Whither the Episcopate? Thoughts on COVID & American Ukrocephaly

King David, surrounded by Wisdom and Prophecy.  Byzantine Psalter 10th century.

Putting wisdom prophecy aside, an esteemed priest of my acquaintance sent me a rather dire assessment of the Christian episcopate. 

Let me quote him verbatim: 

“I am struck, indeed overwhelmed, these days, by a crushing, almost unbearable thought:  There is not one bishop in the world right now, not one, of whatever church, who has today the same authority he had a year ago.

“And I have no idea how the People of God will recover from this vast exhaustion of authority.  I can’t think of any other time in Christian history that this was the case.” 

The critique in question has to do with the episcopal response to the COVID hysteria.  To my mind, it can even be distilled down to this one, crucial (and regrettable) mistake:  back in late February, our bishops agreed with secular authorities that our services were “non-essential”.  That means that the Eucharist was non-essential.  And so they came up with complicated rubrics to restrict our participation in worship. 

They even instructed the priests to lock the doors.  You read that right.  To prevent the people of God from attending their local parish.  To praise and worship God.  And to fellowship with their fellow Christians.  Something Christians have been doing for 2,000 years.  Even when it meant worshiping in a rude house, a catacomb or even a sewer. 

In any event, COVID became an excellent pretext to get the Assembly of Canonical Bishops in America (ACOB) to come together in order to meet this pandemic head on.  And also to craft a plan for Orthodox “unity” in America.  Word on the street is that the new charter an “autocephalous” American Church is ready to go.  The only thing that’s waiting is for its official roll-out.   

I will not hesitate to tell you that Gail and I have been having disagreements about this.  I am under the impression that there are in fact, severe roadblocks which will prevent the unification of American Orthodoxy —especially if it means being subject to Istanbul.  Gail, with her women’s intuition on the other hand, believes differently.  By her lights, the forced unification of the American jurisdictions under the heavy hand of Patriarch Bartholomew is a fait accompli

Since we could not agree, we decided to talk to a third party for his insight and so we called a priest of our mutual acquaintance.  This man thinks the reality at this point is somewhere in between but that the “gravitational pull” towards unification is inexorable.  In fact, the roadblocks which exist, are being removed one by one.  Gail in other words, was on to something; that is to say that the trajectory is towards unification and under Istanbul’s terms.  Under this scenario, the OCA would either be merged with the GOA and the other ethnic jurisdictions be reduced to the status of ethnic vicariates.  

As unappealing as this picture will be to many, especially in light of the violence that has been unleashed by Bartholomew in Ukraine, a careful reading of the tea leaves would seem to vindicate Gail’s (and our friend’s) assessment.  For instance, Metropolitan Joseph al-Zahlaoui of the Antiochian jurisdiction, has moved in lockstep with the GOA in regards to his recent directives regarding the pandemic.  After his most recent meeting with Mike Pompeo, one gets the distinct impression that he has thrown in the towel. 

Indeed, Pompeo has done yeoman’s work traveling all over the world, bending the arms of Orthodox primates, trying to get them to accept the new Orthodox world order.  Having said that, the State Department is under no illusions that all will be happy with this arrangement.  He and his successors don’t care.  As far as they are concerned, it will be “my way or the highway”. 

This is already being played out in Ukraine, where Patriarch Bartholomew is more than willing to anathematize those Christians of the canonical Church if they don’t submit under the authority of Epiphany Dumenko, the false “metropolitan” of Kiev.  Therefore in the eyes of the world, those Orthodox who do not go along with this new order are not legitimate and their prelates will have no recognized authority.  

So much for freedom of religion.  

You may remember about 18 months ago, we broke the story that the OCA was going to go under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  It was an explosive story (to say the least), yet Monomakhos would not have published without recourse to two credible sources.  Almost instantaneously, the phone lines to Syosset and the various diocesan chanceries were melting down in anger and bewilderment.  The commentary on this blog reflected outrage as well.  In any event, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was incorrect. 

On the other hand, another person told told me that the story was “mostly correct” but that in breaking it, we had bollixed up Syosset’s plans.  Gail was even in communication with one bishop who heatedly told her that we wrong.  His rebuke however, was telling:  that whenever “discussion” of unification with the GOA had come up, the Holy Synod had immediately swatted it down.  

Since then, things have cooled down somewhat.  Archbishop Elpidophoros Lambrianides (the putative “Metropolitan” of the new, united, ukrocephalous “Orthodox Church of all-America and Canada”) has gone on various charm offensives, paying a visit to Syosset where he  graciously venerated the North American saints.  (He has also gone on some offensive marches as well.)  Nor has he hesitated to flex his muscles within the GOA; late last year he suspended an actual metropolitan and transferred another one to an extinct diocese in Anatolia.  If nothing else, this showed the world that the office of “metropolitan” as far as the GOA was concerned, was meaningless and that in short order, all of the existing metropolitans (in the GOA) would be replaced by bishops, one way or the other.  

The ink is not yet dry on the new cross-jurisdictional charter but based on his hyperactivity, one can tell which way the wind is blowing.  Dioceses and “provinces” have already been drawn up and various new ethnic vicariates are in the offing.  In fact, the GOA will go to whatever lengths necessary to maintain the illusion of ethnic vicariates, no matter how comical.  Consider for example the Palestinian/Jordanian vicariate:  all of its parishes have been released from this vicariate save for St George Cathedral in the San Francisco Bay area.  (This one, lone church will constitute the Palestinian/Jordanian vicariate in its entirety.)  

As to the phronema of the new “American Orthodox Church” we don’t have to strain our minds too much.  Already, Lambrianides has floated many trial balloons, all of which have been of a progressive nature.  His social schedule has been a busy one.  He has been photographed at a Greek-American gala with two men who are “married” to each other; he has also marched with a terrorist organization.  And he has openly groused that the non-Orthodox spouses of Orthodox Christians can partake of the Eucharist, and so on.  (The last thing by the way, is a way to get around the whole gay “marriage” thing.)  And then there was the multiple spoon kerfuffle.   

