By Robert Arakaki, Ph.D.
His address at the International Religious Freedom Summit
Archbishop Elpidophoros has caused consternation among the Orthodox faithful by the speech that he gave at the International Religious Freedom Summit held in Washington D.C., 15 July 2021. In the speech he stated:
When you elevate one religion above all others, it is as if you decide there is only one path leading to the top of the mountain. But the truth is you simply cannot see the myriads of paths that lead to the same destination, because you are surrounded by boulders of prejudice that obscure your view.
This particular passage was excerpted and made into a widely circulated meme on the Internet. Some saw this excerpt and took it to mean that Elpidophoros was suggesting that there are many ways to salvation. It generated a flurry of criticism on various blog sites. I was unaware of the offending paragraph when I was asked for my thoughts on Elpidophoros’ speech. I read through the text of his speech twice. I was a bit baffled by the wordiness of the text and the highfalutin language he used. I finally found the stinking sardine in the pile of waffle (Elpidophoros’ speech) thanks to the Monomakhos article and a comment from a clerical friend.
At first I didn’t catch the remark about “myriads of paths” mostly because Elpidophoros gave the speech in what appears to have been a secular, political context—the International Religious Freedom Summit. As an American I am very sympathetic to a secular state and to religious pluralism. As a Christian I believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father. As an Orthodox Christian I believe that the Orthodox Church is the one true Church. So how does one speak as an Orthodox Christian to a diverse non-Orthodox setting like the Summit? Answer: With care and nuance.
I gained a better understanding from a YouTube video in which former U.S. Senator, now U.S. Ambassador, Sam Brownback was interviewed on EWTN about the Summit. Brownback explained that the Summit is bringing together major leaders of the different faiths from all over the world. He went on to explain: “We’re not talking theology.” That gave me a different perspective on the Summit—a more positive one. Too many of the conflicts in the world today have been exacerbated by religious ideology. We need religious leaders to encourage their followers to peacefully coexist with their neighbors of different faith backgrounds. In my opinion, Archbishop Elpidophoros could have done a better job of bracketing his comment about having only one path leading to the top of the mountain, i.e., that he was talking about state-religion relations, not about theology in the usual sense. Loosely read, Elpidophoros’ mountain metaphor can be construed as an allusion to a universalist soteriology—an affront to Orthodoxy. Read from a secular, political angle, it can be understood as advocating the protection of religious freedom, something American Orthodox Christians can affirm. It seems to me that, unlike Ambassador Brownback, who spoke with nuance and sensitivity, Archbishop Elpidophoros stumbled in his speech and gave unnecessary offense to some Orthodox Christians.
As I see it, Elpidophoros’ challenge is how to speak to a non-Orthodox audience while being faithful to Orthodox Tradition. I believe that it is very desirable that Hagia Sophia be restored as an Orthodox house of worship. However, for Elpidophoros to drag in the Ukrainian mess and to make a veiled swipe against the Moscow Patriarchate’s alliance with the Kremlin is to open a huge can of worms. How does Elpidophoros reconcile his veiled swipe at the Moscow Patriarchate with the historic Orthodox teaching of symphonia? From the political or governmental perspective, there is a certain confusing ambiguity in Archbishop Elpidophoros’ speech: Is he speaking as a leader of Orthodox Christians who reside in the U.S. or on behalf of Patriarch Bartholomew, who resides in Istanbul, Turkey? And, who has a vested interest in the Ukrainian-Russian controversy? Put another way, does Elpidophoros speak for us American Orthodox Christians? It has been two years since he migrated to the United States in 2019.
Archbishop Elpidophoros’ importance at the Summit lies in the fact that he represents and leads the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in the U.S. — the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. There is a certain irony in Elpidophoros’ presence at an international summit on religious freedom when he, in his capacity as Patriarch Bartholomew’s personal agent, perpetuates Greek colonialism in the U.S.. It is time for there to be an American Orthodox Church. It is time that externally imposed hierarchs be returned to Istanbul where they were born and for an American-born hierarch to be elevated as primate for the autocephalous American Orthodox Church.
Robert Arakaki, Ph.D.
Political scientist and Asian-American convert to Orthodoxy
Originally published at Handwritings on the Wall: Musings of Orthodox Thinkers
I appreciate that the author of this article is trying to give the Archbishop every benefit of the doubt, but we have seen too many examples to the contrary. Whether he is marching with BLM, or heaping praise on the Patriarch as the “first without equals”, or presenting a humanitarian award to a layman from Ukraine who calls himself a Metropolitan while his so-called “church” violently beats women and elderly…the Archbishop always let’s us know exactly where he stands. Knowing the history of the rabid ecumenism that flows through the veins of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, there is no doubt in my mind that the Archbishop was making a theological statement. In fact, I believe it was outright heresy. Furthermore, the author also tries to throw shade on Sam Brownback, one of the greatest advocates and architects of the Church-destroying schism that EP Bartholomew created in Ukraine.
