TO THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS AND THE ORTHODOX FAITHFUL
As the daughter of a priest and the wife of a priest, it grieves me to have to write this letter to the hierarchs of my Church but under the circumstances I feel I must.
To put it briefly, I am distraught at what has happened and is happening to the OCA.
The Church, which has been very important to me since birth, is disintegrating and our spiritual leaders seem unwilling or unable to do anything about it.
Recently, a friend asked me what in particular was most distressing to me about the dilemma in the OCA. After some consideration, there were several special areas of concern to me. Other concerns will not be addressed here.
First, there appears to be a lack of moral integrity within the Church. Decisions are made and statements issued only after careful consideration by lawyers and these decisions and statements are not always made for pastoral reasons or in furtherance of our primary goal as a religious institution of witnessing Christ to the people of America.
Secondly, truth and transparency seem to be lacking in the actions of our leadership. There has been a steady movement towards more and more secrecy in the Church with a clear articulated inference that disclosure of the clergy and hierarchical misdeeds would somehow....”bring down the Church”. Many of us in the Church feel that this suggestion is highly offensive to each and every member of the Church. If there is so much latent corruption in the leadership, perhaps the best thing to do would be to disclose all and start afresh.
Third, it is obvious to anyone with an open mind that there is a cover-up still going on regarding the missing millions of dollars. Although the Church leadership has stated on numerous occasions that Fr. Robert Kondratick was alone in this financial aspect of the scandal, this view is held by very few people who have bothered to read the available evidence. The muzzling of the first Special Investigating Commission and the apparently limited investigation going on by the second commission is both troubling and unsettling.
Finally, the weak (some call it cowardly) response by the Synod of Bishop to the tyrannical and abusive behavior of the Bishop of Alaska is most troubling.
We have just witnessed an unprecedented display of courage form most of the native Alaskan priests regarding the abusive behavior of Bishop Nikolai. Now they justifiably feel betrayed by the recent action of the Synod in rescinding the mandatory leave of absence. Along with most of the faithful in the lower 48, they feel that the disobedience of Bishop Nikolai in defying the decision of the Synod should have been punished and the presence of +Nikolai at the meeting of the Synod completely overwhelmed the other members of the Synod.
We are particularly concerned that after sending Fr. Garklavs to Alaska to “investigate” (at great expense of money and time to not only the OCA but also to the many native Alaskan priests who are not on expense accounts), the Synod did not even dignify his work by listening to his report.
I speak only for myself and for no group of OCA faithful. Nevertheless, it is clear from the many comments on the Internet that trust and confidence in the OCA leadership has completely evaporated.
As bishops of the OCA, I feel it is incumbent on you to make every effort to regain this trust and confidence of the large number of OCA faithful. Otherwise, the threats to leave the OCA and joining other jurisdictions will become a reality- - -something none of us wants.
I urge all members of the Synod to be honest with us, be courageous, treat your clergy and laity with love and dignity that Christ exhibited.
In short, do the right thing.
Your time is running out.
Yours In Christ,
(Mariam Vernak is the wife of Archpriest David Vernak of Christ the Saviour Church in Paramus, New Jersey.)