Letter From A Sad Khouriya
To my Fellow Antiochian Orthodox Christians,
As I was unable to attend the Archdiocese convention,
I took the opportunity to listen to the podcasts of the meetings that were linked at Ancient Faith Radio. I was shocked and flabbergasted by what I heard.
First I listened to the Finance report.
Fr. John Mashburn spoke humbly and eloquently about the need for an audit of the Archdiocese. He did not make a motion, but was adding to the discussion. The moderator repeatedly said that Fr. Troy’s “motion” could not be entertained. Metropolitan Philip interrupted Fr. Troy and repeatedly complained that an audit of the Archdiocese would be too expensive and demanded to include all the parishes in the audit. ( It is interesting that the same Metropolitan who can raise millions of dollars does not want to put up $180,000 for an audit, even if it would be that much. ) The issue of the cost and the need to audit every individual parish were obvious diversions and deflections from the real issue that the Archdiocese has not provided proper accounting and financial statements - nor is following the legal requirements for its non-profit status.
His Eminence also said that several parishes had gotten into trouble because of auditing. Good! If there is something not right, we need to get it out in the open so that we can repent of our sins and be healthy! If we do not want to rid our church of financial sins, what other sins are we hiding? If I have a sore and do not clean it and drain it, it grows and festers and poisons my whole body. It is not fun to clean the sore, it is painful to clean the sore, but it is necessary. If there is nothing wrong, then an audit will be a small expense in the big picture of the Archdiocese budget. If there are irregularities, then we can look at them and fix them and prevent the wound from spreading.
I also found it interesting that Metropolitan Philip used the opportunity of the audit discussion to boast about how much the Archdiocese has grown financially since he took over. Who cares? Is he running a business or shepherding a church? Do we measure the “success” of our Church by finances as do the secular entities or by spiritual life and health, i.e. whether people are truly being saved and embracing authentic Orthodox Christian faith and life?
Metropolitan Philip asked, in his address of the General Assembly if he betrayed us by welcoming the Evangelical Orthodox Church into the Archdiocese. As one of those former EOC members, I believe that he did betray us. Not by his encouraging us to join ourselves to the true and historical Church, but by not preparing us to truly be Orthodox. He did not prepare us for Holy Chrismation and even Ordination. None of us, that I know of, were even asked to go to confession before our chrismations. The priests and deacons were not even confessed before their ordinations. Was this an act of love and great vision? Is it loving and commendable to endanger people’s souls in this way? What kind of precedence did that convey? That confession is not important, that we don’t need to prepare ourselves to receive the blessed sacraments of the Church? The Metropolitan did not give us sponsors to help us along the road of actually becoming Orthodox. He gave us watered-down Orthodoxy.
The brave woman from Memphis who got up to speak about her concern about financially supporting a bishop who is a convicted sex offender was shut down by the prepared comments from the chancellor and shushed by the Metropolitan. This is a huge red flag as to the ethical and moral standing of our leadership.
I have never met Biship Demitri, so I have no personal connection to the issue. However, it is as huge liability, spiritually and financially, to have someone with this history in a position of leadership. Consider what is going on in the Roman church all over this country: bishops and priests are on trial and dioceses are going bankrupt. The Roman bishops are being called to account for their role in hiding the sexual sins of their clergy and placing clergy back into active ministry - instead of dealing with them according to the prescription given by Church Tradition. If Bp. Demitri is not fit to take care of an American flock, why are we financially supporting him to care for a Latin-American flock?
I agree that we need to love and encourage Bishop Demitri as a person and to forgive him as a fellow struggler in Christ. However, he did something that was wrong, was convicted of this in a court of law, was drunk and gambling. This behavior is unfitting of any Christian, but especially one in the highest place of authority. Not allowing discussion of this highly public and most serious matter reveals that the Metropolitan is being motivated by something besides the good health and order of the Church. Is he stuck back where the Roman bishops were 20 years ago? I pray that in 20 years, our Archdiocese is not in the predicament that the Roman church is in now!
Here is what I read in 1 Timothy 3 about the qualifications for ministering as bishop in Christ’s Church:
"Now the bishop must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
...He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap."
How an a bishop who breaks the law, is a cause of embarrassment even on the secular level, tramples multiple spiritual principles and canons, has a history of drunkenness and gambling, and creates public scandal for the Church be “above reproach?” He can indeed be forgiven by God, and by us. Unfortunately he has lost credibility in regard to exercising the role of bishop in which he is to stand as an icon of God Himself. How can a bishop who minimized the seriousness of the actions of a fellow cleric be considered above reproach?
Let us pray for our Metropolitan that his heart will soften to be the type of Bishop that St. Timothy wrote about.
A sad-to–be-Antiochian-right-now Khouriya