Many people from many parts of the United States, Greece, and other parts of the world were surprised to learn from The National Herald about Metropolitan Evangelos of Sardis going to the Phanar, having meetings with Patriarch Bartholomew, and officiating during Matins and the Divine Liturgy at the St. George Patriarchal Church on Sunday, December 5 upon the invitation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Evangelos, who was Metropolitan of New Jersey for 17 years was ‘thrown out’ on Thursday, October 8, 2020 of his Metropolis and was elected to the historic but dormant Metropolis of Sardis – a city in Asia Minor which was one of the victims of the atrocities committed by the Turks against many other local Churches, such as the Metropolises of Miletus, Ephesus, Laodicea, just to mention a few.
As I have already reported, Evangelos was dethroned by Patriarch Bartholomew and the Synod around him on the recommendation of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who leveled allegations against Evangelos.
Unfortunately, the process involved violations of every principle and rule of canonical and ecclesiological order because neither Evangelos nor Methodios of Boston – who was suspended for three months – were invited to give explanations to the allegations of Elpidophoros.
Understandably, Patriarch Bartholomew has confidence in Elpidophoros. That is why he sent him here with his good hope, and whom the Omogenia received with ‘messianic hopes’. Unquestionably, he has the qualifications and abilities required to achieve many things, but the basic principle of ‘hearing both sides of the story’ was neglected by the Mother Church, which I love, honor, and respect very much – as all know.
The conditions that were thus created at the Metropolis of New Jersey could be characterized as an ‘adulterous act’ (μοιχεπιβασία).
After all, Evangelos was not just some monk or deacon to be slapped and kicked the way the Mother Church did to him just because Elpidophoros wanted it that way. He is a hierarch of the Ecumenical Throne with a fruitful ministry in the Church of America. And he was born from the vitals of our own Omogenia, a Greek-American, the son of an immigrant, not someone who ‘parachuted’ into the Community.
I must note one thing. Many would agree that Evangelos often behaves in a brusque way, that he is a ‘screamer’ (φωνακλάς) who berated deacons, priests, and laymen – he has a child’s heart, however, while the poor behavior of others is of a different type and ethos altogether.
Knowing Evangelos for many years and having followed his activities and ministries in the Omogenia gives me the privilege to able to state strongly that his is a superb Hellene, deeply Greek-hearted. He would never go to stand near the butchers of our Genos in a light-hearted mood. Do you all understand?
We were observing these sad and unholy events unfolding for a year-a-half while hoping that at some point prudence, composure, brotherly love, philanthropy, and ecclesiastical ethos would prevail and lead to some corrective decisions – because this has had a negative impact on the Patriarch and the Patriarchate.
Evangelos is not for shipping out – other newly-appeared archimandrites and bishops instead should be returned where they came from before they become liabilities to our Church here. The people know and understand much more than the ‘professionals’ of our ecclesial life here.
There is much work which should be done here about issues of great and essential importance instead of the usual backbiting. Emphasis should be given to the School of Theology, because, as I wrote last week, it is the backbone of the Archdiocese and it should be as strong as possible. The Hellenic identity of the School should be strengthened. After all, that is the purpose for which Greece is giving millions of dollars of grants – and that should start with Elpidophoros himself, who should and is obligated to use the Greek language when he visits the School and not speak only in English. Also, he should encourage the learning of the Greek language and “the sacred Hellenism” as Fr. George Florovksy of blessed memory said and wrote.
Also, the Hellenism of the Archdiocese should be strengthened. Everything published by the Archdiocese should be bilingual and not only in English -unless the Greek-born and Greek-speaking flock doesn’t count anymore. We once criticized Iakovos, who at the end of his tenure was extremely remorseful for fighting against the use of the Greek language and de-emphasizing Hellenism, as did Demetrios – but Elpidophoros! For God’s sake.
On another front, I must reiterate that the expenses of the Archdiocese in terms of salaries of employees and advisors should be reduced, because they are not offering anything substantial to the Church and Omogenia except for living at their expense by getting paid and being cared for as if they lived in a nursing home.
The Archdiocese should assign able persons, clergy and laity, to key positions, and not promote mediocrities and exceptional littleness.
Let me say this also: My many years of dealing with theology and ecclesiastical writings, among many other things, taught me the fact that there is flux in the Church and turnovers happen unexpectedly and that nobody could have predicted, making true the biblical passage that someday “the first become last and the last become first.”