The GreekAmerican - March 28, 1998

GOAL's Demands Are Met with Community Support for Archbishop

NEW YORK - In the aftermath of the announcement by the Greek Orthodox American Leaders (GOAL) demanding Archbishop Spyridon resign, communities have begun pledging their allegiance to His Eminence and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The demand arose from GOAL's two-day Chicago conference, which was precipitated by a debate between laity and the Archdiocese over what GOAL calls a "leadership crisis."

Approximately 400 people from 28 states gathered for the GOAL conference, held at the Westin Hotel. Conference delegates formally listed a number of concerns in the form of resolutions, with the intention of meeting with Archbishop Spyridon and Patriarch Bartholomew to discuss them. The most combative of the resolutions, numbered 10D, warns: "If our concerns are not thereby resolved by May 1, 1998, we call upon GOAL to request either His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon immediately voluntarily resign from service in America, or that the Ecumenical Patriarchate immediately reassign His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, and elect a new archbishop in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of 1977."

In the event GOAL's demands are ignored, the organization is considering suggesting a recommendation of action, which could be harmful to the Archdiocese. Specifically, GOAL is considering asking "that the 500 Greek Orthodox parishes nationwide temporarily suspend their annual stipends of financial support to the Archdiocese."

Dr. Thomas Lelon, a leading figure in GOAL, stated that the formal process of informing the Archbishop and the Patriarch is underway, and that "we intend to live up to what we stated at the conference."

The conference was also a fundraising venue for GOAL. GOAL spokesperson Dean Popps estimated that $200,000 has been collected to date in support of the organization. GOAL is hoping to raise $1,000,000 for expenses in advertising, and for charitable contributions "for clergymen who are in disputes with the Church's hierarchy and who are unemployed or retired."

GOAL's itinerary did not have unanimous support, however. Mr. Tom Kanelos, parish council president of St. Haralambos, in Niles, Illinois, attended the conference as an observer. He described the event as orderly with some people being "more vehement than others." Mr. Kanelos doesn't believe in the approach taken by GOAL. He feels it is an "immature reaction." "If someone was on the fence, I could give an alternative opinion," reasoned Mr. Kanelos for his presence there.

Responding to GOAL's resolutions, in a telephone interview with The GreekAmerican, the director of communications at the Archdiocese, Fr. Mark Arey, said: "Obviously there is anisihia (concern) which brought together these 400 people." He believes that their opinion of a "crisis" is more of a misunderstanding than anything else. "These people are Greek Orthodox Christians," he said, and therefore, "anyone who has concerns will certainly be heard." He added that "possibly we may not be able to satisfy everyone's concerns," but GOAL will not be ignored. "I'm sure we will be getting a phone call soon," he concluded.

Meeting on the same weekend, the New Jersey Diocese Clergy-Laity Conference in Annapolis, Maryland and the Young Adult League (YAL) conference in Dallas, Texas each proclaimed its allegiance to His Eminence and the Archdiocese of America.

In a letter to the Archbishop, Patriarch Bartholomew offered prayers for success at the Clergy-Laity Conference, which His Eminence was attending.

Outside of GOAL's Chicago conference, Archbishop Spyridon also found support from several communities. He was warmly welcomed this week at the church of Evangelismos in Jersey City, where he was on hand to conduct the liturgy. New York's Greek-language daily Proini reported that members of the congregation called out in Greek "Axios," meaning worthy, in praise of the Archbishop. A number of other parishes have released statements or have voted on resolutions of support, including St. Demetrios, also in Jersey City, St. Anargyri in Manhattan, and St. Demetrios in Astoria.

The GreekAmerican interviewed a prominent member of the Greek community, who is representative of the type of support the Archbishop is receiving.

Dr. William Tenet, member of the Archdiocesan Council, indicated his concern: "I am disturbed that any group would give the Archbishop of the Church an ultimatum." He believes that GOAL is specifically searching for the Archbishop's removal. On this point, he couldn't understand the basis for GOAL's demands. "On what grounds?" he asked. "Has he done anything unethical? Has he done anything immoral? I think not."

As one of the founders of the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL), Dr. Tenet is familiar with the practice of critically discussing the problems facing the Church. The OCL was formed in the '80s by parishioners concerned with the issues arising from the changing face of Orthodoxy in America. Dr. Tenet remarked on OCL's stance on several topics, but stressed the importance of "Orthodox unity under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese done in an appropriate hierarchical and canonical way." Describing GOAL's approach as a "vigilante type of group," Dr. Tenet criticized that their work, in the final analysis, is not only counterproductive but harmful to the community.

When questioned on his reaction to the information being released to the public by GOAL regarding the Church, Dr. Tenet quickly responded. He considered it "misinformation," and urged community members to seek out the truth, especially the youth of the Church.

In his comments, Dr. Tenet acknowledged that the Archdiocese has its share of problems, but they do not stem from the Archbishop. "I think that the new Archbishop came into a situation in which we had many significant problems, in all the institutions," he explained. In his opinion, the Archbishop has been handling the situation responsibly and openly. Rejecting GOAL's ultimatum, Dr. Tenet finally suggested giving His Eminence time, support, and advice, instead.

[ EKKLISIA |  -  March 28, 1998 ]