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Honoring Celibacy – yet still not evidence of Character

Ambrose’s work “On Virgins” is beautiful. For those clergymen that actually were Virgins when they were ordained Celibate, I applaud and revere them. Even the one’s that were not but remained pure afterward, I applaud their beautiful commitment also, that witnesses to Christ and His Gospel.

As for my comments on Celibacy, you (and maybe others) misread my spirit. This is commonplace with regard to online comments like the ones here.

I acknowledge that any normal human being that chooses to make the faithful step of being ordained celibate, is truly making a huge sacrifice. Respect should be given.

Being, and remaining, celibate is a sacrifice with the intent to pursue a truly spiritual life. I think St. Paul refers to it as being like the Angels.

It is not, however, something that should be used as evidence of accomplished authority and knowledge. And while it might be an indicator of a proven character, it is not a litmus test for character, nor character necessarily itself.

The same can be said for marriage. It is a beautiful state. The union of 2 people is a sacrament of the Church ordained by God. The crowns that the bridal couple put on are the crowns of martyrdom. You really give up living for yourself.

Celibacy is not proof of being a loving priest, anymore than being married is.
Celibacy is not proof of being extra holy, anymore than being married is.
Holiness can be found in the Monastery.
Holiness can be found in the local parish too.

There are examples of “celibate” priests that are scandalously disgusting. The same can be said for a few married priests too. Conversely, there are examples of celibate priests that are a deep inspiration and manifest the loving presence of Christ. The same can be said for some married priests too.

I do not think it reasonable to start saying one priest is better than another because he is married or celibate. How low have we sunk to start judging the holiness of a man because he is celibate or married?

I believe that part of the reason our Church is in such a turmoil is because of the following:

1. We have a critical absence of true Hierarchical leadership that proactively involves itself with issues of today in a substantive manner. “Feed my sheep” the Lord said to Peter. We get platitudes and cliches, not nutritious enough. I am saddened to say that I would not want any of my sons to emulate any of our Hierarchs. Had our Hierarchs been parish priests for 20 or 30 years, I feel they would have a keener understanding of their flock, and the real world we all live in, and therefore would have been a better leader.

2. Spiritual arrogance has run rampant in our Church under the banner of Ephraim’s movement, which does NOT represent true Athonite Monasticism. Ephraim’s monasteries have undermined the local parish. The irrational excuse is that this-or-that clergymen at the parish is not spiritual enough. Had Ephraim and his followers just had their monasteries and not undermine the local parish, and, exploit and divide us, I don’t think there would have been any problem. But this was not the case. The line was drawn with statements such as “only true Orthodox Christians worship like Ephraim and his followers” For the sake of brevity, I will refer to them as fundamentalists. This arrogance and divisiveness has done a great disservice to our Lord’s Church.

3. People have left our Church in disgust because of the uncanonical and unscriptural teaching of Aerial Tollhouses that insults the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. It dismisses the notion of Divine Grace. It is not in the funeral service. It is not in the Liturgy. It is a notion that is not Christian. Fr. Maximos Constas is clearly against it. Common sense and logic see it for the nonsense it is. It has so little credibility that obscure citations are made and mischaracterized as “universal”. Our Church has very few proclaimed Ecumenical Fathers and Theologians. Fr. Rose is not one of them. I do not disrespect his piety. Nor do I disrespect the piety of any Saint, no matter how obscure. But the Church has not always agreed with the writings of every saint that ever existed. In typical fashion, our Hierarchs are woefully silent and inarticulate on this and other real matters.

4. I started speaking up against the Ephraimite Fundamentalist movement and its many outspoken arrogant adherents because of their critical and judgmental statements. When asked to go deeper, their arguments are self-referencing, circular, or just ridiculous. As evidenced with some statements I have read here, they cannot articulate a deep thought with substance. I am not speaking about the sincere pious ones that attend a monastery service. I am talking about the big-mouths that like to condemn clergy and laity alike.

I have witnessed these people damage their own families and divide communities with their shallow and myopic arrogant statements. Not one of those people could ever hold a candle to the accomplishments of Mr. Stotis, and yet they assassinate his character with great zeal and vigor. Disgusting. I see what kind of Christians they are. They have shown me.

I am short and pointed with them, because I do not like loud mouthed bullies that are basically stupid. They have no clue how blessed our Church was to have men like Mr. Stotis.

Mr. Stotis was personally asked by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios to serve on the Archdiocesan Council, to participate on the Monastery Review Committee, and help our Church address some of its problems. Mr. Stotis is a remarkably successful businessman, trial attorney, bank founder with stellar reviews, Greek basketball team owner, and CEO/Partner of a large reverse logistics company where just one of its buildings is over 600,000 square feet. Here we have a man that has excelled in life, and the self-possessed and self-acclaimed super-Orthodox cast his name out as evil, when they should be grateful that such a man wants to serve our Church. He is not celibate, but has been married to his one and only wife of many years, and has raised a beautiful family. I did my homework. That is more than his critics could say. Mr. Stotis is a man of faith and action. I hope my sons turn out like him.

How many other such people, like Mr. Stotis, have we chased away? Wait, I can here their predictable rationalizations “oh but we are not the ‘country-club’ Orthodox”. What bullies and character assassins! Yeah, we have chased away a lot of people – just look at the Pew report. Of course “they are not Orthodox” could be their rebuttal. I would reply, your doctor (or surgeon) is probably not either. I know who I would go to in a time of need. As for our Church’s time of dire need, may our Lord save us.

Epiphany 2018 and the Revelation of GOA Clericalism

For the past 114 years, the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs, Florida, has been a cooperative effort of the hard working members of the local church of St. Nicholas Cathedral, and also a great deal of assistance from the local city government.  Unfortunately the cooperative relationship was dealt a harsh blow this year when the Parish Council and the Epiphany Committee of the St. Nicholas Cathedral (with the guidance, leadership, blessings and support of Fr. Haros and Metropolitan Alexios, the only Hierarch present this year) decided to prohibit laymen (politicians in particular)  from standing on the platform that overlooks the bayou where the young men dive for the Cross, thus breaking the long standing practice of clergy and lay leaders being together. Amidst a downward trend of the membership in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), this is another sad day.

In a dramatic scene, as the Mayor of the City (the host) tried to go up the few steps to go on to the viewing stand (as has been the practice for the past 114 years), in full view of Metropolitan Alexios and Fr Haros, he was physically blocked by a councilman and prohibited.  Also prohibited from being present on the viewing stand were U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis, the Counsel General of Greece, Mr. Dimitrios Sparos, and others civic leaders.

There were 2 reasons given for prohibiting these laymen from being on the viewing stand – safety and liturgical protocol. Both of these reasons are highly suspect.  Because it was cited as a “liturgical event” it was concluded that only clergy should be there. Yet the Holy Water was already blessed in the Church. One is left to wonder how this was indeed liturgically exclusive to clergy only.   In previous years when there actually were numerous people, many of the lower ranked clergy and general laity refrained from being on the viewing stand.  To state that this prohibition of laymen on the viewing stand was purely a safety decision, vividly appears inaccurate, if not suspect.  According to one city official, the Tarpon Springs Police Department and the Tarpon Springs Fire Department have not issued any official statements regarding safety concerns (thereby prohibiting laymen), even though it was suggested in the Church’s bulletin that they did. To add insult to injury, there were at least 3 laymen on the viewing stand, they were not politicians. Politicians and lay leaders appeared to be the target of this exclusion.

The Church’s bulletin suggested that it did not want anyone with “titles” by their name to be grand-standing in order to be seen. However it appears that the clergy themselves gave the appearance of grandstanding.  Dozens of priests are not needed for this simple event. After all, this is not a divine liturgy, nor a sacrament, but a simple service wherein only laymen were targeted for exclusion.The question then arises: is this the onset of clericalism in the GOA?  Is clericalism a by-product of the fundamentalism that has swept the GOA?  Is this the reason attendance is so dreadfully down since the onset of fundamentalism? It appears that clericalism has now reared its divisive head. We will will lose more membership.  It is sad.

In one fell swoop, the peace of the community of St. Nicholas Cathedral was stained and will inevitably result in a divided, if not polarized, community. It has already begun. Some support what happened. Some do not.  The net result is division.  When frivolous and ridiculous positions like this are made, enthusiasm deteriorates and even more people will leave the Church. Pew research has already reported that the GOA national membership is down about 37% over the past 5 years.  This will only make matters worse.

It is one thing to verbally proclaim that “we are one”, but if the Church starts alienating people, especially elected officials who are the representatives and the servants of the people, a rift is made in the community and it will only get worse. City Councilmen are not pleased with what happened, neither is anyone else. After all, tax-payer dollars were used.  Consideration, one would think, should have been shown by Cathedral.

One would think that this action MUST have had the blessing of the Dean of the Cathedral, Fr. Haros, and also his superior, Metropolitan Alexios. It is foolish to think otherwise.  The Church has many examples of communities ripped apart by priests who are subsequently transferred while the community is left to try and pick up the pieces, and hopefully, heal. Epiphany 2018 has revealed the gaping disconnect of our ordained leaders from the laymen entrusted to their spiritual care. It seems to many that this disconnect reveals a self-aggrandizing clerical ego emanating from our executive leaders. This kind of stubborn insistence appears to be born more of insecurity and pride, than matters of safety and protocol.

The question is then naturally raised as to the caliber of the clergy today, and especially the Hierarchs who direct them.  By the way, the day started with Divine Liturgy, where the police were called to remove a priest from the Altar, who did not have the Metropolitan’s permission to be there.  They also removed his son who is a chanter.  While we are not taking a position here on who is right and who is wrong, we can all agree that this day of festivities was tarnished from the beginning.

