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9.07.06 Latest News

NEWS FROM AROUND THE OCA

• Financial Q&A Opens on OCA Website

“The objective of this new feature,” the Metropolitan stated in an August 22 press release posted on OCA.org “will be to initiate and continue a dialogue between the faithful of the Church and the central Church administration. All questions are welcome, and we will attempt to the best of our ability to provide answers in an open and timely manner.”

However, the Metropolitan continued: “It should be recognized that we are still in the midst of investigations and audits, and that not all can be revealed at this time. In fact, we should note that there very likely will be information that cannot be revealed in this venue in any event, due to legal and privacy concerns. But every attempt will be made to answer questions as completely -- and honestly, in any case -- as possible.”


Responding to the questions will be Protodeacon Peter Danilchick, a deacon of 31 years and a former corporate executive who has served as a trustee of various Church institutions and organizations and is currently authoring a proposed “Best Practice Principles for Financial Accountability” for the OCA’s Metropolitan Council. Danilchick, in his own words “is not an employee of the administration. I am neither a lawyer nor a CPA. I am a volunteer and the servant of the Church.” Therefore, the Metropolitan explained, the Protodeacon will “obtain answers from appropriate members of the administration” before posting.


The Protodeacon’s initiative stems from a “trial run” on OCANews.org following posting of Danilchick’s reflection on this website some two weeks earlier. (Read that reflection here)    Since its opening two weeks ago over a hundred questions have been sent; two answers have been posted. (Read them here)


The new outreach is not without its critics, however. In a recent email to her fellow Metropolitan Council members, Dr. Alice Woog took exception to the effort:

“.... I am not understanding why we now have an official website location for people to submit questions about the OCA, its financial situation, or other topics, that is not managed by an employee of the OCA.

Up to this time, we had a very active communications department and director who handled such inquiries with accurate information.  I do not recall seeing the OCA employ Deacon Peter as a communication’s spokesperson.  It is unsettling to me to see that answers to questions are being given by someone who, in my opinion, is not a member of the Central Church Administration Staff, and should not be speaking on behalf of the OCA. This seems very inappropriate to me, and I would recommend that this website location be removed.

We should use the current communication’s department staff for this type of inquiry page.”

• Trouble From The Council

Dr. Woog, a staunch defender of Fr. Kondratick, had other points to make as well in that same email. Without even waiting for the finished document, which is scheduled to be presented to the Metropolitan Council at its next meeting on September 20th, Woog announced: “I would like to share with my fellow MC members that I will not be signing the Best Practices document.  I, like each of you, was installed into the Metropolitan Council and stated: ‘I will zealously, honestly, voluntarily, and with diligence and the fear of God, fulfill the duties of my office, according to the requirements of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America and the canons of the Orthodox Church..."

This is the only statement and signature line that I need to sign in my role as a MC member."

Moreover, Woog gave her own version of “Best Practices” in a rebuke to the misrepresentations made to the Court by Fr. Kucynda last week. (Read that story here)  Woog writes:

“My thanks to Faith for her diligence in following up on the loan and forwarding it to us. It is perplexing to me as well why we did not received a copy of the loan from the Central Church Administration.”

Having been refused copies by Syosset and Syosset’s lawyers, Metropolitan Council member Dr. Faith Skordinski obtained the relevant pages of the petition and court approval order. She then sent them all to the Metropolitan Council via email, prompting Woog’s outcry.

Woog continues:

“It is interesting to note that according to the Verified Petition and the sworn statement of the OCA Treasurer, Fr. Paul Kucynda, that we--the OCA or the Church as noted in the petition is comprised of 2 million faithful. This number is significantly different than the approximate 27,000 supporting members as indicated in our financial documents which are maintained by Fr. Strikis, forwarded to the treasurer, our Metropolitan, the members of the Holy Synod, the Met Council and the faithful as we discuss potential income and budget development. I would venture to guess that if we indeed had 2 million faithful in the OCA, we would not be looking for a 1.7 million dollar loan.

Over the past 11 years, I have never heard anyone claim that our faithful is 2 million. In fact, when there was an interview done in Orlando in 2002 after the election of our current Primate, Met. HERMAN, by a local newspaper stated that we had a membership of 1 million. The Administration of the Central Church at that time, including Fr. Paul, made reference to that as being wishful thinking!

