September 2011


Well, we’re now well-and-truly past the one month mark for our blog, and we thought it might be time for some more reflections on how things are going.

Silence

Icon of St Nicholas of Myra

St Nicholas of Myra

It seems that after an initial onslaught, the pace of comments on our Greek Orthodox Church Adelaide Facebook page has slowed down somewhat. Some continue to post every now and then, but it seems for the most part any GOCSA sympathisers have chosen to remain silent. This is unsurprising, because on the various websites and Facebook pages of GOCSA they have been running a campaign to try and convince everyone that the best thing to do is to remain silent and not ask questions.

Of course, there are times for silence. The Fathers of the Orthodox Church were very big on silence as a way to draw near to God, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself at one point remained silent before his accusers (Matt 26:62,63). However, as the Bible itself says, there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecc 3:7). The Fathers of the Church and our Lord Himself showed by their examples that when the purity of the Faith or the unity of the Church is at stake, or when innocent people are being misled, that is the time to speak – in fact, it’s a crime to remain silent.

There are so many examples of this in the history of the Orthodox Church that we couldn’t possibly list them all. Instead we will focus on two examples (for reasons that will become obvious):

  1. St Nicholas of Myra is a greatly revered Orthodox saint. He was a participant at the First Ecumenical Council and stood up for the Faith and the cause of the Truth against the heretics and schismatics of his day.
  2. St Constantine the Great was the first Christian emperor and responsible for convoking the First Ecumenical Council in order to defend the Church against schism and heresy.

Had these two saints (along with many others) remained silent in the face of injustice and heresies, the Orthodox Faith would have been jeopardised. We venerate these saints precisely because they didn’t remain silent, but because they instead spoke up in defence of the Faith in order to protect the unity of the Church. Presumably the members of GOCSA also venerate these saints, as they have erected Churches in their honour! Why then will they not follow their examples?

“Church politics”

Icon of St Constantine the Great

St Constantine the Great

One common argument used to encourage silence on the part of GOCSA is to accuse those who speak out of playing “church politics”. “It’s all just politics”, they say. “Don’t get involved in church politics.”

It’s a brilliant ploy. In this country the average person isn’t interested in “politics” and politicians are considered by many to rank among the lowest lifeforms in our society. We definitely wouldn’t want to be seen to be guilty of playing that game. So if there are some inconvenient truths that you want to keep hidden, and someone starts asking uncomfortable questions, then what better way to scare them off than by accusing them of playing that game? Just say to them: “Don’t get involved in church politics!” In doing so, you will imply that they are “playing politics”, and they will be too ashamed to ask any more questions for fear of being accused of “playing politics”. Pretty soon people will stop asking.

The technique is even more effective if every time you say “Don’t get involved in church politics” you manage to get everyone else around you to join in the chorus. After all, as if it isn’t humiliating enough having one person accuse you of “playing politics”, how much more humiliating is it when all your peers attack you in the same way!

And what is even better about this approach is that, after a while, it is self-sustaining. It is like the monkey experiment – in that experiment, the monkeys would all join in and attack any monkey that tried to climb the ladder to get the banana. This would continue to happen even as new monkeys were put in the cage – any new monkey that dared to be different would soon be indoctrinated into behaving the same way by the other monkeys. Likewise, anyone in GOCSA who dares to be curious and ask certain difficult questions will soon be attacked with cries of “Don’t get involved in church politics!” Pretty soon they, too, will be indoctrinated to avoid asking the difficult questions, and to join in the chorus of attack every time someone else starts asking.

Saying “church politics” is playing church politics

Perhaps the most ironic thing about this tactic is that it is a very political manoeuvre. The thing that “politicians” do best (and the thing that we all hate them for) is that they are masters at covering up inconvenient truths. The whole “Don’t get involved in church politics!” approach is nothing but a ploy to do exactly that – to cover up inconvenient truths. A perfect example of political manipulation! Those who cry “Don’t get involved in church politics!” the loudest are in fact the ones that are most heavily involved!

