Evangelos Strongly Condemns Valiotis’ Statement about Church Autocephaly

His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey. (Photo by TNH/Costas Bej, file)

WESTFIELD, NJ – Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey sent an strong message through a special encyclical to the parishes and the entire faithful of the New Jersey Metropolis denouncing Efstathios Valiotis’ speech given during the commencement of Hellenic College & Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (HCHC) on May 18, where he was honored with a honorary doctorate. Valiotis called for “autocephaly” of the Archdiocese of America and was critical about the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the National Herald reported.

Evangelos’ entire encyclical follows:

“My Beloved in the Lord, this past Saturday, the joyous 2018 Commencement Exercise and celebrations of our beloved Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology were marred when one of the invited speakers, Mr. Efstathios Valiotis, the recipient of an honorary doctorate from our School, took the opportunity to slander our Mother Church, the Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. And this, while he was expressing his ‘gratitude’ for the high honor bestowed upon him by one of the flagship institutions of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and, by extension, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself. It is here, at this sacred venue, this Greek Orthodox Institution of Higher Learning and the only Greek Orthodox College and School of Theology in the Western Hemisphere, which for almost eight decades has been educating and preparing the Reverend Clergy of the Church at large, that the honoree brazenly declared that our Archdiocese should immediately sever Her ties with the Patriarchate and declare autocephaly.

“I, as the Metropolitan of this sacred Metropolis of New Jersey, an Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, reject and denounce the position and statements of Mr. Valiotis, whose sentiments against the Ecumenical Patriarchate are very well known, as he has vocalized them repeatedly and publicly over the past decades. In addition, I denounce the silence of those present at the graduation, as Mr. Valiotis was allowed to offer this most deplorable speech without interruption or objection.

“We, the Clergy and Laity, of the Sacred Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey affirm our support and our continued devotion to the Mother Church of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Spiritual Leader of over 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. Our Mother Church is already beleaguered and, in the words of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, lives in a state of martyrdom, yet, it continues to unceasingly offer martyria to the divine and sacred Truths of the Gospel of Christ to the four corners of the world. Unlike Arius, Nestorius and all Heretics, who fought against the teachings and traditions of our Orthodox Faith from within, we the faithful Orthodox Christians of this sacred Metropolis, who have received and felt the motherly embrace and love of our Mother Church of Constantinople, must remain united and vocal in expressing our love, convictions and support for our Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Center of worldwide Orthodoxy. In light of recent developments in the Archdiocese, we should be thankful that we are led and overseen by, and are accountable to, the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople.

“As a spiritual son of the Ecumenical Patriarchate since birth, as a clergyman for more than thirty years and as your Metropolitan for the past fifteen, I was most disconcerted by Mr. Valiotis’ statement that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a Church ‘without purpose or mission.’ To the contrary, the unceasing labors of our Spiritual Leaders and Patriarchs and the devoted Hierarchy of the Church of Constantinople throughout the centuries, especially during these past 27 years under the Leadership of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to establish Orthodoxy here in America and everywhere are the very enactment of the mission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has never been simply a local Church in Constantinople, but is rather the focus of Orthodox unity around the globe.

“A Church without purpose would not endeavor to convene the Great and Holy Council of 2016. A Church without mission would not be shepherding the growth of Orthodoxy on five continents and among many nations. A Church without a mission or purpose would not resurrect the holy Metropolises of Smyrna, Prousa, Kydonion, and Selyvria over the past decade, and establish the new Metropolises of Canada, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Spain and Portugal, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea over the past twenty years. Furthermore, Mr. Valiotis’ statement that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a Church “without a flock” is preposterous and false; as the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey, as well as millions of Orthodox Christians in the United States of America and throughout the world, both Greek and non-Greek, consider themselves the sheep of that Ecumenical flock.

