WHAT IS THE AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH and the NORTH AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABOUT? 

 

WHO ARE THE TRUE FAITHFUL?  WHO ARE HER MEMBERS?
                                               
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There are those who are attempting to claim that they are the "National" or "International" Headquarters for the AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. but are unable to show that they are the original root of the California (Secular) corporation of 1971-1972 which came into existence AS A DIRECT RESULT of Archbishop Peter Zurawetzky (Rathway, New Jersey) as is borne out by a letter from the Archbishop of New York, Metropolitan Ireney of the ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA (April 1976). 

This letter passed only to those who hold valid claims to the use of the name AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH and to no other.  Not to any other corporation of the same name in a northeastern state who had been one with us but is no more because they were deposed and removed from the Holy Synod of Bishops and relieved from using anything associated with us, nor any other, but only those who hold valid lines of succession in the same lineage and to those who were the originators as stated below.  Those who are validly using the name AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH who are either directly or indirectly a part of our Holy Synod come from the States of Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Minnesota, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and the countries of Mexico, Canada and Brazil.

In tandem with Archbishop Zurawetsky to Archbishops David Baxter, David Mark Johnson and thus to Metropolitan Archbishop Joseph Thaddeus (Stanford), OSB, SSJt., Ph.D..  That is the flow of secular corporate establishment.  Each of the above named individual Archbishops hold valid lines of Episcopal Succession and were charged through their commission in establishing the AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH, not any other outside of those lines who have not received from the Holy Synod of the AOC/NAOC such permissions.   

Another letter to His Eminence, Archbishop Zurawetsky confirms further this fact....

 

For those who hold a different understanding of what it means to be "Orthodox", this is to inform them of Fact.  Orthodoxy does not always rely upon the disease of "academia" or "scholasticism" or even a paper-flow mentality.  Why is this even being raised?  Because the lines of succession flows from and through +Peter Zhurawetsky ... +Baxter... +Johnson then to +Thaddeus, it was learned in 1982, after the consecration of +Thaddeus, that Baxter and Johnson had had a falling out and Baxter repudiated his consecration of +Johnson.  According to informed sources though (+Joachim, +Maxey, +Itkin and a Greek Orthodox Parishioner, Mr. Peter Gianopolous at the time the California Corporation was signed over to +Thaddeus, and even +Johnson himself made similar statementts) "Baxter and Johnson had repentance and forgiveness was mandated."  But the time interval between the initial action and the repentance caused for, on the part of +Baxter, to tell +Johnson at the time of +Johnson's repentance, in front of some of those witnesses named as relating to the phone conversations, that the mandate he received from Zhurawetsky was passed onto +Johnson in California.  The actions of bishops, consecrators and consecrands are well known in some circles, to be a stretching for image, power and control which often has caused for ruptures to happen.  With some, a healing occurs through repentance and forgiveness, reaffirming that which was initially done, cementing relationships more strongly with acts and actions to make more solid that which may have been weak, like cement as glue to bricks.  And, it is not uncommon that some acts or actions are not always documented too.

 

Some even claim that +Johnson was operating a "paper church".  It is a known fact that he did not maintain a "Paper Church" but maintained a small, but active, ministry and activity in Southern California before moving to San Francisco, California.  Those who have made the allegations or claims either fail or refuse to accept facts because they rely more heavily upon documentation.  In Orthodoxy, this is often times considered as being not of the Spirit, but of another.  The witnesses can not be all wrong even though there was no other documentation forwarded at the time.  And even +Thaddeus, himself, was unaware of the extremity of the falling out between +Baxter and Johnson. 

Some claim that only Lines of Succession hold validity as to which is the true AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH.  FACT: The Russian Orthodox Church hold the rights to the use of the nomenclatured AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH.  And, thus, if by familiar lineage of Episcopal Succession, all who hold the name AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH may be validly true in part. 

However, insofar as secular forums are concerned, the corporate name is the key only for the particular state in which one is established.  Thus, for example: a corporation by the same name in another state, even though they are an erring offshoot from the parent out of California and became independent from all things held near and dear by the parent religious organization both nationally and internationally. 

The California corporation was established in 1971-1972.  A corporation in one northeastern state using the same name, was established in 2002-2003. The difference between the two corporations is the fact that the one in California, when establishing itself in the State of New Mexico, discovered that the State of New Mexico only allows a name to be used once.  Thus when a corporate name goes defunct... it cannot be used again for a rather lengthy number of years, if at all.  Thus the California corporation filed incorporation in New Mexico under the nomenclature of NORTH AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH and is therefore one and the same as the AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH through it's National and International Headquarters. 

