by P.S. MAKRIAS
Although things are transpiring in the usual secrecy, all signs point to serious developments in the Church. These events have the characteristics of an underlying crisis that reached a climax with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s unexpected arbitrary decision not to recognize the “triprosopon” (a three-person list of candidates for election to the episcopate), and as a result, the Archdiocese’s Charter was violated in regards to filling the vacancy in the Metropolis of Chicago; the very same Charter that the Patriarchate imposed upon the Archdiocese of America, abolishing its cohesion and creating individual fiefdoms that are not under the Archbishop’s authority, but rather, the Patriarchate’s.
One of the events in this crisis were the meetings and negotiations that took place in the Phanar, attended by the Archbishop and the Metropolitans of the Archdiocese, which occurred in a setting that reminded us and underscored the need for a radical change in the relations between the Archdiocese of America and the Patriarchate. The continuation of this anachronistic regime, where our Church is being governed by the Phanar through its representative stationed in the Archdiocese, and not by the Archbishop, whose authority has been curbed and is lesser than the Metropolitans’, is unacceptable.
The dissolution of our Church’s administrative cohesion by the Phanar has undermined the Archbishop’s prestige and role. The attempt by the Patriarchate to get its hands on our parishes’ real estate holdings some years ago was yet another characteristic indication of the domineering visions espoused by the Patriarchate, which wants to govern us like its protectorate.
It’s time for radical change. It’s time to put an end to this colonial dependence. It’s time for the Archbishop and Metropolitans to be elected by the Holy Synod of the Archdiocese of America, without interventions from the Phanar. It’s time for the Metropolises to publish their annual budget. It’s time for an autonomous ecclesiastical entity that will develop without machinations from the Phanar, but rather, through a spiritual bond.
At the same time, the Archdiocese must lighten the financial burden on our Communities by curtailing administrative expenses. Improvements to priests’ pensions and health insurance is a must, however.
It’s time for closer ties with the other Orthodox Churches in America, along with canonical adjustments and liturgical amendments that will stop the outflow of our young people to other faiths. The closure of the useless “Orthodox Observer,” which competes against our shrinking Greek-American press, is a good idea.
Of course, the immediate implementation of transparency in the affairs of the Church and the active participation of the laity in the decisions affecting parish communities and Church assets is a must. Besides, priests here are not public servants paid by the state, but rather, by the faithful; the ones who built our beautiful churches and established our Communities with their sweat. It’s time for the “eparchial” Holy Synod to open its meetings to the press. The faithful are entitled to know about the decisions of the Synod.
The era of imperial Byzantine governance of Orthodoxy has long since passed. But our prelates cannot comprehend this!