Monday, April 10, 2017

Orthodox Christian Laity goes after the monasteries

Charges of "fundamentalism" in the Orthodox context for me have often ended up being simply reverent praxis. Labeling Elder Ephraim a "fanatic" is also hardly worthy prose especially when there is nothing in this article to back up those claims. Having been to Ephraimite monasteries in the past I have never been treated unkindly or asked to do anything fanatical. If a full liturgical schedule and wonderful food are marks of hidden nefarious underpinnings I find myself unwilling to abbreviate the horologion or hide the kitchen salt.

(OCL) - The Orthodox Christian Organization (OCL) during a recent meeting adopted resolutions relating to monasteries that operate in many parts of the United States. The Christian Newswire reported on the issue as well.

The National Herald has reported many times about the issue of the monasteries and more specifically about their ecclesiastic belonging, theological teachings, and financial issues.

There are 18 total monasteries and nunneries in the United States. Technically, these monasteries are under the ecclesiastical and canonical jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and consequently, the local metropolises in which operate. Actually, though, they are under the total control of the priest monk Ephraim and his close associates, whose headquarters are at St. Anthony’s monastery in Florence, AZ.
TNH reported that a few years ago the Archdiocesan Council, with the insistence of its late Vice Chairman Michael Jaharis, had instituted a special committee to conduct a thorough examination of the monasteries, including their finances, but the issue was stalled because the metropolitans did not cooperate with the committee.

TNH has learned that a fundamentalist movement has been created in the Archdiocese, deriving from the monasteries called “Ephraimism.” Many priests in the parishes have been influenced, and consequently, they pass their influence onto their parishes. Even at the School of Theology in Boston there are fanatic followers of elder Ephraim.

Archbishop Demetrios seems to be fully aware of what is going on with the monasteries but, unfortunately, he does not seem willing to confront the issue. Not even the Archdiocesan Regulations that specify the operation of the monasteries are implemented, and thus we have a situation whereby “a Church has been created within the Church.” Also, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is fully aware of the monasteries and their teachings. There are plenty of videos online with homilies of Fr. Ephraim that are quite revealing about his teachings and even “his prophesies.”

The OCL has brought the issue into light again asking about the implementation of the Regulations of governance of the monasteries. The resolutions follow:

“OCL respectfully calls upon the Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to enforce its own Regulations relating to the Monasteries operating under its auspices in the United States; that each metropolitan who has monasteries within his metropolis require full compliance by those monasteries with the letter and spirit of those Regulations; and, that all information concerning the operations of those monasteries, including but not limited to financial disclosures, be made public.

“OCL respectfully calls upon the Assembly of Bishops to request that all jurisdictions that have not yet done so adopt regulations regarding monasteries in the United States requiring transparency and accountability in financial reporting and Hierarchical oversight of theological teachings; that the Assembly encourage full compliance by those monasteries with the letter and spirit of those Regulations; and, that information relating to the well-being of the Church be made public.”

The Resolutions were adopted after the Board reviewed the provisions of the “General Regulations for the Establishment and Operation of Holy Monasteries in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America” [Protocol #95] issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on February 16, 2005. The Regulations are set forth in the Official Documents of the Archdiocese on its website (


  1. Strange article. Isn't OCL supposed to be a cross-jurisdictional group? They seem not to know that there's at least one non-"Ephraimite" monastery in the GOA (St Gregory Palamas in OH), and of course other monasteries under the OCA, ROCOR, and the Serbian and other dioceses. Saying they are "all under the total control" of Fr Ephraim is weirdly uninformed.
    Charges of "fanaticism" and "fundamentalism" need to be backed up if they're to amount to more than name-calling. OCL seems upset that Abp Demetrios and Patriarch Bartholomew are unwilling to "confront the issue." Does it occur to them that these hierarchs may not agree that there's a problem?

  2. OCL is a joke. I really wish they didn't wxist. Having visited OCA monasteries, non-Athonite and Athonite Greek monasteries, and Russian monasteries, and Elder Ephraim's, there is nothing different about the monasteries he has started. OCL is merely stuck in a Western mindset and has forgotten what the Church teaches.

  3. The Ephraimite monks who do confession tend to impose somewhat weighty penances, although if you don't want penances, don't choose an Ephraimite monk as your personal mentor. It's that simple.

    On the other hand, I took a group one time to visit one of the Ephraimite monasteries which is open to visitors. They were very friendly and did have great food, but for some reason the women in our group, who were very modestly dressed, were asked to wear large wool coats over their clothes during their visit, apparently so that their arms didn't show. Did I mention it was 105 degrees that day? Some of them were pretty upset.

    In terms of fundamentalism, there is clearly an attitude that the monasteries are self-governing, and focused inward as opposed to outward, but isn't that what monasteries have always been like?

    1. Dear EO: The Day-Visitor's Guide on the website would have helped the women be more comfortable by wearing their own light-weight clothing (in this case, long-sleeved cotton blouses). All is designed so that the monks may be hospitable and yet stay true to their calling and focus. Every monastery with a website has such a guide which is most helpful in making the visitors and the monks have the best and most respectful spiritual experience...

  4. When someone uses the word "fundamentalism" it is a sure sign they are part of the many secularized (and thus reforming) folks who are part of Orthodoxy in the English speaking world. Their goal is to push the Church into a kind of eastern rite Episcopalianism. They are succeeding, though slower than they want. The bishops, when they are not with them ideologically, think they can control them - they are wrong...

  5. Can't comment on the clearly slanted language or "Efraimism" myself. But outside that, I don't see what the harm of transparent public financial records is. (Which is what OCL asks at the end).

  6. From speaking to the Abbess at an Ephraimite monastery, it might be that the monasteries would have difficulty providing something like "quarterly reports" or that sort of thing, as their income isn't exactly regularized. She explicitly said "We don't have a budget, Panaghia provides for us". They work off their handiwork and piecemeal donation from my understanding.