“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


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Wishes to All

We at TOCB wish our community members a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christ is born!

Our prayer for this holiday season is that the New Year finds us strong and united!

- TOCB moderators and bloggers

Monday, December 22, 2008

Press Release: Support Group Wants Greek Bishop To Apologize


Date Published: 12/22/2008

Related Document: December 22nd Letter From Pokrov.org to GOA Synod

Related Document: December 3rd Letter From Metropolitan Isaiah to Metropolis of Denver

After Multi-Million Dollar Settlement, He Claims Accusations Are “False”

Greek Orthodox Officials Should Discipline Denver-Based Cleric

A top Greek Orthodox church official is being harshly criticized for claiming that five men who reached a multi-million dollar child sex abuse settlement actually made up allegations.

Leaders of a support group for survivors of abuse in the Orthodox Churches are writing to Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis and the other members of the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). They want that group to discipline Metropolitan Isaiah Chronopoulos and force him to apologize for accusing the five men of lying.

In October, the men settled their lawsuit against Fr. Nicholas Katinas and numerous church entities. But two weeks ago, Chronopoulos publicly accused these victims of making false charges in that action. He made his allegations in a letter sent to all members of his Denver-based diocese, as well as posting them on the diocesan website.
Protocol 08-27

“Chronopoulos should explain and apologize for his hurtful claims,” said Melanie Jula Sakoda of Moraga, California. She is a co-founder of a San Francisco-based support group called Pokrov.org. “Church officials can’t have their cake and eat it too. They can’t pay millions to avoid an embarrassing public trial which will expose their complicity in child sex crimes, yet afterwards pretend the victims are lying.”

In a December 22nd letter, sent by fax and email to Trakatellis and the denomination’s Synod of Bishops, Sakoda writes, “Pokrov.org has in its files material submitted to the court before the case was sealed. Contrary to the metropolitan’s claim, there was indeed evidence supporting the allegations of a cover-up.”

“It’s disgraceful for the metropolitan to claim that ‘there was no cover-up by anyone in the parish or at the Metropolis’ when the claims against both the church and the diocese were dismissed in the confidential settlement agreement.”

Katinas was defrocked in July of 2007 because of child sexual abuse allegations by other men. There is also another lawsuit pending in Illinois against Katinas and the Greek Church.

Pokrov.org went online in June of 1999. It was founded by three Orthodox women who wanted to see the problem of sexual abuse in the Orthodox churches addressed. Pokrov is the Russian word for protection. There are a dozen or more Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States in addition to the GOA.

Metropolitan Isaiah oversees the Denver diocese of the GOA, which includes some 50 churches in an area from Montana to Texas. His title, Metropolitan, is one given to some Orthodox bishops. The metropolitan previously come under fire from Pokrov.org for taking almost four years to try the case of another priest accused of child sexual abuse. That clergyman, Fr. Gabriel Barrow, who worked in Toledo, Ohio, and Houston, Texas, was defrocked by the Greek Church in May of 2005.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

From the Metropolis: Protocol 08-27: Concerning the Former Priest Nicholas Katinas

The following protocol may be found on the Metropolis of Denver Web Site at:


December 3, 2008

Protocol 08–27

All Members of the Holy Metropolis of Denver Clergy, Monastics, and Laity

Beloved in the Lord,

Recently our Archdiocese sent out a news release regarding the lawsuit against the Archdiocese, stating that the matter of the former priest, Nicholas Katinas, had come to an end with a confidential out of court decision.

As you may have noticed, neither the parish of Holy Trinity in Dallas, nor your Metropolis, were part of this decision. The reason for this is that there was no evidence of any cover-up by anyone in the parish or at the Metropolis. The initial accusations, therefore, against anyone in the parish or of my office were false. I personally wanted a trial by jury; but our superiors in New York decided that the matter had been protracted to the point that it was not helping our people, and therefore chose to close it with an out-of-court decision.

In the course of this sad affair which affected many people besides the accusers, not only the faithful members of the parish but concerned faithful Christians throughout the country, there obviously will be no expression of “I am sorry” for spreading false information by public and self-appointed media from the East coast to the West coast, and even individuals in Dallas who believe that God chose them as His avenging angels.

The fact remains that we are the Church of Christ in the world which seeks out sinners for repentance. This is the only purpose for which our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world.

I have no knowledge whatsoever of what the Archdiocese knows regarding Nicholas Katinas. But I do know that, as Christ was a friend of sinners, I can do no differently. I, too, must be a friend of sinners, whoever they may be. My prayer is that all faithful members of the Church, clergy and laity, would try to imitate our Lord. Whenever we can, we should guide sinners to repentance, so that they, also, will be led to a merciful and forgiving God, Who grants to all sinners eternal life in His coming Kingdom.

