The 2 million-member Greek Orthodox church has come of age and will begin reaching out in social impact and a spirit of ecumenism.
That was the recent message of Arshbishop Iakovos in inaugurating a charter that decentralizes what had been the archdiocese and nine dioceses and establishes a governing Synod of Bishops.
The primate spelled out the consequences of the charter in an address to about 1,600 delegates and guests at the church's 24th biennial Clergy-Laity Congress in Detroit.
"This Congress is not merely a continuation of past congresses," the archboishop said. "It is a charter congress."
"It is the congress that will initiate a new period of church life, the congress that signals an end to the transition from an immigrant status to a state of permanency; from a state of parochialism to the status of a national church; from a state of endless organizational processes to a state of spiritual stabilization: from a self-revolving status quo to an ever-developing, everreaching ecclesiastical awareness," he said.
The charter had been approved by the ecumenical patriarch and Holy Synod of Constantinople. Archbishop lakovos remains the ranking ecclesiastic in the church in the Americas but shares the exercise of jurisdiction with the newly created synod.
Delegates to the Detroit congress did not have to approve the new charter hut voted on implementation of the charter through uniform parish bylaws and regulations. These became mandatory for all of the 550 parishes in North and South America.
Archbishop Iakovos pledged a new era in which he intends to "launch a new exciting program for expansion of inter-church relations."
He said the synod would reorder and rearrange "Orthodox ecumenical priorities in such a way as to give preeminence to the consultation with the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans, whose theology and tradition is much closer to ours and with whom there is a stronger hope for rapprochement."
"The task of the Orthodox Church is to unite, not to divide," he said.
Delegates to the congress unanimously adopted a resolution denouncing President Carter's proposal to lift the embargo on American arms sales to Turkey and called on Congress to continue the ban.
In other resolutions, delegates:
Urged that Jeruselem be declared an open city entrusted to the collective care of the world's major faiths.
Offered "unreserved support" to President Carter in what they said was his demand that all governments respect human rights.
Indorsed the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision against the broadcasting of seven "dirty" words.
Condemned demonstrations by U.S. homosexuals for their civil rights, especially their claims to hold teaching jobs.
Urged resumption of Middle East peace talks and denounced expediture there of "national wealth for arms and armaments which could much better have been applied for the material well-being of their people."