Case studies often involve painful incidents of real people suffering because of some stimulus. It is no different within the Church. In his article in the Greek News (page 38), Mr Bill G. Stotis, a proven and successful attorney, business man, and long time servant of the Greek Orthodox Church (at the local parish level as well as the Archdiocesan level), offers his insightful reflections on the sad state of affairs within the Metropolis of Chicago.
Ignoring the Laity, Again.
by Yianni Pappas
It is no wonder that when the voices of the laity are routinely ignored and looked upon as foolish disruptions coming from the presumed unlearned, non-elite class (i.e. non-clergy) of Orthodox Faithful, some parishioners are starting to be more vocal and outspoken. Who is doing the ignoring? Our Hierarchs. While we should respect the office of the Hierarchy, it would seem to be in the best interest of the Church that Hierarchs should give evidence that they indeed hear the “Voice of the People”. The voice of the people sometimes brings with it the wrath of God.” Φωνή Λαού, οργή Θεού. The video below shows the fervent love a community has for the priest, Fr. Nicholas Kastanas. It also shows their anger toward their ruling Hierarch, Metropolitan Methodios, for removing Fr. Nick.
It is not known why Fr. Nick was removed after 28 years of faithful service. There are no known whispers of any kind of indiscretions. The only suggested “issue” is that Fr. Kastanas was too popular and too powerful. No Hierarch would want that of course – in spite of the fact that perhaps that particular Priest is so loved because he is actually doing a good job. As far as Ephraimite fundamentalism, it is not known if Fr Kastanas subscribed to this type of Orthodoxy.
In the video above, Fr. Nick Kastanas spoke lovingly and with class. Once upon a time, older generations grew up in a culture that believed that all Bishops and Priests were good and wise men. It seems that the good and wise clergymen are now the exception to the current standard. No wonder Fr. Nick was so loved. He gave that very impression of being a good priest. He was so loved that people had an outdoor vigil, in the rain, to show their love for him.
The parish has over 800 families and is considered one of the best parishes of New England, and even the entire Archdiocese of America. In 2005 the parish moved to its current location after an entire hill of buildings including the church was purchased from the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
The parish has taken a big loan that it repays every month. Is the loan perhaps a ploy to hold back revenues from the Archdiocesan assessment? Is this the petty reason Fr Nick was removed?
No matter how gracious Fr. Kastanas was in his last message (encouraging people to still support the Bishop and the St. Athanasius community), we can promise you this: the community of Arlington, MA will not recover from this anytime soon. The next decade or two will show a drastic reduction in Stewardship and attendance. This has happened in many other Greek Orthodox Churches across the United States. It will now painfully inflict the St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church of Arlington, MA.
I have stood by and supported the Patriarch and the Ecumenical Holy Synod time and again, but if the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Ecumenical Holy Synod can flippantly “change their mind” and go back on their word, then Orthodox Christianity worldwide has another major crisis of integrity.
I have stood by and supported the Patriarch and the Ecumenical Holy Synod time and again against the fundamentalist Ephraimites who are more concerned with the outward form rather than content of substance. They have accused the Ecumenical Patriarch of betraying the faith because he said “all people under God are brothers and sisters”. That is not betraying the faith. The Ephraimite traditionalists show their arrogant, elitist, and superficial beliefs with this. I stood up and defended the Patriarch. But I am not blind either, and I could never be a sycophant. If the reports today in the National Herald are true (July 13, 2017) then we have bigger problems than anyone can ever have imagined. In this instance, I cannot support the Phanar.
The National Herald reported today (7/13/17) that the Patriarchate approved the list of candidates in March of 2017. Now the Patriarchate is saying that the list is incomplete. Were they not happy with the election results so they contrived a “do-over”? Where is the integrity in that? Can it be that The National Herald has it wrong? I don’t think so. I believe The National Herald has more integrity and honor than the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
It is possible that the Phanar caved in to a great deal of pressure from camps lobbying for hierarchs that were not on the previously approved list of candidates. These orchestrated lobbying events are biased toward a personality and may not be the will of the Holy Spirit. Barabbas emerged victorious and was released because of well-organized lobbyists that shouted his name to Pontius Pilate. The result is that Jesus was crucified. Innocence and purity were cast asunder. The same thing is now happening in our Church. Another possibility is that Turkey has pressured the Patriarch to not have a Cypriot Metropolitan. Who knows? What we do know is the word of the Phanar is compromised.
Let me add that I am involved in the business world. A man’s word must be his bond. If someone you’re doing business with does not keep his word, even only once, his credibility is shot, and no one (at that level) will deal with him ever again – at least no one who actually has integrity and honor. This is why I am so very deeply disturbed and saddened by the Patriarchate approving the list, but now going back on its word. Is the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church that incompetent or manipulative? Whatever the answer, it illustrates that integrity and honor at the Phanar are optional.
