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Documents from the North American Episcopal Assembly

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Fr. Deacon Daniel:
I know this is not a document but some were asking for a picture where Met. Jonah was sitting.

NEW YORK, NY [OCA] -- His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America opened the first day of the Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs of North and Central America at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel here on Wednesday morning, May 26, 2010.

Among the 60-some hierarchs present were His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, and ruling and auxiliary bishops of the Orthodox Church in America.

Following opening prayers invoking the Holy Spirit to guide the hierarchs in their deliberations, Archbishop Demetrios, who chairs the Assembly as Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch, addressed his brother hierarchs, outlining common concerns while reviewing the events that led to the historic gathering.

"We strive for unity because the Lord asked of us to be one, but diversity and differentiation are not to be feared," Archbishop Demetrios said. "They are gifts that are to be used for the glory of God. Our unity cannot exist to destroy such differentiation; rather, our unity is meant to flourish as a result of our natural diversity, be it linguistic, cultural or ethnic.

"Is this not exactly the condition of our universal Orthodoxy today?" he asked. "Of course, problems related to unity, or to differentiation, or to both, always existed in the Church, starting already in the time of the Apostles, as the Book of the Acts of the Apostles testifies. This is a valid observation for us today.

"We come together to face the problems that have arisen in our region, where the Orthodox Faith has flourished for generations," Archbishop Demetrios continued before reflecting on various issues facing Orthodox Christianity in North and Central America and elsewhere around the world. "As we have grown and established ourselves, situations have been created that need our attention and our wisdom."

Archbishop Demetrios went on to review the work of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held in Chambésy, Switzerland in June 2009 in response to the extraordinary Synaxis of the Heads of the Autocephalous Churches convened earlier by His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

[The complete text of Archbishop Demetrios’ address may be found on the web site of the Greek Archdiocese at]

Also addressing the Assembly was its first vice-chair, His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and its second vice-chair, His Eminence, Archbishop Justinian of the Russian Orthodox Church, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the United States of America.

[The complete texts of their addresses may be found on the web site of the Antiochian Archdiocese at and the web site of the Eastern American and New York Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at respectively.]

Sessions will resume on Thursday morning, May 27.

The Assembly will conclude on Friday, May 28, on which the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral.

John of the North:

Metropolitan Sotirios of Canada will not participate in the Assembly of Bishops in New York for "reasons beyond his control," he said in an interview in the 'National Herald.'
..."We had the Annual Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of Canada on March 11, 2010 and all the bishops expressed surprise and unanimously decided to request the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew not abolish the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in Canada," added the Archbishop Sotirios.

Just in case anyone is interested, here is an article from



In Opening Remarks, Metropolitan Philip Challenges Episcopal Assembly

• Complains Americans not consulted in Chambesy


• Defends SCOBA

• Criticizes notion of "Diaspora"

• Asks why OCA not included in ExecutiveCommittee

• Calls on Ecumenical Patriarch to move to USA

In his opening remarks to the Assembly of the Orthodox Bishops yesterday, Metropolitan Philip challenged the summoning, organization, composition and purpose of the Assembly, before he concluded with warning. "My dear brothers,"  the head of the Antiochian Church in America warned,"if we do not bury the burdens of the past between certain autocephalous churches, such burdens will bury us, and Orthodoxy in this country and throughout the world will become an insignificant dot on the margin of history.”

The 79 year old hierarch's statement was not unexpected, given remarks he made in an interview with the National Herald newspaper on May 22nd. (Read those remarks here.)

His remarks did, however, contrast significantly with the stated position of the OCA in its press release concerning the Assembly published this week on The OCA took a much more irenic tone, noting that prayers for the Assembly were being said in all OCA parishes and that " The bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, led by their Primate, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, will participate in the Episcopal Assembly, with a deep desire to make a good contribution to the fruitfulness of the gathering."

Thus it was left to Metropolitan Philip to first speak of the 800 lb. gorilla in the room - the attempted marginalization of the OCA by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  At Archbishop Demetrios insistence the OCA bishops were included in the Assembly - for one could not expect to exclude the oldest Orthodox body in North America, with more than 600 parishes, 700 clergy, and 3 of the 4 accredited theological schools in the country, and be taken seriously as an attempt to forge Orthodox unity - no matter how one views the OCA's autocephaly. However, according to sources close to the process, the Archbishop was not able to secure Constantinople's agreement to have the Primate of the OCA join the other primates of the American jurisidictions in the Executive Committee. Thus the Assembly will vote through 8 church bodies, only 7 of which will be represented on the Executive. Hence +Philip's question: "If we share the same Eucharistic table which is the highest expression of Orthodox unity, can’t we work together on the Executive Committee?"

