In Trust - Summer 1999

Accreditation reviews pass Holy Cross

Bylaw changes clarify board and ecclesial roles

Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts, successfully weathered special reviews by both of its accreditors, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. The reviews followed complaints filed with the agencies about the firing of the president and three faculty members in 1997 by Archbishop Spyridon, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.

Both reports noted changes in the school’s bylaws that begin to clarify the roles of the school’s boards and of church authorities. Each body warned the school that it would be looking carefully at implementation of the new documents during the next regularly scheduled reaccrediting visit in 2001.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges report, published in May, cited special appreciation for the school’s assertion that “in the day-to-day operation of the school, the institution functions on its own, . . . and does not receive interference from the Greek Orthodox Diocese of North America.” The New England regional continued: “The commission looks forward to being assured that practice at the institution accurately reflects these mandates and perspectives.”

The Association of Theological Schools’ June letter to Holy Cross was at once more blunt about the school’s situation and more pastoral in tone. The conclusion noted that the school had responded to the accreditors’ 1998 warning. The ATS said it had lifted Holy Cross’s warning status but noted that a number of troublesome areas remained.

One such area is institutional trust. Noting the ATS standard that “governance is based on a bond of trust among boards, administrators, faculty, students, and ecclesial bodies,” the letter goes on to say: “Governing documents, no matter how precisely worded and legally appropriate, cannot compensate for the absence of ‘bonds of trust.’” In the commission’s perception, this lack of trust at Holy Cross has contributed to palpable pain for persons on both sides of the controversy, and ultimately threatens the capacity of the school to achieve its purpose.”

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Holy Cross is the only seminary of the troubled Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the largest and wealthiest jurisdiction under the control of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolomeos of Constantinople. When Bartolomeos appointed Spyridon —the first American-born head of the archdiocese— the move was celebrated as the beginning of a new style of church leadership. Things have turned out rather differently than hoped: Spyridon is widely described as authoritarian and out of touch with the unique situation of the church in America. In January, five of the eight American metropolitans signed a request to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos that Spyridon be removed from his office on account of his “lack of Christian and pastoral love.” Bartholomeos summoned Spyridon to Istanbul, but the Patriarch decided not to oust him. In June, the Clergy Laity Conference of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Boston (which covers most of New England) voted to endorse the metropolitans’ January report and request for Spyridon’s ouster, continuing the controversy.

Copies of both accrediting agencies’ reports, along with extensive documentation on the controversies at Holy Cross in particular and at the archdiocese in general, can be found online at Official but less comprehensive information can be found at, Holy Cross’s site, and, the site of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

[ In Trust - Summer 1999 - p. _ ]

[ In Trust
  Summer 1999 ]