NOTE: The following article is from USA Greek Reporter, September 26, 2010:
The Greek Orthodox Monastery (Convent) of the Theotokos (photo), the Life-Giving Spring, which is in the Sierra in the town of Dunlap, 38 miles from Fresno, California, welcomed on Saturday morning nearly 1,000 Greek Orthodox Christians for an official blessing of their church. The monastery, which has one priest and 18 nuns who live there permanently, has weekly services which the public may attend that are performed in Greek.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, was present and along with Father Jim Pappas, who is the priest of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Fresno, conducted the ceremony of the consecration.
Many people attended to pray for themselves and their families. The church gives them a feeling of peace and harmony which is the reason they felt blessed to attend. Everyone who attended was given a piece of the special cloth that was used with oil to wipe down the alters to take home with them.
On June 9, 2012, Scott left Oregon and drove approximately 20 hours to the monastery in Arizona. He arrived at St. Anthony’s late on the evening of June 10, 2012. Scott drove up to the gate. Clint Allen “Damian” Berrier, who lived at the monastery, was working security. Scott drove up to the monastery entrance, but when Father Philaret (Berrier) approached his car, he turned around quickly and sped away. Berrier followed Scott in another vehicle. According to his witness statement to the police, Berrier stopped before he reached Scott’s car. Only after hearing a gunshot did he approach Scott’s car. The Nevins’ only son was bleeding, but still moving. Berrier called 911. When the police arrived Berrier was still outside of Scott’s car. Soon after Berrier completed his statement, Archimandrite Paisios drove to the scene. Only then did the abbot give the detectives documentation of threats Scott had made against the monastery and those in it. Scott died two hours after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced dead at 0214 hours on June II, 2012.
A Modesto police officer came to the Nevins’ home that same clay and told Ashley about Scott’s death. The two of them then went to Diane’s work place to let her know the terrible news. Later that day Ashley contacted the San Francisco Metropolis to inform Metropolitan Gerasimos of Scott’s death. The Nevins never heard a word from the monastery or from the Metropolitan. Ashley tried on three separate occasions during the week following Scott’s death to talk directly with Metropolitan Gerasimos. He never succeeded in reaching the bishop. His first call to the Diocese informed them of Scott’s death and where it had taken place, the first they had heard of it. Metropolitan Gerasimos saying that he was praying for Scott’s salvation. He did not invite the Nevins to call him back to discuss Scott’s death. However, the diocesan attorney did attempt to contact the Nevins. The family did not try to make contact with Metropolitan Gerasimos again, nor did they return the lawyer’s call.
On three occasions during the month of June 2012, someone in the Greek Church called the police, falsely accusing Ashley of threatening physical harm. The first contact was by the Pinal County Sheriff s Department, the second contact was a day later by two Modesto City Police officers, the third contact was a phone call a couple of days later by another Modesto City Police officer.
In contrast to the Church’s reaction to Scott’s death, all of the lawmen who responded to the false accusations against Ashley told the grieving father that he was living in a nightmare, and apologized for the intrusion. The Phoenix office of the ATF also called Ashley after they learned of Scott’s death to offer any assistance they could provide.
Ashley visited the Clergy Laity Congress on its last day, Thursday July 5, 20 12. Most of the delegates were in the front lobby and the loading zone, getting ready to leave the hotel and the conference center. Many of the attendees saw Ashley, but he did not say one word to any church member there as he handed out obituaries of his son in silence, and he left peacefully after about 15 minutes. A hotel security man approached him and asked if he was staying at the hotel. Ashley told him he was not and asked him if he would like him to leave, the hotel security man said yes, and Ashley immediately left. As Ashley was driving out the hotel driveway two Phoenix City Police cars came racing into the lobby loading zone area. Scott’s father drove from the conference to the sheriffs’ office in Florence to pick up the personal effects of his dead son. From there he went straight to the Phoenix airport to catch his flight back to Sacramento. He and his wife later donated the car his son died in to the Pinal County Sheriffs’ Department.
Since Scott’s death he has been portrayed by many monastery supporters as having had emotional problems prior to entering the monastery. The Nevins dispute this, for many reasons; Metropolitan Gerasimos who is a PhD Clinical Psychologist told the Nevins he was going to interview Scott to see if he had entered the monastery of his own free will. One follower of Archimandrite Ephraim, and a good example of the kind of person the Nevins have had to deal with during this long ordeal, claimed Scott’s death was the result of the government trying to control people by placing probes in their heads. He has developed an internet YouTube outlining his conspiracy theory as to what happened to Scott. The YouTube is entitled, Scott Nevins: Suicide At St. Anthony’s Monastery.