The Metropolitan also gave voice to a second structural question concerning the Assembly: exactly which regions should be present. Constantinople has decreed that North and Central America should be together: but as +Philip points out, the Central America bishops speak Spanish and share the same culture with the Latin America bishops that recently met in San Paulo, Brazil.  It makes far more sense for them to meet with Latin America than North America, according to +Philip.

Once again the Metropolitan was touching a raw diplomatic nerve: one of the major reasons a Central American region was not created was that the Greek Bishop in Mexico has publicly stated he will refuse to meet with the OCA Bishop of Mexico. The Ecumenical Patriarchate attempted to finesse the situation by moving both to New York, seemingly oblivious to the cultural and linguistic problems. (In other regional concerns, it has also been suggested that the Canadian Bishops may seek the blessing of the New York Assembly to create their own, independent Assembly, for Canada. The Chambesy process allows the local Assemblies to regulate their internal order, so the idea may bear fruit, if not now, then at a later meeting.)

The Episcopal Assembly closes on Friday, May 28th. If the Assembly can create a functioning Secretariate, (most likely led by a non-Greek bishop) able to secure private funding that is required to keep the process moving, the Assembly may have a future beyond this week's meeting. Failing that, it is most likely to join the long series of failed attempts at inter-Orthodox cooperation over the past 75 years.  (For a summary of those see Matthew Namee's article.)


Carl Kraeff (Second Chance):
This is Bishop Mark's letter on the recently concluded EA.

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
The Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest
+His Grace, Bishop Mark

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dear to God,

Christ is in our midst! By the grace of God we have completed our First Episcopal Assembly, chaired by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America and attended by 57 of the 65 Hierarchs of North and Central America. He is truly a gracious, loving and patient man and certainly a gift to our Church in North America. May God grant him good health and many years!

Recommendations were made to separate Mexico and Central America from our Episcopal Assembly as their needs linguistically and culturally are quite different. Hopefully, Mexico and Central America will be absorbed into the Episcopal Assembly of South America. Likewise the Bishops of Canada asked to form their own Episcopal Assembly and both requests will be forwarded to the Ecumenical Patriarch per the procedures outlined in the Chambésy Documents.

The agencies of SCOBA were received by the new assembly which considers itself the successor of SCOBA. Monthly updates to a data base will assist in identifying Canonical Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Parishes. Joint Committees have been identified to ad-dress the common needs of the Orthodox Church here in the United States which will assist us in uniform articulation, discipline and expression of the One Orthodox Faith.

When building a new house, the most difficult aspect can be assessing the soil and digging deep down to find the bedrock upon which to lay a strong foundation. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios commented that when one looks at a beautiful building, one rarely considers the effort that went into creating a sufficient foundation for the building. By the grace of God we hope we have begun to lay an unyielding foundation upon which to bring the living stones, the faithful in Christ from our various jurisdictions, for the building up of a beautiful Church in North America to the Glory of God. May the All-Holy Spirit direct and guide our Hierarchs as they seek to do
Lord’s will.

Your unworthy father in Christ,

+ Mark, Bishop of Toledo and the Diocese of the Midwest

Message of the Episcopal Assembly Of the Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs of North and Central America May 26-28, 2010
May 28, 2010


We glorify the name of the Triune God for gathering us at this first Episcopal Assembly of this region in New York City on May 26-28, 2010 in response to the decisions of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Switzerland, from June 6-12, 2009, at the invitation of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Gathered together in the joy of the Feast of Pentecost, we humbly recognize our calling, in our unworthiness, to serve as instruments and disciples of the Paraclete, who “holds together the whole institution of the Church” (Hymn of Vespers of Pentecost).

We honor and express gratitude to the Primates and Representatives of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches who assembled at the Ecumenical Patriarchate from October 10-12, 2008 to affirm their “unswerving position and obligation to safeguard the unity of the Orthodox Church” (Chambésy Rules of Operation, Article 5.1a) and emphasized their will and “desire for the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements” (Message of the Primates 13.1-2)

We call to mind those who envisioned this unity in this region and strove to transcend the canonical irregularities resulting for many reasons, including geographically overlapping jurisdictions. For, just as the Lord in the Divine Eucharist is “broken and distributed, but not divided” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom), so also His Body comprises many members, while constituting His One Church.

