Author Topic: Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?  (Read 2623 times)

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Offline Orthodoc

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Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« on: April 28, 2004, 09:54:08 AM »
Once again, there seems to be a large discrepancy between the Church of Antioch and the Antiochian Archdiocese in America on just what was agreed upon.


From the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch:

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & All the East

Beirut, April 26 2004.

     Christ is risenGǪ Indeed He is risen.

     After the October 2003 resolution of the Holy Antiochian Synod,
granting "self-rule" to the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, as a
sign of good will in response to the request of the Archdiocese to be given
the ecclesial status of "autonomy", a large wave of appreciation welcoming
the resolution expressed an apparent understanding of the significance of
this decision.

     Unfortunately, many articles published afterwards, by laity officials
and some clergy of the Archdiocese revealed a deep misunderstanding of the
spirit of this resolution. The February 2004 editions of "The Word" and
"Again" magazines published an altered text of the resolution and a list of
autonomous churches including the name of the Antiochian Orthodox
Archdiocese being one of them.

     In the "Word" magazine, a letter from H.E. Metropolitan Philip
concerning self-rule is published on page 5 of the February edition. This
letter refers to the "full text of the resolution of the Holy Synod",
published in the November 2003 edition of "The Word" on page 4.

     In fact, when comparing the official English version of the resolution
issued by the Holy Synod to the published text, there are discrepancies, in
more than one place of this "authorized English translation".

"Eparchial Synod" and "Local Synod":

     The official English version of the Synodal Resolution speaks of an
"Eparchial Synod" while the "authorized translation" published in "The
Word" calls it "Local Synod". (Paragraphs: 3, 4, 5 and 6). This last term,
creates ambiguity, since it is used for Churches not for Archdioceses.

Election of Bishops:

     The article four of the official English version of the Synodal
Resolution states: "The Patriarch of Antioch shall delegate three
Metropolitans". While the so called authorized translation published in
"The Word" mentions: "The Patriarch of Antioch shall delegate two or three
Metropolitans", as if the published text aimed to minimize the "weight" of
the Patriarchal presence in the election process.

Right of appeal:

     The article six of the official English version of the Synodal
Resolution states: "Bishops of the Eparchial Synod have the right of appeal
of its decisions to the Patriarch of Antioch who shall be the final judge
along with the Holy Synod of Antioch". While, the published resolution
contained an additional condition, it mentions: "In all matters of
hierarchal discipline, Bishops of the Local Synod have the right of appeal"GǪ

     This added condition, limits to the disciplinary matters, the right of
Bishops to appeal. In fact, the Bishops, according to the Synod Resolution,
have the right to appeal any decision taken by the Eparchial Synod to the
Patriarch who shall be the final judge along with the Holy Synod of Antioch.

     Strange enough, this additional condition was not even discussed in
the Synod meetings. The Holy Synod adopted literally the text of the
paragraph presented by H.E. Metropolitan Philip as it was voted by the
convention of July 2003.

Synaxis attendance:

     This same article six of the official English version of the Synodal
Resolution states: "The Bishops of the Archdiocese shall attend the
gatherings or synaxis of Antiochian Bishops which may be called by the
Patriarch of Antioch". Here again a new condition of Bishops' attendance is
inserted. The published text mentions: "The Archdiocesan Bishops, after
consultation with the Metropolitan, shall attend the synaxis"GǪ

     Printing the copy of all the Synod fathers' signatures, at the bottom
of this modified text, gave the reader the false impression of reading the
official Synodal Resolution.

     The "Word" editor's note at the bottom of page 4 speaks about
"Autonomy" while obviously this term is not used at all in the official
English version of the Synodal Resolution. The Holy Synod used the term
"Self-Ruled Archdiocese", because the word "Autonomy" is also used for
"Autonomous Churches". This "mistake" was made in the Editors note, when it
says: May God grant our holy leadership many years and bless the autonomous
Antiochian Orthodox Church in North America".

