Hellenic Orthodox Traditionalist Church of America
Holy Metropolis G.O.C. of N. & S. America
New York, October 30th, 2003
Dear Children in the Lord,
There is nothing more valuable than the soul of man, as even Christ Himself pointed out, "What profiteth it a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?" (Mark 8:36). If all the riches of the world cannot purchase a single soul, what treasures could equal in value the souls of every member of the Church from Adam and Eve to the present day?
What indeed, is the Church?
The Church is the communion of the saints; it is the totality of those who have attained the likeness of God (our purpose of existence) or are struggling to attain it. Those who have already become saints and have passed on to the other life comprise the invisible Church; while we who are yet in this world struggling to achieve that purpose for which God made us (that is, to become like Him—to become saints) are members of the visible Church. The Church, visible and invisible, is one because Christ is one. He is the Head of the Church, and we together are His Body.
It should be obvious, then that the Church, the sum of the saints and of those who are being sanctified, is the most precious thing on earth. This treasure is unique and unsurpassed in worth, existing throughout all ages. We believe that She will exist until the end of the world, even though She is surrounded be enemies who ravenously seek to devour Her. To protect Herself, the Church since the time of the Apostles has organized the faithful into groups, not only to instruct them and shepherd them into safe pastures, but also to better resist Her foes. This is the "ruler of the darkness of this world" (Eph. 6:12)—the devil with his lackeys, the powers of darkness, heretics, and the like.
Christ founded His Church on the bedrock of the Holy Apostles. On these foundation stones are set all the members of the Church, layed in order of hierarchy, as the Apostle Paul explains, "And God has set some in the Church, first apostles, secondary teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing..." (1 Cor. 2:28).
The Apostles were responsible for the whole Church. They were the spiritual fathers of the Christians, grouping the first Church into dioceses and parishes. After the Apostles, God gave the Church "prophets." These prophets, such as were the Apostles who continued their work both in teaching the true faith—the Orthodox faith—and in properly organizing the Church. Thus Christians were arranged according to locality into bishoprics, or local churches, all of which together comprised the One Church. By these means, many parishes came to constitute one diocese. Many dioceses together comprise a local church, and all the local churches combined make the One Church, the Orthodox Church. During Byzantine times, there were five great local churches, called Patriarchates: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The Ecumenical Councils in the divinely inspired canons established the jurisdiction of each of the local churches. For example, the 28 canon of the 4th Ecumenical council states that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has jurisdiction only over Thrace, Pontos and part of Asia Minor.
Today, because of Ecumenism, that part of the Orthodox Church, which is in Greece, is called "The Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece." Its head is His Beatitude Chrysostomos II (Kiousis), Archbishop of Athens, and it is governed by the Holy Synod of Bishops under him. The Genuine Orthodox Christians of all of America, from the time of the ever-memorable Bishop Petros of Astoria, have always belonged to the Church of the G.O.C. of Greece. This is the same Holy Synod, which, after the death of Bishop Petros consecrated my unworthiness as Metropolitan of America, making me one of the members responsible for the pastoral care for the Orthodox faithful of America.
The Holy Synod in Greece, however, has confirmed that it is difficult for it to be continuously concerned with the church affairs in far-off America. For this reason it decided at its meeting on October 2, 2003, to grant independence to the Church in America in regards to all questions of pastoral and administrative concern. According to this resolution, a local Holy Synod will bear these responsibilities, while spiritually the American Church will remain inseparably united with the mother Church of the G.O.C. of Greece.
Henceforth, the Church of the G.O.C. of America will be administered according to the 10/15/03 Synodal Act of the Church of the G.O.C. of Greece. The Metropolitan of America shall be its Primate and under him will be a local synod, which will be composed of at least three members, following the consecration of another bishop. Thus, the Church Constitution for America will be completed and approved by lawful procedures based on the Holy Canons and the precepts of Orthodoxy.
In making all these things known to the pious flock of our Church of America, we glorify the name of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ for this gift. We beseech Him to bless the new arrangement of our Church and provide many young and worthy clergy who can spread the message of Orthodoxy throughout America, thus leading as many as possible to salvation, for such is the Lord's will. Christ "desireth that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4).
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
+PAVLOS Metropolitan of N. & S. America
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