“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


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Andrea Orton Responds to Metropolitan Isaiah

December 10, 2008

His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver
4550 East Alameda Avenue
Denver, CO 80246-1208

Your Eminence,

As a parishioner of the Greek Orthodox Community of Greater Salt Lake City, I felt it my duty to comment on your letter of December 3, 2008. With all due respect, the problems facing our community today are very real and not imagined. If you were kind enough to grant us an audience as we requested at our fall general assembly of 2007, which was over one year ago, perhaps you could see this for yourself.

In your letter to our community you addressed the importance of converts. I personally have nothing against converts to our faith. I feel they have much to offer this community; however, they also have much to learn. I disagree with your generalization that certain problems never seem to be resolved in our community. To what chronic problems do you refer? Rather than speak in ambiguities, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call a spade a spade? I’ve lived in the community all my life and have seen priests come and go. Never once do I feel our community has “used” a priest as a scapegoat. The facts speak for themselves. One can only ask our Church Historian and revered member of community, Mr. Constantine Skedros. I was involved quite extensively with Father Dean Gigicos during his assignment to Salt Lake City as an active GOYA member and GOYA Officer. Sure, we had our disagreements. That’s part of life and growing up, but to use him as a scapegoat for our community’s problems… I strongly disagree. Please cite examples to correct my slighted memory.

As to your question, why is Salt Lake City so problematic? Come on now. We live in the United States of America. We have friends and relatives in other communities across the country. Do you really think we’re that naïve? All one must do is read the National Herald and visit other communities to see this is not an isolated problem unique to Salt Lake City.

How can you say we’re isolated from our nearby parishes? We support our sister parishes and go above and beyond to assist them in any way possible. We attend church services and offer donations when we visit. Our dance groups perform at their festivals. Our choirs travel to assist during their church services. We recently donated our old choir robes to a sister parish in need. How dare you say we’re isolated! It seems like you really don’t know our community at all.

Our issues with our priests and the Archdiocese have never been over liturgical issues. They have been over financial and business issues. Once again, you’ve missed the point. You are correct, we don’t own our community but we do own the real property belonging to our church and community. Who maintains this property, pays the taxes, and keeps everything financially sound? It’s the parishioners of the community not the Archdiocese. Perhaps the clergy need to listen to the laity. You’re right, clergy come and go, but the parishioners are always left behind to clean up the mess made by the clergy. Don’t you think it’s time to stop and listen to this community? There are only so many hours in a day. Why doesn’t the clergy spend their time administering to the spiritual and liturgical growth of our community? That’s their expertise and why they attended Seminary School. They don’t have business degrees.

We are not naïve and know the Church of Christ is not a worldly entity but a divine institution created and established by God. Perhaps the Archdiocese needs to take a step back and practice what they preach. Whose Church is this? Did anyone in the Archdiocese die to establish the Church on Earth? Why does the Archdiocese constantly demand our hard-earned money? TAKE OUR CHURCH BACK…you’re darn right!! Why should we have to pay disproportionately for lawsuits and other actions of unfaithful clergy?

This “problem” always seems to rear its ugly head when priests are sent to rule with a hidden agenda rather than listen to the rational needs of the community. It’s amazing the things we could accomplish if we could work together rather than against each other. Isn’t it time for the priests to listen to the members of this community. There will always be disagreements but a dictatorship with no open means of discussion IS NOT the answer!

It doesn’t seem a fair analogy to compare our Church to AHEPA or the Masons. The financial operations of our Church were not written over 2,000 years ago. It was only at a recent Clergy/Laity Conference where the Archdiocese demanded sole control and deeds to our properties. Is this the Church of Jesus Christ? It sounds like the Church of the Archdiocese to me! Again you’re right, one day we “troublemakers” will die, but our Church will live on. It will live on because I strive for it to continue on for the salvation of my children and those that follow. Should I be shot down and persecuted just because I voice an opinion? Is voicing an opinion really blasphemy?

I also write these words not to offend, even though I’m afraid offense will be taken. I want to awaken you to your total misconception of what our community stands for and is all about. I do not have any unChristian concept of the Church. You’re right, our Church should unify, but right now it divides. As our spiritual leader you should offer support and guidance, not lectures and scoldings.

I honestly don’t feel anyone in this community is spreading division, other than the clergy. We are concerned, have questions, and want answers. We don’t want to be threatened into submission or with excommunication. We live in the United States of America where freedom of speech is one of our inalienable rights. As I said before, there will always be differences and our community will never agree on everything, but there’s no reason why we can’t keep an open line of communication and dialogue between all clergy and laity. No topic should be closed to discussion.

The murmuring and complaints voiced by this community will not ease until the clergy really wants to listen to what we have to say with an open mind. Again, our Church belongs to Christ, not us, and not the Archdiocese.

God bless you and keep you during this holy Christmas Season. I hope one day you’ll visit and really tend to the needs of this community.

Respectfully and in God’s Name,

Andrea Orton
Parishioner of Greater Salt Lake City

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