and the Ligonier Council (precedent). The times are changing folks. The lumbering bureaucratic structures that have sublimated the nascent creativity and energy of American Orthodoxy under the weight Old World self-interest might be loosing their grip. There is more anxiety here than is being revealed.


The National Herald, Friday, May 21, 2010

By Theodore Kalmoukos

Fr. Mark Arey

Fr. Mark Arey

Nearly 60 hierarchs will descend on New York from May 26-28 for the first Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops from the United States, Canada and Central America, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Demetrios of America, and the stage has been set for some clashes about the direction the church should take, and the role of self-rule of some. The Assembly will convene at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, and its expense will be assumed by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, through the Leadership 100 grant to the Office of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and other sources. The meeting is the result of the decision of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, which met in Chambesy, Switzerland in June of 2009, and it is one of 12 that will be convened around the world in regions where there is no single Orthodox presence.

The Bishops of the Diaspora, living in the Diaspora and possessing parishes in multiple regions, will be members of the Episcopal Assemblies of 12 regions. At the center of the Assembly will be the issue of the Diaspora, meaning the existence of more than one Orthodox Bishop in the same place (city.) Also participating is the former Russian Metropolia, known today as OCA, which was given autocephaly in 1970 by the Patriarchate of Moscow. The National Herald has learned that that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had initially instructed Archbishop Demetrios not to invite the OCA, but Demetrios sent them invitations to attend. The Archbishop discussed the issue during his recent visit to the Phanar three weeks ago.

In an exclusive interview with The National Herald, Rev. Mark Arey Director of the Ecumenical Office of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which is in charge of the Interfaith and Interorthodox matters, said in response to a question about whether the Orthodox Church in America will also participate in the Assembly, that, “The Bishops who comprise the so-called OCA will participate because they are canonical bishops who live in the region meet the criteria of an invitation.” He explained that, “all Bishops were invited individually, meaning that the invitations did not go out to any jurisdictional head.” He stressed the point that “the Bishops of the OCA will be present and participate as individual Bishops.”

As far as the Metropolitan of OCA Jonas, he said, “He was invited as a bishop and my impression is that he will come and participate as an individual bishop.” But Father Arey said Jonas would not participate as the Metropolitan of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. “No, obviously not, because the autocephaly of OCA is not recognized by the sum total of Orthodoxy, it is only recognized by a few churches.”

When asked about a Eucharistic Communion with them, he said, “I cannot answer officially, I can only give my opinion, because since 1970 before even I was converted to Orthodoxy decisions were made that the former Russian Metropolia which was not in communion with Moscow, but it was in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate when it was granted so-called autocephaly as a way of bringing them back into communion with Moscow. I think worldwide Orthodoxy at the time did not reject communion with them, a few churches did for a little while, I think the Patriarchate of Jerusalem did not co-celebrated with them.”

He added that, “All of the various Mother Churches which have presences here in the United States have always been in communion with the OCA. Even to this day the OCA faithful commune in our parishes and our parishioners can commune in a OCA parish, we are not out of canonical communion although we do not recognize the legitimacy of the so called autocephaly in any way.”

Is there any hypocrisy? “I see complexity more than hypocrisy to be honest with you,” he said, adding that, “hopefully this Assembly will be one of the vehicle that looks on all of these issues and study solutions.”


As for the aim of the meeting, he said, “In the regulations the aim is for the Assembly to try to propose to the Great and Holy Council that will meet eventually in canonical solution to the anomalies of the region and those anomalies are many, but the biggest anomaly is to have more than one bishop in one place.”

Could this be achieved without establishing an American Autocephalous Church? He said, “absolutely yes.” But how? “Well, that actually will be the decision of the Great and Holy Council only a universal Council of all Orthodox can canonize the situation.”

He went on to say, “I think that there are varieties of transitional models, I think there are varieties of autonomy and semi-autonomy which exists in the Orthodox World today. The Church of Crete is a semi-autonomous church.” As for the idea of a semi-autonomous Church, he said, “Some of this has become an issue of semantics.”

Is Assembly heading toward the creation of an American Autocephalous Orthodox Church? “I do not know, that is my honest answer,” he said, adding: “In generations from now it could be a possibility but sometimes people speak of these things. I have heard people saying it from other jurisdictions that America should be a Patriarchate. I think and I say it with respect to others but there is a certain level of immaturity. Sometimes we speak too quickly, I am a convert myself and my family came to this country three hundred years ago, America is not that old and I love this country.” Where does Archbishop Demetrios stand on this issue of autocephaly? What would happen if some Bishops, including those of the OCA get up and proclaim autocephaly?

Father Arey said, “The Archbishop is ex-officio the chairman of the Assembly. It is interesting to know that there two vice-chairmen as well the Antiochian and from the Russian Patriarchate. The Assembly has competencies and these competencies do not relate to declarations and proclamations and all these types of things that people might imagine. The Assembly has serious constructive foundational work to perform in terms of taking over the ministries of CSOBA and all the work that SCOBA has done for 50 years and at the same time creating a process by which canonical solutions come as proposals. The Assembly is transitional and temporary and that is the great difference with SCOBA which you know was standing (permanent.)”

He also said that, “The Assembly’s job is to witness to Orthodox Unity chiefly which we already have through the Eucharist and then to work on solving canonical issues and then make proposals to the Great and Holy Council, and not to declare anything.” He said, “We are making it easy for everybody to come and this is one of the reasons why they are coming, but I want to point one think which I think is very important that there has not been a meeting like this before. You cannot compare Ligonier in 1994, Chicago in 2006 which were Assemblies that the SCOBA sponsored.” He said he didn’t know the cost, but said, “The other side of the coin is that is very significant that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese remains by far the largest and in some people’s estimations over twice as large as every other Orthodox presence in the United States combined.” Without the presence of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese would there be no SCOBA or Assemblies? “It would be very, very difficult for any Pan-orthodox movement in any form to exist without the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.”


He said he didn’t see any danger of breakdown in the meeting. “I did not speak of the Bishops obviously, I spoke in the blocks sphere; if you see the Internet, sometimes there are people who speak without responsibility and without a deep sense of historical Orthodoxy; I do not think there any dangers. I think one of the brilliant aspects is the Chambesy documents both the decision and the regulations are comprehensive but they are limited in terms of process. The Assembly has specific competencies; outside of those competencies it has no role. It is not that someone can stand up and say I proclaim that we are this or that.” But how different or how similar is this Assembly from Ligonier in 1994? “I think the way Ligonier was spawned after the fact created all different impression of what Ligonier actually did or did not do. Ligonier was an Assembly that was called by SCOBA which was never authorized as a Pan-Orthodox process, it was something local,” he said. As to the pronouncements of the Ligonier, plus the revelations certain hierarchs made to The National Herald at that time and whether there was some type of an ecclesiastical coup toward the creation of an autocephalous Church, he said, “I think it might have been the intention of some people.”

But he said the Ecumenical Patriarchate didn’t err in revoking Ligonier. “No, I am no saying that, I do not think the Patriarchate of Serbia made a mistake either because they recalled their Bishop. There were some serious reactions, but I think the difference is the Ligonier was not part of something greater but the Assembly of Bishops is in fact completely part of a process that has been authorized and basically pre-approved by all the Mother Churches and we are working with specific guidelines to do constructive work.”

The regions will be broken down this way:

North America and Central America

South America

Australia, New Zealand and Oceania

Great Britain and Ireland


Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg


Italy and Malta

Switzerland and Lichtenstein


Scandinavian countries (except Finland)

Spain and Portugal


  1. Isa Almisry :

    I am not sure if answers so mired in denial are “honest” answers.

    The OCA’s autocephaly is recognized by the plurality of the Churches, and the vast majority of the Orthodox. Only the Greek Church tries to veto it.

    “At the center of the Assembly will be the issue of the Diaspora, meaning the existence of more than one Orthodox Bishop in the same place (city.)” Yeah, I’m sure the Phanar wants to see it that way, and implement the “solution”-the Final Solution-of their metropolitan of Boston (…brush up on your Greek…). The issue of multiple bishops might be the problem in other EAs (though it doesn’t seem that is the case) but the elephant in the room here is the existence of the local, canonical Autocephalous Church. And it’s “OCA” The Orthodox Church in America, not SCOCA — “the so-called….”.

    As such the OCA has competencies on its jurisdiction that are not limited by protocols it did not participate in nor sign. That includes acting as a body rather that individually. If, for instance, Met. Jonah is not given his seat on the executive committee, the Holy Synod as a body should walk out.

    Met. Jonah, as an autocephalous head, can and should stand up and say “I proclaim that we are an autocephaluus Church.”

    Greece has collapsed. It is not in the position it once was to kill Ligonier. BTW, anyone else notice that Asia is missing from the list of EA’s?

