Orthodox Christian Laity Requests Check on Monasteries

The entrance of St. Anthony’s monastery in Arizona.

By Theodore Kalmoukos

The Orthodox Christian Organization (OCL) during arecent meeting adopted resolutions relating to monasteries thatoperate in many parts of the United States. The Christian Newswire reported on the issue as well.

The National Herald has reported many timesabout the issue of the monasteries and more specifically about their ecclesiastic belonging, theological teachings, and financial issues.

There are 18 total monasteries and nunneries in the United States. Technically, these monasteries are under the ecclesiastical and canonical jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and consequently, the local metropolises in which operate. Actually, though, they are under the total control of the priest monk Ephraim and his close associates, whose headquarters are at St. Anthony’s monastery in Florence, AZ.

TNH reported that a few years ago the Archdiocesan Council, with the insistence of itslate Vice Chairman Michael Jaharis, had instituted a special committee to conduct a thorough examination of the monasteries, including their finances, but the issue was stalled because the metropolitans did notcooperate with the committee.

Fr. Ephraim, founder of the monasteries in the U.S.

TNH has learned that a fundamentalist movement has been created in the Archdiocese, deriving from the monasteries called “Ephraimism.”  Many priests in the parishes have been influenced, and consequently, they pass their influence onto their parishes. Even at the School of Theology in Boston there are fanatic followers of elder Ephraim.

Archbishop Demetrios seems to be fully aware of what is going on with the monasteries but,unfortunately,he does not seem willing to confront the issue. Not even the Archdiocesan Regulations that specify the operation of the monasteries are implemented, and thus we have a situation whereby “a Church has been created within the Church.” Also, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is fully aware of the monasteries and their teachings. There are plenty of videos onlinewith homilies of Fr. Ephraim that are quite revealing about his teachings and even “his prophesies.”

The OCL has brought the issue into light again asking about the implementation of the Regulations of governance of the monasteries.The resolutions follow:

“OCL respectfully calls upon the Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to enforce its own Regulations relating to the Monasteries operating under its auspices in the United States; that each metropolitan who has monasteries within his metropolis require full compliance by those monasteries with the letter and spirit of those Regulations; and, that all information concerning the operations of those monasteries, including but not limited to financial disclosures, be made public.

“OCL respectfully calls upon the Assembly of Bishops to request that all jurisdictions that have not yet done so adopt regulations regarding monasteries in the United States requiring transparency and accountability in financial reporting and Hierarchical oversight of theological teachings; that the Assembly encourage full compliance by those monasteries with the letter and spirit of those Regulations; and, that information relating to the well-being of the Church be made public.”

The Resolutions were adopted after the Board reviewed the provisions of the “General Regulations for the Establishment and Operation of Holy Monasteries in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America” [Protocol #95] issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on February 16, 2005. The Regulations are set forth in the Official Documents of the Archdiocese on its website (goarch.org).

Article 4 of the Regulations set forth the “Rights and Duties of the Metropolitan,” which include: “…the highest oversight” and “The auditing of the financial records of the Monastery.”

Article 14 requires the permission of the local metropolitan for the construction of buildings.

Article 15 (b) requires monasteries to “contribute financial assistance to the local metropolis and the Archdiocese for the benefit of the Church and the community.” (c) requires every monastery to submit to the metropolis a financial report for the previous year and a budget for the coming year. (e) requires each monastery to judiciously maintain financial records “detailing the exact daily income and expenditures, as well as documents pertaining to their entities.”

Article 16 (d) states: “The Monastery Sanctuary is not a parish church. As such, the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage is fully prohibited in monasteries of the Archdiocese…. In special cases, the Sacraments of baptism and chrismation may be conducted in the monasteries, provided there is a compelling reason that is deemed acceptable by the local metropolitan, who grants the requisite episcopal permission for the celebration of the Sacrament and issues the proper certificate. In any case, the registration of such baptism and/or chrismation shall be done in the official books of the parish to which the one baptized or chrismated (anointed) belongs.