My prayers continue to be with Nicholas Katinas for his salvation.

With Paternal Blessings,


+ Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver


Moderators' Note: The note on the bottom of this protocol reads: TO BE PRINTED IN ALL PARISH BULLETINS OR SENT INDIVIDUALLY BY MAIL.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some Further Perspectives on "Judge, Jury and Executioner"

The Clergy Letter of "ineligibility"...

  • None of the four candidates declared ineligible were ever given the opportunity to defend themselves.
  • They were accused, found guilty and sentenced without any representation.
  • We question and we are told we disrespect ecclesiastical authority.
  • We ask to be heard and are told we are out of order.
  • We voice our concerns and they are twisted into malice.
  • We are preached love, kindness and respect of our fellow man; yet, we get dictatorship rather than any real or sincere Clergy-Laity dialogue.
  • We are asked to state our concerns in writing, yet they are never made known.
  • Where is the unity of Clergy and Laity we were always taught represented the Orthodox Faith?
  • The Uniform Parish Regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America state in part that one must be obedient in matters of the faith, practice and ecclesiastical order, contribute to the progress of the church’s sacred mission; and be an effective witness and example of the Orthodox Faith and traditions to all people. Does this only apply to the Laity?
It IS time for a change!

Merry Christmas to all!

- Jim Kastanis

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Andrea Orton Responds to Metropolitan Isaiah

December 10, 2008

His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver
4550 East Alameda Avenue
Denver, CO 80246-1208

Your Eminence,

As a parishioner of the Greek Orthodox Community of Greater Salt Lake City, I felt it my duty to comment on your letter of December 3, 2008. With all due respect, the problems facing our community today are very real and not imagined. If you were kind enough to grant us an audience as we requested at our fall general assembly of 2007, which was over one year ago, perhaps you could see this for yourself.

In your letter to our community you addressed the importance of converts. I personally have nothing against converts to our faith. I feel they have much to offer this community; however, they also have much to learn. I disagree with your generalization that certain problems never seem to be resolved in our community. To what chronic problems do you refer? Rather than speak in ambiguities, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call a spade a spade? I’ve lived in the community all my life and have seen priests come and go. Never once do I feel our community has “used” a priest as a scapegoat. The facts speak for themselves. One can only ask our Church Historian and revered member of community, Mr. Constantine Skedros. I was involved quite extensively with Father Dean Gigicos during his assignment to Salt Lake City as an active GOYA member and GOYA Officer. Sure, we had our disagreements. That’s part of life and growing up, but to use him as a scapegoat for our community’s problems… I strongly disagree. Please cite examples to correct my slighted memory.

As to your question, why is Salt Lake City so problematic? Come on now. We live in the United States of America. We have friends and relatives in other communities across the country. Do you really think we’re that naïve? All one must do is read the National Herald and visit other communities to see this is not an isolated problem unique to Salt Lake City.

How can you say we’re isolated from our nearby parishes? We support our sister parishes and go above and beyond to assist them in any way possible. We attend church services and offer donations when we visit. Our dance groups perform at their festivals. Our choirs travel to assist during their church services. We recently donated our old choir robes to a sister parish in need. How dare you say we’re isolated! It seems like you really don’t know our community at all.

Our issues with our priests and the Archdiocese have never been over liturgical issues. They have been over financial and business issues. Once again, you’ve missed the point. You are correct, we don’t own our community but we do own the real property belonging to our church and community. Who maintains this property, pays the taxes, and keeps everything financially sound? It’s the parishioners of the community not the Archdiocese. Perhaps the clergy need to listen to the laity. You’re right, clergy come and go, but the parishioners are always left behind to clean up the mess made by the clergy. Don’t you think it’s time to stop and listen to this community? There are only so many hours in a day. Why doesn’t the clergy spend their time administering to the spiritual and liturgical growth of our community? That’s their expertise and why they attended Seminary School. They don’t have business degrees.

We are not naïve and know the Church of Christ is not a worldly entity but a divine institution created and established by God. Perhaps the Archdiocese needs to take a step back and practice what they preach. Whose Church is this? Did anyone in the Archdiocese die to establish the Church on Earth? Why does the Archdiocese constantly demand our hard-earned money? TAKE OUR CHURCH BACK…you’re darn right!! Why should we have to pay disproportionately for lawsuits and other actions of unfaithful clergy?

This “problem” always seems to rear its ugly head when priests are sent to rule with a hidden agenda rather than listen to the rational needs of the community. It’s amazing the things we could accomplish if we could work together rather than against each other. Isn’t it time for the priests to listen to the members of this community. There will always be disagreements but a dictatorship with no open means of discussion IS NOT the answer!