    The problem can and should be resolved by recognizing North America’s autocephaly.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Isa, the arrogance on display here is breathtaking. Breathtakingly stupid. Arey foolishly gave all of the non-GOA hierarchs a trememdous wild card. Think about it, it’s so glaringly obvious that the GOA/EP wants all jurisdictions subjugated under it. But what’s in it for the others? That’s up to them to figure out individually but it’s far easier to get concessions out of a desperate man than out of a confident one.

      Now they can all hold out for more goodies from the GOA fat-cats. Word on the street is that the OCA was the wild card simply because it already possesses autocephaly, but now +Jonah’s position is arguably stronger. But he’s not the only one: +Philip retains enormous clout because if things don’t go his way then he can threaten merger of the OCA and AOCNA.

      Arey and others will interject that this would go against the protocols established at Chambesy but given what happened in South America, it’s very possible that the entire process will collapse based on the bad faith displayed yet again by Istanbul.

      Now this is where it gets interesting: if the Chambesy process fails, the villain will be the Phanar. The winner? Who do you all think?

  2. Fr. Peter Dubinin :

    “The other side of the coin is that is very significant that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese remains by far the largest and in some people’s estimations over twice as large as every other Orthodox presence in the United States combined.” Without the presence of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese would there be no SCOBA or Assemblies? “It would be very, very difficult for any Pan-orthodox movement in any form to exist without the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.”

    Wow! Open mouth ‘A’ insert foot ‘B.’ Such condescending arrogance.

    • Isa Almisry :

      Yeah. In fact, it is difficult to have any Pan-Orthodox movement with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, as NO ONE (yes, Fr. Arey, that is “unanimous,” “the sum total of Orthodoxy” and any other overstatement you consistently apply to the minority opinion of the Greek Church on the OCA’s autocephaly) accepts the Phanar’s “so-called” interpretation of canon 28.

      Met. Jonah has placed his faith in Abp. Demetrios. So far, given the tiff with the EP, not misplaced. I pray it so remains.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Isa, Fr Peter, the stunning arrogance on display here confirms my long-held belief of the amateurishness of the Phanar and its minions. Arey essentially tipped the hand of his overlord with these brazen words. We’ve long suspected that the GOA (minus +Demetrios) was not acting in good faith, now it’s a proven fact.

        Implications? Unfortunately, this will knock +Demetrios back on his heels. Also, the GOA bishops will be falling all over themselves trying to apologize (well, the sane ones anyway). I can especially envision Arey being forced to eat some humble pie. Nobody likes triumphalism. Just like what happenen in Sao Paolo, the EP is going to have to apologize behind the scenes to +Kirill for his minions’ high-handedness.

        Prediction? The non-GOA bishops will show up, smile nice for the cameras and then go back home and start seriously consider merging their jurisdictions.

    • No, Fr Mark is simply wrong. It is not SCOBA that needs the GOA. It is the GOA that needs SCOBA, the OCA and the large numbers of converts and non-Greek spouses who by their prayers, their presence, and yes, their money, support the GOA.

      Forgive me for speakings so directly, but after 10 years as a priest in the GOA, I must wonder, would there even be a GOA without the OCA or converts? Many small GOA parishes are served not by Greek priests but by priests from the OCA or by converts who were ordained in the GOA but not wanted in larger Greek parishes.

      As for the laity, many (most?) marriages in the GOA are between a Greek and a non-Greek. Many of those outside the Greek community who marry a Greek either belong to another Orthodox jurisdiction or are Roman Catholic.

      Finally, I’m not sure why it matters that his family has been in America for 300 years but since the subject has been raised my wife’s family came over on the Mayflower–some 100 years BEFORE Fr Mark’s. My family has been here since 1520–a good 200 years by for Fr Mark’s.

      In Christ,


      • Isa Almisry :

        With a name like Jensen? Who let you on board, Father?:)

        Btw, the first Orthodox, Phillip Ludwell III, buried his parents in the churchyard of Jamestown, and his house still stands in Williamsburg. He was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church.

        • Phillip Ludwell III? Who is he?

        • Isa,

          Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh let me on board. I am grateful to His Eminence for ordaining me to the priesthood and I have man good friends–clergy and laity–in the GOA. But there came a point where I realized that serving as a priest in the GOA meant serving the spiritual and cultural needs of Greek community. There’s nothiong wrong with this–in fact it can be a good thing as long as culture doesn’t come to dominate the Gospel–but it isn’t my thing.

          Re-reading my first response to Fr Mark’s comments I think I got a head of myself. What I should have said is that it isn’t a question of whether or not SOCBA needs the GOA. Rather the question is this: Do we realize that we need each other?

          I don’t think we realize that, to borrow from Ben Franklin, if we don’t hand together we will most assuredly hang separately. Like in a parish, as members of different jurisdictions we need not merely to tolerate each other but love each other.

          And love means making room for each other and working to support and sustain each other. This can’t happen if we continue to see each other as somehow alien to each other or in a zero sum competition.

          For all of this jurisdictional wrangling makes clear is how little of my life I have given over to Christ and the Gospel.

          Orthodoxy? Oh, yes, I’m in favor of that! Let me tell you why we’re the TRUE CHURCH!!!

          The autocephaly of OCA?? I’m a supporter!!

          But Jesus and the Gospel? Not so much.

          No the problem to be address in NYC is not jurisdictionak boundries but whether or not we really and truly believe that we are members of Christ’s Body and so of each other.


          • Isa Almisry :

            Ah yes, Met. Maximos of Pittsburgh. He has a nasty reputation in all the jurisdictions for putting the Gospel first, and seeking Christ’s glory rather than the Omogeneia’s. Many years!

            Many in the Ukrainian and CR jurisdictions state that they have not been Hellenized, so what’s the problem with the EP. I’ve noticed, however, that they are stuck in their own little ethnic ghetto, not interrelating with neither the other ethnic enclaves nor the mainstream Greeks.

            So you are right: it has be more than tolerance. We can get that from the world.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Fr bless, if I may, your comments about OCA priests being the backbone of much of the GOA struck a chord. But it seems to make sense. Over a year ago I got into a tussle with GOA triumphalists about numbers in the priesthood as well as parishes, population, etc. I must confess that I wss at a loss, however, I wondered aloud, if the GOA is bigger than the OCA, how come the OCA had three seminaries but the GOA only one? Also, the OCA is in the process of forming a seminary in Dallas (albeit on hiatus since the retirement of +Dmitri last year), so in five or so years the OCA would have four seminaries. Anyway, the facts on the ground got me to thinking along these lines. If I may ask, just how many priest-graduates does the GOA and the OCA put out each year? At any rate, your observation makes much sense to me.

        • Isa Almisry :

          Today (Happy Pentacost! The Spirit has descended! From Heaven to Earth!) I was at a large Greek parish (has a school and two chapels). There were three priests, the old one I knew, a middle aged one I had seen before who did the Greek (immigrant I think, the older priest is Greek background but homegrown here), and a young priest, a priest from the OCA whose father was a OCA priest. He did the English for the most part (the old priest did some too), but I was told his Greek was fairly good. Was thinking about Father’s point.

  3. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    From the article referring to the OCA:

    When asked about a Eucharistic Communion with them, he said, “I cannot answer officially, I can only give my opinion, because since 1970 before even I was converted to Orthodoxy decisions were made that the former Russian Metropolia which was not in communion with Moscow, but it was in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate when it was granted so-called autocephaly as a way of bringing them back into communion with Moscow. I think worldwide Orthodoxy at the time did not reject communion with them, a few churches did for a little while, I think the Patriarchate of Jerusalem did not co-celebrated with them.”

    To call this a stretch is putting it charitably. It is audacious nonsense and I’m surprised that anyone would even say it.

    Let’s make sure we actually understand what was said: The Russian Metropolia was not in communion with Moscow, only Constantinople. In order to bring it back into communion with Moscow, Moscow decided to grant the Metropolia autocephaly. Does that cover it? Did I misread it?

    Maybe Fr. Arey was misquoted. It’s hard to believe he actually believes this.

    On the other hand, if it’s not a misquote then the trajectory of the revisionism is clear: the autocephaly of the OCA is illegitimate. Why? Because in actual fact, the autocephaly was not Moscow’s to give. (Moscow, are you listening?)

    Leave aside for the moment the question of how a Patriarch not in communion with a church can grant that church autocephaly. Leave aside too the history that the OCA is the outgrowth of Russian mission work. Finally, leave aside Moscow’s stand that the OCA is an autocephalous Church.

    Fr. Arey’s historical revisionism is even more implausible than the Canon 28 revisionism which was thankfully repudiated at Chambesy. I’m surprised to see it. He knows better.

