Why Now?

Why does a key member of the Antiochian Old Guard want to discredit and possibly retire a bishop who is pivotal to ensuring the Assembly of Canonical Bishops, and North America itself, are not swallowed up by Bartholomew and ultimately Francis?

Looks to me like Patriarch John, someone we thought we could trust, may have folded some time ago and they don’t want any bishop who shows some backbone from North America challenging Elpi or getting in the way of Greece and ultimately Rome.   

For those of you who don’t want to be under the pope, I would get over the “Putin, Putin, Putin,” thing and start thinking about supporting the Orthodox Church in Russia, because I believe it is likely (probable even) that we will be pulled into Rome just like Ukraine.  

Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East met Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City on June 30, 2021

The private meeting between the Patriarch of Antioch and Pope Francis touched upon the day of prayer for Lebanon to be held tomorrow in the Vatican, at the invitation of His Holiness to all the heads of Christian communities in Lebanon. The meeting also touched on the Christian situation in the Middle East in all its aspects.

The Patriarch of Antioch expressed to Pope Francis the Antiochian point of view: tolerance, refusing introversion and exclusion, and building bridges of inclusion to all components.

Patriarch John X commended the role entrusted to the Holy See to save Lebanon by exerting pressure for establishing a Lebanese government and by supporting the combined proposals and consensus to determine the fate of one united Lebanon in coexistence and citizenship.

The Patriarch of Antioch also presented the situation in Syria, noting the necessity of lifting sanctions on Syria and Lebanon, as they affect the citizen’s livelihood.

The meeting also touched on the issue of the kidnapped bishops of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi, and Yohanna Ibrahim, as it is necessary to reach the desired end of this file, which is still disregarded by the international community.

For his part, Pope Francis appraised the pioneering role of the Church of Antioch in the region and affirmed the continuous endeavor of the Holy See towards all that is for the good of Lebanon and the region.

The Antiochian delegation which accompanied the Patriarch of Antioch was formed of Metropolitan Silouan Moussa (of Mount Lebanon) and Archimandrite Parthenios Al-Latti.

“The two leaders also shared their hopes for progress on the journey towards full Christian unity.



A little history about the old guard to connect the dots   . . .

Excerpt from a letter dated October 12, 2009:   “. . . Metropolitan Philip oversees who sits on our Board of Trustees and has made permanent and honorary members out of known felons such as Walid Khalil Khalife, President of Goldcorp, Inc. and former President of K & A Gold and Diamond Center, Inc., and Fawaz El Khoury, President, Secretary, and Treasurer of CMRK, Inc.  In Khoury’s case, Metropolitan Philip appointed him to serve on the nominating committee for the 2009 Archdiocesan Board of Trustees, which is charged with screening candidates for the Board.”

Who is Fawaz El Khoury?

According to the same posting on Antiochianinfo.org:

“Fawaz El Khoury, a resident of the Westborough, Massachusetts area, is variously described as a real estate investor and a textiles recycler and exporter. [11] Fawaz is the President, Secretary, and Treasurer of CMRK, Inc., a company involved in textile recycling and export, having its address at 16 Railroad Dr., Northborough, MA 01532. [12] In 2005, CMRK, Inc. joined a $120,000 settlement of an action brought by the Connecticut Attorney General’s office [13] arising out of its contract with Holy Trinity Community Centers LLC, a purported charity which had claimed that clothing and shoes donated in drop boxes [14] would be given to people in third world countries. In reality, Holy Trinity sold the donated goods to CMRK which then exported them at a profit. The charity claimed that the proceeds from sales would go to drunk driving reduction and breast cancer research charities, but the Attorney General’s office found that the bulk of the funds was consumed by the individuals involved in the “charity.”

You can read more about Fawaz El Khoury here.

Shortly upon El Khoury’s return from Damascus last week, Metropolitan Philip appointed him to serve on the four person nominating committee for the 2009 Archdiocesan Board of Trustees – the committee that is charged with screening candidates for the Board of Trustees at the upcoming Convention in Palm Desert.

A Modest Proposal

Neither Khalife nor El Khoury – nor any member of the official delegation – have spoken publicly about what happened in Damascus. None have offered any explanation of how the inauthentic documents came to be or how they came to be signed by the Patriarch. (Lynn Gabriel, wife of entourage member Fr. Antony Gabriel, has offered her impressions and an explanation. Read that story here.) It seems to many (including recent calls on this site) that an official, independent investigation is warranted given the confusion and damage to the credibility of the Archdiocese the inauthentic texts have caused. It would only seem reasonable that if the Metropolitan wishes to discover the answers to any of the above questions, his chosen entourage would seem to be a good place to start. 

And the threats have to stop.

