Fixing the Seminary: Holy Cross Students Go Public With Complaints

We here at Monomakhos have been approached again by concerned students at Holy Cross. As you know, there has been a festering situation there involving members of the faculty and administration.

In order to be more fair, we have now decided not to take sides in this issue as it is our opinion that it is more complex that we previously believed. From our earlier reportage, it appeared that we took the side of the students and in this sense, we erred. And thus, apologize.

To put our cards on the table, we believe that the problem is more systemic and rooted in the lack of evangelism that plagues the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. To lay this at the feet of one man (in this case Fr Chris Metropulos) is unfair. While the problems may have come to a boil under his leadership (and any possible personality conflicts) is to miss the point. The same problems would beset the next President and his successor and so on down the line.

The cause of these grievances (whether overstated or not) are endemic to the GOA –both the people, their lay leaders (i.e. the Archons) and the hiearchy. Specifically the assertion that “there are no jobs for HC/HC graduates”.

This is astounding. Unfortunately, it’s also true.

One of the things that Your’s Truly has commented on in the past on other blogs is the fact that the GOA –the flagship jurisdiction of American Orthodoxy–has not grown. I know from my own personal experience how hard it is to start a mission in the GOA. Some of these strictures are justifiable to an extent, after all, the GOA wants to make sure that their graduates are paid moderately well. There’s nothing wrong with that.

In the Diocese of the South on the other hand, we were told that Archbishop Dmitri could start a mission with “two old ladies and a phone booth”. Some of the priests are paid well, others receive more mediocre remuneration. That’s not good but that’s not exceptional within the OCA either. Regardless, there are no dearth of priest-candidates for the Diocese of the South and more young men seem to want to pursue vocations within the DOS (and this, despite the problems that beset the OCA over the last several years).

The bottom line however is that the strictures that the GOA places upon opening missions are doubly dangerous in that the laity in the GOA for the most part are not mission-minded anyway. For the small minority that are, well, the metrics needed for a new mission serve as a brick wall.

Unfortunately, the GOA has now hit that brick wall. The lack of new church openings (the demand side) has now outpaced the supply (i.e. new graduates). And so we come to the concerns of these students, who are not only saddled with debt, but have prospect for future employment.

If there is to be a break in this impasse, the parties involved –students, faculty, administration–as well as hierarchy and laity, must address the issue of evangelism and stewardship needed to sustain it. Otherwise, the problems addressed below will not go away. Instead, they will only intensify.

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Go to: Fixing the Seminary

Topics discussed:

Valuable Comment from a Recent Graduate- HCHC Scholarship Clawback

No jobs for HC/HC Graduates- If you want to become a priest have a secular job to support your family

Father Christopher Metropulos- A Poor Choice for a College President

“Enrollment is down. Let’s get accredited in Greece!” The Administration of HC/HC is Clueless

“You Greeks don’t pay your debts” – Why the money you donate to HC/HC should go to your Home Parish

“Why doesn’t my priest speak Greek?” Because learning doesn’t take place here

“I want my children to get an education, that’s why I don’t send them to Hellenic.”

Comments

  1. Fr. David says:

    If you want to start Mission Parish come under the Antiochians in the Northwest. In January of 1987 there were NO Antiochian Parishes in Washington or Idaho. Today, 30 years later, there are 9 parishes in Washington (with a 10th Mission set to begin this Summer) and 4 parishes in Idaho. Metr. Joseph encourages new Missions and helps them materially, as much as he can, even out of his own pocket. The priests up here are always discussing where we could begin another Mission and we actually have a couple more on the drawing board. Most of us are quite traditional and that has not hurt our growth in the slightest. We don’t make the “big bucks” but we have a wonderful brotherhood. frd+

    • George Michalopulos says:

      Fr, you have absolutely no idea how gratified –nay, ecstatic–I am to hear that. It takes the sting that I feel away, the sting that the GOA has now grafted itself onto the ethnic synagogue that is foreign to this land (i.e. the Phanar) rather than the ekklessia that is Christ’s body. (Not to say there is anything wrong with Orthodoxy imbuing itself upon an ethnicity, I just hope that here in America that to be an American will also mean that one is Orthodox as well. Pie in the sky, I know.)

      In other words, there is always hope.

      If you don’t mind me asking, how are you in Cascadia set for priests? Obviously you have enough for the missions already established but what’s the pipeline look like? I’m curious because I’m beholden to the Field of Dreams vision, “if you build it they will come”. Is this your experience?

      • Fr. David says:

        We seem to be fine. Many of the priests and deacons “out here” have come from our own parishes and our Metr. allows them to continue serving out here because, I believe, he realizes what a unique brotherhood we have. frd+

        • BubbaGump says:

          Not sure what drug Fr. David is taking to make him so delusional. But the Antiochians are pretty much a panopticon run by a cult of personality, first with Saliba, now with al-Zehaouli.

          Which missions has he funded with his own pocket? I know tons of missions in the Middle America Diocese and the Denver Deanery that run out of pitiful storefronts where priests often have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.

          al-Zehaouli said that American Antiochian Christians would help rebuild Homs (which probably helped him to get elected as Met by the synod). Yet the Antiochians in the US have churches out of storefronts or pay out of pocket for their insurance.

          Shame, I say. If any young man wanted to become an Orthodox priest and is of non-Arab descent, I certainly could not recommend the Antiochians.

    • Fr Patrick B O'Grady says:

      Writing now from the spiritual wilderness of Southern California, but as one who served in Idaho in mission-building over the course of 10 years, I can attest in full measure to what Fr David has written.
      The bottom-line is that the Church of Antioch possesses a strong mission-mindedness, something continuing to be sustained under our current metropolitan, Joseph. (He is still our direct hierarch in the West, up till now).
      Priests who would serve in this environment have the blessing of full episcopal support, freedom of pastoral discretion and a strong presbytery brotherhood, as Fr David mentioned. However, this is not an environment for those who think of the priesthood as a privilege. Our priests work hard, and receive their reward in evangelical blessings, not so much in monetary emoluments!

    • Gail Sheppard says:

      Father David, do you know what’s become of the movie, “Becoming Truly Human?” I saw the first 4 minutes on the website maybe a year ago, but haven’t seen anything since. I liked the idea of the study groups, but at the time, they were only offering training in certain cities.

      Those of you who don’t know what this is should take a look. Metropolitan Joseph supports this work, as well. https://www.becomingtrulyhuman.com/

  2. John Nixon says:

    The Church is at a crossroads and is promoting divergent goals; one of them being Orthodox in nature. Faced with decreasing numbers, the GOA has discovered a new goal of outreach and evangelism in recent years, theming Clergy-Laity Congresses with it, holding workshops on the topic, and the like. As a bonus, most converts tend to give like Protestants–they believe in tithing. Another goal is maintaining ομογένεια (ethnic homogeny). Thus our hierarchs also serve informally as ethnarchs: see if you ever can catch them saying “Orthodox Christian” without putting “Greek” in front of Orthodox. Even in English-speaking and more-or-less liturgizing parishes, the amount of Greek goes up during a hierarchical visit. We welcome new members, but feel threatened when the ethnic mix threatens our ομογένεια. As I have said for years now, “You can’t serve two masters: God and Hellenism.”

    • JN,

      And that is why, sooner or later, the Greek Orthodox Church in America will have to choose between the Phanar/Hellenism and the Church of Greece/Orthodoxy. That is, assuming that the Church of Greece rejects the council of Crete.

      We shall see.

      • Fr. Hans Jacobse says:

        This is an important and critical distinction. There can be no religion without culture. Religion is the ground of culture. Fr. Pavel Florensky wrote that culture is the means through which Christ lives in the world of man (still working on trying to define this more).

        The Hellenism/Orthodox construct out of Constantinople is actually false. It posits two historical streams that, if traced backwards, end at Mt. Olympus and Jerusalem. It leapfrogs the Cappadocian Synthesis altogether. In actual fact, Greek culture was baptized into the Orthodox faith (the Cappadocian Synthesis). If the Hellenism/Orthodox construct prevails, the GOA will find itself defenseless against the secular juggernaut and will probably find itself in the position that the Roman Catholic Church is today, ie: a replacement for collapsed mainstream Protestantism.

        Religion is the ground of culture. Faith expressed, lived out, creates the culture. Culture reflects the fundamental beliefs of a people unselfconciously lived out. It is also the way that how one lives the Christian faith is passed to the next generation.

        • John Nixon says:

          Fr. Hans,

          I agree that religion is the ground of culture, and in the “diaspora,” the Church seems to consider it as vital to its mission to maintain the Old World culture. Consider the embedded thinking in the term “diaspora”—people displaced in a foreign land; how can there not be an immigrant mentality, preserving the culture of the homeland in the diaspora. As long as the Church has an immigrant mentality, it’s not here to stay and minister in this land, to the people of this land–it seeks to preserve the Church as an ethnic outpost of the Old World. The only examples I have seen where parishes have an American cultural “feel” to them is in new Antiochian parishes essentially made up of converts. Yes, they use Greek and Russian music (the legacy of Met. Philip’s quash on the AEOM music apparently still in force), but there’s no ethnic cliquishness in the coffee hour. St. Luke’s in Erie, CO, is one such parish. As visitors last summer, my wife and I were greeted warmly, not just by appointed welcome committee members, but by the people in the pews behind us, and at the table where we sat in the coffee hour; they seemed genuinely glad that we came and were interested in us.

          St. Luke’s was an Episcopal congregation that Fr. David Mustian led to Orthodoxy. I think he started with 50 people in the 1980s; they rented a small hall next to a fire station, and the siren would overpower the Liturgy when it went off. I visited once back then when I lived in the area. In spite of those fire station “trumpets,” it was the first time I felt uplifted in the Divine Liturgy as a joyous movement of prayer shared in dialogue between the priest and people, the one time when Divine Liturgy as the “work of the people” became palpable to me. They now have a beautiful new Church, over 350 members, and already outgrown their existing parking. Examples such as this parish shows me that when Orthodoxy sees America as its home and has a heart for mission to the American community, people thirsting for the true faith find it, being welcomed home in the Orthodox Church.

          I used to think that all it would take to turn a parish around would be a “critical mass” of converts, but I’ve also seen pretty much all-English-speaking and liturgizing parishes in the AOA return to their roots with an influx of Arab immigrants in the last decade. Now I’m starting to think that Orthodoxy’s only hope to realize its mission here is in the convert congregations, which if the Benedict Option takes off, will start to multiply in remote places, but that’s another topic for another thread somewhere.

          • Fr. Hans Jacobse says:

            John, yes and no. I see no problem with a cradle born and convert mix, in fact I welcome it. It doesn’t make for an exclusively ‘American’ church in the context of the present discussions of Orthodoxy and culture we hear all over the place, but often those discussions are bound to particularly American notions of culture — hence the going round and round and round and never ending anywhere.

            Ethnicity is just identification with a particular culture so Americans are just as ethnic as any other culture. The only difference is one of perspective, ie: what country you happen to be standing in. I remember the stories from Russia about when the American Evangelicals flooded Russia to save the godless hordes, the Russians branded Evangelicalism as the “American religion.” They were right.

            Rather, the emergence of an American Orthodoxy has to be an organic process and make take a generation or two. The source cultures are the ‘Old World’ cultures just as early Christianity grew out of the cultural soil of Israel. Remember too that it took 300 years to ready Roman culture for the coming of Constantine.

            I’m applying this my mission parish. It has grown to about 80 or more worshippers every Sunday and we minister to probably 120 or so, maybe a little more. Many cultures are represented and you can hear various languages in the social hall afterwards. I don’t call it an American church as such, but an international church. Yet isn’t the international character typical of American culture (before multiculturalism anyway which seeks push everyone into a bland conformity of behavior and oppressive uniformity of thought)?

            I have no bone to pick with anything you wrote. I just think the discussion we are having in American Orthodoxy never gets to heart of things. Put another way, I don’t think we really understand what culture actually is.

            • Joseph Lipper says:

              Father Hans, I think you would agree that form usually follows function. Cultures around the world are usually based on how societies make their living, or survive. We have agrarian cultures, hunter-gatherer cultures, and in more modern times we have the “corporate culture” of people who work for corporations.

              It was so important that the Hebrews fleeing Egypt into the desert relied solely on God for their sustenance, having no earthly king or government, and relying completely on God for their next meal. That was where the Hebrew culture took form.

          • Sean Richardson says:

            I have been an active member of a number of Orthodox parishes over the decades (OCA, ROCOR, AOA, GOA) since I converted, and it is always extremely frustrating to me to find a church that professes to be “pan-Orthodox” or somehow “American” and then to find out that it is merely a foreign ethnic church pretending to be American, with foreign styles of music, food, culture, habits, etc. It is also frustrating to me to be in a church that is headed in an American direction, suddenly reverting to being foreign with an influx of immigrants. I am a convert, and to be honest, I am frustrated.
            One thing I think the Orthodox Church in this country could do, immediately, to solve some of the American/convert/immigrant issue, is to allow one priest to serve two liturgies in one parish, on one day. Yes, I know this violates tradition and canons, but I’d much rather bring people into the true Church, than follow a Pharisaical understanding that the laws must be followed regardless if the people are brought to Christ and the Church or not.

            • Fr. Hans Jacobse says:

              Here’s the problem Sean. “Foreign styles” are often the way the Orthodox faith has been preserved and transmitted. Culture is the expression of faith — it is how the faith is lived — and so they have to be understood in order to understand the faith. Once they are properly perceived, that is, as an expression of faith then natural and organic change will occur as well.

              We converts are often to quick to criticize anything not familiar to Americans as “ethnic” when they are in fact they are the means by which faith is appropriated and applied. They are not merely cultural “forms.” They are in fact expressions of an intact culture.

              The objection to my stand is that it idolizes ethnic forms (or something along those lines) but this is in fact a short-sighted critique. We Americans are very good at reading and talking about Orthodoxy but not so good about more everyday expressions of the faith (we have no agreed upon means of expression, ie: culture). The convert parishes that apply their own ideas sometimes tend to be a hodge-podge from one parish to the next.

              Again, the critique will be that I am defending a static idea of a dynamic Orthodoxy. But the critique is misplaced. I am arguing that although the frustration might be real, simply viewing culture are arbitrary forms that we can alter at will is a particularly American trait.

              The Catholics bought into this in Vatican II. They anticipated a renewal in Catholicism but all they got was confusion.

              Put another way, if culture is perceived in the form vs. substance construct (we Americans do that), then we don’t really understand what culture is. Culture is completely unselfconcious. It just what you do unreflectively for the most part. (I don’t believe the form vs. substance construct exists in real life, BTW. It’s just a logical construct with no real reference to reality.)

              An example is your comment that priests should be able to serve two liturgies. You mention it completely on your own authority. I’m not scolding you here but only pointing how how easily we Americans shift things around without any consideration of why the practice exists or what the ramifications might be if we change it. This approach is part of American culture. We do it without any self-consciousness or self-reflection.

              • Sean Richardson says:

                Fr. Hans:
                Thank you very much for your articulate and non-judgmental response. It is very much appreciated. Here is where I have two issues, however: First, if faith is an integral part of culture, then what I perceive you are saying is that a convert such as myself must accept a foreign culture in order to accept the Faith. I’ve been in too many situations where culture trumps the Faith, and I’ve never found any balance (I was very close attending an AEOM church for awhile, until I saw it drifting into Middle Eastern chants and practices. I was VERY comfortable with their more indigenous music, and loved that expression of the faith. I am not so comfortable with Americans being forced to reflect a Middle Eastern style in music, practice, etc. I doubt there is any requirement of the Faith that this has to be done).

                Secondly, I do understand perfectly well why there is a tradition of one liturgy, on one altar, by one priest, each Sunday, in order to maintain one community of Faith and practice – a tradition that is often ignored by using two antimensions and having two priests serve – therefore violating the entire spirit of the tradition, while recognizing that there can be two distinct communities of Faith that worship in one church edifice, divided by language, culture, etc. (there are both a ROCOR and OCA parish in the local urban area that do exactly this each Sunday).

                What I’m trying to suggest is a positive approach (too often neglected in this forum where people complain, but offer no constructive alternatives) to the issue of trying to both hold onto our Orthodox youth who may be gradually estranged from a foreign culture and language, and a place where converts can feel truly at home within their culture and language. Yes, I know it can’t always work, but in some places it might be a viable solution, and allow more people to worship within the culture and language they understand (and it would add no costly financial burdens onto the parish).

                Years ago I attended a AOA parish that had a convert priest and when I asked him what language the liturgy should be celebrated in, he responded simply “In the language of the people of the parish” (Fr. John). This priest had served in two AOA parishes and both of them had grown dramatically. He had a simple, pragmatic approach to the parish, and it was obvious that many people came to the faith (and added 4-5 priests to the AOA) because of his approach.

                You are correct, culture and faith are intrinsically joined, but it is upsetting to me that it is suggested that I must accept being Russian, Greek, Middle Eastern, etc. in order to fully be a part of the Faith.

                Hopefully this makes sense. Once again, thank you for your reasoned response. Perhaps one day I can be blessed by joining you in conversation. I sense you have much to teach me.

                • Fr. Hans Jacobse says:

                  Sean, the point is that American culture is not intrinsically Orthodox, which is to say the Christian elements that remain (the true things within American culture) must be baptized into Orthodoxy. The Orthodox faith was introduced by Orthodox people, and the means by which that faith was transmitted to the next generation — and then to a larger American population, was by those same people (or their children) and the culture they preserved.

                  The closest culture to Orthodox culture the Americans ever experienced was old style Catholicism (think of the baptism scene in the Godfather which offered a glimpse of the holiness that was preserved within Catholicism before Vatican pedestrianized Roman worship and even despite Rome’s theological errors). The Anglican Church also preserved some intrinsic holiness but gave it up when they sanctioned licentiousness as the Christian path. Apart from that Orthodoxy was inaccessible simply because there were very few Orthodox in this land.

                  Now if the question is one only of language, then yes, worship should be in the language of the people. But this too took time but when it came (and its here) the process was organic.

                  You say you are not comfortable with a “middle-eastern style of music” but the fact is there is no Orthodox musical tradition in English, not yet anyway. And when one emerges (and it is emerging), it will use either the Russian or Byzantine as its base. The reason for this is simple: it’s all we have got. Again, the ‘western’ style was Gregorian chant (Byzantine chant set to Latin) but the Catholics gave that up after their “reforms” following Vatican II.

                  The cradle vs. convert dichotomy is not a helpful one I have concluded. We are Orthodox. Put another way, sociology is not the proper ground upon which to decide the question of how Orthodoxy should find its proper expression in a non-Russian or non-Byzantine cultural context. To say it another way: the notion that the countries from which Orthodoxy was brought to America are the “old countries” is fundamentally a false construct. The faith in those countries is alive and well. They are not “old countries” at all.

                  One final thing. The estrangement people are feeling from Christ in our day is due more to lukewarm faith than it is to the difficulties of adapting to a culture with non-American elements. I see your point and it is a valid one but if somehow all the different jurisdictions got together or if all music would conform to American styles for example, it would not change the loss of people. The reasons lie deeper.

                  If people moved into a deeper communion with Christ, our churches would be overflowing. The harvest is ripe, the laborers are few.

                  • Michael Bauman says:

                    Sean, Fr. Hans, the real point is that we have done next to nothing about Christianizing American culture–rather we have become more secular. Thus we have the worst of both worlds instead of the best.

                    Unfortunately, many who want an “American” Church want to jettison Traditional altogether for fancy dress secularism. There is no American music that has the depth and scope to hold the revealed truth contained in Orthodox hymns.

                    Holiness does not care which earthly language is being used to express it. So, want an expression that is more familiar, become more holy.

                    You want indigenous music, listen to the chant and drums of the Plains and Southwest Indians. They have more to offer than the music formed from an heretical Protestant culture.

                    I for one am unutterably tired of the “ethnic wars”. They are a distraction.

                    • Joseph Lipper says:

                      Michael,

                      There is an indigenous American Orthodox culture, and it was started by many saints: Saint Herman, Saint Jacob Netsvetov, Saint Peter the Aleut, Saint Innocent, Saint Juvenaly, and the yet to be cannonized Matushka Olga.

                      The Orthodox Church in Alaska is distinctly Native Alaskan, and Alaska is still part of the U.S.

                  • M. Stankovich says:

                    And you might well consider this, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “The Problems of Orthodoxy in America.”

                    • I’m an American, and I don’t appreciate how American culture is so selfish, empty, and shallow. I’m happy to hear litanies in Greek, Slavonic, Arabic. I like yelling out ‘Indeed He is risen” in as many languages as I can learn at Pascha. I liked learning how to sing “Lord have mercy” in Romanian. Who gave us Orthodoxy? The Orthodox family is not only Americans and we should always be reminded of that since Americans tend to be horribly self centered. Different Languages and cultures remind us of our history as a church. Children should be taught that everything has meaning, if you care to find out abut it, and are connections to the Orthodox Christians that came before us. I guess, I’m biased because I’m multi-ethnic. The day Orthodoxy becomes too “American”, I fear. Protestantism and Roman Catholicism (ex RC here.) are very American with American style music. As far as I am concerned Russian style is European enough and therefore American enough for American ears. The only American quality that would be positive is for churches to be multi-ethnic…at least potlucks would be more enjoyable that way. I supposed rugged individualist won’t appreciate my comments, right?

                    • Schmemann backed away from what he wrote in his essay On the Canonical Problem after the OCA received its alleged autocephaly. He was right though.

                      I have no problem with English, Greek, Slavonic, Romanian, Arabic or Syriac/Aramaic being used in liturgies anywhere. It depends on the congregation. Also, festivals are not evil. Festivals are just expressions of the local Orthodox community through the only means they have, usually in fund raising efforts. Fundraising is not evil either. It is the love of money that is the root of all evil, not money itself. Love of money can be a passion just like any other, as can ethnocentrism. We normally gravitate toward those who look, think, speak, feel and act like us. There is nothing wrong with that unless it is taken to violent extremes.

                    • Magda, I don’t mean to be rude, but maybe you are projecting your own insecurities onto the rest of the country? I have seen the good and bad in America, but I have always seen the good as being better, and far more beautiful than the ugliness of the bad. Then again, I’m not big on the urban mindset of many Orthodox Christians, and prefer country folk, so maybe we are looking for two very different things.

                    • Magda,

                      I don’t see the languages as a big deal. The significance of the language question is blown far out of proportion.

                      Most Orthodox Churches here in America use either English or some mix of English and one of the “old languages”;, i.e., Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, etc. There are those whose first language is English and those whose first language is not. And also there are those whose first language is not English and have no second language, though that is a relatively small percentage.

                      So what is one to do? It is the faith that is important, but the liturgy must be served in some language. The liturgy is a teacher of the faith, to be sure. But it is not the only teacher of the faith. So, for example, since one cannot update the language every 500 years, or 200, or whatever, you had Greeks with books of Koine/Byzantine on one side and Modern Greek on the other so that they would know what was being conveyed or stated in the liturgy. I know of two older Greeks at my old church who have memories of that type of thing.

                      And you have to do it in Russian churches with Slavonic too. You could translate it into Modern Russian, but there are so very many terms of art, loaded words, that have shifted with the tongues of Slavs over the centuries but meant something precise at a given point and have had tomes written about their significance. You’re trying to hit a moving target.

                      Reality is in a state of constant flux and we’re just stuck with it.

    • Ελληνοαμερικανός says:

      The GOA will not thrive until it stops being the propaganda machine for the Greek-American success story. If you want or need a propaganda machine to spread news about the Greek-American success story, then for Heaven’s sake create a non-profit foundation or some other organization to do that. The Church has no business being a propaganda machine. What’s been the fruit of this for the past several decades? Generations of Greek-Americans (well more than 90%) who have nothing to do with the Church; who have no concept of what it means to serve Christ; who have no idea that vespers as a liturgical service exists; who do not know that yes, confession is a sacrament of the Church.

      As a Greek-American acquaintance in college told me during Holy Week one year, “yeah man, I haven’t hooked up with my girlfriend all week this week.” Not to be judgmental, but that about sums up the extent of the GOA catechesis back in the day. My perception has always been that the GOA is primarily interested in the faithful’s money in order to support whatever the Greek interest of the day is (and of course to support the Phanar); ensuring that the faithful live a life in Christ comes a distant second.

