Deserving of a Second Look

Photo: Nikos Papachristou / Ecumenical Patriarchate

How would you like to wake up one day and find your bishop is now part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate?   

I’m not saying that’s what’s happening and everyone else who is reading the same poor translation below thinks it’s about the GOA charter, but some of the terms being use may deserve a second look.

Romfea writes:  “In the Patriarchate, today, January 13, 2023, the opening session was held under the chairmanship of Rev. Metropolitan Elder of Chalkidon, Mr. Emmanuel of the establishment of a competent ten-member Joint Commission on the subject of the revision of the current Constitution of the Holy Archdiocese of America. . .  The need for amendments to the text of the Constitution to serve the spiritual needs of the beloved Orthodox flock in America and for the purpose of strengthening unity within the Holy Archdiocese of America and its canonical bond after the Mother Church was recognized by all the members of the Committee of Constantinople, as well as the alignment of the liturgical act of the Archdiocese with the formal order of the Holy Church of Christ the Great. . .  It was decided that the work of the Committee will continue on Wednesday, March 8, in the Holy Metropolis of Chalcedon.”

Notice how they use the terms, “the beloved Orthodox flock in America” for the purpose of “strengthening unity within the Holy Archdiocese of America” (leaving out the word Greek, which they’re doing across the board now), and refer to a “constitution” and “aligning liturgical acts.”  Are they still talking about the GOA charter or something else?

History tells us Metropolitan Tikhon had several meetings with Elpi working on something connected with the new charter after the old one was abandoned.  The new charter, however, never got off the ground.  Not sure why Met. Tikhon would have been consulted on a charter that solely concerned the Greeks, which was the question we posed at the time.  Clearly, the new charter had something to do with the rest of the “flock” in America, too.

Has “the Mother Church” decided to take over America?  Maybe use of the word “our” means all of America, not GOA.   

Then there is the piece about strengthening the “canonical bonds of our bishops to the Mother Church.” 

Which bishops?  The GOA’s bishops are already canonically bound to the “Mother Church.”  What if the bishops that need to be canonically tied to the EP are the Assembly of Canonical Bishops, which are part of the diaspora, in Bartholomew’s mind.  Bringing them under him would support his contention he is “first without equal,” as opposed to “first among equals.” 

If you’re curious which bishops we’re talking about, here is a list. 

Under the bylaws of  The Assembly, Section 8.4 Contracts, says, “The Members or the Executive Committee [says members OR the Executive Committee; doesn’t say they have to reach a consensus] may authorize any Officers or agents of the Corporation to enter into any contract or execute and deliver any instrument in the name of, and on behalf of, the Corporation. Such authority may be general or confined to specific purposes or instances.

This means that Elpi can obligate the Assembly to whatever he wants, which is why I think he may have been so aghast when Met. Joseph sent him that letter on Assembly stationary telling him that he and his bros were not onboard with bringing in Belya.   

Then poof!  Metropolitan Joseph is forced into retirement over something he continues to deny that happened over 15 years ago.   

As recently as last night, someone from the Antiochian Archdiocese said that in addition to the three candidates being proposed for metropolitan, some were calling for Metropolitan Joseph to come back out of retirement. Not because there was anything wrong with the 3 bishops, necessarily, but if there were anyone who could stand up to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Joseph would be the one to do it. 

We have longed believed this was the impetus to get rid of him in the first place.  

Of course, apart of the EP’s delusional mind, the idea of Constantinople taking over the bishops in America is ludicrous, as our various and sundry patriarchs would not take kindly to Bartholomew rolling up their jurisdictions under anyone, let alone the EP with whom many won’t even commune. 

Frankly, without any supporting documentation, we don’t know what this committee is doing.

And this is why it is so dangerous to let Bartholomew say whatever he wants and ignore it.  Even agreeing to meetings in Chambesy, as part of the “diaspora,” was a mistake in my mind, because on paper it sets a precedent.

The same is true with allowing Bartholomew say he is the “spiritual father” of the Orthodox world and speaks for us.  In the legal arena, spoken and written words mean something if left unchallenged for a substantial length of time. 

I would highly encourage you to read our friend, Nick Stamatakis’, take on all of this.  Nick talks about the “Group Tax Exemption” and how it achieves specific goals:  “First, GOARCH is officially notified of all the donations that are given to particular parishes, and second, it is a practical step towards centralization, where the headquarters, especially in the framework of a legal battle, can prove that the parishes are subordinate entities.”

Seems “centralizing” is on their minds.   

To answer Nick’s question, yes, they seem to be taking actions to “centralize” the parishes in faith and ministry.  The question is how far are they trying to go?



  1. I dunno. I”m beating the same drum that I always do whenever I hear that the OCA will be merging with the GOA. Kind of a (very) stupid move for the OCA Holy Synod to unilaterally try and do something like that without a vote by clergy and laity at an All-American Church Council. I’m willing to bet that 85-90% of the OCA membership will not go along. I just don’t see it successfully happening. That’s my gut feeling from the trenches.

    • Constantine says

      With how the OCA’s structure works, any giving up of autocephally would require the vote of an All-American Council no matter what the bishops/synod may say otherwise. It won’t happen. For one we like our status. For another, we as Americans are too independently minded to subvert ourselves under a foreign patriarch that regards us as barbarians and doesn’t believe that an American culture exists. Frankly, we’d likely see a tarring and feathering of all the US OCA bishops before trading in our autocephally for second-class citizen status with a bunch of Greek chauvinists.

  2. Among the First Principles of Systemantics is:

    Systems tend to expand to fill the known universe.

    ‘ One of the problems that a system creates is that it
    becomes an entity unto itself that not only persists but expands
    and encroaches on areas beyond the original system’s purview. ‘

    The real world is what is reported to the system
    [The Fundamental Law of Administrative Workings (F.L.A.W.)]

    ‘ … the system has a severely censored and distorted view of reality from biased and filtering sensory organs which displaces understanding of the actual real-world which pales and tends to disappear. This displacement creates a type of sensory deprivation and a kind of hallucinogenic effect on those inside the systems, causing them to lose common sense. In addition to negatively affecting those inside the system, the system attracts to it people who are optimized for the pathological environment the system creates. Thus,

    Systems attract systems-people

  3. Austin Martin says

    I think you’re making more of this than there is. The OCA or AAA isn’t going to fold into the EP. People in positions of power want to keep their power.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      We could have said the same about Russia with respect to their Churches in Ukraine and even Russia could not stop them from wreaking havoc.

  4. Hilber Nelson says

    As a frequent visitor to this site, shaking my head in despair and disgust as I read post-after-post of hierarchs behaving badly, this question just won’t leave me alone: As shepherd-less laity, what is OUR duty before God? Seriously, I am in need of guidance here, folks, as doing nothing (except complain) feels more and more like committing the sin of commission.

    • Solidarity Priest says

      We all have to try to lead a life of prayer and repentance, we have to seek out true shepherds. There may come a time when many of us will have to worship in secret or travel many miles to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. For all I know, some men may have been secretly ordained priests or even consecrated bishops against a future when an underground church may be a refuge for many. We have Our Saviour’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. We must continue to trust in God. This means, in my admittedly flawed reasoning, attempting to follow the Royal Path. We shouldn’t either lose hope or become careless. We are coming to the Feast of the New Martyrs of Russia for those who follow the new calendar. I try to remind people of the words of St. Tikhon when he was put on trial by the Soviets. He was asked in court if he considered the laws of the Soviet Union obligatory. He answered,” Yes, to the extent that they do not contradict the laws of piety.”

    • Gail Sheppard says

      To answer your question, the laity is charged with protecting the Church. That is our duty. We’re not just passive observers.

      If you read our blog, you would know we aren’t complaining. Complaining is the expression of dissatisfaction or annoyance about something. What we do is inform. How are you going to change anything if you don’t see it?

      We only have one shepherd and that is Christ. Christ is the head of our Church and the rest of us work for Him. That includes our bishops, our priests, our deacons and everyone else who belongs to and supports the Church. The Church is more horizontal than vertical. Each of our roles support the other. We are one under Christ.

      What you don’t see is that things change behind the scenes. It’s not just the laity that reads this blog. The clergy does; in every diocese, we’re told.

      Because this blog has been in operation since 2009, we kind of form a hub for other people’s concerns, as well as our own.

      We write lots of thought pieces.

      I would characterize what we do more as commentary and education. We do a LOT of research. It feels like we’re writing the equivalent of term paper every few days. And we take what we do very seriously. When COVID and the vaccines hit we were way out ahead of others in terms of information because George and I, combined, have something like 70 years between us in healthcare. And even then, we didn’t do it in a vacuum. Many, many people also contributed. We get offered more stories than we can write or address.

      If all we were doing is complaining, we’d shut the blog down.

      • To answer your question, the laity is charged with protecting the Church. That is our duty. We’re not just passive observers.

        Amen, Gail. Many times throughout Church history it’s has been the laity who have preserved the Faith when our hierarchs sold it upstream or fell into heresy (Arianism, Florence). This is something I did not appreciate until after becoming Orthodox as there was no mechanism in Roman Catholicism (which I previously was) for the laity to preserve that faith.