18 Comments

  1. Shameful. Those who treat the archdiocese like a cultural center are no doubt scandalized when confronted with the authentic faithful and practice of Orthodoxy. If Elder Ephraim’s enemies had anything to say about it the monasteries of Athos, from which the Elder came, would also be forced to comply with similar oversight. They obviously are clueless about the value and function of monastic communities within the Church. I’m a member of another jurisdiction and have not even visited one of the Elder’s monasteries, but having studied monastic life, in particular Athonite history, it is clear the Elder is establishing those same Orthodox monastic traditions here. With God’s help he will help restore authentic Orthodox spirituality to the Greek Archdiocese of America.

      1. I strongly disagree with many of your assertions about both Elder Ephraim and your understanding of “Athonite history” or its role in Orthodoxy. Consistently attempting to cleanse Elder Ephraim’s movement with false and misleading allegations of credibility damages the entire Church and it’s Faithful. Elder Ephraim’s Monasteries are nothing more than “Disneyland” for the unaware or those who fail to discern.
        One very simple difference is that all the monasteries of Mount Athos were founded by different Elders. They vary in many ways. They don’t encourage sending wedding crowns for blessings, don’t help find your future spouse or even tell you which Priest is “spiritual” [one of them] and who is not. All of the holy mountain is limited to less than 100 visa or entry permits issued a day for all the 20 monasteries and 12 sketes. There are not tour buses dropping off thousands of people every year. I urge you to read the following article: http://gotruthreform.org/ephraimite-fallacies-part-one

    1. To me it seems that your comments reflect a simplistic approach that aggravates the problem by making it personal. “Attack”? Secularized? Spiritual? Indeed you are causing animosity with your statements.

      People like me honor and respect monasticism, as we do the local parish community. Holiness is found in both places.

      When someone sees something wrong, there is nothing wrong with calling attention to it. I see numerous problems with the Ephraimite brand of monasteries. There is nothing wrong with stating it, and there is nothing wrong with examining it. Unless of course you have something to hide.

  2. The Orthodox Churches are the hospital for our souls healing.
    The Monasteries are the Intensive Care Units, (ICU)…… for the souls.
    Both are vital to the spiritual life of the Orthodox Christian and the Church.
    You cannot have one without the other.
    They both are in the Body Of Christ.
    They both are needed.
    The Parish Life is absolutely needed for our salvation and our souls and our communion and our 7 Holy Mysteries.
    The Monasteries are absolutely needed for those dealing with spiritual issues and guidance in their personal lives. Growing deeper in understanding of the faith.
    One is not more important than the other.
    They both are Christ’s gifts to mankind.
    One should not offend the other.
    They do not compete against each other.
    The enemy doesn’t want Souls to turn to the Church which includes both the parish life and the monastic life for drawing closer to Christ.
    We all grow in different stages of life as Orthodox Christians.
    I love my Parish life and my Parish Priest!
    I also love the monastics and their monastic lives. Their dedication to the Church and Christ, just like I love the dedication of my Parish Priest to the Church and Christ……
    Let Us All Love One Another So We May Show The World That We Are ALL Disciples Of Christ.

    Remember, The Church Of Christ Is Perfect!
    The people in it are not.

    “I came to heal the sick not the righteous…….”
    We are ALL sinners and in need of healing!!!
    Respectfully.
    With Love In Christ and Panagia……

    1. Lou Koumathi,

      Your comment that we should love one another is not only sweet, but absolutely correct!

      Brother, I respectfully disagree with your analogy. I disagree because it suggests that the Monastery is more important than the local Parish Church. It is NOT. They are both equal. Your analogy suggests that people that are in need of the “ICU’s” emergency treatment (whatever that means) should go to the Monastery. No. Ultra harsh penances are not usually prescribed to neophytes that have not perpetrated anything unusual. Sometimes ultra harsh penances might be necessary, but for laymen this is not always the case. Monks have chosen that austere life. We did not. And we do not have to. Nor should we be expected to. Nor is our piety any less sincere and true than theirs. The Monastery is a nice place to supplement our laymen’s parish life – but NOT to replace it. I think a better way to use your analogy is that the Church AND the Monastery are hospitals and ICU’s for the souls of the faithful. One might be for soldiers, and the other might be for civilians, but they are are equally there to aid.

      People like me are wrongfully accused as “anti-monastic”. That is a wrongful lie. There is nothing wrong with asking questions about certain practices and teachings. If something is wrong, we must say so. We cannot turn-off our logical thinking. Our Lord would want us to use our logical thinking. We should not bash others who ask questions either. Already on this page we have seen people refer to those who are asking questions as the “physical Church that is attacking the spiritual church”. What judgmental and nonsensical gibberish!

      If we do not ask questions and challenge ideas that appear wrong, then your analogy will morph from an ICU/hospital into an asylum of fools.

  3. What utter tripe. Lord have mercy on all the people who are so foolish as to persecute monastics in this life.

    1. Lord have mercy on those that defend the guilty!

      Clearly there is an issue. If there were no issue the Synod of the GOA would not have appointed the Monastery Task Force, later renamed the Monastery Review Committee in 2010. The scandal here is not the OCL examining the issue and asking those who have a duty to protect the Faith to do their job, i.e. the Hierarchs. The tripe here is not the Newspaper reporting the news. The scandal here is this deflection of the truth from coming out. Using Mount Athos as justification, and constantly clouding up the public dialogue about the need for the Monasteries of Elder Ephraim to respect the “laws of the Church” is a scandal. Criticizing every reasonable inquiry about the Monasteries of Elder Ephraim reminds me of the defenders of the sex scandals that have damaged the Catholic Church. WHAT IS THERE TO HIDE AND PROTECT IF NOTHING IS WRONG?

      1. Thank you Basil!! I hope John the Laodician reads your comments too. Don’t know if it will make a difference though. Thank you for posting sir!

    2. Seems you are familiar with tripe Michael.

      You comments are like Dan’s above. To me it seems that your comments ALSO reflect a simplistic polarizing approach that aggravates the problem by making it personal. “Persecute the monastics?” Really? Indeed you also are causing animosity with your statements.

      People like me honor and respect monasticism, as we do the local parish community. Holiness is found in both places.

      When someone sees something wrong, there is nothing wrong with calling attention to it. I see numerous problems with the Ephraimite brand of monasteries. There is nothing wrong with stating it, and there is nothing wrong with examining it. Unless of course you have something to hide or are ultra insecure.

  4. The article does not make clear why is this important?
    The mere citation of regulations seems like insinuation rather than journalism.
    If there is an issue, report it straightforwardly

    1. John, many things have been reported here and elsewhere. Whether it is the ultra harsh penances, subversive criticizing of our GOA Hierarchs and Priests, dismissing the Faculty of our HC/HC Seminary as illegitimate, teaching the laity to have blind obedience, competing with the local parish by serving as a local parish, and of course, the heresy and lie of aerial toll houses. There are lots of issues. But I dont think you are the type that will actually consider what I just said. I think you will make excuses. Please don’t, I have already spent too much time on here. I hope that I am wrong about you though. Nothing would make me happier.

  5. We Orthodox Christians love our monasteries in America. Instead of supporting them we have the spectacle of this organization undermining and creating division by innuendo and phoney news. Lord have mercy.

    1. Aelialicinia please. You also are embarrassing yourself. do you not see the value of asking questions? Are we not supposed to use logic? See my comments to Dan and Michael above. Do you guys know each other? Too bad it does not show the IP addresses here. This lack of logical thinking and making things personal is troubling.

  6. As a strong supporter of the monasteries, I think it’s only healthy (for our Church) for them to abide by the rules around governance that were established by the Patriarch and any Canons established by the early Church Fathers. Monasteries and Churches have 2 very separate roles.

    I’ve run into some confused folks that seem to think that God’s grace is only at the Monasteries or monastic influenced churches vs the Churches that aren’t ‘overtly spiritual’ or that have a priest that isn’t a big supporter of monasteries. This is hogwash since Churches are consecrated too.

    1. GREEK! I agree with your post here! I never thought this would happen! I am happy! Thank you!

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