Saturday, March 6, 2021

OCA-Antiochian heads meet

ENGLEWOOD, NJ (Antiochian) - On Thursday, March 4, 2021, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America welcomed His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America to the headquarters of the Archdiocese in Englewood, NJ. The two hierarchs met and held a fraternal discussion on a wide array of issues of common concern. Above all they gave thanks to God for allowing them to meet in person for the first time since the pandemic, and for bringing them and their church through this difficult time in good health and safety. 

In the course of their discussion, they reviewed the work of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, and the state of Orthodox unity in America. They also considered the state of theological education, both the work of the seminaries and the late-vocations programs, and the pressing vocational challenge facing the Orthodox Church. The two primates also spoke candidly about the worrying polarization and extremism found both within the Church and in civil society. They pledged to work together and find common ways to address these issues within their churches. It's interesting how vocational concerns ebb and flow from year to year. It was not so long ago that I knew men looking for parish spots, but none were available. I've visited St. Tikhon's when it was full and when it was near empty and St. Vlad's when the grounds were completely overrun with rollicking children and when the trapeza was full of single men. Even in my own years at seminary, the number of men my first year was quite different from the number when I graduated.

They concluded the meeting exchanging prayers for each other and their churches at the outset of the Lenten journey to Pascha. 

After their meeting, they released the following statement:

We have come through a year that has seen unprecedented challenges facing our communities and, indeed, society as a whole. The pandemic, growing political polarization, civil unrest, the rise of extremism, and economic anxiety have all contributed to test us within the Orthodox Church. While some of what has tested us is new, other things are as old as human history. In response to all of them, there is only one response, remaining firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, who alone is our Savior, and loving one another as he has loved us (cf., Jn 13:34).

We thank the faithful of our churches for their labors, their patience, their steadfastness, and their love during all that has transpired throughout this most difficult time. We also join together and mourn those whom we have lost in our churches, because of the pandemic. May their memory be eternal!

We bemoan the political polarization within this country and within the Orthodox Church, and call all to remember that we are created, each of us without exception, in the image and likeness of God. We strongly condemn extremism and fundamentalism, whether in the Church or society, and call to repentance those who would perpetrate acts of violence or hatred against any of our brothers and sisters in our communities or in society.​


  1. "...We strongly condemn extremism and fundamentalism, whether in the Church or society, and call to repentance those who would perpetrate acts of violence or hatred against any of our brothers and sisters in our communities or in society.​.."

    These sorts of statements are unhelpful. What are they talking about? Who/what/when/where is "extreme"? Are they addressing civil society in a broad way trying to address what often goes by the name of "cultural war"? If so do they even understand what the cultural war is about? Are they more specifically refering to so called "systemic racism" and/or the usual political divide between red and blue?

    What is "fundamentalism" within the general American religious context more broadly and specifically within American Orthodoxy? Does this so called fundamentalism also refer to masks, spoons, Holy Architecture, and the the Body and Blood? Is it instead a reference to EP vs. EP partisanship?

    Such statements strike me as a lazy complaint of two bourgeois moralists whose comfort has been disturbed a little bit by "a challenging year". What would they say if things were really bad, say a real persecution or civil upheaval? I don't want to know...

  2. Wow! I finally agree with Jake. Usually, when we hear about fundamentalism in the Orthodox Church, it is more in line with the definition according to the people at which case these bishops are calling a significant portion of their flock, fundamentalist extremists.

    That is a dangerous path to tread.

    1. The only extremism I have seen is from those who want to close churches, mask everyone and do exactly what the government says.

      What was the response if the Church during the 1918 flu epidemic? That was a truly virulent and deadly disease which killed quickly and often. Especially males 25-35.

      A person could start feeling relatively mild symptoms in the morning and be dead by evening.

      Are we hiding "for fear of the Jews?"

      So, Jake, I too agree with you.

      Are we extremists?

    2. "The only extremism I have seen is from those who want to close churches, mask everyone and do exactly what the government says...Are we extremists?"

      I think your attitude/understanding/beliefs about most everything around Covid and the Orthodox Church's response to it is in fact extreme Michael. Perhaps a better word might be eccentric, or perhaps delusional. Masks are such a small inconvenience that is so helpful to your neighbor (Christian and non-Christian alike). I attended and communed at Church this morning as I have more Sundays than not during this pandemic. When the government is right it is right, and depending upon where you live your local/state government has been somewhat right or mostly right from an epidemiological and overall good of society. To be frank you words on this subject too often sound like a talking head on TV - absolute with no real life nuance, all passionate energy and emotionalism, simply designed to *persuade* independent of the truth.

      All That said you and Mikail are right to see that when Orthodox bishops/clerics/academics throw around the term "fundamentalism", a term somewhat recklessly borrowed from a particular Protestant history and experience, they are to often are just complaining of unnamed positions/assertions by unnamed people/groups. Bemoaning "fundamentalism" and "polarization" is analogous to bitching about bad drivers, bad politicians, or bad weather. It's just grumbling at sin and this fallen condition at best, and in this case is lazy complaint of those you disagree with, possibly (probably) with good reason, but your not even sure why let alone how to talk about it or what to do...

