Concerning Elder Ephraim’s Monasteries In America (Ken McRae, 2005)

NOTE: The following is a segment from an Orthodox Christian debate about Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. There are links at the end of the article for all the articles referenced:

Map of Geronda Ephraim's monasteries in America (minus the secret ones).
Map of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries in America (minus the secret ones).

Hello to All ~

Thanks for the links. Sorry, but I have’nt had a chance to check them out as yet, though I intend to. In the mean time, I’ve cut and pasted the passages from the links I originally posted that gave me pause to question what’s going on with Elder Ephraim. For the record, though, I regard or esteem him eminently worthy of double honour for his monastic labours. Sixteen monasteries in the North American wasteland is nothing short of miraculous, IMO.

However, I cannot deny that I’m deeply troubled by the number of hierarchs that obviously have a problem with him and his monasteries. Are these hierarchs working for the Adversary? They certainly seem to think Elder Ephraim might be!! What has the Elder done to offend so many Orthodox hierarchs, who clearly think he’s a great deceiver and manipulator?

From the May  2008 SCOBA Meeting.
From the May 2008 SCOBA Meeting.

The accusations made below, and I’m sure you’ll agree, are clearly of the most serious kind, and it troubles me deeply to see hierarchs utter them daringly or fearlessly! I will have to check all the links that have been posted to keep up-to-date on this matter. I am particularly interested to hear how Elder Ephraim’s spiritual father has addressed the matter. Does anyone know who that is and if he’s ever spoken out, at any time, in Elder Ephraim’s defense?

I must confess, though, that I am deeply biased toward Elder Ephraim. My first inclination is to discredit his enemies, and think them to suffer from strong delusions themselves. Nevertheless, I will reserve such judgment(s) for now, ’til I have time to look into the matter more fully. God grant us all spiritual discerment, in Christ!!

Icon given to monks & nuns for their cells. In some monasteries, monastics have a blessing to prostrate before it and pray to Geronda Ephraim for help during difficult warfares.
Icon given to monks & nuns for their cells. In some monasteries, monastics have a blessing to prostrate before it and pray to Geronda Ephraim for help during difficult warfares.

Excerpts from the Links In the Original Post:-

01 – “There is a wide spectrum of feelings about Ephraim, among both clergy and laity. On the extremes, some view him as God’s gift to Orthodox spirituality in America, while others see him as a cult leader who should return to Mt. Athos.” from The Ephraim Question

02 – “At its annual meeing in the year 2000, the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL), heard a speaker on “Cult Mentality: A Threat to Individual Responsibility in the Church”. The speaker was Greta Larson, a co-founder of the web-site, “Protection of the Theotokos – A Site for Victims of Abuse in the Orthodox Church.” The site address is “pokrov. org”, and it contains other articles on cults. In her speech, Ms. Larson also referred to an article by Metropolitan Isaiah which warned about the dangers of blind obedience.” from Yes, Investigate the Monasteries

03 – “In 1998, Metropolitan Isaiah of the Denver diocese issued a protocol to his priests titled: “The Lord Does Not Want Slaves in His Kingdom”. He wrote in part:

Metropolitan Isaiah, Geronda Ephraim & Hieromonk Nektarios Arvanitakis
Metropolitan Isaiah, Geronda Ephraim & Hieromonk Nektarios Arvanitakis

“This spirit of blind obedience with the deadening of the free will is unfortunately being practiced among some of our people and even by some of our clergy. They will not do anything without first receiving a ‘blessing’ from their ‘spiritual father’. And if they have been convinced that the spiritual father is a walking saint, they will eat his unfinished food after the common meal and even consume other things which may have touched the spiritual father in some particular way. This is nothing more than idolatry. It puts God aside and constitutes the worship of His creature.”

He went on to say that: “It may be that some of our people, by following the monastic rule in the outside world, feel convinced that they are becoming more spiritual. However, they are sadly mistaken: for the monastic, as a novice, is willingly obedient in order to determine if he wishes to live the life of a monastic. Once he is accepted as a monk, he must resume the use of his free will in conforming to the way of life which he has chosen. The laity, on the other hand, cannot use the monastery or the spiritual elder as one uses a horoscope, not functioning unless they receive permission.”