      For much of the time since its inception almost 100 years ago, the GOA has been building itself on a foundation of sand. I am fearful for how much longer it will last. I know at least a couple of posters here think that a schism is forthcoming in the GOA. The GOA is easily the most “modernist” of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America, and I fear that many in the GOA will not like being seen as “weird” by their modernist Catholic and Protestant friends. As terrible as it would be, if a schism in the GOA happens, may it be like Christ turning the tables in the Temple to get rid of those who have no interest in serving Him.

      And please, end the ridiculous “Greek festival.”

      • Peter Millman says:

        I don;t see anything wrong with the Greek festivals. Many other churches have their ethnic festivals such as the Maronite Church’s Lebanese festival. The Greek bouzouki is a magnificent instrument and Zorba the Greek is a great dance. The Greek Orthodox Church keeps the Greek language and the Greek culture alive in America. Some of the most faithful Christians in the church (OCA) I am a member of are Greek Americans. The website OCL is primarily Greek, and it is excellent. The problem is not the Greek Church, it is the secularism rampant in America. I love the ethnic identity of the Greek Orthodox Church, and hope that is always maintained. As the Apostle Paul so eloquently stated, ” First to the Greek, then to the barbarian.” Also, I would love to see Greeks marrying Greeks; that would solve some of the problem of Greeks leaving Orthodoxy. Also, there are considered to be three holy languages: Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Personally, I would like to see all the Orthodox Churches use the Greek language in their liturgies to the exclusion of all others. One of my favorite Orthodox priests was the late Father Eusebius Stephanou of thrice blessed memory. In my opinion he is a saint.

        • Peter, I Corinthians 14:19 states: “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” Services are meant to be understood. If the primary language of the people is Serbian, Greek, Russian then that language should be used. The purpose of the Church established by Christ is to live and spread the Gospel–salvation and new life in Jesus not to preserve a language or the Zorba dance. Secularism is a real problem and often manifests itself through promotion of culture rather than Christ. 75% of all marriages in the GOA are Greeks marrying non-Greeks and that percentage will continue to grow. This creates a great opportunity to embrace the non-Orthodox spouse and grow the Church. By the way, Fr Eusebius, who you claim to be a saint, would totally agree with me. Finally, of the 3 languages you claim to be holy you omit the language spoken by Jesus-Aramaic. The Slavs would take umbrage that Slavonic is not included.

          • Michael Bauman says:

            English has yet to be baptised with martyr’s blood. Until that happens we had best use Arabic, Salvonic and Greek in concert with English. Otherwise we will not transmit the fullness of the faith.

            • Norman Hugh Redington says:

              “English has yet to be baptised with martyrs’ blood” except for that of about one-quarter of the population of England in 1066 and the many thousands of English-speakers killed by the Vikings before that. Plus that of “Nicky” and “Alix”, as they called each other in the language of Alix’s grandmother Victoria …

              • Michael Bauman says:

                I stand corrected. I was thinking parochially in terms of this continent and specifically Orthodox martyrs. That makes a difference theologically.

                Forgive my short sitedness.

        • Billy Jack Sunday says:

          I once believed much like you. I felt that the Greek culture was not a detriment, but a bonus for the transmission of the gospel in America. This was until I found out the source of the driving force behind the Greek culture in America. The Greek church is being used as a front.

          • Michael Bauman says:

            NOT THE MODERN CULTURE. The historic content of the languages theologically and Christologically.

            • Billy Jack Sunday says:

              I don’t think my comment was in response to yours, Michael. If so, it was by mistake. It was meant for Peter Millman. I disagree with just about every sentence of his above comment paragraph.

              • Peter Millman says:

                Hi Billy,
                I would have to say upon further reflection that I am in error. The only thing I don’t understand is what you mean by ” The Greek church is being used as a front.”

  3. I know two churches in Salt Lake City have been waiting for a priest for six months now, apparently no one wants to come to a parish with two churches and a bad reputation of being hard on priests. The salary would be handsome in a large community with two churches. Even with so many looking for a parish, not even one. Instead there are two assistant type priests. One who never went to HC/HC or any Orthodox school for that matter. The other one is part time traveling back and forth a hundred miles from his home. Both good men, just not candidates for the head priest role.

    • Salt Lake City is an absolute mess. A brood of vipers.

      Over the years they have put rattlesnakes in the mailbox of the home of the priest, assaulted the priest and others, burned crosses in the lawn of clergy. They have sued the bishop, archdiocese, chancellor, metropolis council, receptionist, and anyone else they could think of. They have even used the parish as their personal bank, giving out massive loans and taking income for themselves.

      And that’s just the short highlight list. Just an unruly band of villains.

      • I know Salt Lake City had some issues arising from the Metropolitan trying to get each church separate parish councils. Strictly trying to follow UPRs. Which turned one group of parishioners against another. First lawsuits against the parish council who were in agreement with Metropolitan. Then the pressure was put on the Archbishop to force the Metropolitan to allow open voting for anyone to parish council regardless if the priests did not recommend the candidates. Then Greeks who hardly ever attended church vote in the new parish council members and all went downhill from there.

        From there it was all about firing the priests. Preserving the two church, one parish council. Ignoring The Metropolitan and only addressing the Archbishop. When that didn’t work they decided not to pay one priest, and the Metropolitan shut down the churches for a few weeks.

        Father Michael asked for a transfer since he was not being paid and tired of fighting a sinking ship. The churches reopened, but the tension was so bad that there was a yelling match in church, which resulted into a fist fight in the narthex. Next the parish council went after Father Matthew. After a year of pressure Father Matthew was on his way out. Tragically soon after putting his house for sale expecting a transfer he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in his entire body, he died three months later, he was only 58 years old! That was last summer and still no head priests let alone one for two churches in a community of fifty thousand Greeks.

        Now I never heard of cross burning and rattle snakes, it’s truly a unholy mess. The Greek clubhouse is in control and no new priests in sight.

        The only good result from this mess was a new mission parish was started by the disgruntled non Greek club types and now a new church is born, Saint Anna.

  4. annoyed says:

    I can say for certainty that young Orthodox people of Greek descent (Generation X and Millenials) do not want the Church to be ethnocentric. It would seem to me that for the most part, it’s the Old Guard (older clergy and prominent lay people, baby boomer generation).

    What can be done about this? I am impressed though with the “Be The Bee” video series. That as far as I can see is produced by the GOA. Great start. Much more needs to be done.

