[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] The Clergy Laity Congress Has Ignored the Patriarch’s Directive to Achieve Unity - Orthodox Christian Laity

The Clergy Laity Congress Has Ignored the Patriarch’s Directive to Achieve Unity


Source: The National Herald | George Matsoukas, Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Laity

Having looked over the information concerning the recently completed National Assembly of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, which took place in Phoenix, AZ and having talked to some members of my local community in Southeast Florida who attended, I conclude that there were no workshops, discussions, or information presented on the work of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.

Unity of the Orthodox in America was not on the conference’s agenda. I find this amazing and shocking. The 14 Patriarchs of the worldwide Orthodox Christian groupings, have requested in 2008, that the bishops in the boundaries beyond the mostly homogeneous Orthodox Christian countries become Assemblies of Bishops in their regions. They challenged the bishops in these areas to work in a conciliar way and come up with a blueprint for unity to present to the meeting of 14 Patriarchs for discussion, so that the blueprint could be presented to a Great and Holy Council of worldwide bishops. This meeting would consider the status of the governance of these regions.

Why did the National Assembly of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese not include a session to educate its faithful about what progress the Assembly of Bishops is making in developing this blueprint for the Church in North America? The “Ethnarch” of the Patriarchate of Istanbul is the chairman of this effort. Is he serious about the work of the Assembly or is he merely playing lip service to an idea? Why is the work of the Assembly such a secret? Why not involve the people of God by at least offering them an update at the National Assembly of the GOA?

Archbishop Demetrios recently decreed that that all students at Holy Cross Seminary pass a Greek proficiency test. Whom did he consult on this matter? This seems to run contrary to the work of the Assembly of Bishops, and will keep the Orthodox Church in America fragmented because the GOA wishes to be the exclusive Orthodox grouping.

It is my hope that the agendas of all the other National Assemblies of the Orthodox Christian groupings in America include workshops on the progress of the Assembly of Bishops. It is time that the work and progress of the Assembly is shared with the faithful who provide the financial support for Orthodox Christianity in North America.

We will not pay and obey! We are part of the conciliar process of Church Governance and we will work together with our hierarchy, clergy and laity to overcome the fragmentation of the Church which is too costly to maintain. Why continue having separate National Assemblies, which cost millions of dollars? Why is there not one National Convention Center for Orthodox Christianity in the United States?

It is time to call a National Assembly of all Orthodox Christians together to show that we are serious about building a unified and self-governing Orthodox Christian Church. It is God’s will that the Orthodox Christian Church be united and self-governing and we must all be on board in synergy with the Holy Spirit and with each other to fulfill God’s will to bring good order to His church in the United States and throughout the world.



  1. Clearly the American hierarchs have gotten the signal through back channels that the directives issued to the Episcopal Assemblies, authorizing their creation and giving them a single task, have been withdrawn. They just lack the courage to come out and tell the rest of Church (laity and clergy) that this has happened. They are assuming we will just forget about it.

    The National Assembly you suggest is a good idea, but it will be composed almost entirely of lay leadership, because no Bishops will dare attend, and only a few clergy will be so bold. The task of this Assembly will be very simple: How do we force our Bishops to do the right thing and create a unified, autocephalous American Church?

    I think we all know the answer, which involves brute fiscal force. We have to use the same incredibly effective methods used by the GOA in forcing a change of leadership in 1999 – a financial embargo. It didn’t take long for the message to get through to the Bishop of Istanbul, one of the most stubborn and arrogant men on the face of the earth. It won’t take long this time either, if the withholding of funds is widespread, coordinated, and done responsibly. We as laity in America are the third leg on this three-legged stool, and since the other two have buckled under pressure from overseas, we must stand and force the necessary changes in governance which will result in the reunification of the Body of Christ in this land.

    • George D. Karcazes on

      “Clearly”? “…back channels”?