    Revisionism always has a core. Fr. Arey’s overreaching reveals that at the core lies the fear that the independence expressed at Ligonier will reassert itself and coalesce under the autocephaly of the OCA. That too is why Ligonier is reduced to a subcommittee of SCOBA in his revisionist narrative elsewhere in the article.

    What, then, is the game plan? Watch for Met. Jonah to come under increasing pressure (which will become relentless at times) to give up the autocephaly of the OCA.

    But, again, if the article misquoted Fr. Arey he should clarify the record ASAP.

  4. George Michalopulos :

    Regrettfully Fr, I don’t believe Arey was misquoted. In the interests of being fair, I am presently writing an assessment of the recent OCL meeting that I attended in February in which we had the good fortune to meet and listen to Fr Mark. He’s a brillian man. That being said, he’s in an untenable position, as a functionary of the GOA and as general secretary of SCOBA he serves two masters and it forces him to say illogical and inconsistent things. At least up to now. With the incipient extinction of SCOBA (I know, I know, spare me the details), the mask of kumbaya
    “let’s all get along” pan-Orthodoxy can be stripped off once and for all.

    Though this interview was full of logical lacunae, historical absurdities and theologically debatable assertions, he can now at least present a more forthright face to the world.

  5. I sense alot of Panic here. The grand ship of the GOA is taking of water and Fr. Arey is suggesting that we drill holes in the floor to let the water out.

    Fr. Arey wants to be at the center of attention here. I wonder, I just wonder if the assembly fails or generates a result not amenable to Phanar -will Fr. Arey be the fall guy?

    • George Michalopulos :

      probably. After all, for all his brilliance (and he speaks way better Greek than me), he’s not a Greek. Therefore in the grand scheme of things, expendable. Pity, I like the guy.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Andrew, it is not that Fr. Arey wants to be at the center of attention, it is that he is speaking in ways only appropriate for the Archbishop to speak. This indicates there may be internal division in the GOA about how to proceed. Fr. Arey is speaking not for the GOA, or at least not for the faction represented by Abp. Demetrios. He is speaking for the Phanar.

      The overreaching is evident, but who is he reaching towards? Only one answer makes the point of the piece comprehensible: detractors on the inside who have misgivings about the heavy-handedness toward the OCA. At the end of the reach however is not an open palm, but a pointing finger.

      And yes, if the goals are not met he will probably be thrown under the bus. That die has been cast.

  6. Isa Almisry :

    the Canon 28 revisionism which was thankfully repudiated at Chambesy.

    I’m afraid that is not what is going on in the Phanar. Just trying to thicken up the smoke screen.

    I’d like to quote them themselves, but as they do not put a premium on conciseness, I will quote Fr. John Erickson (who seems to be a favorite of both sides):

    …To put matters in simplest terms, according to the Russian Church, any autocephalous Church has the right to grant canonical independence to one of its parts. According to Constantinople, on the other hand, only an ecumenical council can definitely establish an autocephalous Church, and any interim arrangements depend upon approbation of Constantinople, acting in its capacity as the ‘mother church” and “first among equals” (The challenge of our past: studies in Orthodox Canon law and Church history).

    Notice how the partisans of Chambesy (and the Phanar) point out that the chairmanship of the EA goes down the diptychs: is there any EA where the EP doesn’t have a bishop? This repeats the statement of the Phanar’s mouthpiece…

    The submission of the diaspora to the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not mean either Hellenization or violation of the canonical order, because it is only in this way that both the letter and the spirit of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils is respected. The Mother Church knows, however, that such a submission is difficult to be accomplished under the present historical conditions. For this reason, and by employing the principle of economy, it was suggested and it has now become accepted in Pan-Orthodox level, that there will be local Pan-Orthodox Episcopal Assemblies in the diaspora (like SCOBA in the US). The principle of presidency is followed, namely the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate presides over these Episcopal Assemblies in order to preserve the necessary element of canonicity.

    …but without the frankness, clarity and tact of the Chief Secretary (it would seem Fr. Arey’s mentor). Since it has been pointed out that SCOBA’s constitution calls for the chairmanship to rotate (something Met. Jonah has been making soundings about) but the other jurisdictions have acquiesced in letting the Phanar exarch have it, it would seem that the CS’s words more accurately records what the Phanar thinks of the matter. The so-called Canon 28 myth is alive and well.

    It remains my hope that Moscow and the rest of the non-Greek Churches signed on Chambesy to give the Phanar enough rope to hang itself. Fears are expressed about the Bartholomew visiting Kyrill in Moscow at the time of the EA here, that the fix is in. I hope that the visit was the EP’s idea, and the hope is to try to stem Moscow’s support for Washington.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      The so-called canon 28 myth is alive and well.

      Yes, I see it that way too. Chambesy repudiated the Canon 28 revisionism (Chambesy did not deem the arguments legitimate) but this has not led to any reforms in the Phanar. The Phanar just switched from canonical revisionism to historical revisionism. Same game plan, different tactics.

  7. Dean Calvert :

    You know…they keep mentioning this GREAT COUNCIL, and I think that plays in here as well. The fear might be on the OCA side that if they don’t “play nice,” they will not be represented at this Council, and that another autocephalous church (non OCA) might be proclaimed in America by the Great Council.

    Let’s examine the rationality of this fear for a moment, because my immediate reaction is “So what?”

    Let’s see, the patriarchal jurisdictions in this country are all imploding, including the vaunted GOA. So big deal, their 1st and 2nd generations made money, which is now being left to Leadership 100….so what? Is that going to put bodies in the pews 10 years from now? I doubt it. The data shows the membership of the GOA was down over 25% from the mid 70’s to the late 1990’s…when they stopped reporting comparable data. The other patriarchal churches are doing possibly worse.

    The only jurisdiction making progress, that is tied to the Old World is the AOCA, and they’ve already made noise about self governance…half of them would probably join the OCA, rather than be part of a Greek dominated American Church…the cultural antagonism between an ethnic enclave and an evagelistically oriented organization would be too great…they could not survive side-by-side.

    So, if I were Met. Jonah, I’m wondering, why not take the attitude of “Who don’t recognize us…we’re here…and we’re not going away…”

    Oh, and by the way…5 years from now…I will be stronger, and you will be weaker…so good luck with those non-recognition plans..

    By the way…i keep publishing this letter, sent to the Byzantines by Russia after the Council of Florence in the hopes we would re-issue it…and we wouldn’t even have to change the name!!!

    “We beseech your Sacred Majesty not to think that what we have done we did out of arrogance, nor to blame us for not writing to our Sovereignty beforehand; we did this from dire necessity, not from pride or arrogance. In all things we hold to the ancient Orthodox faith transmitted to us, and so we shall continue to do until the end of time. And our Russian Church, the holy metropolitanate of Russia, requests and seeks the blessing of the holy, oecumenical, catholic, and apostolic church of St. Sophia, the Wisdom of God, and is obedient to her in all things according to the ancient faith; and our father, the Lord Jonah, metropolitan of Kiev and all Russia, likewise requests from her all manner of blessing and union, except for the present recently appeared disagreements.”

    Bottom line: If we want to BE the American Church, I think it’s time to start ACTING like the American Church.

    Memo to Met. Jonah – Remember St. Mark of Ephesus…and act accordingly.

    May God bless our metropolitan – he is really swimming with sharks…the true extent of the hypocrisy of the EP has just been made public, for everyone to see…

    As for these characters…ANAXIOS!

    If this were the Byzantine times…we, the laity, would be packing guys like Fr. Mark Arey on a donkey, and sending him back to C’nople with a note attached to his forehead saying “Return to Sender”.

    Best Regards,

    PS Fr. are ABSOLUTELY correct…their two biggest fears: OCA autocephaly and LIGONIER!!!

    • George Michalopulos :

      Dean, upon further reflection, I believe that the “Great and Holy Council” is a chimera used to scare recalcitrant children. As to its own competence, there is no guarantee that it will resolve anything even if it does meet. I was told long ago by a wise GOA priest that the last thing the EP wants is a council of this magnitude. Why? I asked. “Because he would rapidly lose control of the agenda” was the reply.

      Plus, there are logistical problems which won’t play into the Phanar’s favor. Consider: how many Orthodox bishops are there in the world? 600? Ok, now let’s dial it back and look at the EA here in NYC. It’s going to cost minimum of $50,000. That’s just for 60 bishops. (Remember, they’ve got to meet at least once a year.)

      Now let’s look at 600 bishops. That’s ten times the amount. Even if we assume the same cost for travel expenses and accommodations, we’re looking at $500,000. Probably more because the EA is only for 2 nites whereas the Council will last probably several weeks. OK, that brings us to well over a million dollars. Who has that kind of money? More importantly which Orthodox country can accommodate such massive numbers? Istanbul? Greece? Romania? Only one: Russia. Which country could afford to subsidize it? Again, only Russia. In such a scenario who would control the agenda? Certainly not the EP.

