hellenic times - June 25, 1999
Philoptochos urges Metropolitans
to cooperate with Archbishop Spyridon
By Evan C. Lambrou
BOSTON, MA - In a move which has not received much publicity, the National Board of the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society has asked the other members of the Holy Eparchial Synod to embrace the authority of His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.
With more than 30,000 members and roughly 500 chapters, the Philoptochos Society is the largest philanthropic organization of Christian women in the United States.
The Philoptochos Society has called for Metropolitans Iakovos of Krinis (Diocese of Chicago), Anthony of Dardanellion (San Francisco), Maximos of Ainos (Pittsburgh), Methodios of Aneon (Boston) and Isaiah of Proikonissou (Denver) to condemn all bad publicity about the Church.
Bad publicity is detrimental to the life of the Church and has cast a bad light on the Greek American community as a whole, according to Evanthea Condakes, national president of the Philoptochos Society.
The Philoptochos Society is requesting that all members of the clergy in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America also do the same, Mrs. Condakes said.
In definitive demonstrations of support for the Archbishop, the Philoptochos Society issued an official motion during the Archdiocesan Council's most recent meeting February 26-27, and Mrs. Condakes gave an address at the recent Metropolitan Diocese (New Jersey) Philoptochos Conference at Saint Paul's Cathedral in Hempstead, New York on March 12-13:
"We are a society of women with increased freedom, a richer sense of ourselves... (We have) the responsibility to protect the sacred ideals we have inherited... to preserve the Greek Orthodox faith inviolate for future generations... Great Lent challenges us to put a stop to this sinful and unprecedented attack on the legitimate authority and leadership of our Church and our Archdiocese," Mrs. Condakes said before Philoptochos members in Hempstead.
"Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Philoptochos lovingly and respectfully requests... that the metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod clearly and emphatically repudiate any continued use or misuse of their words or images, including their confidential report to the Patriarchate; and we further implore that they emphatically state, in writing, that they do not endorse any statement which either maligns the Ecumenical Patriarch (Bartholomew of Constantinople) or the Archbishop, or which in any way encourages autocephaly," says the statement signed by Mrs. Condakes February 27.
Mrs. Condakes' statements were approved resoundingly with standing ovations by Philoptochos members in attendance at both gatherings.
The statements were necessary, Mrs. Condakes explained, because recent movements within the Greek American community have caused some measure of unrest within the Church.
CLEAR UP CONFUSION
"There is so much confusion among the Greek Orthodox people in America, and it is impeding our progress, so that's why we have implored our metropolitans to help clear up the confusion," she said.
Although Mrs. Condakes did not make any specific references, a politically-oriented group calling itself the Greek Orthodox American Leaders (GOAL) is currently calling for the Church in America to secede from the Mother Church and claims to support, and that it has the support of, the five metropolitans.
For the past 24 months or so, the paraecclesial movement has embarked on a belligerent campaign to have the Archbishop ousted, using methods very similar to lobbying tactics on Capitol Hill.
While such tactics are foreign to the conciliar tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church, GOAL has succeeded in putting pressure on the metropolitans who, along with the Archbishop, were summoned to Constantinople in January and demanded that the Archbishop either voluntarily resign or that the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate transfer him elsewhere.
The Patriarchate decisively rejected the metropolitans' demands. "He (Spyridon) is your Archbishop, period. He will remain your Archbishop until the day he dies," said His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew on January 12.
The Patriarch's statements were very reassuring, Mrs. Condakes said.
"My respect for Archbishop Spyridon is unconditional. Right from the start, I felt the actions against His Eminence were completely wrong. The Ecumenical Patriarch has no intentions of removing His Eminence, so why should anyone else? I support the Archbishop with all my heart. I admire him for his patience and his spirituality because, my God, he has just got to have patience to endure what he has so unjustly had to endure," Mrs. Condakes said.
From a canonical point of view, the five Metropolitans preside over Dioceses which belong to the Archdiocese of America and are to be governed according to the existing Charter. This is because each diocese is not a separate territory but part of the larger geographical framework of the Archdiocese, the ecclesiastical governance of which, as an Eparchy of the Ecumenical See, has been entrusted to Archbishop Spyridon by the Holy and Sacred Synod in Constantinople.
Even though they are now Metropolitans of the Ecumenical throne (they are not territorial bishops in America), because they preside over bishoprics within the Archbishop's territory, the bishops of the Holy Eparchial Synod have a canonical obligation to accept, and conform to, the authority of His Eminence, as specified by the Charter (the Charter is expected to undergo some revision, but it has not been revised yet).
PHILOPTOCHOS IN LINE
Thus, from an ecclesiastical standpoint, the Philoptochos Society's requests are clearly in line with sacred tradition.
At least one Metropolitan has emphatically stated, however, that he refuses to accept the Archbishop as Protos (Primate; first among them). Not only that, the Metropolitans have reportedly been encouraged by certain bishops in Constantinople to pursue this policy against the Archbishop.
PHANAR SOURCE OF CONFUSION?
This would imply, of course, that the confusion stems from the Phanar itself. By inference, then, certain bishops, in tandem with the Metropolitans, would be defying the Patriarch himself. It would also add to the tension concerning the way the Church in America's Charter is perceived at the hierarchical level.
In any event, since they returned from Constantinople in January, four out of five metropolitans denounced GOAL before the Archdiocesan Council on February 26-27 and assured council members of their newfound willingness to cooperate with His Eminence (Metropolitan Methodios, absent from most of the council's proceedings that weekend, was the exception).
During the council's proceedings that weekend, Peter Kakoyiannis insisted that the Metropolitans assure council members that they would cooperate with the Archbishop. A lively discussion ensued, but the Metropolitans - minus Methodios - said they fully intend to work with His Eminence and put the past behind them (see February 19-March 4, 1999 issue of the Hellenic Times, page 1).
Now that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Archdiocesan Council and the National Philoptochos Society have put pressure on the metropolitans, however, and now that the metropolitans have made assurances to Constantinople, as well as to representatives of the laity in America, some questions remain:
Are they paying mere lip service to Church tradition, or are they really going to support the Archbishop?
In the Diocese of Denver, for example, the parish council of the Annunciation Church in Houston, Texas voted to withhold funds from the Archdiocese on March 7 and place the money in escrow "until Metropolitan Isaiah endorses their release," according to a report by Barbara Colessides on GOAL's website, Voithia.
In the Diocese of Boston, the general assembly of Saint Demetrios Church in Weston, Massachusetts is threatening to discontinue payments to the Archdiocese "no later than May 31," according to its March 2 parish resolutions, a copy of which was obtained by the Hellenic Times.
What Metropolitans Isaiah and Methodios do about the above-mentioned improprieties in Houston and Weston, respectively, remains to be seen. Neither has taken any decisive action yet.
In a letter to the Hellenic Chronicle on April 28, 1999 (page 5, a newspaper which has taken a clear position against the Archbishop), Isaiah writes that the Houston parish "has not protestantized itself… but is ready to work closely with the hierarchy when certain local anomalies in the parish subside."
As for the Bishop of Boston, Methodios has not made any public attempts to stop GOAL, which has headquartered itself in the Boston area, from pursuing its aggressive campaign against the Archbishop. On the other hand, Methodios has publicly and vehemently criticized the Greek Orthodox Stewards, a movement which supports the Archbishop (see related story on page 10).
[ hellenic times - June 25, 1999 - pp. 2 and 12 ]