DISJOINTED MEDIA VIEWS

By dogcatcher on June 22nd, 2015

 

A close look at the recent self-reporting view of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA) with reference to the Holy Synod and the Archdiocesan Council shows some significant disconnect with reality. Real communications of the real issues facing the GOA and the Church in general is lacking.

Below is a cursory review of the materials that the GOA shares with the laity through its various media forms as a measure of its self-perception and its actions. Presumably, the GOA’s view of what the laity should know about its administrative functioning is reflected in what it is willing to share from two of the most important bodies: the Holy Synod (Synod) and the Archdiocesan Council.

The Holy Synod

In October 2014, the GOA home page reported on the two-day meeting of the Holy Eparchial Synod (Synod) of the GOA. The brief announcement mentioned the approval by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the English translation of the Divine Liturgy, canonical matters including disciplinary issues and the proper preparation of candidates to the priesthood, administrative matters regarding parishes and the Holy Monasteries of the GOA, pastoral care matters and education of day schools, charter school, afternoon schools of the GOA and Greek Education of the HCHC students.

In April 2015, the GOA home page reported on the three-day Synod meeting, the topics discussed included the nearing availability of the translated Divine Liturgy publication, the work of the Synod of the English translation of the Regulations for spiritual courts of the GOA, disciplinary matters and problems and challenges faced by clergy families, administrative subjects regarding the parishes, the Holy Monasteries of the GOA and on special needs for small parishes, support of a text prepared by Religious Leaders in American safeguarding the institution of Marriage and a briefing on the Presidential search for Hellenic College Holy Cross (HCHC).

The Archdiocesan Council

The Orthodox Observer of October 2014 reports the Archdiocesan Council meeting and the names of the people who presented reports. No information is provided on the content of these reports nor is any information beyond the fact that there was a meeting.

The June 2015 Orthodox Observer reports on the Archdiocese Council meeting of May 28-29 in San Francisco with both the names and photos of the committee members that presented reports. Also included was a brief mention of the content of the reports. The report with the most detail focused on developments relating to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine.

In his closing remarks, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios mentions statistics by “well-known entities” regarding the declining church memberships across many faiths. He cautioned that the Greek Orthodox population is “an illusive condition. Be careful with numbers.” Given that these were closing remarks for the Archdiocese Council, it is assumed that there was no discussion of the statistics or the presumably referenced Pew Research Report.

Timely Information Is Crucial to Good Decisions

In summary, during 5 days of meetings, we have learned that the Synod discussed translations of the Divine Liturgy and the rules and regulations, disciplinary issues, the Holy Monasteries, schools, family and clergy. What else they discussed and concluded is still a mystery to most who were not present.

Accurate and unified translations of the Divine Liturgy are important (one wonders why no such thing existed before now). Nonetheless, are these the only pressing matters that can be shared from these Synod meetings? Many await word on issues of the Monasteries controlled by Elder Ephraim, but no such information appears forthcoming. Is there no discussion of the current status of the Church and her ministries during these meetings? If yes, can that be shared at least in cursory outline? If not, why aren’t there such discussions or why are they not reported, at least with a statement that the appropriate GOA bodies are taking matters in hand?

As for the Council meetings, the substance of the October 2014 meeting was not reported to the laity in any way. The June 2015 Orthodox Observer issue provided greater detail and substantive information on the reports that were presented. While this reporting is a considerable improvement, it is still not clear how this council functions with such little information being addressed and shared with outsiders. It would seem that some of the matters discussed at these meetings might be shared with the laity, while some matters must be considered confidential because of executive actions discussed. The total absence of what transpired at the meetings is an indication of lack of trust in the laity. The Church leaders are acting with little or no accountability to the lay members whose support of the institution is crucial, and this is evident by the lack of transparency in their meetings.

There are a myriad of issues facing the GOA functionally both internally and externally and the reports from the meetings do not appear to scratch the surface of many of the issues. Are matters of concern raised and discussed? Is there any follow up on the matters discussed? Are there new developments and programs in the ministries?

The reporting of Archbishop Demetrios’ closing remarks, without any reporting of information regarding stewardship begs the question; does the GOA have complete information on the numbers of stewards? Surely someone whose duty it is to watch them must know these crucial numbers. These numbers are hidden from view of the GOA faithful, and although generally available in gross numbers from the Pew Research Report, the GOA has remained silent. These numbers receive a closer study in more detail in an accompanying article available on this website http://gotruthreform.org/pew-article. Will the GOA share the information it has available? Are we growing or shrinking in stewardship and church attendance? Are we attracting and holding on to our cradle Orthodox stewards, our converts? With accurate information, the GOA can begin to study and determine what are the causes of changes in numbers both on a local level and nationally. Where are we growing and shrinking? Why? Is it the clergy, the leaders, the message or how it is delivered – or should we accept that the numbers of ‘nones’ are growing and that this is the future of our church along with other churches? What is the impact on the parishes and church as a whole of the departure of those who worship Elder Ephraim at his many monasteries in North America?

Are the Archdiocese Council meetings functional meetings with competent leaders (both clergy and laity) that will steer our faith forward in these times of great change in the religious transformation within the US? Or are we as a religious and cultural force doomed to sink slowly until we almost disappear from the changing landscape?

We have raised many of these questions in one form or another in these posts; however, answers from competent authorities have been lacking. Will there be transparency in decisions of the Hierarchs in matters that can be disclosed that will allow the laity to assist and be part of the rebuilding process before there is large scale closing of parishes across the country due to faithful voting with their feet?