Damascus Posts “Official” Synodal Decision
• Document #3 From Englewood is Authentic
• Patriarch: “Any Other Version Not to be
• Text Does Not Contain word “Auxiliary”
The Patrarich of Antioch posted the following notice, in English, on its patriarchal website early this morning (June 23):
“To whomever it may concern
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East is willing to announce herein the final official statement that had been agreed and voted among the majority of the Holy Synod members during the recent Synodal meeting that was taken place at the Patriarchate in Damascus from 16 - 18 1f (sic) June 2009.
The below decision represents the final official Synodal decision issued from the Patriarchate on June 17th 2009.
The Patriarchate wishes all readers not to consider any other version in Arabic language except the attached one that appears below.”
There follows a .gif copy of the final, official Synodal decision in Arabic. The document is easily recognized as the undisputed “Document #3”, having been posted on Monday, June 22nd on Antiochian.org; on June 21st by Bishop Basil to his clergy, and on June 20th by Bishop Mark to his. No English translation was provided by the Patriarchate, but an English translation of this official text has already been published by both Bishop Mark and Basil, which may be read here.
You can view original posting on the Patriarchal website here.
The posting represents a significant milestone in the on-going crisis of administration that has wracked the Antiochian Archdiocese since the publication on February 24th of a controversial decision of the Synod of Antioch. (Read that decision here.) That previous decision was explained to the Archdiocese in America by Metropolitan Philip as reducing the status of both the American dioceses and the other American bishops, making the latter his “auxiliaries”. (Read his letter under the Synodal documents here.)
Objecting to the decision on both procedural and canonical grounds, three of the American bishops (+Alexander, +Basil, and +Mark) brought their case to a meeting of the Local Synod of the Archdiocese on April 24th, where they refused to sign a letter of agreement as requested by Metropolitan Philip. (Read that story here.) On May 17th the Chancellors of the Archdiocese appeared to side with the Bishop’s position regarding the decision, rather than the Metropolitan’s, in an Opinion that called the February 24th decision “invalid and illegal”. (Read that Opinion here.) The Board of Trustees of the Archdiocese, awaiting clarification from Antioch, then refused to take a vote on the February 24th decision at its meeting at the end of May.
On 2 June the Bishops of the Archdiocese, sans Metropolitan Philip, were invited to Damascus to meet with the Patriarch regarding the growing crisis in the Archdiocese. Ten days later, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Synod, the Synod adopted the decision posted this morning on the Patriarchal website, which described the American Bishops as “Bishops who assist the Metropolitan” but not as his “auxiliaries”.
In short, the Patriarch and Synod returned the administration of the Archdiocese to the “status quo ante bellum”.
But is that now really possible? While today’s posting resolves the immediate question of which the Arabic versions of the decision posted on the Archdiocesan website was authentic, the crisis has revealed significant outstanding questions the Archdiocese must now consider. What is the role of the now confirmed “diocesan” bishops and the dioceses to the Metropolitan in one Archdiocese? What is the meaning of “to assist”, since the notion of “auxiliary” has been clearly rebuked by “a majority” of the Synod of Antioch itself? What now of financial transparency and accountability in the Archdiocese? Which Constitution rules?
More immediately, who is responsible for the “other” versions of the Synod decisions being posted on the Archdiocesan website? As of this posting these documents still appear. (Read them here.) Who is responsible for creating and faxing these documents? Who authorized their publication, thus creating disorder throughout the Archdiocese?
While the decision posted today in Damascus may begin the process of resolving these outstanding issues for the Archdiocese, ushering in a new era in the administration of the Archdiocese, today’s posting should not be seen as of only immediate import. Damascus has spoken, clearly and in English, directly to the whole Archdiocese, resolving a crisis on the internet, by using the internet.
- Mark Stokoe
(Editor's update: The Patriarchate has subsequently released an official English version of the decision. You may read it here.)