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  • emrys`nz
    Jan 31, 2000

      To My Beloved Clergy and Laity of the Syrian Greek-Orthodox
      Catholic Church in North America:

      Greetings in Christ Jesus, Our Incarnate Lord and God.

      My Beloved Brethren:

      Two years ago, while I was Vice-President and member of the Anglican and
      Eastern Orthodox Churches Union, being moved with compassion for my
      children in the Holy Orthodox Faith once delivered to the saints (Jude
      1:3), scattered throughout the whole of North America and deprived of
      the ministrations of the Church; and especially in places far removed
      from Orthodox centers; and being equally moved with a feeling that the
      Episcopalian (Anglican) Church possessed largely the Orthodox Faith, as
      many of the prominent clergy professed the same to me before I studied
      deeply their doctrinal authorities and their liturgy—the Book of Common
      Prayer—I wrote a letter as Bishop and Head of the Syrian-Orthodox
      Mission in North America, giving permission, in which I said that in
      extreme cases, where no Orthodox priest could be called upon at short
      notice, the ministrations of the Episcopal (Anglican) clergy might be
      kindly requested. However, I was most explicit in defining when and how
      the ministrations should be accepted, and also what exceptions should be
      made. In writing that letter I hoped, on the one hand, to help my people
      spiritually, and, on the other hand, to open the way toward bringing the
      Anglicans into the communion of the Holy Orthodox Faith.

      On hearing and in reading that my letter, perhaps unintentionally, was
      misconstrued by some of the Episcopalian (Anglican) clergy, I wrote a
      second letter in which I pointed out that my instructions and exceptions
      had been either overlooked or ignored by many, to wit:

      a) They (the Episcopalians) informed the Orthodox people that I
      recognized the Anglican Communion (Episcopal Church) as being united
      with the Holy Orthodox Church and their ministry, that is holy orders,
      as valid.

      b) The Episcopal (Anglican) clergy offered their ministrations even when
      my Orthodox clergy were residing in the same towns and parishes, as

      c) Episcopal clergy said that there was no need of the Orthodox people
      seeking the ministrations of their own Orthodox priests, for their (the
      Anglican) ministrations were all that were necessary.

      I, therefore, felt bound by all the circumstances to make a thorough
      study of the Anglican Church's faith and orders, as well as of her
      discipline and ritual. After serious consideration I realized that it
      was my honest duty, as a member of the College of the Holy Orthodox
      Greek Apostolic Church, and head of the Syrian Mission in North America,
      to resign from the vice-presidency of and membership in the Anglican and
      Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. At the same time, I set forth, in my
      letter of resignation, my reason for so doing.

      I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices, as well as the
      discipline, of the whole Anglican Church are unacceptable to the Holy
      Orthodox Church. I make this apology for the Anglicans whom as Christian
      gentlemen I greatly revere, that the loose teaching of a great many of
      the prominent Anglican theologians are so hazy in their definitions of
      truths, and so inclined toward pet heresies that it is hard to tell what
      they believe. The Anglican Church as a whole has not spoken
      authoritatively on her doctrine. Her Catholic-minded members can call
      out her doctrines from many views, but so nebulous is her pathway in the
      doctrinal world that those who would extend a hand of both Christian and
      ecclesiastical fellowship dare not, without distrust, grasp the hand of
      her theologians, for while many are orthodox on some points, they are
      quite heterodox on others. I speak, of course, from the Holy Orthodox
      Eastern Catholic point of view. The Holy Orthodox Church has never
      perceptibly changed from Apostolic times, and, therefore, no one can go
      astray in finding out what She teaches. Like Her Lord and Master, though
      at times surrounded with human malaria—which He in His mercy pardons—She
      is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8) the mother and
      safe deposit of the truth as it is in Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:21).