– Mark Stokoe








  1. Stratos Fotopoulos says

    Like Patriarch Kyrill’s meeting with Pope Frank in Cuba, where the heart of that diplomatic frenzy seemed to be about signing a spiritual non-aggression pact (Unia, anyone?), could this be an attempt simply to bolster international support for the Syrian homeland while we outright steal Syrian oil (https://en.mehrnews.com/news/190538/US-continues-to-loot-Syrian-oil-with-137-more-truck-tankers) and just seem bent on taking down Assad? Note that each middle eastern country where we’ve done “regime change” has been disastrous for the Christian communities, because militant Islam fills the power vacuum we leave. So these Church leaders, Jerusalem too, I give wide latitude on since they’re sitting on kegs of dynamite while holding vials of nitroglycerin while someone off camera’s holding rusty machete to their head. Or something gruesomely tense like that.

    Also, bear in mind that as I understand it, the Orthodox Times was the English version of romfea.gr, which when it actually was the English edition of Romfea, got hacked and then redirected to the new, shiny Orthodox Times, which is about as jurisdictionally neutral and spiritually oriented as the Orthodox Observer (the GOA’s now electronic-only newspaper). Rumor has it that our nation-building swamp rats had a hand in setting that up as a way of killing off sources condemning the EP and therefore countering our narrative (the nerve!) for the Ukraine situation when things were heating up ecclesiastically before the hot war after we kept provoking the Bear that we will fight down to the last Ukrainian.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      The Orthodox Times received a sizable grant from our state department to create that site.

    • Antiochene Son says

      Yes, it took me a long time to understand but the religious balance in the Middle East is finely tuned, and it involves more overt displays of ecumenism than I am personally comfortable with, but the Christians have adopted a “we must hang together, or we will surely hang separately” policy. On the other hand, none of the various Syrian Primates are proposing actual union, so I think there is a firm line which they all stand firmly behind while still embracing to some extent.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        RE: “On the other hand, none of the various Syrian Primates are proposing actual union . . . ”

        The private meeting between the Patriarch of Antioch and Pope Francis touched upon the day of prayer for Lebanon to be held tomorrow in the Vatican, at the invitation of His Holiness to all the heads of Christian communities in Lebanon. The meeting also touched on the Christian situation in the Middle East in all its aspects.

        The Patriarch of Antioch expressed to Pope Francis the Antiochian point of view: tolerance, refusing introversion and exclusion, and building bridges of inclusion to all components.

        Patriarch John X commended the role entrusted to the Holy See to save Lebanon by exerting pressure for establishing a Lebanese government and by supporting the combined proposals and consensus to determine the fate of one united Lebanon in coexistence and citizenship.

        The Patriarch of Antioch also presented the situation in Syria, noting the necessity of lifting sanctions on Syria and Lebanon, as they affect the citizen’s livelihood.

        The meeting also touched on the issue of the kidnapped bishops of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi, and Yohanna Ibrahim, as it is necessary to reach the desired end of this file, which is still disregarded by the international community.

        For his part, Pope Francis appraised the pioneering role of the Church of Antioch in the region and affirmed the continuous endeavor of the Holy See towards all that is for the good of Lebanon and the region.

        The Antiochian delegation which accompanied the Patriarch of Antioch was formed of Metropolitan Silouan Moussa (of Mount Lebanon) and Archimandrite Parthenios Al-Latti.

        “The two leaders also shared their hopes for progress on the journey towards full Christian unity.”


        • Antiochene Son says

          “Hoping for progress on the journey towards unity” sounds exceedingly benign to me. It’s the corporate boilerplate of inter-church relations.

          • Antiochene Son,
            ….sounds like a benign tumor,
            but it is a suspicious/threatening tumor nevertheless.

          • Up until COVID, our church used to host
            an annual visit of theology students from the local university.
            For about fifteen years or so it was me who gave them the talk.
            I used to end by saying that, while we hoped for unity with Rome,
            this would not be likely to happen unless and until the Pope
            “…first gives up his delusions of supremacy”; while making clear
            that this was a necessary but not sufficient condition.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              Just jump to the heart of things! I could do without purgatory, dispensations, and a number of other things they do.

    • George Michalopulos says

      FWIW, if you click on today’s Duran, you’ll see a report that Erdogan and Assad have kissed and made up.

      A lot to say here but it’s pretty clear that Erdogan is going with/acceding to, the Russian/Eurasianist worldview. This will make Uncle NATO mad but Erdogan knows which way the wind is blowing.

      • Anonymous II says

        Well this is interesting news. I wonder what the implications will be for the EP

      • @George, I was just about to ask your opinion on what Anonymous II has asked.

        Bartholomew is a political pawn from a time that no longer exists.

        Since Turkey is pivoting East, Bartholomew is useless to Turkey as a political tool, and he also is useless to the USA. There’s no way Turkey isn’t aware that he’s buddy-buddy with the State Department, and I can’t imagine that will be allowed to continue much longer.

        I think the pivot that Turkey is making is setting the stage, in a religious sense, for Russia to set up a parallel Exarchate in Turkey.

        What are your thoughts George?

        • George Michalopulos says

          My opinion is this: keep your eyes on Turkey. It seems that they’re placing one foot firmly in Eurasia, with another foot ready to drop.

          I’m not going to say that they will be a vassal of Russia but more likely, a somewhat enthusiastic partner in a newer, more robust, and decidedly less perverse Eurasia.

          The bloom is off the EU rose if you ask me.

  2. Sorry to sound dense, but am I missing something with the Antiochians? All this is new to me.

    It seems weird that Patriarch John would even speak like this since the Vatican, as far as I can tell, has done nothing for them. That distinction would belong to the Church of Russia who actually has greatly helped Antioch.
    I’m sure Patriarch John is well aware of the division the Vatican has caused through their creating of the Melkites

    I believe it is likely (probable even) that we will be pulled into Rome just like Ukraine.

    “Tell God your plans and he will laugh.” If this is indeed the plans of the higher-ups, doesn’t mean that will translate down to the lay people. Having just had the pleasure of seeing Metropolitan Joseph this past weekend and getting to hear him speak I have a very hard time believing that he, or any of the laity, would be following Patriarch John, Bartholomew, or anyone to Rome.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      The thing about that part of the world that is hard for people to understand is they love where they come from more than they love anything else, including the Church; even their families.

      Maintaining their way of life takes precedence over everything else, which means they are easily influenced by money and promises to protect their homeland, which frankly is far more corrupt than the west if that’s even possible. I’d be willing to say, the involvement of the west has quadrupled the corruption in that part of the world. It’s nothing for them to mow down hundreds of thousands of their own people to remain in power. This includes the Assads and of course, Lebanon. (NOT THE PEOPLE; those in power.)

  3. OMG!
    I am in shock reading this revelation!
    Regarding the ‘Scandal’ video in which we we were “reminded” by Fr. Trenham – via YouTube – to focus on our own wickedness “instead church scandals” let me offer my thoughts. When I called an Antioch church to ask for a meeting with a priest regarding how troubled I am about the GOA debauchery, I never got a return phone call ( I left a voice message). Hypocrisy abounds!

    The separation of church and state was completely shattered in 2020 globally.

    What has happened to the salty hierarchs? We know that spiritual wickedness has entered the Orthodox Christian hierarchy. We know there are evil by antichrist individuals trying to destroy our churches. It’s up the us to expose them.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I added a bit more commentary to the post about El Khoury.

      What the west wants to do is unite the Catholic and Orthodox Church so they can leverage their combined power. They want to control them. Hierarchs will replace the Gospel and teachings of the Church with NWO missives; things they want the population to do.

      As an example, the faux church will say: “It’s imperative, that we as Christians, make it a priority of the “Ancient Church” to address the problem of global warming or side with the poor XYZs or unite the “children of god,” i.e. Muslims, Jew, Protestant, Evangelical, Anglican churches all under the “Ancient Church.”

      The Gospel will be replaced with initiatives.

      If the Gospel is mentioned at all, it will be used as a mechanism to justify their actions; it will become a faux church run by the people who are trying to reshape the world. Millions and millions of people will be deceived because they’ll think it’s “the true Church” when it’s been turned into a tool of the devil, i.e. the New World Order.

      • Stratos Fotopoulos says

        The Gospel will be replaced with initiatives.

        Bingo. A simple yet profound telltale sign. As renegade podcaster John B. Wells is fond of saying, “Make ready for what’s to come.”

      • Lord have mercy on us. We live in truly dark times.

  4. Antiochene Son says

    Gail, I am not following your train of thought. Who is going to be retired and what does it have to do with Rome?

    • Gail Sheppard says

      After Metropolitan Joseph sent a strong rebuke to Elpi on behalf of the Assembly, Fawaz El Khoury reported to the Board an impropriety that surfaced years ago about Met Joseph; allegations he denies.

      I don’t want to get into the specifics (there are tabloids out there who specialize in this sort of thing), but Fawaz El Khoury, et al., are launching an investigation 5 years after the fact, using this as an opportunity to weaken Met. Joseph’s standing, possibly retiring him altogether.

      They want to remove Metropolitan Joseph so they can intimidate the rest of the Assembly, with threats, damage to property, etc. into doing something Metropolitan Jospeh would never allow.

      It appears as if Patriarch John cannot be counted on to hold the line. Because of what the pope promised to him with regard to Lebanon, he is now seeing Francis as the “Holy See” over the region.

      I added a little more commentary to the post about one of the principals in this unfolding drama.

      • Gail,

        Cooperation among Christians toward temporal ends of mutual concern is nothing new. It doesn’t signal the compromise you are suggesting. The Vatican has diplomatic ties to the West, after all. (Kyrill makes use of them, too.) He could have gone to Bartholomew, but I suspect he knows that Bartholomew cares little for anything except the power of his own feifdom.

        As for Metropolitan Joseph, he is more than worthy of our prayers. As he has both stabilized and nurtured the archdiocese without forsaking the patriarchate, I seriously doubt he is in any jeopardy.

        Moreover, these “old friends from Chicago days” have no love lost for the “Ecumenical Patriarchate.” So whatever their motives may be, what you are suggesting is not likely among them.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          This has nothing to do with the Ecumenical Patriarch.

