Comity with Syrian Christians in America (1910)

THE large number of Syrians coming to this country, and the desire of their resident Bishop that, in cases where no priest of their own communion can easily be obtained, these should look to the clergy of the American Church for priestly ministrations, led the Syrian-American Bishop, Raphael, to read a paper before the Anglican and Eastern-Orthodox Churches Union relating to the subject. This paper is now reissued, addressed to the Bishops and clergy of the American Church as below.

Right Reverend and Reverend Brothers:

I thank God for the great work which is being done by our Union, in the way of promoting fellowship and a better understanding between the Holy Orthodox and Anglican Churches.

I assure you also of my full appreciation of all the kindnesses and courtesies extended to me and my people.

Now, in order that all complications may be avoided in the matter of mixed Services, that is, when a Syrian Orthodox may desire to have any Sacrament performed by a Bishop or Priest of the Anglican Communion in North America, I offer briefly some of our rules, as Orthodox Catholics, which, if possible, I beg to have enforced.

However, in this matter I am only speaking for myself personally, as an Orthodox Bishop, and in no way binding my brother Orthodox Bishops in North America. I speak alone for the Syrian people.

First—It is against our law to marry two brothers to two sisters.

Second—It is equally contrary to the same law to marry a man to a deceased wife’s sister, and vice versa.

Third—We do not permit marriage within the fourth degree of consanguinity.

Fourth—Civil Divorces are not acknowledged by the Orthodox Church, unless for causes she sanctions; and, therefore, no civilly divorced person can be reunited in wedlock to another party, unless divorced by the Church, as well as by the State.

Fifth—The Orthodox Church requires that a child shall be baptized by a Triune immersion in the water, and be immediately afterwards Chrismated.

Inasmuch as there is a variance between your and our Churches in these matters, I suggest that, before any marriage Service is performed for Syrians desiring the services of the Protestant Episcopal Clergy, where there is no Orthodox Priest, that the Syrians shall first procure a license from me, their Bishop, giving them permission, and that, where there is a resident Orthodox Priest, that, the Episcopal Clergy may advise them to have such Service performed by him.

Again, in the case of Holy Baptism, that, where there is no resident Orthodox priest, that the Orthodox law in reference to the administration of the Sacrament be observed, namely immersion three times, with the advice to the parents and witnesses that, as soon as possible, the child shall be taken to an Orthodox priest to receive Chrismation, which is absolutely binding according to the Law of the Orthodox Church.

Furthermore, when an Orthodox layman is dying, if he confesses his sins, and professes that he is dying in the full communion of the Orthodox Faith, as expressed in the Orthodox version of the Nicene Creed, and the other requirements of the said Church, and desires the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, at the hands of an Episcopal clergyman, permission is hereby given to administer to him this Blessed Sacrament, and to be buried according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Episcopal Church. But it is recommended that, if an Orthodox Service Book can be procured, that the Sacrament and Rites be performed as set forth in that book.

And, now, I pray God that He may hasten the time when the spiritual heads of the national Churches, of both yours and ours, may take our places in cementing the union between the Anglican and Orthodox Churches which we have so humbly begun; then there will be no need of suggestions, such as I have made, as to how, or by whom, Services shall be performed; and, instead of praying that we “all may be one” we shall know that we are one in Christ’s love and faith.

Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn.

From The Living Church, August 6, 1910, p. 476.

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