So next time you hear someone cry “Don’t get involved in church politics!”, remember that saying “church politics” is playing church politics. Have the courage to question their political motives and to think about what it is that they may be trying to hide…

The Truth

Icon of the First Ecumenical Council

The First Ecumenical Council

Ultimately, the questions raised on this site are not simply a matter of “politics” – they are a matter of truth vs falsehood. Moreover, these are all questions on which the Orthodox Faith places great importance – they are issues that are too important to be simply waved away with a response like “don’t get involved in church politics”. The venerable saints of our Church (such as St Nicholas and St Constantine) who spoke out against heresies and schisms weren’t “playing politics” – they were defending the Truth and the traditions of the Orthodox Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that He is the Truth (John 14:6) – so those who defend the Truth are defending Christ Himself. Conversely, those who try to cover up the Truth are denying Him.

The bottom line is that these questions are not unreasonable questions to ask. It is not unreasonable to know if a church that claims to be Orthodox is considered Orthodox by the rest of the Orthodox world. It is not unreasonable to ask if someone who claims to be a priest really is a priest, or someone who claims to be a bishop really is a bishop. Only a fraud would try to dodge such scrutiny with comments like “a priest is a priest” or “don’t play politics” – a real priest has nothing to hide, and no reason to dodge such questions.

Unity between GOCSA and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, while a noble goal, cannot be achieved by putting our head in the sand and pretending that our differences don’t exist or that they don’t matter. Unity can only be achieved by resolving our differences, and we cannot resolve our differences unless we ask these questions and seek honest answers to them.

Lord Jesus Christ, our God, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, through the intercessions of St Nicholas the Wonderworker and St Constantine the Great, together with the Fathers of the Ecumencial Councils and all the Saints, may you guide us all into unity by your Truth. Amen.

Dearly beloved,

It seems that there are still some rumours floating around about legal entities and what unity would mean for GOCSA’s status as a legal entity. Unfortunately it seems that these rumours are being fanned by unscrupulous characters in order to deceive the GOCSA faithful and to keep us from uniting. This blog post aims to put an end to these vicious and false rumours.

In summary, the point of this post is this: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese desires spiritual unity with GOCSA – not to merge the two legal entites into a single legal entity.

Introduction

As law-abiding Australian citizens we are generally pretty ignorant about the details of our legal system. This usually isn’t a problem – after all, as long we do the right thing there isn’t much need for most of us to worry about such details. Unfortunately, this ignorance can also leave us vulnerable to being preyed upon by dishonest people.

The current situation within the Greek community in Adelaide is a perfect example of this. There are many innocent faithful in GOCSA who are afraid that if they were to reunite with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the churches that they worked so hard to build may be taken away and sold. There are some who try to fuel these rumours by claiming that the Archdiocese will have the legal right to do so, or even that the Government will force them to.

The following is a recent question that shows the sort of confusion out there:

The legal entity as a community that Is recognized by the government of south Australia is the Greek community of Sa. This could potentially mean that if there is unification all your legal assets will fall under the jurisdiction of the Greek community. This could potentially mean the usurpation of your assets by the Greek Community as the Archidiose may not be recognized as an ethnic community, are you still comfortable with this. God’s word is God’s word, however Crown law is Crown law

Out of respect for the author (whose sincere contribution we are most grateful for) we will refrain from revealing their identity.

This person seemed to be under the impression that the law might allow (or perhaps even require) GOCSA to take all of the Archdiocese’s assets if they united. Presumably their real fear is that the GOCSA assets will be taken, and they wanted to see how we felt if it happened to us.

So what is the truth? Could the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese take GOCSA’s assets if there is unity? To answer this we first need to look at some basics.

What are “legal entities”?

Legal entities are governed by a branch of law called “Corporations Law”. In its full detail, Corporations Law is among the most complicated areas of law once you start digging into the details, but at its most basic level the concept is very simple: have their own independent identity in the eyes of the law. This means that legally-established companies, organisations & associations (“legal entities”) have many of the same legal rights that individuals have. Most important for us to note here are:

  • Organisations have the right to purchase & own property and other assets.
  •  Organisations have the right to enter into contracts with others (including other organisations or individuals).

Australian Federal Law and the laws of the individual States of Australia protect these rights. That means that an organisation’s property or money cannot simply be taken away by an individual or another organisation without that organisation’s consent. That’s what we call “theft”.

There are lots of different types of legal entities, each being suited to a different purpose. Some examples include: companies (those with “Limited” or “Ltd” after their name), organisations and incorporated associations (“Incorporated” or “Inc”).

Checking the register of legal entities

ASIC - The Australian Securities and Investment Commission

ASIC - The Australian Securities and Investment Commission

Because legal entities have to be registered with the relevant authorities when they are created, it is possible for any member of the public to find out basic information about them by contacting the appropriate government office.

