Monomakhos - October 31, 2017

A Way Out for the GOA?

By George Michalopulos

Things continue to careen from bad to worse for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). That being said, is there a way out for this jurisdiction? Curiously, Archbishop Demetrius Trakatellis may have let the cat out of the bag. The cat in question being a call for real American Orthodox unity and (possibly) independence.

Yours Truly was alerted to this by a comment made by Gail Sheppard, one of our more prolific contributors. If you all don’t mind (and I pray that she doesn’t), I’d like to reprint her comments in full (please pay especial attention to the words in boldface):

RE: “Sadly, the present Patriarch of Constantinople has set the example of behavior followed by our Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America.”

But they are now at cross purposes.

First there is what happened in Chicago.

Then the EP summons the Archbishop and immediately following that meeting, all hell breaks loose in the GOA. Stuff that could have come out at any point time (so many stories, so many people) comes out, all at once, after this particular meeting. It’s like someone unleashed a hailstorm. So what is so important to the EP that he is prepared to take down the GOA and probably the rest of us with it? I can think of only one thing. Our unity, on any level, would be his worst nightmare. We, along with ROCOR and Mount Athos, would most certainly block his move toward the RC.

And then there is this:

” . . the purpose of our coming together as members of our Episcopal Assembly of the United States is also our sacred duty as Hierarchs to organize and function according to the canonical norms and tradition that our Church Fathers wisely established throughout the centuries. It is our responsibility to walk according to the canonical prescriptions of our Church because these common ordinances help steer us and the faithful on the path to salvation. . . of course our discussions around this matter have not been easy over the years. We have not always agreed on how we ought to proceed with our internal organization and functioning. There have even been times when we thought that we have made important breakthroughs only to realize that we have far more work ahead of us than we ever could foresee. And while a consensus view of how Orthodoxy should be organized in the United States still evades us, we are most confident that by constantly investing our time and energy in the process, there will one day be enough room in our hearts to allow the Holy Spirit to lead to a spiritual and fruitful outcome. To this end, I offer special thanks to the Lord for the work of His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae, who, together with the members of the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning, continues to study and present to us possible ways to enhance the way we function and organize ourselves as an Orthodox Church.

Dear brothers, if we are not committed to getting our own house in order; if we cannot find more effective ways to preach the Holy Gospel; if we have difficulties being patient with each other, then, what image of Christ and His Church are we sharing with the world? How can we expect the world to take refuge in the Arc of Salvation—the Church—when the image of the Church that is often publicly portrayed is that of disharmony? . .

And all this will hopefully allow us, dear brothers, to ask ourselves whether we are part of the problem and if we are prepared to be part of the solution. Does our conduct help people find Christ when they look at us? Do we truly love one another or are we still allowing grudges and agendas of various forms to stand in our way to connect to each other? How can we help young men and women understand that leadership requires sacrifice and service if we are not prepared to serve and sacrifice for each other?”

If this isn’t a call to action by the Archbishop, I don’t know what is. There is so much dirt to go around. The EP could be planning to target the Antiochians next. He’s on a mission and if we don’t capitulate, he’ll mow us down. He did it to the GOA and he didn’t even flinch.

It’s time we get serious.

The question is why did I miss it?

Two reasons: 1) laziness on my part and 2) cynicism. Truth be told, I tend to skim over official dispatches from most institutions, whether they are secular or spiritual. My ADD kicks in after the first paragraph or two. The GOA especially has never failed to disappoint in this regard; if anything, they’ve perfected the art of anodyne language to a mind-numbing degree. The cynicism comes from the fact that for too long we here in America have been Charlie Brown while the Phanar has been Lucy. In other words, we’ve gone down this road before only to have the football always pulled out from under us just as we were about to kick it, invariably falling flat on our backs.

In retrospect –and with a careful reading–the words that the Archbishop spoke were in fact rather bold. They deserved much more consideration that I was willing to give them. The question however is not what did you or I hear but what the other bishops in attendance hear? Will the men who met in New Jersey last month hear these words in a way that will cause them to stand up and pay attention? If not, then we can only expect more decrepitude for yet another generation.

In fairness to the non-GOA bishops, they are not fools; some may take the tack that it’s better to be barely ruled by a tyrant thousands of miles away in the Old Country than to have to grovel before triumphalist Greek bishops who are in the next city (or worse, the same city). And let’s not be naive, the drumbeat for Demetrius’ resignation for quite some time now has come from The National Herald, which has taken him to task for not being “Hellenic” enough. In fact, I’d lay a hefty wager that most of the scandals related to the GOA have been leaked to the TNH from Phanariote sources.

If this campaign against the Archbishop succeeds, then it will be a pyrrhic victory. Like the Bourbons of France who during their brief restoration “neither learned nothing nor forgotten nothing”, the criterion for success for many of the Greek-American elite (especially on the east and west coasts) is how many photo-ops they can get with Tom Hanks. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is not evangelism by any stretch of the imagination and the well of possible conversions from local food festivals has pretty much run dry. I’d like to think that at least some of the bishops in the GOA have come to that realization as well.

