Letter to the Editors of GoTruthreform.org

By dogcatcher on April 7th, 2015
  Dear Editors, I wrote a message once to as many priests as I could encouraging them to acquire a pair of qualities (character and conviction) that will help the Church better address the tolerated indiscretions which have demoralized the membership of the Church (Clergy and Laity). This was my response to the Chicago Metropolis in particular where my family there is outraged at the alleged improprieties of the Fr. Dokos situation and Bishop Demetrios’ action against Fr. Angelo Artemas. I applaud Fr. Artemas’ actions in speaking up. It reminds me of the Priests in the Northeast United States who demonstrated character and conviction by putting their job security on the line and signed a petition during the days of Archbishop Spyridon. I hope this reflection helps motivate some Clergy and Laity to face the serious challenges our Church is facing from within. I believe our Church has changed over the years not in Theology, but in its presentation for lack of a better word. Growing up, I remember our Priests by and large were clean shaven and only wore their robes when in Church. They attended our GOYA meetings and we just felt comfortable with them. When we asked them about personal problems or issues we were dealing with, the answers were simple: prayer and some type of action. Even the leadership of our Bishops, in particular Archbishop Iakovos, used this modus operandi. During the recent remembrance of Martin Luther King Day, we recall how Archbishop Iakovos walked with Dr. King. Archbishop Iakovos was highly criticized by our fellow Greek Orthodox, but in the end, everyone acknowledged he was right. He wasn’t afraid to risk standing up for what was right. This does not seem to be the case today. In the Metropolis of Chicago, the faithful have been plagued with horrible and arrogant leadership. Statistics clearly show the number of Stewards in this Metropolis has declined mainly because of scandals such as the Fr. Dokos scandal wherein funds were misappropriated and some were directed to Bishop Demetrios (who tried to subvert the investigation by saying he did not see anything wrong). Fr. Angelo Artemas was brave enough to speak up against the actions of Bishop Demetrios who reportedly “threatened” Fr. Artemas to make the Dokos problem “go away” otherwise there will not be any more room for him in the Metropolis. I speak for many who applaud Fr. Artemas for his character and conviction. Fr. Artemas took a positive action. Not all Priests are willing or able to do this. For example, in an email exchange with a Priest, he told me that his Metropolis (Chicago) is plagued with problems. He then said his only course of action is to pray for this situation and the Holy Spirit will take care of it, and that’s it, nothing else. Herein lays the problem. I strongly believe that the Holy Spirit is indeed in charge of everything. But this is my dilemma; when I meet a starving man, I can tell him I will pray for him and do nothing else. But I can also decide to give him food or money. For purposes of illustration, I will assume the money will not be misused. Perhaps then prayer and action are a good combination. If it is within my ability to do something, I will. If it is not, then I don’t. Maybe that meal I give him will save his life. Maybe God put me there to feed that hungry man. Maybe that hungry man was there for my salvation also, not just for him to be fed. When there is clearly no action possible, prayer and being passive might work such as when one is isolated in a monastery as a monk. For too many years inaction has accompanied the many “indiscretions” that have plagued the Chicago Metropolis. You might be thinking: “How do I know?” and “who am I to judge?” Let me help answer both of these questions. How do I know? Many people have reported the same and similar stories of Bishop Demetri and Metropolitan Iakovos. Many people include members of the clergy and laity. These allegations have lingered for too many years. Priests have also reported the lack of pastoral warmth they wish they had from their Hierarchs. Many people who acknowledge the stories and feeling are not all spreading unfounded gossip. Remember the words of Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:8) who calls us to think on the things that are true, honest, just and virtuous. “Gossip” is defined as: “a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others” and “rumor or report of an intimate nature”. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. Virtue is defined as behavior showing high moral standards. Scandals in the Church caused by lack of virtue will cause people to leave the Church and in some cases give up the faith. Who am I to judge? I am not judging the men who hold these sacred offices. God will judge and I truly believe God is merciful. However as Apostle Paul reminds us I am called upon to think on the things including dishonorable actions. Whether misusing funds from a Trust, or personal misconduct, these are tangible and identifiable actions that resound with impropriety and the Church must address these actions. We are talking about the executive leaders of a Metropolis. Maybe the Holy Spirit moved me to write this. I believe He did. In the last 10 to 20 years, I have witnessed so many problems unfold in 3 Metropolises which include indiscretions and a “pseudo-monastic” element operating as a fundamentalist movement which is perverting our Greek Orthodox religion and threatening the well-being of our Church in America. People will accuse me being anti-monastery, which I am not. These are not real monasteries and I am just not comfortable with the perversion of our faith occurring within our churches. I call on the Laity to do their own thinking. I call on our leaders to fulfill their leadership roles and take action during our time of need. We do not have to look like monks nor fast like monks because we are not monks. The fundamentalist spirit that I have seen emerge is emphasizing external and superficial measures to “assess” one’s spirituality. Another word for “assess” is “judge”. That is exactly what the fundamentalist spirited movement is doing, judging us American Orthodox as inadequate and incorrectly declaring our Church a bastion for superficiality. This movement is also setting barriers between clergy, between the laity and between families. Form has superseded substance. We are the Church of the early centuries of early Christianity but we are not the people of the early centuries. Being treated as such is an insult to us as Laity. It also reveals the arrogance of leaders who presume they are the Fathers of the early centuries of Christianity. These presumptuous fundamentalists are maligning our religion and prompting a serious exodus by several laity members. How have our Hierarchs failed us? I believe this happened because our leaders are not part of our life. I feel as if we are looked at as mere minions here to advance the agenda of the Hierarch and/or a fundamentalist clergyman. We as a laity have been objectified, which means we are not seen as human beings anymore. If we are not seen as human beings anymore, then we really don’t matter to them, aside from the money we bring in. I hope some of the Faithful out there will take this message to heart. I hope some of our beloved Priests will be inspired to stand up and do something as our priests from the Northeast did during the time of Archbishop Spyridon. Prayer for our Church is something we should do at home as well as in the sanctuary. But this prayer must be accompanied with some sort of action. It doesn’t matter how big or small. Our Church needs our help. Our mission must be brought back on track. This is my hope. Please join me in action. Faithfully, Mr. Steve Johnson