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5.29.09

A Call for Unity

by A Priest of the Formerly ‘Self-Ruled’ Antiochian Archdiocese

Brothers in Christ:

We have all seen, and perhaps felt, outrage in reaction to this latest decision by our Holy Synod of Antioch.  In one step, we lost both our Diocesan Bishops and our Self-Rule to a secret and as yet unexplained back-room maneuver..

One thing is clear- our own Metropolitan Philip engineered this action.  For years, we have known that his frequent gifts to the Patriarchate and the various Archdioceses in the Old World have resulted in a great deal personal gratitude for him.  He has claimed all the credit, and taken full advantage of his power.

Two of the ways he has exercised this power is in the threat of unnecessary transfers and suspensions of clergy without a fair Spiritual Court.  In the first scenario, Metropolitan Philip has been known to suddenly transfer priests from their parishes even when things were stable.  These were unnecessary hardships both on parishes
and priests’ families.

Our Diocesan Bishops and the new structure of the Archdiocese helped stop these random or punitive transfers.  Just read The Word over the last few years and notice how much the transfer rate has slowed. Priests knew that they were less likely to be suddenly transferred.
As for assignment, many of us were comforted by the fact  that the diocesan bishops, who knew the communities much better than far-away Englewood, could guide the selection of priests to better match the parishes.

We’ve also been strengthened by the fact that the diocesan bishops have actually tried to fix dysfunctional parishes once known as hotbeds of contention or ‘priest-eaters.’  This has also reduced the need to shuffle priests.  One thing that many of the older generation of clergy have experienced is that when the Metropolitan needed to
settle a parish battle, it was usually done at the expense of the priest.  The diocesan bishops, for the most part, had abandoned that model.

The second scenario has been discipline.  The diocesan bishops have succeeded in reducing the number of disciplinary issues within the ranks of the clergy.  They have been effective intercessors and counselors of the brethren.  They have permitted brotherhoods and
councils to form, where clergy could come together and genuinely be a part of the pastoral ministry of the dioceses.

No more.  

Now, we will be back under the ‘old system,’ where the
Metropolitan makes up his mind based on how much he likes you, then sets you before a court of his friends.  Notice how every time the Metropolitan wants something done by clergy, it always seems to be the same people who are chosen to do it?

We can all feel the fear in the air.  Nobody wants to sign their names to internet posts.  There’s lots of whispering.  The Metropolitan is keeping things hush-hush to cause us more fear and panic, because he wants to use our fear against us.

Brethren, we have all learned something important over the last five years.  We have learned how important it is to have real relationships with our Bishops, and we have learned about the importance of trust and unity.  Our trust has been betrayed by Metropolitan Philip, but does that mean we should stop trusting each other?

NO!  A thousand times NO!  

We cannot allow one man to break apart the bonds we have formed.  Now is the time where we must support our Diocesan Bishops, and we must also support one another.

We cannot undo the decision of the Holy Synod.  The office of ‘Diocesan Bishop’ has ceased to exist.  It will be up to them to fix this, either by reversing the change or elevating all of our Bishops to Metropolitans `a la the Greek Archdiocese.  Let’s let them figure that out.  In the meantime, we need to immediately address our own
issues.

The Metropolitan has given us his answer- he does not care what we think.  Look how he treats his Auxiliaries!  He can’t even answer their questions, he certainly won’t answer ours.  If he can’t provide a decent answer for this act of the Holy Synod, what do you think he will say when you ask him why you are being uprooted from your parish
to be flung half-way (or all the way) across the country because he is uncomfortable with how close you might be to your (former) diocesan bishop?

Metropolitan Philip has made this matter all about his own personal power, and he hates being limited in his authority.  If he has such sway over the Holy Synod of Antioch, where can we go when he misjudges?

Are we going to allow our brothers in the service of our Lord be picked off one at a time, or are we going to stand together as soldiers in Christ and not break ranks?  Are we going to be men and face this challenge together, or are we going to cower like children of an abusive father?

It is time that we stand up against the “Papal Authority” of
Metropolitan Philip and return our Archdiocese to the Tradition of the Church, where authority is exercised in a conciliar and loving manner for the interest of everyone, not the privileged few.

It is time for us, the priests of this Archdiocese, to stand up for one another for once rather than only our own self interests.  If the clergy stand united to one another, out of Love for Jesus Christ and pious brotherly love, what can a man do to us?  If we refuse to allow any of our brethren to be transferred for no decent reason, or suspended for simply annoying the Metropolitan, then there will be no
more retributions.

This should never mean that we stand by and allow a fellow priest plunge into sin and immoral activity, and we will need to hold each other accountable, as many of us did before we were received into the Orthodox Church.  Accountability is key: we need to hold each other
accountable, and we need to hold the Metropolitan accountable for his actions against us.

Yes, he has a sacred duty to preside over us and call us to obedience, but our Saviour Jesus Christ also admonishes bishops like our Metropolitan how to behave:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first
must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” {Matthew 20:25-28}

How has the Metropolitan’s actions served us?  No one knows.  He talks about unity of the Archdiocese, but he means that we all need to be personally loyal to him to serve Jesus Christ.

NO, he has lorded himself over us for too long!  He has controlled us with fear.  He has abused his authority by violating the Scriptures and the Sacred Canons without remorse.  Even now, he mocks the conciliar nature of the Church, preferring to be a worldly sheik rather than a spiritual father.

We need to learn from the OCA.  When their priests united and signed a common letter questioning their Metropolitan, there were too many of them to punish at once.  As a result, none were punished.  We can do
the same exact thing if we stick together.

If you know of a priest being singled out for displeasing Metropolitan Philip, get the word out to everyone, so we can stand together against injustice. If you are being victimized, then don’t be silent for your sake, but for the sake of all of us, you must speak out.

Don’t just pass the word, but refuse the instruction without a fair hearing.  Hearings need to be impartial, not just the “usual suspects” - Joe Allen, Antypas, Gabriel, Ed Hughes, the Shalhoubs, etc.  Perhaps our Spiritual Courts need to have a few clergy without the phone number to the “Winter Palace” in Florida.

We must refuse unwarranted disciplinary action against any of our brethren.  We need to start acting like brothers and not like scared children.

 

 
 

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