Greek Orthodox members call for archbishop ouster
July 13, 1999
BROOKLINE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas is in upheaval, staggering from scandal allegations involving money, sex and his Eminence Archbishop Spyridon.
The first U.S.-born head of the church in North and South America, the archbishop has held the position for nearly three years.
But some of the 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Church members in the United States have accused the revered cleric of improper actions regarding financial matters, and disapprove of his handling of a church sex scandal.
"There's been financial mismanagement; hundreds of thousands of dollars are not accounted for," says John Collis, co- chairman of the dissident Greek Orthodox American Leaders (GOAL).
A church leader, he said, "should lead us in love and ... explain what Christ is all about," but the archbishop "is acting like a tyrant."
The opposition has reached the highest ecclesiastical levels in the country, where all five of the church's bishops, called metropolitans, have called for the archbishop to step down.
The furor started in 1997 at the Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The school president and three other clerical professors backed a seminarian's claim that another seminarian sexually harassed him.
The archbishop allowed the accused student to graduate and removed or demoted his accusers.
Spyridon has his defenders. The archdiocese says the shifts at Holy Cross had been planned before the scandal and that the church's accounts are in order.
Loyalists consider the archbishop a good one. His reforms include opening church books for the first time and creating programs to support the 80 percent of Greek Orthodox members who marry outside the faith.
"I have talked to countless people who say, 'I heard all these things about the archbishop, but when I met him, and I actually saw him face to face, he was not the person I had been told he was.' Whence the disconnect, I do not know," says Father Mark Arey, the archdiocese spokesman.
But others charge that the archbishop is too far removed from his followers. Clergy and laity from 63 parishes in the United States have voted to adopt a report calling for the removal of Spyridon, whom they say tries to keep the church inaccessible to the U.S. faithful, who feel more American than Greek.
The 54-year-old archbishop was born in Warren, Ohio, but spent most of his life in Europe. He says he works to protect the church's Byzantine and Greek traditions.
The controversy has reached the world leader of the church in Istanbul, Turkey, which the Greek Orthodox still call Constantinople.
His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I summoned the embattled archbishop to the headquarters of the church for consultations this week, according to a church official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bartholomew has direct jurisdiction over the U.S. church, the patriarchate's main financial supporter.
Boston Bureau Chief Bill Delaney contributed to this report.
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