“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, November 16, 2008

Banana Republic General Assembly Redux: Keep Drinking the Kool-Aid

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.
We cannot have any serious dialogue about finances when nearly half our budget is off limits to any discussion whatsoever. Several parishioners tried to bring up the point. Another asked why the board could not provide some "push-back" to the Metropolis and Archdiocese about the problems at hand. All were promptly shut down by our president, and by another parish council member who read from the UPRs pointing out that the laity is not entitled to have any say on this subject. Another parish council member pointed out, in a further insult to our intelligence, that if these regulations were to change it would have to be through the Clergy-Laity Congress.

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.

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