Note: Before you start to review these 2 somewhat long pages may I suggest you print them out and highlight in 2 colors - one our claims, statements, documents, etc and the other color their "good points" as you find them.
We are not happy that we had to publish this information but it was made necessary by the incorrect information posted on the internet.
This Church never adopted the canon on married bishops but the ethnic clergy attempt to force that canon on us so they can claim that our clergy violated that canon. You cannot violate a canon your church did not adopt.
We acknowledge the Archbishop married. No one has ever denied this fact! What is denied is all the mis-information being published to this day to make our whole Church look bad, unorthodox, unchristian and long dead clergy being made to appear unorthodox and uneducated in the canons by priests from other jurisdictions who want to claim our heritage in American Orthodoxy as if they are entitled to our territory, jurisdiction and the right to claim they are the American Church. They are not! No matter what they write they will show themself up for what they are.
We feel we have established that the claims about Abp. Ofiesh being removed from office have been proven false and that Bp. Sophronius* did not act against his Archbishop as claimed since that in itself would have violated the canons and the public records seems to show he supported the Archbishop.
[Note*: Had Bp. Sophronios for any reason acted against Abp. Ofiesh individually, bishop against bishop, this would have violated the canons. Also Mariam Ofiesh would have mentioned this in her biography. It has been determined long ago that this is rumor and that neither occured. Her published book, with a couple minor errors caused by the "editor" made no mention that Sophronios acted against Abp. Ofiesh.]
Remember there are actually only a few matters to decide.
1. Did the ethnic orthodox cause a Schism in American Orthodoxy?
2. Has their unchristian attack and attitude against our long dead clergy shown they defame the dead and proven the Schism continues?
3. Are we orthodox as we state?
Our answers to above.
1 - We believe to be "Yes".
2 - Again we say "Yes".
3 - "Yes.
There appear to be a number of pages about this Church and our former synod of Blessed memory on the internet. Many are written by SCOBA clergy who have their own unchristian agenda* and who have nothing better to do than to change or rewrite history and to attack and defame long dead men of God. One such page about Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh and this Church has some notable errors in it. Many such claims are based on assumptions and a poor attempt to rewrite history.
[ Note: * The agenda is they help by their writings and changing history to make their church look good and their clergy innocent and make our Church look bad and our clergy look unchristian and unorthodox.]
New Note: The Synod issued a Proclamation about Archbishop Ofiesh of Blessed Memory on Aug. 6th, 2007. Over 41 years after his repose (death) the Synod has declared him to be a Martyr for the faith.
The ethnic jurisdictions who created a Schism in and before 1929 continue their unholy and unchristian acts as they rewrite history in an effort to make their jurisdictions appear to be innocent of any wrong doing. They publish false information as fact. They publish assumptions as fact. They try to appear to be theologians and canon lawyers but they publish information that goes against the canons in an effort to make our early clergy look bad when in fact we have now published documented information about their clergy and acts showing in fact that their people violated more canons that ours ever did. That their acts constitute a Schism! And as you read this site you will see they claim because Abp. Ofiesh married he violated canons to such a degree that it ended his ministry when in fact their actions may have pushed him to marry. We shall never know but we do know that he stated "God" told him to marry and not one Patriarch or synod attempted to call a tribunal according to the canons, instead they ignored the matter and attacked Archbishop Ofiesh while alive and defame his good name long after his death.
One such statement is that he was an "Independent" bishop. This is false. He was canonically ordained and consecrated and headed a canonically established Church.
Fr Serafim Surrency, an author frequently quoted on orthodoxwiki regarding this Church, was far from a scholar on the matters of this Church. More of assumptions on his part. He claims this Church died and other claims on wiki include that Abp. Ofiesh resigned, that Abp. Ofiesh was suspended by Bp. Sophronius contrary to the canons and that Abp. Ofiesh "de-facto" deposed himself (or automatically deposed himself) by his marriage. All different Reasons why this Church must have died because the Archbishop married and all incorrect! Our question is does their Bishop or Metropolitan know that his clergy are rumor mongers who make up the facts as they go?
Let's look at the canon. Canon 6 of the 102 canons does not state an automatic decree occurs if a bishop marries. It clearly states "Let him be deposed from office!" and that never occured canonically or otherwise. Just years of rumors claiming this and the other claims above. Since there was no tribunal there was no decree and he was not deposed. There are some canons that state things like "They shall be deposed, or excommunicated" but "Let" does not infer an automatic decree especially based on a man made canon that was not adopted by all Churches, not followed by all clergy and a canon that goes against Holy Scripture.
