Analysis: The Parishes – Guard Them Like Your Eyes

Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. Photo: holytrinitygocchicago.com.

I had written in the past about the subject of parishes that this analysis deals with, because the parishes are the basic and essential foundation of the ecclesial and, for the most part, community life of Greek-Americans.

The reason that I revisit it today is because of the painful events that are unfolding at the historic parish of Holy Trinity in Chicago, which was the fruit of the labor of the faith and ethnic consciousness of the early Greek immigrants 121 …

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27 Comments

  1. These problems started when the most recent Archdiocese charter was forced upon the laity by Bartholomew, stripped the balance of power to the metropolitans.

    1. You are exactly right. The Greek community is gone forever in Constantinople. So the greedy feckless Bartholomeow taxes the American provinces to death so he and the other princesses in Istanbul can keep their lavish lifestyles pretending Byzantium never fell. Bartholomew should hang his head in shame.

  2. The “TAXES” that the Archdioceses and Metropolises place on our Parishes are killing us. I can testify to this from my years at the Parish Council, where these TAXES had to be paid no matter what. Many instances we had to obtain delay payments to light and water and even the mortgage to accomplish this.
    For small parishes with a $100,000 budget a TAX of up to 25% of their expenses is a nail in our coffins, and must rely on festival, spaghetti dinners and gyro sales to support the lavish living style and first class travel of the hierarchy in the Metropolis, New York and Constantinople (a.k.a. Istanbul)

  3. Here are my perspectives on this issue:
    1. 2nd Generation is spot on. The EP caused an unforeseen (only by him) consequence when the charter that eviscerated our rights was forced up us in 2002.
    2. Xristos and his point, places the blame, but fails to acknowledge that as we are hemorrhaging stewards the pressure to pay these fair share assessments gets more and more difficult.
    3. Metropolitan Nathaniel was handed an unmitigated disaster! The seeds of failure of Holy Trinity were planted by the late Metropolitan Iakovos (of blessed memory). 38 years of mismanagement and a vindictive, some would say “brutally enforced” dictatorship got us here.
    4. Our people, our beleaguered adherents have given up hope of change. Martin Luther King said this in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
    “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; ……”
    He was of course discussing the plight of African-Americans. Our Laity has just decided to “vote with their feet” and walk away. What is left? Those who happily sit at the Prom Committee table, like the unpopular kid in High School who just wants to fit in and be loved. These people are too scared, inept or could really careless about fixing anything. They just want the Parish Priest or the Hierarch to “love them”, to be an obedient servant and not fall out of favor. Our once great Church is dying. Please don’t buy into their narrative about all religions losing members, because many are not.

    1. Basil, you are absolutely correct about the “fake news” being reported regarding all religions losing congregants. The local congregational churches in my area are thriving. One of the parishes reconstructed their building and property twice in the last five years to accommodate their thousands of congregants, services, numerous ministries, retreats, community outreach, and missionary programs. I know one the pastors (they have eight on staff) and many of the congregants. They are deeply committed to worship and doing good works.

      The American Orthodox and Catholics are losing congregants. While in most cases the congregationalists and evangelicals are gaining congregants.

      1. Dickerson’s book “Evangelical Recession” disagrees. Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral is now Catholic. Thanks in large part to everyone else aborting into extinction, the USAi majority Catholic. This is why the USA has turned against Orthodox, and anti-Semitismis the popes bait to take your kids.

  4. Is there any type of “Go Fund Me” or is anyone from the parish taking up collections to help pay these debts? How much are the debts? Nothing is printed. How can we help when we have no info? And if we do help, how are we sure the monies will be allocated properly and not lost in the shuffle or in the coffers of the Metropolitans?

  5. Ted, your article is too little and too late. The Golden Goose (the American Church) has been murdered by a combination of things, most of which have been mentioned above. The deal has always been to protect the status quo ( the hierarchy, the secrecy, the sex scandals, the Greek ethnos-above all, the mafia organizational structure of made men, the special status of Karloutsos, and the loose handling and accounting of money).

