The below is a huge blow to the idea of a united, canonical Orthodox Church in America. When ROCOR declared that they didn't want to be a part of the Chambésy process (see here) because they believed that their faithful needed strong Russian (or at least Slavic patrimony) oversight the popular reaction was "Oh, those crazy Russians and their extremism. Too bad for them that they'll be shunted to the hinterlands of American Orthodoxy just like the pre-reunion Old Days™." People thought we'd move on without them and maybe eventually they'd come back to the table.
The below declaration from the Antiochian Archdiocese, on the other hand, is a complete surprise to everyone I have spoken to.
Today we see that Antioch has made a similar declaration and a table set for the whole family is now half empty. "Why?" you might ask. The answer seems to be a combination of factors. First, and some would say foremost, is the amazing lack of primus inter pares-like action from the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the matter of Jerusalem's incursion into Qatar. Antioch was exceedingly clear on her dismay at the Orthodox world's lack of action on this topic and Constantinople's unwillingness to lead the charge for a correction to this territorial violation. Antioch responded by breaking communion with Jerusalem and the patriarchates of the world were silent.
Second, the Middle East is in a state of chaos not seen since Mohammedan scimitars cut a swath across the known world. We know that the so-called "Arab Spring" combined with ham-handed American interference has proved disastrous to the lives of our people in the Levant. A tie to the money, influence, and stability of her American parishes is a lifeline for a patriarchate seeing her people driven out of their homes when not sold into slavery or killed outright.
Third, there seems to be some reluctance to be under the "subjugation or domination of any." The Internet is rife with people decrying the perceived hegemony of the Greek Archdiocese in this Assembly of Bishops unification process. This does not now seem to be isolated to the vocal cyber-laity. This is apparently a very real impediment.
What the below appears to be saying is that the Antiochian Archdiocese is all for getting together and talking as "a voluntary Assembly" that can speak together with the other jurisdictions on topics and iron out difficulties. She simply doesn't want this body to cut the ties of Antioch with her parishes in the New World. That transformation into a single body is exactly what is supposed to happen and without fidelity to this charter, the process is essentially dead.
This doesn't mean things won't improve in the lives of Orthodox in America. If everyone is on the same page about in vitro, divorces, baptisms, crownings, clergy incardinations, excommunications, etc. we'll at least look like a single Church even if we continue on as a loose coalition. We seem to be happy under the equivalent of the Articles of Confederation with no Constitutional integration in sight.
For the many, many faithful hopeful for an Orthodox Church in America this is a very sad day.
(Antiochian.org) - Statement of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States Regarding the Draft Proposal of the Committee on Canonical Regional Planning
Presented at the Meeting of the Assembly of Bishops Convened in Chicago, IL
September 15-17, 2015
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has always prayed for and been committed to unity and cooperation of all of the Orthodox Christians in North America. The unity that we seek is true Orthodox unity based on mutual respect, love and cooperation with all of the Orthodox in America without subjugation or domination of any. Unity must allow for the continued work and support of each of the jurisdictions for their people and continued unity with the respective mother churches.
There is no doubt that the Christian Fellowship and work of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America as well as that of the Assembly of Bishops has been very valuable. We have come to know each other and have discovered how we can even better cooperate and support each other. We can enhance the ministries of each other as well as promulgate corporate ministries. Our relationships provide even more effective ministries. We are grateful for the candid and honest exchanges of the bishops at the meetings. We are committed to continuing this process of building up our relationships and working together in every area possible.
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America continues to be committed to the unity of the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Antiochian Patriarchate. The Church of Antioch, even while under persecution, stands firm as a witness to the incarnation of Christ and the history of the Savior in this world. By maintaining our unity with Antioch we provide a subtle witness to the world that Jesus Christ is the incarnate God who lived in the Holy Lands among us and is one with us.
Each of our bishops at our first confession of faith committed “myself to the preservation of the peace of the Church and …(to) obey and follow the directives of His Beatitude, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; and (to) uphold and protect the honor of the Patriarch of Antioch all the days of my life.” The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch and her Patriarch JOHN X remains committed to the unity of the Patriarchate with all of Antiochian faithful wherever they are. The Antiochian Metropolitan and bishops of North America remain committed to our consecration pledge.
We suggest that the Assembly of Bishops in the United States work as a voluntary Assembly of all the Canonical Bishops in the United States to accomplish the mission of the Assembly as articulated in the founding documents: “The mission of the Bishops’ Assemblies is the proclamation and promotion of the unity of the Orthodox Church, the common pastoral ministry of the Orthodox faithful of the region, as well as their common witness to the world.” We also agree that decisions should be made on the basis of the principle of unanimity of the Orthodox which are represented therein by bishops. In order to show filial love and respect, we would like all of the officers to be elected by the local assembly and to sit by order of the diptychs. We encourage the bishops in each geographical area to meet regularly and cooperate in ministry. We also support the continued work with inter-jurisdictional agencies and Orthodox theological groups. In this day of easy travel and communication, bishops can effectively serve their parishes in America without restructuring present geographical boundaries. Our churches are not yet homogeneous and there are jurisdictional needs within our parishes.