Greek Orthodox Stewards of America - June3, 1999
and hold the traditions you were taught
either by our word or by our letter (2 Thess 2:15)
Dear Fellow Orthodox Faithful,
A quick scan of the media at hand, be it the newspapers or the internet, reveals that there are two critical issues that must be addressed. Specifically, these issues are the promotion of the withholding of funds and originating false doctrine. These important issues affect every individual in every parish.
We ask you use the information provided in this issue to ensure that the mission of our Church continues as it has for 2,000 years.
PETER — A TRUE LEADER’S WORDS
In 1 Peter 2:9, the Apostle tells us, “...You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation...” The Apostle calls us all members of the royal priesthood because we are all followers of Christ. The “royal priesthood“ referred to by Peter should not be confused with the Institution of the Priesthood. Our priests have received a special calling to serve and have undergone a “laying on of hands” — better known to us as ordination.
In its March 23rd post the GOAL website proclaimed, “As baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians we are all members of the Royal Priesthood...” Such a statement should not imply that we are all ordained priests. Yet this is a prime example of how consistent they are in lifting a phrase out of its original text and perverting its meaning into something far from its original intent. In the letter from which the phrase was lifted, Peter, the Apostle — a true LEADER — exhorts us to “Put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.” (1 Peter 2:1-9) Because priests are leaders of their communities, GOAL’s misuse of this phrase is just another attempt by GOAL to justify its self-proclaimed title, “Leaders”. From the Apostle’s point of view however, what could be more insincere than taking the words of Christ’s Apostle out of context?
In 1 Timothy 1: 3-6, the Apostle Paul tells us “not to teach any different doctrine nor to occupy [our]selves with myths ... which promote speculations rather faith.” Originating false doctrine and seeking to create schism and/or disunity are serious spiritual illnesses.
A glaring example of false doctrine occurred in the March 23rd post on the GOAL website, “In our Orthodox Faith, the final authority on matters of Church governance is not the Patriarch but the Holy Spirit...” This is a confusion of the terms, Orthodox Faith and Church. No dictionary has ever equated the word “faith” with the word “church”. Nor are these words synonymous in any Orthodox teachings. In our Orthodox Faith the final authority on matters involving all individuals —be they hierarchy, clergy, or laity— is the Holy Spirit. In our Orthodox Church, however, “The Holy Synod is the supreme administrative body of the Church and is presided over by the Patriarch.” (Administration and Jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church by Fotios Litsas, Ph.D.)
Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh in “The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church” declares, “The Church...is not just another human organization; it is a gathering of people who profoundly share the life of faith.” Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald in “Teachings of the Orthodox Church” makes it very clear that is in the Church that the Christian faith is maintained; and through the Church that individuals are nurtured in Faith.
YOUR MONEY OR YOUR FAITH?
In addition to originating false doctrine the latest irresponsible action of GOAL, Inc is to promote the withholding of funds by Archdiocesan churches to the Archdiocese. What is truly mind-boggling is that some parishes actually consider it. The question is “WHY?”. Did each of these parishes have a specific problem with the Archdiocese OR has each parish succumbed to a relentless barrage of falsehoods, misinformation, and half-truths?
In 1 Timothy 1:6-7, the Apostle Paul relates that in wandering away from the “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith” people can wander into “vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.” The very things which the Apostle warns us NOT to do are what GOAL continues to do. They are in fact engaged in vain discussion, making assertions and even trying to teach us the law of our Church. They promote speculation and different — unorthodox — doctrine.
What people with pure hearts and good conscience work to divide One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church by telling its members to withhold funds from its Holy Archdiocese?
Stewardship funds ARE heavenly treasures. When parishioners offer stewardship payments to the Church, they offer it to the Lord to show their love for Him and for His Church. They offer it because they support the mission and ministries of the Church. By virtue of the fact that parishioners give a contribution to the Church they expect it to be used by the Church according to the canons, teachings, and Uniform Parish Regulations (UPR) — not for any other reason.
The idea of withholding stewardship contributions to the Archdiocese or of placing the funds in an escrow account was promoted by GOAL on its Voithia website. This idea is AGAINST the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Nor is it to be found in the UPR, the Canons or in the writings of the Holy Fathers. The word “escrow” is a legal term. It is not part of the Orthodox vocabulary; nor does it exist in the teachings of Christ. Indeed, it was Christ who advised us to “lay up for [our]selves treasures in heaven” (MT 6:20) Certainly, heavenly treasure is not secured by following unorthodox and unchristian practices.
FUNDING NATIONAL MINISTRIES
It is so important to pay careful attention not only to what we read, but to how it is written. For example, in its March 23rd website post, under the heading “Will delayed payments harm the dioceses and the national institutions?” GOAL’s answer is that the theological school and other national institutions will “not necessarily” be affected. One wonders what “not necessarily” means. They suggest the money can be sent to these institutions directly. On the surface, it sounds harmless, yet it would be truly harmful. For example, if all the members of the Greek Orthodox Church sent a check or donation to the Holy Cross Seminary, they would need to do so on a regular basis so that monthly bills could be met. What would happen however, if all the members of the Greek Orthodox Church did not send a check; or if only some of them sent checks on a regular basis?
