September 13, 2010
Via Federal Express
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios
Office ofthe Archbishop
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese ofAmerica
8-10 East 79
New York NY 10021
Re: Appeal to the Eparchial Synod
I have been asked by the 86 signatory parties to the accompanying Appeal, to transmit these documents, to the Eparchial Synod.
Our Parish would appreciate any help that the Eparchial Synod may be able to give us.
May the beginning of the ecclesiastical new year bring love, peace, and Christian unity to your entire flock.
Thank you for your consideration.
Nick J. Colessides
enclosure: Appeal document with all exhibits and appendices
cc: His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, via international air mail, with enclosures
Each Member of the Eparchial Synod, with all enclosures, via regular US mail
ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA
BEFORE THE EPARCHIAL SYNOD
GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH
IN THE MATTER OF: )
GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH OF )
GREATER SALT LAKE, )
To: His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America,
and the Holy Eparchial Synod of Bishops of
the Archdiocese of America
This is an appeal pursuant to and in accordance with PART IV, ARTICLE 35, Dispute Resolution Procedures, “Addendum B, Dispute Resolution Procedures,” of the Regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2007, (the “UPRs”).
Article 35 states the following:
Section 1: Disputes that involve ... church property issues and that pertain to the life of the Parish or Church community shall be governed by the Dispute Resolution Procedures attached hereto as Addendum B.” [emphasis added].
This Appeal involves our Metropolitan Hierarch, to-wit: Metropolitan Isaiah, the Metropolitan of the current Metropolis and former Diocese of Denver. According to the procedure set forth in Section III(b) of Addendum B of the UPRs, this dispute is under the Direct Jurisdiction of, and addressed by, the Eparchial Synod.
Our Parish is named the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake (the “Parish”). In October 2010 our Parish will celebrate its 105th anniversary. Our Parish was created in October of 1905. In 1969 with the blessings of the Archdiocese of North and South America our community added a new church edifice in our Parish; it built the Prophet Elias Church. During the Parish’s lifetime we have always operated two church edifices with one Parish Council; we had Clergy that were assigned to our community by the Archdiocese. All assigned clergy ministered to the entire Parish, and all clergy alternated their Sunday Liturgical services between the two Churches. We have lived in relative harmony, and have consistently moved forward in an Orthodox Christian way, and making our mark in and amongst the Mormon community, which maintains a large presence in Utah.
Our Parish joined the Archdiocese of North and South America on March 9, 1964. The evidence that our Parish joined the Archdiocese is supported by the documents set forth in Exhibit “A,” copies of which are appended herein and by this reference are incorporated and made a part hereof. The March 9, 1964 letter (1 - that can be accessed by clicking on this link) and other documents are also referenced collectively hereinafter as the “1964 Accord.” Through his various writings Metropolitan Isaiah disputes the validity of the March 9, 1964 letter, and the Christian, legal, moral and ethical consequences of the Accord. He has never articulated either a legal, canonical, or religious basis for his disdain for the March 9, 1964 letter.
During the first 97 years of the Parish’s life we enjoyed a dynamic existence. Our Parish was very vibrant. In 1999 the entire Parish unanimously created the Hellenic Heritage Campaign Committee (“HHCC”). The HHCC was established to accomplish the goals set forth below. The Parish always acted by and through its general assembly of our Parish’ stewards; the Parish acting by and through its general assembly approved the creation of the HHCC. Thereafter, the HHCC commenced an ambitious fund raising program in order to meet the Parish’s unanimous mandate. Overall the HHCC raised an amount in excess of $5 million dollars in cash; approximately $6.5 million were pledged during the fund raising drive.
The purpose of the creation of the HHCC and the Parish’s mandate to the HHCC was two-fold. First, to rehabilitate the crown jewel of our community, the Holy Trinity Cathedral edifice; and, second, to reconstruct and improve the Cathedral’s surrounding campus.
In connection with the fund raising efforts by the HHCC, the HHCC employed several architects as well as architectural and construction consultants, etc.; the HHCC has expended an additional amount of approximately $350,000 in fees paid to third party consultants. All work performed by all the members of the HHCC and the parishioners in general was performed on a volunteer basis. During the period between 1999 and 2005, there were approximately 15,000 hours of volunteer efforts donated to the effort by Salt Lake parishioners. The HHCC also learned some very valuable lessons during the first part of the fund raising efforts.
The Cathedral restoration project involved the complete rehabilitation of the magnificent 1925 Byzantine church edifice, anti-seismic protection, the tying in of the bell towers to the structure, a new Iconostasi, a new HVAC system, etc. The Cathedral renovation was completed on time and within the budget approved by the general assembly. Most importantly this worthy endeavor was accomplished without any debt whatsoever. The HHCC paid approximately $3.8 million for the Cathedral renovation and rehabilitation project. Please note that every expenditure for the Cathedral project was approved on a regular basis by the semiannual, annual and on occasion by special general assemblies of the parishioners/stewards of our Parish.
