Also in Headline News Archdiocese, Phanar Agree To Disagree On Church Autonomy

By Robert Herschbach

Four rounds of negotiations between the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople have concluded with both sides releasing a joint statement announcing "agreement...on all points." But the agreement throws out or waters down key measures proposed by the GOA, which was seeking more autonomy.

In earlier rounds, the Patriarchate had rejected a provision that would require future Archbishops and Metropolitans to be chosen from a triaprosopon, or slate of three, provided by the Archdiocese. Currently, the Phanar has sole authority over the selection process, though the Archdiocese may offer advisory input.

Now another provision -- one which would require Archbishops to have 10 years experience with the GOA -- has been changed from a requirement to a non-binding preference.

But the Phanar did concede one area that had been in dispute. Dioceses will be elevated to Metropolitans, and future Metropolitans will be given jurisdiction over them. Under the current system, Metropolitans are, practically speaking, bishops with honorary titles. Their sees are located in historic districts of Asia Minor, rather than in the U.S.

Impact Uncertain

The outcome of the talks indicates that Patriarch Bartholemew is prepared to grant autonomy at a much slower pace than advocates within the GOA had hoped.

"I don't know why he's doing this," one source within the Church organization told Hellenic Communication Service. "If he doesn't allow even limited autonomy, he just helps those who want to break away completely." Since the late nineties, some have been calling for autocephaly, or complete administrative self-governance.

But Elenie Huszagh, President-Elect of the National Council of Churches, and a member of the delegation that went to Constantinople,said that the document coming out of the talks does provide for more autonomy and laity participation. "Once people see the actual document and understand what it really presents, many of the fearful things that are being said will fade away," Huszagh said.

As an example, she pointed an enhanced advisory role for the Archdiocesan Council.  Currently it advises the Archbishop, but the new charter gives it a new role as advisor to the Patriarchal Synod.

OCL Warns of "Discontent"

The Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL), an independent organization of clergy and laity, issued a press release criticizing the process.

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