4.10.09 Latest on the AOCA Crisis
Citing Grievances, Detroit Priest
Now Laments Apology To
Five days after he publicly apologized for "hurting and/or intimidating any of our hierarchs", in an "Important Statement from the Clergy of the Greater Detroit Area" posted on the Antiochian Archdiocesan website (Read that statement here) Fr. Joseph Antypas, one of the four signers of the "Statement" wrote privately to Bishop Mark lamenting he ever apologized to the Toledo hierarch. The letter reiterates the priests' earlier charge that serving under Bishop Mark have been "four years of captivity", and welcomes "the historic decision" of Antioch in attempting to reduce the diocesan bishop to auxiliary status. Rather than "divide the Archdiocese", the author explains his earlier statement was to "emphasize a smooth transition" to the new order; and asserts that it is the Bishop who is "unfair" for distinguishing between immigrant and non-immigrant clergy. The priest concludes by exhorting Bishop Mark to be "like his Grace Bishop Thomas (and) accept the recent decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch in regard to the status of Bishops throughout the Holy See of Antioch..."
The letter, recently released by Fr. Antypas, the pastor of St. George Church in Troy, Michigan, to the Association of Orthodox Christian Attorneys for inclusion their recently-published Timeline detailing the origins of the current crisis in the Antiochian Archdiocese, reads:
"March 11, 2009
Personal & Confidential
Your Grace Bishop Mark,
I read in the OCANEWS.ORG website your letter to our Metropolitan PHILIP expressing your concerns about the 'statement' on the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch concerning the role of Bishops. I believe the Holy Spirit works in the issuing of edicts and decisions, as it did some four and a half years ago, when the same Holy Synod, guided by the Holy Spirit, granted our Archdiocese the self-ruled status and created the diocesan structure.
Your letter contained some strange and unchristian statements, accusing us that our 'statement' was "filled with hatred and malicious slander towards our Bishops of this Archdiocese". You further indicated that our letter was mailed throughout the entire Archdiocese, and that we "cannot retain our venom and disrespect". Furthermore, you state that we have had "animosity and guile", towards you which "has been fully revealed for the whole Archdiocese to see by their own hand." Based on such assertions, it makes me wonder whether we are talking about the same letter.
Your letter is regrettably full of misconceptions and statements that lack pastoral flavor and accuracy. I would like to clarify the following points:
1. The 'statement' is written in support of the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch. We had no intention, as you claimed, of 'hurting or insulting Bishops of this Archdiocese' whom we honor and revere. If you find our support of the Holy Synod's decision and Metropolitan PHILIPÕs approval as insulting, that is unfortunate. Furthermore, as you claim, we did not send the statement throughout the entire Archdiocese. In fact, I did not even circulate it in my own parish. The intention was to congratulate His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP and to salute His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV for issuing this historic decision.
2. You attacked the Detroit Clergy for refusing to mix with 'non-immigrant' clergy even before your consecration. You claim that you suffered our 'disdain and hatred'. This is again a clearly unfair statement to say the least. I would like to remind you that it was the 'emigrant' (sic)clergy of the Michigan Deanery who endorsed your candidacy to the office of episcopate. In fact, it was the same 'emigrant' priests who welcomed and supported the Missions that were established in the Midwest Region, starting with St. James in Williamston, MI and the newly established Holy Incarnation Church in Taylor, MI. I would also like to remind you that it was an 'emigrant' pastor who welcomed John Fenton and non-emigrant followers, for almost two years of instructions, and witnessed the creation of a new church, with the Chrismation of all members and the ordination of a non-emigrant John Fenton to the diaconate and later to the office of holy priesthood. The 'emigrant' priests opened their hearts and pockets to support such missions. Now you have the power to accuse us for such division? Your Grace, look in the mirror, you will know who is responsible for that division. Ask the 'non-emigrant' Deacon Jeff and his family. Ask some former Lutherans who preferred to stay at St. George because they found it their home. We are, indeed, proud of the love and respect we have developed in the past years of our pastorate, appreciating the emigrant and non-emigrant clergy in our Midwest. We learned that from our Primate whose love and warmth, welcomed the non-emigrant Evangelical brethren home: Into Antiochian Orthodoxy. I have spent over 28 years with St. Stephen's Course and the Antiochian House of Studies teaching hundreds of clergy and laity whom you refer and label as non-emigrant.
