Defendant may be technically correct that its members, for corporate as opposed to religious purposes (see Islamic Ctr. of Harrison, Pa. v Islamic Science Found., 216 A.D.2d 357 ), are the members of the Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress, which is the successor of the "governing or advisory body" that incorporated it (see Religious Corporations Law § 15 ). Defendant may also be correct that a plaintiff must be a member of the Congress at the time he or she files suit (see Miller v Miller, 256 App Div 846 , affd 280 N.Y. 716 ). However, if
Although plaintiffs have standing, and although the action is not moot and does not merely seek an advisory opinion, it must be dismissed because it involves a question of internal governance of a hierarchical church (see Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for United States and Canada v Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 696 ; and see Maryland and Virginia Eldership of Churches of God v Church of God at Sharpsburg, Inc., 396 U.S. 367, 369 n 1  [Brennan, J., concurring] [categorizing church government as either "hierarchical" or "congregational"]; accord First Presbyt. Church of Schenectady v United Presbyt. Church in U.S. of Am., 62 N.Y.2d 110, 114 , cert denied 469 U.S. 1037 ). On the basis of the very charter on which plaintiffs rely, they cannot successfully dispute that the Greek Orthodox Church is hierarchical. And while it may at first appear that neutral principles of law can be applied to decide whether defendant's 1977 charter was properly amended pursuant to article XXIV thereof, if this case were to proceed further, a trial court would ultimately be required to decide whether the Ecumenical Patriarch had authority unilaterally to grant a charter to defendant in 2003 — clearly, a religious matter (see First Presbyt. Church, 62 NY2d at 117).
Plaintiffs contend that since the courts would intervene if members of a nonreligious not-for-profit corporation claimed that the corporation's charter had not been properly amended, a decision not to intervene in the instant dispute would improperly discriminate against religion. While plaintiffs may