By dogcatcher on February 25th, 2012
Confessions about an Ephraimite Confession As a preteen, before I knew anything about the movement of Elder Ephraim, I attended a church now identified as a center of Ephraimite ideology, where I now recognize how much I was affected by their doctrines. In retrospect, it is frightening to think about how indoctrinated I had become. I spent nights laying awake with the vision of demons coming to attack me. I spent days contemplating my salvation and tried desperately to pray away all of the evil impulses of the world. My life and thoughts concentrated on death. At times, I wished that it would just come before I could become corrupted any further in the society that I was taught to believe was inherently evil. These feelings lasted the entire duration of my time under the guidance of the Ephraimite priests at this church, but they were most vivid during one particular youth retreat. I admit that I still hold some fond memories of these retreats which took place in an isolated, wooded area with fields for sports activities and cabins for social events. Even the religious discussions were nice as they allowed us to reaffirm our faith with other like-minded Orthodox Christians. All around, it was a great environment for an escape from society. Nevertheless, there were aspects that I now find unsettling as I look back at my preteen experience with the eyes, knowledge and wisdom of a young adult. The discussions at the youth retreat always started by reinforcing our Orthodox Christian ideals but were carefully guided toward a condemnation of society as a whole with the conclusion that we aren’t meant for it. As the retreat took on the feeling of an incubator, sheets of paper with time intervals were passed around so that we could all sign up for confession. Even at the time I felt that this a little unsettling, and expressed my concern that I didn’t think I was prepared for confession. To my relief, I was assured that the confession was completely voluntary, but highly recommended. My relief subsided when we were all handed a pamphlet containing a long list of questions we should consider for confession. We were then told that we were to spend the next 4 hours in silence to reflect on these questions (even if we had no intention of participating in confession). As anyone can remember, 4 hours of silent contemplation is a lifetime sentence for a person at that age. As we sat in silence and I went over the questions, every so often I would be approached by a priest or counselor and asked why I didn’t want to go for confession. I was told by each person that I could get rid of the sins that weighed on my soul. By the time the 4 hours was over, I no longer felt that this event was voluntary, and so I signed up. As I approached the cabin in which I was going to give confession (which seemed to be particularly isolated), I had all of the things that I wanted to say in mind based on the questions I had contemplated at length. I told the priest about the standard mischief that comes with being a boy at that age. Then the confession turned very uncomfortable as the priest began what felt like an interrogation of questions (a tactic I later found is denounced by our Church). My answer was no to most questions I was asked until the question that I will always remember came up, “Have you looked at unclean images of women?” I was hesitant as I shook my head to confirm that I had. “…and has this led to anything else?” I hung my head in shame as I answered that it had. I was then told that I should not take communion for 6 months. My heart sank and my eyes watered. Being told that I shouldn’t be in communion with our Lord made me feel like I wasn’t human. Afterward, the guilt I felt made me feel unworthy to be around the others and, at the same time, I felt an intense hatred for the society that had corrupted me. As I look back on this event I am grateful that it took place. The reason I am grateful is not because I benefited spiritually from the experience, but rather, because it happened at a point where I was not yet fully indoctrinated. So in the time that followed this confession, I could have gone down two paths. The first path is one in which, gripped by guilt and fear of my salvation, I would cling to the suggestions of the priests as if they were gurus, and certainly would have been fully indoctrinated in Ephraimite theology. Luckily for me, my parents were always logical and reasonable people, and they had raised me as such. Therefore, at a pivotal time, I made the decision that this could not be what God had intended. Why would He want me to stop being in communion with Him, as a preteen, which is an essential part of Christianity? After I came to this realization, everything unraveled. If God created the world for us to live in it, why would He want us to fear and exclude ourselves from it? If Jesus walked through the societies of His time, why would He want me to restrict myself from my society? It felt like a blindfold had been pulled from over my eyes. The reason I tell this story is that for every case that turned out like mine, there are numerous cases that followed the other path I have described. A common analogy used in reference to brainwashing or mind control is that of a frog in a pot of water. If the pot is heated while the frog is inside, he won’t realize the change in temperature is untenable until it is already too late. Fortunately for me, the pot was heated too quickly and I jumped out. Unfortunately for our Church, there are a multitude of others that are being boiled alive. Editors’ Note: This very personal account submitted to our website raised many red flags for the Editors at It demonstrates some of the methods used by Ephraimite clergy in the Metropolis of Chicago during confessions of adolescents. The author was a vulnerable and impressionable pre-teen when questionable tactics of the priest attempted to condition him into giving confession. These practices were performed when the parents had permitted their children to be taken from under their watchful eye to the presumably safe environment of a religious or church retreat. The author reported to us that looking back much later, he now realizes that the adolescents at this retreat were also supervised by congregants who were indoctrinated into the more extreme or fundamentalist version of the Orthodox Christian faith we now know as the Ephraimite movement. Due to their inexperience, some pre-teens are terrified and apprehensive about the sacrament of confession. Even some adults have admitted to experiencing similar feelings. In this instance, a pre-teen was preconditioned in a manner we believe to be excessive and not permitted by the church. What possible sins exist for a ten to twelve year olds meriting such isolation? Spiritual or religious abuse exists in different forms. When you isolate a child for the intended purpose of gaining control over their decision whether or not to give confession, has the priest crossed the line? In response to calls and concerns raised by parents to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has developed “The Youth Protection Manual (YPM)” which was created to “help clergy and laity charged with the task of selecting, training, and supervising those who work with young people at Archdiocese camps and retreats. Charged by the Holy Eparchial Synod and beginning in 2009, each camp and Metropolis retreat of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is mandated to utilize the YPM within their program.” This same Synod has now expressly prohibited Monasteries from operating overnight camps for our Youth. A simple reading of this account helps explain why. It is important to recognize these Ephraimite practices do not exist in a vacuum. It is incumbent upon all Hierarchs, Priests and members of the Parish Councils and even the Board of Trustees of our seminary to investigate these practices and to stop them. We believe this is the first exposure of an attempt to obtain the submission demanded and expected by Ephraimite priests. Some Ephraimite priests have been successful in creating a Myrmidon mentality among some of their followers. A Myrmidon is defined as a person who executes orders or follows instructions without question as if they are following a master’s command. For Greek Orthodox Christians who confess to Ephraimite clergy, the confession is no longer a confessant pouring out their soul and insecurities to a loving spiritual father. Readers have reported to us that confessions to Ephraimite Clergy have resulted in the following: 1. Information given during confessions by adolescents and young children is being used against their parents when the parents themselves confess to the same priest in violation of the sanctity and expectation of privacy of the confessant. 2. Parents have testified that their children never experienced any desire to join a convent or a monastery or monastic life until they gave confession to an Ephraimite priest; some parents whose children became monastics in the Ephraimite Monasteries believe that their children were manipulated by Ephraimite Clergy into entering monasteries after they admitted their sins during confession. 3. Some Priests have told us they advise their congregants not to give confession to a monk at a monastery because they cannot undo the severe penance. 4. Parents of children who have given confession are reporting to us that their children are prohibited from taking communion for months and years and sometimes decades for the sins they have confessed to. Guilt imposed by a priest on a confessant has been used to alter that innocent person’s life. 5. Many persons have reported an ongoing practice where the priest during confession “manufactures” doubt about a spouse’s fidelity during confession. The above instances are a sampling of the issues that surround the sacrament of Confession as it is practiced by some of the monks and priests who follow Elder Ephraim. We will continue to expose additional practices as they are reported to us. Many of the reports emanate from the Metropolis of Chicago. Our readers are advised that we have received reports of an increase in the activities of Ephraimites in the Metropolis of Pittsburgh. You need to pay attention to what is occurring in your church. We have already received numerous reports of people leaving the Greek Orthodox Church as a result of the Ephraimite movement.