“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


Friday, October 19, 2007

“Οτι κάνεις, λάβεις – καρδιά μην σου πονέσει”

The title of this blog is one of my late father's favorite Greek sayings: “Οτι κάνεις, λάβεις – καρδιά μην σου πονέσει.” The literal translation would be “what you give, you get - don't let it break your heart.” The Biblical one would be: “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

John Kaloudis provided an interesting perspective on the events currently transpiring in our community. His commentary provided food for thought. I would however point out that no person involved with this blog undertook to do so lightly. Our actions have been based upon a profound dismay at the heavy-handed wielding of ecclesiastical power in the non-ecclesiastical realm. The commentaries are the result of the ongoing marginalization of the laity in face of numerous events that have transpired in this community within the past several months.

Unquestionably, we all revere and honor the calling, the robes, the office. In turn, we have the right to expect that the men who respond to the calling, who wear the robes, who hold the office, will hold themselves to the highest standards and exhibit behaviors that inspire respect and admiration.

The situation with Nick Colessides regarding the Proistameno (who continues to claim he had nothing to do with the imposition of excommunication despite ample evidence to the contrary) and our Metropolitan was the instructive case. To the comment that the criticisms contained in the blog are cowardly, I would reply that many of our moderators and others in the community feel that they have joined an unequal struggle. Please remember what happened a few years ago when the Metropolitan dismissed the parish council. Members of that council had an audience with him in Denver, left feeling that there had been a reasonable discussion and that some understanding had been reached, only to learn as they landed in Salt Lake that they had been dismissed. Similar instances have occurred throughout this Metropolis and in others throughout the country.

Unlike the clergy of my youth, today's clergy doesn’t deign to discuss. When the clergy doesn’t like what it hears, it cries “protestantism”, or speaks of un-Christian, non-Orthodox behavior. It now resorts to excommunication as punishment and to instill fear in other communicants. Rather than provide an example of reason and discourse, wielding their power through Christ’s Love and Logos, our clergymen now seemingly choose to wield a medieval intimidation – ruling with the fear that one MAN (who is after all fallible, and not a pope) has the power to cut the laity from the Body and Blood of Christ. A very potent weapon indeed in the hands of the clergy!

What is perplexing and disappointing is that our Metropolitan excommunicated a member who served this community faithfully for forty years. This was done without even the benefit of the discourse Mr. Kaloudis suggests, and that our clergy ought to be espousing as well. After all, discourse is a two-way proposition. Amazingly, at almost the very same time, our Metropolitan was vigorously defending a pedophile priest, refusing to 'rush to judgment' in that case so that the man, upon his death, could be buried with the full honors of a clergyman. In doing so the Metropolitan trivialized the entire problem of pedophile priests and the lasting pain they inflict upon our innocent children, when it was quite clear, even to the regional and national hierarchy that the priest was, sadly, guilty.

As for the parish council, I grew up with many of these gentlemen and, as individuals I respect their intelligence and their integrity. Collectively, however, I feel they have been completely cowed and I feel badly that they are working hard trying to serve their church at a time when the clergy demands that the laity merely “pay, pray and obey”. Whether I agree with their stances or not, I have never questioned any council member's dedication; I do question their acquiescence in the face of so much dissembling, with such provocative disrespect for the laity, and with such obvious insistence on one standard for the clergy, another for the rest of us. I don’t think that there is any other context within their lives where they would stand for this behavior.

Further, and for the record, when I write my blogs solely, I sign them. My name is all over this site, along with names of others. There are numerous others throughout the community who are deeply concerned and who collaborate with us and do not wish to be named, lest they suffer a punishment similar to Nick’s. We’ve agreed in such case to post as moderators. We do not publish, and have not to the best of my knowledge, published any readers' comments to any blog (including an “Amen!” we received anonymously to Mr. Kaloudis' blog right after its posting) without someone’s full real name.

As for the objection to the blog’s title, I am sorry if it offends. And yes, we know the Church belongs to Christ. And no, we do not seek to take it away from Him. (This last argument is highly condescending.) WE are the Church. We ask for a clergy that:

  • respects its flock by not accusing them of “worshipping the almighty dollar” when their clear interest is solid stewardship;

  • works with its parishioners and parish councils in a collegial and concilliar manner and honors democratic processes on matters related to sound governance;

  • values and PROTECTS its children and youth;

  • adheres to its stated and implicit standards consistently – whether with fellow clergy, laity or within the community at large.

We, the members of a community of concerned Greek Orthodox Christians in this valley want our church as we have known it. We do not consider ourselves “stockholders” or political constituents, but rather responsible Orthodox stewards who are passionate about our Church and our Community, and who are ever-mindful of those immigrants who came before us who built these churches in ONE unified community of the faithful.

- Barbara Billinis Colessides

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