The Hellenic Chronicle - February 16, 1995

Nothing to fear

[ Editorial ]

This past summer following the Clergy-Laity Congress and again in December after the historic meeting of the Orthodox bishops in America, this newspaper took a stand firmly behind Orthodox unity in this country. That is where we remain.

In those editorials, we encouraged debate and discussion on this new road for Orthodoxy in America. That has certainly happened. There has been disagreement, as is to be expected. Many fear that a change in circumstances will always be of a negative nature.

Much of that fear comes from a belief that Orthodox Christians in America seek to sever ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, our Mother Church. Nothing could be further from the truth. As children of Constantinople, we seek to spread our wings somewhat, to make a life of our own in the country of our birth. And as our spiritual parent, it is expected that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be concerned about that desire to grow, as every parent is when they see their child searching to find its own place in the world.

But finding your own place in the world does not mean divorcing your parents and all they have taught you. On the contrary, it means putting all that to work in the new circumstances that your generation confronts. That is what Orthodox Christians in America seek to do. We have challenges that the Church of Greece or the Ecumenical Patriarchate will never face directly — the greatest being the high number of inter-marriages. If we, as a Church, do not reach out to the new spouses and children in a language they can understand, we have lost them. With an over 80 percent intermarriage rate, we can all figure out that it will not take long before there will be no Greek Orthodox Church in America. Unless we are able to join forces with our fellow Orthodox to meet those challenges, Orthodoxy in this country is doomed.

There are always those in every movement who want to be the bomb-throwers, those who want to put the fear of change in the population's mind. We must see them for what they are and then keep our eyes focused on the truth. | Let us review that truth for a moment. First, the guidance for administrative Orthodox unity came from the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself in the spirited words of Metropolitan Spyridon at the Clergy-Laity Congress. The message of united Orthodoxy in America was crystal clear and he charged all Americans, in the name of Patriarch Bartholomaios I, to "lead the way."

Picking up that mantle as our spiritual leader, Archbishop Iakovos took the courageous step toward that goal in December of last year, leading 29 Orthodox bishops toward administrative unity. Never once in his comments, has the Archbishop spoken the dreaded word — autocephalous — which has become a buzz word for those seeking to stir up the masses. (By the way, many of you, particularly those in the younger generations, have heard the word without ever knowing what it means. It means to be subordinate to no superior authority.") Rather, the Archbishop has made clear that the ties to the Mother Church will remain unbroken. And, he has stated from the start, that unity could only go forward with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. These are the truths on which we must remain fixed, not on the "spins" that a select few choose to put on them.

We have a proud history in this country, recently marking the bicentennial of Orthodoxy in America. For the first two hundred years we were able to go it alone, keeping within our own churches and communities. But, times have changed and those who refuse to adapt accordingly are left behind. Jesus Christ charged each and every one of us to go out and spread the word of God, not to keep that faith hidden, only to be shared amongst those of our own ethnic heritage.

Orthodoxy has triumphed over many attacks throughout the centuries. Miraculously, it survived the dark decades of communist rule in Eastern Europe. With firm ground here in America, Orthodoxy can flourish. As the Archbishop said recently in an interview in Odyssey Magazine, "The work we must do from now on must focus on how to make the non-Orthodox believe that Orthodoxy is the right religion for 'all men. It can be, because we are not a church imposing itself, but a church embracing people."

Let us then go out and embrace our fellow Orthodox Christians and work with them. We have nothing to fear and much on which to look forward.

[ The Hellenic Chronicle - February 16, 1995, p. 4 ]