June 25, 1999
Association of Theological Schools (ATS) Accepts Report
Submitted by Holy Cross - Warning Status is Withdrawn
New York, NY - The Archdiocese of America announces today that the accrediting agency for Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS), has accepted the report submitted by Hellenic College/Holy Cross and removed the warning status imposed in June of 1998. In the ruling letter dated today (and attached in its entirety below), ATS states:
"The Commission determined that the School had responded appropriately to the June 1998 Commission action: governing documents have been reviewed, substantive changes have been made, which if in effect and clearly following in July 1997, could have provided greater clarity and care in governance decisions. The Commission voted to remove Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology from warning status."
It should be noted that the warning status would not have been publicly known, had not the Archdiocese and the Institution chosen to do so, in the interests of public disclosure. Previously, in its letter of May 11, 1999, the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, Inc. (NEASC), had accepted the same report submitted by Hellenic College/Holy Cross. NEASC had asked the institution to furnish the report in response to a request to show why the School should not be placed on probation. The full acceptance by NEASC continues the full accreditation of the School.
In its letter, ATS acknowledged and commended "the clarification the school has achieved with respect to its governance documents." However, ATS also expressed, in the context of the standards of ATS relating to the general "bond of trust" that should exist among boards, administration, faculty, students and the ecclesial body, that "The wisdom of the standards invited worry in the context of the present conflict at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology." They further opined that "indicators abound that the efforts of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology to respond to the June 1998 ATS request have occurred in an ecclesial and institutional environment in which trust is obscured or absent. In the Commission's perception, this lack of trust has contributed to palpable pain for persons on both sides of the controversy, and ultimately, threatens the capacity of the School to achieve its purpose."
This concern of ATS, that the School may ultimately be unable to achieve its purpose, misses a full appreciation of the significance of the historic shortage of priests in the Archdiocese. For the past twenty years the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has experienced a decline in new available clergy. While enrollment at the School of Theology and Hellenic College have remained relatively static, the demands placed on the School for more clergy serving not only newly formed parishes, but also the needs of larger and growing communities requiring more than one priest have not been met. It is a well known fact that vocations are usually provided by parishes that are adequately ministered to by full-time clergy. The phenomenon of decreasing vocations and increasing demands is not unique to the Greek Orthodox Church. Many faith communities are experiencing the same situation.
His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, commenting on the substance of the report issued the following statement:
"We should all be grateful for the work by the family of Hellenic College and Holy Cross in presenting a comprehensive report to both NEASC and ATS that insures the continuing accreditation of the Institution. The greater family of the Church can rest assured that the accreditation of the School is secure, but there is still so much more to accomplish.
"When one reads the report, and I hope that all our faithful do, it is clear that we must address every aspect of the life of the School as the Body of Christ. The first and chief purpose of this beloved School is to supply our Holy Archdiocese with faithful, educated and pastorally equipped clergy, to meet the growing needs of our Archdiocese in the new millennium. The shortage of parish priests, which has been worsening over the past decade, must be met with new vocations. Even as we continue to rely upon the stalwart retired clergy of our Archdiocese, we must recognize that more than 30 parishes without a priest and more than 70 parishes faithfully served by retired clergy deserve a full complement of full-time clergy. In our Archdiocese, which has shown phenomenal growth over its 75 year history, we must move forward with hope and confidence in the future.
"I pledge to all the faithful and good people of this Holy Archdiocese, that I will cooperate in every way with the Board of Trustees, the Faculty, Administration and Students to bring about the wholesome and spiritual environment that will effect a rebirth of Hellenic College and Holy Cross. As we address the palpable pain that is expressed at this keystone institution of our Holy Archdiocese, we must do so consistent with the highest principles and values of our faith. And where disagreements cannot be overcome by dialogue, we must settle our differences by due process informed by the love of Christ. ATS has spoken of the bond of trust and we all know that trust and faith go hand in hand. Only as we live our Orthodox Faith, in the fullest sense as God gives us His grace to do so, can we meet the challenges, not only of Hellenic College and Holy Cross, but the challenges that face our Church and the lives of our parishioners in the new millennium."
The Association of Theological Schools
in the United States and Canada
Very Rev. Damaskinos V. Ganas, President
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
50 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02146
Dear Rev. Ganas:
The ATS Commission on Accrediting met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in June 1999, and included on its agenda deliberation regarding Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The Commission voted to adopt the following statement as its action, and public reference to any part should be made only in the context of the whole action.
In 1998, after a fact-finding visit to investigate issues surrounding a complaint related to incidents at the School in 1997, the Commission concluded, on the basis of the visiting committee's report, that, among other conclusions, several "personnel actions constituted a sufficiently inadequate implementation of the school's governing documents, as those documents were available and in force on July 1, 1997, that they constitute a failure to comply with ATS accrediting standards, specifically 6.1.5 and 184.108.40.206." The Commission also concluded that a critical factor contributing to this failure to comply with the ATS standards was that the governing documents and their procedures were insufficiently clear. As a result of these conclusions, the Commission voted to place Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology on warning until January 1999, and required the School to submit a report giving evidence that it had "reviewed, clarified, and as a result of the review, made necessary changes to the School's bylaws and formally adopted institutional policies regarding the employment of faculty and, in particular, the relationship between ecclesiastical and institutional authority." The School requested an extension of the due date for this report, and in January 1999, the Commission voted to continue the School on warning and to defer the date of the report on governance until April 15, 1999, by which time the report was received at the offices of the Association.
