Orthodox Observer - September 1999

Archbishop Spyridon's Last Encyclical *)

Beloved Brothers and Children in the Lord:

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the Grace of God." (Acts 20:24)

In the name of the Gospel that I have served these past three years, I am announcing today that I have submitted my resignation as your Archbishop to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. I have submitted this resignation, effective August 30th, for reasons totally independent of and unrelated to my personal intentions.

In the course of any ministry that God delivers into the hands of a man, there comes a time when principle and truth cannot be risked above and beyond the integrity of the human spirit. These moments are the ones that define us as human persons, that make us what we are. I give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ that even as a simple man "dwelling in the flesh and living in the world" I still know such moments. And what is more, there is grace upon grace; for my heart is clean of any malice, ill will, or judgment of others.

*  *  *

Even though our time together has been short, I am deeply grateful for the "course and the ministry which I received from the Lord." There was so much to accomplish when I assumed the awesome responsibility of being your spiritual leader three years ago, so much new seed to sow in this vineyard planted by the Lord's right hand.

It is only with the help of the hundreds of thousands of faithful people throughout this great Archdiocese that together we have been able to further increase and edify the Body of Christ, our precious Church. Guided by the principles of inclusion and honor for the family, we have joined hands to reach out with an unprecedented ministry to Interfaith marriage partners. Guided by respect for the sacrificial giving of Greek Orthodox families, we have put shoulder to shoulder to open the windows on the financial operations of the Archdiocese with unparalleled accountability and candor. Guided by an abiding desire to spread the Good News of the Gospel, we have enacted various communications programs through the Internet, an expanded Press Office, and a revitalized Publications effort, thus making available the substance of the Faith in ways never before seen. Guided by a love for all God's children, we have together reached out through dialogue as far as our Jewish friends and as close as our Old Calendarist brethren, whose reception into the bosom of our Mother Church represents the single largest instance of healing and reconciliation with this movement. In place of schism and division, communion and community have triumphed.

Together, we have succeeded in uniting Greek-American organizations in a cooperative fellowship dedicated to serving our common interests. We have spoken up with courage on behalf of freedom and security for our Holy Mother Church, and in so doing, raised the political and social consciousness of America for the realities faced by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We have spoken out decisively for the sake of the suffering Serbian people and for peace and justice in Cyprus, being fully aware that these moments constitute not a political agenda, but our moral responsibility as Orthodox Christians who live in the most advantaged and free society on the face of the earth.

But beyond this responsibility, we have joined forces to respond to our perennial duty to honor the legacy of our past by re-focusing on the essentials of Hellenic culture and to make available to the next generation that which our parents so proudly delivered to us. That is why it became necessary to stress education, both catechetical and cultural, so that our children might be Greek Orthodox by conscious commitment, and not by uninformed custom. That is why, knowing that theology cannot exist in a vacuum, it was necessary that the theology we teach be aligned with the traditional "praxis" of the Church, in order for the fullness of the faith to come alive in personal experience. This fullness of faith has been the central mission and vision of my ministry, which you have joined with me to accomplish.

"Thus, I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable," even when it was not popular. For the essence of leadership is to risk being unloved, if only for the sake of love.

*  *  *

As we have carried out these tasks, I have felt in a very real and tangible way, the support, love, devotion and loyalty of the vast majority of the faithful of this Archdiocese, both clergy and laity. To those who have labored with me side by side during these past three years, I express my most profound gratitude for your unlimited love, your touching support, your tireless efforts for the cause of Christ and His Holy Church. I commend all of you, the countless thousands of good, decent, faithful people, for all your good intentions, purposes and resolve.

For those few of every grade who during these past three years have opposed this vital mission of the Church and have spared little ordnance in an attack of words that has done far more damage to our Greek Orthodox family than it has to those entrusted with its leadership, I extend my heartfelt archpastoral forgiveness. It is my abiding hope that you will be granted to envision a future in which words will cease to be weapons and become icons of the Living Word of God, heralds of the Gospel of Peace.

*  *  *

Therefore, I enjoin each and every one of you, who have been my spiritual children these past three years, to stand firm and hold fast to the Faith that was "once delivered to the Saints." Hold fast and dear the unity of the great Archdiocese of America, which was built with the toil and tears of those who came before us, resisting the temptation to replace purpose with personality. It is only upon this unity, this solidarity, and this concord that the Church will be able to survive and indeed thrive in the future.

Hold fast your bonds with the Mother Church of Constantinople, from which you have received the faith of Jesus Christ. And be not ashamed of the name "Greek Orthodox," for thus you are known to all men as a people of faith, a people of tradition, a people of purpose, a people willing to sacrifice for the sake of the truth.

*  *  *

For the sake of that truth, "I now commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified." May the love of God the Father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you, your families, and all whom you hold dear, both this day, and until the end of time.

With heartfelt blessings and paternal love in Christ,

[ signed: Archbishop Spyridon ] **)

[ Orthodox Observer, Vol. 64 - No. 1165, September 1999, p. 18 ]

[ Spyridon, Archbishop of America (1996-1999), The Legacy,
  Athens (Ellinika Grammata), 2005, pp. 368-371 ]


* ) The beginning in the original resignation document dated August 19, 1999 is as follows :

Protocol Number 113/99

To the Reverend Clergy, the Pious Monastics, the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Young People's Organizations, the Greek Day and Afternoon Schools, the Greek Associations and Societies, and all the devout Faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:

** ) The end in the original resignation document is as follows :

[ signed: Archbishop Spyridon ]

Archbishop of America