Lord have mercy!
AB Elpidoforos has proven to be biggest embarrassment representing Greek Church in America and must be forced to Resign ASAP!
His list of blunders & sins is unbecoming of
he who wears the Archbishop robes,
& we know from reliable sources,
this AB is not living a chaste holy life.
What’s disturbing is even when I mention this to former AB Demetrios, an old friend, he too admits he’s heard it & looked quite saddened, like the Church is held hostage by Leftist forces & there’s nothing we can do.
The Archbishop’s passage, in my humble opinion, was clearly taken out of context. And if one reads the entire speech and STILL thinks the Archbishop was wrong, then that person doesn’t have a very good understanding of Orthodoxy. It is comical to read some of the comments on Facebook as well as this article regarding the passage in question. Comical, but at the same time, very sad. There is nothing wrong with what the Archbishop said. In fact, any learned Orthodox theologian understands EXACTLY what he said. In a nutshell, Orthodoxy may not be the ONLY road to salvation, but it is the only SURE road to salvation. It’s that simple. Read what I just wrote again, then read the Archbishop’s passage. Then read them both again, and repeat the process until the light bulb goes off. It’s amazing how one can pretend to be a theologian on Facebook and criticize things he knows nothing about.
Apostolos you must be the Bishop & your defending fellow embarrassment for an Archbishop Elpidoforos, right?
Both of you should be removed or please just go join the disgraced Episcopalians.
It’s only matter of time Elpidoforos causes more gay sex scandals for GOARCH & people leave vomiting.
Zoey, whether I am the bishop or not is irrelevant. Why don’t you respond directly to what I wrote? Why don’t you try to rip apart my comment regarding the Archbishop’s statement? Did you read the COMPLETE text of his speech to understand the broader message? I welcome any disagreement, as long as you back it up with facts. Instead, you and others like you are merely “attacking” Elpidophoros probably because he was brought here from the Phanar to lead the flock of America instead of an “American” bishop or metropolitan being selected from within. Everyone thought the next Archbishop was going to be selected from America and we would be on our way to independence. Let’s make one thing clear: there is NO SUCH THING as an “American Orthodox Church”. We are the Greek Orthodox Church IN America under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And God help us if we WERE to be granted autocephaly and become disconnected from the Mother Church. Do you know what would happen? We would lose our Faith, plain and simple. We would become a watered-down version of Roman Catholicism or Protestantism. Iakovos knew it (no, he did NOT want autocephaly, as some people erroneously think), Spyridon CERTAINLY knew it, and even poor, soft-spoken Demetrios knew it. It appears to me that most readers of the Helleniscope are self-proclaimed theologians, thinking that they know better than the extremely-educated Elpidophoros (how many languages do YOU speak, Zoey?) and are calling for his head on a platter. You arbitrarily bring up “gay sex scandals” (which, actually, have been going on before Elpidophoros got here) as if he’s responsible for them. Allow me to inform you that Archbishop Elpidophoros IS, in fact, a Phanariote, which means he will always be ten steps ahead of everyone else. He’s only been Archbishop for two years and already he “has killed the American church”, as one “expert” commenter has said?? Are you kidding me? He’s trying to SAVE Orthodoxy in America and some people are too stupid to realize it. (Oh, I forgot… because they know better…) On the one hand, I am amused by the comments on Facebook and in comment sections like this one. I always get a good laugh at the “off with his head” attitude of people who think they’re in Wonderland. On the other hand, it brings tears to my eyes to see just how ignorant many members of the Orthodox flock really are.
Apostole, the meme that created the supposed “misconception” was published by the organizers of the Summit – and they would not do it without the OK from Elpidophoros and his assistants who proved, once again, how incompetent they are. The general perception among the faithful is that the bunch of half-educated so-called priests that Elpidophoros brought to NY from Turkey and Greece are totally unable to support any ministry of this Church and they are daily causing trouble. They are here because the number one priority of Elpidophoros is not ministry but undercover political action – and therefore he needs a secretive “circle of trust” around him. So you have to blame them for the “misconception”.
Unless it was not a misconception… I remind you that initially, Elpidophoros answered the priests who criticized him for attending the BLM rally in Brooklyn by saying that “he was new in America and did not know”. A few days later his “handlers” forced him to correct course and now in every opportunity, he proclaims his connection with the communist thugs of BLM who, by the way, destroyed $2 billion worth of property last summer and injured or killed many Americans.
As for “losing the true Orthodox faith away from the Patriarchate”, I am hoping you realize everybody is laughing at you… Just a few days ago, the despicable Emmanuel of Chalcedon, (the disgraced former Metropolitan of France better known as “Emmanuela”) went to the Vatican and declared his wish for a common Easter celebration with the Catholics… No, we will not lose our faith if we move away from the thieves of the Patriarchate. On the opposite, we will gain in faith and Christian ethos…
The faith in times of supreme challenges as the times we live today was saved by the faithful clergy and the many faithful people. Do I need to remind Markos Evgenikos and how he – by himself – saved Orthodoxy from Papism at the most difficult of circumstances…
Your problem is that the great majority of the priests and the faithful seek the truth which they can find in Helleniscope and a few other websites. And your biggest problem is that the truth has a bad habit: no matter how much you try to hide it, it always surfaces. If you are truly Apostolos you should keep that in mind because Helleniscope has not published even half of your trespasses…
Bishop Apostolos who cares about speaking many languages?
Not impressive bc I’ve met countless foreigners who speak “many languages “ & when speaking English like the hick Elpidoforos, they all have a problem:
they don’t really understand true meaning of English words;
they don’t get our way of speaking, thinking etc.,
in other words as an American raised Greek Orthodox, even if I go to Greece or Cyprus & speak Greek which I technically do, I still don’t have grasp of true meaning of much of Greek language.
Bc I haven’t been raised there !
Elpi is a Turk – he has no business being a leader in America.
Pure & simple, that’s why he continues to do stupid stuff.
Elps has got to step down ASAP
When it comes to religious freedom in Turkey, Pat. Bartholomew, Ab Elpidoforos and their underlings owe a big “Thank you” to Russia and President Putin for the re-opening of Panagia Soumela which was first opened in 2015 and it will reopen (after renovation) and will be celebrated on August 15 this year. This was the biggest advancement in their “religious freedom” issues in Turkey for the past century. On the other hand, Karloutsos’ friends at the State Department did NOT manage to open the Halki Seminary since the time it closed in 1971 for 50 years!! They did nothing even when they had power over the Turkish authorities!. Recently, with no power at all over the Turks, they watched as Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque… AB Elpidophoros should put the blame squarely where it belongs – period.
This article’s points are well-conceived. Bishops are consecrated to be guardians of the Faith, “rightly dividing the Word of Truth”. When Abp. Elpidophoros makes comments that border on heresy and cause alarm, then the regular Dimitri in the pew will feel uneasy. When he takes a swipe at the polity of a rival Church, then the common Sergei standing in prayer may feel offended. In both cases, the archbishop’s comments were uncalled for. He would do well to walk them back by giving an explanation, or simply issue an apology for his lack of decorum.
I think he would do well to resign as Archbishop of America and return to Turkey where he can go back to being the Metropolitan of Bursa.
Bottom line is this : We are the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of AMERICA, not GREECE or CYPRUS or TURKEY.
Elpi, Demetrios, Spyridon, and even Iakovos never fully absorbed and lived that fact. The last archbishop to “invest” in America was the great Athenagoras. In office during the Great Depression and the spin up to WW II and seeing the rise of Stalin and Hitler and Kamal Ataturk, he knew that there was NO PLACE WHERE ORTHODOXY COULD BE FREE EXCEPT THE USA.
All the others saw themselves as ethnarch foreign Ambassadors of all things Greek and Byzantine. Elpi has killed the American church just as the Democrats have killed capitalism, the economy, free speech, the family, masculinity and femininity, education, and the military. The results speak for themselves. You’re on your own from here on in.
American: excellent salient points !
AB Elpidoforos must resign!
American Greek Orthodox should start a Petition – start protesting outside NY Archdiocese, start writing letters &
stop giving money
At the very least— Iakovos was a republican
The legendary Archbishop Iakavos made biggest mistake in not defrocking Rev. Alex Karloutsos –
who’s supreme arrogance brought down the church!
Alex boy shouldn’t be wearing anymore the priestly collar.
Frankly, Alex boy did far worse than the defrocked &
disgraced Rev. George Passias.
Apostolos— if he’s trying to save whatever you surmise– the – politics towards the extreme left-wing -even if they are a gross perception– these perceptions are what has riled a bigger percentage of faithful— a really bigger majority than the people you hang with…. some are silent- talk in small groups–in case a 1% hears and cancels them… it’s like pre-war Berlin in the 30’s– people are scared… and they don’t feel that the woke-ness of the church leaders will help neither them or the generations to come…. It’s a lose/lose…. Perceptions are everything…….