Serious consideration must be given to whether it is practical to expect the faithful to individually support ALL the national programs and ALL the national institutions. Who would balance the flow of funds to each institution? How could plans be made for extended or future projects? If each National Ministry had to compete — as if in a popularity contest — for funding, the overall stability of our institutions and programs would be seriously jeopardized. The question that each parish should ask of itself is: Would each church subject itself to impulse and operate in an unpredictable or haphazard fashion? This same question must be applied when considering ALL the National Institutions and ALL the National Programs.
MISLEADING INFORMATION HARMFUL
The very next sentence of the March 23rd article states “Each diocese receives from the Archdiocese approximately 25-30% of the money its parishes pay to the Archdiocese.” This factual statement on the heels of a “not necessarily” comment is purposely misleading in that it gives the impression that each diocese uses this money for national ministries. The truth is that this percentage amount is used for diocesan programs, NOT for the national ministries. According to The National Ministries, an extensive 165 page book distributed by the Archdiocese at the 34th Clergy-Laity Congress in 1998, the following individual ministries would indeed be affected by parishes withholding their funds:
Hellenic College/Holy Cross
St. Photios National Shrine
St. Basil’s Academy
Department of Religious Education
St. Michael's Home for the Aged
Department of Greek Education
National Office of Youth Ministries
Orthodox Mission Center
Who benefits from these ministries? WE ALL DO! Which can we afford to curtail? Do we not need a seminary to educate priests in the Orthodox faith? Perhaps we should no longer take troubled children into the loving home known as St. Basil’s Academy? Do we not need a cohesive religious education program that will teach our children and us the precepts of our religion? Perhaps we should send our elderly elsewhere or not provide our youth with programs that keep them off the streets? Clearly, the suggestion to withhold funds is an attempt to impede the mission of the Church.
UNIFORM PARISH REGULATIONS
Finally, in answering the question, “What will happen if my parish delays its payment to the Archdiocese?”, the March 23rd article makes two interesting but characteristic errors. First, it cites the minutes of the February 27, 1999 meeting of the Archdiocesan Council Legal Committee — a meeting in which GOAL has no part. How did they get minutes that have yet to be approved and are not public record? Was it in the same manner in which they obtained the mailing list?
Second, in order to further promote the withholding of funds, they seek to reassure their supporters that: a)diocesan bishops assign or transfer priests; b)diocesan bishops ratify parish council elections; and c)dioceses supply marriage and baptismal certificates. However, GOAL FAILS TO QUOTE THE UPR.
Specifically, Article IX Sect. 4 “Each member or member elect of the Parish Council is obliged, without exception to take the following oath of office.“I do solemnly affirm that I will uphold the dogma, teaching, traditions, Holy Canons, worship, and moral principles of the G.O. Church as well as the constitutional charter, discipline and regulations of the G.O. Archdiocese.”
Furthermore, Article XII Sect. 1 “The Parish council shall have the following duties: ...paying such sum as may be fixed by the Clergy-Laity Congresses for the support of the Archdiocese.”
Finally, Article XV Sect. 3 “Each parish shall remit monthly to the Archdiocese the portion of its total commitment allocation for Archdiocesan and Diocesan needs as determined by the Clergy-Laity Congress.”
Parish council members also must remember that most, if not all parishes, are organized as non profit organizations in the various states in which they are situated. Under civil law, parish council members like trustees, have a fiduciary duty to uphold by-laws and regulations governing the parishes including the UPR. Thus, if a parish council member supports the withholding of funds he or she is violating the legal duty owed to the corporation.
The Holy Fathers of our Church would have expected each and every one of us to defend our faith. We must all take an active role in recognizing and standing firm against “false doctrines.” How do we do this? TOGETHER. As per the UPR, a special parish assembly may be called by the parish council, the priest, or when 10% of the members in good standing submit a letter stating the purpose of the meeting, to the parish council, requesting a parish assembly. People in every parish can request a special assembly to pass resolutions denouncing the promotion of “false doctrines” and denouncing the withholding of funds as irresponsible acts.
The time to act is NOW! If you are in a parish where a priest or a hierarch or a layman misrepresents the Archdiocese or Orthodoxy, RESPOND! Do not let half-truths, falsehoods or misinformation mislead you. Use your Bible; the “Issues and Answers” section of the April 1999 Orthodox Observer; the internet site of Greek Orthodox Stewards and call a meeting. Above all, take an active and vocal role in your 2,000 year old Greek Orthodox Church.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Greek Orthodox Stewards of America, Inc. P.O. Box 462 Lynnfield, MA 01940
Internet Publication http://www.gostewards.org
Note from Stewards´ Website Editor: This newsletter was sent to every parish council president and priest in the United States.
[ Greek Orthodox Stewards of America
June 3, 1999 ]