All of the above has filled those of a more conservative bent with dread.  But what could we expect from a man who described himself as a “sunflower”?  A primate who follows the whims of a patriarch who told the world thirty years ago that “generally speaking, the Orthodox Church is pro-life”?

When one sees how positively giddy the Ecumenical Patriarch was that Biden (a self-described “devout Catholic” who believes in late-term abortion and gay “marriage”) was elected President, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see that the new “autocephalous” American Church will be in perfect harmony with the worldliness of the American Catholic Church and the other Protestant denominations. 

The authenticity of actual belief in the tenets of the Orthodox faith are beside the point.  The illusion of Orthodoxy as a modernist institution is all that matters as far as our secular elites are concerned.  To get to the nub of it, they are dead set on creating an American Orthodox Church that can be a counterweight to Russia’s, no matter how ridiculous it looks or how out of step it is with traditional Orthodoxy. 

And for this, all we have to do is sign on the globalist dotted line.  Money and resources will flow to this new “church”.  Those ethnic jurisdictions who go along with this new order will suddenly find themselves flush with cash.  I imagine that the remuneration packages of pliant bishops from the non-GOA jurisdictions will be equalized.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that the priests within those jurisdictions will not be so fortunate.  In fact, I foresee the closure of many of the more penurious parishes being closed down and sold.

COVID, if nothing else, has bound the primates of the American jurisdictions closely, almost at the hip.  All rather neatly if you ask me.  

While it has augmented their power regarding rubrics, regulations, and protocols, it has done so at the expense of their moral authority.  It will be hard to see how an American Orthodox Church, one united under the globalist mindset of Istanbul, will be able to be taken seriously as an authentic local Church.    


  1. Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

    George, I can predict with confidence that a “united” American “autocephalous” church under the ultimate omophor of the current Patriarch of Constantinople will not include ROCOR or the Patriarchate of Moscow’s “Patriarchal Parishes” on this continent. If we become the only authentic, traditional, and faithful remnant of Holy Orthodoxy on this continent, then so be it.

    • Father I believe this is true. I believe that God has allowed multiple jurisdictions in this country for this very reason, so there is a safe harbor for the faithful. ROCOR seems to be the anchor in our storm tossed county.

    • Father,

      I definitely agree. I appreciate George’s post on this topic. Though his post definitely exudes the angst of those faithful Christians who continue to have some skin in the game of the GOA and/or OCA (and maybe the Antiochians). Many of us who left the GOA/OCA etc a while ago just don’t have skin in that game any longer.

      St John Maximovitch drew me and my family to ROCOR, for almost a decade now. I fully believe that ROCOR is the home for English-, Spanish-, and French-language faithful Orthodox Christians in North and South America.

      Though I continue to view it as tragic, the OCA’s and GOA’s slow-paced implosion has been in the works for a long time.

      As I’ve heard Met. Jonah say, the “fait accompli” will be when Patr Bartholomew declares the saintly Met. Onuphry and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church “uncanonical.” Yes, get that – anyone who knows the saintliness of said hierarch and the love that his flock possesses for him, well, it’s simply ridiculous that Patr B could declare him and the UOC “uncanonical,” for so many reasons, both on a pastoral level and on an ecclesiastical level. The farcical nature of “Epiphany Dumenko’s” church is but one example.

      Once Patr B declares Met. Onuphry and the UOC uncanonical, Patriarch Kyrill and the Russian Church will have no choice but to anathematize the Church of C’ple. Once that’s done, the lines are drawn. The only way back from an anathematization is by a deathbed confession.

      Once those lines are drawn, in the (I hate this term) “diaspora” areas of Western Europe, the Americas, and Asia (even Africa), there will be two arms: those Churches in communion with Russia, and those not.

      It will be a “Great Schism” of the 11th century part deux, where the only way back into the Church is — just like it is for Roman Catholics and protestants now — to “return to communion with the Church.”

      If/when the above happens, those aligned with Patriarch B will have placed themselves outside of the Church. End of story. It’s similar to if an Orthodox Christian gets married in a non-Orthodox wedding ceremony — the Church doesn’t remove you from communion with it, you’ve done that yourself!

      There will be a tremendous amount of pastoral compassion for those caught in the middle, I’m sure. Undoubtedly, the Russian Church/ROCOR and its dioceses will make it as simple as possible for faithful Orthodox Christians and parishes to return to the bosom of the Church.

      This is no doubt awful, but I just don’t have the “OMG I can’t believe this is going to happen” drama about it. It’s been in the works for years.

    • Reader David says

      And if these shenanigans continue, I for one will become part of the MP/ROCOR jurisdiction as well.

  2. Dear George and Gail,

    This is certainly not a surprise to me, given the Great Capitulation of the American hierarchs to the not-so-great god COVID-19, and as with so much other news of and about the United States, most of it is so bad that I find it difficult to even write my own pieces with the Duran. This is surely the hour of darkness for the US, and potentially for the world, or at least it is the beginning of that hour of darkness.

    My spiritual father has long said that eventually (Orthodox) Christians will need to isolate themselves and live in walled communities to keep the world away. As with so many other things he has stated, it appears this prediction will necessarily take shape.

    I think the decision point lies with each one of us. Our hierarchs, God bless them – I know some of them in the US and I like them all personally, but they are compromised. We all helped that happen by assuming they “could not” fall because of their position. That is and has always been wrong.

    As it was in the Soviet Union, the Church will find most of her strength from the steadfast faith of her people. Most of us who considered ourselves members of the Church prior to COVID will not be in the group that maintains the true church. Most parishes will cave to the world, making “split the bill” compromises to stay open. We may face large communities of Orthodox Christians who are united in faith but without a pastor or perhaps, priests and deacons ordained in secret, similar to the situation in the Soviet Union.

