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Questions That Need To Be Asked:

Answers That May Never Be Known

The clergy and lay delegates of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey will meet in less than two weeks to nominate a new Bishop. I have previously spoken out against the “selection” process as totally lacking in conciliarity, transparency and accountability. (Read that critique here.) The Search Committee offered a reply, of sorts, insisting that the process was “blessed.” (Read their full reply here.)  “Blessed” or not, is it reasonable to expect clergy and lay delegates to nominate someone on the sole basis of brief posted statements they have written about their pasts?

One asks more from the family baby sitter.

Since the clergy and lay delegates will not have an occasion to ask questions of the three nominees chosen for them - either before or during the nomination process - or even at the Assembly at which the election is scheduled to take place -  let me to do so on behalf of those who have been allowed no voice or participation in the process. Those clergy and laity of the New York and New Jersey Diocese who wish may post any additional questions they might have in the comments sections. It is most unlikely any of us will get any answers, of course, and the whole effort of asking questions will be decried by those who have always resisted questions - or explanations - for their actions.  Quelle surprise! 

But if we can’t do better, at least it is not because some people did not try. And shame on those who won’t even try. 

(On the other hand, to be fair, it is possible the Search Committee has already asked these questions of the candidates. But then, as they explained, most clergy and all laity cannot be entrusted to know the answers, even if they did. (Revisit their long explanation here.)

Here are 10 questions I would pose to the nominees, in the order in which their names were announced. 

Questions for Fr. Michael Dahulich:

1. The former Archbishop preferred to remain in South Canaan rather than take up residence in the diocese.  As the Rector and a Professor at St. Tikhon’s, will you resign from your posts  if elected Bishop of New York/New Jersey? Or will you continue to teach there and split your time? Where do you see yourself living in a year? In five years?

2. According to former students, you always counseled that priests and laity should be “obedient” to Bishops. You were always seen as being very obedient to former Metropolitan Herman, who was in charge of St. Tikhon’s. In light of the past three years in the OCA, as well as the ongoing investigation into Metropolitan Herman’s actions,  how have your views on obedience and the episcopate changed, if in any way?

Questions for Fr. David Mahaffey:

1. You served as an internal auditor of the OCA during the final Kondratick years. What, if anything, did you learn from that experience? How will it influence your future episcopate, should you be nominated and confirmed?

2. You have now been officially nominated in two dioceses for episcopal office. What did you find good, or bad, about either search process? Which process do you believe to be more effective? Why?

Questions for Fr. David Brum:

1. In the light of the last three years, do you still hold to the opinions expressed in your essays “ The Primate of the OCA...” more commonly referred to as the “Brum Doctrine”? (Read that essay here.)

2. You have referred “to the travesty of the past years”. For most in the OCA the “travesty” was the misdirection of funds under the Kondratick regime; for Kondratick supporters “the travesty” was the allegations, investigation, and punishments leveled against him. What did you mean by “travesty”? 

3. Alone among the nominees, you were a highly placed member of the Kondratick Administration during its last decade. What did you know and when did you know it? How do you explain or respond to the Special Investigative Committee’s public letter requesting that you never again be allowed to hold high administrative office?

And finally, four questions for all three candidates:

1. Describe your understanding of the current state of the NY/NJ Diocese and what challenges, issues or opportunities would determine your top three priorities upon assuming the episcopacy of the Diocese?

As a follow-up, in the Diocese of the New York and New Jersey the current diocesan administration recently referred in writing to the priests of those parishes which have withheld their assessments in protest as “accomplices” and denied them, contrary to Statute, the right to vote at the Assembly which will nominate the next Bishop. Would  such actions continue in practice in your diocesan administration? Would you make public audits of the years diocesan money went missing, or do you feel “sleeping dogs” are best left so?

2. Please discuss unity and diversity in Church life. Do you believe local traditions and customs constitute a healthy diversity of expression and practice - or do you prefer more uniformity regarding liturgical and pastoral practices? 

3. To whom are you accountable, as a bishop? How do you understand “sovereignty” in your diocese? As a follow-up how would you see yourself communicating with your flock? Would you be open to regional town hall meetings, with no holds barred questions & answers in the future; or do you prefer smaller, more formal venues? Or perhaps communicating mainly through letters? 

I end with a simple question addressed to everyone in the OCA:

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, if “campaigning” and “popularity contests” are to be so feared, is enforced silence the solution? How are reason-endowed sheep to manifest their reason if they are not allowed even the opportunity to ask reasonable questions? Or are they simply to go along? That manifests us as sheep, but not as reason-endowed ones. We are simply making ourselves less than God desires us to be, and colluding in our own reduction.

Attempts at “directed” conciliarity such as are being practiced in New York and New Jersey, and now in the South as well, are neither conciliar, nor can they be the direction forward. They are a big step backwards because at the end of such processes, there is only one thing that can be said: “Thanks for being a great audience.”*

Are we still just an audience in our own Church? Have we learned nothing in the past five years?

- Mark Stokoe

* Dr. Alice Woog to the delegates at the conclusion of the 2004 All-American Council.




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