Last night the biggest con in our church history was continued!
Our treasurer, after giving yet another unnecessary Economics 101 budgeting lecture, attempted to convince those gathered by faulty graphics that the problems we are facing are due to current economic conditions. (Prior to yesterday evening, the misleading graphics were supposedly telling us that everything was fine, despite ample evidence for several months and years now that this was not the case.)
He showed us in an annual graph that stewardship peaked in 2006, with sharp decline in 2007; then he showed in a monthly graph the rapid deterioration of 2008 and 2009, attributing all declines solely to economic conditions. I was amazed that the economist who got up and spoke later did not show any concern that his science, which is supposed to be based on observable and verifiable facts, statistics and trends, was twisted and misused! Why? Because THE CON IS ON!
In the oil and gas business in the 90s we used the term the "Saddam Effect" when we wanted to explain the impact the first Gulf War had on oil prices. My dear friends, we in this community are witnessing a similar condition; just substitute "Saddam" and you have the "Fr. Michael / Metropolitan Isaiah Effect".
What happened in 2002, 2006 and then in early 2007? Did we forget so easily? The con has been on for several YEARS now. In 2002, our Metropolitan dismissed an entire ELECTED parish council, replacing them with members more pliant to the strictures imposed by the post-Iakovos regime. In late 2006, our Metropolitan overturned an overwhelming vote by this community to establish a vibrant Heritage Corporation, designed to best leverage this community’s non-ecclesiastical assets. In early 2007, the Metropolitan was informed of one board member’s reaction to this dismissal of a plan that was in our community’s best interests. He responded by excommunicating that member. (The Metropolitan later rescinded the sanctions, asserting he had been “misinformed” but did not allow the member to be reinstated on the parish council.) Several stewards of this community responded to this series of outrages in the only way left to them – by reducing the amount they were paying to the church. Fr. Michael and his rubber-stamp board may deny vehemently that he had anything to do with this series of injustices, along with several others, but he knows better. Add to these issues the problem of payment to clergy abuse victims and there's some serious trends our "economists" have overlooked. Some may deny that this has affected stewardship – ALL know better. THE CON HAS BEEN ON, IS ON, REMAINS ON!!!
Do we remember the economy in 2006 and most of 2007? It was at that time booming! You could buy a house and within three months you could flip the property with a 25% return on your capital, and the banks were handing out loans to nearly anyone who knew how to sign their name.
But in 2007 stewardship was significantly down from the year before! Why? Individuals did not feel the general economic stress in their pocketbooks until 2008 when gas prices went through the roof and the real estate bubble was bursting! Try as hard as they – our priests, and their rubber-stamp parish council – have in the past several general assemblies to deny it, anyone with any sense knows that a MAJOR reason the stewardship is down significantly since 2006 is because of the "Fr. Michael / Metropolitan Isaiah Effect".
Our treasurer has tried for several assemblies in a row to convince us differently. Despite incomplete information provided, despite the trends anyone can see, we are constantly told that the money was coming in, is coming in, will come in – oh wait, we require Festival funds – oops, our bad?! (In the winter general assembly we were chastised by our priests for going to Las Vegas and Wendover, but not paying enough for stewardship. Even our clergy do not believe that "it’s the economy, stupid." They “know” the community is spending some money somewhere else. They want it.) Now we’re told, it’s the economy. All because … THE CON WAS AND IS ON!
Mr. Jim Kastanis got up and made a proposal and immediately our President and Parliamentarian jumped up to point out that it was pointless and absurd to think that we have any power to demand reduction in salaries of the priests as well as our assessment to the Archdiocese. Once again we are told the UPRs are like the constitution; people voted for the UPRs.
Those "people", the delegates in the post-Iakovos era were and still are hand-picked even before the general assembly has met. They are confirmed through the regular "fix". If two "people" and one clergyman from each community go to the clergy-laity conferences, is it not amazing that all that comes out of those meetings is the one message that is loud clear? Pay, pray and obey! THE CON GOES ON!
All this has been done to the laity in communities in this nation “democratically”! The hand-picked and personally phoned people voted to close discussion before all people were able to express their opinion. The parliamentarian announced that all would be heard, no one would speak a second time before all who wanted to speak were heard a first time; yet someone slickly calls the question, discussion gets cut off, and the victim, as usual, is impartiality, along with good, fair governance. The game gets fixed; if the budget doesn’t pass the first time, discussion and participation gets rigged; it passes the second time, with festival funds diverted, of course, along with the ever-present threat of closures and program cuts.
As for the notion that these UPRs, forced upon us by supposedly democratic clergy-laity congresses, are not subject to question or alteration, I offer the following counter. Two hundred plus years ago there was a “constitution” in this country – the unwritten common-law British one. Its existence did not prevent the revolution or the creation of the American Nation! Those great patriots, like many of our stewards, said "enough is enough". What is absurd is the notion that we must accept this outrageous situation or we cannot be “good” Orthodox Christians. THE CON CONTINUES...
It is time for us all to say ENOUGH! And, it’s past time for our parish council and our clergy to see that this system, based on THE CON, is not working.
Constantine Gus J. Colessides
Monday, February 1, 2010
Last night the biggest con in our church history was continued!