PCUSA News - August 15, 1999
Spyridon to Attend Meeting about U.S. Church Leadership
Some Greek Orthodox Congregations Threaten to Withdraw Unless He's Replaced
by Chris Herlinger
Ecumenical News International | 9-Aug-1999
NEW YORK - Archbishop Spyridon, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of
America, will return to Orthodox headquarters in Istanbul later this month
for meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos to discuss his future
as head of the archdiocese, according to media reports.
At a meeting last month between Archbishop Spyridon and church leaders
at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, the archbishop was, according
to the reports, given a month to work out differences with a number of U.S.
parishes and dioceses critical of his leadership of the 1.5 million-member
church, the biggest Orthodox church in the United States. The church falls
within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Mark Arey, Archbishop Spyridon's spokesman, told ENI that no date had
yet been set for the meeting in Istanbul, but that it was likely to take
place after the middle of the month.
Arey described the media articles about the ultimatum, reported by the
international agency Associated Press, among others, as "a very broad
statement." But Arey also said he was not trying to "minimize" the
situation, since it was clear that "there are serious concerns" before the
The spokesman added that neither he nor the archbishop would respond to
what he called "hyperbolic" press coverage by the media in Greece - where
the Orthodox Church world-wide is a matter of general interest - over
Archbishop Spyridon's leadership.
But Arey confirmed that Greek media had reported that the Ecumenical
Patriarch may be considering naming Archbishop Spyridon as his
representative to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. The post
has recently fallen vacant following the retirement of Georges Tsetsis who
devoted more than 30 years of his ministry to ecumenism.
Arey said he knew nothing more about the possibility, and he expected
the archbishop to remain as head of the church in the U.S.
"I have absolutely no reason to believe otherwise," Arey told ENI.
For more than a year, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has
been caught up in controversy over Archbishop Spyridon's leadership.
In June, the Clergy Laity Conference of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of
Boston, Mass., endorsed, by a 58-51 vote, a call made earlier this year by
five U.S. metropolitans (bishops) for Archbishop Spyridon to be replaced.
The critics accused him of governing the church in an authoritarian
The archdiocese was "suffocating in an atmosphere of fear, suspicion,
insecurity, lack of trust and vindictiveness," the metropolitans said in a
statement in January. Patriarch Bartholomeos, who appointed Archbishop
Spyridon to succeed the popular Archbishop Iakovos in 1996, rejected the
The controversy has raised the spectre of a damaging split within the
church. A leading lay dissident group, Greek Orthodox American Leaders
(GOAL), has been leading criticism of the archbishop. GOAL has run a
campaign to persuade parishes to withhold funds from the national
GOAL issued a statement in July, during Archbishop Spyridon's visit to
Istanbul, saying that if the Ecumenical Patriarch made what it called
"another mistaken appointment," activist movements for an independent U.S.
church would "grow and thrive" and "full financial withholding [would]
become a daily centerpiece of Greek Orthodox life in America."
"We are determined not to be hoodwinked again," said GOAL spokesman
Dean Popps, pledging "persistent, vocal and organized hard-core
However, apparently only a handful - less than a dozen - of the 500
U.S. parishes are withholding funds.
Arey has accused GOAL of being unfair to Archbishop Spyridon, who he
said wanted the U.S. church to reconnect with its Greek roots. At the same
time, Arey has stressed that some GOAL members have, in effect, been
seeking an American "congregational" model of church governance, which was
not possible in the Orthodox Church.
[ PCUSA News - www.pcusa.org/pcnews/ - August 15, 1999 ]