Here is a question based on their line of thinking! Did all orthodox bishops around the world, like those in communist countries who had wives, automatically depose themself? And if so were the Mysteries they provided their followers only "attempted Episcopal Acts"? That is the logic of the claims made by these so called ethnic or scoba clergy who continue to defame a man who died over 40 years ago! These individuals claim to be OCA and Antiochian priests, and probably others are involved, but they show they have no christian charity and no brotherly love, instead just write to defame these long dead orthodox clergy! Contrary to the Sacred and Divine Canons they judge these men in their writings and condemn them based on what they want others to believe - That this Church died long ago and that they are the new American Church - Antiochian, OCA, Greek - who ever and whatever! But they cannot be the "new" American Church since this Church never died! Their wriings are proven false, not scholarly writings but the writings of evil hearts who ignore Scripture, truth, love, decency and who are unchristian by their writings, claims and actions in this regard.
They claim Abp. Ofiesh retired, was deposed and was suspended! It cannot be all 3. Since he lived longer than the other clergy and had not retired, which is proven by a photo we have in his cassock about a year prior to his death, he remained head of the Church. Since the claim of a defacto decree or an automatic decree deposing himself is incorrect also it would appear these writers want to claim that Bp. Sophronius acted in violation of the Canons - and that their Church moved the remains of a bishop of another Church and laid him to rest next to saint Raphael now supposedly knowing this man had violated the canons. It does not make sense. Maybe in their minds it was his reward for helping their church to become the American Church? Claim he violated the canons in return for having his remains laid next to a saint.
In 1997 the North American Holy Synod reviewed all the claims about Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh of Blessed Memory having been removed from office and the Synod issued a decree stating that no legitimate or valid decree had ever been issued against Abp Ofiesh because no tribunal had been called and thus no Patriarchial Synod had any authority over the presiding Bishop of this Church, and that the actions of the other ethnic orthodox jurisdictions in fact were contrary to the Canons and a violation of said cannons.
A. Without the Tribunal being called no valid authority existed to canonically act against Abp. Ofiesh from outside our Synod.
B. Our Synod did not depose, excommunicate or suspend Abp. Ofiesh.
C. Without one of the above no other authority existed then or today to act against Abp. Ofesh or this Church.
Therefore, regarding the claim Abp. Ofiesh was deposed, excommunicated, retired or was suspended we deny this. Canonically it did not occur and based on common sense it did not occur. Any action by Bp. Sophronius as rumored would violate the canons and any such decree cannot be canonical since one bishop cannot act against another bishop.
The Synod determined and declared that no steps were taken by Bp. Sophronius against other members of the Synod, as some have claimed, as that would have violated the Canons. Being a canonical bishop he would not intentionally violate the canons and in fact when Abp. Ofiesh married Bp. Sophronius congratulated the couple. A similar rumor exists about Bishop Ignatius and is also false. Abp. Ofiesh did not retire. After the other synod members had left or died he was in a semi-retired position due to all the circumstances - not just those relating to his marriage. Many men came to visit him as the head of the American Church. This was documented in the biography written by his widow, Mariam. Those who assisted her in her writings - taking her notes and making them into a book included a number of inaccurate claims but they were not orthodox and claimed such things as the Church logo was his personal seal. It is the registered service mark of this Church and has our Church name in a banner as part of the logo.
This Synod has determined that if any unknown decree existed or was issued by anyone it would not be a canonical decree and this Synod, to put an end to such rumors, declare it had the only canonical authority and jurisdiction to issue such a decree, since no tribunal was ever called, and thus is the only synod able to lift or remove any such uncanonical decree.
Any claims by a non-ethnic (independent) bishop would have no validity since no independent bishop or synod would have any canonical authority over this synod, the bishops or this church.
In our writings we have proven a few things. Lets list some of them here for the reader.
Aftimios deposed himself - No
Someone deposed, excommunicated or suspended him - No
Aftimios was responsible for the many independent clergy who claim lines to this Church - No
Aftimios retired - No
We are not this Church as claimed - No
Many of the orthodox christians who come across this will find it hard to believe that "clergy" would write something not true! Should we give them the benefit of the doubt? No, they know they are publishing mis-information in an effort to benefit their Church.
