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.
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.
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:
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.
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
One of the Priests in the Metropolis of Atlanta has published open criticisms of the Ecumenical Patriarch. His website is filled with questionable fundamentalist-type topics. No one appears to be too concerned – even if the Patriarch is called a “betrayer” of the faith by one of the Greek Orthodox Priests in the Metropolis of Atlanta. Did Metropolitan Alexios respond? We have not been made aware of it. Click to read.
by the Very Reverend Fr. Steven C. Salaris, M.Div., Ph.D.
Note from the Editors:
This is another article exposing the heresy we know as Aerial Tollhouses. In his first article against Tollhouses, Fr. Salaris used the hymns and scriptures from the Feastday of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary to refute the teachings of the Tollhouse Heresy. In this paper, Fr. Salaris uses the Orthodox Funeral Service itself to expose the Tollhouse teaching as heretical. If this teaching were to be found anywhere, it would be overtly evident in the Funeral Service – but it is void.
As mentioned before, absolutely no confusion about this existed before these (and other) heretical teachings seeped into North American Orthodox beliefs as a result of revisionist teachings from the Ephraimite movement. We now have Priests telling our Laity, at funerals, that we must pray for departed souls to “successfully” pass through the Arial Tollhouses. We agree with Fr. Steven when he writes: “As do all tollhouse teachings, it makes a blasphemous mockery of Christ’s salvific death and resurrection”.
Fr. Salaris attended DePauw University in Indiana and graduated in 1987 with a B.A. in Biology. In 1991, he received a Ph.D. in mammalian physiology from the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology at Purdue University. After graduate school, he transferred to St. Louis, Missouri to take a position as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Cardiology at Washington University School of Medicine. In 1993, he began teaching biology courses at various campuses in the St. Louis area. That same year, he married at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in St. Louis, MO to his present wife. In 1995, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he taught biology at St. Joseph’s University. In 1997, as a result of his personal journey, that began several years earlier, he pursued and was granted a Master of Divinity degree at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Christian Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY.
Editors’ Note: This article was sent to us from a Priest within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He gave us permission to publish it with the understanding we would not disclose his identity. He is personally known to many and we find his article to be of value. He is not the first priest to have done this. We welcome contributions from others as well.
The respected and prolific author, Mr. A.P. Cromidas, has written yet another insightful perspective on the recent Russian financed video which extolls Elder Ephraim and undermines the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Click to read.