Thursday, August 14, 2008

Met. PHILIP Responds to the Jerusalem Patriarchate Transfer

Here's Metropolitan PHILIP's letter on the topic:
August 7th, 2008

To: The Esteemed Hierarchs, Members of The Archdiocese Board of Trustees, Clergy and Faithftil of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:

On August 5, 2008, The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America issued a press release which established a vicariate with the name 'Vicariate for Palestinian/Jordanian Communities in the USA'. The membership of this vicariate will consist of those communities in the USA which were originally part of the Patriarchate of Antioch, but most recently (since 1993) were uncanonically claimed by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. From an historical perspective, it has been clear since the disintegration of Orthodox unity which existed in North America until 1917, that the Arabic-speaking Orthodox people in North America have been exclusively under the pastoral care of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Similarly, the Greek-speaking Orthodox people (e.g. Cypriot, Greek, Egyptian, Turkish, etc.) have always been under the pastoral care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. What reaction would occur if the Antiochian Archdiocese were to establish a vicariate for Greek communities which separate themselves from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese?!

These former "Jerusalem Patriarchate" communities separated themselves from the Antiochian Archdiocese without canonical releases, and in some cases are served by priests who are under canonical suspension. It is important to point out that since this separation occurred in 1993 we have taken extraordinary measures to reconcile these communities with The Antiochian Archdiocese and have appealed to both the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Antioch as well as others for their assistance. Unfortunately, none of our numerous appeals for intervention were answered.

As such, our directive of May 2, 2003 remains in force. To emphasize the main point or that directive, the clergy of The Antiochian Archdiocese are still forbidden from communing and/or concelebrating with any clergy who are a part of this newly-formed "Vicariate far Palestinian/Jordanian Communities in the USA" of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, whether in our parishes, their parishes, or as a part of pan-Orthodox gatherings.

We lament this action by the Ecumenical Patriarchate which further complicates the already uncanonical jurisdictional situation here and continues to undermine the efforts of all Orthodox hierarchs of SCOBA to achieve administrative unity and canonical normalcy in North America.

Praying that this urgent situation will be resolved in a spirit of peace, harmony and love, we remain

Yours In Christ,
Metropolitan PHILIP
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America

Copy to:
His Beadtude IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East
His Holiness ALEXY, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
His All-Holiness BARTHOLOMEW, Patriarch or Constantinople
His Beatitude THEOPHILOS, patriarch of Jerusalem
All Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA)

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Blogger Abu Daoud said...

I really respect Orthodoxy, but this letter is a good example of why I could not see myself being Orthodox in the US. The community is so incredibly fragmented, and this can also be seen in other parts of the world, like the recent argument between Russia and Ukraine.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another schism? I can't stand it. It's fault of this lack of visible unity that I haven't become Orthodox yet.

3:14 AM  
Blogger Dn. Lucas said...

Friends, this is not a schism or fragmentation. Metr. PHILIP has simply said that his *clergy* may not concelebrate with the *clergy* of the Vicariate in question. This is far different from a schism.

Regarding your other sentiments: your decision to convert/not to convert to Orthodox Christianity will, God willing, be based on the Truth that it is Christ's body, and not on the polity of sinful humans. Pray for our Church, and pray for me, a sinner.

5:56 AM  
Blogger John (Ad Orientem) said...

I really don't want to point fingers too much. The truth is that there is blame to go around for the un-canonical jurisdictional mess in N. America. But I do have to admit with some pain that the EP has been more a part of the problem than the solution in recent years.


10:02 AM  
Blogger Archpriest David Thatcher said...

It is so important to keep such "blips" on the screen of jurisdictional struggles, etc., amongst the Orthodox in historical perspective. The churches/jurisdictions of Russian association suffered and conflicted greatly during the Soviet era. Clergy and parishes switched and were suspended in the most dazzlingly chaotic ways, and to be sure: it was unlovely and clearly "uncanonical," not to mention undisciplined.

Nevertheless, the era of struggle ended. And now, the "Synod in Exile" is reconciled to the Moscow Patriarchiate -- something many would have considered impossible.

I am an unworthy priest, but every bishop in America -- especially primates like Met. Philip -- could do more to heal such wounds. There is way too much talk, and not enough action. This fragmentation is indeed the structural condition creating such problems. Some day, God willing sooner rather than later, this division will be healed. In the end, such problems weigh far less than than the diseases of heterodoxies. To stand off from the Orthodox Faith because of them is -- forgive me! -- a "red herring." Orthodox Christians are saddened by such things, but they largely do not effect parish life or struggling to live our lives in Christ on a daily basis. Controversies come and go (read St. Basil on this!), but life in union with Christ's Body is the "one thing needful."

11:11 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Subdn. Lucas and Fr. David have said what I wanted to about the role of "schism" in preventing people from joining the Church. (Welcome to all of you, by the way!) Look for a few more words on this topic shortly, but at the moment, let this suffice: If you believe the Orthodox Church is the true Church, these human squabbles (which exist in every church) should not be an impediment. (And ultimately, this is a question of discipline and proper implementation of canons against those under suspension.)

BTW, Fr. David, I tend to disagree with you about Met. PHILIP; I think he's done a great deal for Orthodox unity. I love your blog and visit AO all the time. Thanks.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Chris Jones said...

Fr David,

To stand off from the Orthodox Faith because of them is -- forgive me! -- a "red herring."

I respectfully disagree. The phyletism of American Orthodoxy is not simply an administrative or canonical problem on the surface; it is a theological problem which goes to the heart of the Gospel and (in particular) the nature and identity of the Church.

It is certainly true that life in union with Christ's Body is the "one thing needful," but that makes the discernment of where His Church is concretely to be found a very important question. And the jurisdictionalism and the ethnocentrism of American Orthodoxy casts serious doubt on her claim to be, in concrete fact, the Apostolic and Catholic Church. To "stand off" from Orthodoxy until that doubt is dealt with is anything but a red herring.

Orthodox Christians are saddened by such things, but they largely do not affect parish life or struggling to live our lives in Christ on a daily basis.

Forgive me, Father, but my ten years as an Orthodox (OCA and Antioch, Eastern and Western rite) taught me that this statement is quite naive. If a parish is insular and less than open to "outsiders"; if it is more concerned with the maintenance of ethnic customs and the social cohesion of the existing group than it is with the Gospel; if a person who wishes to convert to Orthodoxy because it is the truth always feels that he is "swimming upstream"; and if, even after conversion, he is never truly accepted as one of the group; then "parish life" has been affected and it is no longer as good a place as it could be to live the life in Christ.

It is a genuine theological and pastoral problem that keeps converts away and drives them out of the Church once they are there. It is not just an unfortunate administrative inconvenience, and as long as it is thought of in that way it will never be dealt with.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Joseph Hanna said...

Im a member of a Jerusalem Orthodox Parish, and I would like to respond to Met. Philip's claim that our priest were uncanonically claimed by the Jerusalem Patriarchate. Just for the records, the Palestinian and Jordanian priest who started the church here in the states were not priest before Jerusalem decided to open the churches here. As laymen, we the people are free to go wherever we decide. This is just a tactic which Met. Philip is using in order to minimize or even destroy the Jerusalem Orthodox Church in America. In any case, it is sad to see politics, and greed enter and slowly destroy the church.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Again, it seems like you're commenting on an old post, Joseph, but that's fine.

Met. PHILIP did not destroy the JP presence in North America; it self-destructed and no longer exists here. And Hie Eminence is absolutely right that he gave no canonical release to priests who left the Antiochian Archdiocese and were received by the Jerusalem Patriarchate and who now function in the new vicariate under Constantinople. Moreover, it appears they merited discipline and found a way to wiggle out of it.

On the broader question of Orthodox jurisdictional disunity, it's a sad state of affairs. Unfortunately, the number of jurisdictions -- and intrigues between corrupt priests and bishops with whom they have personal relationships -- allows many unfit people to be "received" or ordained, however temporarily, and however much harm they may inflict on others.

Working all that out is really beyond our capacity. It's Lent. There are better uses of our time and concern.

3:16 PM  

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