[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] Archimandrite Bartholomew Mercado, The Vision of the Second Centennial: The Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America - Orthodox Christian Laity

Archimandrite Bartholomew Mercado, The Vision of the Second Centennial: The Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America


Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Clergy-Laity Congress
Marriott Marquis – Broadway South, Sixth Floor
New York, NY

July 6, 2022

Your Eminence Elder-Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon,
Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America,
Your Eminence Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymnon and Avlopotamos,
Very Reverend Grand Ecclesiarch Aetios,
Your Eminences and Your Graces,
Reverend Clergy,
Representatives of our Church Institutions and Organizations,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On October 8, 2020, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a communique which, in part, stated that, “It placed into abeyance the force of the Charter of the Holy Archdiocese of America, with the objective of constituting a joint Committee of representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Archdiocese for the composition of a new Charter.” Likewise, after the meeting of the Holy Eparchial Synod on October 12, 2020, a communique was issued stating, in part, that in light of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate providing an opportunity for the Archdiocese of America to draft a new Charter, “two Committees [would]be commissioned with this great and sacred task: 1) [the first] An extensive committee in America, composed of representatives of the Holy Eparchial Synod, the clergy and the laity and 2) a second committee, assigned to participate in the Joint Committee that will be devised by our Mother Church, in order to convey and communicate the essence and the ideas of the former committee.” On June 15, 2022, after the meeting of the Holy Eparchial Synod, a communique was issued stating that, “Despite the fact that the Charter of the Archdiocese continues to be practiced and observed regardless of its status — a fact that the Holy Eparchial Synod has repeatedly decided and communicated — the Archbishop suggested to the Holy Eparchial Synod that the Archdiocese submit a request to the Mother Church, asking that the current Charter be lifted out of abeyance and be formally returned to its normal status until the time at which the review process on the Charter would reach its completion.

In order to have a better understanding on matters of such significance, it behooves us to be aware that in the one-hundred-year history of our Archdiocese, we have had five charters thus far: The Charters of 1922, 1927, 1931, 1977, and 2003.

Each of these Charters, having been carefully crafted to address specific issues according to the nature of the times, demonstrate the changing needs of our God-saved Eparchy. Therefore, I will give you some basic and brief facts regarding the administrative structure envisioned within each of these Charters and how these administrative structures developed over the past century. The first Charter of August 11th, 1922 noted the establishment of the Archdiocese and codified the structure which had been mentioned in the establishment Tomos of the Archdiocese. Namely, there was an Archdiocesan district and three additional dioceses wherein the hierarchs of these dioceses exercised administrative authority. This Charter also called for a Synod comprised of four members: the Archbishop and the three ruling bishops of the aforementioned dioceses. It must be noted that this Charter was intended from the beginning to be temporary and, indeed, it lasted only five years.

The Charter of 1927 generally retained the same administrative structure including the Synod and the same dioceses, though where there were changes in this Charter, they typically served to refine or expand upon the Charter of 1922.

The Charter of 1931 was the longest-lasting Charter and it was one of the most significant to the growth of the Archdiocese. This Charter eliminated the Holy Synod and the dioceses, bringing the entire Archdiocese under the sole oversight of the Archbishop. Moreover, all bishops serving the Archdiocese would not serve as ruling hierarchs but would, instead, be serving as auxiliary bishops to the Archbishop.  This Charter is known for its centralization of authority and for it being the longest-lasting Charter, remaining in force for forty-six years.

The Charter of 1977 would see yet another major shift in administrative structure. This Charter once again introduced a Synod of Bishops which would function as a modified provincial Synod. Moreover, a diocesan model of administration with various dioceses throughout the country was reintroduced, but it must be noted that the bishops in these dioceses would still remain auxiliary bishops under the Archbishop. They would, nevertheless, have certain administrative roles within their own dioceses.

Although July 30, 1996, is not a date associated with any Charter, it is nevertheless significant to understanding the development of our administrative structure in the Archdiocese. This date signifies the retirement of Archbishop Iakovos of North & South America and the election of Archbishop Spyridon of America. It is also the date wherein the Archdiocese of North & South America would be divided into four distinct eparchies by decree of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Thus, from that time forward, our Archdiocese would be known as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and would comprise the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the Bahamas.

