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Bishop Cuts off Debate;

Shifts Responsibility

After weeks of heated exchanges, Bishop Tikhon has written he will no longer entertain discussion on "any matter related to OCA finances" on his "normal orthodox" web site. In a post entitled "Another Plea for Order in the OCA", dated 21 February, Tikhon, OCA Bishop of San Francisco, Los Angeles and the West makes clear "that it is the Metropolitan Council & Metropolitan Herman, not the Holy Synod, who bears responsibility & liability for the financial scandal in the OCA." Tikhon continues: "While the Holy Synod is indeed, as the Statute says, the "supreme canonical authority in the Church" one must "...keep in mind that the OCA was incorporated in the middle of the 20th century as a NEW YORK non-profit corporation, and the members of the Metropolitan Council (the old diocesan council of the Russian mission) are the trustees."  Thus, the Bishop now argues, " is not so much the Holy Synod, but the Metropolitan Council, with the Metropolitan at its head as president, which is legally accountable for corporation matters...". In other words, "...although EVERYTHING in the Church is spiritual, the human side of the Church, the LIABLE side of the Church ( to, i.e., the state of New York), is, of course, the corporation and its trustees and officers."

(emphasis in original)

Change in Attitude

This is a profound change in attitude from the stated position of the OCA hierarchs, which as recently as the Lesser Synod meeting on 20 January 2006, reaffirmed the decisions of 1999 and 2000 regarding the scandal. At that time Metropolitan Theodosius stated to the Metropolitan Council itself: "I am not so naive as to believe that everyone will always agree to be satisfied with my decisions or the decisions of the Holy Synod of Bishops; but we, as the Church's hierarchs, have been called by the Holy Spirit to lead the Church to nourish the spiritual well-being of God's people and to be the custodians of the temporal affairs and assets of the Church."

Bishop Tikhon's change in attitude, regarding the relative accountability of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council, comes only days before the emergency meeting of the Holy Synod, which according to informed sources, " to discuss matters of decency and good order in the Church."

All Eyes on Syosset

With no publicly announced agenda, Syosset watchers point out that this could mean everything from disciplining Archbishop Job as Bishop Tikhon himself has suggested, to appointing a Synodal commission to investigate the allegations. Some have suggested the commission could be simply composed of members of the Metropolitan Council; others have dismissed that solution as too convenient for Syosset, given, as Bishop Tikhon points out, the Metropolitan is the Council's President and the Chancellor himself sits on the Council.

Archbishop Job was among the first to call for an investigative commission in January, "consisting of no fewer than three hierarchs---which, upon conclusion of said investigation will report directly to the Holy Synod." The clergy of the Midwest, in their letter to the Holy Synod in mid-February, were more specific asking that the investigative commission include "...three bishops and such clergy and laypersons as deemed appropriate, to review this audit and report the findings to the Church." Others have been even more clear, calling for " unbiased commission composed of bishops, priests, and laity to conduct the investigation and, if deemed necessary by the commission, to oversee independent audits of all Church accounts, and that it be given full authority and all necessary resources to complete its task. At the conclusion of the investigation, the findings of the commission should be communicated to the whole Church."

Despite these growing calls for accountability and transparency, and the increasing public notice of the alleged financial improprieties, Syosset remains silent.

-Mark Stokoe







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