        What we do is inform. How are you going to change anything if you don’t see it?

        Thanks be to God for Monomakhos, and Helleniscope and others like it.
        With the wide, pan-jurisdictional reach that Monomakhos has it can, and does, indeed have an impact (more than I’m sure we will know).

        Just as with every other heresy or calamity that has plagued the Church through the last 2,000, this too shall pass and this “-ism” will also go in the bin of history, maybe it will even be proclaimed Anathema at a future Sunday of Orthodoxy. Does it suck for us who are currently living through it? Yea, sure. But it also sucked for the other Orthodox Christians who lived through Nestorianism, Arianism, Sergianism, etc., what we CAN do is fight back and fight for the Faith because that is our job. If you admit defeat then the enemy has already won.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Remember what the Saints had to endure and yet they were still able to feel joy in the Faith. We can, too. It may not get better than this. We do what we can, keep connected, and not let it rob us of the Church.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Gail, the temptation here for me is to see the lust of power and control that fuels all of the evil as resident in someone else’s heart than mine. I can only do two things:
            1. Repent always
            2. Eschew the degradation of others
            If I fight with the same tools as the perps it becomes difficult.
            I call it my judgement cocoon. It tends to make me feel self-righteous and just contributes to the problem.

            The more I do that the less I am controlled by the sin. Repentance is the foundation of all liberty. Then finding how to do good but empowered by Holy Spirit not my own will. Mt 4:17

            It is not easy and I am just a neophyte. Quietism it is not, but the accusation is often charged.. To me it is going above the heads of the perps.

            Of course, sometimes it is necessary to be more direct but there too is more substance.

      • Hilber Nelson says

        Many Thx Gail for your thoughtful reply, and for Monomakhos. Your site is indeed an invaluable one-of-a-kind source of education and commentary I can’t find anywhere in my Antiochian Archdiocese (by design). Judging by the replies that followed my question (What is the duty of the laity?), it seems to have struck an accordant nerve among clergy and laity alike. A priest suggested trying to try to lead a life of prayer and repentance, and seeking out true shepherds. Another reader offered this: fight back and fight for the Faith because that is our job. Others: Keep connected. Inform. Gail, I think you said it best: the duty of laity is to protect the Church. Okay. I’m all in. Let’s do this. So, what’s the best course of action? What does “fight back,” “inform”, “connect”, and “protect” actually look like? Is it looking for “true shepherds” with the nerve to do lead? Writing the Board of Trustees? Withholding my tithe? Suggestions, folks, please.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Well, it means sharing information and how you feel about it. Everything you say here will be seen in all the dioceses.

          What you say will likely resonate with our readers and they’ll chime in. Some times good things come out of just that. If you have something you think we should post (write about), send it directly to George with your contact information, and if we can help, we’ll write something about it or even get a hold of someone in the Archdiocese to interview them about the matter.

          If you want to talk about something that was done right, we like to talk about that, too.

          In terms of what to do, it depends on what the issue is. You’ll get some feedback here and usually people offer suggestions if they have any.

          Welcome to Monomakhos family!

    • hi Hilber,

      hope all is well. i really liked what you said it’s been such a nightmare since august, and talk about losing sleep. we are all shaking our heads and losing sleep – the future of our archdiocese does not look good. but it’s nice to see familiar people on here – you and gail – still trying to connect with her. we are all very frustrated not knowing how to approach this mess or deal with it and i doubt our archdiocese will ever be whole and healthy again. i pray i am wrong, but it will take a miracle. nice to see you this past holiday. i flew home monday, coughing up a storm, and ended up getting tested for covid on tuesday. it came back positive wed., so i’m under quarantine until wed when i take another test. i am having mild symptoms and feeling better already. my best to all of your family and be safe in the snow if it comes back – very strange not to be covered in sow. samia

      • Gail Sheppard says

        It’s good to hear from you, Samia. I had hoped things had gotten better. Just protect the parishes to the degree you can. Maybe even write something up and have it notarized about where your parishes stand. Glad to hear you’re feeling better.

        • thank you Gail. so nice to hear from you. we all hope things will get better, but first people need to care more about each other. yes, we all have to protect each other – remember 2009 – desert storm in july. took me months to get over that nightmare, and now here we are back in another one. thanks for your good wishes for me. feeling better all ready, and hoping to be free from covid by mid-week or so. take care and be safe out there, my old friend. Samia

  5. Just a dad says

    Just curious – how were the 250 parishes identifed/selected/picked? I know little about the inner workings of the GOA (being of a different jurisdiction) – but I find it interesting that a quick scan seems to show the vast majority are in left-leaning states, I didn’t notice a single church in Florida or a few other “red states”.

