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12.02.06

 
  The Brum Doctrine

"At this point I must emphasize that, as the Primate of The Orthodox Church in America and in light of the fact that I have taken full responsibility for all that has happened and is now happening, I will not be apologetic for exercising the leadership prerogatives afforded to the Primate as described in the Statute of The Orthodox Church in America."

Metropolitan Herman to the OCA Metropolitan Council, June 16, 2006

To grasp what Metropolitan Herman intends by the phrase "leadership prerogatives afforded to the Primate" the unwary reader might turn to the Statute of the OCA. But that would be a mistake; for what the Metropolitan grounds his actions upon will not be found among the many duties and responsibilities the Statute enumerates. The reader will be better served turning towards two more closely held documents; documents that have not been widely circulated, nor widely discussed, but each of which helps explain a great deal of what has been happening in the OCA since their appearance in January, 1999.

Written by Archpriest David Brum*, secretary to Metropolitan Theodosius and until recently Metropolitan Herman as well, the documents provided the basis for Metropolitan Theodosius' refusal to disclose either his or Fr. Kondratick's secret accounts in July 1999; Metropolitan Herman's later refusal to do the same; Metropolitan Herman's summary dismissal of Fr. Kondratick in March, 2005, and most recently the Metropolitan's decision to 'reorganize' the administration of the Church without consultation with the Synod or Metropolitan Council.

The Primate in Perspective

The first document is entitled 'The Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and Those Who Assist Him in Church Administration: A Canonical Perspective.' In its concluding summary the document states:

"The governing documents of the Orthodox Church in America provide neither the job descriptions, scope of competence, nor channels of accountability of those who hold the various positions which exist within the Church's administrative offices. These offices are clearly an extension of the metropolitan's administrative ministry, are under his direct or delegated supervision, and exist within the Church (apart from their role in the fulfillment of civil law requirements) solely for the purpose of assisting him in his canonical duty to act as chief overseer of the internal and external life of the Church. Therefore, the nature, role, functions and accountability structure of these offices are determined by the Metropolitan, to whom they are subject.

Preeminent among those who assist the Metropolitan in his administrative duties is the Chancellor. If so delegated by the Metropolitan, he may assume total management of the day-to-day administration of the Church and may exercise direct supervision over all other Church administrative offices, including the above-mentioned offices of Secretary and Treasurer.

Clearly, by virtue of their being exercised in an ecclesial context, these administrative offices, indeed, all positions in Church administration, do not exist for their own sake and never function in isolation from or independent of Church administration in its totality. Rather, their very raison d'etre is to serve the Church by assisting the Metropolitan in his canonically-assigned task of supervising and administering the life, affairs, and concerns of the Church."

(The document may be read in full here.)

If this first document reduces all authority in Church administration to a function of the Primate - an authority which can be devolved to the Chancellor at his discretion - the second, shorter states that position even more clearly. It is entitled 'The Primate And The Administration Of Church Finances' and reads, in full, as follows:

"When addressing the question of the rights, responsibilities, and prerogatives of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, ('The Metropolitan'), it is to be noted that the primatial role is defined, most comprehensively, as the supervision of the internal and external life and welfare of the Church (OCA Statute, Article II, Section 2,4.6 & &; Article III, Sections 2 & 12; Article IV, Sections 1 & 2; Article V, Sections 1,2, & 4).

While the Metropolitan may invite others to assist him by their advice and counsel and may delegate others to share in the general oversight or administration of various aspects of Church life, he may never abdicate his canonically-assigned personal authority and responsibility. His is the ultimate authority in the overall administration of Church life and his is the decisive voice in providing direction for that administration.

One of the most highly controversial areas] of Church life has always been the area of Church finances and financial administration. Within recent history, the Orthodox Church in America has been called into civil courts to defend itself and its financial investments and properties against those who have questioned the authority of its priests, bishops, and, indeed, the
authority of the Church itself.

The tone and tenor of American culture and society at the beginning of the twenty-first century seems to demand that everyone, at all levels of society, have a voice in how policies are formulated, how tasks are assigned or delegated, how funds are administered, etc. This questioning eventually presents itself as a challenge to authority itself. This perceived 'right'
to question legitimate authority has even manifested itself in the Church, as persons in various forums challenge the Metropolitan's right to exercise his canonical authority in all areas of Church administration, including the area of financial administration.

In spite of the pressures which may be placed upon the Church to develop into a 'corporate' organization with a board of directors in which ultimate authority is vested or the pressure to act as a democratic society in which everyone has a vote as to how the society shall function, the Church remains true to its hierarchical structure and to the canonical principles which protect that structure. In the question of the Metropolitan's authority to administer all areas of Church life, including the use and administration of Church finances, it is clear from the Church's canonical tradition that he is the authoritative voice and the one who makes ultimate decisions, always taking into account the advice and counsel of the members of the Holy Synod (c. 34 of the Apostles; c. 9 of Antioch)."

The Brum Doctrine

The two documents make clear that the operative perspective in Syosset has been that all authority and power in the Church are concentrated in the Metropolitan; and that all other bodies, the Synod, the Metropolitan Council, indeed the All American Council itself, are as Fr. Brum's last line makes clear, simply "consultative". According to Fr. Brum, whatever authority they possess is nothing more than what they derive from their role in helping the Metropolitan express the fullness of authority in the Church he alone possesses.

Given this perspective it is clear to see how Fr. Kondratick, Metropolitan Theodosius and later Metropolitan Herman were successfully emboldened to reject all attempts at oversight or questioning of their activities for years. Indeed it is no coincidence that these essays were penned and presented to Fr. Kondratick and Metropolitan Theodosius in the months of tension that directly followed Protodeacon Eric Wheeler's questioning of the ADM funds. It helps explain the impunity with which they reorganized the chancery administration (such as eliminating the office of Treasurer when the Treasurer began asking difficult questions, and reinstituting it a year later when a more compliant Treasurer could be appointed); rejecting any attempts by the Church Auditors to review their secret accounts; diverting charity funds, delaying All - American Councils, etc. Nor did any bishops publicly object - until March 2006, with the summary dismissal of Fr. Kondratick, the widening of the audits and the appointment of Proskauer Rose to investigate the Central Church Administration as a whole. Only then did now-retired Bishop Tikhon of Los Angeles andBishop Nikolai publicly criticize the Metropolitan when they realized they themselves were in danger of being sidelined by the "Brum Doctrine".

The +Herman Corollary

Indeed they were being sidelined. For in March 2006 the authoritarian positions of Fr. Brum, that is, that all authority in the OCA belongs solely to the Metropolitan by virtue of his office, was substantially widened by what can only be called the "+Herman Corollary". This corollary makes the reduction of all the administrative bodies of the Church complete. In March 2006 the Metropolitan in effect asserted that all powers not specifically denied the Metropolitan by Statute are his. It was an extraordinary assertion that significantly reduces the scope of the Statute to only that which is specifically enumerated - with all other authority being claimed by the Metropolitan alone. In the context of the dramatic events of March 2006 many people might be excused for overlooking this assertion or grasping its full implications. However, it now lies at the center of the current debate over what the Metropolitan himself calls 'competing ecclesiologies' in the OCA.

Competing Ecclesiologies

It is not clear how the Church can "move forward" as the Metropolitan continually demands, given the three ecclesiological visions currently abroad in the OCA; visions that are at sharp odds with each other as to the solution, not to mention the nature and meaning, of the current scandal. The Metropolitan's authoritarian position is clear; we are simply to move forward with a promise the "errors, mistakes and sins" of the past are now in the process of being corrected. But this "forward movement" addresses none of the underlying causes that led to the scandal, leaves in place many of the people who engendered the crisis, and can only be funded by increasing debt. Like an amnesiac, the OCA is to simply begin a new life, without reference to its past.

Bishops Tikhon and Nikolai's "Restorationist" vision differs from the above only in that they simply arrogate all authority and powers to the Synod of Bishops, rather than the Metropolitan alone. They do not fundamentally disagree with their protege Fr. Brum, only where the locus of power should be. That is, authority in the Church does not rest with the Metropolitan, nor with the Statute, nor the All- American Council, nor its continuation - the Metropolitan Council - or some combination of the above, but with the Synod of Bishops alone. This position has little overt support beyond those two, and those clergy and laity who directly benefitted from Fr. Kondratick's largesse. It offers no way forward beyond the unseemly "business as usual" that has led us into this impasse.

The third option finds an increasing number of episcopal, clerical and lay supporters coalescing around the desire for a more open culture in the OCA, a return to the Statute, and the holding of a All-American Council, sooner rather than later, as the best means for discovering a common solution to the problems we face. It seeks a return to mutual oversight and responsibilities between the hierarchy, clergy and laity. Authority is not the sole prerogative of the hierarchs, clergy or laity, but a shared responsibility in a conciliar structure that balances hierarchy and participation of the clergy and laity. The only means of restoring integrity to the central administration of the OCA is to fully confess the mistakes of the past, to deal openly and honestly with the problems of the present, and move solidly into a participatory future. More importantly this is the only means whereby we can "move forward" without burdensome debt, coercion or selective amnesia.

At The Crossroads

Unfortunately, the very diversity of those sharing the conciliar perspective may hinder the concerted action required to alter the current impasse. Looming on the horizon, however, are factors which may alter the current equation: the results of the Rose investigation, possible governmental intervention, etc. In the coming year there will certainly be one new Bishop on the Synod, if not more. Any combination of the above could change the status quo dramatically as the OCA goes forward. The choice is whether we choose to do so under the Brum Doctrine & +Herman Corollary - or not.

-Mark Stokoe

_______________________

* Upon being received into the Orthodox Church by Bishop Tikhon from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno in 1997, Fr. Brum quickly rose to prominence in the OCA, culminating in being appointed Secretary to Metropolitan Theodosius in 1999. According to his resume:

• Fr, Brum graduated with a B.A., Humanities, Saint Joseph's College, Mountain View, CA 1977, received a Certificate in Pastoral Counseling from Saint Patrick's Seminary, Menlo Park, CA. in 1980, and his
M. Div. from the same seminary in 1981. He received a Licentiate in Canon Law, (JCL) from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. in 1995.

• Fr. Brum was ordained a Priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno September 1981, and served increasingly larger parishes in that Diocese from 1981 on, as well as becoming that Diocese's director of vocations. His 1995 dissertation-for the Catholic University of America was entitled "The Participation of the Lay Christian Faithful in Canonically-Established Consultative Bodies."

• In November 1996 Fr. Brum was appointed Director of the Diocesan Tribunal, Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. The appointment was to be effective on January 1997 after the appointment letter was signed and the customary profession of faith was received. In April 1997 he was received by vesting into the OCA at St. Eugene's Hermitage (CA) by Bishop Tikhon, and appointed to St. Nicholas Church, Saratoga, CA.

• In August 1997 he was appointed at the second priest at St. Paul Church in Las Vegas, Nevada under then Fr. Nicholas Soraich, later Bishop Nikolai of Alaska.

• One year later, in August 1998 he was released to the NY/NJ Diocese; and appointed to St. Gregory Palamas Mission, Stanton, NJ. It was during this period that he wrote the two documents reprinted here.

• In June 2000 he was released from St. Gregory Palamas Mission and attached to St. Sergius Chapel, Syosset to serve as Secretary to Metropolitan Theodosius. He served in this position until July 2002, and was then appointed as Secretary to Metropolitan Herman from July 2002 to July 2006.

Following the dismissal of Fr. Kondratick in March 2006, Fr. Brum submitted his resignation. He has now returned to parish ministry and is currently serving in a parish in Phoenix, Arizona. According to sources in Alaska, Fr. Brum is currently on the short list to replace Fr. Chad Hatfield as the Dean of St. Herman's Seminary when Fr. Hatfield takes up his new position at St. Vladimir's in New York next year.

 
 

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