As for any other corporation in other states using the same name in this example, it is established only in those states of the U.S.A..  There are validly nomenclatured organizations who are called AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH in other states of the U.S.A. and have the proper lineage too, but a few have followed the example provided who have not the proper lineages either episcopal or secular.

The California Corporation is established in New Mexico, in Canada and has scattered parishes and missions in Michigan, Florida, New York, Arizona, Texas and other states. It has become the true NATIONAL and International HEADQUARTERS even though there are other groups who have been calling themselves AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. 

The bottom line question that may arise in one's mind can only be answered by the fact that only those who hold to the Love of Christ and show true repentance is spiritually the legitimate heir. Those who commit spiritual fraud will be held accountable on judgment day!

Updated: Sunday - September 05, 2004- 8:39 AM

Orthodox Churches, East and West, have long been known, for the most part, to foster, promote and hold attitudes along ethnic lines of those either in position of authority or for the ethnic nationality by which they are so named.  We see this in the "RUSSIAN" Orthodox Church, the "GREEK" Orthodox Church, etc.

In North America (Mexico, the United States of America and Canada) there exists an idea that the "Orthodox" Church must be split into 'ethnic' counterparts whereby "Irish," "English," "Scottish," "Afro-American," "Mexican," "American Indian," etc. should be so identified, if not by name of ethnicity, by (at least) liturgical forms common to the particular ethnic heritage and attitude under the aegis of "local custom".  Such attitudes and goals or ideas in, and of, themselves are laudable in part, but for us in the American Orthodox Church (of North America) it is the opinion of some that they are not proper in spirit and truth for many reasons.

  1. As a spiritual hospital for sick souls (sinners), the Church must be holistic for all people without deference, indifference or discrimination.

  2. As a Church in North America which is representative of the "Melting Pot" of races and nationalities, the Church must reflect this "Melting Pot" approach and understanding of races and nationalities in all that she says and does without diluting, altering or changing her Apostolic mission from the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, the Holy Apostles and Patristic Fathers.

  3. No Bishop, Pastor, Priest, Monk, Nun or lay person should ever promote any thing that might, could or would be errantly construed as 'ethnic,' or 'racial' heritage having pre-eminence over that of another.

  4. Inasmuch as many may argue the racial and ethnic heritage of Jesus Christ when He was on earth; the Church established by Him must be open to all; be s/he/they gentile, Jew, Afro-American, American Indian, Mexican, Spanish, Irish, Greek, Russian, French, German, Polish, Italian, etc. - - - to include all people of all races, heritage and/or ethnic backgrounds.

  5. Inter-religious politics and actions, if any, should not and must not bear an attitude in favor or against any ethnic or racial group.

  6. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Jesus, do not, cannot and must not hold to any expression involving ethnicity or ace as having importance or superiority over another.

  7. All ethnicities or races are, in the Church, equal and nothing should be done to show or express any act or action in which the social, educational, psychological or political actions involved are greater or lesser than the other.

  8. Should a local mission, chapel or parish that may be specifically of an 'ethnic' or 'racial' community make-up of people, they should celebrate then those feasts appropriate to their heritage for all.  However, let no celebration of a so-called feast of heterodox be done that may be celebrated in secular society to honor an individual who is not either Orthodox or Catholic. Only those who are canonically considered a "Saint" is truly celebrated.

The above are opinions only and not necessarily set in "concrete" (so-to-speak) as a directive, canon or resolution of the Church so much as a time honored concept, in part, of understanding.

One may then ask as to what is the Church?  You may wish to view the article, "MAN: to err, the Church and Holy Spirit!"  Yet, while it may not tell you exactly what the CHURCH IS, it tells you more about what the Church IS NOT!  So, What is the Church?

On the day of the Annunciation the WORD became flesh of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 1:14; Mt. 1:18).  The Virgin Mary conceived Jesus Who became the Christ!

At Pentecost, the same Holy Spirit descended upon the believers in the form of tongues of fire.  The same WORD came to make His abode within the Church and the Church began to proclaim the WORD OF GOD, to announce the Resurrection.

Just as the Holy Theotokos, ever virgin, Mary, carried and gave birth to Jesus Christ, so the Church bears or carries the WORD and announces the WORD to a sinful world.

The WORD is a Person, the LOGOS; it is God speaking to us, it is the Son, present in the Church, just as He was present in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos (God Bearer).

From Pentecost to present times, the Spirit created the Church, transforming an assembly of believers into a place where Christ, Jesus, is present.  "Truly, I say to you... where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them," (Matt. 18:20).

St. Ireneaus, "Where the Church is, there also is the Spirit of God and where the Spirit of God is, there also is the Church and all its Grace."

St. Cyprian, "The Church is one even though the number of churches is constantly growing as it becomes fertile.  There are many churches, but only one Church."

Sergius Bulgakov, "Christ's Church is not an institution, it is a new life with Christ and in Christ, directed by Holy Spirit."

Oliver Clement, "In the darkness of this fallen world, the Church is an opening in the wall made by the triumphant Cross.  The love of the Trinity never ceases to shine through the light of Resurrection."

There are many who go to Church, cross themselves over and over again and then say vicious things about their neighbors while parents tell stories about disagreements between priests, even disagreements between bishops.  One can only wonder where the Holy Spirit is in all of this, or how anyone can believe that Christ, Jesus, is living in such an assembly of seeming hypocrites.

Yet, if you see or hear those things, you should have been in Jerusalem on that Friday when Pilate presented Christ to the crowd, covered in blood and spit, you would have thought He looked repulsive, "As many were astonished at Him - His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance... He was despised and rejected by men ... and as one from whom men hid their faces," (Is. 52:14, 53:3).  This is how Isaiah described the suffering Messiah.  His face was marked by all the ugliness of this world.  The spitting of men disfigured Him and yet He remained the same Christ, Jesus, the only Holy One.  It is the same with the Church.

The Church is disfigured by our spitting, out pettiness, our crimes, by the sins of those who belong to it, including yours and mine.  Yet, the same Christ, Jesus, remains hidden in it and the Holy Spirit hovers over it; the Church is "Emmanuel," that is, "God with us," a God who consents to be present among sinners, publicans, liars, cheats, thieves, even prostitutes of every kind.  It is not those who are well, but those who re sick of soul and need healing, the Lord Jesus Christ, would say when He was criticized  for sitting down with sinners at the table.  The Church is a spiritual, and yet a material, hospital for sick souls who recognize they suffer from sin which keeps them from attaining to the fullness Jesus Christ would have us.  Thus, our struggle in this life is to reach to that fullness out of pain of heart for Him Who gave all for us.

Although there are many today who claim they believe in God, in Jesus Christ as professed in the Creed, many do not believe in the Church and are confining God to heaven.

For the true Christian believer, God is a God made man, God among us, hidden among men so that He may heal the sinning man.  Our God is a God who acts and makes Himself known through those whom He came to save and Who never ceases making a caricature of Him, His WORD is heard among men and it is through them that He makes His Love known, His act of Forgiveness through their sincere repentance and penance... through the true sincere struggler in the faith, in this life, the Church.

He is a God Who allowed Himself to incarnate through human birth in a stable at Bethlehem; tortured, crucified between two criminals, being "numbered with transgressors" (Is. 53:12).  If you cannot recognize the Holy One hidden among sinners of His Church, and in the same of His Passion, then hardly will you recognize Him at His second coming.

When we say, "I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church," it does not mean that we believe in what we see.  What a non-believing sociologist or historian can describe after studying the Church is not the object of our faith whatsoever.  It certainly is not faith that is intended for what we can see.  "Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe," (Jn. 20:29).  A stereotyped image of the Church at a certain place or time does not reflect its true essence and does not help us to define it.

God's WORD, or PROMISE, is what we believe in!

God's WORD, or PROMISE, is the true object of our faith.  When God speaks, things are created; for example: "Let there be light, and there was light."  This is the course of a revealing phrase from the Orthodox Catholic service for the dead, "Thy creating command was my origin and my foundation".

Philaret of Moscow expresses this idea beautifully: "All creatures are balanced upon the creative WORD OF GOD, as if upon a bridge of a diamond; above them is the abyss of the Divine infinitude, below them that of their own nothingness".  (Quoted in Georges Florovsky, THE WAYS OF RUSSIAN THEOLOGY [Paris, 1937] cited by Vladimir Lossky in THE MYSTICAL THEOLOGY OF THE EASTERN CHURCH {Crestwood, NY, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1976, Pg. 92}).

The Church means the "Ecclesia," the assembly of people, the faithful, where the Bishop ('Apostle' in a line of succession of Apostles) is, the Church ... the assembly of the faithful are then able to be fed by the Holy Mysteries of the Church.

The quasi-conjugal union which links God to His people, which existed between God and the Israelites through their God anointed priests; exists today with God having made the Church, through His Son, the Bride of Christ which is expressed through out the Bible.

