George D Karcazes

Source: Orthodox Christian Laity

Musing from OCL Board Member, George Karcazes

As we consider the upcoming visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the United States, we who live our faith as Americans in this multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, religiously diverse country are called to ponder the future of Orthodoxy in America.

What have we learned about the state of Orthodoxy in the World and in our own home from recent events?

  1. We have learned that at the highest Patriarchal levels, Orthodoxy in the world is hopelessly divided. After decades of planning for a Holy and Great Council, unanimously agreeing on a date and place, the place was changed from Turkey to Crete at the request of Moscow, allegedly because a Russian plane was shot down in Syria by a Turkish plane. Then, Moscow and those influenced by Moscow and Antioch (because of a dispute with Jerusalem) all boycotted the Council, which is now referred to as the “Council of Crete” rather than the “Holy and Great Council of 2016″.
  1. We have learned that Moscow continues its multi-year efforts to challenge the “Primacy of Honor” accorded to Constantinople for millennia, and that in response, Constantinople rescinded a centuries-old grant of jurisdiction over what is now known as Ukraine to Moscow and granted “Autocephaly” to the Church in Ukraine, which is further stressing the relations between and among the Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches.
  1. We have learned that the Assembly of Bishops in the US have been meeting for a decade and have been unable to agree on a plan to bring the 14 “ethnic jurisdictions” into canonical order under a single Synod of Bishops electing its own presiding bishop.
  1. We have learned from the recent appointment of a new Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America by Constantinople that the process set forth in the Charter and Regulation of the Archdiocese are meaningless; that the laity in the US are being marginalized; and that our forefathers and mothers who established the parishes are denigrated as “assimilationist”.

What can we, as Americans, offer to the Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches who are prisoners of their histories and countries in the Old World?

  1. We can remind them that it is better for them to work in a conciliar and synodal manner, rather than in a hierarchical, monarchical manner, putting aside concerns over who has primacy over who.
  1. We can remind them that the laity in America have proven that they know how to make things work. We can explain to them that process matters; that working in synergy with the laity who have the skills to help them communicate effectively, the work of the Church can proceed in a manner that is “pleasing to Christ”.
  1. We can propose an Orthodox Christian Secretariat to bring all 14 Old World jurisdictions together in one place, so that they can meet regularly to face the issues of the day, overcoming the fragmentation both in World Orthodoxy and in our own divided Church here at home in America.
  1. We can expose them to rules of engagement that ensure that decisions can be made that reflect the will of the majority, allow for the expression of and respect for the opinions of dissenters but do not permit the “tyranny of the minority” where a single dissenter can thwart every decision.

We pray that this visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch will encourage him to engage with the other 13 Old World independent hierarchs in a process of unity that will enable the unification of our own Orthodox Church in the US.  Let this beginning be their legacy.



  1. Christ is in our midst!

    Dear George,

    You assess the problem rather well without long diatribes. Yet to be American and to be true to our Orthodox Christian roots and heritage, we cannot be anything different than what we are. We can always be more humble, more forgiving, more loving, more seekers for justice and truth, but we can not trade in our God-given identity to be pleasers of men and not do what Father Thomas Hopko always would write in his letters and donations sent to me “to be well pleasing to God”. Whether a foreign ruler, be it Patriarch or prince, wants to recognize what we are already doing usually centers on collection of funds. This is why traditionally why monastics step up to the plate in these schismatic moves and prayerfully pray and act for unity. As God-fearing monastics, we are not tied to purse strings. Continue on as you previously have written encouraging the cooperative efforts of all. Let’s just do what needs to be done. One does not need a blessing beforehand to do good. The Assembly of Orthodox can be just that. We have a legal right of Assembly in America. We have a morally defining mandate from God, through the Regional American Saints that we celebrate today to be the Orthodox Christian Church in and of America. That has been my experience and Orthodox Christian tradition in America. God willing the hierarchal powers to be will see the fruits and such and get on the band wagon when truth and honesty are the motivating horses pulling the wagon. If not, we are sure to see sooner than later the “horses” of the Apocalypse and for that “we must keep our eyes on Jesus” as the only hope and the chariot ride going on the heavenly road.

    In recent months as my roof goes unrepaired from a water leak as insurance and roofer battle it out and I battle MOLD DISEASE, pray and work for cleaner air, my eyes deepen in understanding the living hell to what it could be in the nuclear contamination we can suffer worldwide from the effects of stirring up the NUCLEAR WASTE in Ukraine and areas contaminated by the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor meltdown of 1986. This world changing event in my opinion needs the top priority, as stated by the recent Nobel Prize winners and scientists as well as the spiritual guide and recognized elder as clairvoyant to coming events Hieromonk, Father Alexander of the Valaam Monastery Protectorate for women I met in my trip to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2005 who warned of this very thing of world turmoil and horrific effects that would come to Russia and the world..

    In our monastic tradition as the New Tikhvin Skete of the Holy Mother of God our awareness also grows deeper as we approach our Feast Day celebration July 9 (June 26), synonymous here on the Atlantic Shore in historic St. Augustine, Florida with the “Greek Landing” the guidance and protection of the Theotokos. That is already more than 600 years ago our Most Holy Lady, Mother of God chose to lead by example and get out of Constantinople 70 years before its “Fall”. She in her Holy Ikon written by St. Luke the Evangelist favored those newer territorial water highways of Tikhvin, Russia and the more recently converted peoples of the Slavs, who had as their written language the direct influence of vocabulary aligned with the Holy Bible. When we recognize her holy God directed leadership these other issues you mentioned fall into place.

    Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on us sinners! Most Holy Mother of God save us!
    All Holy Saints pray to God for us!

  2. Iyad Gabbour on

    Dear Mr. Karcazes,
    I am amazed till this day to see that we are dealing with the Infinity of Orthodoxy in America and now outside America in such a simple way.

    Although I am completely a supporter of Greek tradition in the Church, I see that the Greek Church led by the EP is in danger and that the RP is on the right side of matters.
    Everyone knows how well the EP is infiltrated by intelligence, especially the CIA. Orthodoxy is the only one left to destroy. Had the dispute over Ukraine happened over a 100 years ago, then it would be normal. That it’s happening now tells us a different story. The EP should have strengthened Russia over anything else, regardless of anything just because it’s an Orthodox country. Is there a time that we will learn to stand with each other instead of stabbing each others in the face!?
    The EP did what he did in Ukraine at a time when the West is supporting separatists who were backed by Catholics and Protestants and the rest of the world intelligence.

    You mentioned that Russia asked to change where the ’16 council will be held because a Russian airplane was “allegedly” shot down by the Turks. Again instead of standing with each other you are trying to insinuate that the Russian plane was not shot by the Turks!? How can we be one, and we cannot even back each other on daily stuff!?

    In such conditions, do you really think it’s good idea to have one unified church!? Do we look like we like each other!?
    We have a very good recipe for corruption, and we can’t just let it be cooked!

    • George D. Karcazes on

      Dear Mr. Gabbour,

      Unfortunately our Church does not adhere to standards of “transparency and accountability” that we should expect from our leaders. Accordingly some of what we say is based on rumors, rather than approved minutes of proceedings.

      I do not doubt that the Russian plane was shot down n Syria by the Turks. This incident, was no doubt accidental. It obviously did not lead to war between Russia and Turkey. My point was that Russia boycotted the Council (1) after first having agreed to attend; (2) after asking for, and receiving a “change of venue”; and (3) after (again “reportedly”) having objected to the shape of the table. Apparently the Russians wanted a round table, rather than a rectangular table, so that the Ecumenical Patriarch wouldn’t be presiding over the meeting, seated at the “head” of the table. My use of “allegedly” referred to the fact that the loss of the plane was an excuse not that the incident hadn’t occurred].

      It is reasonable to conclude from all of this that Russia had no intention of attending the Council and was looking for an excuse to boycott. I make these observations not to take sides with either the EP or Moscow but simply to point out that ALL of the Patriarchates who still insist on appointing our Hierarchs here in the U.S., may have something to learn from how things are done here in America.

