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8.15.08

Resolutions From Two Pennsylvanias and One Pennsylvanian


It is the season for resolutions in the OCA, as individuals, parishes and dioceses move to meet the September 15th deadline for submission of resolutions for the forthcoming All American Council (AAC) in Pittsburgh in November.

The two OCA dioceses in Pennsylvania offer a stark contrast in approaches to the problems of the OCA, as evidenced by their current resolutions and how they were crafted. And one current resident of Pennsylvania has suggested the most dramatic resolutions of all.


Diocese of E PA


In Eastern Pennsylvania, the resolution process was an exercise in mediation. First, parishes proposed resolutions; these were then "reviewed and discussed, with (a) Committee proposing edits of the language and of the proposed resolutions where it considered it appropriate for the sake of clarity of thought, or to remedy perceived theological or canonical deficiencies". The Diocesan Resolutions Committee, chaired by Bishop Tikhon and appointed by him, met on August 2nd, one week before the Extraordinary Assembly. Forty-four delegates, clergy and lay, were present at the Assembly, held August 9th, at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Philadelphia. Both the original wording and the modifications (in bold) proposed by the Diocesan Resolutions Committee were then given to the Extraordinary Assembly for consideration. The resolutions and the proposed changes are all posted on the diocesan website at www.doepa.com


Resolution 1


"RESOLUTION ADOPTED BY ST. STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL PARISH COUNCIL, PHILADELPHIA ON MONDAY, JULY 21


We ask the All-American Council to consider a different way of funding the Diocesan and Central Administration that is based on income in the parishes rather than on the membership census."


The Resolutions Committee recommends the following: "We ask the All-American Council to consider a statutory revision which, in accordance with Orthodox ecclesiology, permits each diocese to determine for itself the best method of funding Diocesan and National Administrations."


It is not evident how St. Stephen's request for a study of income-based funding rather than a member-based funding system was "unclear, or theologically or canonical deficient" such that it became a request for something totally different. That is, a consideration of a statute revision (that wasn't presented in the required language for an amendment to the Statute, and therefore could not  properly be presented to the upcoming AAC) that “permits every diocese to determine for itself the best method of funding”. Additionally, the precise method of funding has never been heretofore outlined in the Statute, which has reserved that power to the decision of the AACs.

The question though, is moot. The resolution did not pass. 


Resolution 2


"DEEPLY REGRETTING the prolonged and problematic administration of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), most especially the misappropriation of Church's funds, neglect of the spiritual welfare of the Faithful, and all-around miscommunication to the Faithful from the Synod of Bishops,

RECOGNIZING at the same time the Synod of Bishop's tremendous responsibility to lead and guide the OCA,

1. ENCOURAGES the Synod of Bishops to organize and hire an independent financial firm to manage the OCAÕs financial responsibilities;

The Resolutions Committee recommends the following for Item 1:

ENCOURAGES the Holy Synod of Bishops to entrust the management of Church finances to individuals who are appointed based upon the highest professional standards, competence and experience."

Once again, a resolution is watered down well beyond its original intent. "Encouraging the Synod to entrust an independent financial firm to manage the OCA's finances" is simply not the same as encouraging the Synod to entrust it to "individuals who are appointed upon the highest professional standards, etc." The resolution, however, did not pass in either form.


Resolution 3


"SUBJECT OF RESOLUTION: SHORTAGE OF QUALIFIED MEN TO SERVE AS BISHOPS


SUBMITTED BY: HOLY ASCENSION ORTHODOX CHURCH COUNCIL, FRACKVILLE, WITH THE BLESSING OF PRIEST MATTHEW CANTRELL, RECTOR,

THE DIOCESE OF EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA,

DEEPLY CONVINCED of the Bishops' centrality in leading and nurturing the faithful,

RECALLING that St. Paul encourages overseers to be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money;

REALIZING that there are few monastic candidates who meet the above criteria simply on account of the Orthodox Church in America's (OCA's) diminutive monastic infrastructure,

1. REQUESTS that the OCA's Synod of Bishops considers affirming non-monastic, single, celibate, men, who fulfill St. Paul's criteria, as appropriate candidates for Bishop;

Since this is already part of the O.C.A. Statute, the Committee suggests the following revision of this item:

1. Requests that the O.C.A. Holy Synod of Bishops reaffirm Article VI, Section 9B regarding qualifications for candidates for bishops including non-monastic, single, celibate men.

