Bishops Meet, Press Release Issued, Crisis Unresolved
Englewood released the following press release today following a meeting of all the Bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese in America. It reads:.
“On Friday April 24th, 2009, a special meeting of the Holy Synod of The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America was held under the chairmanship of His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP at the Archdiocese Headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey. All of the hierarchs of the Archdiocese were in attendance at the meeting namely:
His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP
His Grace Bishop ANTOUN
His Grace Bishop JOSEPH
His Grace Bishop BASIL
His Grace Bishop THOMAS
His Grace Bishop MARK
His Grace Bishop ALEXANDER
The sole agenda item was a discussion of the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which was adopted on February 24th, 2009. This decision normalized the status of all bishops across the See of Antioch to be that of Auxiliary bishops.
The hierarchs discussed many issues that have been raised by clergy and laity alike regarding this decision. There was agreement that there are some very serious issues that need attention in order that the healing process can proceed. The hierarchs agreed to take some specific actions that can facilitate this healing.
A significant discussion was held regarding obedience to this decision. It was reaffirmed that the Holy Synod of Antioch is the highest ecclesiastical authority in the entire See of Antioch, and that all of its Archdioceses are subject to decisions which are adopted by the Holy Synod. All of the hierarchs affirmed that they are currently in obedience to the Holy Synod of Antioch, and that there was never a question to the contrary. In conjunction with this, the hierarchs acknowledged that the decision had caused concern among the clergy and the people, and that there must be steps taken to begin to heal these misunderstandings.
In addition to the discussion on obedience, the hierarchs were strong and forthright in their expression of love for one other, and their desire to protect the unity of the Archdiocese.”
According to sources close to Englewood, the gathering was relatively calm. The Metropolitan persistantly attempted to get the Bishops to sign another, broader statement; but three of the six affected Bishops, Bishop Mark of Toledo and Basil of Wichita and Bishop Alexander of Ottawa refused, expressing their desire to await “clarification” from the Patriarchate itself. Thus no “joint” statement could be issued, without making the lack of unity even more obvious.
Perhaps the most revealing document of the encounter is the photo of the gathering, posted on the Archdiocesan website (here) in terms of body language and demeanor. Metropolitan Philip remains in the center, but is looking down at the floor. Only one Bishop (+Antoun) is smiling. The crisis remains unresolved.