Source: The National Herald
By Elaine Jaharis
Open Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Demetrios, the Synod of Bishops and the Archdiocesan Council – Consultation Committee;
The selection of the next Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Chicago will shape the future of the entire Greek Orthodox Church in America – for better, or for worse. There is no middle ground. There are many reasons why the “status quo” is unsustainable. This Metropolis cannot survive “more of the same”; or, a “temporary placeholder”.
An inspired selection will steer the Metropolis in new directions; rejuvenate stewardship rolls; and restore joy to the life of the Church that has been grievously wounded in recent years. An improper selection will doom this Metropolis; accelerate its decline; and start a chain of events that will negatively impact the entire Archdiocese, as well as the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The next Metropolitan must be a loving, ethical shepherd who cares for the flock entrusted to him, both clergy andlaity alike. He must possess the temperament, wisdom and insight to engage a laity that is divided and disengaged; heal the divisions among the clergy, who espouse opposing systems of thought and theology.
The next Metropolitan must be willing and capable of confronting the influence of the Monasteries of the Elder Ephraim on the clergy and parishes of the Metropolis of Chicago, which extend their reach beyond the traditional role of monasteries as part of the Church. He must be willing to vigorously enforce the obligations of these monasteries under the Charter of the Archdiocese, or remove from them the color of legitimacy that they derive from being under his Omophorion. The new Metropolitan cannot claim to be agnostic about this critical issue, while his actions and inactions support them.
The rapid expansion and outreach of the monasteries of the Elder Ephraim has reached a critical stage. It is approaching the point of no return. The new Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Chicago will either lead the way to rein in their control or he will empower these monasteries to continue to grow, destroying our faith and our communities and creating grave geopolitical and legal repercussions.
The Eparchial Synod and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have the awesome responsibility to decide the future of the Metropolis of Chicago, the Archdiocese of America and, by extension, the Universal Church of Christ. They will “own” the decision they make, now and forever. I pray that the Holy Spirit, which is present everywhere and fills all things, will come and abide among our Hierarchs to make a selection that will be “pleasing to God” and all of His people.
Elaine Jaharis has served as a member of the Archdiocesan Council (2004-2017) and as Chair of the Committee on Youth Ministries (2012-2017). She is also a Founder of Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism and a member of Leadership 100.
Do what the Catholics do retire Bishops at 75 years old and if they are really good keep them on ! Priest usually retire before 70 years old
I’m from the Metropolis of Boston so I’m not familiar with your situation in the recently widowed Metropolis of Chicago. The concern & urgency in your letter certainly get one’s attention. Could you briefly summarize and give a couple examples of how Elder Ephraim’s monasteries are negatively affecting the people of the Metropolis of Chicago?
It all boils down to jealousy and money. People are sick of watered down religion and choose to go to the monasteries. Those opposed to monasteries and are jealous and believe parishioners are spending too much money there that could be going to their own churches. Power and money are the issue.
Below is a link to an article from The National Herald that gives some examples of the concerns of the Ephraim monasteries. A while back, based on the many concerns being voiced, members of the Archdiocean Council formed a “Monastery Review Committee” to look into the concerns being raised, and Elaine Jaharis was one of those on this council. When their investigation was completed, they presented their findings to the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese has yet to allow the findings of this investigation to be made public. Why? I would guess because it will make them look bad, given these monasteries are under the GOA, and because the GOA protocol is to cover up and hide such things.
Thanks for the link. I read the article. If David Smith’s description of his experience is true then this is problematic. Whipping one’s self, married couple never having sex & staying up all night in prayer with no regard for their jobs or their children is not even Orthodox fundamentalism…it’s mental pathology.
However, I have Elder Ephraim’s book, “The Art of Salvation”, and it’s wonderful. I also know people who regularly go to Elder Ephraim’s monasteries for retreat, confession & counsel, and they are normal folks without any cult-like or fundamentalist tendencies so I have to admit that I find it hard the believe that what David Smith described represents Elder Ephraim’s teachings or the spiritual environment of his monasteries.
