Moderator's Note: Today, Sunday October 24, 2010, 350+ Greek Orthodox Christians met and let it be known that they would not be railroaded into seeing their community torn asunder by their "leaders" and remain silent. Each person attending and registering was handed a meeting packet. Almost 350 registered; 339 cast ballots on 3 measures. The results of those votes may be viewed on the site sidebar. The meeting concluded with an address (below) and "A Call to Action" to those assembled by Mr. Kostas Katsohirakis. As always we include the original document which may be viewed here. We ask those reading it to print it, (be sure to click the "print" button after the document comes up in order to format the document properly) and sign it. Documents with names printed and signed may be sent to:
466 South 400 East, Suite 100
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
ADDRESS by Kostas Katsohirakis
to the Members and Supporters of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake
October 24, 2010
“Hope with Perseverance” is the theme of Archbishop Demetrios’ recent Archiepiscopal Encyclical address to commemorate the Ecclesiastical New Year (Orthodox Observer September 2010 edition). As the Archbishop writes in the Encyclical, the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans stated “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:25). In a similar fashion, we too, the undersigned Concerned Members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake, with the hope of believers that is not an empty hope, and with the power of perseverance which emanates from our faith, our teachings, and our protopori forefathers, wish to have our voices heard!
We are deeply dismayed to receive a letter dated October 6, 2010 from Metropolitan Isaiah outlining his proposed separation or split of our community. We categorically reject his allegation that he “is responding to the wishes of the large majority of the people”. The results of a vote that was taken in our community in 2007 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!
In the mailing of October 6, 2010, we also received a solicitation from the Parish Council, requesting feedback and comments. As such, note the following:
CALL TO ACTION
● We wish to remain as one united community! 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 has 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 Metropolitan Isaiah stated so well in his letter to our community 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”.
● We recognize and appreciate the Call for Unity letter from Nick S. Vidalakis, PhD (dated October 20, 2010). As a long time member of this community, and someone who has served tirelessly and selflessly as a founding member and leader of the unified community of our Holy Trinity and Prophet Elias churches, as well as a recognized leader of our Church at the national Archdiocesan level, Dr. Vidalakis is uniquely positioned to share his thoughts on the intent of our founders in creating the structure that has served us so well for over forty years now. The Board Members listed in Dr. Vidalakis’ letter will be forever memorialized in the history of our community as builders and uniters. Our very own Nick P. Sefakis was the President of that Executive Board. Will our current Parish Council be remembered with similar fondness?
● We wish to see the immediate election of a new Parish Council. There should be a broad representation of our entire community in the Parish Council, and those who wish to run and serve should not be prevented from having their names placed on the ballot. Elections have always been held in our community in a fair, open and democratic process for over 100 years now, and only in recent years have we seen the advent and widespread use of appointing, not electing a Parish Council.
● All complaints, harassment, and other unsubstantiated allegations against members of this community be immediately stopped, rescinded, and revoked:
▫ In his letter dated April 16, 2010, Metropolitan Isaiah makes very serious and unsubstantiated personal accusations totally without merit, referring to the actions of certain individuals as “robbery”, and to these people as “lovers of self, lovers of money…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4)”. His reference to excommunication is a tactic of fear and intimidation, and something that one expects from a playground bully. These are certainly not the appropriate words and spiritual and ecclesiastical leadership from a shepherd to his flock!
▫ The SEC complaint that has been initiated against Nick Bapis / Hightower Associates should be immediately rescinded and revoked, along with the threat of a FINRA complaint. Nick Bapis 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 a member of Leadership 100, and an Archon. The filing of this complaint at the behest of Metropolitan Isaiah is a petty, unwarranted, and despicable action.
▫ The statements attributed to Fr. Kouremetis and recorded in the Parish Council minutes dated March 27, 2010 regarding the integrity and ethical standards of Nick J. Colessides, are baseless allegations and have no merit. Mr. Colessides was representing the interests of his client, the Skedros Family.
● We praise and reaffirm the current fundraising efforts today. These initiatives benefit both the Holy Trinity campus and the Prophet Elias campus in an effort to rebuild our infrastructure, as well as expand new facilities. These fundraising efforts have been voted upon and approved by prior General Assemblies. This process was nearly identical to the process followed in 1968-69 for the construction of the Prophet Elias Church.
▫ The Hellenic Heritage Campaign Committee (HHCC) raised the funds, renovated and restored the Holy Trinity Cathedral, and completed the project on time with no debt whatsoever. The remaining funds (approximately $1.2 MM), should remain with Hightower Associations, under the custody of Nick Bapis, to be expended only pursuant to general assembly action by the members, and only for the purposes for which they were donated.
▫ The fundraising efforts of the Hellenic Community Foundation (HCF) should be encouraged and supported as described in their letter to our community dated July 16, 2010, and is posted at the website www.hcfslc.org. Much like Leadership 100, a well recognized and respected institution at the national Archdiocesan level, HCF is a local fundraising organization that is dedicated to promoting and perpetuating our Greek Orthodoxy and the Hellenism that our protopori and grandparents (yiayias and papous) brought to Utah so many years ago.
▫ The fundraising efforts of the Gregory Skedros Family, as described in their letter dated April 21, 2010 should be supported and encouraged. We hope that others will follow and participate in this wonderful example of giving.● We condemn the creation of the new Prophet Elias corporate structure. As captured by the Parish Council minutes dated March 27, 2010. Three people were directed to file for the creation of this new entity without proper General Assembly approval. We also condemn the failure of the Parish Council to inform our community of this action.
We are disappointed that His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, and the Holy Eparchial Synod of Bishops of the Archdiocese of America have failed to acknowledge and act on the Appeal dated September 13, 2010. We also express our disappointment at the Parish Council and local clergy for failing to remedy the improprieties documented in the Audit Report that was presented at our most recent General Assembly in the Spring of 2010. What corrective actions have been taken? Where is the acknowledgement of this matter by Metropolitan Isaiah?
Finally, in a constructive and positive manner, with Christian love, we encourage any group who feels that their ecclesiastical needs are not being met to move on and initiate the creation of a new Orthodox church. They can raise their own funds, maintain separate finances, establish their own Parish Council, buy land at a new site in the Salt Lake valley, and design and build their own church, along with any facilities they choose. This is what was done many years ago with the founding of the Ogden Greek Orthodox Church. And this is what was done recently with the founding of the Russian St. Peter and Paul Church. We need more Orthodox churches in this valley!
As Dr. Vidalakis states in his letter, our unified Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake has been a bright star for Orthodoxy in America. Our forefathers worked hard to build what we have today. It is our will to preserve our community! Our children expect this of us. Our hope is that our voices will be heard. We will persevere!
We respectfully submit this CALL TO ACTION to:
(1) His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios
(2) His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah
(3) Rev Father Michael Kouremetis
(4) Rev Father Matthew Gilbert
(5) Parish Council of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake
Signature___________________________ Printed Name_______________________