“After this I will pour out my spirit on all humanity….Your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28
Since the imposition of a Charter on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America without the input and approval of the Clergy and Laity within that particular Orthodox grouping in the United States, the consequences have been chaotic. There is no accountability within the Archdiocese. The Metropolitans each report directly to the Patriarch in Istanbul. They see the Archbishop as a figurehead. Each Metropolis sees itself as an independent entity. The Metropolitans in these geographic areas do as they please. If a priest is not Greek enough for a particular parish, donors can get him replaced. In other geographic jurisdictions, grassroots movements develop to bring to the attention of the faithful the arbitrary, sometimes mean-spirited, and sloppy nature of the local Bishop. In other areas, priests on loan who have built up missions are replaced by friends of the Metropolitans. The most senior of all Bishops sees himself as a preserver of Hellenism, and the many of the faithful stay away from him when they know he will be in their parish. There was hope when the present Archbishop was enthroned that he would make spiritual renewal the hallmark of this episcopate. This does not appear to be his priority.
The consistent pattern during these years of the imposed Charter is that parishes must pay as much as they can to the Archdiocese and Metropolises. Huge Metropolitan centers and camps have been developed. Local parish assessments have grown to pay for these signs of growth and development. The parish communities are financially squeezed. Church attendance is off. Our best and brightest priests do not wish to take jobs in the Archdiocese. The priests serve their parishes at the whim of the Bishop. Many faithful believe the seminary continues to be a mediocre institution. The redefining of the Archdiocese has taken place during the reign of the same appointed Archdiocesan lay leadership. An appointed Patriarchal “Nuncio” oversees all aspects of the Archdiocese. He has control. The lay leadership sees the Archdiocese as a secular corporation, and it has been run as such for all the years that they are in appointed control. For the last 15 years, we see the same faces getting the same plaques and medals over and over again.
In reality, we have two separate churches. There are those who pay big bucks and have access to the “leadership,” and then there are the rest of us who keep the whole thing going.
What will it take to break this cycle? The hope is that the work of the Assembly of Bishops will renew the structure of Orthodoxy so that the synergy of clergy, laity, and hierarchy is restored. This is the Orthodox Way of balance and accountability.
A Concerned Orthodox Christian