NOTE: The following article is taken from Phoenix Mag, Issue: January 2016:
South of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, smack dab in the middle of the desert with distant mountain vistas, is a serene Orthodox Greek monastery. Flagstone pathways meander around meticulously manicured grounds and storybook chapels.
St. Anthony’s Monastery, established in 1995, funds itself in part by selling olive oil its monks press and bottle on-site from an estate grove. The oil is exquisite, and a fine example of terroir in action: Olive trees flourish in the Sonoran desert. In the fall, monks handpick olives from Mission, Manzanilla and Sevillano olive trees, pressing them all together to produce a cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil that is raw, robust and a clear expression of the harsh ground from where it comes.
Visitors are welcome at the monastery, but check the website for hours and dress code. Women are required to wear loose-fitting long skirts and long-sleeve shirts, headscarves and closed-toe shoes. The bookstore sells the olive oil in addition to whole olives, hot sauces, and jams and marmalades made from the property’s orchards. You don’t have to travel to Florence to buy a bottle of this exceptional, unfiltered olive oil. Find the oil, sold by volunteers, at select farmers’ markets including Old Town Scottsdale, Roadrunner and Singh Farms, as well as at The Bodega at FnB and Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry. $9 for 250 ml; $24 for 750 ml.
NOTE: The following article is taken from The Lincoln Journal Star, March 7th, 2015:
Florence, Arizona, an Old West desert town is an unlikely location for Greek monks, but there it is, a little oasis among the sagebrush and cactus about halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, just off Route 79 that connects the two cities.
Six Greek monks from the Holy Mountain, Athos, in Greece came to this Sonoran desert location in 1995 and began work on a monastery consisting of chapels, gardens, gazebos, walkways, fountains, citrus orchards, olive gardens and even guest quarters.
Visitors are welcomed inside the main gate by monks and volunteers, and are encouraged, of course, to visit the gift shop filled with Greek-themed icons and locally made jams and jellies. Before you make your way around the beautifully attended grounds and enter the various chapels, men must be clothed in long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and women with a head scarf and long skirt. Some are available to borrow for those who didn’t visit the website, stanthonysmonastery.org , ahead of time to learn about the dress code.
About 40 monks and novices populate the grounds, praying, tending the orchards and vineyards and doing tasks, such as woodworking, construction, publishing and kitchen work. Greek Orthodoxy is a Christian religion, tracing its history back thousands of years, and the monastery is named after St. Anthony the Great, an Egyptian ascetic who is known as “the father of monasticism.”
As my wife, Jane and I, and visiting friends Connie and Ken Keith, from cold and snowy Omaha, strolled the grounds on a warm and sunny February day, we marveled at the intricately detailed altars, the religious artwork and other colorful attractions on the monastery grounds. There is no tour guide, so if you pick up the literature at the entrance, each suggested stop is explained and numbered on a colorful map that will help you hit all the high points.
Especially striking, but not on the main grounds, is St. Elijah Chapel, which sits on a hill about a mile away. A short climb takes you to a gleaming white building, and as you walk around it, the view of the mountains and desert is breathtaking.
Following our two-hour visit, we drove to nearby Florence and had a wonderful lunch at the Mount Athos Restaurant and Cafe, not connected to the monastery, but opened by a Greek family as a way to help continue your Hellenic adventure in this most unlikely of locations.
Randy Moody is a retired lawyer and lobbyist who lives in Lincoln and near Tucson and enjoys travel, photography and Greek food.
NOTE: Bishop Anthimos of Olympos has played an interesting role in the history of St. Anthony’s Monastery. He was very close with the late Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco; they both came from Crete. In Arizona, one of the monk’s was ordained a priest by Bishop Anthimos. Though Geronda Ephraim begged Metropolitan Anthony to perform the ordination, the Metropolitan had to leave and told Geronda that Bishop Anthimos would do it. Geronda Ephraim had a lot of anxiety over this as he was not sure if it would be a canonical ordination due to Bishop Anthimos’ past. However, after the ordination, Geronda Ephraim told his monks that he was praying the whole time and saw the angels present and the Holy Spirit come down and thus it was a blessed and valid ordination. Over time, this narration has split into two interpretations amongst the monastics. 1. Geronda Ephraim prayed and saw via his vision that this ordination was valid. 2. Geronda Ephraim did komboschoini and his prayer is what validated the ordination. Even when Bishop Anthimos has visited other monasteries under Geronda Ephraim the superiors have noted that technically he’s not a bishop, but they still receive and welcomed him with the traditional bells and the monastics waiting to take his blessing.
Given the recent forced departure of tenured and other clergy from their teaching posts, and the troubling signing of a contract to buy a house for Archbishop Spyridon by a priest using Church funds without legal authority, we asked the question: “How does it come to pass that a Greek Orthodox clergyman in America can’t finally use the courts if all else fails?”. Clergy tell us point blank that they fear for their pension and health benefits and being defrocked from the priesthood should they sue. Searching legal records on the topic led us to the profoundly troubling case of Bishop Anthimos of Olympus. As a result of a startling accusation of clergy sexual misconduct against Bishop Anthimos by the daughter of a priest whom later Bishop Anthimos made his chancellor in Boston while the alleged affair was yet in progress, the Archdiocese in the late 80’s promugulated a rule which forbade priests from suing the Archdiocese. A review of the history raised several very troubling questions. Below is a chronology from June of 86 through December of 97 which completes a cycle wherein at first Bishop Anthimos was so successful as to be the chairman of a clergy – laity congress, then is accused of sexual misconduct splashed all over the national media and removed from service by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to the Archdiocese escaping legal liability only through intimidating the priestly victimized family in to delaying suit until after the legal statute of limitations had passed, following that is a quiet period wherein sources tell us Bishop Anthimos served quietly in the Archdiocesan offices in New York–until suddenly and amid unanswered questions he left there to be with his Halki schoolmate Bishop Anthony of San Francisco on the other side of the country; and last year completing the circle and acting once again officially as an Orthodox Bishop, disbanding parish councils and acting officially for Metropolitan Anthony.
This story has eerie parallel ties to current events regarding the attempt to cover up the sexual molestation at Holy Cross, the intimidation of presbyters to silence amid defrockment threats should the courts be employed, and the pains to which the Church will go to effect the “rehabilitation” of a Bishop or Archimandrite . The “Reporting” column of the National Herald frequently writes of “the club”, now that meaning seems more evident. Also, by way of contrast, consider the speed with which a married Presbyter, such as Fr. Anthony Nicklas, who thought due to special circumstances he had permission to remarry from both his Bishop and the Patriarch himself, was bounced from his parish and from his teaching job at Holy Cross into a hotel night clerk for doing so by Archbishop Spyridon and Metropolitan Methodios– and told by Fr. Heropoulos, assistant to the Archbishop, that even though not found guilty by a spiritual court and not assigned to a parish would nevertheless have his due Archdiocesan health benefits terminated both for himself and his family.
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.
From September of2005 to December 20 I 0, Scott told his parents the following:
• In a September 15, 2005 letter, Scott told his parents that when Archimandrite Ephraim first came to America he was confronted by the devil and stabbed with Satan’s big pitchfork tail. Although he was wounded, the Archimandrite defeated the devil. “The Elder” has a scar where the devil stabbed him with his forked tail.
• Scott tells his parents on December 5, 2005, that he had been given permission to visit with them at the monastery, although he could not spend more than two hours with them.
• After the KYOA report mentioned Archimandrite Ephraim’s books, and after Ashley started a website called POEM (Parents of Ephraim Monastics) questioning the teaching contained in those books and the practices at the monasteries, Scott told his parents by letter and on the phone that the Archimandrite had told him that there were inaccuracies in them that had never been corrected, including what was written about the “Protocols of Zion.”
• On March 26, 2006, Scott said that he could not talk with the family as he had in the past.
• Scott was informed by his family in October of2006 that his beloved grandmother was terminally ill and that she was on hospice care. Later, Scott said he never received the page of the letter telling him of his grandmother’s condition. When Ashley asked Scott why someone at the monastery would read his private correspondence and censor it, he replied, “The monks have no secrets between them.” Apparently, it was not the only time this had happened. His father asked Scott if Scott could read Archimandrite Ephraim’s mail. The young man replied, “No he cannot because he is the Elder.” Scott also asked for his parents Social Security Numbers so he could apply for a new visa. They refused since he did not need that information to get a visa. Scott also told his family that he could not leave the monastery to visit his grandmother or go to her funeral because Abbot Paisios would not allow it.
• In a January 8, 2007 Christmas card from Scott he talks about a Russian monk named Sam Seidel who left the monastery and married, and how this man was helping him write letters to an Orthodox theologian (Or. Bradley Nassif) who had started a correspondence with Scott. Nassif was opposed to Archimandrite Ephraim’s teachings, and also spoke out in the KVOA television report regarding his concerns over the financial transparency of the monastery.
• In a letter to his grandparents dated January 22, 2007, Scott wrote that he had joined St. Anthony’s because a man who had been a Zen Buddhist had been possessed by devils until he was successfully exorcised by Archimandrite Ephraim. According to Scott, no other priest had been able to help the man.
• In April of 2008, Scott told his parents about the many trips he had made to a physician’s office and emergency room due to a leg length discrepancy and an infected skin lesion that needed to be lanced. After these brief trips away from the monastery, Scott would be more animated, able to carry on a conversation and joke a bit. He seemed more like his old self.
• In October of 2008, Scott sent a letter to stating he was at St. Anthony’s to be with “the Elder” in “100% Obedience,” and that he is offered other books by other people but always prefers and goes back to “Geronda Ephraim’s” books. He also related that he would no longer be corresponding with Nassif.
• Scott was 6’3″ tall and weighed approximately 220 pounds when he entered the monastery. A year later his weight had dropped to 150 pounds. During the month of December, 2008, Scott told the Nevins in a phone conversation about another trip to the emergency room due to a pro-biotic tea he had ingested that had dehydrated him. It took several additional trips to the ER to complete his treatment. He also said that he had gained 30 pounds, and now weighed 180 pounds. He sounded more upbeat, was speaking in his regular tone of voice, and even made jokes and laughed. It was the most ‘normal’ he had sounded since entering the monastery four years before.
• In January, 2009, in a telephone conversation with his parents, Scott asked if the United States was under Marshall Law now that Barack Obama was president. He said he had heard that at the monastery.
• Scott wrote in a November II , 2009, letter that this would be his last letter to them for a long while, and that there were to be no more phone calls either. Scott was never the same after this. His subsequent phone calls and letters revealed a growing paranoia.
• In a February 25, 2010, letter Scott told his grandfather that he was still a novice. He also wrote that there was ” plot” in Modesto to kill him because:
1. “I stole their girl” (He did not mention who the girl was or from whom she was stolen.);
2. He had enraged a high school wrestling coach in Modesto by being a Christian;
3. A number of Satanists in Modesto who belonged to a karate school had it out for him (he did not say why); and concluding
4. “So, I do have some pretty good reasons to stay.” He reported that he didn’t have to worry about these things as long as he stayed at the monastery. At St. Anthony’s “there’s protection from that sort of thing,” “especially being a disciple of the holy Elder,” but if he was to come out he “wouldn’t go back to Modesto.”
Ashley and Diane did not learn of the February 25th letter until later. But in an August, 2010, phone call from Scott he asked his parents if they had heard of the 5 year plot in Modesto to kill him. His father tried to get Scott to explain more about this plot, but he was evasive, suggesting the plot came either from a karate school where he had once taken classes, or from the sons of the pastor of a local church to which he had belonged. Scott spoke in a monotone voice that was barely understandable.
Ashley and Diane tried without success to get Scott to tell them why he believed these two different sets of people who did not know each other were out to kill him and where he had heard this. Scott became angry and hung the phone up as they asked rational questions and tried to reason with him. The Nevins became extremely worried, but Scott had told them he would accept no more phone calls or letters. It was also obvious to the couple that no one in a leadership position at the monastery or in the church hierarchy would assist them.
In December of 20I0 Diane called Scott at the monastery to see if he would still refuse her call. After he accepted, his mother carefully asked Scott about the “plot.” Scott told her it wasn’t a 5 year plot to kill him, but instead, it was a 10 year plot to kill him by the karate school in Modesto. He also stated that the wrestling coaches at his high school had sexually abused students, and that two local Modesto pastors known to the Nevins family had raped their sons. Continuing, he insisted that he was treated differently in high school because he was left handed, and that his grandmother was evil because she belonged to a church that believed in infant baptism. The Greek Orthodox practice infant baptism.
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.