Friday, June 22, 2012

Greek Church excoriated over perceived enviro-hypocrisy

This editorial from the American Orthodox Institute is a very direct attack on perceived excesses in the way the Greek Church - both in America and abroad - acquits itself. This is not the first time this charge has been leveled nor is it a claim made only from outside the Greek Church. In 2010 Metropolitan Theoliptos of Ikonion railed against the opulence of the Greek Archdiocese in general and Met. Demetrios in particular when it failed to help two orphaned children (see here). In an open letter the metropolitan said,"Which is our mission in the world? Just to organize dinners and events to celebrate our tenth anniversary on the Throne of the Holy Archdiocese of America, or to speak and preach about loving and helping our suffering fellow man, but not to do anything in reality?"

Your thoughts are welcomed.

(AOI) - In his June 18 keynote address at the opening ceremony of the Halki Summit in Turkey, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew looked forward to the start of the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainability, June 20-22. He noted that attendees at his environmental gathering were “deeply frustrated with the stubborn resistance and reluctant advancement of earth-friendly policies and practices.” He called for greater sacrifice and personal responsibility (emphasis added in the quote below):

Permit us to propose that perhaps the reason for this hesitation and hindrance may lie in the fact that we are unwilling to accept personal responsibility and demonstrate personal sacrifice. In the Orthodox Christian tradition, we refer to this “missing dimension” as ascesis, which could be translated as abstinence and moderation, or – better still – simplicity and frugality. The truth is that we resist any demand for self-restraint and self-control.


Each of us is called to draw a distinction between what we want and what we need, or – more importantly – what the world needs. Greed and gratification reduce the world to a survival of the fittest; whereas generosity and gratitude transform the world into a community of sharing. We are invited to pursue a way of sacrifice – not a sacrifice that is cheap, but a sacrifice that is costly. As King David once said: “I will not offer to the Lord my God a sacrifice that costs me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24.24) We must be prepared to make sacrifices – material and financial – that are genuine and even painful. And in this regard, whether we like it or not, more is demanded from the rich than from the poor.

Speaking of cheap, this latest statement – in light of the actual environmental praxis of the Phanar and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America – is an exercise in cheap moralizing and empty Church-speak. For starters, the Halki Summit was held in the historic Halki Palace Hotel, “one of the oldest and finest hotels in the vicinity of the Princes’ Islands,” and which features satellite TV, mini-bar, laundry service and Jacuzzis in nine of the suites. So you can take a nice warm bubble bath while contemplating how “simplicity and frugality” will help avert a global environmental catastrophe. Then take a drink poolside and join in for some bracing conversation about how Summit attendees can “bring the global environmental discussion to a new and richer place.” Indeed.

At the same time, Bartholomew’s American church is preparing to gather in Phoenix for the 2012 Clergy Laity Congress, July 1-5. It is meeting at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa for five days. Yes, a luxury resort in the Sonoran desert in the middle of July. Abstinence? The Marriott features four acres of swimming pools. Can’t swim? The Spa’s steam, sauna and whirlpools might do the trick, or the facial and massage services which start at $330 and ratchet up to $481, for the “total indulgence” package which gets you the “Too Sexy for Your Shoes Pedicure.” Make your reservations now, presvyteres!...
Complete article here.


  1. Environmentalism is a rich person's toy. Their hypocrisy is so blatant it doesn't even seem right to grace it with any comment. Anything anyone could say, no matter how ironic, prophetic or incisive pales beside the obvious. I'm sure they can breathe a little sigh of relief that their hotel is lit with 12.00 non-incandescent light bulbs so Hoover Dam doesn't have to crank out a couple extra watts so they can read their menus. What bullshit.

  2. I can understand the issue here. What is the purpose of having conferences at these luxurious places? Surely, they could have found a hotel that didn't cost $200 a night for the cheapest room.

  3. Meanwhile, back in the real world, our struggling mission parish is barely keeping the lights on ...

  4. If this point had been made with a certain degree of humility by those respectful of the Church's hierarchs, and genuinely concerned about the environment, I might have taken it seriously. But given the tone, and the fact that it is made by the usual vitriolic ranting religious right who never have a good thing to say about their bishops, it is more inclined to simply make me stop reading American Orthodox blogs - with one or two exceptions. Would the AOI not be better off focusing on their own sins? Logs and planks and all that...

  5. Tend towards Macrina's view. Yet perception is not always reality. Reality is not always fun. And charges of hypocrisy?... hey.. I think there's enough we can all share in there... FWIW, I know I am. ;)

    More seriously, environmentalism in the 21st century could follow a different path than it did in the 20th. Poor nations could follow a "green" course not by choice, but because long-term profligacy is too expensive. See this already in energy usage where the cost of embedded distribution and all the rest makes switching to cheaper (possibly greener) alternatives actually quite costly here, but in undeveloped nations where legacy issues are less burdensome, more optimal choices may be available. Will they be made? Remains to be seen. More likely they'll buy our used profligate stuff. Encouraging them to choose more wisely? What's wrong with that? Like all stopped clocks, maybe even hypocrites can be right, twice a day.