Today’s analysis was prompted by the recent announcement of the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese of America of Monday, April 5, 2021, in which the only essential issue was the drafting of a new charter for the Archdiocese.
Allow me remind at the start that many times, in the distant past, years ago, but also in recent years, I have pointed out the urgent need for the structural reconstruction and reform of the Archdiocese, speaking directly about the abolition of the current strange system of Metropolises. The current system has not only failed miserably for not solving pre-existing problems – it actually created more, and at the same time it is not only very costly, it is a danger to the very unity and cohesion of our Church in America.
Unfortunately, there are some hierarchs who have not realized that the local Church of America is one unified and indivisible ecclesiastical eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne, and in fact was once the largest and most prominent until the twenty-year Archepiscopate of Demetrios reduced it to the point of bankruptcy, with accomplices of course, including co-responsible existing hierarchs. But there were also other ‘leaders’, male and female, who even today are unfortunately appointed to committees and sub-committees and key positions.
Although I have pointed it out many times in the past, I write once again that the existing Metropolises are not autonomous and self-governing, but belong to and depend upon the Archdiocese of America. In other words, more simply, the Metropolises are not separate Ecclesiastical Eparchies. The only Ecclesiastical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the United States is the Archdiocese of America, with the only shepherd – I emphasize this – being the Archbishop.
The existing Metropolitans are a strange hybrid between auxiliary bishops and titular metropolitans, and this is quite apparent during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist when the Archbishop presides and he is properly mentioned as chief shepherd (ποιμενάρχης), wears the archepiscopal miter, and holds the staff, while the local Metropolitan wears the ‘epanokalymafko’ and of course, does not carry a staff since he is not the chief shepherd. It is as simple as that.
I have the feeling that it is by ecclesiastical ‘economy’ (κατ’ οικονομίαν), which means ‘out of leniency,’ that they formed the so-called Eparchial Synod, since it is not even a ‘semi-autonomous Archdiocese,’ as is the case with Crete. I am of the opinion that it is also by economy that those hierarchs are called to participate in the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Let me also remind you that I had written the following: The key to settling this canonical and ecclesiological issue is at the discretion (it is his privilege) of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who can at any time suspend the charter of the Archdiocese of America, since the Patriarchate granted that charter as the Principal Authority (Πρωτουργός Αρχή). At the same time, he can propose to the Holy Synod to elect the existing Metropolitans to the once-glorious Metropolises of Asia Minor (πάλαι ποτέ διαλάμψασες Μητροπόλεις) and the matter ends there. At the same time, the Archbishop should could create some Assistant Bishops, serious and educated people to whom he would entrust the pastoral supervision of local areas. There is also a need to geographically reorganize the boundaries and extent of existing ecclesiastical areas, including merging territories. As the situation stands today, on the one hand, the role and the institution of the Archbishop has been degraded and weakened, and on the other hand, fragmentation is growing, as everyone has set up his own ‘kingdom’ with his own courtiers and his own ‘turf hunters’.
Having recalled and said the above, I now try to interpret the recent announcement, which states the following:
“according to the announcement of October 12, 2020, it decided to start drafting the new Charter of the Sacred Archdiocese so that it meets the visions and expectations of the clergy and laity in view of the completion next year of the 100th anniversary since its founding.
“The process envisions the establishment of a broader Committee, in which all the organizations and bodies of the Church and of the Omogenia will be represented, plus four representatives from each Holy Metropolis chosen by the respective hierarch.
Every member of the faithful will be given the opportunity to send their opinions to a designated email address: email@example.com.
The collection and organization of all opinions will be the responsibility of the Administration Committee of the Archdiocesan Council.
“In the next phase, after receiving instructions from the Mother Church for the appropriate number of members, the composition of members from the Archdiocese to the Mixed Drafting Committee for the new Charter with the members from the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be announced.”
We must ask, however, who are "all the organizations and bodies of the Church and the Omogenia" that will be represented on the "broader committee"?
Regarding even the collection of opinions – ‘suggestions’ as they are commonly termed, one will make his short and another his long comments, although perhaps this text is just a kind of democratic ‘filler’ – I am not sure it reflects the ecclesiology and the ethos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I am sure that Archbishop Elpidophoros understands exactly what I am writing here because he is flesh of the flesh of the Phanar.
In other words, the Charter is granted by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Synod as the Principal Authority (Πρωτουργός και Χορηγούσα Αρχή), precisely because the Archdiocese is an Ecclesiastical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne, that is, of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Charter is essentially a gift of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Synod, and it should be obvious that a ‘gift’ is not negotiable.
I also believe that there is an absolute need for in-depth education and greater awareness among the faithful of the communities that it is a supreme honor and privilege for the Archdiocese of America to belong to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the First-Throned Church of the Orthodox Church under Heaven.
And one more thing: Let me emphasize once again that the Archdiocese of America is an Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne. Just that – or if you prefer, a geographically and numerically large Metropolis. Of course, from an ecclesiological and canonical point of view, the smallest Metropolis or Eparchy in which the Eucharist is celebrated preserves equally the truth, the catholicity, and the unity of the Church, as much as does the Archdiocese of America, or in any case, any other local Church, no matter how small or large the numbers are.
I hope and wish that no nourishment will be given to various mother-killers (μητραλοίες) – ‘autocephalists’ and ‘separatists’, clergy and laity, that they might start making noises with unholy intentions, sending us back the gloomy Ligonier period of 1994 under the late Archbishop Iakovos. Back then, we caught it at the last moment and the separation of the Archdiocese from its Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was prevented. Now maybe famine is coming … So be careful!