I’m not saying that David Smith is lying. Maybe he suffers from psychiatric problems, and he’s delusional. Maybe he’s a normal guy & it’s all true. What do I know. If it’s true maybe [Abbot] Paisios is personally off in the weeds. Who knows. I do know that one person’s description of their subjective experience is pretty limited data. Are there more examples and/or verifiable evidence that this stuff is being taught / encouraged by Elder Ephraim’s monasteries?
You are right to say what you have, not truly knowing the people involved. I too don’t know those involved, except for Elaine and another person who served on the Monastery Review Comittee. These are good, philanthropic and well respected people who investigated the monasteries and I believe they are truthful in their account of what they have investigated and have witnessed in their own parishes.
I appreciate your comments. I did an internet search, and I can’t come up with any objective data that Elder Ephraim’s monasteries are fundamentalist or are negatively affecting the Metropolis of Chicago. I’m not saying this is not the case, but it’s hard to believe given what I know of him & his monasteries.
Clearly OCL & numerous folks in the GOA are concerned about this issue. However, unless they can present for review the verifiable proof they claim to have garnered that Elder Ephraim’s monasteries are poisoning the Metropolis of Chicago it will be difficulty, if not impossible, for these concerned people to convince others who are not familiar with the situation.
The number of current post on OCL regarding this issue is telling, but without evidence I’m afraid that the expressed concerns are a moot point.
I agree Timmy, and that’s why the Archdiocese should make the investigative report by the Monastery Review Committee public to make the truth known to all. But they have sat on it. The GOA has done this repeatedly, where concerns are brought to them and they do nothing, until the media gets something tangible to expose it and it blows up. In the GOA, where there is smoke, they will hide it. Just google Fr. Passias of St. Spyridon. He is one of the strongest followers of Elder Ephraim. There have been serious concerns brought to the Archdiocese for years about his behavior, and they did nothing. Finally someone else exposed the scandals. It blew up in the media for the whole world to see that one of Elder Ephraim’s biggest followers has a cake porn fetish with his God Daughter and they are missing thousands of dollars from the church.
Or perhaps they did not find anything from the false accusations. Petty jealousy and childish behavior.
Timmy, your response is objective and illusrates maturity in our Greater Eastern Orthodox Church. Please be enlightened by googling The Holy Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Archangels, Kendalia Texas…the Abott is Father Dosithios. I became acquanted with the Abott when he was a novice monk at the Holy Monastery of Philotheou on Mount Athos. He arrived from Toronto after graduating high school…George Matsoukos /OCL and I with monks did manual labor for this Holy Monastery. Review how a high school graduate nurtured under Elder Ephraim arrived in the USA with one or two other young monks and were able to build such a Spiritual Wonder. The web page with 360 degree visual will allow you to see Grace working in America. No Byzantine intrigue just The Holy Spirit working. Anthony Carris [email protected]
1. We have two Ephraimite Monasteries (Convents) in the Holy Metropolis of Pittsburgh. By all accounts, they are bastions of holiness, of “the angelic life.” The monasteries are supported by the clergy and faithful. Pilgrimages are made to them routinely. There’s no controversy whatsoever in either monastery. I am aware that one of them executes exceptional iconography. In one of them, the serving priest was a GOArch priest, who served parishes in the Metropolis. FYI. (I know nothing about the Efraimite Monastery[ies?] in the Chicago Metropolis.)
The Pittsburgh Metropolis’ one male Monastery, the first monastery established in the Holy Archdiocese of America, is not affiliated with the Elder Ephraim.
2. I’m very pleased that Bishop Sebastian secured the highest number of votes by the esteemed Hierarchs of the Holy Eparchial Synod. I’m most interested to see who were the 2nd and 3rd choices on the Three Person Ballot for the See of Chicago Metropolis. There were two other hierarchs who I think would not have been good selections, but had contacts in the Chicago Metropolis. I suspect Archbishop Demetrios may have exercised some leadership in this matter, as I recall he had opposed the episcopal elevation of one of those hierarchs, but failed to block his election at that point. I also wonder who the Archdiocesan Council Members of the Chicago Metropolis recommended for election. They do have a consultative voice under the Uniform Regulations.
