THE TIME FOR ORTHODOX UNITY IS NOW!

Who Lost Chicago?

59

Bill Stotis

Source: Greek News

By Bill George Stotis 

The answer to the simple question of “Who lost Chicago?” will be articulated in later years by those who care or seek the truth about the Greek Orthodox Church in America (GOA). Just as we question cause and effect to find historical context for events, there will be those who ask, “Who lost Chicago?”. Fortunately for historians and scholars there is always a “canary in the mine shaft” that foretells the future. For Greek Orthodox Americans the “canary” is the Metropolis of Chicago. What should have been “the Jewel” of the GOA, is in reality a severely handicapped and broken ministry that is hemorrhaging parishioners at an unsustainable rate.  Make no mistake about it, we are at a point of inflexion, a critical juncture for the Church and the affect it has on issues for all Greeks worldwide.

As the rest of the religious world watches, our Church plays out its future in slow motion. The masses watch the car accident unfold and hold their collective breath, hoping that we will not once again damage ourselves. When the history of the Church is examined by professionals, and committed to academic texts, the partisans who have supported a failed Hierarchy will be long gone. Perhaps only then will we know the sordid truth. For now, let me give you my observations.

In North America we have suffered through a period of a distorted and unhealthy Monastic darkness since Elder Ephraim landed on our shores. He opened his first “Monastery” here in the 1990’s. Since then his brand of fundamentalism has been sold to the unsuspecting in multiple ways. Today we find carriers of his “theology” in many Greek Orthodox Parishes in North America. His teachings on Aerial Toll-houses and other heresies have confused and caused irreparable damage. When confronted with these teachings, those in great need or in pain (i.e. the vulnerable) often embrace his dogmatic heresies and unhealthy counsels. These “victims of spiritual deceit” are easy prey. Generally, people of common sense see through this and disengage from the side show they are now witnessing from more and more pulpits where Ephraim’s adherents are now ordained clergy.

Like a “farm system” in professional baseball our Seminary continues to graduate his followers in greater and greater numbers. So, Who lost Chicago and why? Better yet, why does it matter, or, should it even matter to any of us? While many well-meaning Greeks in diaspora communities worldwide take great pride in their collective success, they are not watching nor appreciating the future. Chicago matters because it is failing and foreshadows the future of our Greek diaspora. This microcosm encapsulates the future for all of us.

Those in the community who are unaffected by this “theology”, those who are not what are now known as “Ephraimites”, see the decay and affect. They see and they feel. But it’s really what they’re doing as they react to it. They’re feeling uninspired, disillusioned, and scandalized, consequently walking away from the Greek Orthodox community. They withdraw and look for a new “normal” and “healthy” identity – after all, who wants to be classified with the Orthodox version of the Taliban? Will all of this have an impact on the entire Greek Community worldwide? It already has.

So, Who lost Chicago? First ask the Hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. Ask them why they “manage by death” to appoint a Metropolitan. Then ask them why they have done nothing to honor the words of Michael Jaharis on the suicide death of Scott Nevins, a former novice-monk at Ephraim’s headquarters in Arizona.  He publicly stated: “We expect to take severe and appropriate action as required to remedy this existing issue – since not doing so could have long term consequences.” I guess they were more interested in honoring his money, rather than his words or thoughts.

If the Hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church truly cared (whether it’s in North America or the Patriarchate) then they would place the Metropolis of Chicago under a microscope. Someone would “drill down” and look at why are so many Parishes of this Metropolis are hemorrhaging stewards and why so many Parishes are on financial life support. Here too it is management by death, as Parishes wait for gifts from estates of the recently departed to cover their bills.

As we continue to see the migration of adherents from the Greek Orthodox Church for more accepted, less fundamentalist driven theology in other jurisdictions (or other denominations) it has the foreseen consequence of eviscerating our larger diaspora community. The significance of which is fewer people that are emotionally tied to what happens in Greece and Cyprus. While each country faces danger from the east, our base in North America diminishes in numbers, collective strength and resolve.


EDITORS NOTE: The author of this article served on the Parish Council of the of the St. George Greek Orthodox Parish in Chicago for nearly 22 years. While on the Parish Council he had many appointments, including Vice-President of the Parish Council, as well as legal counsel for the Parish. He was an appointed member of the GOA Archdiocesan Council having served 8 years on the Administrative Committee, in addition to that appointment he served on what was initially called the “The Monastery Task Force” and later renamed the “Monastery Review Committee”. Mr. Stotis is a retired Attorney having served as managing partner at the Chicago based law firm of Stotis and Baird Chartered. He was the Past President of Cambank a Delaware holding company that owned and operated Cambridge Bank in Illinois from 1997 until it’s sale in 2006. Currently he is the Chairman of the Board of CoreCentric Solutions Inc. a reverse logistics company with operations in North America and Asia. He is married to Anna C. Stotis, also a retired Attorney. They have 3 adult children.

Originally published in the July 24, 2017 edition of Greek News, page 38.

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59 Comments

  1. THEODORE DASKALOPOULOS on

    I am not sure what exactly is the point of this article . Chicago was lost how and by who and why was it lost and from where was lost ???

    The GOA hierarchy is the problem ? Fr Efraim is the problem ? The clergy ? All of the above ?

    What is the topic ? That Chicago has no Metropolitan yet ? That the parishes are bleeding ( less money , less faithful )? Where did they faithful go ?

    The author of this article appears to be disenchanted/ disappointed with what exactly ? and he thinks should be done ?

    On Elder Efraim , I assume the author met him and had long discussions about his concerns with monasticism in America . I also presume he did his homework (as any good attorney would do before filing a lawsuit ) to check the background and history of Fr Efraim before calling him ” taliban” .
    I certainly have done my homework on who Fr Efraim is and have information from multiple accurate and reliable sources from around the Orthodox world .
    I thought, in America at least, you are innocent till proven guilty.

    Fishy article ………………….

  2. Matthew Dorning on

    He discusses the GOA with no mention of non-greek converts. The Greek Orthodox Church of AMERICA is more than “the diaspora.”

  3. I will not compare Ephraim to Hitler, because Ephraim is much preferred to him. However, I will draw one modest lesson. I have never met Hitler. I do not have to, nor desire to. Yet I have a pretty good sense that in spite of the few good things he may have done (i.e. Hitler), he can still be considered vermin scum. The fact is that you can know people or entities by their fruits. There are just too many scandals and controversies emanating from Ephraim and “his” monasteries to be casually dismissed.

    I think Jesus said it better than this in the Gospels:

    Matthew 7:15-20
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    You Will Know Them by Their Fruits

    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

    This being said, the numerous alleged improprieties (for example – accounts of many clergy and laity from around the country – our country that is – where people that do not even know each other have all identified the same indiscreet problems with Ephraim and his ilk. Also the example of the financial scandals of SXP that involved the St. Anthony’s Monastery. Also the refusal of the Monastery to disclose their detailed financials to the GOA) all these “fruits” are sour and rotten. They all emanate from the same Ephraimite tree. This tree is a distorted version of monasticism.

    Many armchair quarterbacks make statements impetuously before considering the fact that they do NOT have all the information to accurately assess a given situation. They become the easily manipulated pawns of Byzantine intrigue.

    I wish we had more people of conviction and principle like Mr. Bill Stotis. Mr Stotis is an accomplished and diversified genius who has proven himself and excelled in numerous arenas. It is not feasible nor reasonable to think that someone can accomplish what he has by chance, nor by meaningless accomplishments, like being celibate. He has excelled because of his character and accomplishments. Perhaps because others feel remarkably small next to him, they attack him and somehow feel a bit better. Those types are vid of truth and capacity to learn. Sadly, Mr. Stotis and his family have had to endure to stupid comments from imbeciles that are caught up with themselves.

    If I could meet Fr. Ephraim or Mr. Bill Stotis, I would prefer it to be Mr. Stotis. I would learn more.

    If I could pick which person I would want my children to emulate, it would be Mr. Stotis. The world would be a better place.

    To me it seems that our Church here in the United States is being run by a bunch of ostriches who have their heads stuck deep into the ground. The recent Pew Report echoes what many of us already knew – in 5 years our membership is down 35%-40%. This is not sustainable.

    I pray that future Hierarchs are selected from men who actually have a record of achievement – more than the prerequisite of professing “celibacy”. I hope they consider the value in emulating men of unselfish principle, faith, reason, courage, and intellect. Mr. Stotis is one of those men. We need more people like him in the ranks of the clergy and the laity.

    Thank you Mr. Stotis for your courage and conviction. You have given me, and others, a breath of fresh air that gives hope.

    Mr. Steve Johnson
    San Jose, CA

  4. Dear Editors:

    Please insert this paragraph which has my typos corrected. Thanks!

    “I wish we had more people of conviction and principle like Mr. Bill Stotis. Mr Stotis is an accomplished and diversified genius who has proven himself and excelled in numerous arenas. It is not feasible nor reasonable to think that someone can accomplish what he has by chance, nor by meaningless accomplishments, like being celibate. He has excelled because of his character and accomplishments. Perhaps because others feel remarkably small next to him, they attack him and somehow feel a bit better. Those types are void of truth and capacity to learn. Sadly, Mr. Stotis and his family have had to endure stupid comments from imbeciles that are caught up with themselves.”

  5. Bill George Stotis on

    Let me make a few corrections to the language of this article that were not transcribed accurately in the posting of this article:

    1. In paragraph one it should read: “Who lost Chicago?”. Not “Chic-ago”.
    2. In paragraph one it should read: “What should have been “the Jewel” of the GOA, is in reality a severely handicapped and broken ministry that is hemorrhaging parishioners at an unsustainable rate.” The word “lover” was never used in any version of this article.

    Next, their is no religious distinction in my article between “converts” or those who are often referred to as “cradle to grave” Greek Orthodox Christians. I treat everyone in my article the same as I refer to everyone in our Faith as “adherents” or “parishioners”. For example I say near the end of the article: “As we continue to see the migration of adherents from the Greek Orthodox Church for more accepted, less fundamentalist driven theology in other jurisdictions (or other denominations) it has the foreseen consequence of eviscerating our larger diaspora community.”

    The distinction here is with the diaspora, who are generally Greek Orthodox, but not necessarily Greek Orthodox. There is a growing Protestant community in Greece just as there are locations in Greece that have a healthy minority of Catholics. For example there are a reported 50,000 to 70,000 Catholics in Greece with Churches in Syros, Tinos, Corfu, Naxos, Santorini, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Rhodes, Kos, Crete, Samos and Chios.

