Citing matters of transparency and trust, the parish council of the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin has notified the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in a letter to Archbishop Demetrios that it will withhold its monthly payments to the national church.
Members of the parish expressed their concern following revelations of a massive deficit and misappropriation of funds at the Archdiocese in New York City. The matter was discussed at a parish general assembly.
The parish council of the suburban Milwaukee parish notified Archbishop Demetrios that instead of sending their payments, they would instead be depositing the full amount into a restricted account at a local bank, “until such time that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese satisfactorily establishes and meets timelines in regards to full transparency and accountability.”
Furthermore, the letter stated that “the congregants strongly urged the Parish council to hold funds in the restricted account until an official investigation is released by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese that demonstrates that no intentional or unintentional acts of malfeasance were carried out by anyone.”
The complete text of the letter, dated November 3, 2017, which was sent to The Pappas Post from a member of the parish who asked to remain anonymous, follows:
It is with a heavy heart that we write this letter to inform our hierarchs of a decision the parish made at its Fall General Assembly.
After a bombardment of news articles, stories, and events that were made public, there was a significant amount of concern raised by many parishioners regarding the handling of our allocated funds to the Archdiocese. These matters came to a head and congregants requested that these matters be discussed at our general assembly held this last weekend.
We are sad to say that the mood and tenor of many people at our assembly, and in the parish at large, is both that of sincere concern and severe frustration that the Archdiocese has seemingly mismanaged its fiscal resources and allowed such staggering sums of money from multiple funds to be misappropriated.
It was not lost on the parishioners that, from the reports made public, the archdiocese has been running significant deficits for some time – and managed to fill large portions of the deficits with a few wealthy donors, rather than facing up to the ongoing deficits and acting well before it became such a significant problem. Furthermore, parishioners commented that it appeared that the official budget published did not seem to give the parishes an accurate portrayal of what was in reality occurring at the Archdiocese. Some called it misleading.
Here in the greater Milwaukee area – our parishioners have been abjectly scandalized by financial dealings involving our local sister parish. These matters are well known to all. Having news of these events extending to New York, on a far greater magnitude, scandalizes congregants even further and has caused legitimate concern.
What we are attempting to do on the ground level here at home is help our Archdiocese on a very different level. That is to say; we are proactively attempting to prevent a wave of members from halting all of their offerings of time, money and talent – by acting responsibly and properly as financial fiduciaries.
One of our past presidents during the assembly meeting eloquently guided the discussion and motioned in a manner that seemed to be acceptable to all who were in attendance.
As such, it was the decision of our Parish to indeed continue to fund our portion of the GOA and continue to fulfill our assessment. However, the decision was also made to make our monthly payments, in full, into a restricted account under the stewardship of the Parish council. Those funds will be held at a local bank until such time that the GOA satisfactorily establishes and meets timelines in regards to full transparency and accountability. Furthermore, the congregants strongly urged the Parish council to hold funds in the restricted account until an official investigation is released by the GOA that demonstrates that no intentional or unintentional acts of malfeasance were carried out by anyone. We find this a proper approach, and it was overwhelmingly approved by the parishioners.
The entirety of this matter has created more work for many of us here locally. More volunteer hours have been invested by many people to contend with this troubling situation – time away from our families, from our lay work, and from the plethora of day to day activities that we must contend with. Local parishes, including ours, place their trust that the Archdiocese will quickly attend to their stated objections and hold to account those who broke this trust.
We send this communication with great respect and humility. We do not endeavor to create even more problems for the GOA or for ourselves. However, as much as we will trust, we now must verify. It was the will of the parish and what has been demanded of us.
Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Wauwatosa WI
on behalf of 2017 FALL PARISH GENERAL ASSEMBLY