Dear in Christ, the Fathers and Laity of our Archdiocese,
God bless you!
You will now be aware that the legal structure of the Deanery is being closed down. This was something envisioned at the foundation of the Archdiocese, and it is right that the closure happens now so that we can move forward together. In everyday terms, there will be no real change: we are already one Archdiocese according to Holy Tradition. All that will happen is that a legal and administrative structure, one which has served the Church so well since 1995, will have reached the end of its usefulness. It is retiring with honour, and with grateful thanks to all those priests and laity who made it work for so long – the last of these being Archpriest Gregory Hallam, its last dean. (And never forgetting the first dean, Archpriest Michael Harper of blessed memory.) I am particularly grateful that Fr Gregory is continuing to support the Archdiocese by continuing many of the tasks which were originally his responsibility as Dean. His advice to, and support for, those who take on new roles within the Archdiocese will be of great importance.
With the closure of the Deanery, it is necessary to put into place proper canonical structures, their purpose being to assist me in governing the Archdiocese pastorally and effectively, and in harmony with the holy canons. Other changes will be announced soon, but today I wish to tell you about the first new structure, and some appointments to offices within the Archdiocese.
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Firstly, I announce today the establishment of the Synthronon, or Bishop’s Advisory Council. The name Synthronon comes from the Greek word σύνθρονον, which refers to the circular benches around the Bishop’s Throne in the apse of the altar and means “with the throne”. The Synthronon will be comprised of seven priests: three (with special responsibilities) appointed by me from the Archdiocese, one appointed by me from the Cathedral, and three elected by the priests of the Archdiocese. Its purpose will be to meet regularly with me to ensure that I am always well-informed of what is happening in this very large Archdiocese, and to advise me from their knowledge, experience, and wisdom.
Secondly, I announce today the appointment of three officers of the Archdiocese. All three will be members of the Synthronon. These are:
· Archimandrite Philip Hall as Protosyngellos, to be my assistant and principal advisor on spiritual matters.
· Fr Paulinus Heggs as Vicar General, to be my assistant and principal advisor on administrative matters.
· Fr Alexander Tefft as Canonist, to be my principal advisor on the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church.
Thirdly, I announce today the four other members of the Synthronon. In 2024, and every three years thereafter, the priests of each of the three regions will elect a regional mission coordinator. The regional coordinators will automatically be members of the Synthronon during their period in office. Until those elections take place, I appoint as the first three coordinators:
· Fr Michael Alexander as Mission Coordinator of the Eastern Region
· Archpriest Gregory Hallam as Mission Coordinator of the Western Region
· Fr Filip Lommaert as Mission Coordinator of the Southern Region
... and also as a member of the Synthronon:
· Fr Michael Touma representing the Cathedral
Please note that I have not yet formally established these regions, but I expect to do so within a few months, and I will write to the whole Archdiocese soon.
“It is necessary, therefore – and such is your practice, that you do nothing without the bishop.” (St Ignatius of Antioch – Letter to the Trallians)
Finally, I want to reassure the whole Archdiocese that the Synthronon and the new archdiocesan officers are established to assist and advise me. The Protosyngellos and Vicar General, in particular, act in all matters with my authority and on my authority: they do nothing without my knowledge and agreement. They are not gatekeepers and they do not influence me on who I wish to see. The people entrusted to my care in this Archdiocese, and most especially the clergy, are always able to speak to me directly as their bishop.
Forgiveness Sunday is on the 26 th of February, and in advance of that day I ask you to forgive me for the wrongs I have done by intent or ignorance, by commission or by omission.
I remain your Father in Christ