Metropolitan Philip Saliba
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
358 Mountain Rd.
Englewood, N.J. 07631
Since so often I am accused of intentionally "attacking" others in writing I state up front that I intend this to be a friendly letter. There has been an ongoing problem of "Christian" clergy attacking our first Synod members like Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh. They also mention Bp. Sophronius in an unfriendly light. One of the writers or editors of the Orthodoxwiki site is believed to be one Andrew Stephen Damick. We believe an OCA and an Antiochian priest are involved.
You will likely disagree with what we state herein but we believe our archives and documents will help support our claims, as well as the writings of Orthodox clergy including, at least, one of your own priests. These priest's who edit pages about our Church on Orthodoxwiki appear to speculate since they do not seem to have facts. A list of things they claim follow;
That Archbishop Aftimios retired to marry in 1933
Then they go on to state that he deposed himself by marrying
they also claim that Bishop Sophronius later suspended Archbishop Ofiesh and excommunicated Bishop Ignatius (who they also state left the Church in June 1933).
As you know one bishop cannot act against another so this would be contrary to the canons and this bishop is supposed to be buried next to St. Raphael.
That "Bp. Ignatius and Bp. Zuk" stated the canon on married bishops was a European and Asiatic canon with no bearing on the American church which clearly shows this church never adopted that canon.
This is supported by the writings of a Greek Priest who acknowledges that not all Churches adopted that canon.
The wiki pages go on to state that the Greek Archbishop in 1929 claimed that he was over all Orthodox in North America. There was no canonical basis for such a claim. This is what we declare is the public act of Schism in American Orthodoxy. For two years our clergy were blocked in their efforts to build this Church, the Cathedral was taken in Court action (contrary to canons), clergy came to this country without permission to raise funds and attempted to steal our clergy and parish's and accepted one of our suspended clergy without the required letters. Other clergy were accepted without letters even one who had been attacked by the public for what we shall call "being over friendly with some young people". He ran to the archbishop for protection, but his was probably not in any files when he was accepted back into the Russian Church. This detail is not written about on these web pages. We can document this.
This may be of interest to you and I would appreciate any information from your archives that might correct our information. Some of this information is also acknowledged on the website in question.
One Alexander (Paul) Tyler Turner, of the Western rite, was ordained by Ignatius (William Albert) Nichols who had been an Auxiliary bishop of our Church. Ignatius left this Church in about June 1933, married, and in 1934 was ordaining as an "Archbishop" of the Metropolitan Synod of the Holy Orthodox Church in America, which appears from our information to be an independent (Episcopi Vagant) jurisdiction. We know Ignatius started to use the name of the Society of Clerks Secular of Saint Basil after leaving this Church. It appears the Society was a copy of the one in our Church. That Society was established as part of this Church in 1931. We understand Turner was ordained by Ignatius long after Ignatius left this Church. It would appear that Turner was ordained into an independent jurisdiction buy Ignatius, a former canonical bishop, who left the canonically established Church without a letter of Excardination and began ordaining with old Catholics and those claiming to be Orthodox. When Ignatius died Turner became the head of the Society and in 1961 was received into your Church as a priest.
The Metropolitan Synod - Holy Orthodox Church in America was listed at 321 W. 101st St., NYC which was the home address for Archbishop Georgius (Plummer), consecrated by Ignatius in 1934 I believe, and Witowski (call De Wittow) who was ordained by Ignatius in 1934 and consecrated by Georgius and Ignatius and a third bishop in 1936 at the same Church. When Plummer died DeWittow married his widow. Their Church was also a Rosicrucian hall or temple.
Was Turner ordained or received into your Church? According to the Canons Turner was ordained by an Episcopi Vagant (Ignatius) who had left the canonical church years earlier.
I should point out that your own people write the following and much more;
Ignatius left the Church in 1933 and married.
That Sophronius excommunicated Ignatius. (Remember Sophronius died in 1934 or 1940)
That Ignatius, after marriage, ordained Alexander Tyler Turner a priest and elevated him to bishop.
That Turner and the Society were "received" into the Antiochian Church.
Sometime later you allowed a priest to remarry which also goes against the Sacred and Divine Canons. Did this affect you in anyway like causing you to depose yourself or place your whole church outside the historic church? What Aftimios did is claimed to be such a violation of the canons that it should have caused a whole church to be ignored and pushed our of the canonical Orthodox union. Since when does the act of one bishop affect the whole Church to that depth?
We were elected to establish the new Church synod which we did. We had the support of the Archbishops widow and she sat on the board of trustees of the Church corporation until 1999. I was asked a number of times to assume the leadership and finally accepted the office in 1997 with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I did not seek this Office but my eyes were opened to the synod members who were in fact not orthodox but who wanted titles and respect in their false office. When we voted to require mandates from the Synod for "ALL" ordinations they objected and left. One resigned in writing then tried to claim he was us. Another was emotionally ill, a third was a criminal selling fake degrees (not in our Church name) and the last, who we had not accepted into this Church when he applied to us, was hiding the fact he was either married or living with a woman whom he referred to as a nun.
I held the office of Metropolitan for ten and a half years. I have a bad reputation for openly denying the claims of the many independents who claim lines from this Church, who use our name" or claimed to be us under another name.
While any of the other Orthodox like those writing on Orthodoxwiki could have cleared up the many false claims they prefer to just say Aftimios was responsible for the many independent groups claiming his lines and this is clearly false.
Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh is listed as a Martyr of this Church. In part due to the writings of the Clergy who continue to publish false and misleading information about him over 42 years after his repose. We also have icons. We have never referred to him as a Saint. This is something members of the independent movement claim.
We understand you spoke to Mariam in a favorable manner at the funeral of his relative, the priest I believe. If in fact you did and what I understand you said to her was from your heart it may well be time to make that happen.
Many claims are made on the Orthodoxwiki site against this Church and her clergy. So much so that it has begun to backfire since their claims clearly refute themselves.
We need to have clergy show respect to the first synod, not just the one buried next to St. Raphael, whose memory has been attacked also. Priests and deacons cannot and should not be allowed to continue to disrespect the memory of Abp. Ofiesh, Martyr and Confessor of America.
You may continue to ignore our correspondence or take the step to correct this matter after all these years. We sent a letter to SCOBA some years ago that we are not interested in membership and that still stands.
It may be time for peace between our jurisdictions. All we publish is defensive information to refute the attacks by people like those responsible for the Orthodoxwiki writings. It does not look good for infighting in the Orthodox jurisdictions.
Our feeling is simple. We were canonically established and continue to this day. There was no canonical authority or reason to force the church to close and our parishes, members and property were taken by the other jurisdictions. If anyone was in error it was the Greek Archbishop in 1929 for claiming to be over all Orthodox in America and the others for failing to work with the American Synod. Since no tribunal was ever called Aftimios was never found to have violated a canon. The disrespect shown Abp. Aftimios and Bp. Sophronius does violate the canons.
I remain your brother in Christ