          The EP’s days are numbered. He couldn’t deliver so he’s just a wasting asset at this point.

          They hope Francis can pull this off with Patriarch John. If he can’t, he will no longer be useful to them. That’s why he’s talking about “retiring.”

          And that’s why they’re moving down to second-tier people within the Archdiocese. People who can be bought. People who have no scruples. People who have no compunction against getting rid of traditional bishops by digging up old dirt that never went anywhere in the first place; dressing it up to make it look new and shiny again.

          Feigning concern for a bishop and the Church, while simultaneously releasing this tabloid stuff, pre-investigation, across the entire blogosphere, through our priests, no less, does not pass the smell test for me.

          It’s worth noting that this particular piece of dirt surfaced several years ago but was never formally investigated. Why? Could be it wasn’t true. Could be it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. Could be it came out before Metropolitan Philip passed and he fixed it. Or it could be that a private settlement was reached, enabling a newly divorced woman to live in an upscale part of Southern California while supporting 4 kids and getting her master’s degree at a California University.

          I don’t know.

          There were so many holes in that letter with regard to timeline, I couldn’t count them all. I’m NOT saying it didn’t happen and if it did, it’s no big deal. Of course, it’s a big deal and it breaks my heart. But even if it’s true I think at this late juncture the purpose of it is not to rid the Church of a bad bishop; it’s to take down bishops who will not easily capitulate to the faux church of the NWO, e.g. weird baptisms, communing people who aren’t Orthodox, unification with everybody and their brother, especially with Rome, etc. Elpi’s vision for the Church.

          And Metropolitan Joseph slapped his hand.

          However, this is my opinion. George doesn’t fully agree with me so I may be totally off base. (Don’t think I am, but it’s possible.)

          In any case, I suspect Bartholomew is over.

          Francis is almost over and even says so. https://nypost.com/2022/07/31/pope-francis-says-hell-slow-down-or-retire-you-can-change-a-pope/

          They both are merely figureheads at this point. They’re being kept around for the photo-op at the finish line where one embraces the other and says, “It is done.”

          It is critical to their agenda that some North American bishop doesn’t screw this up and one of our stronger, traditional bishops seems to be going down for the count.

          Just saying . . .

        • George michalopulos says

          I agree. The church of Russia has major solids for Antioch. I think (hope) that patriarch John X was engaging in diplospeak.

          At least that’s what it looks like to me.

          However, whenever I bet against Gail I usually lose.

      • Stratos Fotopoulos says

        Thank you for filling us in on enough of the rest of the story to know enough of the background. Just goes to show that nothing good (on earth) can last, because everything fallen humanity touches eventually turns to waste.

      • Nick Shahood says

        True or not the open secrets of Metropolitan Joseph’s philandering have been loud whispers since he hit the shores of the US at the end of the 90s (and before that from his time as a bishop in Damascus). Whether it was a conspiracy between Archons of the GOA and Antiochian Board Members because of the highly merited actions of Metropolitan Joseph and the other members of the Assembly of Bishops, God knows. But it sounds plausible. Neither the Archons nor the Archdiocese’s Board Member are of such a high level of unquestionable moral distinction that such actions would be beneath them.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Thank you. My point exactly.

          • Nick Shahood says

            Just to be super clear, the minimum expectation is whoever is going to be mandated with investigating this MESS, must be FULLY INDEPENDENT (i.e. outside the dominion and control of any Antiochian Board members) and must THOROUGHLY investigate NOT ONLY the actions of the Antiochian Metropolitan but MUST include the circumstances and timing around the disclosure and the actions or lack thereof of the Antiochian Archdiocese BoardOfficers or members if previous (5 years ago) knowledge can be substantiated.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              If it’s true after a through investigation, and they knew or even suspected it 5 years ago and looked the other way, they are in breach of their fiduciary duties, I would think.

              And in this case, there are damages.

              They allowed us to become dependent on him as the Vice Chair of the Assembly and are now threatening to pull the rug out from under him (and us) because he is performing better than they thought he could. That’s my opinion.

              I have nothing to say with regard to sins he may or may not have committed in the past, and that’s where Patriarch John comes in because (I hope) he will insist that the American Orthodox are not made to suffer for his or anyone else’s past indiscretions, which frankly are none of our business at this point in time.

              You can dreg up dirt on anyone, since we all fall short of the Glory of God, but you can’t carryover sins from the past, which may have been confessed, into the present, which is what they appear to be doing without even formally charging him with any wrongdoing. This should not be fodder for discussion at this point.

              They never thought he could be a bonified leader in the birthing of a patriarchate in North America and now they’re worried and have to get rid of him. Again, that’s my opinion. We’ve made a huge investment in supporting his efforts to navigate this situation with the Greeks and we’re not happy about this at all.

              Hey, Nick, you sound like an attorney. 😉

              • you can’t carryover sins from the past, which may have been confessed, into the present

                Not necessarily true – if a clergyman is discovered to have committed a sin that would lead to deposition, even if he has confessed it, he must still be tried and deposed.

                I hope the accusations are false, but if he is guilty, Metropolitan Joseph needs to face the music.

  5. God won’t allow the church in it’s entirety to fall into heresy. The last time there was an attempted reunification the fall of Constantinople put a stop to it.

    • George Michalopulos says

      I must agree with you, Illumined.

      We Greeks (especially) lament the Fall of Constantinople, but God in His infinite wisdom and mercy allowed Mehmet II to conquer Caesar’s City, to prevent a further unia.

  6. Not sure what to make of the machinations described but I refuse to worry or concern myself about such things. Find a local church in traditional jurisdiction. Move if need be. Practice the faith in peace. We have no control over these matters any more than a flea on the back of a dog controls what rhythm the tail wags. Just make sure you’re on the right dog and worry not.

  7. I have had it! says

    Patriarch John needs to fire Metropolitan Joseph and Bishop Anthony who is the Bishop for the Midwest. If it’s true that Metropolitan Joseph has been having an affair with a woman for 16 years, he needs to be thrown out immediately. Bishop Anthony could care less about the smaller parishes that are suffering and need attention. Bishop Anthony HAS NO BACKBONE AND CAN’T MANAGE DIFFICULT PEOPLE. He has ALLOWED certain parishes to become COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL and doesn’t care about the Orthodox Christians in that community who have suffered from Dictators in the parish. He is also a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE administrator and isn’t able to supervise his Priests and their Khoury’s. Patriarch John needs to be thrown out as well. The Antiochian Church in America is a CATASTROPHIC MESS. The Antiochian Orthodox Church in America needs someone who is AMERICAN BORN WITH GREAT IDEAS ON HOW TO MANAGE THE CHURCH IN AMERICA.

    • They had their chance to become a major part of the oca and to make a true commitment to North America and they blew it. They chose to become more middle Eastern and laid aside met Antony’s vision

    • Totally Disagree. The Antiochian Archdiocese is very solid with great people and clergy despite some mediocre bishops (save a couple).

      Whether His Eminence is guilty of the charges or not, this church will survive and even thrive. Just watch.

      • I was in an Antiochian parish for awhile, was not impressed and left after a couple years. Liberal, permissive, basically a bunch of Episcopalian converts who were still Episcopalian in orientation, just doing Orthodox-style worship. Many people complained over the years to Bishop Basil about problems but he did nothing. I figured it was because he gets a lot of money from converts, didn’t want to rock the boat by giving them actual hard teaching. Wish I had a Fr. Pat Reardon or Fr. Josiah Trenham in my area. I was able to talk with Fr. Reardon about it one time and man, he really came down on the bishops for their ignorance and laxity.

        I came to Orthodoxy from Catholicism. And I tell you, if the Orthodox Church goes the way of the Catholics, I’ll happily stay home with Jesus, the bible and the Church Fathers. They guide me right, while few Orthodox pastors in my area seem to know their faith at all, not in any depth anyway.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          They have some incredible priests. Brave priests. I was fortunate to have one in each parish I attended in two states.

          I’ve got to give the OCA props for working it out and sticking to their guns, ROCOR for building parishes and missions many with Greek-speaking priests (God bless them), Serbia for being the “sane parent” in the room, and of course the Georgian Church, the Church after my own heart.

          • Sorry, Gail; but when an American talks of
            “the Georgian Church” I feel compelled to ask:
            “Peanut Georgia? Or the other one…?” 🙂

          • I don’t know what has changed but the OCA and Antiochians seem to be much more “solid” as of late. Can’t quite put my finger on it but they don’t seem like the same OCA/AA of 5+ years ago.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              No, and that comes from having to walk through fire.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              They’ve both had their feet held to the fire. I hope Antioch realizes how far she has come under the leadership of Metropolitan Joseph.

          • I know, the good Antiochian priests are really good. I do like the OCA, there’s a decent one in my area that I go to when I can. My brother attends a small Serbian parish in another state, mostly converts but with good pastors, absolutely loves it and I envy the heck out of him.

            Speaking of Georgia, my brother told me about a group working to build an English-speaking Orthodox Christian village there, raising funds and hoping eventually families will move there from here. Want to do small farming and animal husbandry and such. Do you guys know of them? Not a ton of information on their website, but here it is: https://punksandmonks.com/

        • Sounds like you are a “me and Jesus” Protestant at heart anyway.

          • Really, Fr Yanney? That was an unkind cut. Clearly you didn’t see a comment I made on Scandals in the Church on the talk by Fr. Trenham. I’m expressing pure, unadulterated Orthodox Tradition. And btw, Protestants wouldn’t take the Church Fathers with them into the desert:

            Good talk, though the ending lacked one aspect that is important, when he talks about not leaving the Church. It is possible to leave parish life while still remaining in the Church, evidenced by the early hermits who fled to the desert to escape sin, heresy and complacency in the cities. The first generation did not have access to sacraments, as they weren’t priests and lived far from any priests, those only came later. Yet they became great saints. St. Mary of Egypt is one of the early examples of that.

