July 4, 2012
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our observance of Independence Day this year coincides with the 41st biennial meeting of the Clergy-Laity Congress of our Holy Archdiocese, and our Congress theme has tremendous significance when we reflect on the heritage of freedom that we have in this country, the United States of America. Our theme, “Chosen and Appointed by God to Go and Bear Fruit,” is directly related to our divine calling as Orthodox Christians to carry the message of the Gospel and to reveal the grace and power of God in our lives so that beautiful and eternal spiritual fruit may be produced in the lives of others.
On this July 4, we give thanks to God that we live in a land that is free. We are in a nation where we can affirm publicly our Orthodox Faith, and we can live openly with the conviction that God has appointed us for a special task. We are also blessed with the freedom to go and bear fruit. As we meet in Phoenix, Arizona and plan the ministry and service of our Church, and as we gather in worship and ministry in our local parishes, we are able to do so without the pressures and challenges of oppression or persecution. We are able to seek the guidance of God and to determine the best course of action to meet the needs around us, to lead others to salvation, and to bring honor and glory to Him.
We are also free to offer our lives and resources so that great fruit is produced in the lives of others. This land is one which has fostered respect for the spiritual life and for the role of religion in teaching the values that nurture community, peace, and civility. In this environment, we offer this and so much more through Christ, knowing that others are free to embrace life in Him and to experience grace and faith in many, and sometimes unexpected ways.
As we celebrate our freedom to go and bear fruit on this Independence Day, may we remember those who have given so much to establish and protect this freedom. May we also affirm the blessings we have in this country to worship and witness through the work of our Church and through our lives so that others may see, hear, and receive the Gospel and experience the abundant life we have in Christ.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America