By Nick Stamatakis
Persistent information from unverified sources insists that AB Elpidophoros will fly back to New York on Sunday to deal with a very pressing issue, namely the priests’ pension fund, which threatens his tenure. Our sources insist that there are several groups of priests all over the country organizing to deal with their pension fund… Basically they are attempting a revolt against AB Elpidophoros, and some of these groups have used very scathing words in their remarks on the issue in the recent Virtual Town Hall with Elpidophoros…
The Archbishop was scheduled to remain in Istanbul through the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year (September 1st) and be present at the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Feast of the Indiction. If our sources are correct regarding the urgent return of AB Elpidophoros, then it will be one more indication of the chaotic situation the whole GOA is entering, under the pressure of financial problems and federal investigations. Also, AB Elpidophoros has to deal with the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress (Sept.9-10), which will no doubt provide a forum for all grievances to surface.
REGARDING THE PRIESTS’ PENSION PLAN, OUR OPINION is that the priests need to widen their scope. By focusing exclusively on their pension plan: a) They give the impression they are arrogant and self-absorbed. b) They miss the opportunity to take part in a greater restructuring of our Church, emphasizing the need to install transparency and accountability rules and above all the need for self-governance.
If our Church keeps losing faithful to other Orthodox Churches or other Christian denominations at the current rate, very soon half of the priests will have no employment at all at their present parishes. And yes, the faithful are voting with their feet!! They DO NOT want to deal with a corrupt church hierarchy run by some in Turkey, where the Patriarchate’s legal status is “a Turkish religious institution”. Are we serious? Do we expect from a “Turkish religious institution” to apply informed solutions to our priests’ pension plan and all other problems we face as a Church in America? How more narrow-minded can our priests – and all of us – be?
If we learned anything during the first year of AB Elpidophoros is that no problems will be EVER solved using the “Turkish/Phanariot mentality” in America. AB Elpidophoros not only represents the “Turkish/Phanariot mentality” in each and every step he takes, but he also brought with him a bunch of “confidants/assistants” from Turkey and Greece who now live together in the hotel-like 79th Street and are training and preparing to “take over” our Church soon. At a minimum they will be installed in key positions to serve as Elpidophoros pawns, to control the church when he leaves us for good to go back where he came from and become a Patriarch… These people are all faced with a very long “learning curve”: they are first year immigrants… Their presence among us spells disaster in one thousand ways..
When will we realize, clergy and laity, that it is impossible for our Church to operate and grow in such a schizophrenic situation? Our Greek-American community is near the top of the US in educational and financial achievement – yet we are supposed to be “managed” (read: manipulated, exploited, abused, lied to, etc) by a bunch of people who have no idea what America means? A bunch of people trained to think and act in autocratic terms – as they have to deal with the Turks daily?
Bottomline: THE CHURCH OF AMERICA CAN OFFER FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL SUPPORT TO THE CONSTANTINOPLE PATRIARCHATE ENDLESSLY, BUT WE DEMAND AUTONOMY IN OUR CHURCH GOVERNANCE. CONSTANTINOPLE CANNOT SOLVE ANY OF OUR PROBLEMS, SPIRITUAL OR PRACTICAL. IF THEY INSIST ON A TIGHT GRIP OF THIS CHURCH, THEY RISK LOSING IT FOR GOOD, PERIOD.