    Next the ability/interest of the diaspora to lobby on behalf of Greece and Cyprus is quickly diminishing. For example in 1983 Greece received nearly a Billion Dollars from all United States agencies, while in 2014 it received less than One Million Dollars. In 2016 Israel will receive 3.1 Billion Dollars while Egypt will receive about 1.5 Billion Dollars. In 2016 Greece received about 8.5 Million Dollars. So while the GOA is hemorrhaging adherents/parishioners, many of whom can trace their roots to Greece and Cyprus, fewer in this sub-group will care to work for either of their ancestral homelands. For many in this sub-group, once they leave the Church, and make no mistake about it they are leaving, they have a diminished interest in working for these ancestral homelands.

    This article is not about converts as they typically don’t have the same foreign policy interests as those in the aforementioned sub-group. Nor should they for this is an unrealistic and unreasonable burden in entering the Greek Orthodox Faith as a convert.

    In 1974 when many of us took to the streets of Chicago to protest the invasion of Cyprus I do not recall seeing anyone other than those who could trace their roots to the previously mentioned countries. There are two excellent lectures given by Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos and Frances Kostarelos Ph.D. about the issues addressed in my article. I strongly urge all of you to please watch the video link on the OCL website for additional information:

    http://ocl.org/video-presentations-given-ocls-30th-annual-conference/

    Here are some of the Professors assertions:

    “1. 4 out of 5 Orthodox Parishes have had a major internal conflict in the last 5 years;
    2. Attrition rate of Orthodox Christians leaving the Church is 60%;
    3. Only 1 out of 2 Orthodox Christians who were baptized as infants remain in the Church when they become adults;
    4. In spite of the fact we are the wealthiest Christians demographically and we have millions who can trace their families’ roots to Greece, we have at best only 159,000 stewards in the GOA;
    5. In the last 5 years the Orthodox Churches adherents have declined 38%;
    6. Fr. Marangos challenged his audience to review the data from the following sources:
    a. Gallup
    b. Pew
    c. Hartford Institute
    d. Duke University
    e. Barnard
    f. Finally 2 surveys conducted by the GOA and administered by the speaker Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos that have been “swept under the rug” by the GOA. (Admission made at about 18:50 in video)”

    All of this information is contained in Rev. Dr. Marangos lecture. I submit to the readers of my article that in the Metropolis of Chicago and elsewhere, many Parish issues have been generated by the followers of what is commonly referred to as “Ephraimite Theology”. I would like to thank Mr. Johnson for his kind words and remind everyone that before you can fix a problem, first you must clearly and accurately identify it. Fundamentalism is a cancer that has infected the body of the Church.

  6. THEODORE DASKALOPOULOS on

    “Taliban” ,” Hitler” and “fundamentalism” , are the words used to define one man that no one has ever met !

    Wow !!! If that is not an assassination of character I don’t know what is ? The ferocity of the comments indicate the existence of an agenda and a deep rooted hate for Orthodoxy as was established by the Holy Fathers , the Apostle and God Himself .

    The issues of GOA are real and not related to Fr Efraim and monasticism. Indeed we do need some gifted- spiritual and visionary leaders .

    The decline in attendance is a product of the long term errors and neglect to spiritually feed the faithful , as well as the assimilation of the new generations of Greek Americans to the American culture and society . It was never easy to be Orthodox and was never easy to be a follower of Christ . The yiayias are dying and the millennials are lost in action ……….

    The power of the GOA has diminished since the dynamic Archbishop Iakovos and his famous pic on TIME magazine are a passed . The days where the Archbishop could call the White House direct are gone and so are people like Andy Athens who could make things happen .

    Fr Efraim , my sources tell me , represents the healthiest of monasticism, that of the Holy Mountain(Athos).

    The entire Holy Synod of Athos supports him. The entire Holy Synod of Greece supports him . The entire Holy Synod of Serbia supports him , Russia , Cyprus , Romania as well. Where is the issue ? His spiritual Father , Fr Joseph , the Spileotis The Athonite , soon to enter the list of Saints , is the most respected person on Athos and the one who revived the dying spirit of true monasticism. Fr Efraim comes second in establishing monasteries to Saint Pahomios ! Do you folks have any idea what you are talking about ? Do your research .

    Is Metropolitan Ierotheos Vlahos a fundamentalist ? How about Nektarios of Corfu , Paul of Glyfada , Athanasios od Lemesos , Basilios of Elasonas, Eoel of Veria , Ignatios of Volou , Fr Metallinos Prof Unniv of Athens …………………………………………..on and on ……………….. All of them know and support the good works of Fr Efraim . Indeed , people will be judged by their works and writings as well .

    But I think I understand the ferocity of the venomous hits against Fr Efraim . He is doing something right and some do not like it .

    I love a good , full body Red wine , Boardeax type and once in a awhile I splurge and purchase a bottle . I drink it straight , not diluted . Orthodoxy is a precious priceless Red wine , it cannot be diluted . Some in America and even in Greece and other countries want to create ” Orthodoxy Light ” , a new age orthodox church and want to control it . They want to tell priests if they should have a robe( raso) on or not , if they should have a beard or not and if yes how long , how sermons should be delivered and in what style etc.
    They want an independent autocephalous church away from the Mother Church so they can control it .

    Sadly there are many issues , problems and even scandalous behavior in the dealings of GOA . War against the GOA , Ecumenical Patriarchate and monasticism will not solve them. Love and humbleness and pious faith in the style of our yiayias will . I see no love and no Orthodox spirit in the article or the comments above .

    No one questions the intellect of the writer of the article above . He is a professional and well respected person in the society and the Greek American community . That however does not make him infallible and perfect in his opinions. I am sure he is smart enough to tolerate and accept criticism and hopefully even reconsider his views and even ask for an apology when he realizes that some comments might have been out of line and unsubstantiated. Lets not forget what the bible says , Christ made a mockery of the powerful and intellectual of his time and allowed the babies , children and ignorant to understand his powerful message.

    Lets unite and not divide the faithful. There is a place for monasticism in america. The Church from the beginning stood on two feet to be stable , parish and monastery . GOA was like a flamingo for years, standing on one foot , now it has two . The enemies of the Church always hated monasteries . After the liberation of Greece from the Ottomans , a German King , Otto , was brought to rule it , his first decision was to shut down 420 monasteries .

    • Bill George Stotis on

      Obfuscation of a problem is itself a problem. So, let’s look at the facts here and please let’s not invoke the Ottomans, Bordeaux wine or some Metropolitan in Greece. In the case of the Monasteries under the spiritual guidance of Elder Ephraim there was enough evidence of damaging activity that the Synod of America voted unanimously to have an investigation of these Monasteries. That was voted upon in October of 2010. The Archbishop of America appointed 5 people to serve on the Monastery Task Force. I was one of those five people.
      Later the name of the committee was changed to the Monastery Review Committee (“MRC”). A priest and a Bishop were then added to the MRC. Members of the MRC spent years investigating these issues. Professional investigators were also retained in addition to the members of the MRC. There were numerous reports generated by the MRC. There was an overwhelming amount of evidence that was “unearthed”.
      You have decided that I and other members of the committee either have distain for Elder Ephraim’s Monasteries, don’t have a clue about Elder Ephraim, or worst yet are some how anti-monastic. What troubles me, and others is this engrained defense of any investigation or questioning of alleged bad actions in the Greek Orthodox Church. Let me give you some examples of things I can speak about at this time. In the case of the former Priest George Passias there were many complaints about him many years prior to the release of “sex tapes” by the New York Post. Passias was of course an admitted “spiritual son” of Elder Ephraim. Did the Church act on any of these leads or complaints? No. It had to find it’s way into the newspaper and national TV before he was defrocked.
      In the case of Fr. James Dokos not only did the late Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago (of blessed memory) defend him and left him in place at Sts. Peter and Paul, he went further. He removed their Parish Council President in to protect Fr. Dokos as the Laity at that Parish stood by and did nothing to support the man that was removed. To fortify this defense, the late Metropolitan then submitted a fictional account of the rules and protocol of our Church. It made me ill reading it as I was asked to in my capacity as an Attorney. Fr. Dokos later plead guilty to a felony.
      Or how about the activities of now defrocked Fr. Adam Metropolis of Bangor Maine. I and another MRC member turned over information about his being removed from the Holy Cross Seminary 10 years earlier for engaging in child molestation. He was, when memories faded, allowed back into our Seminary. I and another MRC member turned over this information one year before he was arrested. He was left in place, at the Parish in Bangor Maine and committed more “bad acts’ during this period. Only to be later convicted and he is now serving a prison term for 4 felony counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
      What is the point of bring up these other incidents? In each of these incidents there were people trying to protect our Church. These people were later attacked and had their personal Orthodox beliefs questioned. In our Church, our Laity should be demanding that the evidence uncovered by the MRC sees the light of day.
      Please don’t lecture me about what a good Attorney would do. When you write things like “I also presume he did his homework (as any good attorney would do before filing a lawsuit ) to check the background and history of Fr Efraim before calling him ” taliban” .” I stand by my words and acts. The truth will eventually see the light and those who have blindly accepted heresies engineered by those who damage the Church may hopefully see the light one day.

      • Bill,

        Thank you for speaking truth to power. You are walking in the tradition of the OT prophets, Jesus, St. Francis and Luther. They spoke and shook up the ossified establishment. When the Spirit decides to move, the wicked religious oligarchs better move out of the way.

        As you noted in your response, what troubles me too, “is this engrained defense of any investigation or questioning of alleged bad actions in the Greek Orthodox Church.” If Jesus could challenge the pharisees on their interpretation and observance of the Law, why can’t we as His followers do the same when we see immorality, unethical practices and injustice fostered by the clergy, monks and hierarchs?

        Personally, I believe what needs to be done is to reveal the findings of this MRC to the public press and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe then the faithful will come to their senses and do something.

      • Mr. Stotis,

        I do not take issue with your work as part of MRC; I am admittedly ignorant of all the evidence that MRC has unearthed. A quick googling did not show many any of the reports you mention but I am interested in learning more. At this point, however, I am unconvinced of any wrongdoing by Elder Ephraim. I have never met him and have heard both good things from those who frequent the Florence monastery and bad things from those who have heard about things that have occurred at the Florence monastery. Based merely on those anecdotes, I admit I have a bias towards accepting Elder Ephraim rather than those who oppose him.

