Heroes Advocating Truth
(Or: who are those among us that have the courage of conviction)
These are strange and interesting times, especially as they concern our Church. There is something missing……… “We are in need of heroes.” They shape the identities of those who aspire to grow with a sense of noble character and/or purpose. Heroes can help shape not only individual identities, but communities as well. Typically these heroes are stereotypically leaders, or other prominent public figures, like teachers, clergymen, soldiers, politicians, or successful businessmen (to name only a few). But sometimes these heroes that are often unsung. The fact is that there are more unsung heroes than prominent ones.
When the people that we expect to act as heroes compromise their responsibility as role models, there sometimes emerge voices, daring voices, voices that are willing to risk everything for the sake of truth, by altruistically speaking up. It is reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. The sole voice that shouted that the Emperor had no clothes was not otherwise a hero but was compelled to shout the naked truth. Initially this shouting was held in suspicion; until a consensus was reached that the Emperor was indeed naked. Perhaps the youngster’s voice itself was briefly held suspect. However, some might say that this voice was the voice of a hero that saved the subjects from an egomaniacal despot who was in pursuit of vainglory at the expense of truth.
We live in an age where violence seems to be part of our culture – as we often see in movies, TV shows, and video games. However, a form of violence takes place in the soft-spoken words of character assassinations whispered under the guise of righteousness. In our Church, as evidenced by the plague of Ephraimite activity, the mere fear of opprobrium frightens many from speaking up. In an age where social networking emails and web-sites, can promote anyone’s agenda, many are left confused as to what is right and what is wrong. Like the Pharisees and the passers-by, many look the other way when they come across someone that is simply beaten up (as in the parable of the Good Samaritan). Yet in spite of these things, there emerge voices that say “wait a minute”. Truth is, luckily for the rest of us, their personal agenda. They don’t have to yell it, nor threaten anyone to get their point across. There is an innate power of truth. Ultimately, like cream, it rises to the top where all will finally see.
There are people walking among us today who need to be acknowledged for speaking up for the sake of truth – in spite of the fear, the risks, the threats, and the intimidations that followed. These are heroes who require a simple “thank you” from all of us for taking these risks and leading where prominent leaders failed.
Thank you to the Reverend Fr. Stanley Harakas, Ph. D., the late Fr. Evagoras Constantinides of blessed memory, Metropolitan Philip, the founders of www.Pokrov.org, Mr. A. P. Cromidas, and Mr. Theodore Kalmoukos. We are highlighting these few who are well known, and who also represent the many more unsung heroes who are out there making the truth apparent without acknowledgment.
When those engrained in the infrastructure of the Church at high levels give the impression of sacrificing truth and engage in perpetual artful deflection and rationalizing, a voice is needed to herald the simple truth. That voice has emerged from the compassionate yet steadfast voices of these heroes.
Hierarchs are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to have the sacred office they hold. We should respect and love them. They are charged with the great responsibility to be the teachers and the protectors of the Faith, and the Church. But if they appear to compromise this sacred duty (intentionally or not), these acts must be addressed respectfully, if possible. Some wield unfounded accusations against these public figures, and that is shamefully wrong. God sees and knows all, and they will be held accountable in the long run. However, as human beings, Hierarchs are not always perfect. A collaborative system seeking consensus rather than controversy provides a protection of checks and balances that helps the Hierarchs, as well as the Church at large. After all, a military general, for example, is more effective when he is surrounded by wise and seasoned counselors and subordinates. A significant component of this collaborative system must be the voice of truth.
When the perception is given that some Hierarchs may be more concerned with attending 50 Year Anniversaries, elite social galas, or attending monasteries in Florida or Arizona in order to bask in the false admiration and pseudo respect of some duplicitous monastic leaders, a voice is needed to herald this truth. When the tearful voices of parents, spouses and siblings, who all share similar stories of pain perpetrated by untruths are not heard, and nothing is done to assuage their pain, who will console them by championing the truth? When these parallel stories of pain come from people across the continent and from people of different walks of life who do not even know each other, is there anyone in authority who will acknowledge that we need to do something?
What are we as Orthodox Christians facing? Many now believe in false doctrines, such as the Aerial Toll Houses myth. Add to that the tidal wave of emails coming into this website in which many allege the growing number of unhealthy and therefore anti-pastoral practices engaged in by our some of our “Ephraimatic” Clergy. These allegations follow the same pattern — harsh penances for minor compromises of judgment, Priests or Monks legislating private marital relationships and the one we have reported on a regular basis, that certain Orthodox Monasteries in America are undermining the ministries of local Parishes. What has happened here to our beloved Church? Is anyone asking if inappropriate or unorthodox guidance may have contributed to the suicide of a former monk near the Florence, AZ monastery gates? This and countless other events leave one wondering if this is the Church – – and for that matter the Faith – – that we grew up and believed in.
