Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
I am struck by the comment attributed to His Eminence that there are many millionaires who can pay off the debt of the Archdiocese. I am sure that this is true.
It is also true that many millionaires, and even some billionaires, have been supplementing the monies received from parishes to cover the expenses of the Archdiocese for years.
The sad reality is that those donors neither requested nor were provided the transparency and accountability that their substantial financial support deserved. In a previous comment, Fr. Steven Vlahos referred to OCL’s 30 year-old educational and advocacy ministry calling for the type of transparency and accountability in governance that might have prevented this current financial crisis.
The current crisis provides the parishes and major donors who love the Church the opportunity to make the systemic and notional changes that will not only resolve the financial problems of today, but form a solid foundation for the growth of Orthodoxy in the US far into the future. What are those systemic changes?
- The current Charter of the Archdiocese and the Regulations issued under that Charter must be revised to provide the Archdiocese with full autonomy in governing the Church in the US. The selection of the Archbishop, Metropolitans, and Bishops of the Archdiocese must be made by the Eparchial Synod, with meaningful input from the clergy and laity and simply ratified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
- The Regulations of the Archdiocese governing the Metropolises and Parishes and the Dispute Resolution Policy must be revised to restore a meaningful voice to the clergy and laity in the agendas and deliberations of the Metropolis Assemblies and Clergy-Laity Congress and in the election of all of the members of Metropolis and the Archdiocesan Councils.
- The clergy and laity serving on Councils should understand that they are “reason-endowed” members of the Church, free from fear of intimidation and reprisals for performing their responsibilities honestly and fairly.
- The faithful of the Church in the US should understand that words have consequences, and the precise meaning of words must be universally understood. “The Church is Hierarchical” does not mean that Bishops can be arbitrary, capricious and even vindictive in administrative matters, and that they are entitled to “blind obedience” in those matters. Bishops do occupy a position of authority in matters of dogma and teaching “the Word of His truth”. The notion that an administrative issue is not subject to clergy and laity input because “it is canonical” requires explanation. It is not a device to close off discussion.
What is the solution?
The Archdiocesan Council is the highest legislative body of the Archdiocese between Clergy-Laity Congresses in all matters other than those of dogma. This is not the time for the Council to be paralyzed by the current crisis. Before the next Congress convenes, the Archdiocesan Council should make changes to the UPR that will enable parishes to directly submit agenda items for the Congress to consider without requiring Parish Assembly and Metropolis Assembly approvals. Ample time should be provided for this process, and ample time should be provided to parish clergy and lay delegates to receive and review all proposed agenda items and all financial and budget documents well in advance of the next Congress.
If proper arrangements cannot be made with adequate time for review and study by parish delegates, the date of the Congress should be delayed from the traditional 4th of July week-end. Finally, the Congress should be held in a Conference center (perhaps on a college campus) rather than at an expensive hotel. All extraneous matters such as political speeches by government officials (US, Greek and Cypriot) should be eliminated. All banquets and social events should be eliminated. There should be no Exhibit Hall for vendors or other agencies. All committees and activities other than administration and finance can be done at Metropolis Assemblies.
The only items on the agenda should be the administration and finance committees. Those committees should not meet simultaneously. Each delegate should participate fully in the work of each committee.
Prayer is important. All meetings should begin and end in prayer.
If the parishes and the millionaires and billionaires bail the Archdiocese out of this crisis without insisting upon the systemic and notional changes that will insure not only the survival, but the growth of the Church in the US, it will be “money down the drain”. The data is there for everyone to see. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is losing members at an alarming rate. At the last Congress, the discussions centered on who gets the assets when parishes close? The Metropolitan’s want it! The Archdiocese needs it! Let’s send it to the Shrine at Ground Zero!
We have an opportunity to bring Orthodoxy to America, and our leaders are arguing about the “perisevmata” (left-overs).
This is an “existential” crisis. How we respond will determine whether the Churches our immigrant grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers, fathers and uncles and aunts built in this country will survive for our children and grandchildren.
George D Karcazes
President, Orthodox Christian Laity