      That’s just one of many reasons I don’t expect to see a great and holy council convene any time soon.

  8. George Michalopulos :

    Dean, spot on, old chap! It’s obvious you’ve been swimming in these same waters for longer than some of us (myself included) so I defer to your judgment of the situation. I’d like to develop your reasoning a little or come to it from a different tack.

    It appears that time is not on the side of the Phanar. As for the GOA, the desperation is palpable. The only reason that they’re going along is because by doing this EA, they are augmenting their falling numbers. To be fair, I believe that +Demetrios is a straight-shooter. He definately learned the lesson of +Iakovos –don’t back down, and get your homies to watch your back. It is possible that he not only learned the lesson of both his predecessors, but he doesn’t want to go down in history as the gravedigger of Orthodoxy in America. Hence his insubordination to the Phanar regarding the OCA.

    Fr, I think you may be on to something. There does seem to be a division in the GOA with the OCA being the causus belli (so to speak). If I had to bet, I’d say that there is a growing confluence of Archons who look wistfully at +Jonah and the OCA and its complete independence from the old world. I’d say that nerves are getting frayed by many of these men who have come to the conclusion that being under the “protection” of Istanbul really means that they’re nothing but ATM machines.

    Anyway, the battle lines are being drawn in all of the EAs I’d have to say: between those bishops, clergy, and people who view themselves as part of the Diaspora (the “D-world”) and those who view themselves as unhyphenated Orthodox (the “Orthodox”). I expect that in the US these divisions will run through all of the jurisdictions (not just the GOA) with the lodestar on one end being the OCA. As for the opposite pole it won’t be unified but a conglomeration of D-worlders of differing ethnic varieties. It should be fun.

    Game on!

  9. Wesley J. Smith :

    I am struck that the EP didn’t want the OCA bishops invited. Does that indicate a threat, not only to the independence of the OCA, but perhaps, also to canonicity itself. Would the EC, if he could, claim that members of the OCA are no longer in common communion with the rest of Orthodoxy unless it accepts his right to be OCA’s patriarch? I am new to this, but I fear he might as a way of preventing the formation of a truly Orthodox Church of North America (or whatever it might be called).

    For unity, I think the OCA will eventually have to die. But if that happens, it will be a voluntary merging into something greater, not an execution.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Wesley, this is precisely the MO which +Jonah laid out last year. That the OCA’s mission is to “disappear” into another autocephalous, national Church. Not only is this humility par excellence, but ingenious as well. One could reasonably say that this was the process indicated in the tomos of autocephaly that was given to OCA upon its inception by Moscow (somewhat of a stretch but certainly very sympathetic to such an occurrence).

      • Wesley J. Smith :

        George: Thanks. I am very impressed with + Jonah. Perhaps his breath of fresh air is perceived as a threat by some who like the current disunity.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Wesley, btw, I’m mightily impressed by the quality of your articles and the Christian spirit that animates them. We’re in for some rough riding and to be honest, it’s somewhat discouraging at times, to have to argue first principles with fellow Americans (and even more depressingly with fellow Christians). But we’re called to fight the good fight. That doesn’t mean that we’ll win but it’s our duty regardless. Keep up the good work.

  10. On second thought you know what caught my attention. It was the following quote:

    “It would be very, very difficult for any Pan-orthodox movement in any form to exist without the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.”

    Is Fr. Arey implying all Pan Orthodox movements must run through 79th Street?
    I think the answer might be yes. We saw a shake up with OCF and it looks like 79th is making a play for control of this ministry. And we also know that 79th is not exactly a fan of FOCUS either. 79th street might try to control things by controlling national ministries.

    And another note, you have to love how Fr. Arey despises the freedom of the internet. I bet he reads this blog.

  11. Scott Pennington :

    A few observations:

    It seems that Matthew Namee’s article was slightly optimistic about the old world patriarchates leading the way to administrative unity. The picture that Fr. Arey presents is, essentially, another SCOBA plus the promise that this body will not exist indefinitely but only until it can present recommendations to the always-soon-to-be-coming Great and Holy Synod.

    “He went on to say, ‘I think that there are varieties of transitional models, I think there are varieties of autonomy and semi-autonomy which exists in the Orthodox World today. The Church of Crete is a semi-autonomous church.” As for the idea of a semi-autonomous Church, he said, ‘Some of this has become an issue of semantics.’”

    So the plan is to insist on what Fr. Elpidophoros suggested at Holy Cross. You don’t just start volunteering this kind of commentary unless you have something in mind. Moreover, . . .

    “Is Assembly heading toward the creation of an American Autocephalous Orthodox Church? ‘I do not know, that is my honest answer,’ he said, adding: ‘In generations from now it could be a possibility but sometimes people speak of these things. I have heard people saying it from other jurisdictions that America should be a Patriarchate. I think and I say it with respect to others but there is a certain level of immaturity.'”

    In legalese, this is called setting up a straw man argument. In response to a question about autocephaly, Fr. Arey speaks of the possibility in “generations from now”. He then introduces the straw man of an American Patriarchate to exaggerate the degree of change that is being sought. Thus he can present himself and the Phanar as cooler heads that deserve to prevail.

    Fr. Arey also emphasises what anyone who has bothered to actually read the Chambesy documents already knows: The EA really doesn’t have any more power than SCOBA, or any different purpose, except to make recommendations about how to resolve canonical irregularities.

    If anyone has any doubt whatsoever that this whole thing was not intended as a step toward autocephaly for America, they really should read and re-read Fr. Arey’s comments.

    Hopefully it will either die quickly or be hijacked.

  12. Dean Calvert :


    The arrogance is truly stunning isn’t it?

    What we are witnessing is nothing less than an attempted Greek coup.

    Imagine the hubris involved in making the determination that the OCA is not going to be seated as a Church? The second largest jurisdiction in the country…and the only one not beholden to the Old World patriarchates.

    Additionally, consider that the OCA has been a active member of SCOBA since it’s inception.

    And to “trash” Ligonier the way he attempted to do…what an insult to the memory of Abp Iakovos, Metropolitan Philip, Metropolitan Christopher….and all of those who worked to make that Conference possible.

    The fear in this article is really palpable…it’s really pathetic.

    The phrase that keeps coming back to me is, “Leave the Dead to bury their own..”

    Unfortunately, for those of us who have had experience with the GOA – this is anything but surprising.

    Disappointing – yes, but not surprising, no.

    To be honest, I thought the Namee piece was delusional…obviously written by someone who has NEVER dealt with E 79th St.

    Oh well…we all have to learn sometime.

    Just remember ST. Mark of Ephesus!

    Or, as I told (a surprised) Metropolitan Herman a few years back…”It’s time to lose the Phanar’s telephone number.”

    Best Regards,

    PS By the way…is anyone else stunned by the fact that North America is ONE region, while Europe has 9 – including one for Switzerland and Lichtenstein?

  13. Michael Bauman :

    If the Holy Spirit is informing the movement to greater canonicity and unity, then it will happen. It will happen even, if like local churches in the past who declared authocephaly, we have to be considered ‘in schism’ for a few centuries.

    If it is just a power play and not of God, it will wither. We need answer for ourselves and our house and live as we believe. God will raise up leaders. We just don’t know who they will be yet.

  14. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    “Is Assembly heading toward the creation of an American Autocephalous Orthodox Church? ‘I do not know, that is my honest answer,’ he said, adding: ‘In generations from now it could be a possibility but sometimes people speak of these things. I have heard people saying it from other jurisdictions that America should be a Patriarchate. I think and I say it with respect to others but there is a certain level of immaturity.’”

    I’d have a bit more confidence in this statement if we hadn’t witnessed Constantinople’s full embrace of the global warming fad explode into deep space just a few short months ago. The full resources of the GOA and the full moral weight of the Patriarchal office were invested in that effort. Sure, America hasn’t been around for 16 centuries, but I doubt an American Church would have made such a disastrous mistake.

    • Isa Almisry :

      My heart belongs to Alexandria, the chief Patriarchate of the East since the Apostles and the home of the original Pope, and I’m in the jurisdiction of Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians, so all this finger wagging from the upstarts on the Bosphoros just makes me want to warn them that they risk sunburn of the nostrils. Only 300 years, eh? How old do they think Constantinople’s bishoprick was when it was granted autocephaly? Granted, mind you, not recognized as with Alexandria, Antioch and Old Rome (which didn’t recognize the so-called autcoephaly for nearly a millenium, although it did not reject communion with it. Gee, what does that sound like?).

