4.6.06 Latest News
Metropolitan, Claiming Church Has Been 'Ravaged',Takes Full Responsibility, Apologizes In Archpastoral Letter:
Letter Banned in Dioceses of Alaska & West
An archpastoral letter from Metropolitan Herman dealing with the financial scandal in the OCA has already provoked strong reaction days before it is to be read from the amvon of churches throughout the OCA on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, April 9th.
(Read the letter in full here.)
In the two page letter the Primate states "...unequivocally that I take full responsibility for what may have happened during my service as Primate of the Church. The Holy Apostle commands me as first hierarch of the Church 'that you should set in order the things that are wanting' (Titus 1:5). If I have failed in any way to do that, I ask for your forgiveness and God's guidance to enable me to undertake whatever corrective measures may still be necessary."
Regarding those corrective measures already undertaken, Metropolitan Herman pledges "... that my office, the Holy Synod of Bishops, the Metropolitan Council and the Chancery staff will cooperate fully with the auditors and investigators until these issues are resolved. As the independent audits for 2004 and for the special appeals are completed, they will be made available on our OCA website in a manner similar to those of other government-regulated not-for-profit religious organizations. Additional audit reports as well as the results of the internal investigation will also become part of our public records when deemed appropriate to do so by the investigators. The Holy Synod of Bishops, the Metropolitan Council, and then all of you will be made aware of the findings in a timely fashion and with good order."
Using the analogy of an ill family member, the Primate warn: "Our Holy Mother, the Church, has been ravaged by an illness that has taken a serious toll. I implore you, as her children, to do all that you can to help restore her to wellness and strength, beauty and dignity, purity and holiness. ...Now is the time for us to restore our Holy Mother to wholeness with our love." Therefore the Metropolitan implores that "this turmoil in our parishes, in our dioceses and throughout the Church to cease and desist, especially as we approach Holy Week."
There seems little chance of that happening, since the letter itself has initiated a fresh controversy, a possibility to which the Metropolitan himself seems resigned. In his letter +Herman laments "... that for some these measures were taken too late; for others, they are too severe. I know that whatever decisions I make, I cannot please everyone."
The Response from Alaska
+Herman certainly has not pleased the Bishop of Alaska. Calling the Metropolitan's letter a 'distraction' Bishop Nikolai of Alaska has directed his diocesan clergy not to read the letter, nor to distribute it. In a memo to his clergy, dated March 31st, Bishop Nikolai of Alaska writes:
"My beloved clergy, Glory to Jesus Christ!
I was faxed a document entitled Archpastoral Letter from the office of His Beatitude with a cover letter that this is to be read in all parishes in keeping with your usual practice....
The usual practice that was decided by the Holy Synod is that all letters sent for reading and /or distribution are to be approved by a committee of bishops.
I have no information that any such committee was called to review this letter.
No letters from any other hierarch can be read or posted in any publications of my diocese without my blessing. I have given no blessing for this to be read, published or discussed. The only Archpastoral letters that I am approving are the Paschal and Nativity ones until further notice.
I want my people to keep the Great Fast in prayer and almsgiving and not to be distracted. It is already so sad that all of you have been sent this letter of justification but I trust your faith will strengthen you.
If any of your people are interested in that kind of gossip please refer them to the website--we want nothing to do with it during the fast.
Love and blessings,
A Similar Response from the West
Bishop Nikolai's mentor, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco, Los Angeles and the West was even more dismissive of the Primate's attempt to calm the waters. Writing to his deans, Bishop Tikhon ordered that the letter not only not be read, but not be made available for reading. +Tikhon writes:
"Last year the Holy Synod discussed documents sent out from the Chancery and the Metropolitan 'to be read from the amvon.' The Holy Synod decided that other than the seasonal (Nativity, Pascha, Great Fast...) letters, no letters may be read from the amvons of the temples in any diocese, whether from the Metropolitan, any other Chancery entity, SCOBA, etc., etc., without the blessing of the Diocesan Authority.
Metropolitan Herman's letter, which you may have received by now, has NOT been blessed to be read aloud in any temple of the Diocese of the West. .....
FURTHER, I ask that the letter not be posted or made available for reading. I am embarrassed for His Beatitude, who must not, surely, have written the thing by himself, since it appears to be signed by him, and I do not want anyone to imagine that this sort of thing could have originated with him....
It is distressing to me personally, as I believe it should be to all, that His Beatitude speaks of work undertaken by him in an almost papal way, that is, the flouting of the decisions of the last Holy Synod, as signed by all the
members of the Holy Synod, including the Metropolitan, and dispensing with even the plainest and normal of budgeting practices in engaging without the participation of the Metropolitan Council, the Holy Synod, the Administrative Committee of the Metropolitan Council, a law firm with a $50,000 per month and open-ended retainer, that is, with what is called 'a blank check' or 'carte blanche'....
Our Church has not been ravaged by anything, although it is being attacked by the mean, the shortsighted, the self-seeking, the backbiters and slanderers. ...
Please pray that this cloud of misunderstanding may be lifted from His Beatitude and that our Holy Synod may return to the same task it always has had, living together in unity...."
The posting of the letter on the OCA website days before it was to be read may be seen as an attempt to circumvent any Bishop's banning of it. On the other hand, many priests in the East, in New York and Pennsylvania, had already read the letter to their parishes last Sunday, in anticipation of its release.
Still others are refusing to read it on their own next Sunday. On the OCA clergy list one priest from the Diocese of the South, upon receiving the letter, explained his refusal in the same manner as the Bishop of the West:
"Had this letter been sent via instructions from the Holy Synod... then there would be absolutely no question as to its appropriateness. Being sent without the consensus of the Holy Synod... I am sorry to say, this letter lacks any Orthodox ecclesiological authority... and amounts to papal pretensions regarding the office of the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church In America.
To send a letter and demand...as the cover letter that accompanied the text that I received stated... that the enclosed letter be read to a parish... is a blatant violation of Orthodox ecclesiology.
I can only hope that this mistake was made in the heat of trying to 'make things better'; nonetheless... it is not how Orthodox ecclesiology works. Your Bishop or Archbishop is the one who instructs your parish as to what will be read to the faithful of his Diocese."
As of today, Bishop Dmitri of Dallas had given no diocesan-wide instructions as to whether to read, or not read, the archpastoral letter.