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Author Topic: Greek Church Closed After Lay Board Changes Locks!?!?!?!  (Read 3578 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: November 02, 2002, 09:20:17 AM »

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.
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2002, 09:21:16 AM »

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,

/s/

Fr. George Daskalakis
Dean

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Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2002, 11:05:54 AM »

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.

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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2002, 12:25:08 PM »

Hypo-Ortho, one word: AMEN.
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2002, 05:28:08 PM »

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

TIM FUNK
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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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2002, 07:15:59 PM »

It says they have 3,000 members and are $66K in arrears.  That's $22 per head.  Our archdiocese (Antiochian) assesses us $25 per head per year.  What the archdiocese is asking seems totally reasonable to me.
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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2002, 08:22:01 PM »

Dear friends,

Living in Raleigh, NC, before moving to New York, I heard about this case before it blew up.

I've met Bp Alexios and he is a wonderful man.

He had every right to fire those dissedent parish council members, and they should just be honest with themselves and start the Greek Protestant Church.

Imagine how selfish one could be to resist helping out the Archdiocese.

They like to think they can hire and fire a priest, too. What a joke.

That priest who stopped services (as the Latins call, and "interdict") is to be commended.  It is not right that the community meet when it is so sharply divided and when the community's former lay leadership refuses to acknowledge the authority of the bishop.  Where the bishop is there is the Catholic Church!  Not where the parish council is!

In Christ,

anastasios
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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2002, 02:23:13 AM »

Sad, sad, sad.

Archbishop Demetrios seems to be handling this case in the best possible way, hopefully the rogue council will come to their senses.  

BTW, I think the OCA Assessment is $68 per adult this year.  I have my yearly commitment form around here somewhere....
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« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2002, 02:25:50 PM »

Sad, sad, sad.

Archbishop Demetrios seems to be handling this case in the best possible way, hopefully the rogue council will come to their senses.  

BTW, I think the OCA Assessment is $68 per adult this year.  I have my yearly commitment form around here somewhere....

Does that OCA assessment include the assessment for your local diocese as well?  I recently changed parishes and I know I'm in arrears on the OCA National Church and New England Diocese assessments....plus this big city OCA parish where I now find myself is still on the system of annual "parish dues" (and has an offering basket out for absolutely anything you can think of and basket collections for every weekday Liturgy in addition to Sundays) rather than on the new pledge system that my "old" OCA parish in New Hampshire was.  I'm afraid to ask: do they make any allowances for those of us who find ourselves on fixed, poverty-level incomes?  I sometimes arrive at church financially embarrassed at the end of the month.  Sad

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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2002, 11:20:28 PM »

Dear Friends in Christ,

The phenomenon of Eastern Rite Protestanism (ERP) seems to be rife here in the USA. It not only effects the GOA but also Russian parishes. I don't know where this stems from .  On the other hand there are many new immigrants who are not yet tainted by this 'heresy' and still honour the hierarchical nature of our Church.  The supporters of ERP regard authority as either blind obedience to guruism or to the control of financial wealth.  Perhaps someone can carry out a study of this, for our edification?

Yours in Christ,
Fr Serafim
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2002, 02:03:24 AM »


Does that OCA assessment include the assessment for your local diocese as well?  I recently changed parishes and I know I'm in arrears on the OCA National Church and New England Diocese assessments....plus this big city OCA parish where I now find myself is still on the system of annual "parish dues" (and has an offering basket out for absolutely anything you can think of and basket collections for every weekday Liturgy in addition to Sundays) rather than on the new pledge system that my "old" OCA parish in New Hampshire was.  I'm afraid to ask: do they make any allowances for those of us who find ourselves on fixed, poverty-level incomes?  I sometimes arrive at church financially embarrassed at the end of the month.  Sad

Hypo-Ortho

Here is the way financial contributions work in my parish.  It may be that all parishes in my diocese are like this, but I don't know.

Every year in Oct-Nov a letter is sent to every adult on the books as a member asking for their yearly commitment.  This letter includes a chart showing half-tithe, tithe, and double tithe amounts for weekly income levels from $50 to $1000.  There is no minimum amount expected, just asking to give what you can(ideally a tithe) because our priest does not like fundraisers and thinks stewardship should cover all costs.  Members are also asked to contribute a one time check for the OCA Assesment with the stewardship response.  

In January the yearly budget meeting is held.  

We pay the OCA assessment for each adult member and we give 10% of gross stewardship contributions to the Diocese of the South.  The Diocese of the South in turn gives 10% of its gross income to the OCA.  Each parish is also asked to contribute $500 to 2-3 programs the OCA is trying to establish.  In the past these have included paid internships for ordained seminarians at parishes, clergy retirement fund, and lots of other causes.  

At my parish in the narthex we have three baskets.  One is for stewardship offerings, another for candles, and the final for prosphora.  During a visit to St. Seraphim's Cathedral in Dallas there was a passing of an offering basket which seemed very out of place in an Orthodox church, it hindered the liturgy.  I hope this practice does not catch on not only for its hindrance, but the pressure it puts on some of us who may not be in a good situation financially.  

Oh, also we have an ICMC coin jar and one coffee hour every month we have a full meal, call it Charity Sunday, and ask that donations are made to a basket by the food line.  Those donations are used to help local families that have contacted the parish for aid, a widowed matushka with two small children, and a pair of seminarians at St. Vlads.  We also contribute to a consignment shop for these same causes.  

I hope this answers your question Hypo, and I'd be curios to hear how finances are handled at your parish.  Since this is somewhat off topic, it might be a good idea to create a new thread.
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« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2002, 10:59:17 AM »

Fr Serafim,

Father, bless.

I noticed this phenomenon too years ago and named it 'ethnic Protestantism'.

My guess is the Greeks in America picked up this mentality directly from Protestants, from whom many got their Sunday-school education, etc. I understand at one point they aggressively self-Americanized, putting in pews and organs and ordering priests to shave and not wear the rason, etc.

The reason you see it in Russian congregations in the US may be historical but, unlike the Greeks, not directly copied from Protestantism. Many OCA churches were started about 100 years ago by Ruthenian immigrants who were Eastern Catholic; they formed their congregations and wrote their charters as though they were private clubs with lay ownership of property, etc., as an understandable defence against hostile Roman Catholic bishops who didn't want Eastern Rite churches in their territories. When many such de facto independent congregations joined the Russian Orthodox mission/metropolia (now the OCA), they kept this approach to running a congregation with sometimes disastrous results spiritually - the starosta (warden) and lay council act like Presbyterians/Congregationalists with hiring and firing power over priests! Eastern Rite Protestantism indeed. I once talked to a Ukrainian Orthodox priest, formerly Eastern Catholic, who told me he ironically could act much more like an Orthodox spiritual father in his former church than his current one, all because of this mentality. Yet I've seen it among WWII refugee Russians in congregations that never were Eastern Catholic, so my guess there is they picked up this attitude from American culture in general.

In fact, near me is a congregation, never Catholic, made up of the descendants of Russian and Ruthenian immigrants, that may still have as its legal name 'St Z's Independent Russian Orthodox Church', with a strange congregationalist-like relationship with its bishop and eparchy. (They are under a canonical bishop.) I've been told its charter/bylaws treat their relationship to the bishop like a voluntary one from which they can withdraw at any time. Bizarre.

The late Russian Orthodox (MP) Archbishop Alexis (van der Mensbrugghe), when coming to America in the 1960s (I think he was Belgian), was warned about the congregations here, told something like 'every parish priest acts like a bishop and every parish council a patriarch'.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2002, 11:04:35 AM by Serge » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2002, 11:21:26 AM »

Pray, pay, and obey as they say.

We pray so that we can pay and obey.
We pay so that we can continue to pray and obey.
We obey so that the bishops don't take away
our churches so we can pray and pay.

Do you see it any other way?
« Last Edit: November 05, 2002, 11:26:08 AM by Origen » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2002, 11:34:05 AM »

Pray, pay, and obey as they say.

We pray so that we can pay and obey.
We pay so that we can continue to pray and obey.
We obey so that the bishops don't take away
our churches so we can pray and pay.

Do you see it any other way?


I really don't think OUR bishops are trying to take away "our" churches--on the contrary, mission-minded bishops would like to see more of them.  And all this time I thought the churches belonged to Christ, not to Protestant-minded Eastern Rite Congregationalists who think they're Orthodox.  Guess I was wrong, huh?

Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2002, 04:26:54 PM »

If I may ask, who does the parish priest actually work for, so to speak, in the Orthodox Church?  Is he appointed and moved about by a Bishop like Roman Catholic priests?  Or is it different than that?  I would be very interested to know more about the 'normal' Orthodox situation in this regard.

Also, I noticed some reference to "baskets."  Is an offering plate or basket rare in Orthodoxy?  Believe me, I would love to hear that, since as a Catholic I have to say that the pandering for cash which is constant at our churches has gone overboard.  It has become literally like watching a televangelist.  Last Pentecost the largest local parish had no homily at all, but spent the entire time begging for money.  Imagine that, ignoring Pentecost for the sake of money!  Reminds me of something Christ said about two masters.

God bless,

Patrick
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« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2002, 10:34:01 PM »

Dear Friends,

I love the GOA and am leaning towards it if I do in fact decide to become Orthodox.

So bearing that in mind, sometimes in my frustration at things like this, I wonder if it is really the Greek ETHNOdox Archdiocese!!!! ha ha

I love Greeks though.

In Christ,

anastasios
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