Interview with Metropolitan PHILIP, page 4
Fr. Peter Gillquist: What would see as a major concern about the church in the coming decade?
Metro PHILIP: We're concerned about, again, Orthodox unity. We have a eucharistic unity. We can receive communion in other Orthodox churches, etc. But this unity should be fully expressed, not only eucharistically but in every aspect. Ecclesiologically. Our ecclesiology in North America is upside down and we should have a senate of bishops in this country in order to deal with canonical problems, in order to deal with ethical problems. The church is living in the 21st Century. We are not living in the 4th or 5th or 6th Centuries. The church lives today, today, in this environment in North America, and we must express the fullness of this Orthodox faith wherever we are, and this fullness, okay, the eucharistic experience is fine, but all aspects of the church are important. The unity of the episcopacy, we don't have it in North America. We don't have it.
According to our canons, there must be a bishop in every city. In New York City, we have 14, 15 jurisdictions and this is contrary to our canons. We have Antiochian Orthodox people in Athens, Greece, but they don't have an Antiochian Orthodox bishop there. They are under the eccliastical authority of the Archbishop of Athens, of the local bishops. This is not impossible for us to achieve in North America. If certain ancient quarters leave us alone, we could do many things here.
Fr. Peter Gillquist: Recently, our sister jurisdiction, the Orthodox Church in America, went through a real crisis, as we know. What can we all learn from that?
Metro PHILIP: We can learn a great deal from that. I'm glad you mentioned that because last evening was a great moment for me because for the first time, I had the pleasure of meeting His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah. I invited him for dinner. He came here with his chancellor and two deacons. We had dinner together and we talked about orthodoxy and our aspirations for the future. What can we learn from the crisis of the OCA we can learn much. We can learn, first of all, transparency in administration. In the Antiochian Archdiocese, all checks, to get down to earth, to the grassroots, all checks were signed by the archbishop.
When I started in 1966, I thought that this system must be changed. One check, one signature on checks. We have four people now who can sign checks in the Antiochian Archdiocese and every check must have two signatures. The archbishop and the assistant treasurer, the vice chairman and the treasurer, and so forth. This way, I did that in order to protect myself and to protect the archdiocese. And if we received $5.00, we reported it. We printed it in The Word magazine that Mr. So-and-so donated $5.00 to the archdiocese. I think transparency in financial matters is extremely important.
One time I remember a bishop telling me that our Orthodox people are stingy, they're not generous. I told him, "I disagree with you. Our people are generous but you have to show them what you are doing. If you show them what you are doing, they don't give you their money only; they'll give you their hearts. They give you their lives." Look at our seminarians, how well they do when they – after they leave the seminary. How come they're different from others? They're different from others because we care for them in the Antiochian Archdiocese. We give every seminarian a full scholarship so that the seminarian does not leave the seminary worried about how to pay this $90,000.00 debt or $80,000.00 debt. Let him go to his parish with good feeling about his bishop, about the archdiocese.
So you know, you receive our financial report and you know how much money we spend on theological education. I was sharing this with the new Metropolitan last night, Metropolitan Jonah, that every bishop must be responsible about his seminarians, support them. Don't let them go to the seminary worried about how to support their wives, if they are married, and many of our seminarians are married. Your son was one of them and it wasn't easy for him. I mean despite our help and your help, I am sure, he had a difficult time at the seminary. Despite the fact that we gave him a full scholarship, but to have a wife and have children in this society today is not easy to survive without financial help.
So by being transparent, by being good stewards, we have done so much. So much. And we made our books available to everyone in the archdiocese. We sent our financial report to every parish, every year, to every priest, to every archdiocene trustee, let them see what is happening in the archdiocese. We can learn a great deal from that unfortunate thing which happened, and I hope this will be corrected by the new Metropolitan, and I think it will be because he gave me tremendous hope last night. I have a good impression, very hopeful about the future of the OCA under his leadership.
Fr. Peter Gillquist: How do you think his elevation will impact our quest for administrative unity as well as the advancement of the gospel?
Metro PHILIP: I think he is very, very much committed to the gospel. He kept saying last evening that we should preach the gospel of Christ, preach the gospel of Christ. That reminded me of something in Matthew. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else shall be added unto you." Consider the lilies of the field, I mean. He is committed to this theology and when Christ tells us "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and everything else shall be added unto you," He's telling us the truth because He is the alpha and the omega. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Therefore, the church, our preaching, and our work, everything we do, must be rooted in the gospel. In the gospel. So I think that he will contribute a great deal to the – the a new OCA. A new OCA.
Fr. Peter Gillquist: Do you think we're closer or further away from unity, say, compared with five years ago?
Metro PHILIP: No, I think – I feel that we are closer. We are closer. As long as our people get together at the Antiochian Village and – in the West. I think His Beatitude – last night, he informed me that after his enthronement, he's going to stop and speak to the young people at the Antiochian Village. I think you spoke to them there, at the Antiochian Village, between Christmas and New Year one time. They gather there every year and I think on the West Coast, they do the same thing. Even our teens SOYO our teens in the Antiochian Archdiocese are concerned. They have a Sunday, set Sunday, to speak about Orthodox unity and to invite non-Antiochians to dialogue with them about Orthodox unity.
Fr. Peter Gillquist: As the one who opened the door to we who were Evangelical Protestants some years ago, over 20 years ago now, what has the church gained from this entrance into the church?
Metro PHILIP: We gained a great deal. First of all, we translated the Divine Commission in the gospel to make disciples of all nations. We translated that into a reality. It's not something abstract. It is real. This is the church, okay?