Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver Divides Holy Trinity Cathedral
Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver’s division of the Greek Orthodox parish of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Salt Lake City in Utah into two separate parishes, disregarding the wish of the majority of the membership of the parish who oppose the move, is being contested. Among the opponents are great benefactors of the parish, Archons, as well as members of the Leadership 100.
The Holy Trinity Parish was established by Greek pioneer immigrants in 1905 and now has 1,300 families. To better serve its members, the parish in 1969 built a nave (church) in the name of Prophet Elias in the area of Holladay, the same instance as with Cathedral parish of St. Demetrios in Astoria, N.Y., which has two naves, St. Demetrios and St. Catherine. The parish has two priests, the initial chief priest Rev. Michael Kouremetis, and Fr. Matthew Gilbert. Now with the split of the parish Metropolitan Isaiah has already assigned Fr. Gilbert as chief priest at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and Fr. Kouremetis to Prophet Elias. Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver did not return phone calls left in his personal voice box at the Denver Metropolis. In a telephone conversation with Fr. Kouremetis on to the question of why Metropolitan Isaiah wants to split the parish, he said: “Forty years have passed this way and basically we are two parishes, two ministries.” He added, “When they built Prophet Elias in 1964 they wanted two parishes.” As to why most parishioners oppose the division and noting that the St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria has also two naves, he said: “I do not feel good at this moment, I am ill for three and one half weeks now, talk to Metropolitan Isaiah.” Two telephone messages to Parish Council President Nicholas Milonakis went unanswered.
Of the 15 members of the parish council only five were elected by the parish members and the rest were appointed by the priest. Fr. Gilbert did not return telephone calls either. In March, Prophet Elias was organized as a separate religious corporation and registered in Utah without informing the membership of the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Also in March, Metropolitan Isaiah requested the Archdiocese recognize Prophet Elias as a separate parish and to be granted the official Charter of the Archdiocese. Archbishop Demetrios in a letter to Metropolitan Isaiah dated April 12, wrote that, “We have received your letter requesting the granting of the Official Charter of the Archdiocese to the Greek Orthodox Church of Prophet Elias in Holladay, Utah, a community of the Archdiocese and specifically of the Holy Metropolis of Denver. It gives me great joy to grant the Official Charter to Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, effective immediately.”
The Archbishop also wrote that, “The Charter certificate itself will be forthcoming as final preparations are being completed for its production. This letter is a certification with the official Seal of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America attests to the granting of official status of the community.” In a letter to the Holy trinity Cathedral dated Oct. 6, Metropolitan Isaiah announced the split of the parish into two parishes. He wrote that, “I confess to you that I have held back the contents of this letter (the Archbishop’s letter) all this time, because in making my evaluation I wanted I wanted to be absolutely convinced that the church-going members indeed wanted to see two separate parishes, each with its own parish council, its own income and its own property.” Isaiah, in his six-page letter, gave directives on how to finalize the split organizing two separate parish councils, two philoptochos societies, schools, youths, etc.
On Oct. 24 a special meeting took place attended by 450 people, 97% of who voted against the split and decided on a Call to Action. On Oct. 30, the Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod Archimandrite Sevastianos Skordallos sent a letter to Collasides stating: “I am writing to you on behalf of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Your appeal dated September 13, 2010 was received and discussed by the Holy Eparchial Synod on October 27, 2010. At the request of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver and in accordance with the Regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, a Synodal Committee has been formed to review the issues you have raised. The Committee, which includes His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios, of Boston, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit, and Legal Counsel, will contact you, in the very near future, to schedule a meeting to discuss your case …
All involved in this matter are advised to refrain from any further action whatsoever rela1ed to the issues raised, pending review and resolution of the matter by the Holy Eparchial Synod. On behalf of the Holy Eparchial Synod, I kindly ask for your patience as we diligently work to resolve the concerns you have raised in a manner that will establish peace and promote spiritual growth among the faithful people of Salt Lake City.”
The Synodal Committee was scheduled to be in Utah on Nov. 12 and 13 but TNH has learned that the visit was postponed and that on Nov. 16 Metropolitan Isaiah and Fathers Kouremetis and Gilbert reportedly will be traveling to New York to meet with Archbishop Demetrios, who as the only ruling hierarch of the Archdiocese has the final on issues such as the division. The current hierarchs in the Metropolises is a combination of Auxiliary Bishops and Titular Metropolitans, and only Archbishop Demetrios is the Archpastor or ruling hierarch per se.
An icon of Christ said to exude oil on Oct. 17, 2010 during the Divine Liturgy, which Metropolitan Isaiah declared a miracle. In a letter to Fr. Kouremetis dated Oct. 20, he wrote the following: “The Lord has answered our prayers asking Him to resolve confusing situation in the Salt Lake City area regarding the two parishes.
When icons exude tears, like many of the Ever-Virgin Mary have, it is a sign of caution and problems. But, when an icon exudes oil, this is a sign of healing and blessings. When I was informed that the icon of Christ the Archpriest was exuding oil during the Divine liturgy on Sunday, October 17, 2010, when we celebrated the Holy Fathers of the Seventh and final Ecumenical Council in Nicea, I realized that a miracle had occurred. It is not usual for an icon of Christ the Lord to exude oil or even tears. I truly believe that our Lord heard our prayers to make His presence known and to resolve the situation of the two parishes. Now there can be no question in the minds of any of His people. Our Lord recognizes His parishes as monogamous and independent, each with a Proistamenos representing Him through the local bishop. Both parishes can now proceed to grow and to develop for His greater glory and the salvation of His people. The Lord Jesus Christ has spoken with this miracle, and His people will be faithful to His divine will.”