In what appears to be part of a large backlash against the Antiochian Archdiocese’s reversal to its previous de facto status of “one Metropolitan with lots of powerless vicars”, various Orthodox American-ist laity are protesting against the Patriarchate. Three Bishops of the Archdiocese have refused to sign the document, according to Orthodox Christians for Accountability, and an open letter now appears on the same site with a bunch of demands and the veiled threat of dire consequences.
Orthodox American-ists— as we define them here at NFTU –are those who support geographical freedom from the Patriarchates. Strangely, while obsessed with the notion of direct local episcopal control (found in the canons) there is found among these groups a general disdain for “Old Country” traditions (usually referred to by Orthodox Christians as “local customs”) and an obsession with representative government in the Patriarchates, usually having a poor understanding of the role of the various roles of the Church hierarchy, and almost always completely without understanding of actual ecclesiological controversies in the Orthodox Church today.
An “Open Letter” today contains a list of forty questions to the Patriarchate, some of which are very telling in terms of the pitiful state of the Antiochian Church both in America and in the Patriarchate itself.
We found some of these questions so bizarre that we had to expand upon them ourselves.
“5. Since the Archdiocese of North America restricts Sacraments only to Orthodox Christians and the Patriarchate permits Sacraments for all Christians regardless of their church membership, will the Patriarchate seek to regularize the Archdiocese of North America by instructing us to give Sacraments to Non-Orthodox?”
NFTU: While we weren’t aware the Patriarchate allows sacraments for ALL Christians, this characterization is grossly unfair. Since 1991, many Antiochian clergy in America have given mysteries freely to Roman Catholics and Monophysites. We no reason to imply that the US jurisdiction is doing all that much different in practice– if not on paper.
“6. Metropolitan Philip has stated, “Please be advised that anything can be discussed again by the Holy Synod except the Nicene Creed.” By this, he implies that the Holy Synod may make binding decisions on all other Traditions, regardless of the Scriptures, Canons, Traditions, etc. How do you understand the parameters of the Holy Synod’s authority?“
NFTU: If Metropolitan Philip actually said this, the Antiochian Church is in a worse state than anyone ever thought possible.
“9. Under what circumstances will you and the Holy Synod of Antioch agree to release jurisdiction over the clergy, faithful and properties of the North American Archdiocese?”
NFTU: There is an implied threat of defection here which only gets worse later.
“15. Can you please explain to us what the ‘Self-Rule’ status means and how it differentiates us from any other Archdiocese of the Patriarchate?”
NFTU: Obviously, the Archdiocese is “self-ruled”; the “self” happens to be the Archbishop. This is one of those cases where the American-ist mindset really shows. Apparently they thought the title “self-ruled” meant the Patriarchate approved a Bill of Rights, or more ridiculously, autonomy— as those who pushed the Antiochian Synod wanted, but as some of us said time and time again, never acutally got.
And on and on.
After 40 such inane questions, the author of the letter goes on to end with the following veiled threat: “Your Beatitude, we realize that there are many questions here, but that you have a large staff to help you prepare responses in a timely manner. In this day and age, information flows quickly. If you wait more than a week, you will lose any chance of preventing further damage. Slow responses brought down Metropolitan Herman of the O.C.A., and now Metropolitan Philip is making the same error by procrastination. We are not trying to intimidate you, but merely stating the facts of this situation.”
We have to point out that this is considered a backhanded intimidation. Put simply, if you cannot clearly show the result of one’s actions but point only to “bad things happening to other people who didn’t do as we say”, that is in fact a threat of intimidation. If we here at say “if Russia joins with Rome millions will leave”, that’s not a threat. We have nothing to do with it, but are simply basing things on statistics and historical reality.
“Slow responses” to the web-gurus of these accountability sites didn’t bring down Metropolitan Herman of the OCA; corruption involving Church finances into the millions did.
Since these websites were designed to give accountability to World Orthodoxy, this terminology and others found on the “ocanews” site seems to imply the authors think themselves above accountability. This is a grave mistake, and the root of the downfall of so many beforehand. NFTU