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Lesser Synod To Meet Today

The Lesser Synod, the de facto executive committee of the Synod of Bishops, consists of the Metropolitan and four Diocesan Bishops who serve on a rotating basis by appointment of the Metropolitan. The 2006 Lesser Synod is composed of Metropolitan Herman, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh (2005-2008) , Archbishop Job of Chicago (2005-2008) Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa (2006-2007) and Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia (2005-2006). (Bishop Nikon of Boston and the Albanian Diocese has been appointed to serve 2007-2008 and may attend today meeting as well.) While no agenda has been published, the Lesser Synod of the OCA clearly has its plate full as it plans the agenda for the annual Spring gathering of all OCA Diocesan Bishops at the end of May:

• The Audit

The 2004 audit was originally scheduled to be completed by March 31st, with the 2005 audit expected by the end of April. The first deadline was not met; nor will the second. Sources close to Syosset confirm that both audits are "going slower than originally expected", but that the "thoroughness" by which they are being conducted "is encouraging". In his recent Archpastoral message of April 17th, Metropolitan Herman promised: "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."  He continued by explaining: "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." This would seem to indicate that the Lesser Synod will make nothing public until after the Metropolitan Council meeting in June.

• The Investigation

More worrisome is the fact that Metropolitan Herman has been less than forthcoming about making public the results of the ongoing misconduct investigation by Proskauer Rose LLP. In his Archpastoral address +Herman would not commit to a timetable for disclosure of their findings, nor process for doing so, stating only "that the results of the internal investigation will be made public when deemed appropriate to do so by the investigators."

• Finances

The OCA has stated that it is currently at least $1.8 million debt; and that it is actively seeking a commercial loan to cover its vendors. This unfortunate financial situation was exacerbated by the decision of Bishop Tikhon and the Diocese of the West to temporarily escrow their monthly contributions, rather than forwarding them to Syosset. Despite this embargo, sources close to Syosset confirm "the first quarter 2006 report of income and expenses shows a net gain in income over expenses." This rosy assessment however, is called into question by the fact that Syosset was late in meeting its mid-April payroll. Syosset has also voiced concern of its continuing ability to fund the ongoing Proskauer Rose investigation.

• Growing Difficulties with Bishop Tikhon

The criticism of Metropolitan Herman by Bishops Tikhon and Nikolai (Read +Tikhon's letter here) (Read +Nikolai's letter here) prompted a five page response from the Metropolitan marked "private and confidential" to +Tikhon dated April 7th. This, in turn, prompted a very public retort from Bishop Tikhon on Holy Tuesday, April 18th in which +Tikhon denied and refuted the Metropolitan's criticisms.

In increasingly inappropriate public postings the Bishop of the West now openly discusses not only his personal failings and health history, but the failings of those around him. On Holy Friday April 21st, +Tikhon, for example, posted a long paean of praise to Bishop Nikolai of Alaska, which included the following disturbing passage about +Tikhon's own health:

"Anyone at all who is aware or would claim to be aware that anti-depressants have had and may have bad effects on those using them, would also know that the chief, the absolutely most important possible bad effect is 'suicidal tendencies.' In fact, the attribution of teen-age and other suicides to anti-depressant medicine collateral effect is well-known to those who read the news sections of newspapers or who watch the news on TV or the Internet, or even listen to it on the radio. When I get my prescription filled, the pharmacist always encloses a list of what to watch for in the way of bad 'side effects.' Suicide and suicidal tendencies are chief among those and it is they, no doubt, which are the main justification for such warnings.

Acting on Your Grace's knowledge, Your Grace called me immediately, showing that as far as Your Grace goes, my life was Your Grace's main concern. Had I been a victim of suicidal tendencies, Your Grace's swift, intelligent action, so obviously based on Your Grace's care for me, Your Grace's Christian care for me, might very well have prevented a disaster (for me and those who care for me, that is) in my life, namely, death by my own hand!  As far as I know, no one else who feared I might be undergoing a crisis caused by medication, or who interpreted my writing of my experience at Liturgy (or the other subject in my letter) was some kind of pathological symptom, was concerned enough to contact me personally, by telephone, fax, email, letter or visit. Perhaps the others had no experience of Clinical Depression or the various 'anti-depressants' and their effects, no? Otherwise, one would have to face some, frankly,

very ugly possibilities."

In his letter the Metropolitan suggested +Tikhon retire given these health concerns. +Tikhon refused. It is unclear what, if anything, the Lesser Synod can do; but clear something must be done.

• The Administration in Syosset

The Lesser Synod also faces the issue of how to rebuild the administration in Syosset in the wake of the financial scandal. OCAnews has learned that the former chancellor, Fr. Robert Kondratick, has turned down an offer of a parish in the Diocese of the West, preferring a posting in the New York (or New England) diocese. One would imagine the Metropolitan would agree, so as to keep the former chancellor within his jurisdiction pending the resolution of all the issues in which he is involved. The Metropolitan's secretary, Fr. David Brum, has tendered his resignation, and agreed to take a parish in Arizona. Fr. Joseph Fester, the former Chancellor's secretary, has also resigned, and is currently seeking a parish assignment. With their departures, three of the five most prominent administrative positions in the OCA will be vacant.

-Mark Stokoe








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