Indianapolis Town Hall Held
A long, lively and thought-provoking OCA “Town Hall” was held at St. John the Forerunner parish in Indianapolis, Indiana, Thursday evening, July 31st. Some 85 persons were present for the three and a half hour meeting, including eight local OCA clergy from both the Columbus Deanery and Romanian Episcopate. More than 50 persons spoke, many in multiple instances, in a meeting that was no less passionate for being very well-ordered. The meeting was unique among the ten “Town Halls" that have been held to date in that after the official “Town Hall” was concluded, a 30 minute question and answer period was held, in which Archbishop Job responded to questions from the floor.
The Town Hall
Following a brief prayer led by the Dean of the Columbus Deanery, Fr. Joseph Gibson, and a brief introduction by Popadia Michelle Jannakos of the Pre-Conciliar Commission, who moderated the event, speakers rose to address the first question of the evening: “What is working well in the OCA?” Cited were:
- parish life
- the dioceses - especially the Midwest
- the Midwest Diocese's new ‘Parish Health Initiative’
- Archbishop Job
- the use of English, and the growing diversity in our parishes
- the fact that the OCA has been humbled by the scandal, so that it is no longer so prideful or
judgemental of others as was often the case in the past
- diocesan communications
- the wonderful latitude of practices in the Diocese -
a very pastoral approach dominates
- we have become a lot more “on the ball” about things, not letting things slide as we did in the past
- after three different OCA parish experiences, we appreciate a consistency in the OCA, regardless of where we have had to move... It has been refreshing to find the centrality of Christ is there in each parish...Despite the problems there is no other place we would rather be
- OCA parishes are very welcoming
- the Chancellor of OCA is making an effort - such as these Town Hall meetings - to deal with our problems. This is unique in Orthodoxy
- I would disagree. Too often problems are expected to be kept in the parish. Openness does exist in other jurisdictions, just in a different way
- Despite what are serious failures in the national Church and Synod of Bishops. people really care about the OCA. OCANews.org is devoting a lot of time for the good of the Church. Here tonight from my Ohio parish alone there are twelve people...
At this point the Archbishop jumped in and added that:
“Our seminaries are filled. We graduated a couple of students this year, and we have identified 15 more students who will be entering in the next 3 years. They know the score, but are willing to go.”
Discussion then turned to the second question of the evening: “What are your concerns for the OCA?”
A woman began by quoting two passages from Scripture. The first was from 1 Kings in which Solomon is asked to decide between two women claiming to be the mother of a baby. The speaker stated that Syosset is not acting like a true mother, but is willing to sacrifice its child for itself. Syosset must repent and cleanse the Church with the truth. The second passage quoted concerned the Russian lay theologian Khomiakov who “named the heresy that Syosset is presently suffering from.” According to Khomiakov, apostolic tradition is not an inheritance of words, but an inner spiritual life. Truth and unity are now being severed by Syosset. We are coming to the next ANAC (All North American Council) to rejoin the parishes in “sobornost”, and no ecclesiastical authority is authentic without “sobornost”.
A woman who stated she was a convert of 18 months stated that “my concern is that we keep things in perspective. Accountability is important, but perspective needs to be kept. “
The next speaker, who identified himself as a “convert of just a year” stated “I fled from doctrinal problems, and knew there was a scandal here. It appeared to me to be temporal, and I expected that it would soon be over. I am deeply disappointed that it has not happened yet.”
When the next speaker began “I am a convert of one month...” the audience erupted in laughter, and one priest suggested that the speaker should win a door prize... The speaker, who worked at a Catholic School continued. “I was impressed by people speaking truthfully about the scandal. I always remember what a Sister told me in elementary school: ‘ If you want forgiveness you have to tell the truth.”
Several concerns followed in quick succession:
- “Town halls are good in addressing the proximate problems, but there are long term issues in the OCA.” Particularly the state of monasticism. Often trying to think of these things gets pushed aside in the need to solve things right now. Monasticism is the backbone of the Church -it is where we get our Bishops from...
- If a woman had been behind these bishops,”things might have been different”. No desire to offend, but we need married bishops. They would not be so isolated.
- “Our ecclesiology is flawed. The focus should be on the diocese. Too much focus on the Central Church Administration (CCA). The CCA is a only a resource, and yet the lion’s share goes to the CCA, not the dioceses. It is ass backwards. Our expectations are different from the Synod, from the parishes. I expect them to tell the truth and not lie to us. I am very concerned by slander- the slander of Wheeler and the attacks on Archbishop Job are not acceptable. And nothing has been said about that.” (The speaker, a priest, offered a longer written statement on these themes which will be published on the Council blog at http://oca15aac.wordpress.com
The priest’s comment elicited many “Amens” from the crowd.
