Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
I have been on a holiday for most of the month of September and out of touch with the news that interests me… local, national and church news. After catching up with mail, emails, and quickly looking over weekly periodicals, etc. , I read about the issues of leadership, management and debt in published reports, that are being denied by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The issues involved go beyond what is in the reports. The crisis is systemic. It involves the Charter that was imposed by the Patriarchate. It involves the dismemberment of the Archdiocese into separate fiefdoms, controlled by the Patriarchate. It is the spoiled fruit of the plan to divide and control the Church in America.
Each Metropolis is almost autonomous. The Charter reduced the Archbishop to be a figurehead. It involves the unnatural relationship of a Mother Church to its Daughter Church. It involves the secularization of the Archdiocese, where its major financial donors have become separate entities within the Archdiocese — a kind of Chamber of Commerce, managed from abroad by a Patriarchal Nuncio who seems to have more power than the Archbishop. It involves efforts to control and co-opt once separate entities like AHEPA, Daughters of Penelope, and Philoptochos Societies under a concept of distorted Hellenism, providing honorific titles to their leadership. Most importantly, it involves lay leadership that is appointed at all levels to enable this sort of monolithic control. It is the final phase of the silencing of the voice of the lay leadership in the management of the Archdiocese!
With this overview, we must ask ourselves what it must be like to be a Bishop, a member of the Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese functioning in the USA. The recent efforts by the Synod to name a successor to the Metropolis of Chicago clearly demonstrates the picture that is presented above — a systemic crisis within the Archdiocese. The procedures for selecting a successor are part of the imposed Charter. The procedures were followed. The choice selected by the Hierarchs in America was rejected in Istanbul. The Hierarchs in America were directed to redo the list of eligible candidates. The attitude in Istanbul appears to be that no candidate born or educated in America is worthy to serve as Metropolitan or Archbishop. What an insult to our bishops and to the faithful who live and worship in the US. What a disrespectful situation.
What does this tell us about the status of the Archdiocese? Efforts were made to discuss the situation with the Patriarchate, and the Synod was invited to accompany the Archbishop to Istanbul. At least four found reasons not to attend the meeting. One reportedly said: “I agree with whatever the Patriarch decides!” There have been no reports or press conferences on this matter. There are few updates on matters related to governance within the Archdiocese. The person in the pew who supports this Church receives very little feedback on the management of these funds. This is the reason that there is all this chatter about mismanagement, failed leadership, possible bankruptcy.
Finally, it is up to those faithful who choose to remain within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, to work together for systemic changes and to get our Church back on a course of being THE CHURCH. The way to fix this situation is to see the Church as it is, a Eucharistic community that communicates…hears and listens to each other with respect before it acts. It is a community that is accountable to each other. If we live our faith, all problems can be solved.
George Matsoukas, Executive Director
Orthodox Christian Laity
Dear Brother in Christ, George:
I read your reflection with the usual conflicted emotions of deep sadness and anger. Sadness, however, wins out. I am sad because the real, SYSTEMIC issue in the GOA is not a bad charter, or a dysfunctional Patriarch or Eparchal Synod. Rather, the SYSTEMIC problem of the GOA (and I would say of the entire Orthodox Church in North America, regardless of jurisdiction) is a lack of Spiritual Renewal and commitment to Jesus Christ and His holy Gospel!
It amazes, me and please, Brother, don’t be offend, that our blindness is SO profound. The reason why there is a financial crisis is not because of a lack of accountability (even though it is very important), neither is the mass exodus of people from the Orthodox Church due to the church’s inability to be “relevant”. The financial crisis is due to the fact that our people do not understand that their money has been given to them by the Lord Himself and He asks THEM for accountability of how they spend their “personal” income. If the Lord doesn’t have your wallet then He doesn’t have your heart either. The loss of our youth and other age demographics is because our people have no personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Encounter with God, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit in THE ONLY answer for the crisis in our Church. Beginning with the Archbishop himself (for whom I have the deepest respect), down to every Metropolitan, Bishop, Presbyter, Deacon, Layman and Laywomen, the problem is because of a lack of personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Our young people do not see a NEED for the Church because they have not HEARD the Gospel call of Jesus Christ, “Unless a man deny himself, take up his cross and follow me he cannot be my disciple.”
For too long our clergy have been “flying on automatic pilot”. Brothers in Christ, we will give an account to Christ Himself on Judgment Day for every soul that was entrusted to our pastoral care. What are we preaching? What are we teaching? Our we intentionally and personally leading our people to existentially encounter Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, or are we more interested in our yearly festivals, Greek (or Arabic, or Russian, etc) schools? Do our people understand that to be an Orthodox Christian has first of all to do with whether we are LIVING our Baptism/Chrismation, or it is simply a past event that has no real, genuine bearing on how we live, how we talk, how we conduct ourselves in public or private, our goals, how we spent our money, what we look at, to what or who we dedicate our affections and energy and passions?
We are “living in Laodicea”, neither hot or passionate in our love for, and service of Jesus Christ, nor cold, because we still identify ourselves as “Christians”, but we are lukewarm, tepid, with no real deep, life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ, His Gospel or the Orthodox Faith that flows from them, as the holy Apostle, Evangelist and Theologian John recorded; since we are neither hot nor cold, but rather lukewarm the Lord Himself will vomit us out of His mouth. There is only ONE remedy, and St. John also recorded those words…Jesus said, RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE! ME, the LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE LOVER OF YOUR SOUL!
For those who are interested, I highly recommend Remember Thy First Love by Archimandrite Zacharias. The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life in the Theology of Elder Sophrony. This book will lead you on the right path to an encounter with our Savior.
Father Timothy, though we do not always agree on certain subjects this outstanding essay of 9/30/17 is right on target. Lukewarm Christians who are the majority in our Church are a major problem for all jurisdictions of The Holy Orthodox Church…