“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,

and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

But it shall not be so among you:

but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,

but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, KJV)

The word the Athenians used for their Assembly was Ekklesia, the same word used in the New Testament for Church
(and it is the greatest philological irony in all of Western history that this word,
which connoted equal participation in all deliberation by all members,
came to designate a kind of self-perpetuating, self-protective Spartan gerousia -
which would have seemed patent nonsense to Greek-speaking Christians of New Testament times,
who believed themselves to be equal members of their Assembly.)

- Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter


Friday, October 31, 2008

Surveys? We Don't Know Who Has The Surveys

On Tuesday, October 21 members of the parish council, including our president, ventured to Holy Trinity to retrieve the most recent surveys. The envelopes were finally opened and the surveys were numbered after sitting for almost 4 months. Those surveys were supposed to be turned over to the election committee who, just as the previous survey, has been charged with compiling the information and disseminating it (along with comments made) to the community.

As of Friday, October 31, the surveys had not been delivered to that committee. In fact, when a member of the committee was asked about the most recent events, they were unaware that the surveys had been retrieved let alone opened and counted. Why the delay? Who has possession of the surveys? Why were they not immediately turned over to the committee responsible to compile and disseminate the information? We're sure someone will eventually find them and see they get where they belong. Hopefully, they will be turned over as they were retrieved and who knows, maybe the community will finally see what we were promised. On second thought, that might be expecting too much.

Another recent troubling event has brought about the removal of one of our youth from ALL youth programs for a full year. It is our understanding that the decision was that of the three clergy and the parish council president. Maybe they have forgotten the words of Christ in the bible, "Let the children come to Me, and do not forbid them, for such is the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 19:14) Might the punishment not fit the alleged crime especially in a time when we should be looking to bring our children back to the church and not chase them away?

Monday, October 20, 2008


Six years to the day, on October 8, 2002, the new Proistamenos, now solely of Prophet Elias, had a meeting with eight members of the then-recently deposed (by Metropolitan Isaiah) parish council. Members of that group advised the Proistamenos to avoid two things: don't form cliques; and don't try to split the community. He was cautioned that if he did either of these, "Θα φυγεις νυχτα". (“you’ll leave by night.”) Unfortunately, six years later, this Proistamenos has almost continually contrived to do both. Over the past six years we have seen:

  • Governing – “shepherding” his flock - with a demand for absolute power and authority, disregarding the people he was sent to serve.
  • Continually attempting, throughout his tenure, to hand-pick members of the parish council, and to require them to maintain absolute silence about council meetings. Members disagreeing with him were either forced to resign or not allowed to run.
  • Almost constantly chastising the people in his flock.
  • Prioritizing his “special” projects before the immediate needs of the community.
  • Blatantly categorizing parishioners by class, and according to wealth.
Considering the aforementioned, how is it that:
  • This Proistamenos rules with an iron fist, yet claims to know nothing about any meetings of those wanting to split this community? How is this believable when, according to those who conducted these meetings, they were given permission to use the facilities at Prophet Elias for their meetings?
  • How is it possible that the Proistamenos “knew nothing” about the establishment of a separate Philoptochos for Prophet Elias, by claiming to be conveniently out of town? (something that occurs quite FREQUENTLY).
  • How is it plausible that the Proistamenos, along with our Parish Council president, knew nothing of the resolution passed in Oklahoma during a Diocesan Clergy-Laity meeting that directly concerned the splitting of this community, which ultimately became an official agenda item at the Clergy Laity Conference this year in Washington, D.C.?
  • Worse yet, and again last year in Oklahoma, how is it that neither the Proistamenos nor our president stood up to defend this community’s special dispensation to have a unified community with two churches?
  • Why were three members of this community, whose thinking runs counter to the Proistamenos’ concept of “leadership”, denied the opportunity to run and, if elected, to serve our community on the parish council? In America, in Greece, and in other European countries where there are Orthodox, individuals are free to speak their minds? Clearly this does not sit well with our current “leadership”.
  • Through this Proistamenos’ actions, a member of this community was not only removed from the parish council, but actually excommunicated for a period of time.
  • As recently as two weeks ago, this Proistamenos was complaining about parents not letting their children pay stewardship.
  • This Proistamenos declared that he was embarrassed in Washington D.C. when asked about the problems in Salt Lake City. Does he not consider that his actions may have something to do with these problems?
  • How is it that during a time where there is financial difficulty in the community, likely to get worse due to his mismanagement and along with the malaise of the world economy at large, our Proistamanos managed to have his office refurnished?
  • We have participated in two separate surveys sent by our parish council; yet this Proistamenos and the timid souls on this parish council have yet to publish comments from the first survey, which were supposed to have been made public, and we know nothing whatsoever about the results from the second survey. Why?
  • The Proistamenos and our parish council executive committee have shown a blind and slavish obedience to the Metropolitan, yet they are now being audited by him because, obviously, he doesn't trust them. (We would hope that this mistrust isn’t due to a notion by His Eminence that our community might be using second set of books! If this is the case, they should all resign; if it is not, the audit should NOT be occurring, and they should be STRONGLY objecting! Just exactly what is going on here?)
The Proistamenos and the parish council have threatened in past correspondence to cut programs that are not funded by the general fund (Senior Citizens, Youth activities, etc. – lending a new “meaning” to ‘women and children, first’?) Of course, we will not be witnessing any sacrifices from our clergy who claim to love their flock and their community. (Imagine if they hated us!) It is painfully obvious that this clergy and hierarchy will now demand, in a time of economic hardship, due in no small part to their divisive activities, that festival funds (heretofore restricted) be moved to the operating budgets to salvage their “lifestyles” at the expense of the community’s programs and other ongoing needs.

