DENMARK ISN’T THE ONLY PLACE WHERE SOMETHING IS ROTTEN: Facts About the Relationship Between the St. John Garabed Trust Committee and the Diocese/Primate

Posted on March. 12. 2019

– Members of the St. John Garabed Trust – who, under the Parish Assembly, oversee bequests to the Trust and the new property which is valued at more than 10 million dollars – met privately with the Primate in early 2014 and – out of step with the By-Laws process for removal of a Parish Priest – requested that Der Datev be removed as the Parish Priest.
– In February 2015, in the wake of the November 2014 Parish Assembly (which was illegitimately invalidated), the Diocesan Council dissolved all administrative bodies of the St. John Garabed Parish
– When the Diocese appointed an Interim Parish Council in February of 2015, 4 members of the Trust Committee were among those appointed to serve, despite being informed that the Declaration of Trust suggests an arm’s-length distance between the Trust and the Parish Council.
– An audit of the Trust Committee’s books and activity was initiated at the request of the first “Mediation Committee” appointed by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian (which consisted of chair, His Eminence Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian – former Primate of the Western Diocese), Chairman of the Diocesan Council, plus the former Chair of the Diocesan Council. This audit was, in part, spurred by public requests from parish members for greater transparency regarding the Trust Committee.
– Very soon after the audit was initiated by an independent 3rd party auditor, the audit was CALLED OFF by the Diocesan Council and the first “Mediation Committee” was DISBANDED.
– The funds of the Trust Committee have dwindled to almost nothing and individual members of the Trust have made loans to the Trust Fund to take care of pressing expenditures.
– Early in the process of securing the new land, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian (as he noted in a Parish Council meeting and those minutes reflect) helped to arrange for an “Angel Donor” (Investor?) to pay off an $800,000 note on the 4-acre parcel. The title of this parcel is held in the name of this “Angel Donor’s” Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), and the parish was given 5 years to raise the funds and resume it via an Option Agreement. In the meantime, the Trust Committee disperses “$60,000 per year to the “Angel Donor”; this amounts to 7.5% interest, considerably higher than what can be secured through a bank loan. Should the parish be unable to pay back the “Angel Donor” within 5 years (we are into the 4th year) or default on one of its half yearly payments of $30,000 (and per the conditions drawn up in an option agreement), the property BELONGS to the “Angel Donor.”
The Parish Assembly, the Parish Council, and the now former Parish Priest have not been privy to detailed information about this activity despite seeking greater transparency.



1 His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian sent official correspondence – dated March 12, 2014 – to the St. John Garabed Parish Council calling for Der Datev to submit his retirement plan, purportedly based on an “established [Diocesan] policy on retirement of clergy.” Said “policy,” however, had never gone through the policy-making body of the Diocesan Assembly. The letter, furthermore and again without apparent By-Law basis, conveyed the Primate’s “stance to recommend Father Datev Tatoulian retire from the pastorate” and that [the Primate]
? But we tell you this is not true; this mistruth appears to have been spread to distort the reality and keep hidden what is truly underneath the discord brought to this parish. Der Datev has served the Armenian Church faithfully for over 4 decades.
? With claims of Der Datev’s disobedience – neither investigated nor confirmed by a Court of Clergy in accord with the By-Laws and with powers not granted in the By-Laws – the Primate’s March 25, 2014 correspondence to the Parish Council announced that the Primate was “removing [Der Datev] as the Parish Priest of the St. John Garabed Armenian Church of San Diego, effective immediately.
? Accordingly, [Der Datev] shall no longer be the Presiding Officer of the Parish Council, Parish Assembly, or any of the Parish organizations, and [Der Datev]shall have no further administrative rights or duties.”
? In October 2014, the Primate suspended Der Datev without explanation or apparent By-Law basis;
? Actions and decisions of the Primate and Diocesan Council appear to have routinely violated the By-
Laws, and in the opinion of many – they failed to fulfill their governance obligations in accord with the
By-Laws. Two concerned parishioners, in fact, reasonably asserted in correspondence to then
Diocesan Council Chairman, Antranik Zorayan on December 19, 2014 that “the Diocese has not only done nothing to assist in resolving the issues in the San Diego parish, but has actually fomented the problems which it created. It is the Diocese and not the parish of St. John Garabed Armenian Church which has failed to adhere to the By-Laws…”

? The Primate and the Diocesan Council have not allowed the Parish Assembly of St. John Garabed to convene for two years; the voices of the members of this parish have been silenced;

