Special Convention Speech
July 16, 2004
Beloved Hierarchs, Esteemed members of the Archdiocese
Board of Trustees, Beloved Clergy, Parish Councils, Delegates
and all Faithful of our God-protected Archdiocese:
I warmly welcome you to this special Archdiocese Convention. The last Special Convention was held in the city of
New York in 1966 to nominate candidates to succeed Metropolitan Antony Bashir of thrice-blessed memory.
I bring to you greetings and blessings from our Father in Christ, His Beatitude, Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. I have been in touch with His Beatitude almost on a weekly basis and he is very much interested in the work of this convention.
The Book of Acts recorded the trials and tribulations of Peter, John, Paul and the rest of the early Christian community as they preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus. In Acts 4:31-32, we read: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness. Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.” I hope that after our prayers and accomplishments at this convention, the foundations of this fragmented Orthodoxy in
North America will be shaken and all Orthodox will speak the Word of God with boldness and with one heart and one soul.
My dear brothers and sisters:
About a month ago, the members of our Local Synod and the members of the Board of Trustees, the Governing Council of the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and some of our Villagers and faithful gathered at the Antiochian Village to dedicate our beautiful museum and celebrate the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of our camping program which has touched thousands of young people throughout North America. We were there on that beautiful mountain with one heart and one soul to witness to Holy Orthodoxy in prayers, in words and deeds. Now we do have a decent place to house some of our spiritual and cultural heritage.
At the banquet Saturday evening, the Villagers energized the banquet by their youth, hopes and dreams for a brighter future. I hope the day will come when hundreds of our Villagers will return to that beautiful mountain to renew friendships and collect the precious memories of their camping years.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
This is a working convention. Therefore, we have no social events planned except the Bible Bowl and the Oratorical Contest. We are here to finish the work which we started in
Los Angeles, you voted overwhelmingly for self-rule for this Archdiocese.
In 2002, we sent a delegation to
Geneva, Switzerland, chaired by our brother, Bishop Basil, to discuss this self-rule with a patriarchal delegation and a statement was approved by both delegations.
In 2003, the Geneva Statement was discussed in the Holy Synod of Antioch and a Synodal Document was unanimously approved.
Article VIII of this document states:
“The Patriarchate of Antioch and the Archdiocese shall each amend its constitution in accordance with above.
The Archdiocese shall submit its amended constitution to the Holy Synod of Antioch for approval.
The Arabic text of this resolution and its English translation shall have equal force and validity.”
I made some minor corrections to the Synodal Document which do not violate its substance.
Today, we are here first to amend our constitution in order to reflect the Synodal Document. Second, to nominate three eligible clergymen for the office of bishop in order to fill three vacancies, namely: The Canadian-American Diocese, the
Pennsylvania and West Virginia Diocese and three, the Midwest Diocese.
Our local Holy Synod, in its session held on Friday, June 4, 2004, decided that His Grace, Bishop Antoun will shepherd the Diocese of the Southeast, temporarily from the Archdiocese headquarters.
In the final analysis, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North American will consist of nine dioceses.
The Diocese of the Metropolitan will consist of the New York Metropolitan area and
The New England Diocese will remain under the omophorion of the Metropolitan for the foreseeable future and the Diocese of the
North West will be under the omophorion of Bishop Joseph for the time being.
Our hierarchs have already met twice as a local synod.
I am thankful for the harmony and unity which exists among us.
All the decisions, which we made, were adopted unanimously.
Beloved in Christ:
Three years have elapsed since our first vote in
These three years have been marked by frustration, tension and disappointment.
But our Church is a church of hope.
In John 5:17, our Lord said:
“My father is still working and I am working.”
If you are in Christ, you do not despair, you do not give up, and you do not surrender.
Christ is working with us and will continue to work with us until the end of time.
He is the foundation and head of the Church.
In I Corinthians 3:11-13,
St. Paul said:
“For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”
The Orthodox Church of Twenty-first century
America is destined to chart its own course and shape its own future, despite the obstacles.
We in the Antiochian Archdiocese have reached the point of no return.
Our Mother Church of Antioch is very dear to us and we shall continue to do everything within our power to support our beloved Patriarch in all his endeavors.
The founding of the
Balamand by His Beatitude, Patriarch Ignatius IV, is the greatest event which has happened in
Antioch since the days of Peter and Paul.
This Special Convention is a bright moment in our history.
Let us seize this moment and appeal to our brothers and sisters of other jurisdictions to emulate our example and seize the moment.
In II Corinthians 5:17,
St. Paul said:
“therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come.”
Today, I am overwhelmed by a sense of newness.
This is a new era and a new day.
Without the steadfastness and unity of our people which was magnificently demonstrated in
Los Angeles and
Florida, and by our hierarchs, clergy, Board of Trustees, parish councils and faithful throughout
North America, this new day could never have been possible.
I would be remiss if I do not express my gratitude to the Archdiocesan department of legal affairs, especially Chancellor Robert Koory and Chancellor Charles Ajalat for reviewing our constitution and proposing to us the necessary amendments. I also would like to thank our hierarchical assistant, the Reverend Father George Kevorkian and the Very Reverend Father John Abdalah for organizing this special convention.
I do not want you to be under the illusion that our task has been completely accomplished; we have just begun. The future of this Archdiocese is not fifty years from now; the future is now. With the new structure of our Archdiocese, the new future bishops, chanceries, organizations and departments, we have much to be done. We cannot waste time. Thus, our work begins now. We must think and act, not only for the moment, but for generations to come.
In conclusion, I am reminded of the story of Marshall Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow to grow and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The
Marshall replied, “in this case, there is no time to waste, plant this morning.”
Today, in a world of fragmented Orthodoxy on this continent and abroad, we have no time to waste, let us plant our trees this morning.