My Facebook newsfeed was full of comments last night as Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America took the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to deliver the closing prayer.
On the one side… the Democrats amongst my Facebook friends were hissing and hawing about his partisanship… “How can he support such a bigoted, misogynistic, anti-immigrant candidate like Trump,” someone wrote while others went as far as hash tagging “LosingMyReligion” over the incident.
On the other side there were those pious and devout Orthodox Christians expressing their love and support, praising the Archbishop for declaring his and the church’s “conservative values” by being present with all of the “God fearing, pro-life Christ-centered” Republicans.
Rest assured, these same vocal sides will flip next week when Archbishop Demetrios appears on the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where he will deliver an invocation prayer on July 28.
Archbishop Demetrios— like many Greek Orthodox Christian hierarchs before him since the 1980s have offer prayers at BOTH political parties’ conventions.
He is no stranger to the political stage and has delivered invocations at both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention throughout his tenure in America, including both conventions in 2008 and numerous others since then.
In August of 1984, Archbishop Iakovos gave the invocation at the RNC Convention in Dallas, TX where the GOP nominated Ronald Reagan.
Four years later Iakovos was also on hand when the Republicans nominated George Bush Sr., but didn’t miss the opportunity to share the same stage as the Democratic nominee, fellow Greek Mike Dukakis accepted his party’s nomination.
Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit was on hand in Charlotte, NC to deliver the invocation at the DNC Convention in September 2012, while a month earlier Metropolitan Methodios of Boston offered a prayer at the GOP convention in Tampa.
Numerous opinions abound on the Church’s role in American politics and to be fair, other religions are also present at conventions, so it’s not something unique to Orthodox Christians.
But the truth is, Church leaders– clergy and lay alike, have been working hard over the years to keep the Greek Orthodox Church as involved as possible in American politics. Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, a New York clergyman with close ties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate can be credited with keeping the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in a position of prominence with successive U.S. Administrations, as can lay people like Andy and Mike Manatos, the father-son lobbying team who have worked tirelessly over the years to maintain the Church and the Greek American community as a whole embedded in American political life.
Some agree, while others think the Church and politics should be separate. That is a completely different conversation.
In my personal opinion, as long as religion remains a part of American politics, it’s important for the Greek Orthodox Church to be as present and visible as possible.