MODERATOR'S NOTE: Metropolitan Isaiah's original letter may be viewed by clicking here.
GREEK ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF DENVER
November 5, 2012
Rev. Michael Kouremetis, Proistamenos
Rev. Matthew Gilbert, Proistamenos
Mr. Dimitrios Tsagaris, Parish Council President
The Esteemed Parish Council
The Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church
5335 S. Highland Drive
Holladay, UT 84117
Beloved in the Lord,
Please accept my apologies for my unintentional delay in responding to your latest correspondence to me. I was away for the past week.
As you may imagine, I have been inundated with much correspondence from an increasing number of parishioners from the community at large, most of whom attest to healings that have been attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ through His icon at Prophet Elias Church. I have also received some complaints that I allowed the letter of the council president, Mr. Dimitrios Tsagaris, to be distributed to the membership of the community.
Please know that parish councils represent the total membership of parishes within our holy Archdiocese. Therefore, transparency is appropriate and necessary in regard to the life of our parishes. Due to the chronic problems within your community, which are exacerbated by continuing misinformation, especially to the New York Greek newspaper time and again, I felt that it was necessary for all the membership to know what is hoped for or expected by the parish council, their representative leadership.
At the same time, please know that no one speaks for me regarding both serious and trivial situations. Having served our Lord and His Church for more than fifty years, I do not need anyone to speak for me. My priests know my usual saying; "If you did not see it in print, I did not say it." I have been diligent in documenting my decisions in the Church, so that there may be no room for rumors or falsehoods.
As I attempt to reflect on the sad situation in your community, I see an uninterrupted continuity of the false notion that the current priest is the cause of the problems facing the community. In Salt Lake City it appears that the priest is always to blame when troubles arise. The priest is always to blame? Really? God blessed my life in allowing me to begin His holy priesthood at Holy Trinity Church in Salt Lake City in March 1962. My proistamenos, Father Steve Katsaris, was my mentor in regard to how parishes are administered or should be administered. Since that time, a parade of priests has passed through the community like an unending procession. How strange this is when I realize that one of my classmates from seminary has served the same parish for the past fifty-two years. And he is not an exception regarding many of our dedicated priests.
In the Salt Lake Tribune of November 6, 2002, a major article was written about the assignment of Father Michael Kouremetis to the parish which included a large picture of him. The article stressed that the reason for his assignment was for him to resolve existing problems which obviously came from the former priest. Now it seems that he is the problem. How strange!
Is it logical to assume that every priest from Father Katsaris to your current priests are the only ones to blame for problems in the community? Is there no sharing of the responsibility by any lay members of the Church as well? A realistic self examination must reveal accountability from more than one direction.
It is clear that an attitude exists among some which is contributing to the problem. Consider those who poison the minds of others simply with the name of their newsletter, "TAKE OUR CHURCH BACK!" as if the Body of Christ has no cosmic significance, but rather is their own personal possession. Whose Church is it that all of you found in Salt Lake City by being born there or by migrating to Utah from other places domestic and foreign? Whose Church will it be after all the current members have died? What mere mortal can claim ownership over the Church which was established by and belongs to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Not even archbishops, metropolitans, or patriarchs can dare to declare the Church as their own, for certainly this is blasphemy against Christ.
You, the members of the parish council, are correct in referring to Article 30, Section 4 of the Archdiocese Uniform Parish Regulations as the only process to be used whenever there is any disagreement between the priest and the council. Since priests are assigned by their metropolitans, having been ordained by the Holy Spirit through hierarchs, this is the only procedure we can follow. There is no other way and I commend you as a parish council for referring this matter in accordance with the U.P.R. regarding the position of an assigned priest in a parish. Due to the emotionalism among you which is so strong at this time regarding the community, I caunot consider any single decision as proper in order to alleviate the problem. Therefore, I will take some time to prayerfully study the matter.
Again I reiterate, please allow tempers to subside, so that everyone who loves our Lord's Church may begin to see the life of the parish more objectively. This will help all of us come to a positive perspective regarding the local church, so that we can continue to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ Who established His Church on earth for our salvation.
With paternal blessings,
+Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver