Let me say up front that I have my own disagreements with +Philip. I am by no means a member of the Metropolitan Philip Fan Club. However, +Philip has built a forty year legacy of evangelizing the United States and building the foundation of an American Orthodox church, usually when no other Orthodox bishop had the courage to do so. One can admire the legacy even if he doesn’t always like the methods involved.
That was up until the latest scandal. Those who despise +Philip apparently find his actions transparent. I, however, do not see how undoing everything one has worked for for over forty years to be transparent, understandable, or rational, so I have avoided chiming in on this unfortunate chain of events (if you’re interested in details, OCA News posted links here).
And every event or statement serves to muddy the waters. The latest chapter saw His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, invite the Antiochian bishops with the notable exception of +Philip to Damascus, where they are now. Richard half-seriously questions whether the contrast between two pictures reflects what this may mean. Perhaps he’s onto something, or perhaps not.
We do not know whether all of this comes from +Philip, +Ignatius, or the Synod in Damascus (which isn’t necessarily the same thing as coming from the Patriarch). It would be slightly more rational if it had come from +Ignatius or the Synod, but His Beatitude does not have a history of Byzantine political plays, or if he does, it has been kept quiet. I have no reason to take such a cynical view of +Ignatius. Perhaps the visit of the bishops to Damascus will reveal what is going on here.
Ultimately, I find it sad that this will almost certainly overshadow everything +Philip has accomplished. He came to the United States to reunify a split and bleeding ethnic church, and built it into a truly American church. Let us hope and pray that nothing he accomplished is truly undone.