By Nick Stamatakis
I was about to write an analysis of the results of the 2-day Clergy-Laity Congress this week when I realized that for one more time on such a momentous occasion, we became witnesses of a classic performance of a “Theater of the Absurd”, something between a textbook presentation of “communication between deaf” and a parody of humanity in a senseless world… A total disconnect between the leadership and the faithful… And so I am left with one serious choice only: to present a list of elements that would be part of a truly successful and “historic” Congress…
- An emphasis on “listening” more than imposing and dictating that would be in accord with a democratic Orthodox tradition – the true reason we call our Church “Ecclesia”… Instead, we heard monologues, coordinated with autocratic (I am tempted to call it Ottoman or Byzantine) dictates, coupled with interruptions “from above” and a myriad technical problems… Above all, this Congress violated most procedural rules on its own books…
- A presentation of a “set of transparency and accountability rules” to be applied at all levels. Since the central issue of our bankrupt Church is the lack of trust between the leadership and the faithful, such a motion would be deemed central for re-gaining the following we lost in the past 2-3 decades. Instead, we were faced with the same lackluster attempts to pass half-baked balanced sheets as “audited accounts”… When will GOA voluntarily publish its payroll? When will parishes do the same? Why it took 15-20 years to find out that Karloutsos’ son and presvytera were on GOA payroll? What happened to the $2.4 million per year offered by Greece for HCHC? And a million other questions which prove that GOA is not serious about transparency, at the same time that the federal investigation in its affairs continues…
- A sincerely “brotherly” approach to the burning issue of the pensions for our clergy, that would put the issue at par with any other “financial” issues. If GOA is able to raise about $50 million to complete the multi-denominational “Shrine” in Ground Zero – a project which is now under federal investigation – then we should approach the pensions issue with even more desire to solve it. Do we have a bigger human capital to protect than our clergy? Then this is where we should invest – and attempt to transfer funds from our famous “Foundations” (Leadership and Faith). What did I hear? That these transfers are illegal? That they are not “kosher”? But why were they “kosher” when we decided to transfer from the Foundations to the “Friends of St.Nicholas”? May be then we need to set our priorities straight?
- The priests should stop singularly focusing on their pensions and start caring for the Church as a whole. Without new ideas on ministries and without attracting the younger generations, soon there will be no Church to pay for their salaries and everything else. Many of them will be unemployed. Is this what they want? Time to wake up. Time to rise up…
- Where were the new ideas on ministries? Where were the new ideas on attracting the youth? This is a survival issue for the Church and a well-grounded Congress should have spent much of its time and energy on this.
- If we had “expansion” in mind we would instantly recognize that in addition to attracting the youth we should FINALLY open our doors to all Orthodox Christians from all backgrounds and make a sincere effort to unite in one Church in America. This is not simply a call for a return to the teachings of St.Paul: it is also a real social and financial expansion road. In the real world, if you are in a difficult financial position you have two main options: a) You cut expenses and b) You raise new income. Most sensible people try both at once and many succeed. But those in our leadership, who in their majority never earned a dime in the real world, are trained to use a third option: Beg, Beg and Beg… And beg they do, 24/7 in all possible ways… The Church’s role is not to beg incessantly, but to do Christ’s work. When you do Christ’s work, the donations come in as a flood, voluntarily….
I could keep going a step further to ask the deeper question: Why such a disconnect between leadership and faithful? The lack of all the elements above, missing from this Clergy-Laity Congress, point to this deep disconnect, which in essence is a disconnect between the so-called “Mother Church” (historically the Phanar was never our mother Church) and the so-called “Jewel of the Ecumenical Throne”, the Church of America… These metaphors talk for themselves: As long as we will be viewed in such “high financial valuation” terms this disconnect will keep deepening.
Which in our case has taken a really warped, schizophrenic, turn. Not only are we expected to be led by people who are completely unfamiliar with life in America, but our so-called leaders need to be Turkish citizens. And not only are they supposed to be Turkish citizens – and by definition owe allegiance to the Turkish state – but they need to have the “OK” of the “Sultan” and the other “neo-Ottoman” authorities before they even get elected… Do we realize how ridiculous would be for the Chief Rabbi of any American Jewish organization to have the “stamp of approval” of the ayatollahs of Tehran?
Which leaves all of us with only one option: Demand an AMERICAN INDEPENDENT ORTHODOX CHURCH.
September 11, 2020, email@example.com www.helleniscope.com
FROM THE HAMPTONS AUGUST 15TH CELEBRATION THIS YEAR: What happened to the masks? Even more, how about the re-usable spoons? Has the “leadership” suddenly come to their senses? Or (more likely) are acting like “Ottomans” issuing “firmans” for their subjects, while they are above any law? No further comments….
The laity and clergy of the GOA should be voting with their feet
The Byzantine empire died 500 years ago but we never got the memo. Elpidogon thinks he is a co- ruler of the “New World”.
I agree with a lot of what is being said in this article. But I am disturbed by a lot of comments that I keep reading over and over in various op-eds, blogs, and social media postings. In this and other articles, I keep seeing a recurring theme of a demand for an “American Orthodox Church”. Relatively speaking, the Greek Orthodox Church in this country is still an infant. We’re babies, people We are in NO position to become autonomous, autocephalous, or completely independent. We can barely figure out if we are going to forgive our “debts“ and “debtors” or our “trespasses” and “those who trespass against us”, and we want autocephaly and independence?!? Are you kidding me?? The whole concept is absolutely absurd. And it clearly indicates that those people that make such statements have no clue about history, and no clue about the Tradition of the Church. In other words, it really is not as simple as they’re making it out to be. I will say this, and you can take it to the bank: if we do become autocephalous before our time (and no, now is NOT the time), Orthodoxy will either be completely lost in this country or we will become so Protestantized that the Orthodox Faith will be unrecognizable as we know it, even in today’s modern times.
And something else: let’s just put a stop to the whole Turkish thing already, shall we? Our Faith has nothing to do with Turkey. Because of historical events (and specifically one isolated event that happened back on a very dark May 29 in 1054 AD), a group of Mongols conquered Constantinople, and through historical and geopolitical developments, the area became known as the Ottoman Empire and a portion of it is now modern-day Turkey. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you are insulting and demeaning the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the person of the Ecumenical Patriarch when you constantly throw “Turkey” and “Turkish” out there in conversation, and making implications that these people are “Turks”. Yes, they are Turkish CITIZENS, but that does not mean that they identify as “Turks”.
And finally, don’t think for a minute that the Phanar and the Holy Synod don’t know what’s going on in this country. They know plenty. Unfortunately, they are in a position where they NEED this great Eparchy, and I dare say, they need us to even continue to SURVIVE. But I could be wrong about that, too. Because you know something? It’s in GOD’S Hands whether that ancient Church remains where it is or whether it moves and goes somewhere else. Patriarch Bartholomew was right when he said in an interview that he feels as if he is “crucified” on a daily basis. The people that make their ridiculous and smart-ass comments have absolutely NO CLUE what that even means.
Do we have our problems here in America? Oh, you bet we do. But we have to figure out how we’re going to solve them in an Orthodox manner. We need to stop making demands of the Church and demand that the Church adapt to our every whim. I, too, question this whole multiple spoons issue regarding Holy Communion. I am not in agreement with it and no amount of spin is going to convince me that it’s the correct and Orthodox thing to do. This whole debacle was suggested and put in place for one reason and one reason only: to cater to the LACK OF FAITH of some of our Orthodox Christians. That’s it. There is NO other reason for this. Centuries of teaching and belief that the Body and Blood of Christ cannot be defiled by any illness, virus, or bacteria is now being tossed out the window because a relatively small percentage of people are “afraid” of catching something? Catching something through CHRIST!? That’s a SERIOUS lack of faith. As Orthodox Christians, we are in NO position to pick and choose what we want to believe in and agree with, and what we want to disagree with and not follow. You either follow the Faith or you don’t. It’s that simple. You don’t want to follow the faith because you have a chip on your shoulder and don’t believe in something? Then , you know what? Go find another faith. One that caters to your insecurities. Orthodoxy does not need a bunch of pansies who do nothing but bitch and moan and demand changes of the Church. We have examples upon examples of our Holy Martyrs, the Saints of our Church whose names we carry, who literally spit blood and gave their very lives to defend the Faith. And we are going to mock them to their face by saying that we are afraid of catching a germ on a spoon?!? I can’t anymore. Y’all need to do a lot of reading.
– Seeking autonomy does not equal “protestandizing” our Church. Is the autocephalous Church of Crete, for example, in danger of losing the true faith? At a time that the Patriarch and AB Elpidophoros openly do everything possible to “catholicize” and “universalize” the Church in their globalist approach?
– The “Turkish” epitheth is 100% justified. Not on historical terms mostly, but as an autocratic attitude so evident in every step the leadership takes. And it is especially evident in relation to today’s autocratic “neo-Ottoman” Erdogan regime.
– Finally, if anything was and still is damaging to Orthodoxy in America this is “ethnophyletism” along with complete dependence on “ancient” foreign “centers of faith”, be it Constantinople or Moscow or Belgrade or Bucharest and so on. Yes we need an AMERICAN FIRST, independent orthodox Church. If these centers want to offer spiritual guidance they can do it by performing their symbolic role and not by immersing themselves in the affairs of a Church, who lives and breaths in a society they DO NOT understand. And whose fundamental principles they do not share.
The aim of The Orthodox Way of Life is to put God first and seek the Holy Spirit…In the words of St.Justin Popovich: ” The Church has adapted herself to the people, when it should properly be just the reverse – the people adapting themselves to the Church.” As St.Paul exclaimed; “Behold, now is an acceptable time; behold, now is a day of salvation.” It is time for us to become – in both words and actions – what Christ has called His Bride, our Holy Orthodox Church, to be here in the USA: “the light of the world.” That’s where we come in. We, the Laity – the children of God, inherit a special ministry, a “ROYAL PRIESTHOOD” of our own – to teach within our homes – live the GREAT COMMISSION OF CHRIST outside our homes, and actively make a difference by showing love and compassion to those we encounter in our everyday lives.