In view of the fact that there is an attempt to work with Best Practices, perhaps the first Best Practice would be honest reporting of the accurate number of faithful of the OCA. I cannot support a document that reports inaccurate information.”

Finally, Woog reveals the following disturbing piece of information about how business in Syosset is  still being conducted:

“It is also unfortunate that as members of the MC we were not told prior to the June 13-14 meeting that a re-vote of the loan approval would need to be done. There were only 18 members present out of the 25 who could have cast a ballot and provided their comments.I am sure that the leadership of the Central Church knew that a re-vote would have to take place prior to us gathering on June 13-14. Once again, let’s begin with Best Practices of sharing accurate information in a timely manner.“

• Skordinski Writes the Court

While Woog complains and recuses herself, it is clearly Skordinski who is doing the heavy lifting of attempting to hold Syosset accountable to the OCA Statute, the law, and its membership. OCANews has obtained a copy of a fax sent by Skordinski to Judge Joseph Spinola yesterday requesting a hearing on the loan.

She writes:

“RE: Petition of the Orthodox Church in America, Supreme Court of New York, County of Nassau, Index Number 06-13383

Dear Judge Spinola:

I am writing as a member of the permanent executive body of the Orthodox Church in America (“OCA”), the Metropolitan Council. On August 18, 2006, the Court signed an Order approving the OCA’s Petition For An Order Pursuant to New York Religious Corporation Law 12(1) and New York Not-For-Profit Corporation Law 511 Granting Leave to Mortgage Real Property. (See Docket Index Number 06-13383, New York Supreme Court, Nassau County). Despite my repeated requests to Jon Ward and Michael Sahn the attorneys representing the OCA for a copy of the filed petition, they refused to share with me or any of the other members of the Metropolitan Council a copy of the filed petition.

I received a copy of the filed petition through another source; however, I was unable to obtain copies of the exhibits. I was surprised to read two blatant misrepresentations to the Court in the petition and affidavit. In addition, exhibit J purports to show a financial statement for the OCA, which to this day, to the best of my knowledge, has not been provided to the Metropolitan Council, although requested.

I am compelled to write to the Court to correct the record and to request that the Court reconsider its approval and hold a hearing on these matters.

In the verified petition, Father Paul Kucynda, Secretary and Acting Treasurer of the OCA, swore under oath:

“3. The Church is currently comprised of approximately two (2) million faithful and has approximately 700 parishes, missions, monasteries, and institutions located throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.”

(Verified Petition, ” 3, Aug. 18, 2006).

This two million membership number is grossly inflated and distorts whether the OCA indeed can afford the $1.7 million loan. This membership number is inflated by roughly 100 times its paying membership of 20,000; or by 50 times the 40,000 members it claims in its first quarter 2006 budget report; or by five times the stated membership of 400,000 recently given to the press by the OCA administrative staff located in Syosset, New York; or even two times the already-exaggerated number of 1 million that was commonly used by the administrative staff in Syosset. A loan of $2 million for a Church of 20,000 contributing members certainly should have raised more concerns by the New York Attorney General’s office and the Court than the 2 million membership reported. Indeed, if we needed $2 million dollars, it would have made more sense for the OCA to have asked each of its 2 million members to contribute one dollar ($1.00) instead of seeking this loan. This did not happen, however, because our membership numbers do not even come close to those presented to this Court.

There also remains concern whether the vote taken for the $1.7 million loan meets New York’s statutory requirement that a majority of the entire board must approve the loan. (See Not-For-Profit Corporation Law, ? 509). Father Kucynda attests in his sworn affidavit that the Metropolitan, Chancellor, Treasurer, and Secretary of the OCA are now only ex-officio members of the Metropolitan Council. (Affidavit of V. Rev. Paul Kucynda, ” 7, Aug. 8, 2006). This statement is not supported by the explicit words of The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America. The OCA Statute states that they are indeed “members.” Such a demotion was needed to reduce the number of “members” of the Metropolitan Council to be able to claim that clear “majority” of members had voted to approve the loan.

'6. The Metropolitan Council consists of the following persons: (i) the Metropolitan, as Chairman; (ii) a Chancellor; (iii) a Secretary; (iv) a Treasurer; (v) two (2) representatives (a priest and layperson) from each diocese of the Church (there are ten (10) dioceses); and (vi) three (3) priests and three (3) laymen elected by the All-American Council. id. Thus, when all membership positions are filled, there are 30 members of the Metropolitan Council and two (2) alternates to fill vacancies occurring among the members elected by the All-American Council.

