Samuel (David) of Toledo

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His Eminence the Most Reverend Metropolitan Samuel (David) of Toledo was a bishop of a diocese of Syrian Orthodox parishes titled the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Toledo and Dependencies from the mid 1930s to the late 1950s, a period of ecclesiastical chaos within the Orthodox church in North America. In the ecclesiastical chaos that developed in North America after the financial collapse of the mission of the Russian Orthodox Church following the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the Syrian parishes that had been organized under Bishop Raphael splintered with some parishes continuing to look for leadership under the Russian mission while others looked for leadership under the Patriarch of Antioch. In 1921, during this chaotic period, Samuel (David) arrived in the United States, apparently as an archimandrite.

By the mid 1930s, new episcopal leadership was needed for the Syrian Orthodox. Under the guidance of Metropolitan Theodosius of Tyre and Sidon (later Patriarch of Antioch Theodoius VI) three archimandrites were put forward as candidates for archbishop and leadership of the Syrian Orthodox in North America. These candidates were Samuel (David), Hagapios (Golam), and Antony (Bashir). In an election conducted on November 10, 1935, Antony received the majority vote with Samuel second and to be Antony’s first auxiliary.

On January 23, 1936, the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch ratified the election and declared Arch. Antony their unanimous choice for Archbishop of New York. However, indecision on consecration of Arch. Samuel as an auxiliary by Metr. Theodosius reignited the divisions in the Syrian community and the two Syrian Orthodox groups proceeded to follow independent courses of action that resulted in formally establishing two Syrian jurisdictions.

On April 19, 1936, Arch. Antony (Bashir) was consecrated archbishop under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch by Metr. Theodosius and Abp. Vitaly of New Jersey (ROCOR) at the same time Samuel (David) was consecrated in St George’s Syrian Orthodox Church in Toledo by Abp. Adam and Bps. Leonty and Arseny of the Russian Metropolia.

While the consecration of Abp. Samuel by the bishops of the Metropolia may have been an attempt to re-store communion of Syrian parishes under the jurisdiction of the Metropolia, it instead formed a rival Antiochian jurisdiction that competed with the Antiochian archdiocese of Abp. Antony in New York. In 1938, Abp. Samuel was excommunicated by the Church of Antioch for causing disorder, but he was received back in communion in 1941 by the Antiochian patriarchate that also declared him to be archbishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Toledo and Dependencies. This created a situation in which the Antiochian synod played the two factions against each other.

The Samuel led group, which consisted mainly of clergy and parishioners from the Zahle region of Lebanon, became more ethnically and regionally defined and remained a small and insular group. Whereas the Archdiocese of New York under Abp. Antony grew, began to introduce the use of English into the church services, and expand its horizons.

Metr. Samuel reposed on August 12, 1958. In 1975, the Toledo group, now under the leadership of Metr. Michael (Shaheen) of Toledo, finally merged with the New York diocese under the leadership of Metr. Philip (Saliba) of New York as the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

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