The Prophet Hosea describes the characteristics which unite God to Israel and which are a foreshadowing of those who, by God's Will, make the Church the Bride of His Christ.

St. Paul, in the New Testament, emphasized the continuity which exists between "Israel according to the flesh" (I Cor. 10:1-8) and the "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16).

By the mouth of the prophet, God expresses His tender feeling for his people:

"I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.  I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord" (Hos. 2:19-20).

In the Old Testament, Israel's history is displayed as a continuous relationship with the Lord, as the Bride of the Lord.  But Hosea has no illusions as to the character of the bride; the break between reality and God's plan already becomes apparent.  Israel is the wife of her Lord, but an adulterous wife, "a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress" (Hosea 3:1).

Even though Israel, the Bride, betrays her Lord, He does not cease to lover her with a divine tenderness, to correct her, to draw her back to Himself and to sanctify her with His love.

"Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms ... I led them with cords of compassion, with bonds of love and I became to them as one eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them ... How can I give you up O'Ephraim ... My heart recoils within Me, My compassion grows warm and tender.  i will not execute My fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy" (Hosea 11:3-4, 8-9).

The union between God and His people will become even more fully and clearly realized in the New Testament.

Through the parables told by Jesus Christ, God is shown to us as the bridegroom of His people through the Son.

In the Book of Matthew, Chapter 22, verse 1 to 14 we are told the parable of the Wedding Feast.

The Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a wedding feast in which a king, God, arranged for his son, Jesus Christ.  Since those who were invited to the feast did not want to come, the king said to his servants, "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.'  And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests" (Matt. 22:8-10).  It is no longer only the privileged who are invited to the wedding; the feast is not limited to a chosen people; both the good and bad are called.  All are invited to communion with God who desire, "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth," (I Tim. 2:4).  We do not yet know who the bride is; she is represented by all the guests.  These guests are asked to wear special wedding clothes (meaning to take on for ourselves a special struggle in this earthly life so that our soul is covered, as it were, with unspottedness).  When one of the guests takes advantage of the king's kindness and comes without a wedding garment, the king says, "friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?"  And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness" (Matt. 22:12-13).  This is akin to one who has not, in his earthly life, taken the task for which we are called "Christian" by struggling in this life for the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, and the life to come.

What is this wedding garment which all the guests must wear when they come before the divine Bridegroom?  How can the wicked enter the wedding chamber simply by changing their clothes?  The beautiful expostilarion (hymn sung during matins) between the canon and the praises during Holy Week in the Eastern Orthodox Church, gives an answer: "Thy bridal chamber I see adorned O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment that I may enter.  O'Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul and save me."

We must obtain a "robe of light" which is the gift of God.  This gift is the Holy Spirit Who is given freely to those who put their faith and trust in Christ, the Giver.  This is the struggle in this earthly life for the life to come.  When the Ethiopian asks the deacon Philip, "What is to prevent my being baptized?"  Philip answers, "If you believe with all your heart, you may."  And the Ethiopian answers, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:36-37).  Belief alone requires not just an acknowledgment with words, but with action through out one's life, day to day.  This means to struggle, actively, daily and for the remainder of one's own life with the struggle to live up to the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ according to one's very nature and degree of ability to do, and then some.  This is the struggle out of pain of heart!

If we believe with our whole heart, if we have complete confidence in the merciful generosity of Jesus Christ the Savior, He will grant us the gift of the Holy Spirit, regardless of our past sins.  Through this gift we become members of the Church and are able to enter into the intimacy of the wedding chamber.  Salvation is the conjugal union of believers, even those who had been 'wicked,' with Christ God, their beloved King.

This union is celebrated at a feast, a banquet, a celestial supper.  We partake at the table of the Kingdom, we participate in this "Mystical Supper," when we communicate the Body and most precious Blood of our Lord during Divine Liturgy.  The Liturgy celebrates the union of love between Jesus Christ and His people.  But the marriage is not yet consummated as the parable of the ten virgins tells us.

In the parable of the ten virgins (Mt. 25:1-13) we learn that the Bridegroom of the Church is late in coming.  Ten virgins had been chosen to meet and escort Him with lighted lamps to the wedding feast.  Five of them were foolish and said to themselves, "It is late, the Bridegroom will not come".  They fell asleep and let their lamps go out because they did not have enough oil.  They are like the people today who say, "We've been waiting for the Lord's Second Coming for over two thousand years.  At the Ascension He promised His Disciples that He would return.  We don't believe it any more; its not true."  Many who are clergy in these times have taken, unknowingly to themselves, the same attitude and have turned the Church into an arena of pompous political power trips, vying for power, control, avarice, greed, self-image, micro management through deceit and dishonest manipulation of others to do things most detestable and even in going further to wage nonexistent political intrigues to disguise their own faults and frailties that they are not willing or capable of admitting.  They are concerned about self-image both in dress, correct words, right style of dress, dying their hair because they believe they have to make a good image or appearance upon others, falsely believing it will enhance their image along with their verbiage to embolden their listeners to their self-importance in academics and spiritual understanding.  The words are there, but the spirit is lost on another path unwholesome to the Faithful.  Their actions and attitudes, coupled with what they say in demanding tones indicates their inner selves to be much like those who claim belief but don't really believe ... much the same as the five virgins who let their lamps go out.

But the other young women were wise; they knew that even though the Bridegroom tarried, He would fulfill His promise.  And so, before going to sleep they made sure they had enough oil for their lamps.

At midnight there was a cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom!  Come out to meet Him."  The wise virgins got up and trimmed their lamps which they had kept burning to meet the Bridegroom.  The foolish virgins said to the wise, "Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out."  But the wise replied, "Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves."  And so when the Bridegroom came they were away, but those who were ready entered with Him into the marriage feast and the door was closed behind them.  When the other virgins returned and cried, "Lord, Lord, open to us," He answered, "Truly I say to you, I do not know you."

Christ will return at the end of time as He promised!  We do not know the day or the hour.  Therefore we should be prepared in not only our minds, but our hearts, with out lips and our daily struggle in this life.  We must have faith to be able to recognize Him.  He will appear as the Bridegroom to everyone only when He returns in Glory.  Then He will lead into the bridal chamber those who, hidden among the sinners of His Church, have recognized Him.

If you take up your cross, bear the pain and shame of this life by abiding to the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ; through baptism and the many Holy Mysteries of the Church, you become One with Him who is the Head of the Church.... Jesus Christ!


GRAMMATA ON THE MEANING OF CANONICAL: The essence of being canonical constitutes following the teachings of Jesus Christ as:

(a) in the dogmatic proclamations of the Seven Oecumenical Councils;

(b) in a diocese or church body being in communion (whether formally or not) with all jurisdictions or branches which have remained faithful to the Orthodox Christian way of life in both teaching and practice;

(c) in the bishops having a legitimate Orthodox Apostolic Succession and Tradition. This means that Apostolic succession is always rooted in Apostolic tradition, not a mere independent laying on of hands.

In all due respect, being part of a particular branch or Synod obviously does not make one canonical. This is especially crucial, as certain parts of Orthodoxy in modern times seem to have changed the Orthodox understanding of `canonical' into a new version of papacy.

Their definition of `canonical' is focused on being recognized, for instance, by the Patriarch of Constantinople (as if he were some sort of Eastern pope), whereas there is no such rule in the entire Canon Law (PEDALION ["Rudder"]). They appear to have adopted the corrupted Ecclesiology of Roman Catholicism by making legitimacy or canonicity dependant upon recognition by a particular Patriarch or Pope.

This "neo-papal" concept has no historical precedent in Holy Orthodoxy and contradicts centuries of Orthodox tradition back to the times of the Holy Apostles. It is as if by being in communion with a particular segment of Orthodoxy, whether Patriarchal or not, somehow would make one Orthodox.

Seeking worldly recognition in the eyes of men and a corrupted society by merely understanding the administrative, legal unity of the church instead of the true unity, which only can exist in the authentic Orthodox way of life, is spiritually detrimental, utterly false and not at all Orthodox. The forming of self-styled organizations in mutual recognition with the purpose of denouncing others as being not canonical or in proclaiming themselves as the only legitimate ones, constitutes the grave sin of "condemning one's brother and sister" (St. Ephraim).

What is our call in this situation? - In order to remain canonical, we cannot join in such unholy endeavors. Living the Orthodox way of life must be most important to us. Engaging in assaults on others is contrary to the holy faith and most sinful. We said "assaults" which means that we must upbraid our brothers in the vineyard when they fail or refuse to abide by all that which had been handed down to them. Let us continue to live as true Orthodox Christians who obey the Gospel commands as we invite those "of good will" (Luke 2:14) to join us. Once the worldly-minded through the grace of God will understand what `being canonical' really means - then the truth shall be revealed: Where faith, doctrine and practice prevail, there is Orthodoxy. Where faith, doctrine and practice are compromised, canonicity, catholicity and Orthodoxy are absent despite any claims of communion or sort of recognition that may exist through artificial means.

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