    • Unfortunately not all of GOA’s video efforts are as good as Be the Bee…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSWsZBHiPlY
      (Leadership 100 paid big bucks for this laughingstock and it reflects very poorly on the Church. Better to have no media outreach at all, than to have garbage.)

      You’re right though. Subsequent generations of immigrants tend to lose touch with their ethnic heritage, it always happens. That’s why GOA is getting this all wrong. By tying Orthodoxy and Hellenism so closely together, they are setting themselves up to fail. Because the grandchildren of immigrants won’t care about Hellenism (it’s just how it goes), and if Orthodoxy is just a facet of being Greek, they won’t care about Orthodoxy either.

      Make people ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS first and foremost.

      • George Michalopulos says:

        Anon, I rather liked this video. Very short and simple. Not ethnocentric at all. Am I missing something?

        • George and others,

          It’s simply cheesy. It looks like something made by the 12-year-old child of someone with connections. Every non-Orthodox person I have showed it to has been repulsed by it, or at least been made uncomfortable by how cheesy and bad it is.

          Here’s another real stinker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbfxcGlESXU

          The message that they’re trying for is fine, but the overall product is embarrassingly bad. If the Church is going to use media, it has to at least be watchable for its target audience.

          • M. Stankovich says:

            Well, as consolation, in the sidebar of this video was a link to the School of Rock’s cover of “Gimmee Shelter” with Orianthi Panagaris playing lead guitar. She’s quite watchable, in my opinion… “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” (Lk. 13:34ff)

      • Anon, I agree.

      • Anon, I agree with George. I liked the video. It avoids the typical, I am right you are wrong message the Church puts out. A simple invitation as in the Gospel of John “Come and See.”

  5. I know ROCOR priests with wives and children who have to do iconography to get by. But they have church placements or missionary work or something to live on in any case. We are all missionaries in some sense, clergy and laity alike. Conditions vary.

    It is a difficult question because, as you know, the order of deacon was created so that the Apostles, the first episkopoi, would not have to “wait tables”. So, there you go.

    Funny story: In a small Russian town, every year during Holy Week a fight breaks out because some people kneel at a particular time in the service and others just bow. They get agitated and start to argue and it just gets out of hand.

    So they send a delegation of the priest and a couple of the parish council to the bishop to get the answer since they don’t see it in any service books and it wasn’t taught at seminary. They arrive at the bishop’s residence and ask him the question. He is just as perplexed as the rest and grows anxious at the very thought of fights breaking out during Holy Week. Are we barbarians?!

    So they decide to go to a retired bishop who lives in a monastery at some distance from the town. They get there and find him ailing in bed but clear in mind. They ask him, “Vladyka, we are perplexed. A fight breaks out every year during Holy Week between those who kneel at this point and those who only bow. What is the right way, the way of Tradition?

    The old starets raises up with a smile on his face and says, “Yes, that’s it! You’ve found it!”

    They don’t understand and say, “What do you mean, Vladyka?”

    And he replies, “That is the Tradition.” and quietly rolls over and falls asleep.

  6. George, I am actually a recent graduate, and can attest first hand that the clawback policy is real. If you would like to see the letter they are sending out I can send it to you.

  7. The GOA is in a state of expanding decline. I have seen statistics on weddings and baptisms which prove my assertion. For far to long, the GOA has been in a maintenance mode thinking “we need to hold on to our own.” Thank God the disciples did not think that way. Some believe there will be an influx of Greeks that will revitalize the Church but the reality is people in Greece don’t go church. There is no homoyenia in the GOA. Without outreach, evangelism, the GOA will die, not only from a practical perspective but also spiritually. Jesus commanded the Church, His followers, to “Go out.” If the GOA is not going out and preaching the Gospel of salvation and new life in Christ it is not doing what Jesus commanded.

    Finally, I often wonder if the GOA is a Catholic Church–for all. Yes, every Sunday the creed is recited stating belief in a ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC(for all) and Apostolic Church but in reality the GOA is not for all it is first and foremost for Greeks. If the GOA is serious about evangelism the first step would be to change its name. As Mr Nixon stated, quoting Jesus, two masters cannot be served, it is either Jesus or ethnicity; it cant be Jesus and ethnicity. The GOA needs a entire paradigm shift which can only happen through repentance, both corporately and individually. I believe my comments above relate to all ethnic jurisdictions in the US, maybe even more so in Serbian and Russian churches.

    • George Michalopulos says:

      johnkal, agreed.

      If I may add this insight: The founding generation of the GOA were very pious. When the next massive influx from Greece came (my father’s generation) in the 50s-60s, they were not as pious but still very much Orthodox in a nationalistic sort of way.

      Even if Greece completely collapses and ten million hie to the States, it won’t help the GOA because hardly anybody there now are as pious as the earlier generations.

      I could be wrong.

    • Fr. Harry Linsinbigler says:

      Johnkal, they are trying. But your points are valid. When asked “what is the biggest obstacle to our growth” I have always said “the front sign”. And older priest friend of mine said to me just a few years back “it is bad enough that we have to have “Orthodox” on the sign, but when we add ‘Greek’ and ‘Russian’ and ‘Ukrainian’ etc., we put a death date on our parish, like it or not.” My interpretation of his statements are that we are simply the Lord’s Church. It is “bad enough” that we have to “identify as a denomination.” For example, in traditional Orthodox countries, an Orthodox Church is not “the Orthodox Church of…” but simply “the Church (or temple) of….” No need for denominators and definitely no need for ethic identification.

      Unfortunately, all of the ethic identification in the “new world” stems from one question: “What must we do to keep this body on life-support alive?” “Its the immigrants” says one. “No, its new people” says another.

      The problem is, that it is not our job to keep the Church alive–we are trying to steal that from the Lord, who alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life of His Church. Our job is to do the right thing, what Christ commanded–to make disciples of “all nations” (read “every ethnicity”) in the context of the Church that alone bears the fullness of the Faith that Christ passed on to us in liturgy and sacrament that is designed to engraft all people into Him. It is Christ’s job to grow the local Churches and give them life if and only if (cf. Revelation chapter2ff) the local Churches are doing what is entrusted to them. Otherwise, candlesticks are taken away (fortunately, Ephesus repented and continued for a long time) and a dead Church is buried (Sardis), unless it is willing to be resurrected by heeding the Lord’s command to “hold fast and repent” and “keep vigil” (or in simpler English terms “watch”) (Rev. 3.3).

