OCL Issues a "Charter Crisis Alert"

An Editorial by Christos and Mary Papoutsy

Christos and Mary Papoutsy are the Founders and Publishers of Hellenic Communication Service.

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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.

Charter Survey

1. Do you believe that approval of the proposed new charter may open the door to seizure of your local Parish property?

Don't Know
Reasons for Choice:

2. Do you believe that approval of the proposed new charter will in any way negatively alter our unique culture?

Don't Know
Reasons for Choice:

3. Do you believe that approval of the proposed new charter will in any way diminish or eliminate clergy and lay input in local governance?

Don't Know
Reasons for Choice:

4. Have you read the proposed charter changes that the Archdiocese has placed on the agenda for the upcoming 36th Clergy-Laity Congress in July? (These proposed changes were mailed out to all Parishes in the U.S.)

Don't Know
Reasons for Choice:

The results of this specific survey will be posted on or before the end of June 2002. To read OCL' s complete twelve-page publication and learn about other important Church subjects, visit the websites of OCL and the Archdiocese at http://www.ocl.org and http://www.goarch.org. We, the publishers of Hellenic Communication Service, a free service for posting news and information, a service to Greek and Greek-American communities that is underwritten by one of our charitable foundations, strongly believe that every major issue should be thoroughly and fairly discussed. "Only by actively participating can we all ensure the health, dignity, freedom, and creativity of our society."--Christos and Mary Papoutsy

We welcome your comments on this subject.

[Posted December 2003. Edd: (June 2007) Although HCS is no longer compiling results of this survey, we continue to welcome input from readers. Site visitors who wish to express their opinions about the questions listed in the survey are invited to type out the question numbers and their selected answers and to submit them to HCS via email at helleniccomserve@papcoholdings.org. ]

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