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Metropolitan Philip says transfer of bishop needed to revive diocese

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  • John Brian
    Article published November 06, 2010 Metropolitan Philip defends decisions He says transfer of bishop needed to revive diocese
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 6, 2010
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      Article published November 06, 2010
      Metropolitan Philip defends decisions
      He says transfer of bishop needed to revive diocese



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      Metropolitan Philip, who has led the archdiocese for 44 years, cited a
      'deteriorating situation' in the Midwest.



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      <http://www.toledoblade.com/printroom> Reprints
      By <mailto:dyonke@...> DAVID YONKE
      BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

      The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church is thriving everywhere in North
      America except the Midwest, according to the archdiocese's longtime leader,
      Metropolitan Philip Saliba.




      And that was the sole reason for a controversial decision, announced last
      month, to transfer Bishop Mark Maymon, bishop of Toledo and the Midwest, to
      the Pacific Northwest.




      Bishop Mark refused the move and instead is joining the Orthodox Church in
      America.




      "I told our local synod when we met Oct. 22 in Jacksonville, Fla., that
      perhaps we put the wrong man in the wrong place," Metropolitan Philip said
      Monday in an interview from his Englewood, N.J., headquarters. "And I wanted
      to transfer His Grace, Bishop Mark, to the Northwest, where he can do a
      much, much better job."




      Unlike many religious groups, transferring bishops is virtually unheard of
      in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Some clergy and longtime members said
      they believe the announced transfer of Bishop Mark was unprecedented. It
      also is exceedingly rare for an Orthodox bishop to leave one jurisdiction
      for another.




      But months before Bishop Mark's transfer, the global church's ruling body -
      the Holy Synod of Antioch - announced that all North American bishops were
      not bishops, but auxiliary bishops - "subordinate to their spiritual point
      of reference, the metropolitan."


      The combination of a demotion followed by a cross-country transfer led to
      the abrupt departure of Bishop Mark, who was not available for comment.





      Metropolitan Philip said the Holy Synod initiated its review of the status
      of bishops because there was "confusion" over the issue - "and I don't like
      confusion."




      He added that "there have always been" auxiliary bishops in the church, and
      some biblical scholars view Timothy and Titus in the Bible as auxiliary
      bishops to St. Paul.




      The metropolitan said he was sorry to see Bishop Mark go.




      "I am very sad because Bishop Mark is a very good bishop. He was educated at
      St. Vladimir's Seminary and I remember him as a seminarian. I remember him
      as a deacon and as a priest, and he's very good, very good. I have nothing
      wrong against him."




      But he said he felt compelled to act because of the "deteriorating
      situation" in the Midwest, evident by declining attendance at annual Parish
      Life Conferences.




      "We have 50 parishes in the Midwest and I lived in the Midwest. I lived in
      Detroit, I went to school in Detroit, and then I was a pastor of St. Joseph,
      Cleveland. And I remember when we used to have our convention, we used to
      have a minimum of 1,000 people at the Parish Life Conference. And in
      Livonia, [Mich.,] one time we had 1,500 people. And last year in Cincinnati
      we had about 250 people, and this year in Toledo we had less than 400
      people. And Toledo is in the heart of the Midwest."




      The struggling economy could not be blamed, he said, because Toledo is
      within driving distance from throughout the diocese, which cuts convention
      expenses. Rather, he said, the poor attendance shows "a lack of
      participation, a lack of interest, a lack of inspiration."




      Metropolitan Philip personally will preside at the next Parish Life
      Conference in the diocese, set for June 15-19, 2011, in Cleveland. "You will
      see a tremendous crowd there, contrary to last year and this year," he
      vowed.




      He said the diocese's "deteriorating situation" had nothing to do with
      recent church thefts. In Toledo, a police report filed in March alleged that
      the treasurer of St. George Cathedral embezzled $145,000, and another theft
      was reported last year at a Troy, Mich., parish.




      "No, no. Those parishes are handling the situation and they have been in
      touch with me. I have been advising them, you know, to solve everything
      peacefully, not to go to courts," the metropolitan said.




      He did fault, at least in part, Bishop Mark and St. George's priest, the
      Rev. Basil Koory, for not keeping a close enough watch on church funds.




      Metropolitan Philip said he overruled Bishop Mark's plan for external audits
      at all parishes in the Midwest because it would have been too expensive, and
      that he is confident church-appointed committees can do a good job with
      internal audits.




      "Being the archbishop of this archdiocese for 44 years, I never felt that
      there was anything wrong with our finances. . I am very, very convinced that
      everything in this archdiocese is like an open book," he said.




      A native of Abou Mizan, Lebanon, Metropolitan Philip studied in Lebanon,
      Syria, and London before coming to the United States in 1956.




      The Antiochian Orthodox Church has grown exponentially during his tenure,
      both through Arab church members immigrating to the United States as well as
      American Christians converting to the church.




      Bishop Mark is one such convert. A native of Indiana, he grew up in a Roman
      Catholic family, became an evangelical Protestant, and taught Bible classes
      at Oral Roberts University before converting to the Orthodox faith.




      Metropolitan Philip said he sees no evidence of reports surfacing within the
      church of tension between immigrants and converts, or that such tensions
      were partly to blame for Bishop Mark's downfall.




      "I am the only Orthodox bishop in America that has welcomed converts with
      open arms. You know that," he said. "And converts have contributed so much
      spirituality to our church in this country, and so much discipline. I love
      converts because they are so pious. And they never gave me any problems."




      Noting that he will turn 80 in June, the metropolitan said he wants to
      retire but the Holy Synod of Antioch rejected the request.




      "The Patriarch [Ignatius IV] said to me, 'Look at me, I am 90 years old and
      I am still working.'




      "Another bishop said, 'I am 88 years old and I am still working.' Another
      bishop said, 'I am 86 years old and I am still working.' And another bishop
      said, 'I am 84 years old and I am still working.' They embarrassed me! And
      they said, 'We're not going to accept your retirement at all.'"




      In other archdiocesan news, the unofficial Orthodox Web site ocanews.org
      reported Friday that Metropolitan Philip is removing a priest in Terre
      Haute, Ind., for "disobedience" and replacing him with the Rev. Paul Albert,
      longtime pastor of St. Elias in Sylvania.




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


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