Also, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission provides a search engine for looking up basic information about lots of different legal entities across Australia. The information we are providing on this page was found using this search engine.

This page is helpful because if someone makes a claim or starts a rumour about a legal entity’s status, you don’t have to take their word for it – you can verify it directly.

Legal status of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its parishes

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia is a registered legal entity that was created by a special Act of NSW parliament. Its full legal name THE GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AUSTRALIA PROPERTY TRUST. As a legal entity, it has the right to own property and to enter into agreements with other legal entities.

However, many of the parishes that are spiritually under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia are also separate legal entities (these are known as parish-communities). Here is a list of the legal names of the parish-communities under the Archdiocese in Adelaide:

Prophet Elias, Norwood GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY AND PARISH OF NORWOOD AND EASTERN SUBURBS INCORPORATED
St Spyridon, Unley ST. SPYRIDON GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY INCORPORATED
St George, Thebarton GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY AND PARISH OF SAINT GEORGE, THEBARTON AND WESTERN SUBURBS INCORPORATED
The Nativity of Christ, Port Adelaide GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST PORT ADELAIDE AND ENVIRONS INCORPORATED
St Anthony, Prospect GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH AND COMMUNITY OF ST. ANTHONY NORTHERN SUBURBS INCORPORATED

In spite of being in spiritual union with the Archdiocese, these are not united into a single legal entity. Because their legal entities are separate from the Archdiocese, Federal & State laws will treat them as two separate parties even though they are spiritually united. This means that the Archdiocese cannot do anything with the property of one of these parishes without that parish’s consent, because the Archdiocese is not the legal owner of the property (the parish is).

Note that of the 118 parishes in the Archdiocese, 58 (ie, nearly half) of them operate with this legal arrangement.

Legal status of the Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales

Note also that with the recent re-unification of GOCNSW with the Archdiocese, GOCNSW followed this parish-community model and retained its legally separate identity. The full legal name of GOCNSW is THE GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES LTD and (as you can see on the registration page) this organisation is still registered. Thus they are spiritually united with the Archdiocese in the same way that the parish-communities of the Archdiocese are (such as those above).

In short, the unity achieved between the Archdiocese and GOCNSW is (like the other parish-communities) a spiritual union – not a union of two separate legal entities into a single legal entity.

Legal status of GOCSA

The full legal name of GOCSA is GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INCORPORATED. As we noted in our post on Template for Unity, if GOCSA were to unite with the Archdiocese, they would most likely follow the same pattern that GOCNSW followed. In other words, the Archdiocese is concerned with achieving spiritual union with GOCSA (as it did with GOCNSW) – not a union of the two legal entities into a single legal entity.

Because GOCSA would retain their separate legal identity if they were to merge with the Archdiocese, this means that the “GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INCORPORATED” would retain full ownership of all its property. The Archdiocese would not be able to sell any property owned by GOCSA because the Archdiocese is not the legal owner of that property according to Australian law (and vice-versa).Scales of justice

Conclusion

In summary: members of GOCSA need not fear that the Archdiocese is trying to merge only so that it can take away its assets. The Archdiocese is interested in spiritual union, not a union of the two legal entities into a single legal entity. This means that legally there is no way that the Archdiocese actually could take GOCSA’s assets away from them even if we do unite spiritually.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s unite!

If you hear rumours to the contrary, please squash them. It is time for these damaging and misleading rumours to stop and for those responsible to be held to account for misleading the Greek community in Adelaide. Only then will we finally have a chance at unity.

His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos with His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos with His-All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Some people avoid the issue of which churches are canonical by saying that they do not have “sufficient knowledge” or are not “qualified” to answer questions like:

Does the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Church of Greece recognise GOCSA as part of the Orthodox church?

In reality it is quite easy to discover which organisations or churches are part of the communion of the Orthodox Church by simply reading the information that is published officially by sources like the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Church of Greece.  Given the seriousness of the issues involved any faithful Orthodox Christian who is confused by the schism in Australia should take the time to examine the available information.

GOCSA publish that they are part of the “Autocephalic  Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” so we can examine if any Orthodox churches are in communion with this organisation.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate publishes on its website a list of dioceses around the world that it administers on the Administration of the Patriarchate page. In it we find the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia which clearly demonstrates that the Archdiocese is in communion with the Patriarchate.  Nowhere is the “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” listed.