      As far as “everyone knowing that the CIA has infiltrated the EP, I would assume that this is also based on “rumor” since you cite no authority or facts. It is probably more likely [ again from the appearance of things] that Putin (rumored to be a former KGB agent) is a dictator and that he uses the Russian Church for political ends both inside and outside of Russia.. and that the Moscow Patriarchate uses Putin and the Russian State to advance its own purposes (both inside and outside of Russia). What does all of this have to do with us here in the US?

      Can we agree that the situation in the US is “un-canonical”? Dowe agree that in order to be in “canonical” order there can only be one Orthodox Church, under a single Synod of Bishops in this territory? We know that Russia granted “autocephaly” to the OCA but still keeps parishes in this territory. Does that make sense? Do we agree that the remaining “jurisdictions” are colonies of foreign synods? While Moscow and the EP not only differ on how and by whom “autocephaly” can be granted, they cannot even agree to sit down and discuss their differences and move forward in a spirit of mutual love and compromise.

      Finally, do we “like each other” enough to share the same cup and sacraments?

      If not, shame on all of us, especially our Clergy and Hierarchs whose job it is to make sure that we do.

      Let me suggest that if our liturgies were in a language that all of us understood, the part where we “pray for all Orthodox Christians” might help us “like” each other. When we profess to believe in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” we would realize that this doesn’t mean “Fourteen separate, exclusively ethnic ‘jurisdictions’ with buildings sometimes a block or two away from each other.

      Like each other? Do we even KNOW each other? If not, why not?

  3. Sorry folks, but you people are fools! As Americans, why do you continue to accept orders from a foreign bishop? Even Orthodox Canon Law says foreign bishops have no authority outside their own territory. Yet, you people of the GOA, the Antiochian and others continue to take orders from overseas bishops. WHY? + Bart has no magical power nor is he closer to God than other bishops. Even + Iakavos realized that the future of American Greeks was with an autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. Canon Law clearly states, a bishop cannot have a diocese outside of his own territory- what are you people doing???

    • Hilber Nelson on

      Answer: still waiting for their permission (“blessing”) to hold them accountable for colonizing us. OCL offers no strategic roadmap for initiating grassroots change (like withholding donations going offshore, as Catholics are doing). Annual meetings seem stuck in perpetual complaint mode, so I never go.

  4. I’m not going to go so far as Nikolai in my comments. I can see that you deeply love and care about the Orthodox Church. The problem at this point is that the patriarchs currently overseeing it are more concerned about their own earthly power and territory than they are about following the canons and Councils of the Church which were established over the last 16-1700 hundred years or so. These patriarchs and bishops are clearly out of canonical order in the same vein as the patriarch and bishops of Rome of the early part of the second millennium and are clearly abusing their authority over the laity within the “new world.” Calling them “orthodox” at this point in time appears to me to be generous, and possibly unwarranted. It seems to me that the Orthodox Church in America are going to have to make some tough choices in the road ahead, and those choices are going to touch on what it means to be both Orthodox and Christian. How much do you and yours want an autocephalous, independent patriarchate for North America? Are you willing to challenge and if necessary walk away from abusive bishops who have abandoned the canons and Councils for their own gain? Are you willing to tell them “we don’t need you” and “we can choose our own bishops”? My understanding of the most ancient practices is that this is possible in such circumstances as much as the old world bishops might rant against it. But these choices are up to you.

