THE TIME FOR ORTHODOX UNITY IS NOW!

I HAVE A QUESTION OR TWO

14

Dean G. Popps

by Dean Popps

So, if I understand all the mumbo-jumbo emanating from the archdiocese, the Greek papers and various Clergy-Laity rapporteurs, here’s the score –

The archdiocese is obligated directly or indirectly, as follows:

# Perhaps as much as an additional $50m is needed to finish the ill-conceived St. Nicholas project and up to $3m a year‎ is required ad infinitum to maintain it. There is a notion involving existing pledges (receivables) to the tune of $12m to off-set this, but, given what has transpired and the complete loss of confidence in the archdiocese and the project, that number has to be seriously discounted.

# The priest pension fund is “missing” $50m. Missing or underfunded is a distinction without a difference. The money ain’t where it should be and answers are foggy to non-existent, at best, as to where that money went.

‎# The archdiocesan headquarters in NYC now has a mortgage of $5m and a revolver line of credit, probably at 8 or 10% interest, to help them through the expected continuing tight cash situations, that totals $7.5 million.

# The archdiocese owes upwards of another $2m on other properties such as the Archdiocesan Cathedral, Cathedral Towers, etc. (hard to get accurate numbers because related entities are not reported).

# Unknown legal liabilities related to commercial claims against the archdiocese and civil claims against its priests and operations for various reasons. Unknown liabilities related to possible civil and criminal state/federal investigations. Legal and accounting/audit bills probably in the 100s of thousands. Court costs would push this into the millions.

# Annual operating deficits and long-term sustainment issues exist at every related institution‎–HCHC/ St. Basil/ St. Michael’s/ all Metropolises–you name it. Not a single, well-run, accountable related entity. Every entity relies on the GOA headquarters for funding. “Mr. Bouras and Mr. Jaharis have passed, what do we do now?”, is the only depth of the operating plan.

# An archdiocesan operating budget that includes an approved $1m DEFICIT‎ for this year. This is to take a stab at putting $1m of the $50m owed to the priests back in the till, but, If you do that, you can’t pay the mortgages you just encumbered yourself with and an insolvent organization becomes even more at risk of sheer collapse.

Dean George Popps was Acting United States Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology from 2008 to 2010.

So, do I have this right, so far?

All in, we need~ $110m in knowns and ~$XXm in unknowns‎ to float this sunken ship?

At the same time, major donors and the rank and file have fled for the exits. Confidence in the entire institution and all of its leaders is in a ‎death spiral. There are no “grow the business and grow the customers” plans, just a further unappealing behaviors from the Phanar.

The parish pews are emptying two at a time, membership and attendance is poor.

Priests are dispirited and abused, as a viable cadre, they are withering on the vine, filled with personal problems, mental health, physical and addiction issues. And The Phanar and Greece (our true bosses) insist our real priorities should be the Turks, Macedonia, Cyprus, not the American Church and its priests and faithful.

Meanwhile, our “strategic partners” (i.e partners we have supported by various means, one way or another—The Phanar, the Republic of Greece and Cyprus, the “powerful Greek Lobby”, and all Greek causes good or bad—all of whom have been feeding at our trough for a century) are nowhere to be seen nor offer any help. The carcass has been stripped bare.

And, to rub salt in the wound, the same “management team”, robed and unrobed, ‎the same inept lay “chairmen” of this and that standing committee, and the same comatose “archdiocesan council members”–all remain in place. But, the “restructure guy” quit on the spot.

There is no believable, executable plan for renewal except “pay archdiocesan dues in advance” (similar to Republic of Greece’s financial plan of borrowing the “payment due” and add it to the balance) and horse-whipping the major parishes for more cash.

Many, many parishes are living hand to mouth and are being bled dry by the GOA mandatory franchise payments and by truly unacceptable Metropolitans.

Do I have this summary about right?

Oh, and of course, everyone went to Greece for the summer!!

The old English nursery rhyme that Mama used to read me comes to mind……

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

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14 Comments

  1. Dean, I believe your summary and assessment are correct. Thanks for offering your perspective.

    It’s a mystery why there hasn’t been a more concerted effort on the part of the laity to rise up against the status quo and resist. The optics of the Clergy Laity conveyed a disconnect between modern American society and men in flowing gowns trying to keep a Byzantine dream alive.

    Yes, the GOA has been hemorrhaging parishioners for some time now. Still, it was a little surprising that there was almost no activity and push back that took place on Twitter during the Clergy Laity gathering. It’s odd that developing nations can use a modern tool like Twitter to organize, speak truth to power, and demand change yet our laity hasn’t taken advantage of this technology. If there there are two things that would make the hierarchy have a meltdown, it is critical thought and second guessing.

    Blind obedience to flawed clergy, compromised hierarchs, and lay leaders who do not function as a check and balance system has not served us well.

    • George D. Karcazes on

      The theme of this Congress should have been:

      “No accountability — No transparency — Business as usual.”

      About one -third of the Parishes did not send delegates. Those who went had no opportunity for input into the agenda or budget (other than voting to add $1 million to “fund the underfunded Priest’s Pension account” without indicating where the money would come from.) It was not surprising that the only “push-back” came from the clergy who voted for a “deficit” budget.. which was a meaningless gesture.

      The laity have been effectively disenfranchised by the Charter and Uniform Parish Regulations. They are basically “props” used to provide a facade of “lay participation” at “the highest legislative body of the Archdiocese in all matters other than dogmatic and canonical.”

      The idea that a Twitter storm might arrest the downward spiral of the Archdiocese is intriguing, but the reality is that by marginalizing even the most active among the laity the Archdiocese has sown the seeds of its own slow decline. There is no organized effort to make the required systemic changes to the Charter and UPR. The laity are convinced that they are impotent to make changes and they become apathetic. People drift away slowly.. reduce the time, talent and treasure they once willingly offered and parishes slowly become places where people go only for weddings, baptisms, funerals and memorial services.. perhaps Easter and Christmas.. and, of course, the food festivals.

      Those in positions of authority know the problems and the solutions. They prefer the status quo. That is the sad reality.

      • Hi George. The empty pews in parishes across the country supports your point about people moving away from the GOA (except for weddings, funerals, and food festivals).

        A Twitter revolt alone would not result in structural changes to the Charter and UPR. Probably a hardball tactic like a widespread financial boycott might force negotiations and concessions leading to structural changes. Unfortunately, hard ball tactics and forced negotiations are antithetical to why people go to church. Being forced to play hardball in an ecclesiastical setting reduces the experience to something similar to a labor negotiation or sales transaction. Who needs it?

        Regarding your themes of marginalization and disenfranchisement, lately I have attended liturgies at Episcopalian and Presbyterian parishes. Worshipping without the backdrop of preserving cultural ties to Greece and Turkey has been insightful. The value system and liturgical experience in those two churches seem to align more with the American experience. They are fine with women clergy/homilists, are not afraid to embrace the LGBT community, they celebrate cultural diversity, and are active in social justice issues at a local level.

        It’s sad and unfortunate that the GOA is putting their faithful in a position of church shopping for an experience that is relevant to the culture they live in.

        Getting back to the use of social media as a forum for the laity’s dissonance, there may be some limited value to it. If a hierarch isn’t doing his job, he should be called out. It might be time to demythologize our relationship with clergy in general and hierarchs in particular. Thin skin and inflated egos often leave them incapable of handling widespread public criticism. One interesting dynamic from the Methodios incident in Arlington, MA was that he was ill prepared to handle the public criticism that began on Facebook. He had acted like an autocrat for so long that he struggled with the concept of free speech and took it as an affront to his authority.

        • Sorry, but what do you mean by “not afraid to embrace the LGBT community”? Are you saying that the Church should do what other churches do?

          • Hi Iyad. If a Church (other denomination) has found an effective way to minister to people who work and live in a secular, pluralistic society…….then yes, we should do what other Churches do.

  2. John, thank you. Not to get too esoteric but because you sound like you may have theological training, this is not dissimilar to the effects in the Roman Catholic Church of the Masonic Permanent Instruction of the “Alta Venetia Dei Carbonari”, I.e. corrupt the hierarchy all the way to the top and then abuse the penchant of the Greek Orthodox Laity to blindly obey.

  3. It seems that the St. Nicholas project is going to be one of the major reasons for the fall of the Archdiocese. Give it up it does not need to be there anymore. The real church burnt down. The whole vibration of the Archdiocese should be focused on the Gospel and the spiritual well being of its members, clergy and laity. To be a righteous Archdiocese it should focus on, next to the Gospel, feeding the hungry, and sheltering the homeless. This is the right leverage for maintaining a healthy successful Archdiocese. Dreams of building and maintaining large expensive well decorated church buildings don’t necessarily translate to true thanks giving to the Almighty God but often to “Humpty Dumpty’s fall”. See what happened to the Roman Catholic Church in Montreal. It is an offence against God to burden the faithful with increased pledge demands. They may eventually abandon their pews.

  4. The Orthodox Church is the purest form of Christianity, despite all its faults. It is the Church of Jesus Christ and not the Church of Greece. Our Heritage is truly amazing going back 2,500 years, and the contributions to the world and particularly the West and USA is evident everywhere, in the language, in the architecture, in the sciences, etc. With all these amazing accomplishments, why do Greeks feel substandard and always need to feel like they need to prove the value of the Greek heritage to the world? Exactly what happened to Greece for the 2004 Olympics where the country way overspent with poor planning, timing etc, our (Greek) Orthodox Church seem to be doing the same thing in New York. We have an amazing culture who seems like it needs to constantly prove itself to the world. And as I said earlier, We are the Church of Jesus Christ and NOT the church of Greece. Jim

  5. Ashley Nevins on

    And as the GOA in America implodes the ephraim cult grows and the church is as powerless to stop the spread of that cult as it is powerless to stop the spread of its system wide implosion.

    It is obvious what the core problems are…

    Corrupt and incompetent hierarchy + ephraim monastic cult + spiritually immature, apathetic and codependent laity = what for the future of the GOA?

