Book Release for The History of the Greek Church in America
in Acts and Documents
by Paul G. Manolis

Title: The History of the Greek Church in America in Acts and Documents
Author: Paul G. Manolis
Publisher: Ambelos Press
Date of Publication: January 2003
Language: English
ISBN: 0972437304
Price: $135.00
Description: 3-volume set
Availability: Ambelos Press, 2311 Hearst Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709.
Click here for order form.


Review by Peter Haikalis, Ph.D.

Orthodox News September 23, 2003

Monumental History of the Greek Archdiocese of America is Published
Book Discusses the Establishment of a Self-Governing Autonomous Church in 1922

The History of the Greek Orthodox Church of America in Acts and Documents by Prof. Paul G. Manolis is a monumental work, published in three massive volumes. Long awaited, it is a landmark publication of the history of the church, definitive in many ways. Archbishop Iakovos states in his prologue to the volume 1, “Manolis speaks with authority…. And this work is authoritative.”

The publication of this history is the culmination of many years of work and research by Manolis who collected documents from the Archives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek Foreign Ministry, the Church of Greece, the Greek Archdiocese and other sources. He then describes the documents and assembles them in an order so that the reader can follow the development of the church from its earliest days in the United States.

This is a work should be in the library of every Greek Orthodox parish, in libraries at universities offering a religious studies program and in the personal libraries of all those interested in the Church and its historical development in the United States.

"This is a work full of vibration, which provokes, which wretles against indolence, which generates new interests ... it is unaffected by the influence or dictates of high politics ... it is influenced very much by the passion for historical objectivity and the presentation of the unvarnished truth. Manolis was molded with Hellenism of America, living throughout many years as a fighter, indeed always positive. If he had not participated actively, he would not be able to speak and especially with authority. In fact, this book is authoritative." --Archbishop Iakovos

The outline of the history of the events governing the history of the Church in America is known. What has not been known until the publication of these volumes is the behind the scenes activity and the individuals who determined the decisive course of these events and the means they used to achieve their ends.

Of special interest is the major role played by the Greek Government in the affairs of the Church of America. The documents reveal the important relationship of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the Greek Government in making decisions regarding the future shape of the church of the American immigrants. Manolis also shows that the role Church of Greece was also not insignificant in shaping the course of church in America.

The documents and correspondence discovered by Professor Manolis in the archives previously cited speak for themselves. What comes through most clearly is the way that the Patriarchate, church hierarchs and Greek public officials determined the course of events. The emphasis here is on the human role is shaping history often through deceit and falsification.

Of special interest is the revelation of plans for the establishment of an autocephalous church in America by Archbishop Meletios Metaxakis (late Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV, 1921-1923), who was in America in 1920 and 1921. Unfortunately this plan did not come to pass.

The Greek Orthodox Church of America however was established on May 17, 1922 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a self-governing autonomous church, headed by an Archbishop and three bishops who comprised the Holy Synod, which was the governing body of the church of America. This autonomy was abolished in 1930 by means of a fabricated document, which the Archbishop and the bishops of the Holy Synod were coerced into signing. Manolis fully documents this action. Students of church history will also find it interesting to note that when the Archdiocese was established by Patriarchal Tome (the term use to describe an official action of the Patriarchate) is was called the “Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America” (without mention of the word Greek in the original title). The omission was not an oversight but rather indicative of the plan of Patriarch Meletios to establish an entity in America which would include all ethnic Orthodox jurisdictions.

Included are the minutes of a meeting held at the Greek Foreign Ministry with representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece, which decided on the course of action to be taken to solve the problems of the then turbulent Church of America. This included the dispatching of an Exarch who would carry out the predetermined plan. When the Archbishop (Alexander) refused to resign and acquiesce to the plan he was defrocked by the Ecumenical Patriarch. Following his repentance, Alexander was elected Metropolitan of Corfu to replace Athenagoras who in 1931 was elected at Archbishop of America.