While Epiphany (aka Theophany) is very much about the revelation of the Holy Trinity, this year revealed just how broken we are, clergy and laity alike.

Yianni Pappas

Hierarchical Avarice?

In the same day that we see the scathing letter to the editor of TNH regarding the catastrophe of the Greek Orthodox Church in America (Archdiocesan wide AND Metropolises wide), we then get a letter from Metropolitan Alexios asking for money for a new liturgy book that he sanctioned, because HE did not deem the one put forth and endorsed by the Seminary and the Archdiocese to be worthy.

Think about that for a moment.

Within the context of our church’s shameful nationwide administrative disarray, with the scent of financial catastrophe freshly tainting our senses, we have a Metropolitan who publishes a letter that in effect disrespects the Seminary and the Archdiocese, and is unchallenged by the Patriarch. Is this not the epitome of avarice?  Is this not evidence of Metropolitans disrespecting, if not exploiting, the Archbishop – the primate of the GOA?  By having our bishops made into Metropolitans, it appears that it has become an administrative free-for-all in the USA.

https://www.thenationalherald.com/180537/letter-editor-demetrios-andonios-plenty-others-fault/

We have become a spectacle of foolishness and are doomed the bane existence of a religious ghetto (or as some have graciously called it: a boutique religion).  By mis-using the phrase “not of the world”, our executive leaders in America have illustrated their ineptness as they plunder us into irrelevant oblivion

Will the Patriarch care?

Personally, I am glad the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church is here.  Hopefully not all the work of our forefathers in America will be for naught.

I feel sorry for the few Metropolitans that are actually worthy.  To the 4 or 5 others I say “Shame on you”.

Mr. Steve Johnson

Amidst turmoil, Metropolitan pitches book that is supposed to be “better” than what the GOA put out as approved.

 

Vourvoulias Secretly Campaigns for Bishop Demetrios

In another stunning article, Theodoros Kalmoukos of The National Herald published a scathing piece in the October 6, 2017 edition.

Click to read:

 Vourvoulias Secretly Campaigns for Bishop Demetrios to Βecome Chicago Metropolitan

The Blame Game

The Blame Game

by Mr. Steve Johnson

Everyone loses in the blame game.  The only ones who don’t know this are the ones who play it.  The financial problems of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) have caused numerous articles in national publications to appear. The Titanic is sinking because no executive leader in charge has heard the screams of those trying to warn us of our impending demise.

Reports of alleged improprieties, perpetual suspicions, the quest for the next scapegoat –  what do these have in common? There are intentional (i.e. contrived) results, and there are unintentional byproducts. The intentional effect of those who contrive to put blame on others is that they hope to take attention off the root cause(s) of the problem.  The unintentional byproduct is that people get disillusioned and will simply leave, taking their money with them (that is what happens when people are not inspired by their church leaders).  The financial crisis of the GOA, in every Metropolis, is evidence of that.

To address it, no in-depth and substantive examination is pursued, rather, more blame is put on a new round of scapegoats, even “sleeper” scapegoats (those who have been given enough rope to be hung out to dry when the need arises, then the noose is pulled tight).  So very byzantine (not Byzantine).  The vicious saga replays itself.  Those in charge hope that there will be a different outcome, and that the new scapegoat will catch everyone’s attention longer. Inevitably after a brief view of each new scapegoat, the critical attention of the masses again returns its focus to where the root cause ultimately lies: the executive leaders of the GOA, our Hierarchs, who again remind us of how woefully inept they are in functioning in today’s world in a meangingful way.

 

Who Lost Chicago?

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.

Click to see Title Page, Article, and names of its staff members.

Click to see article only.                Click to see entire paper.

click here for our home page

 

Ignoring the Laity – Again.

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.

 

http://arlington.wickedlocal.com/news/20170730/no-parish-without-father-nick-st-athanasius-loses-its-long-serving-priest

#bringbackfathernick

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XI6uGpjpvo

https://youtu.be/9XI6uGpjpvo

https://www.thenationalherald.com/170688/arlington-ma-parish-devastated-over-priests-removal-boos-methodios/

Another Act of Betrayal

Another Act of Betrayal

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.

 

Yianni Pappas
July 2017

For a printable version, please click here.

 

EDITORS’ NOTE:

This reinforces the need for autonomy.

Leader Warns of Chicago’s Future

The Chicago Metropolis “cannot survive more of the same“.

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.

To view the letter in an easy-to-print format please click here.

To view a pic of the actual article as seen in the publication click here. 

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.

YP

Archbishop Demetrios
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
Rum Patrikhanesi
342 20 Fener- Haliç
Istanbul
TURKEY

Tel.: +90 212 5319670 – 6
Fax: +90 212 5349037

Thank you for your witness. Remember to pray for our Church. There is power there.

 

Chicago’s Crossroads – So Goes the Country?

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.

Please see TNH article by clicking here.

 

UPDATE:

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/