The Aftermath

By dogcatcher on February 22nd, 2014

 
Editors’ Introduction

 

Our Editors want to address a seemingly minor, yet significant aspect of our shared Ephraimite experience. This regards one aspect of the “Aftermath” of a Parish whose Ephraimite Clergyman has left the parish and the effect that has on the parishioners who left. This article is in the form of an interview of a family who left their Parish which became infected by an Ephraimite Clergyman. Specifically, we find out their plans now that the Ephraimite Clergyman at their old Parish has been transferred to a different Parish in another Metropolis.

The Editors have learned that in the Metropolis of Chicago and unfortunately other Metropolises, the Hierarchs manage the issue of an Ephraimite Priest who has blown up a parish by “transferring the problem” to a new Parish in someone else’s jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the new Parish is not prepared. The Editors have also surmised that the methodology of some newly assigned Ephraimite priests is to divide and conquer. Hence, the unsuspecting Parish Council members at the new Church may soon find themselves at war with each other. Once the Ephraimite Priest is transferred the consequences to the Parish that has been damaged by their former Priest’s actions and the aftermath that ensues are ignored by the same Hierarchs who transferred the Priest. It is the same methodology we learned from our Catholic Brothers who believed that a simple transfer would cure a Clergyman of his demons. The difference is that the lawsuits and subsequent bankruptcies of various Catholic Dioceses were felt in immediate “Church” time. In other words, the problems caused financial damage in years and decades in the Catholic Church. In the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the damage resulting from the Ephraimite movement will be felt over decades and centuries. The lack of action by our Hierarchy which is hurting the Church raises the question of whether our Church can or will survive these types of transfers of a major problem from one jurisdiction to another?

So the Editors wanted to find out: What are the consequences of transferring a carrier of Ephraimite “theology” upon those who walked away from their Parish community; do those people dare go back to the Parish or even to the Church they left? To answer these questions we asked a family a number of questions with the hope that our readers could discern a greater understanding of the future of the Church. If you are asking yourself what does one family have to do with the future of the Church, then you really need to pay close attention to their words, as they reflect the position of many victims of the Ephraimite problem. The problem of returning to a Parish once the Ephraimite Priest is gone is not a simple one.

The Questions to the Family:

Do you wish to return to your former Parish now that a Faith-abiding Priest has been officially assigned there?

Answer: No.

Can you explain why?

Answer: Certainly, there are a multitude of reasons; some are personal while others are more practical and obvious. On the personal side the issue we had with the Ephraimite Priest not so much about the carrier of the Ephraimite cancer coming into the Parish; it was always more about the reaction of our fellow Parishioners. We and others who left shared a great deal of disappointment in those people in the community who we believed we were close to. Perhaps that was an error of judgment on our part. We naturally assumed that people who attended Liturgy regularly understood the Faith. We were absolutely wrong. Let me try to give you some points about why we and others will not go back. In discussing this with many who have left, it has become very clear that many of us have given up on the Greek Orthodox Church as a healthy and functioning institution. For many of us, the Ephraimite problem in the Greek Orthodox Church has illuminated the vast shortcomings of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Many have walked away from our Church permanently. We lose them, we lose their children. But this certainly goes beyond what you asked me.

What happened to those who did not leave?

Answer: Strangely enough, those who stayed in the Parish (while many left) also feel like victims. This begs the question “do they yet understand what they did”? The answer is no.

How do they see their role in perpetuating a heretical theology upon their fellow Parishioners?

They appear to lack a clear understanding of what role they played, what happened and why.

What are they telling people now that the Ephraimite Priest has been reassigned?

Recently someone who left an Ephraimite infected parish told me about a conversation they had with someone from their old Parish. He asked the person “do you understand now why the Priest acted that way”? The response was an unbelievable one at best. It was “Father ……. was an enigma, I do not know why he acted the way he acted”. Some who stayed love to characterize themselves as those who “kept the doors open”. What amazes us is that they are in a state of denial. They will never admit, nor will they come to understand that they facilitated the damage to their Church and to the faithful. The Ephraimite problem has grown because they, the Ephraimites, have found unwitting accomplices who make it easy or easier to cleanse the Church from non-followers. So in a nutshell there is a problem for us personally to worship with those who turned on their friends and at times on their own family because they were easily duped by a destructive movement.

How did those who stayed feel about those who left?

Answer: Those who stayed attacked the reputation, character and works of those who left. This is reprehensible behavior because the damage goes beyond the person who is the recipient of the slanderous comments. Many of us carefully watched as, one by one, those who left the Parish community were torn apart by the defenders of the Ephraimite Clergyman. All of the sudden, years of service, devotion to one’s Church and Faith and long lasting friendships meant nothing. We choose not to go back. The decision does not concern a lack of forgiveness. Instead, the concern is whether all of us want to expose our family to people who became such easy victims of cult practices. So do we feel obligated or compelled to go back to the Parish, only to drop money in a tray, or buy raffle tickets? No, because like many who left, we understood that the assignment of an Ephraimite clergyman was temporary. Those that helped the Ephraimite Priest escalate a civil war within the Parish defending heresy never understood that. They saw those families who contributed to the building and operation of our Parish as expendable, but not the heretical Priest. The Members of the Parish who defended the Ephraimite Priest did not anticipate that many ministries which existed prior to his arrival at the church like Sunday School, GOYA, Basketball teams who participated in the Metropolis Basketball League also would become expendable. By the time this Ephraimite Priest left, many of these ministries evaporated. That same church is now suffering financial stress.

How did they and the Church Hierarchy not see that the Faith was being attacked or that the Ephraimite Priest was preaching heresy?

Answer: I feel a personal loss of respect for those who failed to protect the Faith from heresy including our Hierarchs, Non-Ephraimite Clergy, Members of the Parish Council of those Parishes affected, or Lay Leaders that serve on our Metropolis or Archdiocesan Councils. Underlying the decay in our Church today is a universal breach of one’s duty to proclaim the Faith and protect it from the Ephraimite distortions. For example, there was an article in the National Herald several months ago written by an Attorney from Chicago. He viewed the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese as a “sit and listen” body. Our collective eyewitness observations fully support his opinion. Many of our Church communities including its councils have descended into an intellectual abyss. I can remember one of the persons who left early from a Parish over the Ephraimite issue made the following comment during a Parish Council meeting. When he made this comment clearly half the members of the Parish Council were already sycophants of the Ephraimite Clergyman. After listening to the ramblings of one such minion, he said “the collective intelligence of this Parish Council has diminished”. At first I thought he was overly harsh, but I now see this comment as prophetic. As a Hierarchical religious institution, we have had problems in the past and we will have problems in the future. The difference is our current leaders merely carry out their ceremonial duties. Many of us who left asked our Hierarchs and Church Leaders to speak out against heretical teachings such as Aerial Toll Houses or that husbands and wives have to live like brother and sister after they procreate. The leaders failed to proclaim the faith. They have completely failed us as leaders of our religious institution. Our Church is now facing many serious problems and its leaders continually fail to acknowledge, address, or resolve any of these problems.

Can you give us an example of an issue that divided the church before you left?

Answer: There has been a conscious effort of misinformation promulgated by the attack arm of the Ephraimites. At the Parish where many of us left there was a Priest on “loan” to the Metropolis of Chicago from another Orthodox jurisdiction. He is a well-educated and popular Priest who is intellectual and highly competent. I will give you just one example of how they attempted to damage this Clergyman. The courtiers of the Ephraimite Clergy in Chicago began to tell their followers that this Priest on loan “was not qualified to hear confession”. Not one of these people had the decency to investigate whether this claim had even an iota of credence. Instead they would gossip and whisper ever so quietly to any fool who would listen and believe that this was true! This Clergyman’s years of service to the community meant nothing to those that were the conduits of shameful and malicious gossip.

What did you learn about the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese as an institution after you left your Parish?