The second phase of the 1999 Parish mandate to the HHCC was to be the replacement and construction of Sunday School classrooms. The Parish needs to replace and reconstruct the antiquated Sunday School facilities. We cannot afford to entrust our youngsters who attend Sunday School to the vagaries of unsafe and unsound Sunday School facilities. The Parish also needs to reconstruct its gymnasium, provide for new kitchen facilities, build a new community center, build a museum facility, construct senior citizen living facilities, and other ancillary and supporting facilities. These needs were delineated in the master plan designed by the third party consultants hired by the HHCC.
When the Rev. Fr. John Kaloudis left his ministry of our Parish, Metropolitan Isaiah appointed his successor, the Rev. Fr. Michael Kouremetis, initially as the sole Proistameno in our Parish.
Fr. Kouremetis was appointed to our Parish in 2002. Since that time period the HHCC’s fund-raising efforts have stalled. The figures show that during his tenure in our community the stewardship program has reached an all-time low. Over this same time period Parishioners have continuously reduced their annual stewardship giving ever since 2002. The research also shows that prior to Fr. Kouremetis’ arrival significant surplus in the Parish’s financial accounts existed and the annual budgets were not being projected with severe deficiency of funds. Sadly this is not the current state of affairs with our Parish.
The recent 2010 audit for the calendar/fiscal year 2009, has amply demonstrated salient facts of import and concern to our Parish, including the following:
A. Executive summary
1. Poor accounting practices, systems and record keeping
2. Violations in delegation of authority
3 Non existent oversight and segregation of duties
4. Duplication of efforts and poor communication
5. Early processing of payroll frequently
6. Poor employee accountability
7. Significant spending on items that could be avoided
8. Not clear on priorities of capital improvements.
B. Violations in delegation of authority and co-mingling of designated funds.
1. Pavilion expenditures at Prophet Elias
2. Prayer Garden at Prophet Elias
3. Baptismal font, Iconostasi, and appointment fund at Prophet Elias
4. Interior and exterior remodel and dome projects at Prophet Elias
5. Late fees
In other words at Prophet Elias, where Fr. Kouremetis was the Proistameno, and under his governance, it was a ξέφραχτο αμπέλι. The 2009 audit highlighted and magnified for the Parish, certain financial irregularities in the Parish’s operational financial structure. These irregularities have severely cost the Parish tens of thousands of dollars. Since that time many parishioners seem to have lost confidence in the ability of the present clergy structure to continue to lead this Parish in a competent and fiscally responsible manner. Recently, one of our twenty year olds, on July 15, 2010, wrote the following in a letter addressed to the Clergy and the Parish Council.
“Go to either of the churches on a Sunday and count the 20-30 year-olds. You will only need one hand. Is it because we are terrible people and like to sleep in. NO. It’s because we feel alienated day in and day out. Voices are going unheard and the church doesn’t even care.”We can ill afford at this time, to lose our youth and alienate them from the Church, especially when they are vulnerable to outside influences while they search for spiritual answers. Please listen to the climate that has been created by our assigned clergy.
For instance, the Parish Council at the special request and insistence of Fr. Kouremetis, and without the approval of any general membership assembly, expended over $500,000, for half- finished capital improvements in the Prophet Elias campus. Such an expenditure is a clear violation of the provisions of the UPRs. Again, the Parish Council, under the tenure of Fr. Kouremetis incurred and paid out of Parish funds, penalties and interest, pursuant to an IRS order imposing such penalties and interest. No effort has been made by the legally responsible executive members of the Parish Council to reimburse the Parish for such unlawful diminution of the Parish’s assets. This Parish can ill afford to allow its clergy to continue to spend outside the authority of the general assembly. If this practice continues, this Parish will soon be in a severe and dire financial crisis.
The irregularities discovered by the 2009 Audit are not only shocking, but replete with breaches of fiduciary duties and dereliction of duties which need to be addressed moving forward by the Parish. The entire audit report as presented to the June 2010, regular general assembly is appended herein, marked Appendix “Z” and by this reference is incorporated herein and made a part hereof. The Audit report was presented to the general parishioners’ assembly; it was mailed to the Metropolitan and to the Archdiocese. As of today Metropolitan Isaiah has refused to assure the Parish that corrective action has or will be taken, and that the appropriate executive officers of the Parish will reimburse the Parish for the IRS imposed penalties and interest.
There has not been a bona fide election in this Parish for the last 5 years. Every time parishioners sign up to run for the Parish Council positions, vague, ambiguous, and capricious requirements, prevent certain stewards of long and proven standing from even having their names on the ballot. Fr. Kouremetis and Fr. Gilbert continue to disqualify parishioners who are willing to sacrifice and make contributions to this Parish.