We are grateful for the gift of the doctrinal and liturgical unity that we already share, and we are inspired by our leaders, the Heads of all the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, who proposed that which we painfully yearn for in this region, i.e., the “swift healing of every canonical anomaly” (Message of the Primates 13.2). We are also grateful that they established a fundamental process toward a canonical direction and resolution.

We are thankful to almighty God for the growth of Orthodoxy, for the preservation of our traditions, and for the influence of our communities in this region. This is indeed a miracle and a mystery.

During our gathering, and in accordance with the rules of operation of Episcopal Assemblies promulgated by the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Conference, we established:

1.   A registry of canonical bishops (Article 6.1)

2.   A committee to determine the canonical status of local communities in the region that have no reference to the Most Holy Autocephalous Churches (Article 6.2)

3.   A registry of canonical clergy (Article 6.3)

4.   Committees to undertake the work of the Assembly, among others including liturgical, pastoral, financial, educational, ecumenical, and legal issues (Articles 11 and 12)

5.   A committee to plan for the organization of the Orthodox of the region on a canonical basis (Article 5.1).

In addition to the above, we agreed that a directory would be created and maintained by the Assembly of all canonical congregations in our region.

We as Episcopal Assembly understand ourselves as being the successors of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), assuming its agencies, dialogues, and other ministries.

Moreover, at the formal request of the Hierarchs who have jurisdiction in Canada, the Assembly will submit to the Ecumenical Patriarch, in accordance with the rules of operation (Article 13), a request to partition the present region of North and Central America into two distinct regions of the United States and Canada. Additionally, at the request of the Hierarchs who have jurisdiction in Mexico and Central America, the Assembly will likewise request to merge Mexico and Central America with the Assembly of South America.

As Orthodox Hierarchs in this blessed region, we express our resolve to adhere to and adopt the regulations proposed by the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and approved by the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and to do everything in our power by the grace of God to advance actions that facilitate canonical order in our region.

We confess our fidelity to the Apostolic Orthodox faith and pledge to promote “common action to address the pastoral needs of Orthodox living in our region” (Chambésy, Decision 2c). We call upon our clergy and faithful to join us in these efforts “to safeguard and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church of the region in its theological, ecclesiological, canonical, spiritual, philanthropic, educational and missionary obligations” (Article 5.1) as we eagerly anticipate the Holy and Great Council.

The Assembly concluded with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Friday, May 28, 2010 at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral in New York City. During the Liturgy prayers were offered for the repose of the eleven victims of the current ecological disaster in the Gulf Coast, for the consolation of their families, for all those adversely affected by this catastrophe, as well as for all people living under conditions of war, persecution, violence, and oppression.

Of the sixty-six Hierarchs in the region, the following 55 were present at this Assembly:

Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman
Metropolitan Philip, Vice Chairman
Archbishop Justinian, Vice Chairman
Bishop Basil, Secretary
Archbishop Antony,Treasurer
Metropolitan Iakovos
Metropolitan Constantine
Metropolitan Athenagoras
Metropolitan Methodios
Metropolitan Isaiah
Metropolitan Nicholas
Metropolitan Alexios
Metropolitan Nikitas
Metropolitan Nicholas
Metropolitan Gerasimos
Metropolitan Evangelos
Metropolitan Paisios
Archbishop Yurij
Bishop Christopher
Bishop Vikentios
Bishop Savas
Bishop Andonios
Bishop Ilia
Bishop Ilarion
Bishop Andriy
Bishop Demetrios
Bishop Daniel
Bishop Antoun
Bishop Joseph
Bishop Thomas
Bishop Mark
Bishop Alexander
Metropolitan Hilarion
Bishop Iov
Bishop Gabriel
Bishop Peter
Bishop Theodosius
Bishop George
Bishop Ieronim
Metropolitan Christopher         
Bishop Maxim
Archbishop Nicolae
Bishop Ioan Casian
Metropolitan Joseph
Metropolitan Jonah
Archbishop Nathaniel
Archbishop Seraphim
Bishop Nikon
Bishop Tikhon
Bishop Benjamin
Bishop Melchisedek
Bishop Irineu
Bishop Irinee
Bishop Michael


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