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A Plea for Calm

from An Antiochian Priest

by Fr. John W. Morris, Vicksburg MS

For the last several weeks, people have participated in all kinds of discussions, speculation and outright gossip concerning the current “crisis” in the Antiochian Archdiocese. Rumors and accusations of abuse have flown through cyber space.

One thought continues to come to my mind when I contemplate this matter. Too many people are jumping to all sorts of conclusions and making unfounded accusations on what is happening.

We all need to calm down and remember that it is

Great and Holy Lent.

We should be praying, fasting and repenting and should let God take care of His Church. The Antiochian Bishops have not even met yet to discuss the application of the decisions of the Holy Synod. Thus, no one really knows what effect this will have. I suspect that when all the dust settles, it will have very little impact on the day to day administration of our parishes and even our dioceses. All that has really happened is a change in title for the local Bishops.

I always thought that the Metropolitan had the authority to over ride the decision of any bishop under his omophorion regardless of their title. Canon XXXIV of the Holy Apostles decrees, that a Bishop must “do nothing of consequence” without the consent of his Metropolitan. We do not need a Metropolitan who is a mere figure head and who does not have any real authority. There is enough division and confusion in American Orthodoxy caused by our division into various ethnically based jurisdictions, we do not further division and confusion caused by nine different liturgical and disciplinary traditions within the Antiochian Archdiocese. Let our Bishops work it out among themselves when they meet after Pascha.

At the same time, I must protest some of the unfair accusations that have been made against Metropolitan Philip. He is not a tyrant. He does not demand blind allegiance. I have served under his omophorion for almost 30 years. He  has always given me a fair hearing on any matter of concern. He is a highly intelligent man and listens to his clergy. He is deeply concerned about the unity of his flock, as he should be. He is not responsible for some of the extreme rhetoric that came from a very small group of self-appointed leading priests of his Archdiocese. Indeed, after they wrote a very poorly worded and offensive response to the decision of the Holy Synod, he instructed them to write a public apology. He has led the Antiochian Archdioceses forward in a way that few men could have done. I and hundreds of other converts are in Orthodoxy because of he has the ability to recognize that Orthodoxy is not a society for the preservation of foreign ethnicism, but is the true Faith for all in all places.

He has spent millions to insure that his clergy are educated. He has led the Archdiocese through a major liturgical transformation that has restored neglected services and has ended the terrible abuses that marked Orthodox worship 30 years ago when one did “Greatest Hits from Orthodox” instead of a full Matins, a half hour before the Liturgy. Before him some older priests  began Holy Week on Wednesday evening, and never served the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete or the Presanctified Divine Liturgy. He has ordered his clergy to cease moving feast days to the nearest Sunday. He is not an ecumeniss. He does not participate in so-called ecumenical worship and instructs his priest to only allow Orthodox to  receive the Eucharist. I have absolutely no doubt that the Antiochian Archdiocese and American Orthodoxy is much better because of the hard work of Metropolitan Philip.

Our Antiochian Bishops are good devout men who are dedicated to the service of Christ caring for their flocks. Each of them has ability as a leader and c o-worker with the Metropolitan for the Glory of God and the growth of Holy Orthodoxy. We are very blessed to have such Bishops in the Antiochian Archdiocese. They will meet after Pascha with the Metropolitan and make whatever revisions in their practices necessary to apply the decision of the Holy Synod. Then in a few months everyone will wonder what all the noise was about.

We all know that the situation here in America is not right. We should not be divided into a dozen or so different groups based on the homeland of our physical or spiritual ancestors. We should govern our own affairs and be captive to no foreign authority. We should take our place among the other Orthodox Churches as a united English speaking autocephalous Orthodox Church. The “Mother Churches,” should see us for out own unique characteristics instead as simply as “diaspora,” as a source for cash or as a pawn in their conflict with the Turks or some other nationality.   However, until the glorious day that we can be what God calls us to be, let us cease all controversy and work together in the spirit of this holy season to glorify Christ and spread the truth of Holy Orthodoxy.
Archpriest John W. Morris, Pastor
St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Church
Vicksburg, Mississippi



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