    Even though you report on a lot of the worst aspects of the church, you’ve been part of protecting the status quo, especially the patriarch and the insistence on our slavery to him and to things Greek. The result of those policies are a failure to thrive as an institution. The American church is neither independent, resilient, purposeful, nor inspiring.

    So now, you and others are witnessing what happed in the name of protecting The Glory of Greece and the Imperial Byzantine Throne. The so-called American church leaders drugged the American church, took her into a corner, emptied her purse, and choked her to death.

    More parishes will fall like dominoes. None of them has reserve funds, most have significant debt, all pay life-crushing extortion to the archdiocese, and now, nearly all have declining membership. Mostly, all the parishes have weak and corrupted hierarchies and tired, unmotivated, underperforming priests.

    What turns that around, Ted? More Greek Taliban in robes filling their pockets ? Ephraimites running amoke through our midst? Longer beards and longer liturgies in Greek? More Greek language schools? More trips to Greece? More grants of autocephaly to everyone but the USA by the patriarch? A Shrine to Nowhere?

    The Golden Goose is now DOA, and you lived to see it. You wanted all things Greek and and patriarchal. Here’s your result. An American church on the slab in the morgue. Deal with it, buddy.

    1. Every word you say is true. But we have other choices. Although 100% Greek by ancestry we have started giving our time, talent and treasure in our local OCA Church. Don’t miss the GOA blood suckers one bit. Bartholomew is a crook of the highest order and leads the GOA crime family. No thanks!

  6. American Greek Orthodox Christianity is without one great leader — Father Nicholas Kastanas, former priest at Saint Athanasius The Great, Arlington, Massachusetts. Father Nick, as devoted parishioners referred to him — many of whom came to Saint Athanasius from surrounding communities with Greek Orthodox churches — was dismissed from Saint Athanasius July, 2017 by Metropolitan Methodius, no reason given, resulting in a mass exodus of the faithful. Currently, Saint Athanasius is “ a shadow of its former self,” and, beloved Father Nick is without financial support.

    Father Nick’s dismissal without reason by Metropolitan Methodius illustrates a lack of respect for certain American Greek Orthodox Christians who have supported his lifestyle. Could Saint Athanasius become a “shuttered” church?

  7. Having read the remarks there are a few points I would like to make as well.

    1. This disaster was not the making of the Ecumenical Patriarchate or of Archbishop Demetrios, we also have a hand in it as well. Our churches for many years instead of being true churches became ethnic centers. We see this even in the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where Ian being baptized says “Now I’m Greek.”. This is a HUGE misnomer. It shows us the mind set of people such as Nia Vardarlos and others on how the church is observed. We’re not “Greek”, we’re “Orthodox Christians”. We must correct this because it creates an “exclusive” club mentality instead of “inclusiveness” which is what to be an Orthodox Christian is. St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians 3:28 tells us “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    2. We are to be “Stewards” of the church we’re involved with. We forget the scriptures where in Psalm 24 it say, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Everything we have belongs to our God and not to us. We’re all workers and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Sometimes we say to ourselves: “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” Deuteronomy 8:17, and you would be correct to say that because we all work hard to make what little we have. We forget that “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Deuteronomy 8:18. Furthermore St. Paul reminds us “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24. We must keep this in mind every day with everything we do including our day to day work. God has given us and we must give back to him. If we do that, one day we may find ourselves worthy to hear from him “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:31. If we’re to be good stewards of the gifts that our Lord has given us, we must learn to tithe.

    3. We all must learn how to tithe to the church. We don’t “membership” to the church. Any church that refers to parishioners as “members” has it wrong. If you’re an Orthodox Christian you’re already a member through baptism and chrismation. We are all to tithe to our church in order to support it and maintain it. The biblical amount is 10 percent from the top. The bible speaks of tithing over 2000 times. We know that not all of can afford 10% and it seems too much. I tell you it’s not enough. I now of friends who spend money on buying coffee from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, 7-Eleven, etc. on a daily basis. We go out to lunch on a daily basis, subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime or even get the latest iPhone. We spend money on things that we don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount of money on because we’ve become a consumer based society. We’ve gotten our priorities wrong and we must cut back on these “extras” that we like and don’t need. We could give on a weekly or monthly basis to our churches to help them. Even if money is tight, there are so many ways we could help our churches. Maintain the church property ourselves instead of hiring outside companies to do the work because our time and effort are worth money that the church could save. We should be smart as well by creating special endowment funds for our churches. Many ways we could help and keep our churches healthy financially.

    4.Our hierarchs must learn to act with humility. I remember many hierarchs who did not have 20-30 different set of elaborate sets of vestment but have 5 to 7 different sets for the various feast days. They also did not live in mansions and did not have a high base salary. How do you think our churches were built. Many hierarchs made sacrifices and so did the priests. I’ve seen our hierarchs here become despots thinking they’re kings. The same can be said of parish council members and parishioners who live in what are mansions and drive expensive cars. St. John of Damascus writes in the hymnology of the funeral service ” And once again I looked with attention on the tombs, and I saw the bones therein which of flesh were naked; and I said, “Which indeed is he that is king? Or which is soldier? Which is the wealthy, which the needy? Which the righteous, or which the sinner?” ” Everyone from those who serve us from the Ecumenical Patriarch to the parish council members and the parishioners must remember we can’t take it with us and we don’t need the best of everything. The wealth we have is not for us to hoard but for all of us to share and we must act with utter humility.

    5. We sorely lack in the most important things which everyone of forgets is most important if we are to sustain our churches and that is to evangelize. Jesus after his resurrection gave not just to the apostle nor to our bishops, priest and deacons but to all of us ” …Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”… Matthew 28:18-20. Many of us have not done this. We think that our faith is just “our faith” and not “theirs”. We could not be more mistaken. We need to preach the gospel to everyone including those who say they already are Christians. You’d be surprised that how many who “follow Christ” are starving for a home and our churches are those homes they want to be a part of. We’re not a club. If we continue that mind set then it won’t be too long before we end up in the same state as Holy Trinity in Chicago. We have nobody to blame but ourselves.

    Everything I’ve said I believe and practice as best as I can. I’m not perfect nor do I claim as such. I know we can and will work together to make things better rather than blame others for the situation we find our churches in now.

    Remember what Christ has told us “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” Matthew 18:20. We’re not alone…EVER.

    1. The big fat ounia fatsa ounia ratsa caricature is the desire of the west both here and in Greece. Orthodoxy rejects original sin which is the basis of all western political theories, so they seek to neutralize it. Most Greek Americans don’t know about doctrinal differences and see only superficial differences. That is why Kazantzakis loved the red cardinal but hated the black goats and said the philioque was irrelevant. All the major Greek politicans are napoleonic venizelists who feel the Russians sabotaged the council of Florence in order to gain access to the straits through the Ottomans.

      1. Indeed. Sparta farmed Sicily, begat Rome. Athens farmed Scythia, begat Russia. Dulles and Acheson got it backwards.

    2. @Anonymous
      The words you have expressed in this post should be in every Sunday bulletin. The Holy Spirit is working with you and through you. Don’t remain anonymous much longer – let your light shine for all Orthodox Christians.
      We quote St.Paul emphatically, but ironically, evangelism is foreign in the Greek Orthodox Church in America. It takes a deep love for Jesus Christ and and mission – not to mention a serious commitment to actually evangelize and outreach outside the walls of the local Orthodox church. No Theology degree is needed, just a love for humanity.

  8. Some years ago there was an attempt by the patriarch to have parishes in the US sign over their assets to the patriarchate so the patriarch could refute the Turkish government’s charge that he wasn’t the leader of a large church (given a couple of thousand Orthodox in Constantinople). That sure didn’t fly. What people have to remember, or learn if they don’t know, is that parishes are usually incorporated in the state where they are located as separate non-profit entities. That means the assets belong to the congregants of the particular parish who are, in effect, owners of the assets because they are members of the corporation. Neither the metropolis nor the archdiocese owns anything. The main issue, is, of course, the clergy, which the local bishop can remove from the parish or suspend from doing services.

