PHOTO: Metropolitan of Mesogaias Nikolaos
Is there any Orthodox hierarch who would be able to save GOARCH and guide her to the new era? Yes, there is ONE, and yours truly had proposed him a few weeks before the election of AB Elpidophoros: Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaias (here is his short bio), and he checks every box. BUT ONLY IF HE IS ENDOWED WITH AUTONOMY OF GOARCH!!! There are others (Nikitas of Thyateira, Nathanael of Chicago), but they have blemishes and cannot even approach Nikolaos’s stature. No, I have not asked if Met. Nikolaos is interested in coming back to America. But with God’s will and the Patriarch’s request, he might. If Pat. Bartholomew truly wants to save this Church and revitalize it, then the only serious choice is Nikolaos of Mesogaias, endowed with autonomy for the Church of America. In many ways, NIKOLAOS IS A MAN OF GOD!!
But the Patriarch can also continue to be the contrarian that he is by character, and then it is only a matter of a few years before most faithful of America have moved to ROCOR and the other Orthodox denominations… Let’s see if his masters at the State Department will be happy with the possibility that most Greeks in America are under the Moscow Patriarchate!…
By Nick Stamatakis
Maybe every 2-3 years, we in the news business experience the avalanche of daily developments we have been watching in our Church during the last week. Today the orgasmic pace of news continued unabated:
- Early in the morning, our friend George Michalopoulos of Monomakhos.com came up with the breaking news from trustworthy sources inside GOARCH: “BELYA BOOTED”, his headline was screaming, referring to the postponement of the ordination of “Bishop-Elect” Alexander Belya, formerly defrocked Bishop by ROCOR (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia).
- At the same time, Kalmoukos and TNH reassured that the Patriarch “who was convinced by Elpidophoros to elect Alexander Belya, as he has convinced him unfortunately on other issues” WILL NOT BUDGE AND TAKE BACK THIS ELECTION OF BELYA…
- Only hours later, the Orthodox Observer announced the “Postponement of Ordination of Bishop-Elect Alexander of Nicopolis” (see below)!!, Belya, “in a spirit of the careful responsibility for the preservation of Orthodox Christian unity in the United States of America”… Amazing!!
- A day earlier, the Assembly of Bishops had issued a second letter to AB Elpidophoros (You can read the lengthy letter below), basically rebuking his response to them and threatening “schismatic action”: They would not accept, tolerate or recognize the elevation of Alexander Belya to the episcopate.
- Meanwhile, it becomes clearer by the hour that the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, which will take place on Monday in Athens, will have many ways to rebuke the Archbishop’s deceptive action and overall heretic performance in the infamous baptisms.
- This would pass the baton to the Holy Synod of the Phanar this coming Thursday, July 21st. Elpidophoros will be present, and AB Nikitas of Thyateira (heavily rumored to succeed Elpidophoros) will also be present as a regular member… I would bet anything that this Synod will be announcing the end of Elpidophoros’ tenure in America.
A. If there was any doubt that AB Elpidophoros would survive a series of missteps and mistakes on every single issue for the full three years of his tenure in America, NOW THERE IS NO DOUBT AT ALL THAT HE IS FINISHED. It’s just a matter of how exactly he will be “executed” by the Holy Synod of the Phanar on July 21st…
B. The reasons for his failure are clearly – and very mildly – described by the anonymous letter of the priests “Rocks, Thorns and Birds,” which we published yesterday. Everybody agrees that the priests were refrained and rather minimalistic in their descriptions of the many aspects of GOARCH mismanagement…
C. The whole situation is made much worse by the total failure of Phanar policies on Ukraine: The Phanar caused a schism in Orthodoxy because of their insane and anti-canonical Ukraine policy, and was about to have to deal with another Schism in America!! To put it bluntly, the Phanar has already lost the battle of religions in Ukraine – no matter how the war there ends!! And it would be guaranteed to lose Orthodoxy in America if all Orthodox Bishops presented a unified front against Elpidophoros – which they did!! A total disaster!! We already have many examples of Greek-American faithful moving to ROCOR, Antiochean, and other Orthodox denominations – and this trend will accelerate if Elpidophoros keeps his throne…
D. In order to make any correct decision for the future of GOARCH, the Patriarch and his “entourage” (including Karloutsos – who is in his “last hurrah” despite the Biden “medal”) have to assess the situation with clarity: There is no way on Earth for this Church to be dependent on Phanar and there is a clear and present danger to lose most faithful to ROCOR and other denominations. Is this what they and their masters at the State Dept. want? To have most Greek-Americans under the Moscow Patriarchate?
