The 2005 Declaration of the Holy Synod of Bishops and Clergy

of the

American Orthodox Church

North American Orthodox Church

American Orthodox Catholic Church

 

1. We adhere faithfully to the Great Commission given to us by Jesus the Christ in Matthew 28:19 to “teach all nations”.

St. John Chrysostom said: "For not to one, or two or three cities shall you preach, says Christ, but to the whole world. You will traverse land and sea, the inhabited country and the desert, preaching to princes and tribes alike, to philosophers and orators saying everything openly and with boldness of speech." We preserve in professing the faith of the primitive Church, as formulated in the oecumenical symbols and specified precisely by the unanimously accepted decisions of the Oecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church of the first thousand years.

 

2. We therefore declare that In 862, the Moravian ruler, Rathislave, approached Emperor Michael, III about receiving Slavic speaking Greek missionaries to enlighten his people. Further north in Moravia, mission work was proceeding well under Prince Rotslav who wrote to Emperor Michael III, "Our people have renounced paganism and are observing the Christian law, but we do not have a teacher to explain to us the true Christian faith in our own language in order that other nations even, seeing this, may emulate us. Send us therefore, Master, such a bishop and teacher, because from you emanates always, the good law. SS. Cyril and Methodius were sent to the region with a large minority concentration of Slavs, whose dialogue they learned from childhood. In 863, Cyril invented an alphabet perfectly suited for the phonology of the old Slavic language and began the task of translating the scriptures and liturgy. "The body of literature in Slavonic, including the Bible and the liturgy, played an important role in the Christianization of Russia. The influence of SS. Cyril and Methodius far outlasted their own efforts. It is no wonder that they are commemorated in the Liturgy as 'equal to the apostles,' evangelists of the Slavonians.'

Grigorii Shelekhov (1747-1795), encouraged by Tsarina Catherine the Great (1729-1796), established the first orthodox colony in Alaska, in 1784, at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island. Shelekhov's colonial administrator, Alexandr Baranov, ruled so long (1790-1818) and effectively that he came to be known as "Lord" of Russian America. In 1794, the Tsarina fulfilled Shelekhov's pleas to establish an Orthodox mission in Alaska, and in 1799, Tsar Paul I (1754-1801) awarded Shelekhov's Russian American Company monopolistic control over trade and government, thus inextricably entwining the Company and the Church. Only in recent years has the magnitude of their achievement been recognized -- and most appropriately during the last 200 years of the founding of the first Orthodox mission in North America in 1794, but we are compelled to bring this mission to other ethnic groups beyond the Russian and Greek cultures.

In as much that the history of this jurisdiction comes from the Russian, Ukrainian, Greek and other jurisdictions of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; we are compelled to honor and respect our heritage and brethren only insofar as they do not destroy or deny our autonomous and autocephalous  right of existence.

 

3. We also reject the dogma against married bishops as  promulgated in defiance of the Holy Scripture and in contradiction to the tradition of the ante-nicene Church fathers. 

 

 We believe if a man desire the office of a Bishop, he desires a good work.  A Bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, ... ruling well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity, (1 Timothy 3:1-4).  Undoubtedly, St. Peter and virtually most of the Apostles were married.  Their marriage clearly did not nullify being chosen as Apostles by Christ.  The father of the Cappodacian Saints was a Married Bishop.  The elder Gregory was converted by the influence of his wife, Nonna; and soon after his conversion was consecrated to the bishopric of Nazianzus (p. 187, Prolegomena, Sect. 1, Nicen & Post Nicene Fathers. Vol. 7).

 

St John Chrysostom on married Hierarchs: 'A Bishop then,' he says, 'must be blameless the husband of one wife.' This he does not lay down as a rule, as if he must not be without one, but as prohibiting his having more than one. [p.438, First Series, Vol. 13, St John Chrysostom, Homily X, Homilies on Timothy]. Councils of the Church:

 

Canon V of the Canons of the Twelve Apostles (Apostolic Canons): Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, put away his wife under pretence of religion; but if he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persists, let him be deposed.

 

Canon LI  of the Apostolic Canons: If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected, or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman.