How sad!

The Culture in Action - How Abuse Is Covered Up

Editor's Note: the following article is reprinted with permission by the author, Paul Cromidas, writing for Pokrov.org (http://pokrov.org/resource.asp?ds=Article&id=809).

In a recent news article about the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese settling a case of sexual misconduct by a priest, it was reported that two prominent clergymen, Metropolitan Gerasimos and the former Fr. Michael Pappas, knew about the situation and had said respectively that the matter was “not a subject of my immediate concern” and “I didn’t think it was my business”.

The case involved the San Francisco Metropolis, or diocese. The accused was Michael Rymer, now defrocked, and said to have AIDS. Metropolitan Gerasimos, now head of the Metropolis, apparently knew of the situation before he became a bishop. Michael Pappas has since been defrocked after admitting extra-marital relations. Pappas had also been a member of the archdiocese advisory committee on clergy sexual misconduct.

I submit that these examples typify what is referred to as the “culture of the organization” or, in other words, “how the system works”. It is common behavior in many organizations to cover-up wrong-doing because it is seen as “not my business”. With the revelations of the past few years, attention has been focused on church organizations and how they too have hidden misconduct, usually in the name of “not hurting the church”.

The Catholic Church, as a prime example, has a practice known as “Mental Reservation”. This allows a priest or bishop to use “misleading words to deceive another so long as a deliberate lie is not told.” When taking the Catholic Cardinal’s Oath, one promises to keep secret “the revelation of which could cause damage or dishonor to the Holy Church.”

The excellent 2006 book, “Sex, Priests and Secret Codes”, reports that “When one bishop was chided…for denying the existence of sexual abuse…he replied, ‘I only lie when I have to.’” I would say that this practice applies to the Orthodox Church and to other denominations as well. A bishop or clergyman is seldom penalized for hiding the truth, but we can take heart from a recent Episcopal case where a bishop was defrocked for concealing a priest’s misconduct. Perhaps this will be a precedent for more such defrocking. The 2006 book also tells us that cover-up of clergy sexual misconduct has been part of the culture since the days of the early church.

Laypeople also find themselves acting according to what is seen as acceptable behavior by the culture of the organization. If the understanding is that one does not report credible allegations of abuse by clergy, then one does not. In the Greek Orthodox culture, there is the concept of “dropi”, or shame, which one is expected to avoid in order not to hurt the church. That children may be molested as a result of this silence seems to be a secondary consideration.

In a well-known case, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleges that the priest’s misconduct was known from his seminary days, yet he was ordained. Then, while serving at a parish, it is alleged that his further misconduct was hidden by lay leaders who worked quietly to effect his transfer, and no damaging information was passed on to the next community. That these leaders would make the matter public or report it to the police was apparently unthinkable.

In a case of massive financial fraud in the Orthodox Church in America, a sister jurisdiction of the Greek archdiocese, it took some years before courageous laypeople and clergy finally spoke up. Up to that point, one was not supposed to question the hierarchs. That was the culture. But now, the matter has even been turned over to the District Attorney’s office.

Whether the church offense is of a sexual or financial nature, the layperson who dares to speak up risks being branded as a traitor in the parish or congregation.

The importance of the cultural factor was also validated in a 2007 book by a sociologist who “focuses on the function and culture of faith communities.” The book, titled “Spoils of the Kingdom – Clergy Misconduct and Religious Community”, is authored by Anson Shupe of the University of Indiana.

He holds that clergy misconduct “occurs in a systematic, or structured, context and is not merely the result of a ‘few bad apples in the barrel’, however discomforting that thought is to any religious apologists or believers.” He says that, typically, even when church leaders admit that there was abuse, they will say that the offender was a weak or sick personality and that whatever happened was not the fault of the church. The offender is often sent to a residential treatment center for evaluation, as though only he could have been responsible for what happened, and not the system or culture he was operating in.