E. The Patriarch would be well-advised to not focus primarily on the successor of Elpidophoros but rather focus on the Charter and specifically on autonomy for the Church of America. Many have suggested the paradigm of the “Autocephalous Church of Crete” for the Church of America over the years. The patriarchate has many hierarchs who can attest to this – as they come from Crete!! Makarios of Australia, Emmanuel (Adamakis) of Chalcedon (formerly of France), and Prodromos of Rethimnon. The last two were at the Clergy-Laity Congress!! They had enough opportunity to see the wrong path GOARCH has taken with their own eyes: The faithful are thirsty for spirituality, and instead, they get secularization!! The C-L Congress was disgraced with belly dancing singers from Greece! The faithful demand transparency and accountability, and they get silence!! Characteristically in the C-L Congress, during the Charter Panel discussion, the first question from the audience was about this issue, and the Archbishop played deaf!!
The Patriarch should not make one more mistake – he has made more than enough during his tragic 30-year tenure. The right choice is not about the person of the next Archbishop; it is about endowing this person with a charter leading to an autonomous and potentially pan orthodox Church of America.
Is there any Orthodox hierarch who would be able to save GOARCH and guide her to the new era? Yes, there is ONE, and yours truly has proposed him a few weeks before the election of Elpidophoros: Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia (here is his short bio), and he checks every box. BUT ONLY IF HE IS ENDOWED WITH AUTONOMY!!! There are others (Nikitas of Thyateira, Nathanael of Chicago), but they have blemishes and cannot even approach Nikolaos’s stature. No, I have not asked if Met. Nikolaos is interested in coming back to America. But with God’s will and the Patriarch’s request, he might.
If Pat. Bartholomew truly wants to save this Church and revitalize it, then the only serious choice is Nikolaos of Mesogaias and autonomy for the Church of America. In many ways, NIKOLAOS IS A MAN OF GOD!!
But the Patriarch can also continue to be the contrarian that he is by character, and then it is only a matter of a few years before most faithful of America have moved o ROCOR and the other Orthodox denominations… Let’s see if his masters at the State Department like the possibility that most Greek-Americans move under the Moscow Patriarchate!…
DISCLAIMER: The views and statements expressed in this article constitute constitutionally protected opinions of this author.
Postponement of Ordination of Bishop-Elect Alexander of Nicopolis
NEW YORK – In a spirit of the careful responsibility for the preservation of Orthodox Christian unity in the United States of America, the episcopal ordination of His Grace Bishop-Elect Alexander of Nicopolis has been postponed until a consensus has been reached. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America is committed to engaging in an open dialogue of brotherly love and understanding with the other heads of jurisdictions of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the U.S.A., while at the same time determined to prioritize constructive partnership and cooperation.
The Assembly of Bishops is a unique venue where all the Orthodox Christian jurisdictions participate in the building of Christ’s Body in America through dialogue, joint program development, and concelebration. As Saint Paul proclaimed: “You were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
ASSEMBLY OF BISHOPS SECOND LETTER TO ELPIDOPHOROS
“His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
10 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10075
Your Eminence, Beloved Brother in Christ,
Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
We have received your individual letters to us in response to our common request for reconsideration of the planned consecration of Alexander Belya. We delayed answering you because we did not want to detract from the joy felt by all Orthodox Christians in this land at the consecration of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and Shrine at the World Trade Center and the celebration of the Greek Archdiocese’s centenary during your recent Clergy-Laity Congress. We pray, despite this difficult situation we face, that those occasions were full of blessings for you and all the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of your Archdiocese.
Since you have often expressed concern that our Orthodox witness is hampered by acting as a confederation of churches rather than one Body of Christ, we were disappointed that you replied to us not as a unifying Chairman to the Assembly partners but merely as the head of one jurisdiction to the individual presiding hierarchs of other jurisdictions. This disappointment is compounded by Your Eminence’s choice to disregard the impact this proposed episcopal consecration will have on all of us, not just the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Beloved Brother in Christ, our letter acknowledged the right of your Mother Church to elect Alexander Belya but, at the same time, lovingly asked you to reconsider this decision in light of the consequences for Orthodox unity. Curiously your letters to us merely restated this right (which we have never disputed) while completely ignoring our concerns.
In the words of the holy Apostle Paul, ‘All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but the other’s wellbeing’ (1 Corinthians 10:23- 24).
Our letter asked Your Eminence to remember, as Chairman of the Assembly, that your actions impact all our jurisdictions. Surprisingly, your letters in response reprimanded us for our choice of letterhead. Yet it is precisely because we wish to maintain our unity in the Assembly that we are expressing our concerns in this way. As a majority of the Executive Committee, we are addressing our Chairman in order to prevent harm to the Assembly. This is a matter of vital importance to this body, and it should indeed be addressed in this way – corporately and in an official context– regardless of nitpicks over procedure.
Our previous letter expressed concern that creating even more nationalistic ecclesial bodies would further confuse the faithful and muddy our canonical situation in this land. Your response to us, in turn, made a passing reference to preexisting ethnic jurisdictions that joined the OCA during the chaotic era of the Cold War (not dissimilar to the ethnic Albanian, Carpatho-Russian, and Ukrainian jurisdictions in America that exist within your own Patriarchate). Your justification for creating your own new ethnic vicariates – if the OCA has something similar, why can’t we? – is not pastorally sound logic and ignores the historical context that gave rise to those realities.
Likewise, establishing a vicariate within an existing ethnic jurisdiction with the sole intent of poaching dissatisfied people of another canonical jurisdiction is unprecedented and could prove to be destructive and undermine our stated goal of unity. In this particular case, the so-called Slavic Vicariate is actively soliciting churches and clergymen from other canonical jurisdictions to join it (see their webpage, www.slavonic.org/en/ requirements).
This is uncanonical and, frankly, offensive to all of us. Needless to say, Your Eminence would not appreciate one of our jurisdictions creating a Greek or Cypriot vicariate in order to take advantage of discord among members of your own community. We are painfully aware of your very recent attempt to procure a blessing from your Patriarchate to create a Moldovan/ Romanian vicariate under your Archdiocese, based in Chicago, despite the existence of two Romanian Orthodox jurisdictions in America. We are grateful to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for its wisdom in declining to bless your proposal.
Our letter asked Your Eminence to reconsider a decision that would further complicate the return of our Russian brothers to the Assembly. Instead of addressing this concern, your letters deflected and changed the subject to whether or not individual jurisdictions have condemned the invasion of Ukraine strongly enough. Let us, however, focus on the matter at hand.
Our letter charitably refrained from detailing our concerns about Alexander Belya. Your replies seem to discard all of our concerns as mere hearsay, so we are compelled to specify the two most glaring examples, putting aside some of the more personal ones. First, you received Belya in October 2019, after he was canonically suspended by his competent church authority on September 3, 2019. Any prior ‘general’ letter of release (which itself is not canonically normative) purportedly signed by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, our brother of blessed memory, would thus mean little to nothing from a canonical perspective, even if it were authentic. The fact of Belya’s suspension is beyond dispute, and (to our knowledge) he has not even appealed the canonical judgment as provided in the canons. You often point out that, while the Russian Church broke communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has not reciprocated this action and thus remains in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church. If this is so, how do you explain receiving a clergyman from a Church with which you are in communion without first resolving with that Church the matter of his canonical discipline? You stated that Metropolitan Hilarion ( and ROCOR, more generally ) never contacted you, but did you bother to make inquiries with them in light of this strange letter of release and knowing that the former Archimandrite was under suspension and investigation for serious canonical and ethical charges?
Second, Belya has brought a civil lawsuit against the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in direct violations of both Holy Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:1- 8) and the Holy Canons (Canon 9 of the Council of Chalcedon and Canon 6 of the First Council of Constantinople). This fact alone should prevent him from becoming a bishop. We cannot recall another instance in which a man has been proposed for consecration to the episcopacy in America and, by extension, membership in our Assembly of Bishops while carrying on such a clear and public violation of the canons. In addition to being blatantly uncanonical, this lawsuit threatens the legal interests of all our jurisdictions and, indeed, all hierarchical churches in the United States. The Roman Catholic Church has even offered their legal services to ROCOR because they realize the devastating consequences of such a lawsuit as this, which is being actively prosecuted by a cleric supposedly under your omophorion. We do not understand how you can endorse the episcopal consecration of the very man who is pursuing such an anti-hierarchical action against a fellow Orthodox jurisdiction, which could be detrimental to all of us – first of all, to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America!
Your Eminence, Beloved Brother in Christ, the issue we have brought to you is a simple one: will we function merely as a confederation of jurisdictions or as the Body of Christ in America? We are called to rise up to the challenges of this historical moment rife with civil discord, rejection of the evangelical commandments, famine, pestilence, and war. Our broken culture needs the Orthodox Faith, not a broken Orthodox Church in this land. This moment requires more from us hierarchs than simply a reassertion of our jurisdictional rights, especially when doing so harms our united witness to a land thirsting for the life-giving Faith ‘once and for all delivered to the saints.’