The varied voices of the heroes named below herald a harmonious and focused “wait a minute!”
Fr. Stanley Harakas
We thank the Reverend Fr. Stanley Harakas, Ph.D. and former Dean and Professor at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, for publishing in his books such as “The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers” or “Orthodox Christian Beliefs About the Bible” (Light and Life Publishing) clear and succinct statements that the Aerial Toll House teaching is NOT a legitimate bona fide belief of the Orthodox Christian Church. http://www.light-n-life.com/shopping/order_product.asp?ProductNum=OZCH340 .One might imagine this intuitively, as it is not in Scripture, nor any of the Canons of the Church. Fr. Harakas clearly pronounced this before the voices of distortion have made it an issue again. Fr. Harakas is acknowledged by most clergymen and laymen worldwide as a pro-active voice that has sown seeds of truth and compassion that will yield fruit abundantly as time passes. Though he never sought this, he has been granted the internationally resounding voice and respect that his very few naysayers will never have. http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/affiliates/rca/biography/harakasstanley
Fr. Evagoras Constantinides
We thank the late Fr. Constantinides for his distinguished career as a pastor par-excellence of the Cathedral in Merrillville, Indiana that he lovingly and steadfastly nurtured from 1969 through 1996. He was one of the founders of Hospice of NW Indiana and the SS. Constantine and Helen Cathedral Food Pantry that feeds the hungry. He has many other distinguished accomplishments, but at the forefront of all he did, he was never afraid to state what he believed to be right and wrong.
In 1976, he received the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America Service Award and Gold Cross for his struggles and lobbying activities for the liberation of the invaded Cyprus, which he still pursued until his recent passing. He was honored by the State of Indiana with the highest award it could possibly give to a private citizen. In October of 2006, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem decorated him with the Medal of Superior Commander of the Order of Orthodox Crusaders of the Most Holy Sepulcher, accompanied by the Gold Cross and Crown, Wreath, and Star in appreciation of “his pious disposition and assistance toward the All Holy Sepulcher and Most Holy Mother of Churches.”
When a man of this notable and recognized stature openly writes and questions the movement and activities of Elder Ephraim (who has no known recognized formal education and training), it should be recognized and respected. Thank you Fr. Constantinides – – blessed be your memory. To read more about this great leader of our Orthodox Faith please click on the link below:
To read some of Fr. Constantinides’ thoughts on the Ephraimite issues in articles written by him long before his passing, we suggest you click to the following link:
Metropolitan Philip, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church.
Metropolitan Philip started his pastoral calling as a parish priest in March of 1959. He proved himself as a worthy pastor and dedicated priest to the faithful of St. George in Cleveland, Ohio. In March of 1966 he was nominated to the office of the Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America. A few months later he was elected, consecrated, and installed for this sacred office. He excelled there, as is evident when in June of 1975; he accomplished the administrative and jurisdictional unity of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in North America. He is recognized as an expert in Middle Eastern affairs and has met with Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, Carter and Reagan, as well as with many other world leaders.
He has many, many other accomplishments and achievements, and is the recipient of many awards from other countries, as well as Honorary Doctorates. His many charitable deeds and humanitarian efforts are world-renowned and universally recognized.
Metropolitan Philip is a noted author and visionary as well. In February of 1987 he welcomed some 2000 Evangelical Christians as they entered the canonical Orthodox Christian Church. They brought with them a strong desire to proclaim the beauty, depth, and fullness of truth of Orthodoxy to America. In 2003 the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America was given the status of a self-ruling (autonomous) Archdiocese.
Metropolitan Philip serves as First Vice Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, Vice President and Vice Chairman of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary Board of Trustees, and Chairman of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission.
When a man of this world-renowned stature issues a formal directive on August 6, 1997, warning the faithful of the dangers of “Orthodox Fundamentalism”, it must be taken seriously. He writes:
“…To root out this attitude, drastic measures are necessary. Therefore all priests and deacons of the Archdiocese are to be instructed to refrain from placing themselves under obedience to or the influence of any spiritual father, father confessor or spiritual director who himself is not a member of the (Antiochian) Archdiocese of North America.
Orthodox “fundamentalism” has no place whatsoever in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Theological and liturgical books, pamphlets, etc. must not be printed nor circulated within the Archdiocese without the approval of the Metropolitan. Any priest or deacon, who deviates from the mainstream of Orthodox theology, will have no future in this Archdiocese.”
Metropolitan Philip (August 6, 1997 Archpastoral Directive)
When a leader of this stature writes such a bold statement in a pro-active and courageous manner, it cannot be taken lightly simply because he is not of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. We applaud his leadership and foresight in protecting the faithful.
Cappy Larson, Greta Larson and Melanie Jula Sakoda
founders of www.Pokrov.org
The welcome page states that Pokrov.org “is a resource for survivors of abuse in the Orthodox Churches. Pokrov.org is proud to be under the umbrella of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Abuse can take place whether you are a child, a teenager or an adult. Adults can be married, single or divorced, male or female. Even clergymen, seminary students and clergy-wives can be abused. Abusers can be clergymen, Monastics, clergy-wives, or just members of the laity”.
No institution is immune from elements of a fallen humanity. This site has ministered to the needs of those abused and exploited. It also documents names of alleged perpetrators.
Unfortunately, we need this “ministry”. Sweeping things under the rug can allow improprieties to continue and wounds to remain unhealed. This site has striven to a variety of injustices and improprieties. This has come with the risk of retribution from those who feel this should be hidden from view. Violent threats and character malignment are just a few examples of the measures that these fine people have had to endure.
We applaud these advocates of the abused and the hurt. We thank them for their courage and persistence in standing up for what is right.
Mr. A. P. Cromidas
A long time member of the Laity in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese who has unparalleled courage, Mr. Cromidas has spoken numerous times and written many articles and letters to voice his concerns regarding various improprieties and injustices within the Orthodox Church. His articles and letters can be found in various media, publications, and web sites. They cover a very broad spectrum of topics that have as a common denominator “injustice”. He is a strong and consistent advocate for victims and for truth. He has endured slander and his own character has been questioned. We applaud his courage and character. We are most grateful for all he does.
Mr. Theodore Kalmoukos
The National Herald
Mr. Kalmoukos is a man of intellect, character and courage. He is an internationally acclaimed reporter and editor, as well as a theological scholar. He does not desire accolades but nevertheless is unafraid of drawing criticism. He is a graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. For decades he has served as Editor of a bilingual national publication, The National Herald. The paper’s fame is worldwide as it tackles stories ranging from Greek and American political and economic issues, to Church issues. His fame, and that of the paper’s, is international. His readership is high because of the candid and straightforward manner with which he and the paper report on this broad spectrum of issues.
Throughout 2012 and 2013 he has published numerous articles questioning Elder Ephraim and his many Monasteries here in America. His conclusion is that something is terribly wrong:
“The monasteries, about 21 of them, which priest-monk Ephraim, former Abbot of the Philotheou Monastery of Mount Athos, has established throughout the United States, are emerging as the Archdiocese’s most dangerous disease. It is already visible in many parishes, which tend to become centers of a dangerous fundamentalism and distortion of our Orthodox Faith once they are infected. Unfortunately, we have the phenomenon of priests of the Archdiocese who become militant members of the fundamentalist movement of “Ephraimism”. -The National Herald, December 13, 2012
Mr. Theodore Kalmoukos has been a resounding voice of truth. He has shouted to the mountains and the valleys and his loud proclamations of truth have fallen like a ton of bricks on some. This is the nature of some truths – they are hard to bear. We hope that he wears the burden of being diminished by those in authority as a badge of honor and accomplishment. Where are those in authority when the truth is being compromised? If the Greek Orthodox Church had the level of commitment to transparency and honesty as exhibited by Mr. Kalmoukos articles like this one would not have to be written. Do we agree with 100% of his positions or perspectives? The answer is a simple NO! However here is a man that at least takes a position, right or wrong you know where he stands.
We would like to thank Mr. Kalmoukos for being a herald of truth. We invite our readers to subscribe to his paper http://www.thenationalherald.com . Continue your good work Mr. Kalmoukos. We are all the better for the ministry to the Church that you provide.
Truth can indeed be a hard thing to bear. It can make us feel uncomfortable. Truth sheds light on what is authentic and exposes errors and falsehoods. Indeed, the only thing that can protect the Church is truth. Truth sets us free from delusion and fantasies. Truth gives us our bearings. Truth prompts careful examination and when recognized self- examination.
Sometimes a single voice is all that is needed to proclaim a falsehood – as in the Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Robes do not make the Emperor any more than they make the Priest/Hierarch/Monk. For that matter, neither does whether or not they have a beard. Have we become so superficial that this is all some of us look for? Truth exposes superficiality, too.
Above, we have extolled more than a single voice shouting in the wilderness. We have a number of proven and respected individuals, all calling attention to a problem; indeed, to the same problem.
Our gratitude goes out to all of them. Our gratitude also goes out to the countless of people who refuse to be cowed or exploited by untruths. It is our belief that there are more unknown heroes those we know about. The people mentioned here are only representatives of them all; and they worthily honor us all as well by their courage and compassion.
Perhaps their collective voices speaking the same singular message will in the test of time awaken our Church from the deafening silence of our leaders. It is our prayer and hope.