            The early Church Fathers support this, in their constant teaching in the strongest terms from their earliest writings, including the Didache, to shun and avoid sinful or heretical presbyters, calling them wild dogs, ravening wolves, etc. Their point is not to lose your faith, to stand firm in faith while avoiding and refusing to follow bad leaders.

            If you have no good leaders or parishes in your area, I believe it is entirely possible to simply turn your home into a kind of desert hermitage, following the prayer life and maintaining faith. Especially considering the earliest monastic forms started in private homes, not out in the desert, for example St. Basil and his family. Follow good teachers from a distance, which the internet makes possible, and use good spiritual reading. I’ve done that when I had to, and my faith has not suffered, rather it became stronger and clearer when not confused or affected by bad or weak leadership.

            • Antiochene Son says

              Without the sacraments there is no Orthodoxy, and it is Donatism to shun the sacraments of clergy who have not been condemned by the Church. They may be bad pastors, sure, so don’t listen to their words. But to shun the Church and the Sacraments when they are available is Prelest. You may think it doesn’t harm your soul, but it does. Orthodoxy is a living faith, not a faith that can be lived out in books alone.

              The great Desert Saints did what they did only under obedience to specific divine callings or extreme situations. There are very few monks who can attempt these feats in our present world, and I would dare say virtually no laymen who could do it.

              • Gail Sheppard says

                Great response.

              • . . . This may be an exaggeration of what was said, Antiochian Son.

                I was talking about if the Orthodox Church were to go the way of the Catholic Church, or for that matter the Anglican. I am not. . . advocating Donatism. All clergy have flaws and I don’t expect anyone to be perfect. But serious sin and heresy among clergy do matter, the Church Fathers are very clear on that. So are the New Testament writers. It’s for our own protection that we need to be discerning about who we follow.

                And honestly, to say nobody can do today what people did in the past – a popular opinion I hear often in Orthodox circles at the moment that I really disagree with – is to rob the Cross of power and say that Christ is a weakling. We can do all things in Christ who strengthens us, if we stay true to Him.

                For example, I am a lay woman who was without sacraments for a time during covid when parishes around me closed. While everyone else was panicking, I kept my focus on Christ and prayer, and did not feel spiritually weakened at all. I’ve gone through a couple of other times like that. If lay men and women could do that in the early church and yet become great saints – and most of the saints and hermits in those days started out as lay people – then so can we.

                I am not saying you can come and go from parish life as you please, not at all, that is just self-will, which God does not bless. But we also have to remember that God is not confined within the Church, as if He is the property of the Church. Rather the Church is His property, He is greater than the Church – and will hold the leaders accountable for their failures in the end.

              • Donatism has to do with refusal to receive lapsed clergy back into the Church and their practice of rebaptism.

                The only question regarding shunning evil clergy has to do with whether their mysteries are grace-filled. Unless they are condemned by at least a local council of the Church, one assumes that those who enter schism or heresy still serve valid mysteries. However, this has nothing to do with whether they should be shunned if they preach evil or heresy or engage in schismatic actions. I tend to side with Theo on this matter.

                All the modernist local churches are quite sick today with the virus of Pat. Meletios IV (of execrable memory).

        • I’ve had really good luck with Antiochian parishes. The one exception being a weird parish in Alaska, Gail knows which one I am speaking of. The Antiochian Archdiocese, with a few exceptions, is good. The same can be said for just about every jurisdiction.

        • Antiochene Son says

          I’m sorry to hear that, Theo. Maybe it’s a function of where you live, but where I live both the cradle and convert priests and thier parishes are solid, conservative and traditional.

          • Thanks, A.S. I wish it were simply a local issue, but I’m not sure it is. The inaction of Bishop Basil, despite many people reaching out to him over the years on a variety of problems, is one issue. And there is what an Antiochian priest told me about artificial birth control, which was permitted by my former pastor despite many members of the parish knowing it is contrary to Orthodox Tradition: he said the bishops were telling clergy “not to interfere in bedroom matters.” That to me is a serious failure of leadership and extremely spiritually damaging to the faithful.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              Yes, that’s typically their response.

              Here is a direct quotation from a July 20, 1990, article, “SF Shows Off Its Ecumenical Spirit,” in the San Francisco Chronicle.

              Asked the Orthodox church’s position on abortion, Bartholomais described a stand more liberal than that of the Roman Catholic Church, which condemns abortion in all cases and whose clergy have, in some cities, excommunicated leading pro-choice Catholics.

              Although the Orthodox church believes the soul enters the body at conception and, ”generally speaking, respects human life and the continuation of pregnancy,” Bartholomais said, the church also ”respects the liberty and freedom of all human persons and all Christian couples.”

              ”We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples,” he said. ”We cannot generalize. There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion.”

              Not sure why they are unable to tell the truth without having to apologise for it. It’s the bar. The expectation is not whether or not you can meet it; only that you are committed to try to meet it. It is not posssible to be truly Orthodox (or even partly so) if you throw out the bar altogether, which is what they’re doing.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Generally speaking, he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And this goes for all the Green/Gaia nonsense as well.

