“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, April 27, 2010

Theater of the Absurd? The Met’s Mixed Messages to this Community

In a letter dated November 15, 2005, our Metropolitan in meeting with Messrs. Gamvroulas, Katsohirakis, and Metos, along with Father Kouremetis, discussed a plan to follow upon the success of the Hellenic Heritage Campaign by creating the Hellenic Heritage Committee. In this letter, it is quite clear that the Metropolitan encouraged development of proposals surrounding this plan. He clearly understood such an entity’s purpose.

That entity, ratified by 72% of a well-attended general assembly meeting the following November (2006), was established. Having lost this vote in the general assembly, for the next three years, opponents of this plan prevailed upon the Metropolitan to set up obstacles to its inception. Its work was finally permitted to begin last year in 2009. Yet, in his letter dated April 16, 2010, one would think Metropolitan Isaiah had never heard of any such plan as was described to him five years earlier!

With the establishment of the Hellenic Community Foundation, the Gregory Skedros Family, as described in Mr. Skedros’ letter to the Metropolitan realized that they had an excellent opportunity to put their monies (temporarily left in an account controlled by the parish council since the HCC campaign had ended), into an account under the aegis of the Hellenic Community Foundation. The foundation’s stated purposes ideally suited the family's wishes for the use of these funds toward the building of The Anthony G. Skedros Memorial Gymnasium adjacent to the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The transfer of funds was duly approved by the legally designated trustees of the account: Mr. Nick Varanakis (the now-resigned president of the community), Mr. George Metos, and Mr. Manoli Sargetakis. Mr. Nick Bapis, as the investment manager of the church accounts, first through Morgan Stanley, then through Hightower Investments/The Bapis Group, duly and legally transferred the monies. Four months later, the parish council noticed the transfer and objected.

Having discovered the transfer, the parish council demanded that Mr. Bapis return the Skedros monies to their original account. Yet, the monies were transferred according to correct procedures, and Mr. Bapis informed the council that he lacked any legal authority to comply with their request. While sending Mr. Bapis a letter chastising him and threatening legal action, the parish council also demanded that Mr. Skedros ask for the return these monies. After consulting with legal and financial counsel, the Skedros family informed the parish council that returning the monies would cause Gregory Skedros, and the fund, to lose about 20 per cent of the fund’s value in tax liabilities, which would impact Mr. Skedros personally as well.

Our Metropolitan seems to forget that in 2005 he approved and applauded the establishment of such an entity, namely the HCF. Further, he seemingly ignores the fact that the Skedros Family have been long-time, ardent supporters of our church, having served as parish council officers, choir members, athletes, and faithful stewards. He has allowed his proistamenoi and their handpicked parish council to defame and chastise Mr. Nick Bapis, an archon, a member of Leadership 100, as well as a long-time, generous supporter of this community himself in a variety of leadership roles.

The Metropolitan has allowed the parish council to accept the resignation of Mr. Nick Varanakis, an ELECTED president of this parish council. This, because Mr. Varanakis, along with the other two trustees, Mr. Metos and Mr. Sargetakis, simply followed a perfectly reasonable request to properly transfer the Skedros monies, as the trustees had a couple of times before with other smaller accounts, with no resulting outcry from the Proistamenoi and the parish council whatsoever.

Yet, surprisingly, the Metropolitan saves his greatest wrath for the board members of the newly (finally!) created Hellenic Community Foundation – the same entity he discussed in glowing terms in 2005! However, in 2010, the Metropolitan claims “they (sic) who are responsible for this sinful act (the transfer of the Skedros monies) have … excommunicated themselves from the Church…and he threatens their formal excommunication!

Those who are responsible for the transfer of these monies are not the members of the HCF. The Skedros Family reasonably and properly made this request. The trustees reasonably and properly honored this request. Mr. Bapis, as the investing manager, reasonably and properly followed this LEGAL request (and he may not LEGALLY reverse it as the parish council has demanded of him).

Yet it is the board of directors of the Hellenic Community Foundation – among whose members are yet another member of Leadership 100, Mr. Douglas Anderson, along with several former Parish Council members, the current president of the Orthodox Christian Laity, Bill Souvall, and other prominent Greek Orthodox professionals in our community – on whom our hierarch has inexplicably turned the full measure of his wrath. Yet again (since he saw how well this action turned out the FIRST time?) our Metropolitan has promised to wield, cruelly and arbitrarily, the most extreme punishment to be given to an Orthodox Christian.

In terms of Ancient Greek theater it is as if Metropolitan Isaiah has chosen the chorus of this odd play as the villain. (In ancient Greek plays, the chorus is simply there to provide continuity, remarks, and background information. They are not the active participants of the story.) The newly formed board of the HCF was just beginning its work. Its members played no role in these events; yet it is highly obvious that there are persons in this community that want this group disbanded. Why else would these people be pointed out – SINGLED OUT – as the sole “villains” in this situation?

It is a shame that ancient Greek playwrights are not alive. They would have turned this bizarre set of circumstances into either a fine tragedy or a first-class farce.

- Barbara Billinis Colessides

1 comment:

Barbara Colessides said...

I stand corrected, and apologize. I neglected to mention that Mr. Vassilios Priskos is also a member of Leadership 100.