    I think the sellout is too complete to just “make better”, but I also think that the hierarchs will not be able to withstand the pressure – their only hope is the laity, and unfortunately, the question here is how many hierarchs have personally given into clericalism, thinking they are “above” the laity rather than accountable TO the laity in the Holy Spirit.

    Prayers for you guys and for the readers of this site, and I ask yours as well, In Russia it is a bit better, but there are similar signs of this Great Apostasy taking place here, too. Right now, thankfully, it is not as much, but there are disturbing elements afoot.

  3. This seems like a robust assessment.

    What happened to all the parishes in the Palestinian vicariate? Did they go under the local GOARCH bishops or elsewhere? I know a couple are now in ROCOR (Fr. John Peck and his missions), but the rest…?

  4. All very interesting. Though, I’m still not convinced that they can get this ‘merger’ passed by the OCA clergy and laity at an All-American Church Council. (Then again, strange things do happen.) I’ll be seeing my own bishop soon, so I’ll have yet another conversation with him about this. He’s known to be a straight shooter, so I have faith in what he says.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Good point, Alex.

      I remember one previous All-American Council back in 2008!

    • “I’ll be seeing my own bishop soon, so I’ll have yet another conversation with him about this.”

      Keep us posted on what he says!

  5. EcuManiacal Patriarch says

    I’ve read it mentioned that in this shuffle the conservative part of the OCA will go to ROCOR. This is already happening with the laity but don’t count on the priests! They locked their doors and refused to give the mysteries to the faithful. To be sure, COVID-19 has been the best thing that ever happened for the ROCOR parishes that never shut down, never stopped providing the Mysteries to the faithful with unmasked priests breathing in the confessions of unmasked parishioners, chalices kissed, everyone sharing the same spoon at Holy Communion, icons venerated and kissed, etc etc etc etc. The OCA calls these priests and those who support them “snake handlers”. The OCA’s jealous slander of Fr. Peter Heers has also solidified the cuckery of the OCA.

    • Mary Lowell says

      What is Fr. Peter Heers’ jurisdiction?

      • He’s back in Greece (mountain village) now with his Greek wife and family and teaching from his Patreon platform.. Also see his site http://orthodoxethos.com and its youtube channel. It’s lovely to see and hear a bit about his easy visits to Mt Athos as well. And he now has access to many Patristic teachers as well. Being near Mt Athos or Met. Onouphry in the Ukraine or Met. Limassol in Cyprus or at any Elder Ephraim monastery here is quite strengthening! Methinks…

        • Is Fr. Peter still active? His last posting is over a month old and it was “part 1” and it would seem that part 2 should follow soon.

          • https://youtu.be/JY9Vxs-QmSk
            Just watched this interview with Fr Peter. Highly recommend

          • Hi Dan. Fr Peter was teaching 3 online classes a week all with valuable Q & As and excellent Patristic printed materials ~ at 4 am his time ~ until just before Nativity and is prepping for the upcoming semester. If your join his Patreon channel there is also an Orthodox Forum to interact with others.

    • ROCOR and Moscow aren’t separate in any meaningful sense -it’s one Russian Orthodox church. In Moscow/ROCOR and other jurisdictions, like the Serbian, clergy and laymen alike wore masks. They social distanced. Many parishes still do. Patriarch Kirill himself told people not to go to church. Same thing goes with Antioch. Nothing about COVID-19 strictures implemented into church life is unique to the OCA or the Greeks. It’s not even uniquely American.

      • EcuManiacal Patriarch says

        ROCOR is absolutely separate in meaningful ways. We correct their “chrismation only” receptions into the Church and our Metropolitan blesses priests individually to do everything they can to stay open and serve the faithful. Moscow doesn’t do this.

        To the poster above: Fr. Peter Heers is under the Greek Church in Greece.

        • As goes Moscow, so goes ROCOR. ROCOR consists of approximately 1 million people. The Russian Church INSIDE Russia consists of 160+ million. The emigre church and the Mother church are one. ROCOR is about as “separate” from Moscow as the way different dioceses within Moscow are separate from each other. This-or-that-bishop.

          • “The emigre church and the Mother church are one.”

            ROCOR was independent from 1920 to 2007. 14 years of reunion hasn’t removed the institutional memory that they were able to stand alone for 87 years on sheer principle, and could do so again.

          • EcuManiacal Patriarch says

            I’m sorry you have a false understanding of ROCOR being in lockstep with the MP. The current ROCOR hierarchy isn’t even made up of Russians. They are citizens of whatever country they were born in who also speak Russian. In America they are all Americans or, as in the case of Met. Hilarion, Canadian. Also, ROCOR never recognized OCA “autocephaly” and were not required to when the union was negotiated. Slavonic is being used less and less in ROCOR and English is rapidly becoming the exclusive language in the services. That’s a huge factor. We are an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church and we negotiated our continued existence when Ukaz 362 stipulated that we were to dissolve when communication could be reestablished with the higher Church authority in Russia. I could go on.

  6. Ella Marie says

    In corona world, priests lock the church doors, except for the almost daily funerals…parishes cancel fundraisers…yet the tributes are still due 15 mar…plus 25% late fee, even without a Charter …“united” or not, the influential few pay their bills and drive policy…lovely thing our ancient faith…survivor of persecutions, wars, illiteracy, voodoo, plagues, unclean hands ..aided by sanitization of communion spoons and doorknobs, but not opening hearts and minds, or liberating spirits or tranquility
    Without mentioning names or titles, the Lowerarchs, as someone said, address questions about the cv, or any other issue, with a swift unfriend…they never waste an opportunity to promote mis/distrust, when you educate and minister. Alienation of faithful, particularly mothers of young children, baffles me. So, who will pay tributes in future?