Archimandrite Paisios, the abbot at St. Anthony’s Monastery, also made statements to an investigative reporter for the The National Herald concerning Scott’s psychological state while he was at St. Anthony’s. “He did not show any signs [of peculiar behavior]. A year before he left he was in contact with some people who were acquaintances and friends and he had some concerns. I remember one time he had said to me that the white flowers in the oleanders in the Monastery’s garden is the symbol of Satanists”. He did not do anything about what he observed; he did not address those issues with either the parents or the Metropolitan. Scott stayed there growing ever worse in this condition and no one did anything to address this issue. Scott’s parents during this entire time kept speaking to the church about the concerns they had with the Archimandrite’s leadership, teaching and practices. They observed in Scott what Archimandrite Piasios had admitted and spoken to them about.
Mr. Michael Jaharis, the Co-Chairman of the Greek Orthodox Church of America Clergy -Laity Congress, made a speech in October 201 2 in reference to many issues in the church, among them the monasteries of Archimandrite Ephraim. He spoke about the monastery issues calling them a ‘disease’, spoke about the death of Scott Nevins, that the monasteries refused to fully cooperate in an internal church investigation of them by the Congress, and he said “we expect to take severe and appropriate action to remedy this existing issue, since not doing so could have long term grave consequences.” He also spoke about another monastery with a sex abuse problem in Astoria, New York not affiliated with Archimandrite Ephraim. He expressed his concerns about how the Ecumenical Patriarch has handled that situation since that particular monastery is under his direct authority, the same as the Greek Orthodox Church and Archimandrite Ephraim monasteries here in America are to.
A practicing Chicago Attorney and laity Congress member, Mr. William Stotis, was assigned the responsibility by the Congress to investigate the monasteries under the leadership of Archimandrite Ephraim. A report was developed. The report has not been made public to the church; the hierarchy will not allow it with their reasons not made public to the church. This is the same investigation that Mr. Jaharis made reference to the monastery not being fully cooperative with their investigation. This investigation began prior to the death of Scott Nevins.
It was not until after the death of Scott Nevins that Metropolitan Gerasiamos then formed an internal committee to address issues with the monasteries led by Archimandrite Ephraim. The Metropolitan and the committee have yet to report any lack of cooperation of the Archimandrite Ephraim or other monastic’s with their efforts to address the issues there.
A practicing Chicago attorney and former Clergy-Laity Congress member, Mr. Louis Atsaves, has developed a website called, Greek Orthodox Christians for Truth and Reform http://www.gotruthreform.org . The website challenges the attitudes, teachings and practices of the Archimandrite Ephraim, the hierarchy that supports him, and the followers of the monastery. Mr. Atsaves, with other like minded associates, have met with members of the hierarchy to express their concerns about the monasteries, Archimandrite Paisios and Archimandrite Ephraim. A second website addressing these issues called, We Are The Orthodox, has been developed by a Greek Orthodox Church lay person, Yanni Pappas (www.wearetheorthodox.com).
A second KVOA Tucson Channel 5 News report with the same previous lead reporter has been developed on St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, Arizona and will air shortly after Archimandrite Ephraim, the church Metropolitan hierarchy and the Ecumenical Patriarch have received this letter. That report will then be put on the internet.
Other forms of media reporting of the issues around the monasteries, the archimandrite leadership practices, the hierarchy relationship with the archimandrite leadership, the role and responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarch in all of this, are coming forthwith. All such reporting will be done in the context of the death of Scott Nevins at St. Anthony’s Monastery.
The list of unresolved problems from both monasteries and church alike, how they came about, and what is not being done by the hierarchy to address them is very long. Michael Jaharis addressed some of these issues of monastery and hierarchy behavior in his October 20 12 speech to the Congress. The Nevins will address this pattern of church and monastery leadership behavior and its horrible impact on their son and family both in the media and if necessary in court. The Greek Orthodox laity is now finding out that there is an undeniable and growing division taking place in the Greek Orthodox Church of America regarding Archimandrite Ephraim and the monasteries. Much greater church wide knowledge of hierarchy treatment of the monastery issues being raised by the Nevins, the media and concerned Greek Orthodox is now becoming known.
The Nevins started addressing these issues with the church, monastery and hierarchy in 2004 or 8 years ago.
