by a life-long member of the Antiochian Archdiocese
One of the aspects of the crisis created by the Synod of Antioch’s February 24 decision, and Metropolitan Philip’s implementation of same, is what it seems to imply about the Antiochian Church’s operative understanding of the episcopacy and its role in the polity and administration of the Church.
In Metropolitan Philip’s letter, dated February 26, 2009, announcing the Synodal decision, he notes that the changes in the Patriarchal by-laws applied to “all bishops within the See of Antioch” (emphasis in the original). I, for one, was a bit confused at first. After all, aren’t metropolitans also (or first?) bishops?
In reading through the Articles and all of Metropolitan Philip’s communiqués on this topic, my confusion disappeared and my consternation increased. Why? Because it is very clear, that in the Patriarchate of Antioch the only true bishops are the Patriarch and the Metropolitans. These decisions also de facto do away with the concept of the diocese in favor of the archdiocese.
Many of the archdioceses of the Patriarch are geographically small, and/or have relatively few parishes. If the metropolitan needs an auxiliary bishop due to advancing age or large numbers of parishes, this kind of system make some sense. As applied to an archdiocese that encompasses all of Canada and the U.S. with over 250 parishes, the model becomes cumbersome. This is why it made so much sense to create dioceses within the North American Archdiocese and install diocesan bishops. The creation of an Archdiocesan Synod to deal with the internal matters of the AOCA had as its purpose to maintain its unity. The continuing membership of the Metropolitan on the Holy Synod of Antioch guaranteed our connection with the world-wide Orthodox Church (until the looked for day when an all-inclusive autocephalous or autonomous local church arrived).
Now, in spite of what the Metropolitan asserts, this concept (and the Constitution that defined it) has been overturned, and one metropolitan now has six auxiliary bishops, with rumors that two more will be added in the non-too distant future. His Eminence is quoted as having once said, “Priests do not make policy, only bishops.”
Apparently now (mere) bishops do not make policy, only metropolitans.