His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew with the Archbishop of Greece

His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew with His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos (Archbishop of Athens and All Greece)

The Church of Greece publishes on its website a list of all the Patriachates and Autocephalic churches. It links to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (which as noted above links to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia).  Nowhere is the “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” listed.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America publishes a useful page listing Patriarchates, Autocephalous, and Autonomous Churches as well as Archdioceses, Metropolises, and Dioceses.  Again the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia is listed.  Nowhere is the “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” listed.

Non-official sources such as the wikipedia article on the Eastern Orthodox Church list the autocephalous churches along with their exarchates (ie, overseas jurisdictions).  Again the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia is listed.  Nowhere is the “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” mentioned, not even in the list of churches with canonical anomalies or excommunicated bishops.

Here is a summary table listing all of these sources:

Source Greek Orthodox Archiocese of Australia recognised? “Autocephalic” Greek “Orthodox” Church of America and Australia recognised?
Ecumenical Patriarchate Yes No
Church of Greece Yes (through the Ecumenical Patriarchate) No
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Yes No
Wikipedia Yes No

What sort of rational conclusion can be drawn after examining this information?

  • The “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” and hence GOCSA churches are not in communion or recognised by any jurisdiction of the Orthodox church.
  • It is a self granted title intended to impress people who do not have sufficient knowledge of the ecclesiastical organisation of the Orthodox Church.
  • “Churches” under the “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” are not part of the Orthodox Church. They are not autocephalous, they are not Orthodox, and they are not even American!

What is the “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia”

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the so called “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” is a fake Orthodox ecclesiastical organisation operating under the “Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia” (GOCSA).

What is an Autocephalous Orthodox Church?

Communion of the Apostles

Communion of the Apostles

An autocephalous (literally “self headed”) Orthodox Church is an Orthodox Church within the communion of the world wide Orthodox Church whose head bishop directs the affairs of his own diocese without the need to report to any higher ranking bishop outside his diocese. Autocephaly is granted to a particular diocese with the blessing of other dioceses within the world wide communion of the Orthodox Church.

Who granted “Autocephaly” to GOCSA?

No one! GOCSA created its own “autocephaly”. That is it unilaterally removed itself from the world wide communion of the Orthodox Church and called itself the “Autocephalic [sic] Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia”. Ironically in recent times this “autocephalic church” was under the jurisdiction of the fragmented “Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece” in particular the faction of Auxentios. Thus even though Auxentios was GOCSA’s spiritual head they still called themselves the “Autocephalic [sic] Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia”. In June 2011 GOCSA ran away from Auxentios (sacked him) taking with them (stealing) his “clergy”. In response Auxentios defrocked the “clergy” he sent to Australia namely: Christodoulos (GOCSA’s “bishop”), Prokopios, Andrew and Petros. These gentlemen (except for Petros) have now acquired the unique distinction of being defrocked twice (once from the canonical Orthodox Church and secondly from the uncanonical Old Calendarist Church of Greece). A third “defrockment” awaits them from GOCSA’s lay administration.

To this day GOCSA shops around looking for defrocked clergy or any charlatan seeking employment.

How many “churches” does the “Autocephalic  Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” have?

According to their face book page: the “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church has many churches in Melbourne , Victoria, Clayton , Saint Albans, Woolongong, Newcastle”.

Translation: GOCSA’s administration of lay people oversees: 4 “churches” in Adelaide, 2 “churches” in Melbourne, 1 in Newcastle and 1 in Wollongong.

What about America, how many “churches” does GOCSA have in the U.S.A?

A grand total of zero. GOCSA has never had a “church” in America. If it could GOCSA would call itself the “Greek Orthodox Church of America, Australia, Earth and the Milky Way Galaxy”. But with no “church” in America this may be a bit premature.

Where to from here?

The Virgin Mary and the Christ child

The Virgin Mary and the Christ child

The “Autocephalic  Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” is a canonical anomaly for the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia. It has not and will never find a place in the world wide communion of the Orthodox Church. It is a sick establishment that burdens the life and witness of the Greek Orthodox Church. The only solution is for GOCSA to come into the fold of the canonical Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, namely: the “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia”. We have seen this successfully take place in Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney what is Adelaide waiting for?