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Greek Church Closed After Lay Board Changes Locks!?!?!?!

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Nigula Qian Zishi:
Glory to Jesus Christ!

Can anyone fill us in on what is going on here??? God Bless!
Distributed by The Associated Press, October 26, 2002

[Charlotte GOA] Church Power Struggle Results in Service Cancellation

CHARLOTTE, NC, October 26, 2002 (AP) -- A power struggle at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral has caused what's believed to be the first cancellation of Sunday services in its 79-year history.

The fight pitting longtime members of one of the city's most prominent churches has grown so rancorous that police have been called twice and lawyers have been hired.

A group claiming to be the elected Parish Council recently took over the offices on East Boulevard and changed the locks on the 3,000-member church founded by Greek immigrants in 1923.

"We all grew up together in this church, almost like brothers and sisters," said Andrew Karres, a Charlotte lawyer who's attended Holy Trinity since childhood. "And now there's this fighting - I honestly think both sides are heartbroken."

The feud began in January as a disagreement over how much money Holy Trinity should pay annually to its New York-based archdiocese. The national office is part of a worldwide Eastern Orthodox Church that split with the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 and now totals almost 300 million members.

But recently, the dispute has evolved into a battle over who should control the church.

On one side is a 15-member group that calls itself the elected Parish Council. They were elected at a May parish assembly and say they represent the majority view and on Oct. 13 they took over the building and daily operations of the church.

On the other side is a rival Parish Council, whose 15 members were appointed in February by Bishop Alexios, who controls the Diocese of Atlanta, including Charlotte.

Earlier, the bishop appointed the Rev. George Daskalakis, Holy Trinity's head priest, or dean. Daskalakis describes the other parish council as improperly elected.

Daskalakis said in an Oct. 17 letter to parishioners that, because the cathedral was now "under siege," no church services or sacraments would be performed until further notice.

Hundreds of parishioners showed up at the cathedral last Sunday anyway, said Harry Stathopoulos, a Charlotte lawyer and member of the Parish Council elected in May. They lit candles, chanted the Hymn of the Holy Trinity and prayed before the icons that adorn the cathedral.

Karres, the lawyer and longtime church member, is now a member of the bishop's appointed Parish Council and the designated media spokesman for Daskalakis. He said no divine liturgy services will be held Sunday.

But Stathopoulos, speaking for the other side, said parishioners are invited to return Sunday to pray in the cathedral, then walk to the fellowship hall to view a satellite transmission of a service from Greece.

The split began after another church opened and took away some of the cathedral's members. The Parish Council asked the bishop in January to reduce what it paid the archdiocese. In February, the bishop dismissed the council and said the church was $66,000 in arrears on its dues.

At the same time, the bishop appointed a council to run the church. Unhappy with that, some church members held an election in May without the priest's cooperation, and chose their own council.

Stathopoulos said regulations that govern all Greek Orthodox parishes allow only an archbishop, not a bishop, to dismiss a council. In addition, he said, Holy Trinity was paying a lot to the archdiocese already: $161,000 in assessments between 1999 and 2001 and $20,000 more to aid Greek Orthodox colleges and Kosovo refugees.

Speaking for the bishop, Karres said the conflict began and continues because of disobedience.

"This is a hierarchical church," Karres said. "We would like (the other side) to come back into the fold. But to do that, they would have to give up the building and do whatever the bishop requires."

A good start to reaching peace, said Stathopoulos, would be for the bishop to restart the cathedral's schedule of Sunday services and sacraments such as baptisms.

Nigula Qian Zishi:
Released by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Charlotte, NC, October 17, 2002

Letter Announcing Closure of Charlotte Cathedral

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
600 East Boulevard
Charlotte, North Carolina 28203

Church office: 704-334-4771
Dean of the Cathedral - Rev. George Daskalakis
Associate Priests - Rev. Tommy Vlahos - Rev. Haralampos Papadopoulos

October 17, 2002

Dear Fellow Orthodox Christians:

We have all been dismayed by the barrage of letters and offensive actions from a group of people who have improperly used church stationary while misrepresenting themselves as a parish council. On Sunday, October 13 these individuals held an unauthorized assembly in the fellowship hall against the decisions of the Parish Council and myself. They then improperly and without legal authority proceeded to change the locks of the community center and have since occupied the center and church offices. On Sunday, they threatened to improperly perform parish council functions in the narthex and change the locks of the cathedral as well. My fellow parishioners, our Orthodox Church is now under siege by these individuals. Our Orthodox Faith and Way of Life will not be held hostage to their non-Orthodox ideas and it will not be relegated to their improper dictates.

These individuals have sought approval from our Bishop, from our Archbishop and from the Patriarchate itself, only to find their non-Orthodox ideas firmly rejected by every level of our Holy Orthodox Church. The actions they have taken are totally improper and a rejection of the ancient traditions, Cannons, and regulations of the Church. They supplant these fundamentals of Orthodoxy with ideas or interpretations based on the contemporary thoughts of one or more individuals, and in doing so they have placed themselves outside of the Greek Orthodox Church.

In light of these actions and our concern for the welfare of our parishioners, the Parish Council and I, in consultation with our Holy Diocese and Archdiocese have no choice but to close our church until further notice. As a result of these improper acts by these individuals, there shall be no Church Service or Sunday school at Holy Trinity allowed by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America on this Sunday, October 20, 2002.

In addition to the Church being closed, the administrative staff have been placed on leave until further notice. The office employees will therefore not be on duty.

We are in communication with our Holy Diocese and Archdiocese during this crisis. The Parish Council and I will keep you informed of events in a timely manner. Until then, I remain,

Faithfully yours in the name of our Lord,


Fr. George Daskalakis

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Nik, this is an unfortunate example of the Protestant Congregationalist type of mentality that exists in too many pockets of the GOA.  I sadly have to say that in some parishes of my own OCA this type of mentality--i.e., that the parish priest is the "employee" of the Parish Council and that the parish can do whatever it pleases independent of the local bishop or Primate--is evidently in place also.  The concept of an hierarchical church is not understood by many of these people, or, if understood, they dismiss it as an anachronism.  IOW, for these types, Orthodoxy is no more than Eastern Rite Protestantism.


The young fogey:
Hypo-Ortho, one word: AMEN.

2002.11.02 Charlotte Observer:
Posted on Sat, Nov. 02, 2002
Services resume at divided church

Archbishop invites rival councils to meet Thursday in New York

Staff Writer

There were signs Friday that peace talks may be in the offing at bitterly
divided Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Sunday services at the Charlotte church will resume this weekend. And
Archbishop Demetrios -- the highest-ranking Greek Orthodox cleric in the
United States -- has invited members of the church's rival parish councils
-- one appointed, one elected -- to a meeting in New York on Thursday.

Still, it was unclear Friday whether these developments would bring an end
to the clash over who should control the 3,000-member church -- founded by
Greek immigrants in 1923 and the annual sponsor of the popular Yiasou Festival.

After two weeks of cancelled services, the cathedral's two priests
celebrated a liturgy service Friday morning that drew about 20 people. The
Rev. George Daskalakis, the church's chief priest or dean, also told some
parishioners that Sunday services would resume this weekend, with an
English service at 8:30 a.m. and one in Greek at 10:20 a.m.

Jimmy Kontoulos, who sits on the parish council appointed in February by
Bishop Alexios of Atlanta, interpreted the resumption of services as "an
olive branch" from the clergy, who side with the appointed council in the
ongoing feud.

Kontoulos said the appointed council would probably agree to send an
eight-member delegation to New York, as Archbishop Demetrios requested.

But members of a rival group claiming to be Holy Trinity's elected parish
council were meeting Friday night to discuss whether to accept the
archbishop's invitation, which was extended in a letter delivered to
Charlotte on Thursday.

In that same letter, the archbishop also asked this elected council to make
keys to all of the church's buildings available to Daskalakis, who has said
that the council was improperly elected during a May parish assembly.

On Oct. 13, members of the elected council changed the locks on the
buildings and began running the church's day-to-day operations.

In response, Daskalakis announced on Oct. 17 that liturgy services would be
cancelled until further notice.

On Friday night, Harry Stathopoulos, a member of the elected council,
welcomed the intervention of the archbishop and the resumption of services.
But he added that, for now, "the elected council will continue to run the
day-to-day operation of the (church's) administrative offices."

Would his group agree to send eight members to New York?

"We certainly want to have a dialogue with (the archdiocese in) New York,"
he said. "But we want to know whether there are conditions for us going to
the meeting. It's unclear."

Stathopoulos also said the elected council hoped to clear up questions
about the archbishop's request that Daskalakis get keys.

Daskalakis, who was unavailable for comment Friday, told Holy Trinity
parishioners a month ago that he would be leaving the cathedral this month
for a new assignment at a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Boston.

"He's a very spiritual man," said Kontoulos. "If he feels that he can't
lead his flock, he wants to move on."

The fight at Holy Trinity began in January as a disagreement between Bishop
Alexios and a previous elected parish council over how much money the
church should pay to the archdiocese. He dismissed the elected council and
appointed a new one.

In his Thursday letter to the two sides, Archbishop Demetrios included this
quote from the Gospel of Mark: "The Lord commanded us, Be at peace with
one another.' "


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