ADM, Stonewalling and Governance:
An Interview with Michael McKibben
Stokoe (MS): Your name has been mentioned several times in relation to this OCA financial scandal; once by Deacon Eric Wheeler (see Wheeler's "Call to Accountability here) and again in the original grant proposal to Dwayne Andreas to fund St. Catherine's in Moscow (Read that article here).
McKibben (MTM): I first became aware of Deacon Eric's comments last year from Ben Williams who forwarded me a newsgroup posting. Ben and I co-authored Oriented Leadership for the OCA's stewardship and leadership development programs in the mid-90's. I remember the stonewalling that Deacon Eric now admits.
MS: Can you describe the circumstances surrounding the original ADM proposal?
MTM: The Soviet Union was collapsing. The Moscow Patriarchate had just donated the St. Catherine's property to the OCA. The Patriarchate and the OCA found a sympathetic supporter in Mr. Dwayne Andreas of ADM. Syosset was hopeful of being able to foster connections between Mr. Andreas and the Patriarchate, as well as get Mr. Andreas' assistance in renovating St. Catherine's into a parish complex and conference center.
MS: How did you personally get involved in this effort?
MTM: Fr. Bob Kondratick asked me to assist. I am a civil engineer by formal education with a working knowledge of property redevelopment. My late father was an accomplished civil engineer. My brother is a builder. I have experience raising funds for charities and was running a software development company at the time. In addition, Ben Williams and I were already presenting the stewardship and leadership development programs around the country for the OCA. This convergence of skills and experience made me a natural choice to work on it, I guess.
MS: Who wrote the original ADM grant request? Did you?
MTM: I drafted it. Someone at Syosset edited it; I believe that was Paul Hunchak. Paul seemed to have been editing most material coming out of Syosset then.
MS: Did you know that it had been approved, and that the money had been given?
MTM: I knew only that the initial $250,000 had been donated. Like everyone else, I only recently learned that the proposal had become so lucrative, totaling millions.
MS: At last count, $4,575.000, none of which has been accounted for. But let's go back to the beginning. What was the atmosphere in Syosset at this time? Excited? Business as usual?
MTM: As I recall, Fr. Kondratick and Fr. Kucynda were very excited about the opportunity. Mr. Andreas was already a benefactor to the Patriarchate and seemed ready to support OCA efforts that were in one way or another connected to the Moscow Patriarchate. I do remember that the proposal needed a direct tie to the Patriarchate to be of interest to Mr. Andreas.
MS: Did you have any idea that Mr. Andreas' donations would eventually total millions?
MTM: Well, I knew it was a worthy cause on paper. The property was in terrible shape from decades of abuse, so I knew that such a major re-development would eventually need that amount and more. Following that first donation, I accepted an invitation to travel to Moscow with Fr. Kondratick, Fr. Kucynda and others to survey St. Catherine's, to meet with the Patriarch Alexi and his officials, and plan the first steps of the grant proposal implementation. I even arranged meetings with well-known professors at Moscow State University and the Russian Academy of Sciences to discuss getting their assistance in setting up the initial technology infrastructure for St. Catherine's. Such technologies were scarce in Russia at the time, but those professors were able to get the technologies needed.
MS: But none of this was done, was it?
MTM: None of what we discussed happened. While I was initially designated a point man on the project, there seemed to be no interest from Syosset in getting the project moving. Once we returned from the Moscow trip, nothing happened, at least as far as I was concerned. Questions about next steps were fielded and then answers avoided. I have no idea what they may have done outside my involvement. It would appear from Deacon Eric's account that nothing happened beyond window dressing.
MS: If the monies were not spent on the projects for which the grant was written, do you know how they were spent?
MTM: No, I don't know. I lost touch with Syosset after that. That said, if those millions were not spent as solicited and designated, as Deacon Eric and Paul Hunchak assert, that is truly serious. I remember having many conversations with the folks at Syosset about the seriousness of misappropriating designated funds in a charity. As Deacon Eric described, Fr. Paul (Kucynda) had come to me with his concern about the sloppy bookkeeping at Syosset. I didn't want that sloppiness to extend to this project since I would have my name associated with it. We would be raising funds from a high-profile donor who would expect such standards. Therefore, I proposed that the ADM use of funds be audited by a major accounting firm. That is in the proposal. I guess that never happened either.
MS: So you are the one who included the requirement for auditing by a 'Big Six' firm in the ADM proposal?
MTM: Yes. Given the circumstances, it was appropriate and should have been done. I believe we had a great opportunity to provide a real service to our brothers and sisters in Russia who were and are experiencing highly uncertain lives.
MS: I understand you left the OCA shortly after this, after being quite an active Churchman. Do you mind sharing why?
MTM: Well, I offered my services to the Church in good faith. As you can see, that good faith was breached.