? The Diocese attempted to block and subsequently invalidated – without the apparent By-Law basis to do so – two duly-called Special Parish Assembly Meeting (April 6, 2014 and November 16, 2014), and thereby rejected the motions (below) which passed virtually unanimously:
– April 6, 2014 – “We, the members of St. John Garabed Armenian Church of San Diego:
– November 16, 2014 – “We the members of St. John Garabed express the following complaint: the Primate has their 40 years of devoted service to the Armenian Church. Finally that the Diocese and this Parish do
? stand for and with our Parish Priest, Fr. Datev Tatoulian and against his abrupt termination;
? do not accept the Primate’s March 25, 2014 letter in which Der Datev was terminated, with questions regarding the rationale for his termination and the extent to which bylaws established procedures were followed;
? instruct the Parish Council of St. John Garabed to not act in accord with the March 25th letter; and
? recommend that the Diocese and Der Datev work to arrive at a mutually agreed upon way forward, which ensures that Der Datev and his family receive the appropriate respect and recognition, and financial support through his tenure and in his eventual retirement.” [yes—35; no—0; abstention—1; two members remained silent]. not provided either Der Hayr or the parish the cause/rationale for Der Hayr’s suspension of his administrative duties or powers. Neither has the Primate referred matters regarding Der Datev to a Court of Clergy for investigation nor afforded Der Datev due process as provided in Section 58 By-Laws. Also we ask that Der Datev’s full duties and powers as administrator and priest be reinstated through his choice of 2015 retirement date – either the end of April or June 1, 2015 – and that Der Datev is allowed to work with the Primate to establish a search committee for our next Parish Priest and to help facilitate a smooth transition for the next priest that will serve this Parish. Also, that Der Datev and Yeretzgin receive the respect and recognition for everything in their power to secure them retirement so that they can live their lives in peace and comfort.”
[yes—38; no—1; abstentions—4];
? After Der Datev understood that his proposal for retirement – submitted to the Primate in letters dated April 2, 2014 and April 17, 2014 – had been accepted, the Primate and others engaged in activities which seemingly aimed to force an earlier retirement. In October 2014, the Primate suspended Der Datev without cause or explanation;
? The Primate did not act on multiple requests (which aimed to try to de-escalate the situation) to come to San Diego, express his confidence in his ordained and appointed Priest, and convey his expectation that everyone would work together with Der Datev and each other for the strengthening of the parish and for the greater glory of His Holy Church.
? The offensive letter writing campaign of Ani Lanuza still continues despite numerous requests of the Diocese to address it.
? The Diocese appears to have not – despite numerous requests – adequately protected Der Datev, Yeretzgin, and the members of the parish against the threats of physical and lethal violence espoused in the letters of Ani Lanuza;
? Over the last 2 1D 2 years, Der Datev (especially), Yeretzgin, and a few members of the parish have endured repeated harassment, intimidation, and attempts of humiliation;
? Many believe and are of the opinion that The Primate’s relationship with the St. John Garabed Trust Fund Committee and its financial dealings are in conflict and questionable. The Primate himself announced at a 2015 Parish Council meeting that he helped arranged for the “Angel” Donor/Investor (who is receiving 7.5% interest); has apparently been in frequent communication with members of Trust; dissolved in January 2015 all organizations of St. John Garabed with the exception of the Trust Committee; and dissolved the first “Mediation Committee” (which he appointed and was chaired by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian) once that committee initiated an independent audit of the Trust.
? The Primate did not consult the Parish Council prior to his decision to immediately terminate Der Datev – conveyed in the Primate’s April 5, 2016 correspondence – as stipulated by the recently ratified By-Law Amendment (section 51). Additionally, concern for Der Hayr’s immediate financial and physical well-being were not evident in his correspondence;
? Given the current parish’s original formation in the late 1960s as an Armenian Community Center, the local dynamics within the larger Armenian Community of San Diego, and that those who are leading the transition underway – including those who oversee the new property and are believed to have begun negotiations to sell the current church property – many parishioners are of the opinion that the future existence of a Diocesan-affiliated church in San Diego may be at risk;
? Like other Diocesan Priests to varying degrees (Der Arshag, Der Artoon of Blessed Memory, Der Asoghig, Hayr Baret, Hayr Dajad, Der Kevork, Der Hovsep, Der Sipan, Der Tavit, Der Vartan, and Der Vazken), Der Datev has not been treated – in our opinion – with the grace, the respect, or dignity one would expect from a Primate of the Armenian Church;
? The 87-page document On a Lampstand – not to mention countless other documents and correspondence – provides more detailed background on the information set forth above.
Given the seriousness and gravity of this information – and the appropriateness of the Primate being held accountable for his actions/inactions – one of the three course of actions reasonably follows:
1. His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian tenders his resignation from his position as Primate of the Armenian Church of North America, Western Diocese, or
2. The delegates of the 2016 Diocesan Assembly entertain a motion which calls for the Primate’s removal, or – at the very least
3. The delegates of the 2016 Diocesan Assembly entertain a motion to designate a Court of Clergy (made up of retired Diocesan Clergy) to investigate the Primate’s conduct in what has transpired in San Diego.

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