The Great Debate That Never Was

Over the last few years, yours truly has been subjected to a barrage of emails from a certain fairly renowned  iconographer who fancies himself an ardent apologist for Istanbul.  (Now, I’m being charitable.) 

What’s been heaped on my plate by this fellow who calls himself Hagiographos [Iconographer] Elias Damianakis Archon Maestor of the Great Church of Christ, the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople is more like abject contumely with an added helping of Russophobia and special pleading.

Here is his latest “argument” in the literary format:

Like a gauntlet thrown down in a challenge to my honor, I have chosen to pick up this diatribe.  I wasted all of fifteen minutes reading it, highlighting its errors.  Rather than pick it apart in literary form, I asked him if he would consent to an interview and/or debate. 

He said, “review it yourself.”  I asked him again and again he refused, telling me “go ahead. ”

So to honor his request I will “go ahead” and debate him in his absence.

Before I do, please read the following paragraph which is a succinct analysis of what is behind this latest screed (as well as the pathetic agenda of Istanbul), courtesy of our fellow bloggers at Orthodox Reflections:

“. . . Another possibility to consider is that closer ties with the two major American denominations can give  Constantinople a geopolitical advantage in its rivalry against the Patriarchate of Moscow. While Archbishop Elpidophoros heads the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in the U.S., the fact remains that Orthodoxy is a tiny fish in a huge lake. Closer ties with the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church would enhance the Orthodox Church’s political influence.  Elpidophoros’ superior, Patriarch Bartholomew, like Byzantine Emperor John VIII who initiated the failed Council of Florence, finds himself surrounded and beleaguered by hostile forces.  The Patriarchate of Constantinople, after years of decline, finds itself confined to a few blocks in the predominantly Muslim city of Istanbul, Turkey.  It was only last year (2020) that the Turkish state converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque over Patriarch Bartholomew’s feeble protests.  [“Feeble”?  More like non-existent —Ed. note.] In 2019, in an impetuous exercise of quasi-papal power, Bartholomew unilaterally issued a tomos granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine leading to ruptured relations with Moscow. Currying the favor and good will of the United States can give Constantinople an added advantage against Moscow. Conversely, Constantinople’s rivalry with the Patriarchate of Moscow over Ukraine provides an opportunity to be exploited by the United States as part of its Great Game against Russia.”

Now, with the permission of the good Elias Damianakis, I offer the following polemic in video format.  

Part 1:

Part 2:  

And, as I wrote above (and reiterate vocally in Part 2), the offer for a real debate still stands. 


  1. I stopped reading here in the Archon’s talk:

    If for decades, legitimate autocephalous churches accepted, out of economia, the false status Moscow claims… namely autocephaly, is it not time now for akrivia to be reclaimed by the competent church? Regardless of whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate granted a tomos of autocephaly to Moscow, for which there is no evidence,

    It’s hard for me to tell what people are really thinking. I don’t know how much of such claims they themselves believe and how many of them believe this.

    • George Michalopulos says

      That’s a very good question. One could ascribe such petulance to immaturity, which is typical of men who have feelings of inferiority. Or it could be because of prelest. That is to say, spiritual delusion.

      As I replied in another comment of yours, the fact that the Phanar can’t see their hatred for what it is, puts them in the place of the Roman authorities who likewise persecuted the Church. You are correct, contrary to what the heterodox Protestants believe, Constantine did not create the Church –Jesus did.

      And woe be to those who kick against the goad.

      • His Archon page is here:

        Elias Damianakis, “Invested 2010, conferred offikion Maestor.”

        I saw your exchange from a few years ago:

        See also:
        Discern! Who is genuinely a spiritual man, and who is not.
        by Hagiographos Elias Damianakis, Archon Maestor, Great Church of Christ, June 9, 2019

      • It’s hard to judge people’s thinking and motives, and probably they themselves are not self reflective about it. I am thinking here about the CP and Abp. Elpidophoros. Perhaps to some extent Archon Elias’ thinking is reflective of theirs. Perhaps there is a wide range of thinking among Greeks and Greek Americans on these topics, with you and Archon Elias representing opposing ends (but certainly not the most extreme ends!).