The Patriarch and the Patriarchate are supposed to represent the cream of the crop. Instead, the Phanar seems to be operating like a bunch of Yiayias and right now Metropolitans are being summoned to the Phanar to huddle and come up with the company lines to disseminate to us. Forgive me for sounding disrespectful, I do not mean to be. I am merely giving you honest sentiments that many have, but few will speak. After all, who wants to admit they are disillusioned?
The actions of the Phanar again suggest we are being treated like a bunch of buffoons, or, that we are all hostages with the hierarchical attitude “what are they (the laity) gonna do?”. Leadership is not thuggery. Leadership is not so insecure and afraid that it insists on surrounding itself with sycophants. Leadership is engaged and not aloof to the needs of those who depend on them. Except of course in the Greek Orthodox Church. In my opinion, Niphon and others influencing the Phanar appear to me to be shallow sycophants that do not have the capacity nor character to objectively look at themselves, let alone to look after the needs of millions worldwide.
Margaret Thatcher once said “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” The Phanar needs to adapt this to their leadership, for example: “If you have to tell people you know best, maybe you don’t.”
Pray for our Church. We need it.
For a printable version, please click here.
This reinforces the need for autonomy.
One of the most experienced, wise, respected, and loved lay leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church of America (GOA), Mrs. Elaine Jaharis, had an open letter published in the July 2017 first week’s issue of The National Herald.
In this letter she warns that the future executive leader of the Chicago Metropolis must actually be a loving and ethical shepherd to heal “the grievous wounds of recent years“, otherwise the negative impact of a bad selection will impact the GOA across the country. As it is, she states that the current state of affairs earmark the Chicago Metropolis as “unsustainable”.
Additionally, she states that the future Metropolitan of the Chicago Metropolis must address the concerns emanating from the fundamentalist Ephraimite movement which has divided and damaged the Church. What makes this letter so very powerful is that Mrs. Jaharis is not known for being outspoken.
Typically modest and reserved, Mrs. Jaharis’ words reverberate with the weight of the concerns for the well being of the Metropolis of Chicago. Indeed, her open letter illustrates the concern she has for the GOA in America. There are many lay-leaders throughout the country that have voiced concern behind the scenes. We are grateful that Mrs. Jaharis carries on the leadership by integrity model of her late father-in-law, Mr Michael Jaharis, the former Vice-Chairman of the GOA.
We pray that the truths she has spoken are heard by our Holy Synod of the GOA, and our Patriarch Bartholomew.
Please call our Patriarch first, and also our Archbishop. Insist that there is a completely new change of leadership in the Chicago Metropolis by a proven leader known for his love, integrity, non-fundamentalist agenda, and pro-active leadership. If such a man exists, we need him there now.
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
8-10 East 79th St. New York, NY 10075
Tel: (212) 570-3500 Fax: (212) 774-0251
His All-Holiness BARTHOLOMEW
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
342 20 Fener- Haliç
Tel.: +90 212 5319670 – 6
Fax: +90 212 5349037
Thank you for your witness. Remember to pray for our Church. There is power there.
On June 5th, The National Herald published an article about the recent death of the ruling Hierarch of Chicago, Metropolitan Iakovos. In a nutshell, this Metropolis is no stranger to controversy and scandal. Some have stated there is more controversy and scandal in this Metropolis than in any other one in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The fact is that this Metropolis is at a crossroads. One hopes that the path to cleansing, healing, and rebuilding will be chosen, as will be evident by “who” will be the next Metropolitan of Chicago. More than a few people are hopeful that the path of further dismay and deterioration will NOT be chosen, as will be evident by “who” will be the next Metropolitan of Chicago. To the gratitude of many, Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit was appointed as “locum tenens” for the Chicago Metropolis, and not the controversial Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos (Demetrios Kantzavelos). This may be because of proper protocol, or some other reason. Many can think of other reasons. Many also feel strongly that the way the Metropolis of Chicago is dealt with, will reflect what lays ahead for the entire Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. God help us.
GOCCL calls all to participate and help resolve the Chicago Metropolis! See http://goccl.org/click-here-to-find-out-how-you-can-improve-the-future-of-the-greek-orthodox-metropolis-of-chicago/
by C.J.S. Hayward
There have been many saints that although they lived a distinguished life of sincere piety, humility, and love for God and their fellow man, this in and of itself does not make them authorities on all matters. Like, for example, Aerial Toll Houses, or as in this case, a six 24-hour day creation.
Here, Hayward reflects on the fundamentalist phenomenon of the Orthodox Christian Church and concludes that Protestant Fundamentalism should not be imported into Holy Orthodoxy. The article provides a nice insight into his book The Seraphinians: “Blessed Seraphim Rose” and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts, which addresses the “Elder Ephraim” brand of Orthodox Fundamentalism. As Hayward mentions, “If you are Orthodox and have been uncomfortable or concerned with the “Blessed Seraphim Rose and Elder Ephraim” crowd, and especially if you want to put a finger on why but can’t pin it down, this book is very much written just for you.” We endorse this book. But for now, here is the article below:
As if the community has not suffered enough, a parish in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church- had their Parish Council resign citing clergy “bullying” emanating from its hierarchical clergy leadership.
This is another sad episode in the life of this parish. A court found one of its previous priests, Fr. James Dokos, guilty of basically stealing/embezzling money – reportedly hundreds of thousands – from a trust. Prior to litigation, when this was reported to the Metropolis, Bishop Demetri (the Chancellor of the Chicago Metropolis) indicated that Fr Dokos did nothing wrong. Records indicate that Bishop Demetri received money from this priest, and did not recuse himself. The replacement priest, Fr. Angelo Artemas, appears to have been punished by the Hierarchs of Burton Place (Metropolis of Chicago HQ), because he did not make the issue “go away” and actually sided with the parish community. Fr. Artemas was removed from the parish and is no longer in the Chicago Metropolis. Google search this and see how this dreadful horror show unfolded, as reported by various media outlets. Here is one example:
“After Dokos was charged, a prosecutor in Milwaukee had warned Bishop Demetrios against “potential efforts to intimidate witnesses” —
an apparent reference to his impending removal of the Milwaukee priest, the Rev. Angelo Artemas.”
– The Chicago Tribune, Feb. 26th 2016 by Robert McCoppin
And now, 9 members of the Parish Council have resigned, citing that the bullying has produced a crippling tension that has stultified its ministry. It is important to note that these are lifelong members of the parish, as evident in the resignation letter. There appear to be many examples of incompetent, self-serving and unwise leadership issues on behalf of the Hierarchs:
“You know the Greek expression, the fish rots from the head?
Well that’s what’s going on here.”
— Jim Gottreich, former President of the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Council, Glenview, IL
removed by Bishop Demetri (per Chicago Tribune, Feb. 23, 2016 by John Kass)
As if a “domino effect” were taking place, Fr. Dokos was re-assigned after the Annunciation Church, to Saints Peter and Paul. The community was not happy and voiced their concerns through the person of its elected official, Jim Gottreich, Parish Council President. He was removed. They suffered too.
And now this: lifelong members resigning. You know what this means? It means there is more trouble ahead for the Greek Orthodox in America. We know many individuals have left the Greek Orthodox Chicago Metropolis, and beyond. Now we have official church entities calling it quits. It appears that the heart and spirit of these communities are being broken, torn down, and highly disrespected. Out of self-respect, why would they want to remain? They carried the burden a long time because of their love for their community. But enough is enough. Not that any Hierarch appears to actually care of course. One can almost hear a self-deluding thought that might be resonating in the smug space between their ears, “they’ll be back.” God help our Church.
by associate editor of We Are Orthodox – Mr. Steve Johnson
Brothers & Sisters,
I wrote in another area of the esteemed “Orthodox Christian Laity” website, http://ocl.org in a section entitled “Tradition Without Fundamentalism“, concerning the deleterious effects that the “Ephraimite” style of Monasteries are having upon the cross-jurisdictional parish communities in the United States. In the section “Resolutions Relating to Monasteries Adopted by the OCL” I spoke to one item in particular, the Aerial Toll House heresy, that the Ephraimite Monasteries are actively promoting. They even just published a 1000 page book teaching this heresy. I am reprinting this here on We Are Orthodox.
In a nutshell, the false teaching alleges that upon death, the soul undergoes a journey through a number of “Toll Houses” where the demons of Hell examine particular sins of the person at each toll house. If the person can successfully give an account , then he/she can pass through and go to the next Toll House. If a person can pass through each Toll House, THEN they can proceed to Paradise. Ephraimites teach that “Blind obedience” to your priest, abbot, spiritual father, will give you a free pass through these Toll-houses. One can easily imagine how that could be exploited by self-aggrandizing ilks of base character.
This falsehood, indeed this heresy, this lie, completely insults Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for us. This falsehood, this heresy, this lie, puts the demons as our judge, and not the Lord. This falsehood, this heresy, this lie, dismisses the incredible phenomenon known as “grace”. Each liturgy we pray for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ – not the demons. Christ is our judge. And when we all face Him (indeed an intense event) our only defense, our only hope, is being released on a technicality – for what excuse can we give for sinning? Adam tried blaming Eve as his excuse. Didn’t work for him. It won’t work for us. Our only hope then is the technicality known as Divine Grace, through which (as scripture clearly states) we are saved. Indeed, as Orthodox Christians, this should not be news to us. There is no teaching of Aerial Toll Houses in Scripture, in Canons, in the Funeral Service, etcetera.