  7. If the OCA ceases to exist, the Russian Church has the right to continue its ministry in America freely, correct?
    If so, there inevitably will be one Russian Church in America again, greater than the Metropolia, that will flourish with faithful.
    That was the goal all along, to get the Russian Church out of the way of this project.

  8. All traditional Orthodox Christians will need to find a ROCOR parish. For some it will be a long drive and they will only be able to attend once a month (or less).

    If the Reader is accurate and Russia is also becoming compromised. ROCOR will need to separate from them once again.

  9. Kirill Berinov says

    I hope the MP or ROCOR will accept OCA parishes which refuse to participate in this heresy !

    For most of my mature years I have observed the downhill slide of various institutional forms of the Church with which I have been involved, and each time there has come a breaking point at which I could take no more and, refusing to support the new agenda, I fled. (Interestingly, in each case the moral rot has begun with the bishops.)

    I feel for our dear OCA Priests, who are no doubt now pondering the big question, “WHAT WILL I DO IF SYOSSET SELLS US OUT ? “

  10. You can bet that Abp. Elpidophoros feels the same way as Abp. Soterios:


    Gail, I hope you all are right that the Monasteries will be leaving GOARCH.

    I agree with EcuManiacle, I think COVID is the best thing that could have happened to ROCOR (and the Serbians and Georgians too I’m sure). Moscow should really think about merging its patriarchal parishes with ROCOR. This plus the previous two mentioned jurisdictions will be the Orthodox safe-haven. I’m afraid if the Elder Ephraim monasteries don’t leave GOARCH then people will stop going to them, I unfortunately will be one of them. I also know a family that lives near one of them and will stop going.

    Same with the OCA. My parents go to an OCA parish and them and other people have left to start going to the ROCOR parish in the same city. And this is in the Diocese of the South. I feel that is this probably being mimicked across the country.

  11. Anonymous II says


    From the article:

    Those who reject the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s claim to being “First Without Equals” rend the robe of Christ, lack an ecclesial consciousness, and are deserving of the title of Orthodox “Taliban,” Archbishop Sotirios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada believes.

    In an article published on the Archdiocesan website on January 15, “Are There ‘Taliban’ in the Orthodox Church? On the Absence of an Ecclesial Consciousness,” the Archbishop argues that anyone who does not wait to hear the true voice of the Church coming from Constantinople is full of “luciferian egoism.”

    If you read certain Orthodox blogs, whether by Patriarch, hierarchs, priests, elders, or monks, you can see that the authors “lack love, peace, prudence, humility and judgment,” the Archbishop begins. Such authors are “self-proclaimed adherents of the Church,” and “One wonders whether these authors are really Orthodox Christians.”

    “Above all, they lack an ecclesial consciousness,” Abp. Sotirios declares.

    They must not remember the words of Christ, that we are not to judge, that divided kingdoms cannot stand, and that the love of many grows cold where lawlessness abounds, the Constantinople hierarch writes.

    For Abp. Sotirios, the universally-recognized status of “first among equals” ultimately makes no sense. “When he who is first presides over a Holy Synod (of a local Autocephalous Church or of a Patriarchate), can someone else be considered first (or equal) to him? When the leading hierarch presides over an Ecumenical Council, can someone else be first (or equal) to him?” he asks.

    Interestingly, the Archbishop then essentially makes the argument for “first among equals” when he writes: “Is it not the teaching of the Church that in a Synod—any Synod for that matter—he who is first does not decide alone but respects the majority of members? Is it not equally true that neither the members can decide on their own?”

    Thus, the first cannot act alone, thoguht the Archbishop fails to note that that is precisely what Constantinople did in invading Ukrainian Church territory, and what the primates of Alexandria and Cyprus did in recognizing the schismatics.

    But while the first cannot act alone, nor can the members of a Synod meet and act without the first. “Such a meeting would be an unlawful assembly or an uncanonical plot. Is this not the true teaching of the Orthodox Church?” Abp. Sotirios writes.

    Those who understand and adhere to the teachings of the Church “do not tear the robe of Christ. They do not place themselves above the Church. They do not allow their egotism to dominate and make them believe that they are infallible.”

    However, “all kinds of Orthodox ‘Taliban’ in the Orthodox press—to the extent that we can speak of a truly Orthodox press” present different opinions, and this “cannot be allowed to stand,” the Toronto hierarch asserts.

    Some people try to interpret the will of God through their own egotism, and only repentance can fix that. “Orthodox Christians, whoever you are, you need to develop humility, prudence and an ecclesial consciousness,” Abp. Sotirios advises.

    Those who possess a truly Orthodox phronema do not write on blogs, but wait to hear the true voice of the Church, which comes only from he who presides over a Synod or the Synod’s official representative. On the pan-Orthodox level, this would be the Patriarch of Constantinople.

    “Everything else is the noise and racket of non-Orthodox voices brought on as a result of luciferian egotism,” the Archbishop concludes.

    See: https://orthochristian.com/136988.html

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I have no words.

      • George Michalopulos says

        I do: they’re penned by. Compromised man who is living in a papalist delusion.

      • Truly sad how delusional they are.

        When (I think he will indeed do it) Bartholomew decides to effectively excommunicate the canonical Church in Ukraine that will be his 1054 moment with the rest of the Church. It will essentially be the modern equivalent of the papal representative excommunicating the patriarch during the Divine Liturgy in 1054

    • If it were not so awfully sad, it would be downright comical. You just have to laugh (or cry).

      When the leading hierarch presides over an Ecumenical Council, can someone else be first (or equal) to him?”

      That qualifying phrase assumes that there is a council – something his first without equal refuses either to call or participate in. Instead, we eagerly await the “Orthodox” dictates to descend upon us from the great monarchical throne.

      Lord have mercy!

      • “When the leading hierarch presides over an Ecumenical Council,
        can someone else be first (or equal) to him?”

        If he were to unite with Rome,
        how would that play out, I wonder?

    • Well, you can call me Osama bin Basil, then.

    • Is Archbishop Soterios

      Really serious?

      It wasn’t we who thunk the thoughts

      That hatched the plots

      That does the deeds

      That Evil needs.

      Soterios’ mind can’t be clever!

      Now I’m Osama bin Whatever???

  12. And you wonder why there was a ‘reformation’. 500 years ago? Looks as if the same thing is happening again. All the conjecturing seems to leave out what God wants of us.
    What are things God doesn’t like about the present setup? This what we should be concerned about. How is He purifying His Church? How is He purifying each one of us?

  13. “generally speaking, the Orthodox Church is pro-life”

    The sad reality is that most Orthodox countries, like Russia, have legal abortion.

    Generally speaking, Orthodox countries are pro-choice.


    • George Michalopulos says

      Rufus, we expect more from Orthodox bishops than such mealy-mouthed bromides.

      As for the Orthodox countries that are “pro-choice” the majority of them were under the demonic jackboot of atheism.

      You’re going to have to try a little harder to denigrate these nations next time.

      What about Greece, Cyprus, the United States and the rest of the Anglosphere? We were spared the satanic oppression of the Iron Curtain countries. What’s our excuse? Were we not “Christian nations”?

      • George, it’s encouraging to hear that Poland, a majority Roman Catholic country, has just made abortion illegal. That was a country formally under the atheistic communist yoke.

        Roman Catholic Poland can make abortion illegal, yet Orthodox countries still can’t seem to get their act together? Shrugs.

        Yes, the Orthodox Church is pro-life, but the actual reality, politically speaking, is something completely different.
        It would be nice if the patriarch would just say, “The Orthodox Church is Pro-Life.” Yet the embarrassing reality is that all the majority Orthodox countries are still pro-choice, and such a statement would only denigrate a country like Russia as being somehow less than Orthodox since it has the highest abortion rate in the world (and by a large margin.) Hopefully that will change. For now, the truth hurts.


        • I understand Russia’s abortion rate is reducing.
          The same, I think, cannot be said of the USA or UK.

    • Greece has the highest abortion rate, the highest smoking rate, the highest fat percentage in women, and the most auto deaths per 1000 in the EU.

      But it does have the True Church, right?

      Don’t insult my intelligence.

  14. Who will the Ephraimite monasteries go with?

    • My guess is that these monasteries of Fr. Ephraim would humbly go with themselves. There may be (Greek) bishops in parts of the globe (or the U.S.) who could be willing to provide them with the required oversight needed to insure their monastic canonicity. Though the current global configurations these days seem to be implying a looming radical conformity ahead – more than a perhaps freer autonomy. In any case, the End of Times Cross (and crosses) could be looming more clearly on the horizon, for those Orthodox Christians who have embraced a sincere, humble love of the Cross. I’ve been reading a book (going on my 2nd or 3rd reading) by a now-departed Greek spiritual father of blessed memory — Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios, entitled Revelation – The Seven Trumpets & The Antichrist (vol 3) Paperback – July 10, 2015 It seems (for myself anyway) to offer a very down-to-earth, detailed blueprint/map for the times which may not be so far ahead of us, down the road.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        Sam, your formation in the Church makes you uniquely qualified to help others understand the importance of remaining in the Church during difficult times. You certainly were, are, and always have been, helpful to me. Were it not for you, I would not be in the Church today. May God continue to help you be an encouragement to others and may He bless you richly in this life and in the life to come.

        • As always, Gail Sheppard is too kind. Yes, the words “the importance of remaining in the Church during difficult times” may perhaps take on new meanings as the institutional aspects of the Church become influenced/ordered by secular, politically oriented powers which exist for the administrating of a newer world order & paradigm. My poor thoughts can only imagine what may be referred to as “renegade bishops” (for the faithful “true shepherds”) as they seek to become guides & spiritual physicians for a persecuted Church. That’s all.

      • Amen Sam. Arch. Athanasios is quite wonderful. Grateful the final volume 5 was translated and published just in time for this challenge. Thank God for Zoe Press, translator Constantine Zalalas and publisher Marie Eliades. https://www.zoepress.us

    • I’m praying that they actually do go somewhere. I know that there are other priests and parishes who are part of the Greek Archdiocese who are not happy with the direction things are going and will leave. If the monasteries leave, they will leave as well.

      Now as to where they would go would be anyones guess. Will they go with the Serbians? ROCOR? Will they start a parallel Greek jurisdiction that is in communion with the rest of canonical Orthodoxy?

      The problem is, who would take them? Would any of the non-Greek bishops on the Assembly of Bishops accept them? Would they want to ruffle the feather of Abp. Elpidophoros?

      If/when the GOARCH monasteries leave that will be a huge watershed moment for America Orthodoxy. They will essentially be saying GOARCH is no longer fit to the spiritual/jurisdictional home of the monasteries due to not holding up Orthodoxy. This would send a clear signal to the rest of the jurisdictions. On top of that, if the Church of Russia formally anathematizes and excommunicates Patriarch Bartholomew and his patriarchate, that will send a clear message as well and the battle lines will be formally drawn. We could very well see the cleaving off of Greek Orthodoxy from the rest of the Church much like the Latin Church post-1054

      I think Gail has more insight to this and I’m sure Monomakhos will share them when the time is right, but, as of now there are more questions than answers and we are just going to have to play the waiting game.

    • I’ll add i really hope the Ephraim monasteries leave for personal reasons. I love Holy Archangels in Texas and have been there many times, I love the monks there as well.

      • St. Paraskevi in Texas is lovely as well. I share your hope, Petros.

        • Ah yes, I forgot about St. Paraskevi! I have only ever been to Holy Archangels, but, a lot of the young adults from our group in Dallas have been to St. Paraskevi and have great things to say about it

          • Wonderful news! As you likely know, Father Demetrios (Papa Demetri) moved nearby with family from PA so serves there too. I remember the parents of the “young” Father Ephraim from Holy Archangels who would travel to St. Paraskevi to serve. He actually showed me around several years ago thanks to my friend who had gone there for years for services. Several OCA priests love to go there regularly too. Wonderful Orthodox monastics and lay folks in both! Glory to God.

  15. Austin Martin says

    Sometime within the next five years, there will be a global schism within Orthodoxy, between those who want to be orthodox and those who want to be secular. How that will play out in America, I don’t know, but it will be very messy.

    Some people think that they can just ignore it and continue on being Orthodox. These people are naive (especially if they are clergy). This schism will affect everything.

    But no, not all will be lost. There will still be a true Orthodox Church. What that looks like in terms of canonicity is hard to say.

    Personally I think what Elpi and Bart are planning is beyond reality. I seriously doubt there will be a union of American jurisdictions or even inter-communion with the Catholics (even though I realize they have said it’s an explicit goal). At some point hubris always hits a wall.

    Somewhat related, have you noticed that pan-Orthodox things are always the most secular? They rarely do anything beneficial. Usually pan-Orthodox events and institutions just water things down. The most visible example, of course, is AFR.

    • Austin Martin (and other commentators who sometimes criticize AFR),

      While there is a certain level on which I agree with you, I also realize that the primary goal of AFR is evangelism – drawing people to Christ and His Church. That purpose could hardly be served by drawing attention to the things in His Church that are not of His Church.

      Other than this, I think your comment is spot on.

      I serve as a catechist. In that role, I often caution against what could be called ‘the standard teaching’ about how one knows where the Church is (Apostolic succession and so forth). There may have been a time when that sort of teaching was helpful, and in its proper context it is still true. But in an age of apostacy it is quite possible to have all the outward marks of the Church while being completely lacking in the spirit of Christ. It is, I believe, the ‘easy’ (or as you say “watered down”) answers that too easily absolve the people of God from our responsibility to hold fast to the Faith (which is Christ Jesus), avoid the struggle that is inherent to being faithful to Him, and make it possible for false shepherds who seem to meet the simplistic criteria to lead them/us into apostacy.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Well said, Brian.

        For my own information regarding AFR, I have heard that Fr Josiah Trenham’s videos are no longer being posted on that site.

        Is this correct? Any help in this regard would be appreciated.

        • It looks like Fr Josiah just moved it to his Patristic Nectar program.


        • Can’t speak to videos. George, but he can certainly be found there.


          • Brian, the last thing from Fr. Josiah at that link to AFR that you posted is from 2018. All his recent content has been removed.

            Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick (Chief Content Editor of Ancient Faith Ministries) says he has recently “pruned” about 25 podcasts because of “redundancy and dormancy”. Here is what he wrote in response to someone on reddit.com/r/OrthodoxChristianity/ asking about : “Josiah Trenham – “The Arena” gone from AFR?? I usually listen to “The Arena” podcast at night but I could not find it on Ancient Faith Radio? Anybody know what happened to it? Drama?”

            Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick responds: “No drama. At the end of the year, we pruned about 25 podcasts and several blogs and moved a bunch into archived status. This is something we do every so often. (It’s been occasional in the past but will become regular now.) The primary purpose of the pruning is to focus on more variety in types of content — scaling back on both redundancy and dormancy. The biggest category to get pared down was sermon podcasts — and we had many of them. First one to go was mine!

            Most people can’t see the forest for the trees and can be tempted to speculate on what they see happening with one tree. Part of my job is to know the whole forest.”

            While it is probably fair to say that the AFR website has been a bit cluttered with redundant and/or dormant podcasts and could do with some cleaning up , from my point of view I consider Fr. Josiah’s forthright teaching to be unique and rare in these days , not “redundant” , and he certainly has not been “dormant” (inactive) .

            Oh, well, maybe it’s for the best that he parts ways with AFR. It may be that Fr. Josiah has simply decided that it would be better to focus on distributing his content via his own Patristic Nectar website and Patristic Nectar YouTube channel.

            It’s interesting to notice that in Fr. Andrew’s process of pruning and archiving 25 podcasts and several blogs what got “pruned” (i.e. completely gone) vs. what got “archived” . Fr. Andrew claims that his sermon podcast Roads From Emmaus was first to go … but in fact it is still very accessible in the AFR archive on the website: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/emmaus , but Fr. Josiah’s The Arena and Patrstic Nectar are completely purged from the AFR website.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Holy Archangels is idyllic. I especially love the Hill Country of Texas. To me, it’s authentic Texas.

      • Agreed. When/if I leave Alaska at the end of the year living around Holy Archangels is one of my options of where to move. I’m not a big fan of Dreher, but, I think his Benedict Option has some merit.

        Plus I’m a little homesick for Texas lol

  16. George Michalopulos says

    Austin, I can see a downward trajectory for religiosity in America. As I can for politics.

    But something in my gut tells me that things tend to veer off course. Even evil things. Consider if you will the present political situation. The Democrats have all power yet they are going apesh!t crazy. Biden does not even appear presidential. Even the liberals have a sinking feeling in their gut. He does appear addled.

    Yesterday Raggedy Ann/Jen Psaki looked so out of her element in a press conference that it was frankly, embarrassing. When asked about the Gamestop scandal and what Biden would do about it, all she could say was that in Janet Yellen, “we now have the first female Secretary of the Treasury”.


    As for Gamestop, Wall Street traders are equating it with the mob that almost overtook the Capitol three weeks ago. As for the hedge fund managers, they took a $78 billion dollar loss in one day. When asked how they feel, they say “it’s like being gang-raped in prison”.

    I have a feeling that the best-laid plans of mice and men (including the creation of an “autocephalous” American Orthodox Church) are going to be hitting some serious road-bumps along the way.

    Don’t ask me why, I just do.

    • The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
      Gang aft agley,
      An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
      For promis’d joy!

      [Robert Burns: To a Mouse]

      This is where Steinbeck got his title from.

    • RIP (reluctant internet poster) says

      “Don’t ask me why, I just do.”

      As an aside, with respect, this is absurdity. I’m old enough to remember when conservatives thought things and liberals felt things. Now, sadly, conservatives just feel things. And it’s now stated quite clearly as you just have. Don’t ask me why I think what I think, I just think it.

      So never mind my GameStop comment. There was stuff there your gut might object to.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Good one! And yet, like Galileo, I stamp my foot and say “still, it moves!”

        Seriously, with age comes wisdom, often with the loss of eloquence. It’s not a feeling as much as it’s a realization that there is only so much iniquity that a civilization can absorb.

        A pendulum if you will.

      • Don’t ask me why, I just do.

        I assume it is because George has enough sense to know that one cannot build something on nothing. Trying to express precisely how that which is built on the nothingness of lies and darkness must eventually fail is like trying to explain the problem of evil. There is a mystery to it that cannot be fully explained. It can only be known.

        • It’s like the judge who, when asked to define pornography,
          replied: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”

    • This Gamestop thing is just hilarious to me. When the big boys lose at their own game, suddenly it’s a “scandal.”

      Oh…short-selling is risky? Imagine that.

    • Austin Martin says

      I’m a student of history. Hubris always hits a wall. Often that wall cannot be seen until it is hit.

      Presently the only real value in America is our massive military. Every other asset is theoretical. There is no manufacturing. Our money exists by fiat. Certainly the peasants will not sign up to fight a war, and likely they won’t resist a Chinese or Russian army setting fire to DC.

      At this point in history a government is usually overthrown. How and when that will happen, I don’t know. Our money exists in the abstract, and it will only get worse. The government can only rule by total brutality, because the faith in the integrity of the system has been completely eroded.

      As for whether the OCA will go under the EP, I’ve asked three friends who are well entrenched in the OCA (I am technically OCA, but really I’m a product of the GOA), including a priest who is very well connected, whom I won’t name. One person said it will definitely happen, and the other two said that it’s almost impossible. So I don’t know. Personally I think that a unified American Orthodox Church will never happen, but I also thought the 2018 schism would only last a couple months.

  17. George:

    Good commentary, but I have a more raw observation. I don’t think Bart and Elpi have anything to unify. It’s a moot point now. 40% of parishioners will never return to church after COVID. A couple hundred thousand pre-COVID lukewarm, poorly organized and poorly led “adherents” does not leave anything to be unified, especially in the completely disruptive societal era that is our new normal. Hierarchies are DEAD !

    Do you watch the obituaries in our parishes? The mainstays, the generation that took all this seriously, has dropped liked flies. Newer generations want their religion on an app in their cell phone.

    GOA has raped its parishes into begging for crumbs to pay the electric bills. ( not to mention buggering the priest pension fund). The church is a joke and 4 years of Uncle Joe Chi Minh and Madame Nu will not benefit Christianity in the least.

    Guys, like Dandy Don used to sing on Monday Night Football,” Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over”. Let them unify whatever they want and throw in BLM for good measure. Let BLM and ROCOR fight it out with Karloutsos advising both sides. Who cares? No one, I say.

    I will head for my cabin, take a few prayer books, an icon, a votive light, and hopefully find The Carpenter there waiting.

    • “I will head for my cabin, take a few prayer books, an icon, a votive light, and hopefully find The Carpenter there waiting.“

      How very American-style Protestant of you. Just sayin.’ “If you don’t like Christ’s church, just invent a new one.” It’s been done tens of thousands of times already….

      • Yawn, how unoriginal, FTS. Ignore the tsunami and blame me and the Americans and the Protestants. If you find “Christ’s Church” in this corrupt, inept, diseased mess, send me a message by pigeon carrier to my cabin. I’ll be all ears.

        • Hello “American,”

          I’m not trying to be original. In fact that’s the whole point – to be very unoriginal. To not reinvent the Church anytime part of her succumbs to the Zeitgeist, to the modern secular age.

          Christ promised us trials and tribulations in this world. He never promised us Churches free from turmoil or inner decay or from capitulation to modern secularism.

          Have some hierarchs of the Church capitulated and succumbed to the secular world? Yes.

          Will much of the faithful never return post-COVID? Perhaps.

          Are there millions of Americans who have never heard of or who have always dismissed Orthodoxy as exotic or archaic or irrelevant – are these same millions still in search of Christ, of the Church, of the truth, of “He Who Is?” Yes, absolutely.

          Might that massive Orthodox Church building that expected to be funded off of its annual ethnic festival fail because of a loss of faithful due to covid? Maybe.

          None of the above means that we should abandon the Church. Absolutely none of it. It may be too tough for some, particularly for those who need large expensive pretty buildings as a prerequisite to attending church.

          But Christ is always with us and will never abandon us. He explicitly told us to not create divisions in the Church. May we not abandon Him or His Church either. We should flee those hierarchs who have left the church and capitulated for those many safe havens that still exist.

    • We are all on track to being marginalized to a cabin with an Icon, a candle, and a prayer. I believe the catacomb church is coming to America. Let us hope we can occasionally find a faithful priest to administer the holy Eucharist.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Mikhail, I already live in a cabin of sorts on the prairie of southern Kansas with my wife and adult son. We live on the north section road of the section our house is on. There are about 12 other people on the same side and the rest of the section is farm land. Directly north there is one farmstead with a widowed man farming it.