2. FURTHER REQUESTS the Synod of Bishops to examine the feasibility of allowing married priests to be admitted as candidates for Bishop when no suitable unmarried priest can be found;

The submission of this resolution with this item to the Extraordinary Diocesan Assembly does not signify an endorsement of married bishops on the part of His Grace, Bishop TIKHON or the committee, as a whole or of its individual members.

3. EXPRESSES ITS HOPE that if the immediately preceding request (#2) were unfeasible due to canonical and theological concerns, the Synod of Bishops ponders whether or not the OCA might unite some of its Dioceses, for example, the Dioceses of Western and Eastern Pennsylvania.

The Resolutions Committee suggests that this item be considered as follows, removing the items in parenthesis.

EXPRESSES ITS HOPE that (if the immediately preceding request (#2) were unfeasible due to canonical and theological concerns,) the Synod of Bishops ponders whether or not the OCA might unite some of its Dioceses (for example, the Dioceses of Western and Eastern Pennsylvania).)"

Once again, the Resolutions Committee gutted the parish's resolution, eliminating their stated goal of interjecting St. Paul's scriptural admonitions into the discussion of future episcopal candidates in favor of a simple recitation of the minimal qualifications of the existing Article VI, Section 9 B.. 

Likewise, the request that the Synod of Bishops 'ponder' whether to unite the two Pennsylvania dioceses into one was watered down into a more general statement of uniting "some" unspecified dioceses.

This resolution did not pass either.

Resolution 4

"SUBJECT OF RESOLUTION:

ADMISSION OF RESPONSIBILITY
SUBMITTED BY: HOLY ASCENSION ORTHODOX CHURCH COUNCIL, FRACKVILLE.

BELIEVING that humility remains part-and-parcel of our salvation,

AFFIRMING that there remains a lack of trust between some of the Orthodox Church in America's (OCA's) faithful and Synod of Bishops,

1 EXPRESSES ITS HOPE that His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, as head of the Synod of Bishops, might admit that responsibility for the OCA's woes goes beyond one man and extends to the entire OCA's leadership;

The Resolutions Committee recommends the following in place of Item 1:


1. EXPRESSES ITS HOPE that the Holy Synod of Bishops, Clergy and Faithful accept their own proper responsibility for the O.C.A's woes, which are not limited to one man, but encompass the entire Church.

2 FURTHER HOPES that the OCA's faithful continue to pray for the Synod of Bishops;

3 ASKS that the Synod of Bishops increase the timeliness of its communication with the faithful to reestablish some measure of trust.

The Resolutions Committee recommends that Items 2 and 3 be reformulated with the following additions.

ASKS that the Holy Synod of Bishops increase the timeliness and forthrightness of its communication with the faithful to reestablish some measure of trust, and in turn requests that the Faithful continue to pray for the Holy Synod and express their opinions in public forums, i.e. the Internet, in language and sentiments that are civil and dignified and befit the substance and subjects of the discussion."

The parish wanted the Metropolitan to admit that responsibility for the OCA's woes was not just Bob Kondratick's alone, but extends to the entire leadership. The Committee changed that intent, seeking to absolve "the leadership" by spreading responsibility for the scandal to "the entire Church".

The parish  then asked that the Synod increase the timeliness of its communications to re-establish trust. The Committee agreed, with the caveat that "the Faithful" (who weren't even mentioned in the original resolution), "express their opinions" in a civil and dignified manner on the internet. One could argue this was but a call to civility - or was it yet another shallow attempt to make the internet the problem for revealing that there is a problem?

In the end this resolution passed.

The revised resolution, as adopted, now reads:

"BELIEVING that humility remains part-and-parcel of our salvation,

AFFIRMING that there remains a lack of trust between some of the Orthodox Church in America’s (OCA) faithful and the Synod of Bishops,

EXPRESSES ITS HOPE that the Holy Synod of Bishops, Clergy and Lay Leaders accept their own proper responsibility for the OCA’s woes,

ASKS that the Holy Synod of Bishops increase the timeliness and forthrightness of its communication with the faithful to reestablish some measure of trust, and in turn requests that the faithful continue to pray for the Holy Synod and express their opinions in public forums, e.g. the internet, in language and sentiments that are civil and dignified and befit the substance and subjects of the discussion."