        Did the GOA Synod unanimously approved investigation of all the American monasteries and not just those founded by Elder Ephraim? What was the committee’s charter for investigation? Was it far-reaching? As I mentioned above, where can one find its reports/conclusions, or are they under classified as confidential and unobtainable by Orthodox laity or those outside the GOA?

        Regarding the toll-houses, I have read Fr. Seraphim Rose’s book (all the way through, including the appendices), the work of now Fr. Maximos Constas Article No. 55 by Dumbarton Oaks (linked to from weareorthodox.com by Steve Johnson) called “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”: The Middle State
        of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature
        , and literature by Orthodox Saints. Almost daily I read through the Synaxarion found within the Great Horologion (published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery). I am not convinced that toll-houses as described by Fr. Seraphim Rose or as in the Synaxarion are heretical, but from what I gather you and a contingent of Orthodox faithful do. Maybe descriptions of toll-houses elsewhere and by other sources are what you deem heretical? If you could provide specificity on the problem with toll-houses, that would be helpful to me in understanding exactly what it is that you and others consider heretical.

        “Some Metropolitan in Greece” vulgarizes, I think, the episcopacy to an unneeded extent. Maybe you didn’t mean to write it that way, but it seemed like you categorized what the authorized representatives of the Church (canonical bishops who are the successors of the apostles) with references to the Ottomans and Bordeaux wine. What they say have much to bear on what is and is not Orthodox. If you could reply to the statements by Theodore pertaining to the support of Elder Ephraim by synods of Greece, Serbia, Mt. Athos, et c., and the specific bishops mentioned, that would be fruitful. If you don’t know any or all, that’s understandable. I, for one, do not know any.

        In Christ,
        David

        • Fr. Maximos Constas’ scholarly article in Dumbarton Oaks article “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: The Middle State
          of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature”
          is clearly against the notion of aerial tollhouses. Please re-read it.

          Only Christ is the Judge. He does not need demons to do His bidding. If one actually thinks that the demons judge us, then I would state that this is totally against the Old and New Testament, and a remarkable mockery of Christ’s sacrifice.

          The memorial service, the funeral service, and even the Divine Liturgy have no references at all to this heretical idea of aerial tollhouses.

          • Dear Paraskevas,

            What a beautiful name!

            I wrote above: “I am not convinced that toll-houses as described by Fr. Seraphim Rose or as in the Synaxarion are heretical”. From your reply, I get the impression that you think I wrote that I agree with the scholarly article by Fr. Maximos Constas, and still didn’t find anything wrong with the teaching of toll-houses, but that’s not what I wrote. I have met Fr. Maximos a couple of times, have read his other work, and have listened to some of his sermons: I have great respect for him. He (as far as I know) doesn’t know me by name and probably wouldn’t recognize me in a crowd, so I’m not suggesting I have a close relationship with him, only that I’m not unfamiliar with him and his work. I only mentioned that I read his work in my previous message so that someone wouldn’t suggest that I “am not convinced that toll-houses … are heretical” being due to my lack of exposure to that article. To be sure, I have read it and am unconvinced that the article is arguing that toll-houses are not true, much less that teaching on them is heretical. His argument is that Byzantine eschatology ‘had no “system” around the last things.’ His whole article is describing doctrinal developments of the soul after death and he argues for how other cultures and traditions influenced some of the teachings on the soul after death, one of them being toll-houses. Perhaps his strongest section against a certain understanding of toll-houses comes not from his references of taxing systems from other cultures, but from reiterating how St. Mark of Ephesus argues that the “third place,” if anything, is allegorical (see page 117, particularly the elaboration of St. Mark’s description in footnote 103). But nowhere, as far as I can tell, is he adamant that the teaching on toll-houses is heretical.

            I agree that only Christ is the Judge. He doesn’t need demons to do His bidding, but they do. He doesn’t need each of us (as humans) to do His bidding, but we do. In both cases, it’s often at a cosmic level and we often don’t completely understand that what we’re doing is according to His will. It’s quite normal in my experience to have others be instruments of Christ, and it’s common in the Bible to see this. For example, the Legion of demons doing Christ’s bidding and going into the herd of swine. Or St. Paul writing in Romans regarding submission to secular authority (Romans 12:3-5). Or Saul the King being tormented by a demon. Or Job’s family being put to death through Satanic devices. So I don’t agree that by God using His creation to mete out His particular judgments (and not His Final Judgment) would be a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice or against the Old and New Testaments.

            For references in the divine services, perhaps not on Sunday (since it’s the Day of the Resurrection), and most often in parishes the Orthros and Divine Liturgy are both abbreviated. But there are concrete references to toll-houses, and I can name at least two indirect references immediately: the Prayer of St. Eustratius that is in the Midnight Service for Saturdays; and the Prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos in the Service of Small Compline. There’s a reference to the ordeal of the soul’s movement upon death in the funeral service (Tone 2 of the Idiomela of St. John of Damascus), which suggests a time of trial. If you want, I can dig further and find the concrete references for you, but you can probably find some of them online via Google too.

            In Christ,
            David

  7. Iakovos, who you mention with reverance, dispized monasticsm. He would not allow Ephraim to establish monasteries in this country and that is what Ephraim started in ROCOR.

    • Johnkal,

      You are incorrect sir. Iakovos did not “despise” monasticism. Iakovos probably despised buffoons and charlatans doing monasticism a disservice.

      Please start using your spell checker.

      • Spell checker is needed but you are wrong about Iakovos and monasticism. I know for a fact that Ephraim approached Iakovos about starting monasteries in the US and Iakovos rejected Ephraim’s overtures.

  8. STEVE JOHNSON writes:

    « It is not feasible nor reasonable to think that someone can accomplish what [Mr Stotis] has by chance, nor by meaningless accomplishments, like being celibate. »

    I have to wonder if North America really is experiencing “a distorted and unhealthy Monastic darkness” or whether the critics here are just anti-monastic in general. This demeaning of celibacy seems to point to the latter.

    • I also was shocked by the statement by Steve Johnson. Celibacy is not a meaningless accomplishment as both the Bible (1st Corinthians 7 comes to mind) and Church history (On Virgins by St. Ambrose comes to mind) can attest.

      • David,

        Ambrose’s work “On Virgins” is beautiful. For those clergymen that actually were Virgins when they were ordained Celibate, I applaud and revere them. Even the one’s that were not but remained pure afterward, I applaud their beautiful commitment also, that witnesses to Christ and His Gospel.

        As for my comments on Celibacy, you (and maybe others) misread my spirit. This is commonplace with regard to online comments like the ones here.

        I acknowledge that any normal human being that chooses to make the faithful step of being ordained celibate, is truly making a huge sacrifice. Respect should be given.

        Being, and remaining, celibate is a sacrifice with the intent to pursue a truly spiritual life. I think St. Paul refers to it as being like the Angels.

        It is not, however, something that should be used as evidence of accomplished authority and knowledge. And while it might be an indicator of a proven character, it is not a litmus test for character, nor character necessarily itself.

        The same can be said for marriage. It is a beautiful state. The union of 2 people is a sacrament of the Church ordained by God. The crowns that the bridal couple put on are the crowns of martyrdom. You really give up living for yourself.

        Celibacy is not proof of being a loving priest, anymore than being married is.
        Celibacy is not proof of being extra holy, anymore than being married is.
        Holiness can be found in the Monastery.
        Holiness can be found in the local parish too.

        There are examples of “celibate” priests that are scandalously disgusting. The same can be said for a few married priests too. Conversely, there are examples of celibate priests that are a deep inspiration and manifest the loving presence of Christ. The same can be said for some married priests too.

        I do not think it reasonable to start saying one priest is better than another because he is married or celibate. How low have we sunk to start judging the holiness of a man because he is celibate or married?

        I believe that part of the reason our Church is in such a turmoil is because of the following:

        1. We have a critical absence of true Hierarchical leadership that proactively involves itself with issues of today in a substantive manner. “Feed my sheep” the Lord said to Peter. We get platitudes and cliches, not nutritious enough. I am saddened to say that I would not want any of my sons to emulate any of our Hierarchs. Had our Hierarchs been parish priests for 20 or 30 years, I feel they would have a keener understanding of their flock, and the real world we all live in, and therefore would have been a better leader.

        2. Spiritual arrogance has run rampant in our Church under the banner of Ephraim’s movement, which does NOT represent true Athonite Monasticism. Ephraim’s monasteries have undermined the local parish. The irrational excuse is that this-or-that clergymen at the parish is not spiritual enough. Had Ephraim and his followers just had their monasteries and not undermine the local parish, and, exploit and divide us, I don’t think there would have been any problem. But this was not the case. The line was drawn with statements such as “only true Orthodox Christians worship like Ephraim and his followers” For he sake of brevity, I will refer to them as fundamentalists. This arrogance and divisiveness has done a great disservice to our Lord’s Church.

        3. People have left our Church in disgust because of the uncanonical and unscriptural teaching of Aerial Tollhouses that insults the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. It dismisses the notion of Divine Grace. It is not in the funeral service. It is not in the Liturgy. It is a notion that is not Christian. Fr. Maximos Constas is clearly against it. Common sense and logic see it for the nonsense it is. It has so little credibility that obscure citations are made and mischaracterized as “universal”. Our Church has very few proclaimed Ecumenical Fathers and Theologians. Fr. Rose is not one of them. I do not disrespect his piety. Nor do I disrespect the piety of any Saint, no matter how obscure. But the Church has not always agreed with the writings of every saint that ever existed. In typical fashion, our Hierarchs are woefully silent and inarticulate on this and other real matters.

        4. I started speaking up against the Ephraimite Fundamentalist movement and its many outspoken arrogant adherents because of their critical and judgmental statements. When asked to go deeper, their arguments are self-referencing, circular, or just ridiculous. As evidenced with some statements I have read here, they cannot articulate a deep thought with substance. I am not speaking about the sincere pious ones that attend a monastery service. I am talking about the big-mouths that like to condemn clergy and laity alike.

        I have witnessed these people damage their own families and divide communities with their shallow and myopic arrogant statements. Not one of those people could ever hold a candle to the accomplishments of Mr. Stotis, and yet they assassinate his character with great zeal and vigor. Disgusting. I see what kind of Christians they are. They have shown me.

        I am short and pointed with them, because I do not like loud mouthed bullies that are basically stupid. They have no clue how blessed our Church was to have men like Mr. Stotis.

        Mr. Stotis was personally asked by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios to serve on the Archdiocesan Council, to participate on the Monastery Review Committee, and help our Church address some of its problems. Mr. Stotis is a remarkably successful businessman, trial attorney, bank founder with stellar reviews, Greek basketball team owner, and CEO/Partner of a large reverse logistics company where just one of its buildings is over 600,000 square feet. Here we have a man that has excelled in life, and the self-possessed and self-acclaimed super-Orthodox cast his name out as evil, when they should be grateful that such a man wants to serve our Church. He is not celibate, but has been married to his one and only wife of many years, and has raised a beautiful family. I did my homework. That is more than his critics could say. Mr. Stotis is a man of faith and action. I hope my sons turn out like him.

        How many other such people, like Mr. Stotis, have we chased away? Wait, I can here their predictable rationalizations “oh but we are not the ‘country-club’ Orthodox”. What bullies and character assassins! Yeah, we have chased away a lot of people – just look at the Pew report. Of course “they are not Orthodox” could be their rebuttal. I would reply, your doctor (or surgeon) is probably not either. I know who I would go to in a time of need. As for our Church’s time of dire need, may our Lord save us.

  9. Stella Theodore on

    Mr Daskalopoulos,

    Your highly charged verbiage uses a great deal of emotion, and should be a red flag for you to reconsider how blinded you really are.

    You do not know me so let me give you a little hint of my perspective. I am an Orthodox Christian. I am not anti-monastic. Monasticism is a vibrant and crucial part of Orthodox Spirituality. Abuses and misrepresentations of Monasticism, however, should be called out – as the countless number of people hurt by some of those types have reported. Even though most of those people hurt do not know each other, their stories are so similar. This speaks volumes. As for Iakovos, I remember him. I chatted with him. I was impressed by him. He was a man of substance. I will never forget Iakovos walking with MLK Jr. The fact is that Iakovos had vision, character, and conviction. I dont think Ephraim, or any fundamentalist type, would have ever done that. Let me move on to your post now.

    As a former teacher (now retired) I used to tell my students that the volume of their voice is not a substitute for putting their brain into gear. In other words: “put brain in gear before putting mouth in motion”. You mentioned that you occasionally drink wine. Was your commentary written maybe after a bit too much vino? Let me tell you why I wondered that.

    You make foolish assertions that do you a great disservice in revealing your lack of critical thinking. You mentioned the need to do research. I would suggest you start to do yours, in a substantive way. You can start with the correct spelling of “bordeaux” not “boardeax”. Also, please capitalize the word “America”.

    I am an older lady Mr. Daskalopoulos. But I have never succumbed to the stereotype of perpetuating the kind of shallow gossip and nonsense that you have spewn in your last post. You give shallow accusations and expect everyone to buy them as proof? Really?

    Your very impotent arguments do not satisfy the criteria of objectivity that we should all attempt to use.

    You have countless assumptions, not the least of which, is that you assume we are all idiots. In the words of Shakespear: “Me thinketh thou protesteth too much.” After reading what you wrote, I have respectfully and honestly told you my impressions of your superficially reasoned notions. I personally came to this conclusion without ever having met you, and I would bet you that I am probably right.

    The only thing “fishy” and divisive here are your shallow and emotional words. Shame on you.

    I have never met you, but I am fed up with simpletons like you – people who are blinded by arrogance and unknowingly make themselves fools. You are a meager pawn who is easily played by his impetuous emotion. It’s not rocket science: even though we haven’t met, I think I can safely suggest that it’s time for you to grow up.

    Mrs. Stella Theodore

  10. THEODORE DASKALOPOULOS on

    The above commentary speak for themselves , loud and clear . No credible rebutting was done.Sad.
    Not worth commenting any further .Insults are proof of lack of understanding a topic and inaudibility to discuss normally.
    In the main time I will keep on doing my homework on various issues and people .
    We are in different radio frequency .
    The truth will shine , as it always does .
    Blessed New Year .

  11. Mr. Daskalopoulos,

    In the NW suburbs of Chicago there is a man who is pushing his family away because he is trying to force them to adopt this fundamentalist mode of belief. You reminded me of him. This is happening around the country.

    Forcing a fundamentalist attitude on anyone will certainly push them away. Couple this with the prideful attitude of being “real” Orthodox, and condemning this labeled as “Orthodox lite” and you are sure to alienate anyone. Could this be why our church is down 35%?

    I must agree with the previous statements of Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Theodore. Mr. Stotis is right on target too. Their points are valid. You did not address their points, but rather you labeled and dismissed them. By doing so you are ceasing dialogue and consequently you are the one actually causing division.

    Anna B.
    Florida

  12. THEODORE DASKALOPOULOS on

    No one deserves to be called ” taliban” , compared to Hitler and throwing the label ” fundamentalist ” around so lightly .

    I am not the one who wrote the above article with those inflamed and false remarks and accusations .

    It appears that is the motto here , attack and defame the one who has a different opinion . Possibly the reason of such low commentary . No one is taking this site seriously . I ran across the article and did not like the hate it was projecting against a clergy of the Orthodox Church and decided to comment . I was advised not to comment by friends. ” They do not want to hear other voices , they are on a mission of their own .” I was told. Now I know first hand .

    The author of the article is way off target .

    We have a Church , Holy Synod and a Patriarch and they can intervene if something is not proper , not Orthodox or not canonical and against the tradition of the Church.

    Here we have a high order defamation of character and yes lack of knowledge .

    And the “Forcing a fundamentalist attitude ” by who , and how ? laughable ………………………….

    NO ONE has defined what is ” Fundamentalist Orthodoxy ” , is it the so called ” aerial tolls ” mentioned in the original article ? Again , do your homework before spilling venom and hate .

    I totally understand there is an agenda here and it is , fanatically , pushed and defended .Good luck with that , you are building on sand . The workings of a new schism .

    Propaganda , misinformation and lack of knowledge .

    • Ashley Nevins on

      Hello, is anyone home? Are you reading what he said? Did this get by you?

      Stotis said two interesting things:

      1. “There were NUMEROUS reports generated by the MRC. There was an overwhelming amount of evidence unearthed”

      2. “In our church, the laity should be demanding that the evidence uncovered by the MRC sees the light of day”

      Yes, Mr. Stotis, why don’t YOU release what you have from the MRC investigation?

      You said can only talk about certain things and why is that???

      You demand that others force the release of the very information you have in your hands.

      Yes, Mr. Stotis, tell us you don’t have all that was discovered in your hands. LOL! Tell us what you can’t speak too by telling what you can’t speak too.

  13. Maria Pagratis on

    SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!
    The only thing that the Greek Orthodox church cares about in this country is how to collect more money and THAT”S it!!!!!
    They don’t care about salvation….don’t even argue about that …I live here for 35 here and I KNOW what I am talking about .
    THE ONLY hope when it comes to the faith is the monasteries of Geronda Efraim.
    So…STOP trying to bad mouth him and take care of the mess in the church…
    SHAME ON YOU that you wrote this article…what’s wrong with you????

    • You writes very right, Maria Pagratis ! the wrong is that you tries to stop , to make him to Shame! there is not shame ! don’t worry !

      Tanassis

    • Maria and Tanassis,

      Your comments appear to reveal you as shallow and oblivious. Stick to going to Church and lighting a candle. Dont try to write.

  14. To the readers of this article and the commentators,

    Let me tell all of you what I KNOW to be the truth on the issues presented. Mr. Stotis miraculously found me. I say miraculously because I purposefully keep an extremely low profile. I am one of the editors of http://www.WeAreOrthodox.com. We are a website based out of the Metropolis of Atlanta. We have been monitoring the Ephraimite issue for years. We attempt to educate the laity of our Faith.

    Mr. Stotis has interviewed me in person. I found him to be extremely professional and all of these comments such as “what’s wrong with you“ are ad hominem attacks upon somebody who’s the messenger. He has never been, and is not the problem. He’s a genuinely good man only trying to solve a problem. All of you who have gone after him should be ashamed of yourselves for using such tactics.

    Next, these assertions that “he has no knowledge” and “does not understand the Orthodox Church” are baseless. I found him extremely well educated and articulate on all aspects of our Church and Orthodox Monasticism. Attacking the messenger is only used to divert attention away from the real issue.

    To those of you who specialize in attacking the messenger, realize that the problem is grave and has caused serious damage to the Church and it’s Faithful. My interview lasted for many hours. I found him to be extremely knowledgeable and forthright with regard to every question I asked him. We turned over countless emails and contacts of individuals who attested to have been damaged by the Ephraimite problem.

    Attacking an individual of the stature and abilities of Mr. Stotis only shows the abject ignorance of the authors of these defamatory comments. Please stick to the issue. The issue is, has this movement caused damage to the Church? In my mind it has. I have spoken to many victims. Today, most of them now REJECT our Church. They have voted with their feet and left the Church. Do I blame them? No. First I blame those who have the power to fix this (but don’t), next I blame the apologists. Many of whom are unknowing pawns.

    How many of you reading this know what happened to the man who has posted here, Mr. Nevins, and his family? How many of you know how the followers of this Orthodox cult tormented his son after he left the monastery? How many of you have lied to protect this mess? This is not representative of “real Athonite monasticism“. What it is, is a well oiled machine fueled by massive amounts of cash. They have sold their distorted brand of “theology” and monasticism to those who are looking for something special. This is not what they think. Anywhere there is a clergyman infected with this special theology you have people running for the exit doors of the Parish. Unfortunately for us, we are led by many who are unworthy, unable, or unwilling. Today, many lack the intestinal fortitude to speak the truth.

    Thank you Mr. Stotis. I, more than most, understand the difficult line you must walk. May God protect you and your family from those who refuse to think critically about why we are failing. Thank you for challenging us to look at ourselves critically. Thank you for helping us face our denials and ignorance. God bless you sir.

    Yianni Pappas

    • Yianni Pappas – To the best of your knowledge does Bill Stotis or anyone at Greek Orthodox Truth Reform or you yourself or any other party that you know other than the hierarchy have a copy of the Archdiocese clergy/laity counsel monastery report?

      Yanni Pappas – Thank you, for trying to reach out to our son as you did as a real Christian. However, the damage done to him by the GOA was so great he could not recover no matter how we tried to help him. Unlike the apathetic and indifferent GOA you were a man of love and concern and not abandonment towards our son, thank you. You are the great exception to what our family experienced from this church.

  15. To those who wish to pretend that there is no such thing as Orthodox Fundamentalism here is some information you may find helpful:

    There is a book authored by Archpriest John W. Morris a retired Professor of History and Ph.D. He is a graduate of the Holy Cross Seminary. It was written at the request of Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory. Metropolitan Philip understood that the Faithful were subject to being influenced by a new and growing fundamentalist movement in North America. Please read his foreword to the book carefully. Here is the information for the book:
    Orthodox Fundamentalism: A Critical View
    ISBN 1-880971-40-2

    Here is a short article written by Professor of Historical Theology George E. Demacopoulos:

    “One of the cornerstones of Orthodox Christianity is its reverence for the great Fathers of the Church who were not only exemplars of holiness but were also the greatest intellectuals of their age. The writings of men like St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. Maximos the Confessor have been and will always remain essential guides to Orthodox Christian living and Orthodox Christian faith.
    Thus it is alarming that so many Orthodox clerics and monks in recent years have made public statements that reflect a “fundamentalist” approach to the Church Fathers. And unless leaders of the Orthodox Church unite to repudiate this development, the entire Orthodox Church is at risk of being hijacked by extremists.
    Like other fundamentalist movements, Orthodox fundamentalism reduces all theological teaching to a subset of theological axioms and then measures the worthiness of others according to them. Typically, this manifests itself in accusations that individuals, institutions, or entire branches of the Orthodox Church fail to meet the self-prescribed standard for Orthodox teaching. For example, when the Theological Academy of Volos recently convened an international conference to examine the role of the Fathers in the modern Church, radical opportunists in the Church of Greece accused it and its bishop of heresy.
    The key intellectual error in Orthodox fundamentalism lies in the presupposition that the Church Fathers agreed on all theological and ethical matters. That miscalculation, no doubt, is related to another equally flawed assumption that Orthodox theology has never changed—clearly it has or else there would have been no need for the Fathers to build consensus at successive Ecumenical Councils.
    The irony, as identified by recent scholarship on fundamentalism, is that while fundamentalists claim to protect the Orthodox Christian faith from the corruption of modernity, their vision of Orthodox Christianity is, itself, a very modern phenomenon. In other words, Orthodoxy never was what fundamentalists claim it to be.
    Indeed, a careful reading of Christian history and theology makes clear that some of the most influential saints of the Church disagreed with one another—at times quite bitterly. St. Peter and St. Paul were at odds over circumcision. St. Basil and St. Gregory the Theologian clashed over the best way to recognize the divinity of Holy Spirit. And St. John Damascene, who lived in a monastery in the Islamic Caliphate, abandoned the hymnographical tradition that preceded him in order to develop a new one that spoke to the needs of his community.
    It is important to understand that Orthodox fundamentalists reinforce their reductionist reading of the Church Fathers with additional falsehoods. One of the most frequently espoused is the claim that the monastic community has always been the guardian of Orthodox teaching. Another insists that the Fathers were anti-intellectual. And a third demands that adherence to the teachings of the Fathers necessitates that one resist all things Western. Each of these assertions is patently false for specific reasons, but they are all symptomatic of an ideological masquerade that purports to escape the modern world.
    The insidious danger of Orthodox fundamentalists is that they obfuscate the difference between tradition and fundamentalism. By repurposing the tradition as a political weapon, the ideologue deceives those who are not inclined to question the credibility of their religious leaders.
    In an age when so many young people are opting out of religious affiliation altogether, the expansion of fundamentalist ideology into ordinary parishes is leading to a situation where our children are choosing between religious extremism or no religion at all.
    It is time for Orthodox hierarchs and lay leaders to proclaim broadly that the endearing relevance of the Church Fathers does not lie in the slavish adherence to a fossilized set of propositions used in self-promotion. The significance of the Fathers lies in their earnest and soul-wrenching quest to seek God and to share Him with the world. Fundamentalist readings of both the Fathers and the Bible never lead to God—they only lead to idolatry”.
    George E. Demacopoulos: Professor of Historical Theology; Director and Co-Founder, Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University.

    Here is an Ancient Faith podcast link on the issue:
    http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/aftoday/orthodox_fundamentalism_what_is_it_and_does_it_exist

    Here is an excellent article on the topic:
    http://gotruthreform.org/greek-orthodox-fundamentalism-and-evangelicals

  16. THEODORE DASKALOPOULOS on

    The author of the article has provided his evidence and definition of ” fundamentalism ” in the Orthodox Church . No one claimed that fundamentalism does not exist , only that in this article and in the commentary that followed it was not clear what people mean when they use that word . They go even further and even use the inflammatory word ” taliban” .
    So thank you for those two links that were provided as ways to back up your argument and to justify your views .

    I will not even comment on the “gotruthreform” site of the self appointed (monasticphobes-efraimophobes) KGB to monitor the monastery activity in North America . They are old news .

    The conversation , however, on the Ancient Faith Radio , with Dr George Demacopoulos was very useful , very interesting and very enlightening . The only problem is that the whole conversation has nothing to do with Fr Efraim , the arrival of the monasteries in N America and fundamentalism as defined by Dr George D.
    To the contrary it shows that Fr Efraim is not a ” taliban” . Dr George used Saint Basil to define healthy monasticism and he qualified ( en error he admitted making when originally posting his article in the GOA site) of not clarifying that Orthodoxy is indeed an ascetic religion and that elements of monastic life can be useful in parish life .
    The intellectual conversation whether the Holy Fathers have reached absolute theological positioning of all elements and issues pertaining to God, His essence , His laws and all the dogmas through the Apostles and The Holy Fathers over the centuries can certainly be useful and endless . Nothing to do with Fr Efrailm though .
    Fr Efraim arrived in America from the Holy Mountain where he was head monk ( Egoumenos) of one of the 20 large cynobiotic monasteries . Incidentally , that monastery (Filotheou ) had the nick name ” the monastery of the intellectuals ) , in reference to the educational , academic level of its monks . He was , also, the spiritual father of three other monasteries in MT Athos and few more in the rest of Greece, including Portaria in Volos where Metropolitan Ignatios is the presiding Hierarch .
    Fr Efraim ,in America, did not follow the Old Calendar as is the rule in the Holy Mountain . He followed the new Calendar . That is significant proof that he is not a fundamentalist as indeed are the monks of the monastery of Esfigmennou on Athos . His spiritual father , Elder Joseph had talked against zealots of Orthodoxy !!!!!!!!!! Hello, Hello !
    Fr Erfaim is only interested in salvation of all people .
    He only talks about repentance , humbleness , humility , discernment, love for God , Love to all people , and endless prayer .
    He talks about Orthodox Tradition and participating in the Orthodox sacraments . Confession , Communion , Confession Communion , Confession Communion. Nothing else .
    He is obedient to the Ecumenical Patriarchate ( Bartholomew has visited Arizona ) and he is under the GOA and all the local Metropolitans. Very simple stuff and very canonical . The late Metropolitan of Chicago Makaristos Iakovos choose as his resting place the monastery in Wisconsin . Now , no one who knew Iakovos can say that he was a fundamentalist in any stretch of the imagination .
    As I previously have commented , Fr Efraim enjoys the respect of the entire Synod of Mt Athos , The Church of Greece , The Ecumenical Patriarchate , The Russian one , The Serbian , The Romanian , even the Antiochian .
    So where is the ” taliban” deriving from ? and all that hate against him . After all he is a canonically ordained priest who has never been accused of any heresy or violation of Church dogmas, traditions or teachings . For that ,at least , and for the fact that he left his position on the Holy Mountain to come to the new world he should be respected . It is time to see reality , admit the truth and stop the sycophantic charges .
    Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaias , Greece , a holder of multiple graduate degrees from USA , professor and an authority on Bioethics and many other issues has visited Arizona and has the out most respect for Fr Efraim . He commented once in Greece , ” how is it that a monk from MT Athos with little education and without speaking English arrives in North America and does such an extensive spiritual work without any help from GOA or anyone else ” ? Gods’ hand .
    Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Ierotheos Vlahos , probably the biggest theologian in the Orthodox world today , has prefaced a book by Fr Efraim and has visited him multiple times in Greece and in Arizona . He also participated in the Seminar for St John Chrysostom , 8 years ago , at the monastery of St John in Wisconsin.

    The list can go on and on and on . NO ONE THINKS THAT FR EFRAIM Is a fundamentalist taliban except of the few antimonastic- efraimophobes in America who cannot do the basic research and find the truth .
    It is unfair and not logical ( to put it mildly ) to cherry pick the negative remarks of a hand full of people and build a ” cult ” theory and distort to work of a person who has sacrifice his life for the glory of God and the salvation of souls .

  17. I don’t understand the logic behind the foregone conclusion that Elder Ephraim is somehow responsible for the actions of the now defrocked Fr Passias. That’s like saying the doctor is somehow to blame if the patient won’t quit drinking and then he goes out and crashes his vehicle.
    There is nothing “fundamentalist” that goes on there. They practice our Faith precisely, with economy as needed. Whereas we in the world want economy on every issue and hate their precision.

    • Many people might use the external manifestations of a long beard, a kalimafxi, a rasso, as evidence of their piety, when in fact that might be using it to hide their own sins and dysfunctions.

  18. Here is what those who defend Elder Ephraim and the Ephraimite movement would suggest is the “truth” about The Elder and the movement:

    “Fr Efraim is only interested in salvation of all people.
    He only talks about repentance, humbleness, humility, discernment, love for God, Love to all people, and endless prayer.
    He talks about Orthodox Tradition and participating in the Orthodox sacraments. Confession, Communion, Confession Communion, Confession Communion. Nothing else.”

    I have always stood behind my words. I view the tactics of his followers as those of people who are engaged in a cult of personality. Here below are Elder Ephraim’s own words from two of the books he has authored. I will make some additional comments at the end:

    “It is well known that the devil-instigated Zionism in coordinating two insidious
    operations both within and without the Church aspiring to one and the same end;
    to destroy the fortress known as Orthodoxy.”
    A Call from the Holy Mountain, p. 43.

    “Papists, Protestants, Jehovah Witnesses, Freeman, Unionists, Ecumenists and
    other “root ofbittemess” – all these have one mind, and shall give their power and
    strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall
    overcome them: for He is Lord of Lords, and King of Kings; and they that are
    with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.”
    A Call from the Holy Mountain, p. 43.

    “You will find great grace when you obey your Elder for God’s sake. Do not
    grieve him in order not to grieve the Holy Spirit, who anointed him a successor to
    the Apostles. Elders are their final successors and occupy this position
    hierarchically through the Holy Spirit. Consequently, those who grieve them
    grieve the Holy Spirit.”
    Counsels from the Holy Mountain, p. 107.

    “Without monasticism no one reaches dispassion. No one obtains a pure “nous” (mind)
    without vigils, abstinence, and unceasing prayer. No one attains theoria without a
    monastic lifestyle.”
    Counsels from the Holy Mountain, p. 69.

    “Never examine what your Elder does or why he does this or that. Do not judge
    him, for you will become an antichrist! Never in your life tolerate others who
    speak against your Elder, but oppose them immediately; shield him; defend
    human shortcomings and mistakes, on account of uncritical and guileless
    obedience. ”
    Counsels from the Holy Mountain, p. 139.

    “Never permit the enemy to attack you with evil thoughts against your Elder, for such thoughts are serpents filled with venom.”
    Counsels from the Holy Mountain, p. 142.

    The above quotes from two of his books are rife with a misrepresentation of our accepted Greek Orthodox Theology. For example, one can see a clear advocacy of anti-Semitism, and the clear message to followers that blind obedience is required.

    The characterization of the Editors of Gotruthreform.org and by implication Weareorthodox.com given on this comments section is false. These people are faith abiding Greek Orthodox Christians who love Orthodox Monasticism. What they all universally agree upon is that Monasteries that were founded by, or have Elder Ephraim as their “spiritual Father” are operating in a manner that they feel is abhorrent to our Faith. I had occasion to interview these editors on behalf of the Monastery Review Committee of the GOA. These Editors were all highly educated and knowledgeable about the Church. When asked to provide examples of acceptable monasticism here are a few of the many examples they cited:

    1. Dormition of the Mother of God Monastery (Rives Junction, Michigan)
    2. Nativity of the Mother of God Serbian Orthodox Patriarchal Monastery (New Carlisle, Indiana)
    3. St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery (Libertyville, Illinois)

      • Steve,

        Your welcome!

        When you read Elder Ephraim’s books it is easy to see why this distortion of our Faith is causing damage to the Faithful. There is a “cognitive bias” displayed by Elder Ephraim’s followers. There is a systematic pattern of deviation from the accepted theology for the Laity. It leads those that follow this “theology” to create their own subjective reality about the Church and the Faith.

        Here what we are witnessing is evidence of some individuals who have cocooned themselves in a world where they only agree with those that agree with them. I have spoken to many Hierarchs who see the damage of applying monastic standards to the Laity. Fundamentalism in any religion generally causes discernment and “economia” to end.

        Here we have the problem. The Church is losing adherents at an alarming rate. Anyone who questions reasons that don’t coincide with the confirmation bias that the Ephraimites believes is wrong, or anti-monastic, or Ephraim-phobic! When Monasticism first came to America many, me included, were happy. But over time I came to realize that what we were sold, “real Athonite Monasticism” was not.

        We have a situation where those who are defending their Elder are only proving that his writings [cited above] are now in full force and practice. Regurgitation of the unverifiable and out right false statements is the new normal in our discourse about any problem that point to the Ephraimite movement. As our Parishes continue to empty no one should ask why. These exchanges say it all.

  19. Mr. Stotis,

    Thank you for replying to my comments.
    I believe these counsels are meant for monastics, who fight a more intense spiritual battle.
    As far as comments regarding the non-Orthodox, there are adherents of these beliefs who do work against Christ, it’s naive to think otherwise.

    • Vaggelis,

      You are welcome.

      If these counsels were limited to only monastics then I don’t believe that many would have a problem with the one’s that apply to obedience of one’s Elder. These counsels are now applied to the Laity as well, that by itself is a problem. The counsels that attack other Faiths are indefensible. Attacking other religions is not accepted Orthodox Theology. It presupposes that we have the one and only true faith. While we may believe that we do, we just don’t know. It is one of the mysteries of our Faith. Unlike Evangelical Christians who may believe they are “saved”, we Orthodox Christians must work towards our salvation our entire life, even then we just don’t know.

  20. Of course,
    We have to ask, why so much antipathy? Do we know all the facts?
    I only speak from my personal experience with the Elder and the Monasteries founded by him.
    It has always been a wonderful experience. I am happy to visit those monastic communities you mentioned as well, I’m not prejudiced

  21. THEODORE DASKALOPOULOS on

    Having nothing to rebuttal on a whole sleigh of my comments as for the respect Fr Efraim enjoys from various CREDIBLE Orthodox circles , and the definition by Dr George D, now he has introduced a new element – The writings of Fr Efraim . Great . He forgot to explain though what each and everyone of those book quotes mean in order to call Fr Efraim taliban ?

    I presume he is trying to say that Fr Efraim is not a loving Orthodox monk but rather a “monster” antisemitic, anti this and that , that he is a “cult” leader who with his teachings is applying mind control on those who,listen and with the clever invention of ” obedience ” he suppresses the personalities of monks and other ” weak minded ” faithful who approach him . WOW !!! I am going to check with the FBI to see if Fr Efraim is on their radar as were some notorious American cult leaders in the past.

    Apparently the opinions ( on true Orthodox monasticism) of those anti-monastic , efraimophobes is more valid than those of the one Catholic and Apostolic Church !

    Have any of them or the author visited the Holy Mountain in Greece ? Meteora ? Ormylia ? Souroti ( where Saint Paisios is buried) , Oropo ( where Saint Porfyrios lived ) , St David Monastery in Evia ( where St Iakovos lived ) , or other monasteries from the thousands in existence in Greece ?

    Have they met Fr Efraim personally to face him and see this “monster” with their own eyes?
    Have they visited St Anthony’s Monastery in Florence Arizona ( second most popular destination in Arizona , after the Grand Canyon ) and observe the filoksenia offered to non- Greeks and none Orthodox ?

    Well , I have done all of the above . I do not bring that up to brag , but I am forced to in order to point out that I stand by what I say with personal experiences not through third peoples here say and assumptions . I know what I am talking about . Most of the Metropolitans I mentioned , I have discuss this issue in person. People of the Orthodox Church with deep knowledge of what is MONASTICISM AND who is Fr Efraim .
    He is NOT the “monster ” he is painted here to be . He is NOT !

    The above quotes , carefully pre- selected , make a lot of sense in the context of the chapter and the book they are extracted from . They sound weird and suspicious to the ears of those who do not know Orthodox History , those who do not know what is to be OBEDIENT in this life ( to one’s spiritual father , elder , mother , father , pappou , yiayia , and spouses to each other ) to make up for the grand disobedience of Adam and Eve . OBEDIENCE TO GOD as the Theotokos was when the Archangel appear to her and announced the great news and will of God ! She obeyed and helped in the salvation of the human race . CHRIST HIMSELF OBEYED HIS FATHER ! ” Let it be as your will not mine ..”
    Obedience of Christ to even accept circumcision and human baptism , even though HE did not need either one . He accepted mockery and the cross . Monasticism and Marriage ARE BOTH CROSSES and ways to salvation . Obedience is a crucial element in both ( in marriage we do not take it that seriously , monks do though .
    Monasteries are open for any monk to walk in and walk out any time . FREE WILL was given to all by God. However in marriage divorce is not a good thing and in monasticism to renounce your vows is not good either but one is free to do as he thinks .
    Blind obedience to an Elder is the norm since the days of St Basil , and St Anthony The Great ( who we celebrated yesterday ) . But Elders are NOT dictators as some think. They are the most loving humans like a father . They have assumed the whole existence and salvation of those who are with them. The Elder will answer to GOD FOR ALL THOSE SOULS . The monks under him will not . He will . Please learn ……………………….. and DO NOT JUMP TO JUDGMENT .
    The Orthodox Church is THE ORTHODOX CHURCH ! THE ONE CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH ! does anyone know what that entails ? It is not the catholic ” church in Rome ” , it is not the break away child of Rome as the Lutheran and others , it is THE CHURCH !
    Did you miss all the arguments on that at the Holy Synod in Crete ? just because there is a an effort to have dialogues with the rest of the christian communities that doe not mean they are in the Church , thus the dialogue . We are not the same .
    Now , does GOD like to have his faithful split in 3000 denominations ? I do not think so . Who did that , who is the one who rules by division ? The evil one of course . So where is the issue with what Fr Efraim said ? St Paisios said the same , ST Porfyrios the same and so do many others . St Paisios and porfyrios are the Church’s NEW Saints and St Iakovos of Evia . By the way , all three knew Fr Efraim and had wonderful things to say . Saint Porfyrios, he even foresaw the arrival of Fr Efraim in America .

    Now, it is possible that some in America might know better then the SAINTS .

    PS . Bishop Longeen of the Serbian Monastery in Libertyville loves Fr Efraim and admires the Greek Orthodox Monasteries in America .

    and so do the sisters at the Romanian Monastery in Michigan .

    The rules of obedience apply to those monasteries mentioned above .

    Please make the effort to read the Holy Fathers of Optina of Russia .

    Fr Efraims books are edited by Orthodox Bishops and are accurate .

    Please try to cool off your anger and hate . You are looking for a buggy man and there is isn’t one .

    Be happy and even proud that America has Greek Orthodox Monasteries , nothing to envy from those listed . They are all in America for the same purpose , to help in salvation .

    Please look up the word EFRAIM to see where it comes from.

    Again , there is a Patriarchate which can look into the ” false monasticism ” forced on the Americans . Two , three groupies cannot replace the Authority of the Hierarchy.

    Fr Efraim will answer to God for all the ” monstrosities ” he is accused of .

    St Nektarios was accused of worse .

    • A cornucopia of discombobulated superfluous facts and presumptions that suggest an occasional incoherence but really make one Frankenstein of an argument. Nice Theodore!

  22. Stella Theodore on

    Dear Mr. Daskalopoulos,

    I really appreciate the wonderful job you have done of proving Mr. Stotis’s case. Every time you post something it is a window into the Ephraimite movement and how it has attacked our Church. You continue to act in such an emotional and irrational manor, through your postings, to prove to everyone reading them that Mr. Stotis is 100% right. His candid assessment of the followers of this Elder have been ratified by everything you have written. So, thank you.

    I wonder if the Elder’s followers are reading your posts? I wonder if they realize that you are doing more harm than good to their movement?

    But you are lucky. You’re lucky that the Hierarchy doesn’t really want to read anything that would put them in a position to have to act. It’s not bad enough that people are walking away from mainline religions and faiths across our country. But in our case, as Greek Orthodox Christians, we have to contend with fundamentalist fanatics who spend their time defending their Elders rather than understanding and acting as the children of God. Thank you for convincing me that as a national religion we are doomed. Our parishes are emptying, leaving only those disposed to fundamentalism and Ephraim behind. Perhaps you can do the rest of us a favor and just go to one of the many Ephraimite fanatics websites and leave the rest of us to engage in a fact based discussion.

