“A house divided cannot stand”(Matthew 12:25)
Archbishop HOVNAN DERDERIAN, Primate
Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America* and Mexico
The Church is our home. The mission of the church is whole when the ranks of the clergy fulfill their entrusted spiritual stake, which possesses the accrual of centuries. Over the past six decades our home has been divided, and as a result the Armenian Church has weakened, especially becoming powerless to face the trials and difficulties arrayed against our homeland and nation with the united force that is necessary.
The recently published article entitled “The Armenian Church and Politics,” among many other issues, emphasized in particular the present hierarchical division within the Sees of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is possible to characterize as the greatest catastrophe of the second half of the 20th century in the life of our nation. The author of the article correctly describes its consequences, and on that basis we want to firmly state our position that there are no explanations which can justify this situation any longer. Even during these most difficult of days for our homeland, not to say critical, both the imperative for the existence of our native statehood, and the vision to establish unity with our church have been forgotten. If there are dark forces that are consuming us, then we must awake and by securing its internal unity, strengthen the church established in the faith of our forefathers. And if we are well aware of all the details of history, which have already become outdated, then, with the courage of faith we must purge out our vain-pride, self-idolatry, ambitions, and self-interests just like Christ the Lord cast out the money changers from the temple. In doing so we can leave this world having seen the realization of the dream of our people: the unification of the church.
As our young people come of age, we no longer have any logical explanation for them. The Soviet years are long gone, and it is time for a coveted union and sincere brotherhood to be established between all of the hierarchical sees of the Church. As in the past, today is the time to reconsider the division of our diocesan structures, and to bring forth the most suitable candidates from all hierarchical sees to serve the needs of the diocese and strengthen the church.
The present divisions between hierarchical sees, to some degrees, weakens within us all the vision for a strong church, sanctified in its mission. This separation is purely artificial and, therefore, prompt measures are needed that will return us to our former days wherein all clerics were duty-bound by a spirit of brotherly love, abiding in mutual accord.
Today, we are blessed that the people have taken it upon themselves to safeguard the inner unity of the children of the church, which should exert moral pressure on us to hasten the process of reestablishing unity. It has been said a thousand times that the church must stay far from politics and free from its influences so that we may be able to reform and reinforce it. Meanwhile, we are never surprised to witness today a situation, in Armenia and the diaspora, wherein our nation is torn apart by various religious currents.
There is one primary approach to rectifying this situation, which we must make visible and tangible, and that is to humble ourselves before one another with Christian love and take upon our shoulders the vision and the cross of the mission of the Armenian Church.
And if we falter in this step, then our internal strength will collapse and the children of the same church will be estranged from one another.
The mission field of the Armenian Church is waiting for the clergy with renewed vigor and a righteous sense of faith. At least, by this approach, lessened will be the trials and current difficulties of returning one lost sheep to the flock.
We conclude by reminding you once again of the Lord’s message “A house divided cannot stand” (Matthew 12:25).
*The Armenian Church of America was officially established in 1898 by His Holiness Mkrtich Khrimian, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenian. In 1910, responding to an inquiry from the diocesan office in Worcester, the Fresno parish reported 5,000 Armenians in California, of whom 4,000 were in Fresno. To tend to the spiritual needs of the growing Armenian American community in California, the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America was established as a separate entity by the encyclical of His Holiness Kevork V, Catholicos of All Armenians, on November 28, 1927.