Open letter to the Archbishop of America and the Greek Orthodox community from Michael Huffington.
As I sit in my living room listening to Pavarotti and looking west at the setting sun I can’t help but wonder what is going on in the mind of our Archbishop Dimetrios. Here is a man who was born in 1928, has had a distinguished career as a professor and who has led the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese for almost 19 years. One would think that at the age of 90 he would joyously retire and turn over the reigns of the Archdiocese to a younger prelate… especially having just presided over one of the biggest financial improprieties to hit the Archdiocese in recent memory.
For those of you who don’t know me I am a former Episcopalian, businessman and Congressman who received the sacrament of chrismation along with my two daughters at the Patriarchate in 1996. Since that time I have poured my financial resources into ancient and new monasteries in Greece and America as well as into the parishes of Bethesda, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and now Miami. I love Christ and wish to help His Church prosper and grow. So I write this open letter to the Archbishop and my fellow Orthodox Christians with a somewhat heavy heart. It is never easy to tell someone you love that it is past time for them to step down. But for the good of our Church it is time for His Eminence to gracefully move on. Even the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict, (who was born in 1927 one year before Archbishop Dimetrios) did so at the age of 85. If a Pope who is a brilliant theologian can give up the Throne of Saint Peter at the Vatican certainly our Archbishop can also relinquish his throne.
Every year in church we have heard the parable of the talents (Mathew 25: 14-30). The Patriarchate bestowed Archbishop Dimetrios an opportunity in 1999 to head the Archdiocese and for a period of time he first stabilized and then helped the Church to grow. However over the past several years he has not only buried the talents that were given to him but worse yet he has lost some of them. This is evidenced by the misappropriation of funds that were separately raised and designated for the construction of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine located at the World Trade Center. Construction had to be halted last year as the funds had been diverted to cover other expenses within the Archdiocese. This malfeasance became a national and very public embarrassment for our Archdiocese. And unfortunately the responsibility for this situation lies directly at the feet of the Archbishop. In the parable when the servant didn’t increase the talent that he had been given the master had him banished from his lands. This message is relevant to our present situation and I pray that His Eminence will take it to heart.
Over the past year there have been private conversations within parishes as well as articles in the press that it was time for new leadership. Then late last month I read that the Patriarch had requested that Archbishop Dimetrios tender his resignation but that His Eminence had refused to do so. I was astonished at his response to a request from the head of 300 million Orthodox Christians, and I was in shock. How could a servant of God who is a priest not follow the request of his superior? What kind of example is this to the Bishops, the priests, the parishioners and the children of our beloved Church? Is it now ok for children to disobey their parents? Or for priests to disobey their Bishops?
I hope and pray that Archbishop Dimetrios will reconsider his response to the Patriarch, and that he will put the Church first and gracefully retire rather than stubbornly and selfishly hold on to power. Does he really believe that he is the only prelate capable of being Archbishop of America? Isn’t it conceivable that any good that he could have brought to this office has already been provided over the past 19 years? And isn’t it possible that someone new will bring different talents to the job? Today our Archdiocese is stagnating and we need a new leader with different talents to expand our community. Ideally God will provide us with a very spiritual man who is also a competent administrator.
Your Eminence tough love is sometimes necessary to help those we love to see their foibles. Please don’t act like you own this office. You were given it by the Patriarchate for a period of time but not for the rest of your life. You serve at the pleasure of the Patriarchal Synod. My heartfelt suggestion to you is to announce your retirement at the conclusion of the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress in Boston.
We should all remember that humility emanates from communion with God. In an attempt to separate us from God Satan appeals to our ego which can lead to arrogance and pride. I pray that you will be enlightened and choose the path of humility over arrogance.
May God bless your remaining days on Earth.
Michael Huffington is an American politician, activist, and film producer. Huffington was married to Arianna Huffington, the Greek-born co-founder of The Huffington Post, from 1986 to 1997.