Moderator's Note: On December 6th, Metropolitan Isaiah wrote a letter to Fr. Matthew and to the President of our community. The Metropolitan insisted that it be sent out, exactly as he wrote it, to all parishioners in the community. This letter, along with another regarding priest assignments, has been arriving at the homes of parishioners of this valley in the last few days. We have reprinted it here in html format; as usual, we have typed the wording exactly and kept as much of the formatting as html allows.
December 6, 2007
Rev. Michael Kouremetis, Proistamenos
Mr. Nick E. Varanakis, President
The Esteemed Parish Council
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
279 South 300 West
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101-1797
Beloved in the Lord,
I am in receipt of your letter dated November 27, 2007 and I thank you.
In my pastoral visits to the community during the past ten years, the subject of the two churches becoming separate parishes has been a regular topic of discussion. During the past year, the subject appeared to become a burning issue with an increasing number of parish members. Because of this, I thought it the appropriate time to conduct a survey among the members and to determine what the feelings and thoughts of the people were. Unfortunately, before you decided to go ahead with the survey, the usual few members became vocal spokesmen against the recognition of two distinct parishes. As you know there were many negative and un-Christian statements made to the point of condemning and ridiculing me, as well as Father Kouremetis. Had I been a less patient bishop, this would have been enough for me to declare two separate parishes with two separate councils. The teachings of our holy Church give me this right, as the presiding bishop. In fact, by not doing so, I am not fulfilling my responsibilities as a bishop.
Be that as it may, I saw the results of the survey and I was mildly surprised at the apathy of the majority of the members who became fence-straddlers or showed indifference by not returning the survey. Our Lord has strong words about those who are lukewarm when it comes to the Church (Rev. 3:15,16). I commend all those who did express their opinions whether they voted to stay as one parish or to become two.
Almost ten years ago, more or less, when Father John Kaloudis was your proistamenos and Mr. Nick Bapis was the council president, the topic of two separate parishes was very much alive. After much discussion with Mr. Bapis, I told him that I would not force the community to become two parishes. I like to believe that I am faithful to what I say. One reason for this is that I believe in the exercise of one's free will. In my forty-five years in the clergy, I have never forced anyone to do my will. Each person must be free to exercise his or her own free will, especially in matters that deal with God and the Church. I challenge anyone to say that I forced someone to do or not to do a particular thing. In this regard I do not identify with the few members in the community who have attempted to force their will upon others, especially those who used my name in their little "bull dung" game. May the Lord forgive them, if they desire to be heirs of Christ's Kingdom.
One thing has been accomplished in this experience. Each church has its own proistamenos. This is ecclesiastically correct. As we read in Holy Scripture, our Lord calls Himself the Bridegroom and He calls His people the Church. He does not believe in polygamy. this is why each parish, which is a microscopic bride of Christ, must have only one bridegroom who is recognized as the priest. Ecclesiologically, this has now been corrected.
In regard to one parish council over the two churches, the bishop who comes after me will, no doubt, end this latter-day tradition. However, I am hopeful that you and all the parishioners will decide to do this in a very fraternal way on your own. For now, the reality is like two married families living under the same roof. I know that the parish council now serves, as well as future councils, will try to do what is best for the Church of Christ in Salt Lake City. As long as your one and only question in the life of the community is, "What is best for the Church?' you will be doing what the Lord expects of you.
In keeping my word to Mr. Bapis and to myself, I will not force the recognition of two parishes. But I do hope that you and all the people will do so willingly and lovingly, before a higher authority in the future will do so forcefully in order to observe the ancient teachings of our holy Church.
Finally, I thank all who helped to conduct this survey and all who voted. I am most appreciative.
With paternal blessings,
Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver