November 2011


George Athanasiadis

George Athanasiadis – proud to co-celebrate with non-Orthodox

Dear readers,

A recent trend seems to have developed on our Facebook page of accusing the Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia of being “ecumenists” and “pope lovers”.

This is extremely ironic, for two reasons: First of all because we are apparently being criticised for following the commandment of our Lord and loving our enemy & trying to bring them to Orthodoxy. But secondly (and most importantly) because people that make such accusations do so to justify their separation from the canonical Orthodox Church – and yet, they have an arch-“ecumenist”/modernist among them.

George Athanasiadis is a former priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese who was defrocked for questionable practices (pocketing money for wedding certificates without actually legally registering the marriages with the Orthodox Church or with the Victorian Government). Since being defrocked he has become somewhat of a freelance “Greek Orthodox” priest – offering his services to co-officiate at weddings, funerals and baptisms in non-Orthodox Churches. He even went so far as to send a letter to a bunch of non-Orthodox priests advertising his services. He also has his own website advertising his services and is listed on a civil celebrant’s listing web site and in the Yellow Pages.

As he himself admits in his letter, the practice of co-celebrating mysteries/sacraments is strictly forbidden by the Orthodox Church. It is exactly the kind of thing that anti-“ecumenists” would criticise (and rightly so) as being against the canons of the Church.

Where would such a former Orthodox priest go after being defrocked? To the so-called “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” – the organisation that gets all the Orthodox Church’s rejects. As their own page says, he is now the priest at St Spyridon’s, Clayton (Melbourne), Victoria. In other words, one of Christodoulos’ priests.

Christodoulos, Prokopios, Petros: before you criticise the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese for being “ecumenist” or “pope loving”, make sure you have a word to your own fellow pseudo-priest and get him sorted out.

A transcription of the letter follows below (see here for the original):

George S. Athansiadis
Protopresbyter

Indepented [sic] Greek Orthodox Minister – Civil Marriage Celebrant A13157

9-2-10

Dear Father.

For many years now I’ve had requests from couples wanting an Orthodox minister to co-officiate at their marriage in a church of another denomination.

As you may know, the official Orthodox Church forbids it and thus has created an obstacle to their well-founded wishes. Personally, I believe that there is no scriptural or doctrinal reasons to support this prohibition and can only attribute it to superseded practices of long past. In my 34 years with the Church, I did confront this time and time again with my superiors, however, my representations were in vain.

In 2002 I left that jurisdiction and have been acting as an independent Orthodox Minister. I am also an authorised civil and religious celebrant and can now offer my services to couples wanting to celebrate their wedding at your church with the participation of a Greek Orthodox minister.

I would like to ask you, if you feel it appropriate, to pass this information and my details when couples inquire about the availability of the services I’m offering.

I hope that this information will assist you in your ministry.

Yours in our Saviour

8 CLIFTON GVE, COBURG VIC 3058 – 0410 323 558
fr.george_athanasiadis@hotmail.com

A couple of valid questions were raised on our face book page regarding some of the clauses in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Archdiocese and GOCNSW.  Although we cannot answer for the Archdiocese in any official manner it is relatively obvious why such clauses would be inserted into the MOU and we will try to explain their purpose.

The first question is

 Operative part 1 states that the Community’s assets are to remain undisturbed ie. real estate, and other assets shall remain within its sole ownership, custody and control. Yet, in part 5 it states that the Community are not to make any changes or modifications to the Church without prior consultation and written approval of Archdiocese? Why so?

The clause in question is actually 4 b)

The community agrees:  ….. Not to make, or cause to be made, any changes, additions or modifications to those church’ internal decoration, including all iconography, ecclesiastical articles, fittings and furnishings, without prior consultation with, and the written approval of, the Archdiocese;

The Archdiocese is concerned foremost with ensuring that Orthodox temples remain as recognisable and functional Orthodox churches and this clause promotes this.  If this clause was not inserted then it would be possible for a community to modify the church building in some completely unorthodox manner such as adding a statue or an icon of Buddha within the church building.  This is not a completely ridiculous concern.  For instance in a Brisbane catholic church a Buddhist statue was set up in recent times.

In our own lives we have sole ownership of our homes yet we are still subject to council regulations with respect to modifications to the house.  The church operates in a similar manner with community parishes.  The parish retains full ownership of the church building but it is subject to the authority of the church with regard to modifications.  The bishop retains the final authority on what is allowed in an Orthodox church to prevent potential anomalies that could mislead faithful Orthodox Christians.

