Thursday, March 05, 2009

Metropolitan Philip Responds To Questions

Metropolitan PHILIP writes:
March 4, 2009
Beloved Hierarchs and Clergy, Members of the Board of Trustees of the Archdiocese, Parish Councils and Faithful of this God-Protected Archdiocese:
Greetings and blessings during this Holy Lenten Season!
There have been some questions raised regarding the February 24th decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which addressed the status of bishops across the entire See of Antioch. The purpose of this letter is to try to answer these questions so that confusion may be avoided.
The first question deals with whether or not I am supportive of the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which was taken on February 24, 2009. I am supportive of this decision, for a simple reason. I am convinced that the institutional structure of our Archdiocese here requires it at this time. One of the greatest assets that we have been blessed with in this Archdiocese is our strong unity. We cannot take any chance that disunity would occur in the Antiochian Archdiocese. I believe that this decision supports maximum unity and guards against any fracture in the future. I approved the decision of the Holy Synod based on my background and personal experience. I came to this country in 1956 from a divided nation. I found in North America a divided Antiochian family: first between "Russy" and "Antaki", and second between New York and Toledo. I worked very hard to unite this family at the cost of blood and tears. I will guard this unity with my life and I will leave to our future generations a strong and unified Antiochian family in North America. If we do not learn from the mistakes of history, we will be condemned to repeat the same mistakes. In my judgement, the models of other Orthodox jurisdictions simply do not work, and the examples are numerous. Most importantly, I do not see the action of the Holy Synod of Antioch as making that much practical change in the way we operate. Most of the auxiliary bishops will remain where they are. The auxiliary bishops will administer the dioceses on behalf of the Metropolitan. It is now clear that in the few instances in which the Metropolitan disagrees with the action of a bishop, that the Metropolitan has the authority to reverse that decision. While we have vacancies in some of the dioceses, it is important that the Metropolitan have the flexibility of moving a bishop to a place where the best interests of the Archdiocese can be served.
The second question deals with the exact status of our bishops. The decision makes it very clear that our bishops within this Archdiocese will now be considered Auxiliary Bishops. But we need to focus on the practical application of that change, and not just a title. in due time we will begin the work of editing the "Manual of Hierarchical Duties and Responsibilities" so that these changes will be clear. The Archpastoral Directive of March 3, 2009 made it clear that the Metropolitan is to be commemorated in all divine services. The auxiliary bishop will be commemorated only in the case that he is present at the divine service.
The third question deals with the impact of this decision on the provisions of our Self-Rule as well as certain articles of our Pittsburgh Constitution.
Our Self-Rule status remains in effect with regard to the relationship of this Archdiocese to the Holy Synod of Antioch. The decision of the Holy Synod is a narrow administrative decision, addressing only the standing of bishops across the See of Antioch. As we know from church history, administrative structures come and go as the needs of the church change over time. As you are all aware, there are still some differences that exist between the Archdiocese Constitution that was approved in Pittsburgh, and the constitution that was proposed by the Holy Synod of Antioch as an alternative. These differences will be addressed with the Patriarch, myself, and the Holy Synod in due time.
I pray that you will all have a blessed Journey to the Empty Tomb.
Yours in Christ,


  1. I'm going to wait and see. I'm hearing lots of stuff. Bottom line, and I knew this when I joined the Church, is that he's the Archbishop and it's his Archdiocese and he can run it as he sees fit. How long much longer he's going to be Archbishop remains to be seen.

    If Damascus did make more bishops this would be easier with jurisdictional issues, like a Western Rite bishop, which the word around the campfire says they want.

    I say let cooler heads prevail and wait. Besides, there's not a whole lot we can do about it.

  2. Vir,
    The proverbial "we" is the body of Christ of which you an I are a part. I don't accept that "there is not a whole lot we can do about it." In times like these, as in all times of church concerns, WE are the doers. It is the WE who provoked further explanation from the Metropolitan by our inquiries. It is the WE who will provoke the correction of a error if one has been made. Orthodoxy is not a spectator sport where we are sidelined as we watch the other guys play. We are all engaged in the pursuit of righteousness, while being careful not to fire the coach because he calls a bad play or two.

  3. Anonymous6:23 PM

    Perhaps someone ought to point ought the fact that all of Syria is smaller than the state of Nebraska, which is only the fifteenth largest state in the US. How can a shepherd tend his flock from thousands of miles away. Does the Holy Synod have a grasp on the geographical situation here in the US?

  4. Anon,
    Your point is well taken. Few realize that there are about only about 55,000 Antiochian Parishioners in all of North America. This is such a low number compared to the other jurisdictions. Perhaps wisdom would have us increase the number of Bishops not decrease them so that we might see more evangelism and growth. This does seem a step back to preserve some unspecified political unity rather than a moving forward to advance the gospel of Christ, who, last time I checked, is still the Head of the Church.


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