NFTU: This is an incredible paper and call to True Orthodox unity, and we wish Metropolitan Moses of Portland (HOCNA) many years in calling for this long-overdue step forward in dialogue among the True Orthodox. It is a true example of the honest self-awareness that we are going to need to resolve the administrative divisions in True Orthodoxy.
Updated: Includes Addendum of Dec 6/19.
The purpose of this paper is to present the significance of recent events and decisions by the members of our Holy Synod both past and present in light of our obligation to Holy Tradition, the canonical order of the Church and the good witness of the Orthodox Christian Faith both in North America and throughout the world.
On October 2, 2008, the Holy Synod made the following two resolutions:
1. Motion by Bishop Demetrius that we work for the greater good of the Church to strengthen our witness of the Truth of Christ in the world through Traditional Orthodoxy; and seek to end the schisms among the faithful; we encourage fraternal contacts with Traditional Orthodox Christians to achieve these ends. 2nd by Metropolitan Ephraim. Motion carries unanimously.
2. Motion by Metropolitan Ephraim that the Holy Synod commission Priestmonk Haralampos of HTM to make a study concerning the resolution of Church disputes and schisms in the past, and how they may serve as guidelines for the Holy Synod to address contemporary divisions among the Traditional Orthodox Christians. 2nd by Bishop Demetrius. Motion carries unanimously.
I have learned that since these resolutions were made Metropolitan Ephraim has counseled the faithful in Saint Petersburg, Florida to attend the Dormition of the Theotokos Parish in Clearwater Florida that is under Metropolitan Pavlos of the G.O.C. and receive the Eucharistic Gifts there.
More significantly, in 2009 Metropolitan Makarios was inspired to ask Metropolitan Chrysostom of Attica, a bishop of the Holy Synod led until recently by the newly reposed Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Athens, to send one of his priests to the Convent of the Annunciation on the Island of Oinousis in Greece for Holy Week and Pascha. The Metropolitan of Attica generously complied and sent a married priest who placed the antimensia of Metropolitan Chrysostom of Attica on the altar of the Convent of the Annunciation and commemorated him during the liturgies he served for Holy Week and Pascha. At the next meeting of our Holy Synod in 2009 Metropolitan Makarios informed us of these events and his report was accepted by our Holy Synod without comment.
Because the Holy Synod has endorsed these actions the significance of what occurred at the Convent of the Annunciation in Oinousis is profound. This was not the case of a bishop instructing a spiritual child to attend another Traditionalist Jurisdiction’s Church and take Holy Communion. This was the recognition of the territorial legitimacy and canonicity of the Holy Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians (G.O.C.) in Greece and the newly-reposed Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Athens, until his recent death the President of the Synod of the Genuine Orthodox Christians in Greece.
Metropolitan Makarios the ruling bishop of Toronto, Canada, had been appointed in 1997 by the Holy Synod to serve as the locum tenensi of the throne of Athens until this vacant See be filled.
By endorsing our Metropolitan Makarios’ decision regarding the submission of a formal request to a Hierarch of the GOC of Greece for a Priest to serve at our Convent on Oinoussis, and by Metropolitan Ephraim’s directive to our faithful in Florida to share the Eucharistic Mystery in a parish under the omophorion of Metropolitan Pavlos of Astoria, our Holy Synod has de facto consigned to oblivion all our former decisions against the Holy Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians in Greece under Archbishop Chrysostomos II and we are de facto in communion with them.
It is evident that the members of our Holy Synod are taking steps to fulfill the words of Saint Photios the Great from the acts of the Council of Constantinople 879 at a time when he sought to bring genuine peace and unity to the Church;
Let God consign previous events to oblivion. As for us, let us find strength in forgiveness and not call wrongs to mind. It will be best to remain silent about these affairs, or at least to speak about them only briefly and with restraint. Since we are sinful and insignificant people, it will be best to stay quiet about the enmity we caused; only in the case of great need should we speak about it at all…ii
I rejoice to report that this year, on the feast of the Dormition, in addition to the event cited above, our Metropolitan Makarios again requested that a Hierarch of the G.O.C. of Greece supply one of their priests to serve again at the Convent of the Annunciation in Oinousis who commemorated a bishop of the Holy Synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Athens.
One concludes that there are no theological, doctrinal or ecclesiological obstacles preventing our union with the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos Kiousis of Athens, since there are no declarations from this Synod that contradict either our declarations or the canons. With a real union of our Churches we can put to rest a division that has existed since 1984, and provide a greater witness to genuine Orthodoxy in our land. A union of the Churches will bring great joy to the Christians who love and revere Traditional Orthodoxy here and abroad.
At the feast of the Saint Demetrius Parish in Pomona, CA in 2009 I spoke of these events and told the faithful that they had a blessing to commune in the parishes that are under the Holy Synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos Kiousis. This news was received with joy.
(At the time of the 1984 split within the Synod then led by Archbishop Auxentius of blessed memory in Greece, five bishops remained in communion with Archbishop Auxentius and the 16 other bishops elected Chyrsostom Kiousis as their Archbishop.)
In 1986 we were a group of priests and deacons and laity recently departed from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Out of necessity and for legal reasons we quickly formed a corporation with the name of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA). We then sought to find canonical normalcy by submitting ourselves to a right-confessing Holy Synod. The same year we place ourselves under the omophorion of Metropolitan Akakios of Attika and Diavleia, and Metropolitan Gabriel of the Cyclades Islands. In recognition of the fact that these two bishops were non-participating members of the Synod of Archbishop Auxentius and that it was canonically more correct to be part of a synod rather than under two bishops that were operating in isolation, the group of clergy and laity incorporated as HOCNA placed themselves under the authority of the Holy Synod of Archbishop Auxentius of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece [T.O.C.]. (For reasons I do not understand, the clergy at that time did not change the corporate name for the sake of clarity when we joined the Church of the True Orthodox Christians under Archbishop Auxentius.)