      So Constantinople gains autocephaly, and what does it do? Run its bishop, St. Gregory Nazianzus, out of town. Two decades later they took St. John Chrysostom from us in Antioch, and then exiled him to his death. After that his successor Atticus spent his tenure in seizing territory from neighboring Patriarchates and Metropolitanates. That gave a good base to his successor Nestorius from which to throw the entire Church into confusion with his heresy. So it took Constantinople only 47 years to produce a bone fided heresiarch: is that a sign of maturity?

  15. Hey guys…there is MORE from The national herald:

    see the Facebook Orthodox Episcopal Assembly page

    There is No Diaspora, Metropolitan Phillip Says, Questions the Purpose of the Bishops Assembly

    Theodore Kalmoukos

    BOSTON – Metropolitan Phillip, Primate of the Autonomous Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America with 265 parishes, six Bishops and 350 priests, is the Vice-Chairman of the Standing Conference of Canonical Bishops of America, known as SCOBA, and also Vice-Chairman of the upcoming Panorthodox Bishops Assembly. In an exclusive interview with The National Herald, the prominent Prelate said that, “I really do not know what the purpose of this Assembly is all about.” He proposed an idea as a solution to the issue of what would happen to the Diaspora in the United States. He said, “At one time I proposed that the Ecumenical Patriarch leave Constantinople and come to Washington D.C. or to New York and keep his title as ecumenical Patriarch.”

    In the interview, he touched on other critical areas for the church, including division and dissent.

  16. George Michalopulos :


  17. Isa Almisry :

    AXIOS! indeed. Good to see the old Met. Philip back on track.

    I was laughing myself silly, imagining how this must be going over in the Phanar and elsewhere (I have the suspision that many in the GOA, including Archb. Demetrios agree despite not being in a position to do so)

    The heart of the matter:

    TNH: Are you going to this Assembly without knowing why you are there?

    PHILLIP: Exactly.

    TNH: But you are the Vice-Chairman.

    PHILLIP: Yes I am. (laughter). There is no preparation…What is happening? How did these people in Geneva issue all these communiques and rules without our knowledge and input as if we do not exist in North America?

    TNH: Representatives of all the Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches were present in Geneva.

    PHILLIP: They do not know anything about America, all those representatives, nothing.

    TNH: I understand the issue of Diaspora will be discussed.

    PHILLIP: There is no Diaspora here. We decided in 1994 with the late Archbishop Iakovos. We rejected the term Diaspora for North America; Diaspora is in Jerusalem today, we have two thousand Orthodox left in Jerusalem and we have in Constantinople two thousand left. In Iraq thousands of Christians have been slaughtered and many fled to Syria and other countries.

    TNH: So the term Diaspora doesn’t exist for you?

    PHILIP: No, we are in a country where we can express ourselves, we can read, we can teach, we can write books, we have institutions, we live in a free country.

    TNH: What are going to propose in this Assembly?

    PHILLIP: I am going to propose the rejection of this term Diaspora

  18. George Michalopulos :

    If nothing else, this is the consequence of Fr Mark’s braggadocious words.

  19. Christ's unprofitable servant, Seraphim :

    Christ Is Risen!

    I am just as suspicious of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s motives as the anyone else. I hate to say that, but after all their neo-papal, non-canonical interventions in other Churches affairs & their absurd interpretation of canon 28 of Chalcedon, which they continue to stand by to this day, I would be a fool not to be suspicious. I see a lot of people on this & other blogs making reference to the alleged fact that Patriarch Bartholomew stated that he did not want the Orthodox Church in America to be invited to the Episcopal Assembly of North & Central America, but Archbishop Demetrios decided to invite the OCA anyway & then went to the Phanar to smooth things over with the patriarch. Does anyone have evidence to support this? I am eager to know if any of this can be substantiated or if it is merely frenetic gossip.

    Irrespective of this (whether true or false) I agree with Michael: if the Holy Spirit is inspiring all the recent & current activity toward unity & canonical order then it will be successful, but if it is originating from ambitious human agendas it will fail. Let’s have the humility to trust that the will of God will ultimately be done. We would all do well to spend less time stewing over all this soul-destroying nonsense & more time praying for each other & especially for the bishops.

    It is a tragedy of COLOSSAL proportions (one that we will have no defense for when we stand before Christ on the day of judgment) that as the Orthodox Church, THE ark of salvation, we are spending our time, energy & money arguing over primacy, jurisdiction, & basic canonical order instead of bring the healing love of Christ & liberating reality of Orthodox Christian spirituality to our neighbors who are suffering in their personal hells of isolation & darkness. So may people live in misery that is beyond our wildest imaginations. These people are all around us, but we don’t see them because we live in “parallel universes” which seldom intersect.

    Believe me when I say this! I think I am qualified to make this statement because as a physician I live at the interface between these “universes”. I regularly see things that most people only observe in movies or read about in books. Yesterday I saw a young woman who was suffering from a recurrence of multiple abscesses (infectious pockets) in both her arms from shooting up drugs, a patient with major depression who relapsed into alcoholism after more than a year of sobriety, a pregnant young woman with a sexually transmitted disease, another pregnant woman on government controlled opiate medication to prevent withdrawal because of opiate addiction, another young woman who is morbidly obese and has a multitude of other health problems ultimately stemming for the fact that she was sexually abused when she was a child, and that was only Friday…I could go on & on & on.

    Lately I have been feeling so ashamed of our Church because what these people ultimately need is spiritual medicine not just biological medical. However, the Church is to preoccupied with all the internal conflicts to even notice that these people exist. Even if they came to my local parish they would only be alienated by a service that is roughly 80% in a foreign language & coffee hour discussions that have little or nothing to do with God & our spiritual struggle be transfigured by grace. How can anyone say that the Devil & the demons are not active? They are distracting us from the one thing that is needful.

    Tomorrow, as we celebrate this sacred Feast of Pentecost may the Holy Spirit descend upon the Church & renew Her apostolic mission, restoring Her zeal to bring the Gospel to those entombed in darkness!

    • George Michalopulos :

      Seraphim, being in the health care world myself, I can heartily second your concerns. This is a broken world and it needs Orthodoxy. It doesn’t need featherbedding bishops and worldly patriarchs who have abandoned faith in Christ and instead to look sheep overseas to sheer at every opportunity.

    • … indeed a tragedy of COLOSSAL proportions! Our world has become a place of destruction, misery, suicide …. Without communion with God, the human being becomes worthy of tears, a miserable puppet in the hands of the demos.

      St. Paisius Velichkovsky was granted to see the invisible world. He saw legions of demons surrounding the monastery, and their commander told him how much energy and warfare was waged upon the place. The chief target was the library where the lives of the saints and the holy works were kept. “We never have enough help or strength to distract and delay those who would read something that would enlighten, encourage or inspire them to pray and struggle.”


      The enemy likes to hide the truth and to mix good with evil. But how can one find out the truth? God’s goodwill and all our intentions are meek, full of good hope, and undoubting. Not only in our good deeds, but also in our lawlessness, God endures long with meekness and awaits our repentance. And how can one distinguish the impulse of the enemy? The enemy usually hinders us and turns us away from good. However, if in anything which apparently is good, the mind is disturbed and causes us disturbance, banishes the fear of God, deprives us of calmness, so that without any reason the heart aches and the mind wavers, then know that this is an impulse from the enemy and cut it off.

      Remember, O my soul, the terrible and frightful wonder: that your Creator for your sake became Man, and deigned to suffer for the sake of your salvation. His angels tremble, the Cherubim are terrified, the Seraphim are in fear, and all the heavenly powers ceaselessly give praise; and you, unfortunate soul, remain in laziness. At least from this time forth arise and do not put off, my beloved soul, holy repentance, contrition of heart and penance for your sins.

      Lord have mercy on us!

  20. As an 18 year old Orthodox Christian that is part of the OCA, not speaking Greek and converting from evangelical protestantism with my whole family, I find this dialogue very interesting, yet wonder who I should listen to. Our Metropolitan celebrated The Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Kyril in Russia so I’m pretty sure I am not part of a heresy, unless the Russian church is wrong for doing that in which case the Patriarch of Constantinople who is today on pentecost celebrating the Liturgy in Russia is wrong or is that faulty reasoning? As far as being legitimately autocephalous, why does Constantinople have to recognize us when they are so far away and I saw a video on the ecumenical patriarch, and he seems very oppressed in his small church. Very sad but why does he get the final say on us when everyone knows that his political power is all but gone (maybe another ignorant statement, I just heard that as well and also that the monks on mt Athos really dislike Bartholemeo)? Anyways I want to be a priest, well feel called to by God, but all this bickering is kind of scary, I like Greek people and Antiochians and Russians, and is it possible that there could be another ecumenical council so we could all get along??? Where they could hash all this out and maybe even let the Copts back into communion (I know this will open up another can of worms, but my best friend is Coptic Orthodox and we attend a private “christian” school in WA so its us vs them) anyways happy feast of the Pentecost where we sing:
    “When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations. But when He distributed the tongues of fire, He brought all to unity. Therefore with one voice we glorify, The All-Holy Trinity!”

