His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
29th Annual Leadership 100 Conference
February 20, 2020 – 11:00 am – 12300 pm
Palm Beach, Florida
Yesterday, and in the two days preceding, I had truly wonderful opportunities to be with the servant-leaders of Leadership 100: your Board of Trustees, your Executive Committee, and your staff. All of them are truly both your servants and your leaders; for they are committed to you – the Members, and to your interests.
They also have the courage and skills to follow in the vision of your ever-memorable founder, Archbishop Iakovos and the exceptional laypersons who joined him in creating this invaluable Endowment.
In honoring the memory of those remarkable Founders and early Chairmen, I am delighted as well to recognize two of those Founders who are still with us today: Arthur Anton and Peter Dion. They are truly giants of philanthropy. Along with the Chairmen Emeriti who are still with us: George Behrakis, John Payiavlas, Stephen Yeonas, Constantine Caras, Charles Cotros, and George Tsandikos, they have brought honor and glory to all of Leadership 100 – past and present, and I believe that we owe them all a profound debt of gratitude.
It goes without saying that the family of Leadership 100 would be incomplete without the staff, led by our intrepid Paulette Poulos, who ensure that your questions are answered, your needs are met, and your engagement is encouraged and nurtured.
In short, I am grateful for each and every one of you, for your devotion to Christ and His Holy Church, and your commitment to one another. Clearly, Leadership 100 is a family, and this annual gathering certainly feels like a family reunion. It is a time to reflect on the past, and to dream for the future.
I know that in former years, my esteemed predecessor took this opportunity to engage in a “Bible Study” with you, something that some of you may expect from me. But this year, I am going to forego that initiative and move in another direction with you. Even though I have been your Archbishop for over nine months, I am still new to many of you and many of you are new to me. We are getting to know one another, and this process is one I should like to take full advantage of today.
If I do believe in teaching, it is because I believe in the teaching style of Socrates and indeed, that of our Lord Jesus Christ: Dialogue! I need to hear from you as much as you might think you need to hear from me. Then, by mutual listening we both grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God.
So … I will commence with this. One of my deepest concerns for our Church’s future is that we have not engaged with our youth in the most effective ways, and we are leaving them to fend for themselves in an increasingly complex and complicated world. And I want emphasize the connection to, and the role of, our young women.
I see that more women are taking on authoritative roles here in Leadership 100, and this is encouraging. But when we look to the structure of the whole Church, we do not see the kind of leadership roles for women being promoted that will lead young women to see in themselves their capacity for such service. Even if the clergy as an order remains male, there is tremendous range for growth and opportunity throughout the Church for women.
And please, don’t think this is some modernist approach that goes against the fundamentals of our Faith. Rather, it is narrow-minded fundamentalism that seeks to pigeon-hole people – men and women – into archaic and often culturally-biased roles. As we see in the Bible:
It was the women Disciples of the Lord who stayed with Him as He hung upon the Cross;
It was the women Disciples who first heard the glad tidings of the Resurrection and preached it to the rest of the Apostles;
It was the women Disciples who supported the ministry and even shared the ministry with the Apostle Paul;
And it has always been the women Disciples of the Lord who have preserved and passed on the traditions of the church with a faithfulness and piety that have endured to this day.
Men and women alike are all the beneficiaries of our mothers and yiayiades who taught us first by deed and then by word what it means to be an Orthodox Christian.
Therefore, when we think about the generation that is growing up in the world today, should we not work at every level to make opportunities for service possible? I think so, and I believe that you do as well.
This is not about changing the Faith, but living it! And whatever we can accomplish for the young women of our Church, the same will apply to the young men. While the young men do have the possibility of ordained service, even then, not everyone is called to be a priest. But we are all called to be compassionate, loving, merciful, and forgiving Christians. What calling could be higher?
You may not see the connection at first, but this is one of the reasons I am so passionate about finishing the construction of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine and commencing its mission to the Nation and to the world.
We owe our youth an aspirational vision of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in the contemporary world. Saint Nicholas can be the touchstone for their faith and experience that can make them proud to be Greek Orthodox Christians in America today.
That is why I have asked for such sacrifice to finish this enormous labor and establish the Saint Nicholas National Shrine in the consciousness of our entire Nation. It will inspire, encourage, and lead to amazing consequences of innovation, commitment, and dedication, if we are faithful to its potential and vocation.
Finally, before I open up to hear your comments and question, I want to say a word of gratitude – and I mean profound gratitude, to all of you for what Leadership 100 has done for Hellenic College and Holy Cross, our College and Seminary in Brookline.
Without your extraordinary generosity, it seems to me that our Σχολή would have wandered into irreversible and irreparable harm years ago. You, the members of Leadership 100, literally saved this institution, without which, we would have no training program for the clergy and lay leaders of our Church in America.
Thanks to the personal and concerted efforts of you in this room the School is on a course toward stability and even growth. I want to take a moment to highlight the extraordinary contributions of my friend and your fellow Member, the new President of the Institution, George Cantonis – who was working to save the School well in advance of my election as Archbishop.
When we talk “National Ministries,” between our efforts for our Young People, the Saint Nicholas Shrine, and Hellenic College and Holy Cross – these are the jewels in the crown of our Archdiocese. Whatever we can do to strengthen them all we must, because we can!
I thank you again for your limitless love for our Church, and your unflagging and unfailing labors on Her behalf.
And now … it’s your turn! I am happy to take your questions and comments in the time remaining, relying on our Chairman Argyris Vassiliou and the Leadership staff to facilitate our dialogue.