By Nicholas Karakas
I wonder as you pray in church, at home or just anywhere, do you ever become conflicted that our faith has become more crisis oriented in the realm of its social-economic dealings as, too complex and too secretive enveloped for we faithful to literally follow, understand and spiritually survive? I do.
Who am I to raise such issues to upgrade our Clergy and Hierarchy to speak honestly, openly, candidly and to spend my limited resources to voice my grave concerns of the current condition of our Greek Orthodox Church?
We are in an age when information is traveling at the speed of the coronavirus yet getting an answer or response from the Clergy or Bishops on your concerns is a slow or zero reaction. Or when the Hierarchy come to visit your parish, the chairman of the event is presented a list of items which must be made available to him in the course of his stay, such as a liquor brand, chocolates, flowers and snacks and other luxurious accoutrements. There are many other examples I could cite. This may seem as carping, quibbling over what the laity have come to expect and perform.
Hold on Karakas, the Greeks are known for their philoxenia especially to the Clergy. True, but, if you are still here, the nucleus of these few words is to demonstrate the pomposity, arrogance, high salaries and luxurious living, we ordinary Orthodox Christians allow our Clergy and Hierarchy. I venture to say, these people earn considerably more than the average parishioner. I said “average” parishioner. The Archdiocese for years has been applying an outlandish salary scale for Clergy and Hierarchy, based on years of service which has become extremely difficult for a great many parishes to sustain and thus pay. Then, there are the demands of increasing financial contributions for the Archdiocese.
All these increased demands or requests for money, come at a time when our parishioner base is quickly eroding, taking with them, their former stewardship contributions.
I humbly ask our esteemed AB, where is the grand design for our Orthodox faith in America?
Surely you had some time prior to the public announcement of your appointment to ponder and reflect on the crucial issues facing our church in America? Did your thinking then and now consider the kind of church we should be? Will it be to advance the faith? The Greek Language? Will there be a house cleaning of old tired money manipulators or a refashioning of the last 25 back sliding years? Will we be “Greeky” Greek, or will we be half English-half Greek? Or, your Eminence, will we be a Messianic type Church, all English, choral hymns beautifully sung in English and forgive the analogy, an Antiochian OC style corps of Clergy and Hierarchy with the zeal, energy and willingness to advance our faith by the retention, conversion and directing hard efforts to questions affecting our own children, the unreligious, the cynics, fallen way and atheists? I said, our own “kids”!
The time will come when because of your credentials, you will become the Patriarch in Constantinople. What kind of an Orthodox Church legacy will you leave us faithful? We, the women and men praying in the pews have a right to know!
Will it be a proud American Orthodox Christian Church, or a weak Greek satellite? The answer is in your hands.
On another note your Eminence, if you are really serious about bringing all of the ethnic Orthodox Churches together, you might want to consider these minuscule non-threatening moves. In the business telephone directory (if you can find a hard copy) under the heading “Churches”, you will find listings under Greek Orthodox Churches, Churches Orthodox, or under their ethnic name or, under Eastern Orthodox Churches, then, there are the Eastern Orthodox Churches listings individually. So what’s next?
How do we explain this profanity? It seems as if we value our ethnicity more than our Orthodox faith.
These current listings do not offer Orthodoxy as a united front. In fact, it infers that we are a polyglot collection of individual churches. Even small juvenile (soft) steps toward unity are not considered as a humble beginning by the Hierarchy. However with tongues in check, the Synod of Orthodox Bishops incessantly advance their false professions of Orthodox unity and mischaracterizations of our faith. In fact, it’s the Greeks who are the real obstacle against unifying the Orthodox jurisdictions. Face it dear worshipers, unity would bring about the dilution of their power. It’s as if the Clergy and the Hierarchy are fighting against unification as if it were the battle at Thermopylae.
Ok, let’s look at it from another angle. All Greek Churches are encouraged to cocelebrate with our ethnic churches at least once a year. Just once! How in the world can unity be achieved when we con-liturgize just once a year, and at only Greek Orthodox Churches. What! Aren’t the ethnic jurisdiction churches large enough, reverentially sufficient, iconographically limited? Any excuse will do, once a year is sufficient. Ha!
Then too, if unity is the goal, let’s start the grass root process in the seminaries. Merge our seminary schools, St. Vladimir and HCHC and cross train our students. With the financial instability and current probationary status of HCHC in Boston due to falling enrollment and debt, the HCHC property should be sold with any remaining proceeds minus the debt to be allocated for scholarship endowment for present and future students. Arrange and require all students to study with reciprocity at other noted university divinity schools for a period of not less then 1 year. That way, our Orthodox seminary students will be more diverse in the teachings of Theology, other cultures and religions thus better equipping them to enter their Clergy careers with a more rounded understanding and background of education.
As a start toward unity, the Synod of Bishops could direct that all new Orthodox stationary eliminate the ethnicity labeling of the Parishes. Further, any public signage on Church property or any advertising of church events must not include any ethnic listing. Telephone listings must be grouped under “Orthodox Churches”. Oh, I can hear the Greeks raving and shouting about this suggestion.
This must seem as so much petty nonsense, yet one or more suggestions of these should have been adopted decades earlier. Well, wouldn’t you think that if the Synod of Bishops were really sincere and honest, yes honest, in uniting all American Orthodox Churches then they would implement these easy offerings, baby steps, if you will, that are necessary. This move will begin the process psychologically of preparing all of our brethren, our ethnic Orthodoxy people, Clergy and Hierarchy to prepare for further more significant moves towards unity.
Now don’t hold your breath, I offer these current thoughts plus those offered previously in this paid for space, yet these suggestions will not be acknowledged by the G.O.C. because for at least these reasons:
- Not invented at the Archdiocese
- Not presented by the Archdiocesan Council
- Who is this moron, know nothing dolt who pretends to be a Greek Orthodox?
I admit that I may have been rather pointed with the Clergy and Hierarchy, yet it is they who prompted me to tender this message. These unpretentious yet stinging remarks are proposed in this fast-paced society to our beloved faith while our Hierarch and his Archon advisors seem to have adopted the caterpillar approach toward solving the accumulated problems of over two and a half decades.
I commend Metropolitan Nicholas for publicly voicing his remarks concerning the Archdiocese and its errors and missteps in the St. Nicholas Shrine matter and its loose accounting practices. This is certainly a positive sign as I have been voicing their abject refusal to speak out to the atrocities gripping our church for a long time. So we don’t have a cacophony of Metropolitans speaking out, perhaps one should be designated to speak on their behalf.
To my valued readers: Please write me directly with your remarks and comments, pro or con. Don’t bother the publisher of this newspaper, who I commend for her allegiance to a free Greek-English press.
May I close with this prayer. Dear Lord, please help us to remember that You chose very imperfect circumstances in which to manifest Your love to us. Help us to accept our imperfections and prepare our heart to receive Your joy and blessing.