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Antiochian bishop in Toledo refuses demotion, opts to leave

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://toledoblade.com/article/20101101/NEWS16/10310345/-1/NEWS10 Antiochian bishop in Toledo refuses demotion, opts to leave Article published November 01,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2010

      Antiochian bishop in Toledo refuses demotion, opts to leave
      Article published November 01, 2010


      A Toledo bishop in the Antiochian Orthodox
      Christian Church has refused to accept a demotion
      and transfer to the Pacific Northwest, instead
      opting to leave the denomination and join the Orthodox Church in America.

      The move brings a bitter end to a long-simmering
      dispute involving Bishop Mark Maymon, installed
      as bishop of Toledo and the Midwest Diocese in
      August, 2005, and Metropolitan Philip Saliba, who
      has led the Antiochian Orthodox Christian
      Archdiocese of North America since 1966.

      The issues debated for nearly two years have
      centered on the status of bishops and financial
      accountability in the self-ruled archdiocese,
      which claims to have 450,000 members in 265
      churches and missions in the United States and
      Canada. There are two Antiochian Orthodox
      parishes in the Toledo area - St. George Orthodox
      Cathedral on Woodley Road, where Bishop Mark is
      based, and St. Elias in Sylvania.

      Metropolitan Philip, 80, sent an "urgent update"
      Wednesday to all clergy in the archdiocese, to be
      read from the pulpit and published in church
      bulletins, stating that because of "the
      deteriorating situation" in the Midwest diocese,
      Bishop Mark was to have been transferred to the
      Diocese of Eagle River and the Northwest. That
      sprawling diocese covers Alaska, Washington,
      Oregon, Idaho, and two Canadian provinces; its
      cathedral is 20 miles outside of Anchorage.

      The Metropolitan's letter, which provided no
      explanation why the diocese was "deteriorating,"
      said Bishop Mark declined the transfer.

      "Citing health reasons, Bishop Mark said he could
      not live in that part of the country and
      subsequently requested to be released to the
      Orthodox Church in Amer-ica. The [Antiochian
      archdiocese] synod agreed to his request and, at
      present, he is working out the details of his
      release" with the OCA's leader, Metropolitan Jonah.

      Neither Bishop Mark nor Metropolitan Philip
      returned calls from The Blade seeking comment.

      The decision to transfer Bishop Mark comes two
      months after the global church's ruling body, the
      Holy Synod of Antioch, announced that all bishops
      in the North American Archdiocese were "auxiliary
      bishops under the direction of the Metropolitan,
      who has the full jurisdiction over the archdiocese."

      The statement further said that "the Metropolitan
      possesses the right and authority to transfer a
      bishop from one diocese to another, as he deems
      necessary for the benefit of the archdiocese and
      after deliberating with the archdiocese synod."

      The new interpretation of the bishops' status and
      the Metropolitan's authority to transfer them are
      major changes in the policies of the archdiocese,
      where bishops have often been described as "wedded to their diocese."

      Last year, Bishop Mark refused to sign a
      statement affirming that archdiocesan bishops were auxiliary bishops.

      He told The Blade at the time that the
      archdiocese cannot be self-ruled without a synod,
      and there is no legitimate synod if auxiliary
      bishops must be "in complete obedience to the Metropolitan."

      On Oct. 23, at a meeting of the Local Synod of
      the Antiochian Archdiocese - a body consisting of
      Metropolitan Philip and his now-auxiliary bishops
      - the Metropolitan released 18 policy changes and
      directives for implementing the changes, with a
      cover letter from the Archdiocesan Department of
      Legal Affairs giving its approval.

      Those directives included "unequivocal obedience"
      to the new rules; requiring all formal
      communications and all fund-raising activities to
      go through the archdiocese's Englewood, N.J.,
      headquarters, and the dismantling of the bishops' individual Web sites.

      In an Oct. 10 interview with Ancient Faith Radio,
      Metropolitan Philip indicated that he would
      transfer a bishop only "for the well-being of
      this archdiocese" and "not out of vindictiveness, God forbid."

      One concern he cited was declining attendance by
      church laity at annual conferences, indirectly
      referring to the Midwest diocese.

      He also expressed displeasure at an order from
      Bishop Mark for external audits at all parishes in the diocese.

      The Metropolitan, who canceled those audits, told
      the radio station that Bishop Mark "changed the
      financial law of the diocese … without informing me."

      He also blamed Bishop Mark for not keeping a
      close enough watch on church funds after an
      embezzlement at Toledo's St. George Orthodox Cathedral.

      A police report was filed in March charging the
      cathedral's treasurer, Charles Cassis of Toledo,
      with embezzling more than $145,000 over a period of time.

      Efforts to reach a monetary settlement with Mr.
      Cassis have failed and a meeting was to have been
      held Sunday at the cathedral to update parishioners on the status of the case.

      Metropolitan Philip also told the radio station
      that the North American archdiocese is undergoing
      an internal rather than external audit, to save
      the church "millions of dollars" in audit costs.

      He said he gave the audit committee freedom to
      audit "everything in this archdiocese except one
      thing - the money which I have accumulated from
      my stipend and from gifts that general people gave me.

      "I don't have hundreds of millions of dollars; I
      have a few million dollars, OK?" the Metropolitan
      said, funds he plans to bequeath to the archdiocese.

      Bishop Thomas Joseph has been appointed to
      oversee the Midwest diocese until a new bishop is
      elected, "likely next summer," the Metropolitan said.

      Bishop Mark will remain on the archdiocesan
      payroll and live in the Toledo chancery "as our
      guest" until the end of 2010, Metropolitan Philip said in his letter.

      Contact David Yonke at:
      or 419-724-6154.
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