In its June 1999 deliberation, the Commission on Accrediting considered the report and supporting exhibits submitted by the School. In addition, it considered letters that raised questions or critique of the process or results of the work of the Presidential Advisory Committee, including one from John Chirban and Lewis Patsavos to George Behrakis and James Skedros regarding fundamental disagreements with the process of the Presidential Advisory Committee, and with a variety of concerns about ecclesiastical and institutional conduct during the 1998-99 academic year; by Emmanuel Paraschos with reference to some of the same issues; from Theodore Stylianopoulos regarding his perception that actions of some individuals have stifled Orthodox virtues and restrained freedom necessary for academic inquiry and faithful Orthodoxy; and concerns raised by Metropolitan Maximos of Aenou, Presiding Hierarch of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, concerning possible theological problems with some of the proposed changes in the School's governing documents. The Commission also reviewed several letters that were in response to the letters of critique or expressed support of the process and conclusions of the Presidential Advisory Committee, including: the response of George Behrakis and James Skedros to John Chirban and Lewis Patsavos; the response of Archbishop Spyridon of America to Metropolitan Maximos; a letter of support of the process and conclusions from George Safiol; a letter from George Cantonis regarding the work of the special committee to evaluate the status of the four professor/priests who were recipients of the personnel actions in 1997 that were the basis for the initial complaint to the Association of Theological Schools; and a letter from Very Reverend Damaskinos Ganas summarizing several issues. Finally, the Commission considered the statements and answers to questions provided by President Ganas, Acting Dean James Skedros, and consultant to the School and counsel for the Archdiocese, John Mavroudis.
In its deliberations, the Commission came to several conclusions:
The ATS standards, in their introductory paragraph about the nature of governance in a theological school, state: "Governance is based on a bond of trust among boards, administration, faculty, students, and ecclesial bodies." The standards then say that "Each institution should articulate its own theologically informed understanding of how this bond of trust becomes operational as a form of shared governance." The wisdom of the standards invited worry in the context of the present conflict at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Governing documents, no matter how precisely worded and legally appropriate, cannot compensate for the absence of "bonds of trust." The introduction to the ATS standard on governance concludes: "The governance of a theological school ...involves more that the legal relationships and bylaws that define patterns of responsibility and accountability. It is the structure by which participants in the governance process exercise faithful leadership on behalf of the theological school." Indicators abound that the efforts of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology to respond to the June 1998 ATS request have occurred in an ecclesial and institutional environment in which trust is obscured or absent. In the Commission's perception, this lack of trust has contributed to palpable pain for persons on both sides of the controversy, and ultimately, threatens the capacity of the School to achieve its purpose.
The Commission acknowledges and commends the clarification the school has achieved with respect to its governance documents. However, the Commission is concerned about the need for the school to address the rancorous atmosphere that has affected the morals of faculty and students alike. For the School to continue to be an effective partner in theological education, these new and promising governance structures require operational procedures and practices. There is a need for a program of board development to guide the trustees in their role of stewardship. In addition, there is a need to articulate clear lines of authority and delineation of responsibilities to ensure proper and appropriate faculty governance. The Commission requests the School to submit a report by April 15, 2000, based on minutes of board meetings, faculty meetings, and other gatherings, that demonstrates the actual operation of the new governance documents, and which gives indication of progress in the areas of board development, faculty governance, and improved communications among all constituencies throughout the institution.
The ATS standard on Institutional Integrity maintains that, central to a theological school's integrity is ethical treatment of students, employees, and constituencies of the school. Many accusations over the past two years have alleged unfair or unethical treatment. In the context of the comprehensive evaluation visit in 2001, the Commission asks the School to demonstrate in its self-study the ways in which care has been taken to treat all persons, regardless of their positions in the current controversy, fairly and ethically.
The Commission determined that the School had responded appropriately to the June 1998 Commission action: governing documents have been reviewed, substantive changes have been made, which if in effect and clearly following in July 1997, could have provided greater clarity and care in governance decisions. The Commission voted to remove Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology from warning status.
The formal action of the Commission concludes with the paragraph above. As the action implies, the upcoming comprehensive evaluation will provide the occasion for the institution, the evaluation committee, and the Commission to determine if institutional practices and behavior faithfully implement the standards of the Association and governing principles in the revised institutional documents. Since this action is the result of a complaint initiated in 1997, a copy of the action is being sent to Valerie Karras and the other parties to the 1997 complaint, and to the parties whose letters are mentioned in the text. It should be noted that former acting dean Rev. John Chryssavgis also wrote a letter, which he subsequently requested be withdrawn; which were noted by the Commission. If you have questions, I will be pleased to respond as appropriate to ATS policies and procedures.
Daniel O. Aleshire
[ www.goarch.org/news/goa.news445 ]