By Nick Stamatakis
In the last few months, GOA finds itself in a uniquely “lawless” situation, operating with a suspended Charter without a new one in place, an unheard of situation for any religious institution or non-profit organization… While nobody understood the need for suspending the old charter as the new one is being worked on, AB Elpidophoros, on the occasion of the new session of the Archdiocesan Council (2020-22), reiterated that all major problems (HCHC, St.Nicholas at Ground Zero, Budget, Priests’ Pension Plan etc) are “under control” and introduced a “new” concept, the “Senators of Hellenism and Orthodoxy”… I will not waste our time discussing the feeble attempt to fix the priests’ pension thorny issue, nor we will take seriously a “balanced” budget that lacks basic elements of transparency… But we will turn our attention to the major underlying issue of the “New Charter”, why it is delayed and why – in the manner that is being discussed – it will fail to guide Orthodoxy in America to a new future.
That the discussion of the new Charter is taking place in the background was evident at an Archons meeting last Saturday, where Karloutsos, once again, tried to blame former Arch. Demetrios for the division of GOA into a “Federation of Metropolises”. First of all, why isn’t the discussion broadened to include all the faithful and especially the younger generation? Who expects to find any new ideas in the same old, very old, people? And why blame Arch. Demetrios? Will this cowardly tactic be “standard” practice from now on? All shame has been lost – and the first who lost it, a long time ago, was the machiavellian Karloutsos, who insists on blaming Demetrios, while it is clear that this Byzantine tactic of “divide and rule” came straight from the Phanar.
You can watch this 4-min video of last Saturday containing Karloutsos’ “ideas” here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WyPAexcSzE9FindfqN39wjTrAmJ-h-Gu/view
In a few words, Karloutsos says the following in the video above: “But I do remember that the one element that played out very strong was the unity of the Church, the one voice of one Archdiocese. Not a “Federation of Metropolises”, but one Archdiocese. And I do believe that that meeting put into the Ecumenical Patriarch’s mind…the fact of having a new Charter…
…Most people don’t know that the last Charter was not at the request of the Ecumenical Patriarch. That was initiated by Archbishop Demetrios…
….So what I believe that what the Archons brought forth at the breakfast meeting with the Patriarch is that we need to have one Archdiocese, everybody working together. That there should not be a “Federation of Metropolises” but a wholeness in the Church. And I believe that’s what the new Charter is going to do, and I believe that the seeds for that conversation for the changing of the Charter came actually from that order. It was an interesting breakfast meeting…
…But I do believe Anthony (Limberakis) that your voice, the voice of John Catsimatides, and Peter Skeadas, Judge Bozonelis, and the others present…
…And I do think that it was very important for the Patriarch to understand that the oneness of the Church in America has to be the oneness. And he was very concerned about the disunity and the voice of the Archons calling for unity. So I commend the Archon leadership for raising that with the Ecumenical Patriarch.
That was very powerful. Thank you!
And so Karloutsos frees the Patriarch (the one who – filled with jealousy and arrogance – undermined AB Iakovos in every possible way and sought absolute control of GOA) from every responsibility for the “Federation of Metropolises”… Which brings us to our first point: If Batholomew wanted to have a new beginning shouldn’t he apply the most basic principle of Christianity and recognize his own mistakes first? Even if it was Arch. Demetrios’ initiative (which I do not think it was the case), doesn’t the Patriarch have any responsibility as the “supervising authority”? Do Karloutsos and Bartholomew believe that they will bring a “new beginning” by disgustingly displaying arrogance one more time? Is this how they show their faith in Christ? Pope John Paul II found the courage to apologize during his 2001 visit to Athens for all the sins committed by Catholics in Greece and their anti-Orthodox past from many centuries ago. But Bartholomew and Karloutsos are riding their high horse and abdicating their own responsibilities? Is this the “Christian” example they want to show to the faithful?
This brings us to the second major point, the lack of adherence to the universality (“Catholic”) principle of Christianity. If you are going to “rebuild” the Church and try a “new beginning” you have to start from the foundations. The first priority should be to solve the “ethnophyletism” question and the fragmentation that it causes (in addition to being totally opposite to the Apostle’s creed). This is a mortal sin and unfortunately, there is no clear vision on how to overcome it. The only “vision” that we can detect in GOA is the unification of all the different “ethnic” churches in America under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This approach has been tried in Europe, resulting in different degrees of failure. Does anyone seriously believe that this is the way to go in America?
