“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,

and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

But it shall not be so among you:

but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,

but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, KJV)

The word the Athenians used for their Assembly was Ekklesia, the same word used in the New Testament for Church
(and it is the greatest philological irony in all of Western history that this word,
which connoted equal participation in all deliberation by all members,
came to designate a kind of self-perpetuating, self-protective Spartan gerousia -
which would have seemed patent nonsense to Greek-speaking Christians of New Testament times,
who believed themselves to be equal members of their Assembly.)

- Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter


Saturday, July 7, 2007

My review of Fr. Michael's and Metropolitan Isaiah's letters

Greetings Bloggers,

Having now reviewed the latest letters sent to our homes from the church I would like to share my ideas about them with you.

Beginning with Fr. Michael’s letter;

If I didn’t know that Fr. Michael was such a well educated individual I might mistake his letter as a misinterpretation of the Metropolitan’s letter. But, judging from his education level, established lingual proficiency, the fact that he withheld the Metropolitan’s letter from us for over a month when it was explicitly addressed to us, and his continued neglect of a large portion of our community; I believe his letter to be a carefully constructed lie. This letter is designed to manipulate our parish into thinking that Fr. Michael is “on our side.” I am of the opinion that Fr. Michael has been a proponent of the schism all along. As evidence for this theory I cite his refusal to care for the spiritual needs of his parishioners that primarily attend services at Holy Trinity, he (allegedly) gave the separatists permission to have a meeting in the boardroom at Prophet Elias, and held a 45 minute question and answer session about the schism, all after proclaiming to know nothing about it. He has been living within our community for some time now and is aware that the Metropolitan’s letter will undoubtedly meet large opposition in our community. Not the most efficient means to achieve their desired ends. So he wrote a politically correct analysis of the letter hoping to sneak by the common sense of our community.

Fr. Michael’s letter states, “His Eminence has asked Father Matthew and me to establish a committee to begin dialogue and to gather information about the possibility of having two separate Parishes in Salt Lake City.” NO WHERE, in the letter from Metropolitan Isaiah, is such a request made. He explicitly challenges our community to comply with an edict set forth by a conference over which HE presided, that was composed of individuals HE invited.

This “committee” that Fr. Michael, along with Fr. Matthew, intends to construct, cannot materialize as he outlines in the letter. You are missing the point sir, WE are parishioners of the Greek Orthodox Church of Salt Lake. NOT parishioners of Prophet Elias OR Holy Trinity, rather we are parishioners of Prophet Elias AND Holy Trinity.

Fr. Michael also states that “rumors” about separate parishes in Salt Lake have been circulating for 10 years. That is an impressive dedication to research for someone who has only been here for less than 5 years. A “rumor” as defined by the North American Encarta Dictionary is a GENERALLY CIRCULATED story, report, or statement without facts to confirm its truth. Whilst I may not be as “in the know” as some privy members of our community that are inappropriately sworn to secrecy, I am very active in the church and have NEVER, before now, encountered such “rumors.” If such rumors did exist, then I never knew them to cause disharmony within our community before they were brought out into the light of day and forced down our throats along with a challenge to dissociate our parish.

Since Fr. Michael has chosen to isolate himself from a vast portion of our community I question his awareness of the desires of these parishioners, and therefore his ability to construct a committee in which said parishioners’ concerns will be adequately represented.

Secondly the Metropolitan’s letter;

In regards to the Clergy-Laity Conference, I fail to see how such a “conveniently selected” group of individuals has any right to dictate the future of our community. These people are not a part of our community, they cannot have an accurate understanding of the unique dynamic of our community, they do not have a vested interest in this community to the extent that those of us, whose parents and grandparents funded, constructed, and nurtured our community into its present day state, do. Furthermore, any issuance of a resolution calling for direct action from our community; indeed, actions that would constitute a reforming of our very foundations, should originate from our community. With direct representation and input from our community. No one notified me of our representative at this council, or consulted me as to whether or not this representative was aware of, or capable of protecting, my wishes in regard to such an important issue.

The Metropolitan, along with the local proponents of the schism, have repeatedly claimed that the existence of our community in its present state, one which was condoned both by our forefathers and the late Archbishop Iakovos, is “uncanonical.” NEVER, in any official correspondence, to my knowledge, have any of these individuals cited these “pertinent canons.” I am not an expert on the canons of our church, and the clergy are undoubtedly more educated on the subject than I. However, I have been and continue to review the canons of our church, and have found no evidence of any canons that our community is not in concordance with.

In addition the letter contains an emphasis on the fact that this “resolution” was unanimously passed. Great! These people, that have nothing to do with our community, have unanimously passed a resolution calling for a schism in our community. Last time I checked, we also have evidence of a resolution passed unanimously in 1969 by the elected representatives of our community. This resolution states that any effort to separate the community must be presented in writing, 6 months in advance of any definitive action, and a supportive vote of 75% of the parish population is required at a general assembly to validate such a schism.

This “challenge” issued to us is a moot point. We have been challenged to comply with the teachings of the church. As I stated earlier, no body has outlined what these teachings are. A more accurate statement would be to say that we are being challenged to comply with the desires of Metropolitan Isaiah, Father Michael, and a small minority of parishioners that are attempting to cause a rift in our community. It seems to me that the majority’s desires should be pursued. I personally have spoken to what must, by now, amount to nearly 100 members of our youth and a staggering 3, have been in favor of the schism. I wonder why this issue is being handed down from above without any sort of survey to ascertain the wishes of the majority of our community. Is it possible that not as much support for this schism exists as its supporters would have us believe?

Polygamy, what an appropriate topic for Salt Lake City, we have a magnificent history of it in our state don’t we? A five year-old once told me; “If you love chocolate ice cream so much, why don’t you marry it?” This same logic applies to a thought process in which a priest is married to a building. Fr. John had ONE bride, OUR PARISH, the parish of the Greek Orthodox Christians of Salt Lake. Our parish, our church, our community; whatever you wish to call it, is NOT the buildings in which we worship, or the groups of people with whom we usually worship on Sunday. It is every single Greek Orthodox Christian in this valley who is entitled to attend services in either cathedral. If Father Michael is incapable of shepherding such a parish, perhaps we should ascertain if there is a priest out there capable of fulfilling that job description.

The next passage in the Metropolitan’s letter is outright offensive. There exists only One Who is aware of the inter-workings of our hearts and minds and He is not Metropolitan Isaiah. We are consumed with the almighty dollar? I have two of them in my pocket as I write to you. I worked about 70 hours at last year’s festival, I must have done that for the great overtime pay. The Salt Lake City Choirs comprised about 90% of the attending choir at the conference three weeks ago in Ogden. Not to mention the additional contributions made by George Miller and Toni Mae Dwyer who directed and played the organ at the conference. We must have received a big signing bonus for that show. Two weeks ago the Dionysius and OPA dance groups went up to the Pocatello festival, at our own expense, to perform for them, and help gain publicity for that function. Obviously a money motivated move on our part. If money is such an inappropriately consuming factor in the hearts and minds of our parishioners, why did the Metropolitan address it not once, but twice during his sermon last week at Prophet Elias? “If every Greek Orthodox Christian in America gave one percent of their net income, we would never talk about money at church.” “The members of this (I forget the name) parish give $2,500 each, per year, in stewardship.” Statements of this nature were made by the Metropolitan in his sermon. Followed shortly by a passing of the tray; DURING THE RECITATION OF THE CREED! I find it rather difficult to focus on prayer and my faith when you’re waving a collection basket under my nose as I recite my theological beliefs. We are not a monastic community in Salt Lake. Our church operations require significant funding. Our budget for the salary, wages, and housing of our clergy and other church employee’s is $473,324. The expenses of the 2006 festival amounted to $577,247. Our Archdiocesean obligations, an expense that I suspect would ultimately increase if the hierarchy was collecting from two separate parishes, is $133,614 this year. This is only a portion of our necessary yearly expenses, not even including such simple things as the utility bill which is $130,000 this year. This kind of money does not fall out of the sky.

The Metropolitan, as I have been told by the Parish Council, has repeatedly assured us that any decision to split would be the community’s decision to make. Why then, is he calling for a committee that WILL separate our community, when he has not asked us if we want to separate?

Finally, the Metropolitan in his closing paragraph, refers once again to the mother/daughter analogy that he made in his celebratory letter of 1991. This statement is detrimental to our community and is as inaccurate now as it was in 1991. When the Metropolitan took it upon himself, to define the relationship of our two cathedrals who’s ACTUAL relationship had been established since the first services were held in Prophet Elias TWENTY-TWO YEARS EARLIER in 1969. Prophet Elias has never been and is not now, a lesser daughter church to Holy Trinity. Both cathedrals are co-equal partners of the same importance functioning in unison to serve the needs of our Salt Lake community. The Metropolitan accurately states that, “It is a given that the parishioners are in charge of their community properties.” What he fails to mention is that these properties INCLUDE the Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Prophet Elias Cathedral. The metropolis did not fund the construction of these properties and the original deeds are in OUR name, not the metropolis’. If the Metropolitan chooses to exercise his ecclesiastical power and declare a second parish be formed in Salt Lake he may do so. Anyone wishing to participate in the second parish has the God given freewill to do so. I personally would support my brothers and sisters at this parish as they pursue the will of God. But, they would need to build their own cathedral, because they have no right to annex any part of OUR parish properties.

I would remind both authors of these letters that I have reviewed, that you are pledged to be stewards and servants of our community, not dictators. Please work to achieve the desires of the majority of this community and to preserve our rich heritage and unique nature. Just because we are the only Parish with multiple cathedrals doesn’t mean that we’re wrong. On the contrary, we’re blessed to be a part of this special community, one that is best suited to meet our needs in its original unmolested form.


Matthew Hedberg

1 comment:

Barbara Colessides said...

Bravo, Matt. Bravo, leventia...!
I don't think any one of us could have said this better!

- Barbara Billinis Colessides