It doesn’t seem a fair analogy to compare our Church to AHEPA or the Masons. The financial operations of our Church were not written over 2,000 years ago. It was only at a recent Clergy/Laity Conference where the Archdiocese demanded sole control and deeds to our properties. Is this the Church of Jesus Christ? It sounds like the Church of the Archdiocese to me! Again you’re right, one day we “troublemakers” will die, but our Church will live on. It will live on because I strive for it to continue on for the salvation of my children and those that follow. Should I be shot down and persecuted just because I voice an opinion? Is voicing an opinion really blasphemy?

I also write these words not to offend, even though I’m afraid offense will be taken. I want to awaken you to your total misconception of what our community stands for and is all about. I do not have any unChristian concept of the Church. You’re right, our Church should unify, but right now it divides. As our spiritual leader you should offer support and guidance, not lectures and scoldings.

I honestly don’t feel anyone in this community is spreading division, other than the clergy. We are concerned, have questions, and want answers. We don’t want to be threatened into submission or with excommunication. We live in the United States of America where freedom of speech is one of our inalienable rights. As I said before, there will always be differences and our community will never agree on everything, but there’s no reason why we can’t keep an open line of communication and dialogue between all clergy and laity. No topic should be closed to discussion.

The murmuring and complaints voiced by this community will not ease until the clergy really wants to listen to what we have to say with an open mind. Again, our Church belongs to Christ, not us, and not the Archdiocese.

God bless you and keep you during this holy Christmas Season. I hope one day you’ll visit and really tend to the needs of this community.

Respectfully and in God’s Name,

Andrea Orton
Parishioner of Greater Salt Lake City

Meet the Judge, Jury and Executioner

A review of the Metropolitan’s letter leads to the following inescapable conclusions:

  • We need love; he offers indictments;
  • We seek help; he says he has no time for us;
  • We need a shepherd looking after his flock; he says we are trouble makers;
  • We have substantial discontent; he continues to keep Fr. Kouremetis in place;
  • We need workable programs to keep our youth within the Church; he offers severe criticisms;
  • We ask for help; he provides us with threats explicit and implied;
  • We ask for help; we get a manipulated view of the Holy Canons;
  • We ask for help; we get his “scapegoat” theory;
  • We do not need to have on board clergy who support his points of view;
  • Do you want to continue your financial support to the Metropolis?


Nick J. Colessides
Attorney at Law

Metropolitan Isaiah's Letter to Our Community, Dated 3 December 2008

Moderators' Note: We are posting our Metropolitan's letter to our community dated 3 December 2008. Any differences in formatting are due to posting in html. We have not altered the language.

December 3, 2008

The Reverend Priests and
The Faithful Members
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church
5335 Highland Drive
Holladay, UT 84117

Beloved in the Lord,

Having read letters and other articles by a small number of members of the community regarding real and imagined problems, my mind goes back to March 1962 when I was assigned as the assistant priest at Holy Trinity under Father Steven Katsaris. In being assigned to the parish I received a bonus in that my uncle, Mr. Gust Kapsimalis, one of my mother’s older brothers, had been living in Salt Lake City from the early 1900’s. He was married with three children, and he was a supporter of the parish. This allowed me to have a stronger feeling for the parish, a feeling which I have continued to hold.

I remember how unhappy Father Steven was with the parish. Certain problems never seemed to be resolved. Even though he had served from 1956, after seven years Father could not wait to leave the parish. Indeed, he did leave in July 1962. In my three years at Holy Trinity, I tried to put my finger on the underlying problems that did not want to go away. I also remember that one of the most dedicated servants of the parish was Lucille Floor, who administered the Sunday School program for over six hundred young people. Thank God for our converts!

The fact that problems appear to exist regarding the Church has been a chronic situation in Salt Lake City among our people. Usually, the scapegoat is the priest because priests do not usually stay long, and what better person to blame for the problems, whether real or imagined? Priests do leave, but the problems seem to come back again. All you have to do is ask Father Dean Gigicos regarding his tenure from 1976 to 1981.

My dilemma has been: why is Salt Lake City so problematic? I can correctly say that a prime reason is its isolation from nearby parishes, whereas in the Chicago area, the Boston area, and also the New York area, all places where I myself have lived and served, have an ongoing relationship of one parish to another. Those parishes see themselves as under the umbrella of the Archdiocese, the Body of Christ, made up of many interrelated cells.

It seems that, in Salt Lake City, a small number of people down through the years have seen the community as an entity which they own. They believe that the ownership of the church is theirs. This may be true only legally, as far as the laws of our nation are concerned.

However, these people fail to see that the Church of Jesus Christ is not a worldly entity, but a divine institution created and established by God. What better evidence can one see, that a web site created by someone in Salt Lake City, and named “Take Our Church Back!” Whose Church is it? Did anyone in Salt Lake City die to establish the Church on earth? Who has the audacity to say that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is “My Church”? Ownership of the Church is solely Christ’s. We in the Church are simply members with the hope of attaining salvation in God’s Coming Kingdom.

Could this be the problem which always seems to rear its ugly head whenever someone does not like the priest for whatever reason? Those of you who belong to human organizations such as AHEPA or the Masons, don’t you abide by the regulations of those organizations? Why, then, do some flout the regulations of the Church, which has existed for almost 2,000 years without change or interruption, and want to do “their own thing”? All of us are going to leave this life one day, sooner or later, but the Church will go on. If this is so – and it is – then the Church can also say, “One day those troublemakers will die, but I, the Church, will continue to live on for the salvation of those who will come after them.”

I write these words, not to offend anyone, but to awaken those who have a totally unchristian concept of the Church. Christ our God is the God of Love. Love does not divide; love unites. If anyone persists in spreading division among you that person is in danger of self-excommunication (Rom. 16:17, Titus 3:10, 11) IF they persist in their attempts to cause division, the priests and the parish council have the right to return their stewardship and, thus, these people will not be in the position of being able to attend and vote at any meeting of the community.

It is time for the murmuring and the complaints to cease. The procession of priests who have served in the community is far too long. This is an indictment against the community. When we recognize the churches in Salt Lake City and Holladay as cells in the Body of Christ, which is made up of hundreds of thousands of parishes throughout the world, then we can begin to say, “The Church belongs to Christ Who died to establish Her; She is not our Church. She is the Bride of Christ Who is in the world for our salvation.”

With Paternal Blessings,


Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday wishes!

I would like to thank our Metropolitan for an eloquently
written letter and also to extend to him my Holiday wishes.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Letter to Metropolitan Isaiah from Dimitri Tsagaris

Per Mr. Tsagaris' request, we've posted his letter to Metropolitan Isaiah.

Dimitrios Tsagaris
3815 South 2900 East
Salt Lake City Utah 84109
801) 554-1951

November 14, 2008
Via fax: (303) 333-7796
Original via first class mail.

His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah

Metropolis of Denver
4550 E Alameda Ave
Denver, CO 80246

Your Eminence,

I have been an active member of the Salt Lake Greek Orthodox Community for the last 30 years. When I first arrived in this country, I represented the University of Utah’s Greek Students from Greece. I addressed the General Assembly and asked permission that the then-minimum pledge requirement for those students be waived in order for them to become official members of the Community. This request was granted. Thirty years later, having served for six years in prior terms, and also during the last two years as a parish council member, I am still here offering my services to this community in any capacity I can.

Please allow me to express to you that during the last four years our community has endured serious setbacks. There is damage due to specific actions and/or decisions that have been detrimental to this community and that, unfortunately, are still continuing. Your immediate attention and guidance is imperative.

I do not know from where you are receiving your information about the affairs of our community. I’m quite certain you are not receiving them from your parish council.

I have submitted two drafts of this letter to the council for input and discussion, and I wanted to present it to the assembly. I was told by the president of this community that technically I cannot discuss this subject with the board, and definitely not during the upcoming General Assembly. I have respected his directive.

I feel strongly enough about it, however, to present to you my point of view and my thoughts and to ask for your consideration. This is not meant as a challenge to your authority, or to be in any way disrespectful. It is just a simple talk between me and my spiritual leader. I’m told you are the nicest person in the world to talk to in person. I understand you are extremely busy however I look forward to meeting with you in person. Until then here are my thoughts on a few specific issues.

Our community in Salt Lake City is facing severe financial shortfalls. The most recent action of the Special General Assembly, allowing us to place approximately $170,000 of our festival funds in our operating budget, is but a temporary measure. Our forecast for next year does not appear any more encouraging. This shortfall is indicative of the great financial crisis sweeping this country and the world and also due to the compromised current parish organizational culture of our community. Our parishioners’ revenues and expenses are negatively affected by this global crisis; however they all do their best by taking the appropriate corrective survival measures by controlling their expenses first.

We the Parish Council have examined and adjusted our expense accounts to the best of our ability. Labor and benefits comprise 62% of our expenses for our employees, and also for the remuneration and benefits of our three clergymen. The clergy’s portion accounts for 31%, or half of the 62%. We have a total of three clergy along with 12 additional full-time-equivalent staff.

Below are the measures the Parish Council has taken in order to arrive at the 2009 labor and labor overhead components of our expenses and their values.

(A) Non-Clergy personnel: (12 full time equivalent employees)

1. No merit increases for 2009: Approx $(13,000) @ 3.5 %

2. Elimination of parish’s contributions portion to the employee 401(k) Plan: Approx $(6,000)

3. Initiation of a 15% co-payment to their 2009 health plan. Approx $(8,000)

4. Responsibility change-related salary reduction to 1 employee. ${placeholder for future consideration}

The above 2009, expense budget cuts amounts to about $27,000

(B) Clergy personnel.

