New York, October 12, 2020
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is divided in its response to the recent decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to suspend the archdiocesan charter, suspend Metropolitan Methodios of Boston until the feast of the Nativity, and move Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey to the See of Sardis in Turkey.
Archbishop Elpidophoros praised the decision to develop a new charter:
We have just received a wonderful opportunity to rebuild the Church in America from the ground up. Over the past one hundred years, great hierarchs led the Archdiocese of America, of which the later Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Michael stand out, who consolidated and strengthened our communities. Of course, Archbishop Iakovos was the one who, in his 37 years as Archbishop, transformed our Archdiocese, giving it a leading role in American society.
Today we feel especially blessed, because with this decision, the Ecumenical Patriarchate gives us the great opportunity to envision and design our Church together in view of its 100th anniversary. All together, clergy and laity, we will participate in a joint committee with our Patriarchate, and we will develop and complete a new plan with new perspectives on Orthodoxy in America for the next 100 years.
… I consider this decision to be divinely inspired and auspicious.
As OrthoChristian previously wrote, many have speculated that the new charter will make Abp. Elpidophoros the ruling hierarch of the whole of the GOA, reducing its metropolitans to the status of auxiliary bishops. Many, including long-time loyal followers of the Patriarch of Constantinople, view Thursday’s decision as a power grab by the Patriarchate, consolidating authority under Abp. Elpidophoros who is fiercely loyal to Constantinople’s vision of itself as “first without equals” and who is widely believed to be the obvious successor to Pat. Bartholomew.
While the Archbishop praised the Synod’s resolutions, his Twitter page shows divided responses. Emmanuel Manos writes: “Amen, Your Eminence. Thank you for your leadership,” while Jimmy42848934 writes: “@goarch Looks like we will be going to the @s_orthodox @serborthorg church. They will always uphold the dogma and doctrine WITHOUT COMPROMISE.”
Tweet True writes: “You are NOT the face of #OrthodoxChristianity @Elpidophoros.” A Twitter notification also informs that the Archbishop’s account has blocked other comments. It is widely discussed on social media how easily users are blocked from the Archbishop’s page.
In stark contrast, an article was published on October 4, a few days before the Synod in Constantinople, praising Abp. Elpidophoros as the “future of Orthodoxy.”
“Now, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is acting as a man who leads the Church to the future and, to change it for the better, is brave enough to make bold steps,” including his participation in a Black Lives Matter march in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, Sotiropoulos writes.
“To remain strong, the Church needs changes, and now they can only come from the USA,” he declares.
In its recent statement, the GOA emphasizes that the administrative structures of the Archdiocese “will continue to function as they are” until the approval of a new charter.
However, others point out that the Archdiocese has no governing charter at the moment, which creates an entirely different reality. “Each Metropolis is now canonically independent from the Archdiocese. Just like the Metropolis of Mexico, Metropolis of France, or the Metropolis of Germany, which are all independent Metropolises that are not under a single Archdiocese, so too are the Metropolises of Denver, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Chicago. With no Charter, Archbishop Elpidophoros is now canonically in control of just the D.A.D. and New Jersey,” writes the Voice of Concerned Orthodox Christians blog (the blog is anonymous and cited here only as an example of varying responses to the Patriarchate’s decisions).
According to the Greek outlet Pentapostgamma, the “cup of wrath” is overflowing in the Greek Archdiocese over the plans for a new charter and the decisions regarding the Metropolitans of Boston and New Jersey. To many, it is impermissible that Greek churches in America are run by Turkish citizens—Pat. Bartholomew and Abp. Elpidophoros.
An article has also circulated in Greek media in which George Siamboulis, one of Constantinople’s loyal Archons, expresses his deep disappointment with the Patriarchate, noting that at least 50 people have also contacted him to express disappointment.
“None of the people I contacted have any idea” why Met. Evangelos was removed, Siamboulis states. “I believe that the Patriarch and Archbishop Elpidophoros have started a rebellion. They can’t do such things. We have built our churches and we know how hard we work to maintain them.”
Archon Siamboulis also states that Met. Evangelos only learned of his fate through the media, which he believes is the second great insult to the Greek community in America, the first being that the Patriarchate did not propose any American hierarchs for the election of Archbishop of America.
Many are now pointing to the election of Abp. Elpidophoros as a sign that the GOA’s charter was already being trampled upon.
The Archbishop has announced that he will convene a session of the Eparchial Synod today to evaluate the Patriarchate’s decisions.