Among the important document are the complete minutes of the Holly Synod of the Church of America form 1922 to 1930. These minutes reveal the struggles of the hierarchs to establish the church and the various education and philanthropic programs, which were initiated as well as the interactions of the Archdiocese with such ethic organizations of laymen as AHEPA and GAPA.

The main thread of the work is that the Church of America was not able to determine its own destiny, but became a pawn of external forces and interests, such as the Greek Government, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece and was a victim of political events and controversies in Greece. Many of us were unaware that for a short time the Church of America was a diocesan see of the Church of Greece. In the final analysis the American church was not left free to choose its own leaders or to determine its own governing structure. Neither the clergy nor laity of the American Church was able to play a role or have a voice in the important decisions, which determined their future.

There have been other histories of the Greek Archdiocese written, but without the documentation, which Manolis has assembled. Among the interesting points is that the first “Congress” which incorporated the Archdiocese in 1921 was a “Clergy Congress” not a Clergy Laity Congress. Based on this finding the traditional enumeration of the Clergy Laity Congresses is inaccurate. For historical clarity it should be noted that the Archdiocese was incorporated in 1921 and in 1922 the Ecumenical Patriarchate establishing it as a self-governing, autonomous church granted the Archdiocese charter.

An important appendix to the work is the dissertation of the Rev. James Nestor (Dionysios Nestorides) written in 1936 and until now unpublished. This dissertation is important in providing background information regarding the development of the American church because the extensive use Nestor made of Greek language newspapers of the time.

The History of the Greek Orthodox Church in America is not of one of interpretation or narration. Manolis lets the documents speak for themselves. Although many of the documents have not been translated into English. Those that are key to an understanding of the deceptions and political machinations that occurred in the late 20”s and early 30’s are translated. He is now working on a volume four which will be an analysis and narrative history of the American Church from its origins and will be based on these documents and others not included in this work. We look forward to its appearance.

As the Athens daily Kathimerini states in an extensive review, “Manolis’ monumental work lays the foundation for the future study of the Church and American Hellenism. All future researchers and historians will have to rely on this. It will be the basis for all future studies.”

Manolis is particular suited as author of this compilation of documents. His entire life has been spent as an active laymen in the church. First elected to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council at a Clergy Laity Congress held in Washington D.C. in 1956 at a time when Council members were elected by the Congress and not appointed by the Archbishop. He served in that capacity for many years under three Archbishops. He was also the founding chairmen of the Orthodox Observer newspaper and served on three charter revision committees of the Archdiocese and the Board of Trustees of the then Holy Cross Seminary. Given this experience his knowledge of the church and its history is unrivaled. Manolis also was a founding member of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, which is one of the eleven schools compromising the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, served as its Director for more than ten years and is currently its President.

His years of service to the Church has given him an intimate knowledge of persons and events and his historical acumen has been invaluable as he sifted through the massive documentation which he presents as this first part of his study. Included are some 800 documents (some in translation), and the forthcoming fourth volume will contain additional documentation.

We have long waited for a definitive and exhaustive historical account of our church in America and finally we have been provided with one by an individual who has been an eyewitness. Manolis received his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and completed his graduate work at Harvard University from where he was elected a Junior Fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Institute in Washington, D.C. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

The publication of the work was recently introduced before a large gathering of academics and others in Athens. Speakers included the Minister of Culture Evaggelos Venizelos, Archbishop Methodios of Pisidia (former Archbishop of Great Britain), Ambassador Antoni Protonotarios and Professor Vassili Karageorgios. Extensive reviews appeared in the Athenian Press, which heralded the work as a “magnum opus”, a “feat” and a “monumental work for the history of American Hellenism.”

The three-volume set is available from AMBELOS Press, 2311 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709 for $135.00.

About the Author

Paul Manolis has taken an active part in the life of the Orthodox Church of America for more than fifty years at local, diocesan, national, and international levels. Patriarch Athenagoras named him a "Great Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate." Mr Manolis is also a Knight Commander of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. He received the Gold Cross of Mount Athos from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Medal of St. Paul from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Mr Manolis is a graduate of the University of California (Berkeley) and completed his graduate studies at Harvard University.

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