We approved an increase for our three clergy’s remuneration (labor and overhead) of approximately $15,000. This increase was in the range of 4% to 7%. For the record, the day after the meeting, Fr. Michael Kouremetis, to his credit, “humbly declined” the proposed increase. Fr. Elias Koucos followed his example, and as such it is not included in the 2009 budget.

I feel that it is my responsibility as a parishioner, as member of the Parish Council and as member of the Finance Committee to point out the following:

We increased our clergy’s remuneration while we cut salaries, merit increases, and benefits to our other personnel and in the face of growing economic difficulties our fellow parishioners might be facing.

The present remuneration costs of our clergy are based on the attached guidelines set forth by the Archdiocese. This is a generic guideline that needs to be re-examined in order to be revised improved and customized.

Of equal importance in following the Archdiocesan guidelines is the financial situation of each community, particularly our own community, to respond in accordance with our ability to follow the guidelines. At the end of the day, if our community cannot afford current clergy salary levels, this needs to be pointed out. Indeed, this is the case.

The aforementioned 31% of our budget in clergy labor and overhead costs is extremely high at this particular time, and will be as well for some time going forward. I believe it too ought to be adjusted accordingly. In five years the above $15,000 clergy remuneration level of increase, @6% will become $85,000. When taking into consideration historical increases in health benefit costs, it can easily reach the $100,000 range. A few months ago the finance committee, of which I am a member, presented the parish council with a list of action items, along with suggestions targeted to streamline our finances and operations. One of those recommendations was to enter into open dialog with Your Eminence regarding a symbolic if you will clergy salary reduction. This negotiation never materialized. We ought to be allowed to immediately enter into discussions with Your Eminence to implement a one-time base salary reduction of our clergy to be effective preferably by January 1, 2009.

The issue of whether or not our three clergymen at their present remuneration levels can remain on the payroll should be placed before you for your consideration, along with the request that at your earliest convenience you reassign one of our clergy to another community currently in need of a clergyman.

Here is the dilemma and the struggle, in my opinion, our Parish Council faces: The attached guidelines sent by Your Eminence, on one hand, clearly allow us to discuss fairly and negotiate clergy remuneration, and, on the other hand compensation issues cannot be discussed with the parish council when considering the Parish budget.

The question is: HOW then does a community negotiate with Your Eminence on the remuneration of our priests, and then find itself barred from discussing the very same subject in a parish council meeting and/or in a General Assembly?

The answer in my opinion is very simple. We must begin by talking to you and outlining our dilemma. Rules and regulations are written to apply to the majority of communities in the most usual of circumstances. However, rules and regulations need to be constantly streamlined and revised, and these are not the most usual of circumstances.

It is our responsibility to enter into open discussions with Your Eminence. When faced with extraordinary circumstances, I enter into similar discussions at my place of employment, in my household, with my friends, with my acquaintances, and, presumably so at the Parish Council. Why not with my spiritual leader? The essence is not really the mechanics of interpreting and following the wording, but in capturing the true issue and just putting it on the table for food for thought, discussion and subsequent action.

We cannot and should not be using “band-aids”, instead of prudent solutions. We have asked for drastic cuts from our non-clerical employees; we have acknowledged the financial burdens of our parishioners. We should further be allowed to be proactive and ask for similar sacrifices from our clergy. The collective amount of their remuneration at this time is simply too large. It should be clarified here that if a clergyman declines the proposed required increase in a given year, according to the guidelines, in order to be within the range, the following year, if economic conditions improve, the increase should be adjusted accordingly. Remuneration can be deferred to be paid when conditions improve.

On the proposed revenue side, I have had the opportunity to preview the new stewardship presentation. I was truly impressed. It is very well thought out. However, I am convinced, as you will see from the presentation, that it will ONLY work if the parishioners of our community feel that the Parish Council, the Clergy and the laity are on an equal footing; that there is an active demonstration of unity; that there is a commitment toward working cooperatively; and that there is open communication. If there is no such commitment, then we can expect to see the ongoing declining trend in the number of stewards and in the amount of stewardship.

In closing, I believe that the extraordinary circumstances we face in these times require extraordinary measures. Whether we like it or not, we are facing extraordinary circumstances. We can continue to put our heads in the sand, pretending that the problems will simply go away, or we can proactively and honestly begin to address them. Like it or not, we are ALL in this together. We cannot simply decide these things by ourselves, nor can we blindly ask our parishioners to accept to measures adopted without their input and expect or demand from them to simply comply.

Our clergy need to do their utmost to be viewed as servants to all our parishioners. They need to be role models, not critics. They need to exemplify the Lord’s role as that of the good shepherd. Humility, and not arrogance, is what is required. They must stand with us and not presume to stand above us.

I keep hearing that the complainers will always be complainers and that there is only a small group of people that create trouble and advocate reduced monetary stewardship giving. I submit, however, that it is those “trouble makers” who give very generously when it comes to specific restricted capital projects and /or community fund raising events such as the St Sophia’s School, the Thavma Foundation, Taste of Greece, etc. They will not be as generous when their intelligence is insulted and when their input is rejected. I ask Your Eminence: is there a possibility that they are trying to point out something to you? If nothing else, Your Grace, the loss from the previous year of 130 stewards or 13.00% for the 12-month period ending October 2008 is surely a matter for serious consideration.

Respectfully yours,

Dimitrios Tsagaris

Cc Parish Council


Here are some relevant UPR notations for consideration


Section 1: The Parish is the local eucharistic community of the
Church in a given locality; organized under the jurisdiction of the
Archdiocese whose ecclesiastical authority is its canonically consecrated
Hierarch. Locally, the Parish is headed by a canonically ordained and
duly appointed Priest. The assignment of such appointed Priest shall bind
the Parish to the Archdiocesan Regulations, Uniform Metropolis
Regulations and Uniform Parish Regulations with the same force and
effect as if the same were formally approved and adopted by the Parish.

Article 17. Section 2:
A. In accordance with the canons and ecclesiastical procedure,
neither the Parish Council nor the Parish Assembly is
authorized to dismiss a Priest.

Article 17. Section 8.
B. No Parish shall reduce, withhold or adversely alter a Priest's
remuneration without the consent of the respective Hierarch.

Section 4: If a problem should arise between a Priest and the Parish
Council, the matter shall not be brought before the Parish Assembly. The
Priest or the Parish Council shall have the right to refer the matter to the
respective Hierarch.

Here are some relevant notations for consideration from protocol 08-15 July 24, 2008.

a. A clergyman is assigned or reassigned to a parish by the Metropolitan alone.

b. Clergy compensation is governed by the annual Clergy Compensation Plan. This plan is promulgated by the Archdiocese through the office of the Chancellor and the Archdiocese Benefits Committee.

c. The clergy of this Metropolis are forbidden by me to discuss the terms of their compensation with any member or body of the parish. This includes the parish council and its officers: this standard practice helps to preserve the good relationship between the Priest and the parish on a spiritual level. All discussions and negotiations regarding the compensation of a clergyman are, without exception, conducted solely between the parish and the hierarch who acts on behalf of the Priest.

d. The compensation of the priest is not subject to discussion when considering the parish budget. This is so whether it is being considered informally, such as at a parish council meeting, or at a General Assembly: the compensation of a clergyman is to be regarded as a “fixed” expense just as a mortgage payment or other financial obligation of the parish.

Link to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Clergy compensation plan for 2009.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dimitri Tsagaris Withdraws His Candidacy for the Parish Council

Moderators' Note: Mr. Tsagaris requested we post his withdrawal of candidacy.

2 December 2008
Rev. Fr. Matthew Gilbert
Rev. Fr. Michael Kouremetis
Parish Council members and Parishioners of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake City.

I was extremely disappointed and hurt to hear that four board candidates were disqualified by our Clergy! After careful consideration, I am sending you this letter to inform you that under the current circumstances, I am withdrawing my application to become a candidate for the parish council in the upcoming elections.

Since the arrival of Fr Michael, our community has been on a rapid decline. My experience as a board member over the past two years has allowed me to recognize this continuing trend. I have often wondered how a charismatic individual such as Fr. Michael could inflict such pain and disorder in this community.

In my opinion, a good leader is one who reflects on his actions, and also one who wishes to hear feedback from his community, whether it is positive or negative. Community members should be allowed the opportunity to express their concerns of the administrative life of our community, without fearing punishment or intimidation. This said, asking the community for responses from the pulpit does not appear to be motivated by a sincere way for feedback; it is an inept way to discuss issues.

The selective enforcement of the UPRs, the fabrication of four disqualifications clearly appear to be measures taken in order to silence possible opposing points of view; it is a medieval practice long discarded by the Orthodox faith, and has no rationale. I would like to know who is responsible for keeping records of church attendance; and, when this “supervisor” was established and appointed to his or her position. These grounds for disqualification are evidently invalid, unless documents outlining the weekly church attendance of each parishioner are kept and can be produced. Also, shouldn’t people be allowed to start getting fully involved in the life of the parish if they had not been so before? Disqualification based on personal insights and opinions posted on the blog appear juvenile. We should be able to freely express ourselves in whichever manner we find appropriate. The blog has served as the only outlet of expression to many parishioners, but has become increasingly negative due to the events taking place in our community. The blog has never discussed a theological issue. The blog can be turned into a good-news forum, when there is good news to report.

