The Southern California Regional Commanders of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (AEP) in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco recently convened, with the approval of the National Archon Office, and the encouragement of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, the first and very successful Archon Conference for the Southwest Region. Over thirty-five honored guests, Archons and spouses participated in the three-day Conference. The Southwest District encompasses Southern California, Nevada and Arizona. The Conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach, CA and organized by the Southern California Regional Commanders Theodore Konopisos and Hon. Steven Counelis.
Themed “Protecting the Future of Faith,” the Conference brought three Guest Presenters: National Secretary Gus Pablecas, Chicago Regional Commander John Manos, and AEP Historian Archon Dr. George Demacopoulos to educate, motivate, and engage the Archons in Southern California.
His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco and His Grace Bishop Ioannis of Phocaea, Metropolis Chancellor, were both active participants throughout the entire weekend Conference.
Southern California Regional Commanders Theodore Konopisos and Hon. Steven Counelis hosted a welcome dinner Friday, September 8, 2023 for all honored guests, Archons and spouses at The Pacific Club, creating an opportunity for fellowship among old and new friends.
On Saturday, September 9 the Conference began with an invocation by His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, followed by breakfast. Regional Commander Counelis welcomed all with introductory remarks, “Today is a magnificent day because we gather together in support or our Ecumenical Patriarchate and to further the mission of the Archons here in the Southwest Region of the United States and in our Metropolis of San Francisco. Each of you was invested as an Archon by the Ecumenical Patriarch for your outstanding service to the Church, and as well-known distinguished, and well-respected leader of the Orthodox Christian community. And so, the question is what shall we do together to carry out that mission? Keep this question in your mind throughout this conference!”
In his Archpastoral greeting Metropolitan Gerasimos remarked, “This weekend, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the important work of this organization, and be empowered to live your calling as Archons. Think back to the day of your investiture when you held a single candle. That flame – the light of Christ – is what you must continue to keep illumined to keep our faith alive as a beacon of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
National Secretary Gus Pablecas and John Manos (Regional Commanders – Metropolis of Chicago) offered a robust multimedia presentation, in “boot camp” style, of the responsibilities and duties which are expected of Archons today. Rejecting the “lifetime achievement award” concept of the past, the presenters educated today’s Archons on how best to offer their time, talent and treasure to the mission of the Archons at the international, national, metropolis and local levels. Because the “boot camp” training is a relatively new concept within the Archon organization, initiated by Archon John Zavitsanos of Houston, many of the Archons present had never been exposed to this information because they were invested before 2018. The presenters also shared the success of the National Archon Pilgrimage of Discovery (POD) Pilot Program. Funded by the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, this inaugural Pilgrimage of Discovery was a pilot program conducted through the Archons in the Metropolis of Chicago from July 31 to August 7, 2023. It granted five young adults ages 23-28 from that Metropolis an all-expenses-paid round-trip journey to Constantinople to meet with His All-Holiness and travel to ancient holy sites of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which included the forcibly closed Halki School of Theology.
Following lunch, Dr. George Demacopoulos, Historian of the Archons, offered a thought-provoking presentation entitled “President Erdogan, Patriarch Kirill, and the Evolving Threats to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” Dr. Demacopoulos offered a wide-ranging historical and political analysis of the threats which the Ecumenical Patriarchate has and continues to endure as a result of the Russian Government and Moscow Patriarchate’s synergistic goals for Ukraine in opposition to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Tomos of Autocephaly, which granted religious freedom to the 43-million Orthodox Ukrainians. For many, this was the first time they had been educated on the current and volatile geopolitical environment in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate functions, beyond solely the five issues of concern which are uniformly understood regarding the Turkish Government’s oppression of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Archons in attendance expressed how they were deeply edified by all the presentations and developed a profound appreciation for the duties and responsibilities of their Offikion.
At the conclusion of the Conference, Regional Commanders Konopisos and Counelis recognized the Guest Presenters – Archons Pablecas, Manos and Demacopoulos; Conference Underwriters – Archons Dr. George Kallins, Dr. James Kallins and George Mitsanas; and our distinguished hierarchs, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francsico and Bishop Ioannis of Phocaea.
Special recognition and appreciation was presented to the Emeriti Regional Commanders of the Metropolis of San Francisco: Archon Ekdikos Theofanis V. Economidis (National Council) and Archon Exarchos Dr. James G. Kallins, for their combined decades of service to the Archons and the greater omogeneia.
Each honoree was presented a beautiful handmade icon of Saint Andrew the Apostle, on polished stone. prepared by the nuns of the Monastery of the Theotokos the Life-Giving Spring in Dunlap, CA. Among the those in attendance were two exemplary stewards of the Church at all levels: Archon Dean Spanos (& Family) and Archon Gerry Ranglas (& Family) Archon Ranglas and his wife Jeannie serve as Co-Chairs for the 2024 Clergy Laity Congress to be held in San Diego, California, June 30 to July 4, 2024.
Metropolitan Gerasimos offered remarks to close the formal proceedings of the Conference by encouraging the Archons with this message, “I hope that this can become an annual gathering which can be expanded to include more Archons from throughout our Metropolis. We have a dedicated group of men who have accepted the call and challenge to serve as Protectors of the Future of Faith, and I look forward to even more opportunities to come together, discuss these important issues, and mobilize our faithful to be educated and informed so that, collectively, we can work together and actively demonstrate our support for the Ecumenical Patriarch and preserve our rightful place in history.”
The Conference continued Saturday evening at sunset aboard the yacht “Mojo” for dinner, fellowship, and cruise on the Newport Bay.
On Sunday, September 10, His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, assisted by His Grace Bishop Ioannis of Phocaea, led the Archons and the faithful congregation of Saint Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, CA, in worship at the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Proistamenos Fr. Steven Tsichlis invited Dr. George Demacopoulos to offer the homily and illuminated the community on this history of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated September 14. The Archons hosted and the parish provided a light lunch in honor of the visit by the Archon Conference attendees.