    1. No, case law is abundantly clear that in hierarchical churches, parish property is owned by the hierarch. Look at all the recent cases in the Episcopal church. Further, US law will not interfere with internal church laws, which in the case of GOA dictate very clearly that parishes are owned by the respective bishop. Any disposition of parish assets is delineated by the UPR…the members do not get to keep the assets!

      Further, the board of directors of these state corporations, our churches, can be easily removed at any time by the bishop per the governing documents of the Archdiocese.

      1. There have been cases where parishes have won. Further, it would be an interesting legal challenge to say the GOA UPR trump state law, depending on the incorporation details.

    2. No, the issue was to end the parish autonomy granted temporarily by Athenagoras to unite the archdiocese during Metxist-Venizelist divisions. Repargidi is full of such OCA agitprop just as he misdated Ligonier in the 1970s instead of the 1990 a few months ago. Indeed, after Spyridon “charter revision” any parish incorporated after 1922 belongs to GOA. Read Kourides centelial history of the NYC Cathedral and you will find it was a private chapel of the (AHEPA precursor) Athena Bortherhood because NYS law made any Orthodox church property of Moscow.

  9. So, all, we are agreed. It’s a hapless mess. The situation needs a complete re-boot without connections to Islamic Turkey, Greek born hierarchs, the Greek government and embassy, Ephraim, Karloutsos, fat inept Metropolitans, all the dance and souvlaki champions in Manhattan, and the ALBATROSS of a Shrine to Nowhere. Parishes need to grow balls and seize their destiny.

    CORRECT?

    Or did I miss something in all this jabber?

    1. Don’t forget all the lazy priests from HCHC who don’t know how to preach in Greek every Sunday.
      Even worse, all those same lazy priests who wear a rasso now and not the attractive Roman collar (ie child molester suit) mandated by the old archbishops.

      1. Nothing wrong with the rasso. The Roman collar isn’t so attractive. It was mandated because of the desire to assimilate. And that was a mistake.

      2. Rassa were okay in 1908, not 2018.
        Our present world thinks you guys are cross-dressers.
        Again, this isn’t BYZANTIUM
        Byzantium died 600 years ago.

        Either we cut the chains of imperial slavery or we dissolve in the US.
        This is not an overstatement, we are witnessing the dissolution, as we speak.

        Anonymous, that’s a nice Sunday sermon, but unfortunately, the demons are over the transom and climbing over us, pew by pew. We need a battle plan that lays out week by week actions by those who want to survive. Volunteer landscaping, well, we’re beyond that fine gesture. We need prayers, yes, and we need to wield a huge, deadly sword. If you believe anything else, you will be left in a ditch.

      3. It’s not Byzantium (a misnomer), it’s the Orthodox Church. Big difference. The Orthodox church exists in other spheres, not just the Byzantine one. So, dress like everyone else, no problem, just another religious group. Might as well go down the street to the Unitarians.

      4. That’s Rasso nonsense and the party line. There’s nothing salvific about about the Rasso. Just tradition that now impedes the evangelistic efforts in America. “Might as well go to the Unitarians” is such a Greek screwed up chump attitude.

        Never adapt, never trim the sails for successful journey. Just answer all issues with “ might as well be Protestant.”. To me, that’s the answer of a loser, not a winner. American priests should dress like clergymen, not 13th century monks. If you’re a rasso wearing Rastafarian priest, you’re part of the problem not the solution.

  10. The wild came, causing the tame to leave.
    The idiot islamosoviets who came after the Helsinki accords destroyed our communities.
    All those idiot yiayias who turn to harlequin religion because pensions make it no longer
    necessary to work at the diner counter until they drop.
    And all those idiot brought-over wives who came full of demands, but never learned English
    or learned how hard Americans work because their idiot husbands had aleady made themselves before they
    went to Greece to find a woman stupid enough to marry them

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