In just four months the 42nd Biennial Clergy Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will be convened in Philadelphia. However, no information has been announced about what the Congress will discuss.
It seems the parishes will be unprepared yet again, and the only issue they will be called to vote upon will be the financial budget for the ensuing two years.
Other than that, the Congress will be filled with seminars, presentations, and speeches; essentially, a glorified and quite costly Sunday school session.
The numerous serious issues the Archdioceses faces will be swept under the rug and thus the hypocrisy and the withering will continue as they have for many years.
Unfortunately, there is no vision, no dream, no planning, and no leadership. The only thing that seems to matter is the “myth” of stewardship. Give more and more for the sustenance of ministries, even though the majority of them have no impact whatsoever on the life of the local community.
Slogans and pseudopious sermonettes take our Church nowhere. Absent serious discussion about the numerous vital issues, it would be best not to have a Clergy-Laity Congress at all.
Here, then, are some issues the Clergy-Laity Congress ought to discuss:
Hellenic College/Holy Cross
Both of those schools are in great need of a complete overhaul; a well-conceived and properly-executed tune-up.
It is simply too costly to provide $12 million for a collective student body of 200. Money has been poured into those schools since 1967, and Hellenic College continues to be in “infant” stage regarding prestige and size of the program.
It should either be the most distinguished center for Hellenic studies in the United States, or closed down altogether. Operation in a half-dead condition is unacceptable.
Its mission and its purpose ought to be redefined: no more wasted money on outside administrators for the Theology School – let one of the longstanding professors, who have dedicated their lives to the School, become the new Dean.
And stop admitting students in their 40s and 50s who have decided to change careers, looking for job security and a lavish lifestyle. Also, stop accepting so many Roman Catholic and Protestant converts.
They distort the Orthodox ethos and polity and also our parishes’ Hellenic Cultural identity. No matter how “Americanized” some think our parishes are, at the core, they maintain their Hellenic identity.
The Congress should discuss the need for a Liturgical awareness and cultivation of all the parishes. In many instances, there is Liturgical anarchy in our parishes. Each bishop and priest does as he wishes. The Holy Week and Christmas Services are prime examples. Liturgical consistency is imperative.
Knowledge doesn’t stop at graduation. Bishops and priests should be lifelong learners of the faith. Unfortunately, there exist throughout our churches numerous examples of mediocrity in theological knowledge, preaching, teaching, and governing.
Priests’ and Bishops’ Marriages
It is time to discuss the notion of permitting priests to marry for a second time, should they become widowers, or even in the case of divorce, and we should also discuss marriage for priests after ordination, not only before.
Even the issue of marriage for Bishops ought to be addressed. It is a pressing, and arguably a necessary reality. A current look at how many applicants there are for positions of bishop is depressing. It is one thing to have 500 candidates, and another to have just 35.
I am fully aware of the relevant ecclesiastical and canonical arguments. But with all due respect to Canon Law, the strong mentality of canonicity and rules and regularities that exist in our Church sometimes overshadow the spirit and the grace of Christ.
Accordingly, we cannot continue to live under the anachronistic dictates of some canons written 17 centuries ago and in the context of specific historic, cultural, pastoral, and geographical areas and circumstances. After all, the flowing of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church is constant and dynamic.
The Monasteries established by Fr. Ephraim should be dealt with immediately. Actually, the discussion is long overdue. This cultish fundamental Monasticism has already become an “anti-Church,” which is ruining many parishes, makes some priests fanatic “Ephraimites,” and brings confusion to young people. This needs to be dealt with now, before more damage is done.
St. Basil’s Academy
The St. Basil’s Academy should be reorganized and utilized extensively. Although I certainly respect the Academy’s mission and the love and the care it provides to children in need, the institution has a greater potential than to serve a mere 12 to 16 children.
Last but not least, there is the issue of finances. Parishes pay an exorbitant fee to the Archdiocese. These amounts should be reduced dramatically. In some instances, parishes can barely keep their doors open and are saved only by proceeds from Greek festivals. The policy shouldn’t be one size (or uniform computer program at the Archdiocese) fits all. Each parish should contribute based on its own ability.
Keep in mind, the Archdiocese would not need to collect such outrageous amounts from its parishes if it reduced personnel and the lofty salaries and lavish expenses of some of its officials. Expense accounts? Automobiles