New commitment formula for the parishes approved. Demetrios presented the results of a survey on “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.”
Nashville, TN.- The 38th Clergy Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America ended on Friday with the approval of seven resolutions. Among other things, the delegates call on the U.S. government to intensify its efforts for the achievement of world peace. They also ask Washington to abide by its promises so that Turkey be forced to recognise the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was represented by Metropolitan of Sevastia Dimitrios, who is the director of the Patriarchal Office.
The main theme of the assembly was the message:”We Spread the Truth of the Gospel and the Love of Christ”.
Archbishop Demetrios closing up the congress on Friday, during the breakfast of the Clergy, expressed satisfaction for the participation and the work done.
On Thursday more than 1,500 delegates participated at the Grand Banquet. Master of ceremonies was the Greek American popular anchorman Chris Clark, former president of the Holy Trinity parish of Nashville, TN.
Delegates at the first plenary session on Wednesday approved the reports of Hellenic College-Holy Cross, and the following committees: Administration, Youth, Greek Education, Outreach and Evangelism and Communications.
In his report on Hellenic College- Holy Cross, the Rev. Nicholas Triantafilou, school president, also paid tribute to former director of the Department of Religious Education Ernest Villas, who died late last week and at whose funeral he officiated.
Fr. Triantafilou said it was most appropriate the funeral was held at the Holy Cross Chapel because, as a founder and the first president of the Greek Orthodox Youth of America, the GOYA raised the funds to build the chapel.
Fr. Triantafilou discussed the success of programs at the schools, including the Kalinikion Institute for the Greek Language, the addition of new faculty and administrators and finances. He noted that, while the amount of unrestricted gifts has been declining for several years, the goal is for HC/HC to become self-supportive.
Enrollment has been increasing since 2005, with Hellenic College experiencing an 79 percent rise in the number of students and Holy Cross has had a 31 percent increase.
The Administration Committee report presented by Tony Stefanis of Atlanta was approved with the exception of a recommendation on how many committees a delegate may serve on that will be forwarded to the Archdiocesan Council for further study.
Youth Committee Chairman Thomas Kanelos of Niles, Ill., discussed several goals for the Department of Youth Ministry over the next two years, including much needed renovations for Ionian Village.
Dr. Ioannis Efthymiopoulos, director of Greek Education at the Archdiocese, reported that the curriculum and teaching methods for the Greek language are being evaluated and modernized based on a recent survey undertaken among Greek educators around the country.
Catherine Lingas of Portland, Oregon, discussed several initiatives being undertaken by the department, headed by Fr. James Kordaris. Her report included resolutions that every parish establish a missions, outreach and evangelism committee, and that they should include a budget line item for that ministry.
Communications Committee Chairman Clifford Argue of Seattle discussed several action items proposed by the committee, including increasing the frequency of the Orthodox Observer. He also requested delegates to provide names of communications professionals in their areas and distributed a survey of five pages soliciting their responses to questions on the Archdiocese’s communications efforts.
Also during the plenary session, Archdiocesan Council Vice Chairman Michael Jaharis talked about the new endowment fund for the Church called FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism and introduced Peter Kikis of Rye, N.Y. who has been selected as president. Mr. Kikis said the fund will be used to strengthen the Church and to support its national ministries. He said that, initially, the goal is to raise $100 million through limited donations of $1 million each, then to eventually open up the fund to donations of any amount.
NEW COMMITMENT FORMULA
The Congress also approved a new National Ministries Commitment formula, that was tested successfully in the Metropolis of Atlanta. Under the new provisions, the parishes will give every year to the Metropolises the 15% of adjusted operating expenses (instead of their income) calculated as total parish expenditures for any and all purposes minus the following:
– National Ministries Commitment
– Charitable giving to the Archdiocese, Metropolis Ministries, SCOBA Authorized Ministries and the Patriarchate o Mortgage Principal And Interest and Interest on Construction Loans
– Special Hazard Insurance Premiums o Facility Construction, Iconography and Land Acquisition
As the Finance Committee report was suggesting, “the purpose of adopting this approach is that it is equitable, levels the playing field, simple to calculate and fair. It rewards charitable giving and development and considers parishes that are subject to extraordinary risks and pay more for hazard insurance. Additionally it finally puts to rest the perception of unfairness that has driven a wedge between the Archdiocese and our parishes”.
A motion by father Paul Palesty, of St Nicholas Flushing, to exempt from the expenses the money many of the New York Metropolitan area parish give to subsidize their Day Schools was defeated. Whether this amount will be exempted was left to the discretion of each Metropolitan, or the Archbishop in the case of New York.
Among the workshops and meetings held Tuesday was the Interfaith Marriage Committee, where the Rev. Dr. Charles Joanides discussed challenges facing couples in interfaith marriages, mostly problems they encounter in their parishes and among their families.
During the audience discussion, Fr. Eugene Pappas, pastor of Three Hierarchs Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., suggested that “Maybe we have a false picture of interfaith marriage,” that “dozens of young people” are being lost to the Church because they are marrying Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others outside the Church.
Fr. Charles noted that a number choose to marry persons who are not religious. He said that 15 percent of the U.S. population “has no religious affiliation at all.”
Fr. Eugene added, “How many people are marrying in civil ceremonies. We priests are bound and gagged in that we can’t even respond to this.’ He said it is important to help them “hold on to the Greek Orthodox Church and not make them feel estranged.”
“How do you minister to this person spiritually?,” he asked.