The second question was:

More importantly, please explain to me the Proposed Amendments to the GOCNSW constitution, in particular clause 7 where it states that any real estate assets of the Association which are used as places of religious worship (churches), such real estate assets to be held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia as custodian and trustee. What is the exact meaning of this clause?

The addition to clause 7) states

‘…(except for any real estate assets of the Association which are used as places of religious worship, such real estate assets are to be held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia as custodian and trustee for the members of the Association and to continue to be open to the public as Greek Orthodox Churches.)’

Clause seven appears to be the “windup” clause of the association’s constitution, and this phrase is being added to the end of the clause.  This is the section of the constitution which specifies what will happen if an association is brought to a close. This protects the sacred places of Orthodox worship from misuse if GOCNSW should close down for any reason, and it only comes into effect if GOCNSW closes down.

Heaven Nightclub

Heaven Nightclub


Again the concern of the Archdiocese is that Orthodox temples remain as Orthodox temples.  The Archdiocese has never closed or sold a church in Australia yet nor does it wish to see a temple once used for Orthodox worship turned into a secular building or used for worship by other religious groups.  Here in Adelaide we have many examples of this happening to churches belonging to other Christian faiths.  For instance, St Paul’s cathedral in Adelaide which was sold and became Heaven nightclub.

We should be grateful as Orthodox Christians that these protective clauses were inserted as it helps ensure that Orthodox churches remain in the future recognisably Orthodox and open to the public for worship.

ChristodoulosIn the writings of the Fathers of the Church mention is made of three criteria that constitute a bishop’s canonicity, and thus establish that a bishop is canonical and part of the communion of the Church. These criteria are: The inspired Scriptures (Holy Bible), the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the multitude of bishops throughout the world with whom he is in communion.

None of these criteria have validity separately, when each criterion is invoked it is always with the understanding that the others are referred to as well. It is part of the living tradition of the Church to maintain that the bishop is in accord with the communion of the Church.

When the Church established these criteria it became easy to identify who was a heretic. In our previous post we mentioned that a heretic is one who dissents from the others on matters of faith. Now we are in a position to say that a heretic is an individual whose faith is lacking one of these ingredients: he is in disaccord with the teachings of the Bible, he does not agree with the proclamations of faith from the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and ultimately he professes a faith different from the unanimous agreement of the Church.

Heretics make easy conquests among poorly instructed people who are unable to distinguish them from Orthodox teachers. Being led astray by the heretic’s sophistry and seductions the Orthodox faithful unwittingly deny their Orthodox confession.  Persons convicted of heresy are excommunicated from the Church; their removal safeguards the health of the rest of the members of the Church. In the early centuries of Christianity the Orthodox Christians chose to

“abandon houses of prayer and hold congregations of their own in the wilderness than have anything to do with the wicked leaven of heretics” (St. Basil).

Heretics get into their heads that the faith they hold is the only correct one. This belief has become so firmly and deeply embedded in them that nothing on earth will remove it. Their slogan is “Even if you convince me, you will not convince me”. On this St. Basil the Great says (c. 372A.D):

“The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard its spots, and nor can they who have been weaned into perverse doctrines throw off the evil of heresy”.

Just before He was crucified, Christ prayed with pain in His soul in the garden of Gethsemane. Among other things He begged His Father for unity in His Church: “so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11). Unity in the Church then is God’s will!  For Saint John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D): “nothing angers God so much as division in the Church” and “not even the blood of martyrdom can absolve this sin”. For the saintly Pope Pelagius II (579-590A.D):

“creating a rift within the Church is a greater sin than denying Christ! Through apostasy, one person goes to hell, the apostate. If a schism is created, he who provoked it will go to Hell, but so will all those who follow him.”

When people were condemning Saint Agathon of Egypt (+435 A.D), (who was very pure) for being a thief, an adulterer and much else, he accepted the charges with passivity. But when they called him a heretic, he reacted sharply: “No brothers! Because heresy is separation from God”. The great Patriarch of Jerusalem, Dositheos (1641-1707 A.D), forgave all those who had embittered him, but would not forgive those who slandered him as a heretic.

On the basis of the above, everything possible must be done to prevent a schism within the Church of Christ. Writing to Bishop Navation, Saint Dionysius of Alexandria (+265 A.D) exhorts:

“Any struggle waged to prevent schism within the Church is more pleasing to God even than martyrdom which is suffered for refusal to deny the Lord. Anyone who is martyred suffers for his or her benefit, but anyone who struggles to prevent schism within the Church is doing so for the benefit of the whole Church”.

