Prophets for Profit – The Dismantling of the GOA

By dogcatcher on July 5th, 2013
  “This article is posted on this website with the permission and consent of its authors, the Editors of WEAREORTHODOX.COM. It also appears on their website and has not been altered by GOTRUTHREFORM. ORG. We wish to thank WEAREORTHODOX.COM for making this available to our readers.” We hope our title grabbed your attention. It was meant to. There is something developing within the greater Church that is alarming, disturbing and to the Laity at large, almost unbelievable. This essay is a result of numerous dialogues that are already taking place amongst lay leadership throughout our country. Let’s be very clear about this, that this is not a mere rumor or speculation on our part. As you will understand by reading this, that this is not a rumor, but a dialogue actually occurring throughout the United States, from leaders within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). Join us as we explore this ill designed concept that will continue to damage our beloved Church. A Church that is arguably in the worst condition anyone can remember. A Church that is being brought down to its very knees by small minded thinkers who are only concerned with expanding their own power base, to the detriment of all. The Archdiocese Charter Based on the vital statistics of the Archdiocese, the Church appears to have been flourishing during the Primacy of Archbishop Iakovos. The Church grew and became a recognized vibrant force in the United States. Archbishop Iakovos was a visionary. His proposed 1995 Archdiocese Charter called for an autonomous status in America, under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch. It allowed for a greater degree of self-governance to meet the needs uniquely present in the United States. This is how the Church of Greece is set up as well. It was strongly admonished by the Patriarchate as a secular creation and allegedly threatened those who supported it with canonical sanctions (as reported in ). It was dismissed and the following year (1996) Archbishop Iakovos was forced into retirement. In 2003, a new charter was introduced, some say “imposed” upon the Archdiocese of America. A statement from the Archdiocese was issued on July 13, 2004 and stated that: “For the first time in history, our Archdiocese, as well as the other Eparchies of our Patriarchate around the world, have been asked to participate directly in the governance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate through membership in the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Hereafter six of the twelve members of the Holy and Sacred Synod will be from Eparchies outside of Turkey. It must be remembered that the Holy Synod, along with the Patriarch administers the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Our own Archbishop Demetrios has been elected as a member of this Holy and Sacred Synod. This means that when the Synod discusses issues affecting Greek Orthodox Christians in the United States, the Archbishop of America will have a direct voice on any issues affecting our Archdiocese. In this sense it can be said that we and the other Eparchies of the Patriarchate taken together are self-governing in that we all participate significantly in the governance of the Patriarchate.” As a Church and a Faith we are happy to assist the Patriarchate however we can. We as Laity are pleased that half of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is comprised with members outside of Turkey. We the Faithful are also pleased that Archbishop Demetrios was one of the first appointees from America to be appointed close to the Patriarch as a member of the Holy Synod. It should be acknowledged that there are numerous needs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (and believe that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese should assist). It is also our belief that our needs and concerns in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its Metropolises of America continue to be unaddressed and are worsening. The statement cited above continues on to state: A Charter is an ecclesiastical document which describes the structure and functioning of the Archdiocese and its relationship to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Since the creation of the Archdiocese in 1918, the Patriarchate has granted five successive Charters in 1922, 1927, 1931, 1977, and 2003. Although it is the Patriarchate which granted the new Charter to the Archdiocese, the working draft of the Charter was not written by the Patriarchate; it was written by the laity and clergy in the United States. Our new charter has a long history of preparation. …….there have been about 15 drafts over the eight years. Cursory reference was made mentioning the process that started with Archbishop Iakovos eight years earlier. Nothing else was mentioned about the proposed 1995 Charter, or its strong rejection from the Patriarchate. The document continued by stating that the Charter is somewhat of a work in progress and that the “Mother Church” in Constantinople (Istanbul) may add to it: “The Patriarchate made clear that the Charter is to be a living document with other changes to be made in the future.” “A primary aim in this task was the offering of the possibility to the whole body of the Archdiocese of an orderly ascension to new steps, so that when the proper time comes and the adjustment to the new conditions is successfully achieved, the Mother Church will proceed to offer other possible changes, if conditions at that time show that such changes are useful for a desirable further development and progress in Christ of the Holy Archdiocese of America.” Most of our Laity understands that the Charter of 2003 has been controversial. If you view it only based upon a reading (and not its implementation) then it may in and of itself seem benign. Keep in mind that serious objections to the Charter calling into question the diminished input and roles of the laity have been voiced. The meetings that considered this were not harmonious. Once implemented it became clear to those concerned about the future of the Church that changing the Diocesan Bishops to Metropolitans has also been a monumental mistake. Following this serious breach of judgment was that the role of the Archbishop has been seriously marginalized. Out of fear of autonomy and the loss of control of the “crown jewel” of the Patriarch’s Church in America, the seeds of failure have been sown. By now some of you may merely see this article as an extension of the mission statement of the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) which is an independently organized movement of Orthodox Christian laity and clergy ( who are “involved with Orthodox Renewal in the Americas.” Our position is no such thing. We are in agreement with them and others that have expressed profound regret at these changes to our Church. The authors of these changes have set the course of failure. The same type of “thinking” is again at play, albeit from some power hungry individuals that are more concerned about their own promotion and appear to be “selling the rest of us down the river” and damaging the future of the Church. Curiously, the Archdiocesan letter states that after we in the United States adjust to these changes, there will be other “steps” given to us from the Patriarchate for us to follow. These changes are supposed to be reflective of our growth and are marketed as furthering our development in Christ. This could have been alluding to autonomy. That would have helped the growth and development of the Church. Instead we fear that the elevation of the Auxiliary Bishops to Metropolitans was a “bargaining chip”. It was put on the table to silence them in a time of great upheaval and discontent. Where are those responsible for this mistake today? When will His All Holiness see beyond the misinformation fed to him? When will he see through the caravan of manipulators that take their Laity in tow to the Fanar with cash in hand to “buy” these otherwise apparently incompetent false messengers a higher status in God’s Church? We believe that after watching this charter gone wrong, even the author of this formerly referenced Archdiocesan letter that contained the official commentary from the Archdiocese is not at all comfortable with his representations to his fellow Laity anymore. Fundamentalism and an unconcerned Hierarchy that ignores Our church in the United States has been plagued in recent years with the onset of fundamentalism, embodied amongst the ranks of the Monasteries of Elder Ephraim. There are documented scores of victims and their families across America who have raised their voices to ask for help in their time of deep pain. Parishes across our country have lost membership. Across the country Stewardship is down. Membership is down. Our communicants are divided against each other. Legacy members of the Church have left. Confession is coupled (by some) with the teaching of absolute obedience; and this obedience is taught to be the free pass to get one’s soul through the numerous Toll Houses upon their death. This teaching is false. Monasticism is not the only place we can find holiness and salvation. The Parish is also a holy place where we can find sanctification and salvation. This is not the Church we adults have grown up in the United States. Unfortunately we have generations behind us that really do not know any better. These young people are being sold on “real Athonite Monastics” when in fact it is really like taking an Orange drink and marketing it as a Cola. The emails that pour into this website are heartbreaking in their candor. Lives, dreams, hopes and families have been damaged. The allegations are that of mental exploitation and mind control. There is no clearer example of this than in the case of former monk Scott Nevins, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound near the gates of St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona. There has been no official remedy or substantive address of these issues from our Hierarchs of the Holy Synod in America. They appointed a “Monastery Task Force” later renamed a “Monastery Review Committee” back in October of 2010, yet we hear nothing. One can only assume that once again the truth will be the victim of the investigation. We continue to receive more emails with pain so real that only the truly heartless would allow these despotic conditions to exist. So what is the current condition of our beloved Church? First and foremost is the new status of our marginalized Archbishop. His office and Primacy are diminished. As for our Metropolitans, well they routinely miss Archdiocesan Council Meetings so that the business of the Church cannot be properly administered. Imagine another institution or religion that has 9 jurisdictional bodies and only has 2 Metropolitans attend the Archdiocesan Council Meetings, as just occurred in Boston (June 2013). Instead, what are these protectors of the Faith doing? Well they and their “yes men and women” are busy promoting their own fiefdoms! We ask each of you “who will stand up for the hurt and exploited members of our Church in America?” Are we all expected to fly to Istanbul and meet with the Patriarch? Maybe this is the only way to elicit change. The elitist class of Metropolitans is one where they clearly operate as untouchables. What are we to do with a placating regime whose only apparent consistent modus operandi is to ignore? Why is their apparent lack of leadership and rise in power being ignored by our Patriarch? Is there more in store for us? Well yes, there appears to be more coming down the road. The Money What about the money? In the United States, there are 9 Metropolises that include the Direct Archdiocesan District. There is also the Administrative entity known as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). These Metropolises send money to the Archdiocese, under the guise of “stewardship”. The Archdiocese then returns 25% of it back to the Metropolis for its operating expenses. The balance is used to fund various National programs and Ministries. This includes such things as the Archdiocese providing a subsidy to the Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul). To this end the Archdiocese gives $1 million each year to the Patriarchate. Let us look at the Metropolis of Chicago as an example of how this system works. All the Parishes in this Metropolis are assessed what is called a “Fair share assessment”. It varies depending on the amount spent by the parish in each year. The total assessment of these Parishes in the Metropolis is $2,680,000.00. Because there is a desire on the part of the Metropolis to build a camp, the Parishes have agreed to send in an additional 5% to bring this total to $2,814,000.00. This money is sent directly to the Archdiocese and then they rebate back 25% of the funds collected so that the Metropolis of Chicago gets back approximately $670,000.00 to pay their expenses. The Archdiocese ends up with about $25,000.000.00 a year in order to cover its national expenses and send money to various Ministries like Holy Cross Seminary and Hellenic College (HC/HC). HC/HC received $1,500,000.00 for fiscal year 2012. Since the Charter change there have been those that beat the drum of discontent about the funds going to the Archdiocese. All we hear is how “underfunded” each Metropolis is and how “we could do a much better job if we had more funds”. The dialogue that has been taking place is floating the idea of gradually dismantling the Archdiocese. This will ultimately leave millions within the control of each Metropolis. Each Metropolis could then give a sizable amount, such as the number being floated of $500,000.00 to the Patriarchate. The Patriarchate will have an increase in revenue from America from the current $1,000,000.00 to $4,500,000.00. All of this coming at a time when the Nation of Greece has ceased sending its yearly subsidy to the Fanar. They, the advocates of this disaster, make an analogous argument concerning increasing total giving to HC/HC. Each Metropolis will also have a substantial increase in revenue so they can be “better staffed”. The Pitch We believe the promotion of this will be marketed as a positive sign of our “growth and maturation”. As the official letter of commentary from the Archdiocese stated, once we get used to the idea of the current Charter, the untouchable class of Metropolitans, other changes will come. The arguments for this will be quite compelling. Who will argue about having more services available for the Faithful, “at no additional costs”? Priest salaries can be subsidized to ease the burden from the Parishes. Campers can travel to campsites potentially “all-expenses paid”. Perhaps there will also be a reduction in the amount of the assessment to each Parish. It will be marketed as a win-win. Who could possibly lose? The answer is everyone loses because we would have sold our unified community’s soul in America to the arbitrary whims of self-aggrandizing despots, leaving us with a handicapped voice that has been divided and controlled. Who else wins? The Ephraimite movement that has already used a divide and conquer approach to our “protectors of the Faith.” Ask the Nevins family and others how much protection their family members received from our protectors! The Future Schism Scores of faithful are leaving the Church. A former U.S. Congressman who is Greek Orthodox has stated that in every different denomination’s church he has visited, he was greeted by many people that used to belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. Many of those who have left the Greek Orthodox Church are also now members of other jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church (e.g. Antiochian, OCA). There is unrest within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. How long can it continue? Where are we heading? If our Hierarchs take a stand against the voices of Fundamentalism, there is a possibility of a substantial number of faithful and clergy that could leave. It would, however, be a minority of the membership. Additionally, it would look bad to the Patriarch if our Metropolitans could not hold together the Church undivided. This probably won’t happen. Even though there is no schism, there are still thousands that have left the Church and our growth has come to a grinding halt. The numbers of Stewardship Members and Stewardship Revenues are already indicating this. Ask yourself: where are the numbers? Our editors are constantly looking and all we find appear to be fabrications so over stated that it is an embarrassment to all of us. Conclusion We are curious if the true situation of the Church in the United States is accurately being shared with the Patriarch. There is a dialogue taking place among leaders throughout America. This dialogue is deeply concerned about the state of affairs in the Church. This dialogue is also wary of a further divided Church in America by the dismantling the GOA for secular purposes, such as money and power. In the United States, our Church is not united. Priests are already migrating out of certain Metropolises and into others (and Priests are being imported from abroad to fill the resulting void). The Laity does not have that option to relocate to another Metropolis. There does not appear to be any consideration whatsoever on the part of our executive leaders for the people. Many parishioners have left. Many more will leave. The consistent theme here is that there our Hierarchy appears to show no concern about the dangers of further marginalizing the voice of the Laity. The understanding and pro-active leadership that our Holy Synod has provided us is questionable at best.