Reflections On The Scandal
Is There a Way Out?
An Open Letter to the Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America by Fr. Ted Bobosh, Dayton, OH.
The sordid scandal of the OCA which has dominated the otherwise non-existent ministry of the OCA for the past two years has made it clear that the real scandal is not only the mishandling of funds but the abysmal failures in administrative leadership and episcopal oversight of our church. The excruciating process of trying to right the listing ship known as the OCA has shown a total lack of vision in the church especially from the bishops.
The Metropolitan Council has made laudable efforts to change personnel and policy in the crew of the ship, essential changes which are being enacted Still it is not clear what the crew can do except for keeping the ship afloat if it has no direction and no known destination. Perhaps the Metropolitan Council needs to formulate some very specific questions for each of the members of the Synod of Bishops and invite each of the bishops to actively contribute to the life of the OCA by specifically explaining:
• what he thinks is needed immediately in the current situation for the OCA to fulfill its mission;
• what his personal role and responsibility is in the process;
• what he sees as the main problems and obstacles to resolving the crisis and giving the OCA a positive direction; and
• where exactly does he hope to see the ship known as the OCA two years from now?
This is a hierarchical church, about which the bishops like to constantly remind us, and the current crisis requires the Synod of Bishops to publicly and openly address the issues. They must contribute to a solution. If any do not want to speak to the current crisis, ask them if they are willing to step down so that men who are willing to offer constructive thinking can become our bishops.
Even if the bishops disagree with each other, at least they can start a conversation about what moving forward means, where should we be headed, and how they each plan to contribute to life and direction of the Orthodox Church in America. We need to hear them publicly speak to each other, and to us, about the crisis.
Additionally, there is the overriding question of how we are going to move ahead as Church if we have as it appears made our OCA a receivership now under the control of Proskauer-Rose. Metropolitan Herman has led us from being a scandal-ridden central administration into a legal captivity (not unlike the much lamented "Western captivity" of the Russian Church).
Is it not the case that we are now being held hostage by attorneys?
We have no control over what information about our church is released, no ability to speak the truth about the scandal or about how it is being handled. We are indebted to attorneys, not for helping us to right the morally challenged OCA leadership, but purely financially. We owe the lawyers money. They control our information - and through that information they control us. Is our current situation not similar to the infamous Prodigal son who found himself feeding pigs in the foreign land of Proskauer-Rose? Like the Prodigal, because of squandered finances, we are now dependent onP-R to feed us whatever husks they choose. Like the Prodigal we have chosen to live in what is (or should be for the Church) the foreign land/sty of criminal defense attorneys. We are on their turf and territory and compelled to live by their rules. We are in the Church - and yet we have made ourselves exiles unable to live by the freedom which Christ gave us.
And what exactly is the way out?
Is it not true that now that we have given the control of our information to P-R, that for the rest of the history the OCA we will have to keep these secrets buried? Will we not have to keep them buried with P-R so that the government and the membership never discover what happened? How will we ever end the P-R control of what we in the Church can talk about?
Other than the legal statutes of limitations ending, when will we be able to openly discuss what is wrong with the OCA and what went wrong? The Metropolitan's decisions led us into this situation, so what is his plan to get us out of the mire? And if he doesn't have one, then it is up to you, as the Synod and Metropolitan Council members, to come up with the plan that will put our information about us back in our own hands, so that we can act according to the Gospel commandments rather by legal counsel.
If, as the Metropolitan at firs, asserted there was no scandal and no problem, why is the information about what happened now locked in the files of Proskauer-Rose? And how do we get this information back into our hands so that we can deal with it as Church rather than as a criminally-indicted corporation? If there is nothing to hide, then release all the reports. If there is something to hide, then let that be brought forward so we can deal with it as Church.
The OCA's ship was listing badly. We have tied our ship to Proskauer-Rose's barges to keep us afloat – without considering how we ever can detach ourselves from P-R without sinking...
Finally, consider that for the past two years there has been no Chancellor, virtually no functioning departments, almost no ministry (yet we continue to employ a full time fund-raiser), no full time Secretary, no full-time Treasurer. Despite this total lack of administration and direction, there has been no outcry from members or priests that we cannot go on without a functioning central administration.
Think about that. Ask yourselves what purpose, if any, does the central church administration serve in the life of the OCA if we can go on through 2 years of a decimating scandal without having a functioning chancery? How can we have gone on for two years without a Chancellor, with virtually no functioning departments or ministries and yet have no one even complain about the lack of the same? In fact the only thing the members of the OCA have been clamoring for is full financial disclosure and a release of the various reports about the scandal and the financial fiasco. And though the reports exist already and require no further work to produce them, and though we do have a full time fund-raiser and someone in the position of Treasurer, we still do not have any of these reports.
Is it not time for us to take a serious look at what purpose a central church administration serves and exactly what need(s) they meet in the church?
We look to you the bishops and leaders of our church for direction. May God so inspire and empower you to accomplish the task before you.