 

St. Demetrius the Vine Dresser (Egyptian Patriarch): The Coptic Orthodox Synaxarian records one of the early Patriarchs of the Church of Alexandria as being a married man. The record states he had lived a celibate life since the beginning of marriage and it is not known whether this is a later redaction to cover the obvious conflict that would ensue otherwise. In any case, the fact of his enthronement again confirms that the tradition of the Church at that time did not consider marriage to be a bar to even hold the highest office of the Orthodox Church.

 

In 1992 a meeting of the clergy-laity conference of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America (Archbishop Iacovos), held in New Orleans, a formal resolution was sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople 'to consider returning to the practice of ordaining married priests as bishops as was done in the early church.' ... Earlier in December 1991, the Greek Archdiocese stated that it was the original practice of the Church for a married Episcopate.

 

We believe that clergy of monastic and married rank should be culled for those who would indeed be good stewards as bishops in the Church of those qualified.

 

4. We believe the Holy Spirit has blessed this attempt to insure the future stability and flourishing of our Communion, to allow our people to take part in the selection of their bishops, and to lay groundwork for a unified church.

The Holy Synod of the American Orthodox Church (AOC), the North American Orthodox Church (NAOC), and the American Orthodox Catholic Church (AOCC) have grown from small Communions directed toward American Anglo-Saxons, African American, American Hispanics, Native Americans, Indians (India) and all people of color, into a vast Communion whose ethnic diversity increasingly approximates the rich ethnic diversity of North America (United States of America, Canada) itself.

The Communion has developed its own internal structures and institutions, which respond effectively to the particular ethnic cultural, economic and political conditions in North America, while at the same time reflecting the Orthodox Church’s perennial norms for the well-ordered life of an autonomous and autocephalous local jurisdiction.

 

5. We accept the decrees of the Oecumenical Councils in matters of discipline. Although the Synod of Jerusalem, held under Dositheus in 1672, was not an Ecumenical Council, its decrees are accepted by the Holy Orthodox Church of the Orient as accurately expressing its belief, and are in harmony with the decrees of the Council of Trent on the dogmas of which they treat. We are in agreement with the Holy Orthodox Church, regarding this Synod, Hence, we hold and declare that there are many Holy Mysteries but primarily seven major mysteries or Sacraments instituted by Our Divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, therefore all of them necessary for the salvation of mankind, though all are not necessarily to be received by every individual, e.g. Holy Orders and Matrimony,  and as for the dogmatic decisions of these Councils, we accept them only in so far as they are in harmony with the teachings of the primitive Church.

 

6.   We also declare that no female may be ordained as Presbyter and has no standing as a Presbyter or Bishop in accordance with the ancient Oecumenical Councils.

 

7.  We defend marriage as between a man and woman.

 

8.  We defend the right to life for all of God’s children, unborn and born; even the life of those who, by society’s law, are convicted.

     We believe that the sins of a nation lie in its people.  When Caesar interferes with individual rights of persons and families to raise their children in a non-violent, or physically non-threatening way; and when Caesar forbids prayer in its institutions of learning and restricting religious observances from public view more and more, that nation begins to perish by its own doing which is a reflection of its lack of maintaining those principals embodied in that country’s Bill of Rights and Constitution; that country’s strength declines when the nation departs from the purposes it was created for, using an analytical-political or sociological approach to many of the growing ills of its society and nation under a variety of pretexts that leads to growing restrictions of the liberties of its people, of the life-blood of its society that takes life, even condemning life, even restricting religious liberties; we must more urgently follow the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ in our preaching, teaching, baptizing all the more. 

 

9.  We defend the continuation of Life for all of God’s children and not to the destruction of life by Caesar (government) because life is precious to God, all life…

Any act or thing which intentionally destroys the life of any human being, young or old, even those in its jails or prisons; we believe is against the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ.  If the church is truly teaching that which was handed down by Jesus Christ, the Holy Apostles and Patristic Fathers, instilling into the people true Orthodox Catholic understanding whereby the Love of God is truly implanted with fear for disobeying that which His son has taught and lived, knowing that His son’s teachings are in fulfillment of all that was given by Moses; the people will not depart from it. 

We know that where the multiplicity of erroneous teachings are being provided through various societal institutions today, the people falter and many grow weak, not having a grounding in the true faith of our fathers… being mesmerized by the Evil that roams the world seeking the ruination of souls and through which the people fall from Grace and the saving presence. 

Those people who truly struggle out of pain of heart for the faith once delivered, will become like those who stood fast when they, in ancient times, became martyrs and saints as a result of Caesar’s (government's) preoccupation to destroy the budding Christian faith. They gave their own life to insure the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ would continue to be preached through out the known world. 

The same is and must be done today… for the arena of today’s Caesar, is become the arena controlled in these times by the politics of the local area, the state and nation; as well as the electronic media who, themselves, would not dare defy Caesar, even if the same were to defend the faithful… Caesar would win, not the people, not the faith, except to add new spiritual (even material) blood of martyrs who stand strong, whose numbers are dwindling in these present times.

Abortion, Euthanasia, self assisted suicide, which takes life; these things are being allowed by Caesar which is immoral and against the very fabric of that which was handed down to us by Jesus Christ and the Holy Apostles. When there is no extreme physiological pain in the person who may have a life threatening disease requiring life sustaining medication, but who departs from doing so, they defy God who has given us all things in this world for our benefit; they defy creation, God and the natural order of things by ending either their own or another's life.

Even matters of Clergy Sexual Abuse has reached a proportion to which this jurisdiction has been and is addressing itself, as it has prepared a separate statement and a set of guidelines to meet this grave and serious issue. Clergy Sexual Abuse cannot and will not be tolerated either by clergy or its faithful.  It will not tolerate either, false allegations based on one's personal agenda through the use of opinion polls or the electronic news media to defame or destroy another faithful parishioner or clergy member either.  To allow the continuation of these things is to destroy the life and spirit of a people of faith, the Church.  For the Church as being the Faith of the People who follow and practice, according to their nature and degree of individual ability, must be in accord with each other and its clergy as clergy must be in accord with the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ.

The continuation of life means that the individual is given a chance to amend his or her ways, do penance and seek forgiveness while there is time in his or her natural life. 

 

10. We declare that the Holy Eucharist has always been the true central point of Orthodox Catholic worship and we consider it our right to declare that we maintain with perfect fidelity the ancient Catholic doctrine concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, by believing that we receive the Body and Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ under the species of bread and wine. The Eucharistic celebration in the Church is neither a continual repetition nor a renewal of the expiatory sacrifice which Jesus offered once for all upon the Cross: but it is a sacrifice because it is the perpetual commemoration of the sacrifice offered upon the Cross, and it is the act by which we represent upon earth and appropriate to ourselves the one offering which Jesus Christ makes in Heaven, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews 9:11-12, for the salvation of redeemed humanity, by appearing for us in the presence of God (Heb. 9:24). The character of the Holy Eucharist being thus understood, it is, at the same time, a sacrificial feast, by means of which the faithful in receiving the Body and Blood of our Saviour, enter into communion with one another (I Cor. 10:17).

 

11. We pray that Orthodox Catholic Christian theologians, in maintaining the faith of the undivided Church, will succeed in establishing an agreement upon questions that have been controverted ever since the divisions that arose between East and the West. We exhort the priests under our jurisdictions to teach, both by preaching and by the instruction of the young, especially the essential Christian truths professed by all the Christian confessions, to avoid, in discussing controverted doctrines, any violation of truth or charity, and in word and deed to set an example to the members.

 

12. By maintaining and professing faithfully the doctrine of Jesus Christ, by refusing to admit those errors which by the fault of men have crept into the Church, by laying aside the abuses in ecclesiastical matters, together with the worldly tendencies of the hierarchy, we believe that we shall be able to combat efficaciously the great evils of our day, which are unbelief and indifference in matters of religion which is our very Faith, the fabric of the Spiritual Hospital for all who call themselves “Christian”. 

 

13. Our valid autocephaly and autonomy (inherited from the time of St. Tikhon who had been the Patriarch of all Russia) safeguards the canonical principle that local matters of any individual bishop should be handled locally by that bishop and that among other things allowing the selection of bishops for the Communion of a jurisdiction through its Holy Synod whose life and work is known to the faithful among us and who are committed to “keep that which is committed to thy trust“, (I Timothy 6:20).

 

14. We who are members of the Holy Synod of Bishops operating through the International Headquarters in Deming, New Mexico, on behalf of our clergy, laity, and all institutions under this august body; do hereby proclaim and declare that this ecclesiastically valid autocephalous and autonomous portion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, as provided by the ancient epitome of the canons, and other documents, affirm all that is hereinabove stated as incumbent on us.

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