    Stella Theodore

  23. Anthony Carris on

    Axios to Theodore Daskapoulos for your statement of 1/18/18 5:07pm. While many American Orthodox Church stewards are leaving the Church most Orthodox Monasteries in America have unprecedented growth with the giving of spiritual honey to neighbors and the faithful pilgrims. The American Laos have expressed the meaning of acceptance through vast contributions of wealth and talents. Anthony Carris acarris@icloud.com

    • Stella Theodore on

      Mr. Carris,

      You are fooling yourself by ignoring all the pieces to the puzzle.

      Over the past 5 years, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA) national membership is down by about 37%, according to Pew. If your numbers were actually accurate, there would be many more people in the Monasteries than actually are.

      The services in the Monasteries of Ephraim are usually done in Greek. Most of the people that left are not as fluent in Greek as they are in English. Additionally, imagine that of the over 500 parishes in the GOA, if you only factor 30% of them leaving, that is 150 parishes (of course each parish size varies). Suffice it to say, I highly doubt the influx is from everyone who left the GOA. Many went to the Antiochians. Others went elsewhere. Many just don’t go at all.

      You refer to it as the “American Orthodox Church stewards”. That is peculiar. Are you one of those anti-American Orthodox? Do you think Jesus was Greek?

      You ran to the rescue of Mr Daskalopoulos with the same emotional baloney that he did.

      What about SXP Financial? You know what that is? It is, or rather it “WAS” a high speed stock trading firm that was raided and shut down by the FBI. What does this have to do with the Monastery? Court testimony of one of SXP’s founders indicates Ephraim’s Monastery in Arizona was one of the silent partners. Godlevsky, I believe, is his name. Do not be so naïve to think that all disgruntled “Americans” who are Orthodox ran away to fund the Greek speaking Monasteries of Ephraim.

      Personally I am also curious why Ephraim or Paisios would name it after St. Xenia of St. Petersburg. Maybe I am cynical, but I wonder if money is coming from Russia to fund his opulent Monasteries? The solar array in Florence, AZ was certainly not cheap.

      Ephraim’s fundamentalist movement, and perhaps a Greek nationalist sentiment that disparages America, appear to have infected and divided our Church in the USA – the greatest country in the world (wouldn’t you & Mr Daskalopoulos agree it is?).

      Mrs. Stella Theodore

  24. THEODORE DASKALOPOULOS on

    ” taliban ”

    and now this :

    “If these counsels were limited to only monastics then I don’t believe that many would have a problem with the one’s that apply to obedience of one’s Elder. These counsels are now applied to the Laity as well, that by itself is a problem. The counsels that attack other Faiths are indefensible. Attacking other religions is not accepted Orthodox Theology. It presupposes that we have the one and only true faith. While we may believe that we do, we just don’t know. It is one of the mysteries of our Faith. Unlike Evangelical Christians who may believe they are “saved”, we Orthodox Christians must work towards our salvation our entire life, even then we just don’t know.”

    The author of the article has doubled down .

    Finally it is revealed that Orthodoxy is not really Orthodoxy it is a mystery still to be resolved .

    Today is the feast day of St Makarios and St Markos of Efessos the Eugenikos , very interesting coincidence .

    Those who are afraid of reassessing their positions and their venomous epithets are incapable of discussion on factual basis . They are jailed in their theories . ” do not wake me up , I like my comfort zone ” .

    Cool aid for everyone ……………………………………….

  25. THEODORE DASKALOPOULOS on

    I do not think the author of the article or myself need anyone to rescue us .

    I decided to engage because no matter how much one can disagree or dislike someone the word ” taliban ” is way out of line . It was intended to place a stigma . No person in the Orthodox world deserves that . No one is even remotely close to those despicable Muslim mullahs . No one .

    There is no further benefit to this discussion . It is getting off track .
    The issues in the GOA are serious and need to be addressed but not by paddling an Autocephalous schismatic church .
    The monasteries have nothing to do with the chronic issues of the GOA and should not be used as scapegoats to scare people or to pretend their absence will solve the issues and bring people back to the parishes . Statistics are not a guide . God does not work with statistics . Fr Efraim did not work with
    statistics , he worked with his prayer rope .

    If the author wants a more productive discussion of all the issues I am available to do so in person over coffee. I reside in the North Shore , I go to my parish every Sunday , not to monasteries, I have a family and no one in my family wears a burka .

    Mr Bill Stotis please feel free to contact me any time at theodoros711@yahoo.com . I would be glad to meet you and talk . Not to convince each other but rather to try to understand each other and have a candid discussion of the situation in our Church . I think Salvation is the main goal for all of us . The evil one works very hard to get our eyes off the ball and divide us and I really do not want to give him the pleasure that he is succeeding .

    Blessed New Year to all !

    I am sorry if offended anyone .

  26. My dear friends in Christ,

    Let me put in my two cents on these comments. As a priest for numerous years, I do not think Mr Stotis’ comments are off the mark, because I think I understand the context and the “spirit” with which he said them. Unfortunately, it is easy to twist them around out of context. I hope this helps. But if your anger in enraged, nothing anyone says could help you understand. If you want to learn from these humble words, you will. If you don’t, you won’t. As a matter of fact, it would not matter what pearl of wisdom anyone could tell you, if your ears are stopped up with anger or self, you will not hear it. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”:

    He stated: “If these counsels were limited to only monastics then I don’t believe that many would have a problem with the one’s that apply to obedience of one’s Elder. These counsels are now applied to the Laity as well, that by itself is a problem. “

    By “counsels” he is referring to the advice and teachings given by Ephraim in his book that refer to things like “blind-obedience”. In 30 years of being a priest, I have never expected that from any parishioner, nor my spiritual children who come to me for confession. This “might” be acceptable for monks – unless they are asked to do something immoral, unethical, or illegal. To have an abbot as a monk to steal from another monk in the name of “obedience” sounds really bad to me. Yet this is one of the stories I read for myself and I was appalled.

    Monastics are like the soldiers of the faith, even though we are all called to be like soldiers. But all are not apostles, all are not teachers, all are not fathers, etc. In this context, while monastics are the soldiers of the faith, laymen are like the civilian population. You cannot expect civilians to all train like the soldiers. If one wants to on their own, that is great. But it cannot be a mandate. To insist that all follow the regimen of a monk would be like feeding a baby steak. Not a good idea.

    I have been to Mt Athos. I know a number of monks at Simonopetra. I have been to others too. I have never been counseled to have blind obedience. During confession, I have never been quizzed on my sexual activities with my wife. Yet there are monasteries (that I will not name), and there are monks (that I will not name) that insist on this. My advice: don’t go there, or, walk away if they start. Some of those unhealthy monks also have taught (as some “counsels” suggest” that one should practice self-flagellation (whipping or hurting oneself). This is not part of Orthodox Spirituality or normalcy.

    On the more wholesome, logical, and balanced side, I had a monk tell me that while the Church is the “Ark of Salvation”, the Lord can make people walk on water. In other words, just because someone is not an Orthodox Christian does not mean they are going to hell.

    Conversely, just because someone IS Orthodox, does not mean he is guaranteed to go to Heaven. In the words of one of my Professors, Fr Stanley Harakas regarding salvation, “I was saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved”. In other words, it is a process that begins at baptism, but perhaps even begins at birth itself because I do not believe that if a baby dies before he or she is baptized that is is doomed to hell. Nonsense. An unbaptized infant is much more worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven than I am – even as an ordained priest. In the spiritual life, I do not think it a good idea to be puffed up. What our forefathers did is not anything that gives us credit, it just gives us opportunity and blessings. If I can love, I imagine how far superior God’s love is.

    For this reason, I agree with Mr Stotis that any advice, i.e. “counsel”, that aims at attacking another religion is wrong. Especially if they are another Christian denomination. “Whoever is for us, is not against us.” Jesus said this in regards to the others that were baptizing and preaching in His name, but were not part of their group.

    As far as other religions, once a monk from St Katherine’s in Sinai (I believe) told me of a Buddhist monk that sat outside their monastery for many days. He meditated and fasted for days. He impressed the monks and the abbot with his asceticism. They invited him in to dine with them. The chatted about that value of not being materialistic, the evils of the passions, and other ascetic insights.

    I am not suggesting that all religions are equal. I believe that the Orthodox Church, theologically speaking, has the “fullness of the Christian faith”. Unfortunately, this does not mean that our people (clergy and laity alike) are perfect. It also does not mean that everyone else is going to hell. Why are we even thinking like this? It is blatantly spiritually unhealthy and need to re-examine ourselves.

    When we start attacking other denominations or religions, we are judging with a judgment that may be given to us upon our death. If we preach the nonsense of aerial tollhouses, instead of the saving grace of Christ that was accomplished by his condescension and sacrifice on the Cross (an ultimate act of self-emptying love), then perhaps upon our death the demons of hell will await to examine us. You can be sure that if you have to give account of your sins (as this heresy teaches) you WILL be found guilty because there is no excuse for sin. The monks and clergy (and maybe to a lesser degree the laity) that teach this should be very concerned. They should re-read the Gospels and ask the Lord to give them a deeper understanding of the New Testament Scriptures, which are a testament of God’s unending love for us. He wants us to be emissaries of His love.

    In regards to the statement:

    “It presupposes that we have the one and only true faith. While we may believe that we do, we just don’t know. It is one of the mysteries of our Faith”, and “Unlike Evangelical Christians who may believe they are “saved”, we Orthodox Christians must work towards our salvation our entire life, even then we just don’t know.”

    I believe he thinks as I do regarding our Orthodox theology as most everything else he has written is in line with. I have a bit more experience articulating the nuances of the faith and I can many times spot the idea one is intending to articulate. What I think he meant was that “in regards to salvation, we cannot guarantee it”. After all, Josef Stalin was baptized Orthodox. I understand he was even a Seminarian. He turned out to be a vicious killer of millions of men, women, and children. He renounced his faith not only in words, but also in his many evil atrocities. Is he saved? On the one hand I don’t know because I am not God. I will let God deal with that. On the other hand, as a man and as a priest, the probability (in my view) is very slim. So, in spite of the fact that he was a baptized Orthodox, this does not give him cart blanch to sin with impunity. Sin has consequences. Even if it is sinning for “a good cause” as some today think.