Answer: The institution of our Church is dysfunctional and its leadership is in dire need of leadership training. We did not arrive at this conclusion overnight. It is based upon decades of observation and interaction. It is based on hundreds of hours of research on our faith and other faiths. One of our biggest problems is that our institution does not study facts, statistics or trends. They operate in their own world in order to perpetuate their comfortable lifestyles. They tell everyone how well we are doing, yet when we go to Church on Sunday many of us notice that attendance is significantly down from even a few years ago. It took the GOA years of pressure from various sources to publish the Stewardship numbers to understand how each Parish is assessed. Here, finally, they did the right thing.

We have never seen, although I have exhaustively looked for membership and stewardship numbers for each Parish and Metropolis. We have also tried to find how much each Metropolis pays for their fair share assessments. Did you know that in Metropolises other than Chicago, Churches that have fallen on hard times are granted discounts for their fair share assessments? These all important facts appear to be state guarded secrets, hidden to insure that the masses are kept in the dark. If the masses knew the facts, perhaps the Hierarch’s world as they know it would come to an end.

During the recent Super Bowl game we discussed whether any of the players were Greek. The answer was a resounding YES! Some quick fact checking revealed and confirmed that Chris Maragos of the Seattle Seahawks was ethnically of Greek descent. Regarding his religious background, we learned that Chris’s brother Troy is the Pastor of Student Ministries at the Niles, Illinois campus of the Harvest Bible Chapel.

“Maragos is a Christian. Maragos has spoken about his faith saying:

“He’s the Alpha, He’s the Omega. He’s the beginning and end of everything. To understand where we’ve reached, which is in the world’s view quote-unquote ‘the pinnacle,’ you really see how empty that is. Having Jesus in my life, you really see how important that is because you see that He is everything. To take Jesus, who is perfect, and to be so humble as to come to earth as a mere man and to live the life that He lived despite knowing my sin, to go on the cross and to die for my sin and our sin and everyone’s sin – to me, that’s everything. That’s joy, that’s peace, that’s love to think that He and His perfection would do that despite knowing really the depths of who I am.” See link at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Maragos)

So why is Chris Maragos important to this discussion? The Ephraimites point to Troy Polamalu as one of theirs. Is Chris Maragos therefore lost? Doesn’t he matter? Well everyone’s perspective here is different. The silence and delusion of our Church leaders and how it has permeated the thinking among us became more clear by not studying Chris Maragos, but rather his brother Troy the Pastor. Let’s look at why this is relevant to understanding where we are and where we are going. The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago has 58 Parishes and began its official presence in the Midwest in 1923. Pastor Troy’s Harvest Bible has the following history:

Harvest Bible Chapel is a non-denominational, Evangelical Christian mega church with seven campuses in the greater Chicago area. It was founded on September 18, 1988. James MacDonald was the founding and remains the current senior pastor. The church has over 13,000 attendees at weekend services across all campuses”. (See the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvest_Bible_Chapel)

We seriously doubt that our Church has 13,000 congregants in all 58 of our Parishes on any given Sunday. Yet we are told by our leaders that we are doing great! In less than 26 years, Harvest Bible Chapel has more attendees on a Sunday than we have Stewards in our Metropolis. The Metropolis has previously disclosed a number not greater than 12,000 in the last few years. While we are contracting as a Faith while we accommodate the Fundamentalist element that we all now just call Ephraimites, our leaders keep saying “just look at the studies, all major dominations are shrinking!” Not exactly true, because if you walk into any of the Protestant mega churches in the Metropolis of Chicago you see nothing but double digit growth. In fact go to Willow Creek Church next time any of you are in the Chicago area. Here is a little background on that success story:

“Willow Creek Community Church (or simply Willow Creek Church) is a non-denominational, multi-generational Evangelical Christian mega church located in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Illinois. It was founded on October 12, 1975 by Bill Hybels, who is currently the senior pastor. The church has three weekend services averaging 24,000 attendees, making it the third-largest church in the United States (this ranking includes multi-site churches).The church has been listed as the most influential church in America the last several years in a national poll of pastors.” (See the link at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willow_Creek_Church)

If you visit Willow Creek, make sure you sit in the section where many of our former Parishioners are seated. Some just call it the “Greek Section”. A look at the success of the two Protestant mega churches mentioned above is a sign of how badly we are doing as an institution. No one will argue that the Greek Orthodox religion is an ancient faith with rich traditions. As an institution we are just failing dismally, both corporately and spiritually.

