“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


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Of Mice and Men

Some time ago a fellow parishioner, who had observed a recent Parish Council meeting, reported that one particular member of the Parish Council, who had had the misfortune of being on the board that Metropolitan Isaiah dismissed a few years ago in his last questionable en masse housecleaning, expressed that he had been kicked off before and didn’t want to do anything that would get him kicked off again. Apparently it did not matter to him what the issue was before the council, it was just terribly important to this person to know and to test which way the wind might be blowing, so that he would do nothing that might raise the Metropolitan's ire and get himself kicked off yet a second time.

One is tempted to smirk and respond that this must be the mindset of just one timid soul. And though we may smirk, roll our eyes, or even become disgusted by the implicit cowardice, we really ought to pause and have some compassion. Considering human nature, under normal circumstances, nobody wants to be remembered as a parish council member who was “kicked out”. It’s a humiliation, one that our clergy seem to happily wield as a cudgel as of late – a weapon employed to keep us wayward, callow, childlike, “unchristian” laypersons in line. And, in truth, it speaks VOLUMES about the clergy’s mindset and their culpability in this latest morass (among others), much more so than the fear of one or perhaps many timid parish council members. While one might show some compassion for the council member(s), the mindset of the clergy who take advantage of such sentiments is beneath contempt. This mindset should be resisted by all means necessary, even if it means dismissal or mass resignation. The actions of the clergy of late are not examples of the way true leaders lead, nor do they mirror in any way the example of Christ’s gentle leadership based on reason and love.

We don’t believe for a moment that there is anyone serving on our Parish Council who is not there because he felt and feels that he can effect positive outcomes for us and our community. But, we submit that no positive outcome will come from timidity in the face of outrageous, deceptive, behind-the-scenes agendas on the part of our clergymen in concert with a few parishioners who seek nothing less than a what they think will be a quick, “bloodless” power grab.

This is the stuff of dictatorship, not democracy – do we even remember that term? It’s the precious legacy handed down to us by our ancient forebears, the Greeks, who were the great inspiration of our American forefathers. It’s the legacy that our clergy, in concert with the laity, fought for in 1821 when the Greeks finally threw off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire. The same legacy that inspired our American forefathers in 1776 when they threw off the colonial yoke of the then-dominant British Empire – that one!

If the agenda of those who would have us split our community into two parishes is so advantageous, so correct, then it will surely stand the light of day, and its virtues will be obvious. Our immediate forebears – parents, grandparents, great-grandparents – foresaw the possibility and made provisions for such in the best Greek AND American traditions. If the splitting of this community is so necessary, if the sentiments behind it are so sincere and so virtuous, then it should be able to stand squarely as an initiative in the face of a full and open plebiscite. If its virtues are in fact that self-evident, it will pass, and there will be no need for all this behind-the-scenes manipulation. If it does not pass, those who supported it should graciously stand aside and either work with their fellow parishioners in the construct voted upon by the majority, or GO BUILD THEIR OWN CHURCH!

Ah, but there’s the rub, is it not? It is so much easier (and cheaper!) to tap into the current imperious, non-democratic, non-Greek and un-American mindset of the clergy of today and just present this as a done deal, relying on the general passivity that is, unfortunately, so prevalent in today’s society, and most PAINFULLY evident collectively among our Parish Council members! They don’t even want to go PERSONALLY on record for anything they might say, again perhaps for fear of raising the ire of the powers that be, hence their unwillingness to have any sort of detailed notes from their meetings. Even our U.S. Senators and Congressmen have their individual votes on given issues recorded and publicized. We the people of this community have every right to know EXACTLY where each of our Parish Council members stands on all the issues affecting us.

Apparently, however, for those advocating this split-by-caveat, why deal with messy votes, or raucous General Assemblies where precedent and logic MIGHT prevail? Just get the hierarchy to issue an edict and move on. You disagree? You’re "unchristian, an unbeliever who is worshipful of the 'almighty dollar', an advocate of some sort of 'polygamy'!"

The time has come for this undemocratic nonsense to end, for all to stand and be counted, and most particularly so our Parish Council, regardless of their individual stances or personal opinions about the matters at hand. Issues of this sort are decided by reasoned open debate, and the rule of law – the rule of the majority as defined by our forefathers (and mothers!), Greek and American. Our board should COLLECTIVELY stand firm, to a man, and say that the behaviors we are witnessing on the part of the clergy and a small minority of parishioners of this WHOLE community are not acceptable. There is a forum where these issues are to be resolved and that forum is not bound by confidentiality agreements and secret side agreements, PERIOD. Mice or men, gentlemen.

Barbara Billinis Colessides

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