"Greek America" - May 1998 (Vol. 4 - Issue 3)
From the Editor of Greek America
With mixed feelings I attended the March 20-21 Greek Orthodox American Leaders Conference (GOAL) in Chicago as a representative of the media, to listen and learn about the concerns raised by the newly formed group of Greek Orthodox Christians.
On the one hand, I was horrified of the prospects of my Holy Greek Orthodox Church being turned into another Protestant denomination in America, stripping our hierarchs of their power, respect and dignity. "Who are these people who want to change the status quo of 2,000 years?" I thought. I had flashbacks of being raised in a traditional religious Greek home that taught me to always kiss the priest's hand and always speak to him with respect. "Never ask questions," I was warned, remembering the fold tales I was told about people who dared to get the "priest's katara", or curse.
On the other hand, I read, with an open mind, the news reports coming out to New York and Boston. I heard first hand stories - reader after reader, recounting story after story of so- called abuses of power, arrogance and stubbornness of His Eminence.
My only contacts with His Eminence were a brief encounter in Pittsburgh during the Patriarchal visit, and a second time in his office in New York during an interview where I was treated with the utmost respect and dignity by a cordial, warm and loving Archbishop. Needless to say, confusion was running through my head as a boarded the United Airlines jet bound for the Windy City.
The outcome of my observations of the GOAL meeting was further confusion and frustration. I was angered by the apparent power of the almighty dollar, which was one of the most obvious reminders tossed around by some of the participants - threatening to stop their flow of contributions to the Archdiocese. "That would be disastrous," I thought. My anxiety hit its peak when one man stood up and suggested the group initiate a class-action lawsuit against the Archdiocese. I stood motionless, speechless, unable to believe what I had just heard. They were talking about the destruction of the very institutions this organization was supposedly founded to preserve and protect.
People also expressed dismay at the personality of the Archbishop. "Despotic" and "arrogant" were frequently used words. Others judged his "lack of spirituality." There was much anger in the room, but I have to admit, all was not that bad. Although a "mean streak" existed in many of the participants against His Eminence the Archbishop, I learned that a deep and genuine concern is present amongst many people in the Church.
Issues were raised about violations of the 1977 Archdiocesan Charter that occurred without the participation of the lay people as it is called for, including the break up of the Archdiocese of North and South America and the elevation of the former bishops to the status of Metropolitans. Alleged threats or retaliations against clergy who would not support the positions of His Eminence were also criticized.
The list went on: thirty-year board members at St. Basil's Academy were worried that the school was headed for disaster. Concerns about the accreditation status of Hellenic College/Holy Cross were intense, as were the fears of financial mismanagement in New York. Time and time again, the issue of the fired clergy professors at HC/HC was raise, as were fears that sexual misconduct went unchecked in the ranks of our clergy and hierarchs. "Where are we headed as a Church and as a community," people asked, "when we are expected to follow blindly and obediently?" Many of these people were not merely "rebel-rousers," I thought. These were people who have spent their time, talents and treasures in the service of the Church- and now have a genuine concern for its well-being.
The question now is: Where do we go from here?
Our Holy Archdiocese is the Body of Christ and no one -neither clergy nor laity - has the right to dismember it. Before the wounds get deeper and the eternal curse of Hellenism -disunity- is further embedded into the fabric of our community, representatives of GOAL must sit down with representatives of the Archdiocese and commence in a dialog.
A message to GOAL members: show your love for the Archdiocese and the Holy Church by dialog and constructive criticism, not by threats and ultimatums.
A message to His Eminence: invite the leaders of GOAL into your home, spread the table, and like any good parent would do, ask your disenchanted children to express their concerns.
A message to both parties: Communication is the key to the unity of our Church and our community. Unity is what all of our parents and grandparents died for.
[ EKKLISIA | www.ekklisia.org/etyp-5.htm - 30 May 1998 ]