     The discussions of the Holy Synod as well as the Synodal Resolution
emphasized on the unity of the Antiochian Church and stressed on the fact
that the North American Archdiocese is and shall remain an Antiochian
Archdiocese, excluding the use of the term "Autonomous Church".

     For the good sake of the Christ's flock, and to avoid any misleading
interpretations, the secretary of the Holy Synod asked the publication of a
note explaining these differences in the next issue of "The Word" and
"Again" magazines as normally it is the case. This was not done. It is for
the "The Word" and "Again" magazines to give an explanation of what
happened, if they have one. However, they chose to ignore the matter.

     The secretary of the Holy Synod finds now that it is of his own
obligation, towards the North American Antiochians and the Orthodox
American sister churches, to publish the facts and to highlight the full

     It would be most unfortunate if the North American Antiochians go to
the July convention of the Archdiocese without having been exposed to the
truth that was not shared with them by the organs of their Archdiocese.

     The Holy Synod and His Beatitude the Patriarch Ignatius IV reaffirms,
as they have always done, the strong relationship with the Metropolitan,
bishops, clergy and laity of the North American Archdiocese, where we know
that the love of the Church of Antioch runs very deep.

Father George Dimas

Secretary of the Holy Synod of Antioch.


« Last Edit: April 28, 2004, 09:55:31 AM by Orthodoc »
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Offline TomS

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2004, 10:11:32 AM »
Sounds like a "No" to me.

Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2004, 10:47:57 AM »
I agree, TomΣ- a big "NO". I guess Metropollitan Philip will keep trying until the story "sticks". He should be concentrating at getting everyone under the OCA (yes, we Greeks, too.)

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Offline Deacon Lance

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2004, 12:32:23 PM »
Semi-Autonomous?  It seems like an apt description.  It also seems better than what the GOA has in my opinion.

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Offline Brigidsboy

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2004, 02:07:13 PM »
Greeks under the OCA?

More likely the OCA back under Moscow.  ;)

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Offline Deacon Lance

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2004, 08:30:59 AM »
I found this interesting, it seems the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese (non-OCA) is autonomous and has been since 1974.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2004, 08:39:04 AM by Deacon Lance »
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Offline Brendan03

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2004, 09:10:34 AM »
Yes they are autonomous, but of course the Romanian community is regrettably divided between the autonomous Romanian Archdiocese, on the one hand, and the rather large Romanian diocese in the OCA.  Again, both are SCOBA participants, but the continued administrative division is unfortunate.

Offline arimethea

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2004, 11:10:33 AM »
Let me say there is more to this story then Fr. George is presenting.

I have been told of several behind the scenes things that are going on but this forum is not the proper place to share these.

Please refer to this statment issued by Met. Philip.

Important Statement on the Self-Rule Status of our Archdiocese
Holy Thursday- April 8, 2004
Unfortunately, there has been some recent and isolated activity that has caused some people to question the self-rule status that was granted to this Archdiocese by His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV and the Holy Synod of Antioch in October, 2003. It should be known without hesitation or reservation, that our self-rule status is final, and that we are proceeding with all due diligence to implement this self-rule status. Proposed Diocesan boundaries have been drawn, and detailed documents have been written that specify the Rights and Responsibilities of both the Metropolitan, and the Diocesan Bishops under this new structure. We are working on the drafting of amendments to our Constitution that will implement self-rule. All of this work will culminate in our historic Special Convention, to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the weekend of July 16-18, 2004. At that Special Convention, we will approve the amended constitution, present the Diocesan structure, and the entire General Assembly of clergy and laity will nominate candidates who will stand for election as new Diocesan Bishops. We continue to enjoy the best relations with our beloved Patriarch IGNATIUS IV and the Mother Church of Antioch. May God bless our efforts to move forward in a positive way for the Glorification of His Holy Name.


Offline Thomas

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2004, 09:00:13 AM »
Christ is Risen!

