The Armenian Church: Glasnost Without Peristroka?

Window  view of the Armenian Church, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1991

The Armenian Church: Glasnost Without Peristroka?
[editorial on the occasion of International Conference of
Armenian Clergy]

by Hratch Tchilingirian

For the first time in the history of the Armenian Church in
the diaspora, an international Conference of Armenian
Clergy was held in New York from July 17-21, 1991.

The International Conference was a major event in the
contemporary life of the Armenian Church. Its significance
centers on the fact that the Armenian Church in the Diaspora,
for the first time after the Genocide, came together to discuss
current issues facing the Church and specifically, to turn its
attention on the events transpiring in Armenia.
Representatives from all the Hierarchical Sees (except the
See of Cilicia) and Armenian Churches from around the
world came together to join forces. Obviously, the
Conference provided the clergy of the diaspora an
opportunity to acquaint themselves with each other and lay
the groundwork for future cooperation. While the practical
results of the Conference are yet to be seen, we can make the
following observations regarding the Conference:

+Throughout the Conference, the single most concerning
issue was the situation of the Church in Armenia. Internally
and externally, the Church is living in very crucial times.
Internally--as it was pointed out during the Conference--the
administrative infrastructure of the Church needs a serious
reevaluation and restoration. It needs perestroika. The need
for modernization is imperative. While Armenia as a country
is going through a democratization process, the Church
seems to continue its status quo. Externally, the Church is
faced with the enormous task of fighting the new religious
movements. Besides the cults, the Roman Catholics and the
Protestants have also created confusion among the people of
Armenia. The credibility of the Armenian Church is at stake.

+The demographic distribution of the participants attests to
the fact that the Armenian Church in the Diaspora could
potentially become a viable force in itself, if it could bring its
energies and resources together, as it did at the Conference.
Nevertheless, it is also true that the Church in the Diaspora
could not act on fundamental issues--whether pertaining to
Armenia or the Diaspora--without the consensus of the
Catholicos. As far as assisting the Church in Armenia, there
has not been any organized effort by the churches in the
Diaspora to help the Mother See--except the efforts of the
Eastern and Canadian Dioceses. Obviously, this is partly
due to the fact that the churches in the diaspora are hardly
meeting their own needs. For example, in Argentina, other
than the Primate, there is not a single priest to tend to the
needs of the community.

+The Conference made it very clear that the Armenian
Church and all clergy have a tremendous task ahead of them.
The challenge is enormous, resources are limited, personnel
is scarce, and time is short. However, the Conference took a
practical approach to the issues, and appointed sub-
committees who worked on specific problems.

The Conference was a vivid example of the openness
(glastnost)) that has taken place in the Armenian Church.
The Independence Movement in Armenia has not only
enhanced this process, but has necessitated it. Nevertheless,
a reconstruction (perestroika) with tangible results has not
yet started in the Armenian Church. By now--whether we
understand politics or not--we all know that glasnost without
perestroika is not enough. Gorbachev and the explosive
situation that he has created is proof of that. At the
Conference, the diaspora clergy were somewhat surprised at
the sincere and candid remarks of the delegation from
Armenia. Indeed, this was a very encouraging phenomenon.
It was glasnost in practice. However, we do not see any
glimpse of perestroika in the near future of the Armenian
Church. It is hoped that the practical actions of the
Conference will be the beginning of a new reconstruction, in
light of the new challenges and the renewed mission of the

Hratch Tchilingirian
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