Recent History of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Decisions Related to the GOA

The recent record of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s “governance” of the GOA:

  • The forced retirement of Archbishop Iakovos (1996);
  • Rejection of the gathering of the Orthodox Bishops in America at Ligonier, Pennsylvania (1995);
  • Election of Archbishop Spyridon (1997);
  • Imposition of the current Charter against the wishes of the Los Angeles Clergy-Laity Congress (2003);
  • Imposition of a new Archbishop from Turkey who has not served in the US, without any input or participation of the clergy or laity of the Archdiocese as required by previous Charters (2019);
  • Unilateral “suspension” (2020) followed by “reinstatement” (2022) of the 2003 Charter;
  • Creation of a Charter committee and then ignoring its attempt to provide input (2022).

These actions and their consequences display the disconnectedness of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from the reality of what the Church in America needs.

Some Necessary Provisions of the New Charter

  • Grant full autonomy to the GOA (to elect its bishops and Archbishop, subject only to the “right” of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to reject him based on strong, provable moral objections).
  • Address and focus on the needs of the Orthodox Church in the United States.
  • Allow the GOA to lead the Assembly of Bishops in the United States and bring the Church in America into canonical order as mandated by the meetings at Chambesy (one Church in the territory of the United States that is united and autocephalous).
  • Separate the GOA’s responsibility of working as a religious and educational institution from its function of acting as a lobby and fundraiser for foreign governmental interests and international causes. The Archdiocese is not a cultural institution to restore the glory of Byzantium, Hellenism, or Balkan glories of the past. Special interest groups within the Archdiocese must have a separate existence and not siphon funds needed to support the Metropolises and Parishes in their work to fulfill the mission of the Church in the United States. 

Getting the Charter Right

Getting the charter right is the work of all the faithful, clergy, and laity (including active and retired clergy, theologians, teachers, parish workers, parish council officers, choir members, Philoptochos members, and young adults).

What are your thoughts? Are you communicating with your Metropolitan, the Archdiocese, the Patriarchate, or the ten-member Mixed Commission appointed to revise the existing charter of the GOA? The names of the members from the Patriarchate have been publicized [Their Eminences Metropolitan Geron Emmanuel of Chalcedon and Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, The V. Rev. Grand Ecclesiarch Archimandrite Aetios, Director of the Patriarchal Private Office, and Dr. Konstantinos Delikostantis, Archon “Didaskalos Tou Genos,” Director of the First Patriarchal Office, and Professor Emeritus of the University of Athens]. However, the GOA has not published the names of the six members from the Archdiocese. Where do we offer input? The more than two-year process has been confusing, fragmented, and disillusioning. Where are the progress reports that we can see and read? Let’s not be spectators and continue to observe the decline of the GOA until it becomes a remnant church. Now is the time to seek answers, speak up, and get involved! Will you be part of the solution?

George Matsoukas
Executive Director Emeritus, Orthodox Christian Laity



  1. Bruce Wm. Trakas on

    A most interesting array of reported activites in connection with revision of the Constitutional Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
    I submit that pushing for full autonomy might be too much at this point. I recommend that we advocate for the Semi-Autonomous Constitutional Charter which was developed in 1999 or 2000 by the U.S. Charter Revision Committee, with input by the Holy Eparchial Synod, and the Clergy Laity Congresss under the guidance of Archbishop Demetrios, Formerly of America.

    We need to wake up, activate the dynamic members of the Priests and Lay Archdiocesan Council members.
    The problem this church faces is the medeling of Patriarch Bartholomew into the activities of the eparchies. He’s been a bold and dynamic patriarch in regard to coordination of pan-Orthodox affairs largely through the Assembly of the Heads (Primates) of the Orthodox Church including his standing up to the mighty Moscow Patriarchate which I will not elaborate upon here. But his access to anyone who’s unhappy here and his not picking interest in our affairs must be eliminated.