A speaker then asked: “Will this meeting do any good? Does anyone else besides +Job care?”
“This makes this a dangerous situation.“
A priest’s wife continued: “Is there any interest in acknowledging the problem, and then doing the things that are required to resolve it?" “It begins with disclosure, full and complete. If there is no resolution to this, I would have a real problem staying in the OCA.”
-“I would like to see a system in place for the so -called whistle-blowers.” If someone like Eric Wheeler comes forward they should be validated, not scapegoated. “We need a system that makes it OK to come forward, and not result in an attack-dog reaction.”
- “I have another expectation. I want to know why those who broke the law or colluded with them have not been prosecuted.”
- “I am concerned there is only one bishop who has asked forgiveness for this.” “I am not even in your diocese, Your Eminence, and I still received your letter. But the others, there is no accepting of responsibility, and no accounting offered. We have a real problem.”
- “If we were a corporation, or any money-making or government entity, if that kind of money had disappeared on that watch, it wouldn’t have been just the people taking the money who would be out. The CEO would develop a strong need to see more of his family. (Laughter) It was on the Metropolitan’s watch and yet...nothing. We can’t even peacefully retire those who are responsible. Responsibility means taking the fall if something goes wrong. It is all like a bad dream: we are running in place and can’t get anywhere.”
- I am concerned about the persistent rumors of the precarious condition of our autocephaly. Moscow is abandoning us because of ROCOR.
- I would like to add to that notion of lack of vision. There has been no response from the Synod regarding the proposed unification of the two Romanians jurisdictions and the Episcopate leaving the OCA.
“I doubt the geographical dioceses understand the importance of the Romanian decision to leave. The Romanians say they put the “A” in OCA, because the OCA would not be fully “American” without them.” Not to mention the spiritual influence of the two women’s monasteries...
-Where are the Feds? Is there not a federal investigation, and an IRS investigation. Is no one looking into this?
At this point Mark Stokoe, editor of OCANews.org, who was present at the meeting rose and stated that there was an ongoing FBI investigation, that the IRS had been notified, but that they worked to their own ends and own timetable. The comments continued:
- “I am disappointed that my Church’s bad behavior is being aired before the government. I am disappointed that we have no integrity to resolve this ourselves. It is a shame and disgrace.” (Many “Amens” from the audience.)
- “I am concerned that attorneys and legal authorities - and we have spent $700,000 on lawyers so far - were the guiding principles of how we dealt with this crisis, not Christian principles. I am concerned that it was not the Bishops who resolved this, but that OCAnews.org was needed. Without OCANews.org this all would have stayed buried.” The Bishops continue with an elitist attitude that they don’t trust the laity to deal with major issues. “I am angry, and I think alot of people are angry.” I converted to Orthodoxy 37 years ago. “But I am sad to say that my business partner, who wouldn’t step foot in Church, has more integrity than the Bishops of my Church. When one of my agents did something wrong last week, he insisted we not only immediately correct it but make amends beyond what was required. So I am tired of this endless series of comments from the Bishops without resolution.” They were and remain asleep at the helm. “I’m sorry, but they should all resign, but if not, then at least +Herman should take responsibility so we can move forward.” (Shouts of “Second!” from across the room)
- “I am concerned about the process and criteria by which people who wish to serve the Church, in orders, positions and committees, from top to bottom, from Syosset to every parish are selected and vetted.”
- “What bothers me is the long lasting effects this is going to have on how we view and interact with the episcopacy.” The episcopacy is not going to go away, but there will be a profound change of attitudes, and I think it will only be for the worse.
-“As a convert from Protestantism, it took me along a long time to view Bishops with respect. And now, that is shattered. Except you, Vladyka.” ( Laughter) Outside of our own, I look on all of them with mistrust. "I wince when we commemorate +Herman on Sundays, and that is devastating, especially as I try to teach my children. I know he needs our prayers. But it is an involuntary feeling.“
- “I am concerned that I have to endure this Synod and their actions.”
- “My overwhelming concern is that until trust is restored, that the real work of Christ can not move forward.”
- “I am going to go with Christ’s promise that the Gates of Hell will not prevail. Honesty, integrity and courage - those are the things that are needed. I realize there is not a perfect Church, but we all sin, but it is hard to forgive when there is no repentance. I know that +Herman needs the healing touch of Christ as well.”
- “I guess that the one thing that bothers me is that I am starting to assume that the majority of Bishops will always cover up. I hate thinking that it is adolescent (of me) to think that repentance, that is at the heart of Orthodoxy, will be done. The thing that is bothering me, is that these things are not going to bother me anymore, and that this is not taken seriously by the leaders. That is the real problem. Our bishops are not credible as a whole, and seem not to be willing to do what we as laymen are expected to do, that is to confess and ask forgiveness.”
