Metropolitan Council Meeting Begins with Resignation, Reports
The Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America, together with members of the Lesser Synod, meets today, Wednesday, September 28th through Friday, September 30th at the Chancery in Syosset. The meeting was preceded by meetings of individual Metropolitan Council committees on Tuesday, September 27th.
The Council will be quite different from meetings in the past six years as three of its more vocal members will not be present. Mark Stokoe, editor of OCANews.org was dismissed from the Council as lay representative from the Diocese of the Midwest last month by Bishop Matthias
(read that story here), while Dr. Faith Skordinski, delegate at large, suddenly announced her resignation from the Council yesterday in a letter to members. Dr. Skordinski wrote:
“For the past six years as a member of the MC, I have devoted extraordinary personal time and resources attempting to bring about honest, accountable, and competent leadership within the OCA. Recognizing the MC continues to address critical issues, its composition requires individuals who are able to dedicate the necessary attention, energy, resources, and time to the situations at hand.
Earlier this year, I was promoted into a new position in my place of employment, which demands nearly undivided attention and limited time away from my office. Consequently, I am resigning from the MC, effective the date of this communication, and thus my remaining three years on the MC may be filled by my alternate.
Best wishes for a successful AAC.
Although Dr. Skordinski cited new responsibilities at work for her decision, many on the Synod had been blunt in their criticisms of Dr. Skordinski’ s outspoken efforts on both Special Investigative Committees and her work on sexual misconduct policies. Also missing this meeting will be Fr. John Reeves, whose oratory and pointed questions had often influenced the Council. Fr. Reeves was severely bitten by a dog late last week, and must undergo a series of shots this week.
Reports from Metropolitan Council’s various committees — Crisis Management, Sexual Misconduct, Ethics, Charity, Council Development, Internal Governance (which includes both the internal and external audits), Legal and Strategic Plan are expected to dominate the sessions.
The Crisis Management Committee is expected to discuss shortcomings in the recent handling of the turmoil occasioned by allegations of misconduct in Moscow, focusing on the Metropolitan’s role of both recuesing himself, and then continuing to make decisions, concerning Archimandrite Zacchaeus’ pastoral responsibilities. The Sexual Misconduct Committee will discuss continual failures in the application of the OCA’s policies regarding sexual misconduct. (It is expected that the news over the weekend that Archbishop Seraphim, who is currently awaiting his preliminary hearing on sexual battery charges against two minors in Canada, is still visiting parishes, will be discussed as well.)
The Ethics Committee may, or may not be allowed by the Lesser Synod, to review with the MC the 13 individual violations of Best Practices and OCA Policies submitted by MC committees and members that have been laid against the Metropolitan in recent months, many of which arose from the last MC meeting in Chicago in May. These were later grouped by the Ethics Committee into 7 “areas” of violations, which the entire Synod later reviewed, and subsequently required a written response from the Metropolitan. That response, according to sources close to Syosset, was given to the Synod at the last meeting of the Lesser Synod some weeks ago. It is not known if the Metropolitan’s response will be shared with the Ethics Committee or the MC as a whole - or not. As Chairman of the MC the Metropolitan is officially bound by the rules of the MC; and in breaking them, subject to its discipline. However, as the Synod holds only Bishops may discipline Bishops, it is unclear what, if anything, will happen.
It is entirely possible that the vast majority of the forthcoming MC proceedings will be held in Executive Session, with no Minutes kept. The reason for continual use of Executive Session grows out of an abundance of legal caution - and episcopal embarrassment - given the failures being discussed.
The Finance Committee ( which also serves as the Investment Committee) will offer a 2012 budget. The Metropolitan had proposed a 2012 budget based on a $50 OCA yearly assessment. When challenged on his calculations of costs and expenses, the Metropolitan admitted his figures were “taken off the top of his head”. The Synod subsequently declined to consider such a budget, and the Committee, led by the OCA Treasurer, prepared a 2012 budget based on variations of current assessment levels. (The issue of the $50 yearly assessment has been proposed as a resolution to the upcoming AAC.)
A New Chancellor?
One interesting omission from the OCA press release concerning the meeting is the absence of any report of the Human Relations Committee. After soliciting applications for the position of Chancellor of the OCA this past summer, the Committee is expected to present a candidate(s) to replace Fr. Garklavs, and the current interim Chancellor, Bishop Melchisedek. According to Statute, the MC must formally recommend the candidate (s) before one can be presented to the Synod for selection and confirmation. The Synod meets the week following the MC meeting ( October 5-7th), which would allow a new Chancellor to be announced either before the All American Council in Seattle in late October. If no candidate is presented, no candidate(s) could be presented again until the AAC. No names have been publicly mentioned by the HR Committee.
The meeting concludes with a discussion of the Strategic Plan which is scheduled to be discussed and voted upon at the upcoming AAC.