Christodoulos repent of your heresy. Be the catalyst that breaks the curse that has burdened the lives of the Greek Orthodox faithful in Adelaide for over fifty years. Together with your “clergy” find something else to occupy your time and leave the people of Adelaide alone.

In a letter to his spiritual child Amphilochios of Iconium written c. 373 A.D, St. Basil the Great distinguishes three ways in which there can take place a separation of a baptised person from the communion of the Orthodox Church.  These three ways affecting Christian unity were said to be heresy, schism and parasynagogue, depending on whether a disagreement fell on actual faith in God, on church discipline or on ecclesiastical rulings.

(1)    Heresy. From the writings of St.Basil we find that from antiquity heretics were considered to be people

“who were altogether broken off [παντελώς απερρηγμένους] and alienated [απηλλοτριωμένους] in matters relating to faith.”

Heresy is a disagreement (διαφορά), a discrepancy on vital issues of faith and culminates in the negation of the unity of God and the Church. As causes of separation (χωρισμός; αλλοτρίωσις) St. Basil mentions pride and arrogance (μεγαλοφροσύνη) originating in the human faculty of free choice (προαίρεσις). Because it was an act of deliberate choice, heresy was not tolerated in the churches. Its authors were cautioned first; then if they refused to obey, they were excommunicated from the churches.

(2)     Schism. The Fathers of the Church defined schism (σχίσμα) as a disagreement (διαφορά) among church members concerning ecclesiastical questions capable of mutual solution. Often (but not always) these disagreements were not of such a serious nature as to warrant a lasting feud among members of church communities.

(3)    Parasynagogue. “Rival” or “counter-assemblies” were called “gatherings set up by insubordinate priests or bishops and by uninstructed people”. On this St. Basil says:

“If someone (deacon, priest or bishop) has been found in error (πταίσματι: ‘fault,’ ‘sin’)and has been asked to cease from liturgical functions but has not submitted to the canons of the Church but instead has granted to himself priestly functions and some persons abandon the Church and join him, this is parasynagogue”.

In describing the impropriety of those who originate rival assemblies St. Basil uses the term ανυπότακτος, the opposite of ευταξία, the good order and discipline of the church. Each parasynagogue or constitution of a rival assembly implies the breach of ecclesiastical unity resulting in exclusion from the Eucharistic Communion of the Church. (i.e One cuts themselves off from the communion of the Church).

Canon 5 of the Council of Nicaea (324A.D) speaks of breaches of church unity caused by unruly clergy. According to the canon the end result for the unruly clergy is ακοινώνητος γίνομαι, “to become excommunicated”. The cleric becomes excommunicated, not necessarily in the juridical term, but in the sense that unless he repents he can no longer receive Holy Communion in the Church in which alone abides the Holy Spirit.

Today the concepts of heresy-schism-parasynagogue in a certain manner overlap and in this sense constitute an indivisible unity.

Where does this place the GOCSA churches?

The “Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia” of GOCSA is indeed a heresy that to some is exposed but to many others is camouflaged.  The fact that it camouflages itself means that it causes more harm than an exposed heresy. In Adelaide these “churches” are generally regarded as schismatic than heretical in that their potential for communion into the Orthodox Church is prayerfully anticipated and patiently waited. Thankfully the schismatic churches in Sydney (GOCNSW) are well on the way to entering the communion of the Greek Orthodox Church after fifty years of having themselves separated.

Due to the extraordinary characters serving in Adelaide’s schismatic communities, the GOCSA churches present themselves mainly as parasynagogues than anything else. GOCNSW had the wisdom and foresight to refuse these clergy and therefore their steps towards reunification became easier.

In the past Adelaide was proud to be known as the “city of churches” today it would be no exaggeration to call it the “city of schisms”. After all the Lutherans in Adelaide remained divided for seventy years before they settled their difference and united with each other. Let us pray that after being divided for approximately 50 years we do not surpass their record!

Greetings to all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Icon of the Synaxis of the Archangles

The Synaxis of the Archangels

As you know, the headquarters of GOCSA here in South Australia is the parish dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. We celebrated their feast day a couple of days ago (Tuesday the 8th of November), thus we thought it might be an appropriate time to discuss some facts about this feast that are related to our topic (ie, relevant to the schism here in Adelaide).