    • Michael Bauman :

      Seraphim R: As Christ said, “Let not your heart be troubled…” Follow your calling, it does not matter what others do or don’t do. Hold fast to our Lord in prayer, fasting, repentance and almsgiving, attendance on the Holy Mysteries and reading of scripture. He will guide you and keep you safe, if not without struggle.

      I’d suggest to you that it might be better not to visit the blogs at all. and Glory to God for all things being possible exceptions.

      God Bless you in your calling, may our Lord strengthen you and give you wisdom.

    • Fr. Peter Dubinin :

      Seraphim – God bless you! Welcome to the family. Though “we” can seem uncharitable in the manner and tone of our remarks and comments, it is an expression of frustration shared among brothers, sisters and fathers within the family. That’s not to say some things are expressed which perhaps should not be expressed, but at the end of the day, I see all of this as an expression of a family dynamic. I don’t know about your family, but there is rarely ever unanimity on any issue discussed between myself and my sisters; yet, there is always charity. I remember watching my maternal grandmother interact with my grandfather; they would argue about most every thing, but when it came to making ready for worship she would go to my grandfather and say, “starei, ya idou tzerkvi; prostee menee (old man, I am going to Church; forgive me). The ethnics who by and large make up the Orthodox Church are fighters; we’ve had to be – Greeks, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Serbs, etc. But in the end, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I attended the Orthodox clergy gathering for the Washington DC area yesterday – my Greek, Antiochian, Carpatho-Rusyn, OCA brothers had a wonderful time of prayer, fellowship and the food was truly a foretaste of good things and days to come. Seraphim – don’t let the seemingly unruly behavior of your brothers, sisters and fathers in Christ deter you from God’s call. My goodness, when we greet each other it is with a hug and a kiss; when we say good bye, it is with a hug and a kiss – this is who and what many of us are. Blessings my friend.

  21. There has been much of interest posted here, and much food for thought. I detect a lot of hostility towards the EP, much of which is justified but, nevertheless does not contribute to solving the problems facing Orthodoxy in the US today.

    I would propose a federation of sorts as an interim solution, one in which all the bishops in America form a Holy Synod of an American Orthodox Church while the various jurisdictions make up a diocese/Archdiocese within the federation. There could be Greek, Serbian, Antiochian, Romanian, Ukrainian, etc., diocese within the Federation as currently there are diocese/vicariates in the GOA and the OCA.

    A church in a given community would be an Orthodox Church of the American Orthodox Church (or similar name) under the Greek, Serb, Antiochian Diocese, etc. No need to call it St. Spyridon’s Greek Orthodox Church, or St. George’s Serbian Orthodox Church, simply Orthodox but within the context of a particular diocese/archdiocese of the Mother Church which would allow it to use Greek, etc., in it’s liturgy and so forth.

    This format would allow us to present to the world a single Orthodox Church in the United States while not riding roughshod over the feelings of those that would like to retain some ethnicity at the parish level, just as there are parishes in the Roman Catholic Church that cater to Mexican-Americans, Filipino-Americans, Polish-Americans, Italian-Americans, etc.

  22. Well, the first pictures are out of the first “Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops from the United States, Canada and Central America.” I looked long and hard at these photos but did not see +Jonah’s white hat there. Did I miss something?

    Ya know, I don’t care anymore if Black Bart recognizes the OCA or not. No matter what we (the OCA) do he will NEVER recognize the autocephaly of the OCA. And to be honest, this gives us some freedom. Since we now, I hope, realize that we do not exist as the second largest jurisdiction in the US we can now speak the truth without having to worry about hurting his feelings. I think it’s about time to start.

    Not inviting +Jonah to sit at the executive assy. is nothing short of childish. Did Black Bart really think the OCA was going to dissapear if Jonah was not there? Does he think that this is how Orthodox leaders are supposed to act? How utterly assine!! NO MORE!!! We owe him NOTHONG!!

    Very, very, dissapointed.

    • Which picture are you talking about? It’s hard to understand what you’re referring to without viewing said photo. It’s not too hard to copy and paste the link to it in here.

      • Here’s a link for you. Enjoy

        • George Michalopulos :

          Steve, I’m with you. However in the interests of fairness, of the four pictures that goarch posted, I definately saw +Jonah in two of them. In my opinion, he wears the white hat both physically and metaphorically. 😉

          • I’m looking at the pictures, and um, I didn’t see him. Which two pictures are you referring to?

            3680 __
            3685 __
            3687 __
            3690 __

            Please tick off the ones in which he shows up. Thanks!

          • George, I looked again and still did not see +Jonah there.

            Look, correct me if I am wrong on this…

            Jonah was not allowed to be seated as the primate of the second largest jurisdiction in the US. Since this assy. is for all canonical (sp?) bishops, that tells me that Black Bart does not consider us canonical (please don’t harp on my spelling – I’m so upset I can’t see the keyboard).

            Let’s see where this leads:

            Not connonical –

            Been baptised in the OCA – sorry, not in the eyes of God.

            Been married in the OCA – sorry, not in the eyes of God.

            Remember that eucharist you shared last Sunday – sorry, non-cannonical priests do not have the authority to consecrate the blood and body of Christ.

            In other words – we are a non-connonical church – our sacremnts are not valid!!!! This is what Black Bart is telling us!!!!

            Am I wrong here?


          • Steve,

            I’m at the Episcopal Assembly. Metr. Jonah is here, along with the entire OCA synod.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Steve, respectfully, you are wrong. The OCA has always been canonical. Just because the EP and his hacks can’t stomach it means nothing. One of their sorrowful predecessors (Meletius IV) actively colloborated with the Bolsheviks to destroy the ROC when he recognized the Living Church. I take most of their pronouncements with a boulder of salt.

  23. Fr. Andrew,

    You might tell them that they were cropped out of the pictures published yesterday….the only visible sign of the OCA was Archbishop Seraphim’s namecard, which was visible on one of the photos.

    This is unbelievable…even for Greeks!

    Best Regards

    • Dean,

      The room barely fits them all in it. There are no good angles for photographs. My guess is that this isn’t cropping, just framing.

      I believe that there is going to be some sort of formal photo taken sometime today or tomorrow. No doubt that one will be posed to include everyone.

      The OCA bishops are sitting at the ends of the tables, which, whether one accepts their autocephaly or not, still makes sense, since most everyone (except the head table) seems to be seated according to where their jurisdictions rank in the diptychs.

      You can see some more photos here. You’ll see the OCA bishops prominently featured.

      • Isa Almisry :

        Of course, that’s good: Mosocw is up at front, the OCA down at the bottom. Hard to argue that the OCA is part of the Russian Patriarchate with that setup. Where’s ROCOR?

        Steve, worry less about what the Phanar thinks. St. Mark of Ephesus defended us from such worries.

        • I haven’t had much chance to make a thorough analysis of the seating. (I can’t believe I just wrote that. Just how petty do we need to be?) It seems, though, that the head table is the chairman and the two vice chairmen. Seated next are the bishops of the EP, followed by Antioch, then Moscow (including ROCOR), then various others that I can’t quite make out at the moment. The OCA is at the ends. So, yes, the OCA is not seated with the MP/ROCOR bishops.

          • Michael Bauman :

            Serious question: within our own borders, why do we even need to be concerned with the diptychs?

            Serious comment: The Patriarchal system is an anachonistic relic of the Byzantine Roman Empire. It is no longer necessary to maintain canonical order if it ever was. Local churches gathered around their own bishop, bishops meeting in a synod.

            Define the area and which bishops are there and keep them in a room together until they come out with a way of working together as a synod. Forget the non-local folks. Those who really don’t want to participate in such an effort can leave, but they will leave knowing that they are just delaying the inevitable.

            Yes there will be problems of practice,liturgical discipline, economia, ethnic feelings, money, money, money, etc, etc, etc. None of those will be solved or even seriously addressed without a functioning local synod first.

  24. Dear Father Andrew,

    Re: The room barely fits them all in it. There are no good angles for photographs. My guess is that this isn’t cropping, just framing.

    With due respect – when you’ve dealt with them as long as I have, come and talk to me.

    They took four different shots, from completely different angles in the room. And the OCA was the only delegation completely absent…not one bishop visible.

    Anyone not believing that this was conscious, please call me because I’ve got a bridge I’d love to sell you.