7. Historically, the Chairman, Chancellor, Secretary, and Treasurer of the Metropolitan Council have been considered ex-officio members of the Metropolitan Council and do not vote on actions of the Council. In the event of a tie vote, however, the deciding vote is cast by the Metropolitan.See Verified Petition at Exhibit “B” at Article V, Section 2.

(Affidavit of V. Rev. Paul Kucynda, 6 and 7, Aug. 8, 2006).'

The actual OCA Statute reads otherwise:

'The Metropolitan Council is the permanent executive body of the Church Administration which exists for the purpose of implementing the decisions of the All-American Council and continuing its work between sessions. It shall consist of the Metropolitan as Chairman, the Chancellor, the Secretary, the Treasurer, two representatives from each diocese, one priest and one layman to be elected by the Diocesan Assemblies, three priests and three laymen elected by the All-American Council. Vacancies occurring among diocesan representatives are filled by the respective dioceses. Two alternates are to be elected by the All-American Council, one priest and one layman, to fill vacancies occurring among members elected by the All-American Council. All elected members, whether representing the several dioceses or those elected by the All-American Council, may succeed themselves in office for one term only.

The Metropolitan Council, may between meetings, delegate a committee consisting of the Chancellor, Secretary, Treasurer, and two other members to meet in conjunction with the Lesser Synod of Bishops upon their invitation, to discuss normal church administrative procedures. This committee shall report back to the Metropolitan Council concerning all actions and decisions.

(The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, Art. V, 1. )'

There is no mention in the OCA Statute that the Metropolitan, Chancellor, Treasurer, and Secretary are only ex-officio members of the Metropolitan Council. Indeed, the former Chancellor, Treasurers, and Secretaries all voted in the past. Moreover, if it was true that the Chancellor, Treasurer, and Secretary were ex-officio, the Administrative Committee, the governing board, would have more than half of its membership composed of ex-officio members; one of which, indeed, even appoints the two elected members to that same committee! Such a notion is simply absurd. This distortion was presented to the Court only to do an end-run around the New York statutory requirement that a majority of the entire board must approve the loan.

Based upon the two issues presented above, I am requesting that the Court reconsider its decision to approve the OCA’s petition and that it hold a hearing to determine, among other things, the validity of the numbers presented (both of the OCA’s membership and the members comprising the Metropolitan Council).

Respectfully,

Faith Skordinski, Ed.D.
Member, Metropolitan Council
Orthodox Church in America

cc: Members of the Metropolitan Council
Jon A. Ward, Esquire
Michael H. Sahn, Esquire
Valerie Singleton, Deputy New York Attorney General”

The next meeting of the Metropolitan Council is scheduled for September 28th in Syosset.

• Episcopal Turmoil As Well

Sources have confirmed that Archbishop Kyrill, suffering from persistent pneumoni, among other health problems, after being briefly hospitalized, has entered a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility to assist in his recovery. It has been reported that the 86-year-old hierarch, the senior hierarch in the OCA has transferred his authority “temporarily” to Metropolitan Herman. According to other sources, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit will substitute for the ailing +Kyrill on the Lesser Synod.

It has also been confirmed that the candidate for Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of the South, Archimandrite Vladimir Wendling, has returned to Chicago. Nominated by Archbishop Dmitri and confirmed by the entire Synod of Bishops at its last meeting, (Read that story here)  Fr. Wendling had, by all reports, made a positive impression on clergy and delegates at the recent Diocese of the South Assembly in Dallas.  Shortly thereafter, however, Archbishop Dmitri, who is 84, informed Fr. Wendling that his services would no longer be needed. 

One the other hand, another OCA priest has found a new home in Dallas. Some weeks ago the Archbishop added a third priest to the Cathedral's staff: Fr. Joseph Fester, the long-time Assistant to the former OCA Chancellor, Fr. Robert Kondratick, who resigned when Fr. Kondratick was dismissed. According to the OCA website, the Archbishop and Fr. Fester now share Fr. Fester's email account.


Fr. Wendling has returned to Chicago, where his former parish, St. George Cathedral, petitioned Archbishop Job to have him re-assigned back to them, and promptly offered him a pay raise.

It remains to be seen how other Bishops will react to the Archbishop’s unilateral decision. A meeting of the Lesser Synod is scheduled for September 20th in Syosset.

-Mark Stokoe

 

 
     
 

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