Greek Orthodox Stewards of America - June 10, 1999
A REPORT ON GOAL MEETINGS
By George C. Rockas
On Wednesday, May 19, 1999 and on Thursday, May 27, 1999 I attended GOAL Corporation Open Forums in Chelmsford, Massachusetts at a Raddison Hotel and in Dedham, Massachusetts at a Hilton Hotel. What follows is a recitation of what transpired at these meetings.
The Chelmsford Open Forum was conducted by GOAL Corporation director Gus Pappas. There was a sign-in sheet on a table in front of the meeting room GOAL rented where people were asked to write down their name, home address, telephone number and the church they attended. The purpose of this sign-in sheet no doubt was to add names to their mailing list and more importantly to solicit money. Attendees were given a folder with some papers inside, including a piece of paper which on one side contained a directory of autocephalous churches and on the other explanations of what it means to be an autocephalous church and an autonomous church. Also in the folder was the obligatory donation form. The program consisted of a presentation by Mr. Pappas about the so-called "crisis in the Church" followed by questions from attendees. A large part of Mr. Pappas' presentation focused on the history of the Patriarchate, how the Patriarch is selected and the various autocephalous churches in the world. Toward the end of the presentation, Mr. Pappas posed the question "what can we do to resolve the crisis?" One of the things he said people can do is to support efforts in their parish to withhold funds.
During the question and answer portion of the program many of the attendees who spoke made statements rather than asked questions. The statements and questions ran the gamut from the consequences of withholding funds, to inter-faith marriages and to the Church supposedly not meeting the needs of the people.
From this meeting, two conclusions can be drawn:
1. GOAL IS PREACHING AUTOCHEPHALY. If this conclusion is incorrect, why did Mr. Pappas' presentation focus so much on the Patriarchate? Why did GOAL hand out information on autocephalous churches to the attendees? No logical explanation exists except that GOAL wants the Greek Orthodox Church in America to break away from the Mother Church in Constantinople. Those members of GOAL Corporation who are Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including some of its directors, should ask themselves whether it is appropriate for them to be involved with GOAL, an organization that is seemingly advocating a break with the Mother Church.
2. ATTENDEES WERE MISINFORMED. Many of the attendees simply were misinformed. They have been brainwashed by GOAL and other dissident groups. For example, one speaker stated the Church was not meeting the needs of faithful. This person was unaware that Archbishop Spyridon has established the first ever "Interfaith Marriage Ministry" staffed by a full-time priest with a doctorate on Marriage and Family Therapy. He was also unaware of the Archdiocese's position on the use of English in the liturgy which was articulated in a November 24, 1997 memorandum from Father John Heropoulos, Director of the Office of the Archbishop, to the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. On the subject of English, the memorandum provides:
"Every priest of the Archdiocese is encouraged to minister to the best of his ability to the faithful of his parish community. Each priest is to minister to the faithful entrusted to his care in the language which the faithful understand and to make every effort to speak to all members of his community. The one priority is to preach the Gospel so all can understand, without changing the Greek Orthodox way and tradition of worship."
The attendee was also unaware that the Archbishop has ordered the creation of a standardized English liturgy.
Another example of misinformation occurred after the meeting. A woman approached me literally screaming about the alleged financial mismanagement of the Archdiocese. She was unaware that between 1988 and 1996, the Archdiocese racked up operating losses of over $13 million dollars, culminating in a $3.071 million loss in 1994. She was also unaware that in 1997, the first full year of Archbishop Spyridon's administration, losses were cut by more than 50% to $476,000 and that in 1998, the estimated operating loss was $290,000, the smallest in more than a decade. So much for alleged financial mismanagement, an allegation which is a sham.
