Assembly of Bishops Issues Statement on the Middle East

Assembly of Bishops, Dallas, TX: September 2014 (photo: Dimitrios Panagos/GOA)

September 2014

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America wrapped up its fifth annual meeting on September 18, 2014, by issuing a significant “Statement on the Middle East,” and a second substantive “Final Statement” of conclusions and goals.

Convening in Dallas, TX, at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the Assembly tackled a number of topics in their three-day meeting, including the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

Summarizing the discussion, they wrote in their Statement that, in concert with His Beatitude Patriarch John X of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East as well as the other Patriarchs of the East, “we lament and denounce the egregious and barbarous incidents in the area, including religious intolerance and fanaticism, that erode the social fabric and unity of the region, destroying churches, shrines and monuments, which are the common heritage of all Christians and, indeed, all humanity.”

The Assembly’s six concluding points in the Statement endorsed humanitarian support for the region, and urged international bodies and the government of the United States “to insist upon the fundamental human rights and religious freedom of all, urgently establish the rule of law, and immediately desist from supporting extremist groups and oppressive governments whether through financial means or military arms.”

In their Final Statement, the Assembly paid special tribute to past and present Antiochian leaders, saying “We recognize the new First Vice-Chairman of the Assembly, Metropolitan Joseph, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, recently elected to succeed Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant eternal repose to our brother and concelebrant Metropolitan Philip.”

During the Assembly’s first day of meetings, the committees for Church and Society, Ecumenical Relations, Legal, Military Chaplaincy, Monastic Communities, Pastoral Practice, Theological Education, Youth and the newly-formed Committee for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations reported on their progress since Assembly IV and their plans for the coming year. The Canonical Affairs committee presented a clergy database project which, once completed, will be accessible to the faithful on the Assembly’s website.

On Wednesday, September 17, 2014, the session opened with a special video message from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the members of the Assembly. “We are called to put our theory and theology into policy and practice. We are called to move beyond what is ‘mine’ and what is ‘yours’ to what is ‘ours.’”

Directors of the Assembly’s seven agencies then offered presentations: International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), Orthodox Christian Network (OCN), Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC), Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM), and the Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting (EOCS).

The Committee for Canonical Regional Planning also presented its report, which led to a discussion about the canonical anomaly of multiple bishops in one city. Hierarchs constructively shared their opinions, and after a candid and collegial discussion, agreed to continue working toward greater unity.

In anticipation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which is to convene in Spring 2016, the hierarchs reaffirmed their commitment to actively prepare one or more proposals for its consideration, as has been requested by the Holy Autocephalous Churches. To this end, hierarchs agreed to submit ideas to the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning within the next six months for appropriate action by the Assembly.

Statement on the Middle East (PDF)

Final Statement (PDF)