Courage Emerges Out of Cleveland
By Katherine G. Valone
The Greek Press July 27, 2003
The Editor suggests that the surfer should read first the previous article of K. G. Valone and the OCC's introduction to it.
Praise God, the first parish with a brave heart and a ton of self-respect has emerged out of Cleveland to boldly speak up as the people of God (LAOS TOU THEOU) at an assembly gathered for the purpose of examining the Patriarchate’s Charter, which was rammed down our throats.
The Patriarchate has ignored our objections in spite of the Clergy-Laity Congress’s rejection of the Patriarchate’s Charter because it most clearly and significantly curbed lay involvement in the governance of church affairs. This in spite of the Charter of 1977, which evolved after eighty years of experience and serious deliberations at many Clergy-Laity Congresses. The Charter of 1977, I would remind you, was ratified by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Holy Synod in Constantinople. The Charter was a legal and binding contract between the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Patriarch and the State of New York and registered as 501(C)(3) non-for-profit organization. We were operating according to the rule of law whereby the Charter of 1977 could be amended by subsequent Clergy-Laity Congresses.
Obviously, the Patriarchate ignored the 1977 Charter, wiped the slate clean, and started the process of very much to what suited them for their purposes, dismissing the aggregate history of the Church in America and its growth through a long, peaceful, orderly fashion. And this is what our Archbishop Demetrios says, “ The charter issue is considered resolved” By whom? Here is a brazen disregard for reality and the discontent of those who see what is really happening.
Along comes Sts. Constantine and Helen Church in Cleveland and in a democratic, peaceful exercise of the “right for peaceable assembly” speaks up and says for all the world to hear: We reject the Patriarchate’s Charter by an overwhelming vote against it and its resolutions. Bravo Cleveland – your city is a giant among Orthodox cities of the world because of your Cathedral’s brave effort to stand up and declare that the Orthodox doctrine of conciliarity and syndiaconia is not to be trifled with.
In eight resolutions you carefully and wonderfully crafted your reasons for rejecting the Patriarchate’s Charter. Truly Orthodoxy has no boundaries when it is periled by a fake Church to either the clergy or laity to participate in our Church’s conduct, actions, or basic beliefs and receives her authority from all the faithful.
These eight resolutions, briefly condensed for space saving purpose of this article are:
(1) Only the C-L Congress can amend the Charter. No one has the right to replace the Charter without the C-L Congress’s approval.
(2) The Patriarchate in Constantinople does not have the right to unilaterally discard the Charter of 1977. The Patriarchate can only approve or reject changes proposed.
(3) That the concept of syndiaconia between hierarchs, clergy and laity is a most essential element of the 1977 Charter.
(4) That the Patriarchate’s charter in essence disunites the administrative authority of the Archdiocesan council and give it to the Eparchial Synod and the Metropolises.
(5) That the Archbishop’s authority is minimized thus curbing his leadership influence and freedom to act for the whole Archdiocese.
(6) That the issue of who owns the properties and the parishes is compromised.
(7) That the increasing loss of future generations to other faiths because the laity’s involvement in church affairs is dangerously curbed [which speaks to the cause of accountability and transparency of all levels of the Church authority: archdiocesan metropolises, and locally.]
(8) That 190 parishes of the C-L Congresses of 2002 objected to the way future bishops and that archbishops were to be chosen with no input of the laity but only that of the Eparchial Synod. [Clearly this is a non-Orthodox trend. Historically hierarchs and clergy were chosen by the people who had the right to reject even Archbishops and Patriarchs who were in some way unacceptable, such as for teaching heresy or scandals arising out of moral misconduct.]
The Cathedral’s assembly accepts and supports the Patriarchate as the center of our Church: that the 1977 Charter is still the only valid charter and that the Archdiocese and church should continue to work under its provisions; that the decision to hold a C-L Congress in New York in 2004 should be devoted to the Charter as first on the agenda; that the Bishops of the Orthodox Church from all over the world address the canons and resolve the confusion and unique problems of many jurisdictions existing in the U.S. church and make way for a unified church here.
I have great respect and unlimited admiration for the parishioners, the parish council, and the parish priest Father Stephen Callos for their selfless courage to do what is right, what is difficult, what is everyone’s responsibility to insure a vibrant, spirit-filled Church in the U.S.A.
Now is the time for the rest of us to step up to the plate and be counted. I hope more parishes and priests will be encouraged to follow Cleveland’s example. Take a stand. Remember, Our Lord Jesus Christ does not look favorably upon lukewarm persons. (Revelations 3:15-16)(The OCC seconds this point!)
[The following is repeated by the author from the June 29th issue of View From the Pew’s “A Way to Restore the 1977 Charter.]
Therefore, what remains? We live 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.(The OCC emphasis and WONDERS?!) 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.
Editor’s of Orthodox Christian Laity note: St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota is also a Profile of Courage. We have just received the resolution passed by that parish. Where does your parish stand on this issue? One by one, parish by parish, we must take back our church so that it is one again. Our immigrant grandparents did not build these churches to be handed over to the Patriarchate. They built them for their children and grandchildren and for all those who choose to be Orthodox Christians. Honor their memories stand up and be counted.
By permission from and thanks to:
Orthodox Christian Laity
Contact the OCL via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ocl.org
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