The meeting at the Dedham Hilton was attended by a hodgepodge of people, but most were senior citizens. In addition, four priests attended - Father Nicholas Manikas of St. Demetrios in Weston, Massachusetts; Father Emmanuel Metaxas of the Taxiarchae Church in Watertown, Massachusetts; and Fathers Calivas and Stylianopoulos, two of the so-called "fired" professors from Hellenic College. These priests apparently support GOAL. By attending the meeting, they also apparently are going against the wishes of Metropolitan Methodios who at least claims to be against para-ecclesial groups. Speakers at the Dedham Forum included Simos Dimas, Helen Bender, Thomas Lelon and, of course, the ubiquitous Gus Pappas.
What was the most disturbing about the meeting was the rude, crude and uncouth behavior demonstrated by GOAL supporters toward people with differing views. One lady, Alexandra Tsiatis, from St. Nicholas in Flushing, New York got up to ask Mr. Lelon a question about Hellenic College. People started screaming at her, telling her to "shut up" and sit down. The people who engaged in this behavior acted rudely and like thugs. At these meetings, Mr. Pappas and other GOAL Corporation directors should try to control their supporters. After all, it is they who called the forum an "Open Forum". If they want their forums to be closed and a place where only one view is expressed, they should say so. Otherwise, people should be allowed to express their views without being attacked.
The president of St. Andrew Church in Chicago, who also is an Archon and member of the Archdiocesan Council, got up to speak. A member of the Boston Cathedral who was sitting next to the out-of-town guest started to sing "Chicago, Chicago." The Cathedralite, who is a well known member of the New England Greek community, to say the very least, acted rudely.
Simos Dimas stated that people in "black hoods" were running around St. Nicholas in Flushing destroying records concerning the Agape Fund. Alex Pritsos, an Archon, St. Nicholas Parish Council member for over twenty years and past parish president, got up to rebut Mr. Dimas' allegations. Mr. Pritsos was booed and ridiculed by people in the audience. These people acted like untamed animals. They tried to intimidate Mr. Pritsos and prevent him from talking. These are the same people who say Archbishop Spyridon has tried to muzzle debate within the Church. Where is their own respect for free speech? Don't Goalies want the truth? Don't they want to listen to the other side of the story? Through their actions, they demonstrated that they are too afraid to hear the other side.
I too got up to speak and was greeted by hissing sounds. After telling the gathering that we should respect different views, I began to state examples of inaccuracies in GOAL reporting on Voithia and how only one side of the story was being told. For example, I pointed out that the Voithia posted an affidavit filed by Mrs. Bender in Mr. Dimas' lawsuit against the Archdiocese dealing with Archdiocese finances. However, I pointed out that it failed to post the affidavit signed by George Chelpon, the Archdiocese Director of Finance, that the Archdiocese filed in Court. That affidavit rebutted much of what was in the Bender Affidavit. After giving a few other examples of Voitha's one-sidedness, Mr. Lelon told me to sit down, claiming it was not my forum. He apparently forgot that the forum was labelled an "Open Forum" and that on the GOAL website Mr. Stevens invited me to attend . Apparently, the invitation was bogus, and the forum was only open to those who shared GOAL's views. One would think that an event advertised as an "Open Forum" is one where there is free debate and exchange of ideas.
One other distressing aspect of the Dedham meeting was the misinformation that was being conveyed. For example, one of the individuals at the podium claimed Hellenic College was in financial turmoil, resulting in a payroll being missed and Father Ganas' credit card being cancelled. This information is simply untrue. No payroll was missed and no credit card was cancelled. At the Boston clergy-laity conference the next week, Father Ganas was asked point blank if a payroll was missed and his credit card was cancelled. He said "no".
In sum, the Dedham Meeting was characterized by rudeness, a clear attempt by GOAL supporters to intimidate those with opposing views and misinformation. Those who engaged in disseminating the false information and in the uncivilized behavior should be ashamed of themselves. They claim that the Archbishop does not respect differing views and open dialogue. They should look at their own actions. If they do, they will realize that it is they who are squelching an open and free debate. Enough is enough.
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