In the end, all references to Bob Kondratick were  indeed eliminated and "responsibility" was spread to include the clergy and lay leaders as well as the leadership.

"Proper responsibility" is the key point, however. In general terms while we can all admit some responsibility for the woes of the OCA, the Lord's words remain: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." (Luke 12:48)

As those at the top were given leadership of the OCA, and hence much, of them even more is now required. They are now called to step up, accept their responsibility, and then step down. That would be the proper thing to do. That is the responsible thing to do. And so, in the end, the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania seems to have gotten this one just right.  One can only hope the Metropolitan was listening to his former diocese.

In addition to the four resolutions received from parishes, His Grace, Bishop TIKHON, on behalf of the Resolutions Committee, offered two additional resolutions for consideration, each of which arose from the discussions at the August 2nd meeting of the Committee.

The  first resolution proposed by the Bishop read:

Resolution 5


"SUBJECT OF RESOLUTION: RENEWAL OF CHURCH LIFE

SUBMITTED TO: DIOCESE OF EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA DIOCESAN ASSEMBLY SUBMITTED BY: HIS GRACE BISHOP TIKHON, ON BEHALF OF THE RESOLUTION COMMITTEE OF THE DIOCESE OF EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA

RECALLING that our Lord Jesus Christ desires all Christians to attain perfection through a life of repentance, asceticism, and virtue,


RECOGNIZING that the Holy Orthodox Church has always expected this Christ-like perfection in particular from her leaders (Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and Lay leaders),


AND FURTHER RECOGNIZING that, although certain earthly leadership qualities may have been bestowed upon individuals as a natural gift at birth, Christ-like leadership qualities (such as obedience, humility, and love) are more particularly acquired within a community setting,


RECOMMENDS that the Orthodox Church in America, gathered at the All American Council in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, renew her commitment and support to the following communal institutions of the Church for the fostering of Christ-like leadership:
1) Monasteries - because the health of a local church has always been equated with the health of her monastic life;

2) Seminaries - because it is in our seminaries that mortal men are trained and guided into the awesome life of the priesthood, whose work, according to St John Chrysostom, -is ranked among the heavenly ordinances;
3) Parish life - because the work of our leaders is offered for the life of the faithful which itself is lived within the beauty of our liturgical life, through community outreach and missionary work, and through education and service;

4) Family life - because the patristic witness is that the family is a little Church within which we can work out our salvation, and


FURTHER RECOMMENDS that this commitment and support be offered by every member of the Orthodox Church in America, not simply through a verbal acknowledgment, but through the concrete and sacrificial offering of their lives, their time, their effort, and their financial support for the health of these communal institutions of the Church. "

The resolution, with one small change to "Parish life" to  "Diocesan, Deanery and Parish life " was adopted unanimously.

Resolution 6

The most significant resolution proposed to the Assembly concerned changes to the Statute of the OCA.


"SUBJECT OF RESOLUTION: REVISION OF STATUTES
SUBMITTED TO: DIOCESE OF EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA SPECIAL ASSEMBLY
SUBMITTED BY: HIS GRACE, BISHOP TIKHON, ON BEHALF OF THE DIOCESAN RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE

THE DIOCESE OF EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA,


ACUTELY AWARE that for the past three years, the Orthodox Church in America has been undergoing a period of great suffering and confusion on all levels of Church life,


ACKNOWLEDGING that our present situation is the result of a multitude of interrelated historical,

administrative, and personal causes and failures therein,


SUBMITTING that one of the causes of the present crisis is the result of confusions arising from both the content and the interpretation of the Statutes of the Orthodox Church in America,


REQUESTS that the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, through its own deliberations and by means of the previously constituted Committee on Statutes Revisions, provide the guidance to the Church for the next triennium in the area of Statutes Revision, And further


REQUESTS that particular attention be given to the ecclesiological and financial relationships of the Dioceses to the Central Church Administration, and to the definitions and responsibilities of specific offices, e.g.: the Metropolitan, the Central Church Administration, the Metropolitan Council, and the All American Council, And further


REQUESTS that, under the guidance of the Holy Synod, appropriate experts in canon law, church history and legal matters be brought in to offer recommendations in this process and that consideration be given to seeking such help also from experts from other local Churches."

