Associated Press - July 13, 1999

Greek Orthodox Church Delays Ruling

By HARMONIE TOROS Associated Press Writer

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Orthodox leaders promised Tuesday to hear all sides in a dispute over the archbishop who leads the U.S. Greek Orthodox church.

Several U.S. parishes have called for Archbishop Spyridon's removal based on complaints that the archbishop has stifled dissent and failed to appeal to a new generation of followers.

Many had expected that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I would replace the leader of the U.S. church at the end of Tuesday's meeting of the Sacred Holy Synod.

Church officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, gave the archbishop one month to sort out differences with the parishes in the United States.

The Boston diocese, which is the oldest and largest Greek Orthodox diocese in the United States, voted last month for Spyridon's ouster. Clergy and laity from 63 U.S. parishes accuse him of bringing to the church an immigrant mentality that keeps it remote from faithful who feel more American than Greek.

Spyridon has said he is trying to protect the church's Byzantine and Greek traditions.

Spyridon, who left Istanbul Tuesday after two days of talks with the Patriarchate, said in a statement that he would return next month for further talks with the patriarch.

Three U.S. church leaders opposed to Spyridon - Metropolitans Maximos of Pittsburgh, Anthony of San Francisco and Iakovos of Chicago - joined part of the Synod meeting. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted Maximos as saying they would ask for Spyridon's removal.

Sources close to the church said there was a disagreement over how Bartholomew would choose Spyridon's successor, with American clerics, lay groups and the Greek government all wanting a say.

Bartholomew has direct jurisdiction over the U.S. church, the Patriarchate's main financial supporter with its estimated 2 million followers. He had previously ruled out removing Spyridon.

Spyridon was appointed in 1996 and is the first American-born leader of the U.S. church. He was born in Warren, Ohio, but spent most of his life in Europe.

News reports have suggested several possible replacements, including Archbishop Stylianos of Australia, Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong and the Far East, and Metropolitan Demetrios of Vresthena, Greece, who studied and taught in the United States.

[ Associated Press - July 13, 1999 ]