        Certainly they would have gone to seminary and grown up with Church life, and spirituality would have meant something significant to them. Didn’t they both receive educations in the West as well? Certainly the Greek community and identity must be important to them.

        As I recall, it was Met. Emmanuel who studied for at least a year at St Alexander seminary in Rue Daru in France (AROCWE). A few years ago, I talked with a priest I knew who had been his professor from those old days. My priest-professor friend seemed surprised by the decision of Met. Emmanuel to disband the AROCWE, and I heard from a colleague of the seminary that it was surprising and at least a bit upsetting, the more so that they knew the people (eg. Met Emmanuel) personally.

        The Primate of Albania supposedly has known CP Bartholomew for a very long time. Perhaps they went to seminary together. Yet it seemed that the Primate of Albania’s correspondence with CP Bartholomew reached gridlock.

        Met. Emmanuel had a Town Hall online about 2019 with a Q&A section that ended a half hour early. It felt like the leader didn’t find it very appealing to answer increasingly critical questions.

        One complicating factor from my and your POV is that it seems like the CP has had some kind of latent, encroaching First Without Equals ideology since the early/mid-20th century, as with the CP’s acquisition of territories in Eastern Europe and America. In an interview, CP Bartholomew said that the basis for his purview of Ukraine is not the CP’s past medieval period relationship with Ukraine, but the CP’s position of First Without Equals, and as evidence gave the Tomos that he gave to the Church of Georgia, which he noted the CP never had purview over. CP Bartholomew would have been raised in the Constantinople Patriarchate himself and would have studied there, so these invasive precedents by the CP over the preceding decades would have been familiar to him. And this must represent some 100 year tradition of interpretation by Constantinople of its prerogatives over the Orthodox world.

        Certainly this must be a factor in affecting his thinking. That is, whereas you and I might consider First Among Equals to be Axiomatic for Orthodoxy, he might be immersed since his formative studies into the CP’s claims of supreme authority over all EOs. It would seem hard to disabuse him of this theory because in part he has a vested interest in it at this point.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          This will help fill in the gaps.

          The CP really believes this stuff.

          • Maybe their Patriarchate’s belief in this topic grew over time, because in the late 19th century they still took a position in a Synod rejecting First Without Equals ecclesiology.

            Then starting at least as early as the 1920’s, they started scooping up autonomous Churches outside their jurisdiction like Finland.

            Abp. Elpidophoros’ paper that you posted from this century gets pretty explicit and specific about the First Without Equals theory. I don’t know if back in the 1920’s the CP was very open about its claim to being head of all EOs.

          • The other issue is when they are formulating these arguments, how much of this do they actually believe. For example, Archon Elias says on his website that there is no evidence that the MP ever got autocephaly from the CP. I don’t know if he actually believes this kind of claim. It is hard to tell and sounds like bombastic assertions, like saying that “Catholics don’t believe in Jesus” or “Catholics pray to Mary like she is God” or “Muslims believe that Mohammed is God” or “Orthodox worship idols” or “Kissing a [painted flat] icon is worshiping a graven [engraved] image.” A lot of this kind of polemical stuff comes off as spiritually “dumb.”

            Overall, the claim of CP Supremacy does not work in my head because of how much in history the CP has – and even still – puts out information against it indirectly. Just today I read on the Ecumenical Patriarchate website:

            In reality, this exclusive right to sanctify the Holy Chrism of the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not mean that local churches are dependent and subordinate to Constantinople. This act of receiving the Holy Chrism from the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a tangible and visible sign of the amity and bond of local churches, patriarchates, and autocephalous churches with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.† It is a necessary sign, not a sign of superiority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church, but an existing visible sign of unity among the cluster of local Orthodox churches.


            How can I read and believe this paragraph and then go and believe that non-subordinate “autocephalous” Churches get subject to the CP’s unilateral decisions as “First Without Equals”. It does not come across as sane thinking.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              Your conclusion is spot-on: there is nothing “sane” about it. He has always caused drama and everyone looks away. And even when he passes, we will continue to be at the mercy of the EP. People like him covet positions of authority just because and no matter what they have it’s not enough.

              “On Saturday, January 22, the Ecumenical Patriarch received the Archpriests of the Church of Alexandria, who presented him with a letter from Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa regarding the case of the Moscow Patriarchate’s intrusion into the jurisdiction of the Alexandrian Throne.”

              Instead of talking about the letter, it immediately goes on to say, “In the afternoon of the same day, the Ecumenical Patriarch, accompanied by the above Hierarchs and by the Archdeacon Paisios, went to the headquarters of the Association of Children and Youth Housing Workers New Year’s vasilopita and addressed paternal speeches to the members of the Board of Directors.”

              Nothing about the letter.

              I saw the title of the letter a few days ago that said something to the effect that Alexandia regretted something. What? They took the letter down. What does Alexander regret: supporting Bartholomew, maybe?

              • “And even when he passes, we will continue to be at the mercy of the EP.”
                His successors don’t seem better, and it could be a situation where the current CP will look “more restrained” in contrast- Abp. Elpidophoros formulated the doctrine before CP Bartholomew openly accepted it, AFAIK. And you may be familiar with the contents of Abp. Elpidophoros’ speech at Hellenic College a few decades ago where he complains about the OCA, AOCNA, and Ephraimite monasteries.

                • Gail Sheppard says

                  I can just see that conversation: “So, what do you think about my “first without equal,” paper, Your Holiness of Holiness?

                  Yeah. Yeah! That’s the ticket.”


                  • Makes sense.
                    Not long after Abp. Elpidophoros was appointed to GOARCH, within about a year, I saw an announcement in the GOARCH parish bulletin about the annual national GOARCH youth speech/writing competition. The theme was the place of Constantinople in Orthodoxy. I took it as a fishing expedition + education of the youth about the CP’s importance. De Facto the “winner” is going to be giving lots of arguments favoring the CP’s special status among EOs.

                    Certainly much can be said about the special place of most or all Patriarchates in Orthodoxy. Arguably the JP should have the most prestige and leading role, at least IMO. Constantinople might argue that Greece became more important than the JP due to the Roman devastation of Jerusalem, as well as Byzantine Constantinople having a higher number of EOs, as well as being the imperial capitol.

                    However, all of those factors seem to fall away now. Istanbul is no Orthodox imperial Capitol. Turkey isn’t even an empire. According to what I saw online, Istanbul has 2000-20,000 Greeks. Wikipedia puts it at 3,000 in the year 2000. Jerusalem has about 15,000 Christians. And IIRC about 40-55 percent of Palestinian Christians are Orthodox Christian, the percent being higher if one counts Israelis due to immigration from Eastern Europe.

              • As I was looking for the Orthodox Times’ article on P. Theodoros’ letter, I saw this news article there:
                ((Bartholomew showed patience of a saint with the open revolt of Metropolitan of Adrianople for so many years now. Silent and motionless, like the hunter hidden behind the bush, when he comes accross the carelessly passing by wild boar, while waiting to open fire in one misstep. As soon as the new Archbishop of Crete was elected, he made the Metropolitan of Adrianople to “resign”. Whoever the newly elected Cretan was, the Metropolitan of Adrianople, Amfilochios, would be shunted aside. The reason for the beheading was the Archdiocese of Crete. By the spring, Bartholomew had already decided who was the chosen one. Eugenios of Rethymno. He had also informed the Prime Minister about his choice.))

                I don’t see the OCA or Russian Church talking this way, like Met. Tikhon or Pat. Kyrill acting like a boar hunter and beheading his bishops.

              • As I was looking for the Orthodox Times’ article on P. Theodoros’ letter, I saw this news article there, “The newly elected Archbishop of Crete “casted aside” the Metropolitan of Adrianople”:
                “Bartholomew showed patience of a saint with the open revolt of Metropolitan of Adrianople for so many years now. Silent and motionless, like the hunter hidden behind the bush, when he comes accross the carelessly passing by wild boar, while waiting to open fire in one misstep. As soon as the new Archbishop of Crete was elected, he made the Metropolitan of Adrianople to “resign”. Whoever the newly elected Cretan was, the Metropolitan of Adrianople, Amfilochios, would be shunted aside. The reason for the beheading was the Archdiocese of Crete. By the spring, Bartholomew had already decided who was the chosen one. Eugenios of Rethymno. He had also informed the Prime Minister about his choice.”

                I don’t see the OCA or Russian Church talking this way, like Met. Tikhon or Pat. Kyrill acting like a boar hunter and beheading his bishops.

                • Gail Sheppard says

                  Very weird writing for them. You know the State Department gave the Orthodox Times a sizable grant to get started on that website.

                  • anonsayswhat says

                    Still… must have been a really low budget. They hardly ever cite authors of articles. Poor writing in general.

                    The site is a joke, but maybe… maybe it’s worth looking at just to understand somewhat of the DS strategy in the Church.

                    At least we know now P. Bartholomew had bishops that were fighting against his actions.

                  • One has to wonder how they expect anyone to take them seriously if they don’t even proofread. Aside from the numerous grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, a lot of the sentences in the article just sound really strange.

                    Very interesting news that at least someone in the Phanar camp opposes the EP’s actions, though. Maybe there’s hope yet.

                    • I don’t see that this article shows evidence of opposing the EP’s actions. Seems to me they’re praising him for being a patient beheader.

                    • Jesse, I think he’s referring to the recently-shunted Metropolitan of Adrianopolis, who seems to have been taken down a peg or two by the EP.

                    • Bartholomew showed patience of a saint with the open revolt of Metropolitan of Adrianople for so many years now.

                      Basil got what I was referring to. Not suggesting he’s actually opposing the EP on anything of particular importance to the rest of Orthodoxy like Ukraine or Eastern Papism.

                      Another poorly-written article (linked below) suggests it was about who has power over the Church of Greece, and the CP was actually the moderate here and wanted to allow them more independence than the former Metr. of Adrianople, who wanted his own personal exarchate. All assuming the Orthodox Times is to be believed.

                      Either way, it tells me that there’s discord in Constantinople, not everyone is in lock-step, and that Metr. Emmanuel of Bulgarian stallion fame and possible successor to the EP has enemies internally, all of which can’t be a bad thing for the rest of us under the circumstances.

                    • Hm, the link text didn’t show up. It should work this time.

                • Quote: “Bartholomew…does not forgive.”

                  How Christian…not!

                • That’s really creepy.

              • Where did you remember seeing the title of the letter?
                In Orthodox Times?

                The RISU website talks about the Alexandrian Patriarch’s “announcement” and gives details, but it seems that this specifically refers to his January 12 decisionmaking on the topic, not to the recent letter from the AP.

          • George Michalopulos says

            yeah, this is what happens when one plays too many Byzantine gaymes.

          • Heresy metastasizes. Starts small, but due to its malignant nature it snowballs. That was the case with Rome and is the case with Constantinople.

            Sine paribus is the original Roman heresy accepted and repackaged. “Because I said so.” is about as cogent and explicit a summary as one can muster. What is the motivation behind this assertion? On the one hand, power. On the other hand, order.

            Order is the asserted rationale, in so many words. Соборность cannot be controlled. It is the expression of the Holy Spirit. Attempting to place primacy over it is the very definition of heresy, “I (alone) choose”. The Phanar (and the Romans) get it exactly backwards. The authority of the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem did not come from Peter or Paul or Barnabas or James. It came from conciliarity, соборность, “catholicity”.


            Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

            Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.”

            • Gail Sheppard says

              Heresy metastasizes, indeed.

