National Philoptochos yet again allows the hierarchy to impose a Board upon the Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago Philoptochos — What a way to celebrate Women’s History Month!

By Nick Stamatakis

On January 7, 2024, Helleniscope reported (link here) that the Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago Philoptochos was hijacked by the hierarchy who, in June of 2023, imposed an “Interim Board” for one year, thereby doing away with elections as provided for in the Philoptochos Bylaws.  On August 7, 2023, after exhausting local resources, members of the Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago Philoptochos filed a Letter of Objection to the National Philoptochos Board.  Despite several requests, the National Philoptochos Board did not respond.  Instead, on January 22, 2024, there was a response by Bishop Timothy of Hexamilion.

A review not an investigation, as required per the Bylaws, was conducted by the National Philoptochos Board.  The National Philoptochos Board did not reach out to any of the Signatories of the Letter of Objection to allow them the opportunity to reply to their findings per their review.  Only one ZOOM meeting in October took place when the Letter of Objection was first assigned to National Philoptochos Board First Vice-President Anita Kartalopoulos and Advisor Maria Logus.  Only one of the Signatories was allowed to be present at the meeting although others were in the waiting room — they were removed.  Some of the documentation had not yet been fully reviewed by the National Philoptochos Board.  Requests for the ZOOM recording were and remain unanswered.

In a letter (Helleniscope has a copy of the letter) dated January 12, 2024 but not sent out until January 22, 2024, Bishop Timothy of Hexamilion stated that, per National Philoptochos Board President Siavelis (actually Siavelis Kehl), he and His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago, were to appoint a Special Board to complete the 2023-2025 term.  The names of the members of the Special Board were published.

Bishop Timothy of Hexamilion

The Bylaws of the Philoptochos provide for elections, not appointments, every two years.  In the case of the Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago Philoptochos, the chapter is again denied the right of election by the National Philoptochos Board for a second time in 7 months.  Why is the National Philoptochos Board aiding and abetting a Board Imposition by the hierarchy?  Why is the National Philoptochos Board denying its members their right to vote per the Bylaws?  The Bylaws are premised on democratic principles stemming back to ancient Greece.  Instead, the National Philoptochos Board has subjected its chapter, of the Annunciation Cathedral, to a hierarchy junta for 2023-2025.

The “Special Board” is comprised of 7 Officers, all appointed, not elected — Officers only with no Board Members.  Why not?  In accordance with its membership, the Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago Philoptochos allows 15 Board Members, including the Executive Officers.  Where are the other 8?  All seven selected are Executive Board Members-Officers.  Why exclude members from participating and serving on the Board?  Why have the Signatories been excluded?  Imposed Secretary Lena Milissis had been on the Board of St. John the Baptist Philoptochos for many years.  She even held the Executive Office of Recording Secretary.  In its May elections for the 2023-2025 Board, she did not run.  Why not?

None of the Signatories of the Letter of Objection were even asked to be on the Special Board.  Not one member of the Special Board is among those who signed the Letter of Objection.  Why not incorporate them?  All of the Signatories have served the Chapter as Officers, Board Members or Committee Chairs.  Among them are five past Presidents, a past National Board Member and a past Metropolis Board Member.  Why weren’t any of them included?

Up to the time of the first Board Imposition, the chapter was hard working, holding many events and all the while fulfilling its National and Metropolis Commitments.  The last term was particularly challenging due to two deaths, one of a Board Member and the family member of this Board Member and two others.  Nonetheless, the chapter carried on up until the time of elections for the 2023-2025 term when the first Board Imposition was thrust upon the chapter.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”                                                                                                                        Ephesians 4.1

What has the Annunciation Cathedral Philoptochos Spiritual Advisor, Father Stamatios G. Sfikas, done to unify the spirit of the chapter through the bond of peace?  Not once has he reached out to any of the Signators to the Letter of Objection to the Imposed Board.  As the Chapter Spiritual Advisor, it is his duty to bring all members together after these Board Impositions.  Why hasn’t he?  Is it because he is behind these Board Impositions?  There is a prior history of Election Interference. When the 2019-2021 Annunciation Cathedral Philoptochos Board was sworn in, Father Stamatios G. Sfikas refused to allow the Board to elect its Officers.  As reported by those present, following their swearing in, the Annunciation Cathedral Board Members approached Father Stamatios G. Sfikas citing the bylaws to which he angrily responded:  “I said no or I will disband the Philoptochos.”  The election finally took place in September shortly after the commencement of the ecclesiastical year thereby delaying the Board’s work.  The first Imposed Board was sworn in by Father Stamatios G. Sfikas without notice to either the Philoptochos Members or the community at large.  When was the second Imposed Board sworn in?  There was no notice to Philoptochos Members or the community-at-large.  Where is the notice?  Where is the transparency?  Where are the unification efforts?

PHOTO: Arlene Siavelis Kehl, National Philoptochos President, Met. Nathanael, Joanne Stavrakas.

Of particular note was a Chapter Philoptochos meeting on May 28, 2020.  The Minutes (Helleniscope has a copy) in the relevant part state:

Discussion ensued as to the issue of receipts for the outstanding bills to the Parish. Fr. Stamatios G. Sfikas stated that receipts had been sent to the Philoptochos.  President Catherine Hareas stated they would be reviewed and action determined.  Discussion followed.  It was moved by Aphrodite Peponis and seconded by Joanne Stavrakas that in view of payment of funds to the Parish still being unresolved, the chapter voted to dispense with the need for receipts for this one time.  Motion defeated.”

In accordance with the Metropolis of Chicago Philoptochos Society “Duties of the Office of Treasurer” per the Officers’  Workshop, “All disbursements must be documented with a receipt of request form” with receipts attached. Despite several requests for a paid receipt, the Cathedral, through Reverend Father Stamatios G. Sfikas, provided only the invoice with the outstanding amount.

Fortunately for Philanthropy, the motion was defeated due to the majority’s fiscal responsibility. None of those who opposed the motion found themselves on either Imposed Board. Interestingly enough, those who moved and seconded the defeated motion are part of the New Board. Aphrodite Peponis is now First Vice President, and Joanne Stavrakas is Advisor to this imposed Special Board.

Fr. Stamatios G. Sfikas

Right after the meeting at 9:08 pm, Father Stamatios G. Sfikas sent Metropolis of Chicago Philoptochos Board President Marilyn G. Tzakis an email (Helleniscope has a copy of the email) with invoice attachments requesting her assistance in getting the funds without disclosing that there had been a motion denying payment of funds without receipts.  Follow up from said meeting yielded the procurement of the actual receipt for the Archbishop’s engolpion gift, which differed from the submitted invoice.

On September 20, 2020, a meeting was held at the Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago, during which the actual receipt for the Archbishop’s engolpion was presented to the hierarchy, i.e. Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago and Bishop Timothy of Hexamilion (then the Very Reverand Timothy Bakakos.)

If you have difficulty viewing the two receipts above, they are in pdf format.

PLEASE CLICK HERE — CROWN CHURCH SUPPLIES – TWO DIFFERENT RECEIPTS_20240401_0001

The amount of the item to be reimbursed differed as it was $540.00 more on the submitted invoice and $540.00 less on the actual receipt.  Furthermore, on the actual receipt are additional items which did not appear on the invoice.  Immediately following the meeting, the chapter paid the ½ reimbursement per the actual receipt not as per the previously submitted erroneous invoice.  This is not the only instance of a “discrepancy” where the requested amount exceeded the actual amount.  A request for reimbursement for the Cathedral’s Contribution to the St. Iakovos Retreat Center was $537.93 over the actual amount to be reimbursed.  Again, championing Philanthropy, the correct amount was paid by the chapter.

There have been other instances of interference with Philoptochos funds when Philoptochos collection baskets were passed to the congregation for the Patriarchate and for Saint Basil Academy.  There it amounted to a 3-peat interference.  On one occasion, the Cathedral retained the funds thereby denying a proper accounting and a swift Philoptochos transmission of funds to the National Philoptochos.  Metropolitan Nathanael was made aware of these instances by at least one of the Signatories and intervened on one occasion.

Instead of appreciating the custodianship of Philoptochos funds, the Signatories find themselves the subject of a Board Imposition, thereby denying them elections.  The latest Imposed Board is comprised of all but one, (not present at the meeting) who voted in favor of paying reimbursements to the Cathedral without receipts.  The Signatories have been completely ostracized, as not one of them has been included on either Imposed Board.  This is retaliatory and in violation of the Archdiocese’s “whistleblower” policy which states in relevant part:

“NO RETALIATION”

Section 4

“No individual who in good faith reports any violation shall suffer intimidation, harassment, discrimination or retaliation, and with respect to any employee, any retaliation that results in an adverse employment consequence.  Any individual entitled to this protection who believes he or she has been the subject of intimidation, harassment, discrimination or retaliation for submitting a whistleblower complaint should immediately report the same as a violation of this policy.”

The exclusion from both Imposed Boards of members who brought the conflicting receipts to the attention of Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago and Bishop Timothy of Hexamilion is retaliatory. These members are entitled to protection per the Archdiocese whistleblower policy. Furthermore, the National Philoptochos Board did nothing to protect its members. These members are hardworking, dedicated, long-time dues-paying members. The failure of the National Philoptochos to hold chapter elections by allowing the hierarchy to impose two Boards aids and abets this retaliation.

Instead, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Chicago Philoptochos is left again with a Board Imposed not elected.  Lamentably, the execution by the Imposed Boards of their duties represents a regression of administration.  Neither of the two Imposed Boards provide the members with copies of agendas, minutes or treasurer’s reports in advance of meetings thereby denying the members notice and transparencyThe prior boards did provide this information in advance of the meetings.  Contrary to the Philoptochos mission: “to promote the Greek Orthodox Faith and traditions in accordance with its doctrines, canons, discipline, divine worship, usage and customs,” Imposed President, Athena Lakerdas, wife of an Archon, sent an email (Helleniscope has a copy of the email) during church services on Sunday, July 9, 2023 at 10:45 am while Archbishop Elpidophoros was presiding at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago.  The hierarchy’s imposition of these quisling Board members lowers the standard practices of Philoptochos, which is all the more disturbing considering that the National Philoptochos Board permits this.

By allowing the hierarchy to impose two Boards, the National Philoptochos has abandoned its duty to its members and to its Bylaws which do not provide for chapter Officer and Board appointments in lieu of elections.  Members join and serve the Philoptochos in accordance with the Bylaws which are in place at the time of joining.  As members, there is an expectation that these Bylaws will be followed, not adjusted to suit the hierarchy.  Any unjustified deviation from the Bylaws is unmerited and is a breach of the agreement between the member and Philoptochos.  As women, it is all the more concerning that the Philoptochos, a separate 501(c)(3) organization, would allow a patriarchal imposition by the hierarchy.  Such an abrogation of credibility for an organization in existence since 1931!  Such a sad state of affairs this Women’s History Month 2024!

March 29, 2024, n.stamatakis@aol.com   www.helleniscope.com

DISCLAIMER: The views and statements expressed in this article constitute constitutionally protected opinions of this author.

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1 COMMENT

  1. If the members did not walk out in protest, then they abided by the ruling. When is obedience detrimental to the welfare of church members?

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