"Greek-American" - April 4, 1998

Addressing the Challenges Facing the Church:

Peter J. Pappas Shares His View on the Controversy

NEW YORK - Peter J. Pappas, a prominent Greek American business owner and member of the Archdiocesan Council (a body that, among other things, administers the financial affairs of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America), attended the Greek Orthodox American Leaders (GOAL) Chicago conference as an observer. Aware of GOAL's disputes with Archbishop Spyridon of America, Mr. Pappas was curious to witness how these issues would be presented, and how those at the conference would react.

In an interview with The GreekAmerican, Mr. Pappas illustrated his surprise he felt as he watched the conference develop, inciting people against the Archbishop.

"Friday evening set the stage very quickly," said Mr. Pappas. It was clear, he continued, that "plainly and simply the thrust of the whole conference" targeted the Archbishop. Delivering speeches on their personal experiences with Archbishop Spyridon, the conference organizers created an atmosphere designed to encourage criticism of him, he explained. "It was almost like a rally." GOAL leaders put forth "an enormous complaint about the Archbishop's behavioral and administrative skills," said Mr. Pappas, and they tried to convince the audience that they did too.

Mr. Pappas described the event as well-organized and well crafted. "The management of the conference was the best I've ever seen," he declared. Listening to Mr. Pappas relay the events of the conference, one got the sense that GOAL's strategy was to guide people toward the resolution advocating resignation. "What they tried to do is almost force them (the resolutions) out of the audience," he recalled.

As part of the conference, an open forum was initiated, giving visitors an opportunity to express their own complaints and possible solutions to them. During this exchange of ideas, one individual asked if withholding money from the Archdiocese was a possibility. Once this idea was introduced, the organizers persisted in its inclusion to the resolutions, even though the individual who made the suggestion did not intend for its adoption, according to Mr. Pappas. This is the type of "orchestration" that took place, he indicated.

This strategy apparently reached its climax on the final day of the two-day conference, when the crowd favored the resolution calling for the Archbishop's resignation by May 1 should he not address GOAL's concerns.

Although Mr. Pappas felt the concerns represented at the conference were legitimate, he said that the final outcome was outrageous, referring to the May 1 deadline. Every Greek Orthodox Christian is concerned about Holy Cross/Hellenic College, St. Basil's Academy, the budget, and the future of the Church, according to Mr. Pappas. However, GOAL's conference and resulting resolutions were not the proper vehicle to raise awareness: "Whenever a group of people, whoever they may be, decide for themselves that they can impose a charge or order, or demand change, it comes out in a very mean-spirited attempt to accomplishing that goal."

Mr. Pappas went on to say that he does not think Archbishop Spyridon has acted in an inappropriate manner. Supporting the Archbishop's decisions, he also acknowledges that disagreements will always exist.

Forming an opinion on the Archbishop's abilities is premature, warns Mr. Pappas. Criticism of the Archbishop began six months ago, and His Eminence has only been at the Archdiocese for 18 months. Therefore, Mr. Pappas explained, the Archbishop was only given a year to adjust to his new position before being judged.

The next forum at which GOAL is likely to advocate its views will be the Orlando Clergy Laity conference in July. But Mr. Pappas said GOAL must not present the facts "slanted in one direction....I truly believe that these [issues] have to come out, and I think that if we all get to understand them, it will be better for the Church."

[ EKKLISIA |  -  April 4, 1998 ]