“As your Metropolitan and Spiritual Father, I pray that we all remain united in Christ, as one, in our faithfulness and devotion to Christ’s Holy Church and to our Apostolic inheritance which stems from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We as Orthodox Christians living in America must regard our Mother Church with gratitude for She has guided our growth and prosperity thus far, and will continue to do so in the future. We must not follow one’s matricidal feelings or sentiments, but rather as loving children, we must support our Mother, who continues to embrace all of us, keeping us united in the Faith, shining forth the light which illumines our heart and our lives, the light which radiates from the ever-glowing and radiant Phanar in Constantinople.

“As we approach the great feast of Pentecost, when the nations of the world were united through the descent of the Holy Spirit, we must be proud and maintain our allegiance to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for it is truly exactly that, Ecumenical and a loving mother which unites us in Orthodox service to our One Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Praying that the All-Holy Spirit continue to be and dwell in and through us as faithful members of the Great and Holy Church of Christ and the Mother Church of Constantinople.”

29 Comments

  1. It is too bad that we started our partisan church politics again instead of a discussion/conversation on the substance of the issue, which is how we can survive in this country by not being able to organize ourselves and act according to real life in the USA and not as seen by outsiders.
    I did not expect this Metropolitan to see things differently, it’s obvious he owes allegiance to Fanari. But Fanari is partially (to a great extent) responsible for our chaotic present conditions. Just the fact that we have Metropolitans accountable to Fanari and not our own “Ekklesia” (clergy-laity) is indicative of serious and systemic problems.

  2. Much as I understand Met. Evangelos’s sentimental attachment to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the EP is NOT the “Spiritual Leader of over 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.” This mis-characterization is responsible for widespread wrong thought, that the EP has (or should have) a role analogous to the Pope of Rome, i.e., an “Orthodox Pope.”

    The EP only has spiritual jurisdiction for the tiny numbers of faithful in his own flock: in the Church in Constantinople, in the Dodecanese, Mount Athos, the GOAA, the GOA of Australia, the GOA of Central/South America, and his other small metropolises. The EP has no direct oversight of Orthodox Christians in the Church of Russia, in the Church of Romania, in the Church of Serbia, in the Church of Greece, in the Church of Cyprus, etc.

    Indeed, he has no direct oversight over the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Christians.

    In the case of a Church Council, he would preside, in his role as “first among equals.” But that is it.

    Somehow, this role of presiding in a Church Council as “first among equals” translates in many minds into “Spiritual Leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.”

    Indeed, given the EP’s current overtures toward the West and his threats of creating a schismatic jurisdiction in Ukraine out of thin air, most Orthodox Christians in the world do not pay much attention to what he says.

    The EP is the ruling bishop for only a tiny minority of Orthodox worldwide.

    He may have played a larger role on the world stage during the Cold War when must of the Orthodox World lived behind the Iron Curtain, and when the American CIA actively propped up his role as a buffer against the Communist lands. However now, with the amazing resurgence of the Christian faith in former communist lands and the collapse of communism nearly 30 years ago, the EP does not have the international significance that he once had.

    In my opinion, it is this latter reality — the reality that the EP no longer has the international significance that he once had, that he really has influence over a tiny minority of Orthodox worldwide — that many self-proclaimed influential Greeks and Greek-Americans have such a hard time dealing with.

    1. Ακριβώς. I am greek living in Bulgaria, they suffered from Greek language nationalism and were excomunicated for 70 years by phanar.
      B is a academic spouting nice words at global international meetings, mostly to equally becoming vacuous vatican two Catholics.
      Indeed just as papal spiritual delusion can be measure in inverse proportionally to loss of temporal from 1970 uniates Italy, ditto for Phanar.
      What did phanar ever do for the bastardised westernised orthropraxy of GOA worship and us of english.. Compare with Patriarch Tikhon when bishop in USA. .

