Reflections on Recent Developments in the OCA
I first must say that I am grateful to God for the frankness in the SIC report, for the willingness of the Synod to hear the report, and for many of their initial decisions regarding the findings of the report. I am also, for the first time in three years, optimistic about the future of the OCA, cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nonetheless.
What are my causes for optimism?
The removal of Metropolitan Herman is a cause of quiet but very real celebration for the Church. Please understand that I do not say this because I enjoy seeing the downfall of anyone, particularly a bishop. But given the darkness in which he willingly entrenched himself, his removal is a cause of hopefulness. I truly hope he learns to see his errors, makes a public confession to the Church, and finds peace through repentance and reconciliation with all of us. This would hold true for all those implicated in the report.
I am optimistic about reports from members of the Metropolitan Council of the candid and open discussions they had with our bishops, described as “a first” by many. Open communication without a stone-cold dominating presence is certainly something to be encouraged. I even heard that there was no head table, that the bishops sat interspersed with the other members. Imagine bishops sitting among the people when issues are being discussed! Glory to God!
I am optimistic that the MC has found its voice, that the new Treasurer is a good and honest man, and that the other new officers are also honest men.
I am optimistic to see that a reduction in assessments may finally be coming. Permitting more resources to remain in financially-strapped parishes can only improve the health of the Church overall. Administration, no matter how well-intended, is not where Church life occurs, nor where growth flourishes. I hope the proposed $50 per head resolution passes in November, and if it does not, at least a cap of $85 is put in place.
I am optimistic that long-term solutions and proposals will be investigated concerning the very nature of our central administration. This is long-overdue, and will be a welcome development moving into the future. I hope that part of this exploration will include better ways to deal with allegations of episcopal corruption and discipline.
I am optimistic more than anything that the local American Church can come out of The Kondratick Captivity, which demanded image over substance, dignitaries over charities, and an obsession with perception. This new life would be devoted to being the local Body of Christ, to evangelism, ministry, and charity, and to finding ways to baptize the good in this culture and to touch the lives of all those in our cities and countrysides.
With all of this optimism comes caution: once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes. What are my reasons for caution?
The Synod of Bishops has yet to show real leadership in any of this, being reactive almost to the point of tragic comedy. In every aspect of their proceedings, they have only acted when pressed by outside forces. I will remain cautious until I see a Synod that acts for truth, accountability, and promotion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without first being prodded by others. Perhaps the removal of Metropolitan Herman will facilitate this, perhaps it will not. We shall see.
I am cautions about certain members of our Synod who were implicated in the SIC report, and who apparently will never be called to account by the Church. Archbishop Seraphim’s response to the attempted embezzlement of charity money by a sitting chancellor (to say nothing of his affirming the reappointment of the same chancellor) is very disturbing. This Archbishop was more concerned about getting the best seats at a banquet and salutations in the marketplaces than the protection of terrorist victims. That he came to be named administrator of the OCA is troubling.
I am cautious about the way bishops continue to be appointed without any sense of a real election by their diocese. I am cautious about our lack of episcopal candidates in general, exacerbated by the fact that our pool of candidates, for no theological reason, is limited to unmarried men.
I am troubled by the leniency shown to people whose crimes were so unspeakable that the Church was thrown into turmoil for years. That bishops and priests can continue to exercise episcopal and priestly duties after committing such crimes against the Church and against the innocent is simply unacceptable. That they are dismissed with thanks is unconscionable.
Perhaps my greatest caution is related to my greatest optimism. I am cautious that the stench will blow over enough to allow many to return to a state of complacency, to more repetition of ethnic Orthodoxy simply transferred to a new location, and to forgetting our mission to this land, and the wonderful possibilities that could come if our energy and resources were moved in the right direction.
But we have seen changes in the last week that are unprecedented in our Church. We have seen a new life breathed into our administrative bodies. And we have seen a glimmer of hope that we have not been utterly abandoned by our Savior. And this is reason for real optimism.
Priest Christopher Wojcik