In Memorium: Dr. James Steve Counelis

Dr James Steve Counelis

June 26, 1927 – July 25, 2012

Dr. James Counelis, a distinguished academician, a respected Orthodox Christian Scholar and a good friend and supporter of the Orthodox Christian Laity since its founding 25 years ago, recently passed way at the family home in Orinda, California.

Upon learning of his passing, Metropolitan Gerasimos of the Metropolis of San Francisco stated; “Dr. Counelis was a devout Orthodox Christian who was loved and respected by his family, friends and colleagues for his strong work ethic, gentle demeanor, quiet wisdom, and giving heart. He led a full and rich life, and is now receiving the reward of eternal rest in the loving embrace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Dr. Counelis was born in Streator, Illinois and began his teaching career in the Chicago Public Schools. His career eventually would bring him to the West Coast where he became a tenured faculty member and Professor of Education at the University of San Francisco. In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities he conducted academic research in the areas of organizational theory, management and general systems theory and the humanistic, philosophical and social foundations of education. He was recognized throughout the world for his academic research and was also a prolific writer and author Two of his best known books are: Higher Learning and Orthodox Christianity (1990) and Inheritance and Change in Orthodox Christianity (2005).

A unique and admirable trait of Dr. Counelis was his desire and ability to utilize his vast academic skills and apply them for the betterment of the Orthodox Church in America. He served as the first lecturer at the St. John the Divine Foundation (now known as the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute) at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California; as President of the Ascension Cathedral in Oakland, California and as a member of the Diocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco. Dr Counelis also served two terms as a member of the Board of Trustees of Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, and was selected as the scientific delegate representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the conference of the World Council of Churches on Faith, Science and the Future held at MIT. In recognition of his devoted service to the Church, Dr. Counelis was honored as a member of the Order of St Andrew the Apostle and was conferred the Offikion Archon Hatoularios by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios in 1976

As part of his concern for the development of the Orthodox Church in America, Dr. Counelis was instrumental in 1987 in the formation of the Orthodox Christian Laity, an organization dedicated to spiritual renewal, transparency and accountability in church governance and the eventual administrative unification of Orthodox jurisdictions in America. Although he did not take an official leadership role in OCL, he served as a trusted advisor, a speaker and articulate participant at OCL meetings, and an advocate for the concept of synergy between hierarchy, clergy and laity and responding to the concerns of the Orthodox faithful.

Dr. Peter Haikalis, past OCL president said of Dr. Counelis, “Jim was a good friend and faithful supporter of our organization since its inception 25 years ago. He was always available to consult with us and offered sound advice. We will miss his wisdom and ability in his quiet and gentle way to stand up for what was the right thing to do. He was an inspiration to us all. May his memory be eternal.”

At the 25th Annual Meeting of the Orthodox Christian Laity held in Washington, DC in late October, Dr. Counelis was eulogized and the OCL passed a resolution acknowledging his service to the organization.

Dr. Counelis is survived by his wife of 49 years Anna Marakas Counelis and his two sons; Judge Steven Counelis, his wife Stacia, and their two children, Dr. George Counelis, his wife Sophia, and their two children.

(Note; This obituary is in part based on an article from the Hellenic Journal, September 2012)

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