A priest then spoke passionately: “If there is a reconciliation service at the ANAC, but if there is no word of confession and repentance, it will be yet another lie . We are using our beautiful heritage and forms of worship as a cover. I am sick of that mask.” There is pressure being put on priests not to expect change in a parish - and now on the national level as well. “If there is no repentance there can be no word of reconciliation. If that is what expected at the Council it will be a lie.”
- Tosi (Larry Tosi, Treasurer of the Diocese of Washington-New York) said that the truth is so bad that if it became known it would kill the OCA. "Why ask forgiveness if you don't believe in its power? Christ conquered Hell, do they think that he can't conquer the death of the OCA?"
Mark Stokoe, editor of OCANews.org then read a written statement. You can read that statement here.
- The worse thing you can do is not be honest and bring it out in the open. I am grateful to the Bishop for bringing it out. “After a while you get to the point where you think others will deal with it; but tonight, I realize it does effect me. I am a layman, I have no robes, I have no titles, but I am still responsible as everyone else. So do I get to sit here - and listen- and go home and do my thing, or do I have to do something? What is my responsibility, beyond prayer, for the clergy and bishops? What is my personal responsibility, other than let it go, and let others carry the load?”
- My concern is that I am just a lay person, but even more so than others, as a mother, daughter and grandparent. I don’t want my grandchildren to deal with these lies. My grandchildren are 13, 10, 7, and 3. I don’t want to give my grandchildren a legacy of lies and cover-up. I want to say that I can tell them ‘they came and spoke the truth and corrected things.’ When we sin we do wrong. We have to ask not only God’s forgiveness, but each other's as well. That is my concern - because the Lord might call me home tomorrow, and I do not want this (scandal) to be my legacy.
Fr. Ted Bobosh then spoke: “There are so many concerns of my people in my parish. They came looking for Christ, and what they found in the national Church and the Synod is not Christ. This is the truth of the OCA.”
He then extemporized from a written statement you can read here. (Applause.)
- I want to echo something said in another Town Hall, that a number of our bishops who are rather old-worldly, wanting to be kings, rather than fathers. We are in a strange situation in North America as how the Church is structured. They are not kings, they are to be loving fathers. ”The Statute of the OCA gives quite a bit of authority to those who are not Bishops. And this is where our Bishops are having trouble relating. That may point out some of the problems with moving forward. Once the dog gets hold of the car, what does he do with it? Does the Synod now have hold of this car? “
- Our paralysis needs to be addressed.
- Fr. Mark Hodges then rose: “I spoke at the Cleveland Town Hall but I wanted to share 3 things that are different here than there. There is a fundamental confusion for many between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is something I give to you, regardless of what you do. But a working relationship requires reconciliation, and for that there must be a confession - the truth must come out. People say “Forgive.” That was done a long time ago. I forgave Bob Kondratick a long time ago. But forgiveness is different than having a working relationship.”
Scripture says Bishops must be blameless, avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. Judge Bearse put it very well, and it was so sad to read what he wrote: "No one has the right to stonewall about God's money. The good people of the OCA simply cannot tolerate it. If an individual is stonewalling, you just assume that person has something to hide. Decisive steps must be taken, such as forcing removal of or withholding financial support from those responsible."
Metropolitan Herman must resign for trust to begin again. The SIC Report has to be complete and be made public.
We talked a lot about money, but it is not about money. “We have lost our corporate soul.” There is a list of failures, specifically to discuss what should an American Church look like in 100 years, regarding evangelism, etc. This is not a failure, but “an opportunity of the Spirit to get us back to what we should be doing. The Council then becomes an opening step to really being the Church in America.”
- “Like many in the room I am a convert as well. I was in the Anglican tradition. As long as it was change in New York or San Francisco, it was OK by me. When the Anglican church changed in Indiana, I had to leave.” Been there and done that. Not going anywhere now as Orthodoxy is the True Faith. We have to clean house on these people. “There is no aspirin to cure this what ails us here. Cut it out and fix it.”
At this point a layman rose and made a very passionate statement to Archbishop Job personally. “Your Eminence, do not to lose courage or faith. Someone has to stand to the end, and many of us will stand with you to the end. You may think you are not capable of doing what needs to be done. But you are it. This is your time, You may have to go to the cross, but we will stand with you if that is needed. It has been the laity who have led in this affair, and I hope the clergy will now stand up against this evil as strongly as well. No other Bishop is willing to do what you are doing, so know that we are with you.” (Much applause.)
- My concern is evangelism, and it is about my heart as much as anything. I am convinced that the Church will not fail, but I cannot say that about our parish. “We are thinking about things we should not. I worry we are bringing sheep to people who are not shepherds. I worry about not building the new church next door because so many of us will not give money to the OCA if that is with whom we are affiliated.” My children are 16 and 18, and my fear is that they will hear all this and be so disappointed. How does that make us look? It is a lot easier to live in the world. My children go to Catholic schools and are very aware of their problems. I feel if we are not willing to speak truthfully about our situation, then God forgive us. “We are living in fear in the OCA, and no one in the Godhead is the source of the fear.“ We have no Ombudsman in the OCA, but as a business person, I say we need one. And while I appreciate the feeling we have for our Bishop, I pray God will speak to the others (Bishops) as well. “There were other options than the OCA, and I am concerned that the OCA will no longer be an option...”
Fr. Joseph Gibson responded: “We can speak to our kids about this. They know more than you think. Speak to them - don’t let them find out other ways and they will look to you for guidance. If you keep it quiet, and treat it as a scandal, they will be confused. They should really be here tonight....”
And then the Archbishop stated: “The kids had their own Town Hall at camp this afternoon."
- I met Metropolitan Herman in 2003 at an Orthodox Peace Fellowship conference at St. Tikhon’s. He made an effort to talk to us, which he did not have to do. Pictures were taken. We celebrated liturgy. So I remember his kindnesses, but then, I have never been on the receiving end of one his diatribes. We are speaking now as though he is the enemy, and one of the things I get from the Beatitudes is to pray for our enemies. We need to pray for him and all our Bishops because this can’t be solved without God’s help.
- “I don’t understand why we have a culture where the laity should be seen but not heard. That is a central problem in our eccelsiology.” Maybe +Herman is a decent man, maybe he is just trying to protect +Theodosius. Why do we feel such unity here - we are willing to go to the cross with +Job, yet we feel nothing with Syosset, like it is some UFO. This is a problem with our structure, our ecclesiology.
- Alaska. I want to know what happened and what is happening there now, and what we can do to help them heal.
The discussion moved to the third question: “What would you like to say to the ANAC?” (ANAC refers to the All-North American Council, rather than the All-American Council, which was seen as a too USA-centric expression.)
- I am the delegate from my parish to the ANAC - are others going to help storm the Bastille in Pittsburgh?
- Can other people (observers) show up? "Yes. OF COURSE there can be outside demonstrations. We’re the closest diocese and people - so we would show up!"
-$250 just to “observe”? What kind of Church meeting is that? "There is not a business in America that charges its shareholders to attend their annual meeting. Nor would it be allowed. And we are a Church, not a business, claiming to want to evangelize America, and we want to discourage people from participating by charging them? "
- "I was at the 14th AAC in Toronto. I am a trained auditor. When the motion was made to protect the accounts from auditing, I was behind a velvet rope unable to speak to our delegates, and our delegates voted “yes” on the motion because no one knew what it meant. But I knew there is no reason for it (the motion) unless it was to cover up fraud. The delegate told me later when I complained: “I wish you had been within distance, because I was confused. We might have voted no.” “What I want to say is that given this historic time, enough of shutting out the observers. We should be heard.“
- I am a simple girl and I want simple things. Many signed the resignation petition for +Herman. He needs to resign. That’s #1. “Then I want to see some head-banging, floor touching, robe-bending confessions and asking for forgiveness...”
- If things are not out in the open, we can’t know where to begin. If there is still a glass house, someone is going to throw a rock. We, that is the Bishops, priests, men, women, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons - we are not any less than any of the others. We are all equal in the love of God, so please, do what needs to be done.
-Confession is needed first. A time of confession, repentance and then reconciliation. We need to make that order clear. Setting that aside, it concerns me that at the ANAC there would be a small portion of time for this. Our hearts are broken, for many reasons. We need a time of healing, and the council needs the opportunity to open the wounds an heal . "But +Herman needs to leave for this to happen."
-I agree. We need a time to discuss this, and get the puss out, and express our feelings. It is important. It is also important that we discuss what so many have said here: “I am just a layman." The clergy need to trust us enough to listen, and we to clergy as well. We need openness at all levels.
“What would I like to see come out of the ANAC? The OCA.” (Laughter). Fr. Bobosh then read that portion of his statement dealing with autocephaly.
- In dealing with this as an issue, we have to deal with how our Bishops are chosen. We have a method by Statute, but this is ignored over and over again. Now we know there are secret lists of approved candidates, but those criteria are unknown. This issue has to be addressed. The Synod can’t do this secretly, when they won’t tell us why it has been done. The synod must no longer just accept the Metropolitan’s wishes in this regard. If we are not going to do it by Statute, then autocephaly means nothing.
- “Those of us who don’t want to leave the OCA to join the Romanian Church want the ANAC to address the Romanian question. I think Archbishop Nathaniel is an honorable man, but he is voting with his feet, and that concerns me.”
- “Autocephaly is important and part of it has to do with baptizing the culture. Truth and ecclesiology have come up over and over again. There cannot be a real ecclesiology without the truth. Theologians can do this better than I.” But back to autocephaly, ROCOR said we had no grace when we received autocephaly from the Russian Church. That was not true. But frankly, after we have spat and blasphemed about truth, (during the scandal) one has to question. And then we are told we are “rebellious” for demanding the truth. The Russians came to Orthodoxy through beauty, and perhaps it is through Truth that America will come to Orthodoxy. The OCA is about truth. And if the OCA can’t be about the truth, then it should fail.
- “I have thrown out what I was going to say. The focus of what I would like to say is that the whole purpose of this ANAC meeting should be to iron this out. We have lost our way, completely, about the scandal. Pittsburgh should be to iron this out, by following St. Innocent and Frs. Schmemann and Meyendorff, and Hopko. Let’s stop going down this road of Herman and Nikolai and Kondratick.”
- I want to know the timetable for resolutions and when things like disclosures need to be made.
- I read the Statute before I joined the OCA. I wanted to see what kind of group I was joining. The Metropolitan Council forgot the Statute, the Bishops don’t like it and would just as soon see it ignored or changed. The laity and priests that are at the ANAC should reaffirm the Statute exists. They must affirm its rules and they must be part of us until they are amended.
- It is of supreme importance at this Council that we need the resolutions in advance, so we can be educated about it when we get there to vote.
Fr. Stephen Kostoff (Cincinnati, OH) rose to speak. He had a prepared statement, which he did not read in full. He did say: “I would like to tell the Council that we can’t effectively evangelize until we resolve the scandal. It undermines our efforts. At what point do I tell my catechumens that there is a scandal? Before instruction, so he never starts, during - so he leaves in the middle, or wait until the Chrism is on his head? By the Grace of Christ (Oh, and by the way.... )” (Laughter) (OCANews.org will publish Fr. Kostoff's remarks as soon as they can be transcribed.)
- “It’s going to be a fight, and it won’t be a clean fight. And we have to be as wise as serpents or we will fail.” Some people will go to the mat for the wrong things. We need to be prepared, and know what is on the docket, given the shortened time frame. There is hope, even if it is not an honest fight. And in the midst of this, Christ will be in the Center.
“- I don’t want a Toronto II where the Bishops are on their podium and there is no interaction between them and us. We need to have the Bishops engaged. If we have a Toronto II, it will be bad...”
- What does that mean? I wasn’t there.
-There was an absolute lack of interaction between the people and bishops. Alice Woog summed it up at the end when she said: “Thank you all for being such a good audience.”
-We need priests to stand up and speak just like they did at the last diocesan assembly. “We need priests with chutzpah and they have to come with all their body parts.” (Laughter) "I am just saying it like it is."
- Don’t underestimate the power of the laity. They can’t do anything to me or you. They can’t fire us, cut our salary, they can’t do anything to us.
- They can deny you the Eucharist. But didn’t +Herman silence his clergy?
The Archbishop responded: “Yes, initially. Until it was an exercise in futility and the damage was done. In an era of instant communication it was pointless.”
- Do we know what is on the docket?
Popadia Jannakos answered: “There are certain things that have to be done. The last proposed agenda had the vast majority of time dealing with these issues. But please know that everything the Pre-Conciliar Commission does has to go through the Synod."
The Archbishop explained: "Some things were not accepted this last go-round. For example, having the service of reconciliation instead of the Liturgy the first morning was rejected...”
We cannot move forward until this is resolved. Whatever the character is of the man, good ,bad, evil, ignorant, guilty or not - nothing can happen until +Herman steps down. That is an undeniable fact, since there is no trust in the man. "That has been said a couple dozen times tonight - but it has only been written down twice on the papers on front. It needs to be underlined and begin every section."
- The entire church is now asking for his resignation, since it is our only hope. We can forgive him, but any success requires this.
- My impression is some people still defend him - that it is not as unanimous like it is here.
Popadia Jannakos replied: “Well, the Town Hall comments are rather clear...”
- I would like to speak in support of Fr. Bobosh’s autocephaly comments. I was in the Bulgarian diocese that went to ROCOR to the Antiochians to OCA. “Should things not go things the way things should go, people need to know there are alternatives. If we fail, the Church in America will come in another format.“
- If Metropolitan Herman stepped up to the podium, and really repented, it would be better to have him stay than a successor chosen through secret means. “What they mean is that they don’t believe he has the capacity to repent in a timely manner.” It is not the man, but the results people are upset with.
-”No way in heaven or hell is Metropolitan Herman going to resign. And if the Synod does not force his retirement, he will stay. We can rattle our sabers, but so far only one man seems convinced of this on the Synod.” We need to know ourselves and our enemies - Sun Tzu said that - and then will come victory. We are not going to see a new Metropolitan at this Council so, to be frank, we need alternatives. He will wear us down. It is war by attrition, and we need to think what else can we do...
- What is our plan B? What if the Council fails? If the OCA lacks its own dream? Do we all vote with our feet and join another jurisdiction?
A priest rose to speak. “I think this is a spiritual battle. Are there options to that Plan B, just leaving? For those who have the mettle, this may turn into a fracas if he doesn’t resign. Shouting “anaxios” during the divine liturgy. I would. If enough people disrupted the proceedings, that is a real plan B, like St. Nicholas fighting with Arius. We have been told wait until the next assembly, the next meeting, the next committee. This November is it. In my experience, people talk big, but when it comes to doing something, everybody folds. I expect some to fold - indeed I have found it universal that most fold. So maybe it is a kamikaze mission, but I won’t stand for it anymore. What was that movie line: 'I am mad as hell and I won’t stand for it anymore?' Those who won’t fight, don’t really care. I am for creating anarchy until he does leave.”
- This is the time for all reports to be pre-made. They must all be written beforehand. We need to talk, not listen to reports.
- “The last time we decided not to vote for a budget at ANAC, and when the time came, we all did. This time we need to stand together. At our October diocesan assembly we need to discuss this. We don’t need fluff or reports, luncheons, and banquets. Nobody wants a seminar this year.”
“We come to the end of the Council, and the budget comes up, and it is the most important thing. We spend lots of money, but it always comes up at the end, when there is no time for discussion, and we are expected to rubber stamp after a long song and dance of how badly it is needed. I don’t want to quibble about money - but what it is being used for and not being used for - blackmail, bribery, and God knows what - so we have to come together as a diocese to demand change. We trust our Bishop and we need to stand behind him. I say ‘No to the budget.’ Fr. Joseph (Gibson) is right: Metropolitan Herman will not step down. I love him, and will always respect him for the March of Life. But this is not working for him. The money is where it is at. When we started to withhold, we got answers. We when stopped, because the Archbishop was threatened, we folded. That makes me angry.” - We need our priests united. The people do not want the money to go to Syosset, but to the dioceses. Priests need to listen to the people. At the Diocesan Assembly in October, we need to say “No more money!”
There followed a very passionate, emotional comment by a priest. “If you are not going to have repentance and there is no reconciliation, how can we even celebrate the liturgy? We are not Donatists, but I am appalled to hear that there are no plans for a service of confession and repentance prior to the Liturgy.”
“We start Great Lent with the priest confessing his sins to the people . I was told not to do this because people take it as a sign of weakness - and so I didn’t. I was wrong. If we clergy cannot lead with honor , then we are liars, and we spit on the face of the Lord. Talk about religious formalism! Talk about a lie! Our Lord did not go to the cross of us to behave like this. The Liturgy is not religious formalism; it is the Kingdom of God on earth, the judgement of Christ for those on earth, as well as our salvation. There can be no Liturgy like this. The whole OCA will be judged for it. We will be held accountable.”
- The resignation of +Herman will be for his salvation. So I have no problem kissing his hand and saying “anaxios” at the Liturgy. I will be protesting his actions and behaviors, not condemning the person. I do not hate him.
- It breaks my heart to hear priests speak of this. Can we go to plan C? Hey, we tried to withhold. So now we have a showdown at the OK corral, and if we fail, and we withdraw from the OCA , it will make the newspapers.
- I fear that is near to Donatism: that is, that the holiness of the Church depends on the leaders. That is a recipe for schism. Jesus said: ‘The Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.’ He did not say 'And unless you pry them out there is no blessing.’ He said ‘Do what they fail to do, not what they do.’ He doesn’t suggest revolt and withdrawal, he suggests ‘doing what they teach.’ They are not teaching heresy here.
- "Are they not teaching heresy? If they can’t tell the truth, and invoke their authority for not speaking the truth, that is heresy. "
- The battle is lost just on this point. We are not in schism if we join another jurisdiction.
At this point Popadia Jannakos stated: “I don’t want to cut anybody off - but it is 10:00 already, and the Archbishop said he would take questions. Please remember that some questions do not have answers. And that the Archbishop has a three hour drive home this evening...."
Questions and Answers
The Archbishop began the question and answer session with the following statement:
“This has been very exhilarating for me, to listen to all of you. I am losing my voice, as I was at camp all day as well, but I want to make a few points. No, I would never take the diocese to another jurisdiction because there is no place I want to be other than the OCA.” The Archbishop then talked about the Ligonier meeting of Orthodox Bishops in 1994. “ We didn’t have to report to anybody ( like all the others). It proved a point. I will not take a diocese to someplace which has to report to Istanbul or Damascus for direction, when it concerns my people in the Midwest of America. Constantinople , God bless him, thinks we are barbarians, And while he lives in a totally barbarian land called Turkey! We are the Church in America, and we have to fight what that stands for, and that includes the vision of SS. Innocent and Tikhon. They are on our side, don’t forget.”
“I heard this in Cleveland, here and in Chicago as well. I never like to hear “ I am only a layman but...” Our Ecclesiology is clear and expressed liturgically.” The Archbishop then discussed the roles of the laity and priesthood in the Liturgy. “. It is all about everybody, but no one is more important than another. All are essential and important. ““This is my fourth town hall, and it has been the most revealing and instructive. I found all your comments quite profound. It is my second (Town Hall) today, for the first was at camp. We talked to staff and then the kids. You would be surprised at some of the questions. Profound ones as well. This has been a great day. “
“As for radical action: I was the only one here who was at Montreal in 1977. Was anybody else? No? The whole thing was to elect the new Metropolitan. It was a transition - the Bishops had been all foreign born, the incumbent was aged, and a DP, a former married priest. It was all very ethnic, and an all-Slavonic Liturgy was held. A few clergy banded together in the back, and when it came to the Creed they began to sing in English. The choir stopped singing, and the rest of Liturgy was in English. That was a violent act, but one that was inspired. We are an North American Church and there we began to act like it. It has got to be real. We must have integrity. The same applies at this Council, even if it does seem radical. (When St. Nicholas decked Arius, it was radical and he was suspended for it.) But that intervention in the Creed is part of our history and it was a turning point. That is when we started to become the OCA.”
After speaking of the changes in the United States following the Civil War, the Archbishop continued:
"In the infamous letter of November 28, 2005, the question was raised for the first time. Are the Allegations True or False.? One told me that will be carved on my tombstone, but I only hope it will be answered by then! Mark Stokoe wrote in an editorial that “ If we don’t get to the bottom of this, can we really expect God to bless any of our efforts? That question has not been addressed yet. Now, I don’t claim to be a good man, but I am an honest one. That is all I have to offer.”
The crowd then began their questions, with responses by the Archbishop.
- “How optimistic are you that the SIC report will be honest, given that the first commission of which you were head was hampered?”
“It’s frustrating, this new and improved SIC. I always try to be an optimist though. It was given carte blanche, and they have interviewed very many people we were not allowed. That is also irritating. Why the difference? But speculation is not edifying. I hope for the best. But I don’t want to speculate about it until I hear what they actually will say.”
“Are you alone as far as the bishops go? Do others believe like you in wanting to really correct things?
“The one bishop who talks to me all the time (is) Bishop Nikon. And when things were intense he would say:” I agree and am behind you. “And the next time he would say; “ I am behind you.” And finally, I said, “I know you know and God knows. Would you let some other people know as well? I kind of think I am alone. I love my brother bishops. I have known +Herman for 42 years, and to be frank, we have never seen eye to eye about anything. We have two different approaches. At St. Tikhon’s he spoke of me as a (The Bishop used a Russian expression) -“snotty-nosed kid” and he still thinks so. He dealt with problems the same back then - don’t speak about them and they will go away.“
- “What was behind the decision to resume payments to the CCA? “
- “The stipulations were not met completely last December at the Synod meeting. I knew I would be asked about it. The benchmarks were met - except for the SIC report more or less. But then, at that meeting, Bishop Nikolai, greeted me warmly and I sat next to him in the Chapel in order to rank, and all seemed rather normal. The next day, we stood at the altar for the service, and then he read his report accusing me of interference in his Diocese and asked that I be deposed. That is what we are dealing with here. It was 2-3 pages long. There was dead silence. And the Metropolitan said: ‘What do you have to say?” And I said “Nothing.” And then there was silence. Another one asked questions of +Nikolai, and then I defended myself. I said ‘I did nothing proactive. I answer the phone if someone calls. I initiated nothing.' I was not afraid, but it was, unfortunately, coupled with “Will you release the assessment?” I was between a rock and hard place, and on my way back (to Chicago) I kicked myself for giving in. Withholding was working and it was worthwhile.
Many times there are no good choices, no cut and dried answers. I felt like Tevye on the roof. “On the other hand, on the other hand...” But sometimes there is no other hand....”
The question was asked if we should stop given the drive back, but the Archbishop dismissed the concern:
“I am all fired up now. The drive is no problem.”
-“Do you concur with this audience that the Metropolitan needs to step down?”
“I made that clear at the Diocesan Assembly last October. The fall session of the Synod took place the next week, and I was set up, as you can see. I am not saying anything that I have not said to his face - with witnesses. I told him: “ All of us must sacrifice. I was a contented parish priest and I had to change my whole life to be a Bishop, out of obedience. I went to New England for 10 years. And then I was content, and the Synod moved me to Chicago, and that was really rough. Because no one asked for me here. They wrote a letter demanding a Bishop and to their surprise, they got one. My first six years here were no honeymoon. Things have gotten better, though.
