Bp. No 48/20
February 25, 2020
Milton – Toronto
In regards to the text titled “In defense of truth and unity of the Serbian Orthodox Church”, which was published on the official website of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central, and South America, on Monday February 24, 2020, we would like to offer the following remarks:
  1. How can opinions from laymen be published on the official website of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central, and South America without the consultation of all members of the Episcopal Council? As far as we know, His Grace Bishop Kirilo, nor Bishop Mitrofan were consulted. We have knowledge that His Grace Bishop Longin was not consulted either.
  2. In the same manner, the letter of the Episcopal Council E.C. No 1/20 of February 15, 2020, also published on the official website of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central, and South America, at least two of the Bishop members of the Episcopal Council were not consulted.
  3. The Holy Hierarchical Synod called upon the Bishops from the USA to nullify all of their decision from the July Sabor, and that they report back to the Holy Synod, which was not done until the regular meeting of the Episcopal and Central Council on November 30, and December 1, 2019 respectively. Why is it that only half a year later, some of the Bishops in the USA, and some lay members of the Central Council are doing this on the eve of the Extraordinary Sabor; over internet media instead of communicating with the Holy Synod and offering explanations?
  4. Even with the acceptance of the decisions of the Holy Hierarchical Synod to nullify the new constitution, the nullified document was present of the website of one of the USA dioceses until two weeks ago. The bigger problem in all of this is that the administration of the church bodies in the USA, according to the newest statements, is informing the Church, that at worst they only erred in procedural matters, but that the substance of changing the constitution is in accord with the decision of the Holy Hierarchical Assembly, and even supposed earlier decisions of the Episcopal Council from 2015 and 2017. The text of the Washington parish rector is cited as an authoritative source in justifying a non-existent canonical procedure known as ‘’the arondation of a constitution’’.
  5. The insinuation that we, while we were the Bishop of Eastern America, in December of 2015, gave our agreement for any reorganisation of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central, and South America, is false. This is further false when it comes to modification of property registrations. In the same manner His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije, of Montenegro and the Littoral, the Administrator of the Diocese of Buenos Aires and South-Central America, nor his successor Bishop Kirilo, did not participate in decisions of that nature.
  6. On the contrary, on January 4, 2017, the three bishops from the USA held a meeting without our knowledge, or the knowledge of Metropolitan Amfilohije, in Libertyville, regarding the registration of the new corporations. The decisions of this meeting are cited in all the formative documents of the new corporations as valid decisions of the Episcopal Council. In fact, we only found out about this meeting, and its decision, in Fall 2019.
  7. The existence of these sole member corporations, most alarmingly the ‘’Serbian Orthodox Dioceses in the USA’’ corporation became known to us entirely accidentally after the confusion which ensued as a result of the July Sabor. If this was all transparent, as the statements claim, why was this not presented ever at the Episcopal Council, Central Council, or the Holy Synod earlier?
  8. What we have learned from participants is that the new print of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Dioceses of the USA was given to many of the members of the July Sabor with an explanation that it was a finalised version. This is exactly what we heard from the minutes of the Central Council meeting which transpired on the eve of the illegitimate Sabor. Again, we reiterate: in the least, Article 33 of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America was bypassed. It states that “the provisions of this Constitution may be amended only by a three-fourths vote of all delegates present at a regular or special session of the Church Assembly and by the approval of the Episcopal Council. Changes and amendments to this Constitution are subject to the final ratification of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church”. Two dioceses which are part of the quorum of the Sabor were not invited.
  9. The statements claim that all of these actions, whether open like the illegitimate July Sabor, or nontransparent like the legal changes, had as its aim to protect the Serbian Orthodox Church from legal risk and liability. We are now exposed to more risk than ever due to the blatant disregard for the very procedures which are prescribed in the Constitution.
  10. A concrete example of this is that the Diocese of Canada is exposed due to the abrupt constitutional break because our very basic, not to mention detailed, articles of the Statute depend on the Constitution. An example of this is Article 8.2 which states:” The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Canada is governed on the basis of the provisions of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America and clause 8.1 and the provisions of this Statute”.
  11. We have already expressed our concerns regarding the proposed agenda for the Extraordinary Sabor to the President of the Episcopal Council, His Grace Bishop Longin. We have received verbal confirmation that the agenda can be modified due to the fact that a very brief period of time is allotted to the work of the Sabor, while most of it is spent on registration and meals, limiting our opportunity to have an unhurried discussion.
  12. We must also say that the Episcopal and Central Council meetings held in Chicago on November 30, and December 1, 2019, were held with apologetic tones in which our brethren bishops from the USA were defending their actions in relation to the “new constitution’. It is only with the insistence of Bishops Mitrofan and Kirilo, and with the humility and decisiveness of Bishop Longin (as the President of the Episcopal Council) that we were able to reach a majority to fulfill the decisions of Holy Synod which are well known to us all.
  13. It is possible that there are unfounded attacks on our brethren bishops in the USA on the internet. These are a consequence of the still lingering divisions on this continent. We wholeheartedly condemned such attacks in a statement of the Central Council at its last meeting. However, that Is not sufficient to a priori disqualify every criticism of the actions of the US bishops, especially when it comes to the truncated Sabor held in July last year. We remind our brethren bishops that the criticism of the July Sabor came from the highest place of our Church – the Holy Synod (which is the opinion of all other bishops we have spoken to on the topic), and not from some ill-intentioned people from anonymous addresses.
  14. This is precisely why it is somewhat paradoxical that our brethren bishops in the USA agreed to call the Clergy-Laity Sabor in Florida where they need to nullify the decisions of their truncated Sabor of July last year, and yet they continue to propagate texts which are geared at affirming and justifying their actions to date. It is even more of a paradox that they constantly repeat that there was no decision made at the July Sabor. This is insulting to the intellect of the people in the ecclesiastical bodies, bishops of our Church, and eminent legal experts which have, in many instances, revealed the unconstitutional background of the illegitimate Sabor from Chicago last year. Having all this is mind it appears that our brethren bishops in the USA (with the exception of, we hope, Bishop Longin) are not willing to accept the decisions of the Holy Synod of our Church. Further, it seems that they do not value the opinions of Bishops Mitrofan and Kirilo, and act as an independent body – as one of these brothers said in a recent interview, on several occasions, “a Episcopal Council of the USA”; which does not have the blessing of the Holy Synod, nor the Holy Assembly of Bishops of our Church!
We ask ourselves: is this how they struggle for the Truth and unity of our Holy Serbian Orthodox Church?
In obedience to the Holy Synod,