Continuing the cryptic nature of the recent decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch and Metropolitan Philip's support of the demotion all Bishops to the status of Auxiliary, this announcement appears on the Antiochian.org website.
"A special meeting of the hierarchs of this Archdiocese has been scheduled for Bright Friday, April 24th, 2009 at the Archdiocese headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey.
The sole agenda item for this meeting will be the February 24th decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch regarding the status of bishops."
The meeting would have to be "special" considering the unprecedented move of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America to that of a single ruled church jurisdiction by fiat. What happened to consensus? How is it canonical that the Self-Ruled agreement, constitution and bylaws are stricken overnight with the support of the Metropolitan and without the consensus of the Bishops who rule? Papist? Certainly not the Orthodox way. We can only hope that the specialness of the meeting is so-called because our demoted Bishops will not stand for such an independent act outside the canonical method of governing. No Patriarch nor Metropolitan is above the will of God.
It would behoove the Metropolitan to come into the open concerning the actual real life reasons The Decision (of the Holy Synod) was made in the first place. Thinking that the use of phrases such as "preserve the unity" is sufficient communication highly underestimates the reaction of the laymen to such ambiguity. It would also behoove the Metropolitan to invite some laymen and lowly, subservient priests to the Special Meeting so as not to rule from an Episcopal Tower. JTO is hearing from priests and laymen who all express consternation and alarm that will not be quenched by posturing and subterfuge.
Whether it was The Decision itself or the method in which it was made, it has resulted in turmoil and has the potential of severely dividing what has been one of the most respected jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church. If the Patriarch or the Metropolitan determine that they can rule without the consensus of the people as a measure to the rightness of their decisions, then they have become isolated and out of touch indeed. How will you lead if there is no one left to follow? More than one has told JTO that they can get no response from the Metropolitan's office. JTO has personally experienced this with a previous matter in which a mailed letter went unanswered. Is anyone home up there?
The proof of Holiness in our Bishops and Parish Priests in this hour will be whether they will care more to safeguard their careers and positions rather than the Church of Christ. Will they stand for the right or will they cower under ecclesiastical power? There is a common story that once Metropolitan Philip was in conversation with a parishioner concerning the Canons. As the parishioner was giving his opinion the Metropolitan interrupted, "You don't tell me what the Canons say. I tell you." Could this be the pervasive attitude that is The Decision? Could this be the hierarchical papist attitude that causes the great divide of the Antiochian Church? Pride comes before the fall and until evidence and answers are forthcoming as to the rightness of the recent events, conclusion are limited to the negatives.
I have always said, "It is a wide Church." Damascus Syria, where the See of Antioch resides, is not larger than the state of Nebraska. In North America there are no more than 55,000 parishioners the Antiochian Diocese. There are almost 300 million Orthodox worldwide and about 500,000 of all jurisdictions in North America. If Metropolitans or Patriarchs err in matters of Canons or faith to the harm of the people they must either repent, be removed or the people must remove to another diocese. I hope all, including our Bishops and Priests, will consider this as a viable option should The Decision be revealed to be one not from the heart and will of Christ.