Dimitri Tsagaris notes about his meeting with His Eminence on Sep 27th, 2012 in Denver,
(Attachment to the official Parish Council minutes of October 1, 2012)
• I thanked him for seeing me and requested to have a respectful, frank and honest conversation. He encouraged me to do so and he wanted to hear me "exso apo ta dontia".
• I started asking. "What has the P.C. done to you and you wrote to us those letters?"
(!pointed at a complete package of the FROM and TO correspondences). We were elected and came to you with an olive branch, letting you and the community know that we are ready to do work to heal wounds and unite the community. We have a sense of you being ready to dismiss us in "our first misstep."
We already have done quite a bit of work and we see measurable results such as parishioners talking to each other and constantly approaching us to thank us for the spirit and the direction we are taking the community. Stewardship during the summer months is measurably up and our financial records will verify that. We can see a positive change among the parishioners and hope for the future. Clergy could give him input and verify.
We talked about the wonderful Greek Festival experience and how parishioners were happy to work together. We talked about the roofing and dome work that is about to start at PE, and also the HT Sunday school good problem of having quite a few students and renovation of some rooms to accommodate all the students.
He has quite the knowledge about the Sunday school rooms above the Gym and their limitations. (He was assigned to our community in 1960, I believe he said, when the classrooms were built). I was clear that the classrooms are not proper for our kids and we should tear them down and rebuild. I said something like "We are ready to proceed and we should discuss why we have not done so."
• At this point His Eminence responded before we continue the conversation by giving me the perspective of the situation in general.
After Mr. Strike and others completed the PE Church, a notion started that at some point PE should be a separate parish. In his 2010 letter His Eminence, based on the separation notion that continued, asked the P.C. since they are in charge see how to separate the community.
At this point the Archbishop was involved (since a group of parishioners went to him), and his Eminence was accused of ordering the separation. The Metropolitan repeated that he never ordered the separation. It was a P.C. issue to handle.
As a result a conflict between His Eminence and the Archbishop arose.
He never ordered anyone in any of his parishes to do something they do not want to do. As far as the money in general, he wanted to make it clear, it belongs to the parish, to the olomelia and not to anyone else.
• Dimitri at this point expressed that it was very unfortunate that a conflict between the Archbishop and His Eminence arose. The damage of such public conflict was very damaging and confusing to the parishioners. Dimitri gave the example of a Father-Mother situation arguing, who is the boss, in front of the kids.
• Dimitri presented his thoughts on the division issue. He stated that he understands from an ecclesiastical perspective the reasoning as stated by both His Eminence and the Archbishop. However the way of going about it, the tactics and the mechanics used to arrive at a noble idea are on the one hand unacceptable and on the other hand will be very damaging since the community has not the proper infrastructure at this time to have two viable parishes. The demand for separation is premature and is made by a small minority.
In final analysis, instead of certain clergy looking at the viability of two parishes and improve upon the existing infrastructure and make it ready for the separation, they tried to enforce a noble idea by forcing it down the throats of parishioners and further erode good infrastructure and parishioner relationships. Parishioners resisted and will continue to resist if those practices will continue. The only clear explanation, we the community, received for this madness was "the Metropolitan asked me, asked us, to do so." So much energy wasted to do harm, when it could have been used for good.
• At this point Mr. John Johns dropped by to deliver something to His Eminence.
We had the opportunity to talk for about 20 minutes. He asked me a question in regards to the signatories on the High Tower account. Specifically a couple of years ago he was in a P.C. meeting along with the two signatories of the account, Manoli Sargetakis and George Metos. At this meeting he said that the most recent change of the U.P.R's called for all money to be under custody of the P.C. and asked them to withdraw their signatures.
Dimitri thanked him for giving him the opportunity to provide his perspective. Dimitri has been involved with the H.H.C. and also the H.C.F. since their inception and served as a Chair of the Finance committee on the first, and a Member of the finance committee of the second. He provided short history of the creation and accomplishments of the H.H.C. and explained that the three signatories were authorized by the General Assembly. Mr. John Johns agreed that it was fine then however the U.P.R's changed afterwards. Dimitri replied that the issue was very simple. A General Assembly authorized the mechanism, the General Assembly was not informed about the U.P.R's change, and a General Assembly can change the directive given that there is a control mechanism. Since then the following have transpired.
His Eminence did not authorize a General Assembly for this discussion to take place and on top of this the community kept having one interim (appointed) P.C. after the other.
