To: Exarchate, Clergy, and Faithful
From: Archbishop Chrysostomos
Re: First Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox
Hierarchs in North and Central America
Evlogia Kyriou. Gospod’ blagoslovit. May God bless you.
Many of you know that there was a convocation of Orthodox Bishops at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in New York City last week, described, in a somewhat addled way, as the “First Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs in North and Central America.” Some of you have inquired of me about it.
This meeting (see the attached photograph) was convened by Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Needless to say, no Old Calendarist resisters, including the Hierarchs of our Synod in Resistance and its Sister Churches, were invited attend, whether as participants or observers.
The question, below, which gives me a platform from which to address the inquiries that I have received, was sent to me by a well-placed individual who teaches in an Orthodox seminary and who discussed the meeting with two Bishops of his acquaintance, both of whom were in attendance.
Most of the questioner’s letter, containing unedifying material of no interest to anyone (gossip euphemistically passed on by those who discussed it as “information”), I have erased. (He repeated this gossip, incidentally, not in an insulting or accusatory way, but in order to express his own dismay at the abject level of discourse between the discussants in question.)
I have copied the questioner’s more general reference to that material and his inquiry about my reaction to the assembly, as I said above, to provide me with an opportunity to comment on the assembly for those who have inquired about it and in an attempt to set it in the wider context of American Orthodoxy.
…It was XXX and XXX who discussed you and your bishops personally with XXX, who said that your synod is made up of schismatics and is outside the church, along with the bishops of Metropolitan Agafangel. …I was disgusted at the scuttlebutt about you and Metropolitan Kyprianos and your supposed religious vagaries before monasticism. …This all showed a lot animosity and a desire to discredit you and Metropolitan Kyprianos. For example [examples deleted]…. I’d be glad to set the record straight on a number of the these rumors if you want. They both know that I know the real facts. …[Getting on], did you read Archbishop Demetrios’s presentation to the gathering? What do you think of it?
I do not address, beyond what I have said in the past, my private life before I became a monk or misrepresentations of, and fantasies about, it. All of this is irrelevant, and I let my Orthodox confession, the truth, and my monastic life speak for me. I have no interest in this sort of gossip, which is wholly inappropriate for men who represent the Church of Christ and which is, at least in the case of laymen, more properly answered by legal action, in my opinion. This self-serving nonsense has long been spread about me and Metropolitan Cyprian and is simply meant to try to discredit us personally, rather than address the valid and pertinent issues that we raise in our resistance.
As for the accusation that we and the clergy of and faithful of our Sister Churches are schismatics and outside the Church, the Blessed Elder Philotheos (Zervakos) once made an interesting observation about such statements with regard to Old Calendarists and resisters. (He was himself in the New Calendar Church at the time, I should stress.) If we are to be judged in such a way, so are the Fathers of the Church who stood for the principles that we defend and who, like us, severed communion with, and walled themselves off from, those whom they considered in error. Let the fact that we do not visit such compliments on those whom we believe to be in error speak for us, as well.
I did, indeed, read Archbishop Demetrios’ presentation, which was clear and intelligent, as one would expect from such an erudite and dedicated Churchman, whom I in many ways greatly admire. However, I would take exception, despite his good intentions, with the manner in which unity and the pressing problems of the Church, today, were examined in his keynote address at this meeting. (I keep in mind, of course, that he was not expressing only his personal views but those of the Archdiocese and the Oecumenical Patriarchate, as well.)
At a time when belief, the daily practice of Orthodoxy (Orthopraxy), and adherence to the Canons which regulate our Faith and how we live as Christians are waning widely, one cannot help but be unimpressed by the preoccupation of the so-called canonical Bishops with matters of administrative prerogative, jurisdictional squabbles, and so on. Archbishop Demetrios admittedly acknowledged that these latter concerns could be set aside and considered in the future, and that unity of action and purpose were the matters of the moment, but such concerns surely the elephant in the room, I am sure.
Looking at that elephant, I might just note that a number of the Bishops attending the assembly were from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, from which we derive our Apostolic Succession and with which we were in full communion for a number of years. If technicalities of who is canonical and who is outside the Church are of such moment (the mere title of the meeting attests to this fact), might I ask whether the ROCA Bishops in attendance were re-Chrismated, re-ordained, and re-Consecrated in preparation for this meeting of the “canonical” Orthodox Bishops on this continent?
If this question seems out of line or absurd, it is not. Certainly, if our Bishops are schismatics and outside the Church, then these Bishops must have been of similar status with us when they Consecrated our Bishop and when we were in communion with them. Logically, something must have been done about their former assault on the canonicity of the other Bishops represented at the meeting. Moreover, there is the further complication posed by the fact that Bishop Auxentios and I, “schismatics and outside the Church,” took part in the Consecration of one of the ROCA Bishops.
While my comments may seem a bit provocative or even cynical, they nonetheless highlight what I said about the artificial nature of the way in which concerns for unity and the problems of the Church are expressed in “official” Orthodoxy today. My questions, in point of fact, are very serious and apropos, if one is to approach matters of unity and administrative authority in their full dimensions, and not in some Procrustean manner wherein “canonical” is separated from the Canons and “unity” is a preconceived “covenience” established by common consent.
Beyond this perception, I also noted that Archbishop Demetrios himself admitted that many issues in the Church today that involve serious canonical and confessional issues (the Baptism of converts, the Ordination of non-Orthodox clergy [he refers, for example to questionable acceptance of Roman Catholic clergy by vesting in some jurisdictions], relations with the non-Orthodox, etc.) remain unresolved among the so-called canonical Orthodox, who find themselves more greatly preoccupied with administrative Canons than canonical directives that touch on these matters of ecclesiology, confession, and the practice of the Faith.
You can imagine that, being accused of schism and being outside the Church, we are not overly impressed by deliberations aimed at administrative primacy and which, when they do turn to the canonical problems of Faith and confession in Orthodoxy, do so in the context of preparing for an ecumenical synod that, if one carefully reads the agendum put forth for it over the years, aims at solving these problems by “reform.” Thus, instead of restoring traditional standards, those involved in these deliberations aim at revising and overturning the Canons that regulate fasting, clerical dress, the remarriage of widowed clergy, prayer and worship with the non-Orthodox, and so on. They are fixed on the very same reforms that led to the “Living Church” in Russia, after the Bolshevik Revolution, and to the reform of the Church Calendar early last century.
I have already expressed my views with regard to the spectacle of responsible, mature Churchmen discussing, even if only in private and personally, street gossip of the kind that you mention: gossip which I have excised from this note for the purpose of responding to you and sharing my response with our clergy and faithful, a number of whom have asked about the nature of this assembly and why we were not invited.
I will set aside any further reactions (and I have some) and not comment on ecumenists who disallow words like “schismatic” and “outside the Church,” except when applying it to those of their own religion who happen to oppose their ecumenical excesses!