[ Anita Kartalopoulos to Don Stathulis re G.O.A.L. ]
April 22, 1998
Dr. Don E. Stathulis
4001 W. Bancroft Street
Ottawa Hills, Ohio 43606
RE: G.O.A.L. Memo of March 24, 1998
I read your March 24, 1998 Memo which you circulated to the parishioners of Holy Trinity. I was rather shocked at what was presented in your document. While I have no desire to address the lengthy resolutions of G.O.A.L. that were attached to your correspondence, I do wish to address a number of revisionist statements included in your missive.
In your first paragraph you indicate that "the conference was called to discuss what is perceived to be a crisis in governance in our Archdiocese." I agree with you that the concerns of G.O.A.L. indeed center around perception...not reality. There is no question concerning the governance of our Church. Let me make myself perfectly clear. We are a hierarchical church. We are not Protestants. We are not Baptists. We are not a body politic nor are we a corporate entity. We are one holy Orthodox Church. By definition, we are led by a hierarchy which traces its authority to Jesus Christ himself. There is no doubt about the governance of the Orthodox Church. It rests with ordained clergy.
Your misperception of the role of the clergy and the apostolate of the laity is sadly and clearly set for in your concluding sentence of the first paragraph where you state: "The Diocese of Chicago was requested to provide a clergyman for the Friday night Salutation service and the Saturday evening Vesper service but the request was ignored." While you characterize yourselves as leaders dedicated to the Church, it is amazing to me that you rejected attendance at scheduled Salutation services in any of the Chicago churches and would prefer that a priest separate himself from the sanctuary in order to conduct such a service in an alternative non-ecclesiastical location. The churches of Chicago are like all the other Greek Orthodox churches in America on those wonderful Lenten Fridays...they stand ready with open doors to receive all the faithful. In this instance, it was you who chose to reject the open doors of the Church. It is quite wrong to project your error as a failing of the Church or the Diocese of Chicago. I would submit the same analysis regarding the Saturday Vespers as well.
Your second paragraph sets forth three priorities which relate to the alleged "crisis" in our Archdiocese:
Regarding governance, you rightly point out that the 1977 Charter was granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. That phrase in and of itself is an acknowledgment of the authority that the hierarchy holds over the activities and life of the Church. I find it interesting that you intend to import worldly management and accountability concepts into a church that has existed for two thousand years. The church has withstood the test of time. Importing the standards of governance which are fashionable in today's marketplace are inconsistent with what we are as Orthodox Christians. I must point out that there are faiths which are consistent with what you seek. They number in the hundreds and are of the Protestant Denomination. Their lack of hierarchical structure, Holy Tradition and highly developed theology has led them to splinter off into hundreds of denominations, all claiming to be the One True Faith!
Your questions regarding accountability are superficially appealing, but on further reflection devolve into a thinly disguised attempt to force lay control on the hierarchy. Once again, your analysis is flawed. Like all charitable entities in this country, the Church has obtained the benefits of tax-exempt status. Like all such entities, it renders unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. Appropriate financial reports are consistently filed with both the Secretary of State of the State of New York and proper legal disclosures are made in order to maintain tax-exempt status. These are obviously available under the applicable statutes. It is inconsistent with who we are for the laity to make such emends of the clergy.
The demanded resignation of His Eminence "if the stated concerns are not resolved" is clearly an offensive and non-conciliatory ultimatum. By what authority does a lay group undermine and undo the work of the Holy Synod? Jurisdictionally, it is inconceivable, and at best it is an expression of hubris that 440 individuals who rejected the comfort of the Church and her liturgies on March 20 and 21 could simultaneously exert authority over the governance of the Church and overrule the Holy Synod.
I would be remiss if I did not point out at least one of the glaring errors and revisionist statements in the materials you distributed. Section 5A of your Resolutions states, "...it is vital that Hellenic College/Holy Cross remain an outstanding, well-managed, and fully accredited institution of higher learning." While Hellenic College/Holy Cross is a commendable effort on the part of the Church to create an institution of higher learning, one only need refer to Barron's Profile of American Colleges in order to confirm that it is ranked consistently at the very bottom of colleges and universities in the United States. This is a fact. It has been at the bottom for many years, and for those of us who have observed the school's students for a long time, it has been painfully obvious. Despite the fact that the seminarians spend seven years at the school, upon graduation, with minor exception, they are neither able to read or speak Greek effectively, their knowledge of the psalmodia (hymnology and hymnography) of the church is nominal, their knowledge as theologians is questionable and for the most part, they do not wish to be ordained. Something at the school is not working properly. Τo think otherwise is folly. The Archbishop had it right when he sought to bring change. You may disagree with his manner or his methods, but reasonable minds cannot disagree that there are systemic problems at the school.
Overall, I believe that while reasonable minds may differ as to the means of implementing change, one cannot disagree that change is hard, brings reaction, and is not often welcomed. The solution to difficult situations is not to separate oneself from the whole, offer ultimatums and engage in revisionist history. The Church is what it is: a hierarchical living entity that has weathered many storms and withstood the test of time because it is the vehicle through which Christ manifests himself to us liturgically, and sacramentally. It is the means through which we ourselves can manifest Christ to others. Christ himself indicted the acts of the Scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew (chs. 22 and 23) . But he did not tell the Jews to separate themselves from the Scribes and Pharisees. He reaffirmed that they sit on Moses' seat and that their direction should be followed (Matthew 23:2-3). Please do not misinterpret my example. because I do not believe that the events of recent months or our Church leadership can be in any way analogized to those which our Lord referred to. The pre-eminent message was clear. Separation from the faith and the hierarchy was not the proper road. Further, in the early church, Paul reminded us that there were followers of one disciple and another, and the resultant groups came in to conflict. He admonished the early Church, that we all follow Christ. The admonition is still valid and applicable today. Christ exists in his holy church.
Finally, I must say that I was troubled by your statement that you and others "represented" Holy Trinity in Chicago. Don, as you well know, my grandparents, as well as your parents, were founders of that parish. Like so many other faithful immigrants, despite the fact that they were facing substantial struggles to make a new life in America, they recognized that the Church was the centerpiece of their existence. Amid great hardship they built a great structure and brought clergy to this country so that together they could glorify God as Greek Orthodox Christians. This worship was never contemplated in isolation nor as the Holy Archdiocese and they knew it in their hearts. I believe that that belief continues to this day. I am personally offended that you create the impression that there was any "representation" of Holy Trinity as a parish entity in Chicago. Unless you were authorized by a majority of the parish council, you merely represented yourselves.
In closing, I must say that my correspondence to you is not meant to be offensive and I hope you recognize that. Additionally, I do understand the questions that you raise and the concerns you have. Like other thinking professionals who love the Church, I too have observed changes that have given me pause. At this point, however, you and I diverge. While you seem to have taken a reactive, extra-ecclesiastical route, I believe that our role as laity is to continue to support, pray for and be available to the hierarchy so that together we may advance towards the Millennium. I can further state that I have found the clergy to be responsive, reflective and open to reasoned and respectful dialogue. I can only hope that you will consider doing the same, within the loving arms of our Church.
Very truly yours,
Anita B. Kartalopoulos, Esq.
3 Willow Brook Lane
Annandale, New Jersey 08801
[ EKKLISIA | www.ekklisia.org/elet-4-22.htm - April 22, 1998 ]