[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] Letter To the Editor of The National Herald on Church Leadership - Orthodox Christian Laity

Letter To the Editor of The National Herald on Church Leadership


George D. Karcazes, President of Orthodox Christian Laity

Source: Orthodox Christian Laity

How is it possible that in 2017, almost a thousand years after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, the leadership of the Orthodox Church in the world, but especially in the United States, continues to operate as though it is still a part of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire?

Our Churches have “Bishop’s Thrones” that were long-ago erected for the Emperor to sit upon.  Our Hierarchs carry miters, and wear robes and crowns evocative of long-gone Emperors. While nostalgically retaining some of these displays and accoutrements may not in themselves be harmful; believing that “the dress makes the man” and trying to govern as monarchs is not possible in today’s free world. With the exception of those enduring life under totalitarian regimes [such as North Korea, China, Iran, Turkey, Russia, et al]. Orthodox Christians in the West, especially those living and practicing our faith in the United States, expect their leaders to be honest, transparent, accountable and responsive.

The historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., has written extensively on the qualities of “Leadership”.  All Orthodox Hierarchs, especially those who are responsible for leading their flocks in the United States, would do well to study Mr. Schlesinger’s words.  The following excerpts from Mr. Schlesinger’s essay “On Leadership” are especially relevant:

“One test (of whether a leader is going to lead for good or evil) is this: do leaders lead by force or by persuasion?  By command or consent?”

“It is easy to issue commands and enforce them by the rope and the stake, the concentration camp and the gulag. It is much harder to use argument and achievement to overcome opposition and win consent.”

“No leader is infallible, and every leader needs to be reminded of this at regular intervals.

Irreverence irritates leaders, but it is their salvation.  Unquestioning submission corrupts leaders and demeans followers. Making a cult out of a leader is always a mistake.”

Orthodox Church leaders in Istanbul, Damascus, Moscow, Belgrade, Bucharest and Bulgaria…but especially in the United States know what is required, but have so far refused to change their ways.  The attitudes of Church leaders in the Old World seem to be that “none of the bishops outside the boundaries of the former Roman Empire are ‘qualified’ to lead the Church in their own territories.  Istanbul does not have confidence in the Hierarchs it has itself elevated and assigned to lead the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.  It has been encouraging to see the Eparchial Synod speaking with one voice in their meetings at the Phanar.  The clergy and laity in the United States must embrace “a new quality of followership”. They must become “active and informed participants in the process.”  Our bishops should show the way for those in the Old World to follow.  They must adopt a “new style of leadership”. They must issue official statements as to what transpires in meetings.  Decisions should not only be announce; the reason for them should be explained.  The Assembly of Bishops should make the minutes of its meetings public.  All of our bishops in the United States should act like they were born here and understand the importance of process and open, honest, two-way communications. Rather than looking across the ocean for answers, they need to provide the leadership that will inspire the faithful who are looking for competent, conciliar and transparent leadership and set an example for those in the Old World to follow.

The question of the selection of a new leader for the Metropolis of Chicago in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is not a “zero sum game” … or a “test of wills” … or a “challenge of authority”.  It is a fortuitous opportunity for Church leaders to earn the support and respect of the faithful by adopting the style of leadership that is more exacting than ever before.  Leadership that is honest, transparent and responsive. Where decisions are both just and justifiable.  Where Christ’s love leaves no room for arbitrary, capricious or vindictive behavior by those who hold positions of authority.  These are not revolutionary or subversive ideas.    These are universally understood values; they are what Jesus Christ expects from all of us.  We expect no less from our leaders.


George D. Karcazes, President
Orthodox Christian Laity



  1. Daniel Gettman on

    Greetings, George,
    As a late convert to Orthodoxy at age 40, after being raised Roman Catholic and swimming in the ever dividing sea of protestantism (even graduating from a seminary), I would strongly caution looking to the world for tips on leadership. I also caution kow-towing to the American norms and expectations in regards to anything regarding Christ’s
    My country is the increasingly rotting fruit of a a rebellion fueled by the logical extension of ideas formed by non-Orthodox who replaced God with a humanistic religion with man as the Apex.
    Americans need to unlearn their secular training and look to what Christ and the Apostles established- a community where believers
    are told in Hebrews 13:
    “7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. …. 17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
    Of course Bishops, Priests and Deacons are called to exemplify the character of Christ, but they are under a much heavier yolk of responsibility than us in the laity. The Apostles definitely founded a heirarchal structure in the administration of the Church, something foreign and distasteful to the American Spirit. Let us be careful we do not unwittingly try to conform God’s Kingdom to man’s, rather than conform man to God’s kingdom. The American Spirit is quite young in the History of mankind and just might not be God’s best metric for the Church in America, or anywhere else.
    I would be interested in your further thoughts.

    A formerly libertine-minded protestant blessed to finally find Orthodoxy.

  2. Daniel,
    What you describe in your response was true for Christians in the first century. The leaders of the early pre-Constantinian church were humble, most likely married with children and were continually under the threat of being arrested and executed.

    Today, some of these clerical “leaders” have been arrested for such crimes as pedophilia, sexual predation and in some cases felonies. How then can we follow these “damaged” deacons, priests and bishops and be unquestionably obedient to them?

  3. George D. Karcazes on

    Greetings, Daniel,

    I apologize for the delay in responding. The upcoming 39th Annual Conference of OCL has kept me busy.

    I am, of course, unaware of what caused you to leave the highly centralized Roman Catholic Church to “swim in the ever dividing sea of Protestantism” and then to embrace the very conciliar Orthodox Church, where even decisions of Ecumenical Councils are subject to the acceptance of “the people of God.”

    Whatever you think about our country, or Western Civilization writ large, I do not agree that everything about our institutions and practices are the “rotten fruit” of secularism. I’m not sure what it is about expecting our Church leaders to be: “honest, transparent, accountable and responsive” that you take exception with? These aren’t “American” or “secular” qualities. These are qualities that Christ Himself demands from each of us. Are Orthodox hierarchs and clergy held to a lower standard because of their positions?

    I am not a theologian. I did not attend seminary, I do not believe that scripture calls for “blind obedience” to anyone other than Christ. (Acts 5:20).

    America affords us Orthodox a unique opportunity to live our faith and bring the “Good News” to our fellow citizens, free from government persecution, interference and control. In every country in which the Orthodox Church has established roots it has adapted to local customs and traditions, always without compromise of its dogmas and doctrinal tenets. An indigenous American Orthodox Church can flower in our country if both the hierarchs and the laity understand what is required of each.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.