A Critic Responds To Glastris re US News Article

Mr. Glastris, your article, your article “An American-born Archbishop, Old World Values” seems out of place for a professional periodical such as U.S. News and World Report. Your article presents nothing new in the way of anonymous, and in many cases, biased and unfounded misinformation. This kind of information was circulating when the New York Times reported its article and also when the Chronicle of Higher Education was reporting and when the Ecumenical News International was reporting and other noteworthy publications as well. These editors chose to speak directly with the responsible authorities who were involved in the issues that you have distorted in your article. They too, were predisposed by their original information which, of course, was from one side of thinking. After lengthy discussions with myself and in some cases others, their thinking and predisposition changed. They saw another side of the story and recognized that there was significant cause for what took place and that although the process was not democratic, it was certainly not unorthodox. They saw reasons for the actions and were objective enough to present both sides. You who are an Orthodox Christian didn’t give the Archbishop any benefit of the doubt even though those who were not of the same faith chose to. Could this bespeak your predilection to opposition without a fair and unbiased analysis of the data?

You state that the prior Archbishop “had drawn an ire of lay church members.” Yet he was responsible for the tremendous lay involvement that exists today and was loved by many, many more than disliked him or his style. What are American democratic values in light of a Christ who was, is and will be. Is it the Church that should adapt to the mores of the world or those of the world who should try to learn to adapt to the timeless doctrines and teachings of Christ? The Roman Catholic Church can certainly be seen as a Church that changes its ways readily to the times and yet where is their success? People are flocking to other faiths finding it difficult to abide by new rules that weren’t yesterday appropriate and all of a sudden are today. Sympathy would be correct as an epithet for the American way of doing things. Our American way of life is certainly worth mimicking or is it? Where do the Scriptures witness to democracy or the will of the people as the order of the day? Have the teachings of Christ come to a new level of acceptance: i.e., a vote for or against?

Why does the rebellion come on the eve of the Patriarchal visit? Could it be by the design of those who wish to change the order of the Church to Americanized Orthodoxy or in short our designer version of the Church of Christ? Saint Paul faced this very same thing with the Jews as stated in his Epistle to the Romans: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be save. I bear witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Rom. 10:1-3)

You refer to our mother Church as an ancient, financially strapped Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul...the tiny community of ethnic Greeks he protects there.” Why is it so tiny? Who has persecuted so much so that there remains only the ruins and shadows of the once center of the world? Those people suffer there. Heirarchs aren't allowed to dress as clerics in public except the Patriarch and he often times is mistreated, shoved, pushed, tripped and disrespected because he witnesses to Orthodoxy. And according to you he comes to win crucial support? The Patriarchate hasn’t received one penny more than it received prior to the Archbishop’s arrival. In fact, only a small portion was received in past years.

You write that the Archbishop stripped parishes of their right to set salary levels for their priests. Come to my office and see how many parishes are stripping priests of their vacation pay or their salaries indiscriminately in order to balance their budget rather than try to raise funds. Why shouldn’t the poorer parishes be entitled to a priest who could develop their programs into more successful ones but can’t afford to support a priest with children and basic needs of life? Is this unfair? They can’t afford to set the salary their priest needs and yet wit one day this would change. Not one priest’s salary was being reduced. Many priests long to have their salary come from the Archdiocese since parish councils treat priests as employees rather than shepherds and pastors lording it over their priests that we pay you and you will preach and say what we want you to. Where is this famous encyclical that states that the Archbishop wants pews, stained glass windows and female choirs and electric lights removed from the Churches? What priest was chastised for not having a beard yet nonetheless the beards were removed by the transition to America, not the Church! Didn’t Christ have a beard? Should not the priest and Bishop try in as many ways as possible to imitate the Lord? But note that it was not required by the new Archbishop. Denouncing what he termed “an invasion of the so-called secular, democratic spirit in the Church” refers to a Church in America that has been taught to remove the Bible from its greatest benefactor after the Holy Spirit which is the Church. People take the scriptures out of the context of the Holy Communion of the Church which is not its proper understanding.