Unlike the former resolution concerning "renewed commitment", a notion which lacks specificity, the sixth resolution proposed, and the second adopted by the Assembly, is very specific. A request is being made to begin a process to significantly alter the Statute "under the guidance of the Holy Synod" through "its own deliberations". This was long the goal of the retired Bishop of Los Angeles, Tikhon, as well as the solution to the problems of the OCA recommended by the former Bishop of Sitka, Nikolai.

Here, Bishop Tikhon of E PA suggests that the work be done by the Synod through its previously constituted "Committee on Statutes Revisions", which at present includes only two people - both appointed by the Metropolitan.

As the Minutes of the Lesser Synod state: "In keeping with the recommendation of the Lesser Synod of Bishops at their September 29, 2006, meeting, Metropolitan Herman proposed the appointment of His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel, as chair of the Statute Revision Commission, with the Rev. Alexander Rentel, assistant professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies at Saint Vladimir's Seminary, as the project manager. It was decided that Archbishop Nathaniel and Father Rentel will determine the scope of their work and establish a working schedule."

Times change, but one can reasonably ask if it is now appropriate for a hierarch to chair a Commission dedicated to re-organizing the OCA even as his Episcopate has endorsed a plan of action that most likely will result in his leaving the OCA with them before the 2011 Council?

And one could reasonably ask that if the Statute is to be examined, that all those affected - the Administration, the Metropolitan Council, the Dioceses, etc. - should not be included in the process, rather than one "guided by the Synod" with a consultative committee of just one non-hierarch? After all, for decades there was a robust standing Committee on Statute revisions, populated and run by seminary professors expert in canon and statutory law, like Frs. John Meyendorff, and Alexander Schmemann, and John Erickson, assisted by other several priests and qualified lay persons. Statute revisons would be presented to this committee from throughout the church, and the committee members - not member - would research and prepare changes on their own, which in turn were all presented to the AAC for comsideration.

The E PA Resolutions Committee also received a proposal from one of its members, Dr. David Ford of St. Tikhon's Seminary, offering some preliminary thoughts regarding a possible merger of the OCA with the Antiochian Archdiocese. "While not endorsing this proposal as a formal resolution", the Committee felt "it appropriate to be forwarded to the Diocesan Assembly for discussion." You can read Dr. Ford's proposal here.

The Diocese of W PA

The Diocese of Western Pennsylvania does not want to change the Central Administration or the OCA through Statute changes at this time. Its solution to the problems of the OCA is more simple, and drastic. It wants to reduce its funding. The following resolution was adopted by the Diocesan Council in early July, following the endorsement of the concept by the Diocesan Assembly last November:

"A RESOLUTION REGARDING ASSESSMENTS (FAIR SHARE) FOR THE CENTRAL CHURCH ADMINISTRATION OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA

Whereas the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America gives to the All-American Councils, the authority to set the rate of assessments to fund the Church:

Be it resolved that the 15th All-American Council fix the fair share amount of each of the participating dioceses at an amount not to exceed $50.00 per capita of the 2009 census of the participating dioceses for the next triennium.

And be it further resolved that the Metropolitan Council shall develop and prepare its budgets for the next triennium (2009-2011) at a level which is equal to no more than $50.00 per capita of the 2009 census of the participating dioceses.

Moved by Archpriest Andrew Matychak and seconded by Serge Daniels.

Adopted unanimously by the members of the Archdiocesan Council of the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, July 12, 2008 for submission to the Pre-Conciliar Commission as a Resolution to be acted upon at the 15th All-American Council to be held in Pittsburgh, PA November 10 -13, 2008."

W PA's resolution, if adopted by the Council, would, in effect, cut the OCA's budget in half, changing everything out of simple economic necessity. Numerous members of the Diocesan Council confirm that their support for this motion is in reaction to the large amount of monies sent to Syosset for years and misspent, wasted or unaccounted for. Furthermore, it is in recognition of the deeply held belief that monies for many programs, like missions, evangelization and community outreach are more efficiently kept in and used in the parishes and dioceses.

And One Pennsylvanian

A third way forward is offered by one of the most well-known OCA residents of Pennsylvania, Fr. Thomas Hopko, former Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary and noted Orthodox theologian. In a paper to the Pre-Conciliar Commission earlier this year, Fr. Hopko wrote:

"I offer the following suggestions as a contribution to the debate about the way forward for the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

1. Metropolitan Herman immediately announces his resignation as primate as of the opening of the AAC in November, 2008. The first act of the AAC is to elect a new Metropolitan.

