Source: Greek News
Boston, MA – By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
During the various discussions that took place at the 44th Clergy Laity Congress on the financial crisis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, one thing that was proven beyond reasonable doubt was that for at least two past Congresses the delegates were passing fictional budgets that had no chance to ever be balanced; contributing thus to accumulating deficits that were covered by illegal transfers from restricted accounts.
The difference between those Congress and the 44th Clergy Laity Congress is that then, people were presented with false information and their vote was based in a wrong presumption. This year, the delegates voted on the budget consciously knowing that it is not balanced.
By doing that they ignored:
- The warning by the Chancellor of the Archdiocese that he will resign, if the Congress will approve the suggestions by the financial committee to allocate $1,000,000 to the clergy pension fund each year and not to raise the budget by 3%,
- the compromises reached between the executive committee and the Clergy organizations for half the amount
- the dramatic plea by the Treasurer of the Executive Committee Michael Psaros, who spoke for about an hour explaining the work done by the committee and the importance of having a balanced budget. When he saw delegates voting on items that would lead to deficits, he announced that unless they change it, he will resign when his term ends in October. Archbishop Demetrios told him he won’t accept his resignation. One of the delegates that spoke after Psaros announcement said “if he resigns there will be another treasurer”.
In spite all this drama, the budget approved has a deficit of at least $934,000, from additional funding of the priests pension plan and the School of Theology. A face safe vote that passed authorizes the executive committee and the Archdiocesan Council to find ways to balance the budget. The next Archdiocesan Council meeting will be in October, most likely without the Treasurer Michael Psaros.
Prior the final vote, the plenary has decided to take off the budget the publication of the Orthodox Observer, under the presumption that by doing that $800,000 will be saved. The true amount is the savings will be $360,000 if the Observer shuts totally and 200,000 if it will continue the publication on line.
This and other proposals were recalled with the vote to authorize the executive committee to make the decisions. Few minutes earlier the Archbishop spoke on the need for the Archdiocese to have its own publication and he revealed that when last year they had to publish an issue of the Observer in order to allow its Archdiocese to present its views against attacks, there was strong resistance by some people he didn’t name.
Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh suggested considering how funds that have been created to help the Archdiocese – like Leadership 100 and Faith – could be used for the Seminary, the Priests pension plan etc.
Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta was booed when he told delegates that all that voted the previous budgets – including him – bear responsibility.
Neither the Archbishop nor the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch addressed the closing of the plenary, due to late time.
An ecclesiastical observer following closely the Clergy Laity Congress told the Greek News that the movement of the clergy and some of the laity had many similarities with the Libertarian ideas and the conservative elements of the Trump movement.
“These people say they respect the Archbishop and the Patriarch, but at the same time their statement is: if we have our own parish ministries, why do we need the Archdiocese? I have a feeling this libertarian attitude, ecclesiastically is pure protestantic congregationalism.”
Adding to that, the Clergy Laity rejected a resolution condemning Trumps policy of separating children of immigrants from their parents.
MICHAEL PSAROS SPEAKS TO THE GREEK NEWS
Following his announcement at the plenary, Michael Psaros offered the following interview to the “Greek News”, in the sidelines of the Clergy Laity Congress. It is certain that after the disregard of his plea by the delegates his resignation is final.
- You have made an excellent presentation and I thought you have convinced everybody. But it seems that wasn’t the case.
- No it wasn’t really the case. Two years ago the Clergy Laity came together and passed a budget that was an absolute fiction. That is evidence by the in fact financial crisis that we experienced a year ago in the Archdiocese. I stood up and spoke for an hour and presented very concretely all the work that we have done, day and night, over the last year, to help the Archdiocese achieve financial stability.
In 2018 we have a rock hard budget. That budget, with a contingency with over a million dollars, is generating two million dollars that we can use to satisfy our legacy financial obligations and the bank loan that we just took on. To come into this room – as people have done today – and to ignore all of the work, to ignore balanced budget and to just start passing resolutions regarding spending significant amounts of money, the budget for 2019-2020 is no longer balanced; and in my opinion it has destroyed our work.
Therefore, I announced today that I cannot have my name, or my family’s name, or my reputation, attached to the budget that is – at least – been discussed right now. It’s up to this Clergy Laity tochange its mind after lunch and pass a budget that is balanced, or as I said, I can no longer serve. At the expiration of my term in October I am done. I will ask his Eminence if I could limit my involvement to fundraising for St Nicholas National Shrine.
Q, If we have another deficit, what is the financial future of the Archdiocese?
- It’s not if have a deficit. Based on the votes today and the decisions made by this body, the Archdiocese is going to go from a position of surplus back to a position of deficit. It is the overwhelming feeling of the room that the Archdiocese should cut more. I am a part of a team that has reduced overall cash expenditures by 25%, we cut spending by 8 million, we reduced spending by an additional 1.2 million, or 100,000 a month. I just don’t know where we – as an officer team – can find what I am estimating an additional 2 million dollars worth of cuts. I would suggest that those making these decisions quit their jobs, walk away from their familie, move to New Yorkh at their own expense, show up at 79th Street and find the million dollars to cut.
- If your dramatic plea will not have any effect, what is the financial future of the Archdiocese, the plan to rebuilt St Nicholas, the continuation of the credit line …
- No, we do have a credit line.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the Archdiocese, a parish, a company or an individual family. We have killed ourselves to achieve a balance budget. This group (the body of delegates) has just ignored my plea in connection with the 2019-2020 budgets to continue our fiscal conservatism and our fiscal prudence. Very simply, this body has approved spending in amounts that are not supported by revenues. That is going to eliminate the surplus that we have created and that will ultimately result in a deficit.
Dear Mr. Psaros, as former Director of Fiscal Affairs for NYCDOT, and someone who saved a company millions in Texas, you have my sympathy and support for what you accomplished, and in trying to manage the proclivity of many, to fall back on prior bad practices, hoping for more future man-made (Psaros) miracles.
It would be nice, if they spent more of their time seeking ways to draw in the lay people who are ignored, showed sour/dour, unwelcome faces by the priests; bishops who seem to have forgotten the meaning, power, of AGAPI (Αγαπη).
The Church should be expanding in these times, extending its services, to the many suffering, soul-searching lay people, seeking compassion, understanding, and a respite, from usury souless governments, and threats, attacks from non-Christian groups.
We have a rich History in our Church, especially starting with Constantine the Great who founded Constantinople in the 4th Century, through the Synods, the Glorious Byzantine Empire, that when others saw the Beauty of the Greek Orthodox Services, adopted it for their countries.
We have lost all that beauty, ignored use of beautiful, ethereal Byzantine Hymns, decreased use of incense, and we seem to apologize, or be embarrassed for being Christian.
The world has grown, with use of the internet, more travel, there are more disturbed souls, suffering from unrest, bullying, perceived racial, sexual differences/indifferences, seeking answers, salvation, understanding that science cannot give them.
We failed to spread our Agapi to these people, and even turned away our former loyal laity, with the Priests, Archdiocese’s, indifference.
They are now reaping the rewards of this indifference, as the laypeople now show their indifference to the Church.
It’s a shame for the hard work and sacrifices that many Greeks, Greek Americans and former Archbishops made, to keep the Greek Orthodox Church Viable, Vibrant, Vigilant, Alive, Caring, Relevant, and all Welcoming.
SHAME ON YOU ALL! Ντροπη Σας!
In a matter of 20 years, you have caused more destruction to the Greek Orthodox Church than even the Muslims were able to effect, in their almost 1500 years of attacks on our Church, against the Byzantine Empire, through today.
Even after the fall of Constantinople, and up to WWII, Priests and Bishops, sacrificed their lives, being tortured, hanged, skewered alive, to keep the Greek Church, History, Language Alive.
They formed hidden schools to accomplish this, and help bring order to a fledgling Greece, trying to recover after WWII.
They also sacrificed their lives, offering Agapi and refuge to hundreds of thousands of Jews seeking to leave Germany, and hid many more in Greece, refusing to turn them over to the 3rd Reich.
The Church’s main preoccupation, energy, Agapi, in the 21st Century, seems to be only reserved for themselves.
The US can and should be fertile soil for a growing Orthodox Church. A Church that is missionary and evangelical. A single, united, indigenous Church that is fully canonical and self governing. A Church that conforms to American principles of transparency and accountable governance. A Church that reaches out to the unchurched. Those who have left and those who are seeking the truths that are contained within its teachings.
We Americans enjoy freedom of religion, as well as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of assembly. We do not expect the government to support the Church (as in Greece and, now Russia) , nor do we fear that the government will control or suppress our freedom of worship (as In Turkey and other Muslim majority countries where Christians are being martyred.
It is not the lack of incense, byzantine hymns or historical awareness that are responsible for the problems preventing the growth of Orthodoxy in the US. The reasons are known to the Hierarchs who have been meeting for more than seven years in the US as an “Assembly of Bishops” and (except for the OCA) to the foreign Synods that appointed them. The reasons are not as well known among the laity because the Hierarchs and Clergy have no interest in informing them. The causes and the solutions are the following:
1. Fourteen overlapping “ethnic jurisdictions” that violate the canons of the Church which forbid more than one bishop with jurisdiction over a given territory.
2. Dependence upon foreign Synods in Istanbul, Moscow, Belgrade, Budapest and Sofia to appoint Bishops serving in the US.
3. Prioritizing foreign language and culture education over religious education and outreach.
4. Failure to adopt and implement governance measures in the administration of the Church that insures transparency and accountability.
The solutions are the following:
1. Uniting all Orthodox in the US under a single Synod of canonical bishops that elects its own presiding Bishop. An Autocephalous “sister” Church taking its place alongside all of the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches .
2. Adopting and implementing strict standards of governance that will ensure transparency and accountability.
3. Recognizing that English is the language of the people in the US and expanding the use of the language of the people in all services, while allowing immigrant communities to continue some use of foreign languages during transition periods.
4. Prioritizing religious education over foreign language and culture education and restoring the missionary and evangelical nature of the Church which professes that it is “Catholic and Apostolic” responsive to the challenge of Pentecost to bring the Good News of Christ to all people.