Nor are many thoughtful Greek-America laymen without their concerns. Lest we forget, | the Ecumenical Patriarch has already discombobulated the GOA twice now: first with the removal of Archbishop Iakovos Coucouzis in 1996 and again with the removal of his successor, Spyridon Pappas some three years later. In both instances, tumult was the result with stagnation and attrition its wake.

I know this may sound far-fetched. But history is full of examples of countries and institutions being disrupted and newly-formed in fairly rapid order. By way of example consider our own national founding. Few of our Founding Fathers wanted independence from the Mother Country; in December of 1775 Col George Washington gave the customary Christmas toast to the King of England wishing him long life. Within six months the Colonies were declaring independence calling that same king a malefactor of the most horrible sort. At the beginning of 1989, the Warsaw Pact was a mighty empire ruling the vast Eurasian expanse; by the end of the year ordinary Germans were taking sledgehammers to the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain melted within days.

Perhaps the time has come for clergy, hierarchy and laity alike to put aside their concerns and take a leap of faith. Let us pray that this may indeed be the case. Perhaps this time, Charlie Brown may actually get to kick the ball.

P.S. The graphic for this post comes from my recent trip to The Museum of the Ozarks (Ridgeville, Mo). It’s sentiment is poignant and to my mind, Orthodox. Hopefully, the men on the Episcopal Assembly will ponder on these words and take them to heart as well.

Comments related to A Way Out for the GOA?


Greatly Saddened says:
November 1, 2017 at 12:35 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more and I would also like to commend Gail for her recent comments.

Time has come for us here in the US, to stand up as “one” Orthodox Christian faith. Not as members, or stewards, of individual ethnic Orthodox churches.
The Phanar, should be forward thinking and encourage unity between the individual ethnic Orthodox churches. Please correct me if I am mistaken. Wasn’t it then Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy, who was sent to the GOA’s Clergy-Laity Congress, as a representative of Patriarch Bartholomew? In his speech, I believe he spoke of unity here in the US, of the individual ethnic Orthodox churches. What has changed since then?

The fact remains, these Metropolitans are even more loyal now to the Patriarch for making them Metropolitans of their own Metropolises. They sold their souls. The bottom line is, since their elevation, they answer to him rather than to the Archbishop. The Patriarch felt threatened by the Legonier meeting and decided to request the resignation of His Eminence of blessed memory, Archbishop Iakovos. Then proceeded to dismantle the then Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. As I have repeatedly stated, a move to divide and conquer. If anyone in their right mind thinks the Patriarch is looking after our well being here in the US, is sadly mistaken. Plain and simple, he needs us to fund his existence and is afraid if we become autonomous, he will lose funding.

Since the changes to the Charter from I believe 2003, the voice of laity has been greatly diminished. The Patriarch did this for a reason and unfortunately not because of his undying love for us.

May we wake up, speak out and take action before it is too late. God help us!

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anon says:
November 2, 2017 at 1:37 pm

I think it sounds a little paranoid…. Archbishop Demetrios has never demonstrated administrative competency of any kind. He is a nice professor who, } thanks to the catastrophe of Spyridon, was lucky to become Archbishop at the age of 72. Now, nearing 90, he should have the decency to step aside. The Phanar probably just wants a smooth transition to someone who won’t be the spendthrift that Demetrios seems to be. Remember, Demetrios relied on two men to support his lavish ways, and they have now been gone for a few years. His mismanagement should have been enough to have him forcibly removed, but since that’s what the Phanar did to his two predecessors, maybe it is looking for a more peaceful way.

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Greatly Saddened says:
November 3, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Below please find an excerpt from an address given by Metropolitan Maximos of Aenos, then Presiding Hierarch of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The address was given at the 12th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, in Pittsburgh, on July 29, 1999, and can be found on OCA’s website.

Your Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Dear Brother Hierarchs, Reverend Fathers, Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Holy Orthodoxy,

Glory be to Jesus Christ! Glory be forever!

There is a city in this land where things are so bad that the Police Department has an unlisted phone number! Thank God, this is not your host city, our beloved and friendly city of Pittsburgh.
I am delighted to bring to all of you, the members of the All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America who meet in Pittsburgh the greetings of our Archbishop SPYRIDON, who asked me to represent him this evening. As I do so, I wish to remind you of the fine words pronounced by our Archbishop in Chicago, five years ago. It was in the context of the national Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Archdiocese. At that time, Archbishop SPYRIDON was the Metropolitan of Italy. As he brought the greetings of Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW to the congress, the Metropolitan remarked that it was about time for all Orthodox Christians in America to unite. “There is nothing more ridiculous than to allow ethnicity to take priority over our common Orthodox faith,” SPYRIDON said in the presence of Metropolitan THEODOSIUS. Metropolitan THEODOSIUS did not hide his enthusiasm regarding this statement. I personally join both these hierarchs in their assessment of our ecclesiastical situation in the Americas, and I pray for that Orthodox unity beyond ethnic boundaries to become a reality as soon as possible.

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