The Hellenic Chronicle - April 14, 1999
A time for healing and growth
By FR. JOHN E. ARTEMAS
All of us who are committed to our Orthodox Christian Faith and Church, have followed the crisis in our Archdiocese over the past two years with much interest and concern. Many things have happened and much has been written. We have had disagreements, conflicts, misunderstandings, actions and reactions. It isn't necessary to focus on the specifics of the above crisis.
The purpose of this article is to emphasize the immediate need for "healing" and "growth." For in order for our church to grow, there must first be healing of the existing injuries. And if healing is to be real, it must not stand still; it must lead to healthy change and growth. In a more general sense, the process of healing and growth within the Church will be ongoing, until the end of time.
The crises that our Archdiocese has experienced has been painful. But it is up to all truly faithful members of the Church to see to it that the pain will produce positive and construction, not negative and destructive results. In her "human nature," the Church has never been perfect. She continues to heal and renew herself, even as she ministers to and heals her individual members. Even pain is good, as a function of a living body. But then the injury that caused the pain must be healed, in order for the body to stay healthy and continue to function and grow.
The crisis in our Archdiocese has caused certain issues to surface - or to resurface - and demand our attention. The process of healing must be achieved in an atmosphere of genuine Christian understanding, love, forgiveness and peace. But the issues, themselves, must not be laid to rest, put aside and be forgotten. They must be examined and studied, patiently and persistently and desirable answers and solutions must be given, for the benefit of our Church and people.
A few more words about "healing." Evidently, the transition in leadership in our Archdiocese was not a smooth one. But transition and change is always difficult. Mistakes have been made and feelings have been hurt. For all of us, it isn't easy to say "I'm sorry." We're all "human." (Personally, when I'm wrong - very rarely - it's not easy for me to apologize to my wife). But, in the context of Christian charity, should it always be necessary for us to expect, much less demand, apologies from one another? Can we not show with subsequent behavior that we are sorry and that we are striving to correct the wrong and restore the peace? I believe we can. And if certain wrongs cannot easily be corrected, at least they need not be repeated. And if we continue to disagree on some issues, at least we can also continue to respect and love each other.
We are truly blessed to have His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew as the leader of our Ecumenical Patriarchate. He is competent, dynamic and tirelessly dedicated to the work of the church. More than very intelligent, he is "spiritually wise." I believe he has a broad vision and far reaching goals for our Orthodox Church in the contemporary world. Under existing conditions, I don't know if he will be able to achieve those goals, but he deserves our unfaltering respect and support.
His Holiness genuinely cares for our Archdiocese and desires its peace and progress. He has entrusted this peace and progress to us. He is confident that we have the faith, love and maturity to address and resolve our own problems. His decision, together with the Holy Synod, that His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon remains as our Archbishop, is very proper and wise. Even when there is adequate reason for divorce, it is much better for spouses to patiently ad lovingly deal with their differences and remain committed to the marriage. This is the will of God. The problems and differences, themselves, can become a blessing. In learning to deal with them, we all can become more faithful and loving, more charitable and understanding, more patient, vigilant and mature.
His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon has his share of human frailties, as did our former Archbishop Iakovos. I, the writer, have many more, and you, the reader, have your own. Only One perfect Man ever walked the face of the earth. But His Eminence is very gifted. He is, and can become more, a great leader. He is youthful, intelligent, energetic, articulate, competent and dedicated to the work of the church. As we continue to adjust and "bond" with him and he with us, he has much to offer our Archdiocese, with our help and support. Let us not forget: From the beginning and always, we owe it to His Eminence, and to all our church leaders, to respect and love them. Love without respect is not real love.
The recent "Joint Encyclical" of His Eminence and our Metropolitans was very encouraging. "We are united in our commitment to fulfill the command of love that comes to us from our Lord Jesus christ ... As for the problems and the challenges that we may face as the church, we affirm that we shall do so together, sealed into a unity of purpose that will work harmoniously with respect, dignity and above all, Christian love." We, the faithful presbyters and lay members, are exhorted "to respond in the spirit of mutual love." May we all resolve to do so in the Light and Love of our resurrected Lord.
Now, in order for the healing process to properly move forward, several things are immediately necessary:
Any and all talk and actions for the reassignment of our Archbishop must STOP! All of us, bishops, presbyters and lay members, must reaffirm our commitment to work harmoniously with our Archbishop, and with each other, with genuine respect and love.
All our bishops must recognize and respect, and even encourage, the right and duty of presbyters and lay members to be involved in the affairs of the church, and to express their views openly and respectfully. There is no place in the church for "blind obedience." We are all accountable to each other and before God.
Negative publicity and polemics in any direction must cease immediately. Let's "give peace a chance."
In the light of Christ's Resurrection and in the bond of His peace, let us go forward to work for a better tomorrow. Our sense of unity should be mature and strong, not shallow and superficial. We continue to recognize that there are issues and problems that require our attention. We will continue to address them in the Light of His Truth and Love.
Truly He is Risen!
[ The Hellenic Chronicle - April 14, 1999 - p. 4 ]