OCL Issues Statement on SCOBA Meeting Cancellation - Laments Church Dispute
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Orthodox Christian Laity and other concerned Orthodox have reacted with dismay to reports that the May 7 meeting of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (more commonly known as SCOBA) has been postponed for reasons yet unexplained officially. In a letter dated February 27, 2003, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios, SCOBA Chairman, stated that following a telephone poll by the Secretariat of all SCOBA hierarchs, their preference was to postpone the scheduled conference.

It appears that the postponement is related to a jurisdictional dispute between the Antiochian Archdiocese of America and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The jurisdictional squabble reportedly involves a small number of renegade parishes in California that left the Antiochian Archdiocese and then came under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. A similar situation occurred in Australia in 1994 when the Jerusalem Patriarchate tried to intrude in the established church there.

It is believed that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who vigorously opposed Jerusalem’s 1994 Australian foray has now agreed to accept the dissident Antiochian parishes into the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. If true, Patriarch Bartholomew would sanction an irregular assignment of parishes between two American archdioceses in communion with each other.

This arbitrary action has increased tensions within SCOBA and created new divisions in America. A consequence of this dispute is that support for the opening of a SCOBA Washington Advocacy Office has been withdrawn. If the dispute is not resolved will SCOBA itself be next?

“This controversy is a lamentable demonstration of divisive interference by Old World Patriarchates in the life of our Church in America,” stated Dr. Peter Haikalis, president of OCL. Furthermore, he commented that “to many believers this dispute may just be another example of irrelevant hierarchical maneuverings with little effect on the daily liturgical life of the church. But this controversy, like that surrounding the new illegal charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, which the Patriarchate is attempting to impose, corrodes American Orthodoxy’s integrity and more importantly its ability to spread Christ’s message through his Holy Orthodox Church.”

George Matsoukas, Executive Director said “Only real Orthodox Unity in America can cure the cancer of division and controversy and help spread the Good News of our Lord. It is the responsibility of all, clergy, laity and hierarchy to bring about this unity through prayerful and real inter-action. It is also important to remind those in the Old World that the Church in America is neither a Diaspora nor a colonial extension but a living Christian presence. “

Orthodox Christian Laity is a non-profit, independent group of Orthodox Christians of all ethnic backgrounds.

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(Posted April 2003)

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