“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


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SOMEBODY HAD TO SAY THIS! An op-ed from the National Herald

Give us your property!!!
December 11, 2009

The demand - for that is what it is, in essence - by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to our Metropolitans, presented in a letter signed by him, to transfer ownership of at least one building from each one of them to the Patriarchate, is a terrible idea and the request should be withdrawn immediately.

If it is not withdrawn, then the metropolitans ought to make it clear to Barthlomew that for the sake of maintaining the unity of the church, and the ties to the Patriarchate, they will refuse to obey or even discuss it with the laity. If there should be a metropolitan who, acting to serve his narrow self interest, tries to pressure the parishioners into transferring a property of their community or the diocese to the Patriarchate, then the people should deny him his request and hold him in low esteem.

Because, should this outrageous demand be obeyed, it could lead to the breaking up into pieces of our Church, and to its being controlled by forces in Turkey, which would work toward its neutralization, if not its dissolution as an ethnic group.

We wish there was a nicer way to say it, but this demand by Bartholomew has crossed the line. It is so unacceptable and offensive, but also so revealing of his designs on our Church and its assets, that it raises many questions about his relationship to this community.

This newspaper - as well as our Greek language sister publication – has been very sensitive and supportive of the Patriarchate as a religious institution, with its long and important history. We have also been supportive of its continuing ecclesiastical authority over our Greek American Church.

However, we hold nothing more dear than the interests of our community.

It is to the community that we owe our total dedication and alliance.

The Patriarchate's letter to the metropolitans does not serve its interests. It sounds innocent: Transfer ownership of "at least" one building to us from each metropolis so that we can, somehow - even if it is not very clear how - save the Patriarchate. It is hard to believe that a Patriarch would attach his signature to such a proposal.

Still, if all it took to save the Patriarchate from the reach of the Turks was transferring a number of buildings to it, we would probably be the first ones to support the plan. But of course it is not a transparent solution.

Thus, what Barthlomew is demanding is totally unacceptable, and raises a number of issues and troubling questions:

First of all, our people work too hard to come up with the money needed to buy the properties that belong to the communities and to the metropolises to give them away.

Second, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is - by political necessity - a Turkish institution subject to the interference, if not the control, of the Turkish state.

Even if the transfer of properties were to be hidden in a web of international corporations, at the end of the day, ownership would be traced back to where it would belong, to the Turkish State.

Third, by taking over at least one building in each metropolis – and one wonders why so many building are needed - the Patriarchate would establish direct ownership authority at a local level. In due time, they might ask for a second building and so on, thus moving towards controlling the finances as well of each metropolis and through them, the parishes.

Fourth, sending this kind of letter was made possible after breaking up our archdiocese into Metropolises, thus weakening its administrative cohesiveness and the office of the Archbishop.

Fifth, should a building be transferred to new owners, who would collect any income it might have or pay for its maintenance?

Finally, Bartholomew should learn to trust and communicate openly with our people. In our system and way of life, our leaders consult with the people, explain their proposals and ask for their approval. They do not use others to manipulate them.

The argument that Bartholmew uses to appeal to the metropolitans to do his bidding troubles us greatly: he appeals to the sense of indebtedness the metropolitans might feel toward him. "We do not doubt at all,” he writes, “that your Eminence too, in its known love and devotion to the Mother Church that fed you and made you what you are, that you will act, according to the above ecclesiastical decision as soon as possible, and inform us in writing, attaching all the signed related documents and title of ownership of a property or titles of ownership of properties so that we can file them in the proper place."

How naive do they think we are?

Monday, December 21, 2009

FYI - An Article from the National Herald

Patriarchate Asks for Title to U.S. Church Property

BOSTON - The Ecumenical Patriarchate – in an official letter recently sent to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and its local Metropolises - requested the official transfer of the ownership of at least one real estate property belonging to each metropolis to the Patriarchate. Archbishop Demetrios of America and the metropolitans have yet to notify the parishes of the Archdiocese of the request of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The same request was made to all other eparchies (ecclesiastical provinces) outside of Turkey that belong to the ecclesiastical and spiritual jurisdiction of the Patriarchate, that they “register at least one real estate property irreversibly in the name of the Patriarchate.”

