Written by Vladimir Moss



     When the union between the GOC and the Cyprianites was proclaimed last year, many were scandalized by the behavior of the Cyprianite Metropolitan Chrysostomos (Gonzales) of Etna, rumoured to be one of the authors of the union’s official confession of faith. For in February, 2014, only a month before the union was signed, he declared his unwavering loyalty to the false teachings of his teacher, Metropolitan Cyprian: “Be assured that none of our principles, none of our moderation, and none of the spirit bequeathed to us by our late and venerable Metropolitan Cyprian have been set aside, as some naysayers have suggested.” Later, after the union had been signed, he indignantly rejected the suggestion that he now accepted the True Orthodox teaching that the new calendarists are without grace… 

     The former Cyprianite hierarchs appear to be divided into three categories. On the right are those who, like Bishop Clement of Gardikion, appear to have sincerely repented of their previous uncanonical position. In the centre are those who, like Bishop Ambrose of Methone, refuse to make any public repentance for the 30-year Cyprianite schism in which they participated, but at any rate no longer proclaim Cyprianite teachings in public. And on the left are those like Metropolitan Chrysostomos, who openly and brazenly continue to proclaim Cyprianism.

     Now Metropolitan Chrysostomos has retired, and the leaders of the GOC appear to think that with his retirement the problem he posed has simply disappeared. Dream again! This is no way to deal with troublemakers who have caused schism and false teaching in the Church for over a generation! The way of the Orthodox Church with heretics has never been to indulge their refusal to repent, overlook their continued false teaching and then “retire” them without any kind of restriction on their teaching activity (at least as far as we know)! Still less is the problem of heresy solved by replacing one heretic with his disciple who thinks exactly as he does and is similarly unrepentant in his heresy! But that is what has happened…

     For after the retirement of Metropolitan Chrysostomos, the GOC Synod has appointed his close disciple and vicar-bishop Bishop Auxentios of Photiki in his place. Moreover, they have enlarged his diocese to include that of the True Orthodox Bishop Sergios of Portland, who has also retired. But that is not all. In an astonishing development, the GOC Synod has enlarged his diocese still more to include almost the whole of the Western United States and Canada together with other parishes as far afield as Toronto and New York!

     Let us read about what has happened in Bishop Auxentios’ own words as published on his newly-opened website of the Diocese of Etna and Portland:-  I can tell you that our new Diocese will consist of the parishes and monastic communities within the following Western American states and Western Canadian provinces: in the U.S.A., California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii; and in Canada, British Columbia and Alberta. May we one day have parishes in all of those states and provinces.

     “Some of the parishes belonging to the former American Exarchate of the Holy Synod in Resistance, before our union with the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece, and the Metropolis of Etna, after the union and before the retirement of His Eminence, Metropolitan Chrysostomos, though outside of the geographical territory of the new Diocese of Etna and Portland, have for personal reasons asked to maintain their spiritual ties, for the time-being, to their former Exarchate and Metropolis. The Holy Synod and the President of the Eparchial Synod in America, Metropolitan Demetrios, have graciously allowed for economy in this exceptional circumstance, and these communities will commemorate me in the Liturgy after the name of Metropolitan Demetrios (a practice that will be followed throughout the diocese for the sake of consistency). They will be listed in our statistics as communities with special status in our new Diocese (informal dependencies), though I will encourage them to coöperate with and honor the local Bishop under whose jurisdiction they find themselves geographically.”

     One American GOC priest has already labelled this arrangement “strange”. It is certainly strange. It is also uncanonical. The Orthodox Church is organized on a territorial basis. When the Ecumenical Patriarchate anathematized the Bulgarian Church in 1872 for “phyletism”, its main argument was that the Bulgarian Church was organizing parishes on the canonical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, thereby violating the territorial principle of Orthodox Church organization (the fact that they did it for phyletistic reasons was actually secondary from a canonical point of view). Several canons of the Ecumenical and Local Councils discuss this principle, and punish bishops who trespass in one way or another on the canonical territories of other bishops or Local Churches. A given territory can have only one canonical bishop; there is no such thing as “overlapping jurisdictions”; even a patriarch cannot trespass on the territory of a ruling bishop within his patriarchate unless the bishop gives permission or is overruled by a canonically convened and conducted decision of the whole Synod.

     There was a famous case in the history of the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon Orthodox Church that illustrates this principle. St. Wilfrid was metropolitan of the diocese of York. Since this was a large area that was rapidly increasing in numbers of believers through the successful missionary activity of Wilfrid and other saints, St. Theodore “the Greek”, archbishop of Canterbury,  decided to break up the diocese up into four smaller dioceses, each ruled by a separate ruling bishop. St. Wilfrid protested this decision, not because he was ambitious, nor because he suspected anyone else of ambition, but simply because the decision itself was uncanonical, and he, as the ruling bishop, had not consented to it. Three times he travelled to Rome to appeal to the Orthodox Patriarch of the West to reverse the decision, and three times his appeal was upheld, the last time by St. Agatho and his Synod. However, St. Theodore stubbornly refused to reverse his decision, and St. Wilfrid remained formally in schism from the English Church, although not from Rome and the Orthodox East. Eventually Saints Wilfrid and Theodore were reconciled through the good offices of St. Erkenwald, Bishop of London – but St. Wilfrid was never given back the whole of his metropolitan diocese of York and died as Bishop of Hexham, one of the four dioceses carved out of the metropolitan diocese.

     This episode in the history of the diocese of Old York is relevant to what is now happening in the diocese of New York. Metropolitan Demetrius has consented to Bishop Auxentius continuing to rule over parishes in the New York diocese because of their “spiritual ties” with him. But why should the “spiritual ties” of one bishop with parishes in another diocese be a reason for his assuming episcopal control over these parishes? “Spiritual ties” can be maintained without violating the holy canons! So we now have the absurd situation in which the GOC’s senior bishop in America, Metropolitan Demetrius of New York, is not only not the metropolitan of the whole of the United States, but is not even in control of the whole of his New York diocese, while a Cyprianite vicar-bishop is suddenly promoted to lead a kind of “pan-North American, Hawaian and Alaskan” diocese including the whole of the Western United States and Canada, but also parishes as far east as Toronto and New York!

     Strange indeed… But since this is all done by mutual consent, why should we worry about it?

     First, because any violation of the canons for no good reason such as would justify “economy” constitutes a weakening of the Church, as St. Wilfrid of York and St. Agatho of Rome understood.

     Secondly, and still more importantly, because this arrangement constitutes a de facto broadening of the influence of the Cyprianite ecclesiology (as represented by Bishop Auxentius) at the expense of the influence of the True Orthodox ecclesiology (as represented by Metropolitan Demetrius). For if Bishop Auxentius is a true follower of his “abba” Metropolitan Chrysostomos – and there is no reason to think otherwise - then we can expect not only that Cyprianism will be consolidated in the hearts and minds of the Cyprianites themselves, but also that it will begin to infect areas formerly under truly Orthodox bishops but now under the Cyprianite “pan-North American, Hawaian and Alaskan” diocese. The cancer has metastised…


January 30 / February 12, 2015.

Holy Hierarchs Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom.



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