    Can you imagine the ancient Patriarchates and the self-governing Orthodox Christian Churches, all 14 of them, being able to work together in synergy with each other and the Holy Spirit? Can you imagine them being Christ-centered instead of ethnophiles, a form of racism…who is Hellenic, who is Slavic? Can you imagine them being missionaries, helping the post Christian world we live in understand its authentic, apostolic roots? Can you imagine them working in a conciliar and synodical manner rather than in a hierarchical, monarchical manner…who has primacy over who? Can you imagine them hosting each other in timely and scheduled meetings to discuss how they can be relevant in today’s world? “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 1:8). But the Old-World hierarchs are prisoners of their states and history. They need to meet regularly in open and transparent ways and be the example of Christ in the world. The conciliar and synodical way of communicating is the proper way of communicating. But as we see in the rules of engagement adopted by the Assemblies of Bishops, all one hundred percent of the participants need to agree on an issue to move forward on the issue. Now we are at a standstill in this work of the Assemblies. Why set up systems for failure? The hierarchy needs to learn how to communicate with each other.
    In reimagining the Patriarchates, as we think ahead to the post-Bartholomew era to come, we see the establishment of an Orthodox Christian Secretariat that brings all of the 14 Old-World jurisdictions together in one place, so that they can meet regularly as Orthodox Christians to face the issues of the day. The fragmentation is overcome. Worldwide Orthodox Christian laity work with them as problem solvers. Here they work together in conciliar and synodical ways to bring an Orthodox Christian perspective of stewardship and balance to problems of hunger in a world that cannot sustain the projected population growth. Together, they can have a greater impact on issues related to the desecration of the environment. Working together, they can help us all realize the great Truth that each one of us is created in God’s image.
    Hopefully, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the other 13 Old-World independent hierarchs, together with the Archons, can work together to begin this process of unity; and, let this beginning be their legacy.

  6. Pearl Nakash Ford on

    RIGHT-ON. our hierarchy should stop playing politics, and begin to do what is best for A ONE, HOLY AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH. GOD IS IN OUR MIST

  7. What you people DON’T understand is that the Orthodox Church and its ORGANIZATIONS are not cast in stone. Consistently, the Phanar wants you to believe that THEY are the head of ALL the churches, and they dictate how Orthodoxy goes. This is baloney! The ancient patriarchates are the ancient patriarchates with their own history, but AMERICA IS AMERICA! Yes, Istanbul, Serbia, Damascus, etc. sent their own people, bishops & priests to serve their people in the U.S. when none were available – a missionary action. AMERICA IS NO LONGER A MISSION! AMERICA IS NOT THE DIASPORA! America produces its own bishops & priests and foreign bishops CANNOT have dioceses outside their own territory. + Iakovos knew this, and that is why he was 100% behind the creation of an AMERICAN AUTOCEPHALOUS CHURCH. This began in 1961 and was fulfilled in 1970. Although, this autocephalous American church exists, the OCA, the American Greeks still insist on taking their marching orders from Istanbul. THE PHANAR IS NON-CANONICAL REGARDING ITS HOLD ON THE GOA! You people don’t need +Bart’s permission to leave him and join the OCA. HE IS IN THE WRONG! What are you people afraid of? He’ll take all your assets? He’ll defrock all your priests & bishops? HE CAN DO NOTHING! +Iakovos was right, and in his memory, the GOA and all of its people need to leave +Bart and become FREE IN CHRIST, ruling their own Church!

  8. What if the laity were to respectfully but urgently beseech, fully expect, and demand of their respective jurisdictions the immediate release of American Orthodox from the grasp of foreign control and to bestow their blessing on a proper union? Metropolitans, Bishops, and Priests would have to make great personal sacrifices and accept the discomfort of change for the greater good. God willing, our American talent for (relatively) calm bureaucratic succession might help ease short term chaos.
    The hierarchs overseas, now relieved of the responsibility of managing this “diaspora”, might be better able to concentrate on their own flocks and more effectively combat the persecution and injustices they face locally and in their local institutions.
    One can pray.

  9. We can do all the things mentioned but I don’t think they’ll be effective unless the organization of laity is imposed on those efforts. And organization requires contact information. At the very least, those sympathetic to these efforts should be engaged in collecting mail and email addresses for as many parishioners as possible so that they can be looped in and mobilized.

    Once the mailing lists have been grown to a substantial size, minor milestones can be set, whether that means establishing petitions, organizing regional gatherings or making inter-parish visits to talk to other Orthodox about the issue.

    But without first collecting and making use of contact info, it’s hard to see how organization can take place. And without this organization, it seems doubtful that the patriarchs will be much moved by any entreaty.

    OCL.org could be used as a starting point for this organization. To begin with, it should at least look to create a mailing list of current visitors. This would be the first step, however small, toward enlarging that book of contacts to the greater part of American Orthodoxy.

  10. John, you make perfect sense. Focusing on “first things first” in a disciplined, efficient manner will make all the difference.

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