Overheard in the parking lot: a parishioner commented to a parish council member something to the effect that we live in a democracy. "No," replied the parish council member, "this is a theocracy."
It's deja vu all over again! Same stuff, different year. This time last year we described (Banana Republic General Assemblies – the New Trend in Greek Orthodoxy in America) the utterly rubber-stamp nature of our recent general assemblies. This year's still fits the description.
We continue to witness:
- Financials and budgets presented with explanations that would never be taken seriously in any other setting. (Deficit budgets that are described as "really surplus"? Go figure.)
- An inability and unwillingness to discuss the deep discontent, and frustration over the complete voicelessness that is the true driver of current stewardship difficulties, and not just difficult economic times. It is further galling that some of our stewardship monies will most certainly go toward defraying the church's settlements with the victims of pedophile priests. Yet none of these subjects may be discussed.
- A new stewardship program that might just work, if this community had true bridge-builders as priests, along with reasonable consensus-builders as board members. Instead we have priests who divide, rather than unite, and a parish council rife with "yes men" who hide behind UPRs and canonical law, while assisting the clergy and hierarchy in preventing any discussion of the true problems at hand.
That too, is unlikely to occur. In fact, from all reports by many concerned lay leaders, past and present, in our city and in others, our Banana Republic General Assemblies are modeled after recent Banana Republic Clergy-Laity Congresses. Delegates are hand-picked; dissenters are shut down; excommunications are threatened (temporary or not) and the "pay, pray and obey" nature of Greek Orthodoxy in this century in this country continues.