Milan Vekovich, 28.07.2010
It is a constitution that gives leadership and control to the bishop, privileges to its priests, whilst the peoples role is to “pray, pay and obey”.
It states that any complaints against the bishop be directed to himself, and it is he, who decides whether the complaint should be forwarded to the Synod.
It also states that complaints against a priest are to be given to that particular priest, who in turn forwards it to the bishop.
There are no longer paid members of the church school committees. In actual fact there are no longer church school committees. This body has been replaced by church communities who are elected by the priest using criteria based upon a persons weekly church attendance, loyalty to the church hierarchy and material and monetary donations given during the year. You do not become a member of the church, but instead you are looked upon as a steward. In other words you are a person who obeys the church hierarchy without question and without a say.
When you rid the rights to membership, you lose your right to a voice, to an opinion and to a vote. It no longer becomes a congregation, but instead a parish with the priest at its helm.
There is no longer an elected chairman at church meetings; this position is given to the residing priest whose position it is to control the platform in their favor. Any conflicting views against the church hierarchy give them the right to dismiss you from the meeting. In other words, they have the right to suppress debate and gag you from expressing your own opinion. This has already become a common practice at some church meetings.
The new constitution gives the bishop and the clergy the power to determine a priest’s weekly remuneration, benefits and living conditions.
For example, the gross wage is set at $580 per week with yearly increases according to the CPI, telephone, gas, electricity, travel, motor vehicle allowances, a proportion of private health insurance for the whole family. They will have a right to receive half of their regular pay if under suspension. They will not be answerable to the stewards or the community, but will have the right to instruct you on your choirs. They will have a right to receive full pay and benefits should they fall ill for the first 6 months of the year, – a replacement priest will be paid the same remuneration and benefits during this absence – a double whammy all to be paid by the church community.
In the event of death of the parish priest, the church community is liable to pay his bereaved family full pay for the next 3 months as well as having the right to continued residency for this same period. A clergy pension fund will be established above the 9% already being paid by the community. etc etc. Besides the above benefits, they receive cash in hand for funerals, christenings, patron saint days, blessing of the house etc etc etc., tax-free. The faithful will have no say, but only to pay.
If you are not a regular attendee at church services, or do not donate on a regular basis, your costs for weddings, christenings, burials, etc etc will be much higher.
Under our existing constitution, the highest body of our church is the Church National Assembly, “Crkveno Narodni Sabor” This body is represented by 4 delegates from each church, namely its priest, president and 2 church members elected by each parish at its annual general meeting. Also invited are the president and secretary of the Property Trust, the previously elected diocene Plenum members totaling 25, 2 delegates from each of the four registered Serbian national organization and 2 members from the National Circle of Serbian Sisters. This is a wide cross section of members representing its faithful and people.
Under the new constitution, this is to be renamed the Metropolinate Assembly, “sabor Mitropolija” and is represented by the chairman, being the bishop (unopposed) with all its active and retired clerics. Representatives of the Metroplinate council and the Metropolitanate auditing board (all nominated by the priests), the president and 1 representative from each church (again nominated by the priests), the president and 1 representative from the National Circle of Serbian Sisters, and the president and 1 representative from the Youth organization Mitropolija. As you can see, the latter is staked all in favor of the priesthood and very little for the laity.
On the 23rd & 24th April 1991, an agreement was reached between Patriarch Pavle and Metropolitan Iriney Kovacevic to unite the two churches upon which was written, – “we want your people, not your wealth and assets”.
This new constitution makes void this agreement. The new slogan is “ we now have your assets, we no longer need your people”. Once this new constitution is adopted, it will rid the existence of any property trusts and thereafter take control of all church/school community assets.
The very reverend Fr Cedomir Videkanic wrote in response to this constitution in a sinister manner, claiming that you cannot believe in the same God if you have an opinion on this constitution. He states that the most beautiful thing that could happen to a race is to unite both the church and its people. We all agree to this comment of uniting the church and its people, but we do not agree to the plundering of church assets by the church hierarchy and its clerics. We have a right of autonomy from the bishops and the Holy Synod in Belgrade in respect to the administration and assets over church property in Australia. The ruling bishop or Metropolitan should only act as trustee of any diocesan property and not as director of any incorporated companies
We are aware that within the Serbian Orthodox Church exists a church protocol and a church hierarchy and that under its constitution, it has the right to flex its muscles, however if you go too far with this power, if the church faithful continue to be ignored and to be kept in the dark, then of course, we will lose all respect and become disillusioned with the organization.
Many questions have been raised about bishop Irinej’s unanswerable objectives to achieve control over church assets. He has cunningly and successfully been able to divide the faithful against one another in order to achieve this goal. He has allowed his priests to become money hungry leaches, who prey on the sick and the elderly. This I cannot comprehend.
When you see and witness what is happening, when you hear what is being said, you no longer have faith, trust and respect for the church hierarchy, its bishops or its priests.
It is said that this constitution will be passed and that celebrations are already being organized for the 4th September 2010 commemorating this special day. Non-acceptance of the passing of this new constitution should now be voiced.
We need to say “ NO “ to this secretly, hidden proposed new church constitution, being passed without a vote, upon the Serbian community and faithful in Australia. The people have a right of voice without being excommunicated.
We want our existing church constitution to remain in its present form, without any change. We want to have a right of say, a right of vote and a right to membership. We do not want the clergy to control our committees. We have a right of permanent autonomy in all internal matters, in our administration and to title of church assets and property in Australia. It was the people, the faithful who gave from their savings. It was built by the people for the people. It was built by the older generations who have now passed away and who have bequeathed it to their children, grandchildren and future Serbian generations who call Australia home. It is left to those who continue to practice the true Serbian Orthodox faith. They and we did not give so that control is given to the clergy or the Synod in Belgrade.
It is now left to you – do not be blind between your eyes, – see the warning signs, nor deaf in your ears, – listen to what is being said – unity of our people is achievable, even with church assets being retained by the faithful. (the people).
Finally, it would be of interest if the very reverend Fr Cedomir Videkanic could name which God he thinks I believe in, after having read this article.