Metropolitan Joseph Speaks at the 2014 Clergy Symposium


Update July 23: A full written transcription of His Eminence's speech is available below.

At the closing banquet of the 2014 Clergy Symposium, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, gave a speech including his initial vision for the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America (beginning at 11:20 in the recorded audio). These remarks are available as an audio recording from Ancient Faith Radio

His Eminence says in part:

Tonight, I am going to utilize my time by sharing with you my vision for the future of this Archdiocese. I truly believe that each and every one of us is an important and integral part of this body. We are grateful for everything that our beloved Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory created over the past 48 years. We humbly accept the fruit of his labor, as well as the labor of the faithful who worked alongside him and the legacy upon which we will now build. We have serious work ahead of us. We don’t have time to waste. ...

Although we begin a new chapter, let me remind you that we are not starting from the beginning. As good stewards, we will only continue the work with which we have been entrusted, and my expectation is, that we continue to work as a team. … We are working together. We are one Body, and this is what unity means. 

As for myself, I promise you that every decision that is required of me will come by way of prayer, deliberation, and by the thorough consideration of all pertinent information. I can assure you that I will be acutely attentive to things requiring any significant decision, praying first for guidance in all matters. You need to know that I take very seriously that which our ecclesiology teaches. For direction, I will rely on St. Ignatius of Antioch. His vision for the Church is a oneness of mind.   

Full Transcription of His Eminence's Remarks:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: one God. [Amen.] Good evening. [Good evening, Sayidna.] I hope you enjoyed the dinner together, and before I go ahead with my remarks… You know, you have to know that once in a while the bishop [has] something funny [happen] at the airports, so let me start with that.

After September 11, until then I didn’t have any deacon with me, so I used to have my crown carry-on. When I was at the security area at the airport, they said to me, “Can we look at it? What’s that?” I said, “This is my hat.” [Laughter] They didn’t believe me. They said to me, “Doesn’t look like a hat.” I said, “Whatever you call it.” “No, really, what is it?” I said, “This is my crown.” “Wow. Can we look at it? Can we see it? Are these stones real?” I said, “I wish.” [Laughter] I thought maybe this is the end of the story. They had more questions for me, and all that, not as security people but as a joke. The line behind me was forever and waiting to see the end of this story.

So the next questioner said to me, “Why do you call it a crown? Are you a prince?” I said, “Higher.” [Laughter] “So what comes higher than the prince? Are you a king?” I said, “Higher.” [Laughter] So finally the people start murmuring behind me, like they want to go ahead, some of them, like they are about to miss the flight and rush and everything. So finally he said to me, “No, really. Who are you?” I said, “I am a servant in the Orthodox Church.”

Beloved in Christ, that’s why we are here. To know how to become servants and how to serve the real Prince, not any other human being. So we serve and we love our people because we know that when we show them love and mercy and compassion, the love goes to him directly.

I wanted to share this as a beginning, that every time we are on the road as bishops we have something. Over the 20 years here I’ve been in this country, so I have experienced many situations and many incidents, but this is not the time to say all of them.

Beloved in Christ, my brothers, my brother-bishops and hierarchs, Bishop Antoun, Bishop Thomas, Bishop John, Bishop Antony, and Bishop Nicholas, and of course we have two brothers [who] are missing from us—they are absent for some good cause—Bishop Basil and Bishop Alexander. They are in our prayer. Beloved clergy, from within our Archdiocese and from out of our Archdiocese, beloved symposium leaders—Bishop Thomas is the overseer, Bishop Nicholas is the advisor, and Fr. Joseph Allen is the director, and the committee: Fr. Elias Bitar, Fr. Michael Elias, and Fr. Thomas Zain. Thank you very much to all of you for putting everything together within a short time and during [and] after this transition. It was very hard to expect a successful symposium, but, truly, it is meet and right that this symposium was very successful. Thank you very much. [Applause]

The Village family: thank you, John Scanlan. Are you listening? Thank you, John for everything. Thank you, Tim, for feeding us good food. [Applause and cheering] Our thanks to Tim and to the staff in the kitchen. Thank you very much. [Applause] Ladies and gentlemen.

Every day when I am here in this Village, I go walking or jogging in the morning. So they thought that, after I became the metropolitan of this Archdiocese, no more. But [when] clergy [saw me] in the morning with my hat and with shorts, they said, “Hi, Abouna! Hi!” and finally they realized that I am the metropolitan and they were… [Laughter] But what I am saying every time I go around the learning center and going into the cemetery there where the holy man, St. Raphael, is buried, and where our metropolitan is also there, and other bishops are there, I read on the gate, on the top, this verse from the book, the epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians. It says, “I can do all things, I can do everything, in Christ who strengthens me.”

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Spirit be with you all. [And with your spirit.] The psalmist David wrote:

Behold now what is so good or so pleasant as for brothers to dwell together in unity?

This psalm captures precisely what I have experienced this week as we have gathered together, working and praying in unity. The conference we just had at Balamand Monastery was under a big title: the Antiochian unity. One week, the whole week, our father-in-Christ Patriarch John and all the hierarchs, many clergy from everywhere—imagine, during the troubles in Syria—60 buses came from Syria to Balamand just to be there in the Antiochian unity, to express their unity with the mother church, Antioch. They didn’t fear. They didn’t care about how difficult [it] was to travel from Syria to Lebanon. Many people were there, many clergy, many from everywhere, even from North America; we were about 10 people, 15 people, I think. From Australia, from Europe, from Africa, from everywhere.

At the Divine Liturgy we had three Sundays ago, it was under a tent. We have two churches in the monastery at Balamand. We have two churches, but even the two churches together would not or could not fit all the people who were there. So that’s why they decided to have a pavilion and to have the Divine Liturgy in the very hot weather outside. Over 5,000 people were there in the Divine Liturgy. All that for the glory and for the sacredness of the unity of the Church of Antioch.

Here we have gathered together, working and praying in unity. As we leave this holy mountain tomorrow after the Divine Liturgy, we will take this very message of unity back to our parishes and ministries. Our hope is that the various lessons we have each learned here will be incorporated into our everyday practice of priestly service to God and to those entrusted to our care. Tonight I am going to utilize my time by sharing with you my vision for the future of this Archdiocese.

I truly believe that each and every one of us is an important and integral part of this body. We are grateful for everything which our beloved Metropolitan Philip, of thrice-blessed memory, created over the past 48 years. We humbly accept the fruit of his labor as well as the labor of the faithful who worked alongside him and the legacy upon which we will now build. We have serious work ahead of us. We don’t have time to waste.

While you are at lunch and after lunch in the selectives and everything from the time of after lunch until the time of vespers and even after vespers, I was receiving in my suite clergy one after one or group after group, so I need to listen to everyone, and this is the way I did it in the West for over 20 years. The bishop is available for you. Some people here—and this is not a criticism; this is just like an observation—some people in this room and this symposium have not greeted me. I understand that. I am not offended. I say it not with resentment or with [negativity], but I’m trying to tell those who have not greeted me because maybe they are afraid, they are not accustomed to see a new metropolitan after 48 years. I think next time you have to come, you have to meet me, you have to greet me; I have to meet you, I have to embrace you.

You don’t have to fear the metropolitan, because the bishop in general and the metropolitan in particular is the father. Is the father: we have to understand the fatherhood in the Church. There is no unity without a fatherhood. There is no unity—and you will hear more what I’m going to say now.

We have serious work ahead of us. We don’t have time to waste. Although we begin a new chapter, let me remind you that we are not starting from the beginning. As good stewards, we will only continue the work with which we have been entrusted, and my expectation is that we will continue to work as a team. Yesterday I said to our beloved hierarchs when we met that you have a new metropolitan now, but the metropolitan is not by himself, is not alone. We are working together. We are one body. This is what unity means.

