A couple of valid questions were raised on our face book page regarding some of the clauses in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Archdiocese and GOCNSW.  Although we cannot answer for the Archdiocese in any official manner it is relatively obvious why such clauses would be inserted into the MOU and we will try to explain their purpose.

The first question is

 Operative part 1 states that the Community’s assets are to remain undisturbed ie. real estate, and other assets shall remain within its sole ownership, custody and control. Yet, in part 5 it states that the Community are not to make any changes or modifications to the Church without prior consultation and written approval of Archdiocese? Why so?

The clause in question is actually 4 b)

The community agrees:  ….. Not to make, or cause to be made, any changes, additions or modifications to those church’ internal decoration, including all iconography, ecclesiastical articles, fittings and furnishings, without prior consultation with, and the written approval of, the Archdiocese;

The Archdiocese is concerned foremost with ensuring that Orthodox temples remain as recognisable and functional Orthodox churches and this clause promotes this.  If this clause was not inserted then it would be possible for a community to modify the church building in some completely unorthodox manner such as adding a statue or an icon of Buddha within the church building.  This is not a completely ridiculous concern.  For instance in a Brisbane catholic church a Buddhist statue was set up in recent times.

In our own lives we have sole ownership of our homes yet we are still subject to council regulations with respect to modifications to the house.  The church operates in a similar manner with community parishes.  The parish retains full ownership of the church building but it is subject to the authority of the church with regard to modifications.  The bishop retains the final authority on what is allowed in an Orthodox church to prevent potential anomalies that could mislead faithful Orthodox Christians.

The second question was:

More importantly, please explain to me the Proposed Amendments to the GOCNSW constitution, in particular clause 7 where it states that any real estate assets of the Association which are used as places of religious worship (churches), such real estate assets to be held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia as custodian and trustee. What is the exact meaning of this clause?

The addition to clause 7) states

‘…(except for any real estate assets of the Association which are used as places of religious worship, such real estate assets are to be held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia as custodian and trustee for the members of the Association and to continue to be open to the public as Greek Orthodox Churches.)’

Clause seven appears to be the “windup” clause of the association’s constitution, and this phrase is being added to the end of the clause.  This is the section of the constitution which specifies what will happen if an association is brought to a close. This protects the sacred places of Orthodox worship from misuse if GOCNSW should close down for any reason, and it only comes into effect if GOCNSW closes down.

Heaven Nightclub

Heaven Nightclub

Again the concern of the Archdiocese is that Orthodox temples remain as Orthodox temples.  The Archdiocese has never closed or sold a church in Australia yet nor does it wish to see a temple once used for Orthodox worship turned into a secular building or used for worship by other religious groups.  Here in Adelaide we have many examples of this happening to churches belonging to other Christian faiths.  For instance, St Paul’s cathedral in Adelaide which was sold and became Heaven nightclub.

We should be grateful as Orthodox Christians that these protective clauses were inserted as it helps ensure that Orthodox churches remain in the future recognisably Orthodox and open to the public for worship.