This overview of the facts does not include every factual detail the Nevins have and what other concerned parties have given them pertaining to the involvement of Scott Nevins in St. Anthony’s Monastery and the Greek Orthodox Church of America, his time spent at the monastery, the resulting traumas Scott Nevins experienced while involved, admissions, and other information about how the church hierarchy and Archimandrites Ephraim and Paisios has treated these issues.
In late August 2005, Ashley and Diane were approached by Reverend Andrew Barakos, who is the priest at a Greek Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. Barakos told the couple that he was preparing a report for Metropolitan Gerasimos on the practices at the Ephraimite monasteries. Barakos interviewed the Nevins, as well as other concerned individuals and parents, by phone. When Ashley asked the priest what he thought was going on, Barakos replied, ‘”‘I believe we are dealing with a cult here.”
In subsequent emails between Ashley and Barakos, the priest wondered “how this will unfold as the report goes to the Bishop,” and “how bishop Gerasimos is going to exercise his authority.” Barakos was “hopeful because of a conversation I had with him earlier this year, he shared concerns about this particular style of monasticism and its possible dangers.”
In early September, 2005, Barakos warned that if “things blow up in the media before the Metropolitan can do something concerning your son, he could be sent off the Mount Athos without you ever knowing it..” “Please give working through the Bishop a chance it is your only hope, please give this some time.” Ashley asked Barakos whether Archimandrite Ephraim was truly accountable to anyone within the church hierarchy. Not long after Scott died Ashley called Barakos and requested a copy of his report. The priest denied that there was a report, could not explain what it was, contrary to what Ashley and the others inte rviewed were told at the time.
In October 2005, five months after they first requested a meeting, Ashley and Diane finally met with Metropolitan Gerasimos and his chancellor, Father Paul Schroeder, in San Francisco. Schroeder has since been laicized (Complete removal of ordained status).
During this meeting:
• Ashley began by telling how their son became involved with St. Anthony’s. This was a recap of what the couple had told the Metropolitan in their letter.
• The Nevins emphasized to both the metropolitan and his chancellor the troubling changes in Scott’s behavior which occurred after he became involved with the monastery. That is, their son isolated himself, said contradictory things, answered questions dishonestly, and hid things from them. The couple also made it very clear that they were deeply concerned over the physical safety and emotional well-being of their son. Although Metropolitan Gerasimos and Schroeder did not want to accept it, the Nevins gave them information on identifying groups which engage in thought reform and on the dangers of such groups.
• For the first time, the couple also relayed their concerns about Michael Fowler to the metropolitan. The chancellor responded that he knew who Fowler was, and that he found the man “emotionally immature.”
• The Metropolitan and Schroeder both stressed that every religion had those who strayed from generally accepted practices. Metropolitan Gerasimos told the Nevins, “You really can’t do much about them.” The couple did not accept this statement, and instead challenged the Metropolitan, “What are you going to do about this group?” Contradicting his previous statement, the Metropolitan then announced that they were working on a policy.
• The discussion moved on to the Nevins’ concerns that there were no guidelines for screening teenagers and new converts before they entered the monastery. They wondered why the Modesto priest and the hierarchy did not know that Scott had become a novice until long after he did. The Metropolitan and Chancellor simply replied that they were developing policies that would address this issue. The couple then asked how this would help their son.
• The Nevins also brought up the fact that their son had been rebaptized on Mt. Athos, contrary to church policy, without any instruction in Orthodoxy and without any time as a catechumen in an Orthodox parish. However, neither the Metropolitan nor Chancellor seemed particularly concerned about those omissions.
• As the Nevins disagreed with and challenged the Metropolitan and Chancellor, the meeting became more and more tense. Metropolitan Gerasimos became particularly frustrated with Diane, and bellowed at her, “Madam!” He did not like that fact that Diane did not “keep her place,” and he told the couple that.
• The meeting then took a bizarre turn as the Chancellor asked the Nevins if they believed Scott was a homosexual , and if this is why he wanted to become a monastic. The couple was taken aback, since to the best of their knowledge their son was heterosexual. Schroeder continued with this line of questioning until Diane asked what his point was. However, both the chancellor and the Metropolitan declined to elaborate.
• As the Nevins pointed to Archimandrite Ephraim’s books to show that some of the monastery’s teachings, such as the ” Protocols of Zion,” did not conform to the tenets of the Greek faith, Metropolitan Gerasimos stated that he had not read either of the Archimandrite’s books, so he could not comment on whether this outlandish conspiracy theory was a harmful teachings or not. The couple was shocked. As the Nevins tried to elaborate, the Metropolitan refused to look at the books and told the couple to put them away. As had by now become apparent to the Nevins, whenever the Metropolitan did not want to deal with something he would become irritated and then would shut down that topic.