I understand that the mandatory seminar for all candidates to the parish council is scheduled for tonight, December 2, 2008, in order to “review the Uniform Parish Regulations and the role of parish council members and oath of office.” As I recall, two years ago when I attended the same seminar, the focus by Fr. Michael was clearly on “who is in charge.” That was in contrast to three seminars I attended in the past conducted by our previous proistameno as well as invited clergy.

If I may suggest, inviting other clergy who served this parish in the past and are very well respected and liked by all parishioners as guest speakers to tonight’s seminar, it would be a good idea and beneficial to clergy and candidates alike. Also, touching on issues such as overreaching egos, extreme impulsiveness, intimidating, controlling, and how to be a good team player, would be very beneficial.

In closing, at this time and under the current leadership, I do not feel inclined to serve on the board. I wish to see a leadership that thrives on growing this parish in the image and likeness of Christ. I consider myself to be a simple person living a simple Christian life. I help my community in any way I can and respect the role of the clergy and the cloth. Respect, however, is earned, not automatic or demanded. I am certainly neither surrendering myself nor I hold any negative feelings towards anyone. But at this time I prefer and elect to serve my church and community in other capacities.


Dimitrios Tsagaris
Cc: His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Living in Glass Houses While Throwing Stones?

We employed a bit of levity in a previous article discussing the absurdity in our Proistamenoi’s claim that Mr. Sifantonakis (for a second time) and Mr. Armaou’s candidacies were disqualified due to inconsistent attendance. It’s difficult to imagine that our priests have the uncanny ability to know who is in which church on any given Sunday, particularly in the case of one of our priests since his absences are so frequent.

We find little humor, however, in the dismissals of Jim Kastanis and Sakis Sakellariou. Our priests claim that by words written on this blog, these gentlemen disqualified themselves. Protesting this sorry state of affairs, Mr. Gamvroulas withdrew his candidacy, as have Mr. Tsagaris and Mr. Skedros. Mr. Gamvroulas aptly pointed to a double standard in that he, along with a current parish council member, also wrote on the blog, but both were nevertheless allowed to run.

Let’s consider our priests’ written statements that Messrs. Kastanis and Sakellariou display disrespect for ecclesiastical authority. This contention is patently false. Nowhere, ever, not once, did any person writing on this blog question our clergy’s primacy in the ecclesiastical realm. Rather, these gentlemen, along with many others in this community, question the premise that our priests and hierarchs ought to control and dominate in all areas – secular and spiritual.

Let’s examine Fr. Michael’s further charge that Mr. Sakellariou was directly responsible for a “potential” convert turning away from Orthodoxy. Apparently, this lady, Alta Jackson, had been to our 2007 festival and was impressed with the spirit of unity we always muster each September. During a later visit, she attended services and was inspired by the beauty of the liturgy. Since a general assembly was announced for the next evening, she decided to attend and observe. There, she became disappointed, describing remarks made by Mr. Sakellariou as “negative”. She asked ONE parishioner, clearly someone who disagreed with Mr. Sakellariou, and was told that he was always nay-saying. Nowhere in this woman's letter does she indicate that she ever tried to determine what issues or situations might have prompted Mr. Sakellariou’s comments. As such, it would seem that her level of interest and intended commitment must have been fairly flimsy. If she’s looking for a faith whose adherents march in complete lockstep at all times and in all situations, she needs to join a cult. Such a condition is not normal, nor is it healthy.

Let’s, just for the moment, accept that perhaps Mr. Sakellariou discouraged a potential convert. If so, then using the same logic, our clergy have done precious little themselves to promote the unity Ms. Jackson was seeking. In fact, their actions have been manipulative, self-serving and divisive. Only those who are completely willing to be in lockstep with this “ministry” may “lead” and serve. The rest are here simply to provide funds, volunteer and keep quiet.

Our priests believe that one person’s remarks prevented winning one soul. We keep witnessing that their
“ministry” has turned away many more stewards of long standing who have faithfully given time, treasure and talent for decades! Even worse, this sad state of affairs has caused several of our youth, young adults, and many others to turn away. They have become discouraged and cynical at this state of affairs. One of our young adults, expecting her first child, commented:

One of my best friends teaches the kindergarten sunday school class at Prophet Elias.

The other day when asking the kids "What does the Priest do?" one very observant little kid replied promptly: "He gets P***ED!"

At first this is hysterical, kids say the funniest things. But when I think about it, it's very accurate and very sad. Our clergy is so angry and petty that they have clearly lost all reason.

I found out yesterday the baby I'm lugging around is indeed a boy as we hoped. Unfortunately today, upon learning of recent events, I am not hopeful or excited about blue paint, strollers, and an adorable layette. Instead I am overwhelmed with pity for this kid, because the clergy, the parish council, the dudes in denver... it's all so dismal a present, I dare not imagine the future! Why is my kid getting stuck with the broken GOCSLC?!

At least now I can avoid it all ... but in a few months I'll have some one else to responsibly haul in for judgment. …
As a concluding thought, we would refer our clergy to Matthew 7:3: "And why do you behold the sliver that is in your friend's eye, but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye?"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Withdrawal Letter from Steve Gamvroulas

2 December 2008

Fr. Michael Kouremetis
Fr. Matthew Gilbert
Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake Parish Council members
Esteemed Parishioners of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake

Reverend Fathers and Parish Council Members,

It is with great disappointment that I must remove my name as a candidate for the Parish Council. I do this in protest of the unceremonious disqualification of candidates for consideration for the Parish Council. The reasons given to the disqualified candidates include: not attending church enough; speaking against the actions of clergy; posting on the blog; and using a letter written by a "prospective convert" who was "offended" by the statements made by one of our members. These reasons are all subjective and highly suspect.

I have also posted comments in the blog, yet I was deemed worthy as a candidate for the Parish Council. I also bring to your attention that Bill Souvall, a current Parish Council member, has also posted on the blog. He, I assume, is also worthy of consideration for the Parish Council? Yet others who post comments are not eligible. What is the double standard that exists here? I sense a certain degree of hypocrisy in the disqualification of the other candidates.

To my knowledge, this is the second time in the past 103 years that members of this community who have lived here their entire lives have been subjectively deemed to be "unworthy" by clergy. The first time was last year. This is a dangerous and frightening trend. Is it a Christian trait to silence those who disagree with us?

The members of this community who were told they were unworthy are elders of this community. They are highly respected and esteemed. Their contributions to this community are great. They have served in various roles including: Parish Council members; choir members; altar boys; chanters; and Greek Festival chair people and volunteers. They have donated tens of thousands of dollars and hours to this community and are now considered to be pariahs. This is a very sad editorial on the state this community is in currently, and has been in since 2002.

The only people who are qualified to determine if a person should serve on the Parish Council are those members who are prepared to vote for or against those candidates. Is it really in the best interest of this community to allow clergy, whose assignment to our community is temporary, to decide the future of this community? Remember - priests come and go. The candidates for the Parish Council who were disqualified were part of this community long before any of the current clergy were assigned here and will remain here with their family long after clergy have been reassigned. Please tell me who sincerely has the best interests of this community at heart.

The mistreatment of people in our community who dare to speak against the unethical, secretive leadership must end. Are you going to continue to surround yourselves with "yes men?" Will you continue to browbeat those who would say your actions are wrong? I cannot agree with the view that sycophants are honorable people -- they have never been nor will they ever be.

Please look at your actions and you will see the reason for the discontent rampant in this community. Please stop trying to divide this community. We need unity to solve the problems facing this community. Diverse and open dialogue is crucial if we will ever solve those problems.

My Lord drew a line in the sand. I think it is time I do so as well.

With a heavy heart and great sadness,

Steve Gamvroulas

Monday, December 1, 2008

Church Attendance 101

For those of you who wish to participate in the life of our churches in the Greater Greek Orthodox Community of Salt Lake City, please be aware that: your honor, your good intentions, your prior stewardship, your previous efforts, your life-long commitment to your church are no longer "good enough". For a second time, our proistamenoi have rejected qualified candidates on the basis of church attendance. (We will discuss other "reasons" for disqualifications in a later article.)

You must now provide proof for our proistamenoi that you are "ecclesiastically eligible" to hold any position of responsibility in the "brave new church" of the constantly shifting clerical whims. You must attend church EACH Sunday, and you must take communion at a minimum of once each month. Other older rules or wisdoms, passed down by your less pious parents and grandparents or prior priests, no longer apply. (Please note, however, that NONE of these "new rules" apply when searching for festival volunteers or during stewardship drives!)

Insofar as attendance, however,
help is on the way. In order to be "eligible" to run for the parish council, or participate in youth ministries, dance groups or church sports, we have provided a downloadable attendance card.

The instructions are simple: click on the card image, then print out as many as you need.

Be sure to have an appropriate authority sign you in at the narthex as you enter, and be sure to have the priest sign you out as he gives the antidwro.

Bear in mind that you are responsible to keep this record in case you're ever questioned regarding your church attendance. Otherwise your priests reserve the right to determine for themselves how regular your attendance is. As they have photographic memories, along with ESP, they are fully aware at all times of everyone's attendance at either church on any given Sunday or holiday.

In the interest of time and economy, please be sure to provide your own pen for these purposes. (Three attendances in a row and you get one free! Weekday services count double!)