The proponents of this heresy clearly show their ego by:
1. Distorting Scripture to suggest that this teaching is there.
2. Using vague and ambiguous statements from certain saints to suggest “the Fathers and Saints teach this”
In some sense, they use this as a type of secret knowledge of what awaits us. This is a modern-day form of the Gnostic heresy.
I could go on. But let me only highlight on last item. The Monastery in Florence, AZ just published a book that is over 1000 pages long, alleging that Aerial Toll Houses are true and part of Orthodox beliefs. I don’t think doctoral dissertations are that long. To make matters worse, there are Orthodox Hierarchs that have foolishly given their endorsement of the book – as printed therein. This does not represent the dogma of the Orthodox Christian Church.
Let me predict something: The Protestant Church leadership (or some other Christian denomination) will get a hold of that book, and there will begin a campaign alleging that Orthodox Christians believe salvation is in the hands of demons. If you think people have left our Church now – “you aint seen nuthin’ yet!” There will be a profound exodus of people that is beyond what is already happening. Even those who think that this is merely a metaphor, or “theologoumenon” should re-evaluate and not give such credit to this profound insult and distortion. This heresy should not be given a foolish “de facto” endorsement either.
Here is a scholarly document refuting this teaching. There are 3 links, the last being for commercial purposes if it is being read by more than 1 person (as in a classroom setting):
or for commercial use: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1291814?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
The Dumbarton Oaks Papers are held in very high esteem amongst scholarly circles. While profane people like me point to simple and obvious truths, this scholarly approach by Dr. Nicholas Constas (now known as the Priest-Monk Maximos from Mount Athos) examines every minutia of detail and presents his conclusion that this is a false teaching.
I honor and respect the Parish Community as a place and source of holiness. I also honor and respect the same in unadulterated and healthy Monasticism (as is the case with the deeply respected Priest-Monk Maximos, and others). That is why I will speak out on anything that is of concern. I believe it is my responsibility as a human to speak the truth. Otherwise I would feel guilty of passively allowing a falsehood to continue. Please join me in addressing this. Do not be afraid to speak the Truth, even when it is uncomfortable. I read somewhere that: “Truth plus one person equals the majority”. That may take time, but that is the side I choose to be on. Ultimately the masses will discover that. The Lord knows. May He send us the Grace we need to overcome this evil challenge as we have historically overcome other ones. I believe the Lord does that through people like you and me.
Because of the numerous sick examples of unhealthy clergymen, The National Herald (TNH) published a Viewpoint that challenges the status quo in the Church to return to a more healthy practice of married bishops. This was the original practice of the Orthodox Christian Church.
Here is a quote:
“Personally I respect and honor the true, authentic, and healthy monasticism because it is the joyful sadness of the Church. But when I see career celibates who live in the world lavishly, two things come to my mind (when I see celibates): they are saints, or they are sick. I don’t believe there is a middle ground.”
To read this article by Editor Theodore Kalmoukos (February 28, 2017) please Click Here.
In order to be directed to the article as found on TNH, please click here.
For many years now we have been doing our best to raise the awareness of the faithful in America about the “cultish-like” phenomenon that seems to follow and even blindly obey Elder Ephraim of Arizona, Abbott Paisios of Arizona, and the like.
The January 31st edition of The National Herald has an article that raises these exact observations and questions. As a matter of fact, he references it as quite a lucrative industry as well. While the local parishes struggle to pay their assessments and meet their recurring bills, the dozens of multi-million dollar Monasteries of Ephraim in the United States (and also those abroad not included in this tally) have spawned unabashed.
Monasteries are not assessed like parishes are from the Archdiocese/Metropolis. Yet Parishes are also “guilted” to help the monastery raise money by activities such as selling higher-than-market-prices for candles, icons, and other items. Also many Parishes have reported to have monastics selling their wares at the local parish Greek Festival. In fact, Ephraimite Monasteries have industrial type kitchens (that are the envy of many restaurants) where they prepare their baked goods and delicacies, that are also sold at the local parish, and other venues too. Any revenues from oversees (maybe from the coffers of Vatopedi?) are not included in this tally.
Yes Mr. Kalmoukos is right – again. It is a lucrative industry. Add to the mix alleged prophecies, miracles, blind obedience, while also disparaging the Hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA) it’s no wonder that the financial outlook looks pretty good. Too bad many souls (and communities) may be destroyed in the process.
Mr. Kalmoukos is right – again. This phenomenon is unhealthy.
Thank you Mr. Kamoukos for having the courage of your convictions to stand up and say things that are not comfortable, but nevertheless are true.
Read the full article by clicking the title following this sentence:
By Theodoros Kalmoukos – January 31, 2017