• Subsequently, Metropolitan Gerasimos tried to tell the Nevins that he had only heard about problems with the Ephraimite monasteries during the past year and a half. The Nevins countered with older information, both public and private. The Metropolitan responded, “Oh, well, but the problems were sporadic at the time.” The couple pressed the point, telling the bishop that they were facing the same issues others had faced, so these problems were clearly not sporadic. Again, the Metropolitan was not pleased to be contradicted.
• Metropolitan Gerasimos and Schroeder then recommended that the Nevins read a book called The Desert Fathers, in which parents who were upset with their child becoming a monastic eventually came to realize that it was a good decision. The couple responded that they wanted the Metropolitan to provide a concrete solution to the very real problem of their son’s physical and mental deterioration. As they saw it, the problem was the destructive practices employed by the monastery leadership. Reading a book about a monastery that may not have employed such harmful methodology did not address this issue.
• In the same vein the Metropolitan then told the Nevins a story of young two sisters who lived in his village in Greece who entered the local monastery. When the family learned of the girls ‘ decision, their cries woke the whole neighborhood. Metropolitan Gerasimos told the couple that it all worked out later because the family forgave the girls, and this is what the Nevins should do too. The couple was appalled. Obviously, the Metropolitan had no intention of working with them to find a solution to their problem. He wanted the Nevins to forgive, forget, and go away.
• Metropolitan Gerasimos and Schroeder then stated that there were three things they planned to do to address issues at the Ephraimite monasteries:
1. The preliminary investigation by Barakos would be expanded and guidelines developed, but any resulting policy would not be retroactive and so would not apply to Scott’s case. Diane responded pointedly, ‘Then you can’t help us;”
2. 17 Articles of Monastery Regulation had been developed by the Archdiocese. The Articles outlined the requirements for accepting a person into the monastery, but again these requirements were not retroactive. The Metropolitan, over his Chancellor’s objections, gave the Nevins a copy of the Articles.
3. Novices would no longer be allowed to enter the monastery without Metropolitan Gerasimos’ express permission. Moreover, he would meet personally with each candidate to determine if this decision represented the candidate’s free will.
• The Metropolitan then said he planned to meet with Scott in the future to determine if he had entered the monastery freely. The Nevins objected, saying that Scott had been subjected to the unethical practices of the monastery for a year, and would tell him whatever he needed to hear. Metropolitan Gerasimos did not believe the Nevins when they laid out their concerns for the physical safety and emotional health of their son. He would not agree to remove Scott from the monastery. Despite the fact that the Metropolitan appeared to realize what happened to Scott should not have happened, he would not lift a finger to help the Nevins.
• The Metropolitan then absolutely stunned the Nevins. He asked them in a sarcastic and condescending tone, “Whom am I to believe that Scott had been coerced into the monastery, the parents?”
• The meeting ended after one hour and fifteen minutes. Nothing had been resolved. The Metropolitan and Chancellor appeared to be angry at the Nevins for not meekly accepting what they were offered.
Immediately after this meeting the Nevins went to the home of Cappy Larson to discuss the meeting with her. Cappy, along with Melanie Sadoka, is a co-founder of Pokrov.org. After Scott’s death, Cappy wrote an open letter to Metropolitan Gerasiamos. In it she discusses what Ashley and Diane Nevins told her about this meeting, the questions she raised with the Metropolitan, what her own treatment by the diocese has been, and how the followers of the Archimandrite Ephraim address people who disagree with them.
In June, 2005 Scott began to sign his letters either Scott, Skot, or John (his rebaptized name), and informed his parents not to send him any letter, document, etc. to him unless he asked for it as, “it has to be blessed first” by one of his superiors.
In August 2005 Scott wrote a response letter to his grandmother (now deceased) in response to a letter she had written him where he mentioned that she had forgotten to include all the pages in the letter she had mailed him. She wrote back and informed him that she had included all the pages. This was not the last time pages from a letter sent to Scott went missing.
In 2006 KVOA Channel 5 News in Tucson, Arizona, aired a two-part report on St. Anthony’s Monastery. Metropolitan Gerasimos refused to be interviewed by the television station. He did send a written statement to KOV A. In his statement, Metropolitan Gerasimos denied most of what the report had brought to light.