It is difficult for both laypeople and clergy to acknowledge that the culture may have created the setting for abuse. In the San Francisco case cited above, the man had gone to the priest for spiritual counseling, and the lawsuit alleged that the abuse would not have taken place if the offender had not been a clergyman. In a further example of secrecy, the terms of the settlement in that case were sealed on a motion by the Metropolis.

Bishops have been known to excuse their inaction by saying that they are not allowed to interfere in the matters of another diocese or jurisdiction. I submit that it is high time for them and others to “interfere” in the interest of saving children from molestation.

Yes, it is time to think in new ways. Changing the culture of an organization is a difficult thing to do, especially when it is a hierarchical church. But, I believe that the effort must be undertaken. The laity and, hopefully, clergy will need to help change their church culture. This will mean speaking up when there are credible allegations of misconduct by reporting them to the proper governmental authorities. There is more than enough evidence that reporting them only to church authorities will result in a continuation of the cover-up culture.

(Mr. Cromidas, a retired social agency director, has been writing about the abuse issue for several years. He has been a parish council president in a Greek Orthodox parish and has served on the board of the Greater Dallas Council of Churches and the City of Dallas Commission on Health and Human Services.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Embracing an Upcoming Opportunity

We have an opportunity this Monday, October 20th, to turn a corner and put our community back on the right path.

A special general assembly has been called to discuss the distribution of this year's festival funds due to the community's dismal financial condition. Taking whatever monies remain from this year's festival is an easy fix, yet it does not address the ongoing problem.

We will be able to turn this corner if the current regime is willing to provide pertinent information that each member of this community has the legal, as well as moral, right to see.

Are they willing to provide:

  • copies of the detailed registers of all accounts so the stewards can review the actual income and expenses?

  • a detailed accounting of all festival expenses with copies of all invoices?

  • honest answers to difficult questions instead of the standard "it's a bad economy"?

  • a forum for an open and honest discussion, along with a willingness to hear the voice of the people, to take suggestions and to seriously consider their implementation without reprisal?

  • an environment where the people are part of the long-term solution, and not solely seen as human ATMs?

A good first step toward moving forward is complete honesty and transparency. This decision must not be made with partial information, and under the specter of "confidentiality agreements." If this can't happen, we will continue down the same road, continually applying band-aids to gunshot wounds.

Let us insist that our leadership offers the people all the necessary information so that a solid decision can be made. Clearly the path we have been on has not benefited anyone. The opportunity exists, if we are forthright, honest and courageous in seeking it - and, if our leadership has the wisdom to help implement it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Special General Assembly - October 20

Information cards announcing the upcoming Special General Assembly have been mailed and delivered to our homes. The single item on the agenda is the "Designation of Festival 2008 Proceeds." On August 19, 2008, a letter was authored by the Parish Council and subsequently mailed to the community bemoaning our desperate financial condition. In this letter the Parish Council says it "will call for a Special General Assembly in October to specifically deal with our financial condition." What exactly is the agenda?

If the predominate thinking is that the solution to our "financial condition" is to take the proceeds of the 2008 festival and summarily dump them into the general account, think again. The lack of financial support is the result of the problem. The problem is the continued displeasure of the people. If we only look at the past year we see the following:

  • Late 2007 survey mailed with the promise that comments made would be published. To date, no comments from that survey have been made public. An idea: Look at those comments and maybe the reasons for the displeasure of the people will be ascertained.

  • Three members of the community were denied running for the parish council without valid reason except maybe they were perceived as not being blind followers.

  • Another survey - this one carefully worded so as to not solicit the same problem exposing comments as the first - since its mailing no further mention has been made.

  • The mysterious resolution of the Metropolis of Denver placed on the agenda at the recent Clergy Laity conference in Washington D.C. which specifically refers to the splitting of this community. Mysterious because although this community had representatives at the Oklahoma City conference that made the resolution, none of them know anything about it.

  • At a recent parish council meeting, the proistameno of Prophet Elias only made the bold statement that he had informed a member of this community that they would be denied candidacy for the parish council because they had written letters on "the blog." Heavy handed authoritarian techniques continue and the silencing of the people is the mark of success. For the record, TOCB spoke with the individual in question and we were told no such conversation has taken place.

Therein lie some of the problems. The end result is the "financial condition" of our community. Allocating the festival proceeds to the general fund is not the solution. The solution calls for first, reevaluating the budget and making serious cuts across the board and second, listening to the voice of the people instead of trying to silence it. See you all on the 20th.