Diocesan clergy refuse to Support the Archbishop
BOSTON. – The Clergy Brotherhoods of the Detroit and Chicago Dioceses refused to throw their support behind Archbishop Spyridon in his effort to fight off open defiance by the five Metropolitans of the Eparchial Synod of America, by a significant part of the clergy and wide segments of the laity. In particular, the two regional clergy organizations refused to endorse a letter put forth by the National Preshyters Council in opposition to previous statement signed by 73 priests which contained a scathing condemnation of the Archbishop’s policies (The National Herald, Nov. 7-8,1998).
At a Tuesday meeting of the Clergy Brotherhood meeting of the Detroit Diocese, 16 out of the 42 diocesan priests present also questioned the tactics of their Brotherhood’s president Fr. George Matsis, of Toledo, Ohio, who tried to promote the letter supporting the Archbishop. Sources told The National Herald that Fr. Matsis was unable to overcome the opposition and that, after a motion by one of the objecting priests, the proposal was tabled. A telephone message by the Herald to Fr. Matsis has not returned.
In private conversations some priests expressed fears about the climate of divisiveness among the clergy which is fostered by the Archdiocese. Just last weekend the Archbishop visited Detroit and had spoken against the Eparchial Synod of the Metropolitans in front of both the clergy as well as the lay Parish officers (see article, page 3).
In Chicago, where Fr. Chris Kerhulas, the President of the National Presbyters’ Council serves as priest at the Parish of St. Basil, the local Clergy Brotherhood was called to a meeting on Friday, November 13. The meeting was attended by only eight outof the 55 diocesan priests. Fr. Kerhulas raised the issue of his letter in response to the statement by his 73 colleagues against Archbishop Spyridon. Participants in the meeting vehemently rejected Fr. Kerhulas proposal– Fr. Kerhulas was unable even to read his letter. (Fr. Kerhulas discusses this issue extensively in an interview published in this issue of the National Herald).
The influential Fr. Ephraim
Other sources told the National Herald that at a meeting of the National Presbyters Council Fr. Kerhulas proposed to invite the controversial priest-monk Ephraim, a former abbot from the Athos, the monastic enclave in northern Greece, as speaker at a retreat of the Clergy of the Archdiocese but was forced to abandon the plan when some of the members of the Council opposed it. Fr. Ephraim who came to America under nefarious circumstances in the early 90’s first joined the Russian synod in exile after receiving a “directive” from God as he proclaimed at the time. However, when he was threatened by the Ecumenical Patriarchate that he would be defrocked, he received another “directive” from God and abandoned the Russians.
Ephraim has established a string of monasteries in America and, under through intense confessional activity, has created many personal loyalties. Typical of his activity the case of 16-year-old Angelo Lenekakis who acknowledges Fr. Ephraim is his “role model” as published the “Orthodox Observer,” the official newspaper of the Archdiocese (October 20,1998). Fr. Ephraim and his followers try to attract youths in order to fill his Monasteries.
Fr. Ephraim has significant influence in the administration of the Archdiocese. The current Chancellor, Fr. George Passias, happens to be one of the Ephraim’s most loyal followers. Ephraim is also admired by the new President of the Theological School, Archimandrite Damaskinos Ganas, who, according to sources, wants to invite Fr. Ephraim to hear confessions from students. Fr. Ganas did not respond to the Herald’s offer for an interview.