Orthodox Canons and the Independent Movement

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Following is a brief outline showing where the independent groups who claim to be Orthodox have gone wrong. Any Orthodox clergyman will tell you that one of the first things needed to be True Orthodox is to follow Holy Scripture, the Canons, or laws of the Church and Orthodox Traditions. Here are a few examples of where they fail with the Canons. It must be noted that these canons were written for the canonical Orthodox Churches but many independent groups claim to have adopted them. Often they also make changes to suit their group.


The canons require the Patriarch or Metropolitan to head Consecrations with at least 3 bishops laying hands on the person being elevated to bishop (consecrated). The canons refer to the head of the canonically established Orthodox Churches and in the independent movement there is not a recognized canonical Patriarch or Metropolitan heading such ordinations.

Many in the independent movement prefer to ignore these canons in favor of the Apostolic Canon that states 2 or 3 bishops are required to ordain a bishop but the other canons were written later and supercede the Apostolic canons.

Women who are ordained to the priesthood in any group claiming to be orthodox clearly violate the canons. Such groups cannot be Orthodox because Orthodoxy does not have women priests (Tradition) and the Canons do not allow a woman to approach the altar or to speak (teach or say a liturgy) in Church.

The canons, or Rudder, set ages for the various offices. A deacon must be a certain age as listed in the canons, as well as a priest or a bishop. If they are younger their ordination violated the canons.

The canons require a person being ordained be orthodox for quite awhile prior to any ordination, The canons clearly forbid a person new to Orthodoxy from being ordained.

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Apostolic Succession

The independent Orthodox claim their lines of Apostolic succession trace to a canonical Church like the Russian or Greek Orthodox. In reviewing many of these "Orthodox" lines you will see that someone walked away from an ethnic church and started laying hands on people without a mandate, without Church authority and contrary to the canons. When a bishop leaves the Church he leaves all authority so laying hands on others without the mandate or authority violate the canons. Those who did this were normally excommunicated or deposed (defrocked) by their bishop or synod according to the canons. Also you will see many have old catholic lines with a distant secondary line claiming to be an Orthodox Church and they will claim that line instead of their main line as usually done by old cathlics. This also violates Orthodox Tradition since the Orthodox do not ordain individuals to go out and establish their own Church.

In Orthodoxy the lines of Apostolic Succession normally comes through the same line for all bishops of the Synod of any one Orthodox Church. This is because the lines are historic and directly trace back to the Apostle that Church traces its lines to. The canons prohibit multiple ordinations.

In the independent movement the groups usually claim their lines to more than one Church and Apostle. Many such groups "collect" lines, exchange lines by mutually laying hands on each other and proudly display this claim.

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The Canons

The Rudder contains the canons adopted and obeyed by the (ethnic) Old World Orthodox Churches. These canons cannot be changed at will by one Church or another. Each Orthodox Church has its own internal canons that should not conflict with the Rudder.

Historically the Canons in the Rudder are referred to as "The Sacred and Divine Canons."

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How Canons have changed

The canons do not allow for Orthodox clergy to marry after ordination. Many claim because Scripture mentions "a Bishops should be the huband of one wife" that the canons are wrong. This is a Church law and has been for years but some laws and rules are made to be broken it seems.

1. The Orthodox Church had married bishops in the early Church.
2. In 1933 Archbishop Ofiesh married contrary to this canon. Since no tribunal was ever called during the following 33 years of his life it is view that the American jurisdiction initiated a new internal or local canon or at least a tradition by the presiding bishops actions. Also it was reported in the newspapers that Abp. Ofiesh stated "God told him to marry" which was never publicly discussed, examined or disputed. Over the years things change. See #3
3. Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America allowed a widowed priest to re-marry contrary to existing canons and traditions. We understand the Patriarch advised the Metropolitan to decide the issue since they are an autonomous jurisdiction at this point. So again the canons and traditions of the Old World are gradually changing in the New World.
4. Since the Rudder has been out of print for many years now it would appear that the new Rudder should be available soon with the americanized canons.

The previous head of the Antiochian Church filed a lawsuit against Abp. Ofiesh to take the Cathedral. We understand the lawyer advised Aftimios to appeal the decision and he could win but he refused. The action of going into court appears to have upset the Abp. and may have caused him some depression so as to not proceed to protect Church property likely because the canons direct us not to go to a court of law but to resolve matters internally. Thus greed appears to have won but violated the Sacred and Divine Canons so often ignored by some.

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This is not to say there are not honest hardworking individuals who are in such independent orders and trying to do a good job as an independent clergyman. On rare occasions an individual or two may be accepted into one of the ethnic Churches but its been known, in the past, to lead to abuses by the ethnic against a former independent clergyman, They make life hard so they will leave and they can defrock him.

E-mail: info@theocacna.org