We have not yet touched on the subject of who we are. These same clergy write that we are the 1995 group, one emailed us and stated our name was deceptive but he did not state how and they seem to claim we are not orthodox. They also claim that Abp.Ofiesh is responsible for the many independent groups claiming lines to this Church. This of course is false. He is not directly responsible for any such thing and with no mandate no authority was given for any such ordinations. This was an act by a lone bishop after he left this Church. [Check the page 2 link at the bottom of this page.]
On Celibacy and Marriage
Abp. Ofiesh was ahead of his time. In recent years Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, with the approval of the Patriarch, allowed a priest to remarry and remain in the active ministry. By their silence the other canonical jurisdictions allowed Abp. Ofiesh to establish a new Orthodox Tradition in the American Church. Bishops could marry! This is supported by the action of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese who allowed a widowed priest to remarry. we understand the late Abp. Iakovos wrote a letter while the head of the GOA that called for changes to allow bishops to marry. We expect the day will again come when bishops will be allowed to marry as in the early church.
Celibacy is a Church made rule and not from Scripture. The Roman Church forces Celibacy on all their clergy but allowed clergy of other Churches they accept to be married and to remain married. They then "hide" this fact from the general public. In Orthodoxy a man may be married prior to minor orders and being ordained a priest but is not supposed to marry after he is ordained - but that has been allowed. It should be noted that the historic church allowed married bishops and Holy Scripture directs a bishop "to be the husband of one wife". Also the canon was not adopted by all Orthodox Churches and is a canon that can be changed to allow bishops to again marry.
According to Stanley Harakas in "The Othodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers", Pg 215 #285 states; "We know from historical documents that the canon was not always followed and that we have mention of married men who became bishops and who did not separate from their wives. It NEVER BECAME a formal rule that a married man could not become a bishop. It is also a fact that in some communist countries a bishop had to marry to hide the fact he was a bishop for his own welfare and the good of the Church. Since it appears that being a married bishop was not such a big deal in the Orthodox Church and in this day and age clergy are, or have been, allowed to re-marry and remain in the ministry that Abp. Ofiesh was just ahead of his time.
It seems the Rudder is no longer considered, by some of the ethnic orthodox, to be the "Sacred and Divine" Canons but more like the guidelines of the Church.
We should also point out here that most writings about marriage and the Orthodox Church state the Church does not recognize marriage outside the Church. Aftimios was married in a civil ceremony.
On the Ecumenical Patriarch
The Ecumenical Patriarch was made aware of the unchristian attacks upon this Church and clergy but failed to act, and that we have started pubishing truthful articles about ethnic/scoba orthodox clergy on our website and intend to continue until the matter is resolved. We claim a Schism has occured based on the actions of the ethnic orthodox jurisdictions in north america since 1929 when the Greek Abp. told Abp. Ofiesh that he, Alexander, was over all orthodox christians in America. This shows the Greeks and Ecumenical Patriarch had no intention to ever recognize this Church and that by inticing the other orthodox jurisdictions to turn their backs on this Church they caused a Schism in American Orthodoxy years prior to Abp. Ofiesh's marriage! The marriage is and has been an excuse for their uncanonical acts since this Church was canonically established. Our letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch was sent by Registered mail.
a. The Ecumenical Patriarch at that time violated the canons by turning his back on this Church. We view this as an act of Schism against the canonical American Orthodox Church and American Orthodoxy. The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Church started the Schism and caused it to occur. Other jurisdictions in our canonical jurisdiction followed suit and are equally guilty of Schism!
b. The Ecumenical Patriarch failure to convene a tribunal as Abp. Ofiesh wanted prohibited any canonical action against the Abp. or this Church. Without a tribunal the Patriarchial, or any, synod lacked the authority to depose or excommunicate the presiding bishop of this Church. Now they claim Abp. Ofiesh deposed himself by his marriage.
c. Failure of any Patriarch to question, for over 30 years while he lived, the statement Abp. Ofiesh made in the newspaper that God told him to marry.
A. The Church does not recognize a civil marriage and Aftimios did not marry in Church.
B. Aftimios was never called before a Tribunal as he desired, therefore no other authority or jurisdiction ever existed with power over this Church or its Synod to remove, depose or excommunicate Abp. Ofiesh.
C. Since no valid authority existed over Abp. Ofiesh outside this Church and since this synod did not act against him he could not be canonically deposed, excommunicated or in any way be removed from Office by others and he never was.
The Church Abp. Ofiesh headed never adopted the canon on married bishops thus the canon the SCOBA clergy are upset about is one of their canons that their Church adopted and not one of our canons.