    Best Regards,

  25. Does it strike anyone else as odd that after two days, there are four still photos available on the GOA website.

    Meanwhile, Bishop Thomas has posted 13 photos at

    and Bishop Mark has published 22 at

    ..of course, Fr. Andrew is going to tell us that it’s because the room was too small to get the GOA cameras in.

    Four pictures?

    Up to the same old tricks as usual.

    best regards,

    PS all of the photos can be accessed on the Orthodox Episcopal Assembly Facebook page at!/pages/Orthodox-Episcopal-Assembly/121636711191739

    • George Michalopulos :

      Dean, it’s possible that the paucity of photos reflect the fact that the GOA has lost control of the narrative. Not only has Philip pushed back but so has Justinian.

      • I agree with Dean. I would like to know why the GOA Internet and communications department which used twitter, facebook, and streaming video and audio during the EP visit to the USA can only Generate 4 pictures of the EA. They should be broadcasting the whole event from start to finish but noooooo…… The award winning GOA internet department is MIA.

        Dean is right its the usual tricks. George is also right that the GOA may be losing control over this. I’m not sure Fr. Mark Arey will be able to put his Bill Clinton-like spin on these events given the freedom of the internet.

        • Andrew,

          At the Clergy Laity Congress I attended with OCL a few years back, OCL had agreed to finance a trip to LA by OrthdooxTV to broadcast the proceedings live on the internet. We’re talking 6-7 years ago, so that was pretty Star Wars for the time.

          OrthodoxTV asked for AND RECEIVED permission from the GOA, and came to LA. It was never disclosed that OCL had picked up the tab – the funding source was irrelevant. OCL never questioned, dictated or even inquired about what was going to be recorded or broadcast – that was completely up to the discretion of OrthodoxTV.

          At the last minute, after all the expense, the GOA decided not to allow ORTHODOXTV to do the live broadcast – a capricious and arbitrary decision…and nothing was ever done about it.

          These are the same people who routinely turn off microphones etc at meetings.

          Contrary to what Fr. Andrew might believe – this is standard GOA operating procedure…and anyone believing anything else is simply showing his naivete.

          It’s pathetic, but it’s true.

          This is simply more of the same…

          Four photos…of the most historic meeting since Ligonier? Sorry, in this age of the internet…that’s preposterous. I’ll bet a lot of money Ancient Faith Radio would have recorded and broadcast the entire proceeding for free. I know St. Andrew House would have gladly webcast the whole thing…look up “FAT CHANCE” in the dictionary…LOL

          So here we are…the conference is basically over…and we know more about it from two Antiochian bishops than from the GOA.

          Oh well….thank goodness for I-phones!

          Best Regards,

          • Dean your words are very sad yet the reveal the realpolitik that is at the heart of the GOA. You know another tall tale I caught. It was when Fr. Mark Arey was asked how much the EA cost and he said he did not know. Does anyone really believe that in all the planning meetings for the EA down at 79th street that no person ever discussed in Fr. Mark’s presence how much the EA will cost.
            There was no budget etc.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Dean, if I may add my 2c about the LA congress in 2002, I wss a delegate from my home parish in Oklahoma. Coincidentally, I was friends with the good folks at Orthodox.TV (all from Oklahoma). At that congress, the big talk was about autonomy for the GOA and there was palpable excitement in the air. Long story short, we were making several noises about autonomy but after about 2 days, one of the Orthodox.TV people told me: “George, we gotta keep a lid on this, I got from a very high source that something big is going to be announced at the end.” I asked: “what? Autonomy for the GOA?” My friend replied: “Yeah, they want us to keep it under wraps to maximize the excitement. So for the time being, we gotta keep a lid on things.” (He even told me the name of the man who told him this.)

            As excited as I was to hear this, something in the pit of my stomach told me that my friends were being led down a primrose path. I didn’t want to break this guy’s heart so I played along with it. Fr Andrew, we were led down the primrose path and played for fools. I’m sorry, it’s just in the genetic makeup of these Byzantine hacks. They couldn’t tell the truth if it was staring them in the face.

            To this day, your typical GOA priest will toe the party line on anything. (Not that I blame them, nobody wants to be transferred to some struggling parish in Podunk, Utah or Hicksville, Nebraska, fine places they may otherwise be.)

            Forgive me for any offence but there’s every indication of Phanariote bad faith on display here. Admittedly, +Demetrios bucked the overlords in Istanbul by inviting the OCA but this proves the larger point. And I fear that in his doing so, he may have sealed his own fate. There is no way that the Phanar wants these EAs to be anything other than more of the same. They’re just not capable of doing what is right. But that’s ok, I think that the EA has taken on a life of its own and nothing will ever be the same. There is no way that the GOA is going to be able to control events again. Oh, they’ll try and heads may indeed roll, but the ground is shifting under our feet as we speak.

            P.S. I’ll grant you that many of us consider +Jonah to be our favorite bishop,” but what of it? He’s a rookie bishop. The fact that he is speaks volumes about where we are presently. Why is he our “favorite bishop”? Maybe because the nature of his election and his character bespeaks of a moral authority that is missing in the other jurisdictions? If nothing else, it is a compelling narrative.

        • The administration here at the EA is actively discouraging photos at various points. The fact that there are a lot of photos being published on Antiochian websites is mainly because I happen to be taking them. Bp. Mark seems to be using his cellphone to take photos.

          You guys see a dark conspiracy in trivial junk. To be frank, though: You’re not here, and I have strong doubts from what I am seeing with my eyes that you know what you’re talking about.

          At some point, all the cynicism becomes truly kynikos—like dogs barking.

          • Fr. Andrew, allow me to respectfully ask you a very simple question.
            Is there any moral, canonical, spiritual reason not to broadcast the EA to the faithful from start to finish? Why not let America see how the bishops work for themselves? Why do we have to fear photographs of all things? Is this not America? What does any bishop of any jurisdiction have to fear freedom? Why not have the Church in America set an example of transparency for the rest of the Orthodox world.

          • You asked several questions. Here are my answers:

            1. I have no idea. The impression I get is that the organizers of this event want it as low-key as possible, including very little in the way of media. I don’t think there is any conspiracy to it or fear of “transparency,” just a desire to let things be mild and let the bishops get to work without turning it into a media “event.”

            2. Why not wait and see what happens when everything gets published? Why assume the worst in every case?

            3. Who is this “we”?

            4. Yes, in America, we expect photographs of EVERYTHING, because that really helps us get things done. There’s nothing like paparazzi to help one settle down and focus on the work of God.

            5. Ya got me. What *do* they have to fear?

            6. Yes, why not?

            7. (This is a bonus response.) Sheesh.

            8. (This is another bonus.) Did anyone ever consider that perhaps your favorite bishop not being included in every photo might be an indication of just not thinking about it? It’s not only the OCA bishops who aren’t in those wide-angle shots. Can you spot ALL the Serbs in them? Me, neither. (CONSPIRACY!)

            Folks, you need to calm down, stop the speculation, stop the “I know how they operate,” stop the assumptions that every little detail is evidence of some awful, evil conspiracy. For one thing, there’s honestly no evidence here on the ground that any of this cynicism is warranted. For another, this isn’t remotely over yet.

            Why not begin at some point to assume the best rather than the worst? Why not wait and see what happens? Why assume that you know what you’re talking about when, quite frankly, you don’t?

            (No doubt my suggestion that perhaps we might want to consider patience and—God forbid!—Christian behavior will be interpreted as evidence that I am a spy for the Phanar. Whee.)

          • You know, I am looking forward to the conspiracy theorists’ acrobatics when the official group photo gets published and everyone is featured in it. I’m having a hard time imagining how that will fit into the “the OCA was cut out of the photos on purpose” narrative, but no doubt y’all will think of something.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Fr Andrew, if I may respectfully offer this opinion as to why these proceedings should have been broadcast: bishops are servants of the servants of God. That means they work for us. They are doing our work. What’s done is done, but we have a right to know what’s going on. otherwise expect more conspiracy talk.

          • I want to thank Fr Andrew for the pictures he’s taking.

            Trying to reply I found the fascinating instant translate function, wow! Alas, It doesn’t seem able to find the Russian or Bulgarian for “sheesh”. Really Fr. Andrew, everyone has addressed you respectfully, is it really necessary to go from dude to sheesh to calling people dogs, and then, O yes, exhorting to christian behavior. Again, wow! What makes you think that being present there gives you superior insight into editorial decisions of the goarch website? Or is that being decided openly during the meetings: “Dear brother concelebrants in the Lord, before we brake for Lunch, let us discuss in Fr. Andrew’s hearing what pics to put on my jurisdictions website”. One is tempted to a “whatever, dude.” No doubt you are positioned to have some special insights, but perhaps the bitter but real experiences give some others not as fortunate as yourself to be present there an insight (even if jaded) that maybe you do not possess.