By taking this action, the Patriarchate is trying to secure its legal position vis-a-vis the Turkish government. The Turkish government does not recognize Ecumenical Patriarchate as a legal entity or its ecumenical nature and mission, and has treated the institution with disrespect since the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The interference and abuses of Turkish officials have been reported in the international media for decades and occasionally elicit protests from U.S. and other government officials and agencies. Patriarch Bartholomew in his letter (protocol number 861) stated that “The (Turkish) authorities refuse to recognize the legal status of our most sacred institution.” Ankara considers it to be a Turkish institution in the Phanar district of Constantinople under the administrative jurisdiction of the district’s prefect.
The issues that pertained to the property request were discussed at the Holy Synod in Constantinople and the Patriarch stated in his letter that, “We were led to the decision to urge, though this Patriarchal letter, the hierarchs of the Eparchies abroad to register in the Registry of Deeds in the country in which their Eparchy is located, at least one real estate property, community or parish in the legal name of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as follows: “Ecumenical Patriarch, instituted according to the International Law whose See is in Constantinople (Istanbul).”
The Patriarchal letter appeals to the good faith and respect of the hierarchs, reminding them that it was the Patriarchate that elevated them to the rank of metropolitans and archbishops. The Patriarch requests that the hierarchs send “all the signed documents of their transactions of the recording of the real estate property to the Patriarchate in order to be placed in their file.”
It was not clear if this request included the Metropolises of the so-called New Lands (sees whose administration was delegated to the Church of Greece in 1928 but are spiritually under the Ecumenical Patriarchate), or the Metropolises of the Dodecanese or the semi-autonomous Church of Crete, which fall into the ecclesiastical, canonical and spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The prefect of the Phanar often gets involved in issues that have to do with the life and operation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and there is concern that any transferred properties and parishes would be exposed to interference from Turkish authorities.
Prefects have been aggressive to the point that they the Patriarch into their office to give explanations and clarifications. The National Herald is in a position to know of many instances when the Ecumenical Patriarch was called into the prefecture of the Phanar. The most revealing and egregious case of this kind took place in August, 1990 and involved the late Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios. After his return to Constantinople from a month-long, historic visit to the United States. The Patriarch was summoned to the prefecture and was put through an exhausting examination by the authorities. It has been said by his close associates that Patriarch Dimitrios became so upset that - a few weeks later - he suffered a stroke which led to his death.
There is some speculation at to whether the letter about the properties is related to other recent developments regarding the relations of hierachs outside of Turkey with the Patriarchate. The National Herald exclusively revealed, on November 12, that “The government of Turkey seems to be willing to grant Turkish citizenship to all those hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who serve outside of Turkey. Turkish citizenship will allow them to freely participate in all the administrative activities of the Patriarchate including the right to be candidates for the Ecumenical Throne when a vacancy arises. It was made clear by the Ecumenical Patriarch himself that ‘they will have the right to elect and to be elected.’ Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew broke the news to Archbishop Demetrios of America and to the hierarchs of the Archdiocese during his recent visit to the U.S. at the luncheon that has held at the Carlyle Hotel after the Patriarchal Liturgy at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York on Sunday, November 1.”
This newspaper also reported that “Prime Minister Erdogan told Patriarch Bartholomew that his request will be satisfied and asked him to send the appropriate information with names of the hierarchs and other details to the government of Turkey.”
To this day the Archdiocese has not officially notified the Greek Orthodox people and the community in general about which and how many metropolitans will become Turkish citizens, including Archbishop Demetrios himself.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Καλα Χριστουγενvα! ΕΥΤYΧΙΣΜΕΝΟ ΤΟ ΝΕΟ ΕΤΟΣ! Merry Christmas! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The moderators of TOCB wish all parishioners in this community a blessed, safe and Joyous Christmas Season and a Happy, Prosperous and GENTLE New Year.

Above all, we pray for the Holy Spirit to enter into all our hearts and help us find a way out of this morass and to overcome obstacles that exist against our community’s harmony and its good will toward all, regardless of point of view.

God willing, 2010 will be the year!

PS - one thought: our clergy has tried everything else, WHY NOT TRY LOVE?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Interesting Article - Manipulators

In light of the recent general assembly melt down by the proistameno of Prophet Elias only, we might gain some understanding from the points below. The full article can be found at www.sheerbalance.com/mind-body.

