Holy Order of Mans
Christian Church Leaders Denounce Affiliation With Brother Juniper’s Sect
A priest in the Holy Order of Mans, which operates Brother Juniper’s restaurants, recently told the Indianapolis Business Journal that the Order is now affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Church. But priests within the Eastern Orthodox Church, here and on both coasts, say that claim is, at best, a deception. They deny any affiliation with the sect, which some refer to as a cult.
This deception and others are an apparent attempt by the Holy Order of Mans to appear more legitimate to the Indianapolis community, suggested Deacon Athanasius Wilson of St. George Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. Wilson is president of a council of four canonical Orthodox churches in Indianapolis, none of which is “in communion” with the Holy Order of Mans, he said.
Michael Crowley, a priest in the local Order who was quoted in IBJ’s prior article, conceded that the Order’s claim to Orthodoxy is not recognized by the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA). But there are as many interpretations of orthodoxy as there are of constitutional law, he said. “All these questions of who’s who come up in America.”
“As soon as we say we’re affiliated with the Orthodox church, there’s always going to be somebody to say ‘not really,’” Crowley noted. We’re very young, and we don’t know about all these things. It’s kind of confusing to us. But we feel that we are brought together by God and opened our hearts to the Orthodox Christian experience.”
Wilson and other local Orthodox priests are concerned that the Order is using this self-proclaimed legitimacy to retain questioning members or to lure new members. Claims of orthodoxy also might enhance the Order’s reputation with the citizens of Indianapolis, who already embrace the Order’s restaurants, its signmaking shop and its commendable efforts to upgrade neighborhoods and aid the needy.
Wilson noted three “gross errors” in a story about the Order that appeared in IBJ’s March 7 issue. The first error deals with Crowley’s claim of affiliation with the network of Orthodox churches, he stated. Wilson’s second point it that there are four, not five, canonical Orthodox churches in Indianapolis. Thirdly, those churches are not “completely ethnic” or old fashioned, as Crowley implies when he told IBJ that the Order was “opening up the doors of Orthodoxy to contemporary America.” Wilson said the churches he speaks for were offended to be labeled “ethnic” by a sect that is claiming an authenticity it hasn’t earned.
“We’re just learning the basics of orthodoxy, about orthodox liturgy,” Crowley said. “I know SCOBA does not recognize us. That will come. That will work itself out. Maybe we’ll come together someday,” he suggested, noting “this is not dissimilar to splits in the Lutheran Church.”
The Holy Order of Mans claims membership in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Vasiloupolis in Queens, N.Y. Father Paul Vasiliou, a priest in that Queens church, seconded that claim. He asserted, however, that the Holy Order of Mans no longer exists; he said it is now called Christ the Saviour Orthodox Brotherhood. Crowley noted that the name change has not yet been finalized.
Vasiliou reports to a “bishop” known as His Eminence Archbishop Pangratious. Pangratious is an Albanian who once was a legitimate priest within the Greek Orthodox Church but fell away and is no longer recognized by canonical churches, sources say. He was never ordained a bishop within the church, the sources noted.
But Crowley takes another view. “I believe he was ordained. He must be consecrated by three other bishops, and that was accomplished,” Crowley said. “We looked into that as best we could and felt that it was in line.”
But Orthodox priests recognized by SCOBA don’t recognize any consecration of Pangratious. “How he became a bishop, I don’t know,” said Father James Rousakis, priest at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. “I feel badly that they [in the Order] are taking on the Orthodox name to try to legitimize something that is, what would you say, a cult or a sect.”
The Holy Order of Mans is one of a very few so-called Orthodox churches that isn’t recognized by the SCOBA, Rousakis said. That was affirmed by the Ecumenical Office of the Greek Archdiocese in New York.
George A. Gray, a priest with St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Portland, Ore., has been approached by members of the Order there who claim to be adopting Orthodox doctrines. “Basically, they’re playing church,” he said, by coming to his services but ignoring the tenants of his church.
When he explains to members of the Order that they can’t take communion because they aren’t Orthodox, “They say ‘It doesn’t matter. We just do what our leaders tell us.’ That is a direct quote,” Gray noted. “To me this says that there’s mindlessness here. They’re under a strong influence of leaders who literally run every facet of the life of their people.”
Gray further said that members of the Order in Oregon at one time believed in revelations from UFOS and from Tarot cards. They espoused sex worship, he added, and have never denounced that part of their history. “They say they’ve given up that stuff, but won’t make a wholesale repentance,” Gray said.
Crowley disagrees. “Our director general [Andrew Rossi from the Order’s San Francisco headquarters] was recently ordained in New York,” Crowley said. He added that in the process of ordination, Rossi wholeheartedly denounced any former beliefs that might be contradictory with the Orthodox Church.
Rossi became the leader of the Order when its founder, Paul Blighted, died. Orders are established in Atlanta and Portland, Ore., was well as in San Francisco and Indianapolis. Gray noted that for months Rossi wrote letters to the editor of Light of Light, the Orthodox newspaper, arguing for the Order’s authenticity.
In Oregon and here, most members of the Order continue to wear mostly blue, live communally and tend to teach their children at home. However, they don’t begin teaching reading skills until the middle of third grade and are proud of it, Gray noted. During early education, “they teach about elves and gnomes and fantasy, not the three Rs,” Gray said.
“We don’t espouse home schooling,” Crowley said. “It’s something that some people do. We feel that parents should be involved in the education of their children. We encourage parents to be responsible.” He added that reading, writing and arithmetic are espoused by the Order.
Home schooling in Indiana is unregulated, said Joseph E. Blankenbeker, special assistant for policy and planning with the Indiana Department of Education. Indiana statute requires that children taught outside the public school system be given instruction “equivalent” to public education, and that’s as far as the state or the legislature has ever gone,” he said. There is no requirement for teacher certification, standard curriculum or student testing, explained Blankenbeker.
A former member of the local Order, who was once in training to teach children in the home, said more attention is paid to spiritual teaching than to traditional teaching methods. Theresa Scott, who joined the order at age 16 and left 15 years later, explained that children in the Order are given the basics in education, but the concentration is on teaching about energy and light. Within the Order, it is believed that the current generation of youngsters will be master teachers when they grow up, and knowledge of energy and light will be of utmost importance, Scott said.
Shedding years of conditioning from the Order took nine months and lots of counseling, Scott admitted, because she was taught to depend on priests for everything, including money and personal decisions. Even prayer could not be accomplished without going through three steps and invoking the help of a priest, she said. Since leaving the Order, “I’ve learned that God wants us to be individuals,” said Scott.
Members of the Order explained during a WISH-TV (Channel 8) interview last year that comments from Scott and some other critical defectors should be taken as testimony from mentally unbalanced people who became members before the Order screened applicants very thoroughly.