A Midnight Death At A Greek Orthodox Monastery
On June 10, 2012, near midnight, a novice monk who had left a year earlier, returned to St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, Arizona, and after a confrontation with a guard, committed suicide.
Scott Nevins entered that monastery nearly eight years ago, unbeknownst to his family, at the age of 19. Nevins was recruited to join by followers of Fr. Ephraim, a charismatic monk. He left for the monastery under cover of darkness, leaving his family frantic. By all accounts he was a well-adjusted young man when he entered the monastery.
Later, he was put on a plane to Mt. Athos with others, where he was baptized. Nevins on the Internet through various postings proudly spoke of his baptism.
He was soon tonsured a monk and served as a novice at St. Anthony’s Monastery for the next six years. One day, after meeting with Monk Paisios, who apparently runs the monastery at that location, Nevins left at 3:00 a.m. with nothing, and later sent e-mails expressing his fears of physical harm.
A year later he returned to the monastery armed and took his own life. He appeared at the gates of the monastery, then fled and took his life within view of the place where he once lived for nearly seven years. The guard at the monastery chased after him. After a shot was fired, he was transported by helicopter to a local hospital and pronounced dead.
Many things have been said about monk Ephraim, who appeared in America and founded 18 monasteries within a few years. His followers blindly follow him, claiming he is a living saint. A local restaurant in suburban Chicago prominently displays a photograph of the living Ephraim alongside icons. In Chicago area homes and near Kenosha, that same photograph is displayed alongside icons.
Many call this a cult. Many refer to him as a living Saint. What happened inside that monastery that would turn a well adjusted young man who converted to the faith into an angry, suicidal man? What assistance did they offer him after he left? By various accounts, little or nothing.
Did the monastery express sorrow that one of their own died in front of their gates? Why did they maintain silence, not even informing the Metropolitan of San Francisco of this episode.
News of Nevins’ death came from his father who posted a short notice on various web sites where monasticism is routinely discussed. It didn’t come from our Church. And certainly not from the monastery.
What happened there? What goes on in these variously founded Fr. Ephraim monasteries? What do they teach? Parents have been complaining about recruiting tactics for years where young men and women are whisked away to a monastery without their knowledge.
One young lady in the Chicago area took all her possessions and money in the bank and joined the Ephraim founded monastery in Kenosha, which conflicts with teachings that in order to leave the world you also leave all your worldly possessions behind when joining a monastery.
What is next? Will our Church finally get around to investigating these little cult centers run by the charismatic Ephraim? Will they being publishing articles and sermons contradicting the less than Greek Orthodox teachings of these cult centers? Will they finally check and see the finances of the monasteries? Parishes are required to tender financial reports annually to their Metropolitans. Do the Ephraimite Monasteries do the same thing? If so, why not?
If our Church has no control over this cult it should tell us. But the cult of Ephraim now has blood on its hands, and so does the Greek Orthodox Church of America.
It is time all of us Greek Orthodox Christians demand action by our Metropolitians. They need to investigate and correct the actions of these cult centers. They need to completely investigate the death of Nevins. Over ten years ago our Metropolitans in a report about Archbishop Spyridon, bitterly complained that he allowed Fr. Ephraim to enter America and create a fundamentalist movement that was ripping our Church apart.
Since then nothing has happened with these monasteries other than benign neglect. It’s time for action!