Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Toledo and Dependencies
The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Toledo and Dependencies was a second Antiochian diocese that formed during the jurisdictional chaos in North America following the death of Bishop Raphael and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. The two dioceses existed from the mid 1930s to 1975 when jurisdictional and administrative unity were restored.
Following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 the financial and administrative chaos that enveloped the Russian Orthodox mission as well as its small Syro-Arabian mission, that had already lost its shepherd, Bp. Raphael, led to divisiveness within the Syro-Arabian community. Some elements of the community desired to remain under the jurisdiction of the Russian diocese, while others opted to be received into the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch.
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 by Metr. Theodosius on consecration of Archim. Samuel as an auxiliary 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, Archim. 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, Ohio by Abp. Adam and Bps. Leonty and Arseny of the Russian Metropolia.
The consecration of Abp. Samuel by the bishops of the Metropolia formed a rival Antiochian jurisdiction that competed with the Antiochian archdiocese of Abp. Antony in New York. In 1938, Bp. Samuel was excommunicated by the Church of Antioch for causing disorder. However in 1941, Bp. Samuel was received back in communion with 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.
Abp. Samuel's 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 and began to introduce the use of English into the church services and thus 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 with Metr. Michael as Auxiliary-Archbishop. The Articles of Reunification were ratified by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch on August 19, 1975.