GREEK PRESS - April 13 1997
Illegally Formed Archdiocesan Council "Legalizes" Itself!
Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) Guest Editorial
One of the administrative reforms that was adopted during the last years of Archbishop Iakovos's tenure was the limitation on the size and the manner of selecting members of the Archdiocesan Council. Prior to this reform, which was enacted at the Clergy-Laity Congress in New Orleans in July, 1992, the Archdiocesan Council has evolved into a body of unlimited size, entirely appointed by the Archbishop. At the time of the 1992 Congress the Council consisted of approximately 130 individuals. The Clergy- Laity Congress voted to amend the Regulations to provide that, in addition to the Archbishop and Bishops, the Council would be comprised of 31 individuals named by the Archbishop and 30 elected by delegates to the to diocesan assemblies (two flay and one clergy from each of the 10 Dioceses).
The amendment to the regulations also provided that life members' could remain on the council until the end of the term of the Archbishop who had appointed them. Regrettably, the Archdiocese under former Archbishop Iakovos ignored this provision of the Uniform Parish Regulations, even though it was submitted to, and approved by, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Elections were eventually held in several Dioceses, but the number of members remained in the neighborhood of 130 appointees, instead of 31.
With the arrival of Archbishop Spyridon it was anticipated that a new era was about to dawn in the American Archdiocese. An era when process would be respected by the Archdiocese in the same manner that parishes are expected to follow the 'rules. On March 14, 1997 a 'newly appointed" Archdiocesan Council was called to a meeting in New York City by Archbishop Spyridon. This Council consists of approximately 160 members, all apparently appointed by the new Archbishop in direct contravention of the Uniform Parish Regulations (UPR). One of the items on the printed agenda for the first meeting of this newly appointed Council was:
Convening of Archdiocesan Council as Interim Legislative Body to consider amendment of the By-Laws to provide for increase of Council Membership.'
A motion was made at the meeting to amend Article II, Section 2 of the UPR to read:
"The Archdiocesan Council shall be comprised of the following: The Archbishop, the Diocesan Bishops, the Auxiliary Bishops and three members (one from the clergy and two from the laity) from each Diocese elected by the delegates to the Diocesan Clergy-Laity Assembly held before the Clergy Laity Congress [and 3 members: AND SUCH OTHER MEMBERS AS MAY BE APPOINTED BY THE ARCHBISHOP AT HIS OWN DISCRETION... (Note: amended portion in capital letters.)]
This amendment was immediately objected to by Dr. Andrew T. Kopan of Chicago, a new member of the Council, who pointed out that an inferior body, such as the Council, should not amend a decision of a superior body (the Clergy-Laity Congress) "whose decisions are in effect until such time when they be modified by an ensuing Clergy-Laity Congress." He also noted that although a legally constituted Council possesses Interim legislative authority between Congresses' that authority should never be exercised to reverse the decisions of the entire church as expressed at a Congress, but should be rarely exercised only in areas that have not been debated and decided by a Congress. Veteran Council member Evan Chriss of Baltimore offered additional commentary objecting to the violation of process for constituting the Council, but no other member of the Council spoke. Bishop Anthony of San Francisco, responded to Kopan by stating that there is no reason for argumentation on the part of lawyers because the Archbishop is above these regulations and could appoint as many people to the Council as he wished. Kopan rejoined by stating first that he is not a lawyer and further that no one is above the law. "We are a society governed by law," he said. "We are a nation under law and even the Church is governed by canon law and regulations He went on to say that "the Church may be hierarchical but it is not despotic. It is conciliar and as such it participates in the democratic process."
Archbishop Spyridon thanked Dr. Kopan for his comments and acknowledged that this situation was anomalous, but went on to say that he felt that in appointing all of these people to the Council he believed that the Church would benefit from their service and talents, and that he chose to follow the "spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law." The motion to amend the bylaws was then passed on voice vote, but not unanimously.
Those who may wonder whether it really matters how many members there are on the Council and who appoints them should be aware of the fact that the UPR provides that each member of the Archdiocesan Council is an automatic delegate to the Clergy-Laity Congress. If the Congress is supposed to be the gathering of the whole Church, represented by the priest, council president and two elected delegates from each parish (in host, because of the great expense, many smaller parishes cannot afford to send all or even some of the delegates they are entitled to send) the practical effect of an appointed Council of unlimited size, is obvious: the voice of the parishes at the Congress is diluted, and the control of the Congress, committees, chairmen. etc., are in the hands of the Archdiocese. It appears that those grin control' at the Archdiocese have counseled Archbishop Spyridon on the "old"' way of doing things. and he has taken their advice. Not a very auspicious beginning. Hopefully, His Eminence will reconsider and seize the opportunity to start again. It is never too late.
[ Greek Press - April 13, 1997 ]