Greek Orthodox Stewards of America - July 22, 1999
Mr. & Mrs. Gevas Write Patriarch in Support of Archbishop Spyridon
and Point Out What Is Wrong With GOAL
His All Holiness Bartholomew
Fax: 011 90 212 525-6429
Your All Holiness:
The purpose of this communication is to add our voices to the many which have been raised on the subject of our Archbishop Spyridon, GOAL, and the related matters.
For months we have been distraught by the disgraceful GOAL assault on our church identity, order and traditions. We have followed this GOAL-designed-executed turmoil on the Internet and elsewhere. We support and are grateful for the Internet website and efforts of the Greek Orthodox Stewards Of America, Inc.
First, a few words of introduction. We are what we believe are fairly typical middle-class Greek-Americans. James was born and raised in the United States and Maria was born in Greece, immigrating to the United States in her early twenties. We both have been and are active members of the St. Nicholas Church in Newark, New Jersey. James is proud of the St. Paul Medal which he was awarded for his contributions to the parish life of St. Nicholas Church. We are both college graduates with advanced degrees, professionals.
A further word of introduction. We are not known to Archbishop Spyridon. We were not urged or influenced by anyone to write this letter. We are not members of any of the organizations, Archdiocese entities (other than Maria in the St. Nicholas chapter of the Philoptochos Adelphotis), or of any activist group in or abut the Greek Orthodox Church. (This may change if the present threat to our beloved Church does not disappear.)
We are very strong supporters of Archbishop Spyridon. The reason for this is that he is absolutely correct in his stand that our Church in the United States has begun in many ways and in many quarters, amongst both laity and clergy, to lose its adherence and practice of Orthodox beliefs, traditions, and practices. Our Church of the legacy of Byzantium, hearing the voices of such as Saint John Chrysostom and such other spiritual giants now reads GOAL on the Internet. Our Church in our United States is witnessing toleration of attacks on and dilution of lay veneration of ecclesiastic leadership and authority by a ruthless and in cases dishonest minority using the mass-communication weapons of the fax, Internet and targeted media releases and "leaks" on an unrelenting and massive scale.
We offer the following convictions:
First, GOAL has at least temporarily succeeded in making the following previously unthinkable an accomplished realty: Namely, the demonization of the Archbishop, lessening of the stature to many of our Patriarch, Archbishop, traditions, those who oppose GOAL, all while projecting a self-anointed false image as the voice of the majority of the laity. Most of our laity have no idea of what is going on because they pay little, usually no attention. This is the unhappy truth.
Second, GOAL has succeeded at least temporarily in making the following acceptable and tolerated by many, including clerics up to and including Metropolitans: Namely a group, (in this case a very small minority amongst the non-activists), can violate the basic established traditions and literal laws and rules of our church and create a de facto legitimacy of its consequences by brute force. These tactics even include the withholding of parish contributions to the Archdiocese, leaking alleged and malicious information to the media, destroying the essence of the lines of leadership and authority from the Patriarch down through to the parish priest and deacon. No organization can survive rule by vigilante law and/or ignoring established lines of administrative and moral authority.
Third, Archbishop Spyridon correctly resists attempts to dilute his and your authority by the scurrilous tactics of GOAL, abetted by some misguided clergy. All of this is in the face of an unprecedented, false, unrelenting and endless demonization of his person. All of this has as its real first objective the changing of our Church status to autocephalous. We are not theologians, but nevertheless believe that any canonical support for an autocephalous church rests upon secular considerations which flowed from the geopolitical conditions existing centuries ago in a very different world. If rejecting an autocephalous state for our church requires eventual changes in a relevant canon(s), that is something which can be pursued in its own time and manner. However, it seems logical to us laypersons that such canons are of a management/administrative nature and essence, subject to change for new circumstances. We believe that the autocephalous concept carried to the letter in today's realities is a tremendous threat to the retention of the religious integrity and purity of Orthodoxy, its very jewel and strength. We can only guess at what would happen to Roman Catholic theology if it did not have its central religious authority. This of course has nothing whatever to do with Papal infallibility.
Fourth, many of the clergy have deeply disappointed us. We have the sorry spectacle of Metropolitans using tactics foreign to what we consider and understand their sacred duty and sworn role. Such can only weaken the survival of our Church, beliefs, traditions, practices and ties to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Fifth, there has been an appalling failure of the Archdiocese over many decades to educate the laity in the holy treasures of our theology, practices, ethos, history, traditions, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. A few minutes of probing conversations with our typical Church member will tragically confirm this. There is an endless series of "testing" questions which if posed to randomly selected individuals from our laity would demonstrate the extent and depth of the problem, but here are just two whose answers do not require in-depth theological training:
- What were the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and what is their connection to Orthodox theology and personal salvation?
- What is the history and role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in modestly specific terms?
Speaking as people who have lived their lives amongst our Greek Orthodox brethren, both those born into and those converted to our faith, we confidently believe that fewer than 2% of our laity, perhaps far fewer, could answer either of these questions.
Sixth: We believe there is a reservoir, both by "inertia" and by conviction, or core and deep support amongst the majority of the laity for our Church identity and ties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They are not the ones with fax machines and websites. They are merely the Church. Of course, all of the legitimate wishes of those discontented can and should be considered and acted upon within our present Church structure, traditions and procedures.
Seventh and finally, it clearly appears as though GOAL and its clergy surrogates will not be satisfied with any "concession". They will continue till either they achieve their goal of an autocephalous Church, or, are decisively beaten and reach the point where they clearly see that they have no hope of success.
With the deepest respect,
Your spiritual children,
James C. and Maria Gevas,
cc: Archbishop Spyridon
Greek Orthodox Stewards
[ Greek Orthodox Stewards of America
July 22, 1999 ]