    It is the “exclusive” right that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople retains for the election of Archbishop which must be eliminated. Archbishop Elpidophoros is an excellent example. Perhaps a qualified hierarch he is absolutely wrong for America where we have qualified Metropolitans with life long or nearly so knowledge of the affairs of the Archdiocese of America. +Elpidophoros should be given either an administrative post at The Phanar or a metropolis in the Dodecanese Islands. All the American metropolitans are qualified to serve as Archbishop (Primate) but due to age, Metropolitans Nicholas of Detroit, Savas of Pittsburgh, and Nathaneal of Chicago should be considered by the Archdiocese of America, whether they’re individually interested or not.

    Any members of the 1999 Charter Revision Committee and Archbishop Demetrios must be consulted. The charter which was proposed by them was developed in due process, well publicised. Indeed a draft charter was published in The National Herald for comment by all. Yet, when the committee arrived at The Phanar and met with the Committee on the Eparchies Abroad (Outside of Turkey), it was rejected out of hand. A privately developed “revised charter” was presented to the American Committee for discussion. Not much profitable came out of that process except the elevation of the dioceses to metropolises and the elevation of the ruling bishops to be metropolitans consistant with other hierarchs in Greek practice within the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Again, I remind, consult with the 1999 Committee. Patriarch Bartholomew entered the room in the Patriarchal Mansion where the Committee on the Eparchies was meeting. After listening to the debate for a while, His All Holiness said,
    “You will get what you want in 10 years or so.”
    Hold him to that! That would have been 14 years ago. That quote was told to me by a member of the Charter Revision Committee who was present but unfortunately is now deceased.

    With out a doubt, the regional metropolitans must be elected by the Eparchial Synod and enthroned by the Archbishop. And, the decisions of the Clergy Laity Congress should be approved by the Eparchial Synod, certainly not by an EP committee, which often doesn’t even know of what they’re about.

    There are plenty of other issues which should be addressed but eliminating the Patriarchate’s “exclusive right” to elect the Archbishop of America is absolutely most vital.

    There should be a side agreement to continue to support the Patriarchate in the amounts currently paid plus with annual interest increases. We must convince the Patriarchate of our continued support for it. And that we would respond to special appeals. Withholding money didn’t work for the Iakovites in 1995 and ’96.

    Be sure to study the Charter of 1999 or 2000 which was prepared with American due process and secure the advice of Charter Revision Committee members who are surviving.

    Note too that I have used the term Constitutional Charter. That’s what it was called until this patriarch ruled the term out of order. He claimed in wasn’t a constitution. Well Your All Holiness, Patriarchs Meletios and Photios thought that it was. Think back to the Clergy Laity Congresses prior to 1978 and recall our immigrant predecessor priests who spoke of the “Constatusio.”

    Sincerely yours,

    Bruce Wm. Trakas

  2. Peter Ray Millman on

    With your kind indulgence, I would like to make three points: 1) Mr. Matsoukas and Mr. Kacazes are always busy about the Lord’s work. 2) We seem to have so much trouble with the Ecumenical Patriarch, doesn’t “His All Holiness” pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit? If he did, it seems there wouldn’t be so many struggles to bring the American Orthodox Church into canonical status. 3) I get tired of all these fancy titles they have bestowed on the ordained clergy. It reminds me of a meeting of the Masons and Shriners in which there are lofty, self-glorifying titles such as the Supreme Potentate, Worshipful Master, Prince of the Royal Secret, etc. I read several chapters every day in the Holy Bible; not even St. Peter and the rest of the Apostles ever exalted themselves with any titles except as apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. After the Lord used St. Peter to heal a man, the man tried to worship him, and St. Peter lifted him up and said, “I am a man just like you.” I communicated with a Greek Melkite priest, and he signed his email simply “Charlie.” Perhaps the Orthodox could use some humility.

  3. Peter,

    I say Amen to your last statement. However, humility is not in the nature of the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox enjoy parading about in Byzantine regalia at the tune of incomprehensible Byzantine and/or slavic chants and lots of smoke!

  4. Cato the Elder on

    Mr. Trakas sounds like he agrees with Mr. Matsoukas when it comes to the recognition that the Istanbul Patriarchate is tone deaf when it comes to its “Eparchy” in America.

