Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Order of St. Andrew, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We enter the Ecclesiastical New Year on this day of September 1, 2006, in the aftermath of our very blessed 38th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, held this last July in Nashville, Tennessee. Together, during our time in Nashville, we contemplated and witnessed the tremendous power of the theme of this Congress, "Sharing the Truth of the Gospel and the Love of Christ," for it inspired us to produce tangible and lasting work products for the strengthening of the ministries of our Archdiocese. Thus, it continues to serve not merely as a theme, but as a true road map for all of us to follow in our words and deeds throughout this Ecclesiastical New Year.
Our work during our 38th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress produced many important tools for the enhanced sustainability and effectiveness of the manifold ministries of our Archdiocese. Among these included is our adoption of more efficient financial strategies to empower our Archdiocese, Metropolises, and parishes with greater resources to advance our mission in our nation as the Greek Orthodox Church. We adopted these measures in mutual recognition of our need to dedicate ourselves more fully as Christians to the important principles of participation, accountability, transparency, and fairness in the way we address issues of finance. These very important principles also apply to our internal governance and administration across all levels of Church life.
The theme of our Congress also found tangible expression in a comprehensive series of dispute resolutions to effectively settle any disagreements among ourselves as a united Christian community. These resolutions are important because they reflect Christian dignity in the manner by which we choose to resolve possible disagreements. They reveal that despite whatever disagreements we may have as communities, we endeavor to hold ourselves to the wise words of the Apostle Paul who appealed to the Corinthians…"that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10). At the same time, these dispute resolutions encourage dialogue, espouse peacefulness, and reduce frivolousness and financial waste.
Our Clergy-Laity Congress also included a rich educational program which, in light of the Congress' theme, spiritually fed our faithful on a variety of subjects including the problem of poverty, controversial issues surrounding advanced technologies and bioethics, as well as the challenges of outreach and evangelism, to name a few. We passed a series of resolutions calling for peace in the world, an end to poverty, and an end to violence against children. We also passed a resolution demanding that the religious freedom of our Ecumenical Patriarchate be respected. It is our heartfelt prayer that these resolutions will not remain solely inscribed on paper as lofty expressions, but rather that they will provide us with a blueprint to begin this Ecclesiastical New Year with specific and attainable goals in view, so that we may live in accordance with Christ’s mandate to share His Gospel and His love with all.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
This day of September 1, is important for another reason that is equally applicable to the theme of this recent Congress in that it marks the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment, following the precedent established by our Ecumenical Patriarchate. As Orthodox Christians who are committed to "Sharing the Truth of the Gospel and the Love of Christ," it is our role to serve truly as "priests" of His creation. Our call to people and governments to exercise restraint from exploiting the God-given natural resources of our planet solely for monetary gain is a call to a sacrifice that grants life, that safeguards the health of our natural environment and protects against its abuse. This too is a way of sharing Christ's Gospel and love, because we know that it is He Who sanctifies the entirety of Creation.
On this blessed Feast of the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, we have much for which to offer our thanks to God. We have much to reflect upon and to consider as we strive to do His work and ministry. We have much to offer to others, to our nation, and to our world as we share the enduring truth of His Gospel and His limitless love. I pray that this Ecclesiastical New Year may be a year of peace and tranquility for you and for all inhabitants of our world, particularly in places that experience the very real and sad problems of war and strife. May the infinite love of God and His abundant mercy permeate your hearts, your homes, and our earth now and always.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America