“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


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

God's House Divided

"And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand'." - Matthew 12:25 (King James Version)

Here we are once again with our community and its leaders divided. Three letters, sent out by our Parish Council, indicate just how divided our leaders are keeping us. Reason tells us, and ought to tell our clergy and our Parish Council, that their current system of governance is not working. Isn’t this painfully obvious? It is not working because it operates against the directly expressed wishes of a majority of this community who seek to put it on a sound footing to serve the Lord and His Church. More than simply not working, this dysfunctional governance is putting our beloved community and our Lord's House on a path to disaster.

It is in this context that several past leaders of this community, older and wiser, attempted to engage our current lay leadership in some open, constructive and sensible dialogue. For compelling reasons, they asked to do so on “neutral ground”.

Location, Location, Location - Why Away from “God’s House”?

  • Our clergy insists this dialogue must take place, even informally, in “God’s House”, specifically in the Prophet Elias board room. In more congenial times, this might have been fine. At present it is not. It is understandable that the majority of our "elders committee" rightfully questioned just how “neutral” this location could be under present circumstances.
  • Our present leadership has turned the board rooms of God's House into their own “turf”, where discourse can be shut down at the whim of the clergy, with the assistance of an acquiescent board, and in particular by our current council president who is a skilled parliamentarian. Unfortunately, for all that skill, too often facts, truth, good advice and sound governance have been shelved, tabled or declared off-limits to any discussion.
  • The clergy’s letter speaks of transparency, while we continue to witness, time and again, a complete shutting down of open discourse and debate on subjects that have a genuine and direct bearing on why we find ourselves in a demoralized, apathetic, alienated and financially unstable predicament.
A Matter of Respect.
  • It seems to us that our president and the rest of the parish council ought to have the common courtesy and simple respect to meet with their elders - former leaders, two of whom are Archons, and at the suggested location. These are basic lessons we were all taught as children in our Greek and American households.
  • Our leaders who are on this committee, are older and wiser, having served this community honorably and well. They have earned and deserve that respect. It has been nothing short of astonishing and cause for dismay to see our current leaders show blatant disrespect time and again to these elders and others at recent general assemblies when pertinent questions are posed. Our current leadership ought to have the simple manners and decency to put aside their own egos and self-righteousness for an evening and hear these gentlemen out at a location and in a manner that does not involve formal agendas, parliamentary tactics or hiding behind the clergy, hierarchy and those omnipresent and seemingly omnipotent UPRs that have been forced upon us.
  • We continue to submit that if parish councils are now to be nothing more than rubber-stamp advisory panels to priests, who now claim to be presidencies and treasuries unto themselves, then why even bother having elections? Why nominate otherwise qualified candidates who can be rejected based on specious whims? Why bother with general assemblies, when issues of grave importance and votes on governance carried by large majorities can be easily dismissed through parliamentary or clerical fiat as being contrary to the “letter and/or spirit” of the UPRs?
Several elders of our community took the time and effort to consider ways they might constructively and honestly attempt to engage the Parish Council members. They hoped to reason with current leaders and to seek paths toward some common ground. They felt that this might best be achieved in a neutral setting, over a cup of coffee, away from agendas and parliamentary procedures controlled too tightly by any one person.

Yet again, however, we see our Parish Council taking guidance only from a clergy and hierarchy that sets its own interests as above reproach and beyond reach, yet claims “transparency”. The current council members are told they “work for God” and the clergy solely, who presumably always know what the Lord wants. Those who accept this unhealthy and historically dangerous construct are seen as “unconditionally” serving the Lord. Others with real, demonstrable and justified concerns are demonized. As a result, our Church and community continue to suffer.

- Barbara Billinis Colessides

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