Will the Economic Crisis Mark the Beginning of the End for State-Orthodoxy?

Today Philelevteros reports that the State-Church of Cyprus will cut the salaries of anyone being paid more than €1500 ($1860) a month, which obviously includes priests who average somewhat more. The move is in response to the difficulties to be faced during the economic crisis. This follows reports that in recent electoral politics in Greece, the State-Church is being looked at as an area of potential cost savings, as the salaries of New Calendar clergy exceed $300 million a year.

It is an open secret that the disparity between New and Old Calendarists in the region is largely economic, due to the fact that the majority of the flocks in these countries are simply drawn to their local churches, and that almost every aspect of the power dynamic in these countries comes down to money. Indeed, it is almost as well known that for the sake of conscience, Old Calendarists in these and other countries are willing even to turn down offered state benefits for the sake of the Church’s independence. As the global economic downtown continues, the administrative advantage falls precisely upon those who have not been reliant on state-aid.

In other words, a gradual power shift becomes increasingly palpable towards self-reliant communities, whereas the state-churches are more interested in preserving their positions of privilege. Unfortunately, as state money runs out, that privilege, barring massive changes to the economic system as it stands, is showing increasingly to be built upon sand. Consequently, the decision to work for Orthodoxy in the position of a cleric shifts from an economic opportunity and becomes increasingly ideological, where the Old Calendarists have a decided advantage in the fact that their position is uncompromised.

Just recently we reported on Metropolitan Gerontios of Salamis (GOC-Kallinikos) Synod meeting with finance officials in Greece; while this has occurred between various True Orthodox Bishops and various state officials in the region over the past few years, the reason for what were perceived to be largely ceremonial visits becomes clearer. Assuming that the current economic climate remains as it has for the past few years, we will see an increased role among True Orthodox leaders in the task of spiritually assisting the recovery of their people, devastated by the crisis, whereas the New Calendarist leadership will be increasingly perceived– as many see them now– as shiftless recipients of state aid trying to preserve their current levels of benefit.

With the announcement of the State Church of Cyprus, their leadership is clearly afraid of being perceived in the same light.  But as any conservative economist will tell you– this is only the tip of the iceberg in the economic unraveling of the region.  This is only the beginning of economic upheaval in Greece, and Cyprus (we aren’t even touching how this will affect Turkey– yet).  At this rate, the ecclesiastical future of the country, now more than ever, is unsettled.

Perhaps the real die-hard ecumenists will ask for an interfaith bailout. We have no comment on their chances for success.