Saint Basil’s was not changed because it served children of other ethnic background. Rather, it was re-organized to serve children who truly have a need and not be surrogate parents for those who simply wish others to raise their children. Moreover, leaving children in eighth grade for three years is not the best way to keep an institution going. Teaching children in a school of 40 children and fifteen teachers is not healthy nor conducive to re-entering a world that requires interpersonal relationships that they already couldn’t develop at home. Saint Basil’s should also address high-school aged children and this will become a reality. But not under the present circumstances, Greek schools are closing for lack of teachers and communities are always looking for people to administrate the Church with knowledge and care and also to assist with youth programs. Is it so antithetical to think that what this Archbishop has done is contrary to the needs of an ancient Church in an American environment which does not choose to lose its Holy Tradition and yet desires to meet the needs of the people?

The Theological School is a long and misconstrued travesty of misinformation which is not at all what it has been portrayed to be. The fact that many of our people were calling for change at the school is a well-known fact. The political structure of the school was set in stone at least as regards the day to day operations of the administrative faculty and its stronghold based on intimidation tactics directed at any new professor who might question the flow of things. Students were also influenced by the status quo of survival and existence at our school. Absence from daily chapel services, drinking and late-night parties that precluded attendance at Sunday Services were unfortunately not atypical. Who is to be held responsible for such an inconducive to priestly formation environment. The priest begins his priesthood and priestly conscience from the day of his calling; not his ordination. Was this created by this Archbishop or was it inherited by him? If he didn’t do anything about this situation at the school, how many of you would be writing that he did nothing his first year? Was Christ a people pleaser? There was no sexual misconduct cover-up at the school. Instead, there was an attempt to cover-up the real problems at the school. The Archbishop never told the committee not to follow due process. He exhorted them to do what they must do and do it without fanfare. I believe there still is suppose to be confidentiality in the Church, is there not? Who circulated all this confessional level material to the entire known world? The professor of New Testament who was reassigned is a priest. He had already negotiated his salary with a parish in Seattle, Washington back in March, “97”. He sent Father Alexander Karloutsos to ask for this parish. Was he perhaps disappointed that he didn’t get it? Yes his reassignment was abrupt. But was it unexpected when he had already asked for it? Even after all this the Archbishop met with him and promised to support equivalently his research as long as he would remain removed from the everyday operations of the school. Did this stop him? He continues this very moment to raise issued at the school. How is the Archbishop to deal with such a priest? The other priest was also offered a parish to fit his talents and financial needs. He refused to accept cathedrals or large parishes. But he was not left to his own means. The Board of Trustees has overwhelmingly approved these changes and sees already the improvements at the school with the new president and faculty. The students asked the Archbishop, “who do we trust? We’re afraid because of what was the past atmosphere here.” Is this the sign of a misarranged and confused leadership? Why would renowned theologians refuse to speak at the school? Why weren’t they comfortable to exchange ideas and interact with one another? Something was lacking. Furthermore, our school, contrary to popular beliefs was not known for its scholarship or its clairvoyance. Wasn’t a change necessary? Sure the graduates were in most cases of high caliber; but this was due to them, not the school. There is no tremendous decrease in new students at the school.

Did Father George Papioannou really make that statement that you quoted? I don’t think that he goes along with you on that score. I have a copy of his rebuttal.

The patriarch is not coming to America to take control of the rich American Church. Frankly, the Church of America might have more money but it does not have the character that held Constantinople together after all it has been through. Would we stand up to persecution for the purity of the faith? The Orthodox Christian Laity is not the Orthodox Civil Liberties Union of the Church. They are at best a spurious organization that does not reflect the average feelings of the people of the Church. What has happened to so many of their substantial and substantive members that have rebelled against them and their new policies? They also want to change more than the Archbishop. Their book (read it) seeks to turn Orthodox teachings inside out. How can you quote them as authorities without seeking the position of the official Church?

The only real revolution that is taking place in the Church is in the minds and hearts of those who want it their way; not the Orthodox way. The Patriarchal Liturgy is overbooked and over requested. Most of the events are already booked and the major media and television stations are going to be covering it. Come and meet the man you have described as a take-over artist. See if he is what you have described him to be. And if he’s not then how could he appoint one who is as bad as you say he is. You owe Orthodoxy an apology that is more than just a retraction. You owe journalism an apology. You need to take a good hard look at what you have helped the enemies of the Church further against the Bride of Christ.

I am opened to your meeting with me after the patriarchal visit is over. In fact, I believe that the Archbishop would like to meet with you and ask you to justify your positions. In any event, your article was one-sided, unfair, subjective and predisposed. Finally, it was, I believe, manipulated by others and so were you. I challenge you to print a rebuttal and let the people decide for themselves. Don’t think for them. That’s not journalism.

[ ALITHEIA-ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ |  -  October {_}, 1997 ]