1. Buttering You Up: To get their way, manipulators will often make you feel good so that they can then ask you to do something that they want. The person may first compliment you or tell you what a wonderful job you did on something. Making you feel good will, in their mind, make it difficult for you to say no…after all, you wouldn’t want to disappoint them or give them reason to think you didn’t deserve the compliment in the first place. What you can do: Return the compliments and the niceties before saying no. Jim Kastanis' recent letter highlights such platitudes.

2. Guilt: This doesn’t only pertain to Catholics and Jewish Mothers; guilt trips have been a successful manipulation tactic for centuries. The saddest part of this strategy is that the victims of this tactic succumb to the manipulators’ demands because they feel they HAVE to, not because they WANT to. In personal relationships, this sets up a co-dependency that is extremely unhealthy. What you can do: Ask the individual if they want you to do something because you have to or because you want to. If they say they want you to want to do it, tell them that you don’t and that they are trying to force you into something you don’t feel comfortable with. The recent melt down in addition to other "sermons" berating the lack of financial support (among other things) rings a bell.

3. Broken Record: Probably the most obvious of formats is the broken record tactic. If a person asks you enough or pushes their agenda enough…constantly repeating the question or request over and over again…in slightly different ways, the victim will inevitably give in and give them what they want. Oye! What you can do: Ask the individual what they don’t understand about the word “no.” Tell them that asking you over and over again isn’t going to change anything and that they are inappropriately over-stepping boundaries. Confidentiality the proistameno of Prophet Elias only requires in all aspects of the function of our community, a theme he continually repeats, or laying blame everywhere except at his own feet bears this out.

4. Selective Memory: This one gets me the most. You swear you have a conversation about a plan and everyone is on the same page, and then one day, the manipulator pretends to remember the conversation completely differently, if at all. What you can do: Record your conversations…seriously! Okay, maybe not. At least have a witness that you can count on to back you up if the person pulls this shenanigan. Call them out on the fact that they conveniently change the game to fit their needs. The selective memory examples are plentiful with the proistameno of Prophet Elias only. His memory is clear regarding the UPR section used to disqualify parishioners from being candidates for the parish council but he doesn't wish to recall the UPR section requiring an audit committee for 7 years.

5. Bullying: If a person doesn’t get their way, they make you out to look or feel like the bad guy…like you are the wrong one. What you can do: Be firm and tell them that their bullying tactics are inappropriate and unacceptable. How often have we been reminded who works for who in this community? His disparaging remarks about this blog and his ability to blame all that is wrong in our community on everything except his actions should make us scratch our heads in bewilderment.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Self explanatory!

Was the treasurer and the parish council aware of this?
They should have been?!
Could it be that they were kept in the Dark by the proistameno from Prophet Elias only?

Monday, December 7, 2009

"anti Church"? NOT!

In their recent rejection letters to "ineligible" Parish Council nominees, our proistamenoi labeled this blog site "an anti Church, Archdiocese, Metropolis and Clergy venue".

It is true that we have been critical of an Archdiocese and a Metropolis that for DECADES, like their Roman Catholic bretheren, supported and protected pedophile priests. We decry a hierarchy that pays millions of the church's funds - the funds WE provide to our Church, the Bride of Christ - for "hush money" to prevent the facts of the Katinas case, and others, from becoming public, supposedly to "protect the church". We aren't being disrespectful in asking for a hierarchy and clergy that puts the spiritual and physical well-being of our children, FIRST, and does not seek to protect those who would hurt them.

We yearn for a hierarchy that respectfully and lovingly rules
with its flock, the laity, and not over them. We ask for an Archdiocese that insists that the Greek Orthodox Church in America be given either a formal, or at very least the de facto autonomy it once enjoyed before the current Patriarch "gifted" us our new charter and UPRs, rammed through a Clergy-Laity Congress where no opposing opinion was allowed, much less heard. We ask for an Archdiocese that seeks and embraces its rightful place in World Orthodoxy and world religion, and is not simply happy to be relegated to being a patriarchal province and a cash cow. We ask for a hierarchy, here and abroad, that RESISTS a Papal model (or locally, a Mormon one!) for Orthodoxy, rather than embracing it.

