BOSTON – His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America has jeopardized the unity of Orthodoxy in America with the election to the episcopate of Reverend Archimandrite Alexander Belya, Archiepiscopal Vicar of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate. The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America sent a strong letter dated June 27, 2022 to Archbishop Elpidophoros in protest. They notify him that “some of us have explained to you that it is impossible for us to concelebrate with him and the vicariate. Naturally, then, we cannot continue to participate in the assembly itself if this man is elevated to the bishopric and thus becomes a member of the assembly. With great sadness, we must question our ability to continue our in-person meetings and precious concelebrations. »
Bishop Elpidophoros had revealed the news of Belya’s election by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in his June 15 press release in which he wrote, “Finally, with feelings of joy and gratitude to the Mother Church, the Eparchial Holy Synod was informed of two matters Ecumenical Patriarchate: a.) that the list of eligible candidates for ordination to the Episcopate has been approved, and b.) that the Most Reverend Archimandrite Alexander Belya, Archiepiscopal Vicar of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate, has was today elected auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese with the episcopal title of the ancient diocese of Nicopolis. The date of his ordination to the Holy Episcopate will take place at Saint Matrona Moscow Cathedral in Dania Beach, Florida on Saturday, July 30 this year.
Below, TNH reveals the full text of the letter from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America:
“His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
10 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10075
Your Eminence, beloved brother in Christ,
We greet you with our prayers and our best wishes in anticipation of the feast of the holy Heads of the Apostles, Peter and Paul.
We, the Presiding Hierarchs of the Member Jurisdictions of our Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, write to you, as President of the Assembly, to express our grave concern for the precious unity of the Holy Orthodox Church on this earth. It is with heartache and great dismay that we learned from Your Eminence of the decision to proceed with the episcopal consecration of Alexander Belya, a former cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, whose canonical discipline and final deposition are accepted and acknowledged. as a canonical action of all of us. In addition to our canonical concerns, we have serious questions about his character based on direct and indirect past interactions with him and his family. We feel compelled, as your brothers and concelebrants at the Holy Altar, to implore you and your Patriarchate to reconsider this decision for the sake of our common devotion to Orthodox unity and canonical order.
While we wholeheartedly respect and defend the right of Your Eminence, as Archbishop of the Greek Archdiocese, to make decisions regarding the internal order of your jurisdiction, and we fully appreciate the role of the Holy Synod of Ecumenical Patriarchate in selecting candidates they deem suitable for episcopate, we ask Your Eminence to consider the broader effect this action will have on the rest of Orthodoxy in the United States. The reality of our overlapping jurisdictions (which is only exacerbated by the proliferation of ethnic vicariates in your archdiocese) necessarily means that we all live in the same proverbial pond, and when we make decisions like these, there is has ripple effects that go far beyond our perceived limits.
Moreover, this action threatens to further erode our Assembly of Bishops and its blessed mission “to safeguard and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church” in this country, as expressed in Article 5.1a of the Rules of episcopal assemblies in the Orthodox Church. Diaspora. As the person with the sole responsibility of bringing this body together and facilitating its mission, you must feel the weight and gravity of this threat most acutely.
We are all concerned about the deterioration of relations between the Most Holy Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow, which has resulted in a breakdown of canonical communion and a suspension of the participation of the Patriarchal Parishes of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia to the work of the Assembly. We must refrain from creating even greater obstacles to the return of our Russian brothers to the Assembly. Moreover, we must shun any action that jeopardizes the larger pan-Orthodox unity that exists between us all. As Your Eminence is well aware, many of us officially protested against the creation of the so-called Slavic Vicariate precisely because of its consequences for our Orthodox unity and the questions raised about the canonical status of Alexander Belya. Some of us have explained to you that it is impossible for us to concelebrate with him and the vicariate. Naturally, then, we cannot continue to participate in the assembly itself if this man is elevated to the bishopric and thus becomes a member of the assembly. With great sadness, we must question our ability to continue our in-person meetings and precious concelebrations.
Your Eminence, beloved brother in Christ, we have worked so hard to increase our unified witness during the days of the pandemic, and because we do not want to back down, we are compelled to express our unanimous concerns regarding this planned dedication. As we approach the Feast of the Holy Apostles, having celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – the Paraclete who calls us to unity – we respectfully implore you and the Ecumenical Patriarchate to reconsider this decision, which jeopardizes the unity to which we aspire.
Asking your prayers for us, we remain with esteem and love,
Your brothers and concelebrants,
Metropolitan Joseph, Vice President
Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of Antioch of North America
Serbian Orthodox Church of Bishop Longin in the North,
Metropolitan Nicolae Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan of the Americas Central and South America
Metropolitan Joseph Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese
Metropolitan Orthodox Church of Tikhon in America of the United States, Canada and Australia
His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States.