    To wrap up, while we might feel comfortable with our salvation, the fact is, “we just don’t know”. So don’t take it for granted. This is what I deeply believe and am convinced that this is what he meant. That is more consistent with everything else he has written also, as I have mentioned.

    I would suggest to stop the character assassination of Mr. Stotis, and each other. Before we know it, Great Lent will be upon us. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all you got, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. I realize that you all do not know me. I take our faith very seriously. But if any suggest that I am a ultra-liberal priest “frango-pappa” that dismisses our tenets and waters-down our faith, please be careful to not position yourselves to God in such a manner that He will remember your every sinful detail. Not that I would wish that upon anyone, but I offer that to emphasize to mindful of your self as I try to also. In other words:

    Be agents of love not agents of pride.

    With love in Christ,

    Fr. George

    (please forgive me for not disclosing my email address and last name)

  27. Anthony Carris on

    Mrs.Stella Theodore, my sister in Christ…Thank you for what you expressed on 1/19 and to answer you the best way I can, here are some of your points answered. I have been an active steward for twenty five years in the OCA and my most important undertaking was to be a part of a twenty year journey in starting and making a reality of the first Orthodox Church in Princeton, NJ. Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow is an OCA Church resting on almost nine acres of wooded land three miles from Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary. This American Orthodox Church is a beacon of faith to future leaders in America….now to give you insight to my history: I have been active all my life with the Greek Orthodox Church and steward since 1960. I have been active with GOAL and OCL since the Archbishop Era of Spyridon. I have pilgrimed to many G.O. Monasteries other than my Elder Ephraim IM such as St Gregory Palamas and All Saints Monasteries….Pilgrimed to Holy Monastery of St. Paisios (Serbian), Monks and Nuns of New Skeet (OCA), St Tikhon’s Ox Monastery (OCA), Holy Trinity Ox Monastery (ROCOR), Dormition of The Mother of God (Romanian), and Holy Cross (ROCOR)….I have pilgrimed to Mount Athos many many January winters and based at Elder Ephraim’s Monastery named Philotheou. In 1988 Anthony entered the Monastery for the first time to view a very large Icon of Saint Seraphim of Sarvov, a Russian Saint like Mother Exenia of St. Petersburg….Father Ephraim called PaPa Ephraim councils many Monasteries Greek and of other Jurisdictions throughout the Ox. world and especially in the America’s….Please study The Atlas of American Orthodox Monasteries, edited by Alexi Krinndatch, it is most enlightening…On a last note, The Elder I have heard said that St. Anthony’s Mon. In Florence Az will be the attraction that will draw great conversions of Americans to The Holy Universal Apostolic Church. The seekers and tourist arrive in full capacity buses to witness the Monastery. St. Anthony’s Monastery is the second largest attraction in Az, first being The Grand Canyon……Stella, I pray I leave you better informed of this old man Andoni.

    • Stella Theodore on

      Andoni, I have nothing against you at all. You are a pious man. I respect that a lot. Even though you misquoted Mr. Jerry Dimitriou regarding the finances of the Monastery, I think that was an honest mistake. You owned up to it and acknowledged it, and I respect that too. This was on another post here on the OCL site somewhere. It tangibly illustrated Ephraim’s organization refusing to disclose and be financially transparent and accountable. As far as you are concerned, I want you to know that I respect your sincerity and your piety. But your credibility is much higher to me than the credibility of Ephraim and his organizations. Please re-read my earlier post as those particular issues were not addressed. Monasticism is indeed a good thing and an important part of Orthodoxy. But when they refuse to disclose their financials to the Archdiocese, to me this suggest a problem that might be only the tip of the iceberg.

      Stella

      • Anthony Carris on

        Stella, I sent a reply last week but never became a reality…so I will try again with more humility. Andoni is just another believer struggling with passions and waiting till death to quell some of them… Jerry Demetriou is a man I know from his youth and his involvement with youth activities at our St Paraskevi Church. In later times while attending college he was employed by my Company and every summer diligently worked for the reward of meeting some of his financial needs. I respected his charisma and his ability to meet his obligations. Jerry was a rising star and a faithful Christian…Stella what you and Bill Stotis have stated in parts has credibility in a US Court of accountability. What you both lack in understanding (my thoughts) are that these are Monasteries of tradition and are approx. five to nine centuries in existence. IRS was not in existence and in its place The Ottoman Empire was giving their 1099 and 501 etc…how do you grow to meet the people’s needs and coexist is a complex issue. Many dynasties with their language and culture have come and gone, the Athonite Monasteries are still here to serve God and his In need flock….both of you in this world are more learned than Andoni and I can not compare myself to your prestigous backgrounds, all I have is a Christian faith and common sense. Lastly I would recommend you both read “Prayer for the Beginning of the Day”, Orthodox Study Bible, pg. 1793 and “Saint Paisios of Mount Athos”by Hieromonk Isaac, Holy Monastery of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian. Anthony Carris

  28. Once again, my words have been tainted by others to attempt to discredit me. I believe that most people reading my article and my posts/comments understand my position. Thanks to the many that have reached out to me personally and thanked me for my article and my past contributions to the Church. Many of you have indicated just how disturbing some of the commentary in a few of the comments have been. Still others have observed that the lack of coherent thoughts, in these comments are akin to “reading verbal vomit”.

    This vomiting of misinformation is an example of how the Theology of our Faith is being corrupted by the Ephraimite “theology”. In a few of these comments we see the damage done to the Faithful. Because of these misstatements of Orthodox Theology, People reading all the comments should avail themselves of accepted Orthodox Theological teaching, such as those found on the GOA website. There is an excellent article written by Fr. Stylianopoulos. He is a Theologian of excellent regard. Please go to the GOA website [I have provided the link below the article] rather than relying on misinformation we are witnessing in some of the comments to my article.

    Here is an important quote from the article written by Fr. Stylianopoulos Th.D.:

    “The mystery of salvation is a duet, not a solo. It is a life-time engagement with God. It has ups and downs, twists and turns, with opportunities to grow in the love of God, knowing that we can turn to Him again and again and receive forgiveness and a new birth. When we come to Christ as sinners, we have no works to offer to Him, but only faith and repentance. But once we come to Him and receive the gift of salvation, we enter into a sacred covenant to honor Him with good works.”

    Here is the link to the entire article: https://www.goarch.org/-/how-are-we-saved-

    Here is some background on Fr. Stylianopoulos:

    “Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos Th.D., Harvard Divinity School, 1974
    S.T.M., Boston University School of Theology, 1964
    B.A., Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School, 1962

    Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos has taught at Hellenic College and Holy Cross since 1967 specializing in the New Testament and also teaching courses in the areas of Orthodox theology and spirituality. He became tenured professor of New Testament in 1979 and was named the Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology in 2003.

    His main academic interests include the theology of the Gospel of John, the life and thought of St. Paul, the origins and growth of the early Church in its relationship to Jews and Gentiles, the spirituality of scripture and tradition, and the hermeneutical issues pertaining to the gospel, scripture, tradition, Church, Christian mission and pastoral life.

    Fr. Stylianopoulos introductory book on Orthodox hermeneutics entitled The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective, Vol. 1, Scripture, Tradition Hermeneutics (Brookline: Holy Cross Press (1997) has been translated into Arabic and Ukrainian and is forthcoming in Russian. He is also the author of The Good News of Christ (1991) and The Way of Christ: Gospel, Spiritual Life and Renewal in Orthodoxy (2002).

    Over his many years Fr. Stylianopoulos has been engaged in extensive ecumenical work as official Orthodox representative through organizations and dialogs, has lectured in various colleges and universities, and has conducted numerous retreats in Orthodox parishes throughout the United States and Canada. Throughout his ordained life (since 1965) he has also pastored several parishes in New England, including St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Keene, N.H. (1978-to present).”

  29. Joanie Ioanna K. on

    Mr. Stotis,

    I generally don’t get into these kinds of religious discussions or exchanges. I will explain myself at the end. There are a few pointed comments I would like to express first.

    Your article was actually a masterpiece of thoughtful insights as to the price we will pay as an ethnic group in America. Your ability to connect the failure of the Greek Orthodox Church and the unforeseen consequences of its impact on Greece made me think. It also reinforced what many in my circle have long said about our Church. Thank you!

    Personally I find it so very disappointing that Mr. Nevins, who lost his son, who is not even Orthodox, understood the significance of your admissions. It seems that attacking you was the order of the day. I am quite sure that I will also be attacked for complimenting your article. I think I have seen this movie before: what the Ephraimites can’t control…… they try to destroy!

    Your understanding of unhealthy Monasticism is key to any investigation of that problem. Our Lord and Savior gave us discernment. Unfortunately many don’t see how they have handled this gift from God over to the unworthy. I have experienced the material beauty of these Monasteries. But, thankfully I have also used my mind to study and see the damage they have caused. The apologists and defenders have done a disservice to God. They are missing the mark.

    I read these posts that attack you and understand that we have been damaged beyond repair. I see how these people use their followers to do their bidding. I live in the Metropolis of Chicago. I see how the factors you have cited have led us to this.

    My family, my friends and even my Parish Priest are thankful that you will not be silent about evil. In the face of these blistering baseless attempts to damage you, you continue to speak truth to power. These absolutely absurd posts have all the earmarks of someone who is in communication with an Ephraimite Priest. Incredibly there are so many in my Metropolis I can’t even guess which one it is. My family and I left our ancestral Parish and now drive a great distance for a non-affected Priest.

    Thanks again and may God give you the strength to fight these fundamentalist Ephraimite adherents. I can’t find the emotional forgiveness to even consider them Orthodox. To Mr. Nevins, first I am truly sorry for your son’s loss. Finally, the truth will one day come out. Your son’s death is a giant stain on my beleaguered Church, but not my Faith.

    Joanie (Ioanna)

  30. Sandra (Alexandra) on

    Mr. Stotis,

    Glory to God for your truthful article! It’s sad, although not surprising, that you’re being attacked by Ephraim cult followers. Please know that many appreciate your efforts! I’m also grateful for GoTruthReform and WeAreOrthodox. I have shared those web sites with many. I’m a survivor of the twisted ways and abuse of an Ephraim monastery. They took advantage of me while I was in a very fragile condition. I’m ever grateful to have been able to have the wisdom to not accept his cult teachings.

    The church is hurting for many reasons and I hope and pray that the issues are resolved.

    Mr. Nevins, I’m so sorry for your loss of which I’ve read about before. God bless you and your family.

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