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"Light At the End of the Tunnel"

+Job thanks Diocese for "standing together"
• Stokoe elected to Metropolitan Council
• Diocese supports reducing national assessment

In a speech to the 47th Assembly of the Diocese of the Midwest that looked both backward to the scandal and forward to the future, Archbishop Job spoke of the events of the last month and the possibilities of change. He stated:

"We have turned a corner: there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It was refreshing to participate in the joint meeting of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council early in September, despite the weight of the matters discussed. There was a new feeling of openness and resolve. This was largely the result of Metropolitan Herman's retirement. In a July 4th letter to our diocesan clergy, I reiterated my lack of confidence in the Metropolitan's leadership. I was even 'called on the carpet' to answer for it. But the joint meeting made things abundantly clear. Metropolitan Herman had been in Syosset and then apparently anticipating the worst, he chose to go back to St.Tikhon's prior to the meeting. I learned of this during the Divine Liturgy on the first day. We felt abandoned.

The rest of the story is common knowledge. A new Metropolitan will be elected at the All-American Council next month. I wish that Metropolitan Herman's retirement is peaceful and healthy. But now we have a chance for leadership for our Church . .... The struggle for truth and righteousness had begun at our 'mini-Assembly' at the time of the All-American Council in Toronto and we began it together. There is strength in our 'togetherness' our striving for excellence..."

(The Archbishop's speech will be published in full on the diocese's website shortly.)

After listening to the Archbishop's Report the Diocese then did an extraordinary thing: it took control of its own agenda. Written reports having been produced for all the deaneries and ministries, the Assembly decided to complete most of the business of the Diocese - including the budget - in that session, so that the next day could be given over to discuss the All-American Council. In a session that then lasted late into the night, the Assembly passed a deficit budget, that among others moves, saw the diocesan publication The Vigil eliminated, since "communication comes from the diocesan website and the parish health facilitator". On the other hand, money was added so that those with access to diocesan funds could now be fully bonded.

Elections & Discussion

The following morning's meeting began with elections. Two lay women - Ann Marie Mecera (OH) and Alexa Geeza (IL) - were elected to the Diocesan Council, while Mark Stokoe, editor of OCANews.org was elected as the lay delegate to the Metropolitan Council.

The session then turned to a discussion on issues related to the Central Church Administration. Two items dominated the discussion. The first concerned the costs of maintaining the Syosset estate (estimated at $26,000 a month). Many felt the administration should move from the New York area, even if this involved re-incorporating in another state. (As the OCA is legally incorporated by the legislature of New York, and so, according to common understanding, required, by state law, to maintain its headquarters there.)

The second topic concerned a possible change in the national assessment. Several different scenarios ($50, $80, $102 assessment, etc.) were examined, in a discussion led by Metropolitan Council members Dr. Richard West and Fr. Michael Matsko. It was admitted that the idea of giving more money to the national church would not be looked on favorably, and that far more trust is needed. More importantly, the consensus was that the OCA needs to rearticulate its vision, and then move foward. That the budget should reflect the vision, was a common theme. Rather than "just cut, cut, cut", the delegates asked is there a place during the All-American Council where a discussion on the vision could happen?

In the second and final session of the day resolutions were presented. Among those adopted were a resolution requesting the Metropolitan Council "to initiate an audit of the financial records" of the Diocese of Alaska to clarify ownership and usage of the Alaskan Church lands, and one that "resolves that the All-American Council, the highest legislative body in the Orthodox Church in America, demand the return of any and all reports and documents now held by the law firm of Proskauer Rose."

The Assembly also voted to support the resolution of the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania to reduce the national assessment to $50 for the next three years. Finally, the Assembly instructed the Diocesan Council to begin the processof identifying episcopal candidates, given the Archbishop's repeated desire to retire in a few years, or the more immediate, if remote, possibility of the Archbishop's election as Metropolitan next month.

- Mark Stokoe


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