        Of course there is a casino about a mile and a half away and my wife’s family own and operate a winery another mile on.

        There are three titular Orthodox parishes about 20 miles away. Only one would I attend. One is for Greeks only and the other is pastored by Fr. Aaron Warwick.
        We also have the St. Silouan skete just across the parking lot of my parish. Three monks.

        That seems to be the way of things. A mixed bag of life, circumstance and exactly where God put me.

        I called the nearest ROCOR parish to me three times and have never received a reply. The next closest ROCOR parish is in a much larger metropolitan area and is an almost 2 hour drive each way.

        • Michael,

          It is a shame that the ROCOR Church will not return your calls.

          I have been to the winery website…thinking of buying some of that pure Elderberry juice. Some of the wine looks quite delectable…any recommendations?

          • Michael Bauman says

            Mikhail, these days the Elderberry Juice Concentrate is essential. My favorite wine is the Elderberry Dry Reserve(no sugar added)
            It is pleasantly dry while letting the flavor and body of the elderberry come through.

            My favorite white is Prarie Sunshine semi-sweet or Chisholm Trail for a dry wine.

            They do not cure in oak so the drys do not have the tannin.

            If you like dessert wines their strawberry moscato, Lady Pearl or their honey mead.

            They have won over 600 international awards so it is hard to go wrong.

            Depends on your taste.

            If you call in and ask for my wife, Merry, she will match you up with one or more that fits your taste.
            316-554-9463 x203 10:30 to 6. But they are having some phone problems. Back-up is 316-371-4570.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Mikhail, correction: they cure in oak but not heavily

            • Awesome! Thank you Michael. My mouth is watering. I may be sampling many of these! The Great Fast is coming so I better hurry. ?

              • Michael Bauman says

                Mikhail, you do have a Bauman trinity going for you too: I tell you about the wine, you order it from my wife and son ships it to you. Alcohol laws being the last bastion of Federalism there are some states that Wyldewood cannot ship into. Those states are listed on the website.

                • You ship to my state. Hurray!

                • My apologies for being off topic on this blog. This is my last question.

                  Is there a shelf-life for the Elderberry Concentrate. If I order five bottles for free shipping, will it keep for me? Thank you.

          • “It is a shame that the ROCOR Church will not return your calls.”

            Don’t call, just show up, then speak with the priest in person afterwards. Otherwise you could be leaving messages on some phone that nobody even remembers exist, or whose job it was to check it.

    • George Michalopulos says

      American, if I may add, GOA priests have told me that there has been a 40% collapse in membership over the past 5 years. With no end in sight.

      • George, two very combat seasoned priests have told me they fear the percentage of defections post COVID will be as high as 70% ( all reasons- deaths, attrition, no new membership, financial unsustainability, and continuation of corruption). The party is, as I said, over. Time to plan the memorial service and meal afterward.

        • I don’t think that 70% will be uniform across all jurisdictions, or even all parishes within a jurisdiction. Where I live the parishes that don’t require masks are bursting with people on Sunday. Conversely, the parishes that are strictest have almost no one.

          I have a feeling the biggest losers will be the GOA, OCA and to some extent the Antiochians.

          However, I fear that there will be a high percentage across the board, even ROCOR.

          I wonder how the Catholics and Protestants are fairing?

      • Well I pray that 40% that left is at least going to another jurisdiction and not leaving the faith completely

        It’s sad that the GOARCH hierarchy response to this is to double down on liberalism and “Greekness” (see the amount just passed for Greek language education), rather than just being Orthodox, doing liturgy in English and spreading the faith. Sad

  18. Michael Bauman says


    Let us not forget God Incarnate is mercy. Politics is all about “justice” regardless of flavor. So let us consider this:

  19. I saw this going around and thought it was worth a share:

    “Christians need to start acting like a collective and unified tribe. “Muh individualism” is really just the sin of selfishness and a trap laid by the enemy to divide us and make us weak. Tribalism is human nature and as Christians we are God’s Chosen People.

    We are the tribe with the Creator of the Universe as our King, it’s time to start acting like it. Our tribe has no bloodline, racial, class, geographic, or other boundaries. We are united in Christ.

    Do business exclusively with Christians. Have a Christian doctor, lawyer, baker, etc. The left is strong because they unite collectively even though they all hate one another. Other religious groups are strong specifically because they are tribal and united. If Christians unite collectively around our tribe in love we can and will reclaim the West for the glory of God.”

    — Andrew Torba

    Maybe it’s time we as Christians move on from our leadership and start working together and doing business first with one another. Support or fellow brothers and sisters. As an Orthodox Christian, I say let’s try hard to do business with other Orthodox no matter the jurisdiction and then other Christian’s and then the secular world.

  20. Michael Bauman says

    FTS, could not have said it better. There will always be at least one Bishop.

  21. Just a technical canonical point…….a priest cannot serve liturgy without a legitimate antimension from their bishop. there is no such thing as “independent” Orthodox.

    • “Just a technical canonical point…….a priest cannot serve liturgy without a legitimate antimension from their bishop. there is no such thing as ‘independent’ Orthodox.”

      Were you replying to me? Seems like it, since I ran a search over the article and comments, and the only use of “independent” was my statement that: “ROCOR was independent from 1920 to 2007.” If so, I’d say that ROCOR had its own bishops, including St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, and was always in communion with the rest of Orthodoxy (even if, for awhile, only directly through the Serbs).

  22. Just a quick comment regarding the paragraph on Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian jurisdiction and the author’s impression that he has “thrown in the towel”, one very huge piece is left out there. This would not be the decision of Met Joseph. As you well know, he reports to Antioch and Patriarch John X. I can’t imagine the Patriarch simply giving away America to the EP, under any circumstance. But if I’m mistaken on this, I’d love to have someone tell me why.

  23. Slick Willie says

    About going to Istanbul: