American Greek Orthodox sue archdiocese
Nearly three dozen Greek Orthodox worshipers, including several prominent figures, are suing the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Archbishop Demetrios for what they say are violations of its 1978 governing charter.

The suing parishioners are backed by the Orthodox Christian Laity, a group founded "to restore and strengthen the role of the laity in the life of the Orthodox church, and the renewal of the Apostolic Lay Ministry," and that wants to see "the creation of a united, autocephalous Orthodox Church in the United States." Thus, while the legal issues at stake are whether church officials violated the old charter by creating a new charter in 2002—without the approval of the American church's Clergy-Laity Congress—the real issues are over the power of the laity and the autonomy of the American church.

The Los Angeles Times, for example, notes that Orthodox Christian Laity leaders " repeated their call for all U.S. metropolitan bishops to be elected by the American church, without involvement by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. They also want to require the patriarchate to choose the American archbishop, when the time comes, from a list of three people approved by the U.S. church." Those are not issues raised in the suit (see the bottom of this OCL page), but they're key issues for the OCL.

"The genius and success of the Orthodox Church in America is in the harnessing of the energies and the dedication and the faith of lay people," Baltimore parishioner Peter Marudas, a member of the Orthodox Christian Laity board, told the Chicago Tribune. "We would hope that the patriarchate would recognize that and not suffocate it to its own detriment."

The plaintiffs aren't seeking monetary damages; they just want the court to force the church to reinstate the old charter, which gives the American laity more authority.

As many Eastern Orthodox readers often point out any time Weblog notes a news item on an Orthodox church, Weblog doesn't know much beyond the basics of Eastern Orthodoxy (what I've learned comes largely from reading Frederica Mathewes-Green and a Christian History issue on the subject), so the internal politics of the church are out of Weblog's depth. Maybe The Onion Dome (yes, The Onion meets Orthodoxy) will help sort it all out.

It would therefore be helpful for someone who's not a partisan in this debate to explain the similarities and differences between this debate and other similar debates going on between American churches and their global counterparts.

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There's a trend piece lurking here. The Episcopal Church USA turned its back (there's a much ruder metaphor that would be far more appropriate here) on the global Anglican Communion when it ordained a homosexual bishop. The Southern Baptist Convention is planning to take its ball and go home, withdrawing from the Baptist World Alliance simply over its accepting the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a member. American Catholics are constantly bucking Rome, saying the Vatican's authority and teachings don't play in the unique U.S. context. In other words, there does seem to be a kind of American Revolution going on in religion these days, a kind of Superpowerism that demands that ecclesiastic power reside in the U.S. In some cases, the American foot seems to be saying to the rest of the Body, "I don't need you."

It may or may not be fair to bring the Orthodox churches into this. There's something slightly different at play: Where Anglicans and Baptists are struggling over what it means to be global, the Greek Orthodox are fighting over what it means to be Greek Orthodox. Nor is it fair to suggest that the Greek Orthodox power struggle is happening in the various churches. The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has been granted full independence by its Syrian parent, for example. Is this an example or a counter-example to the Religious American Revolution?

Boston University professor Elizabeth Prodromou has some comment along these lines in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "This lawsuit is in some ways the culmination of a decade of internal soul-searching within the Greek Orthodox diocese," she said. "It tells us that Orthodoxy is pretty much like most other mainstream religious traditions in this country: They're trying to come to terms with how to function in a very pluralized and highly competitive religious free market. That's the bedrock issue that is driving these questions about governance and leadership."

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America spokesperson Nikki Stephanopoulos called the suit "totally without merit," and expects it to be dismissed. However long the court battle lasts, expect the battle over American ecclesiastic independence to go on much longer.

Speaking of Greek Orthodox power struggles …
A miscellaneous link in a recent Weblog noted that Israel's Cabinet had finally recognized Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Patriarch Eireneos—two years after he was appointed to the post by the church.

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Ah, but nothing is resolved so easily in the Holy Land these days. Two suits have been brought against Eireneos's appointment, and Israel's Supreme Court has put the case on hold for at least three weeks.

The Greek leader's opponents claim he made anti-Semitic comments in letters to Yasser Arafat. The letters, which bear his name and signature say, "You are aware of the sentiments of disgust and disrespect that all the Holy Sepulchre fathers are feeling for the descendants of the crucifiers of our Lord Jesus … actual crucifiers of your people, Sionists [sic] Jewish conquerors of the Holy Land of Palestine."

Eireneos says the letters are a forgery. An investigation was closed for lack of evidence, the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha'aretz reports.

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The Passion of the Christ:

  • Ad timed to Gibson film release refused | AMC Theatres is refusing to accept a 30-second ad produced by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and timed to coincide with the Ash Wednesday opening of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" (Associated Press)

  • Gibson to delete a scene in 'Passion' | A scene in the film, in which the Jewish high priest Caiaphas calls down a kind of curse on the Jewish people by declaring of the Crucifixion, "His blood be on us and on our children," will not be in the movie's final version, said the Gibson associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity (The New York Times)

  • Jewish groups left out of Passion | Thousands of Canadians have already seen Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ before its much-anticipated commercial release Feb. 25, but none of them have been official representatives of the country's Jewish organizations (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

  • Critics debate 'The Passion,' Gibson evades the debate | Gibson has an unbroken record of evasion and deception (Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times)

  • 'Faith' inspired Gibson's movie | Director Mel Gibson says a renewed interest in faith inspired his controversial film about Christ (BBC)

Evolution in Georgia classrooms:

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  • State stance on evolution a devolution into stupidity | Cox's irrational position is a sop to a handful of religious hard-liners who believe that schools should teach creationism, a belief born of faith rather than science (Editorial, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Proposed standards give science teachers leeway | Lost in the fury is the true nature of what the new standards do. They replace mandatory statewide indoctrination with a trust in local science teachers. What's so wrong with that? (Randy Singer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Darwinists eager to avoid debate | Last year, in public comments before the Cobb County Board of Education, I witnessed firsthand the danger that can come when personal opinions and philosophical or religious prejudices are allowed into the science classroom (Larry Taylor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Perdue's science views off balance | Given his background in veterinary science, Gov. Sonny Perdue should understand the critical distinction between the strong evidence that shores up evolutionary theory and the religious beliefs that support the tenet of creationism (Editorial, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • School chief's stance on evolution is mere political pandering | Cox's effort to subdue a theory firmly entrenched in scientific research and Perdue's willingness to go along only create an image of Georgia bizarrely at odds with reason (Editorial, The Gainesville Times, Ga.)

  • Ideology holds the reins | Replacing the established scientific term "evolution" with the doublespeak gibberish "biological changes over time" is classic politburo (Greg Hampikian, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Life ethics:

  • School can use cells from aborted fetuses | Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center, a Catholic institution, can continue working with cells derived from aborted fetuses, school officials say (Associated Press)

  • Also: Fetal cell research continues | Research using four different aborted fetal cell lines continues at the Georgetown University Medical Center, despite a recent inquiry by the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (The Hoya, Georgetown U.)

  • The rule of Terri's case strikes again | Terri's parents are held to the letter of the law; the man who is trying to kill her is given heaping amounts of "judicial discretion." (Wesley J. Smith, The Weekly Standard)

  • Auschwitz under our noses | We shake our heads self-righteously, certain that if we'd been there, liberation would have come earlier—all the while failing to see that the present is no different (Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post)

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Ohio gay marriage ban:

  • Ohio legislature votes to ban same-sex unions | The Ohio Legislature gave final approval on Tuesday to one of the most sweeping bans on same-sex unions in the country, galvanized by court rulings in Canada and Massachusetts that have declared gay marriage to be legal (The New York Times)

  • Defend Ohio | Here is the governor's chance to show backbone—and serve the state (Editorial, Akron Beacon Journal, Oh.)

  • 'Marriage defense' bill is sent to Gov. Taft | Legislators finished work yesterday on a bill that backers say will prevent courts from forcing Ohio to accept gay marriages or same-sex civil unions from other states (The Toledo Blade)

  • Bill to okay ban on gay unions goes to Taft (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

More on homosexual unions:

  • Gay 'marriage' seen as key GOP issue | The White House and the Bush re-election campaign should put more emphasis on the president's opposition to same-sex "marriage," said some state Republican chairmen who met yesterday at the Republican National Committee (The Washington Times)

  • Domestic partner registry opens in Ohio | Balloons decorated City Hall as unmarried couples, gay and straight, lined up Monday to be among the first to sign up for the city's domestic partner registry, the first in the nation created by voters (Associated Press)

  • Iowa high court to review lesbian divorce | U.S. Rep. Steve King, six state lawmakers and the Church of Christ of Le Mars and its pastor sought the review. They hope to block the divorce, saying Iowa law does not recognize a marriage between two women (Associated Press)

  • Defeat of Mass. marriage amendment urged | The all-Democratic delegation argued that changing the constitution is not the appropriate way to resolve differing opinions about gay marriage (Associated Press)

Pastors' activities causing division:

  • Pastor's activism leads church to crossroads | Titusville United Methodist Church is divided over Frederick Boyle's outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq and America's presence there (The Times, Trenton, N.J.)

  • Also: Priest ends hunger strike protesting war in Iraq | The Rev. Frederick Boyle of Titusville broke his 22-day fast yesterday, saying the liquid diet had sapped his strength and jeopardized his abilities to minister to his congregation, which is already in turmoil over his widely publicized political and social activism (The Times, Trenton, N.J.)

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Ten Commandments:

Canada's corporal punishment:

John Geoghan prison murder report:

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The Bible:

Money & business:

  • Bible publisher may leave Elgin | Cook Communications was told by the Illinois appeals court that it is required to pay property taxes for the nine acres it owns (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

  • Powerless man uses Jesus, pink palette in protest | When times got tough, landowner Jonathan Greg Dugdale called on Jesus. Then he painted the Lord pink, propped him along Bill Russell Road and dared the neighbors to complain (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  • Battle of the godly gadgets | Nine new church products, including a karaoke hymn player, will be battling it out for a new award at an exhibition in Devon (BBC)

  • Research around the world links religion to economic development | Forget investment and savings rates, worker productivity and wage scales to determine which countries will become richer or poorer. What really stimulates economic growth is whether you believe in an afterlife — especially hell (The New York Times)

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