MTM: Your site provides enough of the reasons to sufficiently answer the question. There were somewhat related circumstances involving our diocese and parish that, when combined, made continuing participation unbearable.
MS: You left the OCA: did you leave the Church?
MTM: In the intervening years I was a founding member of an Antiochian Mission in Columbus, Ohio. My family has recently begun worshipping at a new OCA mission in North Columbus,. Our new parish is dedicated to All Saints of North America. Let's hope the prayers of our North American Saints will help pull the OCA through this crisis. We have also continued throughout to support Fr. Daniel Byantoro in his efforts to establish the Orthodox Church in Indonesia.
MS: Any impressions of the current scandal, given you have not been close to the OCA over much of this intervening period?
MTM: Having read through your archives, I am appalled. At first I found the stonewalling baffling, and then the motives came into focus. The wrongdoers are scrambling for cover. The most depressing aspect of this scandal is that the 'lack of trust' issues were the primary topic of attention back in 1993 when I was asked to facilitate the Administrative Summit held at St. Tikhon's. I believe we had a breakthrough at that Summit, but the subsequent Administrative Task Force died without a whimper. I encountered more hidden agendas in the Task Force participants than Carter has liver pills. I stepped away from the OCA then, when it became apparent that the leadership of the Church was only giving lip service to fixing the problems creating this lack of trust. A lack of commitment to real improvement, added to the existence of the ADM secret slush fund, resulted in a formula for shenanigans. I personally felt used as a facade by Syosset, to give the impression to the Church at large that Syosset was listening, when they were not.
MS: You are a successful businessman, author, leadership consultant. In your opinion, how do we make this right?
MTM: At the time I withdrew, in early 1994, I was rebuilding a major communications application for AT&T. By comparison, what the OCA needed administratively was not rocket science. It could have and should have been up and running within months of the 1992 Audit which enumerated the needed reforms. The fact that those recommendations are still not operational, 14 years later, is unconscionable.
It seems to me the solution is two-fold: tactical and strategic. Tactically, trust has been violated and laws likely broken. These problems need to be addressed immediately and the chips need to fall where they may. Strategically, our governance disaster has been a long time coming - since autocephaly, I believe.
We have been improperly attempting to place hierarchy and conciliarity on opposite ends of the shelf, rather than realizing that they are both attributes of the relationships among the Persons of the Holy Trinity, which can only be viewed as a whole. I believe the relationship among the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity provide us all the guidance we need to make it right. Hierarchy and conciliarity are balancing principles that only find their true expression in their interrelationship. Ben Williams and I, in our book Oriented Leadership, tried to present a practical governance solution rooted in Holy Tradition: hierarchical conciliarity.
MS: What are the basic concepts behind the idea of hierarchical conciliarity?
MTM: The theological concept is that hierarchy represents an order and authority to the relationships among Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with the Father being the first among equals in honor - often represented by a triangle in iconography. The equally venerable concept of conciliarity represents a relationship of love, respect and mutual accountability among the three Persons of the Holy Trinity - a circle in iconography. Hierarchy and conciliarity can only be fully understood in relationship to each other - a triangle with its three points touching the circle in iconography, as in the icon of the Holy Trinity. Hierarchy without conciliarity leads to tyranny. Conciliarity without hierarchy leads to disorder. Hierarchy, therefore, is the first among equals with conciliarity. This position of honor should be comforting to leaders, but rather seems to be seen by them as a threat, which has led to a brazen, systematic disregard for accountability and fiduciary duty.
This scandal is most disturbing in the way certain players are attempting to bludgeon conciliarity with a hierarchical club. It seems that many leaders in this scandal have lost sight of their pastoral calling.
MS: You mentioned that you think our governance problem began at autocephaly. Will you elaborate?
MTM: When I facilitated the Administrative Task Force, one of our committees uncovered a telling shortcoming in the OCA Statute: the Statute contains no statements about performance accountability and contains no consequences for non-performance. This finding never made it out of committee. In my opinion, this was the most important finding of the Task Force; however, it seemed to touch a sensitive nerve that no one wanted to touch. I now believe that nerve was the legacy of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, the architect of OCA autocephaly. I believe that Fr. Alexander oversaw the drafting of all governance documents for autocephaly, including the Statutes. Fr. Alexander was a capable theologian and clergyman. Organizational governance dynamics do not appear to have been his strong suit, though. That is not a criticism, just an observation.
In my opinion while our governance documents were sufficient to obtain autocephaly and legal status, they were not adequate for day-to-day governance. That work has yet to be done. However, in the years subsequent to autocephaly, Fr. Alexander's influence was so strong that he was able through personal energy, charisma, rhetoric and intellect to overcome any shortcomings in the written governance documents. Since his death, the unfortunate situation in the OCA today shows that those governance guidelines cannot stand on their own.
MS: Thanks, Mike for your comments.
MTM: You are welcome.