Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
I served on my Parish Council for more than twenty years; three as President. I also represented my Parish as a lay delegate to ten Clergy-Laity Congresses. I no longer serve on our Parish Council. Although I was removed from a volunteer position on our Stewardship Committee for sending an entirely truthful and accurate “Letter to the Editor” of The National Herald, I was still asked to come back and advise our Parish Delegates about what they should say and do at the Boston Congress as delegates to the Congress. In summary, the following was my advice to our Parish:
Send only the Priest, as he might be punished if he doesn’t attend. Send along a letter from our Parish that we will no longer send delegates to these charades until the rules governing the Congress (UPR) are changed to permit real input from the parishes and laity. This could have been done before calling this Congress. It can be done at any time by the Archdiocesan Council, which has all of the power to act as “the highest legislative body of the Archdiocese” between Congresses. Advise the organizers of the Congress that our parish will send the $6,000 our budget has allocated for the Congress to a local food pantry or shelter, or to our Metropolis. We will no longer waste the time, talent and treasure of our parishioners and parish by sending delegates to these scripted extravaganzas. My parish did not heed my advice.
I based my advice on my experiences as a delegate, and as I approach my 80th birthday, a lifetime of active participation in two parishes; plus, 31 years as a member of Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) traveling the country and seeing how “Church” is done in other Orthodox “jurisdictions” in America. For many years, there have been calls for reforming the Congress and making it a place where accountability and transparency are practiced, rather than empty phrases in press releases from spin masters at East 79th Street. The only substantive work of the Church that can only be done at a Clergy Laity Congress is done in the Administration and Finance Committees. These committees can propose changes to the UPR and can disclose the finances and approve the budget of the Archdiocese. Everything else can be done, better, cheaper and with wider effect at the Metropolis and in Parishes. The Congress should be held on a non-holiday weekend at a reasonably priced conference center. No politicians and no “dignitaries” giving speeches. No lavish banquets. No black-tie dinners. No exhibition halls for tee-shirt vendors. No “bread and circuses” committees to divert attention from the important work that needs to be done. With all the time devoted to the only two committees [Administration and Finance] that can make a difference as the “highest legislative body of the Archdiocese.” Parishes must be allowed to submit matters for the agenda of these two committees without jumping through hoops. Chairs of these committees should be elected by the committee members, not appointed by Hierarchs and ecclesiastical bureaucrats who rule matters that are in order, “out of order”. When these reforms are made, it will be worth the time, talent and treasure of parish delegates to attend these Congresses.
My answer to a retired priest who told me that boycotting the Congress means “surrender,” was that “the absence of the laity from this Congress sends a stronger message than trying to get parishes to withhold funds. Refusing to attend a Congress under the existing rules of engagement is not ‘giving up’ — it is strategic. Going to discuss matters of grave importance on a level playing field that affords everyone an opportunity for a robust exchange of ideas is worthwhile. Attending a staged theater of the absurd adds dignity to a “farce”.
My response to retired priests is that they should act as the tip of the sword to advocate for the reforms that are needed. They shouldn’t worry about their pensions. For years, good priests have failed to speak out for fear of reprisals from arbitrary, vindictive and unaccountable Hierarchs. Retired priests must not focus solely on their pensions to the exclusion of the reforms needed in order for the Church in America to survive and grow. They should lead the way to a single, Autocephalous Orthodox Church in the U.S., under a single Synod, strong enough to help the Suffering Churches in the Old World. The leadership of the Archdiocese must stop acting as Janissaries under Ottoman rule. The retired clergy are in a unique position to raise the banner!
What better timing than the 4th of July?!
George D. Karcazes
President, Orthodox Christian Laity
I agree wholeheartedly with George!
Over the years I have often disagreed with you. This is not one of those times!
You are spot-on especially with respect to calling out retired priests for not leading the required push to achieve reform.
Wow! If the retired priests and laity of the GOA were to seriously follow George’s counsel and advise, it may cause a reform and renewal of the ENTIRE Orthodox Church in North America. The fact is ALL the Orthodox here in North America are “circling the drain”! Lord, have mercy!
I agree 100% with you, as I always have. I liked your last sentence about the retired priests (I am one of them).
They could be a dynamic voice in the affairs of our ailing Church. You hardly hear anything from them as a group!
Many years ago, I (the rebel), have stated that the Clergy-Laity Congress was a farce. When Archbishop Iakovos appointed my wife to the National council – she served for two years – she was appalled at the egoism of the council members and the strong-arm of the Archbishop. I say abolish the Congress and operate as the Ecumenical Fathers operated. Call for a congress when there is a serious crisis and resolve the issue in a consensus manner. The Ecumenical Patriarch should not intimidate his Metropolitans. Last, but not least, let’s refer to the church as the Orthodox Christian Church of America
George, you have once again showed your leadership in stating what the problem is, and how to rectify it. I was once reticent in sending this sort of letter around, but with age comes wisdom and courage, I am sending it to my parish president and treasurer. As an OCL member for many years, I think its time that we all become active disciples to our cause, accountability and transparency, and send people we know writings such as these to at least let people know, there is a better way. Our time to act is now, after seeing the gross inadequacies of leadership and financial management, I pray that membership in our church wakes up and sees the clear path ahead. Activation of retired clergy would be the icing on the cake, what a better group to rally around a new and improved and HONORABLE, Orthodox Church of America.
In July 2012 about 4 weeks after our son committed suicide at St. Anthony Monastery I attended the archdiocese clergy/laity congress in Phoenix Az. A resort security person asked me to leave while passing out copies of our son’s obituary to the laity, priests and metropolitan’s.
While driving out of the posh resort center two police cars came racing in. Within a month after that the diocese had sent the police to my my house twice. How many of you reading this have had similar happen to you in your protest of this systemically corrupt church and monastic cult???
The article from George gave good advice but did not go far enough. I say go to the conference and make a protest stand there in the face of the metropolitan’s. Get removed from the conference. So the Orthodox Christian solution is to contract in and not go out and protest the corruptions? Turn inward by staying away is the solution? How about if all whom otherwise would go do go and deliver the letter to the hierarchy? What if they attend the different conference workshops, dinners, socials, etc and ask hard questions? What about holding protest signs outside of where the conference is held?
All I hear is don’t show up and don’t pay money to support the dysfunction. Better is to show up on your own dime and protest the sicknesses to expose them and the congress hypocrisy in enabling the systemic corruption. No disruption of the congress in on site protest of the corrupt status quo and nothing changes.
Talking about what should be done and organizing and taking the RISK necessary to make your church right before a Holy God are two different things. You must show up and make tsunami waves.
What’s next, another Jaharis like promise to deal with the elder and his monasteries and the death of Scott Nevins and then NOTHING HAPPENS? Or, is it Stotis asking the laity again to demand a copy of the Archdiocese council monastery report to make it public when he himself has a copy of it? (Tip of the iceberg of what I could speak too in regard to the hypocrisy of even those who say they want reform)
The GOA is dying a slow, ugly and painful death. It is imploding by way of its ethnocentric exclusiveness, systemic church corruption, leadership incompetency and cult monasticism (I can list 10 more reasons). My experience in dealing with it was one of dealing with a religious authoritarian and self righteous dictatorship that believes it is superior and exclusively right over all others not of it. It was a dealing with a spiritually dead, apathetic and indifferent church experience. My family was treated like a cult treats those that resist it and expose it.
If you want the church to change then those concerned are going to have to take the risk, pay the price and make the sacrifice for that to happen. Talk of action is cheap, but taking action is expensive. Sitting at home comfortable rather than being at risk in protest at the conference is not the solution. Holding back money and attendance is EASY but being at risk by direct in their face protest is what is required if you really want to see change. You must disrupt the corrupt to see change. Passive resistance in the face of aggressive corruption loses. Easy is not the solution to the hardened corruption.
June 12 2012