3. Moreover, to draw the conclusion that our statements contain 'hatred and malicious slander' is far from being fair, to say the least. I want you to know that we love and respect all our revered hierarchs because we truly are obedient children of the Holy Church. We have never said a negative word against our honored Bishops, Antoun, Joseph, Basil, Thomas, Alexander, and our beloved Metropolitan PHILIP. Our statement never mentioned them. We said that the new decision puts an end to 'four years of captivity'. Since your arrival to the Midwest, we honored you and treated you with respect when you visited us. We gave you gifts and hosted you with love. We took care of all your needs. In fact, let me remind you of the ingratitude you have shown Father John Estephan and his 'emigrant' wife who washed your laundry and extended to you the proper hospitality when you were serving in Grand Rapids, MI. This could hardly be classified as having suffered 'disdain and hatred' by us. I served as Dean of Michigan for two years. Did you ever point out that I was doing anything wrong or improper? And now you accuse us for 'disdaining our own Orthodox Christian tradition, such as serving the required liturgical services and observing the fasts of our Holy Church.' Such a statement is unwarranted. You wanted to divide our Michigan Deanery based on emigrant and non-emigrant clergy.
Have you ever; in the past four and a half years open your chancery to receive your priests and offer them a cup of coffee? In the past four and a half years, we have experienced the decline in the Midwest. Where is the fellowship of St. John the Divine? What happened to parish life conferences? What happened to the lay leadership in the Midwest, and how much have lay people suffered alienation and threats of excommunication by the hands of those who are incapable of motivating and inspiring the flock of our Lord? How many times have you ignored the cries and the requests of those who wanted to express to you their concerns about what is happening in their communities? How many members have you brought and inducted into the Order of St. Ignatius in the past four and a half years? How many church and regional representatives have we had in the Fall and Spring Delegates meetings in the past four and a half years? How can you tolerate 'priests' who do not listen to the directives of their Metropolitan and choose to respond only to you? Is this not a sort of captivity? How can we relate to the notion of undivided and united Archdiocese? Moreover, had I known of the original letter you sent to Metropolitan PHILIP you would have never received an apology letter. For in such a letter we wanted to sincerely apologize for any hurt caused unintentionally knowing that there was no intention of disrespect to our reverend hierarchs. We wanted to emphasize a smooth transition, for our self-ruled Archdiocese.
It was unfair on your part to send a letter and circulate it as 'dirty laundry' on the OCANEWS.ORG website. It is time that all bishops should stand in support of our beloved Metropolitan and seek light not heat. It is time to be firm and demonstrate harmony and order, standing with our beloved primate and work hard for the undivided and united Archdiocese. You can stand ready to assist His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP and support all the clergy of the Midwest. Stop labeling them as emigrant and non-emigrant, and like his Grace Bishop Thomas accept the recent decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch in regard to the status of Bishops throughout the Holy See of Antioch, and be there ready to assist the Metropolitan. May the Lord God grant him many years. May the Lord, our God guide our steps for harmony and order we seek in his Holy and undivided vineyard.
V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Antypas
Cc: Metropolitan Philip
The letter, with its open disdain for Bishop Mark and assertions of "decline in the past four and half years" would appear to add substance to the allegation, first made by the pseudonymous 'Abdallah Khouri', that one of the goals of the attempted degrading of the dioceses and demotion of the Bishops was to remove Bishop Mark from the Midwest. This is a necessary first step, as 'Khouri' asserted, towards allowing the former Bishop, Demetri (Khoury), to return. (Read that story here.) Bishop Demetri was removed from the Toledo Diocese and retired from the Archdiocese in disgrace after being arrested and convicted of sexual imposition in 2005 (Read that story here). It has since been revealed that +Demetri is no longer retired,as was commonly believed, but has been restored to active ministry as an auxiliary bishop in Mexico. (Read that story here.) The Archdiocese is also reportedly paying his salary again, through a recent gift to the Diocese of Mexico that coincidently matches the new Mexican auxiliary's salary.
Finally, it is ironic that the priest castigates Bishop Mark that his letter to Metropolitan Philip ended up as "dirty laundry" on OCANews.org (a decision over which Bishop Mark had no editorial control) - even while making his own "personal and confidential" response to it available to the Association of Orthodox Attorneys website. Sources at the AOCA confirmed that they received their copy directly from Father Joseph and indicated that its members who posted the Timeline have confirmed that they intend to include the Antypas letter in their subsequent revisions of the Timeline.
In related news, the exhibits for the Timeline are now available individually. They may be accessed here.
- Mark Stokoe
Tommorow: An Analysis of the Timeline of the Crisis