Reflections On The Scandal
Mark Warns, Poulsbo, WA
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America will meet next week to consider the financial accountability crisis affecting the highest levels of our church. The significance of this moment should not be underestimated. This may be the last opportunity for our church to salvage any realistic hope that the autocephaly of our church will be recognized by the other major Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. I realize that this is a broad statement, so please allow me to explain it.
Since the autocephaly of our church was declared in the 1970’s, we have
been involved in what amounts to a long election. The other American Orthodox
jurisdictions can elect to recognize our autocephaly, or they can elect to
not recognize it as they see fit. The issue at the heart of their election
is a legal issue, and it is a moral issue, but ultimately it is a pastoral
issue. The issue is whether our autocephaly is warranted, and whether it is
deserved, but most importantly it is whether we should be entrusted with the
care of their flocks.
The current crisis involves the management of church funds; and, if there is a legal issue anywhere on our continent which is absolutely settled, it is the duties owed by a holder of funds to the owner of those funds. The rules are the same in governmental departments, social service agencies, and private companies. The rules are the same in capitalist economies, mixed economies, and socialist economies. The rules are the same in every culture and language. They are the same at every level.
The holder of the funds of an organization has the duty to expend those funds
only for the purposes of his organization, to not mix the organization’s
funds with his personal funds, and to provide an accounting for all funds
in his care. Case closed.
Given that, we should expect that Orthodox Hierarchs from other jurisdictions are asking themselves this: if the Orthodox Church in America cannot be trusted with the management of the money of its own flock, how much less should it be trusted with the very souls of our flocks?
By our deeds we will give them our answer this week.