at the Spiritual Court of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America at St. Nicholas Cathedral, Los Angeles, CA. May 26, 1998

The purpose of this Court today, as I understand, is to fairly and objectively investigate the charges brought against 20 priests and deacons.

Not stopping at mere investigation, the chairpersons assembled here are to make a recommendation, as I believe, to our Bishop Metropolitan Philip concerning, I quote here, “our future as Orthodox Christians”, with punishments as severe as being laicized or, even worse, excommunication as options for disciplinary action?

Would we the charged want either of those as our future as Orthodox Christians? I think I can speak for all of us in saying no, we don’t. But a lesson must be learned here, right?

Yes, a lesson must be learned here, but now I ask you a rhetorical question, and I think it’s a good question. Why has God permitted this to happen? Is it only to teach these 20 clergymen a lesson on the penalties of the alleged disobedience? What are the other lessons to be learned here? Who else is God speaking to? I wonder if Bishop Joseph has any lessons to learn from all this. I wonder if Metropolitan Philip has any lessons to learn from all this.

I cannot answer those questions. Only God knows why this tragedy has been permitted to go this far and who is to learn from it. But I do know this, that when 20 priests and deacons along with 350 laity of a parish that Metropolitan Philip loved, conscientiously object to the treatment and direction from the Archdiocese and have the courage to risk their current status within Orthodoxy, then I think it is a good bet that there are lessons to be learned on both sides.

And if there are lessons to be learned on both sides, then that means that there were mistakes made on both sides. And if there were mistakes made on both sides, then in the eyes of this court they both need to be placed on the scales of justice.

A person’s conscience is a place where the Holy Spirit breathes truth into his heart and his mind. It is under one authority, the authority of the Holy Spirit.

We are not in our minds, disobedient. We are conscientious objectors. Our conscience objects to the direction to minimize and limit our Orthodox worship. Our conscience objects to the “good-ol-boyism”, the cronyism existing in this Archdiocese, where grievous sins by some priests seem to be ignored, yet the sin of not agreeing with the actions of the bishop will end up in suspension, Spiritual Court, possible laicization and maybe even excommunication.

Our conscience objects to an Archdiocese that wants to limit the fullness of the Orthodox expression by limiting access to the spiritual expression of the monastic life. Our conscience objects to the deceit, the conspiring, the secret calls, the intrigue to remove Father David and Father John from our parish.

Our conscience objects, we have had enough, and as a result we have lost faith and confidence in your leadership, and we ask to leave. We humbly ask to be released with our ordinations intact. If you do so, our last moments within the Antiochian Archdiocese will be ones of thanksgiving and gratitude.

If you don’t and choose to teach us a lesson and to be made a spectacle to any other Antiochian priest considering the same, then our court will be finished, and your court, the court of Orthodox opinion, will only be just beginning.

It will be a historical event to laicize 20 priests and deacons and incredibly severe to even consider excommunication. The whole Orthodox world will be interested in the reasons why 20 clergymen chose to risk their ordinations and to say no to the actions, not the office, of their bishop.

The attention of the Christian world will turn from us, the accused and disciplined, to you, the judges. I ask you, are the judges ready for this level of scrutiny?

The Archdiocese once misjudged when it underestimated our commitment and our laity’s commitment to the ideas listed above. If you think that giving us a severe punishment will be a lesson to us and to other priests considering the same, then you may be underestimating their conscience also, and enough will be enough for them also.

Consciences cannot be controlled. Consciences do not belong to an Archdiocese. the Holy Spirit speaks to us through our conscience.

I ask two final questions, two questions that none of us, should ever answer quickly or pridefully.

Why has God permitted this to happen? And what are the lessons, the visitations, that He is teaching us?