      1. No, you are a Komitatzis, who persecuted the Greeks of Macedonia in 860, 1014, 1342, 1878, 1885, 1913, and 1947

  3. Nonetheless even with his very low influence over Orthodoxy in other lands including Greece, the international community still recognizes him as the spiritual leader of all Christian Orthodox throughout the world. This is why a move to Manhatten would be a smart move and leaving a few bishops back in Constantinople to run the churches there and keep its status as the Ancient headquarters of our church.

    1. “…the international community still recognizes him as the spiritual leader of all Christian Orthodox throughout the world.”

      It depends which “international community” you are talking about. In America and in Western Europe, this may possibly be the case, but because influential and wealthy Greeks/Greek-Americans push this distortion of reality onto the media there — a media which knows little to nothing (and cares little to nothing) about the Orthodox faith. The Western media are far more interested in political machinations than in Christ and His Church.

      But talk about the “international community” in Eastern Europe or in Asia or elsewhere in the world, then not so much. The Church of Russia is far more influential in those parts of the world. And with the fall of communism, the Church of Russia is gradually becoming far more influential in America and in Western Europe.

      Regardless, recognizing the EP as “as the spiritual leader of all Christian Orthodox throughout the world” is a recognition that distorts reality. It’s like recognizing me as the Queen of England. Makes no sense in reality. Plus, he has no effect on anyone outside of his immediate jurisdiction. He holds a position in no way comparable to the Pope of Rome. Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic ecclesiologies are entirely different.

      God commands us to live in and deal with reality, not in fantasy.

  4. I am truly amazed that Evangelos was able to insert his head so deep in the EP’s rear end without it becoming permanently stuck there. Perhaps he should get a grand new title to go with his grand old ego – Sycophantios Megas.

    So much material here, where to start. Most scary is Evangelos’ frontal assault on the Archbishop for not interrupting the speech in question. In most of America it is the custom to politely listen to all points of view, even those we disagree with. Evangelos, the Tony Soprano of bishops, would have preferred to see the speaker booed off the stage and rushed out of the hall.

    Sadly, our bishop is making the problem worse for the EP and further alienating the EP from the American Church. Greek-Americans have historically loved and respected the institution of the EP. We are saddened to see the current occupant of the throne throw away his moral authority by doing things like blessing the Turkish troops invading Syria and turning himself into Erdogan’s lackey.

    Many would love to see the EP leave Turkey, where he presides over a dwindling flock of less than 2,000 and some crumbling buildings, and move to America where he could preside over a Church hundreds of times larger and truly work to build the Church in the New World. Here he could be free and speak with the weight of true moral authority instead of being a Turkish mouthpiece.

    Evangelos is so blinded by arrogance and love of power and a desire to be Archbishop that he cannot see the legitimate concerns that Greek-Americans have with the current mess or feel the pain felt by God fearing people who are saddened by what their Church is becoming. Rather he just wants to the pit bull of Constantinople. He does not have a clue why our Church is shrinking instead of growing and the young people are leaving in droves.

    Our Archdiocese is collapsing as it is. We need a successor to the Archbishop who can lead and inspire and make people want to return to the Church of their roots. May God send us such a man.

  5. @Michael
    “He does not have a clue why our Church is shrinking instead of growing and the young people are leaving in droves.” And he doesn’t care to know why the ecclesia is shrinking – none of the hierarchs do. They are oblivious to it all. They live in an alternative reality.

    1. I agree, so many Greek people I have know for most of my life are not members of any church and rarely attend church. Some attend evangelical mega churches, others married outside the church and are not involved, most are just not interested in church. The church needs to address this issue and reach out to
      lapsed Orthodox and show them who we are and what we offer them. Otherwise we will see churches starting to close in a few years.

  6. “We, the Clergy and Laity….,” how is it Metropolitan Evangelos can speak for us, the “Laity?” We, the “Laity” in America, build and support Greek Orthodox churches. Therefore, our voices should never be silenced.

    Metropolitan Evangelos and all Greek Orthodox “Clergy,” it’s time to listen to, rather than speaking for the “Laity” or risk further church shrinkage.

  7. Maria you are so right! Evangelos is out of touch, I think he speaks for very little of the laity and only for his own ambition.

    It is interesting that every time you see him in a Greek newspaper, online or otherwise, he is cutting ribbons at new diners or grand openings for insurance companies or car dealerships or some new business owned by successful Greeks. I suspect he never leaves without a fakelo in hand.

    In all his time on the throne, have you ever seen him welcoming people at a homeless shelter, serving people at a food kitchen, ministering in a prison or a sober living house? Have you ever seen him doing any of the things that Christ did and gave us as examples when he walked the earth?

    The first time I have seen him get excited about anything is this little phony tantrum he had to catch the attention of the EP.

    I take my kids on weekends to serve food and spend time with people in two of our local homeless shelters. We go about two weekends a month. There are some volunteers there who go almost every day and give much more than we do. There are volunteers there who have very little but give from their need to keep these shelters open. I tell my kids to look into their eyes and they will see true icons, reflecting the divine uncreated light of God. I ask you, truthfully, do any of you look at this hierarch and see an icon of our Lord? I ask that he speak for himself, he certainly does not speak for me.

    1. So wonderful words. I am greek but Sadly ASHAMED of my country what had become and of not so much church of Greece and,Ieronimos good man and does much, but stewardship of EP actually means churches not run well or as should be. pretend churches with foreign oversight. . I know uk and thank God worship wise has kept tradition totally although use of english slow but coming amd much good liturgical work done via byzantine chant in english. but not run well at all and I fear for reality when Brexit causes Greeks to leave to see how many english cypriots left. I note new Romanian church in Southampton Uk has priest from Spain, Romanian with family, working as engineer speaking fluent english, and packed with young and old in former Anglican church. This is where when there in July will have the memorial for parents, not in the greek church where we worshiped with priest refusing to come to hospital to give my mother the Sacraments before death, which were given by roman Catholic chaplan and priest demanding to quote,”” 300 pounds sterling, before allowing body in church ‘ I actually for funeral got a non greek priest from London, two byzantine chanters and open coffin as should be NOT CLOSSED, EVEN UKRAINIAN UNIATS KNOW THIS AS ME AS PSYCHOLOGIST TOO and service in cemetry chapel not in church where my mother worshiped Sunday by Sunday. TELL ME ABOUT THIS CHURCH!! Yes there are good clergy in USA and uk, I know some, but system is past it’s sell by date That Anglican church is dying too u know.
      How most greek Americans worship is for me as an Orthodox, intolerable, let alone BANAL 19c pseudo byzantine kitsch they exporting to korea and Albania now with spirit of greekfest. Relevant to who. I think what i think of this church can be sumed up when friends took me to so called greek restaurant in New York for my name day for insipid pretend greek food. When i got brought baklava with icecream and greek coffee with milk I wanted to cry. Sort of metaphor for church, yes?!👍
      Thank God I live in Bulgaria.

  8. First, there is no such thing as “world Orthodoxy” as those who propose the EP is its head would have us believe. Autocephalous churches are just that, self ruled with their own “head”. Even in Europe and England the Russians probably have more parishes than the Greeks. Second, concerning wealthy Greeks/Greek Americans who like to think they are calling the shots, they need to take a step back and take in the reality that is staring them in the face. Seventy five per cent (75%) of the marriages in the GOAA for the last generation, and possibly longer, have been of the so-called mixed type, Greek/non-Greek, Greek Orthodox/heterodox. This fact is ignored at the peril of the well-being of the faith.

  9. Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco also issued a statement -before Evangelos did – this newspaper chose not to run it. It preached forgiveness. The Eparichal Synod here should ask for Evangelos’ resignation for such a hateful encyclical. Although we don’t all have to agree with Mr. Valiotis, the last time I checked his remarks were made in the United States where we have something called freedom of speech. Evidentially Evangelos forgets he doesn’t supersede the Constitution. Why doesn’t he go live in Turkey and let’s see how that goes. Finally it’s a shame to see how low this Archdiocese has fallen.

  10. Evangelos is neither churchman nor pastor. He is a leading member of an enterprise steeped in deceit, malfeasance, and misdeeds. He’s a bully and a narcissist. He’s hardly a leader and very much at the center of why our churches aren’t prospering.

    Priests in his metropolis detest him. If allowed to choose assignments, priests avoid his metropolis above all. His gluttony (overeating) is the subject of disgust and dismay. He’s a “double order of Eggs Benedict, double bacon, followed by a Belgian waffle” type of special glutton. For years, he spent more time at the all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet off some NJ exit than at his office doing any work. Finally, even the wiley Chinese had to tell him not to come back. He’s abusive in all things.

    He’s the furthest from the model of Christ that we have in the US. Everything he does is calculated to advance his own interests. This new encyclical (to give encyclicals a bad name) is a perfect example. He wants the Patriarch to appoint His Emmenseness at Archbishop of what’s left. He’s a awful, awful human being who needs to sent to Syria or Afghanistan.

    IGNORE AND SHAME HIM.

  11. Publishing an extremely unflattering portrayal of a Metropolitan by someone who hides behind “lower Manhattan cynic” reinforces the view by many that your newspaper is a “rag”
    These gluttony portrayals may be true or not, but it’s basically a smear job when it’s from someone who hides behind anonymity.
    Sad

  12. Metropolitan Evangelos,,, haven’t you heard,
    has word not arrived to the Metropolitans?…..

    Dictator Methodios of Boston wants to be the only one who is worshipped! He wants and must have the final word on everything! He is better then his Flock, I guess in his eyes God didn’t create us all as equals! He’s going around destroying One Greek Church , One Greek Community at a time. Because it’s his way or the highway, you’ll better get on board before you get him mad, for Dictator Methodios to allow this man to be honored while making a statement against his all mighty Bartholomew. Where was this speech given , yes that’s right in Methodios Home. He did nothing but smile! and continue on awarding this man with an honorary Doctorate from the most holy school in the Western Hemisphere. Hope it makes you all think Twice about the future of this Religion!

  13. Nobody, as I can tell, has mentioned the existence and work of the “Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.” If there is any future for Orthodoxy in this country, it would be in uniting all legitimate Orthodox elements with the blessing of every “mother” Church; otherwise, our survival is doubtful!

    1. Fr.Basil
      Why would the other Orthodox churches get involved with a Greek Orthodox Church in America that is plagued with scandal and corruption? Why would the other Orthodox churches get involved with a Greek Orthodox church in America that is sailing away from salvation instead of towards it? Very risky on their part…
      The inner circle of the Greek Orthodox church in America is missing one important element – Christ…
      And if our leaders are not in proper alignment with Jesus Christ, they will not be in proper alignment with “us” (the greek orthodox faithful), other human beings, and nature.
      #TimeForAChristCenteredChurchAgain

      1. Michael great points, let me give you one more reason that gives pause to any other Orthodox Jurisdiction merging with the GOA. We has mismanaged and polluted Orthodoxy in North America with an out of control “Ephraimite” cult. They have operated a “shadow Church” within the GOA for close to 30 years. We, the GOA, have exported this disastrous “theology” to other Orthodox Jurisdictions. We have made our problems their problems.

    2. Fr I know things have improved a bit but u need to get your liturgical house in order and worship as rest of Orthodox church with voice alone as do the churches of Slav origin in your country. AND IN ENGLISH. and not leave the laity like thearter goes at a kitsch performance. And u have exported this banality to korea, as korean students told me studying here in Bulgaria, and you have also brought this to Albania .
      I am totally at home in West amd if u want a change I suggest a bozouki liturgy or Organ.? . Handel, Poulenc. Etc. Go attend an Anglican even song in Uk Cathedral.Not the Tikey Zes kitsch u profer. And that is the posh end!! ITS DATED! If a priest does not understand Orthodox worship what can i say? 😀
      And what is it with those huge dog collars amd 19th undertaker suits not seen in Europe these past two generations.?If u do not want the rason, wear normal clothes for God sake . .. And filling the Church with rigid pews, destroying the spontaneous feeling of Orthodox worship. Yes have seats they are needed but as in Slav churches and here, not in rigid pews.
      And i do not worship hair and beard and Parish clergy not monks but a neat full beard at least as befits the dignity of the priest. And we living in a bearded age, and an end to greekfest mentality. A borgeoise church where sacrifice and fasting and prostation not wanted. Yes u are dead right fr. They not wanted in Kardashian USA. If she had greek blood and not Armenian, Los Angeles Cathedral would make a nice back drop.
      Last weekend in Ireland the Catholic church was shown to be voiceless because it had lost it’s moral authority. We stand in a de -christianising west where even the semblence of Christian life dead. Yr evangelicals with their zionism are the new old judaizers heresy are they not? Do they ever read the Gospels?
      The major faith pseudo episcopalian mentality is long irrelevant.
      I live here in Bulgaria where for almost 50 yrs there was military atheism and in Russia for over seven decades but the Greatest danger to the Church as Fr Alexander SCHMEMANN wrote is the secularization of the altar and the removal of the spiritual struggle and Cross from the Church..
      Fr it may well be the Church will die in USA. America does not even want facts at the moment let alone fasting, prostation and prayer as opposed to the usual protestant EMMOTIONAL tear jerker, and I speak as a psychologist.

      I cannot know if Fr Ephraim has gone beyond the tradition, and we all fall to.rise again. And it may be that anything actually Orthodox may be a shock to greekfest and Tikey The young and not so young are walking away from all this pseudo greek and pseudo byzantine facade with no concern for their concerns or needs.
      As u know the word Crisis in greek means being about judging, making a choice. Constantinople is dead. The Patriarch a good well meaning professor, as my kumbaros in Athens says where ordinary lay people hearing his academic words,run in other direction because they know, as with a celeb UN do Gooder, the only good done is to the celeb bank balance. It is this hollowed out centre now seeking as Papacy did after italian unification, greater powers, that causes the miss rule by bureaucratic monk bishops living busisman life style.and the decline of the Church

  14. Perhaps I am unqualified to speak on the ecclesiastical, but after decades being involved in the church at all levels a layman could be, I will add two salient quotes:
    “It is a rare person, whose ideals differ from their financial interest”, and “If the Evil One would come to snare you, he would wear the robes of a priest.”

    The Archdiocese only revealed their habitual misappropriation of funds because they had no choice at this time. And despite their heartfelt and most sincere mea culpas, they will to return to form as soon as the dust settles. IF we allow it. They will run the church completely into the ground, as they have been for many, many years. They are either clueless or could care less. How about we make their salaries and pensions ‘performance based’ ?

    1. They have not even offered mea culpas. No one has apologized or acknowledged any personal responsibility. Plenty of finger-pointing at others, but not a single one saying, “Yes, I was part of this problem, and I’m sorry.”

  15. The metropolitans and the patriarch don’t want autocephaly, either for the GOA by itself or as part of a larger Orthodox grouping in the US. The patriarch because he doesn’t want to even think about losing his biggest piece of the pie, for reasons of prestige and economics. The metropolitans because they would then be responsible to the head of the autocephalous church, an archbishop, who would be very present in their metropolises, instead of only having to suck up to a leader who resides half way around the world. As Metropolitan Evangelos, as a very recently elected hierarch at that, said to Archbishop Demetrios in a synod meeting at the Archdiocese: you know, your eminence, you need my permission to come into my metropolis to conduct a service. It is debatable what was worse, Evangelos’ comment or the fact that none of the other metropolitans said not a word when that happened. Why, because they all benefited from Evangelos’ insolence.

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