Greek Press - March 26, 2000

Proposed New Charter May Put Archdiocese in a Tailspin

By Katherine G. Valone

In our last article we warned our readers about the altogether new (not revised) charter of the Metropolitans that will be introduced at the Clergy-Laity Conference in Philadelphia in July. We described the motives of the Metropolitans as more restrictive towards the rights and, responsibilities of the laity, Archdiocesan Council, the Executive Committee, the various ministries with their governing boards, the various church organizations, etc., which contribute their time, talents and treasure towards our Holy Church and Archdiocese.

We are not speaking of revisions of the 1977 Uniform Parish Rules (UPR) that are in essence the legal constitution of our Archdiocese. Usually, at each Clergy-Laity Conference amendments are made to the UPR.   | But this time, without input either from the clergy or the laity, a new charter was called for by the former Archbishop Spyridon which would be more to the liking of the Patriarchate and the new organization of the Metropolitinates. These essentially and purposely disunited the Archdiocese and would make what were known as dioceses more accountable to the Patriarchate directly.

In addition to this the laity would be restricted except in their financial support to whatever the Holy Eparchial Synod would unilaterally approve of. WE MUST NEVER ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN. In the Greek Press you must read the letter to the Archbishop from Harry J. Pappas, member of the Executive Committee and the article by Dr. James S. Counelis, an Archon of the Church and Professor at the University of San Francisco. These will help you understand the critical situation facing the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese today. Our response (yours and ours) will make the difference in whether our Archdiocese will function as representative of the entire Church in America, according to law and with the people of God represented, or a medieval, imperial Byzantine dependency which will pay its taxes, tolls, tithes, tariffs and "tea tax" to those who know what is best for us, as though we were illiterate and shoeless. Should we laugh or cry? Except that one should not forget that we will be knee-deep in Byzantine intrigue and "phanarist" (Constantinople's "Phanari") political squabbles. After all, it was the purpose of the first archbishops to prevent this and for this reason a charter was the best way to keep our Archdiocese from falling victim to the passions and vicissitudes of either bishops, priests or laity. The UPR has served us well, in spite of the fact that in the recent past some of the tendencies have been to curb lay participation and decision-making powers.

The question is now: is Archbishop Demetrios being manipulated by the Metropolitans? Does the Archbishop have any hidden agreement with the Patriarch to bring the Archdiocese totally under the rule of the Phanar by radically revising the governance of the Archdiocese? If either or both of these are true and the Archbishop's nature is against these two options, then he must rest assured that the laity and the priests will support his upholding the present charter as it is. If, on the other hand, he has made such an agreement to subjugate the Church in America and relegate our Archdiocese to destruction, then we will rise up against him and the Holy Eparchial Synod, and the Patriarchate and once more the voices of AUTOCEPHALY will be heard loud and clear.

We cannot move from law to lawlessness. We cannot change the essential nature of the Church which has always been to consider the equality of the laity (even in ancient days when hardly any laity could read) and the clergy. I remind everyone that I am not speaking of usurping the episcopal and priestly roles and stewardship of the ecclesiastical, theological and liturgical domains. We have always respected these rights of our esteemed bishops and want no changes in their direction.

But we cannot allow the manipulation of the Archbishop by either Constantinople and/or the Holy Eparchial Synod when it means that we must change our whole "modus operandi" (our way of procedure) that took many years of experience and wisdom, prayer and persecution, and the Holy Spirit's guidance to devise. It is a sort of tradition of our own given the American milieu and the "Yankee know-how" and ingenuity according to our democratic principles of agreement or compromise (not of the faith, of course) as to how we should govern ourselves in financial and policy-making matters, and above all in a Christian and civilized manner. This did not all happen overnight, and, I need not say, that it is not altogether perfect, but our way of functioning has proven to be a blessing for our Church in America which hopefully, under the aegis of Archbishop Demetrios, can forge ahead with a new vision of obedience to the Gospel of Christ. We will back our Archbishop as he plans our next spiritual ascent. He can do this best if he follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit and puts the souls of his flock first.

I suggest each concerned Orthodox Christian and priest write to Archbishop Demetrios and encourage him to be his own man. He cannot hope to ever please everyone but if his decisions are fair and for the good of the Archdiocese and not a plan to profit the Patriarchate at the expense of the Orthodox here, then people will see that his wisdom is to be supported. We can pray that he will do the following:

UNITE our Archdiocese, one more made up of dioceses accountable directly to Archbishop Demetrios..

Continue to keep the CHARTER intact for now, with all the boards, organizations, committees and ministries continuing to operate.

Restore the COMMEMORATION of ONE archbishop, namely Demetrios.

Do not allow the Archdiocese to remain divided into METROPOLITINATES. Let them disappear either by attrition or by a Patriarchal change of mind.

Restore the DIOCESES with Bishops making up the Synod.

Protect the DIAKONIA of the Laity. The Church cannot exist with a lame laity and all-powerful clergy.

Protect the RULE OF LAW that now exists at the Clergy-Laity.

Above all, PROTECT the OWNERSHIP of the parish church. In other words, the church property of each parish must be owned by the parishioners who will decide the financial operation of the parish, of course, under the spiritual leadership of its pastor or proistamenon.

That no NEW CHARTER be brought up at the clergy-laity unless the proposed charter is sent at least one or two months ahead so that the parish representatives will have time to read and study it and possibly discuss it with parishioners and their parish council.

RESTORE THE BUDGET of the Office of Print and Digital Media (OPDM) that Mr. Pappas writes about in the Greek Press, and which was terminated. Our Archdiocese needs to employ every medium, including GoTelecom to inform, educate and gain the support of Orthodox Christians to do the work of the Church, to save souls, and to prepare the young for the time they will take over. We must never fear to inform and to call up the spiritual assent and support of the faithful. It could and should become the most valuable tool of the Archdiocese to communicate with the youth especially and to stir in them the desire to work for the Lord in the many capacities available with the parish, diocese and the archdiocese. Mr. Pappas offered to contribute a quarter of a million dollars from his own pocket to specifically support the expanded budget of the OPDM. This is a man who knows the business of communications. He is the president and chief executive officer of the Pappas Telecasting Companies. He put his money where his mouth is. We have many such people in our Archdiocese. Let us not slam the door in their faces. We need each other. Bishops and laity; those with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and those who are young and look to us for guidance and example.

Unite us, Your Eminence, and let us move on for the Lord and His Kingdom Come.

[ Greek Press - March 26, 2000 ]