Church Synod Tackles Vexing Issues
By Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald
BOSTON.- A number of crucial issues regarding the Greek Orthodox Church
of America were expected to be discussed during a two-day meeting of the
Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese under the presidency of Archbishop
Demetrios. The meeting, which was held at the Archdiocesan headquarters in
new York, was still in progress as this issue of The National Herald was
going to press.
The Herald, however has learned that among the topics on the agenda
were the revision of the ecclesiastical charter; reports by the various
synodal committees; the Archdiocese’s finances; the upcoming Clergy-laity
Congress; issues relating to Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of
Theology; pending legal cases involving the Archdiocese and issues
relating to the Standing Conference of Canonical Bishops of America
On Wednesday night the committee on the revision of the charter
convened in order to discuss the final details of the text prior to its
presentation to the Holy Synod. The National Herald has learned that the
new charter is ready and has been written in both Greek and English by the
special committee that worked under the chairmanship of Metropolitan
Iakovos of Chicago. Members of the charter committee were Metropolitans
Maximos of Pittsburgh, Antonios of San Francisco, Professor of Canon Law
at Holy Cross, Dr. Elias Patsavos, Rev. Dr. Demetrios Constantelos,
a professor at Richard Stockton College in N.J., the General Legal Counsel
of the Archdiocese Emmanuel Demos and Attorney Eleni Huzack. The committee
met in Chicago last month.
Speaking to the Herald, sources close to the committee claimed
that the proposed charter is more in sync with Orthodox
ecclesiology, Canon Law and Eucharistic ethos of the Orthodox Church, than
the current charter. They also claimed that the new charter takes into
consideration the needs and the unique physiognomy that the Church has
developed in the New World.
According to the sources, the charter secures the spiritual and
canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the
Archdiocese, but it also safeguards the unity and oneness of the
Archdiocese and gives it flexibility in order to be able to tackle its
particular administrative issues.
The committee on the charter used as its basic text the charter of
1977, which actually became invalid since July of 1996 when the
Patriarchate unilaterally divided the then Archdiocese of North and South
America into four separate jurisdictions, the Archdiocese of America, and
the Metropolitanates of South America, Canada and Central America.
Two years later the Patriarchate is widely thought to have violated the
charter by elevating the ruling Bishops of the Archdiocese to the rank of
Metropolitans by giving them titles to inactive Metropolitanates in Asia
Minor and introducing the peculiar—and, some say, canonically
suspect—structure of having the Metropolitans act as “Presiding Hierarchs”
in the Dioceses.
The new charter is expected to terminate this confusion and to name the
Metropolitans after their perspective Diocese elevating at the same time
the Dioceses into Metropolitanates comprising the one and unified
Archdiocese of America.
The finances of the Archdiocese will also be discussed extensively at
the synodal meeting. The Archdiocese is facing a deficit of approximately
$4 million and recently was forced to secure a $5 million line of credit
in order to meet its obligations. These include the payroll which was
increased by $1.2 during the previous administration.
Another issue on the Synod’s agenda are demands for compensation put
forth by former Archbishop Spyridon. Spyridon remains in America and
refused to take over as Metropolitan of Chaldia, a position to which he
was appointed by the Patriarchate. Although Chaldia today is not in
existence, according to the charter of the Patriarchate it is considered
an active Metropolis. That means that its Metropolitan receives full
salary like the rest of his fellow Bishops of the Patriarchate. All the
clergy of the Phanar get their salaries from the government of Greece.
Through a letter sent to the Archdiocese by his lawyer, Spyridon
demands that he continue to receive for life 80% of his Archbishop’s
salary which amounted to $175,000 per year.
Sources told the National Herald that the Archdiocese is not obligated
to give Spyridon any kind on remuneration since he only served three years
after which period he resigned and his ecclesiastical authority
transferred him to a salaried position, the Metropolitanate of Chaldia.
However, some members of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan
Council—all Spyridon’s appointees—insist that the Church should continue
to pay Spyridon and claim that they have decided on the issue. To this
day, Spyridon is receiving his salary in full to the amount of $175,000
During the previous meting of the Synod all its members, with the
exception of Metropolitan Antonios of San Francisco, expressed their
opposition to Spyridon’s demands and underlined his disobedience to his
ecclesiastical authority, the Patriarchate. Nevertheless, the Patriarch
seems unwilling to resolve the issue. His options include demoting
Spyridon to the rank of monk or declaring him officially Metropolitan of
Chaldia. Instead he has let stand an invitation for Spyridon to go to the
Phanar in order to straighten up his ecclesiastical status.