A WAY TO RESTORE THE 1977 CHARTER
We are offering to our surfers this article by Katherine G. Valone. Some may ask what can be our interest in her point considering that "Such hubris on the Patriarch’s part is despicable and the antithesis of the laws and canons of the church." The OCC is sure that the points that this author brings may be very useful to the Orthodox Christians of Western Europe. The Spanish proverb may clarify our purpose, it says: "when you see the beard of your neighbor on fire you put yours in water!"
The Greek Archdiocese in England in the future shall need to have a new Ruling Bishop. We all have heard of the goings and comings of Sourozh. The 'sui generis' of the Serbian. The miniscule service of Rumanian, Bulgarian; the non existence of Polish, Georgians, etc. And, what about Antioch? What about the others...?
On the other hand the desire to serve God with the Orthodox Faith has brought large numbers of converts into all these so-called jurisdictions-some also called canonical, some non-canonical. These faithful souls become disconcerted, at times sadly return to their previous origins or to none at all, in despairing state, shocked by the ignorance, mal administration, back biting, etc, and especially emptiness of the Orthodoxy that they encounter.
In Western Europe we have among the Orthodox Christians some of the numerous divisions of America, though in smaller scale. However, this last factor may be to our advantage in healing the disease. On the other hand, the late suggestions of the Moscow Patriarchate, appeasing the last threat, to set up an autonomous Metropolia of its own, with no regard for the rest of the present jurisdictions and administrations, will put the Orthodoxy, that is, The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, into total confusion and disadvantage for Her proclamation of the Gospel of Christ.
We should not forget the experience of recent times with the Moscow Patriarchate. Yes, it gives autonomy or, even autocephaly, but it reserves to itself, or creates new parishes, etc., as independent from the local hierarchy and only depending from the Patriarchate, therefore creating an extra jurisdiction and through it another juridical layer. Moscow's "hubris," as the third Rome, is well known!
So, the time has come to make questions, look at History and Holy Tradition, and in brotherly, humble and in orderly fashion discuss and find good answers.
by Katherine G. Valone
As published in the Greek Press, June 29, 2003
No well-informed Orthodox Christian who has had more than casual knowledge and experience at the parish level could help questioning the Church’s national vitality and effectiveness. Such matters as the spiritual life of its members, the evaluation of its educational programs, the financial soundness of the Archdiocese, Metropolitans and local parishes, the effectiveness of hierarchical leadership, the progress and development of Holy Cross School of Theology which is in financial straits and other such related matters are vital questions that should concern every priest and layperson and not just the hierarchy.
This is especially true when one considers the delegates at the Clergy-Laity Congress in Los Angeles in 2002 respectfully rejected the Patriarch’s Charter that was to replace the Charter of 1977. The reason for this was that the new Charter omitted the participation of the clergy and laity in the affairs of the Archdiocese. The elected delegates had legislative powers that governed what the Archdiocese would do and how it would be done to insure that there was accountability and transparency in the operations of the various Archdiocesan institutions and organizations. The Patriarch’s Charter favored little participation by the ‘people of God’ and rendered the decision-making authority in the hands of the Eparchial Synod and the Archbishop. This was considered unacceptable and un-Orthodox by the delegates who made their concerns known to the Patriarch in a carefully worded and respectful manner. The Patriarch would not consider their valid objections and so in December 2002 he sent back the same Charter and made convening the Clergy-Laity Congress a matter of when it was thought necessary rather than a biennial and mandatory event.
Thus the Patriarch abrogated the accumulated legislated position of the past Clergy-Laity Congress with their elected representatives, the laity and priest’s participation null and void. Remember that all our past deliberations at such Clergy-Laity Congress had always been approved of by the past Patriarchs such as the late Patriarchs Athenagoras and Demetrios.
Furthermore, the Charter of 1977 had the full backing of the legal process of this country’s laws regarding churches and not-for-profit organizations.
