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REFLECTION

Cyril, reposted from the Orthodox Forum on December 12, 2005 (reposted with permission)

Dear Fr. William,

I am addressing you, but as well everyone concerned with these matters of Syosset, so this is not `aimed' at you. To me, as I hope to show, it is far more than just matters of money. Prior to becoming Orthodox I was a Protestant minister. My wife did not follow me into Orthodoxy, and has often used the slightest provocation to criticize my Faith, my parish, the other parishes in our area, or Orthodoxy in general. Further, I have received no small amount of grief from my former parish through her (a parish filled with earnest but unschooled people except in their own creedal peculiarities), the one minister telling her that I was in real danger of my soul for having left Protestantism. Regardless, I have many friends and family to whom I present the demands of the Orthodox Faith, several who have converted, and many still inquiring. I am also a college professor at an evangelical institution which has happily let me teach a course on Orthodoxy. Over the years a number of my students have converted, and many are still at the queue `waiting to be served'. All of these people take their faith seriously, even if it is not the right Faith. I have been following this whole matter of Syosset with interest and consternation, for it is something, in various forms, I have heard whispers about for years, and not only the financial matters. Lacking any substantive proof, and knowing how gossip whirls, and the targets that clergy all too frequently are (I have four brothers who are Protestant ministers, and in the minds of some of their parishioners, it is a wonder they aren't each serving twenty-to-life), I am obligated to suspend judgement. Further, I am an historian, so I try to take the long view of matters. But also, being an historian, I cannot be naive about human nature, and I am all too familiar with how we sinners (including the hierarchy) have acted both in the near and distant past. Fr William, with all due humility, Syosset's response to this matter is not how innocent people act. Perhaps our Metropolitan is trying to clean things up, trying to avoid scandal, but I think this impossible now, for scandal is here already. It is not a matter only of those who work in Syosset, for they have acted of their own will, and shall each have to answer for his own actions; but of my wife also, who is already disposed to accept the bad things she hears. I have spent years working on my marriage in light of my conversion and it is only in the last year that things have gotten better: what will happen should she learn that I have united myself to this, and further that I have given the money I have to such an operation? If the Chancery is innocent I need more to say to her then "mind your own business!" How can I impress upon my students the demands of Orthodoxy when those who are our leaders seem not to give a tinker's dam about them? The people of the OCA are not very keen on stewardship. Having served on parish council, it bothered me no end that each meeting was nothing but a discussion of our next fund raiser. Why should our people be good stewards if their leaders are not? This is going to destroy many of our parishes, churches barely hanging on, many not able to provide their priests a living, while monies that would pay the salaries of numerous priests are unaccounted for. I love my parish, I love my Bishop, and I love the OCA, but this matter threatens us in a way unlike threats of the past: the KGB or the Turk could take our bodies but not our souls. This not only will scandalize the sheep in the pews who now cannot trust their shepherds, but as well drive away those like my students, sheep out in the woods among wolves wandering around trying to find the fold. It will certainly drive away my wife. I can tell them things like St. Athanasius is not touched by this, or St Photios, but in the end, what are we doing to St Athanasius's Church, the Church of St Herman, the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ? Only by opening the books for all to see, only by holding people accountable, can we move past this. I don't know any of these people involved, but when our former Treasurer is the one who is making these accusations and stonewalling is the response, I cannot but give credence to what he says. If he were mistaken, lying, deluded, un stable, then this needs to be shown. Syosset is not pouring water on this fire, but kerosene. Were they to take action against Fr. Dn.Wheeler, defrock him for his lies, or provide evidence to the contrary of his allegations, then I have something with which I can go to my friends, my students, my family and say, look, this is not a matter of any moment. I have heard Fr dn Wheeler called a demon, but then we seem quite happy to take no formal action against this demon. To say that doing this would only draw attention to his fabrications is obtuse, and in the end shows what little regard we have for his soul. Something more needs to be done than nothing, and an audit for the past two years, years for which we have no concerns, is exactly that. Such an audit is like me disciplining my ten-year-old daughter for not making her bed when she was two. Only an audit which covers the years of Deacon Fr. Wheeler's original allegations can in any way get to the heart of the concerns which now touch not only Syosset, but anyone who cares for, has cared for, is interested in caring for, or who is touched by the OCA. Please instruct me better if I need so to be. Through your prayers,

Your Son in Christ,
Cyril

 

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