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« on: November 27, 2011, 11:30:12 PM »

Based on what I read on another thread, apparently the parish council at a GOA church is going to dismiss its priest.  From that same thread, this same council (maybe not the same members) has fired other priests in the past.  My question: how much power does your individual parish council have over the hiring and firing of the priests? 

At my church, the parish council does not have this prerogative, although some of the members of parish councils over the last couple of years have done what they can to try to get rid of our current priest (mainly intimidation tactics), but the council cannot take any such direct action.

Such a "democratic" polity runs the risk of destroying Orthodox ecclesiology, IMO.

When replying, please indicate what jurisdiction your church belongs to.
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« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2011, 11:41:46 PM »

Shouldn't it be upto the bishop?
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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2011, 12:00:48 AM »

Shouldn't it be upto the bishop?

It is, but they can be persuaded, using all sorts of threats (including cutting off the coffers) to act.  It's a nasty situation, and unfortunately bishops are placed in very difficult situations due to this setup.  

I wish I had more faith in our bishops to do the right thing, rather than cave to frequently unwise demands from parish councils.  Maybe this happens more than we hear about (let's hope!).  Otherwise, parish councils can interfere with the workings of the Church and decisions of the clergy, and the response is sometimes made with a financial rather than religious rationale in mind.  

In my original parish (GOA), my wonderful priest felt handcuffed by a parish council that was largely hostile to traditional (read: Orthodox) practices.  Its focus was on making services quick, non-confrontational, and not interfering with their Hellenic initiatives.  My priest would only bend so far, but he constantly felt challenged by a parish council that had, in his estimation and from what I could determine, little interest in the faith itself.  Very sad.

Edit: Examples of this could include pressure to shorten the inquiry period to let people "marrying in" get Orthodox'd up in time for the wedding, complaints about requiring regular confession to commune during Holy Week (that's the only time most of the nominals commune), dress codes, etc.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2011, 12:05:02 AM by Cognomen » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2011, 12:16:46 AM »

Such a "democratic" polity runs the risk of destroying Orthodox ecclesiology, IMO.

I'm right there with you, and so is my priest.  In Greece, the priests/clergy appoint members to parish councils, theoretically ensuring that there is at least some level of interest in the faith. 

Here (and I understand that jurisdictions and parishes vary greatly), elections have a tendency to become popularity contests.  In many cases, those interested in the faith aspect of running a parish are not interested in serving on the council.  Immediately, many of us weed ourselves out of the process. 

It's my personal opinion that many of these councils (I hate to pick on the GOA, but that's where most of my experience comes from) contribute to and perpetuate the ethnophyletism that is so rampant in our Church.  They treat the parish as an ethnic club rather than a universal Church of God.

Good news is that many parish councils don't operate this way at all; the members serve in the role of helpers to the clergy.  Good on them!
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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2011, 12:47:05 AM »

Shouldn't it be upto the bishop?

It is, but they can be persuaded, using all sorts of threats (including cutting off the coffers) to act.  It's a nasty situation, and unfortunately bishops are placed in very difficult situations due to this setup.  

I wish I had more faith in our bishops to do the right thing, rather than cave to frequently unwise demands from parish councils.  Maybe this happens more than we hear about (let's hope!).  Otherwise, parish councils can interfere with the workings of the Church and decisions of the clergy, and the response is sometimes made with a financial rather than religious rationale in mind.  

In my original parish (GOA), my wonderful priest felt handcuffed by a parish council that was largely hostile to traditional (read: Orthodox) practices.  Its focus was on making services quick, non-confrontational, and not interfering with their Hellenic initiatives.  My priest would only bend so far, but he constantly felt challenged by a parish council that had, in his estimation and from what I could determine, little interest in the faith itself.  Very sad.

Edit: Examples of this could include pressure to shorten the inquiry period to let people "marrying in" get Orthodox'd up in time for the wedding, complaints about requiring regular confession to commune during Holy Week (that's the only time most of the nominals commune), dress codes, etc.

So the bishop is playing the puppet and the council is pulling strings. So the heirachy that the Church has in place is being obstructed by a group of men.

Sounds like corruption to me.
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« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2011, 12:49:21 AM »

Our priest is a permanent member of the parish council along with (I think) two deacons. Do other parishes have priests on the parish council?
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2011, 01:32:10 AM »

So the bishop is playing the puppet and the council is pulling strings. So the heirachy that the Church has in place is being obstructed by a group of men.
Sounds like corruption to me.

In the examples I've seen, I'm inclined to agree.  At least it has the potential. In broader application, it may not be applicable or it may be exaggerated. I don't want to accuse our bishops in situations I'm not familiar with.

Our priest is a permanent member of the parish council along with (I think) two deacons. Do other parishes have priests on the parish council?

I'm not sure about this, but that seems to at least be a good start.
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« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2011, 10:01:26 AM »

Our priest is a permanent member of the parish council along with (I think) two deacons. Do other parishes have priests on the parish council?

I see you are listed as Antiochian. If the parish is following the model constitution, and every parish should be by now, then your priest is the president of the council and no other members of the clergy are permitted to be voting members on the council.
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« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2011, 11:06:19 AM »

Based on what I read on another thread, apparently the parish council at a GOA church is going to dismiss its priest.  From that same thread, this same council (maybe not the same members) has fired other priests in the past.  My question: how much power does your individual parish council have over the hiring and firing of the priests? 

At my church, the parish council does not have this prerogative, although some of the members of parish councils over the last couple of years have done what they can to try to get rid of our current priest (mainly intimidation tactics), but the council cannot take any such direct action.

Such a "democratic" polity runs the risk of destroying Orthodox ecclesiology, IMO.

When replying, please indicate what jurisdiction your church belongs to.
United States of America.

Under the law, Orthodox parishes are hierarchal Churches, which means that if the parish thinks it can dismiss a priest, and the bishop wants to press it and it comes to court, the bishop automatically wins.  So says SCOTUS.  This recently played out with the GOA parishes which did not want to accept the new charter the Phanar was imposing.
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« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2011, 11:15:43 AM »

I do not know the ins and outs of how things are done at the parish council level, but I have heard at least one story of a parish council run amok that was stopped by Bp. ANTOUN storming in the door, declaring "This parish council is over!" and leaving.

The story may be apocryphal, of course, but having met the man I do not think it is out of the range of possibility of having actually happened.
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« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2011, 12:43:04 PM »

Our priest is a permanent member of the parish council along with (I think) two deacons. Do other parishes have priests on the parish council?
No in my jurisdiction although clergy attend all meetings.  By the way there is quite an historical divergence on the governance power of parish councils between the Greek tradition and the Slavic tradition.
And this applies to the Eastern Slavic churches even after the Spiritual Regulation of Peter the Great.  This is a good book out that has a chapter on the role of parish councils especially in the 19th century.  I will have to look for the author.  But surprising how much power the parish council actually had and the role it played in the parish and village life.
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« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2011, 01:01:09 PM »

The council can set the stipend/salary for the Priest. They can also hire a second or third Priest. In other words, they can make life tough for an unwanted Priest.I have heard of one or two who have been edged out.

I am the Parrish Warden ( Council President) in a small Rocor mission Church. The Priest and other clergy are automatically on the council as well as choir director, treasurer, sisterhood president etc. We also have a separate group of financial auditors.

 Everyone is way too busy to worry too much about who has power over whom. Ultimately the Priest could probably veto something he really disagrees with. But ultimately we can cut his pay so there is a check and balance.

We try to play nice.  It is our view that it is very important to support your Priest in all ways except for heresy or gross neglect of his duties. 
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« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2011, 01:02:04 PM »

The Spiritual Regulation of Peter the Great in 1721 took away a lot of power from the church and placed it under the secular government.  At the same time the right of the laity to appoint/ elect/ approve a priest was retained.  
http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/

Vera Shevzov, “Russian orthodoxy on the Eve of the Revolution.”  Oxford, 2004
Chapert Two: The People of God

“When speaking about the laity, the Regulation had little to say about any governing roles of laity in ecclesial life; the notable exception was the assumed (p. 19 ) lay role in appointing a parish priest.”

Consequently, the Church, in its local manifestation, consisted of a temple, blessed by a bishop and constructed with his blessing, the clergy, who serviced that temple and fulfilled the religious needs of believers, and a church elder, whom parishioners (or a town council in the case of nonparish churches) chose to help manage parish finances. 50

A later chapter in the book deals with all the complaints of parish councils to local bishops over parish priests & why they should be removed.  Very interesting reading with quotes from primary sources.
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« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2011, 01:52:25 PM »

Do other parishes have priests on the parish council? 

The Constitution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate) states that the priest is ex officio member of the parish council with the right of a vote and is its "honorary president." 
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« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2011, 02:11:57 PM »

The council can set the stipend/salary for the Priest. They can also hire a second or third Priest. In other words, they can make life tough for an unwanted Priest.I have heard of one or two who have been edged out.

This I have heard of more than a few times when a parish council cannot "fire" a Priest.

Good times . . .
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« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2011, 08:48:23 PM »

Do other parishes have priests on the parish council? 

The Constitution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate) states that the priest is ex officio member of the parish council with the right of a vote and is its "honorary president." 

I am very surprised by this.  Is the church statute online?  I am wondering if Metropolitan Mystyslav Skrypnyk introduced this when he moved to the USA for a priest to have a vote.  This certainly goes against historical Ukrainian church tradition.
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« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2011, 08:55:04 PM »

Quote
The council can set the stipend/salary for the Priest. They can also hire a second or third Priest. In other words, they can make life tough for an unwanted Priest.I have heard of one or two who have been edged out.

In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, the basic salary for the priests for every parish is set by the Sobor which meets every 5 years.  The sobor also votes on the insurance/ benefits package for clergy and church employees.  the benefit of this is that it provides a decent salary for priests in small parishes or in poorer areas of the country.
However, parish couuncils have the choice of topping off the basic slary which often happens in large city parishes. There is also a house/ manse and a car allowance.
The assignment of priests is made by the consistory elected at the sobor.  However, the parish can reject a priest or ask to have one removed.  The parishes and the consistory seem to work together: at least I have not heard of any complaints of the system.
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« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2011, 09:44:14 PM »

Our priest is a permanent member of the parish council along with (I think) two deacons. Do other parishes have priests on the parish council?

I see you are listed as Antiochian. If the parish is following the model constitution, and every parish should be by now, then your priest is the president of the council and no other members of the clergy are permitted to be voting members on the council.


So the priest has the right to vote?  In our parish, he is permitted to vote only in the event of ties and that is for both council meetings and parish meetings.
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« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2011, 10:43:31 PM »

In the OCA Parish that I belong to, we follow the Statute of the OCA that has, IMHO, exemplary provisions on this matter.  Here is a teaser:

"Section 8. The Parish Council

   1. The parish meeting shall elect a Parish Council to assist the Rector in the administration of the parish and to execute the decisions of the parish meeting. The Parish Council shall consist of as many officers and members as provided for in the parish by-laws. Their mode of election and their terms of office shall also be determined by the by-laws regularly adopted.
   2. All officers and members of the Parish Council shall, after their election at the parish meeting and approval of the Diocesan Authority, be duly installed by the Rector, making a solemn commitment to uphold their office.
   3. The Orthodox Church teaches that there should be an active cooperation between clergy and laity on all levels of Church life. And since the Parish Council is the main parish organ of such cooperation, none of its meetings may be held without the knowledge and blessing of the Rector who, as the head of the parish, must take part in the discussion and solution of all parish affairs. While the priest is the head of the parish, he does not have to be Chairman of meetings. Laymen may be Chairmen. The minutes of all meetings of the Parish Council shall be signed by the Rector and the senior elected officer of the parish. In the case of the Rector’s disagreement with one or several decisions of the Parish Council, his motivated opinion shall be recorded in the minutes and the matter referred to the parish meeting.
   4. The Parish Council shall be responsible not only for the spiritual and material needs of the parish, but also for the parish’s unity and connection with the Diocese and the Church, for each parish is called to be a living cell and a member of the Body of Christ, and each carries responsibility for the whole Church."

The rest of the Section is in the same vein and may be read at http://oca.org/statute/article-x
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« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2011, 12:00:29 AM »

So what is the base salary for a UOCC priest?
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« Reply #20 on: November 29, 2011, 12:06:29 AM »

Our priest is a permanent member of the parish council along with (I think) two deacons. Do other parishes have priests on the parish council?