The Feast of the Synaxis of the Archangels was established at the Council of Laodicea in AD 4th century. We mention this because of something else that this Council was famous for – it established many of the rules (ie, canons) that became part of the Orthodox Church’s code of laws (the rules can be found online here). Some of the rules are quite relevant to the schism here in Adelaide.  For example:

Rule 9: The members of the Church are not allowed to meet in the cemeteries, nor attend the so-called martyries of any of the heretics, for prayer or service, but such as so do, if they be communicants, shall be excommunicated for a time; but if they repent and confess that they have sinned they shall be received.

This rule prohibits those in the Church from attending the prayer services of those outside the Church. This rule is still in force today as we forbidden to go to the non-canonical churches to pray.

Rule 13: The election of those who are appointed to the priesthood is not to be committed to the multitude.

This rule was established so that laypeople (“the multitude”) would not have power over chosing priests – this responsibility was supposed to be left with the bishop of the area. Likewise the election of a bishop is the responsibility of the bishops in the surrounding area (who together comprise the Synod). This did not mean that the bishop didn’t consult the people when making such a decision – it just means that the final choice was left to him. Note that GOCSA’s own rules explicitly contradict this rule of the Church because they give this responsibility to the GOCSA committee (which consists entirely of laypeople):

GOCSA Rule 15 – Powers and Duties of the Executive Committee: a) To arrange the engagement of priest or priests from the ranks of the Orthodox Church.

(Of course they don’t actually adhere to this rule because they don’t choose their priests from the ranks of the Orthodox Church – they choose them from those whom the Orthodox Church have stripped of their rank and/or have left the Orthodox Church. But we digress…)

Like any organisation, the Church must have rules so that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor 14:40). Those who disregard these rules risk being cut off from the Church, so that the Church may keep itself pure.

There are of course many other rules in the Church that are in force today that were established by other Councils. We plan to address some of these in upcoming posts, but for now we will restrict ourselves to the above rules of the Council of Laodicea, in honour of the Archangels whose feast day we recently celebrated.

Troparion for the Synaxis of the Archangels

Commanders of the heavenly hosts,
we who are unworthy beseech you,
by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings of your immaterial glory,
and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you:
“Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commanders of the powers on high!”

O holy Archangels, intercede for us before God that He may heal the schism plaguing our blessed city!

GOC NSW - Holy Trinity

GOC NSW – Holy Trinity

Historical indeed for the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW was the recent Sunday that fell on the 30th of October 2011. Mr Harry Danalis, the president of the community, was present at the doxology service for the 28th of October memorial (the historic OXI) held at the Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia in Redfern, Sydney. Outside on the foregrounds of the beautiful Cathedral of the Annunciation Mr Danalis expressed his solidarity of love and communion with the canonical Church when he laid a tribute wreath, together with his fellow presidents of other respected parish-communities and other distinguished guests. Following this were speeches and poems that were dedicated to the heroes of 1940 who fought for the freedom that is bestowed upon us through our faith in Christ and realised in the liberation of the homeland from the yoke of invading powers.

It is fitting to congratulate Mr Danalis, a hero in his own right, who together with the members of Sydney’s Greek Orthodox Community passed a motion supported by an overwhelming majority vote of 80% which took a stance and also  said the historic “No!” to the division of the Greeks in Australia. “No!” to the cutting of members from the body of Christ, the Church.  “No!” to their alignment with the Old Calendarist faction of the infamous Auxentios. “No!” to the false allegations that the Archdiocese is after title deeds. “No!” to those who continue the dissection of the Greeks abroad.

Later on this month (c. Sunday 20th of November) canonical clergy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Austalia will be posted in the churches of the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW. In this way the induction of Sydney’s Greek Community into the Church of Christ becomes complete and final. Truly this is the response to heartfelt prayer, including the final hopes of those who left the world before us and did not experience the joy of this blessed decision.

Adelaide, all of the Greek Orthodox faithful in Australia are looking towards you, waiting for you to let go of the axis of evil that you call “clergy”. Saying “No!” to them will bring about your liberation from diabolical forces and welcome you back to the homeland that you were once a part. The template for unity has worked for the Greek Orthodox faithful living in NSW as we have mentioned in a previous blog. The Greek Orthodox Church awaits to embrace you with open arms in the same way that it did with those communities that in former times tragically cut themselves off from Its communion.

GOC NSW