Salt Lake Parish to Remain United

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Ecclesiastical developments seem to be underway at the Holy Trinity Parish in Salt Lake City. There was a two-hour meeting on March 12 at the Metropolis of Denver headquarters among Parish Council officials – President Demetrios Tsangaris and member Jim Skedros – and Archbishop Demetrios of America, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, and Archdiocesan Chancellor Bishop Andonios of Phasiane.

Various issues were discussed, including the closing of the Holy Trinity and Prophet Elias churches in August at Isaiah’s directive, resulting in the congregants gathering at those churches to light candles and listen to hymns from a tape recorder.

As TNH has reported, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew intervened by directing Demetrios to solve the problem immediately after TNH revealed about the violence that erupted at the Prophet Elias Church on January 19 during the Divine Liturgy, between supporters of Rev. Michael Kouremetis and Parish Council members, including President Tsangaris. The following Sunday, services there and at the Holy Trinity were celebrated with plainclothes police officers on hand.

The dispute, now in its fourth year, began with the plan to divide the Holy Trinity Cathedral parish into two, despite opposition by the majority of the parishioners. Fr. Mathew Gilbert is the priest at Holy Trinity, and Kouremetis at Prophet Elias, which became a distinct church. Isaiah supported the split into two parishes.

Sources close to the Chancery at the Archdiocese in New York told TNH that it was decided among other things during the March 12 meeting that Holy Trinity will remain one unified parish, as it has been for a century now, with two naves. Kouremetis will be transferred from the parish – the official story that the transfer is at his request – and the Parish Council elections will be ratified.

Andonios did not address TNH’s request for comment. Tsangaris decline comment, saying that “I can tell you absolutely nothing because the archbishop told us not to say anything to anybody until we receive an official letter with the decisions from the Archdiocese.”

Upon his return to Salt Laker City the same evening of the meeting, Tsangaris sent a letter to the Parish Council members telling them that “Taki (Skedros) and I just returned from Denver where we had a two-hour meeting with Archbishop Demetrios, Metropolitan Isaiah, and Bishop Andonios. We successfully discussed our main agenda items. The meeting was respectful, civil, and productive. It was a continuation of my meeting with Archbishop Demetrios in New York, to a final resolution.

“Our hierarchs are committed to the resolution of our difficulties. A written confirmation of the decisions made today will be sent soon to the entire community. We were asked by the archbishop not to discuss the conclusions of this meeting until an official communication has been sent. Until Then, we ask for your patience. In the meantime we will continue doing our church work.”

Tsangaris also wrote, referring to those who had differing views and wanted to meet with Demetrios, Isaiah, and Andonios, that “upon entering the Metropolis center the following individuals were in the main conference room awaiting for an opportunity to talk to the hierarchs at the conclusion of our meeting: Mr. Philip Floor, Mr. Chuck Karpakis,, Mr. George Adonakis, Mr. Jim Priskos, Mr. John Zavitsianos (attorney from Huston), Mr. John Johns (Metropolis Legal Counsel), and Fr. Michael Kouremetis. It was also reported by Metropolitan Isaiah that Fr. Mathew Gilbert was also at the Metropolis.”

On February 5, Demetrios summoned Isaiah to the Archdiocesan headquarters in New York telling him of the patriarch’s disappointment. The message was clear that the Patriarchate will not tolerate the dissolution of any parish in the United States.

Demetrios is responsible for the entire Archdiocese and, as the only ruling Bishop of the Archdiocese, is accountable to the patriarch.

On February 6, Tsagaris gave Demetrios a detailed account of the Salt Lake events. Archdiocesan Council VP Michael Jaharis and Bishop Andonios were also present.

Upon his return to Salt Lake City, Tsagaris sent a letter to the parishioners dated February 8, informing them that “Patriarch Bartholomew is aware of our difficulties and has instructed the Archbishop to personally intercede. Our current dysfunctional arrangement between laity and clergy cannot continue.” Tsangaris also wrote that “our Parish Council president, Dimitrios Tsagaris, has just returned from New York City where he was the guest of Archbishop Demetrios. Many concerns regarding our community were discussed. We are anticipating further direction from the Archbishop in the next few weeks. In the meantime we expect all services and ministries of the Parish to continue.

“We as your Parish Council have been vigorously pursuing a solution to the many issues we have before our hierarchs. We currently are functioning with the same Parish Council that was ratified by Metropolitan Isaiah 20 months ago. The newly elected but unratified Parish Council members are participating in our discussions. We currently have an appeal before Archbishop Demetrios and the Holy Synod in regards to the status of these elected council members and the Parish Assembly that elected them. Although the day to day functions of our churches are being attended to by our office staff and director George Kournianos, we no longer have open communication with our clergy. The Parish Council has received numerous complaints from parishioners about the clergy not answering their phones and the lack of specified clergy office hours. All priests are apparently under direction from Metropolitan Isaiah to not participate in matters concerning the administration of the Parish. Despite multiple attempts, in person, via phone and E-mail, to engage Father Matthew to participate in Community matters and Parish Council meetings he has elected not to attend. Attempts to communicate directly with Metropolitan Isaiah have also been unsuccessful. We have been reassured from the Archdiocese that this problem will soon be corrected.

“Metropolitan Isaiah stated to many of our parishioners attending the Metropolis

basketball tournament in Dallas that he is no longer involved in facilitating a

resolution of the current difficulties facing our Parish. Despite these statements

he has established a fund through the Metropolis to raise money to maintain

Father Michael’s position. He has continued to encourage separation of our

parish The ‘de facto’ separation is now being promoted by a separate account in Denver which is diverting stewardship monies to a Metropolis account. This account is not sanctioned by the Archdiocese. Many parishioners are being solicited to contribute to this account. We remind you that monies donated to this fund are not stewardship contributions and do not contribute to maintaining our ministries and facilities. Our churches and facilities have monetary demands beyond just clergy salaries which are not being met at this time through stewardship. Your Parish Council is in weekly communication with the Archdiocese. Metropolitan Isaiah has removed himself as our spiritual leader and we now await further intervention from the Archdiocese.”