In 1988 Metropolitan Ephraim was ordained suffragan bishop by the Holy Synod of Archbishop Auxentius. In 1991 Metropolitan Makarios was ordained suffragan bishop. They both functioned as suffraganiii bishops until 1993. They were not independent ruling bishops. They were “helpers” of Archbishop Auxentius of Athens. Therefore the diocese of Boston and the United States and the diocese of Toronto and Canada were regional missionary dioceses of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece. In 1993 both bishops were raised to the rank of ruling [canonical] bishops, and continued as members of the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece.iv
It is important to note that after we gained canonical normalcy and placed ourselves under the omophorion of Archbishop Auxentius the name “Holy Orthodox Church in North America” (HOCNA) had legal, corporate meaning, but it did not imply ecclesiastical independence from the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece. That is to say, its legal scope indicated the territorial responsibilities of the hierarchs acting as “Class A” members of that corporation, with no language indicating that these “Class A” members (the hierarchs) claimed the status of an independent ecclesiastical entity, either that of an autonomous or that of an autocephalous local Church. When Archbishop Auxentius reposed on November 4/17, 1994, Ephraim, Bishop of Boston and Makarios, Bishop of Toronto, were members of the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece with the rank of bishop and there was no local autonomous or autocephalous synod in North America.
After the repose of Archbishop Auxentius the Holy Synod chose Archbishop Maximos to succeed him. The sad history of Archbishop Maximos is known: how he performed pseudo episcopal ordinations without the participation of the Holy Synod; how his fellow ordainer, Demetrius Bifas, was not a bishop and not even known to be a priest by the Church of Alexandria, his purported place of ordination; how, after he was called three times before the Holy Synod and refused to appear, he was deposed.
(When we met informally with the bishops of the Holy Synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos Kiousis in 2009 they recounted certain instances of the unusual behavior of Archbishop Maximos that were consistent with our experience. It is my opinion that the former Archbishop Maximos was a major source of the troubles experienced by the only too trustful Archbishop Auxentius of blessed memory.)
After the deposition of Archbishop Maximos, Metropolitan Athanasios of Larissa was chosen by our Holy Synod in Greece as locum tenens of the throne of Athens. Our North American Hierarchs, Bishop Ephraim and Bishop Makarios, participated in these transitions as regular members of the Synod that had been led by Archbishop Auxentius, and, briefly, by Archbishop Maximos.
In 1996 the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece voted to ordain a suffragan bishop for France and a suffragan bishop for Boston. By this action I was elected and ordained by the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece. I note that the actual entity that accomplished these ordinations for France and North America in 1996, a decade after we had left ROCOR, was still the self-same Synod of which Archbishop Auxentius had been the President.
In 1997 Metropolitan Athanasios of Larissa withdrew from participating in the Holy Synod. Towards the end of that same year Metropolitan Photios of Lyons resigned.
Thus, from the end of 1997 the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece that traced its lineage from Archbishop Auxentius no longer had any bishops in Greece. By December of 1997 the only remaining bishops in our Holy Synod were Bishop Philaret of France and Metropolitan Ephraim, Metropolitan Makarios and Suffragan Bishop Moses in North America. Makarios, Metropolitan of Toronto was chosen to serve as the locum tenens for the vacant See of the throne of Athens that year.
With the departure of Bishop Philaret of France from the Holy Synod in 2001, the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece consisted of the three bishops in North America, with Metropolitan Makarios of Toronto as the locum tenens of the throne of Athens.
Later in 2001 the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece, comprised of the last three successors of Archbishop Auxentius, that is, Metropolitan Ephraim, Metropolitan Makarios and Bishop Moses, resolved to “…elevate Bishop Moses of Roslindale to a ruling bishop with the title of Metropolitan of Seattle” and to “…grant the status of an Eparchial Synod to the Holy Orthodox Church of North America, currently consisting of and not limited to the Metropolis of Boston and the Metropolis of Toronto and the Metropolis of Seattle.”v At the time, it was said that this was done for practical administrative purposes.
If one examines the minutes from this period one can see that these minutes are presented on the letterhead of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece. We met as the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece. When Bishop Sergios was elected a suffragan Bishop for the Metropolis of Seattle in 2004 we voted as the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece and the minutes documenting that resolution are presented on the letterhead of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece. Our hierarchical integrity and validity clearly derives from being the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece.
It is certain, undeniable and not open to question that our Holy Synod recognizes the legitimacy of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece of Archbishop Chrysostomos Kiousis as the recent decisions taken by senior Metropolitans on our Holy Synod demonstrates. As stated above, Metropolitan Athanasios of Larissa was made locum tenens to the throne of Athens after the deposition of Archbishop Maximos, and then withdrew from the Holy Synod in 1997. This same Metropolitan joined the Holy Synod of Chrysostomos Kiousis in 2008. He was our senior hierarch in Greece and in his person he has wisely and prudently done the work of God and healed the division in Greece.
It is my conviction that we must now ask ourselves honestly what factors there are, any more, that prevent us from following the lead of our former locum tenens of Athens, Metropolitan Athanasios, and join the Synod of the G.O.C. of Greece as he did. I think we all realize what a powerful act in behalf of restoring the unity of the Synods who will not bend the knee to the politically-correct pan-heresy of ecumenism would be, and I think we all realize that certain factors that cause traditionalists to hesitate to join the separated groups of those who will not embrace that pan-heresy will be removed, encouraging such traditionalists within world Orthodoxy to seriously begin to move to the haven of a more united genuine Orthodox Church.
We have no bishops in Greece while their Holy Synod now has 11, with the repose of Archbishop Chrysostomos II. We have one priest in Greece while their Holy Synod has close to 160. We are a Holy Synod of a daughter Church with a mother Church that has no bishops in residence and no Archbishop. Metropolitan Makarios has been locum tenens of the throne of Athens for 13 years. Do any of us think that we will soon elect an Archbishop of Athens and establish a Holy Synod there? Many of those who keep a watch on local Orthodox Churches describe us as a group that has quite successfully isolated itself. Speaking for myself, I will say that I have never considered “isolation” to be a worthy goal.
I have been told on more than one occasion by inquirers that they seek to flee the Pan-heresy of ecumenism but are afraid of joining a jurisdiction that is judged by many as an isolationist sect. Our own apologists have said time and again that the present state of isolation, and the de facto autonomy that we find ourselves in, is an accident of circumstances and not a deliberate choice. The only way realistically open to us today that we can prove that this is actually true is to achieve a real union with the Holy Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians with Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Athens.
An autonomous Church is always under an autocephalous Church. Which autocephalous Church are we under? We cannot present to the world any sort of a fait accompli state of autonomy when there is no normal, synodal documentation of the granting of this important status that can be objectively referred to in support of this claim. We know what just such a document looks like from the actual declaration of autonomy in fact granted to what was then called the Metropolis of Portugal, Spain and western Europe (and is now referred to as the Milan Synod) by Archbishop Auxentius. A rough literal translation reads thus:
[Translated from the original Greek by Petros Petropoulos]
I, the Archbishop Auxentios A’, with God’s grace, Athens and all of Greece, acting within the boundaries of our territory of the Western Europe (which I created on June 7, 1978) decided to give the permission to the Metropolis of Portugal, Spain and western Europe to self-govern, having as their principal headquarters the city, the metropolitan city, the one protected by God, Lisbon.
The Metropolitan of Lisbon shall perform his holy apostolic duty to the churches, communities and parishes, which would be directed to him.
This Metropolis will be under the direction of the GOC of Greece.
“Depended for management”
This was done in our Archdiocese the day of the celebration of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross (Sept. 14, 1984)
The Athens Auxentios (Signature)
P.S. The above Metropolitan with his vicar bishops is obliged to present himself in the synod of the hierarchs each October.
Our local Church in North America has no such declaration.
If one analyzes the document quoted above, the self-governing local Church of the Metropolis of Portugal, Spain and Western Europe and all of its bishops were still under the direction of the GOC of Greece and were required to attend the meetings of the Holy Synod in Greece each year.
From the beginning Archbishop Auxentius told the flock in North America that they were entrusted with providing their own candidates for bishops and they would be responsible for the success or failure of their chosen candidates. Given the wording of decision of Archbishop Auxentius for the Metropolis of Portugal cited above, the lack of similar documentation for our local Church and the historical record it is impossible to legitimately claim that Archbishop Auxentius granted the status of autonomy to the Church in North America. Now we can understand why many question our undocumented “self-proclaimed” autonomy. As one person put it, HOCNA declared itself a separate autonomous daughter Church when the throne of the mother Church was vacant.
Current events in the ecumenist-orthodox jurisdictions involving the abolishing of the SCOBA and its replacement by a regional Episcopal assembly, ruled firmly by Constantinople, has drawn attention to the fact that Moscow’s granting of autocephaly to one of its daughter- communities operating in the U.S., the former ‘Metropolia,’ has been absolutely rejected. The current primate of the so-called ‘autocephalous-OCA, Metropolitan Jonah, was not even given a seat on the new regional episcopal assembly’s executive board — instead, the Moscow Patriarchate, with a small handful of communities in this country, has been given that significant place and the status that goes with it. Metropolitan Jonah, acutely aware of this slap in the face and total rejection of his group’s autocephaly, is telling the press that he takes part in the work of this new regional Episcopal assembly in a subordinate, inferior position, out of ‘humility’ in order to contribute to the wider unification of Orthodoxy in America; and he also has stated publicly that he is considering asking the Moscow Patriarchate to assign a permanent hierarch to sit, and vote, on the OCA synod, if that will mollify the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As the Internet commentators have all noted, what has happened is that the primate of the autocephalous OCA has effectively terminated its own autocephaly. We may also note, as have the Internet pundits, that Moscow has raised not so much as a whimper of protest at the way in which the OCA, its own “creation,” has been sidelined, marginalized and demoted, before its very eyes throughout the process of setting-up the new regional episcopal assembly.
For us the point is that it is the means by which autocephaly is granted that either legitimizes or de-legitimizes the reality of autocephaly. It is hard to not think that we, acting as the synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece, assert that we grant autocephaly to our own selves, acting as the Exarchial Synod of North America. This will not fly canonically, to put it bluntly.
Recently a paper written by Priestmonk Haralampos of Holy Transfiguration monastery titled, “Eparchial Synods: A Talk Given at the Clergy Synaxis,” has been distributed to the clergy of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America. In it he writes:
“Our position, as de jure heirs of the synod of Archbishop Auxentius, is that we are the eparchial synod of the province of America, and we were in the synod of Archbishop Auxentius, the head of an autocephalous church. The de facto position is evident; we are certainly autonomous with an eparchial synod, but effectively autocephalous.” [p.7]
“Thanks to Archbishop Auxentius’ foresight, he granted Bishop Ephraim a self-governing, autonomous status’ with some minor supervision at first. With the ordination of two more bishops and the subsequent granting to all of the rank of metropolitan, the Archbishop made us effectively autocephalous since we could now ordain other bishops.” [p.9]
It is true that Archbishop Auxentius was the head of an autocephalous Church. It has been proven that during his lifetime Archbishop Auxentius granted Bishop Ephraim and Bishop Makarios the status of canonical ruling bishops. There is a, perhaps understandable, misconception that he granted the two dioceses in North America the status of an autonomous regional synod due to the confusion between the Corporation HOCNA incorporated in 1986 and the regional Eparchial Synod formed in 2001 also named HOCNA. In actuality they are two related, but separate things.
Archbishop Auxentius reposed in 1994. Our local eparchial synod did not exist until 2001. Until 2001 the title and letterhead of “The Holy Orthodox Church in North America” described our legal corporation, but the bishop of the diocese of Boston and the bishop of the diocese of Toronto were exclusively members of the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece. Our local Eparchial Synod was formed as a result of historical circumstances in 2001 when the last remaining active bishops of the Holy Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians in Greece from the lineage of Archbishop Auxentius were the three bishops who reside in North America. Archbishop Auxentius had nothing to do with the formation of our local regional Eparchial Synod.
Since the deposition of Archbishop Maximos in 1996 there has been no Archbishop in Greece. The last locum tenens of the throne of Athens to reside in Greece, Metropolitan Athanasios of Larissa, withdrew from participation in the Holy Synod in 1997. For the last 13 years the locum tenens of the throne of Athens has been a bishop who resides in Toronto, in North America, who chose to not reestablish a headquarters or a presence in Greece. Now by means of the acts noted at the beginning of this paper our Holy Synod has in fact recognized the legitimacy of the Holy Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Athens.
It is my conviction that if this is as far as the Holy Synod is willing to take the matter, we will have missed an opportunity of biblical proportions to overcome disunity, establish unity, and strengthen the worldwide influence of the Hierarchs who will not embrace the pan-heresy of ecumenism. We must not allow things to stall at this point. We must move forward in full confidence of the blessing of the All-holy Trinity, following the Fathers, who always acted to overcome disunity among Hierarchs.
Fr. Haralampos’ paper contains vital information and cites many patristic precedents, yet even though the title of the paper is “Eparchial Synods,” the subject matter contained therein is about two related but distinctly different topics, i.e., 1) the election and ordination of a bishop, the mystical relationship of a bishop with his see, how the bishop is the icon of Christ and has no superior in his diocese, the equality of all bishops, etc. and 2) the history of bishops meeting in council and the establishment of synods and regional eparchial regional synods.
In the context of determining the status of our local regional eparchial synod in North America, Fr. Haralampos’ paper is not specific enough about the witness of history and the tradition of the Church regarding the proper process by which a local regional synod becomes autonomous and or autocephalous. We formed a local regional synod out of an understandable practical necessity. It is my belief that this synod should not self-proclaim autonomy and autocephaly. As mentioned above, even the Metropolia-OCA did not simply proclaim itself autocephalous and in fact, even in this case, in which it received its ‘autocephaly’ from the synod of its ‘mother church,’ so-called, this claim has now been effectively demolished, and the OCA has had no choice but to accept the termination of its own autocephaly.
To evaluate these assertions that HOCNA is de facto autonomous and effectively autocephalous I quote from the book compiled by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, during an earlier era titled, “A History of the Russian Church Abroad and the Events Leading to the American Metropolia’s Autocephaly 1917 — 1971,”
In 1912 Patriarch Joachim III of Constantinople “realizing that the Russians had already established a diocese in North America, suggested that the Russian bishop in America, through the Holy Synod of Russia, recommend to the Holy Synod of Greece that ‘a Greek bishop be appointed for America who had studied in a Russian theological academy.’”vi “This statement by Patriarch Joachim III,” Alexander Doumouras comments, “together with his expressed wish that the Orthodox in America would live in harmony, matched the program which had already been inaugurated in America by the Russian Church. This plan called for the establishment of an American Orthodox exarchate which was to be governed by synod of the bishops of various racial or national groups. It was begun in 1904 with the consecration of Bishop Raphael to head the Syrian Orthodox Mission and, at the same time, to be a vicar of the Russian Archdiocese. This plan was formulated by Archbishop Tikhon (who later became Patriarch of Moscow).”vii
The vision bequeathed to the Church by Patriarch Tikhon was thus that a strong American Orthodox Church should emerge under the watchful guidance of the Russian Church, to whom the American mission had been entrusted by Divine Providence and no Russian ‘dictatorship” was envisaged. Rather, full-scale and influential participation by the Greeks, Syrians, and other immigrant groups was to be encouraged, and each group was to have its own bishops. Surely here was the guarantee of a missionary Church against which the enemy of mankind could not have prevailed! All too soon, however, the blessed unity provided for by Archbishop Tikhon and other far-sighted archpastors was to be shattered on the rock of ecclesiastical greed and ambition.
[A History of the Russian Church Abroad and the Events Leading to the American Metropolia’s Autocephaly 1917 — 1971, p.5-6.]
