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The GreekAmerican - January 31, 1998

Religious Dissonants
Reportedly Weak in Numbers and Influence

NEW YORK - By APOSTOLIS ZOUPANIOTIS

Prominent officials of the Archdiocese of America have characterized the individuals held responsible under the law for the religious organization GOAL (Greek Orthodox American Leaders) as unknown and with very limited influence. The group has promoted itself with paid advertisements in the Greek American media. In speeches to small groups of supporters, which can also be found on Internet, members of the religious organization are demanding the establishment of an autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, strongly attacking both the Archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.

As was first reported by New York-based Greek-language daily Proini, in spite of the efforts of these individuals to present themselves as a powerful movement, an investigation has shown that those responsible under the law are more or less the same people who created the webpage Voithia. Mr. Harry Coin is president and Mr. George Tatakis is treasurer of the organization. Both originate from the community of Saint Demetrios in Weston, Massachusetts. This community is among only two or three out of 450 in the Archdiocese where the local councils have demonstrated solidarity with the views of the above-mentioned organizations.

The president of GOAL refused to answer Proini's questions as to why they insist on anonymous press releases and refuse to give the names of their leaders. Other members of the organization belong to the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL), which has been operating since the mid-80s.

Prominent clerics and laity members of the Church have condemned the acts of this small group and their efforts to cause discord among the members of the Church.

Metropolitan of Aneon and President of the Diocese of Boston Methodios questions the influence of GOAL and states that they are harming the Church: "I am very sorry to see another organization in the Greek American community with the alleged objective of discussing the Church's issues. We have the Synode, the Archdiocesan Council and the local councils that are in the position of discussing the issues, the problems and the objectives of the Church.

I am also sorry that two of the alleged founders belong to a community of the Archdiocese which is one of the best, that generously supports the Archdiocese and its programs. I believe that most of the parishioners are people of the Church. And now here are these two people I do not even know..."

"What does 'Greek Orthodox American Leaders' mean? Who made them leaders? Of whom are they leaders? To say that they are leaders of the Greek Orthodox of America is pretentious," adds Mr. Methodios.

Mr. George Behrakis, CEO and president of Muro Pharmaceuticals in Massachusetts, and member of the Board of Directors of the Theological School, urges these people to reconsider and reevaluate what they are doing.

"The values of Orthodoxy date back many generations," says Mr. Behrakis. "We are heading towards a new millennium. If these people think they should alienate themselves from the Church, I do not think their acts are based on the Orthodox faith. Let them reconsider and reevaluate what they are doing."

Mr. Behrakis expresses his full support of the Archdiocese. "The new Archbishop is becoming familiar with the conditions of the country. He is touring the US in an effort to understand the problems and worries of the members of the Church. I think that we should all support him in his task."

As far as the GOAL leaders are concerned, he says, "They have no background and no support. Instead of what they are doing, they should support the Church, the oldest on earth."

The founder of the Harvest Queen franchise, Mr. Leo P. Condakes, is not visibly upset. He believes the reactions are a matter of local interest, limited to two or three communities. "I do not pay much heed to this, and I do not believe in the possibility of any major problems in the future. Those who wish for an autocephalous church are very few. You know the weakness of our people. Wherever there are 10 Greeks, there are 12 leaders. These people want to become leaders. But we already have one, Archbishop Spyridon. In every family there can only be one leader. We cannot move in different directions. If we split, we fail."

Regarding the GOAL "leaders," Leo Condakes says that their number is very limited, and he criticizes them for remaining anonymous. "If I receive anonymous mail, I do not even read it. I throw it away," says Mr. Condakes.

The reaction of this small group of Church officials has intensified following the decision of the Archdiocese to remove the president of the Theological School of Boston and proceed with changes in its educational staff.

[ The GreekAmerican - January 31, 1998 ]