We have pointed out that our Metropolitan came out several times squarely in support of a defrocked priest, even after the Archdiocese had cut its losses with Katinas, rather than expressing any sympathy at all for Katinas's numerous victims. Based on Metropolitan Isaiah's Protocol 8-27, the laity of this Metropolis (or of others for that matter) cannot be confident that another Katinas situation will not occur.

This site has also been critical of the Metropolis' negative attitude toward our community that has actively and aggressively promoted disunity and disharmony, along with others in his metropolis, toward concerned parishioners, and toward genuine and honest differences of opinion as to sound church asset governance. Sadly, the clergy and hierarchy have the arrogance to behave as though they, solely, comprise "the Church". They fail to recognize that Church, the Bride of Christ, is ALL of us - clergy and laity, those who agree with us and those who don't.

If those of us who write on this blog and others were truly "anti Church", we simply would not care. We would do what so many others who are distressed by the misdeeds of our supposed leaders do: show up every so often to services or events, pay the minimum, and go about our business without expressing any opinion at all. Since the clergy and hierarchy have currently stifled honest differences of opinion in local and national laity assemblies, we, along with others throughout this country, have turned to "venues" they cannot silence.

We love our church. We LOVE the traditions we grew up with. We revere the clergymen, leaders of their flocks, past and present, who taught us, presided with love, reason and compassion, and who labored and ruled WITH their flock and not OVER it. We love our church enough to care when things are not right and to try to find ways to put them right.

Anti-Church? That is THE one thing WE ARE NOT!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (find out what it means...)

From the recent nominee rejection letters:
We thank you for your interest in wanting to serve the Lord on the Parish Council. The Uniform Parish Regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America states that in order to be eligible as a candidate for the Parish Council, a parishioner must respect (emphasis added) all ecclesiastical authority and all governing bodies of our Church; 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.

His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah has made it clear to us that anyone who writes or comments on the blog is not eligible to be on the Parish Council. Your writing on the blog, which is an anti Church, Archdiocese, Metropolis and Clergy venue, has disqualified you as a candidate.
Respect ... MUST respect? This mistaken notion is the essence of the problem. Where respect is due, there is no need to demand it. Where it is merited, it is given naturally.

Respect cannot be demanded; respect is earned. It does not really matter that the demand for respect is in the "legal" language of the recent UPRs (part and parcel of that "gift", along with the "gift" of the new charter "granted" to us by the Patriarch a few years ago). The clergy, higher and lower, will not get the respect it demands no matter what language is used in their rules and regulations, unless it earns it. The clergy, lower and higher, needs to examine the significant differences between deference, coercion, submission and respect. (Hint: these terms are NOT interchangeable.)

Respect is, by definition, mutual. If the clergy wants true respect from its flock, then it must respect the laity as well. The clergy must stop viewing its flock as simply the source of its unquestioning funding. The clergy must engage its flock, work with its parishioners - ALL of them, and stop resorting to threats and unfair ostracism when it finds differences of opinion.

A recent blog article asked when we might expect the "Inquisition" to begin based on our clergy's and hierarchy's Dark Ages mentality. The answer is, it is already in evidence.

This Year's Round of Rejection Letters to the "Ineligible" and Disqualified Nominees

We suppose we should be grateful in that this year's "ineligible" nominees are at least given credit for wanting to serve the Lord.

Interestingly, Mr. Gamvroulas was allowed to run last year, though he had at that point written on the blog, but chose to withdraw his nomination. This year he was declared ineligible for writing on the blog. Most of the wording for each nominee (we presume so for Mr. Kastanis as well) is similar.

In the case of Mr. Sakellariou, the proistamenoi cannot resist getting in an extra kick by adding additional language to his notice of rejection. "Sakis, the lack of respect you continue to show towards the Clergy proves (emphasis added) that you are not a candidate or a person that would serve the Parish Council (emphasis added) faithfully."

