Now that the rehabilitation of our ecclesial life has advanced far enough with the leadership and initiatives of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, I think it is time for serious thought about the reorganization of the administrative structure of the Archdiocese.
I am talking about the current strange system of the metropolises which has failed in practice because instead of resolving problems, it has created many more.
The failure was vividly proven during the dire condition of bankruptcy – both spiritual and financial – in which the Archdiocese found itself under the Archbishopric tenure of former Archbishop Demetrios.
Certainly the main responsibility lies with Demetrios because he was the ‘First’ (ο Πρώτος), the Shepherd per se of the Archdiocese, but the responsibility of the metropolitans was no less significant. They tried – and still are trying today – to repel their responsibilities by invoking ‘curses’ on Demetrios’ head and saying that they didn’t know what was going on. Why they didn’t know? What kind of Synodic members were they? What kind of co-administrators?
The establishment of the Metropolis system made the Archdiocese unfortunately a ‘scattered village,’ with nine small archdioceses that brought the Church in America to its knees. On one side it was Demetrios’ total administrative incompetence and indecisiveness and οn the other the extreme indifference of the Metropolitans to the point of acedia, that led to a complete train wreck.
Unfortunately, there are still some hierarchs today who don’t realize that the local Church of America has an actual Archbishop, a “First” (Πρώτον). They are making every effort to continue their old ways and behaviors. In addition to the fact that they are a huge financial burden on the Church, they are also dangerous for the unity of our Church in America because they are pulling it apart, one tugging here and another there, and behaving like totally autonomous and self-governing entities – which they are not. On the contrary, they are simply a strange mixture of auxiliary bishops and titular metropolitans. The only ruling Shepherd (ποιμενάρχης) is Archbishop Elpidophoros, because the Archdiocese of America is one, unified, and undivided, an Ecclesiastical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne with one Shepherd, the Archbishop, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
We can say that out of ecclesiastical lenience (κατ’ οικονομίαν) the metropolitans constitute the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese since the Archdiocese is not semi-autonomous as is the Church of Crete. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that the individual metropolitans participate in the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate again out of lenience. Technically only their “First” (ο Πρώτος) should participate, as the only ruling shepherd (ποιμενάρχης) of the entire local Church of the Archdiocese of America.
I think that we should stop sustaining the strange ecclesiological monster that manifests itself in the following practice: From Monday to Saturday the Metropolitans are commemorated as shepherds (ποιμενάρχες). Only when the Archbishop happens to visit a parish in any given Metropolis on a Sunday or on a Feast day is he commemorated as the Shepherd (ποιμενάρχης), which is the correct way, and the local Metropolitan as simply a hierarch (ιεράρχης).
Only the Archbishop wears the hierarchical mitre and holds the archpastoral crozier exactly because he is the par excellence Shepherd (Ποιμενάρχης), the First (ο Πρώτος) or the ruling bishop, if you will, of the entire Archdiocese. The faithful throughout the United States wonder as to why Archbishop Elpidophoros’ name is not commemorated in their parishes but only in the Direct Archdiocesan District of New York.
One more thing – when the Archbishop is present, only he should be holding the archpastoral staff, and nobody else. I observed with much attention that when Archbishop Elpidophoros visited the metropolises of Atlanta and San Francisco, Metropolitans Alexios and Gerasimos, respecting the correct order of the Church, were not holding their staffs. Only the Archbishop did so.
The key to resolving this canonical and ecclesiological anomaly is in the hands and is the privilege of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who can at any given moment recall the Charter of the Archdiocese of America since the Patriarchate has granted it as the Originating Authority (Πρωτουργός Αρχή). At any time the Ecumenical Patriarch can recommend to the Holy Synod that they elect the existing metropolitans of the Archdiocese to be titular metropolitans of sees in Asia Minor and the matter ends there.
In the meantime, the Archbishop should appoint some humble men full of grace and with theological and spiritual depth to be auxiliary bishops, or to create some Archieratical Vicars from the married clergy to oversee regions. The chancellors, the deacons, the drivers, and the rest, the secretaries and undersecretaries, should be removed from the metropolises to save money because they are too costly. The faithful in the parishes cannot afford them anymore and they are sick and tired of the continuous ‘begging’ from the metropolises using as an excuse the need to support the mythological national ministries.
The way the Archdiocese operates today, on the one hand the office and the role of the Archbishop is weakened and on the other each metropolitan has organized his own little ‘kingdom’ which is paid for by the Church, meaning by us, the Body of the Laity.
We can of course wait for the passing of time to bring the solution with the ‘departure’ of some of them, but it is more likely that the passage time will with certainty only insure that the problems of the Church will multiply and the phthisis becomes irreversible.