AN OPEN LETTER
by Anthony Zrake, Brooklyn NY
October 14, 2009
To Metropolitan PHILIP and the Hierarchs of the Local Holy Synod, and to the other Members of the Board of Trustees of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America,
Greetings in the Name of our Lord!
It is with a heavy heart that I write to all of you today, and even as I write it, I know that I cannot fully predict the consequences that will follow from this open letter. It is good that that I am able to post it electronically, because any paper copy might be too badly stained with my tears for you to read.
It has only been during the last few months that I have paid close attention to certain workings of the Archdiocese, and my head is spinning. Questions abound regarding: the actual status of our Archdiocese Constitution; the authority and duties of our Diocesan Bishops; our compliance with civil law; the need for full financial accounting, and for an audit; the as-yet-unsolved attempts at fraudulent misrepresentation of what our Patriarch and Patriarchal Synod have had to say; our continued funding of His Grace Bishop DEMETRI; the refusal to allow certain votes at the General Assembly in Palm Desert; the unseemly behavior at the General Assembly; the removal of Chancellors; the transfer of seminarians; the removal and even excommunication of a parish treasurer for merely doing his job; the summary banning of an on-loan OCA priest; and now the loss of an entire congregation!
Even when questions about these greatly troubling issues are raised, or when suggestions of necessary reforms and openness are made, in an eloquent, logical and respectful way, the responses have been disappointing. Digging in of heels, obfuscation, ad hominem arguments, personal loyalty placed above loyalty to Christ, and simply ignoring these important issues, seem to be the rule of the day.
It is not my wish to cause grief for Bishops and priests for whom I have deep love and personal affection. It is not my wish to cause aggravation for Metropolitan PHILIP, who has been my Bishop since my childhood, who has been a guest in my parents’ home, who tonsured me when I was an altar server (at St. Mary’s in Brooklyn, NY where I still attend), and who has always been so kind and gracious to me and my family, most recently at our Parish Life Conference this summer. It is not my desire to cause problems for my wonderful parish priest, my beloved parish, or my family members who may bear the brunt of any backlash from my actions. But at the end of the day, none of those concerns can be more important to me that the admonition found in Matt. 10:37 that “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
So if any of the people I have mentioned are harmed because of my words or actions, then I hope that they will understand that for the sake of my own eternal salvation I felt that I had to stand and be counted.
I continue to pray that the meetings in Houston this weekend will help to resolve some of the concerns that I have mentioned. I am confident that many share these concerns, and that many offer similar prayers.
As things stand now, however, I can no longer offer any financial support to the Antiochian Archdiocese in good conscience. Effective immediately and on a continuing annual basis, I will set aside my dues for the Order of St. Ignatius, as well as the money that my parish asks of a family of my size to pay towards our parish assessment. These are not large amounts of money, to be sure, but I feel that this is a matter of principle. I will take these funds and divide them into four portions.
One quarter will be sent immediately to the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Mission of Fargo, North Dakota, a small but growing group of Orthodox Christians who, for reasons passing the understanding of my small mind, are no longer numbered among the ranks of our Archdiocese.
One quarter will be held aside to help pay for any audit of my home parish that may take place in the future.
One quarter will go immediately to a non-profit charity (this will likely rotate, as there are so many to choose from).
The final quarter will be held aside, separately, to help pay for an audit of the Archdiocese.
My parish pledge I will no longer pay, since ten percent of this would be forwarded to the Archdiocese. This small pledge amount, too, I will hold in yet another separate fund.
I am certain that some will find me presumptuous and disrespectful, but I wish to assure each of you that I take this action and write this letter in all love, respect, and humility.
I ask each of you to pray for me always, and I assure you of my unworthy prayers for each of you, both as you undertake your deliberations in Houston, and always.
Anthony Zrake, a sinner