The way to go in America, as we have repeatedly suggested, is the establishment of One, Independent, American, Pan-Orthodox Church, which will be self-governed and unified at all levels, following faithfully the teachings of St.Paul. Different ethnic groups can maintain their identity in their schools and their other organizations, but the Church has to become one American Panorthodox Church. In areas where the concentration of specific language speakers is great (who demand to have the liturgy in their own tongue) additional Sunday services can be performed. There is always room – this was always the case – for serving the speakers of different tongues in many ways. The Apostles themselves were miraculously blessed with speaking different tongues to evangelize the masses… But the Church was meant to be “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” – not countless Orthodox denominations in one big country, America…
This Church has to be independent: The Phanar will not be the place where administrative and financial decisions are made for this new American Church. The Phanar will keep very strong (symbolic and spiritual) ties to this new Church and has nothing to worry about if it widens its vision and applies this essential unifying Christian principle in America. On the opposite, it will earn the respect of everyone. Unfortunately in Turkey where Bartholomew lives, respect is demanded and not earned – just take a look at the “Sultan” Erdogan… In America respect is earned and it brings with it support, enormous support, political and financial. Will Batholomew, Karloutsos, and Elpidophoros finally wake up to this “novel” idea and start earning our respect and support? Not a chance at all for the first two of them – they are done, finished, in every way. But AB Elpidophoros has a truly good opportunity (now that he is no longer a first-year immigrant) to adjust to the realities around him and make the transition to the new American Panorthodox Church. Will he take this ONE chance? Or, will he go down with the Titanic?
The (diminishing numbers of) Orthodox faithful in America are yearning for realistic approaches that correspond to our modern circumstances. Yes, the Orthodox Church is burdened with keeping our very old traditions. But if we are going to abandon evangelizing the word and saving souls, what is the meaning of our traditions? They will turn out to be empty words and even more empty practices.
Is there room to save our traditions and adjust them to modern circumstances? Yes, there is and I will attempt just one example: Not too long ago, an excellent cantor, who follows all the details of our glorious Byzantine music, was able to form a unique choir somewhere in the American South by teaching passionately its beauty to (mostly non-Greek) younger students of all Christian denominations. And yes, they were singing also in English and, yes, Byzantine music sounds great in English… Italian maybe the standard language of the Opera, but Opera sounds fantastic in other languages too – it’s the music that makes it great… If one inspired man was able to achieve such a feat, then there must be a way to repeat this achievement elsewhere and in all aspects of our church practices. His name is available to anyone willing to open the doors to fresh ideas… But please, please do not anyone tell me that our traditions are not …compatible with our life in America… Will we open the doors to new people and new ideas? Or we will keep the Church a country club for the rich “Archons” and “Senators” whose main purpose would be to generate “commission income” for Karloutsos & Co.?
And who are these “Senators of Hellenism and Orthodoxy” proposed by AB Elpidophoros? Here is how AB Epidophoros presented them: “But we have not lost our faith! We have not lost our purpose and our mission! Priests have found new ways to minister and the Archdiocese has adapted with new partnerships and expanded resources beyond the conventional. We have every reason to hope in the future, and for better days in 2021.” And he went on to list the 29 “Senators”…. Does anyone see any “novelty” in this?
The idea is clearly a refurbished Karloutsian concept, along the lines of the Archons and Leadership 100… Karloutsos’ mind is stuck at some 20-30 years ago. He sets “forcible retirement limits of age 75” for others, but he does not realize that the first who needs to retire is he himself… What worked 20-30 years ago, when the Church was active and flourishing, is not going to work now, when the Church is sinking. We do not need “Senators” now, we need “Lifeguards”… Take a look at some of the first 29 “Senators” names: Andrew Manatos, Paulette Poulos, Karloutsos, Mrs. Mary Jaharis, Fr. Robert Stephanopoulos, etc, etc… How can anyone build a new Church with the same old materials? Don’t these “Senators” hold other positions or honorary titles within the Church?
Words are not enough to express the frustration of those truly concerned for the future of this Church… I would go on to describe some more ideas on how to build new structures, using concepts that we have seen working among us, from the service itself to preaching to catechism to Byzantine music… But as I explained above: What is the use of building a supposedly new Church on the wrong foundations and using the same old materials?
There is no more time for pointless exercises in futility. There is no more time for lining the pockets of Karloutsos or anyone else… Time is up… The Titanic is sinking…