The Metropolitan Isaiah, of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver, responds to City Weekly's questions about recent issues in the Greater Salt Lake Greek Orthodox community.
What is the purpose of the Benevolent Fund?
These are funds donated by parishioners anonymously to provide priest with the ability to assist the needy in a confidential manner.
Why are there two funds?
There are two churches
In your letter to the parish council on this matter, dated Aug. 8 2013, you describe the fund as confidential. Does confidentiality apply to the fund if there are substantive concerns about how it is being administered by the priests?
A Benevolent Fund is an extension of Holy confession as a sacrament and must be confidential.
The council’s concerns about the fund seem to fall into two areas. One is the appropriateness of fund expenditure, the other the parish’s liability under IRS laws. Despite your concerns over confidentiality, are those two areas of focus sufficient to justify an audit of the funds by the parish council? If not, can you explain why?
It is more probable for the IRS to question the parish council, which allows separate bank accounts of more than 2 million dollars, which are not under the custodianship of the parish council, which represents the total parish membership.
Part of the parish’s concerns seems to be that Prophet Elias’ secretary was signing checks for her own benefit. Would her involvement in the fund in this manner be considered confidential?
No evidence provided me to date has shown the secretary to have signed any checks.
In Feb. 2013, you directed all clergy in your Archdiocese to “not keep lasting records” of the funds. Why did you do that?
It is the extension of holy confession, which must be kept confidential.
Can you explain in what way the audit of the fund is a “witch-hunt,” as you classified it in your Aug. 8 letter?
The audit committee is mandated tyo examine the budget only of the previous year and not more, since prior years would have been done by prior audit committees.
You say in your letter that “six expenditures are related to a professor of our Holy Cross School of Theology.” Can you tell me who the professor is and how those expenditures are related to that individual?
I said only one expenditure is related to a professor of Holy Cross. It was the cost of a lunch in Salt Lake City.
You state that “students at all colleges have unexpected needs that require financial assistance.” Have other students of families in the parish also benefited from funds from the benevolent fund to assist them?
Yes, they have, from other parishes of this Metropolis.
Did you order the accounts to be closed and moved elsewhere?
This was an internal matter, which did not demand my input.
Given the concerns that the audit committee has given rise to, shouldn’t there be more transparency rather than less?
We follow the U.P.R. of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Stepping back from the benevolent-fund issue, you intimated in your letter that the current council could be removed. Why do you think that might be necessary?
It is functioning in ways that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Archdiocese, i.e., the U.P.R.
What would you say to a parishioner whose loved one, also a member of long-standing in the parish, dies, and when he or she seeks a priest to conduct the funeral finds that the church is essentially closed until further notice?
Exceptions are made to episcopal rulings by the hierarch who made them.
How do you see the relationship between yourself and the Greek Orthodox Church of Salt Lake Valley progressing – or not – from here?
The relationship must be not with me, but, the Archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which began in 37 A.D.