      The Orthodox Church differs absolutely with the Anglican Communion in
      reference to the number of Sacraments and in reference to the doctrinal
      explanation of the same. The Anglicans say in their Catechism concerning
      the Sacraments that there are "two only as generally necessary to
      salvation, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord." I am
      well aware that, in their two books of homilies (which are not of a
      binding authority, for the books were prepared only in the reign of
      Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth for priests who were not permitted to
      preach their own sermons in England during times both politically and
      ecclesiastically perilous), it says that there are "five others commonly
      called Sacraments" (see homily in each book on the Sacraments), but long
      since they have repudiated in different portions of their Communion this
      very teaching and absolutely disavow such definitions in their "Articles
      of Religion" which are bound up in their Book of Common Prayer or
      Liturgy as one of their authorities.

      The Orthodox Church has ever taught that there are seven Sacraments. She
      plainly points out the fact that each of the seven has an outward and
      visible sign and an inward and spiritual Grace, and that they are of
      gospel and apostolic origin.

      Again, the Orthodox Church has certain rites and practices associated
      and necessary in the administration of the Sacraments which neither time
      nor circumstances must set aside where churches are organized. Yet the
      Anglicans entirely neglect these, though they once taught and practiced
      the same in more catholic days.

      In the case of the administration of Holy Baptism it is the absolute
      rule of the Orthodox Church that the candidate must be immersed three
      times (once in the name of each Person of the Holy Trinity). Immersion
      is only permissory in the Anglican Communion, and pouring or sprinkling
      is the general custom. The Anglicans do not use holy oil in the
      administration, etc., and even in doctrinal teaching in reference to
      this Sacrament they differ.

      As to the doctrine concerning Holy Communion the Anglican Communion has
      no settled view. The Orthodox Church teaches the doctrine of
      transubstantiation without going into any scientific or Roman Catholic
      explanation. The technical word which She uses for the sublime act of
      the priest by Christ's authority to consecrate is "transmuting" (Liturgy
      of Saint John Chrysostom). She, as I have said, offers no explanation,
      but She believes and confesses that Christ, the Son of the living God
      Who came into the world to save sinners, is of a truth in His "all-pure
      Body" and "precious Blood" (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom)
      objectively present, and to be worshiped in that Sacrament as He was on
      earth and is now in risen and glorified majesty in Heaven; and that "the
      precious and holy and life-giving Body and Blood of Our Lord and God and
      Saviour Jesus Christ are imparted" (to each soul that comes to that
      blessed Sacrament) "Unto the remission of sins, and unto life
      everlasting" (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).

      Confirmation or the laying on of hands, which the Orthodox Church calls
      a Sacrament—"Chrismation"—in the Anglican Church is merely the laying on
      of hands of the Bishop accompanied by a set form of prayers, without the
      use of Holy Chrism, which has come down from Apostolic days as

      Holy Matrimony is regarded by the Anglican Communion as only a sacred
      rite which, even if performed by a Justice of the Peace, is regarded as
      sufficient in the sight of God and man.

      Penance is practiced but rarely in the Anglican Communion, and
      Confession before the reception of Holy Communion is not compulsory.
      They have altogether set aside the Sacrament of Holy Unction, that is
      anointing the sick as commanded by Saint James (see James 5:14). In
      their priesthood they do not teach the true doctrine of the Grace of the
      Holy Orders. Indeed they have two forms of words for ordination, namely,
      one which gives the power of absolution to the priest, and the
      alternative form without the words of Our Lord, whosoever sins ye remit,
      etc. (John 20: 23). Thus they leave every bishop to choose intention or
      non-intention in the act of ordination as to the power and Grace of
      their priesthood ("Ordination of Priests," Book of Common Prayer).

      But, besides all of this, the Anglican Communion ignores the Orthodox
      Church's dogmas and teachings, such as the invocation of saints, prayers
      for the dead, special honor to the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of
      God, and reverence for sacred relics, holy pictures and icons. They say
      of such teaching that it is "a foul thing, vainly invented, and grounded
      upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God"
      (Article of Religion, XXII).

      There is a striking variance between their wording of the Nicene Creed
      and that of the Holy Orthodox Church; but sadder still, it contains the
      heresy of the "filioque."