On or about May 25, 2010, the Kaliope Sargetakis family, (herself and her 3 married sons) (the “Sargetakis”) filed a formal arbitration request with the Metropolitan’s Office in Denver, CO., about the “... control and appropriation of certain funds, the ‘funds’” held by the custodian of said funds, ... .”
Again, in July, 2010, the Sargetakis family requested action on their arbitration request.
On or about May 2010, parishioner Yanni Armaou also filed a formal arbitration request with the Metropolitan’s Office in Denver, regarding the same subject matter.
As of today, no response or action has been taken by the Metropolitan who continues to ignore the formal requests for arbitration by stewards and leaders of our Parish.
We are trying to be harmonious and live within Metropolitan Isaiah’s directives; however, we receive contradictory mixed signals, with almost every letter he writes to our community. He has castigated our parishioners as “robbers” because of fund raising efforts, and because we insist that we must build adequate Sunday School rooms for our children. He addresses us as the people who worship the “ ‘almighty dollar’ which unfortunately is first in the hearts and minds of numerous Greek Orthodox Christians in the Salt Lake City Area.”
We have been also addressed as the “deceivers” and the “pretenders.” Metropolitan’s Isaiah caustic letters to our Parish (witness the Metropolitan’s letter (2) dated April 16, 2010, mailed out to our community on Good Friday) [and to third parties] are a continuous stream of character assassination by innuendo. They are devoid of references to Christian love, and messages of Christian unity. Metropolitan Isaiah fails to recognize, in the words of the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, that “Η Έκκλησία δέν είναι εξουσία είναι διακονεία.”
In his letter (3) of November 15, 2005, he (Metropolitan Isaiah) stated:
First and foremost it must be stressed that every Greek Orthodox parish is owned by the general membership. ... This means that in the matter of revenues and property, the general membership makes all the decisions.”The community agreed with the contents of his letter as set forth above, 268 parishioners signed a petition (4) calling for a special general assembly. The petition was properly served upon the parties required to be served by the UPRs. Copies of the petition was also sent to the
Metropolitan in Denver, and to the Office of the Archbishop of America. The Metropolitan denied the parishioners’ right to a special general assembly.
Metropolitan Isaiah continues to berate our Parish because according to his thinking our Parish suffers from “... abnormal and uncanonical situation which continues to exist in the community.” Given the fact that there are three other communities in the United States that have one Parish and two church edifices, we have asked many times Metropolitan Isaiah to point to any canon that we are violating. As of the date of this Appeal, we have still not received a response from the Metropolitan.
Additionally, Metropolitan Isaiah’s rationalizations regarding the Accord of the Μακαριστός Bishop Demetrios defies logic, dogma, or any Canonical basis for rejection. In one instance he portrays the Μακαριστός Bishop Demetrios as a titular Bishop without any “... administrative5 responsibilities.” (5) It is crystal clear that the 1964 Accord, in the words of the Μακαριστός Bishop Demetrios, wherein the Salt Lake City Parish was welcomed in and became a member of the Archdiocese of North and South America, with the official proviso (6) that:
“You may exclude from the current Archdiocese Regulations and Uniform Parish By-Laws Article VII pertaining to “Parish Property” and Article VI paragraphs 1, 2, 3, and 4 “use and Disposal of Property, Funds, Gifts, Bequests and Devises." Emphasis added.Our Parish is in complete and utter disarray.
The most egregious part of the Metropolitan’s actions, is the most current letter (7) dated July 23, 2010. Three pages of sophistry; no substance; only excuses as to why Bishop Demetrios of Olympus (of Blessed Memory) was merely an auxiliary bishop and lacked the authority to give our community the assurances it wanted. A copy of Metropolitan’s Isaiah’s letter dated July 23, 2010, to the Clergy and Parish Council is attached herein marked Exhibit “D” and by this reference is attached herein and made a part hereof.
If one were to follow the logic contained in the Metropolitan’s last letter, it seems to us that somebody tricked this Parish in 1964, and through trickery, deceit, and misrepresentations, we ended up joining, and for the last forty six years, paying to the Archdiocese our annual contributions. In excess of 46 years, the Archdiocese has been the annual beneficiary of the 1964 ratification, acceptance, accord and satisfaction. The Archdiocese has waived any contrary interpretation to the 1964 Accord and the Metropolitan is not in a position to so determine otherwise.
We cannot see how Christian love, honor, integrity, moral values and ethics, could inspire and motivate Metropolitan Isaiah to write his letter dated July 1, 2010. He decided to unilaterally disavow the 1964 letter Accord issued by and on behalf of the Archdiocese of North and South America.