Metropolitan Phillip's Response to Father George is below---it may be found on the Antiochian Archdiocee's website:

May 3, 2004

Fr. George Dimas

Secretary to the Holy Synod Of Antioch

c/o The Archdiocese of Beirut

Dear Fr. George:

Christ is Risen!

I have before me your correspondence dated April 26th, 2004. I believe that this correspondence raises the same points as your original letter to the WORD magazine dated February 16, 2004, and to Again Magazine dated February 12, 2004. I also have a copy of Mr. Albert Laham’s letter to His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV dated February 7, 2004. Your letter, Fr. George, seems as if it is a translation of Mr. Laham’s letter. Now we know who is muddying the water and fanning the fire for reasons that I will not mention in this letter.

First, I would like to clarify my relationship with the WORD and Again magazines.

A. Please be advised that the WORD magazine is edited and published in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The editor of the WORD magazine is the Very Rev. Fr. John Abdalah, in whom I have full confidence. Pittsburgh is quite a distance from the Archdiocese Headquarters in New Jersey (approximately 500 Km). The issue of the WORD magazine that contained the word “autonomy” in the Editor’s Comment was prepared and printed while I was still in the Old Country. When I returned to the United States, I directed the editor of the WORD not to use the word autonomy, but rather to substitute the expression self-rule. This was done in accordance with the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch.

B. Again Magazine is edited and published in California which is approximately 4,800 Km from New Jersey. The editor of Again Magazine is the Rev. Fr. Thomas Zell who is rendering a tremendous witness to Holy Orthodoxy in this land.

It is important for you and for all concerned to know that I do not censor these publications. What is published in these magazines does not necessarily express the official position of this Archdiocese, nor its policies. We are responsible only for what we send from our office under the title “Archdiocese Office.” The authors of various articles are responsible for what they write. It is also important to know that here in America we live in a country that does not censor articles and opinions. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Both magazines (i.e. The WORD, and Again) have been informed of our policy concerning self-rule. It is interesting to note the following dialog that is recorded on page 38 of the official minutes of the meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch that was held in October, 2003. I asked the question “How do you translate the word autonomy into English or Arabic?” Albert Laham answered “There is no strict legal (canonical) translation for this word. There is no objection to calling it “self-administered church” or “self-governing church.” This is the translation of the word autonomy according to Mr. Laham.

Dear Fr. George, I will now proceed to answer your points categorically:

“Eparchial Synod” and “Local Synod”

After two years of tension and intense debate, the Holy Synod of Antioch unanimously adopted the document titled “Resolution of the Holy Synod of Antioch.” I am most grateful to all of those who have contributed to this result. Our father in Christ, His Beatitude patriarch IGNATIUS IV deserves the credit for this wonderful achievement. After the unanimous adoption of this resolution, I said to His Beatitude, and may God be my witness, “Sayidna, there are some rough spots in the English translation of the resolution, and I am going to make corrections, not in substance, but in a few expressions.” His Beatitude said to me “This is simple (baseeta).” Fr. George, Metropolitan PHILIP did not invent the expression Local Synod. I refer you to the Resolution of the Holy Synod of Antioch, where you will find the following:

Paragraph 3 reads in Arabic “Recognition of Auxiliary bishops as diocesan bishops and the Local Synod.”
Paragraph 4 states that “the consecration and enthronement of the bishops shall be accomplished in North America by the Metropolitan, the Patriarchal Delegate and members of the Local Synod.”
Paragraph 5 mentions the Local Synod twice in the procedure for election of the Metropolitan Primate.
Now, Let us both examine the official minutes of the meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch that was held in October, 2003. Please check the statement made by Metropolitan GEORGES Khodr on page 27. On page 33 even Mr. Laham used the expression Local Synod. On page 36, please check the second paragraph of Metropolitan GEORGES’ statement. On page 43, please read what Metropolitan ELIAS of Beirut said about the Local Synod. On page 44, our beloved Patriarch says “I suggest that there must be some order for the Local Synod.” On the same page, the Most Reverend YOUHANNA, Metropolitan of Latakia also mentioned the words Local Synod. On page 45 His Grace Bishop YOUHANNA Yazigi mentioned the Local Synod. Again on page 46, Metropolitan ELIAS of Beirut mentions the Local Synod. If the usage of the expression Local Synod is anathema, why did not someone raise a “point of order” in the meeting?