      I do not deem it necessary to mention all the striking differences
      between the Holy Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion in reference
      to the authority of holy tradition, the number of Ecumenical Councils,
      etc. Enough has already been said and pointed out to show that the
      Anglican Communion differs but little from all other Protestant bodies,
      and therefore, there cannot be any intercommunion until they return to
      the ancient Holy Orthodox Faith and practices, and reject Protestant
      omissions and commissions.

      Therefore, as the official head of the Syrian Holy Orthodox Catholic
      Apostolic Church in North America and as one who must give account (Heb.
      13:17) before the judgment seat of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls
      (I Pet. 2:25), that I have fed the flock of God (I Pet. 5:2), as I have
      been commissioned by the Holy Orthodox Church, and inasmuch as the
      Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA) does not
      differ in things vital to the well-being of the Holy Orthodox

      Church from some of the most errant Protestant sects, I direct all
      Orthodox people residing in any community not to seek or to accept the
      ministrations of the Sacraments and rites from any clergy excepting
      those of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the
      Apostolic command that the Orthodox should not commune in ecclesiastical
      matters with those who are not of the same household of faith (Gal.
      6:10), is clear: "Any bishop, or presbyter or deacon who will pray with
      heretics, let him be anathematized; and if he allows them as clergymen
      to perform any service, let him be deposed." (Apostolic Canon 45) "Any
      bishop, or presbyter who accepts Baptism or the Holy Sacrifice from
      heretics, we order such to be deposed, for what concord hath Christ with
      Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (Apostolic
      Canon 46)

      As to members of the Holy Orthodox Church living in areas beyond the
      reach of Orthodox clergy, I direct that the ancient custom of our Holy
      Church be observed, namely, in cases of extreme necessity, that is,
      danger of death, children may be baptized by some pious Orthodox layman,
      or even by the parent of the child, by immersion three times in the
      names of the (Persons of the) Holy Trinity, and in case of death such
      baptism is valid; but, if the child should live, he must be brought to
      an Orthodox priest for the Sacrament of Chrismation.

      In the case of the death of an Orthodox person where no priest of the
      Holy Orthodox Church can be had, a pious layman may read over the
      corpse, for the comfort of the relatives and the instruction of the
      persons present, Psalm 90 and Psalm 118, and add thereto the Trisagion
      ("Holy God, Holy Mighty," etc.). But let it be noted that as soon as
      possible the relative must notify some Orthodox bishop or priest and
      request him to serve the Liturgy and Funeral for the repose of the soul
      of the departed in his cathedral or parish Church.

      As to Holy Matrimony, if there be any parties united in wedlock outside
      the pale of the holy Orthodox Church because of the remoteness of
      Orthodox centers from their home, I direct that as soon as possible they
      either invite an Orthodox priest or go to where he resides and receive
      from his hands the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony; otherwise they will be
      considered excommunicated until they submit to the Orthodox Church's

      I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice
      to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no
      confusion concerning the teaching or doctrines. Instead, I order that
      the head of each household, or a member, may read the special prayers
      which can be found in the Hours in the Holy Orthodox Service Book, and
      such other devotional books as have been set forth by the authority of
      the Holy Orthodox Church.

      Commending our clergy and laity unto the safekeeping of Jesus Christ,
      and praying that the Holy Spirit may keep us all in the truth and extend
      the borders of the Holy Orthodox Faith, I remain.

      Your affectionate Servant in Christ

      + RAPHAEL,
      Bishop of Brooklyn,
      Head of the Syrian Greek Orthodox Catholic Mission in North America

      Accuracy of translation and fact of the above prescriptive direction and
      pastoral instruction being still in force and authority, unabated and
      unmodified, now and for all future time in this jurisdiction, certified
      April 27, 1927, by:

      Archbishop of Brooklyn,
      First Vicar of the Russian American Jurisdiction,
      Head of the Syrian Greek Orthodox Catholic Mission in North America

      Taken from "The Most Useful Knowledge for the Orthodox Russian-American
      Young People," compiled by V. Rev. Peter G. Kohanik, 1932-34. This was
      reprinted in Orthodox Life, Vol. 43, No. 6, 1993.