African priests issue open letter about Patriarch’s recognition of OCU

Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, December 17, 2019

A number of African priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria have issued an open letter regarding the recent decision by their Patriarch, Theodoros II of Alexandria, to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and to commemorate its primate, Epiphany Dumenko, in the Divine services.

The priests note that while the majority of the clergy and laity of the Patriarchate are Africans, their opinion on the matter was never sought and thus not taken into account.

The letter is signed by 27 priests from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia who are saddened by the decision of their Patriarch and pray that it will be reconsidered.

OrthoChristian received the open letter via email, with the message, “Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, with respect and humility, we are very happy to write you to explain our opinion and our decision as a canonical Church and priests in Africa.”

The letter reads in full:

An Open Letter of Orthodox African Priests

It was with great surprise and embarrassment that we, Orthodox African priests, learned about the decision of Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria to recognize the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”

This sudden decision is the opposite of the position previously held by our Patriarch, and it jeopardizes the good relations of our Church with the Russian Orthodox Church that have developed in recent decades. In addition, the recognition of yesterday’s Ukrainian schismatics is criticized in many Local Churches, and means a break with the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to which most Orthodox Ukrainians belong.

As far as we know, such a decision was made without asking the opinion of the African clergy, although it is the Africans who make up the majority of clergy and parishioners of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.

We would like to express our opinion and say that we do not agree with the above decision. We respect our Patriarch and obey our bishops, but, just as many priests and even bishops in the Church of Greece expressed their disagreement with a similar decision on the recognition of Ukrainian schismatics, we believe that we have no less of a right to express our opinion.

We regret the unexpected decision of the Patriarch of Alexandria and we would like to see it revised.

Rev. Fr. Agapios Omukuba, Kenya
Rev. Fr. Ambrose Chavala, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Anastasios Andrea, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Antipas Odhiam, Kenya
Rev. Fr. Athanasios Oruk, Uganda
Rev. Fr. Athanasios Rukamunuga, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Augustinus Batalingaya, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Barnabas Woasim, Zambia
Rev. Fr. Barnabas Kalumuna, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Bartholomew Mapalala, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Charalambos Ocen, Uganda
Rev. Fr. Chrysostomos Sospeter, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Constantine Shoki, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. David Lakwo, Uganda
Rev. Fr. Eleftherios Nchunguye, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Eliakim Kulali, Kenya
Rev. Fr. Johannes Asonga, Kenya
Rev. Fr. John Jacob, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Laurent Sakwa, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Marcos Rugemalira, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Paul Kagoma, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Hieromonk Philaretos (Kimaro), Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Petros Theophanos, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Polycarpos Uchenja, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Stephen Rushenya, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Theodoros Mutabazi, Tanzania
Rev. Fr. Archimandrite Zacharia (Enock), Tanzania

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John.4/23/2020 10:44 am
"Chrys", above, writes, "In Uganda, for example, where His Eminence Jonas resides (one of the few African hierarchs and an Athonite), we do not see the the prevalence of the same challenges that appear in places like bordering Kenya, where there are no African hierarchs. The same positive things can be said of Rwanda under His Eminence Innokentios--who also is a monastic and the spiritual son of His Eminence Jonas. Both these bishops have chosen to deeply instruct converts in a hesychastic tradition and a deep faith." Just for the record— i bear no one ill will, but i have known all these men personally, and i can assure you on the basis of fact— neither Jonah of Kenya nor Innokentios of Burundi/Rwanda can be called in any respect "Athonite", nor have they instructed *any* converts in the hesychastic tradition and deep faith! It is astonishing even to hear that! I have not been to Burundi/Rwanda but Innokentios and i were together for a year, some time back; and i lived and taught in Uganda for some years. The fact is, there are no books, no service books (well, ok, a few), no services, no instructions, no newsletters, no icons, no adequate training, no teaching. . . . you get the picture. Most of the priests have almost no training at all. I have no interest in pointing fingers or denouncing anybody, but it is important to dissolve the starry-eyed picture that people sometimes have of Orthodoxy in Africa, where everybody is poor and deeply pious. It is a church in deep need of people who know what they're doing, and in the most profound need of the Gospel. I pray that it may reach them.
TITO TWUNGUBUMWE1/12/2020 11:00 pm
This situation between more complicated than many people may be thinking. We all know that the Orthodox Church is governed according to the Holy Tradition...the profession of the ancient doctrine, the practice of the liturgy and the obedience to the church authority. The hierarchy in the Church is strictly observed to save the peace and unity in the Church. My opinion is that special floors of expression should be created for all the faithful having to say about the church leadership...and this would avoid these kind of bras de fer between brothers and sisters of the same mother...the Church. May God illuminate and bless all the antagonist groups...for the most glory of God and His people salvation.
AKAFE12/19/2019 4:34 pm
During heresy times there were people who stand firmly in the faith. These priests are following the sole of those people. Arius was heretic but was criticized by the people of God. Now, the hierarchs are used by atheists to destroy the Church but they have to know that they will not be supported by their faithful as what they are doing these priests. We, laymen are behind these priests to oppose evil decisions of our Patriarch. Our beloved fathers be strong we shall support you!!!!
Chrys12/19/2019 1:46 pm
Dear Brother in Christ, Dimitrios, With all due respect, there may be many Greeks who believe there are no racial barriers within the Alexandrian Church and that "all are one race," however, I believe the vast majority of priests and laity do not sense or feel this universal condition. Indeed, it appears that the Greeks of the Alexandrian Patriarchate have dealt with Africans in ways similar to how the Coptics dealt with the Ethiopians: They place themselves at the helm of the Church, despite being a tiny minority of the laity. Indeed, Greeks have largely ceased to be a significant population anywhere in Africa; yet, the vast majority of Alexandrian hierarchs are Greek. Moreover, it is well known that many Cypriot and Greek priests are elevated and placed over territories within African countries. In defence of this policy, most Africans have not been raised within a fully Orthodox environment, and the vast majority are reasonably recent converts to the faith. Without a strong monastic tradition--since, for whatever reason, this has been nearly disallowed within the Alexandrian See--newly baptised faithful are often not deeply acquainted with the faith and one can often see challenges that arise in many areas of the See that stem from what appears is an improper catechism. However, this is true with the vast majority of Russians and former Soviet Bloc citizens as well. Thus, it remains to be seen whether the imposition of foreign leadership is actually a cure or the problem. In Uganda, for example, where His Eminence Jonas resides (one of the few African hierarchs and an Athonite), we do not see the the prevalence of the same challenges that appear in places like bordering Kenya, where there are no African hierarchs. The same positive things can be said of Rwanda under His Eminence Innokentios--who also is a monastic and the spiritual son of His Eminence Jonas. Both these bishops have chosen to deeply instruct converts in a hesychastic tradition and a deep faith. This is, respectfully, not the case in many other areas, where Greek hierarchs seem afraid to offend converts who continue to want to weave in their former Catholic, Protestant and even animist practices. My point is that these African priests are more brave than you might think. However, sadly, their voices are likely much weaker, insofar as the ears of hierarchs in Alexandria, than you might believe.
Dimitrios12/18/2019 2:57 pm
I would like to address those commenting regarding the "Greeks" and "Africans". There are no Greeks or Africans in the Church of Alexandria. We are all one race, "Orthodox Christians". The bravery of these priests is commendable and I would like to personally thank each and every one of them. I pray that the Greek clergy under the Patriarch of Alexandria will follow this brave example. The second point I would like to raise is the legitimacy of this decision. According to the COMMUNIQUE (8 November 2019) by the Patriarch of Alexandria: "As is well known, our Holy Catholic Orthodox Church operates according to the synodal system of administration, as it received it from tradition and the Holy Ecumenical Councils. According to this, the Presidents of the local Ecclesiastical Synods consisted of the members present." This raises a few questions... Who was present? Who was invited? From what I am informed, no Synod was called, and the majority of Bishops were not aware nor invited, let alone the Priests and Clergy been consulted. If this is the case, the Holy Church of Alexandria has not entered into communion with the schismatics. The Patriarch, and "those present" have. I appeal to the Patriarch and all Orthodox Bishops who will read this to refer to the Church canons. Your wisdom does not exceed that of the Apostles and Holy Fathers. Any appeal to "Greekness" in this discussion is ethnophyletism and has also been condemned as a heresy. Preserve and Defend the Church as the Apostles and Holy Fathers have, even unto death!
Cathy12/18/2019 7:49 am
...and they are not the only ones who hold this view. Our Patriach will eventually need to clarify if he is for Orthodoxy, or his Greek people. We came to this Faith because it is true, and we love our Patriach too. May he stand up for the truth before it is too late.
Elena12/17/2019 8:54 pm
Thank you, African orthodox priests, for your honesty & faithfulness to Christ! Now it’s time all over the word for division into sheep and wolves, as was predicted. We are here in Russia we’ll pray for you! The God will help!
GEOFFREY MUGADIZI12/17/2019 6:31 pm
THE VOICE OF AFRICA My pain is to see how,we are engaged in ecumenical dialogue in all commissions and allocated 25% in any issues at WCC, we have gone a step higher of interfaith and interreligious dialogue,yet there is disease in our Orthodox family that we are not ready to sick medication to it. we are not truthful to calling towards oneness,Orthodox has been about dominance and oppression,this is not true gospel,we need to meet the people at the margin. we can not pretend all is well while we glorify wrong things ,Church leaders should seat at same table and find solution to the problems facing the Church not to serve their position,ideology,politics,money and race. Orthodox church is big and able to solve problems if you cant manage it, please give to an african to bring solution even you have dominated for long.The mission of God need to move on but not with this spirit of confusion that we are witnessing and pretending everything is fine. We need to repent and seek God to give us a way out of this mud,we need true leaders to stand up. GOD HAVE MERCY ON US SINNERS.
Zaharina12/17/2019 3:17 pm
Glory to God that He is revealing His Holy will through His true servants!
Alexios12/17/2019 1:56 pm
These priests have common sense and backbone! May the Lord grant them even more strength and success in their endeavors!
Peter 12/17/2019 12:53 pm
I have been waiting to see what the priests/bishops of the sub Saharan portion of the Alexandrian Patriarchate would say. I would guess that sub Saharan Africa hold 90% or more of the clergy/laity of the patriarchate and where all of the growth is since it does not function as a Greek enclave. I have to wonder what will be the eventual outcome, especially since the schismatics will be concelebrating with the Alexandrians soon
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