■ By GEORGE MATSOUKAS*
It is difficult to discern the Holy Spirit-Spirit of Truth in the process of selecting the hierarchs in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the United States.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America [GOA] is headed for another wrenching crisis! What happened to the post conciliar spirit of Orthodoxy one year after Holy and Great Council? Are we experiencing the consequences of the imposed 2003 Charter? We have a clash of cultures in our understanding rules and regulations. The voices of the hierarchy, clergy and laity living in America are being ignored in the governance of our Archdiocese. Where are the voices of the Archdiocesan Council and the Archons? Where are the voices of the leaders of the FAITH Endowment and Leadership 100 in support of Archbishop Demetrios and the Eparchial Synod? This is a watershed moment for the GOA.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has apparently learned no lessons since the crisis of imposing a hierarch beyond the frame work of the rules and regulations governing the Church in America. We seem to be in a similar crisis and can expect consequences like those that resulted from the appointment of the former Archbishop Spyridon. How can the Patriarchate change the rules and regulations of an election after the fact because it does not like the results? Is there no respect for the approved governing documents, Charter 2003, which was imposed with great concern and controversy to begin with? How can the Patriarchate demonstrate such disdain and ignore the decision of the synod of bishops of the GOA? Do we exist, here, at the whim of an out of touch synod, which demonstrates with its decision to negate an election of the hierarchs here, that it is out of touch with its flock in the USA? All of this contributes to the distrust of the patriarchate by all jurisdictions and to the maintenance of canonical disorder in the Orthodox Churches in pluralistic societies like the USA. We refuse to accept arbitrary rule, lack of transparency, disregard of input from clergy and laity.
Shared ministry and shared decision making requires our input. These are our norms. They need to be honored not disrespected.
The faithful in the USA have the right to expect respect for the decisions our Archbishop and Eparchial Synod make, with input from clergy and laity as provided by the regulations. We were led to believe that the Patriarchate has become more not less conciliar. This was the purpose of calling a Great and Holy Council financed mainly by the generosity of the faithful of America. The Patriarchate seemed to expand the work and perspective of its Synod by bringing hierarchs from around the world to sit with it. The time, talent, travel and funds of the American hierarchs have evidently made no impact or difference in the understanding of the Patriarchate of what it means to be a conciliar church functioning in a global setting.
If the Patriarchate persists in negating the vote of the Archbishop and Eparchial Synod, it will be seen by all as an effort to buy time, so that it can exercise its strategy of divide and conquer, with the hope that the Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will become disorganized and divided. The result will not only cause inestimable harm to this Archdiocese, it will damage the stature and prestige of the Patriarchate.
Let us pray for that the Patriarchate will diffuse this crisis by respecting the vote of the synod of the USA. All parties should call on and trust the Holy Spirit and seek the guidance of the Spirit of Truth.
Why have there been no announcements all these weeks about the resolution of this crisis? Members of the synod went to Istanbul before August 15. What were the results of this meeting? They are going back in early September? Why is the work of the archdiocese done with no input from the faithful? Where is the transparency in its actions and decisions? What role does the Archdiocesan Council play in this process? Do they just pay and obey?
Chatter is about pertaining the selection of an Archbishop to succeed Archbishop Demetrios. The same questions raised in the selection of the Metropolitan of Chicago apply in this situation also. Who decides? The Archdiocese has many qualified candidates. We need a candidate who knows the American Cultural setting. We need a candidate who has lived and ministered here. If we are serious about creating canonical order and unity maybe one of the best qualified candidates within the Assembly of Bishops would make a great Archbishop of the GOA. Such a selection would surely put our theology into practice. It would show that we can truly move beyond words to actions. It would show, to paraphrase His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, that what is mine and yours, is what is ours. This would be a meaningful follow up to the work of the Holy and Great Council. It would be a dramatic conciliar action.
* Τhe writer is the Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL).