As we mentioned in our previous post, the GOCSA executive (in defiance of the expressed wish of their membership at the last AGM) have voted to make Mr Kanavas  a bishop. In order to make this happen they have had to engage another synod of “bishops” in order to do the “ordination”. Let’s have a look at this synod and see if they are canonical.

The Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Canada (AGOCAC)

His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece – the one-and-only canonical bishop of Athens

According to the Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia Facebook page, the Synod they have gotten in touch with is the so-called Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Canada (AGOCAC), who also call themselves the Former Exarchate of the Alexandria Patriarchate.

This is an interesting organisation with an equally interesting history. You can read their self-reported history here , though we advise you to take it with a grain of salt, for reasons that will become obvious. A couple of anomalies that stand out at us:

  • Their “Archbishop”, Mr Petros Charos (also spelled Xaros or Haros, depending on who is writing), is going by the title “Petros Charos of Athens“. If this is supposedly the Autocephalic Church of America and Canada, then why is their primate styled bishop of Athens??? Perhaps they elected him bishop of Athens, New York? Or maybe Athens, Ontario, Canada? Or perhaps one of the 20 other towns/cities called Athens in the United States??
  • The Synod that elected him is described as the Synod of Athens/Greece. Again, why does the Synod sit in Greece if they are the Church of America and Canada?
  • The web site goes to lengths to emphasise their canonicity. This in itself is a red flag – generally speaking, canonical churches don’t have to go to lengths to emphasise their canonical status because everyone already knows that they are canonical without having to be told. The legitimate Queen of England never says “I’m the real queen… really I am!” because everyone knows that she is – only an impostor would repeatedly say such a thing.

These anomalies do not bode well for their canonicity – when an organisation does not have anything to hide, they don’t have to resort to such contortions to try and establish its canonical credentials. The claim to be from Athens/Greece and to have some connection with the Patriarchate of Alexandria are simply ploys to try and gain an air of respectability and canonicity and distract from their obscure origins. But as we saw in a post yesterday , the canonical head of the canonical Synod of Greece is His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece. Anyone else claiming to be Archbishop (or even Bishop) of Athens (Greece!) is an impostor. Like Petros Charos. Why aren’t the GOCSA executive committee asking these basic questions???

The GOCSA defence of AGOCAC’s canonicity

But we are not ones to accuse without giving people a hearing, so let us first examine GOCSA’s defence of AGOCAC’s canonical status that they have circulated (though how widely we’re not sure). Unfortunately, this defence is full of holes.

One immediate red flag is that the statement was prepared by AGOCAC’s own lawyer, Elias Gratsias. This of itself is not wrong, but it is insufficient. When interviewing job candidates, for example, a diligent organisation will always do background checks of their own (such as calling character references). How much more important is it to do such background checks when selecting a Synod of bishops? It seems in this instance as if the GOCSA executive have relied exclusively on the testimony of AGOCAC’s lawyer without doing any background checks of their own, showing a severe lack of due diligence.

The statement starts with two parameters that “determine whether an Orthodox Church is canonical”, which he lists as:

1. To have been officially bestowed ‘Autocephaly’ by one of the recognised Patriarchates of Orthodoxy.
2. To have canonically consecrated [ie, ordained] Bishops and Archbishop according to an uninterrupted apostolic succession.

The first “parameter” listed is a complete red herring. Autocephaly is not, and never has been, a requirement for canonicity. In fact, most canonical Orthodox Churches are not autocephalous, which simply means that they fall under the jurisdiction of a “Mother Church” (eg, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia comes under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch).

So it is really only the second “parameter” which is a requirement for canonicity. And while this parameter is important and accurately stated, the rest of the letter overlooks an important aspect of this parameter – the apostolic succession must be uninterrupted. If a bishop is deposed, or is ordained by uncanonical bishops, then that succession is interrupted, which means that their ordination is uncanonical.

This is of course the proverbial “elephant in the room” that Mr Gratsias’ letter fails to address – Mr Charos was deposed and/or ordained by deposed/uncanonical bishops – as were the rest of his synod. Thus they are not canonical.

Doing the due diligence – are they really canonical?

As we mentioned above, like when interviewing a job candidate, we need to do background checks to find out if an obscure Church really is canonical. As we have written many times, we encourage people not to take Mr Gratsias’ word for it, or even to take our word for it, but to look at what the authoritative sources say. We wrote about these issues very early on in this blog’s history, in two important posts: “Canonical – what does it mean, why does it matter, and who decides?” and “Which churches are canonical Greek Orthodox churches?“. The process for determining canonicity that we outlined in these posts applies here too – very simply look at the web sites of the known canonical churches and see if they are listed anywhere.

Here is a list of autocephalous churches recognised by some of the more prominent autocephalous churches and canonical jurisdictions:

These pages list autocephalous churches that the respective jurisidictions recognise. Note that not a single one of them mentions the Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Canada – not even the Patriarchate of Alexandria (which is supposedly the Patriarchate that granted them autocephaly in the first place)!

Conclusion

It is clear that the so-called Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of America and Canada is a phony jurisdiction made up of phony and uncanonical “bishops” who are not recognised by the worldwide Orthodox Church. The members of GOCSA are again being taken for a ride if they are being led to believe that joining with this Synod is going to restore them to canonical status.

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