The EP in 1977 signed an agreement that said that changes to the GOA charter could only be made by the GOA Laity. These would then be sbmitted to the EP for approval or rejection.
This is my understanding from what I have heard from other GOA members (and one of them attended the 2002 Laity congress) -- When the GOA Laity submitted the Charter to the EP from the 2002 congress, the EP ignored all the Laity changes and modified it unilaterally. Then said that it was accepted (after he modified it the way he wanted it).
A letter from OCA to the Patriarchs and other hierarchs asking for their support:
April 28, 2003
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
I am writing to you on behalf of the thousands of members of Orthodox Christian Laity, an organization of both laity and clergy from all Orthodox jurisdictions, who are laboring in America to promote cooperation and unity among all Orthodox Christians in order that the apostolic commission of our Holy Orthodox Church may be witnessed and fulfilled among the peoples of our nation.
One of our beloved sister churches, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, is currently experiencing a most serious dispute between its entire membership, as formally expressed by the position put forth at its 2002 Clergy-Laity Congress, and His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. In keeping with the long standing tradition of our Holy Orthodox Church, we are bringing this issue to your attention, prayerfully beseeching you for your assistance in finding an amicable solution to the issue, so that there be no need to ask the civil courts of the United States of America to declare a judgment in the dispute, which would be an action only taken absent a proper solution arising from within our Holy Orthodox Church.
Because this dispute is threatening the unity of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and therefore also affects and threatens the unity of all the Orthodox Churches in America, as expressed through the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA), we believe that all God-elected leaders of Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church in the world should take notice and participate in this resolution of this dispute between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the clergy/laity of the American faithful as represented by their duly elected representatives at the 2002 Clergy-Laity Congress in their deliberations on a revised charter for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Our concern is with the manner by which the existing 1977 Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese may be amended. The current English language text of the Charter states:
Article XXIV Revision: The charter herein may be revised upon the request of the Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress as the need therefore arises. Revisions thereto shall be submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for approval and ratification.
It should be noted that the 1977 Charter, which is the current governing instrument of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, was approved by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 29, 1977 and was subsequently voted upon and accepted by the 24th Clergy-Laity Congress on July 5, 1978. Furthermore all three of the previous Charters of the Archdiocese - 1922, 1927, and 1931 were voted and accepted by a Clergy-Laity Congress. Therefore we do not understand how the 1977 Charter which was approved by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with His All Holiness Bartholomeow as one of the signers, can now be abrogated by one party after it was approved?
While the 1977 Charter states that the English text shall “be deemed the official and legal text,” the Charter as written and approved by the Patriarchate was in the Greek language. The transliterated Greek of Article XXIV states in pertinent part “To paron Syntagma,GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª.ipokite eis anatheorisin ipo tis Archiepiskopis Klirikolaikis SinelefsesosGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª.i de anatheorisis afti ipovallete pros to ikomenikon Patriarchion pros engrisin ke epikirosin.” It is my understanding that the correct translation of these words is “The present Charter is subject to revision by the Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress;GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª. Such revision to be submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for approval and ratification.”
Beyond the specific article of dispute is the more significant spiritual issue and deeply held conviction that the apostolic mission of the Church in America is performed in the synergistic activity of all its bishops, priests, deacons and laity united in Christ and accomplishing His Holy work in harmony and peace. Clearly, this God given tenet is being violated by the attempted imposition of a revised Charter, that is in opposition to the prayerfully and clearly expressed charter revisions deliberated and voted upon by the duly elected representatives of the faithful at the Congress and submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for ratification and approval.
As Orthodox Christians who respect your wisdom and counsel, your God given position in His Holy Orthodox Church and your care and love of the Orthodox people residing in America, we respectfully urge you to assist us in resolving this matter. Your reasoned judgment is important to the good order of the Church in America and therefore in the world. We realize that you have many duties and responsibilities in this joyous season of the Resurrection of our Risen Lord, as we all now await the arrival and celebration of Pentecost. However, we pray to our Lord, God, and Savior, the Resurrected Jesus Christ, that the full power, wisdom and action of the Holy Spirit be manifest in you by your assistance in resolving this very unfortunate and potentially harmful dispute in a most timely manner.
May we hear from you by Holy Pentecost, June 15, 2003?
We pray that the Resurrected Christ grant you many, many years!
Asking for your paternal blessing, I am
Peter Haikalis, Ph.D, President
Orthodox Christian Laity
The Patriarchs and other hierarchs receiving the request to offer their good council by Pentecost are:
His Beatitude Petros VII, Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
His Beatitude Irenaeos, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine
His Holiness Aleksy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Archbishop of Mitskheta and Tbilisi
His Holiness Pavle Archbishop of Pech, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch
His Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of All Romania, Locum Tenens of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Metropolitan Ungro-Vlach, Archbishop of Bucharest
His Holiness Maksim, Patriarch of Bulgaria
His Beatitude Chrysostomos, Archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus
His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece
His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania
His Beatitude Sawa, Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland
His Beatitude Nicholas, Metropolitan of the Czech Lands and Slovakia
His Beatitude Herman, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America & Canada
The Hierarchs of the Standing Council of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) who also received copies of the letter are:
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, Vice Chairman, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher, Secretary, Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States & Canada
His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas, Treasurer, American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the U.S.A.
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Bulgarian Orthodox Church
His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholae, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America & Canada
His grace Bishop Ilia, Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America.