Greek Orthodox members in Utah vote against national bylaws

Members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake gathered Sunday night to debate whether to adopt the bylaws of its national hierarchy.

Holladay • After death threats, litigation and a church meeting supervised by police, members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake voted Sunday against adopting the bylaws of its national hierarchy.

The seemingly technical issue has thrown the church into an ongoing emotional dispute that culminated at Sunday’s general assembly. Hundreds of people turned out, and some were not allowed in the doors of the Diamond Z. Miles Multi-Purpose Center.

“It’s very heated. People are getting upset,” said church member Mary Kontgis. “My mom [is] 90 years old. She’s just beside herself. It’s dividing the community.”

“I’ve never seen so many Greeks in my life,” said Bob Baliban. “Honest to God, they must have come from Idaho and Wyoming, too. I think the Mormons must be getting a kick out of this.”

Members of the local parish, which includes both the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Salt Lake City and the Prophet Elias Church in Holladay, have clashed over whether to bring local church bylaws in line with Greek Orthodox Uniform Parish Regulations. Opponents fear the move would take control of the local finances away from local members.

Parish council members dispute those claims, saying adopting the bylaws would only codify the way the church already makes decisions.

Church member voted on two resolutions that would have adopted the new bylaws, rejecting them approximately 60 percent to 40 percent, parish council president Jim Mylonakis said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Mylonakis said। “We will see what directives we’re going to receive.”

Mylonakis said the council arranged for Sunday’s vote after the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, headquartered in New York City, told the council that the parish was out of compliance with the larger church. But a group of members filed suit, alleging that the parish council had “frozen out” voting members and “effectively hijacked” the church’s affairs.

Mylonakis said he and the parish priest have received death threats over the bylaws vote, one as recently as Sunday afternoon. The Unified Police Department had 10 officers on site and “others that are staged if needed,” said Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal.

“We understand that there’s a volatile situation here, so we have officers that are here solely to keep the peace,” he said.

The police presence stayed mostly in the background.

Church leadership mandated that only members in “good standing” — those not involved with the lawsuit and who are up-to-date on their annual financial pledges — were admitted to the general assembly. Mylonakis said the parish was following instruction from the church’s regional authorities in Denver not to admit members who filed suit.

A line stretched around the building as people entered with little incident other than “arguing in line waiting to get in,” said Baliban. He was not admitted because he fell behind on his pledges.

But, at the tail end of that line, a group of about a dozen dissidents confronted church leadership when they were prevented from entering. The media were kept away from the church itself, but voices could be heard shouting, “It’s OUR church!” “That’s what it is! You are afraid of the truth!”

And, in response, “I cannot let you in! I cannot let you in!”

Officers did not intervene during the argument, which never escalated beyond raised voices.

Jim Kastanis, one of those who filed suit, said that while the voting members ultimately shared his opposition to the new bylaws, excluding members meant the meeting was not legitimate. “It was all rigged up,” Kastanis said. “It’s 2011; we live in America. What is going on?”

He said the church should now hold council elections.

“I’m happy with the fact that now we can go ahead, elect 15 board members, elect officers and go from there,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with my church. I have a problem with the current administration of the church.”

Mylonakis said he is confident the congregation can reunite.

“These people are friends of mine that I grew up with and have known all my life,” he said. “I just hope everybody puts certain things aside and goes on. We have such a good community.”

5 σχόλια:

  1. For those not familiar with the current issues and their possible outcomes, voting for the bylaws would have split the single Utah parish into two distinct communities. As a lifelong member of Salt Lake City's Greek youth, I believe it appropriate for me to say that this would be disastrous.

    I grew up knowing not just Greeks close to my house, but Greeks all over the Salt Lake Valley. Prophet Elias...Holy didn't matter. All I knew was that as long as I was a Greek in Salt Lake, I would have friends, wherever I went. I would have a strong community that could support me when my life became rough, and that I could support when it began to experience trials and tribulations.

    Right now is one of those times. My community is, in my eyes, being pushed by outside forces. I, for one, will no stagger. The youth are not just important to the Salt Lake parish...they ARE THE FUTURE of the parish. No youth, no future members. Does the Metropolitan, waiting to built his new Denver office complex, really wish to ignore his future parish members? Members who with all their hearts and souls don't want to see the community split, to see friends pit against friends in parish rivalry? We, the current Greek youth of Salt Lake, want Christian fellowship and cooperation, nothing more. If for no other reason than to preserve our unity, and thus ensure the future of the culture and tradition of the community, please do not support the split.

  2. "Church leadership mandated that only members in “good standing” — those
    not involved with the lawsuit and who are up-to-date on their annual
    financial pledges — were admitted to the general assembly."

    Would I not be "good standing" in God's eyes by not meeting my annual financial pledges? This is what I don't understand about any religion, why money comes into play to make me holy or a good person! As being non-religious, I believe that if there is a GOD he will recognize me for who I am and what I have done with my life, not how much money I have pumped into some church!

  3. I have a friend who is a member of the Greek Orthodox Religion. It is her opinion that "this" squabble" is like an argument among her brothers. They fight between themselves, but let anyone else interfere - they unite and come out fighting against the "outsider (s)".

    I grew-up in a diverse community. The Greeks I knew, had mothers who if you were at their house playing with their kids, you were included for dinner that night.

    My friend says Greeks are passionate, opinionated, and stubborn as well as other qualities. They always a have a few pig-headed among them, so nothing is new. It will be settled..

  4. Yes, it will. These things happen in all denominations, all religious faiths. Even the Mormons. If you read the history of the Mormon church, you'll see that it was not all members blindly following the Prophet, sheep-like, as some on here would like to believe.

    Wherever you have people, inevitably you'll have conflict. Even in church

  5. Death threats? Really? How “Christian.”