Once again, we ask Your Eminence and the Ecumenical Patriarchate to show an example of love and service, for the sake of all the Orthodox Christians of this land, and to uphold the canonical order bequeathed to us by the Holy Fathers, particularly when it comes to such a fearsome responsibility as choosing men for the Sacred Episcopacy. We reiterate our position, which cannot be compromised, that we cannot and will not concelebrate with Alexander Belya or his vicariate, and we cannot continue to participate in the Assembly if this man is elevated to the episcopacy and thereby, according to the Chambésy rules, joins the Assembly as a member. You are, of course, free to consecrate him; we, in turn, are free to avoid any dealings with him.
We offer our fervent prayers to the Holy Apostles for a renewal of the conciliar spirit manifest when they met in Jerusalem and declared: ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’ We ask Your Eminence to join us in this spirit of conciliarity and to work together in a manner that transcends the narrow interests of our separate jurisdictions.
With love and great esteem in Christ our Lord, we remain,
Your brothers and concelebrants,
Metropolitan Joseph, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central and South America
Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia
Orthodox Church in America
His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the USA.”
Elpidophoros Letter to the Assembly of Bishops
June 29, 2022
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
358 Mountain Road,
P.O. Box 5238
Englewood NJ 07631-5238
I greet you warmly with a salutation of peace and love in our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is with great sadness and some surprise that I received your letter dated June 27, 2022. As you may recall, I had announced the recent election of His Grace Bishop-Elect Alexander Belya of Nicopolis by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as his upcoming ordination, during our last executive committee meeting of the Assembly on June 16, 2022, and no one said anything or expressed any concerns nor opposition at the time.
The Assembly of Bishops is a unique place where Orthodox unity is fostered. In the 2020 Vision document, we all insisted that: “We commit ourselves to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3) by adhering to the principles of canonical order, of liturgical concelebration, and pastoral cooperation on every level of our Church life.” However, our work towards unity is contingent on our ability to preserve our independence, as our bylaws suggest: “The decisions of the Assembly shall not interfere with the responsibility of each Bishop for his eparchial jurisdiction, or restrict the rights of his Church…” (Bylaws, section 1.5) The same prescription was also repeated in the decision of the Holy and Great Council of Crete (2016) on ‘The Orthodox Diaspora.’ Thus, the decisions by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to allow the creation of a Slavic Orthodox Vicariate in America and to elect His Grace Bishop-Elect Alexander Belya of Nicopolis adhere to the same rule that applies to other Orthodox Churches in the country with vicariates or ethnic dioceses. In light of the above, even the use of the Assembly’s stationery for your correspondence could be considered inappropriate and in contradiction with the mission of the Assembly.
Dear Brother, I have always been completely transparent with you and all our brother hierarchs with regard to the incardination and recent election of His Grace Bishop-Elect Alexander Belya of Nicopolis. I have heard your concerns, however, having received all the necessary documentation, including a valid release letter from the late Metropolitan Hilarion, and in absence of tangible proof of misconduct, based on our very thorough diligence process – and not on rumors – his canonical incardination was processed.
Furthermore, I have never received any correspondence from our beloved brother the late Metropolitan Hilarion, of blessed memory, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) regarding issues with the then V. Rev. Archimandrite Alexander Belya. In comparable circumstances, I have always preferred direct contact and an open line of communication, just as we have had many opportunities to work collaboratively in the past. On the contrary, the Moscow Patriarchate and ROCOR have decided to withdraw from their participation in the work and life of the Assembly of Bishops over the jurisdictional situation in Ukraine. I had hoped that the current war and unjust aggression by the Russian Federation in Ukraine would have created a sense of solidarity and justice among us and recommitted us all to Orthodox unity in America. Regrettably, we witnessed the opposite effect, so that many of our brothers were unable to condemn the cruelty of this unjust and illegal war, and even worse, sought to silence the Assembly from speaking out against these horrific and unchristian actions.
Your Eminence, Orthodox unity is vital a priority of my ministry in this country and the Assembly is the essential vehicle for such unity. The many accomplishments over the last past years, the spirit of fraternal synergy and the collaboration that brought us together during the time of the pandemic, and the various missions through the agencies and organizations that rely on the Assembly for auspices should be our focus. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the Assembly continues its work, and it is my fervent prayer that you will sustain your commitment to this mission inasmuch as our witness in America is so dearly needed.
Praying that the Lord of mercy and compassion will inspire us to walk together on the way towards deeper communion, with unity being our ultimate witness to Christ’s sacrificial love, I remain,
With fraternal love in Christ,
ELPIDOPHOROS Archbishop of America