What is viewed by our clergy as "proof" of a "lack of respect" might more objectively be considered ongoing frustration at the unwillingness or inability by our clergy to seek harmony and unity in this community. For too long, neither priest has been willing to sit down, engage in discourse, or seek common solutions. Their mindset is solely that of "I decide, and I command." (So much easier than messy democratic governance, isn't it?) Further, neither understands that Parish Council members are NOT elected by the laity to "serve the Parish Council". They are elected to serve Christ's Church and their community. Contrary in particular to Fr. Michael's misguided assertions, council members do NOT work for him. They work for the Christ's church and that church includes US - all of us - laity and priests.

We remind our priests of the following: "Η έκκλησία δεv είvαι εξoυσία, ειvαι διακovεία." "The Church's purpose in not that of dominion or power; it is that of service." - Ieronymos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Am Confused!

December 5, 2009

Which Father Michael, as my spiritual leader and Proistamenos here at Prophet Elias Church, am I to believe?

Is he the one who greets me with embraces and pecks to my cheeks, seeks me out in a crowd of people to congratulate me on my Name Day, and tells me congratulations for being a candidate for the Parish Council. Or, is he the one who doesn’t have the courtesy to call me and discuss his concerns as to my candidacy for the Parish Council, but for two years in a row sends me a registered letter stating I am not eligible to be on the Parish Council because I have written on the Blog.

I thought we lived in America where Free Speech was a right.

- Jim Kastanis

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Blog Has Arrived!

The Blog has finally arrived; see letters from the priests to the “denied.” According to the local clergy the Metropolitan now does not like it either.

In view of the spurious reasons for the disqualification of Kastanis, Gamvroulas, and Sakellariou, is there any other conclusion than:

This Proistameno Must Go. The sooner the better.

Welcome to 12th Century Christianity.
What can we expect next? Inquisition trials?

Best wishes for the Holiday Season,

Nick J. Colessides

P.S. From the sublime to the ridiculous!

Qualified Last Year; Disqualified This Year?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mendacity Continues Unabated

I couldn't make it the other night to the General Assembly.

No, I haven't given up. I just was not able, at what should be a time of somber reflection and anticipation of the joyous holiday to come, to endure yet another general assembly of platitudes, excuses, blatant dissembling and parliamentary maneuverings further designed to ensure such vapid governance. That this situation continues is baffling and sad.

It is clear that today's clergy, lower and higher, continues to hold the Greek Orthodox laity hostage. Complain too much and you cannot serve on the Parish Council. Have kids in church activities? They are held hostage too. Any failure, real or perceived, to strictly conform, and even our kids face criticism, humiliation and ostracism.

Then, there is the question of money - which we are continuously assured (with incomplete data at every assembly) is coming in fabulously. Yet the congregation is vilified by its clergy for spending on frivolous secular pursuits, instead of handing it over with no questions asked or allowed.

We continue to be expected to check our minds at the door, close our mouths and open our wallets. We have all lived in this valley long enough to have no trouble in guessing who we're being asked to resemble on all counts.

The height of insult, once again, to what little discernment we're allowed to maintain, is that our Proistamenos-of-Prophet Elias-only declared that this blog is: a) responsible for any and all rifts in our community; b) the reason we have two proistamenoi (this is a new one!); and, c) the work of the devil.

In the first place, the rifts in this community began in earnest several years before this blog was established. The major rift began with our Metropolitan's disbanding of an elected Parish Council in 2002, whereby he literally pitted family members and friends against each other within the community.

The rifts continued with our Proistamenos' (then leader of both church communities) desire to control absolutely, so much so that he caused members to be either barred from serving on the Parish Council, or to be sanctioned and expelled from it. The blog began because of these circumstances; it certainly did not precede them.

Further rifts occurred due to the clergy's clear intent to follow Metropolitan Isaiah's specifically expressed desire (several times and in writing prior to October 2007 when he made it official insofar as having two proistamenoi) to split this community into two parishes. There is no ambiguity here. There is PLENTY of prior evidence to this fact, including His Eminence's labeling this community as having committed spiritual polygamy in a letter to the community in December 2007. Contending that the blog caused the appointment of two Proistamenoi is utter nonsense.

As for declaring this blog to be the work of the devil, this ruse is an historical condemnation issued by every despot from time immemorial, in the ecclesiastical realm or otherwise, who lacks the ability or the desire to lead with reason, compassion and love.

- Barbara Billinis Colessides