            • I don’t know how early the Roman supremacy started.
              Clement I in his 1st epistle advised Corinth to submit to their apostolically-appointed elders in Corinth over what was apparently a dispute, although Corinth was out of his jurisdiction. But he didn’t openly assert that he had the authority to direct Corinth to submit.

              St Irenaeus made a declaration about Rome’s episcopacy that seems that it could be used to indirectly support Papal Supremacy. But it seems open to interpretation in that regard. At the end of the second century there was the Quartodecimian Controversy and the Pope, I read, wanted Asia Minor to submit on it, as if his authority should decide the issue.

  2. Lol, this dude has the emotional maturity of an adolescent. My favorite is when he makes memes quoting himself 😀

  3. At some point people have to quit taking these people seriously. They only pretend to believe what they say because it’s their job.

  4. People like this will never debate. They’ll whine and moan about debating but when it comes down to brass tacks they’ll make up every excuse under on God’s green earth to not have to do it.

    This same thing happens when people call out Jay Dyer, he challenges them to a debate, then they resort to name calling.

    Rats scatter when light is out on them.

  5. Ronda Wintheiser says

    What a pretentious name.

    Kind of tells you everything you need to know…

    Wandering around on his blog, I saw a scurrilous meme about Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov and “Russian propaganda”. I’m in the midst of reading the Metropolitan’s book EVERYDAY SAINTS And Other Stories. How anyone could read that book and call the author a sociopath is beyond me…

  6. George,

    Don’t let them get to you, buddy! You can’t wake someone who is only pretending to sleep. It seems strange to sane people like us to the point of being surreal that people wish to clothe themselves in lies, projecting them as if they were the truth, and neglect to explain or defend their assertions in detail.

    If the basis of your claim to power and action is a lie (sine paribus), then you will by necessity spin a web of lies to sustain and defend it. How could it be otherwise? Reality, demonstrable facts, not only do not militate behind your assertions but they serve to dismantle them. So you are left with specious reasoning and grand generalizations raised to the level of substantive evidence.

    For us, who do not fear the truth, the task is not to get entangled in the twisted web of lies offered by the evil one. George, some believe there is no truth or reality at the bottom of it all and that the universe is just whatever we want it to be, a projection of will. All we need do is cover it in flowery talk and erudite sounding prose and Our Reality will be respected. For at rock bottom, there is nothing. That is the real meaning and consequence of atheism.

    But God is.

    “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” – from Acts 17, bold added.

  7. Wow, that’s some title he has: “Hagiographos [Iconographer]….Archon Maestor of the Great Church of Christ, the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople.” Does this gentleman realize that the ‘Ecumenical Throne’ is composed of porcelain these days, and has a handle on the side…and running water?!

    • Someone should inform him that having a more pretentious title than one’s boss isn’t good for job security.

  8. All jokes that I could make about the long title aside, the sad part is that I understand where he’s coming from. Despite not being ethnically Greek I’m a big hellenophile and love the Greek church, the Roman legacy, the way the EP keeps the ancient forms and titles of the Imperial City, everything about the See of St. Andrew. In other words, I want to be on the Patriarch of Constantinople’s side. I just don’t let that blind me, and I think that’s where Mr. Damianakis gets lost.

    Considering the EP has partially filled the power vacuum left by the Emperor I’d even be willing to overlook a certain amount of primus sine paribus overreach (up to a point) if he’d actually act Orthodox. That is, if he’d use whatever power he claims to have to uphold and defend the Tradition and Christian values of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church around the world. You know, depose liberal bishops, unilaterally abolish the new calendar, crack down on liturgical innovations, stand up for parishes which resist Covid-related government mandates contrary to our faith, things like that.

    Sadly, as much as I love the office and the tradition behind it, HAH Bartholemew between his ecumenism, modernism, secular agenda, and actions in Ukraine has made it impossible to follow him. There’s only so much cognitive dissonance one can take when he’s so blatantly on the wrong side of a conflict leading to a major break in communion within the Church. May the Lord lead him back to Orthodoxy.