By George Matsoukas
On the final day of the Clergy-Laity Congress, during the plenary session, the vote to deny the filing of a minority report of the Administration committee was 352 for, and 77 against, for total of 429 delegates voting. An odd total, given the fact there were a reported 805 delegates who registered for the Congress, but there is a simple answer; 376 delegates left this meeting in disgust or refused to be railroaded by the same old ‘minions’ of the Archdiocese, who have been playing the same old game of stifling legitimate discussion. I commend these honorable 376 parishioners who walked out of the meeting, essentially casting their vote by walking out. What is just as telling is the fact that only 805 delegates registered for this Congress, including all of the Hierarchs and most of the 80 plus members of the Archdiocesan Council. Where were the 2,200 parish delegates the rules call for? With 550 parishes, each entitled to send one priest and three lay persons, this Congress attracted just over one third of those who were entitled to attend. Some of those attending from the parishes were appointed by their Clergy and not voted upon by the parish assembly. Others did not attend because they are tired of the tactics used year after year to stifle discussion.
When the system is stacked against you the only thing we have, as faithful of the Greek Orthodox Church, is our self-respect. And it was self-respect that caused many of these delegates to boycott.
It is my sincerest concern that many more faithful will walk away from the Archdiocese in just the same way their delegates walked away from this meeting. Inevitably, our children, and our grandchildren will walk away in greater numbers as they begin to see what a sham the business of running this Archdiocese, which claims no members, has become.
Weak leadership; on the part of the Archbishop, is the basis for this situation. If you add the number who walked and the number who voted, the majority of the delegates who were registered, voted ‘no confidence’ in the Archdiocese. It is my view that the imposed 2003 Charter, has no legitimacy because unlike the 1922,1927, 1931 and 1977 Charters, IT HAS NEVER BEEN voted upon by the faithful people of God. If the charter is a guide, and not a law, and this proposed “gift” charter that was ruled out of order for discussion is sacred (according to the archbishop in his keynote address), how could the 1977 charter, which was also sacred be abrogated at the whim of the Patriarchate? This act of negating the 1977 Charter, negates the 82 year old history of the Archdiocese, disrespects the memory of our ancestors, and trounces upon the history of our Church here in America. Are we today less competent than were our forbearers to vote on the Charter? Were Patriarchs Meletios, Basil, Photios and Dimitrios and Archbishops Alexander, Athenagoras and Iakovos all wrong In providing for Clergy-Laity approval and acceptance of Charters?
I call this UPR a sham because it was not sent out in sufficient time for the parishes to intelligently and carefully study and review it, then have a frank discussion regarding its contents and submit their comments and suggestions. As much as it pains me to say this, the leadership of the Archdiocese has presided over a fraud to gain centralized control in the tradition of the Patriarchal Exarch Damaskinos. In 1930 to avoid discussion at the Clergy-Laity Congress he forced the creation of fabricated minutes of a non-existent synodical meeting ending the autonomy of the Church in North and South America… This example was openly followed at the 2004 Clergy-Laity Congress by not even allowing a minority report to be filed, as is the right, but also ruling out of order any discussion regarding the Charter; thus grossly abusing the parliamentary process.
But this time it was done in the open for all with open minds, and reasonable hearts to see. This Congress clearly demonstrates that the Archdiocese is an institution financially and spiritually in deep trouble.. Why else would they need to have total control over all aspects of our church here, including all finances?
It is apparent that the Patriarch, Archbishop and Metropolitans and their enablers have little concern on how they can keep the faithful in the pews and how to reach out to bring back the disaffected and minister to the spiritual needs of America. They know well that Lord Acton was speaking of the Church when his laws of history demonstrated “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” They are preparing not to “Build Communities of Faith and Love” but to intimidate priests and parish councils and punish anyone who might raise a voice of protest. The new “Regulations” are replete with provisions that they hope would permit the Archdiocese to take control of parish real estate and other assets If the reactions of the faithful and the parishes to these repressive measures are what they expect them to be. They clearly are losing the hearts and minds of the faithful. They apparently would rather hold titles to 550 empty buildings to house the archives of an Archdiocese that may raise sufficient funds from its enablers to maintain these building as museums.
We are meant to preserve history, not march backward toward it. The leadership has inflicted a disservice on our Archdiocese, and future events will record whether it will ever recover. We pray to a merciful God to guide our next steps.
*** Mr George Matsoukas is a past president of the Orthodox Christian Laity.