New York.- Members of the Archdiocesan Council and National Board of the Ladies Philoptochos Society of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America gathered in New York City for their annual Spring Meetings on March 17 and 18, 2006.
Archdiocesan Council members discussed major changes in financing the Archdiocese budget, the funding of the Metropolises, and the allocation of the parish National Ministries Commitment, which if adopted by the Clergy-Laity Congress in July, would result in a more efficient and equitable collection and distribution of funds and an overall strengthening of the Church’s finances.
Finance Committee member George Matthews (Metropolis of Atlanta) presented a new National Ministries Commitment plan which will establish a more equitable method of determining parish commitments. George Vourvoulias (Metropolis of Chicago), Co-Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council Finance Committee, called the new approach to finances “a plan to level the playing field.” He emphasized that the plan effectively responds to the charge from the 2004 Congress for greater “transparency, accountability, responsibility and fairness.” The Council unanimously approved a resolution to accept the report of the Finance Committee for presentation to the Clergy Laity Congress.
The joint opening session began on Friday morning with a prayer service led by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios who welcomed the members and delivered his remarks beginning with a review of significant events since the last Council Meeting. These included the historic visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the Celebration of Epiphany and the Centennial of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, FL.
His Eminence also mentioned his recent official visit to Cyprus at the invitation of the President and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus, and noted the extraordinary welcome to the entire delegation. The Archbishop also commented on the data obtained from the recent SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) survey of priests and lay leaders throughout the country regarding their views on the administrative work of the Archdiocese and expressed his expectations for the next phase of the process.
Following a welcome and review of the present status of the Church by Vice President Michael Jaharis, a presentation was offered by the Administration Committee Chair Anthony Stefanis (Metropolis of Atlanta) and Catherine Boufides-Walsh (Direct Archdiocesan District) on the proposed “Dispute Resolution Procedure” amendment to the Archdiocesan Regulations. This would serve as a “mechanism for addressing grievances, mediating conflicts and ultimately for the resolution of disputes in the parishes by setting up specific procedures,” Mr. Stefanis said. The amendment will be considered at the Clergy Laity Congress in Nashville this July.
Council members heard a highly favorable report on Archdiocese finances from Archdiocesan Executive Director of Administration, Jerry Dimitriou, who noted that revenue from the 2005 Total Commitment Program was “$852,000 higher than the 2004 amount and represents the second largest increase in the past six years” and total revenue for 2005 increased by $5 Million over the prior year. Mr. Dimitriou also reported that operating expenses reduced by approximately $550,000 and the Archdiocese ended the year 2005 with a $3.2 Million surplus compared to a deficit in 2004. He noted that as a result of the significant progress, the total Archdiocese debt has been reduced to approximately $7 Million in 2005 compared to $9.9 Million in 2004.
The Friday session of the Council Meeting was then recessed to allow the Standing Committees to meet and discuss future goals and the progress of institutions and ministries of the Archdiocese.
The Saturday session of the Council Meeting began with a report from Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of Saint Andrew concerning the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He urged the Council to endorse a resolution approved at the recent Metropolis of San Francisco Clergy Laity Assembly to be sent to President George W. Bush, and to U.S. Senators and Representatives to seek religious freedom for the Patriarchate. The Council agreed to endorse the resolution.
The meeting continued with the presentation of detailed Committee Reports concerning the 2006 Clergy Laity Congress, Religious Education, Communications, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Outreach & Evangelism, Greek Education and Marriage and Family. Tabulated data from SWOT survey along with recommendations for its dissemination were also discussed.
Concurrent with the Archdiocesan Council Meeting, the National Philoptochos Board held its two-day meeting. Its program included a presentation from a representative of UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Education Fund) and Habitat for Humanity. Archbishop Demetrios praised the Philoptochos’ involvement with aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “Philoptochos’ offering continuously gives us an example of how much you beautifully fill the needs of our people hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina.” He also said that, unfortunately much of the work done by the organization “is unknown to the American public,” and added that we have to address this issue and also to have Philoptochos “expanding as much as possible.”
In his closing remarks Archbishop Demetrios praised the efforts of Michael Jaharis and Emanuel Demos, Archdiocesan Counsel, as well as the Archdiocesan Directors and staff. His Eminence also thanked Council members for their committee work, calling it “a professional approach; the result of hard work!”