Ben Lomond Crisis
Due to controversial subject matter, this article has been reduced to a series of dot points.
There was a parish in Ben Lomond, California, formerly within the Evangelical Orthodox Church, which came into the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America to constitute a parish in the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission.
This parish, numbering approximately 1500, was the largest of the AEOM. Some have estimated 200 to be in attendance at Saturday evening Vespers. This parish practised congregational singing.
The parish also supported a K-12 school, had a world class choir, a hospitality house for visitors, programs for teens and supported Conciliar Press.
It should be considered that this whole section has an ‘allegedly’ before each point.
The parish allowed an Athonite spiritual father to visit and to hear confessions, which reportedly achieved a higher level of prayer and fasting. The Archdiocese forbade any of its clergy or faithful to confess to a priest outside of the Church of Antioch.
The practise of the parish to have a complete round of daily services (Matins, Vespers and Liturgy) was allegedly considered bizarre and abnormal.
An edict was allegedly sent from the Archdiocese, demanding that all liturgical music be from the Archdiocese, prohibiting the Russian chant predominantly used by the parish.
A parish meeting was called, and the parish petitioned the Archbishop to transfer to the OCA. In response, the priest and his supporting clergy received a fax announcing their defrocking.
An appeal was lodged with an Antiochian trial council, with the priest and his supporting clergy excommunicated, some for a minimum of three years and others for a minimum of five years.
The building, property, school and bank accounts were seized by the Archdiocese. Contested in court, the Archdiocese retained all of the preceding.
Again, mostly ‘allegedly’.
Most parisioners were scattered and priestless; the remainder had not been the primary financial backing of the parish and couldn’t support the church. The school was entirely abandoned, as were other things and programs, with property being sold.
The OCA received a large number of the faithful, on the condition of their silence on the matter, also forbidding other OCA clergy to discuss it.
The Jerusalem Patriarchate received the remainder of the faithful.
In response to both of the above, the Antiochian Archdiocese considered suspending communion with both the OCA and the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
The clergy were considered persona non grata for years, even after their excommunication ceased. Recently, these clergy were received back into the archdiocese.
To this day, there remains a watchfulness against parishes becoming too similar to the Ben Lomond parish.