Moderator's Note: The following letter (the original can be viewed here) was printed with Mr. Katsohirakis' permission. It was also forwarded to the Parish Council in response to their request for "feedback". We thank Kosta for his thoughts that express brilliantly the feelings of the majority in this community.
October 10, 2010
Member of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake
6241 Shenandoah Park Ave
Salt Lake City, Utah 84121
Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver
4550 East Alameda Avenue
Denver, CO 80246-1208
Dear Metropolitan Isaiah,
Once again I am shocked, appalled, and dismayed to read yet another letter from you, this latest one dated September 16, 2010. The reaction from my immigrant 82 year-old mother, who asked me to read and translate this letter into Greek for her, was even more horrified. She asked me, “Ti ehei autos o anthropos?”, “what is wrong with that person? I have a hard time reconciling how my wife and I can share this letter, or any recent letters from you, with our three young children, as examples of Orthodox Christian leadership.
As the spiritual leader of our Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake, we as your flock are supposed to look to you as our shepherd for positive ecclesiastical guidance. Yet it has become very clear that through your words, your actions, and your direction, you seem to prefer lately a more confrontational and incendiary stance with us here in Salt Lake City. Directly and indirectly, you attack us as a community, as well as disparage respected, honorable individuals who have tirelessly and freely given in a very positive way of their Time, Talents and Treasures for the betterment of our community.
- Your vassals have recently filed a complaint with the SEC against a former President of the Parish Council for alleged financial improprieties. This gentleman has been a beacon in our community his entire life, has tirelessly served in numerous leadership and fundraising capacities, and in addition at the national level he is member of Leadership 100, and an Archon. The two people who signed this SEC complaint (presumably at your behest) should be ashamed of themselves for their petty, unwarranted, and despicable action!
- You have previously removed one member from the Parish Council, and without merit imposed severe ecclesiastical sanctions. When you recognized the folly of your way and the petty nature of your action, you then reversed course.
- You forced the resignation of the previous President of the Parish Council. This gentleman has served for a long time, was very well respected, and did absolutely nothing wrong when he correctly signed for the proper transfer of certain funds, as approved by previous General Assemblies.
- You repeatedly prevent numerous, upstanding, respectable, life-long individuals of this community from running on and serving on the Parish Council…yet at the same time, you ask us to recognize the authority and leadership of this predominantly appointed (not elected) Parish Council, many of whom were not on the most recent ballot that was voted upon by our community, and are therefore NOT leadership representatives of the community.
- You sent yet another inflammatory letter April 16, 2010, in which you make very serious, unsubstantiated personal accusations, and totally without merit. You refer to the actions of certain individuals, myself included, as “robbery”. These funds that you refer to were not “stolen”, quite to the contrary, they are safely preserved, the overall value of the portfolio has increased substantially, and they will be used for the purpose that the donors intended. I am stunned that you invite us to “free[ly] join any other religious body that they so chose…” My grandfather and father helped to establish our faith here, and I will not leave to join another as you request. You further refer to excommunication, an unsubstantiated threat, which is a tactic of fear and intimidation, and something that one expects from a playground bully. These are certainly not the words and actions that exhibit spiritual and ecclesiastical leadership from a shepherd to his flock!
In your September 16th letter, you refer to the “cleavage” in our community. There was NO such “cleavage” until very recently. In fact, as you well know, the results of a vote that was taken in our community in 2005 demonstrate that the people of this Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake, by an overwhelming majority of 87% expressed a desire to remain as one community! Being one community has served us well for close to 100 years now.
- Yet at the same time, you cast a blind eye to the improprieties documented clearly in the Audit Report, as presented at our most recent General Assembly in the Spring of 2010. What corrective actions have you taken on this matter? Where is your letter on this matter to the Proistamenos and the appointed Parish Council?
However, your appointment of the current Proistamenos to this community in 2002, appears to have been with an agenda, that of “separation” of our community. If there is now a divide in our community, it is directly as a consequence of your actions, and those of your vassal. For example, you have created two separate Philoptochos Societies. You are the one who makes constant and persistent references to a separation in all of your letters. In another of your recent letters you refer to us as “bigamists”. You continue to nurture division rather than unity. I ask you for what purpose are you doing this? Why do you continue to turn brother against brother, and sister against sister in this community? This has become our community’s modern-day scourge; similar to what slavery was to this country in the early/mid 19th century!
You disparage us as a community for a downturn in stewardship. What else do you expect when you unilaterally invalidate the actions and votes of prior General Assemblies, do not allow for any discourse or dissenting opinion, do not allow for representation of the people (laos) on the Parish Council, strike down requests for agenda items at General Assemblies, and ignore requests for special General Assemblies to discuss urgent and salient matters to our community? Consistent with the principles of the founding fathers of our country, our people are simply asking to be heard and their wishes respected. Unfortunately, stewardship has now remained as the only course many people feel they have left to express themselves. This is sad indeed. But, apparently, the declining financial status of our community is now getting your attention.
History has shown us two notable examples of what can happen with the excesses and poor leadership of a people ruled oppressively by a tyrannical, hierarchical despot. The 13 fledgling colonies united against King George III of England, and formed the United States of America. Additionally, the Reformation movement in Western Europe was in response to many years of excesses from the Christian leadership in Rome, which unfortunately splintered Christianity in much of the Western World.
I don’t wish to see these disastrous consequences for our Greek Orthodox Community in Salt Lake City! The bulk of the letters and telephone calls that you have been listening to and acting upon has come from a very small group of people, and there is clearly a small, disenfranchised minority. Unfortunately, some are acting upon personal differences with others in this community. I have seen this personally on numerous occasions in the nearly ten years that I have been involved in the Hellenic Heritage Campaign, the Holy Trinity Cathedral Renovation, and the Hellenic Cultural Foundation.
Working together with you in Christian love and in a positive manner, we should separate the personal issues and the needs of this disenfranchised minority from the overall fundraising efforts as desired by the rest of the community. These are two separate and distinctly different matters. Note below:
- In a constructive and positive manner, perhaps we should encourage this disenfranchised minority to move on and initiate the creation of a third, separate Orthodox church, as a separate Parish with their own separate finances at a different site in this valley. As demonstrated by the explosive growth of the Russian St. Peter and Paul church in a different part of our valley, there is the need and interest for more Orthodoxy in this valley.
In summary, I had the honor and privilege of making your acquaintance personally during your visit to Salt Lake City in October 2005. Per your letter dated November 15, 2005, you will remember that Chris Gamvroulas, George Metos, and I presented you with a tentative plan regarding the proper use of the properties owned by the members of our community around the Holy Trinity Cathedral, and across the street on 300 West. We were all very encouraged by your inspirational words in that letter, “I commend the gentlemen with who I met on October 29, 2005, and am most appreciative to them for sacrificing much of their time and using their God-given talents to help breathe new life into the Cathedral.” Much work still needs to be done at the facilities of both churches.
- Much like Leadership 100, a well recognized and respected institution at the national level, HHC and HCF are local fundraising organizations that have been created as a way to promote and perpetuate our Greek Orthodoxy and the Hellenism that our protopori and grandparents (yiayias and papous) brought to this country so many years ago. Leadership 100 is not referred to disparagingly at the national level. Quite the contrary, there are many positive references to this organization frequently in our monthly Orthodox Observer. In a similar fashion please do not refer any longer to our people who are part of these efforts locally as “lovers of self, lovers of money…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4)”, as you did in your letter April 16, 2010.
Our protopori came here with nothing, and by collecting their nickels and dimes, they established our Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake. That generation built two churches and created a structure that served the needs of our united community for over 100 years; the needs of the immigrants, the needs of their children and grandchildren, and the needs of many converts and philhellenes. Orthodoxy has flourished here for 100 years, because we controlled our own destiny, and because we have actively solicited the will and needs of our local people, and the support of our local community. As you stated so well in your letter of November 15, 2005, ”every Greek Orthodox parish is owned by the general membership…in the matters of revenue and property, the general membership makes all the decisions”. This community can and will continue to thrive for many more years to come as it has been structured to date. But our generation today needs to do more. And for these efforts to come to fruition, we need your blessing, support and encouragement for a united, harmonious community.
In His Service,
Kostas A. Katsohirakis