The latest edition of The Forum, the official publication of OCL, dedicated an entire twelve-page section to the subject of the proposed new charter scheduled for discussion during the upcoming 36th Clergy-Laity Congress in California.
OCL's publication was well prepared, containing a wealth of information. But OCL has faltered in presenting only its own, biased interpretation, alongside facts. A thorough, clear discussion of any subject, particularly one as important as the proposed charter of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, deserves a fuller discussion of all views and readings of the reported facts. Orthodox faithful need to learn about all possible outcomes of the proposed charter revisions, not just the negative projections of OCL.
Without a balanced representation of views, The Forum dangerously approaches the arena of propaganda. And our national debate on the charter will not be aided by propaganda. For instance, on the front page of the latest issue, one attention-grabbing heading reads, "There's Only One Response: Say Yes to Self-Governance! Say No to New Charter!" Following the headline is a list of projected negative outcomes to the adoption of the proposed new charter, with not one potential positive result among them:
No regard for our unique culture
No clergy and lay input in local governance
No clergy/laity roles in decisions on church future
No Clergy-Laity Congress unless convened by the Hierarchy
Impersonal, delayed, centralized governance of U.S. affairs from Istanbul, Turkey
An open door to seizure of your Church's property
We must take exception to these fear tactics. What objective evidence does OCL have to support these charges? For instance, three of them appear especially far-fetched to us, the ones about the lack of regard for our culture, the refusal to incorporate clergy and lay input into local governance, and the possibility of seizure of Church property. On what basis are these charges leveled as we, Orthodox faithful nationwide, try to sort through important proposed charter changes objectively and reasonably? What is the underlying reason for unbridled support of self-governance? Have all aspects, both short-term and long-term been carefully examined for every possible outcome? What is it that the promise of self-governance will bring concretely and with certainty to each local Parish? Each Parish now raises its own funds and dispenses them according to the wishes of local Parishioners. Each Parish is free to set up its own programs, including Sunday School, Bible Study, and Greek School classes. Each Parish and Priest are free to decide how much--or how little--Greek language to incorporate into every Liturgy, depending on the linguistic backgrounds of the Parishioners. Each Parish is free to establish outreach programs, to offer assistance to the poor, needy, sick, and incarcerated. In short, what more can OCL concretely offer every Parish that it does not already have? And what's more, we hardly believe that there could be any credible attempt to seize any local Church property. Persons knowledgeable about legal matters have rendered the opinion that such seizures could not be accomplished in the U.S.
Its time for Orthodox Christians at the local level to weigh in with their opinions, particularly those who have not yet given voice to their ideas. Please take a moment to fill in our survey below on the charter and to give the reasons for each of your answers.