OCL Statement on Release of Proposed Charter by the Patriarchate

By George Matsoukas (OCL Executive Director), Evan Chriss and George Karcazes

As a result of the many phone calls, e-mails and other inquiries made to Orthodox Christian Laity concerning the state of the charter it seems prudent to report the following developments:

As Orthodox Christians observed the final days of the Nativity Fast and made preparations to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, it was announced by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America that the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate “granted” a new charter of the Archdiocese. Significantly, the text of the new charter was not released.

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The only details announced with respect to the new Charter were the following:

  1. The present Dioceses of the Archdiocese were elevated to Metropolises of the Archdiocese; and
  2. The Hierarchs of the former Dioceses were elected as Metropolitans of their respective Metropolises. The Hierarchs have been given the following titles His Eminence, Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago; His Eminence, Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco; His Eminence, Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh; His Eminence, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston; His Eminence, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver; His Eminence, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta; and His Eminence, Nicholas Metropolitan of Detroit.

The announcement states that the text and relevant information would be “forthcoming.” Comments from other sources have variously indicated that a “questions and answers” article is being prepared or that the text is being translated. No explanation was offered for not releasing the text.

Reports in the ethnic press indicate that none of the amendments concerning the election of the Metropolitan and the Archbishop adopted at the Los Angeles Clergy-Laity Congress were accepted by the Patriarchate. It is unknown if any of the other proposed amendments were accepted.

What does this mean? Without a text we can only speculate. The fact remains that all four Charters of the Archdiocese have been approved by a Clergy-Laity Congress. The 1977 Charter which governs our Archdiocese specifically provides the procedure for its amendment which includes approval by a Clergy-Laity Congress. The Patriarchate has not issued any announcement that the 1977 Charter has been rescinded. Therefore since it is force, we can conclude only that the Patriarchate has issued a “proposed” new charter which is subject to review, discussion and amendment by a Clergy-Laity Congress and does not become effective until its adoption and approval by a Clergy-Laity Congress either in 2004 or earlier at a special Clergy-Laity Congress. This is the process established not only by precedent but by the specific terms of the 1977 Charter. This is our history!

The ethnic press also has reported that the new Charter changes the chain of command. It provides that during the Divine Liturgy, each priest will commemorate the local Metropolitan. The Archbishop and the Metropolitans will commemorate the Patriarch. Doesn’t this imply overlapping responsibilities between the Patriarch and Archbishop? Doesn’t this confuse the organizational structure in America?

There have been no reports to date as to how the new charter would strengthen the Archdiocese in its holy mission of teaching and proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by enhancing its announced goal of “Offering Our Orthodox Faith To Contemporary America.” Rather, the actions of the Patriarchate and the Archdiocese seem intended to confuse rather than clarify the status of the Archdiocese in America. The status of the Archbishop is not clarified. Is this the first step toward the elimination of the position of the Archbishop? How does a “Metropolis” of an Archdiocese differ from a “Diocese” of an Archdiocese? What is to become of Krinis, Dardanelles, Ainou, Aneon and Proikonisos?

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(Posted February 2003)

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