New York, NY - On December 20, 2002, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, announced that the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Patriarchate had concluded its work and granted a new Charter to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The granting of the Charter followed careful review and consideration by the Synod of the Patriarchate of all of the opinions and concerns offered by the Clergy-Laity Congress and by parishes and individuals throughout the Archdiocese.
As has been stated previously, the new Charter is critical to the present and future of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The process of preparing and reviewing the text revealed much about the level of maturity of the Church in America. Discussions on the Charter in the meetings of the Patriarchal and Archdiocesan committees revealed the expertise, concern, and visionary thinking of our Hierarchs, clergy, and lay people. The responses of the parishes of the Archdiocese and the Charter presentations at the Archdiocesan Council meetings and the Clergy-Laity Congress in Los Angeles were characterized by respect, moderated concern, and deep compassion for the proper existence and function of the Archdiocese. All of this has been a witness of the proper and godly way of conducting the affairs of the Church.
Now that the Charter has been granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the official text has been received and translated, it is important to present in this brief commentary how issues raised during the process of preparing the Charter are addressed in the new Charter.
1. The Integrity and Unity of the Archdiocese
On December 20, 2002, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios announced that in accordance with the new Charter, the Synod of the Patriarchate, affirming the unity and oneness of the Archdiocese, elevated the Dioceses to Metropolises of the Archdiocese. The Metropolises of the Archdiocese are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.
At the same time, it was announced that the Synod of the Patriarchate elected all of the Hierarchs of the former Dioceses as Metropolitans of their respective Metropolises. The Hierarchs of each Metropolis were given the following titles respectively (listed in order of seniority):
- His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago
- His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco
- His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh
- His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston
- His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver
- His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta
- His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit
This elevation of the Dioceses to Metropolises of the Archdiocese is a change that is representative of the strength and vitality of the Archdiocese. The Metropolises are parts of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Administratively, financially, and in terms of mission and function, the Archdiocese remains unified. All of the parishes, institutions, organizations, and ministries remain within and under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese.
The election of each of the Hierarchs as Metropolitans of the Metropolises of the Archdiocese further affirms the integrity and unity of the Archdiocese. The Metropolitans are no longer Metropolitans of the Patriarchal Throne, but they are Metropolitans of the Archdiocese. The Archbishop, as the head of the Archdiocese, continues to be the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the Greek Orthodox Church in America. The Metropolitans remain members of the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese, a Synod that has as its president the Archbishop, that constitutes an expression of unity, and that functions as a decisive unifying factor on all levels of the life of the Archdiocese. In addition, clarity of structure is now provided since the Archdiocese has Metropolises and Metropolitans that are clearly linked in name to geographic regions in America.
2. Election of the Archbishop
This article in the new Charter (Article 13), while retaining the basic process of election, does place more emphasis on the role of the Eparchial Synod and the Archdiocesan Council in expressing opinions and recommendations to the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding candidates for the office of Archbishop.
Regarding the language of the article and concerns related to the qualifications of the Archbishop, the Charter states that a candidate must "have had a period of successful service in the Archdiocese of no less than five years, or to have proven, direct, substantive and broad knowledge of the life and status of the Church in America" (Article 13b). This language was included in the text in order to emphasize the importance of the relationship of any candidate with the Church in America, a relationship that can and will be affirmed by the Eparchial Synod and the Archdiocesan Council.
3. Election of the Metropolitans
Under the new Charter the election of the Metropolitans of the Archdiocese will continue to follow the triprosopon, in which three candidates will be nominated for a vacancy by the Eparchial Synod, and these names will be submitted to the Synod of the Patriarchate. The Synod of the Patriarchate will elect one of the three. (Article 14)
The history of this process has shown its significance for the Church in America, in that the Synod of the Patriarchate has always elected the first candidate on a list of three put forth by the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese.
Of equal significance is the fact that the Charter mandates that the list of eligible candidates for episcopal office be updated regularly by the Eparchial Synod in consultation with the Archdiocesan Council, that the list be submitted for approval by the Patriarchate, and that the list is officially published by the Archdiocese on a regular basis.
4. Lay Participation in the Administrative Process
As indicated above in the paragraphs on the elections of the Archbishop and the Metropolitans, the new Charter affirms that the laity of the Church in America are an integral part of the election process. Concerning the election of the Archbishop, recommendations and opinions are expressed to the Patriarchate through the Archdiocesan Council. Regarding the elections of Metropolitans, laity are able to review the official list of candidates and offer concerns and/or information on the qualifications of candidates for service in this capacity.
The new Charter also acknowledges the crucial role of the Clergy-Laity Congress in the administration and function of the Archdiocese. As stated in the Charter, the Congresses "except for doctrinal or canonical matters, they are concerned with all other matters which affect the life, mission, growth and unity of the Archdiocese of America, referring to the uniform administration of the Direct Archdiocesan District, the Metropolises and Parishes, the education, the financial programs, the philanthropic concerns and the more active participation of the Archdiocese in the life of the United States of America." In comparison with the 1977 Charter, this Article offers a clearer representation of the important administrative role the Congresses have and will continue to have in the life of the Archdiocese. For example, the new Charter states that the decisions of the Congress will be submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for approval, and the decisions "shall be deemed approved" in the event no response is received within 90 days.
Further emphasis on the participation of the laity in the administrative process is evident in the article on amending the Charter (Article 25). Amendments to the Charter initiated by the Archdiocese must follow a due process including deliberations by the Archdiocesan Council and the Clergy-Laity Congress. Following, the Eparchial Synod submits a proposal for amendment to the Synod of the Patriarchate for approval and ratification.
Another critical area of lay involvement will be the review and revision of the Regulations that govern the various administrative bodies of the Archdiocese. The new Charter acknowledges that this is the responsibility of the Archdiocese. Lay involvement will be crucial in revising the Regulations of the Clergy-Laity Congress, the Archdiocesan Council, Local Councils, Assemblies, and Parishes.
Significance of the Charter for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
The new Charter is critical to the present and future of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. As explained above, the Charter first and foremost maintains the unity of the structure of the Archdiocese and the unity of the administration of the Archdiocese. Further, it strengthens even more the existing bond and unity between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Archdiocese.
Second, the process of elections for the Archbishop and the Metropolitans has been enhanced and clarified in affirming the roles of the Synod, Council, and laity, and in terms of the relationships of candidates to the Church in America.
Third, as explained above, the role of the laity is crucial for the proper administration of the Archdiocese in the function of the Clergy-Laity Congresses, the Archdiocesan Council, the elections of Hierarchs, and the revision of the Regulations that govern all aspects of the life of the Church in America. The Charter provides the foundation for even greater relationships and synergy between clergy and laity in ever-increasing our focus on the mission of the Church in the world.
Fourth, it must also be stated that the Charter is a progressive step in the Charter history of the Archdiocese. The text is composed of a clear theological language. It helps those outside of the Archdiocese to understand its structure and function. Further, the Charter addresses issues that are not included in the 1977 Charter (Metropolitans and Auxiliary Bishops, Monasteries, etc.)
Fifth, the Charter now provides for the next step, the revision of the Regulations of the Archdiocese. These must now be updated so that they address contemporary issues and needs, as well as reflect the true spirit of the Gospel and our mission as Orthodox Christians in America. This will involve extensive work at all levels of the Archdiocese, a work that will be very essential to the future of the Archdiocese.
It is clear that the new Charter represents progress for the administration and function of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In conclusion, it must be stated and remembered that the significance of the new Charter is inseparably linked to the potential we have as a strong, unique, and vibrant Archdiocese in offering our faith to the people of America and in supporting ministry around the world that brings the message of salvation to all who are in need of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The text of the Charter is available in both Greek and English on the web site of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America here.