Question: Are We Canonical?
A). Let me answer this question with a question. What is Canonical?
Justification: To be “canonical” is to be true to the whole of sacred tradition that has been handed down to us in the sacred Scriptures, the sacred Canons, the Creeds and the sacred writings of the Fathers; everything that composes the sacred Tradition of the Church. All to the Glory of God!
When we speak of the word canonicity, we mean nothing other than that which is according to the rules, the Canons of the Church. These commandments are binding on all Christians, especially the Bishops who are sworn to uphold the Canons and Teachings of Christ. When a Bishop or a Synod does not obey the Canons they are considered renegade and lawless, and this lawlessness will inevitably lead to heresy.
A church is canonical if it keeps or maintains two essential requirements.
+++ First, a Bishop must maintain at all times and continuously the teachings and traditions of the Orthodox Church. In other words, he must preach the Orthodox Faith, which was handed down to us by the Holy Apostles.
+++ Secondly, a Bishop must have the continuous Apostolic Succession in his ordination. In other words, he must be part of the unbroken line of ordinations (laying on of hands) which can be traced back to the Holy Apostles.
When a Bishop does not keep the first requirement and teaches a heresy, uncorrected he loses his Orthodox Faith, and thus he loses his canonicity.
Today, many Bishops are connected to the sin of ecumenism and as such are the ones who have become uncanonical and heretical.
Our Jurisdiction has valid Apostolic Succession, we have maintained conditions one and two above, and in our resistance, we have remained free of any communion or union with any heretical jurisdiction. This therefore by definition makes us canonical.
Some inaccurately say that “canonicity” is defined as “being in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch, or other Eastern Patriarchates.” As Father Alexander Schmemann once wrote in an excellent article on this subject: “False ideas of Canonicity”, “We must begin with a clarification of the seemingly simple notion of canonicity. The simple definition is, canonical is that which complies with the canons of the Church”.
There are those, for example, who solve the complex canonical problem of Orthodoxy in America by one simple rule, which to them seems a self-evident; One: to be ‘canonical’ one has to be under some Patriarch, or, in general, under some established autocephalous church in the old world. When we look at it this way, canonicity is thus reduced to subordination, which is declared to constitute the fundamental principle of church organization. Implied here is the idea that a ‘high ecclesiastical power’ (Patriarch, Synod, etc.) is in itself and by itself the source of canonicity: whatever it decides is ipso facto canonical and the standard of canonicity. And just as no power, no authority can transform heresy into orthodoxy and to make white what is black, no power can make canonical a situation which is not canonical.
When told that all Patriarchs have agreed with the Patriarch of Constantinople that Monotheletism is an Orthodox doctrine, St. Maximus the Confessor refused to accept this argument as a decisive standard of truth. The Church ultimately canonized St. Maximus and condemned the Patriarchs.
The issue of canonicity, is essentially a Latin idea imported into Orthodoxy and incompatible with its ecclesiological principles.
+++Simply repeating a lie is a common tactic of many of the American Orthodox Churches over the past few decades: repeat a lie often enough and eventually the ignorant masses will believe it, is their hope and motto.
While the question of our Apostolic Succession has been queried by clergy interested in joining our jurisdiction, in short, we do have valid Apostolic succession. The successions of our Bishops have been validated by not only by multiple mainstream Orthodox Jurisdictions but also the Roman Church.
We have the same spiritual and sacramental authority, supremacy, and accountability that were conferred upon the Apostles by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We do not list our succession publicly because too many times someone has copied it and used it fraudulently, claiming to be of our jurisdiction. In addition there is no need to show succession unless you’re trying to impress someone.
So, are we Canonical? Answer, Yes. If you are asking if we follow the Ecumenical Councils and use an approved Liturgy.
This Third question was not unexpected. Why do we not fall under a Patriarch? The simple answer is that no American jurisdiction is under obligation to belong to an ethnic Patriarch from another country.
I repeat, many of the Patriarchs are turning towards ecumenism, which divides the church. Corinthians explicitly teaches against the heresy of ecumenism. The Apostles taught us to be of one mind and one body by believing, speaking, and doing all the same things that have been handed down to us ever since the first followers of Christ; there for we are therefore classified as, “a Church in Resistance”.
The final question is, are we Eastern Rite or Western Rite? The answer simply is that we’re Orthodox! We find that too much emphasis is being placed on such an unimportant matter. We wear western style habits and use the Divine Liturgy of St. Tikhon with expanded Epiclesis. In all other matters we follow the orthodox tradition that was handed down to us via the Apostles by word and epistle.
The accepted definition of Western Rite Orthodoxy is: “Western Rite Orthodoxy or Orthodox Western Rite are terms used to describe Orthodox congregations and groups which follow the customs of the Eastern Orthodox Church, but which may use Western attire and traditional Western liturgies such as the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, St. Gregory or the Sarum Rite rather than Eastern liturgies such as the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.”
Whether one wears an Eastern Riasso with Klobuk & Veil or a Western style monastic habit with hood, call themselves Hegumen or Abbot, Hieromonk or Monastic Priest, or use the Horologion or the Breviary is unimportant.
Therefore, by definition, “Western Rite Orthodox” must be “Orthodox” in mindset and not “Old Roman Catholic”. Saint John the Wonderworker said; “Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be Eastern.” However, nowhere in this statement does it say Western Rite Orthodoxy should abandon Orthodox custom and tradition, only that you don’t have to be Eastern.
Some “Western Rite Orthodox” mistakenly follow Roman Catholic customs and traditions and are looked upon as “Roman Catholic Wannabes”.
Western Rite Orthodoxy, in order to be truly “Orthodox” MUST by DEFINITION represent a genuine mindset of pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the Ancient Christian Faith which means not dismissing the traditions of the East just because they are Eastern in origin. We may not have to be Eastern to be Orthodox, BUT WE DO have to observe certain customs, conduct, behavior and traditions to truly be Orthodox.
Some use orthodoxy as a members only club, when instead, we should be united in the work of God. Orthodox Clergy in America need to cease worrying about who is or is not canonical and begin functioning collectively toward the same goal.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” and 3:6 “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us”.
We read of two types if traditions (1) the traditions of men (Matt: 15:1-9; Col. 2:8) is soundly condemned. Jesus (quoting Is. 29:13) describes this as “teaching tradition: by contrast, is to be preserved by the church, for God is its source.
Holy tradition is that which Jesus taught to the Apostles, and which they in turn, taught the church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in (a) their instructions as they visited the churches and (b) their writings. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we adhere to Holy Tradition as it is present in the Apostles’
Western Rite Orthodoxy must preserve unity: (2 Thessalonians 14-15) state: If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (Ref: Footnote Orthodox Study Bible). Tradition according to the Bible MUST therefore be important.
Western Rite Orthodoxy, in order to be truly “Orthodox” MUST by DEFINITION represent a genuine mindset of pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the Ancient Christian Faith which means not dismissing the traditions of the East just because they are Eastern in origin. We DO NOT have to become Eastern to be Orthodox, BUT WE DO have to observe certain customs, conduct, behavior and traditions to be called Orthodox.
So, are we Canonical? According to the factual, accurate and truthful definition of canonical as seen above, the answer would be YES we are Canonical!