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OCL Letter to Archbishop Spyridon 8/6/97

August 6, 1997
Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ

The Most Reverend Archbishop Spyridon, Primate
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
10 East 79th Street
New York, New York 10021


Your Eminence:

We pray that this letter finds you in good health, enjoying the blessings of our Lord!

As your spiritual children, who have been working with you during these past ten months, we feel that we can communicate to you honestly, expressing our deepest concerns in light of the dramatic events within the Archdiocese which have recently occurred. We believe that neither our Church, nor you as our spiritual leader, are well served by blind obedience and silent consent. Given the continuing crisis in Church governance which has recently occurred, the voice of the Orthodox Christian Laity can no longer remain silent.

As the mission of the Orthodox Christian Laity is "to restore and strengthen the role of the laity in the life of the Orthodox Christian Church," we must minister to the Church we represent and express to you our growing concerns.

Within this context, we perceive the events relating to the "restructuring" and governance of our Archdiocese as ignoring both the letter and the spirit of the Archdiocesan Charter, the Special Regulations, and Uniform Parish Regulations. We are deeply concerned that this "restructuring" has not received sufficient input and consent from the clergy and laity. As it was originally structured, our Archdiocese reflects the evolution and maturity of the Orthodox Church in America. We fear that your recent acts of governance may reflect a misunderstanding of the history of the Church in America. Our fears are founded in the following actions:

The appointment of more than 160 members to a "newly constituted" Archdiocesan Council violates Article 11, Section 2 of the Special Regulations of our Archdiocese.

The dismissal of the President of the Hellenic College/Holy Cross and three other distinguished faculty members and the appointment of a new President and an overseer, without consultation with the legally constituted Boards of these institutions, does not respect the process and procedures previously established by the HC/HC.

The closing of St. Basil's Academy and its restructuring as a "Greek School Teacher's College," again without the input and consent of its legally constituted Board, demonstrates a disregard for process and procedures.

The deconstruction of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) at a meeting of its Board of Directors, without a quorum and under the threat of dismissing any dissenters. Your Eminence, we pray incessantly for your successful Archiepiscopal ministry. We await the visit by our Ecumenical Patriarch with reverence and enthusiasm. We want to celebrate his visit. However, we are concerned that if the above matters are not resolved, soon there will be little to celebrate.

Time and again we have heard from you that words must be followed by explicit and practical suggestions for action. With these words in mind, we humbly pray that you will consider implementing the following recommendations immediately to restore harmony and order within the Church:

1. Restore the status quo to HC/HC by reinstating the four faculty members to their previous positions and permit the Board to meet and exercise their legal responsibilities.

2. Ask the Archdiocesan Council to rescind its "amendment" to the UPR and designate 31 members of the Archdiocesan Council as your official appointees while calling for the election of 30 official members to the council from the Dioceses. The remaining members may be designated as "ex officio" so that you may have the benefit of their advice without there being unelected delegates at the next Clergy Laity Congress.

3. Permit the Boards of the OCMC and St. Basil's Academy to meet and submit your recommendations to them for their consideration and action.

Implementing these recommendations will demonstrate your understanding, respect, and pastoral love for your flock. Your strength as our spiritual leader lies in your confidence that your clergy and laity are competent and imbued with the Holy Spirit. We have shown throughout our 75 years as an Archdiocese that we have served and continue to serve our Church with distinction.

Understanding and honoring the process and procedures which have evolved over more than five generations will only serve to strengthen the spiritual ties between the Church in America and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Actions which in contrast minimize the voice of the laity and, perhaps, impugn the abilities of the clergy, will only foster a climate of intimidation that will lead to mistrust of both our Archdiocese and the Mother Church. The OCL has shared these concerns with His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew. A copy of our letter is enclosed.

The Orthodox Christian Laity rededicates itself to its goal of advocating meaningful lay and clergy participation in resolving the issues facing our Church in America. We will continue to work vigorously to encourage spiritual renewal, religious education, Orthodox unity, and the administrative independence of the Church in America, while strengthening our respect and support for the Mother Church. This is the Orthodox Way and the tradition that will sustain and nurture the future of the Orthodox Christian Church in America.

On behalf of the members of the OCL, we pray that our Lord provides you, the hierarchy, clergy, and laity with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to continue His Will.

Yours in Christ,
George Matsoukas, President

cc: Archdiocesan Council Members
Board of Directors - Hellenic College/Holy Cross
Archons

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