Washington, D.C. By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
One of the main points raised by Archbishop Demetrios in his opening speech at the 39th Clergy Laity Congress was that “our Church is no longer an immigrant Church but, instead, is firmly rooted in American soil”. In addition he pointed out that “the Church is no longer homogenous, but contains a variety of members – fourth and fifth generation Greek Americans, and others who are converts, including through marriage.”
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston is the one the three American born Metropolitan, in the 9 member Holy Eparchial Synod in America,. He served late Archbishop Iakovos as his Archdeacon and heʼs been President of the Holy Cross School of Theology and Bishop of Boston. He was elevated to Metropolitan along with all other eparchial Bishops in 1998.
In his exclusive interview with the “Greek News”, Metropolitan Methodios speaks about the 39th Clergy Laity Congress and the application of its main theme “Gather My people to My Home” to his Metropolis and the state of our Church.
Methodios rejects the notion that “we have to do everything in English in order to continue to reaching out to everyone in the U.S.”
He speaks with pride about the Philoxenia House – and establishment that offers hospitality to people in need, and the other programs of his Metropolis, and he supports the need our Church to pay attention to the urgent needs of some of its members, while extending its philanthropic activities to other people.
Metropolitan Methodios stresses that “we should not be the Church of the rich and that the Church cannot be run by only the elite who have money”. At the same time he points out that we cannot say everything is OK, when we know itʼs not. And we must move on to improve our Church”.
Methodios is also critical for some of our priests, suggesting to be a lot more pastoral with them. “There are people concerned with some of priests that are walking around here in the Congress, and the way they look and the kind of image that is to the American public. And I think thatʼs something that needs to be addressed”, he said.
Q: Are you your Eminence satisfied with how the congress moves?
A: Yes everything seems to be going very well. It is well organized by the local committee, there are a lot of people here and hopefully they will come back renewed and ready to bring the message of the faith to the community at large.
Q: Could you recall a special moment of the Congress that really touched you?
A: I was particularly impressed with the presentation at the Archon breakfast by the lawyer who spoke to the archons. He spoke about the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the need for the Archons around the world, especially here in the United States, to continue their presence, to continue witnessing to the concern for the Patriarchate and for the plight of the Ecumenical throne. He spoke very – very well. I think in all the years I’ve been coming here I haven’t heard a better speech.
Q: We have also started collecting signatures, at least we started moving
A: Yeah, everything should be channeled through his office here in Washington and through the Archon people of the Archdiocese.
Q: How do you intend to apply the message of the Clergy Laity Congress, “Gather My people to My Home to your Metropolis?
A: We in New England are very – very fortunate that most of the communities are within 2 hours- 2 1/2 hours from Boston and we meet very regularly. I don’t think thereʼs ever been a meeting of the Clergy or a Clergy Laity meeting where I do not stress the need for us to reach out and bring the message of our faith to the community at large. We can’t be satisfied with the church attendance, we can’t be happy with what we are doing. We need to be more pastoral, we need to work harder, and if we believe that Orthodoxy, Greek Orthodoxy is the faith of the Fathers of the Church and the way to salvation, we are responsible to go out and do what Philip did when he went and found Nathaniel and said “έρχου και είδε”- “come and see”.
We have to make sure when we make that invitation, “come and see”, when the people come to our churches they are going to find churches that welcome them, churches that spiritually edify them, and they have to come and experience a liturgical experience which is spiritual and edifying. They have to come to a church and hear a well prepared sermon which is going to help those individuals deal with the problems they have in their daily lives. The Church has to be a fountain of Jacob, where people can come and dialogue and quench their spiritual thirsts.
Q: Our Church walks for years the fine line. On one hand we have the vast majority American born most of Greek origin. And then we have another smaller now group of immigrants, that are very vocal, very active and very faithful. How do we combine and preserve our Hellenic values and at the same time we work as an American Church representing the Orthodox flock in the United States?
A: I am not one of those that believe that we have to do everything in English in order to continue to reaching out to everyone throughout the United States. I think we have a responsibility to perpetuate our cultural heritage to our children and grandchildren. That means establishing cultural schools in every community in America where the language is taught, where the cultural aspects are taught, cooking, and architecture, dancing all aspects of our culture should be taught to our children. I said at the meeting that I had here earlier this week that whoever thinks that changing the language to English overnight is going to solve the problems of our church is absolutely wrong. Thatʼs not the answer to bringing more people to Orthodoxy.