As for myself, I promise you that every decision that is required of me will come by way of prayer, deliberation, and by the thorough consideration of all pertinent information. I can assure you that I will be acutely attentive to things requiring any significant decision, praying first for guidance in all matters. You need to know that I take very seriously that which our ecclesiology teaches. For direction, I will rely on St. Ignatius of Antioch. His vision of the Church is a oneness of mind. This is not in the books. This is here, what we practice. And if we don’t practice it, so we don’t… we are not obeying the Church.

His vision of the Church is a oneness of mind, meaning that the bishop, together with the council of presbyters and deacons, will serve and guide the people of God. In addition, we must keep in mind that all our bishops are archpastors who, together with me, share the pastoral staff of our chief Bishop, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bishops must be treated with the respect and reverence that is due to all hierarchs. Together with the effort of my brother-bishops, assisting me in the pastoral burden of this Archdiocese, we will counsel together, communicate carefully, and with their united support I will lead this Archdiocese in a concord of love and oneness of mind. [Applause]

Now what about yourselves, my dear presbyters? You are the ones whom St. Ignatius calls as counsel of God and as the band of the apostles. The bishop and the priests should never be separated from one another. Perhaps there are those who at times feel put aside or disregarded in some way, but this ought never to be the case. We always stand together. In standing together we are reminded that the Archdiocese of North America is strong, first spiritually and then in its resources. Its reputation precedes it. However, as good as things are and have been, we must never be satisfied with the status quo. As stewards, it is ours to inherit from God and then grow that which was given to me for you to fulfill the word of God.

First, everything we do must be rooted in unifying ourselves with our Lord Jesus Christ, just as the vine and the branches are united. Secondly, all our deeds must be for the good of our salvation. I want to make it very clear that I will respect and abide by all the holy apostolic canons and decisions made by the holy synod and maintain ties with the mother church of Antioch, accurately and precisely communicating all Church matters between North America and the mother church of Antioch. [Applause]

In order to maintain true unity within the Archdiocese, I plan to actively visit all our dioceses, one by one, in order to maintain strong ties with our beloved hierarchs. My joy will come from working closely with each of them to first solidify and deepen our spiritual life. It will be important to continue our relationships with all other Orthodox jurisdictions through our work in various pan-Orthodox assemblies and committees. In doing so, the spirit of unity will reflect a global presence.

Concerning the current state of our Archdiocese, in all administrative matters my priority will be to create complete and whole transparency to improve the function of the administrative offices in order to better serve the Archdiocese, to implement updated, fast, professional, and efficient methods of working and communication using technology to our advantage. [Applause]

I look forward to familiarizing myself more with our clergy, their families, and their needs in order to serve and support them. I anticipate selecting the highest level of quality candidates for the holy diaconate and for the holy priesthood.

It is imperative to focus on evangelism and outreach as the main part of our apostolic mission. To maintain: it is imperative to focus on evangelism and outreach as the main part of our apostolic ministry, to reach out to the entire nation of North America. [Applause]

In developing methods of addressing 21st-century challenges through which the Church will inspire active spiritual life, stronger educational programs are needed on every level, from clergy to laity. The need to develop a stronger means by which to reach and encourage our youth to seek a greater commitment to their faith and to their Church will be a priority. This will be realized in part by working more closely with existing organizations, namely, Teen SOYO, Fellowship of St. John the Divine, Antiochian Woman, and the Order of St. Ignatius.

The Archdiocese Board of Trustees has the potential to become more dynamic and effective in a variety of ways. From a bounty of resources, we are in a position to utilize and invest available talents from among the clergy and laity in order to advance the ministries of the Church. It is necessary to unify liturgical practices and establish and encourage serious monastic life as an option for the faithful, both young and old. [Applause]

By reviewing the status of each individual department within the Archdiocese, we will gain the necessary knowledge in order to effect change or improvement where needed. Having shared just a few thoughts with you here briefly, I ask your prayers. My prayer for all of you comes from the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 12:11-12, where we read:

Now, when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

Know that you have my utmost respect, love, and constant prayer, as a father with his children. Peace be with all of you. Thank you for listening. [Applause, singing of “God grant you many years.”]