            But really, images and taxis are both important to Orthodox, and we Orthodox act on both. Official opinion in the Ecumenical Patriarchate towards the OCA ranges from marginalize to exclude. It is not really such a stretch to connect that opinion to the graphic representation of the marginalization and exclusion. On the OCA website we have a picture of OCA hierarchs with our Metropolitan. Will I be accused of conspiracy mongering acrobatics if I suggest that the bishops in that picture were not selected at random? I think it is Dean Calvert’s observation to compare the different coverages of Pat. Bartholomew’s visit to Moscow is instructive. Of course, there is a lot of overlap and many insignificant differences, but there are obvious significant differences, which naturally reflect the different positions, instincts and approaches of the Greeks and Russians.

            And while I’m at it: I do not think that the bishops absolutely needed to labor under a “how will this sound on AFR?” dynamic that live coverage of every word would bring. But for two days of a supposed epoch change we have got four speeches and a group photo, with a smattering of other pictures, many/mostly provided by yourself, well again, thank you.

            Fr. Yousuf

      • George Michalopulos :

        BTW, this “loss of narrative by goarch” is my intuition. However, it’s been confirmed by Teddy Kalmoukos at The National Herald. My prediction: the EA in North America is going to take on a life of its own. The EP has a tiger by the tail.

        Also, my gut tells me that the EP is not getting the full treatment over at Moscow. No presidential review, no motorcade, no meeting with Medvedev/Putin, not invited to Optina, and forced to concelebrate with Archimandrite Zacchaeus and hear +Jonah’s name mentioned in the Dyptichs.

        Here’s me putting my Byzantine hat on: is it possible that +Kirill invided +Bart to Russia to be there during the exact same time that the North American EA is going on so he can keep a watch on him?

  26. Michael,

    re: Serious question: within our own borders, why do we even need to be concerned with the diptychs?

    Serious comment: The Patriarchal system is an anachonistic relic of the Byzantine Roman Empire. It is no longer necessary to maintain canonical order if it ever was. Local churches gathered around their own bishop, bishops meeting in a synod.

    Let me surprise you here..I think we DO need to be concerned with the diptychs. The diptychs relate the tradition of the church, and in the ancient times, those Sees of the major metropolitan areas, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch..then C’nople, and Jerusalem (honorific) were the major centers of the world. As such, there contained the brilliance of Orthodoxy…and were honored as such.

    However, there’s a difference between honoring the diptychs, and giving those same Sees secular power – which is essentially what we are witnessing – I doubt that was ever something the Church Fathers would have considered correct.

    A much more serious problem, however, is that the diptychs have not been updated in centuries. This has given rise to a ridiculous situation that the Church Fathers never even considered possible….a See like C’nople, with probably 800 people, being the First Among Equals..while Moscow, population 8 million plus, is down the list.

    What we really need is a reordering of the diptychs to reflect the modern reality of Orthodoxy. No disrespect intended, but some of the Ancient Sees should no longer be patriarchates…not when C’nople has fewer Orthodox than Grand Rapids Michigan – with NO bishop.

    Reorder the diptychs to reflect the modern realities. Once this realignment has been completed, the largest and most successful churches in the Orthodox Oecumene (and those with the most resources) will once again be worthy of the respect that we should rightly give them.

    Keep in mind, by the way, that such a reordering of the diptychs might also remove much of the parochialism that we see as rampant today. I have a feeling, although it is pure speculation on my part, that “live” churches in the Old World, with problems enough of their own, will be more than happy to once again play a ceremonial role, and no more, in other areas of the world.

    While this is speculation on my part…I’d also ask the question, “On the other hand…could it get much worse?”

    Best Regards,

  27. By the way, just as an addendum to my earlier post…

    Page Two of the GOA playbook, Harry Coin could speak to this better than I, will be to publish photos AFTER the conference is all over…I wouldn’t be surprised if they setup an entire website to laud the accomplishments…they seem to like doing that lately.

    The point is, this will all be done after a careful screening, orchestrated to the last detail to tell the story EXACTLY the way the GOA and the EP wants it told. Nothing more. There might even be a few pictures of the OCA bishops – but not in church!

    And a lengthy statement will also certainly be issued…I can almost draft it for you here…

    “We, the Orthodox bishops representing the Mother Churches of Orthodoxy, under the watchful eye and following the leadership of the First Throne of Constantinople, thank His Holiness for urging the convening of this conference to begin the arduous task of bringing the Orthodox Diaspora in America back into canonical order. We the children of the Mother Churches owe a debt of gratitude for the wisdom displayed…”

    Now if you think I’ve gone around the bend…just go to these two sites…to see the different narratives that are being told about the EP’s visit to Russia:

    1.) which will lead you to the EP’s website, and

    2.) – the Moscow patriarchate.

    Oh, and when you visit, take particular notice of the verbiage used in the reports on the two sites. The GOARCH speaks consistently of His Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch of C’nople…while the Moscow Patriarchate refers to him simply (but consistently) as Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. A subtle, but interesting difference eh?

    Looking at the first website, one would think that all of Russia stood still, while the EP exited the plane…an imperial visit of sorts. The second website, on the other hand, paints a very different picture.

    My point is very simple….the GOA spin machine is going into high gear. Fr. Andrew is obviously part of the spin machine, whether he knows it or not. I know, I know…he’s AOCA – so what. There is a contingent of Antiochians so furious at Met. Philip that they will oppose everything the metropolitan does, even abandon the idea of a united and autocephalous church, perhaps even run into the arms of the EP as a result. Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire!

    In any case, there’s no conspiracy being suggested…no one is saying we know where Hoffa is…

    But then, Pravda and Izvestia had lots of pretty pictures too.

    Personally, if the EA does anything short of reaffirming the Ligonier statements, and stating the need for a united and independent Orthodox Church on this continent…it will all have been a big, expensive charade.

    Now let’s sit back and see what happens.

    Best Regards,

    • Dean,
      Thank you for the link. I love how this is worded:

      Among the concelebrants were also representatives of Local Orthodox Churches to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia including ……. Archimandrite Zacchaeus (Orthodox Church in America), …

      Is it possible that +Kyrill is senging a loud and clear message to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople?

      Me thinks Yes


  28. St. Hilary of Poitiers offers some wonderful counsel to our bishops who are holed up in a luxury hotel debating the future of the Church

    Today we fight an insidious persecutor, an enemy who flatters…. He does not stab us in the back but fills out stomachs. He does not seize our property and thereby give us life. He stuffs out pockets to lead us to death. He does not cast us into dungeons thereby setting us on the path to freedom. He imprisons us in the honors of the palace. He showers priests with honors, so that there will be no good bishops. He builds churches that he may destroy the faith. (From Against Emperor Constantius)

    • George Michalopulos :

      Andrew, when I reflect upon St Hilary’s words, I shudder to think how our bishops have been living sheltered lives for over a millenium now. It’s a wonder the Church still exists given such conditions. But exist it does, our Founder assured us of this. I guess you could say that the Church exists in spite of its mandarin/bishops rather than because of them.

      Is it any wonder that that Church which suffered the most (Russia) is now viewed as the one with the most moral authority?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Andrew, I don’t think the Helmsley is a luxury hotel. Still, I don’t have an issue with bishops meeting in better hotels because the better hotels are best equipped to handle meetings of this type. I’ve been to meetings of this kind and frankly, you never really leave the hotel so it has to be able to handle what you need if you want to make the most efficient use of your time. Basically you fly in, got to meetings, and fly out. Add a day flying in and a day flying out, and a three day meeting ends up being a week.

  29. George, thank you for your reply. above 22.1.1

    I know that Archbishop Demetrios did a brave and nobel thing by inviting the OCA bishops and he will probably pay dearly for it.

    My question really was not if the OCA biships were invited but did +Jonah get invited to sit on the executive committee as head of the second largest juristiction?

    Met. Philip alluded to this in his speach.

    This is what I mean by childish, asinine behavior on the part of the Patriarch of Constantinople.


    P.S. Since I’m one of those lurkers and new to this, how do you do spell check?

    • George Michalopulos :

      as far as spell-check, you’re on your own there! Steve, as I’ve indicated on another post, the EAs will only be successful when the love starts and the games stop. +Jonah is probably the central figure in this drama, and the OCA is certainly a thorn in the EP’s flesh, but that’s his problem, not ours. I think that fruit will be borne when the bishops assembled in the future demand that +Jonah be given his rightful place. In the meantime, I could care less. This land needs to be evangelized and the only church capable of doing this in an unfettered fashion is the local, canonical church. The American Church has no need to look for approval in the wistful eyes of foreign overlords. Preach the Gospel, that’s all that matters. The church that does that will be the one that America turns to.

Care to Comment?