HOLLADAY — Hundreds of members of the Greek Orthodox community voted Sunday to maintain the Utah parish's independence from regional and national leadership.
Nearly 600 parishioners gathered at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Holladay voted on whether or not they wanted the Utah parish to adopt bylaws and articles of incorporation that would put the parish's governance more in line with the national Greek Orthodox Church. About 60 percent of voters said no.
Utah's parish includes both the Holladay church and the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Salt Lake, and congregants from both cities came out to voice their concerns or support in a general assembly prior to the vote.
"There were mixed feelings in the meeting," said parishioner George Karahalios. "I at times was sad as well as elated."
Unified Police were on hand as emotions were expected to run high.
Nick Bapis wasn't allowed to vote. Bapis and four others sought a legal injunction to prevent the local parish from having the general assembly Sunday in favor of postponing it so members could have more time to acquaint themselves with the bylaws and develop their own.
"We were forced to stay in the lobby here. ... I feel very embarrassed because I have a pretty good reputation in town," Bapis said. "Mainly embarrassed and hurt."
At the heart of the matter were concerns that accepting the bylaws would lessen the parish's control over finances. Bapis said he personally oversaw fundraising for additions and improvements at both the Holladay and Salt Lake buildings.
"We promised the donors that we would direct the money specifically where they wanted us to donate it," Bapis said.
But local and regional leaders, including a representative from the Metropolis of Denver, which oversees operations in 12 states including Utah, said the issues had been blown out of proportion.
Sunday's vote was on a different matter from what the group voted on 18 months ago, when 87 percent said they did not want to split the Utah parish in two and divide the Holladay and Salt Lake churches from one another.
"Really, we weren't voting on a split or a non-split tonight. We were voting to adopt bylaws and articles of incorporation," Karahalios said.