Friday, October 21, 2016

Oriental Orthodox meet at new Armenian seminary location

ARMONK, NY (SCOOCH) – On Thursday, October 6, the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches convened its fall 2016 meeting on the new grounds of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. Hosting hierarch and SCOOCH Chairman, H.E. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian (Armenian) welcomed H.G. Bishop David (Coptic), H.E. Mor Titus Yelhdo (Malankara-Syriac), H.G. Bishop Karas (Coptic), H.E. Mor Dionysios Jean Kawak (Syriac) and their appointed delegates, as well as the representatives of H.G. Bishop Makarios (Eritrean) and H.E. Archbishop Zekarias (Ethiopian).

Among the items discussed by the Standing Conference were the reorganization of the Coptic Church in North America by H.H. Pope Tawadros II, the upcoming visit of H.H. Catholicos Karekin II to North America, external dialogues with the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches as well as with various schismatic bodies within the Oriental Orthodox Communion, the ongoing humanitarian crises in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and the present painful schism in the Eritrean Orthodox Church. In the case of the last of these topics, the Standing Conference reaffirmed its unflagging support for H.H. Abune Antonious I and its opposition to any action which keeps His Holiness from returning to his Apostolic Throne in peace.

The Standing Conference also discussed its upcoming calendar of events, including the Concelebrated Liturgy scheduled to take place in Staten Island, NY on October 22, the Philadelphia Regional Concelebrated Liturgy slated for October 29 in Medford, NJ, and the annual Oriental Orthodox Youth Conference scheduled for November 12 in Whippany, NJ.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Convicted felon Bp. Demetri returning to ministry in the US

In 2004 Bishop Demetri of the Antiochian Archdiocese entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge of attempted fourth degree criminal sexual misconduct. To be specific he "grabbed the breast of a North Carolina woman seated next to him at a slot machine in the Turtle Creek Casino outside Traverse City" and was "highly intoxicated" (see here for more) as was evident from the closed circuit video that captured the event. He was drunk, he was gambling, and he sexually assaulted a woman.

Bp. Demetri was relieved of his duties and then suspended (it should be noted that the Antiochian Archdiocese recently deleted their pronouncement on this issue from their website, but a cached version is available here). In 2008 he was "restored as vicar of the Iglesia Católica Apostólica Ortodoxa De Antioquia México-Venezuela-Centroamérica-El Caribe in the Exarcado De El Caribe"(see more here). This was all covered on this blog some years ago (see here).

In a surprising new chapter to this saga, it seems Met. Joseph is making Bp. Demetri a locum tenens of sorts (a pseudo-locum tenens) for the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West.

Russian Church delegation meets with the Queen of England

(ROC-Sourozh) On October 18, 2016, His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, met with Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the Buckingham Palace in London.

The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church was accompanied by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, and Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh. Participating in the meeting were also Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and Bishop Richard Chartres of London.

Patriarch Kirill wished the Queen of Britain ‘many happy returns’ on the occasion of her 90th birthday and presented her with an icon of the Mother of God ‘Swift to Hearken’ executed in Russian jewelry traditions.

On her part, the Queen gave the high guest her portrait as well as a portrait of her husband Duke Philip of Edinburg.

They discussed a wide range of issues. Patriarch Kirill told Her Majesty about the ongoing church renewal in Russia, which is visibly expressed, among other things, in the growing number of parishes, development of religious education and theological science, creation of new dioceses and development of new forms of church service.

The sides also discussed the situation of Christians in Europe today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo receives Pat. Athenagoras award

This man, not just a tacit accepter of abortion, but a man who pushed hard for late-term abortions (poison, mutilation, and dismemberment of our young in the womb) received an award from the Greek Archdiocese today. Also, let us not forget, a man who said of pro-life people, "they have no place in the state of New York." This is the man they are honoring today with the Patriarch Athenagoras Human Rights Award.

NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Becomes Recipient of Patriarch Athenagoras Human Rights Award

Monday, October 17, 2016

Modern American religion

"In the US Christianity is a like a vaccine. Americans get just enough to inoculate themselves against it."

- Loosely attributed to Abbot Herman of Platina

Notes from Greek's Holy Eparchial Synod meeting

This is actually a pretty extensive report by Greek Archdiocesan standards and is dealing with some surprisingly important issues.

(GOARCH) - The Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America convened for its regular meeting at the Synodal Chamber of the Archdiocesan headquarters in New York on October 12th and 13th 2016. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America presided at the meeting with the participation of all the Members of the Synod.

The Synod deliberated extensively on many matters including the following:
  1. Discussed Liturgical matters related: a) to the implementation of the edition of the approved by the Ecumenical Patriarchate text of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by the priests, chanters and choirs, and b) the continuation of translations of liturgical texts i.e. the Holy Prothesis, Great Vespers, Orthros (Matins) etc. A big issue. It's still rather up in the air. The priests have the new Liturgy book, but the use of it is very uneven. It will be intriguing to see what will happen next with it.
  2. According to the Regulations of the Holy Archdiocese, the Holy Synod reviewed the list of priest candidates for the rank of a Bishop, which will be sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for approval.
  3. Established protocol for bestowing offikia to priests serving in the Armed Forces. Accordingly the offikia will be awarded by the Archbishop of America after the recommendation of the Military Ordinary, in this case Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver.
  4. Discussed matters related to the life and work of the parishes especially administrative, financial and legal.
  5. Discussed extensively ways to reach out to non-active Orthodox Christians and ways to make them active in the life of the Church. Furthermore, it was decided that the efforts to reach out to the Orthodox students in the Universities must be intensified so that they may participate in the local gatherings of the Orthodox students (Orthodox Christian Fellowship).
  6. The Synod also discussed educational matters, such as the education of clergy candidates as well as lay people involved in the ministries of the parishes.
  7. Mention was made on the decisions of the Holy and Great Synod and ways to educate both clergy and laity about them. It was noted that during the 43rd Clergy Laity Congress this past July, four Hierarchs together with the Archbishop participated as members of the Holy and Great Synod. These Hierarchs made very successful presentations during the Congress analyzing the many aspects of the Great Synod to the delegates of the parishes.
  8. The day before the commencement of the Synod’s deliberations, its Members worked on a text of Internal Regulations for the Holy Monasteries.
Following the completion of the deliberations of the Synod, its Members presided over the Archdiocesan Council Committees and also participated in the meeting of the Archdiocesan Council.

50th Anniversary of St. John of San Francisco's repose

The music of Guatemalan Orthodoxy

It's rather amazing to watch the growth and flowering of the Church in Latin America. Mayan Orthodoxy is a great resource for anyone who wants to see the struggles and accomplishments of a people building Orthodoxy from within with the help of missionaries and donors from around the world. God willing, the bright light of their faithfulness will illumine us north of the border as well.

(Mayan Orthodoxy) - The Orthodox Church continues to grow in Guatemala, and one of the areas of progress is chuch music. A beautiful youth choir has formed at the Church of the Annunciation in Aguacate, Guatemala, where the people now sing the entire Divine Liturgy. There also is an excellent choir at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Tajumuco, Guatemala, and in the coastal areas of Guatemala the priests are teaching music as well. You can hear all of the major songs of the Divine Liturgy in Spanish here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wide ranging address of Abp. Demetrios to US bishops

This is quite long (sometimes Abp. Demetrios' academic side shows), but it states some insightful and illuminating points. He doesn't pull punches at the lackluster products being generated by many of the committees nor does he allow the Crete gathering to overshadow the important work that needs to continue regardless of the mess that event caused to world Orthodoxy.

(AOB) - Your Eminences, Your Excellencies and Your Graces, most beloved and respected brothers and Hierarchs of the Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, welcome to the 7th Annual General Assembly.

Having approached and partaken in the Holy Eucharist as members of the Body of Christ, we convene here in Detroit, Michigan. It is a city whose people have experienced the results of decades of neglect, isolation, and abandonment, but now steadily move forward on the path of transformation towards a renewed life. I cannot help but reflect upon the idea of transformation in our case. We truly need a transformation in Christ, with Christ, and for Christ leading to unity, holiness and effective service. And if this is so, we must, following the Apostle Paul, strive to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings (Phil. 3:10), and following the Apostle Peter, with a sincere love for the brethren and from a pure heart let us love one another intensely (1 Peter 1:22).

Our mission is not new. Indeed, it began with the great commission of Christ to His disciples when He said to them, As the Father has sent me, even so I send you (John 20:21). In our times, our predecessors strove to become imitators of the disciples and apostles, and strove to present a unified Orthodox voice to society. Their passion to promote the truth in an organized pan-Orthodox fashion was formally acknowledged in 2009 with the Pre-Conciliar Decision in Chambésy by all Orthodox autocephalous Churches, which formally established regional Episcopal Assemblies around the world. And just a few short months ago, the value of these Episcopal Assemblies was acknowledged by the Holy and Great Council. What began as Christ’s mandate progressed into a vision and a grassroots effort, and is now formally an important institution of the Orthodox Church. When we speak together as an Assembly of Bishops, we do so with the authority of the Church; we do not speak as jurisdictions or merely as representatives but as a single body of Orthodox Hierarchs who are committed to sharing the transformative light of Christ with our local society.

