Los Angeles, February 1, 2023
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA opened its latest session at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles on January 30.
As chairman of the Assembly, Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (Patriarchate of Constantinople) offered the opening address.
The Archbishop began by reminding of the purpose of the Assembly of Bishops, as stated in its Rules of Operation:
The purpose of the Episcopal Assembly is to manifest the unity of the Orthodox Church, to promote collaboration between the churches in all areas of pastoral ministry, and to maintain, preserve and develop the interests of the communities that belong to the canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Region.
Quoting Patriarch Bartholomew, Abp. Elpidophoros emphasized that the Assembly makes decisions by consensus, because, “The synodal institution derives its origin from the depths of the mystery of the Church… By professing through the sacred Symbol our faith in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we are simultaneously also proclaiming its synodality…”
“In other words, we cannot separate our affirmation about the Lord Jesus Christ from our responsibility to act in a synodal way,” the Archbishop added.
At the same time, he noted that there are differences between the bishops of the Assembly and between the Local Churches throughout the Orthodox world, especially as concerns the war in Ukraine.
And: “The lack of recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine under Metropolitan Epiphanios by the jurisdictions in this room, except those of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, continues to be source of conflict and disagreement.”
Recall that the majority of Local Churches reject the creation and recognition of the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” precisely because it was done unilaterally by Constantinople. Hierarchs and Local Synods have been calling for a pan-Orthodox synaxis since 2018 to deal with the issue, but Pat. Bartholomew has routinely refused to gather with his brother hierarchs.
Due to Constantinople’s anti-canonical interference in Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church withdrew from the local assemblies of bishops throughout the diaspora, as they are chaired by hierarchs of Constantinople.
But Abp. Elpidophoros is “committed to bringing our Russian brethren back to the table,” he says.
The GOARCH head also addressed the issue of multiple jurisdictions and their ecclesiastical allegiances, saying: “Each of us has an allegiance to our Mother Church, and our OCA brothers, in their independent status, have an internal allegiance to one another. There is nothing wrong in these allegiances, as long as they do not inhibit our allegiance to Christ!”