On Thursday, March 4, 2021, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America welcomed His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America to the headquarters of the Archdiocese in Englewood, NJ. The two hierarchs met and held a fraternal discussion on a wide array of issues of common concern. Above all they gave thanks to God for allowing them to meet in person for the first time since the pandemic, and for bringing them and their church through this difficult time in good health and safety. In the course of their discussion, they reviewed the work of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, and the state of Orthodox unity in America. They also considered the state of theological education, both the work of the seminaries and the late-vocations programs, and the pressing vocational challenge facing the Orthodox Church. The two primates also spoke candidly about the worrying polarization and extremism found both within the Church and in civil society. They pledged to work together and find common ways to address these issues within their churches.
They concluded the meeting exchanging prayers for each other and their churches at the outset of the Lenten journey to Pascha.
After their meeting, they released the following statement:
We have come through a year that has seen unprecedented challenges facing our communities and, indeed, society as a whole. The pandemic, growing political polarization, civil unrest, the rise of extremism, and economic anxiety have all contributed to test us within the Orthodox Church. While some of what has tested us is new, other things are as old as human history. In response to all of them, there is only one response, remaining firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, who alone is our Savior, and loving one another as he has loved us (cf., Jn 13:34).
We thank the faithful of our churches for their labors, their patience, their steadfastness, and their love during all that has transpired throughout this most difficult time. We also join together and mourn those whom we have lost in our churches, because of the pandemic. May their memory be eternal!
We bemoan the political polarization within this country and within the Orthodox Church, and call all to remember that we are created, each of us without exception, in the image and likeness of God. We strongly condemn extremism and fundamentalism, whether in the Church or society, and call to repentance those who would perpetrate acts of violence or hatred against any of our brothers and sisters in our communities or in society.