2. A proposed amendment to the OCA Statute changing the procedure by which the Metropolitan is chosen is sent in advance to the AAC delegates for action at the council. This amendment provides that the OCA Metropolitan henceforth be elected by lot. Such a proposed amendment is already in the hands of Metropolitan Herman and other OCA officials. If such an amendment is adopted at the AAC, it is immediately in force. If not, the present procedure for electing the Metropolitan is followed.

3. The AAC in November has only two items of business in addition to the election of a new Metropolitan.

-1. The AAC receives Metropolitan Herman's detailed report about the financial scandal, the deposition of the former chancellor, the allegations of sexual misconduct in the church and the church's new central administration.

-2. The AAC adopts a concrete plan for OCA operations from November 2008 until the next AAC in 2011.

I offer the following suggestions as a contribution to the debate about the operations of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) until the AAC in 2011.

1. Until the AAC in 2011 the operations of the OCA central church administration are reduced to an absolute minimum. The administration's main, and virtually only, duties during this time are a) to support the Metropolitan's activities within the OCA and at events and activities outside the OCA where he represents the OCA, b) to conduct the OCA's external affairs and c) to organize and prepare meetings of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council under the Metropolitan's direction.

2. The OCA central church administration reports bi-monthly on the OCA website about all of its decisions and actions. The report contains pertinent information on the Metropolitan's activities and OCA finances.

3. No special collections of any kind are conducted by the central church administration. All gifts to charities, missions, seminaries and other institutions from individuals, parishes and dioceses are sent directly to those of the donor's choosing, as are all extraordinary emergency contributions.


4. The Synod of Bishops continues to meet twice a year with each bishop accompanied at all sessions of the synod by two clergymen (presbyters or deacons) elected by his diocesan assembly to demonstrate that bishops participate in the Synod as church pastors and not as individual ecclesiastical authorities in their own right. The Synod meetings last four full days. The first day is a retreat for the bishops led by someone invited by the Synod. The second day is for reporting from the central church administration and from each diocese. The third and fourth days examine one specific issue in depth on the basis of materials prepared and distributed beforehand.

5. No new bishops are consecrated during this period. Vacant dioceses are governed during this time by a locum tenens elected by the diocese and approved by the Synod.

6. The Metropolitan Council meets as usual to fulfill its statutory obligations.

7. The Metropolitan Council undertakes an in-depth study of OCA operations in view of producing a detailed plan for the future conduct of OCA life and work. This includes the production of a concrete proposal for the inter-action between the OCA dioceses and the OCA central church administration. This plan is presented for possible adoption at the AAC in 2011.

8. The Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council post reports of their meetings on the OCA website within a week of their respective meetings.

9. The new Metropolitan appoints a committee of diocesan representatives and selected competent persons to study the OCA Statutes and to propose revisions for formal action at the AAC in 2011. This work is done in concert with the production of a detailed plan of OCA organization and operation.

10. The new Metropolitan appoints the deans of the three OCA seminaries to organize an in-depth study of church structures through the ages and to produce an extended report on this subject, with special attention given to the 1917-1918 Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. The report concludes with specific recommendations for Orthodox Church structures and operations today, in the OCA, in North America, and in Orthodoxy as a whole. It is presented for discussion at the AAC in 2011.

11. OCA diocesan, parochial and institutional life and work continues in the next three years with special attention given to activities designed to nurture a new generation of Orthodox Church workers and leaders in all areas of church life and work, particularly the clergy."

It is not known if  Fr. Hopko's proposals will be made into actual resolutions. Both the Pre-Conciliar Commission and the Council's Resolution' Committee (chaired by Fr. John Erickson, another former Dean of St. Vladimir's) have the authority to make their own resolutions to the Council, based on Fr. Hopko's recommendations, or any others sent to them. More importantly, the Resolutions Committee has the responsibility of assigning when the resolutions proposed will be taken to the floor -  an important decision in a Council of just 2.5 days duration.

Finally, although the procedures for doing so have not been fully spelled out, individuals are also expected to be permitted to present resolutions from the floor of the AAC.

- Mark Stokoe

 
 

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