Moderators' Note: The following is a letter to the Proistamenoi and the Parish Council sent by Metropolitan Isaiah. The original may be viewed here.
We have also added the note sent by the Parish Council in reference to the Metropolitan's letter.
+ GREEK ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF DENVER
January 11, 2013
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 Dr. Holladay, UT 84117
Beloved in the Lord,
May this New Year bring rich blessings upon all Orthodox Christians in the greater Salt Lake City region from our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
I thank Mr. Tsagaris, your parish council president, for providing me with a copy of the minutes of your parish council meeting of January 7, 2013, the Feastday of Saint John the Baptist. As Mr. Tsagaris was informed by my receptionist, when he last placed a telephone call to me a few days ago, until I feel that all antagonism among vocal individuals who misinterpret my written words has ceased, I cannot speak on the telephone to anyone regarding Salt Lake City, lest my words be intentionally or unintentionally misconstrued. Given that the Salt Lake community demonstrates no unity or harmony, as well as the existence of a blog which identifies the Church as belonging to individuals in Salt Lake City, rather than to Christ Himself, whatever I say must continue to be in writing until such situations are rectified,(sic)
I commend all of you for an orderly meeting, with the exception of the outbursts at the end. However, we can forgive the man, because perhaps his country of origin accepts different norms of civility than what we are accustomed to in the context of the Church.
Please allow me to focus on a few items which were discussed at the meeting.
In regard to the two Philoptochos Chapters, one in Salt Lake City and the other in Holladay, they are strictly under the National Philoptochos Society, which is an independent entity. The parish priests are simply spiritual advisors to the Philoptochos and nothing more. Even I as the Metropolitan cannot dictate to the Philoptochos chapters in my Metropolis. There is no reason why the two chapters cannot work together. They certainly can, especially in matters of common concern.
In regard to the existence of two proistamenoi, this is strictly a theological and ecclesiastical issue and is on the level of spiritual administration. Moreover, there cannot be one proistamenos over two churches, one in Salt Lake City and the other in Holladay. The Church calls this spiritual polygamy in that there is one bridegroom and two brides. Since your two priests are advisors concerning the administration of the community, I cannot see a problem. However, it must not be forgotten that the priest is the spiritual head of each parish, as we read in the U.P.R. (Article 15, Section 1; Article 17, Section 1; and Article 30, Section 1).
In Article 30, Section 1 we read that "each Parish shall be administered by the Priest and the Parish Council cooperatively. After seeing the Organizational Chart from the parish, I notice that you have all the clergy under the council president. The clergy must never be listed under the council president, or any other body in an organizational structure of the parish. They cannot be considered employees of the community. You will all agree that this is anti-canonical. Contributing to this attitude that has been wrongly adopted, that the clergy are employees of the parish, is the fact that you have insisted on processing their financial compensation on dates that are convenient to you all and your software system, but which create hardships for the priests. Moreover, they are contrary to the dates given in the priests' assignment letters. Certainly this is an indication that you do not consider the needs of your priests on a higher level than mundane secular concerns.
Actually your Organizational Chart appears to be that of a secular or business organization. You have listed festivals, apartments, facility rentals, apartment managers, office workers, maintenance, and even the "boiler repair guy." Where are the areas for Greek School, Sunday School, Religious Education, Youth Organizations, Stewardship, Philanthropy? These are the fundamental ministries of the Church. Looking at the organizational structure that you have put forth forces any casual observer to see that the parish's lay leadership is focused on income and property, rather than the primary purpose and function of the Church, which is the eternal salvation of its faithful.
Since a number of parishioners continue to mention the March 24, 2011 letter of Archbishop Demetrios and that it should be heeded, I am hopeful that you, as the current parish council will abide by the issues in that letter which the last parish council did not address.
First, the Archbishop states that the so-called "1964 Accord" which Bishop Demetrios of Olympos accepted is not in effect. Why do some individuals refer to it as if it still exists?
Second, the Archbishop states that parish funds, including the High Tower investments should be under the custodianship of the current parish council (Article 16, Section 2). This means that no signatory who is not on the current parish council can be recognized.
Please know that in my letter of October 6, 2010 to the parish council I mentioned to the then president, Mr. Nick Bapis, that I would not arbitrarily separate the two churches. I said that I would respond to the wishes of the parishioners. Nowhere in my letter do I say that I declare the separation of the two churches. I simply made suggestions in how it could be done. I did so because I was convinced at the time that the majority of the parishioners were ready for this.
Finally, I ask that instead of worrying about two Philoptochos chapters or two proistamenoi, that you concentrate on the ministries of the community as a Greek Orthodox parish under the Archdiocese of America, so that the faithful parishioners will feel that they are one family under God, not an association under Cathedral Square, which is a totally secular concept.
With paternal blessings,
+Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver