The National Herald - January 30-31, 1999

Synod Meeting Fails to Resolve Dispute
Between Spyridon and Hierarchs


By Harilaos H. Daskalothanassis
and Theodore Kalmoukos

NEW YORK. - The Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese of America convened last Tuesday for the first time after more than a year, and put together a list of about 30 unmarried clergy between the ages of 30 and 55, eligible for elevation to the rank of bishop. Three priests will eventually be chosen from the list to become bishops in the vacant sees of Detroit, Atlanta and New Jersey.

The Archbishop and the five synodal Metropolitans, however, failed to find common ground on the larger issues that are threatening the unity of the Church in America.

These issues were raised in a scathing report by the Metropolitans to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The report, in which the Metropolitans called on Archbishop Spyridon to resign and, failing that, on the Patriarchate to remove him, was published in its entirety in last week's issue of The National Herald.

In the report, the Metropolitans talked among other things about "paranoia" and "insecurity" on the part of Archbishop Spyridon.

Nevertheless, the synod codified the differences between the Archbishop and the Metropolitans in a 13-point "internal" working paper which will presumably be the basis of future discussions.

At a press conference following the meeting, both the Archbishop and the Metropolitans used careful language to allude to their unresolved differences and the fact that they were meeting only because the Patriarchate demanded it.

"Although it may be true that in the past we have had different interpretations and perceptions of events, and although we may yet differ on individual issues, the most important message that we can convey [...] is this: We have a unified and mutually held commitment to the Sacred Center of our Faith, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we hold in common a filial love and the deepest respect for the sacred person of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios, and we share a genuine and Christian commitment to the process of mutually discovering the means and the methodology, by which together we may address all issues of concern that affect our Holy Archdiocese," said the Archbishop in a prepared statement.

Speaking of his differences with the Metropolitans the Archbishop called them "irreconcilable": "Indeed, there have been varieties of interpretations placed on the same events over the past two years. Some of these interpretations are irreconcilable if we think in only human terms. However, we stand before you today, in the fullness of our fragile human nature, but also as believers in the promise of God Who said, 'The things that are impossible with men, are possible with God,'" he said.

The joint communique, issued by the secretariat of the Holy Synod, stated that the meeting took place "in accordance with the Patriarchal and Synodical encouragement of January 12, 1999, which occurred with the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Holy Archdiocese of America at its recent meeting at the Phanar."

The communique also stated that, "A spirit of fraternal cooperation and Christian love prevailed over the meeting, as befits every ecclesiastical gathering."

Well placed sources, however, told The National Herald that the meeting was tense. When the metropolitans asked for an end to all litigation by the Archdiocese against the lay organization Greek Orthodox American Leaders, the Archbishop said that he is acting on the advise of the Archdiocese's legal counsel. It was also revealed at the meeting that the Archdiocese has so far spent $600,000 in legal expenses.

The Archbishop also refused a request by the metropolitans to reinstate the three professors of the Hellenic College/Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline, MA, who were fired in 1997 for insisting on punishing the instigators of the sexual harassment incident in the school. The Archbishop said that he has appointed a committee to look into the incident.

When urged by Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, to abstain from extracting revenge from priests who disagreed with his policies in a letter circulated last fall, the Archbishop said that he regards those priests as "enemies." Over 100 priests, among them leading figures of the American clergy, have signed the letter.

The hierarchs agreed on the formation of a committee that will prepare a revision of the 1977 charter that governs the Archdiocese. The Archbishop has said that part of the reason the synodal system is not operating properly are differences in the way he and the Metropolitans interpret the synod's responsibilities under the charter. "According to the Archbishop, the synod has some responsibilities but according the the [Metropolitans] it could have more," is the way Archbishop Spyridon put it afterward, during the press conference.

Aside from the list of priests eligible for elevation to bishop, other subjects discussed at the synod were the jurisdiction of the Archdiocesan Council and its Executive Committee, a demand by the metropolitans for more openness in the Church's finances, the issue of the two former Old Calendrist hierarchs, Metropolitan Paisios and Bishop Vikentios, and their involvement in the church's administration which the metropolitans regard as excessive.

It was also decided that Metropolitan Maximos of Aenos/Pittsburgh will accompany the Archbishop in his upcoming official visit to Greece.

The metropolitans' stance in the current crisis was best summarized by Maximos at the press conference when he repeatedly stated that there cannot be "peace without justice," in the church.

Metropolitans Methodios of Boston and Isaiah of Denver did not attend the press conference.

[ The National Herald  -  January 30-31, 1999 - pp. 1 and 4 ]