Q: Do you see possible that in a few years it could be a unified Orthodox Church in America?
A: Not unless the other Orthodox presences in America follow the formula issued by the International Conference in Geneva which clearly states that the Church must have as the leader locally, whoever represents the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Q: Are you in general satisfied with the status of our Church. 10 years ago we were in turmoil then we could say we are at peace, but overall, are we progressing? Are you optimistic about the future?
A: I think we have to be optimistic about the future because if we believe that the Holy Spirit is leading the Church then we have to believe that we have a bright future here. Obviously we had turmoil years, ago for one reason or another. Those years thankfully are gone now. Now we have peace and quiet. I think that the church is changing and maturing in its own way. I think we have a bright future, as long as we’re all united in purpose. And our purpose is to reach out and make people aware of what the Orthodox Church preaches and teaches.
Q: Would you identify our major weakness?
A: Our major weakness is perhaps our inability or unwillingness to do exactly what I just said, to reach out and do mission. Where some of us are happy with the status quo and we can’t be happy with the status quo. Δεν μπορούμε να λέμε όλα είναι καλά όταν ξέρουμε ότι δεν είναι. Πρέπει να κινηθούμε για να βελτιώσουμε την Εκκλησία. (We cannot say everything is OK, when we know itʼs not. We must move on to improve our Church.)
Q: Let me point some issues and Ι need your comment: From all 9 metropolises only one – and this is yours – that has a hospitality house. Our philanthropic work is considered by many minimal and only to support or subsidize our other ministries. The United States is in financial crisis and this is going to affect many lives of Orthodox people who may lose their homes, they may not be able to pay the schools of their children, some in Greek schools, and we didnʼt say anything about it in the Clergy Laity Congress. Some say we are a Church for the rich.
A: We certainly should not be the Church of the rich and the Church cannot be run by only the elite who have money. However, we depend greatly on the great benefactors in most communities, because the majority of people that could be better stewards are not stewards. I would rather raise $100 from 10 people than $1,000 from one person. The way to raise the finances in our communities is not to raise necessarily the assessment of every family, but is to get the inactive families to liturgically alive in the community, to get them involved in the life of the Church and to get more moneys to the church. Philanthropy, as you said, should not be only to our own people We have to reach out to the greater American community. That’s why every metropolis has the programs of feeding the poor in their community. There are food drives in many parishes, in New England there are quite a few.
Iʼ m thankful I have the “Philoxenia House. Other dioceses do other things of course, but you are absolutely correct, we need to deal with those families that are losing their homes, which are losing their jobs. Whether we need to have a resolution right here at the congress on those issues is really a decision that has to be made by other people, not by me. I remember 25-30 years ago there was a whole series of resolutions on social and moral issues. I donʼt know what the committees have come up with in the congress, I wasnʼt in that committee
Q: Itʼs been almost 11 years since you and your other brothers have been elevated to Metropolitans. We have metropolises, our Eparchial Synod works differently. What is your experience from all these 11 years? Was it was a positive step, are still things to be resolved?
A: No question things have to be resolved. The administrative structure that we have, Eparchial Synod with Metropolises, needs to be developed even more in the future. Certainly we are much better off then we were 15 years ago where everybody was auxiliary Bishop, Now, everybody is responsible for developing his Metropolis by creating programs. I created as you know “Philoxenia House”. We have a beautiful camp program and a retreat house being built up in New England. Other Metropolises do their own programs. I think itʼs the way to go. I think in the future the Church here needs to become, God knows when, we should replicate what’s happening with the administrative system in Crete we have sort of semi autonomous.
But the issue of the administration isn’t as important as the need to spiritually develop our people, our communities, and our parish priests. We need to be a lot more pastoral with priests. I think if you look around, you could see there are issues within the clergy that need to be addressed very – very seriously. There are people concerned with some of priests that are walking around here in the Congress, and the way they look and the kind of image that is to the American public. And I think thatʼs something that needs to be addressed.