I said to him I have had to sacrifice, as have all the Bishops. You came to St. Tikhon’s in 1966 and have never left. Bishop , Archbishop and Metropolitan and then Archbishop of New York, all at St. Tikhon’s. ‘What have you sacrificed?’ I asked. And he couldn’t answer. And then they moved on...”
- “What about +Theodosius?”
“After Seminary, I went to Black Lick PA to work with the choir for one year, and ended up there twelve years. After Paul Sawchak left, I ran the parish as reader for 15 months, and then +Theodosius ordained me a deacon, priest and bishop. My own love for him is personal. But Syosset is no more. It only achieved notoriety after Kondratick became Chancellor. Unfortunately, +Theodosius abdicated his position as Metropolitan sometime even before 1989, and certainly afterwards. And Bob was so accommodating. Kondratick is brilliant, in how he controlled everyone. He was amazing. He kept us on the Synod in order. The agendas were full, he would keep us on track, and seemingly it was all good. As long as you have an honest person doing that it is helpful. But hat was not the case....
The Metropolitan is not Pope, he has the Synod to advise him. But neither +Herman nor +Theodosius asked our advice, and we were to rubber stamp, on both the Synod level and then Metropolitan Council as well. It was truly a culture of fear, because if you questioned too much, it was a sign of disloyalty. There were taboo topics. Selling Syosset was taboo. Now it is not - too many people are talking about it. There is a real story behind all this scandal. And when Mark (Stokoe) writes his book on it, I have told him that the diocese wants to get the movie rights.” (Laughter)
-”What if +Herman won’t resign?”
“The Synod could unite, respectfully, asking him to step down, or failing that, then respectfully demand he step down, and then, removing allegiance should he fail to do that. That would have to be unanimous though. And right now, there is a ‘snowball in hades’ chance for unanimity on that....”
- What were the signs of this disease, this creeping culture of fear. Could it have been stopped?
“No one thing signalled it. So much happened without the knowledge of the Synod or the Metropolitan Council. For example, in Pittsburgh in 1999, the Metropolitan's discretionary fund was brought up for the very first time, and I agreed to it, because Kondratick explained it so well - to preserve the anonymity of those who were being assisted. It was my own stupidity not to ask more. My discretionary account is $100 a month, and I use it mostly to send flowers, for funerals and people in the hospital. Now it is $1500 a year. But I expected the Metropolitan's was what, $10,000? Now I know it was millions. Well, that is a whole different story,. One trusted and was betrayed. But if you can’t trust anyone you quickly become jaded...”
- "Could you comment on the Romanian proposal to leave the OCA?"
“I knew that the Romanians were talking, mostly about clearing the air about their history, especially about former Bishops. And then I saw it was on the agenda of the last Synod, and I read the proposal in disbelief, and I was very upset. Archbishop Nathaniel was quite quiet. Benjamin talked a great deal. I asked the priests that were there and it was about Romanians, only Romanians, and no mention was made of Americans or Canadians. Not one mention of the OCA. How does it speak to 38 years of autocephaly of which the Episcopate has been a part? I think the whole thing smacks of phyletism."
I was challenged on that. +Nathaniel said all of us are phyletists. +Seraphim said phyletism is too strong to fight. The problem is that I had to leave for the consecration of my diocesan headquarter Church, and +Nikon said “We stopped the discussion after you left.” Why? We have to determine a policy, otherwise it looks like we don’t care. What if there are parishes or institutions that do not want to be [art of the ‘maximally autonomous’ Romanian Metropolitinate? We need input as far as the policy. We got nothing. and that is very disappointing.
There was no leadership by Herman. So anyway, the pitch of it was that this was a positive step for unity in America. And my question was ‘How?’ And they couldn’t convince me at all.
+Nathaniel is under great pressure, from his clergy and vicar Bishop and new immigrants, and even some of the American clergy. I won’t judge that. But how this assists in unity in America is beyond my comprehension.”
- "We are contemplating building a new Church building here (in Indianapolis) - and we are worried about who we joined up with in 2002. If as you say we are not going someplace else, what do we do?"
“The first sign will be September, and that will make it clear in November what is going to happen. I am a convert too. My father was Roman Catholic, my mother Orthodox, and I maintain I cried every time the Filioque was sung in Church. (Laughter). I went to Church mainly with my mother, but I am partly a convert at the very least. But the truth is, I am still converting to Orthodoxy and that will not be over until my last breath. We must continue to grow even in these difficult times. We must grow in appreciation for truth and righteousness”
The meeting concluded at 10:30 PM following a brief prayer.
- Mark Stokoe