Since the expressions Local Synod and Eparchial Synod were used interchangeably in the official document “Resolution of the Holy Synod of Antioch” written in October, 2003, and since the expression Local Synod appeared in the official minutes of the meeting of October, 2003, I opted to use the expression Local Synod instead of Eparchial Synod. Why? Because the word Eparchy is not a widely understood term in this country. Only those who are familiar with ecclesial terminology are likely to be familiar with this word. For this reason, we chose to use Local Synod, so that the majority of people would understand.

Election of Bishops

I do not understand the logic of anyone who would say that we are trying to “minimize the weight of the Patriarchal presence in the election process.” God forbid!! We have the utmost respect for the Patriarch, and we have proven that in words and deeds. We stated in our document “two or three” Metropolitans for purely practical reasons. We wished to give His Beatitude the choice of delegating two or three Metropolitans. Thus, if the Patriarch wishes to send three Metropolitans, who would object to that? They would be most welcome. This is a non-issue. We did not want to require His Beatitude, who is an excellent steward of the Church, to spend between $20,000 and $25,000 for travel and living expenses. This money could be better spent on needy students at the University of Balamand.

Right of Appeal

We indeed added the clause “in all matters of hierarchical discipline” to the language that specifies the right of appeal of diocesan bishops to the Patriarch and the Holy Synod. This addition to the document makes sense. For example, if a member of the Local Synod disagrees on how many students we should send to seminary, should this be a matter of appeal to the Patriarch and the Holy Synod? If a member of the Local Synod disagrees with the assignment of a newly graduated seminarian to a specific parish, should this be a matter of appeal to the Patriarch and the Holy Synod? If a member of the Local Synod disagrees with any financial matter related to the life of this Archdiocese, should this be a matter of appeal to the Patriarch and the Holy Synod? This would be beyond reason. I am sure that our good Patriarch has many things to attend to in lieu of these mundane issues. Moreover, if the Holy Synod wished to intervene in every minor disagreement of our bishops, than what remains of our self-rule? This is our rationale for the addition to article 6. This was not discussed by the Holy Synod because the obvious does not require a discussion.

Synaxis Attendance

Let us assume that we receive an invitation and agenda to such a synaxis, and the Metropolitan’s health does not permit him to attend this synaxis. Do you not think that it is imperative that the Metropolitan should consult with the diocesan bishops before they attend the synaxis? Someone is again making an issue of a non-issue. It is extremely important that the Metropolitan should consult with any diocesan bishop within this Archdiocese before he travels abroad.

Dear Fr. George and venerable members of the Holy Synod of Antioch, St. Paul teaches us that our Lord gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). Thus, we find the Church at the beginning of the 21st century besieged by serious problems from all sides, both here in America, and in the Middle East. Do we not have anything better to do than to nitpick at such simple matters? There is an old proverb that says “While the ship is sinking, the crew is busy painting the chimney.” Let us stop “painting the chimney” but instead let us, during this joyous Paschal season, renew our love for one another, and rededicate ourselves to the unity that exists between the Mother Church of Antioch and this Archdiocese. Finally, may the Light which cannot be overtaken by night always shine in your hearts.

Yours in the Risen Lord,

Metropolitan PHILIP


Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Better His Grace's response than the hearsay and speculation we may see here. It is interesting that initially the official website back last year used the words Autonous and then the next month after the oficial translation came out to use the term "Self-Ruling" obviously there are translation issues  at play here.

Your brother in Christ,
Your brother in Christ ,

Offline gregory2

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Re:Is The Antiochian Archdiocese 'Automonous' Or Not?
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2004, 10:53:54 PM »
If someone asks me if the Antiochian Archdiocese is autonomous, I'd have to answer "no."
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