    The problem is first a Biblical and spiritual problem with God as a church. The only real solution is a transparent, honest and repentant hierarchy that can lead the whole church through a process of systemic repentance and accountability. Do any of you see the hierarchy of the GOC repenting at this depth anytime soon?

    Like it or not this is the truth of it. The GOA is a top down authoritarian structure of hierarchical power and control that is a closed system and that has gone systemically corrupt. It is a cultic religious dictatorship. It can claim to be something else but its true thinking and attitude come out in its behavior. It’s behavior is unrepentant systemic corruption that hides, covers up, spins and lies to self protect its corrupt power and control at the expense of the greater church (the laity).

    I belong to a Christ alive and growing church. The GOA is not one. If it had been left up to the GO in my city I would NEVER have heard the Gospel. Jesus Christ is not an exclusive and isolated ethnocentric closed system focused inward upon himself. Jesus Christ is Philippians chapter two. Jesus is the other centered servant who ministers to people with humility and not abusive and corrupt authoritarian power and control. He comes under and raises people up while the top down authoritarian power and control lords over you and pushes you down. The real church of Jesus Christ is relevant, alive and growing and the GOA in America is irrelevant and it is dying a slow, ugly and painful public death. What is happening in NYC is just another symptom of the degree of its corruption and state of church death.

    What once propped the GOA up has fallen down and shown what was really holding it together. Jesus Christ is not the center of this church holding it together. Systemic hierarchical corruption, cult monasticism, ethnocentric idolatry and laity religious codependency are at the center of what hold this church together.

    Notice how what has held it together is now unraveling it? What unravels it is based in the flesh and the world and not the Lord Jesus Christ God! Lose God and lose your church. Replace God with idolatry and watch the idols destroy the church. Believe you are God’s only right and superior Christians and church and see how that exclusivity, pride and arrogance brings you down. (Jesus told the spiritually dead Pharisees to go be right and see where it takes you! All were wrong in their minds in comparison to them!)

    The corrupt hierarchy and the cult leader elder are not the Lord Jesus Christ. They are Pharisee like. Let men like this lead your church and watch them destroy it by corruption and cultism. Make men like this idols over God and you will turn your church into a cult and that is exactly what has taken place. Denial that it has taken place only makes the cultism worse over time. A point of no return can be reached. Has the GOA reached that point? What would be the signs that tell you it has reached a point of no return?

    What’s next, you have to go through aerial toll booths that demons control to prove your worthiness to God to get into heaven? Is that GOA relevancy in evangelism in 21st century America?

    If the GOA idea of church relevancy to a lost and broken world cannot attract and keep millennials, it’s over for this church in about 10 years. Millennials find a systemically corrupt, authoritarian, cultic and dying ethnocentric exclusive church relevant to their lives, right?

    I belong to a healthy, alive, growing and dynamic church focused on reaching millennials with the Gospel of Christ’s salvation. It’s not God’s only true and right church like the GOA claims, but it is also not systemically corrupt, cultic or dying. Go be right GO, and I will stick with my church that the GOA says is heretical in comparison to the GOA.

    I find it amusing when the dead church calls the alive church wrong in comparison to the dead church. The self righteous blind hypocrisy is amazing to experience from the GO who are in denial about their dead church and why it is in a dying state. Had it been left up to the GO in my city I would never had heard the good news of Christ’s salvation. What is dead is not that good at bringing what is alive to people. However, what is alive is good at bringing what is alive to those who are dead. Christ alive brings life to the dead.

    How good was the Sanhedrin at bringing good to people in comparison to Jesus Christ in the Gospels?

    The GOA is left behind by God’s paradigm shift to a church that is His relevancy to the next generation in America. Alive is relevant. Dead is irrelevant. If you believe what is dead is relevant, that’s a serious problem, and the GO believe that with their exclusive thinking mindset.

  6. This is a great analysis of the current situation. Thank you, Ashley, for the insight! One only needs to look at the almost-empty pews on a Sunday morning and see that something has been wrong for a long time. The corruption, conspiracy has been unveiled so many times. Younger people look to the church for, maybe, their dances, food festivals, parties, and other social events. There are way more occasional Orthodox (Pascha, Christmas) than weekly parishioners.

  7. Unfortunately this may be the case in many Greek Orthodox churches but not the case at St. Athanasius. Our church was vibrant, flourishing and full of life. It is so ridiculous to see that the individuals that caused this turmoil are still there while the rest of us feel displaced and unwanted. What everyone doesn’t understand is that although Fr. Nick is gone, almost everyone who has left would come back and would have welcomed and embraced a new priest “IF” all was done honestly and “IF” the council was removed. It is so ludicrous that they still remain and have increased the dues to $1000.00 to become a steward in order to vote. Can’t everyone see what is happening. Remove the council and get your parishioners back. Although we would miss Fr. Nick, he should have been welcomed back as part of the greatness he created and not treated like an outcast. Do the right thing and remove them and start anew, unless there is an unspoken coverup that hasn’t been revealed.

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