Voithia - February 12, 1998

James B. Zafiros
22 Brook Hills Circle
White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: 914 428 1245
Fax. 914 428 9247

February 5.1998

His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
8-10 East 79 th Street
New York, New York 10021

Dear Archbishop Spyridon:

This is a profoundly difficult moment for me as a member of the Orthodox faith and as a member of the Holy Trinity Parish in New Rochelle. I need to write this communication solely on behalf of my family and myself.

First however. permit me a few minutes to describe the landscape of The Holy Trinity Community. The Parish sits in the center of one of America's premiere suburban locations, Westchester County. The social and economic characteristics of our Parishioners include higher levels of education and resource and a strong spirit of community participation. We are a growing and a diversified community. Mixed marriages dominate our calendars. Our Parishioners are leaders in industry, business, the arts, educational institutions and the professions. They have met or exceeded the dreams and aspirations of their parents and have given considerable gifts to their house of worship, Holy Trinity. Their loyalty and commitment to Holy Trinity are firm, non-cancelable and non-negotiable. It has taken a considerable amount of work, time and sacrifice to achieve these levels of responsibility.

Like all Americans, we take great pride in our ethnicity, religious institutions and the outstanding8 leadership of our Parish Priest. We welcome unconditionally all our brothers and sisters of other faiths as co-equals who are now joining our community in larger numbers. We not only welcome them but we also respect their own culture and identities. We are indeed a model community for our faith and for America.

My family and I attended along with many others from Holy Trinity the Nana Mouskouri "Concert for Peace" in Honor of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine on October 25, 1997. We beard first hand, his inspiring message of "spiritual revival, Orthodox unity, Christian reconciliation, inter-faith tolerance and coexistence, protection of the environment and a world united in peace, justice, solidarity and love". More than two thousand people, Greek and Non-Greek, were not only in attendance but deeply felt The Patriarch's uplifting and penetrating message. It was one of the most inspiring presentations I have ever seen. As a result, we felt good about ourselves. We also felt the World Wide leadership or our Church was in good hands.

I too was in attendance on January 18, 1998, when you visited our Parish. Like many in our Community I was enthusiastically looking forward to the special service under the direct supervision of the most Senior American Representative of our Church, Our Archbishop. It was an opportunity to relay The Patriarch's October 25th message down to the entire Holy Trinity Parish.

This was clearly an opportunity to deliver a "key note" address to our community. Moreover, Your Eminence, this was an opportunity to also congratulate a very proud Community, its' Clergy and Laity leadership on their achievements. It was a very timely moment to extend a welcoming hand to the large numbers of Non-Greek Parishioners who for the first time were exposed to you, who have joined our ranks through mixed- marriages- It was without question an opportunity to make them feel comfortable. proud and wanted in their new surroundings. It was a time to display the very best our Church has to offer. It was also a time to listen to you as reigning head of the Greek Orthodox Church of America

Finally, it was an opportunity to demonstrate leadership. In this respect, it was appropriate to recognize the achievements of your Predecessors, Athenagoras, Michael and Iakovos. The challenge clearly, is to build on their accomplishments and steer our Church deep into the next millennium.

"The stage" was set for one of the most dramatic moments in our Parish's history. The Church was packed with people, young and old. The community was looking forward to a message of hope, reconciliation and inspiration from their Archbishop and leader of the Orthodox Church of America. It was an enormous window of opportunity that will remain in the minds of many for a long time.

Unfortunately I didn't hear anything resembling any of these thoughts. Neither did anyone else especially the large numbers of youth in attendance.

What we heard from you was simply the wrong message. Your remarks from the altar in the middle of the service regarding other faiths were unbecoming your position. Your remarks at the end of the service regarding your position of leadership were unnecessary and made us feel uncomfortable. It should be noted, preceding the Madison Square Garden Services in October, Patriarch Bartholomew in Archbishop Iakovos residence, with you in attendance, resolved the issue dealing with Father Peter in a matter of a few minutes. That was leadership. That was also four months ago. Our Parish quickly began the healing process. The issue is now behind us.

On December 5th, more than 500 people attended our Annual 'Event of the Year" to celebrate the Holidays and to honor all the Presidents who "got us here". The community came together in a spirit of love for our church and for one another. It was the largest affair in the history of our Parish. It was an evening for the ages, filled with excitement, laughter, cheer and the best of times. Incidentally, more than one-third of the people who supported the affair were not Greek.

Your Eminence, outstanding leadership requires people's skills, vision, inspiration and the ability to rise to the occasion as the Patriarch did on October 25th and bring people together. Distinguished American religious leaders of our time, King, Graham and Iakovos used these skills to provide leadership and to raise their thoughts to a higher level. All three were recognized by American Society and Government and received our nations highest honors. As a result, their collective contributions made America a stronger and more diversified nation. Members of the Orthodox faith became even prouder Americans. Isn't that what it's all about?

For your information, I am a former Senior Executive with a 25 year association with NBC Television. My roots are in New York, but I have also traveled extensively in America, and have also lived in the heartland of our great nation, Chicago. I am very proud and comfortable with the progress our Church has made. However, now our goal as a community is to come to terms with the increasing expansion of our Church into a wider American Christian landscape in an even larger Multi-Cultural Society.

We need a leader with excellent inter-personal skills to accomplish this mission. We need an extraordinary and talented communicator with a vision who can get close to people and who listens We don't need divisiveness and disruption

On Sunday, January 18, 1998 an enormous opportunity was lost. Confusion and anger were in abundance. I am deeply disappointed and regret this correspondence is now necessary. Your appointment as head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America needs to be reconsidered at the highest levels of our Church.

James B. Zafiros

cc His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople
    and New Rome
    Holy Trinity Parish Council

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