Reason for the Appeal
The undersigned hereby appeal from Metropolitan Isaiah’s recent decision not to honor the signatures of 268 parishioners. He has prohibited (8) this community from holding a special general assembly so that the entire assembly (9) may consider a particular resolution. The signatories to the Petition followed the UPRs. We have acted pursuant to Article 31, Section 7 of the Uniform Parish Regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In our reading of the UPRs there is NO provision where a Metropolitan may sua sponte enter his edict forbidding the holding of a special assembly, in direct contravention of the UPRs.
We earnestly pray that the Eparchial Synod provide us with the following remedies:
1. To allow the special general assembly to take place in our Parish, on a date and time certain to consider and deliberate the issues raised by the Resolution.
2. To reconfirm the previously recognized Letter Accord of March 9, 1964 as a valid and subsisting document evidencing the relationship between our Parish, and the Archdiocese; and
3. To recognize that the general membership of our Parish has complete and total control of all its properties and monies; and
4. To reassign Fr. Michael Kouremetis from our Parish; and
5. To appoint new clergy selected by the Archdiocese and the Metropolitan of Denver; and
6. To allow for future Parish Council elections to be held consistent with the provisions of the UPRs, so that we all may once again live in harmony to glorify God.
We need to focus our attention and resources to building safe Sunday School rooms; we need to convert our vision to reality for a dynamic Greek Orthodox Church in Utah. We do not need to be told that we are the “deceivers,” since such ad hominem attacks on our parishioners does little to further missions and goals of being faithful Greek Orthodox Christians.
The present situation in our community continuous to deteriorate and has shaken the foundation which so many sacrificed to build and protect in the past. The stewardship funds are at the lowest level in the history of this community. We need your help in assisting and guiding us to become, again, the vibrant community we once were in Utah. We need to have you stop the arbitrary and unjust decisions before we reach irreversible chaos and become a shadow or mere memory of our past greatness. Our Parish, with your help can continue to be a beacon of light for Greek Orthodox Christians in the state of Utah and the intermountain west.
Please help us reach reconciliation. We are very proud of what our Greek immigrant pioneers have accomplished in unity. We rest our hope in you that we can again provide the best future for our children and grandchildren.
Dated as of this 13th day of September, 2010.
The below listed parishioners* are stewards in good standing
of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake;
each has consented via e-mail, or fax, or written correspondence
to be named a signatory party to the foregoing appeal.
Their names appear in alphabetical order.
*Whenever a parishioner has served
in any capacity in any of the Parish’
organizations, the title each held
is also set forth opposite such person’s name.
Angelides, Nicholas - Former member of the Parish Council
Armaou, Yannis - Former member of the Parish Council
Bapis, Nick M. - Former member and president of the Parish Council
Bapis Elaine - Member St. Sophia Greek Orthodox School Board
Founder St. Sophia Greek Orthodox School
Bathemess, Leiann - Former member of the Parish Council
Chelemes, Basil, Former member of the Parish Council and Assistant Choir Director
Chelemes, Sam - Former president and member of the Parish Council
Colessides, Barbara Billinis
Colessides, Constantine J. - Former member of the Parish Council (also Houston Parish)
Colessides, Nick J. - Former member of the Parish Council
Folias, Vickie - Member St. Sophia Greek Orthodox School Board Founder
Gamvroulas, Steve - Former member of the parish Council
Giannis, Andy - Former member of the Parish Council
Gianoulis, Anthony M. D.
Gianoulis, Marina, Former member St. Sophia School Board
Guin, Elaine K.
Kastanis, James - Former president and member of the Parish Council
Kithas, Andrew J.
Kithas, Angela S.
Kithas, Philip A., M.D. - Former member of the Parish Council
Mantes, E. G. Jr. - Former member of the Parish Council
Mares, Alicia Kastanis
Peters, Thomas W.
Peters, Bill Thomas - Former president and member of the Parish Council
Peters, Vickie Speros
Rizzo, Richard J.
Sakellariou, Athanassios D. - Former member of the Parish Council
Saltas, Paula Metos
Sefakis, Nick - Former president and member of the Parish Council
Skedros, Constantine - Former president and member of the Parish Council
Skedros, Gregory J. - Former member of the Parish Council
Skedros, John G., M.D.
Skedros, Tykie, D., M.D.
Slager, Athena - Former president, Holy Trinity Philoptochos Board
Sotiriou, Antoinette - Member Holy Trinity Philoptochos Board
Sotiriou, Leo, M.D.
Sotiriou, Margo - Former president of the Holy Trinity Philoptochos Society
Founder St. Sophia Greek Orthodox School
Member St. Sophia Greek Orthodox School Board
Tsagaris, Dimitrios - Former member of the Parish Council
Tsagaris, Zoe - Former member of the Parish Council