              • Makes me sick to read that. But, on the other hand, I was told sometime back by another priest that there is work going on now to rebuild seminary formation, which really fell down in the 80’s, so priests are better trained on these issues and can lead people rightly. I sincerely hope that is the case.

            • Antiochene Son says

              You are right in your assessment. But if you know the truth, you don’t have to listen to the clergy’s faulty advice. And staying actively involved in the life of the Church and speaking openly and boldly about these matters — being salt and light — is better than packing it in and running away. That is the M.O. of so many conservatives, and withdrawal only allows the enemy to take more territory.

              • Antiochian Son, I have a long history on things like this, both in the Orthodox world and before I became Orthodox. Through hard experience I have learned to be very protective of myself spiritually and careful of who I follow. That does not mean that I “run away” from parish life, you would never say that if you knew my current circumstances. Anyway, I always appreciate your comments on this blog. I’m going to step away from this conversation now as I’m afraid it’s being hijacked, that was not my intention when I first commented. Peace to you.

  8. Austin Martin says

    Looks to me like Patriarch John, someone we thought we could trust, may have folded some time ago and they don’t want any bishop who shows some backbone from North America challenging Elpi or getting in the way of Greece and ultimately Rome.

    Yeah, shouldn’t be trusting Arabs. I could have told you that.

    I think you’re making a bigger deal out of this than it is. Most middle east Christians are some form of Catholic, so it makes sense that the Orthodox patriarch would be asking the pope to use his political clout. Christian unity in the middle east is like the hundreds of American indigenous tribes banding together and saying, “We’re all American Indians. Please don’t steal our land. Our lives matter.” The Mohatmedan ruler (probably also an Arab) doesn’t care about theological distinctions and sees them all as equal tax slaves.

    I’m not saying it’s okay for an Orthodox bishop to have tea in the Vatican gardens. Just that what John is doing is probably not the same thing that Bart is doing.

  9. Wayne Matthew Syvinski says

    Remember the Rush Limbaugh rule: when you see something that doesn’t make sense, follow the money.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Yup, always follow the money.

      In the Middle East, you’ve also got to take mere survivability as a contingency as well. My own experience with Levantine Arabs who are Christian here in the States is that regardless of denomination, the ties that bind them are very strong indeed. And I don’t blame them.

      Consider, Orthodox Christians in the Balkans (Bulgars, Greeks, Serbs) tend to identify Orthodoxy with the borders of their nation and thus, their ethnicity. So when somebody strays from the Faith, he is no longer a [fill in the blank]. But we Christians of the Balkans have a luxury that Christians of the Levant don’t: and that is a political homeland.

      Having said that, the throw-weight of the Russian Orthodox Church, and their decision several years ago to get actively involved in protecting all Christian minorities in the Middle East, indicates to me that Patriarch John X is not going to get any closer to the Pope than he absolutely has to. Bartholomew may have illusions about being the “Eastern Pope” as part of his lifelong quest to unite East and West, but I’m pretty sure that John X has no such illusions.

  10. Henry Bellman says

    Pat. John has proven himself stalwart. I’m willing to give him some leniency, for now.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      We have no choice.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I’m with you. I have been so proud of Patriarch John. Standing tough can’t be easy, especially after everything he’s been through. I just don’t want to be disappointed. Alexandria broke my heart.

  11. I remember Archbishop Job asking “ Are the allegations true?”. It seems odd that these are coming up again .
    Gail you know how certain people in the Antiochian Church can react if they hear something they don’t like . Audit ?
    These are scary times

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Yes, they are, Stephen.

      • There is an E-mail from the woman involved going around . I don’t trust the source but it looks real. I hope it isn’t .

        • The site that posted the e-mail also has printed serious accusations against Father Josiah Trenham attributed to his own son. The site is run by an ex-priest who seems obsessed with destroying those who oppose his pro-gay agenda. Grain of salt territory.

          • Gail Sheppard says

            I believe Father Josiah was vindicated and the site in question was slapped down by the courts.

            In the present case, “The Fawz” managed to leak the information to us and all our fellow bloggers, but none of us took the bait. This other site was the only one that turned a troubling situation for American Orthodoxy into a tabloid.

            And they say were not “mature enough” to be a patriarchate. I disagree!

            • I am so happy to hear that. Please forgive me for mentioning it. I am a little behind the curve with much of this information. So glad for this blog!

            • Antiochene Son says

              The site was slapped by the courts but still has not abided by its judgment. But it’s in Canada so there’s only so much that can be done.

            • Henry Bellman says

              Indeed Gail. I believe Fr Josiah also was awarded some damages. Thas a pretty rare thing this day and age. Tells you how ridiculous those charges were.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Lots of holes and unanswered questions. Best to read it after it’s sorted out.

  12. Constantine says

    Considering there are twice as many Maronite Catholics in Lebanon as there are Orthodox Christians, it only makes sense for Patriarch John (our boss in that country) to talk to their boss (the Pope) and have him get his people in line.

    The rest of this:
    All the more reason for the Orthodox in this country to quit the Old World patriarchates. Antiochians, y’all welcome in the OCA. We may not be perfect, but we learn from our mistakes and would even allow y’all to organize in an ethnic diocese if it makes you feel better! I get it, trust takes time to build. Let’s start with the fact that we both want America to be Orthodox and not just another ethnic club.

    Mark Stokoe, revive OCANews.

  13. Nick Shahood says

    I believe your assertions against Patriarch John X of Antioch are unsubstantiated and remind you that the Russian Church has consistently over at least the last ~140 years been supportive (materially and spiritually) of the Antiochian Patriarchate and its flock while Constantinople and Jerusalem have violated its territories. Furthermore the people of the Antiochian Patriarchate in Lebanon and especially Syria are totally dedicated to their Church. The amount of reconstruction and rededication is totally amazing that we in the United States cannot begin to understand let alone replicate if that magnitude of destruction and attempted displacement happened in the US. The meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch John were held over a year ago, coordinated to coincide with a gathering of ALL CHRISTIAN religious leaders of Lebanon, which is part of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.

    How you make a connection between what has developed over the last several days with the Antiochian Metropolitan of North America and the Patriarch’s visit to Rome or to imply that Patriarch John X is being vengeful of the actions of the Metropolitan with other members of the Assembly of Bishops.

    If TRUE, the accusations against the Antiochian Metropolitan are separate and apart from any actions diplomatic or otherwise of Patriarch John X and were and are solely attributable to the BAD judgement of an overly ambitious, narcissistic, ego maniac who thought he could have (take) it all that the carnal world offers and to utterly disregard his vows.

    Please don’t use Patriarch John X as a cause for unfortunate situation that is currently plaguing the N.A. Antiochian Archdiocese through the purported improper actions of its Metropolitan that goes back many years.

    [Editor Note: So the question on the table is not what did or didn’t happen but why the Board didn’t address it. Isn’t incumbent on the Board to address these sorts of things in real time? Like when it happened? Why did they wait 5+ years after the fact? That’s all we want to know.]

    You can possibly attribute it to a conspiracy between laity in positions of authority (Board Members) in the GOA and the Antiochian Archdiocese but that is on you to investigate and substantiate. [Well, thank you, Nick. We appreciate that.]

    • Gail Sheppard says

      We’re pretty careful about the words we use and expect the same of our commenters. At no point can you come on our blog and cast aspersions. Not even against us, and certainly if it’s untrue.

      I never asserted anything. I asked a question and made some observations that are supported by facts. Did you miss the question marks????? Did you see the date that I posted regarding the date of the meeting? Did I say Patriarch John was not at the Vatican for some unrelated reason?

      No obfuscation here.

      Nor did I imply that Patriarch John X was being “vengeful” toward anyone. Like I said: I have always supported him. I hope he doesn’t disappoint me.

      My question had to do with “The Fawz,” you know the guy who purportedly collected clothing for charities and sold the “textiles” for profit? The same guy who put in writing that he hopes the information doesn’t get out pending an investigation and somehow manages to get it in every blogger’s hands. I can see where someone like him might have a vested interest in the Antiochians maintaining old-world ties. [I can see it. Not saying this is what’s happening.]

      I can also see a hierarch in desperate times protecting his own.

      I always allow those who take the time to comment one warning. This is yours. Back off with the finger pointing. Integrity is kind of our “brand” and we don’t take kindly to gross misrepresentations.

  14. https://antiochian.org/regulararticle/1317

    Mighty coincidental that all of this is coming out after Met. Joseph handed it to Elpi. I’d be curious to see who originally spread these accusations.

  15. Mark Chapman says

    Where are you getting that Fawaz held onto this for 5 years? The woman writes in her email that the relationship ended in 2017, not that she revealed it in 2017. She wrote her email just recently in response to the Metropolitan still trying to contact her. It’s the woman who is raising the issue, not Fawaz.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I have a copy of a letter signed by “The Fawz” on Metropolitan Joseph’s stationary, acknowledging he was releasing an undated/unsigned letter & recording to the Board, while at the same time advising them to “act responsibly and in the interest of our God-Protected Archdiocese and not share any information with anyone.”

      Presumably, this meant not giving it to the bishops, who then circulated it among the priests, who then gave it to to at least 3 of the blog owners, including us.

      Huge story.

      As it turns out, it was the bloggers (except for one who is known for poor taste) who had more of a sense of decorum and good common sense than many of the board members and clergy who splashed this across the Internet without regard to it’s veracity.

      Now we’re sort of forced to discuss it, as it has become the elephant in the room. In the undated/unsigned letter, the woman says her husband reported it. The letter is from the woman. If she is writing about it now, the husband had to report before now, presumably at the time it was happening. Again, because it was not investigated we don’t know who, what, where or when.

      Did I say “The Fawz” raised the issue? Nope. I asked why he chose to release the information now. I think that’s a legitimate question.