“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


Monday, November 19, 2007

Banana Republic General Assemblies – the New Trend in Greek Orthodoxy in America

Yesterday’s General Assembly reminded one of Mormon Conference. The leadership proposed; the attendees disposed. There is also an elephant in the room that no one dares mention: our Metropolitan is an Absolute Ruler and his dictates, wishes and whims trump anything we might propose or dispose. Oh yes, there were a few pointed questions that the parliamentarian managed to deflect deftly, or that the speaker, particularly the Treasurer with his belated financials, managed to weasel away from. Yet, for the most part, everything went according to script.

There is only one deviation from the script. That deviation consists of the result from our community-wide survey whether to split our unified community of one parish, two churches, into two independent churches. Of 427 voting, 87% said NO. Our parish council president is now forced to convey to our Metropolitan, our absolute Master and Ruler (because we have allowed and continue to allow it!), that his “loyal subjects” still insist on an “uncanonical” and “bigamous” situation. We insist upon a unified community in this valley. He has promised to provide in writing an assurance that the result will be honored. Not that it matters. We also voted to create a vibrant and effective Heritage Corporation by a 72% margin in February and that was scuttled by our Metropolitan as not being in his best interests. Disagreements with this turn of events resulted in a parish council member's dismissal and a now-rescinded excommunication. Many would-be candidates now will not run for our parish council for fear they will also be excommunicated if they object to this sorry state of affairs. Add to this that our Metropolitan has also been an ardent and zealous supporter of Fr. Katinas, whom he transferred to Dallas from Olympia Hills, Illinois. When the sexual abuse lawsuits in Dallas are settled, will we will end up paying for the defense costs? Does it make ANY difference anymore?

We are being treated like ignorant yokels, because we allow it. We pass financials and a budget that we've seen for only a couple of hours. We are given a priests’ report that doesn’t say, for example, how many new parishioners we have acquired or lost, how many hospital visitations, what efforts are being made on the part of the clergy to increase youth and young adult participation, and the like. They fail to address the abuse scandals; they haven’t told us what measures they have in place to protect our children and youth. Instead we get a very nice sermon. Nothing wrong with its contents, but it is not a priests’ report.

In case we still don’t “get it”, our priests, who between them pull in $295,000 in salary, without counting any “τυχερά”, no longer deign to tell us, the marginalized laity, ANYTHING. We have only to shut up and put up. We are no longer ALLOWED to ask questions of any import. We are there but to affirm the whims of dictators in the form of the clergy and their assignees, to assent quietly to those among us who present themselves as our lay “leaders”, and to pay the tab. They sit there, in front of us at General Assemblies, uncomfortable and emasculated, for hours, while we are fed platitudes, half-truths and convenient omissions. They are outraged if we call it, or even imply, dissembling. To us, when a few brave souls dare to ask the hard questions they express outrage. To what is truly outrageous, they acquiesce.

However their silence speaks volumes. They KNOW what so many of us REFUSE still to believe – even though we can literally see it unfolding in front of us. They know that they, like we, have become superfluous. Oh, yes, they’re useful in that they provide, for example, construction expertise, or accounting expertise, or legal expertise, but they have no real authority to effect meaningful progress because absolute power and ultimate decision-making belongs solely and exclusively to our Metropolitan.

We are hesitant to believe this because even though we may disagree with them, we love them. We love them because they are our sons, our godsons, our brothers, our cousins, our friends. So we mince words, or try “think positive”, or pray that this too shall pass, because we know from past experience what rifts can come of these situations – the ones our clergy and hierarchy are cynically promulgating. And, when our priests have moved on, we will all still be here.

The gentlemen on our Parish Council, KNOW we’ve been DISPOSSESSED by our hierarchy and clergy. Our Metropolitan now OWNS, he says (and they obviously agree, or fail to disagree), our properties. They excuse it to themselves and to us behind the platitude of “hierarchical, canonical church”. The properties that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents built with sweat, blood and love, the properties that the archdiocese AGREED IN WRITING were OURS, have been taken away from us. On our watch, on the watch of this, the “baby-boom” generation, we have allowed it to happen. One can “spin” this any way one likes. It is, however, impossible to deny and, sadly, true.


Dimitri Gerontis said...

I attended the general assembly yesterday at Holy Trinity. I have no experience with the methodology, terminology, or overall process. It is entirely new to me and I humbly resign that I am not educated in this arena of debate. My question is, near the end of the meeting Mike Coombs made a motion that was immediately responded to by a “point of order”. He was shut down by a strange series of events. I, not aware of the tradition of the proceedings, asked a simple question. My question “why can he not make that motion?” then I was told I was out of order and the meeting ended right away. I did not say anything regarding being for or against the motion, I just wanted to know why he could not make that motion? There were others making motions all around me and if I ever wanted to make a motion, I fear that I may not understand the authorization process. It was all very strange and suspicious. I would love an explanation!!

Dimitri Gerontis

Moderator's note: as an experienced parliamentarian, it might behoove Mr. Varanakis to take the time to explain a bit to those who do not have experience with Robert's Rules of Order.

P. Peropoulos of Houston said...

There is a danger in the amassing of the Church property under one control. As the Catholic Church learned (the hard way) in sexual abuse cases that the the entire property holding will be subjected to payment of a lawsuit. Much better to de-centralize!

This is a well-known business practice where corporations incorporate separate facilities so if one has poor results it can be dissolved without damaging the entire corporation. A single store could become bankrupt but not the whole.

Peter C. Peropoulos - Houston, Texas