    Going back a couple of decades to revisit what a previous charter committee recommended doesn’t make a lot of sense when the goal is for the Church in America to be self governing and free from the control and micro-mismanagement of a Synod of Hierarchs in Turkey who have no idea what the Church in America needs.

    There is no difference between autonomous and semi-autonomous if the Patriarchate can change, amend, suspend and then reimpose any charter it wants – all without any meaningful input from the clergy and laity in America.

    OCL’s Declaration states the case clearly. A single, canonical, autocephalous Orthodox Church in the territory of North America is the only possible answer to the current un-canonical situation we are in.

    That is what the Assembly of Bishops is supposed to be doing. It’s about time for them to do what they have been charged with doing.

  5. Bruce Wm. Trakas on

    Cato the Elder, An Archdiocese cannot jump from being a tightly controlled eparchy to receiving the Aftokephalon. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is of the Eastern Orthodox Church and its long held traditions.
    The Holy Archdiocese, if it’s to be elevated, will only experience elevation in accordance with traditons, except for the one city, one bishop canon which has been compromised for 105 years. Only the Archdiocese of Ohrid, with its centuries of venerable traditions, has been able to make that jump from the Patriarchate of Serbia, which was still quite surprising. Autocephaly will absolutely not be granted to the Holy Archdiocese of America at any time during the lives of current generations of the faithful.
    Migration to a semi-autonomous constitutional charter with restrictions on the Patriarch’s and the Holy and Sacred Synod’s absolute authority over this eparchy would be an incredibly massive undertaking in and of itself. Don’t give the Ecumenical Throne simple arguments against our elevation.

  6. Cato the Elder on

    Mr. Trakas,

    Nobody is asking for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to be granted autocephaly. There is already one autocephalous Orthodox Church in this territory: the OCA. We don’t need two, or fourteen.

    The only canonical answer for the territory of North America is for all the ethnic “jurisdictions” .. including the GOA … to be united under one synod of all canonical bishops and that for that single, united, local church to be recognized by the other “Mother” Churches as an autocephalous Church. That is the task that was given to the Assembly of Bishops, but their work has been stymied because Istanbul, Moscow, Antioch etc., speak out of both sides of their mouths.

    They say one thing in Chambessey and then they will not allow the bishops they appoint and can suspend, remove, reassign for any or no reason to do what they are supposed to do.

    Autonomy is meaningless. As long as you accept that the Ecumenical Patriarchate can do whatever it wants with the Charter of the GOA, charters are not worth the paper they are written on.

  7. Cato the Elder on

    Mr. Trakas acknowledges that “the one city, one bishop canon .. has been compromised for 105 years” in the territory of North America.

    Remarkably he then argues that this uncanonical arrangement “will absolutely not be [resolved] during the lives of current generations of the faithful.” The only reason he seems to offer is that it is really too much to ask the Ecumenical Patriarchate for.

    Having written-off at least one generation [and apparently unmindful of the rate at which young people are already leaving the Church], he then argues for an interim step [semi-autonomous constitutional charter] “with restrictions of the Patriarch and Synod” that everyone knows are unenforceable.

    Mr. Trakas speaks only of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. But the Greek Archdiocese is not the only Orthodox Church in North America whose uncanonical status needs to be fixed.

    None can be fixed unless all are fixed.

    Mr. Trakas surely knows that the “one city, one bishop” canon means that all of the ethnic “jurisdictions” including the Greek Archdiocese, must be brought together under one synod that elects its own head.

    Bringing the Orthodox Church in North America into canonical order is the charge given to the Assembly of Bishops. The Assembly needs the cooperation of the Greek Archdiocese to move forward. Discussing the charter of the Greek Archdiocese is a waste of time. The current charter which was suspended, then reimposed and now looks like it will not be changed as Archbishop Elpidophoros would like, is good enough.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch and Holy Synod simply needs to give clear permission to the bishops under its control in the AOB to join with, and indeed lead, the other bishops of the Assembly to bring the Church into canonical order.

  8. Alexandra, you hit the nail on the head! It’s ALL about the money. And, until we eventually accept it, they will continue to take us for the proverbial ride.

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