From the Office of the Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America

Serbian Orthodox Diocese of New Gracanica-Midwestern America

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! Psalm 133

Twenty years have passed since His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Blessed Memory and His Eminence Metropolitan Irinej of Blessed Memory concelebrated Divine Liturgy in Belgrade on the Feast of Sretenje, the Meeting of our Lord, February 15, 1992 and thereby brought an end to the division of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, Australia and Western Europe. Through the Holy Mystery of the life-giving and salvific Eucharist, all Serbian Orthodox Hierarchs, Clergy, Laity, Dioceses, Monasteries, Parishes, Schools and Institutions in the Diaspora were once again reunited. And all, together with the Psalmist, shouted both then and to this day: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

For the past twenty years, all Serbian Orthodox Hierarchs in the Diaspora have been active and participating members of the Holy Assembly of Bishops, which is the highest administrative, legislative and judicial body of the Serbian Orthodox Church. As part of its canonically prescribed church-administrative duties, the Holy Assembly of Bishops has rendered decisions related to the structure and governance of the Serbian Orthodox Dioceses in the Diaspora. The first arrondation/restructuring after the 1992 reunion occurred in 1994 in Western Europe, where there presently exist the following four dioceses: Great Britain-Scandinavia, Western Europe, Central Europe, Austria-Switzerland-Italy. The next arrondation/restructuring took place in 2009 in North and South America, where there presently exist the following five dioceses: New Gracanica-Midwestern America, Eastern America, Western America, Canada, South America. The most recent arrondation/restructuring took place in 2010 in Australia-New Zealand, where there presently exists one Diocese, which is called the Metropolitanate of Australia-New Zealand. The decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops related to the above arrondations/restructurings of the Dioceses in the Diaspora have greatly enhanced the work of our Church in these countries/regions and have had the unanimous support of all of the Hierarchs and Clergy, as well as virtually all of the Laity.

Unfortunately, ten misguided laymen in the United States, one from the State of Illinois and nine from the State of Ohio, ignored the painful lessons and memories of the 1960’s and 1970’s and decided to file a lawsuit in a local county circuit court of the State of Illinois against His Grace Bishop Longin, with the apparent intention of having the court order/compel His Grace not to follow the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops related to the 2009 arrondation/restructuring in North and South America. It goes without saying that His Grace Bishop Longin, with the unanimous support of all of the Clergy and all of the Church-Administrative Bodies (Diocesan Assembly, Diocesan Council, Parishes, Church-School Congregations) of his God-protected Diocese of New Gracanica-Midwestern America, defended the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops and proceeded to file a motion for judgment on the pleadings based upon the ecclesiastical exception doctrine, which prohibits US civil courts from becoming involved in certain disputes within hierarchical churches. On Thursday July 5, 2012, the circuit court judge granted Bishop Longin’s motion and dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice.

At the most recent Diocesan Assembly of the New Gracanica-Midwestern American Diocese held in March 2012, the Diocesan Assembly made the following resolution:

“We are very much saddened by the fact that a small group of Serbian Orthodox Christians obstinately persist in their divisive mindset challenging the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops and the fullness of the Serbian Orthodox Church by bringing a lawsuit against our Diocesan Bishop Rt. Rev. Longin. We hope and pray that Almighty Lord will enlighten their minds and mellow their hearts so that they too might feel the joy of unity.”

We again call upon our sister and brothers to “feel the joy of the unity.” We urge you to re-focus your energies and resources to the demographic crisis that is plaguing many of our Parishes and Church-School Congregations, where the present generation of Serbian Orthodox children is in jeopardy of being lost because our Church is forced to spend money on lawyers instead of on youth education programs! Our number one priority as a Church in today’s America is to make sure that our children remain Serbian Orthodox Christians in a society which is hostile to all religions, especially Orthodox Christianity. We cannot afford to lose yet another generation of children who leave our Church due to destructive court battles which cannot be won.

Furthermore, we urge our sister and brothers who are from the State of Ohio, which is in the canonical territory of the Eastern Diocese, to stop obstructing Saint Sava Church in Broadview Heights (Wallings) and St. Demetrius Church in Akron (Ridgewood) from becoming full-fledged Church-School Congregations of the Eastern Diocese. The Eastern Diocese needs these two parishes, just as they need the Eastern Diocese, to fulfill the mission of saving the souls of their parishioners and preserving our Serbian Orthodox faith and culture in northern Ohio.

The Diocesan Office of the New Gracanica-Midwestern Diocese