      The delusion is that we think that WE can keep this thing alive. But we cannot. We can do what the Lord has commanded and live as the result–but He is the one who gives life. We think that we can keep this thing alive by “appealing to ‘our own’ people” or by “appealing to others”, but He will end it if we do not understand that “our own people” are precisely all peoples that will come to Him and adhere to the Faith entrusted to His Church, and that “others” are simply His people who have yet to come and be fully engrafted (read St. Gregory the Theologian). If we “keep our own” by being too permissive, or if we block “others” who really belong in His flock by identifying the flock with worldly entities, He will end us. The kingdom of this world, is become, the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign to the ages of ages (καὶ βασιλεύσει εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων) (Rev. 11.15). While this ends with something that will happen (“unto the ages of ages”), the first part is something that has already happened. Everything else is delusion.

  8. Paul Benos says:

    While I agree with some of your comments, I disagree with others

    Agreements
    • Lack of evangelism in the GOA
    • The problems at HC/HC occurred before the arrival Fr. Metropulos by several years.
    • GOA is not growing membership

    Disagreements and Questions
    • There is a shortage of priests in the GOA. Whether parishes can afford them is another matter. Has anyone in authority apprised you as to why they cannot find jobs?
    • Opening a new parish requires extensive experience, skills and support, including financial. New priests need training and experience before assuming leadership of a mission parish.

    My Comments and Suggestions
    • For a growing church there need to be more clergy openings than the current seminary graduate available.
    • As Mr. Nixon shared, the GOA gives far too priority in maintaining Hellenism. Greek language in the service and chanting neither retain our youth nor attract new people to the Faith. These two have been increasing.
    • The GOA should learn what the Antiochians and the OCA are doing well. It should cooperate as well as copy them. Possibly the young seminarians could join these jurisdictions.
    • There is a need to formulate SPIRITUAL and EFFECTIVE programs to address the trends such as declining youth participation, membership decline and insufficient financial contributions from the members.
    • With regard to Hellenic College undergraduates has anyone compared the curriculum to jobs that are available after graduation?
    • The Orthodox Christian Mission Center gives some assistance to mission parishes in the USA and has done so for many years.

  9. What we are seeing is the GOA subject to the laws of Economics. Right now you need to pay about $100,000+ to earn a credential so as to be a GOA priest. I think there are medical doctors who pay less. Today’s declining parishes do not have the income to support clergy who wish to ear a salary that is comparable to the credential they must earn. Therefore there are less and less parishes that can support a full-time credentialed priest. Meanwhile the GOA budget has increased by over 100% in the past 12 years while the GOA itself has not increased in size or population. This means that parishes are going to be taxed more and more to pay for a central bureaucracy that grows in size. Mix in the increasing cost of clergy healthcare through the Orthodox Health Plan and you can see how many parishes are going to be drained of their resources- even the rich ones. Household incomes are flat but GOA spending is soaring and I would wager that the number of large GOA donors is less than it used to be. The reality is that the GOA way of educating its clergy and compensating them is in crisis. It cannot be sustained. However, since the number one priority of the GOA is being Greek, it would appear that importing cheap clergy labor from Greece is an option to consider. I bet you can import a clergyman for Greece for one quarter of the salary that one pays an American. Not to mention that there entire education would have far little cost in Greece and may even be covered by the Greek State.
    Imagine the downward pressure of importing large numbers of clergy from Greece would have on parish salaries? A priest earning 75k may be put out of work by one who will work for 25k. HCHC graduates are facing a labor market that most likely will not be able to sustain the cost and time of their education. The administration can issue mandates and salary guidelines forever but the reality is that if there is less and less money it really doesn’t matter. The laws of economics will take over.

    • George Michalopulos says:

      Very well articulated. However, while what you describe will “help” the situation of individual parishes (by pushing down the wage levels of HC/HC educated priests), how will that help the situation at HC/HC itself? Won’t it drive down the cost of education (read: faculty salaries) as well? If not force an eventual shutdown?

      I’m wondering if the powers-that-be have considered the entire picture.

      Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

      • Ioannis says:

        Here is a follow-up thought to consider. The only reason that GOA clergy are paid at the levels they are is because the bishop mandates it. It’s the equivalent of the government setting a fixed price for gasoline at $5.00 per gallon. What does that do? However, the GOA central budget is growing out of control while every leading demographic indicator is in decline. If we use current data and growth rates then for every $100 a parish gives to the central administration today they will have to give $226 in the year 2030. This means in order to sustain GOA operations at their current rate parishes must literally double in size or ask every member to give 126% more by 2030. Now we know this is next to impossible so the only way to free up more money in parishes for taxation by the central administration you have to cut costs and sadly clergy salaries are the biggest and easiest target. Flood the USA with cheap Greek clergy labor and all of sudden you have more money for the bureaucracy because that priest who made 75k now is replaced with a priest from abroad who only needs 25k. You could also eliminate the Orthodox Health plan and put all clergy on Obamacare. When people realize that the present system of compensating clergy cannot be sustained then the seminary will be in a real crisis because the credential it provides will be amazingly expensive with no real use or value in the real world of parishes. The saddest part of all of this is that every GOA parish is going to be taxed into financial problems to support a bureaucracy that does little to grow the Church and there will be less and less money to support clergy and their families. Hence (while I do not agree with it) the imported clergy labor solution is the direction the administration will have to move because the chances of the the GOA bureaucracy radically reshaping its budget to support and grow parishes instead of its own administration is zero.

        Call me chicken little but i think this scenario is much closer than people think and local parishes will be the first to suffer as they bail out the bureaucracy. My advice to seminarians is simple. Each seminarian and his spouse should have a meaningful and mobile career option and skillset outside the priesthood that can sustain their family. Anything less to placing the wellbeing of those you love at risk.

        • George Michalopulos says:

          Wow! That’s putting it in stark –and unarguable–terms.

          The picture you are painting is no different from the international capitalist class that sees no problem with importing foreign helots in order to exert downward pressure on native wages. It’s incredibly short-sighted and it will end in a great race war not unlike what transpired in The Lord of the Rings (first in Europe).

          In other words, go for the short-term gain: privatize profits while socializing costs. Pocket your gains then when the crap hits the fan, get on the first plane out to Shanghai or Tuscany or wherever else you have your villa.