Archimandrites Ephraim and Paisios also declined to speak to the reporter. Father Anthony Moschonas, a retired priest from Tucson, Arizona, represented the monastery on camera in the KYOA report. Among the many things discussed, he explained his viewpoint on the financial transparency of the monastery. (Moschonas was later sued for sexual abuse by a 19 year old woman. The suit resulted in a settlement.)
In February of 2005, Ashley and Diane visited Scott at the monastery. He appeared physically weak and stooped over. Ashley and Diane also had an opportunity to observe Archimandrite Ephraim, and witnessed monks prostrating themselves in front of the Archimandrite, asking for his blessing.
In a letter dated February 14, 2005, Scott again tried to explain the mystery of the “Elder.” “[T]he Elder here does know people’s thoughts and sometimes everything about them;” “there’s a reason why the elders breath smells like myrrh, or why sometimes when he blesses you all you smell is sweet fragrances, or why angels show up;” “I’m here to be healed and I know that it’s done through honesty in confession and obedience;” “lf l blame anyone it’s myself, and the demons are to blame too.”
On March 13, 2005, Scott told his parents:
• When ” the Elder” meditates he levitates and the light that shines forth all around him is so bright it will temporarily blind you if were to walk in on him;
• “The Elder” can’ t visit a zoo because animals will go wild wanting a blessing from him;
• Someone who refused to obey “The Elder” in a disagreement a short time later died;
• “The Elder” ” divined” where to find water for the Arizona monastery; and
• “The Elder” can spiritually ascend to heaven where God is and can report back what he experienced and saw there.
Scott also told the couple that while on Mt. Athos, he had received branches from the “real burning bush that Moses saw and experienced God on Mount Sinai.”
On April 7, 2005, seven months after Scott entered St. Anthony’s, Ashley and Diane wrote to Metropolitan Gerasimos. The letter detailed all the bizarre revelations that Scott had relayed to his family about “The Elder” and about life at the monastery. The couple requested a face to face meeting with the bishop to discuss the practices of the monastery’s leadership, how Scott became involved in the monastery, and what actions the Metropolitan would take. The Nevins asked that the Greek Orthodox Church and Archimandrite Ephraim release Scott, get him exit counseling from a qualified professional; none of this occurred.
On May 9, 2005, Metropolitan Gerasimos replied, suggesting that he, Ashley, and Diane meet with Archimandrite Paisios and Scott at St. Anthony’s. The Nevins replied on May 17, 2005, to the Metropolitan agreeing to this though finding a time and scheduling this would be difficult; that particular meeting never took place.
They also asked that the following items be included on the agenda for the meeting:
• Whether the concept of “toll houses,” as taught by the monastery, was accepted theology of the Greek Church;
• Why Scott was sent to Mt. Athos to be received by baptism instead of being received by chrismation;
• Why Archimandrite Ephraim taught that sex was dirty and that monasticism was superior to marriage;
• Why Archimandrite Ephraim taught that the scripture saying “I come not to bring peace but a sword diving families-father against son … ” meant that “giving up” one’s family was expected;
• Why Archimandrite Ephraim equated reunification with God to absolute blind obedience to everything he or Archimandrite Paisios said;
• Whether the Greek Church taught that it was possible for a person to learn to levitate, to astral project, to glow, and to exceed other Orthodox believers simply by being obedient to the monastery’s leadership; and
• Why local Greek Orthodox churches and religious schools weren’t ‘ pure’ enough and should be ignored.
Communications between the San Francisco Diocese and the Nevins continued for an additional five months, with the Nevins finding it difficult working with the Chancellor in scheduling a meeting time.
During this same time period the Nevins also wrote to Archbishop Demetrios about their concern for the well being of their son. The Archbishop responded to the couple in writing, and said that they were making changes to how they allowed people into the monastery. He encouraged them to talk to Metropolitan Gerasimos because he was a psychologist. Archbishop Demetrios did nothing to help Scott.
Meanwhile, Scott continued to delve more deeply into Orthodox mysticism. He recommended that people visit the Russian Orthodox cathedral in San Francisco to be healed by the ” uncorrupt relics of Saint John” and stated that he knows an “amazing story” about the tomb of Christ. Scott also continued to lose weight, work with little sleep, and refer to himself as a “belly acher” who is “learning sometimes it is better to suffer.” By this time, Scott was nearly unrecognizable to his family both physically and by personality. Even his voice had changed, becoming a mumbling monotone without a trace of his old animation.