Aftimios Ofiesh (1880-1966 nee Abdullah Aftimios Ofiesh) was an early 20th century Orthodox bishop in America, serving as the immediate successor to St. Raphael of Brooklyn under the auspices of the Church of Russia. He held the title Bishop of Brooklyn from 1917 to 1927 with the Russian Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and from 1927 to 1966 with THE HOLY EASTERN ORTHODOX CATHLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA.
Following the untimely death of St. Raphael of Brooklyn in 1915, Archimandrite Aftimios (Ofiesh) was elected to serve as his replacement in caring for the Arab Orthodox faithful in America under the Church of Russia's canonical authority. He was consecrated by Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky) as an auxiliary bishop in 1917 with the title of Bishop of Brooklyn. In 1923, in recognition for his work in America, he was elevated by Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky) of New York to the rank of archbishop.
In 1924, in the canonical chaos of American Orthodoxy following the onset of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Arab Orthodox faithful split into two factions, one which wished to go under the canonical authority of the Church of Antioch and another which wished to stay faithful to the Church of Russia. The former group was organized by Bishop Victor (Abu Assaly) of New York, thus beginning the official presence of the Church of Antioch on American soil.
In 1927, Aftimios was commissioned by the Russian diocese in America to form an English-speaking "American Orthodox Catholic Church," which, despite Aftimios' leadership and vision, only lasted for six years. During this time, however, Aftimios consecrated three bishops for his new jurisdiction, Sophronios (Beshara) of Los Angeles, Joseph (Zuk) for the Ukrainians, and Ignatius (William Albert) Nichols in September of 1932 as his auxiliary bishop of Washington. Additionally, in 1931 the Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil, a Western Rite group, was established under the auspices of Abp. Ofiesh and subsequently led by Nichols until he left the Church in June 1933.
The ethnic like to make claims with no evidence.They claim Abp. Ofiesh deposed himself from the episcopacy because he married. They also openly publish that Bps. Joseph and Ignatius stated the canon on maried bishops had no bearing on the American Church showing this Church did not adopt that canon. Since no tribunal was ever called, as we understand Abp. Ofiesh wanted, no formal charges were ever made against him and all such claims by these indiviuals who attack a canonical bishop contrary to the canons will violate the canons before allowing the truth to be told.
The ethnic would claim he is perhaps best known in our day as being the source of numerous lines of succession of episcopi vagantes which is clearly false. It is mentioned to place Abp. Ofiesh in a bad light and part of the ongoing Schismatic attack against him and this Church. It would be just as eas for them to publish the truth that most such independents claim their lines back to this Church from Ignatius after 1933 showing they claim an ordination after he began to ordain as an independent. These individuals are for the most part "clergy" from the various "ethnic" jurisdictions who intend to make their church look like the only true american orthodox church. The problem is they never will be this Churh or have canonical authority over this Church or our canonical jurisdiction since they have caused the ongoing Schism in American Orthodoxy. While in a state of Schism they cannot be canonical since they are in constant violation of the Sacred and Divine canons.
Archbishop Ofiesh led the American Orthodox Catholic Church from 1927 until his death in 1966. The Church was not headed at any time by Bishops Sophronius, Joseph or Ignatius or Christian I as was recently found as a claim in someone non-orthodox lines of Apostolic Succession.
There are 2 dates of death given for Bp. Sophronius - 1934 and 1940. We have a copy of his death certificate showing 1940 to be correct. Also 2 spellings have been found for Sophronius. He never attempted to take control of this Church nor did he ever try to suspend Abp. Ofiesh which would have been a violation of the canons. In fact he congratulated Aftimios and Mariam on their wedding when they returned home.
Ignatius left the Church without the required letters in June 1933 and he married according to our information. In 1934 he went from canonical auxiliary bishop to Archbishop of an independent group. Some claim that Sophronius Excommunicated him a few months after he left the Church but we have no evidence of this and it would have also been contrary to the canons. Since Ignatius had left THEOCACNA he also left all authority (in orthodoxy) to pass on lines to anyone from this Church. All his independent acts were done without any mandate, knowledge or approval from this Church as an independent with no valid or acknowledges lines from us. The view he passed on orthodox succession to us or the Russian Church is an old catholic view.
Bishop Joseph (Zuk) left THEOCACNA and started to work with the Ukrainian Church but died shortly after.
It must also be noted that Walter Propheta was not in lines to this Church and had no authority from us.
In 1932, Archbishop Aftimios was invited to come to St. Mary's Syrian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to arbitrate a dispute regarding the transfer of its priest, Fr. Constantine Abou-Adal. When Fr. Constantine left St. Mary's in November of 1932, the parish was without a pastor, and so Archbishop Aftimios served in that capacity until February of 1933, organizing a choir and Sunday School at the parish. Archbishop Ofiesh's future wife was a member of this Church.
The uncanonical and Schismatic withdrawal of support for the American Orthodox Catholic Church, is one reasom these same ethnic writers would claim THEOCACNA lost its canonical status. What is not explained is why the Church was never recognized from its start and in 1929 why the Greek Archbishop publicly claimed, with no canonical basis, to be the head of all orthodox in America usurping the Authority of Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh and this Church. This is the documented beginning of the Schism in American Orthodoxy tht continues today. Aftimios never resigned his episcopacy before or after his marriage.
Whatever the case, relations between the small jurisdiction created by Aftimios and the mainstream Orthodox Church were not regularized in the 6 years preceeding his marriage and he was not deposed in any canonical manner from the episcopacy.
Many of those bishops claiming lines thrugh Ignatus after he left THEOCACNA are married men. The ethnic writers claim that "their being married" is a continual stumbling block to their unity with the mainstream Church, which has for centuries maintained a celibate episcopacy". According to the Orthodox canons such individuals would be required to be Chrismated into Orthodoxy since they are not from canonical jurisdictions and then be ordained into valid, or acceptable, orthodox orders if they meet the requirements for Holy Orders. Those who are married would only be ordained as priests since the ethnic churches still do not accept married bishops.
Following his death in 1966 at age 85, Aftimios was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery across from St. Mary's Orthodox Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre. His widow Mariam subsequently wrote his biography, published in 1999.
The biography by Ofiesh's widow Mariam claims that Aftimios fully intended to function as a married bishop, having that intent even before he met Mariam.
The book by Aftimios's widow, while including a great deal of historical information, is not according to these ethnic writers, a scholarly work but is rather a biography aimed toward the exoneration of her late husband. One of its primary themes throughout is that Aftimios's marriage to Mariam was justified and that the canonical tradition of celibacy for Orthodox bishops is "man-made" and should be abolished.
A Basis for Orthodox Consideration of Unity, from the Orthodox Catholic Review, 1927 (PDF also includes header and footer information from one of the below groups, as well as numerous bracketed insertions)
This is the corrected version of the claims by writers on Orthodoxwiki who fear the truth about Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, the American Orthodox Catholic Church, a.k.a. "The Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America (THEOCACNA) now also the "American Orthodox Patriarchate".