Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bishop Thomas "Locum Tenens" of Midwestern America

So Metropolitan Philip has formally removed Bishop Mark from his responsibilities as his auxiliary in the Midwestern region. There were two things notable about the memo he sent out. The first was Seyidna Philip's appointment of Bishop Thomas of Charleston as "locum tenens" of the Midwestern region. Since there is only one diocesan hierarch in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America there is absolutely no need for a locum tenens (fill-in diocesan hierarch) anywhere in the Archdiocese unless Metropolitan Philip himself dies, in which case his faux "Local Synod" will be overlooked completely by the Patriarchate of Antioch when it appoints the Archdiocese's locum tenens. Metropolitan Philip may like calling the regions/districts/whatever dioceses, but they are not distinct dioceses and as such have no need for a locum tenens when they don't have an auxiliary supervising them. The second was Metropolitan Philip's institution of the normative practice concerning the commemoration of auxiliary bishops in the Midwestern region (which is to not unless they are physically present). The Midwest is the only region that has been told to follow standard procedure - every other region/former diocese has been instructed to commemorate the metropolitan as well as the auxiliary bishop supervising their area.


  1. To be honest, I was at the time and today remain confused by the changes in the Antiochian Archdiocese in North America and all of the upset that it seemed to cause.

    I suppose it's because I have never really understood their concept of an archdiocese. Coming from western Christianity, my understanding was that an archdiocese is nothing more than a diocese headed by its ruling bishop. The "arch" is purely honorific as the diocese may be of particular historical significance or the ruling bishop may also be a metropolitan, and thus the first among the bishops with dioceses in a particular area. Such is the case in the Catholic archdioceses of Liverpoool, Birmingham, Westminster, and so forth. The bishop has metropolitan status in that area but the archdiocese is nothing more than his local diocese, granted the honour of "arch" to give it prestige.

    Then I became Orthodox and found that we too have archdioceses. Locally, I learnt of the Archdiocese of Thyateira under Constantinople and the Antiochian Archdiocese of Western and Central Europe. In each caase, the archdiocese was simply a single diocese with its ruling bishop. Yes, Thyateira had vicar bishops but that is common in many dioceses and meant nothing. So there was nothing in my experience of the Orthodox usage of the word to challenge my previous understanding of what an archdiocese is.

    So when the reports hit the web that the bishops within the Antiochian archdiocese in NA were no longer ruling bishops of their own dioceses but merely vicars of Metropolitan Philip, my first reaction was one of surprise that they ever had been considered ruling bishops at all. My second thought was, 'What's the problem?' It just seemed perfectly normal to me, and it appeared that the Holy Synod of Antioch was simply regularising a very bizarre situation. After all, how could any single diocese have multiple ruling bishops of mini-dioceses within it? It made no sense to me.

    So I'm afraid I really don't understand.

  2. How interesting! My understanding of older Eastern/Western Orthodox practice was that the metropolis/archdiocese formed a sort of lesser 'metropolitan province' (within the wider province of course - Canterbury, Lyon, et cetera) with its own constituent dioceses and, in essence, local synod to deal with local issues.

    This is what so shocked many of us in North America I think. Seyidna Philip pushed so hard for this sort of federalized metropolis/archdiocese with real component dioceses, not simply regional vicariates, autonomously governed by its own local synod, and then suddenly turned around and did everything he could to dissolve the dioceses and return the archdiocese to being a simple metropolis with regional auxiliary/vicar bishops again.

    The AOANA is far too larger to be a single diocese. Were the Holy Synod concerned with its North American flock, then it would either restore the dioceses or divide the archdiocese into multiple archdioceses/metropolises (as was wisely done to the old Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America).