    3. Jake, most if the time the mask is a minor inconvenience to me and I wear it even though it does little if any good. However, there is a point when the mask becomes a hinderance to my own breathing. I usually have little warning when this will be.

      Do you know what the Church did during the Flu Pandemic of 1918 which was much more deadly than COVID?

      I celebrated the birthday of my step-grandson Friday night. It was in a Japanese restaurant where you sit around a big griddle and the chef cooks your food right there in front of you. The table/griddle is about 5x10. There were 12 people in our party sitting shoulder to shoulder on three sides. No masks. There were 7-8 other such tables in a small room. Packed in. No masks except for the staff and they were haphazardly worn.

      No restriction on capacity. Zero social distancing. No fear. Lots of laughter. Kind of like coffee hour.

      I just wonder why there is more fear at Divine Liturgy. Why, when I go to my parish website a big, garish, frightening COVID warning dominates the screen.

      I intend to ask these questions of my Bishop and my priests. All fine men. I think they are reasonable questions.

    4. Jake, I finally found a story of the Church's response to the 1918 Flu. Fr. Nicolae Yanney of St. George Antiochian parish in Kearney, Ne set out on an epic journey to bring Holy Communion to all of the Orthodox he could find including the founders of the Holy Temple in which I worship in Wichita. All Orthodox in NE, KS, CO including Russian and Greek.
      At the end of his journey he succumbed to the disease. His last words to his sons: "Keep your hands and your heart clean"

      Fr. Nicolai's response is that of a saint, IMO. St. George in Kearney a wonderful parish to this day.

      All I hope for is a little less fear.

      But, shoot, Fr. Nicolai may just have been an extremist.

    5. Michael - you can let them know that the best results the CDC could come up with for masking and indoor dining bans was a result within the statistical margin of error. Masks, lockdowns are doing nothing, and if you're sick stay home.

    6. Anti-gnostic, I had my brother and a friend of his look at the report. My brother's friend is a real statistician. He says that report is statistical nonsense. The statistical information in the report is insufficient to reach any valid conclusion. He calls it lies and propaganda.

  3. Let us all hope and pray they met to begin the process of uniting both churches and make a positive move for a united eastern orthodox christian church in the USA. It is time for both of them to lead by example,,, show true christian love and charity and no longer exists as separated churches and become one as we are instructed to faith, one body, one essence,,there is no better time but the present to lead. May we all pray that it will be so.

    1. r j, Great idea but I doubt it will happen. His Emminence Met Joseph of the Bulgarian Archdiocese of the US, Canada and Australia said to me a few years ago that there would be no Orthodox unity until after all of the Bishops who were at Ligonier had reposed. His Grace, Bp. Basil was the youngest one there. He, thank God, is still hale and hearty.

  4. if we truly believe what we preach and read in the Bible,, we must put our egos and earthly cares aside, and do what is best for the whole - at present we are technically is schism with each other, for we are not united as one body in christ, there a romanian foot a russian head an albanian arm but the torso and heart do not exist and as such we do great injustice to our mission. years ago when philip was metropolitan there was talk about unity - so why not now - joseph and tikhon retire and a neutral non affiiated candidate favorable to both sides, for example sava of the serbians, be chosen to lead. it is necesaary to think outside the box if we are to survive and grow. at present we are slowly dying as our numbers diminish. and as this happens our leaders continue to play one upmanship unable to play nicely together in the sandbox. the worst of all is black bart and his crew. i am just embarrassed by this situation and all the shinnegans. it is tragic that we have lost our direction and focus - we were almost there in 1920 and all has been lost. it is enough to break a persons heart.

  5. r.j. Met Joseph was speaking of Ligonier and the failure of unity thanks to the Pat.of Constantinople as analogous to the Jews in Numbers who refused to enter the Holy Land out of fear.

    It is not just an administrative change. A spiritual change is also required. We must learn not to fear.

  6. -do you spend hours online everyday talking about saving the Church?

    -do you compulsively accuse other Orthodox Christians of heresy and betraying the faith?

    -do you scratch your head wondering why no bishops will listen to you?

    -do you delight in schism and promote it?

    -have you made an absolute out of matters that are not essential to the faith?

    -do you possess unrivalled expertise in canon law, medicine and geopolitics

    -have you said "ANAXIOS!" at least once within the past 24 hours?

    If you have answered in the affirmative to any of the above questions dear reader then the extremist could be you.

  7. Dear "Unknown"
    I can answer 'No' to all of your questions. But I do not see them as genuine questions.

    I love my bishop. I have been greatly blessed because I obeyed him with an open heart even when I thought he was wrong.

    Since I a member of his cathedral parish and first met him as a young priest about 30 years ago and saw his unfeigned love of Jesus, I have loved him.

    He is acting in obedience to Met. Joseph.

    That does not mean either is correct in their COVID policies that restrict access to worship and each other.

    . . .and I use my own name.