Please note the words “under the watchful guidance of the Russian Church, to whom the American mission had been entrusted by Divine Providence and no Russian ‘dictatorship” was envisaged. Rather, full-scale and influential participation by the Greeks, Syrians, and other immigrant groups was to be encouraged, and each group was to have its own bishops.” I concur with these sentiments and it is my conviction that we would benefit from being the organic part of a much larger Synod from an Orthodox homeland.
Another quote from “A History of the Russian Church Abroad and the Events Leading to the American Metropolia’s Autocephaly 1917 – 1971” :
In their war for power, a war which is rending and mutilating the twentieth-century Orthodox Church, the communist masters of the Moscow Patriarchate and the ambitious and theologically irresponsible hierarchs of Constantinople are seeking to create more and more autocephalous Churches to vote with them in “pan-Orthodox” Synods and the prestigious Ecumenical Movement. Moscow, currently trailing the “Greek” cluster of Churches, has of late been moving swiftly to make up the difference. Unhindered by any effective opposition at home (which is quickly silenced by the Soviet secret police), Moscow is able to move more rapidly than Constantinople, which still has to make feeble attempts to justify its actions to its flock…
…The American Metropolia is thus merely a pawn in a reckless scramble for power involving the communist controllers of the Moscow Patriarchate and the thoroughly de-Orthodoxed hierarchs of Constantinople. A disease which one could in all seriousness call “autocephalitis” has struck the Orthodox Church. In this perspective, why Moscow decided to agree with the Metropolia’s claims of readiness for autocephaly becomes all too clear…
…Indeed, one can agree with the Metropolia that before the Revolution all Orthodox did or at least should have belonged (for, as has been shown, from the 1890’s on many Greeks did not) to the Russian Orthodox missionary diocese of America. The Metropolia is also right in maintaining that to the Russian Church belongs the prerogative of granting autocephaly to an American Orthodox Church. She is, however, wrong in maintaining that the Moscow Patriarchate, absolutely subservient to an atheist regime which has caused the Russian land to run red with the blood of new Orthodox martyrs, has it in her power to grant such an autocephaly. And she is wrong in assuming that she could secretly negotiate for autocephaly without consulting her fellow-Orthodox in America. Even if one ignores the case of the Greeks, who founded their own Archdiocese in 1922, there is that of the Serbs and Syrians.
What do the leaders of the Metropolia say to the fact that His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, on January 30, 1922, gave express permission to the Syrians in America to form their own Archdiocese under the Patriarch of Antioch? Or to the fact that as early as October, 1917, Archbishop Alexander of America gave the Serbs in America wide autonomy? These two groups unquestionably have, ‘from the Metropolia’s own point of view, a separate canonical existence from the Metropolia. Their consent to the formation of an American autocephalous Church was clearly necessary. But the Metropolia, engrossed in secret negotiations with Moscow as she was, did not take the trouble to prepare the ground at all carefully for such an agreement. Instead, she presented the Serbs and Syrians with a fait accompli, and thereby dealt them a grave and undeserved injustice. Such irresponsibility is not characteristic of a mature religious organism which is ready to embark on its own path. Rather, it bespeaks a body badly in need of sound discipline and firm guidance. [A History of the Russian Church Abroad and the Events Leading to the American Metropolia’s Autocephaly 1917 — 1971, p. 145-147]
The citations above are enough, in my opinion, to show us how the Fathers have acted, and how they have not acted, so that we can proceed today to deal with our particular, difficult circumstances by “following the Fathers” and not making errors that will definitely be used against us by our enemies and detractors. Claiming to have received autocephaly from an autocephalous synod in Greece for ourselves, as a synod in North America, puts us in the untenable canonical situation of being at the same time both giver and receiver of the status of autocephaly, that is, we are both donor synod and receiver synod, we are both the benefactor synod and the synod receiving the benefaction. To say the least, this puts us in the position of a ‘conflict of interest,’ especially in view of the fact that the current Ecumenical Patriarch successfully removed the OCA’s autocephaly — an autocephaly that was at least granted in a form reminiscent of the canons, by the head of one distinct autocephalous Church with its own synod to a different distinct synod, — I trust that no one here is under any illusions regarding the ultimate fate of an autocephaly granted by Party A to Party B, when Party A and Party B are the self-same identical entity.
Recently it was reported in the press that the State Church of Cyprus altered its charter and the press release stated,
“An autocephalous church is one that enjoys total canonical and administrative independence and elects its own prelates and bishops. The Cypriot Orthodox Church was granted autocephaly by the Council of Ephesus of 431 and is ruled by the Archbishop of Cyprus, who is not subject to any higher ecclesiastical authority, although his church remains in full communion with the other Eastern Orthodox churches. Under the new charter, the Holy Synod will comprise of 17 members (16 metropolitans and the Archbishop), a number sufficient to allow it to regulate all internal matters, without the need to call a ‘Greater Synod’ involving the participation of bishops from affiliated Orthodox churches.”
The press release also mentioned that in 2006 the Church of Cyprus brought in bishops from Alexandria and Antioch in order to fulfill the canonical minimum number of bishops for certain procedures.
Despite the fact that they are New Calendar Ecumenists, they strive to fulfill canonical requirements and recognize that a local synod that has less than the required number of bishops to fulfill certain tasks must augment its number by recruiting bishops from a sister Church. We read from the Canons from the Regional Council of Carthage (the Codex of Canons of the Africans):
Canon 12. If any Bishop fall liable to any charges, which is to be deprecated, and an emergency arises due to the fact that not many can convene, lest he be left exposed to such charges, these may be heard by twelve Bishops’, or in the case of a Presbyter, by six Bishops besides his own; or in the case of a Deacon, by three.
The significance of this for us is that we cannot continue to isolate ourselves from Traditionalist Churches that proclaim the same faith. We recognize and are in unofficial communion with the Holy Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians in Greece. Our Holy Synod of five bishops of our very numerically small local Church is incompetent to fulfill certain canonical tasks. To not move forward towards union with the G.O.C. puts us in a canonically compromised position.
Furthermore, since our locum tenens of the throne of Athens and our Holy Synod recognize the G.O.C. as legitimate, we have a canonical irregularity. Two bishops cannot be assigned to the same See.
The work of a Holy Synod is to root out canonical contradictions and evaluate whether or not a local Church is living in harmony with Holy Traditions and the canonical order of the Church. For almost two millennia the Church has been proclaiming, “… for the good estate of the holy Churches of God and the union of the faithful, let us pray to the Lord.”
This Holy Synod has an obligation to the believing Christians in North America and throughout the world and to our Savior Himself to do everything we can for the good estate of the holy Churches of God and the union of the faithful. There is no legitimate reason to delay uniting with the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians in Greece. Time has passed and Metropolitan Athanasios of Larissa wisely joined the Holy Synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Athens some years ago. It must also be noted that Metropolitan Akakios of Attica and Diavlia who we abandoned in 1987 in order to be under an actual Holy Synod in Greece (of Archbishop Auxentius) and not under two bishops in isolation, is a member of the Holy Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians in Greece led until recently by the newly reposed Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Athens. We must follow their example to the Glory of God and approach this Holy Synod within the next thirty days and ask them what, from their side, prevents our union, and what they might require from us in order to facilitate this union.
There is no justifiable cause for delay.
____________________ i Locum tenens: he who temporarily “holds the place.”
ii From, “On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit,” by Saint Photios, translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Studion Publishers 1983 p.60 [Footnote 47. For the Acts of this Council see J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, 31 vols. (Florence and Venice 1759-1798), 17A-18A, 450-520, here after cited Mansi.]
iii Suffragan: the Greek word for this rank is voethos and it means “helper.”
iv The text of the 7/20 January 1993 decision was, “The Sacred Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece, after a unanimous vote, has on this day promoted its suffragan bishops Ephraim of Boston, Photios of Lyons, Theonas of Pharsala, Makarios of Toronto, and Gury of Kazan to ruling [canonical] bishops.”
v From the minutes and resolutions of the September 25/ October 8 meeting of the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece.
vi Doumouras, op. cit., p. 191.
Addendum to the Position Paper
December 6/19, 2010
Dear and Reverend Fathers,
The Lord bless you and your ministries.
I am writing this letter as an addendum to my “Position Paper.” I ask you to first read the
“Position Paper” to be better able to follow the reasoning expressed in this paper.
In order to understand our mission to witness to the Gospel of Christ as a local Church in
North America it is essential for us to understand who and what we are. An open letter of
Metropolitan Makarios of Toronto dated 18 December 2001, to Protopresbyter Victor
Melehov (attached) gave the best answer to this question. To briefly paraphrase his
answer I will say that we are a regional eparchial synod of the Church of Greece
established to allow the hierarchs of North America to meet and discuss mutual concerns
and projects for the parishes and faithful within the eparchy.
The reader who wishes to be informed should note that at the time, in 2001, we had only
recently formed the local eparchial synod of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America
and Fr. Victor Melehov interpreted this act to have caused the immediate dissolution of
our Holy Synod in Greece. (Metropolitan Makarios’ letter is attached.)
Thus, it is clear from what Metropolitan Makarios wrote in his letter and from the history
that was described in my “Position Paper,” we have as a starting point for understanding
who and what we are. Thus
1) HOCNA is not an autocephalous Church
2) Archbishop Auxentius did not grant us the status of an autonomous synod in
3) According to proper canonical order the Church in North America should
function as an Eparchial (daughter) synod in relation to the Church of the True
Orthodox Christians in Greece.
Thus, only after understanding what we are and what we are not, and what our proper
relationship to the Church in Greece is, can we then grasp the significance of the
following resolutions made by our Holy Synod on September 21/ October 4:
2) Motion by Bishop Demetrius:
…For reasons of Church unity, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in
North America also unanimously resolves to lift depositions imposed in
1985 against those bishops currently belonging to the Synod of the late
Archbishop Chrysostomos Kioussis, with the aim of achieving full
Eucharistic Communion in the future with this Synod, whensoever God
wills it. In lifting these depositions, we hereby recognize de facto that the
Church of Greece is headed by the Synod of the late Archbishop
Chrysostomos Kioussis. The faithful who travel to Greece are free to
attend the Churches which belong to this Synod with the full blessing and
approval of our Synod of Bishops. 2nd by Metropolitan Ephraim. Motion
3) Motion by Metropolitan Makarios:
that the Holy Synod dissolve the office of locum tenency of the throne of
Athens held by Metropolitan Makarios up until now. 2nd by Bishop
Demetrius. Motion carries unanimously.
Thus, acting as successors of Archbishop Auxentius, our Holy Synod has recognized that
the Holy Synod of Archbishop Kallinikos I of Athens is the Traditionalist Church of
Greece1. In addition, the office of locum tenens of the throne of Archbishop Auxentius of
Athens has been dissolved.
By lifting all past depositions, recognizing the Holy Synod of Archbishop Kallinikos as
the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians in Greece, and dissolving the office of
locum tenens of Metropolitan Makarios we have aided in ending the division that has
existed from 1985 until this year. Since we have recognized the Kallinikos Synod as the
Church of Greece, our relationship with that local autocephalous Church is allimportant.
There are rumors that some desire to rescind these resolutions. My answer to this is to
quote the Apostle James, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)
To go back on the resolutions cited above and attempt to restore Metropolitan Makarios
to the office of locum tenens would show a reckless vacillation and overturn the
canonical order of the Church [since we have recognized Archbishop Kallinikos a second
bishop (Metropolitan Makarios) cannot be reinstated as locum tenens and occupy the
throne of the Archbishop of Athens.]
In moving forward, the worst thing we could do is to state that we have dissolved our
Holy Synod (as successors of Archbishop Auxentius) in order to withdraw from Greece
and then declare a dubious canonical independence. According to the words of
Metropolitan Makarios, this would be, “…a precarious and dangerous course of action:
1 Canonically, there should be only one local Church and Holy Synod in a given geographic region. We refer
to the Church in Greece as “the Traditionalist Church” to set it apart from the ecumenist heretics. The Church in Greece
calls itself, “Tης Εκκλησίας των Γνησίων Ορθοδόξων Χριστιανών της Ελλάδος” ( The Church of the Genuine
Orthodox Christians in Greece). The word “Γνησίων” can be translated either “true” or “genuine,” thus one sees at
one time “The Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians” and at another, “The Church of the True Orthodox
separation from the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece.” – that is, we
would be cutting the last thread of our connection to our canonical foundations and we
would be in a state of schism from the Sacred Synod of the Church of Greece.
There will be some that will try and confuse the matter and claim that we were never part
of the Holy Synod of Archbishop Kallinikos I of Athens. This is a non sequitur. The
senior hierarch of the original synod of Archbishop Auxentius, Metropolitan Athanasios
of Larissa, has ended the division that existed from 1985 by joining the Synod of
Archbishop Kallinikos in 2008. We now have recognized the Synod of Archbishop
Kallinikos as the Church of Greece. Our episcopal ordinations are all from the Church of
Greece. We are of the Church of Greece. Our history testifies to the fact that the Church
in Greece is our Mother Church.
Some incorrectly attempt to use the precedent of the forty-year duration of Meletian
Schism as an excuse not to move forward in our rightful union with the Church of
Greece. During the Meletian Schism each party did not recognize the validity of the other
party for forty years, and then upon mutual recognition, the schism ended. As of October
2010 our holy Synod has recognized the Holy Synod of Archbishop Kallinikos as the
Church of Greece. In other words, the schism has ended and we have recognized the
G.O.C. in Greece as our mother Church. To refuse to immediately begin an official
dialogue for union is to foment schism from the Church of Greece.
Thus, as Metropolitan Makarios wrote, we cannot choose a “precarious and dangerous
course of action: separation [schism] from the Sacred Synod and the True Orthodox
Church of Greece” if we desire to remain true to the canonical order of the Church.
Moving forward we must consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom who said that,
“Even the blood of martyrdom cannot wash away the stain of schism in the Church.”
To put it another way, what is HOCNA, without the Church of Greece? According to the
claims printed in the “Eparchial Synod” brochure distributed by the Metropolis of
Boston, HOCNA is de jure autonomous and “effectively autocephalous.” This is a fair
assessment if indeed the goal of some is to be a “Sister Church,” i.e., enter into a status of
equality, to the autocephalous Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians in Greece.
The problem with this is that both autonomy and autocephaly indicate the status of a
regional, local Church that has received that status, from an already-existing
autocephalous Church that is competent, from the point of view of the Canons, to give
that status. Autonomy and or autocephaly must be given by an autocephalous Synod
acting as a unified body. The Synod receiving either autonomy or autocephaly
(a) must be canonically and administratively subordinate to, and dependent on,
the “bestowing Synod”;
(b) must be canonically prepared and competent to receive and then to carry out
the duties of a fully autocephalous local Orthodox Church (with minimum
numbers of Hierarchs according to the requirements of the Canons);
(c) the entire act of giving, and of receiving, the status or autonomy and/or
autocephaly must be capable of being objectively documented as the unified
decision of the bestowing Synod, as the Giver; and as the unified decision of the
receiving Synod, as the recipient.2
All of this is lacking in the present instance. None of these things have taken place.
Just for the sake of understanding what is involved, let us, for a moment, focus our
attention on the condition of the Orthodox Church in North America. Can we honestly
say that any “old calendar” jurisdiction is currently ready to assume the vast
responsibilities of an autocephalous local Orthodox Church for the geographic region of
North America? –Without regard to the other confessing Orthodox jurisdictions in the
same region.– Does any one of these jurisdictions have the minimum number of bishops
required by canon law to undertake all canonical spiritual court proceedings? Have we
all agreed that any single local Church in North American and their Synod are
sufficiently steeped in a local tradition that is itself sufficiently deeply-rooted and
broadly-based – as, admittedly, the True Churches of Greece or Romania or Bulgaria or
Russia, for example, obviously are – to stand the test of time and the particular stresses to
which the True Orthodox are subjected from all sides today, not the least from the side of
the ecumenists who still claim the name Orthodox?
Presently no forum has emerged for the pursuit of a proper and informed discussion of
these and other issues by representatives of all confessing Orthodox Christians in North
America competent to undertake such a discussion from the point of view of canon law,
theology, and ecclesiology. It appears, in an ill-conceived haste, we have skipped over all
the normal initial phases of the important question of the emergence of a canonicallysanctioned,
independent, autocephalous local North American Church, and simply
jumped to the outcome of that kind of discussion, as if it had already taken place, when in
fact, no such preliminary and preparatory work has been done, involving the ranks of the
Hierarchs, the clergy, and the lay leadership among all of the right-believing
Traditionalist Orthodox Christians in North America.
We have to ask ourselves, would a hasty and premature effort to establish HOCNA as an
autocephalous “Sister Church” help or hinder the long term efforts of all to establish the
Orthodox Church in North America. (We cannot allow people to play games with words
and deny that the status of a “Sister Church” to an autocephalous Church is anything
other than a status of autocephaly.) Do we really want to repeat the ill-considered
mistakes of the OCA who established an autocephaly that no one in North America,
outside of that jurisdiction, recognized?
For myself and for my Suffragan Bishop, I can say that we have no interest whatsoever in
membership in an independent Orthodox Church in North America of questionable
origin. The ancient Greeks had a saying: All good things are acquired with labor. Not
with haste. Not with impetuousness. Not with irresponsible decisions. Autocephaly is not
2 “…Autocephaly was determined either by an ecumenical council (431 Cyprus), imperial
decision (10th century Bulgaria) or, in the case of Georgia, by a disposition of the mother-church in the 8th
century (Balsamon, PG 137:320A)…” Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, p. 235
a trivial thing. The Russian Church existed for four hundred years before it gained
autocephaly, with so few people and so few years, are we now claiming to be ready for
I am saddened that there are some who appear to have chosen to abandon the identity that
we all accepted back in the years of disengagement from ROCOR. We cannot suddenly
deny the identity that is sharply and clearly proclaimed as the identity of HOCNA by
Metropolitan Makarios in his letter to the Presbyter Victor Melehov. We cannot suddenly
deny the identity that is proclaimed on the letterheads and in the Directories and in the
literature published by HOCNA until now, the identity that I for one intend to maintain,
consistently and faithfully, and as God gives me the strength so to do.
To do otherwise is to veer away from and abandon our legitimate canonical identity and
assert an entirely different identity, one that is in sharp contradiction to our own historic
insistence that we are indeed the North American regional synod that is an integral part of
the True Orthodox Church of Greece.
I respectfully disagree with those who decide to embark on an entirely new and different
path, radically altering the identity of our local synod. It is my conviction that the
resolutions from the October 2010 meeting of our Holy Synod are good and valid only in
the context of our continuing to maintain our union with the Church of Greece.
The Holy Synod has recognized that there is but one Holy Synod in Greece and that is the
Holy Synod of Archbishop Kalinikos I of Athens. The local eparchial synod of HOCNA
is now at a crossroad. Are we going to work to establish the Orthodox Church in North
America with a proper relationship with the mother Church in Greece, or are we going to
attempt to establish the pretence of an autocephalous Church of less than 4 thousand
souls. To those that seek isolation I ask, what has changed from the time of the
publication of the “History of the Russian Church in North America 1917 – 1971” when
just such a hasty and rash grab for autocephaly was called “autocephalitis?” Will
HOCNA some day be referred to as the “Autocephalous Church of Lilliput?”
I hope and pray that this does not come to pass.
There will be some that for the sake of personal expediency will try to confuse everyone
regarding this issue. There will be some that illogically claim that to immediately move
beyond our friendly contacts to dialogue at an official level to examine what steps will be
required for union would be an act of haste. From what has been said above it is easy to
see that this is an inversion of the truth. The only way to continue to maintain our union
with the Church in Greece is to begin a sober official dialogue. To refuse to do this is to
break from the source and origin of our episcopal ordinations and place us on the path of
a hasty canonical illegitimacy. Such a separation would be nothing more than a willful
isolation for questionable reasons that do not serve the best interest of the Traditionalist
Orthodox Christians in North America.
At this juncture, whosoever chooses not join with the G.O.C. and seeks to form a Church
body independent of the Church of Greece will be departing from the original HOCNA
and forming a “new HOCNA.” If the majority members of our Holy Synod insist on a
“precarious and dangerous course of action of separation from the Sacred Synod and the
True Orthodox Church of Greece,” and not immediately begin an official dialogue for the
sake of uniting with the Church of Greece, the October 2010 resolutions will then have
granted all of us who will not follow in this radical departure from our original identity a
de facto canonical release from our Holy Synod to those who wish not to depart from the
original identity of HOCNA.
You are the rational flock of Christ. You are responsible for your decisions. To be a
faithful member of the rational flock of Christ requires one to practice obedience to the
teachings of the Church with discernment in one’s life. Appeals to a self-serving,
emotionalist, pseudo-love and a “bond” that overturns the order of the Church should not
sway an informed Christian. As Christians we are called upon to serve the God-Man,
Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
This is not a personal issue. This is a matter of union with or schism from what has been
acknowledged by our Holy Synod as the Genuine Orthodox Church in Greece. I state
with conviction that if we are to legitimately follow in the footsteps of the Holy Fathers,
the only course of action is to seek an authentic union with the Holy Synod of
Archbishop Kallinikos I of Athens.
For the reasons stated above, Bishop Sergios and I submitted a paper of inquiry to
Archbishop Kallinikos I asking him what would be required on our part in order for us to
accomplish the goal of unifying our diocese with the Church of Greece, in imitation of
the dialogue that was carried out some time ago between the Holy Synod of the G.O.C.
and the Kyprianites. We wrote in this manner because we could not speak for either the
Metropolis of Boston or the Metropolis of Toronto, since they were making allusions to
waiting for years before initiating an official dialogue.
May God preserve in us the spirit of unity in our quest to remain faithful to Him and to
our own canonical foundations.