He concluded with: “If there are members of the Diocese who have fallen into the error of negating their free will and being totally dependent on what their spiritual mentor instructs them to do, let them know that God does not want slaves in His Kingdom, but obedient children who constantly exercise their free will as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.” from The Ephraim Question

04 – “When the new Metropolitan (Bishop) of the New Jersey diocese took office this spring, it was reported reliably that at his first meeting with the clergy, he announced that Ephraim and his followers were not welcome in the diocese and that the faithful should go to their own priests for confession. This diocese includes some 50 churches in five states. There has been no further confirmation or a denial of the Metropolitan’s statement. In the absence of any denials, one can assume there is some validity to the reports about the Synod’s concern and about the Metropolitan’s directive.

L-R: Bps. Vikentios and Evangelos of New Jersey.
L-R: Bps. Vikentios and Evangelos of New Jersey.

There was also the warning earlier this year from another bishop, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston. He was quoted by the Herald as saying: “Neither is there a place in Orthodoxy for radical fundamentalism, religious fanaticism or cult leaders disguised as Orthodox sages.” “Was he talking about the Ephraim situation? If not, who was he referring to?

Are these accidental words: fundamentalist and cult? Did the bishops wake up one fine day and decide to use them?” from The Ephraim Question

Bishop Methodios of Boston Liturgizing on Mt. Athos (2011)
Bishop Methodios of Boston Liturgizing on Mt. Athos (2011)

05 – “In the Greek-American paper, The National Herald, English Edition of April 5-6, 2003, it was reported that the Eparchial Synod of America, recently discussed “…the monasteries established all over the U.S. by the former abbot from Mt. Athos, Fr. Efraim. It has been said that some sort of fundamentalist movement with a cult philosophy has been advocated by the followers of Efraim, and is having an impact among the clergy and theology students at Holy Cross School of Theology.” from Yes, Investigate the Monasteries


[Note: Hellenic College Holy Cross sponsors regular pilgrimages to St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery in Roscoe, NY, – See more at: ]

06 – “One of the complaints voiced by some clergy and laity is that the Ephraimite confessors have focused on sexual matters. A member of a group visiting an Ephraimite monastery reported that the monk-confessor had a lengthy list of questions, most of them of a sexual nature, and gave severe penances even to married couples, with the penances being longer for the wives. In the evening, the men and women were separated to hear different speakers. The one who addressed the women berated them about being sinful, as women, and that their only virtue was in bearing children. If true, is this an example of the “fundamentalism” that has been referred to? In view of what has been learned these past two years about the clergy abuse problem , particularly in the Catholic church, the monks’ pre-occupation with sexual matters could indeed be seen as a form of sexual misconduct.” from The Ephraim Question

[Note: The sexual sins contained in the 38 Canons of St. John the Faster are the questions asked in confession:

07 – “I understand that Father Ephraim insists that a married couple must abstain from Holy Communion for a forty-day “purification” period after they have had sexual relations.” by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, from Troubling Teachings

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, censing an icon of Fr. Seraphim (Rose)
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, censing an icon of Fr. Seraphim (Rose)

08 – “Sadly, in our day, perhaps more in North America than in Greece, but even in Greece, there has developed a new guru cult concept of “gerontes.” Alas, this cultish idea is actually cultivated by many self-styled and even acknowledged “elders.” Gerontes or elders, many of them self-appointed and self advertised, others acknowledged by monastic establishments, have begun to act and be looked upon like the Hindu gurus, and this may be linked in part to the all-encompassing New Age Movement. In English, we call this a “cult.” It means that people have begun to have a “proskynisis” [worship] for the “geronta,” that comes parlously close to idolatry, but often even passes over the border into real idolatry. This is a great danger for us in our time. One frequently encounters people who say with complete conviction, “my salvation depends on Father so and so, my geronta.” Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, from The Problem of Guru Cultism

09 – “Concerns about Efraim have been expressed for several years now. It is about time that there was an investigation. Because monasteries don’t have “parish councils” doesn’t mean that lay people should be kept in the dark about them, here in America or elsewhere. Some of the concerns about Efraim and his monasteries have to do with funding, with personality cults and with blind obedience and mind-control.” from Yes, Investigate the Monasteries

St. Kosmas Monastery in Canada is the only Ephraim monastery with a "parish council," collection plate, etc.
St. Kosmas Monastery in Canada is the only Ephraim monastery with a “parish council,” collection plate, etc.

10 – “Fr. Ephraim who came to America under nefarious circumstances in the early 90’s first joined the Russian synod in exile after receiving a “directive” from God as he proclaimed at the time. However, when he was threatened by the Ecumenical Patriarchate that he would be defrocked, he received another “directive” from God and abandoned the Russians.” from Diocesan Clergy Refuse to Support the Archbishop

11 – “One should be reminded that in the past Fr. Ephraim has troubled the Greek Orthodox Church of America including the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the formation of religious organizations with his devotion to the Russian monks of the diaspora, according to the information he received as he claims from God. Later, he left the Russians and placed himself under the Greek Orthodox American Archdiocese. Nikos Pantanizopoulos, according to the interview with his father John, met Fr. Ephraim through their parish priest in Knoxville, Tennessee, a Fr. Carellas, who presently is in a convent in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania. When Niko’s parents advised him to enter the Holy Cross Theological Seminary and then to decide if he wants to become a priest, he answered them, “Fr. Carellas and Fr. Ephraim told him that the Holy Cross is inhabited by the devil” and they [Carellas and Ephraim] advised him to go to the St. Tikon Theological Seminary [Russian], as stated by Mr. Pantanizopoulos.” from He Became Ill

"Fr. Carellas and Fr. Ephraim told him that the Holy Cross is inhabited by the devil" - John Pantanizopoulos
“Fr. Carellas and Fr. Ephraim told him that the Holy Cross is inhabited by the devil” – John Pantanizopoulos

12 – “The Clergy Brotherhoods of the Detroit and Chicago Dioceses refused to throw their support behind Archbishop Spyridon in his effort to fight off open defiance by the five Metropolitans of the Eparchial Synod of America, by a significant part of the clergy and wide segments of the laity.” And: “In private conversations some priests expressed fears about the climate of divisiveness among the clergy which is fostered by the Archdiocese. Just last weekend the Archbishop visited Detroit and had spoken against the Eparchial Synod of the Metropolitans in front of both the clergy as well as the lay Parish officers (see article, page 3).” And again: “Fr. Ephraim has significant influence in the administration of the Archdiocese. The current Chancellor, Fr. George Passias, happens to be one of the Ephraim’s most loyal followers. Ephraim is also admired by the new President of the Theological School, Archimandrite Damaskinos Ganas, who, according to sources, wants to invite Fr. Ephraim to hear confessions from students.” from Diocesan Clergy Refuse to Support the Archbishop

Fr. George Passias, happens to be one of the Ephraim's most loyal followers.
Fr. George Passias, happens to be one of the Ephraim’s most loyal followers.

13 – “Monks from the “army” of the mysterious Fr. Ephraim, the spiritual father of Fr. George Passias, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, are participating in the pro-Spyridon campaign.” from Church Life In America Is Being Trivialized

14 – ” … all the rules that were stated about monks not interfering with the ministries of our parish have been broken in our parish.” from Monasticism vs. the Parish

15 – “A message that appeared on the Internet in 1999 may provide a clue or two. It was apparently from an Orthodox priest in Arizona, and said, in part:

“My situation has progressed with the mission group here and there is new pressure on me to be in a more ‘regular’ situation. Let me explain. There are about a dozen convert families here who float between all the ‘ethnic’ churches because they are zealous for traditional spirituality and get impatient with either the closed minded ethnic dominance or a ‘modernized’ and enemic version of Orthodoxy. So these people spend a lot of time at Fr. Ephraim’s monastery in Florence and take seriously the advice of their spiritual fathers there. They have committed themselves to starting a new mission parish that is traditional, not dominated by one ‘ethnic’ flavor, doesn’t have the old world parish politics, has services every day, does outreach to young people, helps bring new converts deeper into the church, etc., etc. They are withdrawing from the Greek, Antiochian, OCA and ROCOR churches to begin this new mission, and are doing it under the guidance of the monks at the monastery.” from The Ephraim Question


Articles Referenced:

The Ephraim Question:

Yes, Investigate the Monasteries:

Two Troubling Teachings Reported:

The Problem of Guru Occultism:

Diocesan Clergy Refuse to Support the Archbishop:

He Became Ill:

Church Life in America is being Trivialized:

Monasticism vs. the Parish: