BOSTON (AP) _ The oldest and largest Greek Orthodox diocese in the United States has voted for the ouster of the church’s archbishop, intensifying a feud over his leadership.
Clergy and laity from 63 parishes in New England voted 58-51 on Saturday to adopt a report calling for the removal of Archbishop Spyridon.
His detractors say he has stifled dissent and has an immigrant mentality that keeps him from relating to faithful who feel more American than Greek.
``He’s chased anyone with money and credentials out of the church,″ said Dean Popps, spokesman for Greek Orthodox American Leaders Inc., which was founded two years ago for the sole purpose of removing Spyridon.
Spyridon, 54, enjoys the full support of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey.
That has prompted another dissident group, the Chicago-based Orthodox Christian Laity, to seek autonomy from the patriarch for the American church, which is estimated to have as many as 2 million members.
A dozen Greek Orthodox churches in the United States have agreed to withhold funds from the archdiocese as a way to protest the archbishop. Popps said churches generally give 15 percent of their revenue to the archdiocese.
In February, Spyridon offered to resign if he failed to placate his critics. The Rev. Mark Arey, a spokesman for Spyridon, said the dispute was a matter of arcane church politics fueled by a group of wealthy dissidents who simply don’t like the archbishop.
``I would characterize the vote as an expression of frustration and nothing really more,″ Arey said.
He pointed out that Spyridon has ordered the liturgy translated into English, proposed conducting Greek education in English and transferred the archdiocese’s $45 million endowment to a lay organization.