      Cal, I agree that our Church needs to be transparent and accountable…and in almost every instance, it tends to be neither. This inevitably gives license to those who make “Jumping to Conclusions” an Olympic Event. If you have any evidence that the Old World Patriarchates have “withdrawn” the Chambesy directives, it would help everyone if you would put it out there for all of us to see.

      A more productive approach might be for you to send monthly (or weekly?) letters to each of the Hierarchs attending these meetings, respectfully asking them to answer all of your questions about their “progress” and how they propose to meet the demands placed upon them by Chambesy…including how they envision the Church in America attaining its “proper canonical order”? Rather than characterizing the Ecumenical Patriarch as you do and adding nothing positive to the effort, you might enlist 5-10 of your closest friends to join you in this (respectful, rather than inflammatory) letter-writing campaign, and ask each of them to likewise enlist 5-10 of their friends to do likewise. Since our Hierarchs have not yet adopted the very “American” idea of holding press-conferences where they answer questions (or duck them) in public…perhaps if each of them received mail-bags filled with letters from the faithful whom the Lord has entrusted to them in their respective “vineyards which He has planted” for them to minister, they might at least know where the laity stand with respect to unity and autocephaly.

      You asked the question: “How do we force our Bishops to do the right thing and create a unified, autocephalous American Church?” Let me know what you think of my letter-writing suggestion. And, why not send copies of all these letters to OCL so that it can keep score and report on its success. If every journey begins with a single step, this might just be the first step.


  2. Events Editor on

    So many good points made in the article George. Few laity at my church are even aware that there is an Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, and that many of us both clergy and laity are striving for Orthodox unity in these United States of America. This topic is just not spoken of by the clergy in my church, nor in any depth in the Greek Orthodox publications that I receive nor anything that I have perused online.

    Secondly, there are many of us who have crossed over ‘ethnic’ boundaries to attend a church within our local community. This enables us to be fully participating members within that Church and spread the Good News within the community which we live. We face some obstacles in making these choices. Overcoming ethnic and language barriers, and becoming accepted members within an ethnic Orthodox community, can pose some difficulties. However I am learning that we must fight the good fight sometimes even within our own church community. It can mean educating one person at a time about organizations such as Orthodox Christian Laity, and the fight for “Unity” in America’s Orthodox Churches.

    And thirdly, I do not recall hearing any mention of “unity” in our Orthodox Churches here in America at the GOA General Assembly(s) or the Philoptochos congress, which I attended in Phoenix just a few weeks ago. In a stance for Unity, I publicly proposed at the Philoptochos congress that the new Center of Philanthropy, to be built in New York City, eventually open its doors very wide to all Orthodox women’s philanthropic groups in these United States. Just think what an impact we could then make on our Outreach in America! All Orthodox Women could work together for similar causes. Imagine!

    Marlene Buettner

  3. It’s all malarkey. The Episcopal Assemblies can make no decisions without review, revision and/or deletion by + Bart. In essence, this is a power grab by + Bart. According to Orthodox Canon Law, foreign bishops cannot interfere in territories not under their authority. Only local bishops have authority over local churches. The local Episcopal Assemblies in each country need to, en masse, announce that they are severing any and all ties with foreign bishops. Then, truly assemble as an independent, autocephalous synod choosing their own leader. This is CANONICAL. This should have been done years ago, but the intervention of foreign bishops has put a stop to this at every attempt. The bishops of North and South America need to rule themselves as the Apostles and canons established; we don’t believe in creating an Eastern Pope.

  4. I would like to study Sam’s comments , if this is Canonical and I believe he is spot on, what are we waiting for?? Please world Bishops we are grown up now, we are off milk and we must get into the MEAT. We are ready lets go come on I am almost 79, I have been hearing about this since 1983 “The Great and HOLY Council” will be soon.???? 30 years and nothing, After 1994 I have just about given up. Look I am a simple man I know it is not easy but let us at least make an effort, the gathering in Phoenix did not even consider this long awaited UNION, I am beginning to think they do not give a hoot!!! Fr William Clark

Leave A Reply

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