Bruce W Trakas, Axios my brother in Christ, I was there at the inception of those two woman Monasteries …My worthy Bishop Maximo’s of blessed memory convinced Archbishop Iakovos to allow the first in Pa. I have witnessed the faithful through word and mouth pilgrim to those Monasteries and then return many times for they received what God promised. Those who doubt and accuse should first visit these Monasteries for several days and then they can make negative statements about our Church Monastic History and foundation of Orthodoxy. Anthony Andoni Carris [email protected]
Thank you, Athefo. Metropolitan Maximos resides in a retirement facility where the Reverend Clergy have visit him regularly.
Bruce Trakas, Thank you for correcting my statement of my good Bishop Maximos. I am so pleased he is still with us here in the world. Possibly he can pray for the intervention of the election chaos caused by the Patriarch and allow the Holy Spirit to breathe Spiritual oxygen upon Chicago through Bishop Sebastian…Years past at Saint Gregory Palamas GO Monastery in Ohio ( first Greek Ox. Monastery in America) I would pilgrim there every year and sleep in the very very humble cell of my good bishop Maximos…his intent/dream was to retire in this humble setting and live as a Monastic. Andoni
I read again and again the open letter that Elaine Jaharis wrote to “All” and published in the National Herald on July 1. And I read it many times because this is not just a “letter.” This is a homily, this is a sermon, this is a wake-up κήρυγμα that should be read from the pulpit, from the amvona to all the parishioners every Sunday from every priest and every hierarch. The Ephraimite teachingsare not the Orthodox Monasticism as we know it, it is not even Christian. It is a devious medieval doctrine that insists in the total obedience to Ephraim and snuffs out our pure, our chaste faith to the crucified for us Son of God Jesus Christ. It is a malignant growth, a “morphoma” that preys on our youth from a very, very, young age and on the weak and elderly.
I will not devote to these pages as to what I observed personally at the start of this “malignant growth” at my parish. It will take not just pages but whole volumes to describe how devious is this trickster, this mascara, who appeared all of a sudden in our lives and in reality threatens the existence of our Orthodox Church in America (and believe me, in the world!).
But I will humbly ask the editor of the National Herald to translate and publish Elaine Jaharis’ letter in the daily ΕθνικόςΚήρυξ– after, of course, receiving permission from Elaine Jaharis.
If you are a true Orthodox Christian and actually read Orthodox teachings of the Holy Fathers you could see how the Jaharis letter reeks of jealousy and an unOrthodox spirit. Money cannot buy Truth, and anyone who actually visits the monasteries, not just to find something for false stories, could give an accurate account and not some made up story out of jealousy for power.
Τώρα είναι η κρίσις του κόσμου τούτου, τώρα ο άρχων του κόσμου τούτου , θέλει εκβληθεί έξω.
Μακάριοι εστε, όταν ονειδίσωσιν υμάς και διώξωσι, και είπωσιπάν πονηρόν ρήμα καθ’ υμών ψευδόμενοι, ένεκεν εμού. Χαίρετε και αγαλλιάσθε,.
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out (Jn 12:31). Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad…. (Mt. 5:11-12).
Much has been written about what constitutes “healthy monasticism” and what the attributes of “cults” are. Those who have commented on this site provide anecdotal testimony about their own experiences or what they have heard from others: both good and bad. This is not the place to litigate those issues, like ships passing each other in the night, each is agnostic of the other’s experiences.
There are things however, upon which there cannot be any disagreement:
1. All of the monasteries established by the Elder Ephraim in the US are under the Omophorion of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
2. All of these monasteries operate as separate “Not-for-Profit” Corporations under the State Laws of the States in which they are located and they all have Federal Tax Exemptions as “religious” or “charitable” entities. They hold titles to real estate. There are reports that some own businesses. All institutions in the US that accept donations are required to be both transparent and accountable.
3. The current Rules and Regulations of the Archdiocese with respect to these Monasteries were issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. [Protocol #95, issued February 16, 2005]. The Regulations can be found on the Archdiocese website: goarch.org.
3. The Regulations state that these Monasteries are “.. not independent.. from the spiritual and administrative oversight of the local Metropolitan to whose canonical jurisdiction they belong.”
4. The responsibility for enforcing the Regulations rests on the Metropolitan of the Metropolis they are located in, and ultimately on the Archbishop and Ecumenical Patriarchate.
5. The Regulations require each monastery to maintain detailed financial records and submit them annually to the Metropolis. [Art. 15]
6. “The Monastery is not a parish church. As such, the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage is fully prohibited in the Monasteries of the Archdiocese.. “In special cases the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation may be conducted in Monasteries, provided there is a compelling reason deemed acceptable by the local Metropolitan, who grants prerequisite episcopal permission and issues the proper certificate.” In all cases those Baptisms and Chrismations must be registered in the official books of the parish to which the one baptized or chrismated belongs.” [Art. 16 (d).]
I’m sure that Timothy, Anthony and Bruce will agree that all of the Monasteries established by the Elder Ephraim in America should comply fully with all of the Regulations of the Archdiocese. Have any wedding Sacraments been celebrated in any of these Monasteries? How many Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismations have been conducted in these Monasteries? What were the “compelling reasons”? Were they registered in the official books of the parish to which those persons belonged? Have financial statements been provided annually by each of these Monasteries? If not, why not?
This discussion is rife with inaccuracies. The “defense” of the Monasteries under the spiritual direction and control of Elder Ephraim should be the last place that terms like “true Orthodox Christian”, placing judgment on fellow Orthodox Christians or dealing in speculation about others should exist. I served on the Monastery Review Committee (“MRC”) since its inception. I served with Elaine Jaharis and Jerry Dimitriou as well as several others.
My personal background includes the practice of law for over 30 years, as well as being Chairman of the Board of a Bank in Illinois for a decade. I served in many positions my Bank and was educated in the areas of money laundering and other illegal activities. This is necessary in todays banking environment to identify criminal activity.
In my law practice, I was retained by defendants charged with a variety of crimes. All of this useful in an investigation. I was picked for the MRC because of my understanding of banking and criminal activity. If you really want to know the truth demand the Hierarchs publish the MRC reports. Yes, I said reports, as in multiple reports.
The posts I have read here concerning the topic of Elder Ephraim and his Monasteries reek of the tactics used by those who defended the former Priest George Passias. While many of Passias’ parishioners sounded the alarm bell, all they experienced for years was to be attacked. It was not until the release of the video tape that his exploits and the truth came out. Yet the damage from ignoring and attacking good people is still being measured. Here we have people still attacking in the name of what they see as a superior form of Christianity, i.e. the Monasteries of Elder Ephraim.
Some months ago someone posted information on this blog (in a different story byline) containing more inaccuracies about the Monasteries of Elder Ephraim. I wrote to set the record straight and Mr. Dimitriou posted what is quoted below. Yet we still have individuals making judgments and attacking the truth-tellers. Mrs. Jaharis has a graduate degree in Business from the University of Chicago and is a former banker. Instead of applauding her courage and candor her “true Orthodox” beliefs and even her understanding of the Church Fathers is under attack.
Here is what Mr. Dimitriou the Executive Director of the GOA had to say then:
“Jerry Dimitriou on April 13, 2017 7:27 pm
Thank you Bill Stotis for your comments! Greetings to Mr. Carris who I have known for over 35 years!
For the record, I never reviewed financial statements provided by the Monasteries and said they were in “good order”. As Bill Stotis knows, the members of the Monastery Review Committee MRC (of which I was a participant) requested financial statements from ALL of the monasteries but NEVER received most of them. The ones we did receive were insufficient and incomplete. The MRC obtained financial statements of the Monasteries that were filed with their state or filed when they were purchasing properties and not directly from the Monasteries. The financials that we found, were significantly different and showed substantially more assets than those provided by the Monasteries to their Metropolitans or the MRC.
The Monasteries in the United States are NOT following the regulations set forth by the Synod nor are they complying with the direction of their Metropolitans. They are functioning independent and do not follow the rules or the direction of their Metropolitans in most cases.
I hope this clarifies some of the statements made above. Bill Stotis’ comments are exactly on point.
Thanks and have a Kali Anastasi and Blessed Pascha!
Jerry Dimitriou Executive Director
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America”
Here is the link for the above comments of Mr. Dimitriou:
Here is the correct link to Executive Director (GOA) Jerry Dimitriou’s comments: