Moderator's Note: the following article appears in the online version of "The National Herald". Within Mr. Kalmoukos' article is contained a letter by the president of St. George's Church in Lynn. It is well worth reading.
By Theodore Kalmoukos
LYNN, Mass. – A planned visit of two envoys from Metropolitan Methodios of Boston to St. George’s Church here, whose Parish Council and members have refused his demands to pay a $20,000 annual increase in their assessment, was cancelled at the last moment, reportedly because he wanted it to be secret. The parent publication of The National Herald –Ethnikos Kiryx - had revealed it was scheduled in an effort to break the tense deadlock between the Metropolitan and St. George’s, whose members are standing fast in their defiance of his demands, and who now are set to meet in a General Assembly May 17. Metropolitan Methodios was set to dispatch two of his close associates legal counsel Demetris Moschos and Angelo Stamoulis members of the Finance Committee to meet with St. George’s leaders before he called it off. Stamoulis did not respond to calls from The National Herald. He and Moschos had hoped to find a way to end the imbroglio that has pitted the Metropolitan against the leaders and members of a church in a working-class city who said they can’t afford his demands, and who are insisting in return to reveal how the Metropolis spends the money it gets from the Archdiocese and the extras from 63 churches in New England under his jurisdiction.
St. George’s balked when the Metropolis raised its annual assessment from $68,000 to $88,000, which the parish rejected in a vote in February, setting off a confrontation with the Metropolitan and Church hierarchy, causing a schism and leading Methodios to bar the church from conducting some sacraments, including weddings. That forced the rearrangement of at least one planned nuptial there.
In an interview with The National Herald, Parish Council President John Meklis said before any discussion the sanctions against the Parish and its priest, one-time Methodios ally, Rev. George Tsoukalas, must be lifted. He said St. George’s has received many letters of support. The parishioners also want Metropolitan Methodios removed from the Metropolis of Boston, although he sought the support of the priests in New England and got 53 including retirees to back him. TNH has learned that some St. George’s members, and possibly those from three other parishes, had planned to demonstrate outside a Boston hotel on May 6 where the Archdiocesan Council scheduled its spring meeting under the chairmanship of Archbishop Demetrios. The same sources told TNH that Greek Orthodox faithful might also protest against Methodios outside of the church where he is going to Liturgize.
That came after The President of the Philoptochos Society of St. George’s Church, Stacey Arambages sent Metropolitan Methodios a letter blasting him, charging that the Clerical leader had acted in an “un-Christian like manner,” and like a “school yard bully.” This is the text of what she wrote:
Fr. George Tsoukalas (C) the presiding priest of St. George’s Church in Lynn, Mass. with the members of the choir. To his left, in front, is Stacey Arambages, the Philoptochos President and author of the letter to Metropolitan Methodios.
“A part of me cannot believe that I am taking the time at 10:30 p.m. to write to a man who neither understands nor has any respect for others. Honestly, you are not worth my time, effort or aggravation as I sit after a 12 hr long day of work completely exhausted. I will take the time to write this letter, however, for my parish of St. George and my wonderful priest Father George Tsoukalas. When I think of all the fund raisers we had for your causes. The monies we collected (because we wanted to) over the years since Father George came to St. George. All of the good things we (as a parish) have done and accomplished. I am astounded that this issue is such a black & white one. Either your way or the highway as they say. That you are not willing to negotiate for the sake of St. George or for the sake of the Metropolis and Archdiocese. I feel burned. I feel that the monies we raised for you were wasted for your glory. Hundreds of thousands of dollars which could have gone toward much needed repair work at St. George or to local charities went so that you would look good in front of the Archdiocese.
I have often wondered how you got to the position which you currently hold. I have seen you, over the course of 20+years, act so disrespectfully and in such an unchristian like manner that it disillusions me. I wonder how His Holiness cannot see you for who you really are. For some reason, you are not humbled by the position you hold. You seem to think that you are entitled and therefore treat everyone “under” you with utter disgust. You feel no shame when you humiliate those around you. I have been party to that humiliation myself and have been a witness while you’ve done it to several of your clergy and flock. Instead of a true leader and shepherd, you are a school yard bully. Shame on you sir. You are not worthy of the title you hold or of the flock that God has entrusted to you.
I always thank the Good Lord that I can come to church and can peel away all of the horrible layers which burden her, the politics, and the money. I come to church for my salvation. I don’t come to a building or to socialize. I sing in choir because God has given me a gift and I say thank you the only way I know how. My church is not the one of money or business. My church is the one of love and forgiveness. It seems that most of the troparia and verse of Holy Tuesday discuss the harlot vs. Judas and it seems to me that the Holy Fathers paid very close attention to those who preoccupy themselves with money. You seem to have forgotten which sinner was the worse.
As a business woman, I believe you are taking an enormous risk for both the Metropolis and the Archdiocese. You may think that you can force your other clergy to side with you, for the time being. Eventually, however, the surrounding churches in your Metropolis will no longer be able to pay the high ransom for the frivolous spending of your administration and the administration of the Archdiocese. Will you, at that time, admonish and punish them as well? Keep in mind that we have very few priests going through the seminary. We don’t have enough to cover those priests who will be retiring within the next 5 years. Who will be after Father George? Who will be spared from your smiting? Will we follow in the footsteps of our Catholic brothers and begin closing down Greek Orthodox Churches. Will we stamp out ourselves for the almighty dollar?
Have your donations decreased since this “problem” began? How will you ever be able to make up those lost dollars of revenue since you have antagonized many of your larger donors? Do you have a backup plan in place or will you try to squeeze out more money from the surrounding churches to cover the loss? I wonder…”
Let it be known that St. George will band together as the family that we are and will combat these evils. This news will spread on a national level and will gain momentum. Others will join our cause. You have started something very frightening. If this can happen to St. George, who is next…… It is my fervent prayer during this Most Holiest of Weeks that the Patriarchate and Archdiocese step in to rethink the course down which we are all traveling. That they look at the pain and suffering you have caused to our parish, Father George and to others around you. That you awaken before it’s too late to see how horribly wrong you are. Please remember, for the good of YOUR soul that you will be judged along with all of us.