Philadelphia, July 6, 2017
In recent months, two parishes of the Eastern PA Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America have independently abandoned the Orthodox Church, uniting themselves to unrecognized, schismatic bodies. The site of the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern PA has published two letters of Abp. Mark (Maymon) in which he addresses the canonical status of St. Nicholas Independent Congregation in Philadelphia, PA, and Holy Resurrection Church in Alden Station, PA, noting that faithful Orthodox Christians may no longer worship or participate in any Sacraments in these former parishes.
In his letter regarding the status of St. Nicholas parish, Abp. Mark writes that as the members of the parish have willfully chosen to join a schismatic body, they have excommunicated themselves from all canonical Local Orthodox Churches worldwide and may not receive the Sacraments in any parishes of the recognized Local Churches, and no other canonical hierarch may restore them to communion. “Additionally, all Orthodox faithful are forbidden to participate in the services of schismatics lest they also excommunicate themselves as well,” he continues.
The parish refused a canonical priest from the Orthodox Church in America in December 2016, in protest of their hierarch asking for the parish’s financial records. The parish has since decided to join the schismatic, so-called Kievan Patriarchate, which is well known for persecuting the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This is confirmed by a message on the Kievan Patriarchate’ site, which states that the parish petitioned to join their jurisdiction, which was granted, and on January 8, 2017, the community decided to adopt Fr. Bogdan Zgoba as their priest. Interestingly, Abp. Mark writes in his message that “Mr. Bogdan Zgoba… is a former priest of the non-canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate under Patriarch Filaret,” who had been deposed by the same jurisdiction.
In the message concerning Holy Resurrection Church in Alden Station, Abp. Mark notes that a meeting was held in which the parish also decided to separate itself from holy Orthodoxy and unite with another schismatic body, having never dialogued with the diocese about any concerns beforehand. As with St. Nicholas’, the hierarch of Eastern PA writes,
Any group or person(s) not in communion with the above Churches is not recognized as Canonically Orthodox or as being in Communion with these Historic Orthodox Churches to which you have belonged for the last 100 years in this country… If you decide, however, to continue on this course you excommunicate yourselves by your own actions and may no longer receive any ministrations of an Orthodox priest. The faithful of the Orthodox Church may no longer commune at Holy Resurrection. Until this is resolved, no further pastoral care or services will be performed by an Orthodox priest for you and your parishioners, unless you go to another Canonical Orthodox Church to receive the Sacraments.
Holy Resurrection Church has decided to join the jurisdiction of the schismatic “Palestinian Orthodox Church of America,” led, as Abp. Mark explains, by the schismatic “archbishop” Ramzi Mussalam who has a history of belonging to schismatic groups, and was defrocked as a priest by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia not long after being received into the Church. Mussalam now styles himself as “Archbishop Melchisedek.” Accordingly, the Eastern PA Diocese has removed the antimens, the reserve Sacrament, the Holy Chrism, and the Holy Unction from the parish.
Holy Resurrection reportedly made this decision under the influence of St. Nicholas’ in Philadelphia.
Abp. Mark writes, “Likely, you will be assigned a priest who was deposed by a canonical Church as well,” and Holy Resurrection is now reportedly being served by “Fr.” Michael Pasonick, a former deacon of the OCA who had been laicized by his own request before serving a jail sentence for a bribery conviction. Pasonick’s name appears on the “Palestinian Orthodox Church of America” site as the priest in charge of the young adult and youth ministry, and he can be seen in pictures with the “archbishop” on the latter’s Facebook page.
All faithful Orthodox Christians should be aware that, given the actions and schismatic loyalties of these two former parishes, it is forbidden and spiritually damaging to participate in Sacraments at these churches, until, as Abp. Mark writes, they repent and return to the Orthodox Church.