I hate writing this letter, but I am hoping that it will in some way bring some peace to my heart.
Like many of the clergy of my diocese and maybe the entire Archdiocese, I have only spoken with you a few times. I’m sure if I called you I would end up speaking with Fr. George Kevorkian or perhaps Bishop Antoun because that’s what always happens.
Since being enthroned, my bishop has been the diocesan bishop. He has been my father in a very real sense. A bishop is more than a set of vestments on a man or the prayers over his head, he’s supposed to be the one who loves us and cares for us.
When my parish fell on hard times and they could not pay the assessment and me, it was my bishop who sent me money so that we could get by. He told me we would never go hungry, and we didn’t.
When my child was in the ER, it was my bishop I called and received consolation from.
When a small group of troublemakers tried to expel me from my parish because they didn’t like me, it was my bishop who stepped in and backed me up.
When I call my bishop, he answers the phone and he speaks with me. I have received more phone calls from him than I have received form letters. He cares for me.
Honestly, I don’t think you care about me, Your Eminence. Who would, with a line of 250 priests or so? To you, I’m just a statistic. Sure, we have spoken a few times. You were always kind and polite. But, its easy to be kind and polite and not really care for those you are being kind and polite to.
It seems to me all you want is power over me, and that’s why I am afraid.
You showed me what you thought of me when you arranged all of this. You said I don’t need a local bishop who cares, just a centralized one who can do what he wants. You showed me your "visionary leadership", but the vision is just of you. That’s all you see, like looking into a mirror.
You insult my friends in the OCA by making fun of their cassocks and hats. Then, you insult your ‘brother bishops’ by demoting them behind their backs and accusing them of dividing the Archdiocese. If you’ll do that to them, I can imagine what you’ll do to me.
You have wounded my soul, Sayedna. You told me that you don’t value me enough to make sure I have the pastoral care I need from a bishop who knows me.
Fr. John Morris says nothing has changed, but he knows you and you know him.. Nothing changes for him because he’s ‘one of yours.’ But what about the rest of us? You now have complete power over us and are worried about some previously unknown attempt to divide the Archdiocese? Great, you have power and paranoia. I’ve read enough history books to know where this is going.
Yes, I’m scared. I’m scared you might decide to move me and my family just to show everyone you are in charge. I’m scared for my friends who are close to the diocesan bishops because you might think they are troublemakers and need to be punished. I’m scared that the same people that caused me problems in my parish before are going to call the Archdiocese and I’m going to end up getting booted from this parish or, worse yet, forced to obey them by you. They nearly wrecked the parish, and I have worked hard to build it back up. I need a bishop who knows that.
Fr. John also said you spent millions and millions of dollars on education. Then why do you support a group of clergy that violate everything that was learned from all those millions of dollars in Orthodox seminaries? Those priests violate everything we supposedly learned in seminary and you even let them instruct us. All that tells me is that nothing really matters except you.
You may think you are being a "good guy" by taking care of your friends you have known for a long time, but all I see is you giving up what is right just to please men instead of God.
Self-rule or no self-rule, diocesan bishops or no diocesan bishops, I don’t care. I just want the people over me to love me. And I am scared because I don’t see any love in you by these actions. You love an “Archdiocese” made of people Sayedna, and these people need pastors who have time to visit them and spend time with them, even if its just once a year.
Can you do that? No, you can’t because its impossible. That doesn’t make you a bad man, just a human that can’t do it all.
Sayedna its time to stop trying and realize that you can’t be everything to everyone. You can’t help all of us all of the time. You can’t be a pastor to so many strangers.
It is time you start trusting the people you have trained, Sayedna. If you can’t trust us, it means that your whole ministry has been a failure, because you added numbers but you did not change lives. When you die you are not leaving behind an "Archdiocese", you are leaving behind people. People you don’t trust. People you don’t even know anymore because you can’t travel and meet them because you are too sick and the Archdiocese is too big.
I think you need to trust more people than those "yes-men" that talked you into pushing for autonomy to begin with. I voted for the autonomy resolution because I didn’t want to offend you and I knew what would happen to me if I didn’t.
As for me, I need a bishop who can change my life for the better. I need a pastor. I need my bishop back. Please reverse this situation and let us have our local bishops back.
I will obey you, Sayedna, but you need to know that many of us obey you because we are afraid of you. I wish I could obey you because I loved you like I love my diocesan bishop.
That’s what hurts the most.
- An Antiochian Priest Somewhere in America