  6. The Union of Orthodox Journalists on January 15, 2023, published an article entitled (in the Greek version), “Το Φανάρ θα περιορίσει την ανεξαρτησία της Αρχιεπισκοπής του στις ΗΠΑ,” meaning, “The Phanar will limit the independence of its Archdiocese in the USA.” The title seems to be an inference drawn from the text of the article which quotes from the text put out by Constantinople, including a reference to conforming liturgical practice to that followed in Constantinople.

    I believe the Greek version of the article was translated from either Ukrainian or Russia.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I’m sure this is a stupid question, but what does “I.” stand for?

      • I don’t understand the question.

        Do you mean “I” as in the sentence, “I believe the Greek version of the article was translated from either Ukrainian or Russia.” In that case, it refers to me.

        Otherwise, if that is not what you are asking, please let me know.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          The first sentence says: “All members of the committee recognized the need to amend the text of the Constitution of I. Archdiocese of America.”

          I think somewhere else I saw I.A. or A.I. I assumed A. stands for “Archdiocese.” Not sure what “I.” stands for. Does it refer to a certain part of the constitution?

          When one changes the name of an organization, especially a long-standing name, it can be a sign they are changing direction. It shocks me that they dropped “Greek” somewhere along the way, but everyone is now referring to them as “The Archdiocese of America.”

          And now this initial appears before the name. Twice. Wondering what it stands for.

          Thanks, Blimbax.

          • Okay, now I understand the question. The “I” is an abbreviation of the word “Ιερά” which means “Holy” in Greek. So “Ι. Ἀρχιεπισκοπή” means “Holy Archdiocese.”

            I’m not sure that in Greek the Patriarchate ever referred formally to the “Greek Archdiocese.”

            From the internet archive, see:

            This page from the Patriarchate’s website, from the time of Archbishop Demetrios in 2016, refers to the “Ἱερὰ Ἀρχιεπισκοπὴ Ἀμερικῆς,” i.e., the Holy Archdiocese [of] America. But it shows the link to the Archdiocese’s page as “,” in other words, “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.”

            I dug even further into archived pages of the Archdiocese’s pages, some of which in 2016 were in Greek as well as in English. Here is an example of a press release dated March 23, 2016. The English version refers to the “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America,” both in the title and in the body of the press release. [Note 1, below.] However, the Greek version refers to “Η Ιερά Αρχιεπισκοπή Αμερικής,” i.e., “The Holy Archdiocese [of] America.” There is no reference to “Greek” in the Greek language version. [See Note 2, below.]

            So it seems it is a matter of usage which goes back at least to 2016, and probably all the way back to the establishment of the Archdiocese in the early 1920s.




            • Gail Sheppard says

              Thank you!!! I so appreciate your thoughtful reply.

            • The Wayback Machine’s archive for this page on the Ecumenical Patriarchate website goes back to June 2010, and there too the name of the Archdiocese is given in Greek as Ἱερὰ Ἀρχιεπισκοπὴ Ἀμερικῆς, that is, “Holy Archdiocese of America.” Maybe the word “Greek” (in the Greek form of the name) was never dropped, because it was never there except in the English name of the Archdiocese?

              It might still be significant if they’re starting now to say in English what they’ve always said in Greek: that this is simply the Archdiocese of America, without an ethnic specifier.

          • Antiochene Son says

            My guess would be Ιερός (sacred).

            • Gail Sheppard says

              That’s what George said and that could be it, but maybe it stands for “Inaugural,” as in : “Inaugural Meeting of the Mixed Commission for the Revision of the Charter of the Sacred Archdiocese of America,” as this is the heading on the GOA website.

    • The original of this article would seem to be in Russian; the title of the URL (even of the Greek version) is Russian.

      When I went to look, a week-old article on the same site popped up talking about how Epifaniy is urging Ukrainians to quit praying to their patron saint and pick a new patron (switching to a different name day in the process), if their patron saint is Russian. That article is originally in Ukrainian, but does have an English version:


      • Gail Sheppard says

        And this is what Bartholomew ushered into the Church, at the behest of the State Department and Poroshenko, to get whatever they gave him in return, which was purportedly $25M.

        What is now the OCU, hates the canonical Church simply because Russia is a part of it. They hate it so much, they refuse to be ordained because it would tie them to Russia. Even the EP can’t mitigate this. He knew they’d never be ordained and brought them into the Church anyway. His actions split the Orthodox Church in two. Now, we’ve got the EP on one side of the fence and Russia on the other. The patriarchates are forced to choose sides with Alexandria, the Greeks and Cypress on one side and Russia, Antioch and the local Churches on the other with some wobbling in between.

        I can’t put the blame the schismatics for this. They were VERY clear where they stood with Russia and proved it with a mural (they call an icon) depicting a sword being shoved down the throat of a double headed eagle. It also depicted Filaret (they whited him out later), who continues to call himself a patriarch, because originally that’s what the EP promised him. At the 11th hour, Filaret was pushed aside, after the EP acquired his church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate. He took his church and then kicked him to the curb, telling him some nonsense that at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, he would be forever known as the Patriarch of Ukraine (kind of a nickname of sorts), which he still calls himself.

        The EP is a liar.

        He legitimized (or tried to) a group of people who had no interest in being a part of the canonical Church. They wanted leverage over the Ukrainian people by robbing them of their Russian parishes and monasteries, turning them into a United Nationalist Ukrainian church, which is what they should be calling themselves. They wear Orthodox robes and presumably say the prayers, but they’re not in the Church; in their minds, they ARE the Church and Russia and the local Churches are not part of it. They don’t acknowledge the canonical Church.

        This isn’t my characterization. This is how they view themselves. And again, they have not changed their position. They have been 100% consistent so this isn’t on them. They are not the liars. This is completely on Bartholomew.

        The canonical Church was the only thing holding Ukraine together and the EP’s unilateral decision, without the support of his brother bishops, provided the spark the separatists needed to ignite a war.

        The Russians didn’t invade Ukraine! Ukraine became weaponized. It would be like someone holding a gun to your head. If someone threatens you with a gun, and you shoot him first, that’s called self-defense. You’re not the aggressor. You had no choice.

        How was Russia supposed to react when NATO, the Pentagon with it’s 30+ biolabs, the EU, and most importantly the West and the United States, who has funded this war to the point where the U.S. is faced with having to raise our debt ceiling, suppose to do? I would say that’s pointing a gun at Russia’s head. Ukraine was weaponized against Russia with the most militarily powerful entities on the planet! Ukraine is so close to Russia it is still attached. In some places, there isn’t even a wooden fence to separate them.

        This is the honest truth. Russia could do nothing else. They had to protect themselves. They were not the ones holding the gun to someone’s head. Ukraine is a proxy for the West and they are the ones holding the guns pointed at Russia. This isn’t even about Ukraine. It never was. It was and is about starting a global war.

  7. Looking at the headlines, news sites, twitter, social media, etc. today, I was overwhelmed by the sense of insanity that is manifesting itself in the Western world. In such an environment, the main thing must be to preserve one’s common-sense rationality. Fortunately, my values and feelings about the world are not really materially different from the mores I inherited in the early 70’s living in the upper South. But being a gen x’er, I suspect that mine may be the last generation that actually received a sense of rational perspective from their upbringing. That would explain a lot.

    I mean, my father was half nuts, my mother was more centered; but really my sense of reality came from my grandparents’ worldview.

    It is like the West is collectively forgetting what it means to be sane.

    I keep this in mind when interacting with the news and popular media, long since having abandoned network or cable television to perdition. No doubt it is not coincidental that this collective lapse into insanity is happening at the same time as the empire is declining and the culture is self destructing.

    So beware, rabbit holes are multiplying even as we speak.

  8. Misha,

    We (Gen X) were arguably the last generation raised before electronic media became ubiquitous in the workplace. Remember when IT departments were just emerging and then became peer departments? Now they dominate entire institutions and industries. That, paired with my own 11-year separation from Western media followed by immersion in reading, truly widens the gap between my views and those of most others to a degree that is ordinarily insurmountable. We might as well live in a different country, except we share a language and lifelong familiarity with the US.

    • Wow you put it better than I ever could. Gen Xer here who feels the same

    • Yes, when you factor in the worldview angle of Orthodoxy, we are strangers in a strange land. All the more reason, IMHO, to investigate emigration as an option. When the society goes insane, so does the law. Better to seek a sane environment.

      This phenomenon of the last ideology (arguably) descending into madness is unlikely to have a soft landing or a happy ending, despite the best efforts of MAGA, Trump, DeSantis, etc. The corruption and madness are too comprehensive and exhaustive because they have no touchstone worldview to call a sane safe harbor. Glory to God for Holy Orthodoxy . . . most especially at this time when the hegemon is losing its grip and its mind.