We have much work in front of us; nonetheless, we are most grateful for the challenge and opportunity to labor together and find ways to present an Orthodox Christian message to our society in the most effective way. With this in mind, allow me to highlight a number of matters that may assist us in our work.

Message of the Detroit Assembly of Bishops meeting

Thursday, October 06, 2016 (AOB) - To our beloved Orthodox Christians throughout the United States of America:

Forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
- Ephesians 4:3

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,

We, the members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, gathered in Detroit, Michigan, for our seventh annual meeting on October 4-6, 2016 greet you with love in Christ as we offer glory and thanksgiving to Him.

Forty-one hierarchs assembled in order to recognize and reinforce our unity in the Orthodox faith. We express our deep gratitude to all those who planned and prepared for this year’s Assembly, which officially opened with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Antiochian Orthodox Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, Michigan. The hierarchs were welcomed by host Bishop Anthony. For some context, I believe there were 44 bishops at the last meeting.

We remembered and prayed for our brother hierarchs kidnapped in Syria, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul Yazigi (brother of His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch) and the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop John Ibrahim.

In particular, we expressed our wholehearted congratulations to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the blessed occasion of his 25th anniversary as Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.

In the opening session, the chairman Archbishop Demetrios of America delivered his address, raising a number of serious issues pertaining to the need to cultivate unity in Christ The full text of his report can be read online (see here). Archbishop Demetrios urged that the Assembly remain committed to the original mandate of the Mother Churches to work in a conciliar manner toward canonical unity for the sake of our faithful with which the Assembly concurred. The hierarchs also heard executive reports from the Assembly officers.

Orthodoxy and the Christ

I am reminded a bit of Deuteronomy 4:19 "And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage." People are predisposed to mention a lot of the externals of the Church more than they are about Jesus Himself when evangelizing. The below is a good reminder.

(OCF) by Emma Solak - A wonderfully wise woman gave me some advice: “Please consider when you write/speak/think about Orthodoxy: are you writing/saying/thinking “the faith” “Orthodoxy” “the Church” when you should be writing/saying/thinking “Jesus Christ.”

OCF sponsors October as Orthodox Awareness Month and during this time, we encourage college students, spiritual advisors, lay advisors, and the like to spread the word about Orthodoxy and OCF. Change your profile picture on Facebook to the OCF logo! Participate in our #ShareAThon and flood your newsfeed with Orthodox related articles, videos, podcasts, and pictures! Take the Come & See Challenge to win points and prizes for your chapter while bringing others to the Church! Speak at your church on College Student Sunday (Oct. 2) to inform your parish about the work of OCF!

OAM is a wonderful opportunity to bring attention to the Orthodox Church to a lot of people who might never have heard of it. I encourage each of you to take this to month to do so. But it’s important to remember that OAM isn’t just about celebrating and spreading awareness of Orthodoxy. It’s about bringing people to know Jesus Christ and His Church. Yeah, it’s cool to tell people about all the crazy awesome saints we have or to explain how icons are windows to heaven or to blast beautiful Byzantine chant and bellow the ison from the bottom of your lungs, but ask yourself – am I bringing people to the nuances of Orthodoxy or am I bringing people to a life devoted to Jesus Christ?

The theme for OCF this year is Come & See, which fits perfectly into the theme of OAM. This means that during October, we are doubly responsible for spreading Orthodoxy! Make a true effort this month to share the good news of Jesus Christ to the people in your life. Let it come to them through the way you live your life – by going to church, fasting, praying, loving your neighbor. Take time to talk with them about the teachings of Christ and his Church. Show them the way, the life, and the truth that they then may experience through the beauty of Orthodoxy.

The Church of Antioch and the Crete gathering

A very informative post from Notes on Arab Orthodoxy.

(Notes on Arab Orthodoxy) - The most recent issue of Majallat al-Nour, the official magazine of the Orthodox Youth Movement, has dedicated several articles to evaluating the Crete meeting and its aftermath. Over the next week or so, I'll try to translate a few of the pieces. The Arabic original can be found here.

Metropolitan Siluan: The Decision of the Synod of Antioch Sets the Course Aright by Loulou Siba

The great, general, expanded Orthodox Council, are words that have been repeated since the beginning of the twentieth century, when the Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III sent a letter to the patriarchs and heads of autocephalous churches inviting them to meet and discuss emerging challenges for the Church. Then, in 1923, the Ecumenical Patriarch Meletius (Metaxakis) sent another invitation and meetings started and multiplied, but disagreements between the Orthodox churches dominated the atmosphere until in 1961 the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras attempted to break the ice and activate preparations for holding this council.

Since that time, the Orthodox world has awaited the holding of this general council, until this year a council was held on the island of Crete that did not gain the attribute "great", since not all the Orthodox churches attended. The Council of Crete met in the absence of churches including the Patriarchate of Antioch, and for this reason Majallat al-Nour went to His Eminence Metropolitan Siluan (Muci) of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Argentina, who represented the Patriarchate of Antioch in the preparatory meetings, so that he could shed some light on this council and on its ramifications for the Orthodox world.

Majallat al-Nour thanks His Eminence and makes supplication to God Almighty to make firm his steps in spreading the Good News in the Land of Silver, Argentina.

Could you please summarize the Antiochian position on the Council of Crete.

The decision of the Synod of Antioch, issued on the eve of the feast of our Apostolic See, sets the course aright toward the premises that inspired the Orthodox in the twentieth century, when they resolved to prepare for the great council, as well as to the the principles that they laid in place as the basis for their work. The premises can be summarized with the phrase "one Orthodox witness in the contemporary world" and the principles can be summarized by recourse to "the principle of unanimity" between all the Orthodox churches at all levels of preparation from committees and preparatory conferences to the level of the great council itself...
Complete post here.

Sister Vassa to speak on the Gospel and the Internet

I wish I could go to this, but my schedule precludes it. If someone does make it, please do tell how it went.

Day 2 notes from Detroit Assembly of Bishops meeting

(AOB) - Detroit, October 5 - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States began the 2nd day of its annual meeting with a special forum dedicated to the important subject of religious freedom. Three highly accomplished scholars presented:

Dr. Charles Haynes, Director of the Religious Freedom Center and Vice President of the Newseum Institute, delivered an overview of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and its central role in protecting the free exercise of one’s faith in America’s public square. He encouraged the hierarchs to study how Orthodox Christianity is presented in the public square, especially in the textbooks of our nation’s public schools, and shared his hope that seminarians be educated in the area of religious freedom.

Dr. Debra Mason, Professor of Journalism Studies at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and Curriculum Specialist at the Religious Freedom Center, presented on the subject of religion in the media. She highlighted the unique challenges facing the church in utilizing digital media platforms to reach the faithful, especially millennials.

Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, Visiting Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University, delivered a presentation on the international status of religious freedom. Professor Prodromou offered a primer on the deep historical footprint concerning religious freedom, noting the central role of religious freedom in the life of all people. She called upon the hierarchs to engage the American public as social critics; to mine the theological resources of Orthodoxy to better understand and defend religious freedom; to engage in catechesis with the faithful on this subject; to support religious freedom for all people; to develop partnerships with other religious groups in the propagation of religious freedom; and to stand against totalitarian ideologies wherever they may be found.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Patriarch Kirill to visit UK, meet Queen

The royal family is closer to Orthodoxy than some might imagine. See today's story on Prince Charles visiting the burial site of Princess Alice of Battenberg, who is interred in the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives.

Moscow, October 5 (Interfax) - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is expected to meet with Queen Elizabeth II while visiting the United Kingdom on October 15-18.

"Patriarch Kirill is expected to meet with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who celebrated her 90th birthday this year, and with Archbishop Justin Welby, the leader of the Church of England," Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, said in an interview with Interfax-Religion on Wednesday.

He did not disclose the agenda of the meetings.

"However, it can be said that the Middle East theme will be among the key ones, because this is one of the hot subjects that, unfortunately, have been on the agenda to stay. The situation in the Middle East is not changing for the better. If we talk about the condition of Christians in this region, it remains to be critical and tragic. And, certainly, this subject will be addressed at the above-mentioned meetings," he said.

The main purpose of the patriarch's visit, which is timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Russian Orthodoxy in British Islands, is to meet with his congregation, Metropolitan Hilarion said.

"Our Church's congregation in the United Kingdom is very large. I remember this very well from the times when I studied in this country. The matter could concern hundreds of thousands people, and these are people of different ethnic background, such as Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, those coming from the Baltic region and Central Asia. In addition, this also includes the Brits who have come over to Orthodoxy. This is an ethnically mixed and a very sizeable group," he said.