Such hubris on the Patriarch’s part is despicable and the antithesis of the laws and canons of the church. The Patriarch has shown contempt for the Charter of 1977 and Archbishop Demetrios and the Metropolitans never raised their voice in objection. Therefore, the Archbishop and the Metropolitans are accessories to this injustice towards the Church and its faithful members. I find this unbelievable and reprehensible. Our spiritual shepard's have heard and read about it. Our Synod did not stand up for the will of the people of God (Laos tou Theou) to be heard and respected.
Patriarch Bartholomew has shown that he is bent on destroying the very Charter (1977) that caused this Archdiocese to get where it was in 1996. The very Archdiocese that the Patriarch intends to use, and perhaps even abuse, such as the foundation of his power and financial base to accomplish his agenda which is to become the most powerful Patriarch of modern times. And to what purpose? Is it to edify the Church here or is it to strap the Church and dictate its wishes through the Holy Eparchial Synod. If you look at the truth behind all the glitter you will find that the Church is poorer and less stable today than it was before the arrival of former Archbishop Spyridon and the present Archbishop. Patriarch Bartholomew sees himself as the Patriarch above all the rest of the Patriarchs and possibly as the emerging “Pope of the East”. He will need the spiritual and financial resources of the American Church to accomplish his dark agendas.
The Fathers of the Church, the Orthodox Patriarchs of 1848 sent a letter to Pope Pius IX stating:
“Among us, neither Patriarch nor Councils could ever introduce new teaching, for the guardian of religion is the very body of the Church, that is, the people itself.”
Father John Meyendorff states: “A conciliar decree by the bishops needed the reception of the entire Church to be considered a true expression of tradition….All this indicates that authority in the Church neither suppresses nor diminishes freedom….The Christian notion of authority excludes blind obedience and presupposes free and responsible participation of all in the common life of the Body.”
What does this mean? It simply means that unlike the absolutist Roman Church, the Orthodox Church has as its true guardians all the people, that is, both the clergy and laity. But the present Patriarch does not accept the freedom of expression of all the people. He means to bypass people in order to hasten his absolute rule. Fortunately, the other Patriarchs will have none of that, thank God. They have resisted his thirst for power.
I repeat: The participation and conciliarity of the Church of all the people is most important and gives the Holy Spirit room to work in the hearts of simple people who have the truth imbedded in their soul and mind.
The Patriarch’s Charter will not allow the freedom of expression, that standard that protects the Church from error. True guardianship must not be supplanted by a Patriarch’s unilateral decision. That, my friends, is not in accord with Orthodoxy. The Patriarch is on dangerous ground and the past history of the Church bears out that such patriarchs have been removed from the Church by both the laity and the clergy. Conciliarity and participation, is, after all, the Orthodox ethos or custom that had been handed down to us, the very Tradition essential to the protection of the purity of the Faith. We are not Roman Catholics who have given the power of all decisions into the hands of one man, namely the Pope.
The Orthodox Christian Laity has been the only voice that has been consistently speaking up. The OCL has demanded that a special Clergy-Laity Congress be convened and be limited to discussing the Patriarch’s Charter. The OCL even offered to pay part of the costs of a short, no frills C-L Congress. The Archbishop and Holy Eparchial Synod have not replied.
Therefore, what remains? We lived in a land of laws. We are not a Theocracy such as was in Islamic Afghanistan under the Taliban. I welcome the OCL suggestions and request that they challenge Patriarch Bartholomew in the U.S. courts on our behalf. Let the Courts examine the Charter of 1977 and decide whether that Charter is legal and must be upheld. As to its lay participation, conciliarity, and the right to continue having clergy-laity congresses representing the parishes of the country, these are an absolute must. Unless we resolve this business of the Charter, we will never be able to function as the Holy Spirit would want. We must be more open to His guidance. Otherwise we must accept the possibility that our Church will eventually fail in its mission to save souls. I ask you: Are we not under the rule of law? Are we not descendents of the country that invented democracy? Are we allowing an all powerful and false theocracy to emerge? Let us not lose our God-given right to freedom. Christ said, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.” More to come. Let me hear from you.
(We suggest to see the author's next article and the one of Bishop Callistos')
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