The flurry of angry e-mails from Mr. Khalife, an archdiocese trustee, was one of the uglier manifestations of a controversy that has been causing turmoil, tension, and confusion in the venerable Christian denomination founded by Jesus’ disciples Ss. Paul and Barnabas in Antioch in 42 A.D. The bitter dispute centers on the role and authority of bishops, which in turn affects the self-rule status of the North American Archdiocese, obtained in 2003 after years of negotiation with Patriarch Ignatius IV and the Holy Synod in Damascus. Although self-governing, the archdiocese still reports to Damascus on matters of theology.
Since February, the fabric of the North American Antiochian Orthodox church has been stretched at the seams over allegations of deception, power-mongering, and even forgery. A longtime chancellor has resigned in protest, and some insiders are predicting that the upcoming national convention in Palm Desert, Calif., will turn into “Palm Desert Storm.”