Welcoming His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius to America

Brooklyn, New York, July 11, 1999
Address delivered on behalf of the
Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops (SCOBA)
By Metropolitan + Theodosius
Archbishop of Washington, DC
Metropolitan of All America and Canada,
Primate of the Orthodox Church in America

Your Beatitude, Saidna Ignatius:

Patriarch Ignatius IVIt is a great privilege for me to welcome you to the United States on behalf of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Canonical Bishops in America. It is also a personal joy for me to share your table and to stress to you how important your visit is for all Orthodox Christians in America.

Your Beatitude is aware of the abnormal state of affairs that has weakened the ministry of the Church in North America. The core of our ecclesiology has been weakened by a plurality of jurisdictions. The very fiber of the Church has been frayed by the lack of canonical ecclesial unity which has compromised the existence and vision of the Church so powerfully expressed by Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, Who is above all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

The oneness existing between the living God and the human person has as its very context the oneness of the local Church, which so many in America yearn to realize. Yet, it is no secret that this oneness has been forsaken because of fear, ignorance, pride and indifference.

Dear Brother and Concelebrant, I turn to you, the Patriarch of the Holy See of Antioch and All the East to help by encouraging all the hierarchs in America to understand that there is no viable alternative to having one, local and canonical Orthodox Church in America. I turn to Your Beatitude hoping that the Church of Antioch and All the East will help convince the Primates of the Mother Churches that ecclesial normalcy in America can only bolster the mission of the Church throughout the world and that a local American Church can only strengthen the ties with the Mother Churches.

The Antiochian presence in North America has been instrumental in raising the call for ecclesial unity. It was Metropolitan Anthony Bashir of blessed memory who saw that the Church could be faithful to its missionary calling only if it opened its doors to all people. His successor, Metropolitan Philip, has not only continued this legacy but is one of the strongest voices calling for canonical unity. Through Metropolitan Philip the Church of Antioch is seen in North America as one of the most vibrant Churches in the world. Saidna Philip continues to teach America that in spite of the many difficulties and challenges, in spite of its many persecutions and betrayals, the Church of Antioch will never cease to proclaim the Gospel. I may add here that through Metropolitan Philip the voice of Antioch will never cease calling for ecclesial unity in North America. Together with the Orthodox Church in America, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese has consistently called for an end to jurisdictional pluralism. Together with the Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Philip has forcefully and eloquently rejected the uncanonical notion of Orthodox Diaspora.

As this century comes to an end, we need to remember another great son of Antioch, Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny. Born in the Middle East, educated in Halki and Kazan, Russia, and serving first as a priest then as a bishop of the Russian Archdiocese of North America, Bishop Raphael personifies the universality of Orthodox Christianity. As the first consecrated Orthodox bishop in North America, Bishop Raphael witnesses to the fundamental fact that Christ, His Gospel and His Church cannot be confined or restricted by ethnicity. Truly he was a man of God for all people, Orthodox and non-Orthodox. He was a man whose purpose in life was the salvation of souls. This simple yet powerful and profound lesson must not be allowed to be undermined by jurisdictional pluralism. Indeed, Bishop Raphael has shown us that the universality of the Church -- the universality of the living body of Christ -- can only be truly expressed in the context of ecclesial unity.

Your Beatitude, I along with so many others now look to you as the one who will boldly proclaim out to the Orthodox world the need for ecclesial unity in North America. I and so many others look to you and your holy Church to speak out against the fear, ignorance, pride and indifference which seeks to maintain the status quo. May God grant that your words will touch the minds and hearts of all those responsible for maintaining the ecclesial integrity of the Gospel throughout the world. With love and deep respect we embrace and welcome you.

Posted on the Orthodox Church in America Website, July 11, 1999