"This idea of fragmenting all the [U.S.] dioceses into their own fiefdoms is an effort to make autonomy more difficult," said Christian Laity head Matsoukas. "It's a takeover by the patriarchate, which is losing its congregation in Istanbul. He's trying to use the American church power base because he's losing his own power base."
Metropolitan Anthony disagrees. "As far as the issue of our elevation, now becoming little papacies here and there, nonsense," Anthony said. "We were the last bishops in the Orthodox world that did not have the title of 'metropolitan.' "
He said the title gives him the opportunity to have assistant bishops in his seven-state diocese. But he rejected charges that the Orthodox church is adopting a hierarchal "Roman Catholic" model of governance.
Anthony accused critics of playing "political football." He said the American church is as autonomous as it can be--and more autonomous than some churches elsewhere in the world under the ecumenical patriarchate's authority.
"Nobody has interfered with my work and my ministry here in this diocese, including the archbishop in New York, the synod in Constantinople. The ecumenical patriarch cannot visit me without my expressed [approval]. If that's not autonomy, I don't know what is," Anthony said.