        • Wayne Matthew Syvinski says:

          I couldn’t read this without putting on my accountant’s hat (I am currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in accounting).

          Let’s consider a time value of money calculation based on Ioannis’ numbers:

          PV = -100
          FV = 226
          N = 13 (years) (2030 – 2017)

          Therefore, I = 6.5%. For those who haven’t studied finance, that means that given the numbers provided, the growth in contributions to central administration will have to increase by 6.5% per year.

          In comparison, the average rate of inflation for the past 10 years is 1.9% (cf. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi). That means that the required increase in giving is 4.6 percentage points higher than the 10-year historical rate of inflation, or 3.4 TIMES the 10-year historical rate of inflation.

          Even if you consider the current rate of inflation (2.7%), that is still 3.8 percentage points higher, or 2.4 times, the current rate.

          Looks like somebody bishops might want to learn about zero-based budgeting….

          • Ioannis says:

            Excellent Point. Btw, I am no insider just a collector of things that get handed out over the years. Let me toss out another nugget. GOA data shows two major categories of income. These are parish contributions and the other is other income/gifts/grants etc. Together both of these make up total GOA revenue. If you assume all current growth rates based on the past 12 years then between 2017-2030 the GOA will need approximately $153,000,000 (thats million folks) in other income, grants and gifts to sustain spending at its current rate of growth.

            Given the demographic decline that is shown…. you think there is that much money out there in gifts, grants, and big donations?

            • George Michalopulos says:

              Ioannis, in what category would you place proceeds from festivals?

              • Ioannis says:

                Festival income is parish income. Parish income is what the central administration taxes for its operations. However, these assessments do not cover the entire budget. The gap is made up by gift, grants etc from various people and organizations.

                When it comes to Festivals, one thing is for sure. The typical parish will have to have many more to support the national budget. I wonder how many parishes are already financially stressed.

    • Why is Holy Cross so expensive? There are seminaries producing excellent priests that cost one-fifth of that.

      The GOA is mirroring the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Inflated titles and immaculate ceremony are not going to save an empire that is reduced to a single city (or church that is reduced to a college and a few cathedrals).

      • Attend Holy Cross for two years and you will see that reviving the Byzantine Empire is goal #1. There is some hyperbole in that statement, btw, but a lot less than you would think.

    • If, as John states, the number one priority of the GOA is being Greek then the GOA is in heresy; if is not a church but rather an ethnic club. The number one priority of an Orthodox Christian Church is Jesus Christ. John’s proposed answer to the seminary’s problems, and the Church in general, bringing “cheap clergy” from Greece is ridiculous. This would only accelerate the death of GOA. Besides, the assumption that priests would come from Greece and serve for minimal pay is delusional. John’s statements reflect a spirit of anti-clericalism which is present in many GOA churches. Unfortunately, this anti-clericalism often manifests itself among people on parish councils. The answer to all the church’s problems is to cut the priest’s salary and give less money to the Archdiocese. The real answer is the practice of faithful Christian stewardship. If we were faithful stewards the financial problems of the local parish and the Archdiocese would be easily solved. I ask John are you a faithful Christian steward?

      • Ioannis says:

        I sure am. But stewardship is a two way street my friend. I am tired of hearing about Stewardship that only means give more money when time and again there are Orthodox jurisdictions that do not have outside audits or even publish meaningful financial statements. johnkal, do you honestly believe that the spending we are seeing in the GOA is good stewardship? Lets be honest, sometimes being a good steward means saying no.

  10. Mark E. Fisus says:

    Let HCHC implode. It’s time for some consolidation of Orthodoxy in America anyway, why not begin with the theological schools. Send the Greek candidates to St. Vlad’s. They might learn something about running an Orthodox church instead of an ethnic club.

  11. Michael Bauman says:

    Mr. Lipper, I am quite aware of the Orthodox in Alaska but that makes my point. They Alaskan Natives has a traditional culture to build on. The US government sponsored Protestant “missionaries” did everything they could to destroy it.

    We in the lower 48 have largely ignored it or thought it an anomaly.

  12. Misha, when it comes to festivals your ears need to be circumcised. I guess it is difficult for you, since you belong to a festival church. The discussion has nothing to do with love of money but rather mission of the Church. Fundraising is not mentioned in the Scriptures or the best of my knowledge the Fathers. The Scriptures and the Fathers rather speak of almsgiving and stewardship. THE CHURCH SHOULD NOT BE IN THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS. The Church is meant to bring people to faith in Christ and then create an environment where those individuals grow to the “fullness of stature in Christ.”

    • George Michalopulos says:

      Misha, Johnkal speaks loudly for me here as well. And in the interests of full disclosure: I was president of a parish council when our festival went from 2-day bake/dinner/dance sale that made roughly $30K to a five-day extravaganza that made five figures.

      Lord forgive me.

      • I suppose that I can’t really disagree with that, assuming that we’re talking about festivals held on church property. The festivals that I have been exposed to were held at other venues and thus do not seem to fall under the moneychangers’ rubric. For instance, St. George rents out a public park for its Russian festival. The Greek church in Lexington usually rented out space at this or that location, not doing business in the church building itself.

        As far as churches selling things for a profit, then we’re getting into dicey ground. We sell candles, monasteries have bookstores and sell chotkis, etc.

        I’m not sure how strict you want to be on this type of thing. We are not legalists or Pharisees.

        • Misha, again you miss the point. It is not about the Church selling items for profit, the location of the festival, legalism or the love of money but rather what is the mission of the Church. Did our Lord give birth to the Church to promote a culture or for the salvation of humanity. Festivals do not enhance the mission of the Church and in fact detract from it.

          Yes, a parish may be able to pay for a new roof using festival funds but a new roof is not the responsibility of the broader community–it is the responsibility of the parish. I repeat: THE CHURCH SHOULD NOT BE IN THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS.

          • johnkal,

            Let me be clear then, selling items in the church or on church property is bad practice but having ethnic festivals off property and selling books, icons, etc. to raise money for building projects or whatever is just peachy keen and I am not concerned with whatever religion “johnkal” practices, but rather with Orthodoxy. Such events propagate the Orthodox faith and rejection of the material world is Gnosticism.

            Christ Himself drew the line in cleansing the temple.

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