Lastly, the Charter of 2003 constitutes for us the most recent Charter of our Archdiocese. It also demonstrates another significant shift in the administrative structure of the Archdiocese. A key feature of this most recent Charter is the codification of the elevation of the dioceses to Metropolises and, likewise, the elevation of the hierarchs of these This most recent charter also sees a more stark delineation in regards to the role of the ruling hierarchs in their respective sees.

Understanding this history is the key to understanding our future. Similarly, comprehending Orthodox ecclesiology and the canonical tradition of our Church are the very foundation of our ecclesial life in America. Thanks to our Mother Church of Constantinople, we have thrived in America for the past 100 years because of our Orthodox ecclesiology and the observance of our canonical tradition. Let these be the hallmarks of our legacy in the next 100 years as well.

Thank you for your attention.

Archimandrite Bartholomew Mercado



  1. George Matsoukas on

    This is the history of the charter from the point of view of the Patriarchate. It is revisionist history.
    The first charter established the archdiocese as autocephalous (see https://ocl.org/readers-questions-comments-about-the-charter-crisis-in-the-goa/). The minutes of the bishops from 1922 to 1928 were changed to reflect the desire of the Patriarchate to control the Church in the USA. Patriarch Meletios knew from his time here that the American Church would grow and be dynamic. (“I saw the largest and best of the Orthodox Church in the diaspora (that is, in regions where Orthodox Christians live dispersed from their native lands), and I understood how exalted the name of Orthodoxy could be, especially in the great country of the United States of America, if more than two million Orthodox people there were united into one church organization, an American Orthodox Church.” Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV (Enthronement Speech, February 1922). The Patriarchate has abused, misused, and marginalized the Greek Orthodox Community in the USA and is an unworthy overseer interested in using the funds of the faithful for its own survival. These funds should be used to build up our own Institutions. For example Facilities for the elderly should exist in each Metropolis. Life-long learning should be part of the curriculum of the Seminary for all the faithful in the USA. The Patriarchate does not understand the needs of the faithful here. It sees the Church in the USA as the source of funds to support its survival. It abrogated the 2000 charter. It appoints hierarchs here who have not served in the USA as required in the charter. It overruled the choice of hierarchs selected by the American synod. It ignored the role of the laity in administrative matters as outlined in previous charters by not approving minutes and resolutions submitted by previous Clergy-Laity Congresses. It is time for the American Synod to assert itself as the shepherds of the faithful in this geographic area. By so doing it will strengthen the role of the Patriarchate as a universal leader. The American synod needs to help the Patriarchate understand this reality.

  2. Cato the Elder on

    Apparently, the PR operation on East 79th Street never tires of cranking out “revisionist history!”

    Does that still surprise anyone? On the one hand, there is the real world, the one that is experienced by those who still worship in the declining number of “viable” parishes in the GOA. On the other hand, there is the make-believe world of re-consecrating over-budget, unfinished “Shrines” in New York and Clergy-Laity Congresses with a $400-plate Grand Banquet and entertainment by a pop star from Greece.

    How many of the faithful in the GOA know, or care about the “Charter”?

    Did any delegate at the Congress ask by what authority the “Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” could unilaterally suspend the 2003 Charter in 2020? Or, why it decided to do so without the Eparchial Synod in America asking for any revision as required by the Charter’s amendment provision?

    Did anyone ask how the Archdiocese could operate for two years without a Charter? Or how it could be magically “un-suspended” — again without any input from the Archdiocesan Council, Clergy-Laity Congress or Eparchial Synod?

    Or how the 1977 Charter was unilaterally changed by the Patriarchate in 2003 in violations of its amendment provisions?

    If the Charter defines the relationship between the Patriarchate and the Archdiocese and the Charter can be changed unilaterally by the Patriarchate in violation of its own amendment provisions; suspended; have a fake Charter Committee created whose input is ignored; and then un-suspended.. is it surprising that the dwindling number of faithful in the GOA know little and care less about the Charter?

    Pointing out that the spin offered by Archimandrite Bartholomew Mercado distorts the history of the five Charters of the Archdiocese and how each one diminished the roles of the clergy and laity in America in favor of “Pope-like” power in the hands of the Istanbul Patriarch and unaccountable Hierarchs chosen by him is fine as far as “setting the record straight” is concerned.

    But it does not go far enough. The only path forward is set forth in the Declaration that appears elsewhere on this site (https://bit.ly/declarationunity). The reforms Mr. Matsoukas outlines can only take place if the Orthodox Church in America is united and Autocephalous.

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