I see you are listed as Antiochian. If the parish is following the model constitution, and every parish should be by now, then your priest is the president of the council and no other members of the clergy are permitted to be voting members on the council.


So the priest has the right to vote?  In our parish, he is permitted to vote only in the event of ties and that is for both council meetings and parish meetings.

The pastor is the tie breaker.
Any other members of the clergy (deacons and priest) are not allowed to be elected to the parish council but may sit on the council as a non-voting member. Sorry I was not clearer.
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« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2011, 12:39:08 AM »

The occupy tactics, only more radical:
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« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2011, 01:28:00 AM »

Do other parishes have priests on the parish council? 

The Constitution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate) states that the priest is ex officio member of the parish council with the right of a vote and is its "honorary president." 

I am very surprised by this.  Is the church statute online?  I am wondering if Metropolitan Mystyslav Skrypnyk introduced this when he moved to the USA for a priest to have a vote.  This certainly goes against historical Ukrainian church tradition.

Hello Irene.  Yes, it is in the 1952 version as well as in today's version.  No, it is not online. 
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« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2011, 01:43:11 AM »

FYI for the general readership, the Statut of the Moscow Patriarchate has the following responsibilities given to the priest:

g) suspending with sufficient grounds the execution of the decisions of the Parish meeting and the Parish Council on the matters of doctrinal, canonical, liturgical or administrative and economic nature with subsequent referral of the matter to the Diocesan Bishop for consideration;

h) supervising the execution of the decisions of the Parish meeting and the work of the Parish Council;

i) representing the interests of the parish in the bodies of state power and local self-administration;

(English version):  http://www.mospat.ru/en/documents/ustav/xi/
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« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2011, 01:44:55 AM »

^Sorry, when I said "the priest" I should have said "the Rector" (i.e. the Nastoyatel, or for the Greek speakers the Proistamenos). 
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« Reply #25 on: December 02, 2011, 02:25:54 PM »

[quote author=FatherHLL link=topic=41311.msg674351#msg674351 The I am very surprised by this.  Is the church statute online?  I am wondering if Metropolitan Mystyslav Skrypnyk introduced this when he moved to the USA for a priest to have a vote.  This certainly goes against historical Ukrainian church tradition.
[/quote]

Hello Irene.  Yes, it is in the 1952 version as well as in today's version.  No, it is not online. 
[/quote]

That explains it all all.  1952 was the year that Metr. Mystytslav was given his walking papers by the UOCC and when he moved to the USA.  So it is his statute
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« Reply #26 on: December 03, 2011, 06:22:35 PM »

According to the wise King Solomon, there is a time for everything.  I think this applies to Church rule: there is a time for Bishops to act as grandfatherly figures, guiding their sheep.  However, there is also a time for a bishop to be Ivan the Terrible.  I think that, because of the belief on the part of many Orthodox that Orthodoxy ought to be congregational or nearly so, more bishops ought to be acting - if not generally, then at least with regards to specific parishes - as despots.  That isn't to say that they should necessarily be cruel tyrants, but that they should take their rightful place as King of their diocese.

As I said in the prayer forum with regards to this matter, I also think that Bishops ought to begin assigning and re-assigning priests as they feel the Spirit leads them (of course, with a lot of prayer on the matter).  Priests shouldn't be engaging in "job" interviews, because pastor isn't a "job" in the usual sense.
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« Reply #27 on: December 05, 2011, 12:00:19 PM »

I think that, because of the belief on the part of many Orthodox that Orthodoxy ought to be congregational or nearly so, more bishops ought to be acting - if not generally, then at least with regards to specific parishes - as despots.  That isn't to say that they should necessarily be cruel tyrants, but that they should take their rightful place as King of their diocese.

As I said in the prayer forum with regards to this matter, I also think that Bishops ought to begin assigning and re-assigning priests as they feel the Spirit leads them (of course, with a lot of prayer on the matter).   Priests shouldn't be engaging in "job" interviews, because pastor isn't a "job" in the usual sense.

I think you are missing the point of my citing history.  The parish did have a say in the election of priests in the past.  The best system is for the parish council and the local bishop to work together.
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