Realize that we all share the blame because we have not challenged our leaders. Ask them to produce the facts or the numbers of members, the numbers of baptisms, the number of marriages for each year in the last ten to twenty years. Our Ephraimite friends enjoy quoting Saint John Chrysostom on many topics. Here is one that we have yet to hear anyone cite but can apply to the current situation:

“The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.”
– or –
“The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.” [There are numerous citations for both of these quotes; here is one from a decidedly Orthodox website: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/11/is-road-to-hell-paved-with-skulls-of.html

You sound absolutely negative; do you see any hope for the future?

Answer: Personally, I do not see hope or change in my lifetime. I see the Greek Orthodox Church as an institution in a “death spiral”. It lacks effective leadership at all levels. It cannot decide where it wants to fit in the mosaic of the North American Experience. It has an institutional bias against those who challenge it and its non-ecclesiastical practices. It is too dependent upon how it is perceived by the Church of Greece. It cannot learn from the mistakes of other Orthodox Jurisdictions or religions. It also completely lacks accountability to its Laity. There was an article that your website published called “Designed for Extinction?” (Editors’ Note: You may read this article at this link: http://gotruthreform.org/designed-for-extinction). I take issue with the fact that the author used a question mark, as if there is a question here. It is only a matter of time before our Hierarchs are forced to get day jobs to support themselves.

What good do you see in the Church?

Answer: I still see enough to make me want to go there on Sunday, just not to my former Parish. I see many great Clergy who suffer silently with the downward movement of the Church. I see a great and rich Faith that, if practiced and administered properly, would have standing room only at all our Parishes. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is because our Faith is in the hands of inept leadership. I still respect that Orthodoxy is the single greatest Christian Faith; it is just in a historically diminishing state. Just look at the Salt Lake City situation in the Metropolis of Denver. Read the National Herald or the newspapers from Greece and what you see is a universal loss of respect for our Church. These are all self-inflicted wounds. We as a religion and ethnic group know better. We achieve success in other endeavors, yet we are failing here where it matters most, in the process of seeking the salvation of God’s children. Our institutions are turning people away from God and the Church. We are all to blame!

To return to our first question why won’t you return to the Parish you left?

Answer: My family understands and appreciates that God wants us to ask difficult questions. From the beginning, we asked God “what is happening to our Parish that has been a part of our family for decades”. With faith in God and a heavy heart we had to leave this Parish in order to understand what was going on. We left and then instead of spending time participating in several ministries like Parish Council, Sunday School or youth ministries, we spent that time researching, reading and analyzing the problem. Our family purchased and read many books on our faith. In addition to reading many articles, we have interviewed and discussed these issues with Professors of various Universities. People who have left have also been interviewed by Professors and theologians asking questions and helping them make connections. Most importantly, we have been contacted by dozens of victims including employers, employees, attorneys, professors, teachers, friends, mothers, fathers, siblings, children, grandchildren, wives and husbands. We have helped them by counseling them. We have tried to help them understand why their families have been torn apart, why their marriages have failed, why their grandparents will not attend their weddings, why their children are required to be re-baptized in full submersion or why their children, who have run away to Ephraimite monasteries, are in turmoil and why as parents they are not allowed to help. God has put these people in our path. He answered our question of why we had to leave. There is still more work to be done helping the members of our wonderful faith who exist in a failing institution.

In conclusion, is there anything else your family would like to add?

Answer: The road toward resolution is a long and tedious one and we hope that there are members of the Church leadership and Hierarchy who have the desire, courage and perseverance to join those of us who are crawling through the trenches.

Editors’ Final Note

What became clear to us during this interview is that the Parishioners who protected the Ephraimite Priest have to acknowledge that they bear responsibility for ripping apart the Parish. They also owe everyone an apology for allowing a Priest to come between them. It became clear to us that the Parishioners who stayed did not help keep the doors to the Parish open. Instead, they helped carry the Parish to an edge of a cliff by enabling the Ephraimite Priest to remain as long as he did.