The Greek Orthodox Community is incorporated in the State of Utah. As such they asked the P.C. for a membership list so they can have a meeting of the members. Refusal of this list resulted in the lawsuit.
This lawsuit was not done by individuals, but by the community's request to the individuals to do so. This Lawsuit was not against the church but against certain P.C. members refusing to produce the list. The P.C. attorneys and Mr. John Johns made a very simple matter so complicated. There was no reason for any of this.
J .J. agreed that it should not go that far.
Dimitri further explained that at this time under the current P.C. the community could direct the change of signatures and control of the funds to go to the P.C. However, with all due respect to His Eminence, the trend shows that who knows for how long this P.C. will be on and not be replaced by His Eminence or by someone else that assumes his position in the future.
Mr. John Johns explained to me a mechanism that all restricted monies go to a "fund for development specific account" and they can only be used for that specific purpose. Then I talked about the H.C.F. and its role. I recommended that he looks at their web site. He mentioned something about the bylaws saying that the H.C.F. will manage the project..... I told him that if there is something in the by-laws that needs to be refined, let us talk.
• At this point l discussed our "elephant stifado priorities list". Any by-laws or amendments are not anywhere near the top of our list, and separation is not on the list. I repeated again and pointed out that the roofing at P.E, the dome issue, (possible removal and reinstallation followed by iconography), H.T Sunday School classrooms, Gym and in general the development of the H.T campus is our priority now as it has been for several years.
We talked extensively about the separation issue and repeated what I had previously discussed with his Eminence. I also mentioned the expression that I heard from someone, (during the period that we received specific instruction of how the properties will be split between the two parishes), "let us take the deal we have the better end of the bargain". That statement made clear to me on how low our morale was at the time and the extent of the damage done by clergy to this community due to the forced separation. I replied that statements like those are improper and I continued by asking a simple question. What am I going to tell Mr. S.K or J.C or others, (real parishioners that attend P.E church and have giving their lives to the Church and community and still do), I got you? I got the better end of the bargain? I told His Eminence that even though he suggested for a "task force" to examine the issue the fact that he states how the properties will be divided insinuated his desired outcome. That was not proper.
I also mentioned that because of actions like those we have lost many parishioners to other churches, a fact that his Eminence agreed that he has knowledge about.
I told Both Mr. J.J. and His Eminence that the community has funds, has architectural plans and a mechanism in place, to move forward with raising additional funds for the PE dome and start building the new Sunday school rooms along with the rest of the HT campus development.
In a nut shell I said "Your Eminence, if you want this to take place it will happen, if not, a solution will never be found." What are we waiting for?
I also suggested to His Eminence in a funny way to "Lock the attomeys and others involved in a room, and not let them out until they find the way to make it work."
I also suggested to Mr. J .J. to talk among others to Harry Souvall, (member of our legal committee), who I have a lot of respect for, and I feel that he has the best interest of the community at heart. J.J. said that be already had contact and discussions with Harry and will continue to do so. At this point J .J. left.
• The Metropolitan told me that he has his clergy and his attomey(s) to work with.
He receives feedback from them. Many times he receives one-sided information. He thanked me again for a different perspective and information.
He understood my perspective and the community's perspective and he feels that under the circumstances since the U.P.R's are an obstacle he will improvise, something that he has already done for other things.
I will contact him in one or two weeks or he will get back to us.
He brought up the statement in his last correspondence in regards to composition of the current P.C. being from HT. He now understands that we represent the entire community.
He also brought up Yannis situation, and I told him that I personally do not believe that he will ever ratify him. I told him my perspective about Yannis as I've known him since day one that I came from Greece 37 years ago, and we left it there.
He really wanted to get my perspective for many community issues in general. I did and he was really appreciative and for him many issues were different than he had heard before.
He kept saying that he receives so many letters from different people many with complaints. Many times, absent other input, he makes decisions based on those letters.
I made clear to his Eminence that this P.C. has the best interest of the community at heart, and will proceed to do things as committed and will keep him appraised as we see appropriate.
• I also made clear to him the obstacles that prevented us to move forward (gave him a list for his consideration) and I was firm saying that those obstacles have to be removed, the sooner the better.
All along I had his attention and of course he had mine. He was very happy that I visited him and we had a face to face conversation and most importantly he heard things that he did not know. He will visit us at some point later on. However he is encouraging us the P.C., or collectively the P.C. and Clergy to meet with him at any time. He invited me to dinner. We enjoyed the company and then we left.